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The Labors of Hercules - The Purpose of the Study of the Hercules Myth
This old tale leaves untouched no phases in the life of the aspirant and yet links him ceaselessly with cosmic enterprise. Its theme will be found to be so inclusive that all of us, immersed in the problems of life, can make application to ourselves of the tests and trials, the failures and achievements of this heroic figure, who strove, centuries ago, towards the same goal as we are striving. Through the reading of this story, fresh interest in the spiritual life may be evoked in the mind of the bewildered aspirant, and he will go forward with fresh courage as he gains a sequential picture of universal development and destiny.

We find, as we study this ancient myth that Hercules undertook certain tasks, symbolic in nature but universal in character, and that he passed through certain episodes and events which portray, for all time, the nature of the training and the attainments which should characterize a son of God, marching on towards perfection. He stands for the incarnated but not yet perfected Son of God, who, at a particular stage in the evolutionary cycle, takes his lower nature in hand and willingly subjects himself to the discipline which will eventually bring about the emergence of his innate divinity. Out of an erring but sincerely earnest human being, intelligently aware of the work to be done, a World Savior is created, and we see in the last two labors how that work of saving was carried out.

Three great and dramatic stories have been told constantly to mankind down the ages: those of Hercules, the Buddha and the Christ, each of them portraying one of the stages upon the Path of Divinity. In the story of Hercules, we have portrayed for us the experiences of the Path of Discipleship and the early [209] stages of the Path of Initiation. In the case of the Buddha, the story starts later than that of Hercules and we see the Buddha achieve final illumination, passing through initiations of which Hercules knew nothing. Then came the historic Christ, embodying in Himself something so ineffable that we regard Him, in a unique way, as the representative of God. These three stories progressively reveal God's plan for man's development, and call us to follow in the steps of Hercules, who trod the Path of Discipleship and attained his goal.

The oracle has spoken and down the centuries the cry has gone forth: "Know thyself". This knowledge is the outstanding attainment upon the Path of Discipleship, and it is seen how sequentially and intelligently Hercules attained this knowledge. We see him passing around the great pathway of the heavens and in each sign performing one of the twelve labors, which all disciples are called upon to perform. We see him from two viewpoints: that of the individual disciple and that of humanity as a whole, the great world disciple of which he is the prototype. It is possible to regard humanity as having reached, en masse, the stage of the aspirant, and to regard the race as standing upon the probationary path, the path of purification. If suffering is the great purifier, then the above statement is indeed true. Men today are intelligent, earnestly seeking a way out from the present material impasse and learning to coordinate their abilities and capacities, mental, emotional and physical, in an effort to rise above all that has hitherto held them down to earth. This stage has always been expressed by the more advanced types of men, but never before has the entire human family been in this condition. Herein lies the wonder of past achievement, and herein lies the hour of our wonderful opportunity.

We find Hercules starting at this point and passing through varying experiences until he comes to the open door in Leo, through which he can pass onto the Path of Discipleship. We see him learning the lessons of equilibrium, of selflessness and [210] of victory over the desire nature until he becomes the one-pointed disciple in Sagittarius, prior to passing through the gate which leads to the mount of initiation. Slowly and painfully, he learns the lesson that competition and selfish grasping must disappear and that the seizing of anything for the separated lower self is no part of the mission of a son of God. He finds himself as an individual only to discover that individualism must be intelligently sacrificed to the good of the group; he learns that personal greed has no place in the life of the aspirant who is seeking liberation from the ever recurring cycle of existence and constant crucifixion upon the cross of matter and form. The characteristics of the man immersed in form life and under the rule of matter are fear, individual competition and greed. These have to give place to spiritual confidence, cooperation, group awareness and selflessness. These are the lessons which Hercules brings to us.

This is also the story of the cosmic Christ, crucified from the beginning of creation upon the fixed cross of the heavens. This is the story of the historical Christ, given us in the gospel story and enacted for us two thousand years ago in Palestine, when our sun entered the sign of the world Savior, the sign of Pisces, the fishes. This is the story of every individual man, crucified upon the cross of matter and of existence, and discovering that he is in truth a son of God incarnated in each human being. God, incarnate in matter. Such is the story of the solar system, the story of our planet, the story of every man. As we look at the starry heavens above us, we have this great drama, eternally pictured for us. [211]

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