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The Labors of Hercules - Journey through the Signs

In Scorpio (October 23 - November 22, the Scorpion), he enters upon his supreme test, which is also the supreme test for humanity, and which, if we study the times and seasons, appears that to which humanity is subjected at the present time. The problem before Hercules was his emancipation from illusion and the freeing of perception from the mists and miasmas, the glamor and the appearances, behind which Reality veils itself. In this sign he passes successfully through his greatest trial and [228] thenceforth his problem changes. He has controlled and demonstrated his capacity to overcome desire; he is poised and balanced in his point of view; now, because he is no longer taken in by that which appears and because he can walk one-pointedly in the Light, he becomes a world worker.

This one-pointedness is demonstrated for us in Sagittarius (November 23  - December 22, the Archer), where we have the consummation of the task begun in Aries, which was the right use and control of thought. In Aries he captured the Man-Eating Mares and bent them to his use. Now he slays the Man-Eating Birds of Stymphalus and puts an end to all tendencies to use thought destructively.

In Capricorn (December 23 - January 20, the Goat), he becomes an initiate and appears before the world as a savior, a liberated son of God, able to work in Hell, on Earth, or in Heaven. He carries Cerberus up from Hades, and through the symbolism of the three-headed dog portrays the elevation of the personality, the triple matter aspect, into Heaven. Thus he demonstrates that he has undergone the necessary development and experienced the strengthening tests which will enable him successfully to pass through the experience of the third initiation, that of the Transfiguration.

The next two signs, Aquarius and Pisces, show us the liberated Hercules at his work, the saving of the world. His tests are no longer personal and individual, but are universal in their application and demonstrate to us the inclusiveness of the consciousness and the vastness of the methods employed by the disciple who has climbed the mountain in Capricorn and has no longer any personal problems.

In Aquarius (January 21 - February 19, the Water Carrier), Hercules cleaned the Augean Stables by turning a river through them. They had not been cleaned for many years. Thus did he symbolically pour out the cleansing waters in service to man. This is the important sign into which we are now entering; the [229] most menial of all the labors falls in this, next to the culminating labor of all. One may think with reverence of Jesus the Christ washing the feet of his disciples, after following the man with the water pitcher on his shoulder, into the upper room.

In Pisces (February 20 - March 20, the Fishes), we find by contrast the most exalted symbol. For here Hercules captured the Red Cattle, placed them in a golden bowl (the Holy Grail), and flew them to the Temple. Such is the crowning beauty of the sign in which man becomes a world savior, all that is of animality having been redeemed and transcended. Interpolated.

This short analysis of the twelve labors will give us a somewhat synthetic picture of the work done by every disciple who is truly in earnest, as he progresses from Aries to Pisces. It is a work arduous, slow and carried forward under great difficulties, and often in blind ignorance of the forces released and of the results to be achieved. But step by step the aspirant is led along the path of self-knowledge. His character and nature have been tested and tried until the qualities which characterize the form have been transmuted into those which reveal the soul.

"The help has to come from a source other than this limited existence, but this source must not be something wholly outside us, in the sense that it has no understanding of our limitations, and hence is not in any way sympathetic with us. The source of help must have the same heart as ours so that there will be a current of compassion running between the two. The source-power must be within us and yet outside. If not within us, it could not understand us; if not outside, it would be subject to the same conditions. This is an eternal problem, to be and not to be, to be within and yet to be outside, to be finite and yet ready to serve the infinite."

D. T. Suzuki.

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