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The 12 Labors of Hercules and the Path of the Zodiac
By Esonet's Editorial Staff
From an old ritual
«The governor looked at the children of men which are the Children of God. He saw from their light that they were on the path that leads to the Heart of God. The path flows in a circle that crosses twelve big Doors. Cycle after cycle the Doors are opened and closed.
The Children of God, which are the children of men, carry on.
In the beginning the light is dim. The thread of human aspiration is selfish and its actions are obscure. Men slowly learn by crossing the Doors again and again. Comprehension is slow but in the Room of Discipline the truth is gradually grasped. The necessary lesson is learnt. Nature is purified until the Cross can be seen. The Cross is erected waiting to crucify the children of men, stretched out towards the Crosses (*) of those who serve and save.
In the distant past a man rose from the crowd and caught the look of the Ancient of the Days that governs the supreme Room of Council. The latter spoke to the man who rose above the crowd and said: « Who is the soul on the Path of Life whose light can be faintly discerned?»
The answer came at once: “it is the soul that experiments on the Path of life and it sees the clear light that shines from the High Place.” “Let it carry on the Path but watch its steps!” the Ancient ordered.
The Eons proceeded on their way, the Big Wheel spun and by spinning it made the pilgrim soul advance on the Path. It came the time when the Man who governs the supreme Room of Council called the pilgrim soul in the circle of his life and said: “Who is this consecrated soul that faintly shines on the Path?”
The answer came: “it is a soul that fights to find the light of understanding.”
“Tell it to go back on the way around the circle in the other direction. It will then find the object of its search. Watch its steps and when it'll have a heart that understands, an acute mind and a skilful hand, bring it back to me.”
Again centuries went by.
The Big Wheel spun and by spinning it put all the children of men which are Children of God on their way. During the centuries there was a group of men who changed the course of their journey and found the Path. They crossed the Doors and directed towards the top of the Mountain of Initiation and towards the place of death and sacrifice. The Master that guarded it saw a man rousing from the crowd, going up the fixed Cross; he then asked for tasks to be accomplished, the Service to give man and the necessary will to walk along the Path towards God.
Standing in front of the Man who governs and works in the Great Room of Council he heard a word: “Obey the Master on the Path. Get ready for the last trials. Overcome every Door and in the sphere that reveals and preserves, accomplish the labor tied to it. Learn the lesson and start serving with love the men on earth”.
The Master gave then the last order: “prepare the candidate. Assign to him the task to accomplish and then write his name on the tables of the Path of life.”
(*) the mobile cross, the fixed cross and the cardinal cross are the three cosmic crosses described in the appendix.
According to ancient cosmogony the creative process links spirit and matter, joining life to the physical body and the soul to the mind of man. This process can be resumed in four principles.
1) “ Nature expresses invisible energies through visible forms .”
Under the organic and inorganic phenomenal world exists a world of forces responsible for the material forms. It is a kingdom of living energies that has turned every concrete realization into the symbol of those inner creative forces. From this principle originates the idea that every symbol is the visible form of an inner reality, just like the initiate is the representation of the conflict between physical and inner life, a battle that stops spiritual energy from expressing itself in the physical world.
2) “ The idea of hidden Deity is in the heart of every religion ”.
The representatives of popular religions only accept the formal aspect of God. For this reason they are so keen on interpreting his exterior cover. Initiatory science, on the other hand, has always taught that all the physical forms are energetic phenomena; there is an interaction between the energies converging on the planet; the planet itself is a unity of energy made by a multitude of energetic units. Man as well is a complex of energies immersed in a world of contrasting forces, therefore he recognizes the divine presence in every living form; in its flow through the twelve signs of the zodiac they see the wonderful organization of his energies.
3) “ The Bearer is the man who awakens the silent observer ”.
In every living form there is a moving intelligent expression called conscience. When the latter develops, it allows us to find out that the divinity hidden in the universe is the same God that animates nature and that is hidden inside every human being; the latter then becomes its living testimony. Man is normally divided between the habit to identify with the sensations of the physical body and the effect of conscience pushing him to identify with the thoughts of the soul. The reasons of conscience slowly prevail and produce the re-orientation of the mind towards subtler planes. In this ascent the ‘silent observer' awakes and the mind puts itself under the guide of the divine inhabitants that allows it to understand the fourth thought.
4) “ Listen to this secret ”. Although I have overcome birth and re-birth, being the Master of all that exists because everything emanates from me, I will still have to appear in my universe and therefore I originate from my Power, my Thought, my Will.”
( Bhagavad Gita, adapted by Yogi Ramacharaka.)
Access to the spiritual Way
Despite religious abstraction have lost their old charm, there is still interest around spiritual ideas. In a direct form, though, because many people have abandoned the blind obedience to the Dogma and have instead taken on self-determination, inner search and experimentation of their energies.
The idea that is the spiritual man to be made to God's image is growing, and this is changing the attitude towards life. The message that the real human progress is in the passage from material ignorance to wisdom of the soul, from physical desire to the realization of the superior mind is spreading. Here is the idea that the first service to humankind starts from the intelligent cooperation between the mind and the project of the soul, leading the Pilgrim on the Path of spiritual awakening.
Hercules and the initiatory way
The story of this old Son of God is the metaphor of the trials on the initiatory Path. Hercules is whoever fights problems in life and faces courageously the tasks of his destiny, undergoing pains and distress. Man's life advances in the Great Wheel of the Zodiac, which is the true path. By reading the story of this hero we will know the obstacles. Hercules, in actual fact, represents the incarnated man and the twelve labors that he faces represent the difficulties to free the spiritual element from the chains of materiality. The Pilgrim, therefore, is the ‘not yet perfect Son of God' that takes charge of his destiny in order to subject the lower nature to his divine descent
The oracle orders: Man, know thyself. For that Pilgrim, the higher achievement is to recognize his own divine identity.
The Mount of Transfiguration
The probationary path is the point of the evolutionary path where we face a deep self-conscience whose roots take nourishment from the divine will.
To win the impulses of the lower nature means to accelerate the process of transmutation, letting the flower of the soul opening faster. This can be obtained in two ways.
Through natural growth, where several life cycles are necessary to develop inner potentialities; or we can accelerate the process through a systematic and disciplined will, able to awaken the conscience of the soul in a very short time.
In this case the will becomes the “psychic solvent that eliminates all the waste” acting as a process of refinement, sublimation and inner transmutation.
The forces of human mysteries are reflections of spiritual energy whose powers, putting us in touch with universal powers, are the only means to learn the divine proposition.
In this way the initiate relates to the big ‘cloud of thought' made by Thrones and Principalities and he can become a co-operator of the evolutionary plane through which Life can guide its creation. This is the aim of Hercules and of every advanced member of the humankind.
Hercules is not only a representation of the strength and will of man. He is the man who crosses the signs of the zodiac and absorbs their faculties, he acquires the gift that they can give him and he is able, eventually, to express their characteristics. This allowed this man to know himself and to rule the forces of his destiny; stars can't control these forces but they can affect them by offering a vision of wider realizations.
An oriental Master wrote: “… it is true that astrology is a science that in its future, in its highest aspect and in its true interpretation will make man able to focus understanding and to work properly. It will provide the secret of the true co-ordination between soul and manifested form. This astrology, though, hasn't been discovered yet…”
Astrology as we know it regards horoscopes concentrated on personal interests and little individual business. We know very little about the astrology based on the horoscope of the soul.
Esoterical astrology is not based on mathematical calculations neither it follows the laws of time and space, which don't have any effect on the soul. It interprets the interactions between the twelve types of cosmic energies and the human essence, moving it towards the five major Initiations.
The labors of Hercules make the ascending path of initiation. It is a path that ‘spins' in the Zodiac. Therefore the zodiac is not the ‘wheel' but the path ‘spins' in it. The first trial to overcome is fear, getting rid of the dread that stops us at our lower nature. This is what Hercules fights against before entering the sign of the Capricorn; he has learnt that the animal (individualism of lower nature) must be sacrificed at the fire of intelligence.
The trials, then, are an initiatory journey that produces the definitive change in human nature, through many little inner changes.
Aries (21 st March-20 th April) by capturing the man-eating mares , Hercules reacts instinctively but he learns the control of the mind. The journey towards the change starts from an indistinct spiritual push expressed as a sense of justice that leads him to save the others.
Taurus (21 st April-20 th May) Hercules captures the Cretan bull ; in other words he learns that desire must become genuine aspiration by dominating sexual energy. This energy must not be repressed but addressed to the right goal. The sexual spur and the power of attraction are the fundaments of the big illusion but, eventually, energy itself causes illumination.
Gemini (21 st May-20 th June) Hercules, by picking the golden apples of knowledge , knows himself. He subdues the three aspects of the lower nature: the physical body, desire and reason. The progress was so far subjective and characterized by desire; it now starts turning into mental power.
Cancer (21 st June-20 th July) Hercules' capture of the running Diana, a sensitive hind difficult to find, symbolizes the participation of shifty intuition, which is a higher intellectual faculty. In the previous cycles experience has turned instinct into intellect; now the initiate must turn the intellect into intuitive faculty where all the lower powers must be developed and sublimed.
Leo (22 nd July- 21 st August) Hercules kills the Nemean Lion . Through this trial Hercules shows Eurystheus, the master observing him, that he's able to kill personality even when it is characterized by the courage of the sign. In a real sense, the initiate demonstrates he's able to subordinate to the superior will even the most courageous lower nature, such as the one symbolized by the lion. He gives the warranty of the strength of his proposition.
The first five labors of Hercules complete the so-called Probationary Path. The killing of the Nemean Lion represents its acme.
Virgo (22 nd August-21 st September) Hercules accomplishes his sixth labor by obtaining the girdle of Hippolyte, the Amazonian Queen. In Aries, at the beginning, Hercules started the probationary Path with a partial failure. The first labor of this new journey as well is ‘accomplished, but badly accomplished'. The morale for both is that it is easier to make mistakes at the beginning. Therefore the candidate must never lower his guard because there's always the danger of making mistakes. Sometimes virtues can become a problem and a high initiate can lose the Path as well. The failure, though, is only temporary. Although we have other chances, it is better to remember that there is always a consequence to a mistake. A delay in the cycles is always a great loss.
Libra (22 nd September-22 nd October) Hercules captures the boar , an impulsive animal that represents the mobility of emotional mind. The capture of emotiveness by the force of will balances the couple of opposites and proofs that the inner balance is reached and we are ready to enter the next sign.
Scorpio (23 rd October-22 nd November) Hercules enters the supreme trial, which is supreme for the present humankind as well. The problem is to emancipate from illusion, to free oneself from the fog and the mental miasmas that hide reality behind the theatres of appearances. In this sign Hercules successfully overcomes the biggest trial by slaying the Lernaean Hydra . After demonstrating he's able to manage desire by re-establishing the balance in his mind, the direction of his mind is univocal because it's not held by appearance.
Sagittarius (23 rd November-22 nd Dicember) Hercules improves his one-way direction. Like in Aries he captured the man-eating mares and subdues them to his purposes, he now kills the Stymphalian Birds ending once for all the tendencies to use the thought in a destructive manner.
In Capricornus (23 rd December-20 th January) Hercules, with the killing of Cerberus, becomes an initiate, a semi-god, man and Son of God able to work in the Infernal regions, on Earth and in the Sky. In the symbolism of the three-headed dog is described the definitive transfiguration of the earthly personality. Transfiguration is in fact the first of the major Initiations.
Acquario (21 st January-19 th February) Hercules reroutes the river and cleans the Augean Stables. He puts the purifying water at service of man. The water of understanding purifies the heart of the initiate. This is the meaning of the sign of Aquarius, which we entered a few years ago. It is symbolized by a Man who carries a jug of water on his shoulders. This is the symbol of the servants of humankind; for mystics it is also the symbol of the Savior of the world.
Pisces (20 th February-20 th March) Hercules captures the Red Cattle , put them in a golden bowl and skin them in the Temple. Such is the beauty of the sign in which man becomes the savior of the world by transcending and redeeming the animal essence in humankind.
On the path of self-conscience the character and the nature of Hercules are put to the test, until the qualities that characterize his materiality are transmuted and reveal the soul. This turns him into a semi-god, like any other initiate.
This consciousness is the realization of the Path that Hercules reaches with will power and intelligence, accepting that suffering is the biggest purifying force.
Following the deeds of Hercules, the trials on the Path of the zodiac of the initiate can be resumed in the duty to learn altruism by subduing the impulses of the corporal nature. Pain originates from the competition between altruism of the soul and avidity of material conscience. Balance, at last, originates from the victory on lower pushes that make the initiate able to sacrifice himself for the common wellbeing, through an intelligent use of his will. This makes him a good servant and a source of inexhaustible creativity.
These are the lessons left by the myth of Hercules.
“For the souls the path towards the ascent crosses the twelve signs of the Zodiac… the same path they used to descent.”
The initiatory trials of the Zodiac
Aries , Ram. Element : sign of fire (like Leo and Sagittarius).
Qualities : The beginning. The origins. The Will and Power are expressed through a big creative process. In the first stages the activities are directed towards the material side of life; afterwards towards the spiritual one.
Opposite : Libra. Libra. Sign of air (balance).
Bearers : exoterical, Mars; esoterical, Mercury.
Key words : for matter, “Search for the form”; for the soul, “I advance and I rule from the plane of mind”.
Taurus , Bull. Element : sign of earth (like Virgo and Capricorn).
Qualities : Desire for the average man; will or clear proposition for the disciple.
Opposite : Scorpio, sign of water (conflict of the duality, overcome desire; triumphant disciple).
Bearers : exoterical, Venus; esoterical, Vulcan.
Key words : for the matter: “Fight must be undaunted”; for the soul: “ I see and when the Eye is open all is light”.
Gemini , Twins. Element : Sign of air (like Libra and Aquarius).
Qualities : Duality. Love-Wisdom. Fluidity. Control of all the opposites. The Divine love that supports everything and reaches our solar system through Gemini.
Opposite : Sagittarius. Sign of fire (one-way direction, preparation to the initiation).
Bearers : exoterical, Mercury; esoterical, Venus.
Key words : for the matter: “Instability must do its part”; for the soul: “ I recognize my other self and whilst it declines, I grow and shine”.
Cancer , Crab. Element : Sign of water (like Scorpio and Pisces).
Qualities : Mass sensitivity; for the average man identification of mass with form; for the disciple service for the mass.
Opposite : Capricorn. Sign of earth (spiritual consciousness after the fight).
Bearers : exoterical, the Moon; esoterical, Neptune.
Key words : for the matter: “isolation must be the rule, but the crowd must exist”; for the soul: “I build a bright house and I live in it”.
Leo , Lion. Element : Sign of fire (like Aries and Sagittarius).
Qualities : sensitivity that leads to individual consciousness. Rouse from the herd. Self-awareness. Self-affirmation.
Opposite : Aquarius. Sign of air (group conscience, world service).
Bearer : Exoterical and esoterical, the Sun.
Key words : for the matter: “Let the other forms be. I rule because I am”; for the soul: “I am That and That is me”.
Virgo , Virgin. Element : Sign of earth (like Taurus and Capricorn).
Qualities : the only service in Virgo is that spirit and matter are fed.
Opposite : Pisces, sign of water (the revealed spiritual conscience).
Bearers : Exoterical, Mercury; esoterical, the Moon.
Key words : for the matter: “Let Matter rule”; for the soul: “I am the Mother and the Child, I am God and the Matter”.
Libra , Scales. Element: Sign of air (like Gemini and Aquarius).
Qualities: Balance. It is an interlude where duality is known and there's balance between the life of the soul and the physical form. (Law, sex, money)
Polar Opposite: Aries. Sign of fire (subjective, hidden consciousness, will for incarnation).
Bearers: exoterical, Venus; esoterical, Uranus.
Key words: for the matter: “Let the choice be made”; for the soul: “I choose the path between two great lines of force”.
Scorpio , Scorpion. Element: Sign of water (like Cancer and Pisces).
Qualities: Conflict. Trial. Suffering. Triumph. Crisis points. Moments of re-orientation. Turning point in the life of humankind and individuals. In Scorpio Hercules becomes the triumphing disciple.
Opposite: Taurus. Sign of earth (desire, growth of the light of the soul).
Bearers: exoterical and esoterical, Mars.
Key words: for the matter: “Let illusion thrive and deceit prevail”; for the soul: “I am the warrior and I come out of the fight in triumph”.
Sagittarius, the Archer. Element: Sign of fire (like Aries and Leo).
Qualities: Aimed direction. One-way direction activity. In the first stages satisfaction of the desire; in the last stages aspiration for the goal of initiation.
Opposite: Gemini. Sign of air (final control of the fluidity and the couple of opposites. Fusion, Synthesis, Union).
Bearers: exoterical, Jupiter; esoterical, the Earth.
Key words: for the matter: “Look for the food”; for the soul: “I see the goal. I reach it and I see another one”.
Capricornus , the Goat. Element: Sign of earth (like Taurus and Virgo).
Qualities: Extreme characteristics of good and evil. Ambition. Crystallization. Victory in the fight. Transfiguration. Initiatory conscience. “The unicorn of God”.
Opposite: Cancer. Sign of water (the first part of the incarnation).
Bearers: exoterical and esoterical, Saturn.
Key words: According to the form: “Let ambition rule and the door be open”; for the soul: “I get lost in the highest light but I turn my back to it”.
Aquarius , the Bearer of Water. Element: Sign of water (like Gemini and Libra).
Qualities: Will to serve oneself first, then the superior Self. World service. Transmutation of the individual conscience into group conscience.
Opposite: Leo. Sign of fire (individual consciousness, push to self-knowledge. Preparatory ability to altruistic service).
Bearers: exoterical, Uranus; esoterical, Jupiter.
Key words: for the matter: “Let the desire rule in the form”; for the soul: “I am water of life poured for the thirsty”.
Pisces , Fish. Element: Sign of water (like Cancer and Scorpio)
Qualities: Duality. Fluidity gifted by instinctive conscience. Medianity. Mental polarization not awaken. Sleeping intuition. Death of personality. Liberation of the soul from the captivity of the matter.
Opposite: Virgo. Sign of earth (matter: the earthly cave).
Bearers: exoterical and esoterical, Pluto.
Key words: for the matter: “Descend in the matter”; for the soul: “I leave the house of the Father and by coming back I save”.
“The help comes from a source beyond our limited existence but it is not outside us. It doesn't understand our limits therefore it is not in synchrony with us. The source of help, though, shares our heart and a current of compassion joins us. The current is inside us, not outside. Otherwise the source won't be able to understand us. This means being without being, being inside and still being outside, being finite but serve the infinite” D.T. Suzuki .
The Three cosmic Crosses
The subject of Crosses is too big to be exhausted in a note. The cross in the circle is one of the oldest symbols in humankind. It was originally formed by the crossing of the twelve zodiac signs, forming 36 crosses, because every sign is divided into 3 decades called ‘the 36 crossed stars'. The Zodiac is made of 360 degrees, the square of 90 degrees is a quarter of the circle that will form the four corners of the cross in the circle. At last, the Three cosmic Crosses represent the three aspects of spirit, soul and body.
The Mobile Cross includes these four constellations:
The meaning of Gemini is the swap between superior and inferior mind.
The meaning of Virgo is the physical form that feeds the celestial child representing the incarnated soul.
The meaning of Sagittarius is the aspirant proceeding towards the goal.
The meaning of Pisces is death and consumption, the sacrifice of self given by the Savior of the world.
This is the cross of daily life which men are all subjected to. The crucifixion to the material trouble represented by the ‘nails of the four physical elements' (earth, water, air and fire) symbolizes incarnation and birth, development and death of the physical body. In an initiatory sense the mobile cross marks the instability characterizing the aspirant, still unsure of his decisions.
The Fixed Cross includes these four constellations:
The meaning of Taurus is illumination, the mind conscious of its abstract (aerial) condition and of the presence of the soul.
The meaning of Leo is self-conscious individuality.
The meaning of Scorpio is freedom from illusion.
The meaning of Aquarius is to be a servant of humankind, giving away the water of understanding that purifies mind and physical conscience.
In an initiatory sense the fixed cross expresses the initiate steady in his decision taken after the choice of starting the way of inner transformation.
The prophet Ezekiel represented Aquarius with a human face, Leo with a lion's head, Taurus with a bull's head and Scorpio with an eagle's body.
The four animals of the Revelation symbolize the four Evangelists.
The Cardinal Cross includes these four constellations:
The meaning of Aries is Creation, or the start of the individual work.
The meaning of Cancer is to be the first door of incarnation.
The meaning of Libra is the balance between life and form.
The meaning of Capricorn is the door to the spiritual life.
This is the cross of the spirit of the initiate when he meets the inner inhabitant that will totally enlighten his conscience. The light of will of the inner God (the so-called Lost Word) is expressed through the mind and the body of the initiate; the latter will turn from quiet witness into instrument in the material world, called by mystics ‘incarnation of the Word'.
Therefore the initiatory meaning of the cardinal cross is the same of the initiate now steady ‘in the light' of the unveiled spirituality.
Esonet's Editorial Staff