Now things are getting more interesting, in even a conventional sense. Hercules sets out upon his tenth labor. Up until now, we have issued many cautions about ascribing to the hero anything in a merely or even a primarily external sense. But when the hero calls down the power of the sun by launching an arrow against it to quench its heat, it behooves us to say that now, Hercules is beginning to openly and weirdly channel the very elements and supernal powers themselves, and in a casually deliberate way.
He seeks the cattle of Geryon, a very great giant, grandson of Medusa, who dwells on a far western island, Erythreia.
First, our man passes through the burning wastes of Libya. The sun is terribly hot – so hot, in fact, that even the hero grows weary and smitten. Herakles draws his bow, and hurls an arrow aloft against the empyrean to defy the sun, branding it as a gadfly. What follows is arresting.
Almost immediately, Heracles realized his mistake and apologized profusely, in turn and equally courteous, Helios granted Heracles the golden cup which he used to sail across the sea every night, from the west to the east because he found Heracles’ actions immensely bold.
The clue to this meaning may be in the names of Helios or Apollo: he is called Hekatebolos, the “far-shooter”, with the rays of the sun considered as arrows. In effect, Hercules transformed himself into the sun, & then apologized so that it wasn’t hubris. It’s unclear whether the apology was added later (for form’s sake). Let us content ourselves with regarding it as an exoteric truth: the inward truth was that Hercules somehow defied the Sun, without dishonoring it.
We “know” today that the sun is a burning ball of gas, far out into space, whose light takes seven minutes to reach us. To question this today would be re-invoke the fate of the proto-scientist Anaxagoras, who was almost executed for postulating the physical nature of the sun, except today it would mean a straightjacket. Yet the Scriptures place an angel in the center of the sun, and in the Clementine Recognitions, we read Nos ad honorem invisibilis dei imagines visibiles adoramus.
We honor give to the Invisible God when we adore visible images.
A further step which exotericism makes in developing is the art of theurgy.The Christian religion took this step after the iconoclast controversy.
One point to make about the conventional theory of Light is that of quantum-entanglement. If the speed of light is absolute, then why do atoms which have interacted once, then been separated, demonstrate simultaneous “action-at-a-distance”, thus proving that they do not require the medium of Light which moves at a slower speed in order to share information? I fully accept that there is a physical dimension to everything which is seen (and very likely, also for almost all of that which is not). Yet there is apparently detectable in the physical order, with physical means, certain anomalies which not only are not “currently understood”, but which are demonstrably incapable of being understood on any physical grounds. What can be more absolute to the modern man than the speed of Light? Yet it is not the final limit. So the sun is not merely a burning ball of gas, and Helios can curse or bless as he sees fit. In this case, the sun admires the hero for his daring, as well as his manners: he honors Herakles’ core impulse, which is what is magnetically attracting support from divine powers, folk peoples, and even adversaries, including women. Herakles is becoming, like the Sun, Sol Invictus.
Again, note the indirection. He is not deliberately attacking the Sun – rather, his magnetic core is being drawn to it, and as deep answers deep, the Sun to him. He is not yet presuming to call himself divine. The warrior’s passionate struggle with his passions is coercing the passion of the Sun. Perhaps this is why the passions have to be overcome. If the supernatural powers and elements themselves possess it, then they would not bend their will to one who had not conquered it within.
The Forms, in heroic action, undergo a greater or lesser inflection in accordance with the intensity of the Rhythms that make them jump, by encroaching on them, replacing them, fringing them, so to say, with an imprecision that makes them more indefinable, while the Warrior himself is dragged, aware only of the sanctify of his sacrifice, in an always more overwhelming turmoil that is crowned, while filling up with death.
But for him who conquers, since they do not, they must bend, though they are “mightier” than we. As the Scriptures put it:
Who, subsisting in the form of God, did not esteem it an object of rapine to be on an equality with God (Phillipians 2:6).
This is much like Hercules’ use of power and warfare – it is always indirect, incidental, not the thing-itself, but rather, something that transpires in the course of adventure. Likewise, the passions remain subordinated, even when they are given free reign.
When he makes landfall, he dispatches three enemies in short order: two-headed canine Orthrus falls with a club blow, Eurytion is smashed to death, and the monster Geryon (advancing to the “rescue”), is shot with an arrow poisoned with Hydra-blood; his head falls over to one side and spills blood like a flower drooping and shedding petals in the winds. As the US military would say, “one shot, one kill”. Hercules is in full possession of his previous conquests; he has not forgotten to use skillful means, but like a cunning warrior, knows that the lessons from his past are there for a very fine reason. Knowing this brings death to his enemies. Greater and greater Forms are at his disposal.
The point, I think, is, if you really want to go Iliad on your enemies, then don’t worry about it directly: pursue goals, remember lessons, burn a pinch of incense to the gods, and cultivate your inner garden. Because your enemy is just an outer symbol of something inside you – conquer it first – then your enemy is superfluous. That much is clear, for the warrior caste, to whom Hercules undoubtedly belongs.
The Decad represented for Iamblichus the full cycle from 1 through the numbers to a repetition of the Logos Tomeus pattern (of course, for him, all numbers are a repetition of One). Nevertheless, the Decad is the successful completion of the first full cycle, the moment when the repetition should become bleedingly obvious. In this adventure, Hercules attains the status of honorary sun of the Sol Invictus, strikes three blows with three kills, and captures the cattle, which are driven home (after some wanderings induced by Hera). Ironically, the cattle are sacrificed to Hera. And there is a further lesson for the warrior, here: the path is as much pilgrimage as fighting, even after the battle is won. And the final sacrifice is made to the goddess Hera.
One obeys “General Law” in fulfilling the quests, but the manner in which the quests are fulfilled leads to a transcending of that Law. Remember that all of the Labors were assigned to Hercules as penance for his madness and impious deeds which flowed from that madness or Fall. The hero finds a way out of the iron prison; although the cattle are burnt as hecatombs to the goddess, it is clear that Hera is both placated and also spurned. Did she even wish the sacrifice? She has to accept it. If Satan is your adversary, that is the way to vanquish him. Burn a pinch of incense to Caesar. And render unto God the things that are God’s. Rasputin, it was said, claimed that the Soul belonged to God, but the Body, to man. I believe that he was mistaken, & that in fact, it is the Body that belongs to the gods, the Soul to God, and the spirit (in the end) remains with the Self. The hero has traveled through mortality to the core of his being, which will be immortality – his real Self.
How did Christianity and “Paganism” unify in the accretion that was the Roman Catholic Church? They did so because all “live under the Sun”, because Christ is the New Sun & because the pagans saw this in the old sun. It is said that Socrates once stood for a full day, staring at the sun, and urged everyone else to look, for he was seeing it for the first time, in his soul. This piety is evident in his writings. As the Empire crumbled, men more and more looked to the emperor and the Sun. The Sun is the the “tenth” or tithe of the invisible God, quite literally. To see the Decans or planetary rulers in the Sun, Moon, & Stars is to have honored the other numbers, through the number Ten.
To understand that the planetary rulers (10) are mightier than God (1), is to understand the Fall. To journey back to 1 is to understand that God is greater. By which quest, both forward and backwards, one becomes aware of “Self”, something more precious to both soul and body, still. He who does so, may have a chance of meeting the Self Beyond the Self, of turning Time backwards, of seeing how Love turns the stars, & of making servants of the demons, equals of the angels, and a friend of God.
This swiftly takes him to the island, and the in the blink of an eye, Hercules has drawn forth the power of the sun in a relic.