The time of the Gemini full moon, as so many of you know, is the Festival of Goodwill or the Festival of the Christ. During this time His special relationship to humanity is emphasised. It is a three-day festival with a keynote for each day. The emphasis of the keynote for the first day is Love in its purest form, the love that sacrifices and understands, which acts decisively on behalf of the whole of humanity. The keynote of the second day emphasises the transition of human consciousness into that "life more abundant". This occurs through the synthesis of matter with the spirit aspect of each one of us, it is that union of personality and soul, or the attainment of the Christ consciousness, a consciousness that is dedicated to the service to all. The keynote of the third day is contact, a seeking of a closer relationship between Christ and all people, between the Hierarchy and Humanity. The word hierarchy can have autocratic connotations in today's political and business worlds but this spiritual Hierarchy are a group of enlightened souls who are selfless servers and seek the inclusion of all humanity into that state of abundant life. This is also a festival of the spirit within humanity seeking outer conformity to; or observance of spiritual Will and a dedication to the expression of right human relation. There is no place for self-centredness in this regime, yet that conformity to spiritual will does not restrict the individual but rather offers greater spiritual freedom.
The third labour of Hercules is associated with Gemini but how does that task, the gathering of the golden apples of Hesperides, relate to the Festival? The labour is all about the recognition of the duality of personality and soul, of working towards their unity and addressing our realisation that the souls of humanity are one by seeking to serve all. This may suggest a kind of personal annihilation, but this is note true for it leads to an enormous expansion of understanding, a new and deeper appreciation of the diversity of expression within humanity and through all forms, a new identification with and wonderful response to all. This brings a realisation of just how constricted ones human consciousness has been up until this point of identification, how much fuller life and relationship is intended to be during the next stage of expression of the human souls.
Having been set the task by his teacher to gather the golden apples from the tree of wisdom Hercules imagines that he can speed upon his way. He is warned that the journey is long and that the sacred tree is guarded well by a dragon with one hundred heads and tended by three maidens. He is told to beware of strength too great for him, trickery and seduction too subtle for his comprehension. He will face five tests that will require wisdom, understanding, skill and opportunity. Hercules set off full of confidence in himself but after much searching he returned sad and discouraged. The teacher sent the wise prophet Nereus to help (Nereus was a shape shifter, the 'Trekies' amongst you will have encountered such beings), he appeared to Hercules in many forms offering subtle words of wisdom but Hercules failed to recognise him for what he was. The first essential of this task is to learn to understand ourselves, to see truthfully our strengths and weaknesses. There must be a period of deep thinking and a striving after vision before we can recognise the obstacles that lie before us in our efforts to integrate the personality and to unify it with the soul. This needs effort to achieve some self-discipline and a regular pattern of meditative reflection, we need to be prepared to be consistent in this endeavour no matter how barren our spiritual life may appear at times and be prepared to do so over a long period, if we are to unfold the understanding of the truth of the spiritual life. But the visionary must also become the man of action; our mental effort must be transformed into objectivity, our knowledge must be transformed into understanding if we are to successfully apply it to our tasks. Through reflection Hercules will eventually recognise the hints that Nereus gave him and take up his search with renewed vigour.
When Hercules did resume his quest he went back into the world and encounter Antaeus, sometimes known as a serpent (but also a giant of Libya) that compelled strangers to wrestle with him. The problem was that each time Antaeus was thrown to the ground his strength was renewed. Antaeus is the symbol of our own self-deception, the trap of glamour and illusion that most of us fall into time and time again as we are taken in by the astral and lower psychic elements of the human psyche. These deceive us into thinking that they offer a great leap forward towards the truly spiritual life. Through effort Hercules realised that the serpent was invincible as long as it had contact with the earth, but as he lifted it up into the air, into the light of truth, it became weak and could be defeated. This is just the thing that we need to attempt to do, if we feel that we have been taken in by some glamour, to raise it up in the same way so that we can see the truth of it. Thus the second test was completed. Before the serpent vanished he warned Hercules he would come again in a different guise during the eighth labour. It is good to test all things to be sure that they contain the seeds of truth. These tests challenge all of us until we can gain a vision of truth but it is good to remember that truth is seen rather differently by each one of us until a certain point upon the journey, hence the apparent differences in the world religions yet all have the truth concealed within them.
Hercules moved confidently and quickly on and entered the third test without thinking. Here he encountered Busiris the great arch deceiver who announced that he was the teacher who gives knowledge of truth and sacrifice. "Accept the way of life through me," he said, for "My truth is right. All other truths are wrong," so you must stay with me and be saved. How many of us are familiar with these words coming from some element of the religions which we have known? Hercules stayed, obeyed and each day grew weaker and lost his will to search for that tree of wisdom. Eventually Busiris chained him to the altar of sacrifice. He was imprisoned like this for a year until one day while struggling to get free he saw Busiris as the false teacher and remembered some words of the shape shifter Nereus that 'truth lies within ourselves' along with the strength of the higher power and wisdom. Turning inwards Hercules found the power to be able to break free and overcome Busiris who he then chained up and left to learn.
Hercules had gained much wisdom from this year of imprisonment but pressed on anxious to make up time. Then he heard cries of deep distress, he worried about further delays but pondered the problem and then he did respond to yet more cries. He found Prometheus chained to a rock and having his liver eaten by vultures. Hercules chased away the birds and set him free. He tended Prometheus 1 until he had recovered from his wounds, with such loss of time he set off again. At this point his teacher spoke to him for the first time since the lesson had begun telling him that no time had been lost and the fourth test had been completed but he should recognise the rule of the Path which is 'learn to serve'.
The search continued in every direction but to no avail. Worn out and fearful of failure Hercules heard a rumour that the tree was near some distant mountains and on a bright day he saw the objective of his search. But he was then filled with a sense of deep distress for Atlas appeared before him staggering beneath the load of worlds upon his back and with his eyes closed in agony. Hercules, forgetting all about his search for the sacred tree, stepped forward and took the load from his brother, he braced himself for the effort but the load rolled of his back and he stood free. Atlas stood before him also free but holding golden apples, which he lovingly gave to Hercules. The three maidens,2 the tenders of the tree, also appeared and had apples to give to Hercules. One of these maidens Aegle told him that the Way to them is always marked by service and deeds of love are the signposts on that Way. Erytheia, the maiden who is said to keep the gate which all of us must enter before we can stand before the great Presiding One, gave him an apple inscribed with the word Service, she told him to remember this and to never forget it. The third maiden Hesperis affectionately told Hercules to continue to serve, to tread the way and to affirm all world servers. Hercules then gave the apples back so that they could benefit those who would come after him. A seed-thought comes to mind here that the Tibetan D.K gave to his student R.L.U. suggesting that he used it in his daily meditation for two months; it read, "The golden light of love irradiates my Path. I am that Path". 3
Perhaps all of us at some time fall into the trap of thinking that an understanding of spiritual teaching alone will get us to the goal that we aspire to reach. We forget that knowledge is transformed into spiritual wisdom through the soul and it is only as we become soul like, do the things that the soul does which is to serve, that we can possibly begin to take on the attributes of the soul. Only then will the bridge of the spiritual intuition extend fully down into our human consciousness or can we be lifted up into the realm of the higher mind and of spiritual being along those threads of golden light.4