THE FIFTH MYSTERY
One of the most fascinating initiation cycles as described in the exoteric mystery-stories is that of Hercules. In one aspect he is the Sun, pursuing his course through trials to the zenith and then on to the end of his acceptable year. This sun is Man in evolution.
The fifth trial or adventure of the soul is the cleansing of the Stables of Augeas. These stables were so neglected and foul that it was regarded as impossible to clean them. Impossibilities are meat and drink to the neophyte, and Hercules is saddled with the task of cleaning these famous stables. How does he do it?
It was impossible to clean them — from the physical, mental, and psychic point of view. But Hercules goes higher. He turns the spiritual river into the stables and the thing is done in a day. This spiritual river is the "descending stream," the esoteric Yardan, Eridanus, Jordan, only exoterically applied to geographical rivers as names. In India it was the Ganges, the Ganga; in Egypt, doubtless the Nile.
The Mysteries consisted of three stages, purification, instruction, illumination.
The laws do not change — ever. Without purification there can be no illumination and the instruction can only be of a kind that is possible to the unpurified. If purification takes several lifetimes, that is the time it takes and no half-measures will serve.
An old phrase covering this purification is "living the life." "Live the life and you shall know the doctrine," is an ancient maxim.
Time is the great sifter. There are regular periods when a sifting takes place among those dedicated to the mystic life. Inevitably those whose professions are not centered in the heart fall away, though they often for a time imagine they are the regiment and all the others are out of step with them. The purification is that of all the lower qualities, based chiefly on personality and desire, which in the end are usually found to be much the same thing. An infallible sign of personality is the irritation with which those who are dominated by it resent the mention of the word or throw it back in the teeth of the one they think to be criticizing them, the "tu quoque" idea.
One prides himself on his social importance, frequently a child of the imagination; another supposes he is one of the spiritually advanced; he suffers from spiritual pride; another wants to turn spiritual professions to physical and material advantage or profit; another thirsts for power, even if no more than over a small group of fellows whom he calls friends; another desires offices, position, titles, money; another is a victim of the innumerable forms of self indulgence, as most people are today. There are those who follow psychic practices and imagine they are thereby spiritually progressing, sometimes hiding their heads in the sand to prevent seeing that they are psychic and not spiritual. Some are merely victims of psychic weaknesses which are so often taken for "powers," which they are not. A few have the pride of an inverted humility. Retaliation, pomposity, self-justification, the pronoun "I," speeches with great swelling words, the desire to sit at tables above the salt as if any particular table conferred social status, though this latter foible belongs to the Middle Ages rather than today; all these things and many other forms of personality belong to the heap. One could go on for pages with all the festering compost that fills the stables of Augeas.
Why should these things be bad? Has not a man a right to think himself a bit superior to others if he has position, title, a bank account, a car, an education? This is the reason. All these things of the personality belong to the temporary, fleeting, "mortal" personality. It all has to die or fall away before the real man can live as a man and not something lower.
Initiation at one stage means just that. It is a death in life. The lower man, the personality, has to die so that the real man, in its very high aspect sometimes called the Christ in Man, may live, may rise from the dead of the personality. That is why it is included in the initiation cycle of Hercules. This Initiation is a hastening of the process which the Man passes through during the ages; it is nothing unnatural, but it is a hothouse culture. It is very desirable because without it the way would be interminably long. It is often said that life on Earth is the only hell that really exists. Then why are we here? Because we failed to go further through initiation in former lives, in former worlds. That is all. Those monads now working in beast bodies failed to go forward to the man-stage in the past, and have now to work their way up in the name-and-form they now have, as it is called in the graphic language of the King Milinda discussions of the Buddhists.
When the mighty rushing torrent of the spiritual stream comes through the stables, sweeping all before it, many who thought themselves anchored in the safety of spiritual self-approval are carried away, together with the pet foibles they cannot let go. Many such a sifting has the Theosophical Society passed through and many have been surprised to find that those they thought "big shots" of Theosophical personality have been swept away with the rest. But the Law is impersonal and time unrelenting.
The world, too, has its sifting times, since the Theosophical Society is a mirror of the world in miniature. We are now living, to all appearances, in such a sifting time, such a harvest ingathering, and it depends on us to see that the wind and the water of the spirit have not too much dross to carry away when the clock strikes twelve.