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Labour 11: Cleansing the Augean Stables



King Augeas owns a herd of cattle, the stables of which have not been cleaned for so long a time that a terrible pestilence is blighting the lives of the people throughout his land. In this eleventh labour, Hercules’ task is to journey to the land of Augeas and offer to cleanse these stables of their ancient evil. The king, unwilling to believe that anyone could or would do this without a reward, places conditions on the task stating, that if Hercules performs it in one day, he can keep one-tenth of the cattle, but should he fail, his life and fortune will belong to the King.


Pondering on how he might perform the labour, Hercules notices two rivers flowing nearby and an answer to the problem flashes into his mind. With might and main Hercules labours and, by great exertions, succeeds in diverting both streams to the dung-filled stables. The rushing torrents pour through two holes that he punches in opposite sides of the wall, sweeping away the long-accumulated filth. Having performed this labour in one day, Hercules returns to tell King Augeas of his success. On hearing the news, however, the King flies into a rage, declaring that it was the rivers, not Hercules, that had done the work, and that this has been nothing more than a ruse to deprive him of his cattle, even perhaps, of his throne. Hercules is ordered to leave the kingdom and never to return, on pain of death. But, on returning to his Teacher, Hercules is told, that the performance of so selfless a deed has made of him a server of the world, and the jewel that the eleventh labour bestows, now belongs to him, forevermore.


Interpretation of the myth:

In this labour, Hercules sounds the keynote of the world server that will be the hallmark of the disciple in the Aquarian Age. We live in a time when the issue of pollution and corruption is very important. But the pollution that Hercules is asked to clear up is not merely physical – rather, it is the selfish and materialistic desires that cause the pollution in the first place. King Augeas symbolises the individual’s lower self or personality that should control its own desires but lets them run rampant instead, misusing resources and endangering others.

When the lighted energies of the Soul begin transmuting wrong relationships, the personality balks at the prospect of losing control over its little dominion and has little time for serving others. The soul prevails, however, and through its might directs the great purifying waters of life and love into the world of the personality, breaking down all separative barriers and establishing the spirit of inclusiveness and group consciousness. This implies an ability to work in union with others towards a shared purpose, using the transformed personality for the correct direction of forces. Thus, the disciple becomes a world server, helping to clean out the accumulated waste of materialism and to enter a better age of simpler, purer and, most importantly, inclusive living.


Keynote of Aquarius:

Personality Aspect: Let desire in form be the rule.

Soul Aspect: Water of Life am I, poured forth for thirsty men.