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Labour 5: The Slaying of the Nemean Lion



Hercules stands before the fifth gate, armed to the teeth with his vast array of weapons. The people of Nemea, in deep distress, are calling for him to kill a lion that devastates their land and forces them to live in fear behind locked doors. Hercules, with listening ear, responds but decides to abandon the weapons which hinder his progress, trusting instead to his club for protection and the courage of his heart to speed him on his way.


The people are dismayed to find him without arms and with little knowledge of the lion, but Hercules proceeds undaunted – “afraid yet unafraid, alone yet not alone”. After days of searching, he suddenly comes upon the ferocious beast but stands his ground instead of running away as others have. His arrows find their target but the lion remains unscathed. Hercules rushes towards it, shouting wildly, and it flees before him. Eventually he tracks it to its lair, a cave with two entrances where, by blocking up one opening, he traps it. Now, with no exit for either of them, Hercules faces the lion, and chokes and kills it with his bare hands. He then strips it of its skin and displays it to the Nemean people, now free to live in peace. In triumph, Hercules returns to his teacher, his success acknowledged by gaining permission to wear the lion’s skin, but who also warns, “the lion and serpents must be slain again and once again”.


Interpretation of the myth:

This fifth sign of Leo is significant, for the number five is, esoterically speaking, the number of man. Each individual is a son of God as well as the quaternary of the lower nature of mind, emotions, vital body and physical sheath. In Leo, the human being knows he to be an individual and becomes aware of himself as the Self. So we have, in effect, two lions pictured – Hercules, symbolising the lion of the Self or soul, and the Nemean lion, the co-ordinated dominant personality of the lower self. Hercules defeats the lion only when he can corner it in a cave, unseen by anyone. Likewise in the dark, alone and unaided, the aspirant must defeat the lion of his own nature.


This sign can be seen both as the culmination of the previous four labours covering the path of Probation and as marking the beginning of the path of Discipleship. It is one of the four arms of the fixed cross in the heavens, the cross on which the Cosmic Christ and the individual Christ are ever crucified or “sacrificed”, for, in the unfoldment of the Christ consciousness in the form, stage by stage, various aspects of the divine nature are seen as being sacrificed. In Leo, the lower reasoning mind must be sacrificed to the universal mind and the lower self of individual self-assertion conquered.


As an integrated personality, the aspirant often becomes a difficult person with a powerful mind and controlled emotions, very individualistic, self-confident and sometimes aggressive like the Nemean lion, running wild and menacing the peace. Today, with a world full of personalities at this stage of development, the time has come when the lion of the soul must prevail over the lion of the self. Unlike Hercules, we are not alone in this struggle because leadership is increasingly being provided by a great group of people, subjectively linked to each other, directed by their souls, therefore, group conscious and working towards the good of the whole.


Keynote of Leo:

Personality Aspect: Let other forms exist, I am because I am.

Soul Aspect: I am That and That am I.