Labor Eleven: Gathering the Golden Apples
of the Hesperides
Eurystheus next ordered Hercules to gather the golden apples of the Hesperides and bring them back to him. The sacred tree that bore the apples had been presented to Zeus and Hera by Gaia, the Earth goddess, at the time of their marriage. The tree was tended by the Hesperides, three daughters of Atlas, in their Sacred Garden and guarded by an immortal serpent with one hundred heads that lay coiled around the tree. Atlas himself suffered nearby under the weight of the heavens, which Zeus had sentenced him to shoulder as punishment for his participation in the revolt of the Titans against the Olympian gods.
Hercules set forth on this daunting mission with no idea how to even locate the garden. He decided to head west once again and soon encountered certain nymphs, daughters of Zeus, who directed him to a sea god for information. After a considerable struggle with this elusive being, he finally informed Hercules that the golden apples grew in a far northern land of abundance and sunshine.
On his way to the mystical land of plenty, Hercules encountered unexpected challenges, both natural and supernatural, which resulted in lengthy and frustrating delays. At last the way seemed clear, and he made haste for the objects of his search. As he passed by the Caucasus Mountains to the East, a cry of deep distress fell on his ears. A part of him wanted to ignore this cry so as not to delay his journey further. After another wretched groan reached him, however, Hercules turned and headed up a mountain in the direction of the sound. At the mountaintop, he found Prometheus chained outstretched on a rock, an eagle hungrily eating out his liver. Every day the eagle pecked out his liver, and at night the liver grew back. Prometheus had been sentenced to this fate by Zeus for the crime of stealing fire from the gods and giving it to mankind.
Hercules brought down the eagle with one arrow and set the agonized Prometheus free. After hearing of Hercules’ labor, Prometheus gratefully gave him the best strategy for retrieving the golden apples. Hercules should not, he instructed, attempt to face the monstrous serpent to get the apples; he should rather go to Prometheus’brother, Atlas, and send him for the apples while he held Atlas’ burden for him.
Wisely, Hercules took this advice and traveled further north until he found Atlas, worn and weary, staggering beneath his great celestial load. Atlas happily agreed to the bargain and transferred the weight to Hercules’ shoulders. The goddess Athena, Hercules’ faithful protector, stood behind him to help support the burden. Atlas went on to the Sacred Garden, where each of his three daughters, the Hesperides, willingly plucked an apple and gave it to him. Atlas, now liberated, returned to tell Hercules that he would himself take the three apples to Eurystheus while Hercules held up the sky. Hercules cunningly agreed, but asked Atlas to first hold the weight for a moment while he put a pad on his shoulders. Atlas laid down the apples and Hercules transferred the dome of the sky back to him. Hercules then snatched the apples and headed back to Mycenae, leaving the slow-witted giant to his fate.
As Hercules was offering the three golden apples to Eurystheus, Athena intervened. She told Hercules that she had patiently allowed him to return with the apples to complete the labor, but that he must now give them to her. She returned the apples to the Sacred Garden, the only place that such divine fruit could be properly kept.
This labor demonstratesthe nature of action taken from an enlightened state. It is action that arises out of the stillness of the present moment, where we directly access the peace, joy, and infallible intuitive guidance offered to us so freely by the indwelling Spirit. When freed from the shame and guilt of the past as well as the fear of the future, we are positioned in this holy gap between past and future to make conscious and meaningful choices. Whereas we, as children of an infinite Creator, have always created our own experience of reality unconsciously, we now have the capacity to do so consciously. Just as Hercules at this stage of his development, we have given up the ego battles that we once fought against our own inner being; we have surrendered to the truth, our Self, at last. Exhilarating freedom and profound responsibility fall upon the newly awakened citizens of the universe, who are now able to make the meaningful choices that accompany mastery and create a world that reflects the wonder of their true nature. For the individual, such mastership is possible now; for the planet as a whole, it will be post-apocalyptic.
The sacred tree, a gift from Mother Earth, represents the feminine function of God; it is rooted in the Earth, yet it captures the sunlight and cosmic energies of the Father. The golden apples symbolize the fruits of the creative union between Father and Mother God or any true creation from stillness arising, always, in our world of duality, from the partnership of the archetypal male and female energies. On a global level, the apples represent the conscious creations of the coming era of enlightenment. The serpent that guards the tree symbolizes the material-bound ego, ruled by human reason. The hundred heads illustrate the fragmentation, disunity, and conflict between polarities that result in our lives when we elevate human concepts over direct Spirit guidance. This, the historical condition, has held us apart from the tree of life and its fruits.
The Hesperides, the three daughters of Atlas who tend the tree, represent the three aspects of Sophia’s wisdom previously discussed—the gnostic, the mystical, and the magical. These may be seen respectively as the feminine expressions of the wisdom, love, and power of the Creator. As feminine expressions, they are the more tangible manifestations of these divine qualities in the new world. Athena, standing behind Hercules to help support his burden, represents the Overlords. Even now they stand behind us in silent support, waiting patiently for the day that they may help us as we encounter the personal challenges of spiritual mastery and the planetary challenges of the advancing eras of light and life.
This labor reveals not only the nature of enlightened choice, but also the elegant manner in which the divine will guides us to success. The divine will, which always takes into account the highest good for all concerned, may well lead us on paths that seem like detours to the linear, task-oriented mind. Yet God, it is said, takes all lines and makes them straight. When Hercules heard the groans of Prometheus, his mind told him that his labor would be delayed if he took his eye off the goal and stopped to help. Fortunately, he listened to the guidance of his inner spirit and turned with compassion to Prometheus, who suffered for the sake of humanity. Prometheus, it turned out, held the knowledge that was essential to Hercules’ success and gave it to him gratefully. In service of the gods and man, Hercules, the heroic soul, had once again found salvation.
Hercules’ lesson in sacred responsibility was not yet complete, however. Rather than confront the serpent himself (i.e., struggle further with egotism), he was sent instead to enlarge his capacity for love and compassion. By taking on the weight of the heavens for a short time, he acquired deeper empathy through a direct personal experience of Atlas’ suffering and was also reminded of his need for divine help. Yet he had to give the load back to Atlas, for we are not meant to take on others’ burdens permanently. This experience was not a punishment or sacrifice; it was a lesson in the nature of world service and the responsibility of mastership.
Traditionally, this lesson has sometimes been called the “Way of the Cross” in the West. Buddhism recognizes it as the way of the Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva is an enlightened being who reaches the brink of Nirvana, then returns voluntarily to the world to help others reach enlightenment and end suffering. This is the way that we follow under the inspiration of the Overlords, who draw us into higher levels of spiritual mastery. Just as Hercules returned triumphant with the golden apples, those who bear the sacred responsibilities of universe citizenship and world service will achieve proportionate levels of freedom and joy.
Hercules’ final lesson in sacred responsibility took place upon his return to Eurystheus. He was required to give the golden apples back to Athena so that she might return them to the Hesperides’ Sacred Garden. Like the golden apples, all true creations are sacred because they arise from the Source of life’s phenomena, the beingness from which all that is male and female spring. We can’t hold on to our creations any more than the sun can hold on to its rays or the clouds can hold back the rain. All that we create from stillness must be given back to the Source to bless all life, so that we may receive and give still more.
While the greater planetary fulfillment still awaits us, our willingness to serve right now as we are able helps to ease the collective trauma of the transition now underway, even as it accelerates our own awakening. Like Hercules, the planetary servant hero, temporarily bearing the weight of the heavens on his shoulders, we must feel the suffering about us to the extent that we can empathize with those in need and take effective action to help. In so doing, we must remember to work with joy and light-heartedness. Otherwise, we risk falling under the spell of martyrdom and egotistic self-sacrifice, becoming like the member of a dysfunctional family system who holds all the family burdens. As Jesus once said,“My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)
Effective action, both powerful and light-hearted, is sometimes described as meditation in action; such a state of being in the“flow” is consciously cultivated, for instance, by advanced martial artists. Many people in fact meditate to achieve the inner discipline, presence of mind, and stillness that promote effective action. All meditators appreciate the“effortless effort” it takes to simply sit in silence and focus on one’s breath, a sound, or guided imagery. We may therefore express Herculean will not only by bold action, but by sitting in our living room and sending light and healing to humanity through the inner planes. All forms of world service are enhanced by conscious connection with inner stillness.
The realm of world service is indeed vast. Citizen heroes may serve through the satisfactions of physical labor, political activism, human rights, science, religion, education, healing, prayer, the arts; every sphere of human affairs and planetary life is included. Many organizations have been formed to serve through the application of higher spiritual ideals. One example is the Earth Human Movement, founded by Ilchi Lee, which has formulated the following Declaration of Humanity:
- I declare that I am a Spiritual Being, an essential and eternal part of the Soul of Humanity, one and indivisible.
- I declare that I am a Human Being whose rights and security ultimately depend on assuring the human rights of all people of Earth.
- I declare that I am a Child of the Earth, with the will and awareness to work for the goals that benefit the entire community of life on Earth.
- I declare that I am a Healer, with the power and purpose to heal the many forms of divisions and conflicts that exist on Earth.
- I declare that I am a Protector, with the knowledge and responsibility to help the Earth recover her natural harmony and beauty.
- I declare that I am an Activist, with the commitment and the ability to make a positive difference in my society.
Whether aligned with an organization or serving alone in some capacity, every enlightened action, every true creation from the stillness of the present moment, is a blessing that we offer the entire world. As Jesus once said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40) We suggest the following exercise to facilitate alignment with the Overlords, our faithful helpers on the heroic path of world service.
Twelve Steps to Transforming Collective Doubt and Mistrust in God,
Collective Suffering, and Ego-based Survival
Transforming collective doubt and mistrust, suffering, and survival-based consciousness into divine guidance,
joy, sacred responsibility, freedom, and peace (stillness)
- Find a comfortable place to lie down. Starting below the feet, feel and see the white healing light flowing progressively up and throughout your body.
- With healing hands of light, build a base and pyramid in white light in front of you.
- Enter the pyramid and stand in its center. Welcome Archangels Michael (royal-blue light) on your right, Raphael (emerald-green light) on your left, Gabriel (crystal-white light) along your back, and Uriel (golden ruby-red light) along the front of your body. Attune to each order and its healing qualities by breathing in the respective colored flames of healing light.
- Step out of the pyramid through the back side into a beautiful garden, exploring the creations of nature and Mother Earth (the Divine Feminine) and her helpers, the holy archangels.
- Step into a column of golden-white light and feel yourself lifted up until you are standing at the gate of the garden and temple of the Overlords.
- Visualize a bright, golden-white, radiant circular disc on the garden gate. Place your hands on the disc and feel the energy flow through you. Repeat the following affirmation three times: “I am joy, freedom, peace, and stillness, aligned with God’s will and guidance.”
- Enter the garden through the gate and walk to the holy temple of the Overlords. Enter the temple and step into the flames of golden-white light burning on the altar, attuning to the qualities of the Overlords.
- Review Labor Eleven—Gathering the Golden Apples of the Hesperides—in your heartand mind, seeing Hercules in action completing the labor.
- Now ask yourself, “In what ways have I resisted or ignored divine spiritual guidance on my real purpose and destiny on the planet Earth? What is my real purpose in my life? How can I better embody the qualities of joy, peace, and freedom for myself and express these qualities for the benefit of others?” Send the golden-white light of joy, peace, and freedom to all aspects of your life.
- Become the flames of the Overlords’ light. Hold the planet Earth in the palms of your hands and let the golden-white flames of light transform the collective suffering, meaninglessness, doubt, and mistrust into sacred trust, joy, freedom, spiritual peace, guidance, and responsibility for humanity and the Earth.
- See yourself lifting the illuminated planet to the temple of the Overlords, holding the Earth close to your heart.
- With intention, let the golden-white flames of light flow to the planet and say, “Beloved I AM Presence, Archangelic Order of the Overlords, blaze your golden-white light in, through, and around the collective mental, emotional, etheric, and physical bodies of all humanity and transform all misdirected, miscreated, and misguided energies for the highest good of all life on Earth.” Return gradually from your journey by leaving the temple and coming down the column of light, back to awareness of your physical body.
Hercules Line Drawings © 2007 Ian King