Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Labors of Hercules, Part One

Hercules is a picture of the strong man, who binds: in Christ’s parables, he uses the image to refer to Satan, who always imitates God in a perverse manner. Esoterically, we might say that for most people (excluding Tomberg’s mysterious “just man”), “Satan makes the first move in the chess game. A greater than Satan has to come to bind the strong man, and so Hercules is also a picture of “the Lord” or the “true Self”. Since we live “in Middle Earth” & find ourselves “in media res” (in the middle of things), there is work to do. Power comes, not necessarily all at once, but in a series of revelations. As the Western Tradition teaches, God “respects” free will – we have to side with Him, or else the Asuras will bind us in service to Anti-Christ, under the dominion of a sunken Lucifer and an exalted Ahriman, the unholy Trinity.

This teaching even enters the popular imagination, in unexpected ways: in Star Wars, the line is given – “No…there is another.” This is Luke’s “sister” (who, of course, seems more like a bride, at first), with whom the Force is strong. The Self has “another Self”, & also serves the “Self Beyond the Self”.
Hercules is given tasks – he has to attain heaven by storm. Yes, he is already Hercules, who as an infant, strangled the serpents in his crib. Yet, still, there is combat, storm, warfare. As Isaac Watts penned in the hymn, “shall we look to go to heaven, on flowery beds of ease?”. However, it may be closer than we think, if we ride the storm.

His first task is to slay the Nemean Lion. King David had to slay a lion, it is worthy to note.
The Fathers mention, in the Philokalia, several means of slaying demons. Some of the demons can be scorned or ridiculed, & cannot bear focused attention on themselves, & so the basic posture of “awareness”, even letting the mind wander, to see where it goes, can bring fire upon their heads & cause them to flee.

Which demon are we dealing with, here? The demon can change into a wounded damsel in distress, luring men into her cave, & then devouring them. Since  most men’s sins revolve around sexual desire, we should naturally begin to examine this area of our lives? How & why & when are we tempted? In what manner?

The Biblical writers start the sequence with “the lust of the flesh (and the pride of life)” – and this is the first temptation of the wilderness, to desire earthly food rather than God’s Word. Women, for men, represent an appetite and a need, & it is not too much to say that, for most men, they could not live without woman, and that much if not all of their Ego is bound up in psycho-sexual desire for the woman.

Even in popular culture, it is apparent that the “outsider” status & rough wanderings in the wilderness produces, not the Alpha Male, but the Sigma male, who is capable of attracting a beautiful consort, but in many senses, does not “need” or “use” her. This freedom from the woman, inner and outer, is a necessary prelude to true spiritual potency. Hence the medieval ideal of celibacy. If this appetite can be mastered, then one can engage the Nemean Lion. (Note, I am not endorsing, absolutely, these categories, but pointing out primarily that the rigid worship of “Alpha” status by males is misplaced, even as I acknowledge that their virtues are necessary, & could be redeemed. It is they who “set the tone” of society, & they are likely to be of a latent warrior class, who are “masterless samurais”).
Scupoli advises the seeker to treat the lower chakra as a “burning fire” and to flee even the physical proximity of beautiful women, even women who are “family” or “friends”. Since this is all but impossible today, the initiate must be even stronger. He must know, with absolute certitude, that the gravitational pull of beautiful women is a reflection of an inner illusion which must be absolutely put down, with all the ruthless of the Roman generals who sowed Carthage with salt. Carthago delenda est, was the founding of the “Pax Romana”.

This does not disparage woman. Rather, it creates true freedom. What real man & father would ever experience real temptation toward their own flesh and blood? None, if the man is healthy. Even so, the healthy initiate, in spirit, must view all woman, even the most desirable, as someone he must sweep the veil of sexual illusion from, in order to see properly, at all. Paradoxically, this will make him more more attractive to woman, & invite further assault, for which he must be prepared, as a most cunning general. In ancient Christian tradition, the “necessary lie” was even advocated (eg., I am sick, I am mourning, etc.).  Part of what drives the Kali Yuga is the misplaced sexual turmoil of alpha & beta males (and to a lesser degree, everyone else’s failure to not see through the illusion).

I would encourage all the men who read these articles to do whatever it takes to master the tiger of lust, absolutely. It will look differently, in various types and conditions. Chaste marriage to one woman is a form of celibacy, if exalted and properly nurtured. It absolutely constrains the sexual desire in all but one area, &, eventually, in modified form, even that area. The details & circumstances will vary.
The mingling of races and flesh is inevitable in some ways, to some degrees, but in our time, it is actually the new Ideal. The initiate who comes to slay the Lion can take no part in this delusion, regardless of the consequences, personally. He has come to slay the Lion, not to sleep with the Demon. St. Benedict threw himself into thorns and brambles in order to master his lust. What have you done?

The power of the Holy Spirit that resides in the sexual chakra is typically the last center to be mastered by the initiate. It often remains, undisciplined, to the final breath. Along with pride, it is perhaps the most dangerous weakness of men (or women, for that matter). Man’s creative organic power that resides there was meant to issue in the mouth in a word of power that commands and creates a new world (the mouth is the lower third of the head, and corresponds to the waist). It cannot do this if a man gives himself up to Lust, under the guise of “riding the Tiger”, not perceiving that the meaning is twisted.

The foundation of asceticism is a denial of the need to quench our thirst for the female in anything other than God’s sanction and God’s time (which may be after our deaths, and not in the literal “physical way”). It also cannot be accomplished without an invocation to Zeus (made explicit in the story of the Nemean lion, in which a sacrifice to Zeus is involved in the bargain). A higher desire is required to cast out the lower one, to make room for the action of God.

This is the foundation of power. This is Rome, who resisted “Eastern luxury”, Phoenician materialism, & the violent turbulence of the unprepared Northern tribes.. Rome, in the power of Ahriman (at that time, not overly exalted), held the line and upheld the true virtus. Hercules is a warrior and a priest, at once.

Issac the Syrian actually explains how this process of “mortifying the flesh” works:
 ”The effect of the cross is twofold; the duality of its nature divides it into two parts, One consists in enduring sorrows of the flesh which are brought about by the action of the excitable part of the soul, and this part is called activity. The other part lies in the finer workings of the mind and in divine meditation, as well as in attending to prayer, etc.; it is accomplished by means of the desiring part of the soul and is called contemplation. The part of the soul by dint of its zeal, while the second part is the activity of soulful love, in other words, natural desire, which enlightens the rational part of the soul. Every man who, before perfectly mastering the first part, switches to the second, attracted out of weakness–to say nothing of laziness, is overtaken by God’s wrath because he did not first mortify his members which are upon the earth (Col. 3:5). In other words, he did not cure his thoughts of infirmities by patiently bearing the cross, but rather dared in his mind to envision the glory of the cross” (Word 55).
“It is evident from these words of Isaac the Syrian that what we call prelest proper exists when a man starts trying to live above his capabilities. Without having cleansed himself of passions, he strives for a life of contemplation and dreams of the delights of spiritual grace. Thus the wrath of God befalls a man; because he thinks too highly of himself, God’s grace is withdrawn from him and he falls under the influence of the evil one who actively begins to tickle his vainglory with lofty contemplation and [spiritual] delights…” Source
St Theophan offers even more detail:
“”In the soul we find three powers: the intellect, the will, the heart, or, as the Holy Fathers say, the intellectual, desiring and incensive powers. Each of them is assigned particular curative exercises by the holy ascetics. These related excercises are both receptive and conducive to grace. They need not be contrived according to some theory, but rather chosen from tested ascetic labors particularly suited to a given power:”
-St. Theophan the Recluse in “The Path To Salvation”

Our wayward, random thoughts are “women” which attract the identification of Self: we chase them, they then transform into a demon, and “slay” us, by drawing us into illusions. It can be a long time before Hercules ever makes it out of the cave.