Eurystheus bids Hercules cleanse in one day the stalls of 3,000 oxen belonging to Augeas, King of Elis, which had not been cleansed for 30 years.
Hercules accomplished this task by diverting the courses of the Rivers Alpheus and Peneus, so that they flowed through the stalls. Augeas refused to give Hercules the reward promised for the accomplishment of this labour, and was subsequently killed by him.
Augeas means a being of streaming radiant light. He was son of Helios, the Sun.
Elis was situated on the eastern borders of Arcadia. Among its herds of cattle were 12 white bulls sacred to Helios.
The Oxen are symbolical of natural cosmic co-ordinated energies. The number Three and all its multiples (30, 300, 3,000) denote activity: therefore, the cattle with their stalls or stables are like the various modes of activity according to which the Sun manifests in the 12 “Houses” and triplicities through which it passes in its cyclic journeyings.
Alpheus and Peneus are sons of the god Oceanus; they may be regarded as dual aspects of divine life – involving and evolving.
Libra – “The Balance” – is the Zodiacal Sign associated with this task.
The influences of Libra are perverted when they appear as unbalance, injustice, aloofness, fastidiousness, over-sensitiveness, procrastination, and all that pertains to the superficial and to the dislike for duties of a menial but cleansing character.
The pure aspects of Libra appear as the love of order, beauty, justice, and symmetry, and as all that pertains to equilibrium, tact, honour, adaptability, timeliness, and impartiality.
The task of Hercules in this labour may be regarded as that of readjusting and re-establishing the balance, which has been disturbed by the cumulative action of the Law of Cause and Effect resulting from the exercise of lordship of the independent mind or selfhood, over the forces at its disposal. Augeas is like the light of reason, or consciousness, and the sentient nature of man as a whole, which makes him a being endowed with light. This gives to him his sense of selfhood, of independence of nature, as well as his potential lordship over nature. But when he exercises this without wisdom he becomes more and more immersed in the multiplication of causes and effects which he sets into operation.
Thus the sphere of his life, his consciousness, his existence, like fields, or stalls or stables of the cattle, become more and more congested and in need of purification and readjustment. The unbalanced condition produced prevents him from seeing things as they really are, he becomes unjust, hypersensitive, and less and less inclined to undertake the unpleasant task of removing the accretions that have grown around his entire transient nature. Instead of sitting on the throne of balance, he becomes chained to the wheel of causation or Karma, and is unable to escape its cumulative influence. Only the power of the hero-soul, with the aid of divine life, can undertake this task.
It marks the turning point, as it were, in the Soul’s peregrinations in the transient realms, for if the balance is restored it means that the Soul’s real ascent may be commenced, but if this labour is not performed, then the Soul must continue to revolve with the wheel of birth and death.
The task must be accomplished in a single day, that is to say, it must be performed in such a manner that the influence of Time is transcended. Time, as Plato affirmed, is a flowing image of Eternity, hence when Eternal Life manifests in the realms of Time it assumes the flowing appearance of streams of water (Rivers Alpheus and Peneus). But the hero-soul has the power to change the natural and temporal progress of this life so that it not only transcends the limitations of Time but also washes away all the effects that have accumulated during the transient activities of the independent Self in the realms of duality. Thus, the twin streams, with their actions and re-actions, their in-flowing and out-flowing, are equilibrated and thus speedily bring about a readjustment, a harmony, and justice of life.