The Garden of Hesperides



In the story of Heracles (or Hercules as he is known by his Roman name), there are twelve so-called "labors" that he has to undertake to purify himself. This came about because of a time when not in control of himself, he had killed his wife and his children. When sanity returns he feels so penitent that he decides to kill himself. But after consulting the oracle at Delphi, he is told to go to his cousin Eurystheus, king of Mycenae, who assigns these twelve tasks to purge Heracles of his sins. The eleventh labor, or test, is to bring back some golden apples from the garden of the Hesperides. Not knowing where it is, he has no way of getting there, so he decides to seek the aid of Atlas, the father of the Hesperides. Atlas agrees to help Heracles, on condition that Heracles take on Atlas' load while he is away, that is, to carry the burden of earth and sky on his shoulders. This is ultimately more than he can bear, but he agrees to do it while Atlas goes to fetch the apples. When Atlas returns with the golden apples, having been free of his burden, he is determined to leave Heracles with it. But with his cunning intellect, Heracles manages to escape this trap and bring back the golden apples he needs to redeem or purify himself from his past deeds.

This story can be seen as an archetype or metaphor of some of what we are experiencing today. Heracles can be viewed as a symbol for that part of us (whether ego, intellect or will), which has been acting in ways that are destructive of much of what holds promise for a future, which includes many of the things we have held dear in the past. As Heracles feels he has to purify himself from his past actions, we also feel we somehow need to find new ways of relating to or dealing with the world we live in. Mother Nature is part of our larger family and as a collective we are in fact in process of killing her. This is not to speak of how often we misuse our brothers and sisters in our human family, even to the point of abuse and murder.

For Heracles, part of the process of being cleansed involves taking the weight of the entire world and sky on his shoulders for a certain length of time. How often do we not feel we are overburdened with the world in our journey through life? Are there not many times when we feel we are carrying more than we can bear?

It appears that this story may provide us with a roadmap or atlas (pardon the pun) of some of the territory we need to navigate to redeem ourselves, or in today's terms to become whole or "clean up our act," and for which a map can be critical. The story itself can be considered to be one of those golden apples along the path of our journey. And this web page is here to remind us of that garden where we are to find the golden apples which Atlas procured to help Heracles fulfill one of his tasks, i.e. what we need to do to cleanse or purify our ego, or our sense of ourselves, and our connection with all that is outside of us. Ultimately we must walk this journey alone, but as Heracles discovered with Atlas, there are helps and guides along the way. Consider this web page to be a garden where can be found a few golden apples that I have collected in dealing with the burdens of the world. If you find yourself with such a burden at this time, my hope is that you find in this garden a golden apple or two that will meet your need. Whether you do or not, I wish you well on your journey of discovery and purification.

I also want to point out that although most of the contents of this garden, including the plants, flowers and fruits were cultivated by myself, I would like to see this garden grow and expand beyond my limited sphere. I consider myself mainly as the gardener, and I invite you to contribute what has helped you, as well as what you consider to be valuable and important in your life, whether it is your own creation or not. Only in this way can it be enriched in its potential offerings to visitors. As the gardener, my aim is for this garden to be a showcase for the creativity that lies in us all. The talents we have are unique but the creative impulse is universal. Our talent may be to create a thing of beauty, or to collect beautiful things. If you are an artist, photographer, writer, poet, musician or primarily just a collector like myself, and want to offer something that would contribute to the garden in harmony with its aims and offerings, I encourage you to consider doing so. More on this in the Goodbye page.

It must be pretty clear by now that the Garden of Hesperides is not made up of the normal kinds of plants and flowers and pathways. The golden apples are still golden, but golden in a different way. It speaks of what is valuable, but not in terms of money and material possessions. The garden is a symbol of what is possible in the metaphysical landscape, which we are inhabiting more and more in this "information age". Its intent is partly to complement or offset the rampant consumerism and materialism we are forced to deal with in the form of a barrage of advertisements, films, music and other ways. The internet is an influence that tends to remove us from the physical world and can bring us more into the world of ideas, or even better, the world of the imagination. And so my hope is that this garden will provide a breath of fresh metaphysical air, and that the time you spend here will be a healing influence in your day. But more than that, this garden is named after one that offers golden apples. With your participation and your help, may the seed of its fruit take root to bear more fruit for others.

Dirk Kelder

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