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Having arrived at the shores of Lake Triton the heroes laid down their vessel. Parched with thirst they sought a spring and reached the place where on the previous day a dragon had been guarding the golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides. But it had been slain by Heracles and lay lifeless against the trunk of the apple tree. The Hesperides told them where to find the spring which Heracles, also thirsty, had made to flow from the earth. Several heroes, amongst whom Calais and Zetes, Euphemos and Lynkeus, thought that they would be able to join Heracles and had gone looking for him in vain.
The heroes then sought a way to leave Lake Triton. As they wandered the powerful Triton appeared and offered them a lump of earth while showing them the route to follow. It was a passage between the reefs that they would find by heading toward the place “where the motionless wave of the deep is blackest.” He also recommended that they always “follow the earth closely.”
This “night” finally opens up to a period of light marked by several important events.
Here Apollonius outlines some notable elements of the progression.
First of all there is the acquisition of true knowledge (golden apples from the Garden of the Hesperides). To clearly show that this is only a first approach the heroes noticed that Heracles had preceded them and had taken the apples! Thus the realisation on a given plan can never be taken as the goal or the ultimate accomplishment. Regardless of the efforts made the seeker cannot “know” beyond the transformation that has taken place at this stage: the heroes setting out in search of Heracles cannot catch up with him. Neither aspiration nor need nor search (Calais and Zetes) nor encouraging signs (Euphemos “one who pronounces auspicious words”) nor discernment (Lynceus) can change anything whatsoever. The seeker is still very far from having accomplished his “labours”.
This stage is marked by another death, that of the soothsayer Mopsus, “a broadened mental intuition guided by the psychic being”. It must be recalled that he had replaced the seer Idmon “one who is educated, skillful” who “knew his destiny by the birds” and thus a symbol of a purely mental intuition.
Just as the death of Idmon and Mopsus succeeding him represented an evolution of intuitive abilities – the transition from an intellectual intuition to a pure intuition from the psychic being (the father of Mopsus is Apollo) – the death of Mopsus marks the powerful mitigation of any intuitive faculty so that the seeker may face other trials for the ultimate goal of his liberation. The death of Mopsus is caused by residues of the fight against fear and vital greed (drops of blood from the severed head of Medusa, fallen on the Libyan soil and transformed into snakes).
Firmly established faculties can thus very mysteriously and suddenly disappear when other levels of realisation must be reached.
The seeker then receives support from Triton “the sea monster” who invites him to explore the most “dark and unknown” depths of his being, “a narrow path between the breakers that he will find by going towards the place where the stationary wave of the deep is the blackest.”
The name Triton is linked to the number three and probably refers to the outline of the caduceus at the level of the Sephira Yesod, the energy of life. Here Apollonius associates it to Phorcys and/or Nereus, that is to say to the appearance of the mind in life. Nereus is the “old man of the sea” and Phorcys the very first power of fusion in the vital – probably instinct – before the power of separation of the nascent mind as represented by Ceto begins to act.