XX. THE AEON
In this card
it has been necessary to depart completely from the tradition of the cards, in
order to carry on that tradition.
The old card
was called The Angel: or, The Last Judgment. It represented an Angel or
Messenger blowing a trumpet, attached to which was a flag, bearing the symbol of
the Aeon of Osiris. Below him the graves were opening, the dead rising up. There
were three of them. The central one had his hands raised with right angles at
the elbows and shoulders, so as to form the letter Shin, which refers to Fire.
The card therefore represented the destruction of the world by Fire. This was
accomplished in the year of the vulgar era 1904, when the fiery god Horus took
the place of the airy god Osiris in the East as Hierophant (see Atu V). At the
beginning, then, of this new Aeon, it is fit to exhibit the message of that
angel who brought the news of the new Aeon to earth. The new card is thus of
necessity an adaptation of the StÚlÚ of Revealing.
top of the card is the body of Nuith, the star-goddess, who is the category of
unlimited possibility; her mate is Hadit, the ubiquitous point-of-view, the only
philosophically tenable conception of Reality. He is represented by a globe of
fire, representing eternal energy; winged, to show his power of Going. As a
result of the marriage of these two, the child Horus is born. He is, however,
known under his special name, Heru-ra-ha. A double god; his extroverted form is
Ra-hoor-khuit; and his passive or introverted form Hoor-pa kraat. (See above,
the Formula of Tetragrammaton). He is also solar in character, and is therefore
shown coming forth in golden light.
The whole of
this symbolism is thoroughly explained in the Book of the Law.
It should, by
the way, be noted that the name Heru is identical with Hru, who is the great
Angel set over the Tarot. This new Tarot may therefore be regarded as a series
of illustrations to the Book of the Law; the doctrine of that Book is
At the bottom
of the card we see the letter Shin itself in a form suggestive of a flower; the
three Yods are occupied by three human figures arising to partake in the Essence
of the new Aeon. Behind this letter is a symbolic representation of the Sign of
Libra; this is the forth-shadowing of the Aeon which is to follow this present
one, presumably in about 2,000 years-"the fall of the Great Equinox; when
Hrumachis shall arise and the double-wanded one assume my throne and place". The
present Aeon is too young to give a more definite representation of this future
event. But in this connection attention must be drawn to the figure of
Ra-hoor-khuit: "I am the Lord of the Double Wand of Power; the wand of the Force
of Coph Nia; but my left hand is empty, for I have crushed an Universe; & nought
remains. There are many other details with regard to the Lord of the Aeon which
should be studied in the Book of the Law.
It is also
important to study very thoroughly, and meditate upon, this Book, in order to
appreciate the spiritual, moral, and material events which have marked the
catastrophic transition from the Aeon of Osiris. The time for the birth of an
Aeon seems to be indicated by great concentration of political power with the
accompanying improvements in the means of travel and communication, with a
general advance in philosophy and science, with a general need of consolidation
in religious thought. It is very instructive to compare the events of the five
hundred years preceding and following the crisis of approximately 2,000 years
ago, with those of similar periods centred in 1904 of the old era. It is a
thought far from comforting to the present generation, that 500 years of Dark
Ages are likely to be upon us. But, if the analogy holds, that is the case.
Fortunately, to-day we have brighter torches and more torch-bearers.
XXI. THE UNIVERSE
i. The Virgin
The first and
most obvious characteristic of this card is that it comes at the end of all, and
is therefore the complement of the Fool. It is attributed to the letter Tau. The
two cards together accordingly spell the word Ath, which means Essence. All
reality is consequently compromised in the series of which these two letters
form the beginning and the end. This beginning was Nothing; the end must there
fore be also Nothing, but Nothing in its complete expansion, as previously
explained. The number 4, rather than the number 2, was chosen as the basis of
this expansion, partly no doubt for convenience, to enlarge the "universe of
discourse"; partly to emphasize the idea of limitation.
Tau means the Sign of the Cross, that is, of extension; and this extension is
symbolized as four-fold because of the convenience of constructing the revolving
symbol of Tetragrammaton. In the case of the number 2, the only issue is the
return to the unity or to the negative. No continuous process can be
conveniently symbolized; but the number 4 lends itself, not only to this rigid
extension, the hard facts of nature, but also to the transcendence of space and
time by a continuously self-compensating change.
Tau is attributed to Saturn, the outermost and slowest of the seven sacred
planets; because of these dull, heavy qualities, the element of earth was thrust
upon the symbol. The original three elements, Fire, Air, Water, sufficed for
primitive thought; Earth and Spirit represent a later accretion. Neither is to
be found in the original twenty-two Paths of the Sepher Yetzirah. The world of
Assiah, the material world, does not appear except as a pendant to the Tree of
In the same
way, the element of Spirit is attributed to the letter Shin, as an additional
ornament, somewhat in the same way as Kether is said to be symbolized by the
topmost point of the Yod of Tetragrammaton. It is constantly necessary to
distinguish between the symbols of philosophical theory and those more elaborate
symbols based upon them which are necessary in practical work.
Earth have certain qualities in common-heaviness, coldness, dryness, immobility,
dullness and the like. Yet Saturn appears in Binah in respect of its blackness
in the Queen's scale, which is the scale of Observed Nature; but always, as soon
as the end of a process is reached, it returns automatically to the beginning.
it is the heaviest elements that are unable in terrestrial conditions to
support the strain and stress of their internal structure; consequently, they
radiate particles of the most tenuous character and the highest activity. In an
essay written in Cefal¨, Sicily, on the second law of Thermo-dynamics, it was
suggested that at the absolute zero of the air thermometer, an element heavier
than uranium might exist, of such a nature that it was capable of reconstituting
the entire series of elements. It was a chemical interpretation of the equation,
then reasonable to argue from analogy that since the end must beget the
beginning, the symbolism will follow; hence, blackness is also attributed to the
sun, according to a certain long- hidden tradition. One of the shocks for
candidates in the "Mysteries" was the revelation "Osiris is a black god".
therefore, is masculine; he is the old god, the god of fertility) the sun
in the south; but equally the Great Sea, the great Mother; and the letter Tau
upon the Tree of Life appears as an emanation from the moon of Yesod, the
foundation of the Tree and representative of the reproductive process and of the
equilibrium between change and stability, or rather their identification. The
influence of the path descends upon the earth, Malkuth, the daughter. Here again
appears the doctrine of "setting the daughter upon the throne of the Mother". In
the card itself there is consequently a glyph of the completion of the Great
Work in its highest sense, exactly as the Atu of the Fool symbolizes its
beginning. The Fool is the negative issuing into manifestation; the Universe is
that manifestation, its purpose accomplished, ready to return. The twenty cards
that lie between these two exhibit the Great Work and its agents in various
stages. The image of the Universe in this sense is accordingly that of a maiden,
the final letter of Tetragrammaton.
present card she is represented as a dancing figure. In her hands she
manipulates the radiant spiral force, the active and passive, each possessing
its dual polarity. her dancing partner is shown as Heru-Ra-Ha of Atu XIX. "The
Sun, Strength & Sight, Light; these are for the servants of the Star & the
Snake." This final form of the image of the Magical Formula of the God combines
and transforms so many symbols that description is difficult, and would be
nugatory. The proper method of study of this card-indeed of all, but of this
especially-is long-continued meditation. The Universe, so states the theme, is
the Celebration of the Great Work accomplished. In the corners of the card are
the four Kerubim showing the established Universe; and about her is an ellipse
composed of seventy- two circles for the quinaries of the Zodiac, the
In the centre
of the lower part of the card is represented the skeleton plan of the building
of the house of Matter. It shews the ninety-two known chemical elements,
arranged according to their rank in the hierarchy. (The design is due to the
genius of the late J. W. N. Sullivan: see The Bases of Modern Science.)
centre, a wheel of Light initiates the form of the Tree of Life, shewing the ten
principal bodies of the solar system. But this Tree is not visible except to
those of wholly pure heart.
1. The primum mobile, represented
by Pluto. (Compare the doctrine of the alpha particles of radium.)
2. The sphere of the Zodiac or
fixed stars, represented by Neptune.
3. Saturn. The Abyss. This
is represented by Herschel, the planet of disintegration and explosion.
6. The Sun.
9. The Moon.
10. The Earth. (The Four
symbols swim and dance in a complex but continuous ambience of loops and whorls.
The general colour of the traditional card is subfusc; it represents the
confusion and darkness of the material world. But the New Aeon has brought
fullness of Light; in the Minutum Mundum, Earth is no longer black, or of mixed
colours, but is pure bright green. Similarly, the indigo of Saturn is derived
from the blue velvet of the midnight sky, and the maiden of the dance represents
the issue from this, yet through this, to the Eternal. This card is to-day as
bright and glowing as any in the Pack.
THE VIRGIN UNIVERSE
[From The Vision and the Voice,
"We are come
unto a palace of which every stone is a separate jewel, and is set with millions
palace is nothing but the body of a woman, proud and delicate, and beyond
imagination fair. She is like a child of twelve years old. She has very deep
eyelids, and long lashes. Her eyes are closed, or nearly closed. It is
impossible to say anything about her. She is naked; her whole body is covered
with fine gold hairs, that are the electric flames which are the spears of
mighty and terrible Angels whose breastplates are the scales of her skin. And
the hair of her head, that flows down to her feet, is the very light of God
himself. Of all the glories beheld by the Seer in the Aethyrs, there is not one
which is worthy to be compared with her littlest finger-nail. For although he
may not partake of the Aethyr, without the ceremonial preparations, even the
beholding of this Aethyr from afar is like the par taking of all the former
"The Seer is
lost in wonder, which is Peace.
"And the ring
of the horizon above her is a company of glorious Archangels with joined hands,
that stand and sing: This is the daughter of BABALON the Beautiful, that she
hath borne unto the Father of All. And unto all hath she borne her.
"This is the
Daughter of the King. This is the Virgin of Eternity. This is she that the Holy
One hath wrested from the Giant Time, and the prize of them that have overcome
Space. This is she that is set upon the Throne of Understanding. Holy, Holy,
Holy is her name, not to be spoken among men. For Kore they have called her, and
Malkah, and Betulah, and Persephone.
poets have feigned songs about her, and the prophets have spoken vain things,
and the young men have dreamed vain dreams: but this is she, that immaculate,
the name of whose name may not be spoken. Thought cannot pierce the glory that
defendeth her, for thought is smitten dead before her presence. Memory is blank,
and in the most ancient books of Magick are neither words to conjure her, nor
adorations to praise her. Will bends like a reed in the tempests that sweep the
borders of her kingdom, and imagination cannot figure so much as one petal of
the lilies whereon she standeth in the lake of crystal, in the sea of glass.
"This is she
that hath bedecked her hair with seven stars, the seven breaths of God that move
and thrill its excellence. And she hath tired her hair with seven combs,
whereupon are written the seven secret names of God that are not known even of
the Angels, or of the Archangels, or of the Leader of the armies of the Lord.
Holy art thou, and blessed be thy name for ever, unto whom the Aeons are but the
pulsings of thy blood."
constitute a pictorial analysis of the powers of the four letters of the Name
and the four Elements. They are also referred to the Zodiac; but instead of
assigning the three decans of each sign to one card, the influence begins with
the last decan of one Sign and continues to the second decan of the next. There
is a further difficulty. It might well be expected that the elemental
attribution would harmonize with the Zodiacal attribution; but it is not so. For
instance, one might anticipate that the fiery part of Fire would refer to the
most active of the fiery signs, namely, Aries. On the contrary, it represents
the last decan of Scorpio and the first two of Sagittarius, which is the watery
part of Fire in the Zodiac, and the mildest in influence.
for this is that in the realm of the Elements all things are mixed and confused;
or, as the apologist might say, counter checked and counter-balanced. The
convenience of these arrangements is that these cards are suitable as being
descriptive, in a rough and empirical fashion, of divers types of men and women.
One may say briefly that any of these cards is a picture of the person whose
Sun, or whose rising Sign at his nativity, falls within the Zodiacal attribution
of the card. Thus, a person born on 12th October might possess many of the
qualities of the Queen of Swords; while, if he were born shortly before
midnight, he would add many of the characteristics of the Prince of Wands.
GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE
represent the powers of the letter Yod in the Name. They are the most sublime,
original, active part of the Energy of the Element; for this reason they are
represented on horseback and clad in complete armour. Their action is swift and
violent, but transient. In the Element of Fire, for instance, the Knight
corresponds to the Lightning flash; in the Element of Water, to Rain and
Springs; in that of Air, to Wind; in that of Earth, to Mountains. It is very
important as a mental exercise to work out for oneself these correspondences
between the Symbol and the Natural Forces which they represent; and it is
essential to practical Magical work to have assimilated this knowledge.
represent the letter Heh of the Name. They are the complements of the Knights.
They receive, ferment, and transmit the original Energy of their Knight. Quick
to receive that Energy, they are also fitted to endure for the period of their
function; but they are not the final product. They represent the second stage in
the process of creation whose fourth and last state is material realization.
They are represented as seated upon thrones. This emphasizes the fact that they
are appointed to exercise definite functions.
represent the Forces of the letter Vau in the Name. The Prince is the Son of the
Queen (the old King's daughter) by the Knight who has won her; he is therefore
represented as in a chariot, going forth to carry out the combined Energy of his
parents. He is the active issue of their union, and its manifestation. He is the
intellectual image of their union. His action is consequently more enduring than
that of his forbears. In one respect, indeed, he ac quires a relative
permanence, because he is the published record of what has been done in secret.
Also, he is the "Dying God", redeeming his Bride in the hour, and by the virtue,
of his murder.
Princesses represent the He' final of the Name. They represent the ultimate
issue of the original Energy in its completion, its crystallization, its
materialization. They also represent the counter-balancing, the re-absorption of
the Energy. They represent the Silence into which all things return. They are
thus at the same time permanent and non-existent. An audit of the equation 0=2.
Princesses have no Zodiacal attribution. Yet evidently they represent four types
of human being. They are those numerous "elemental" people whom we recognize by
their lack of all sense of responsibility, whose moral qualities seem to lack
"bite". They are sub-divided according to planetary predominance. Such types
have been repeatedly described in fiction. As Eliphaz Levi wrote: "The love of
the Magus for such creatures is insensate, and may destroy him".
between these Four Elements of the Name are extraordinarily complex, quite
beyond the limits of any ordinary treatise to discuss; they change with every
application of thought to their meaning.
no sooner has the Princess made her appearance than the Prince wins her in
marriage, and she is set upon the throne of her Mother. She thus awakens the Eld
of the original old King; who thereupon becomes a young Knight, and so renews
the cycle. The Princess is not only the perfect Maiden, but, owing to the death
of the Prince, the forsaken and lamenting Widow. All this occurs in the legends
characteristic of the Aeon of Osiris. It is hardly possible definitely to
disentangle these complications, but for the student it is sufficient if he will
be content to work with one legend at a time.
It is natural
that the Aeon of Osiris, the regimen of Air, of strife, of intellect, should be
thus confused; that its symbols and formulas should overlap, should contradict
each other. It is impossible to harmonize the multitudinous fables or parables,
because each was invented to emphasize some formula that was regarded as
imperative to serve some local or temporal purpose.
KNIGHT OF WANDS
of Wands represents the fiery part of Fire; he rules from the 21St degree of
Scorpio to the 20th degree of Sagittarius. He is a warrior in complete armour.
On his helmet for a crest he wears a black horse. In his hand he bears a flaming
torch; a flame also in his mantle; and upon the flames does he ride. His steed
is a black horse leaping.
qualities appropriate to this figure are activity, generosity, fierceness,
impetuosity, pride, impulsiveness, swiftness in unpredictable actions. If
wrongly energized, he is evil-minded, cruel, bigoted and brutal. He is in either
case ill-fitted to carry on his action; he has no means of modifying it
according to circumstances. If he fails in his first effort, he has no resource.
In the Yi
King, the fiery part of Fire is represented by the 51st hexagram, Kan. The
signification there given is entirely in accordance with the doctrine of the
Tarot, but great emphasis is laid on the startling, perilous, and revolutionary
character of the events cognate. The Querent is advised to be apprehensive, yet
cool, resolute and energetic: to beware of untimely action, but to go forward
with tense confidence in his own ability.
correspondences of the Yi King are to be studied in that book (S.B.E. vol. XVI)
and reference is here made to the text when important passages are too long to
be conveniently quoted.
QUEEN OF WANDS
The Queen of
Wands represents the watery part of Fire, its fluidity and colour. Also, she
rules in the Zodiac from the 21st degree of Pisces to the 20th degree of Aries.
Her crown is topped with the winged globe and rayed with flame. Her long red
golden hair flows down upon her armour of scaled mail. She is seated upon a
throne of flame, ordered into geometrical light by her material power. Beneath
the throne the surging flames are steady. She bears a wand in her left hand; but
it is topped with a cone suggestive of the mysteries of Bacchus. She is attended
by a couchant leopard upon whose head she lays her hand. Her face expresses the
ecstasy of one whose mind is well in-drawn to the mystery borne beneath her
characteristics of the Queen are adaptability, persistent energy, calm authority
which she knows how to use to enhance her attractiveness. She is kindly and
generous, but impatient of opposition. She has immense capacity for friendship
and for love, but always on her own initiative.
There is as
much pride in this card as in the Knight, but it lacks the spontaneous nobility
which excuses that error. It is not true pride, but self-complacent vanity and
side of her character is that she may have a tendency to brood, come to a wrong
decision thereon, and react with great savagery. She may be easily deceived;
then she is likely to shew herself stupid, obstinate, tyrannical. She may be
quick to take offence, and harbour revenge without good cause. She might turn
and snap at her best friends without intelligible excuse. Also, when she misses
her bite, she breaks her jaw!
In the YI
King, the watery part of Fire is represented by the 17th hexagram, Sui. It
indicates reflection upon impulse, and the consequently even flow of action.
There is great capacity for lucid conception and steady prosecution of work; but
this is only at the bidding, and under the guidance, of some creative mind.
There is a tendency to be fickle, even disloyal; the ideas which she obeys make
no deep or permanent impression. She will "cleave to the little boy and let go
the man of age and experience" or the reverse (lines 2 and 3) without realizing
what she is doing. There is liability of fits of melancholy, which she seeks to
cure by bouts of intoxication, or by panic-stricken outbursts of ill-considered
PRINCE OF WANDS
The Prince of
Wands represents the airy part of Fire, with its faculty of expanding and
volatilising. He rules from the 21st degree of Cancer to the 20th degree of Leo.
He is a warrior in complete armour of scale mail, but his arms are bare on
account of his vigour and activity. He wears a rayed crown surmounted by a
lion's head winged, and from this crown depends a curtain of flame. On his
breast is the sigil of To Mega Therion. In his left hand he bears the Phoenix
wand of the Second Adept in the Ritual of 5░=6░ of R.R. at A.C.), the wand of
Power and Energy, while with his other arm he reins the lion which draws his
chariot, the chariot which is fortified by a wheel radiating flame. He rides
upon a sea of flames, both waved and salient.
qualities appropriate to this figure are swiftness and strength. But he is
sometimes inclined to act on impulse; sometimes easily led by external
influences; sometimes, especially in trifles, a prey to indecision. He is often
violent, especially in the expression of an opinion, but he does not necessarily
hold the opinion about which he is so emphatic. He states a vigorous proposition
for the sake of stating it. He is in fact very slow to make up his mind
thoroughly on any subject, but always sees both sides of every question. He is
just, but always feels that justice is not to be attained in the intellectual
world. His character is intensely noble and generous. He may be an extravagant
boaster, while slyly laughing both at the object of his boast and at himself for
making it. He is romantic, especially in matters of history and tradition, to
the point of folly, and may engineer "stunts" or play elaborate practical jokes.
He might select some inoffensive nobody, and pursue him for years with every
weapon of ridicule) as Swift tormented the unhappy Partridge, all without the
least animus, ready to give the shirt off his back, should his victim be in
need. His sense of humour is omnivorous, and may make him a mysterious figure,
dreaded without reason by people who actually know nothing about him but his
name-as a symbol of Terror. This is due to the influence of the last decan of
Cancer upon this card. One of his greatest faults is pride; meanness and
pettiness of any kind he holds in infinite scorn. His courage is fanatically
strong, and his endurance indefatigable. He is always fighting against odds, and
always wins in the long-the very long-run. This is principally due to his
enormous capacity for work, which he exercises for its own sake, "without lust
of result"; perhaps his haughty contempt for the world at large-which however
coexists with profound and ecstatic respect for "every man and every woman" as
"a star"-is responsible for this.
card is badly dignified, the character degenerates. Each of the qualities
mentioned above is found in its antithesis. There is great cruelty in him,
partly sadistic and partly due to callousness arising from indifference-and, in
a sense, laziness! So too he may be intolerant, prejudiced and idle-principally
because it saves trouble. He may furthermore be an empty boaster and a great
In the YI
King, the airy part of Fire is represented by the 42nd Hexagram, Yi, which
signifies addition, increase. Full of virtue, and confident therein, he
contemplates work of stupendous scope, often with the idea expressed in line 5:
"with sincere heart seeking to benefit all below". In this he may achieve
immense success. But this course is fraught with commensurate danger. "We see
one to whose in crease none will contribute, while many will seek to assail him.
He observes no regular rule in the ordering of his heart". (line 6) This peril
avoided, there come "parties adding to the store of its subject ten pairs of
tortoise shells whose oracles cannot be opposed-Let the King employ them in
presenting his offerings to God...." (line 2).
PRINCESS OF WANDS
of Wands represents the earthy part of Fire; one might say, she is the fuel of
Fire. This expression implies the irresistible chemical attraction of the
combustible substance. She rules the Heavens for one quadrant of the portion
around the North Pole.
is therefore shewn with the plumes of justice streaming like flames from her
brow; and she is unclothed, shewing that chemical action can only take place
when the element is perfectly free to combine with its partner. She bears a wand
crowned with the disk of the Sun; and she is leaping in a surging flame which
re-calls by its shape the letter Yod.
This card may
be said to represent the dance of the virgin priestess of the Lords of Fire, for
she is in attendance upon the golden altar ornamented with rams' heads)
symbolizing the fires of Spring.
of the Princess is extremely individual. She is brilliant and daring. She
creates her own beauty by her essential vigour and energy. The force of her
character imposes the impression of beauty upon the beholder. In anger or love
she is sudden, violent, and implacable. She consumes all that comes into her
sphere. She is ambitious and aspiring, full of enthusiasm which is often
irrational. She never forgets an injury, and the only quality of patience to be
found in her is the patience with which she lies in ambush to avenge.
Such a woman,
ill-dignified, shews the defects of these qualities. She is superficial and
theatrical, completely shallow and false, yet without suspecting that she is
anything of the sort, for she believes entirely in herself, even when it is
apparent to the most ordinary observer that she is merely in the spasm of mood.
She is cruel, unreliable, faithless and domineering.
In the Yi
King, the earthy part of Fire is described by the 27th hexagram, i. This shows a
person omnivorous in passion of whatever kind, entirely reckless in the means of
obtaining gratification, and insatiable. The Yi commentary is packed with
alternate warning and encouragement.
KNIGHT OF CUPS
The Knight of
Cups represents the fiery part of Water, the swift passionate attack of rain and
springs; more intimately, Water's power of solution. He rules the Heavens from
the 21st degree of Aquarius to the 20th degree of Pisces. He is clothed in black
armour furnished with bright wings which, together with the leaping attitude of
his white charger, indicates that he represents the most active aspect of Water.
In his right hand he bears a cup from which issues a crab, the cardinal sign of
Water, for aggressiveness. His totem is the peacock, for one of the stigmata of
water in its most active form is brilliance. There is here also some reference
to the phenomena of fluorescence.
characteristics of the person signified by this card are nevertheless mostly
passive, in accordance with the Zodiacal attribution. He is graceful,
dilettante, with the qualities of Venus, or a weak Jupiter. He is amiable in a
passive way. He is quick to respond to attraction, and easily becomes
enthusiastic under such stimulus; but he is not very enduring. He is exceedingly
sensitive to external influence, but with no material depth in his character.
When the card
is ill dignified, he is sensual, idle and untruthful. Yet with all this he
possesses an innocence and purity which are the essence of his nature. But he
is, on the whole, so superficial that it is hard to reach this depth. "His name
is writ in water."
In the Yi
King, the fiery part of Water is represented by the 54th Hexagram, Kwei Mei. The
commentary is singularly obscure, and somewhat sinister. It deals with the
difficulties of rightly mating such opposites as fire and water (compare the
Queen of Wands; but in that case Water is the calming and modulating influence,
while here it is Fire which creates trouble.) Swiftness and violence ill suit a
character naturally placid; it is rare indeed to meet with a person who has
succeeded in harmonizing these conflicting elements. He tends to mismanage all
his affairs; and unless sheer good fortune attend him, his whole career will be
an unbroken record of failure and disaster. Often his mental "civil war" ends in
schizophrenia or melancholy madness. The abuse of stimulants and narcotics may
precipitate the catastrophe.
QUEEN OF CUPS
The Queen of
Cups represents the watery part of Water, its power of reception and reflection.
In the Zodiac it rules from the 21St degree of Gemini to the 20th degree of
Cancer Her image is of extreme purity and beauty, with infinite subtlety; to see
the Truth of her is hardly possible, for she reflects the nature of the observer
in great perfection.
represented as enthroned upon still water. In her hand she bears a shell-like
cup, from which issues a crayfish, and she bears also the Lotus of Isis, of the
Great Mother. She is robed in, and veiled by, endless curves of light, and the
sea upon which she is enthroned conveys the almost unbroken images of the image
which she represents.
characteristics associated with this card are principally dreaminess, illusion
and tranquillity. She is the perfect agent and patient, able to receive and
transmit everything without herself being affected thereby. If ill-dignified,
all these qualities are degraded.
that passes through her is refracted and distorted. But, speaking generally, her
characteristics depend mostly upon the influences which affect her.
In the Yi
King, the watery part of Water is represented by the 8th hexagram, Tui. The
commentary is as colourless as the card; it consists of mild exhortations on the
subject of pleasure. It may really be said that, normally, people of this type
have no character at all of their own, unless it can be called a characteristic
to be at the disposition of every impact or impression.
however, a hint (line 6) that the chief pleasure of people of this type is to
lead and attract others. Such are accordingly (often enough) exceedingly
PRINCE OF CUPS
The Prince of
Cups represents the airy part of Water. On the one hand, elasticity, volatility,
hydrostatic equilibrium; on the other hand, the catalytic faculty and the energy
of steam. He rules from the 21st degree of Libra to the 20th degree of Scorpio.
He is a
warrior partly clad in armour, which seems, however, rather a growth than a
covering. His helmet is surmounted by an eagle, and his chariot, which resembles
a shell, is also drawn by an eagle. His wings are tenuous, almost of gas. This
is a reference to his power of volatilization understood in the spiritual sense.
In his right
hand he bears a Lotus flower, sacred to the element of Water, and in his left
hand is a cup from which issues a serpent.
totem, the scorpion, is not shewn in the picture, for the putrefaction which it
represents is an extremely secret process. Beneath his chariot is the calm and
stagnant water of a lake upon which rain falls heavily.
symbolism of this card is exceedingly complicated, for Scorpio is the most
mysterious of the Signs, and the manifested portion of it symbolized by the
eagle is in reality the least important part of his nature.
characteristics of the person pictured in this card are subtlety, secret
violence, and craft. He is intensely secret, an artist in all his ways. On the
surface he appears calm and imperturbable, but this is a mask of the most
intense passion. He is on the surface susceptible to external influences, but he
accepts them only to transmute them to the advantage of his secret designs. He
is thus completely without conscience in the ordinary sense of the word, and is
therefore usually distrusted by his neighbours. They feel they do not, and can
never, understand him. Thus he inspires unreasonable fear. He is in fact
perfectly ruthless. He cares intensely for power, wisdom, and his own aims. He
feels no responsibility to others, and although his abilities are so immense, he
cannot be relied upon to work in harness.
In the Yi
King, the airy part of Water is represented by the 61st hexagram, Kung Fu. This
is one of the most important figures in the Yi: it "moves even pigs and fish,
and leads to great good fortune''. Its dignities and correspondences are
manifold and great; for it is also a "big Li", the trigram of Sol formed by
doubling the lines. By shape it suggests a boat, but also the geomantic figure
of Cancer, Saturn in Capricornus.
This card is
in consequence one of great power; Libra going over into Scorpio is of
tremendous, active, critical energy and weight. To such people good will,
sincerity, and right mating are the essentials of success; their danger is
PRINCESS OF CUPS
of Cups represents the earthy part of Water; in particular, the faculty of
crystallization. She represents the power of Water to give substance to idea, to
support life, and to form the basis of chemical combination. She is represented
as a dancing figure, robed in a flowing garment on whose edges crystals are seen
For her crest
she wears a swan with open wings. The symbolism of this swan reminds one of the
swan in oriental philosophy which is the word AUM or AUMGN, which is the symbol
of the entire process of creation. [See, for a full analysis and explanation of
this Word, Magick, pp. 45.]
She bears a
covered cup from which issues a tortoise. This is again the tortoise which in
Hindu philosophy supports the elephant on whose back is the Universe. She is
dancing upon a foaming sea in which disports himself a dolphin, the royal fish,
which symbolizes the power of Creation.
of the Princess is infinitely gracious. All sweetness, all voluptuousness,
gentleness, kindness and tenderness are in her character. She lives in the world
of Romance, in the perpetual dream of rapture. On a superficial examination she
might be thought selfish and indolent, but this is a quite false impression;
silently and effortlessly she goes about her work.
In the Yi
King, the earthy part of Water is represented by the 41st Hexagram, Sun. This
means diminution, the dissolution of all solidity. People described by this card
are very dependent on others, but at the same time helpful to them. Rarely, at
the best, are they of individual importance. As helpmeets, they are unsurpassed.
KNIGHT OF SWORDS
The Knight of
Swords represents the fiery part of Air; he is the wind, the storm. He
represents the violent power of motion applied to an apparently manageable
element. He rules from the 21st degree of Taurus to the 20th degree of Gemini.
He is a warrior helmed, and for his crest he bears a revolving wing. Mounted
upon a maddened steed, he drives down the Heavens, the Spirit of the Tempest. In
one hand is a sword, in the other a poniard. He represents the idea of attack.
qualities of a person thus indicated are activity and skill, subtlety and
cleverness. He is fierce, delicate and courageous, but altogether the prey of
his idea, which comes to him as an inspiration without reflection.
ill-dignified, the vigour in all these qualities being absent, he is incapable
of decision or purpose. Any action that he takes is easily brushed aside by
opposition. Inadequate violence spells futility. "Chimaera bombinans in vacuo".
In the Yi
King, the fiery part of Air is represented by the 32nd hexagram, Hang. This is
the first occasion on which it has been simple to demonstrate the close
technical parallelism which identifies Chinese thought and experience with that
of the West. For the meaning is long continuance: "perseverance in well-doing,
or continuously acting out the law of one's being", as Legge puts it in his note
on the hexagram; and this seems incongruous with the Qabalistic idea of violent
energy applied to the least stable of the elements. But the trigram of Air also
indicates wood; and the hexagram may have Suggested the irresistible flow of the
sap, and its effect in strengthening the tree. This conjecture is supported by
the warning in line 6: "The topmost line, divided, shows its subject exciting
himself to long continuance. There will be evil."
this, the image of "the extended flame of mind", as Zoroaster calls it, may well
be subjoined to the former description. It is the True Will exploding the mind
spontaneously. The influence of Taurus makes for steadiness, and that of the
first decanate of Gemini for inspiration. So let us picture him, "integer vitae
scelerisque purus", a light-shaft of the Ideal absorbing the entire life in
concentrated aspiration, passing from earthy Taurus to exalted Gemini. Here,
too, is shewn (as in the Yi) the danger to the subject of this symbol; for the
first decan is the card called "Interference"; or, in the old pack, "Shortened
QUEEN OF SWORDS
The Queen of
Swords represents the watery part of Air, the elasticity of that element, and
its power of transmission. She rules from the 21St degree of Virgo to the 20th
degree of Libra. She is enthroned upon the clouds. The upper part of her body is
naked, but she wears a gleaming belt and a sarong. Her helmet is crested by the
head of a child, and from it stream sharp rays of light, illuminating her empire
of celestial dew. In her right hand, she bears a sword; in her left hand, the
newly severed head of a bearded man. She is the clear, conscious perception of
Idea, the Liberator of the Mind.
symbolized by this card should be intensely perceptive, a keen observer, a
subtle interpreter, an intense individualist, swift and accurate at recording
ideas; in action confident, in spirit gracious and just. Her movements will be
graceful, and her ability in dancing and balancing exceptional.
ill-dignified, these qualities will all be turned to unworthy purposes. She will
be cruel, sly, deceitful and unreliable; in this way, very dangerous, on account
of the superficial beauty and attractiveness which distinguish her.
In the Yi
King, the watery part of Air is represented by the 28th hexagram, Ta Kwo. The
Shape suggests a weak beam.
character, excellent in itself, cannot support interference. Foresight and
prudence, care in preparation of action, are a safeguard (line i.) Advantage is
to be won, moreover, by reliance on help from apparently unsuitable comrades
(lines 2 and 5). This alien strength often supplies the defeat of inherent
weakness, and may even create definite superiority to circumstance (line 4). In
such an event, there may be temptation to undertake rash adventures, foredoomed
to failure. But even so, no blame is incurred (line 6); the conditions of True
Will have been satisfied, and the issue is compensated by the feeling that the
right (however unfortunate) course has been adopted.
acquire intense love and devotion from the most unexpected quarters.
PRINCE OF SWORDS
represents the airy part of Air. With its particular interpretation, it is
intellectual, it is a picture of the Mind as such. He rules from the 21st degree
of Capricornus to the 20th degree of Aquarius.
The figure of
this Prince is clothed with closely woven armour adorned with definite device,
and the chariot which bears him suggests (even more closely) geometrical ideas.
This chariot is drawn by winged children, looking and leaping irresponsibly in
any direction that takes their fancy; they are not reined, but perfectly
Capricious. The chariot consequently is easy enough to move, but quite unable to
progress in any definite direction except by accident. This is a perfect picture
of the Mind.
On the head
of this Prince is, nevertheless, a child's head radiant, for there is a secret
crown in the nature of this card; if concentrated, it is exactly Tiphareth.
of his logical mental processes have reduced the Air, which is his element, to
many diverse geometrical patterns, but in these there is no real plan; they are
demonstrations of the powers of the Mind without definite purpose. In his right
hand is a lifted sword wherewith to create, but in his left hand a sickle, so
that what he creates he instantly destroys.
A person thus
symbolized is purely intellectual. He is full of ideas and designs which tumble
over each other. He is a mass of fine ideals unrelated to practical effort. He
has all the apparatus of Thought in the highest degree, intensely clever,
admirably rational, but unstable of purpose, and in reality indifferent even to
his own ideas, as knowing that any one of them is just as good as any other. He
reduces everything to unreality by removing its substance and transmuting it to
an ideal world of ratiocination which is purely formal and out of relation to
any facts, even those upon which it is based.
In the Yi
King, the airy part of Air is represented by the 57th hexagram, Sun. This is one
of the most difficult figures in the book, on account of its ambivalence: it
means both flexibility and penetration.
powerful because of its complete freedom from settled principles, capable of
maintaining and putting forward any conceivable argument, insusceptible of
regret or remorse, glib to "quote Scripture" aptly and cunningly to support any
thesis soever, indifferent to the fate of a contrary argument advanced two
minutes earlier, impossible to defeat because any position is as good as any
other, ready to enter into combination with the nearest element available, these
elusive and elastic people are of value only when firmly mastered by creative
will fortified by an intelligence superior to their own. In practice, this is
rarely possible: there is no purchase to be had upon them, not even by pandering
to their appetites. These may nevertheless be stormy, even uncontrollable.
Faddists, devotees of drink, drugs, humanitarianism, music or religion, are
often in this class; but when this is the case, there is still no stability.
They wander from one cult or one vice to another, always brilliantly supporting
with the fanaticism of a fixed conviction what is actually no more than the whim
of the moment.
It is easy to
be deceived by such people; for the manifestation itself has enormous potency:
it is as if an imbecile offered one the dialogues of Plato. They may in this way
acquire a great reputation both for depth and breadth of mind.
PRINCESS OF SWORDS
of Swords represents the earthy part of Air, the fixation of the volatile. She
brings about the materialization of Idea. She represents the influence of Heaven
upon Earth. She partakes of the characteristics of Minerva and Artemis, and
there is some suggestion of the Valkyrie. She represents to some extent the
anger of the Gods, and she appears helmed, with serpent-haired Medusa for her
crest. She stands in front of a barren altar as if to avenge its profanation,
and she stabs downward with her sword. The heaven and the clouds, which are her
home, seem angry.
of the Princess is stern and revengeful. Her logic is destructive. She is firm
and aggressive, with great practical wisdom and subtlety in material things. She
shews great cleverness and dexterity in the management of practical affairs,
especially where they are of a controversial nature. She is very adroit in the
settlement of controversies.
ill-dignified, all these qualities are dispersed; she becomes incoherent, and
all her gifts tend to combine to form a species of low cunning whose object is
unworthy of the means.
In the Yi
King, the earthy part of Air is represented by the 18th hexagram, Ku. This means
"troubles"; it is, for all practical and material matters. The most unhappy
symbol in the book. All the fine qualities of Air are weighed down, suppressed,
characterized are slow mentally, the prey of constant anxiety, crushed by every
kind of responsibility, but especially in family affairs. One of both of the
parents will usually be found in the aetiology.
It is hard to
understand line 6, which "shows us one who does not serve either king or feudal
lord, but in a lofty spirit prefers to follow his own bent". The explanation is
that a Princess as such, being "the throne of Spirit", may always have the
option of throwing everything overboard, "blowing everything sky high". Such
action would account for the characteristics above given for the card when well
dignified. Such people are exceedingly rare; and, naturally enough, they appear
often as "Children of misfortune". Nevertheless, they have chosen aright, and in
due season gain their reward.
KNIGHT OF DISKS
The Knight of
Disks represents the fiery part of Earth, and refers in particular to the
phenomena of mountains, earthquakes, and gravitation; but it also represents the
activity of Earth regarded as the producer of Life. He rules from the 21st
degree of Leo to the 20th degree of Virgo, and is thus concerned greatly with
agriculture. This warrior is short and sturdy in type. He is clothed in great
solidity of plate armour; but his helmet, which is crested with the head of a
stag, is thrown back, for at the moment his function is entirely con- fined to
the production of food. For this reason he is armed with a flail. The disk which
he bears, moreover, is very solid; it represents nutrition. These
characteristics are borne out by his horse; a shire horse, solidly planted on
all four feet, as was not the case with the other Knights. He rides through the
fertile land; even the distant hills are cultivated fields.
Those whom he
symbolizes tend to be dull, heavy and preoccupied with material things. They are
laborious and patient, but would have little intellectual grasp even of matters
which concern them most closely. Their success in these is due to instinct, to
imitation of Nature. They lack initiative; their fire is the smouldering fire of
the process of growth.
ill-dignified, these people are hopelessly stupid, slavish, quite incapable of
foresight even in their own affairs, or of taking an intelligent interest in
anything outside them. They are churlish, surly, and jealous (in a dull sort of
way) of what they instinctively realize is the superior state of others; but
they have not the courage or intelligence to better themselves. Yet they are
always irritably meddling about petty matters; they interfere with, and
inevitably spoil, whatever comes their way.
In the Yi
King, the fiery part of Earth is represented by the 62nd hexagram, Hsiao Kwo.
This is as important as its complement, Kung Fu (see under Prince of Cups); it
is a "big Khan", the trigram of Luna with each line doubled. But it is also
suggestive of the Geomantic figure Conjunctio, Mercury in Virgo, corresponding
very closely indeed with the Fire of Earth attribution in the Qabalistic system.
Chinese sages, moreover, the shape of the figure gave the idea of a bird. The
meaning is, accordingly, modified by human influence of the more frivolous and
irresponsible kind, Shakespeare's "little wanton harlotry", the French cynic's
"Souvent femme vane", and the fickle mob of Coriolanus; indeed, of History
itself. But Mercury in Virgo symbolizes Intelligence (and even creative Idea)
applied to Agriculture; and this (once more!) harmonizes perfectly with the Ten
of Disks, which is ruled by this Planet and this Sign. This adds to the
superabundant mass of proof that this whole system of symbolism is based upon
Realities of Nature, as understood by the materialist School of Science-if such
a school survives in some obscure and obsolescent University! Such coherence,
such introverted exfoliation, cannot be the chance parallelism of the dreams of
described by this card is therefore exceeding complex yet admirably well-knit;
but its dangers are indicated by the symbols of Luna and the bird. In the
happiest cases, the qualities thus indicated will be romance and imagination;
but overweening ambition, the pursuit of Ignis Fatuus, superstition, and the
tendency to waste time in idle dreaming, are perils all too frequently found in
such sons of the soil. Thomas Hardy has painted many admirable portraits of the
type. Ill-starred indeed and black with bile are those who have profaned the
Sacred Fire, not enkindling Earth to new, more copious, more varied life, but
peering in deceptive moonlight, turning their faces from their mother Earth.
QUEEN OF DISKS
The Queen of
Disks represents the watery part of Earth, the function of that element as
Mother. She rules from the 21st degree of Sagittarius to the 20th degree of
Capricornus. She represents passivity, usually in its highest aspect.
The Queen of
Disks is throned upon the life of vegetation. She contemplates the background,
where a calm river winds through a sandy desert to bring to it fertility. Oases
are beginning to shew themselves amid the wastes. Before her stands a goat upon
a sphere. There is here a reference to the dogma that the Great Work is
fertility. Her armour is composed of small scales or coins, and her helmet is
adorned with the great spiral horns of the markhor. In her right hand she bears
a sceptre surmounted by a cube, within which is a three- dimensional Hexagram,
and in her left arm is curved her proper disk, a sphere of loops and circles
interlaced. She thus represents the ambition of matter to take part in the great
work of Creation.
signified by this card possess the finest of the quieter qualities. They are
ambitious, but only in useful directions. They possess immense funds of
affection, kindness, and greatness of heart. They are not intellectual, and not
particularly intelligent; but instinct and intuition are more than adequate for
their needs. These people are quiet, hard-working, practical, sensible,
domesticated, often (in a reticent and unassuming fashion) lustful and even
debauched. They are inclined to the abuse of alcohol and of drugs. It is as if
they could only realize their essential happiness by getting outside themselves.
dignified, they are dull, servile, foolish; they are drudges rather than
workers. Life for them is purely mechanical; and they cannot rise, or even seek
to rise, above their appointed lot.
In the Yi
King, the watery part of Earth is represented by the 31st hexagram, Hsien. This
has the meaning: Influence. The commentary describes the effect of moving
various parts of the body, from the toes to the jaws and tongue. This is rather
an amplification of what has been said above than an exact correspondence; yet
there is no discordance. The general advice is to go forward quietly without
overt attack upon existing situations.
PRINCE OF DISKS
The Prince of
Disks represents the airy part of Earth, indicating the florescence and
fructification of that element. He rules from the 21st degree of Aries to the
20th degree of Taurus.
The figure of
this Prince is meditative. He is the element of Earth become intelligible.
Clothed in light armour, his helmet is crowned with the head of a bull; and his
chariot is drawn by an ox, this animal being peculiarly sacred to the Element of
Earth. In his left hand he holds his disk, which is an orb resembling a globe,
marked with mathematical symbols as if to imply the planning involved in
agriculture. In his right hand he bears an orbed sceptre surmounted by a cross,
a symbol of the Great Work accomplished; for it is his function to bring forth
from the material of the element that vegetation which is the sustenance of the
denoted by this card is that of great energy brought to bear upon the most solid
of practical matters. He is energetic and enduring, a capable manager, a
steadfast and per severing worker. He is competent, ingenious, thoughtful,
cautious, 'trustworthy, imperturbable; he constantly seeks new uses for common
things, and adapts his circumstances to his purposes in a slow, steady,
well-thought out plan.
He is lacking
almost entirely in emotion. He is somewhat in sensitive, and may appear dull,
but he is not; it so appears because he makes no effort to understand ideas
which are beyond his scope. He may often appear stupid, and is inclined to be
resentful of more spiritual types. He is slow to anger, but, if driven, becomes
implacable. It is not very practicable to distinguish between the good and evil
dignities in this card; one can merely say that, in case of his being
ill-dignified, both the quality and quantity of his characteristics are somewhat
degraded. The reaction of others to him will depend almost entirely upon their
In the Yi
King, the airy part of Earth is represented by the 53rd hexagram, Kien. The
commentary concerns the flight of wild geese, "gradually approaching the shore",
then "the large rocks", then ''advanced to the dry plains-the trees-the high ~
finally, to "the large heights". It thus symbolizes slow, steady emancipation
from repressive conditions.
description is even happier than that given by the Qabalah, although in every
way congruous with it. Practical considerations are never absent from Chinese
thought, even at its most abstruse and metaphysical. The fundamental heresy of
the Black Lodge is con tempt for "the world, the flesh, and the devil", all
which are essential to the plan of the Universe; it is cardinal to the Great
Work for the Adept so to order affairs that "even the evil germs of Matter shall
alike become useful and good".
The error of
Christian Mystics on this point has been responsible for more cruelty, misery,
and collective insanity than all others put together; its poison can be traced
even in the teaching of Freud, who assumed that the Unconscious was "the devil",
whereas in fact it is the instinct which expresses, beneath a veil, the inherent
Point-of- View of each, and, properly understood, is the key to Initiation, and
a hint of what seed may blossom and fructify as the "Knowledge and Conversation
of the Holy Guardian Angel". For "Every man and every woman is a star".
But no doubt
the judgment of the Adepts Exempt (for it is they who determine, under the
guidance of the Masters of the Temple, all such details of doctrine) in respect
of this card has been influenced by its transition from Aries to Taurus. It is
too often forgotten that Taurus is the House of Venus, and that Luna is exalted
therein. The new doctrine set forth in this present Essay makes the primary
colour of Earth not black, but green; it insists that every Disk is a living and
revolving symbol. The central thesis of the Book of the Law asserts the
Perfection of the Universe. In its pantheistic conception all possibilities are
equal in value; each and every Point-Event is "a play of Nuit", as it is written
in the Book of Wisdom or Folly, "Bind nothing! Let there be no difference
made among you between any one thing & any other thing; for thereby there cometh
hurt. But whose availeth in this, let him be the chief of all!" Liber Al. 1.
22. Or, yet more comprehensively and simply: "Every number is infinite;
there is no difference." Ib I.4.
PRINCESS OF DISKS
of Disks, the last of the Court cards, represents the earthy part of Earth. She
is consequently on the brink of transfiguration. She is strong and beautiful,
with an expression of intense brooding, as if about to become aware of secret
Her crest is
the head of the ram, and her sceptre descends into the earth. There its head
becomes a diamond, the precious stone of Kether, thus symbolizing the birth of
the highest and purest light in the deepest and darkest of the Elements. She
stands within a grove of sacred trees before an altar suggesting a wheatsheaf,
for she is a priestess of Demeter. She bears within her body the secret of the
future. Her sublimity is further emphasized by the disk which she bears; for in
the centre thereof is the Chinese ideogram denoting the twin spiral force of
Creation in perfect equilibrium; from this is born the rose of Isis, the great
characteristics of an individual signified by this card are too various to
enumerate; one must summarize by saying that she is Womanhood in its ultimate
projection. She contains all the characteristics of woman, and it would depend
entirely upon the influences to which she is subjected whether one or another
becomes manifest. But in every case her attributes will be pure in themselves,
and not necessarily connected with any other attributes which in the normal way
one regards as symbolic. In one sense, then, her general reputation will be of
bewildering inconsistency. It is rather like a lottery wheel from which the
extraction of any number does not predict or influence the result of any
subsequent operation. The fruit of the Philosophy of Thelema is enjoyed, rare,
ripe, nourishing and vitalizing at its highest and fullest in this meditation;
for to the adept every turn of the wheel is equally probable, and equally a
prize; for every Event is "a play of Nuit".
In the Yi
King the earthy part of Earth is represented by the 52nd hexagram, Kan. The
meaning is "a mountain"; of how sublime a significance is this Chinese doctrine
of Balance, and how closely congruous with that of the Holy Qabalah!
is the most sacred of all terrestrial symbols, stark, rugged, and immoveable in
its aspiration to the Highest, thrust up as it is by the Titan energy of Hidden
Fire. It is no less an hieroglyph of the Inmost Godhead than the Phallus itself,
even as Capricornus, the sign of the New Year, is exalted in the Zodiac, its
deity autochthonous no less than the Most Holy Ancient One himself.
essential for the Student to trace this doctrine for himself in every symbol:
Air, the elastic and flexible, yet all-pervading and the element of combustion;
Water, fluid yet incompressible, the most neutral and composed of all components
of living matter, yet destructive even of the hardest rocks by physical assault,
and irresistible in its burning power of solution; and Fire, so kin to Spirit
that it is not a substance at all, but a phenomenon, yet so integral to Matter
that it is the very heart and essence of all things soever.
characteristic of Kan in the Yi King is rest; each line of the comment describes
repose in the parts of the body in turn, and their effects; the toes, the
calves, the loins, the spine, and the jaws.
is a close parallel in this respect, line by line, with the 31st, Hsien, which
begins the second section of the Yi.
Rosicrucian doctrine of Tetragrammaton could hardly be more adequately stated-to
every ear that is to heavenly harmony attuned.
"There's not a planet in the
firmament But in his motion like an angel sings, Still quiring to the young-eyed
cherubim; But while this muddy vesture of decay Doth wrap us round, our nature
cannot hear it.
Let every student of this Essay,
and of this book of Tahuti, this living Book that guides man through all Time,
and leads him to Eternity at every page, hold fast this simplest, most
far-reaching Doctrine in his heart and mind, inflaming the inmost of His Being,
that he also, having explored each recess of the Universe, may therein find the
Light of Truth, so come to the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian
Angel, and accomplish the Great Work, attain the Summum Bonum, true Wisdom and
THE FOUR ACES
represent the roots of the four elements. They are quite above, and distinct
from, the other small cards in the same way as Kether is said to be symbolized
only by the topmost point of the Yod of Tetragrammaton. In these cards is no
real manifestation of the element in its material form. They form a link between
the small cards and the Princesses, who rule the Heavens around the North Pole.
The Meridian is the Great Pyramid, and the Elements rule, going Eastward, in the
order of Tetragrammaton, Fire, Water, Air, Earth. Thus, roughly, Aces-Princesses
Wands cover Asia, Cups the Pacific Ocean, Swords the Americas, Disks Europe and
Africa. To make this relationship clear, one may go a little into the symbol of
the pentagram, or Shield of David. It represents Spirit ruling the four
elements, and is thus a symbol of the Triumph of Man.
The idea of
the element of Spirit is very difficult to grasp. The letter Shin, which is the
letter of Fire, has to do double duty by representing Spirit as well. Generally
speaking, the attributions of Spirit are not clear and simple like those of the
other elements. It is very remarkable that the Tablet of Spirit in the Enochian
system is the key to all mischief; as, in the Hindu system, Akasha is the Egg of
On the other
hand, Spirit represents Kether. Perhaps it was never in the mind of the Exempt
Adept or Adepts who invented the Tarot to go so far into this matter. The point
to remember is that, both in their appearance and in their meaning, the Aces are
not the elements themselves, but the seeds of those elements.
THE FOUR TWOS
refer to Chokmah. From the point of view of the ordinary person, Chokmah is
really No. 1 and not No. 2, because he is the first manifestation; Kether is
completely concealed, so that nobody knows anything about it at all. Hence, only
on reaching the Deuces does an element appear as the element itself. Chokmah is
uncontaminated by any influence; therefore the elements here appear in their
original harmonious condition.
The Two of
Wands is called the Lord of Dominion, and represents the energy of fire; fire in
its best and highest form.
The Two of
Cups is the Lord of Love, which performs a similar office for water.
The Two of
Swords was formerly called the Lord of Peace Restored; but this word "restored"
is incorrect, because there has been no disturbance. The Lord of Peace is
therefore a better title: but it needs thinking hard to work this out, since the
Sword is so intensely active. It may be helpful to study the Essay on Silence
(p. 120) for a parallel: the Negative Form of the Positive Idea. See also the
Essay on Chastity (Little Essays toward Truth, pp. 70-74) which
concludes: Sir Knights, be vigilant: watch by your arms and renew your oath; for
that day is of sinister augury and deadly charged with danger which ye fill not
to overflowing with gay deeds and bold of masterful, of manful Chastity.
Catullus: domi maneas paresque nobis Novem continuas futationes.
Nor does he
misunderstand the gesture of Harpocrates; Silence and Chastity are isomers.
It is all one
case of the general proposition that the sum of the infinite Energy of the
Universe is Zero.
The Two of
Pentacles was of old time called the Lord of Harmonious Change. Now, more
simply, Change; and here the doctrine must be stated a little more clearly. This
suit being of Earth, there is a connection with the Princesses, and therefore
with the final Heh of Tetragrammaton. Earth is the throne of Spirit; having got
to the bottom, one immediately comes out again at the top. Hence, the card
manifests the symbolism of the serpent of the endless band.
THE FOUR THREES
are referred to Binah; in each of them is expressed the symbolism of
Understanding. The idea has become fertilized; the triangle has been formulated.
In each case, the idea is of a certain stability which can never be upset, but
from which a child can issue.
The Three of
Wands is accordingly the Lord of Virtue. The idea of will and dominion has
become interpreted in Character.
The Three of
Cups is called the Lord of Abundance. The idea of love has come to fruition; but
this is now sufficiently far down the Tree to introduce a very definite
differentiation between the suits, which was not previously possible.
The idea of
division, of mutability, the idea of the airy quality of things, manifests
itself in the Three of Swords, the Lord of Sorrow. Here one is reminded of the
darkness of Binah, of the mourning of Isis; but this is not any vulgar sorrow
dependent upon any individual disappointment or discontent. It is Weltschmerz,
the universal sorrow; it is the quality of melancholy.
The Three of
Pentacles, in a similar manner, exhibits the result of the idea of Earth, of the
crystallization of forces; and so the Three of Pentacles is called the Lord of
Work. Something has definitely been done.
THE FOUR FOURS
are attributed to Chesed. The connection between the number Four and the number
Three is extremely complex. The important characteristic is that Four is "below
the Abyss"; therefore, in practice, it means solidification, materialization.
Things have become manifest. The essential point is that it expresses the Rule
In the Wand
suit, the card is called Completion. The manifestation promised by Binah has now
taken place. This number must be very solid, because it is the actual dominating
influence on all the following cards. Chesed, Jupiter-Ammon, the Father, the
first below the Abyss, is the highest idea which can be understood in an
intellectual way, and that is why the Sephira is attributed to Jupiter, who is
The Four of
Cups is called Luxury.
nature of fire permits the Four of Wands to appear as a very positive and
clear-cut conception. The weakness in the element of water threatens its purity;
it is not quite strong enough to control itself properly; so the Lord of
Pleasure is a little unstable. Purity has somehow been lost in the process of
The Four of
Swords is called Truce. This seems rather on the lines of "the strong man armed,
keeping his house in peace". The masculine nature of air makes it dominant. The
card is almost a picture of the formation of the military clan system of
As to the
Disks, the heaviness of the symbol rather outweighs any considerations of its
weakness. The card is called Power. It is the power which dominates and
stabilizes everything, but manages its affairs more by negotiation, by pacific
methods, than by any assertion of itself. It is Law, the Constitution, with no
THE FOUR FIVES
"Naples arrangement", the introduction of the number Five shows the idea of
motion coming to the aid of that of matter. This is quite a revolutionary
conception; the result is a complete upset of the statically stabilized system.
Now appear storm and stress.
This must not
be regarded as something "evil". The natural feeling about it is really a little
more than the reluctance of people to get up from lunch and go back to the job.
In the Buddhist doctrine of Sorrow this idea is implicit, that inertia and
insensitiveness must characterize peace. The climate of India is perhaps partly
responsible for this notion. The Adepts of the White School, of which the Tarot
is the sacred book, cannot agree to such a simplification of existence. Every
phenomenon is a sacrament. For all that, a disturbance is a disturbance; the
five of Wands is called Strife.
On the other
hand, the Five of Cups is called Disappointment, as is only natural, because
Fire delights in superabundant energy, whereas the water of Pleasure is
naturally placid, and any disturbance of ease can only be regarded as
The Five of
Swords is similarly troublesome; the card is called Defeat. There has been
insufficient power to maintain the armed peace of the Four. The quarrel has
actually broken out. This must mean defeat, for the original idea of the Sword
was a manifestation of the result of the love between the Wand and the Cup. It
is because the birth had to express itself in the duality of the Sword and the
Disk that the nature of each appears so imperfect.
The Five of
Disks is in equally evil case. The soft quiet of the Four has been completely
overthrown; the card is called Worry. [See Skeat, Etymological Dictionary.
The idea is of strangling, as dogs worry sheep. Note the identity with
Sphinx.] The economic system has broken down; there is no more balance between
the social orders. Disks being as they are, stolid and obstinate, as compared
with the other weapons, for their revolution serves t9 stabilize them, there is
no action, at least not in its own ambit, that can affect the issue.
THE FOUR SIXES
are attributed to Tiphareth. This Sephira is in some respects the most important
of all. It is the centre of the whole system; it is the only Sephira below the
Abyss which communicates directly with Kether. It is fed directly from Chokmah
and Binah; also from Chesed and Geburah. It is thus admirably fitted to dominate
the lower Sephiroth; it is balanced both vertically and horizontally. In the
planetary system it represents the Sun; in the system of Tetragrammaton it
represents the Son. The entire geometrical complex of the Ruach may be regarded
as an expansion from Tiphareth. It represents consciousness in its most
harmonized and balanced form; definitely in form, not only in idea, as in the
case of the number Two. In other words, the Son is an interpretation of the
Father in terms of the mind.
Sixes are thus representative of their respective elements at their practical
The Six of
Wands is called Victory. The outburst of energy in the Five of Wands, which was
so sudden and violent that it even gave the idea of strife, has now completely
won success. The rule, or lordship, in the suit of Wands is not quite as stable
as it might have been if there had been less energy displayed. So, from this
point, as soon as the current leaves the middle pillar, the inherent weakness in
the element of Fire (which is this: that, for all its purity, it is not
completely balanced) leads to very undesirable developments.
The Six of
Cups is called Pleasure. This pleasure is a kind of pleasure which is completely
harmonized. The zodiacal sign governing the card being Scorpio, pleasure is here
rooted in its most convenient soil. This is pre-eminently a fertile card; it is
one of the best in the pack.
The Six of
Swords is called Science. Its ruler is Mercury, so that the element of success
turns away from the idea of division and quarrel; it is intelligence which has
won to the goal.
The Six of
Disks is called Success; the ruler is the Moon. This is a card of settling down;
it is very heavy, wholly lacking in imagination, yet somewhat dreamy. Change is
soon coming upon it; the weight of earth will ultimately drag the current down
to a mere eventuation of material things. Yet the Moon, being in Taurus, the
sign of her exaltation, the best of the Lunar qualities are inherent. Moreover,
being a Six, the solar Energy has fertilized her, creating a balanced system for
the time being. The card is worthy of the name Success. Remember only that all
success is temporary; how brief a halt upon the Path of Labour.
THE FOUR SEVENS
are attributed to Netzach. The position is doubly unbalanced; off the middle
pillar, and very low down on the Tree. It is taking a very great risk to descend
so far into illusion, and, above all, to do it by frantic struggle. Netzach
pertains to Venus; Netzach pertains to Earth; and the greatest catastrophe that
can befall Venus is to lose her Heavenly origin. The four Sevens are not capable
of bringing any comfort; each one represents the degeneration of the element.
Its utmost weakness is exposed in every case.
The Seven of
Wands is called Valour. Energy feels itself at its last gasp; it struggles
desperately, and may be overcome. This card brings out the defect inherent in
the idea of Mars. Patriotism, so to speak, is not enough.
The Seven of
Cups is called Debauch. This is one of the worst ideas that one can have; its
mode is poison, its goal madness. It represents the delusion of Delirium Tremens
and drug addiction; it represents the sinking into the mire of false pleasure.
There is something almost suicidal in this card. It is particularly bad because
there is nothing whatever to balance it-no strong planet to hold it up. Venus
goes after Venus, and Earth is churned into the scorpion morass.
The Seven of
Swords is called Futility. This is a yet weaker card than the Seven of Wands. It
has a passive sign instead of an active one, a passive planet instead of an
active one. It is like a rheumatic boxer trying to "come back" after being out
of the ring for years. Its ruler is the Moon. The little energy that it
possesses is no more than dream-work; it is quite incapable of the sustained
labour which alone, bar miracles, can bring any endeavour to fruition. The
comparison with the Seven of Wands is most instructive.
The Seven of
Disks is called Failure. This suit gives the extreme of passivity; there is no
positive virtue in it below the Abyss. This card is ruled by Saturn. Compare it
with the three other Sevens; there is no effort here; not even dream; the stake
has been thrown down, and it is lost. That is all. Labour itself is abandoned;
every thing is sunk in sloth.
THE FOUR EIGHTS
Eights are attributed to Hod. Being in the same plane as the Sevens on the Tree
of Life, but on the other side, the same inherent defects as are found in the
Sevens will apply.
Yet one may
perhaps urge this alleviation, that the Eights come as (in a sense) a remedy for
the error of the Sevens. The mischief has been done; and there is now a reaction
against it. One may, therefore, expect to find that, while there is no
possibility of perfection in the cards of this number, they are free from such
essential and original errors as in the Lower case.
The Eight of
Wands is called Swiftness, as one might expect from its attribution to Mercury
and Sagittarius. This is an etherealization of the idea of fire; all gross
elements have disappeared.
(Let there be
a short digression with regard to the signs of the Zodiac. In the case of each
element, the Cardinal sign represents the swift, impulsive onrush of the idea.
In the Kerubic sign, the element has come to its full balance of power; and in
the other signs the force is fading away. Thus, Aries represents the rush of
fire, Lightning; Leo, its power, the Sun; and Sagittarius, the rainbow its
sublimation. Similar considerations apply to the other elements. See the
Attributions section: The Triplicities of the Zodiac.)
In the Eight
of Wands, fire is no longer conjoined with the ideas of combustion and
destruction. It represents energy in its most exalted and tenuous sense; this
suggests such forms thereof as the electric current; one might almost say pure
light in the material sense of that word.
The Eight of
Cups is called Indolence. This card is the very apex of unpleasantness. It is
ruled by the planet Saturn; time, sorrow, have descended upon pleasure, and
there is no strength in the element of water which can react against it. This
card is not exactly "the morning after the night before"; but it is very nearly
that. The difference is that the "night before" has not happened! This card
represents a party for which all preparations have been made; but the host has
forgotten to invite the guests; or, the caterers have not delivered the good
cheer. There is this difference, though, that it is in some way or other the
host's own fault. The party that he planned was just a little bit above his
capacity; perhaps he lost heart at the last moment.
The Eight of
Swords is called Interference. At first sight, it would seem easy to confuse it
with the Eight of Cups; but the idea is, in reality, quite different. The card
is attributed to Jupiter and Gemini; accordingly, there is no weighing down of
the will by internal or external stress. It is simply the error of being good-
natured when good-nature is disastrous. Gemini is an airy sign, an intellectual
sign; Jupiter is geniality and optimism. This will not do in the world of
Swords; if one must hit at all, a knock-out blow is best. But there is another
element in this card; that of unexpected (the Eights, being at heart Mercurial,
are always that) interference, sheer unforeseen bad luck. Trivial incidents have
often altered the destiny of empires, brought to naught "the best laid plans of
mice and men".
The Eight of
Disks is called Prudence. This card is a great deal better than the last two,
because, in purely material matters, especially those relating to actual money,
there is a sort of strength in doing nothing at all. The problem of every
financier is, first of all, to gain time; if his resources are sufficient, he
always beats the market. This is the card of "putting something away for a rainy
attribution is Sol in Virgo; it is the card of the husband-man; he can do little
more than sow the seed, sit back, and wait for the harvest. There is nothing
noble about this aspect of the card; like all the Eights, it represents an
element of calculation, and gambling is securely profitable if one has adjusted
the cagnotte properly.
There is yet
another point which complicates this card. The Eight of Disks represents the
geomantic figure Populus, which is an easy-going figure, and at the same time
stable. One thinks of Queen Victoria's time, of a man who is "something in the
City" rolling up to Town with Albert the Good advertized by his watch- chain and
his frock-coat; on the surface he is very affable, but he is nobody's fool.
THE FOUR NINES
are attributed to Yesod. After the double excursion into misfortune, the current
returns to the middle pillar. This Sephira is the seat of the great
crystallization of Energy. But it takes place very far down the Tree, at the
apex of the third descending triangle, and a flat triangle at that. There is
little help from low, unbalanced spheres like Netzach and Hod. What saves Yesod
is the direct ray from Tiphareth; this Sephira is in the direct line of
succession. Each of these cards gives the full impact of the elemental force,
but in its most material sense; that is, of the idea of the force, for Yesod is
still in Yetzirah, the formative world. Zoroaster says:
Nine is sacred, and attains the summit of perfection." Egypt and Rome, also, had
Nine Major Deities.
The Nine of
Wands is called Strength. It is ruled by the Moon and Yesod. In "The Vision and
the Voice", the eleventh Aethyr gives a classical account of the resolution of
this antinomy of Change and Stability. The student should also consult the works
of any of the better mathematical physicists. Of all important doctrines
concerning equilibrium, this is the easiest to understand, that change is
stability; that stability is guaranteed by change; that if anything should stop
changing for the fraction of a split second, it would go to pieces. It is the
intense energy of the primal elements of Nature, call them electrons, atoms,
anything you will, it makes no difference; change guarantees the order of
Nature. This is why, in learning to ride a bicycle, one falls in an extremely
awkward and ridiculous manner. Balance is made difficult by not going fast
enough. So also, one cannot draw a straight line if one's hand shakes. This card
is a sort of elementary parable to illustrate the meaning of this aphorism:
"Change is Stability."
Moon, the weakest of the planets, is in Sagittarius, the most elusive of the
Signs; yet it dares call itself Strength. Defence, to be effective, must be
The Nine of
Cups is called Happiness. This is a peculiarly good card, because happiness, as
the word implies, is so much a matter of luck: the card is ruled by Jupiter, and
Jupiter is Fortune.
In all these
watery cards, there is a certain element of illusion; they begin by Love, and
love is the greatest and most deadly of the illusions. The sign of Pisces is the
refinement, the fading away of this instinct, which, begun with dreadful hunger
and carried on with passion, has now become "a dream within a dream".
The card is
ruled by Jupiter. Jupiter in Pisces is indeed good fortune, but only in the
sense of complete satiety. The fullest satisfaction is merely the matrix of a
further putrefaction; there is no such thing as absolute rest. A cottage in the
country with the roses all around it? No, there is nothing permanent in this;
there is no rest from the Universe. Change guarantees stability. Stability
The Nine of
Swords is called Cruelty. Here the original disruption inherent in Swords is
raised to its highest power. The card is ruled by Mars in Gemini; it is agony of
mind. The Ruach consumes itself in this card; thought has gone through every
possible stage, and the conclusion is despair. This card has been very
adequately drawn by Thomson in "The City of Dreadful Night". It is always a
cathedral---a cathedral of the damned. There is the acrimonious taint of
analysis; activity is inherent in the mind, yet there is always the instinctive
consciousness that nothing can lead anywhere.
The Nine of
Disks is called Gain. The suit of Disks is much too dull to care; it reckons up
its winnings; it does not worry its head about whether anything is won when all
is won. This card is ruled by Venus. It purrs with satisfaction at having
harvested what it sowed; it rubs its hands and sits at ease. As will be
understood from the consideration of the Tens, there is no reaction against
satisfaction as there is in the other three suits. One becomes more and more
stolid, and feels that "everything is for the best in the best of all possible
THE FOUR TENS
are attributed to Malkuth. Here is the end of all energy; it is away from the
"formative world" altogether, where things are elastic. There is now no
planetary attribution to consider. So far as the Sephira is concerned, it is
right down in the world of Assiah. By the mere fact of having devised four
elements, the current has derogated from the original perfection. The Tens are a
warning; see whither it leads-to take the first wrong step!
The Ten of
Wands is called Oppression. This is what happens when one uses force, force, and
nothing else but force all the time. Here looms the dull and heavy planet Saturn
weighing down the fiery, ethereal side of Sagittarius; it brings out all the
worst in Sagittarius. See the Archer, not shooting forth benign rays, but
dealing the sharp rain of death! The Wand has conquered; it has done its work;
it has done its work too well; it did not know when to stop; Government has
become Tyranny. One thinks of the Hydra when one reflects that King Charles was
beheaded in White hall!
The Ten of
Cups is called Satiety. Its attribution is Mars in Pisces. The watery sign has
sunk into a stagnant dream, but in it broods and breeds the violent quality of
Mars, to putrefy it. As it is written: "Until a dart strike through his liver."
The pursuit of pleasure has been crowned with perfect success; and constantly it
is discovered that, having got everything that one wanted, one did not want it
after all; now one must pay.
The Ten of
Swords is called Ruin. It teaches the lesson which statesmen should have
learned, and have not; that if one goes on fighting long enough, all ends in
Yet this card
is not entirely without hope. The Solar influence rules; ruin can never be
complete, because disaster is a sthenic disease. As soon as things are bad
enough, one begins to build up again. When all the Governments have smashed each
other, there still remains the peasant. At the end of Candide's misadventures,
he could still cultivate his garden.
The Ten of
Disks is called Wealth. Here again is written this constantly recurring
doctrine, that as soon as one gets to the bottom one finds oneself at the top;
and Wealth is given to Mercury in Virgo. When wealth accumulates beyond a
certain point, it must either become completely inert and cease to be wealth, or
call in the aid of intelligence to use it rightly. This must necessarily happen
in spheres which have nothing whatever to do with material possessions, as such.
In this way, Carnegie establishes a Library, Rockefeller endows Research, simply
because there is nothing else to do.
But all this
doctrine lies behind the card; it is the inner meaning of the card.
another view to consider, that this is the last of all the cards, and therefore
represents the sum total of all the work that has been done from the beginning.
Therefore, in it is drawn the very figure of the Tree of Life itself. This card,
to the other thirty-five small cards, is what the twenty-first Trump, The
Universe, is to the rest of the Trumps.