Virgo: Lamp and Staff of the Hermit

Virgo is the sign of the pure maiden, the inviolate sceptre—which is all a way of veiling with words and images an inexpressible truth. The yod, bindu, flame or seed-star that is the letter of the 20th path and Tarot trump The Hermit IX on the Tree of Life is, in the absolute sense, Hadit, the giver of Life, the animator of all things that live and move and have their being.

The Hermit IX Thoth Tarot Atu

The esoteric title of the trump is Prophet of the Eternal: Magus of the Voice of Power. The 20th path of Yod connects Chesed, the sphere of Jupiter, with Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun. The path is imaged forth by the Tarot key, The Hermit IX. The path is called The Intelligence of Will since it is the stream of light or intelligence forming the innermost structures of mind or intellect in man. The Intelligence of Will is called thus “because it forms all patterns, and to know this Intelligence is to know the whole reality of the Primordial Wisdom.” The knowledge of the spiritual will constitutes the full realisation of the cosmic purpose or meaning in all things; on this path arises the possibility of knowing and doing the True Will, as it is termed in the cults of Thelema.[1]

The Hermit as Mercury

The Thoth Tarot picture for this path depicts a hermit, for Hermes is the Greek deity that the Romans called Mercury. Hadit is Mercury in the highest, most simple or abstract form. Mercury is the planetary ruler of the astrological sign of Virgo, and Virgo is unique in the Zodiac in that Mercury rules her sign and is exalted therein. The lamp of the hermit is a metaphor for the Occult Light, which he veils from the world. The staff of the hermit is Energy and Will, which he applies with strict vigilance and economy of means towards the Great Work. Behind him is Cerberus the three-headed hound of hell. Cerberus, the son of Typhon, doubles as both scourge and Guardian of the Gate—for he prevents those that have become ensnared in the underworld from ever escaping.

Aleister Crowley directed the artist Frieda Harris to depict the hermit as according to his ‘phallic’ magical philosophy. The spermatozoon in the lower left corner is thus an unintentional blind. While Crowley felt he might be revealing too much of the mysteries, he was in fact not even revealing the half of it! Even in the Golden Dawn system of correspondences adopted by Crowley, Virgo is the sign of Isis. The will-seed is hers in a subtler sense.[2] While Asar (Osiris) has this seed-star latent within him, if he limits or restricts Isis (the woman) through adoration of his personalised will then he dooms her (thusly, his soul) to the fate of the scarlet woman as described in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, III: 43.

I will slay me her child: I will alienate her heart: I will cast her out from men: as a shrinking and despised harlot shall she crawl through dusk wet streets, and die cold and an-hungered.

Crowley was deluded enough to think the above verse might apply to an actual woman, and certainly not to himself. Although he habitually worked with symbol and analogy, his egocentricity was such that he was unable to understand that the woman referred to in the Book of the Law is a metaphor for the human soul.

Fragmentation of the Atomic Age

The mundane character of Virgo, the mutable earth sign, is all about the particulars, the details of every-thing. The conceptual mind, driven forwards by the scourge of Hadit, yet thrown back into the abyss by the son of Typhon, breeds and begets more and more infernal children. Thus Conceptual Art is now the predominant doctrine in today’s educational institutions. It is a sign or omen that the analytical mind has attained its full immersion in the realm of matter at its lowest or most dense level.

At this material extremity of the human mind, the situation depicted in the minor Tarot card called the Ten of Swords comes about. The human heart or soul is broken up into fragments that are blasted, blown and scattered through the echoing emptiness of space—torn apart by the divisive power of the sword of the reasoning mind. As a race, we are still in the aftermath of the explosion of the first atom bomb. We live in an age that trembles before the terrifying shadow of the Ape of Thoth as it is depicted in the Tarot trump assigned to Hermes-Mercury. That is why we sometimes use the atom and particle physics as a metaphysical analogy.[3] The fragmented atom sweeps matter away in a lightning-fast cloud of fire and smoke. The trauma of that tremendous atom-smashing event, that has rended apart far more than even physical matter, now continues to reverberate on the plane of mind. The cell phones, computers and other digital devices that are now the plague-fetishes of our times are no more than ‘particular’ vehicles of expression for the lasting imprint of that hellish atomic atrocity upon the collective intelligence of humanity. That singular event demonstrated that the most clever and subtle scientific minds the race could produce were only, in the end, capable of producing senseless, barbaric mass-destruction on a scale never before imagined.

Kenneth Grant, in his Typhonian Trilogies, told how even the very first atom-splitting test tore open the fabric of space and time. A crack was then opened up in the delicate membrane that encircles the planet—the invisible egg of light that once served as a barrier or ring-pass-not against the intrusion of those from ‘Outside’. That is why The Fool 0 that Frieda Harris had painted for the path of Aleph on the Hermetic Tree wears a mask of madness and horror—for he has opened a veil that was once so tightly drawn to appear seamless, and therefore invisible to mortal eyes. What is the secret that the Fool beholds? It is himself that he sees, hurtling downwards towards the abyss.

The physical destruction unleashed by the atom is itself a metaphor for the intellectually destructive philosophical atomism, which was introduced through the arguments of the ancient Greeks. Causal determinism is still the dominant intellectual mode of our times.[4] The tragic consequences of this are but dimly perceived by the legions of cerebrally and sensually anaesthetised hominids—those who dare not take their eyes and ears away from the beguiling artificial world of digital information. The configuration of stars and planets signifies that we have truly entered a new era. It is an era in which Initiates must conserve all of their energy and direct it towards the Great Work. Only then will they succeed in rising up above what is metaphorically termed, the waters of the Nile flood. While the water of the flood is not evil in itself, the dwellers that lurk within present a foe more formidable than mankind has ever imagined.


Notes

1. A commentary on the wisdom texts of the Sepher Yetzirah is provided in The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri].
2. The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema restores Atu IX to Isis. The trump is shown and fully described here.
3. The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga [Ordo Astri].
4. The error of causal determinism is fully explained in ‘Lapis Philosophorum’, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

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Beethoven, Philosophy and the Stars

Ludwig van Beethoven was born at 03:40 am on December 16th, 1770 in Bonn. His horoscope has the Sun, Moon and Mercury in Sagittarius. Jupiter, ruler of Sagittarius, is accentuated by conjunction with the Sun. This is apt considering that Beethoven developed the music of the Classical era so far beyond its existing parameters that many persons at the time could not comprehend what he was doing.

Beethoven, Philosophy and the Stars: Ludwig van BeethovenBorn at the dark of the Moon, Beethoven was strongly influenced by the revolutionary movement in Europe. The position of Uranus in Taurus directly opposite his Scorpio Ascendant is descriptive of his love for ancient traditions combined with magnetic compulsion towards individual freedom and liberty. Beethoven openly despised the rigid class system of the time. Friends and patrons alike found him unconventional, uncompromising and ‘difficult’.

The disruptivBeethoven, Philosophy and the Stars: Natal Horoscopee placement of Uranus in the 7th house indicates misfortune in matters of love. The field of the 7th house embraces ‘all others’, including any marriage partners. Beethoven never married but fell passionately in love with a succession of unattainable women. That is to say, the women were unattainable by virtue of their higher social class or ‘position’.[1] In the case of his love for Antonie Brentano, the problem was that she was already married. In July 1812, the composer spent two days writing a now famous love letter that he never sent, and possibly never intended to send. It was addressed to “you, my Immortal Beloved”, and went on to include,

“My heart is full of so many things to say to you—ah—there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all. Cheer up—remain my true, my only love, my all as I am yours.”

The unaspected Venus in Capricorn in the 3rd house of the chart indicates that Beethoven had an inclination towards falling in love with women that he taught the piano to. Women of ‘noble breeding’ were expected to play a little music as an ‘accomplishment’, so their husbands would not be bored by their company. While exalting the women to the heights (Saturn at Midheaven), Beethoven would remain isolated in the relationship for one reason or another, and so unable to form what was in those days called ‘an attachment’ with the object of his desire.

Beethoven, Philosophy and the Stars: portrait of the young man (detail)Anecdotes and letters show the Uranian element to be very powerful with Beethoven. He supported the French Revolution until Napoleon declared himself Emperor. On hearing the news, Beethoven took the front page of the score for his 3rd Symphony, upon which he had written a dedication to Bonaparte, and tore it in half, separating his name from that of the self-proclaimed Emperor. When his brother once acquired some land and signed himself as “van Beethoven, land proprietor”, Beethoven replied, “van Beethoven, brain proprietor”. Beethoven famously said to the noble Prince Lichnowsky (a patron and admirer),

“What you are, you are by accident of birth; what I am, I am by myself. There are and will be a thousand princes; there is only one Beethoven.”

Mars is the Lord of the Horoscope, as ruler of the Scorpio Ascendant. Mars, from his location in the 8th house, sends three formidable opposing rays against the Sun, Moon and Mercury in the 2nd house. As the 2nd house generally governs the physical body, it is impossible not to think of the crippling deafness that brought the maestro to the brink of suicide. Survival of that period was accomplished by a heroic effort of will. Only love of God, and the gift of music—that there was so much more music he had yet to give to the world—saved Beethoven from self-annihilation.

A further notable configuration in the natal horoscope is the Grand Trine formed between Neptune, Uranus and Pluto in the earth triplicity. The slow-moving outer planets are traditionally regarded as ‘impersonal’ factors in a horoscope, marking the character and experience of an entire generation. There are various placements, however, that can indicate the potentially subversive intrusion of supersensory phenomena.[2] Scientific orthodoxy will not accept the ‘supersensible’. Nonetheless thousands, perhaps millions of persons have experienced something that is only expressed in terms of spiritual philosophy, for example, ‘transfiguration’, when listening to the music of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Ludwig van Beethoven and Philosophy

Alexander Wheelock Thayer (1817–1897) was the author of the first biography of Ludwig van Beethoven. The work is still regarded as a standard reference on the composer’s life. Ludwig was well versed in classical Greek literature as well as that of the German philosophers of his time. Of the German writers, the composer particularly revered Schiller and Goethe. At around the middle of his career, Beethoven wrote to a friend,

Beethoven, Philosophy and the Stars: the composer“Since that summer in Karlsbad I read Goethe every day, that is, when I read at all. He has killed Klopstock for me. You are surprised? And now you laugh? Ah ha! It is because I have read Klopstock. I carried him about with me for years while walking and also at other times. Well, I did not always understand him, of course. He leaps about so much and he begins at too lofty an elevation. Always Maestoso, D-flat major! Isn’t it so? But he is great and uplifts the soul nevertheless. When I could not understand him I could sort of guess. If only he did not always want to die! That will come quickly enough. Well, at any rate, what he writes always sounds well. But Goethe—he is alive, and he wants us all to live with him. That is why he can be set to music. There is no one who lends himself to musical setting as well as he.”[3]

‘Maestoso’ is a musical term, meaning, ‘majestic, dignified’, usually quite slow in tempo. To Beethoven, the key of D-flat major, with many black notes if played on the piano, would have epitomised a mood of depression or despair.

Thayer reports that in 1823, the Englishman Edward Schulz wrote of his visit to Beethoven. He had found in him a friend of ancient Greek literature such as the works of Homer, particularly his Odyssey. Beethoven preferred Plutarch above all classical writers; from there he developed an admiration for ancient Egypt. In Isis and Osiris, which was written as a letter to Clea, a priestess of Isis, Plutarch writes,

“All good things, my dear Clea, a sensible men must ask from the gods; and especially do we pray that from those mighty gods we may, in our quest, gain a knowledge of themselves, so far as such a thing is attainable by men. For we believe that there is nothing more important for man to receive, or more ennobling for God of His grace to grant, than the truth. … Therefore the effort to arrive at the Truth, and especially the truth about the gods, is a longing for the divine. For the search for truth requires for its study and investigation the consideration of sacred subjects, and it is a work more hallowed than any form of holy living or temple service; and, not least of all, it is well-pleasing to that goddess whom you worship, a goddess exceptionally wise and a lover of wisdom, to whom, as her name at least seems to indicate, knowledge and understanding are in the highest degree appropriate.”


Notes

1. A musician, even a composer and performer of exceptional ability, was no different from a merchant in the social order. A woman of the nobility, or otherwise of high standing, could not enter into a liaison with a person of inferior rank without risking her reputation and inheritance. Indeed, she could risk more than that. If unsupported she could not gain employment even as a menial servant. The embankment of London, for example, was densely populated in those days with completely destitute women from all social classes.

2. The book Hermetic Astrology has a chapter devoted to ‘Outer Gateways’  formed when outer planets make a personal impact on the native. These are sometimes associated with supersensory phenomena. Some dictionaries do not include the word, ‘supersensory’, as it is not acceptable to conventional science. The Oxford dictionary gives, ‘transcending the senses; that is above or beyond what is perceptible by the senses’. It would be more accurately described, ‘beyond what is perceptible to the ordinary human senses’. Some persons, and many species of animal and bird, have extraordinary senses. The word was coined by the 19th century psychical researcher, Edmund Gurney.

3. Beethoven, by Thayer, pp. 802.

© Oliver St. John 2019

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Art and Magick of Pisces

The Thoth Tarot trump for Pisces and the 29th path of the Tree of Life is The Moon XVIII. The esoteric title of the trump is Ruler of Flux and Reflux: Child of the Sons of the Mighty. Here we have a path that is half in shadows.

Magick of Pisces: Thoth Tarot trump The Moon XVIIIWe must pass between two sentinels wearing the foreboding headdress of Anubis, Guardian of the Underworld. According to Crowley, Book of Thoth,

“Such light as there may be is deadlier than darkness, and the silence is wounded by howling beasts.”

At the top of the picture is the Sun, pushed through the darkness and cold of night towards the dawn by Khephra, the Egyptian scarab beetle. Khephra, like Amoun, is a self-created god. The beetle, like the butterfly, undergoes a series of remarkable transformations. At one point he seems completely inanimate, appearing as nothing more than a shell or stone. The scarab miraculously comes forth from the seeming inertia with wings on which to ride the breezes of dawn.

The Sun’s entry into Pisces near the end of the cold months is a reminder of the darkest hour before the dawn. The springtime is not far away. In the southern hemisphere it is a reminder that the cooler air of autumn will soon drive out the burning heat of a long summer.

Pisces is traditionally ruled by the planet Jupiter, known to the Greeks as Zeus and to the ancient Egyptians as Amoun (or ‘Amen’). Jupiter, Zeus and Amoun were originally gods of the mountain and of the seas and rains that replenish the earth with new life and growth. Amoun is a mysterious god. He is self-created, and his location, unlike the sky-gods Horus, Hathoor and Nuit, is below the horizon. He is ‘The Hidden God’.

The Qabalah throws further light on the associations between Pisces, sign of the Fishes, and the mysteries of the Hidden God. Pisces is the 29th path connecting the material universe (Malkuth) with the animating power of Venus (Netzach), the morning and evening star. The magical power of the path of Pisces is the Twilight of the Place. As the days begin to lengthen in the northern hemisphere, the twilight is very noticeable. This is especially so with the lengthening of shadows near sunset, before Venus, the first and brightest star of the evening sky, appears in the west. The magical twilight is also the special light of a room prepared for ritual. Candles and the smoke of incense provide ideal conditions for the arising of spectral images. The Magical Mirror is the magical weapon of Pisces.

As the 12th sign and 12th house in astrology, Pisces represents the deeper realms of the dreaming or subconscious mind. There are three types of consciousness.

1. Waking consciousness
2. Dreaming consciousnes
3. Dreamless or sleeping consciousness

The letter for Pisces is qoph or ‘Q’, which represents the back of the head and the medulla oblongata, the lowest part of the brainstem connecting the brain with the spinal cord. This is the primal root of the brain. In terms of consciousness, it is where the earliest memories are stored. If one could send consciousness backwards, from the frontal lobes of rational intelligence to the narrow passage of the medulla oblongata, one might be able to see all the way down to the base of the spine.

A ‘queue’ is also a kind of tail. Most creatures on our planet have a tail, save for homosapiens. The sombre epic of mankind’s existence on the planet is yet another kind of tale—one that has been told in numerous ways by diverse cultures in all times. As we moved into the modern age, man’s tales became increasingly removed from reality.

Pisces and The Flaming Sword

The 29th path of Qoph connects Netzach, the sphere of Venus, with Malkuth, the sphere of the visible universe and is imaged forth by The Moon XVIII Tarot key. The title of the 29th path is the Corporeal Intelligence, so-called because it is concerned with the incarnation of all bodies according to the revolution of the Zodiac. The root of the word that is translated ‘Corporeal’ (gosham) implies a violent rainstorm or shower—the ‘shower of the life of earth’ that comes through the seed of the Unborn Spirit or Holy Guardian Angel in the ritual called the ‘Bornless’. The ‘seed’ is alchemical and refers to the fluidic or formless fire from which all forms receive their essence.

The “revolution of the Zodiac” is explained by the operation of Sol and Luna, Spirit working through the Sun upon the four elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth. All bodies are composed of these elements. Each creature has a unique astrosome, the symbol of which is the natal horoscope, varying according to the time and place of birth. The twelve signs of the Zodiac are cosmic archetypes. Merely knowing the ‘sign’ of birth does not reveal a person’s nature. The sign alone symbolises a type, not an individual.

The descent of this path is the incarnation or embodiment of each creature, while the ascent of it implies knowledge of the Occult Intelligences. The magical powers of the 29th path are of Bewitchments and Casting Illusions.

Qliphoth of Pisces

The Qliphoth of Pisces is ShIMIRVN (Shimiron) ‘Malignant Women’, and may be found in The Flaming Sword under the number 616. Curiously, the number 616 is a number of the ‘beast’ of Revelation—the number was later ‘solarised’ as 666. The 29th path connects Venus, the lowest sephira on the Force side of the Tree, with Malkuth, the dead-end of matter. The women of malicious intent are phantasms of decaying (or thwarted) desire, rife with poisoning and corruption. As such, these ‘women’ are no more than blind forces, but have a tremendous capacity to inflict harm on the unwary human. ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ is an aphorism that applies not only to the human but also to the elementar that is deprived of ‘blood’ or energy.

The Intelligence of the path orders the neural and biological patterns that in turn influence the behaviour of species. When the human ego identifies personally with the biological urge to procreate or self-replicate—that force which is, in fact, an entirely impersonal machine or engine—all manner of psychological aberrations occur. The person seeking self-fulfilment in the production of offspring, and finding the result is nothing of the sort, may subvert or redirect the flow of life-force into other objects of desire. Typical afflictions are ‘eating disorders’, so-called—for devouring and begetting are dual principles of the Great Mother at the cosmic level. The predatory behaviour of both men and women, especially when it forms part of a group mentality, is another, less specific. Alcoholism is yet another trait, since it arises from a desire to be reabsorbed back into the stream of life from whence the organism was formed. It is the self-assertion of the ego, maintaining the delusion of an isolated life and existence that is the root of all ailments of the soul.


Notes

All Qabalistic references are from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth.

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for Pisces is Khonsu XVIII. The card and its description may be viewed here at Ordo Astri.

© Oliver St. John 2013, revised 2021

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