Aquarius and the Nightside

The Thoth Tarot trump for the 15th path of Aquarius is The Star XVII. The esoteric title of the path is Daughter of the Firmament: Dweller between the Waters.

Thoth Tarot The Star XVII Aquarius

The placing of The Star XVII on the 15th path is to end the ages old confusion between the blood of material generation and the pure essence that is the substance of spiritual regeneration. The 15th path of connects Chokmah, the sphere of the Zodiac, with Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun. The 15th path is called the Constituting Intelligence because it is the essence of creative force that arises in pure darkness; the word used for ‘essence’ is etzem, which has the same root as OTz, ‘tree’, from whence the Tree of Life. The same word etzem can mean ‘bone’, ‘body’, ‘life’, and ‘substance’.

The power of manifesting or begetting is the primal power of the Goddess, which is that of division into two; the path therefore corresponds to the Goddess of the Stars. As declared by Nuit in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis, I: 59,

My incense is of resinous woods and gums; and there is no blood therein: because of my hair the trees of Eternity.

Chokmah is the chakra of the Zodiac, as separate and distinct from the fixed stars, which are the domain of Kether and the North Pole of the universe. The Zodiac is the belt or girdle of Venus, which is the planetary symbol of Nuit in her manifestation as visible nature. Incense and fragrance are ancient metaphors for pure spirit or essence—“that essence of creative force that arises in pure darkness”. The darkness itself is a metaphor, since it is more than merely an absence of light. Visible light is a veil, an appearance that clothes the nakedness of Nuit, whose essence is interior radiance. According to the book of Genesis, there were two trees in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. Originally, there was one eternal Tree of Life embracing heaven, earth and the underworld.

‘Blood’ is the self-replicating power or energy that moves through all incarnated creatures, yet the oracle of Nuit in Liber AL, I: 59 asserts that her creative essence has “no blood therein”. It is therefore necessary to counterchange the Tarot trumps on the 15th and 28th paths. Aries, previously assigned to the 15th path, is the sign of the fire of blood, which is the blood of the Lamb as depicted in Christian mysticism. Aquarius, on the other hand, is the sign of the Waters of Space, typified by the Egyptian hieroglyph of two streams of water or radiation.

Nuit is the Star Goddess particularly concerned with the occult or hidden side of nature; her mysteries are those of sex and generation—not the generation of physical progeny but the generation of the magical ‘child’ that is the true son or sun-star of Nuit.

The magical weapons are the Aspigillum for the sprinkling of the lustral water, and the Censor for the perfumes. The magical power of the 15th path is that of Astrology; the starry wisdom of the 15th path should not be confused with popular notions of astrology.

Aquarius and the Nightside

Nuit is depicted in the Tarot trump numbered 17 not as cosmic space but as visible nature, her manifestation. The esoteric title of the trump is Daughter of the Firmament: Dweller between the Waters. The ‘waters’ are symbolised by the two cups that Nuit bears, gold for the blood or energy of the universe and silver for the dew of the stars, the elixir of life. The seven-pointed star in the Crowley-Harris image is that of Venus; esoterically the number seven also relates to Set or Sirius, the Sun-behind-the-Sun.

Kenneth Grant, who devoted his life to an exploration of the Nightside of the Tree, is the primary source for a study of the ‘dark’ aspects of the path that is both detailed and imaginative. In his book Nightside of Eden, concerning the fifteenth Tunnel of Set he says that,

Seven, or Sevekh, was the primal goddess of the seven stars (Ursa Major) of the planisphere, and these stars or rays were the seven heads of the Dragon of the Deep that later appeared in the Christian myth as the Beast of the Apocalypse. The Star of the 15th kala is therefore the Star of Sothis or Shaitan, and is concealed in the feminine generative essence known as the soul or blood of Isis.[1]

Grant then goes on to note, regarding the magical power of the fifteenth path that,

The magical siddhi associated with this kala is Astrology which—on the other side of the Tree—has a very different connotation to that which it usually obtains, for it is there the genuine science of the stars, or kalas, and differs from the popular conception of astrology as does the Tarot from the vulgar playing-card game.

That which Kenneth Grant terms as “stars, or kalas” is not the visible gems of the night sky—though they have their correspondence with them. More often than not he is referring to the nodes and constellations of a matrix—perceptible to the seer as a shining gossamer web—that extrudes from the body of the consecrated Shakti. The Sri Yantra of the Eastern Tantras is a geometric symbol of this matrix. The same matrix was displayed in ancient Egyptian depictions of the Goddess, especially the polymorphic variations of Nuit and Hathoor, by networks of five-pointed or five-fingered stars. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the radiation of light or transmission of energy is identical to the astrological wave-glyph for the zodiacal sign of Aquarius.


Notes

1. Quotations from Nightside of Eden by Kenneth Grant, Part Two, Chapter 5 [Starfire Publishing].

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for Aquarius is Nuit XVII. The card and its description may be viewed here at Ordo Astri.

All the zodiacal Thoth Tarot trumps and their descriptions may be viewed here.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2019

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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.

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Capricorn: Angel, Devil, Dweller on the Threshold

The Thoth Tarot trump assigned to Capricorn and the 26th path is The Devil XV. The esoteric title is Lord of the Gates of Matter: Child of the Forces of Time. The Devil portrayed in most Tarot decks is a hybrid creature with bat-like wings, sometimes thought to be Baphomet, the goat-foot god allegedly worshipped by the Knights Templars.

Crowley-Thoth Tarot The Devil XV CapricornThe Crowley-Harris design depicts the Devil as the Greek Pan, All-Begetter. It is a crudely phallic portrayal. The devilish goat has a third eye in the middle of his forehead, for the letter of the path is A’ain, ‘an eye’. At the top of the Tarot trump is shown the rings of Saturn, planetary ruler of Capricorn. Saturn is identified, among other things, with the ancient Egyptian god Set. Set takes on many forms, but the one particularly relevant here is the ass-headed god of the desert. The desert symbolises the wilderness of the soul that must be entered before any spiritual truth is known. The Aramaic for the planet Saturn is Shabbathai—and from that word was derived the lurid medievel propoganda that so captured popular imagination as the ‘Sabbath of the Witches’.

The image of Capricorn represents creative energy in its most material form. According to Crowley, The Book of Thoth,

“The card represents Pan Pangenetor, the All-Begetter. It is the Tree of Life as seen against a background of the exquisitely tenuous, complex, and fantastic forms of madness, the divine madness of spring, already foreseen in the meditative madness of winter; for the Sun turns northwards on entering this sign … In every symbol of this card there is the allusion to the highest things and most remote. Even the horns of the goat are spiral, to represent the movement of the all-pervading energy.”

Capricorn and the Flaming Sword

The 26th path of A’ain connects Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun, with Hod, the sphere of Mercury, and is imaged forth by the 15th Tarot key, The Devil. The Renewing Intelligence refers to the renewal and perpetuity of all created forms. On the human level, the renewal refers to the adaptation that is required so the intellect does not atrophy—for the identification of the personal ego with the forms or constructs that appear in Hod increases the limiting or restricting power of Saturn, ruler of Capricorn. According to the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL, I: 41,

The word of Sin is Restriction.

It is the desire to become free of material limitations that drives man to seek freedom. It is necessary, though, to understand the principles of nature and their operation in the world before any limits can be transcended. The primary limitation is man himself, and his ignorance of natural laws. The magical powers of the 26th path are the Witches Sabbath (so-called) and the Evil Eye.

The Dweller on the Threshold

Saturn or Set has many forms. His nature is something of a paradox. The 14th Tarot Atu for the month of Sagittarius depicts an Angel, while the Atu for Capricorn and the solstice depicts a Devil. This Angel and Devil are two sides of one coin, a dual expression of the soul and Holy Guardian Angel. The trickster, the shapeshifter, the adversary, the opposer, the shadow, the stranger, the ‘other’ are all names for Set, Saturn or the Devil, whose role in initiation is so central that sometimes he is termed as simply, the Lord of Initiation. Another epithet is the Dweller on the Threshold.

While it is true that aspirants are tested by what is poetically termed the Lord of Initiation, Probationers do not swear any oath or obligation that would incur a trial by fire. Nonetheless, as soon as a foot is placed on the path, the Dweller on the Threshold will appear. The shape or form of this Devil is unique to each individual since it is a phantom produced by the person’s karma.[1] While this deters many from continuing the work they began with such enthusiasm, it is the first stirring of the Occult Force.

Whether initiation really takes hold or not is largely determined by the way the person responds to the Dweller on the Threshold. There will be help if that help is recognised for what it is. There will most certainly be hindrance, obstruction and even seduction—the powerfully compelling voices that urge us to give this up as it will do us no good, that we have made the wrong choice or there is a better, more authentic discipline further down the road. The Dweller on the Threshold may take the form of some perceived or genuine misfortune, or a general sense of unease or misgiving. It may take the form of a migraine, one of those ‘flu viruses that is hard to shake off, the incessant demands of a spouse, a difficult child, a manipulative mother, a bullying father or boss at work. Money can be a considerable ‘Dweller’—whether there is too little, or too much of it. An outbreak of supernatural phenomena quite often occurs with those that have awakening psychic sensitivity—the ‘things that go bump in the night’. The Initiates are those who persist, that possess the will and resolve to keep on. Perhaps there is something else too, the “factor infinite and unknown” referred to in Liber AL, II: 32. It is also written that “many are called but few are chosen”.[2] It is not enough merely to be enthusiastic at the outset; there must be inner conviction, which arises from innate knowledge.

One must strive to understand the Dweller on the Threshold. There is a caveat. The Oath and Task of a Magister Templi is “to interpret every phenomenon as a direct dealing of God with my soul”. The New Age movement with its voracious appetite for assimilating and trivialising the threads from all wisdom traditions has tended to encourage its followers to adopt that particular jnanamudra without training, preparation, or any supporting philosophical basis or structure. Applying such a method at the beginning of the work will bring that work to a swift conclusion.[3]


Notes

1. The Sanskrit word karma means ‘action’. It generally refers to the phenomenon of cause and effect that appears to govern the machinations of the material universe.
2. Matthew, 22: 14.
3. The ‘Dweller on the Threshold’ is an instruction given to aspirants of the O∴A∴

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for Capricorn Solstice is Set XV. The card and its description may be viewed here at Ordo Astri.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018

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