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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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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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 Hé 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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