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, exhibiting Crowley’s materialist reductionism. 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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Art of Sagittarius and the Holy Guardian Angel

The Thoth Tarot trump for the 25th path of Sagittarius is Art XIV, depicting the Holy Guardian Angel performing a work of transmutation on the soul. The full title of the trump is Daughter of the Reconcilers: Bringer-forth of Life.

Art of Sagittarius: Thoth Tarot Atu Art XIVThis trump is traditionally titled Temperance. It usually depicts an Angel pouring liquid between blue and red vases. In the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck, the card has been retitled Art. It is the art of alchemy that is portrayed here. The trump corresponds to Sagittarius, the mutable fire sign of the Zodiac.

The signs of the Zodiac are best understood as pairs; Gemini is opposite and complementary to Sagittarius the Archer or Centaur. In the Tarot trump for Gemini, the Lovers, pairs of opposites are shown: black and white, silver and gold, good and evil, male and female. The red and white tinctures of alchemy are symbolised by a lion and an eagle. In the trump for Sagittarius all these opposites have exchanged places; the red lion has become white, the white eagle has become red. The Holy Guardian Angel, clothed in green and wearing light and dark masks, pours fire and water into a golden cauldron. In the cauldron she mixes drops of blood from the paw of the lion and tears from the mouth of the eagle.

The link between Gemini and Sagittarius is the Arrow of Will. A stream of light, guided by an arrow, rises upwards from the cauldron until it reaches the heart of the Angel. From there the light branches into a rainbow that falls over her shoulders like a cape. Whereas the card for Gemini depicted a mystic marriage, the card called Art symbolises the consummation of that mystical union. The spiritual idea (according to the Book of Thoth, pp. 103) is that an incomplete element is spiritualised only through the assimilation of its equal and opposite. A legend is inscribed in gold lettering upon a large orb, shining like the Sun behind the Angel.

Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidum.

‘Visit the interior parts of the earth: by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone.’ Alchemists described the stone of the wise or universal medicine variously as a stone, a powder or a tincture. It may be divided into silver and gold or red and white, but its essence is always the same.

That which is Below is like unto that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the Miracle of the One Essence.[1]

Sagittarius and the Flaming Sword

The esoteric title of the 25th path of Sagittarius is Daughter of the Reconcilers: Bringer-forth of Life. Hence, the magical power of the 25th path is the Power of Transmutations. The old Tarot of Marseille depicts an Angel pouring liquid between blue and red vases. It is not difficult to conclude the art of alchemy is portrayed there—Sagittarius is after all the mutable fire sign of the Zodiac. Neptune or Shiva, principle of the dissolution of aeons, is the governor of the mutable signs.

The 25th path connects the sphere of the Moon or natural psyche with that of the Sun, the centre of the mind’s intelligence. The silver of the Moon and gold of the Sun are here fused into the stone of the wise or philosophic egg. These terms are metaphors for the ‘substance’ of the immortal principle. Fools will always attempt to apprehend the immortal stone—similarly, a child might seek to capture sunshine in a bottle. While the child may be rewarded with a faery song, the real fool will get nothing in return for the immortal soul that he has traded away in return for wordly acquisition.

The 25th path crosses the veil called Paroketh, marking the division between the world of appearances and the formless world of spirit, which is completely invisible to the profane. As such, the 25th path is called the Intelligence of Probation or Trial. The mind’s intelligence (Ruach) has its foundation in Yesod, the natural soul or body. It is only by trial and experience that the harmony and beauty of Tiphereth can be fixed as a permanent reflection in Yesod. The proving of the Great Work is not the kind of ‘proving’ that might convince the sceptic but is the proving of the very soul. To be a foundation for beauty, the psyche must undergo the purification of study, the organisation of the thoughts. Likewise, the body must submit to the beneficent astringent of the rituals and practice.

The operation of the Great Work can only proceed if the aspirant practices detachment, indifference to phenomena, and refuses to self-identify with the actions of the personality and events that seem to be taking place around. The ‘indifference’ is not to be thought of as lack of attention. The level of observation is intensified through meditation practice. As the spinner of the worlds,  Neïth also fires the Arrow of Truth that spells dissolution of ego—a process that must begin no sooner than a foot is placed on the path. For that reason the Intelligence of Probation is often likened to a Dark Night of the Soul.


Notes

1. From the ancient Egyptian Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus.

For the Egyptian Tarot of Thelema, visit the following page at Ordo Astri:
Egyptian Tarot of Thelema

© Oliver St. John 2012, 2019

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Equinox of Maat: Balance of the Year

When the Sun enters Libra at the Equinox of Maat, the days and nights are equal in length. Soon the days will be shortening and the nights lengthening as we, in the northern hemisphere, journey towards the winter solstice. In the southern hemisphere the situation is reversed; the days will be lengthening and the nights shortening, as the journey begins towards the height of summer.

Maat Equinox: Thoth Tarot Adjustment VIII

The Thoth Tarot trump for Libra is Adjustment VIII, depicting the Egyptian goddess Maat. A young woman is masked and bearing on her forehead the uraeus serpent. She is crowned with the ostrich plumes of Maat, and is perfectly poised upon her toes. In her hands is a magical sword, with the point downwards. She is The Daughter of the Lords of Truth, the Ruler of the Balance. She represents the absorption and transmutation of all experience in the flowing forth of continuous manifestation. She is the mistress of creation and destruction, and the balance of light and darkness. She is cosmic law, and the law of nature: truth, twofold, and the immutable law of the universe. Her powers are the works of Justice and Equilibrium.

The Oracle of Maat

Behold! I am the Eye of my father, Ra. I am the one in whom the word is accomplished. I am the Bride of Tahuti and the Measure of the Universe. I am truth, and the feather is my symbol. To pass my door, you must justify every part of your soul, and you must visit the beautiful fields of the grasshoppers. You shall bathe in the pool where the Sailors of Ra in his sun-boat bathe. Purify yourself in my name, and come before me as Horus Triumphant. For I stand upon one side of Ra in the ark of the heavens and Tahuti stands upon the other. And unless you have found the flint that is hidden in my furrow, then you shall not pass my gates. But if you know all these things, and if you have found me that dwells in the heart of Ra, and if you are pure—then Tahuti shall call your name! And you shall be known in the palace of the starry ones, and shall live forever and forever.[1]

Maat is the goddess that presides over the weighing of the heart ceremony, and is the ‘Straight One’, the principle of Perfect Truth and the Balance of the Universe. She is clothed in emerald green and wears the crown of double plumes. The feather is her symbol, and the Ankh of Life. Maat is the Eye of Ra, the Sun, and is the bride and consort of Thoth or Tahuti, the Egyptian Hermes-Mercury, the god of magick and of magick words and writing—the Word or Logos.

The Neteru or Gods are the personification of impersonal principles. Maat, especially, is a cosmic principle. The ancient Egyptians loved puns, the play on words. Maat says, “If you have found me that dwells in the heart of Ra…” One of the epithets of Maat is ‘The Me’, the Measure of all things. One must find the measure, the ‘me’ that is Maat, in the heart, the centre of all.

Maat is the Eye of Ra, and the secret hidden in the heart of Ra—she is his daughter, and so the apple of his eye. As with students, a good pupil is as that which is in the centre of the eye. It is emptiness, yet beholding all—therefore receptive. Also it is one who hears—for the human ear was shaped by sound. The heart itself is the void place of spirit. The Egyptian hieroglyph for the heart (Ab) is a pot or vessel. The handles are the ‘ears’. The ‘eye’ is the emptiness inside—the necessary condition for true meditation. Nuit wears a pot on her head, which is the hieroglyph of her name, ‘Nu’; she is the Holy Graal.

The ‘emptiness’ or spaciousness of absolute Nuit is not equal to ‘nothing at all’.  As it is put, cryptically, in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, Liber AL, II: 2:

There is division hither homeward; there is a word not known. Spelling is defunct; all is not aught. Beware! Hold! Raise the spell of Ra-Hoor-Khuit!

Far from being ‘nothingness’, Nuit’s spaciousness is everything! The one true power in the universe is the power of attention. The all-seeing eye of Ra is the eye of the beholder. In Liber AL, I: 28:

None, breathed the light, faint and faery, of the stars, and two.

Everything concerned with Maat is double. The ancient Egyptians usually had two of everything, including pairs of male and female gods or neters. Maat presides over the Neophyte Hall of Dual Manifestation. Everything in nature is double; there is ‘no-one’ in truth. The power of Egyptian magical spells is in the words; to know they are true, and to speak them truly, is the perfection of Maat.

There is a popular New Age notion that any affliction suffered in this life must owe to some ‘karmic debt’ incurred in a previous life. Let us dispel this myth, for the rule of Maat is not in any way a moral or ethical law. The law of nature is exact; we must not confuse this with any notions of human justice based on morality—if we do then we confuse this idea of karma and make little tin gods of ourselves. Furthermore, ‘reincarnation’ is a self-limiting modern myth, based on rationalist determinism.[2]


Notes

1. The Oracle of Maat is from ‘Ceremonies of Nuit and Ra’, Ritual Magick—Initiation of the Star and Snake [Ordo Astri].
2. See ‘Lapis Philosophorum’, Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for Libra is Maat VIII. The card and its description may be viewed here at Ordo Astri.

© Oliver St John 2013, revised 2021

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