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,

“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 subconscious mind. Psychology defines three types of consciousness.

1. Waking consciousness or self-awareness
2. Subconscious or dreaming consciousnes
3. The unconscious

It has been argued that there is no such thing as an unconscious; if it is not conscious then it cannot be thought of as any kind of 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.

There is evidence that once upon a time, homosapiens had a tail, as do most non-human creatures on our planet. A ‘queue’ is also a kind of tail. The long, 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.

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.
© Oliver St. John 2013, revised 2019

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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 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].

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2019

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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∴

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018

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