Sagittarius: Alchemy and the Guardian Angel

The Egyptian Tarot of Thelema trump for the 25th path of Sagittarius is Neith XIV.[1] The full title of the trump is Daughter of the Reconcilers: Bringer-forth of Life.

Sagittarius: Egyptian Tarot of Thelema Neith XIVThis Tarot trump is traditionally titled Temperance. It usually depicts an Angel pouring liquid between blue and red vases, which is often thought to symbolise the art of alchemy, as well as the Holy Guardian Angel of the Western Mystery Tradition. 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, pairs of opposites are often 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, which are also the lesser and the greater mysteries in terms of initiation. The link between Gemini and Sagittarius is the Arrow of Will. The arrow shown in our Tarot trump here is upward and is combined with the djed pillar or central will-column and the weaving shuttle of Neith, by which she produces the fabric or tapestry of existence. There are sometimes two arrows associated with Neith, crossed. Also, the arrow or arrows can be aimed downward or upward, depending on the meaning. One meaning of the arrow pointing downward is expressed in the alchemical formula:

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.[2]

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 that 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 Cosmic Cycles, 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. For the Egyptian Tarot of Thelema, all 12 of the zodiacal trumps can be viewed here with their descriptions.

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

© Oliver St. John 2012, 2022 (revised)

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