|Occult Code||Genetic Code|
|Letter Class:||DOUBLE||NON-POLAR Amino Acid|
|I Ching Kua:||18 WORK ON WHAT HAS BEEN SPOILED|
|46 PUSHING UPWARD||GCU|
|48 THE WELL||GCC|
|57 THE GENTLE (THE PENETRATING, WIND)||GCA|
Crowley: Treat time and all conditions of event as servants of thy will, appointed to present the universe to thee in the form of thy plan. And: blessing and worship to the prophet of the lovely star. The matter of the question itself, synthesis, the end of the matter, may mean delay, opposition, obstinacy, inertia, patience, perseverance, persistent stubbornness in difficulty. The crystalization of the whole matter involved. (BT p. 260)
Crowley: ... (this trump is) a glyph of the completion of the Great Work ... (BT p. 118)
The "Great Work" is a general term for the process of enlightening individuals regarding their divine potential and notifying them about their earthly condition, and then liberating them from negative tendencies and influences. If we consider the term "enlightenment" in a less grandiose manner more suitable to Confucian philosophy we would equate it with the development of a highly refined character capable of ruling not only the self but, if need be, a nation state. With this redefinition it becomes possible to see how the four kua assigned to this trump correlate with Crowley's concepts.
In the I Ching there are nine kua designated as being particularly descriptive of and prescriptive for the development of an individual's character. Kua 48 and 57 represent the final two stages in this development. Both of them are included in the four kua composing this trump.
Wilhelm: (kua 48) This hexagram represents a wellspring, which, though fixed in one spot, dispenses blessing far and wide and so makes its influence far-reaching. This shows the field in which character can take effect. We perceive the profound influence emanating from a richly endowed and generous personality, an influence that is not any the less because the person exerting it keeps in the background. The hexagram shows what is right, and thus makes it possible for the right to take effect. (p. 348)
Wilhelm: (kua 57) This hexagram gives the proper flexibility of character. What is needed is not rigidity that holds fast to established principles and is in reality mere pedantry, but mobility: thus one weighs things and penetrates to the needs of the time without exposing oneself to attack, so learning to take circumstances into account and to preserve a strong unity of character along with intelligent versatility. (p. 348)
Most of us will never get an opportunity to rule a nation, but almost everyone can perform the "Great Work" upon themselves. All four of the kua in this constellation inform us not only of the goal but also of the process and technique of self-development as well. The advice given is applicable equally to a ruler or citizen. The great work of self-development is a continuous and never ending process demanding constant effort and the consistent exertion of the will to do what is right and necessary in the ever changing environment of life. The "Great Work" is work indeed. All of the kua in this group have the concept of work as a major theme.
Kua 18, The image: THE IMAGE OF DECAY. THUS THE SUPERIOR MAN STIRS UP THE PEOPLE AND STRENGTHENS THEIR SPIRIT. (p. 76)
Wilhelm: (kua 18) This contains a challenge to improvement. ... (to) regenerate society. What has been spoiled through man's fault can be made good again through man's work. It is not immutable fate, ... that has caused the state of corruption, but rather the abuse of human freedom. (p. 76)
Wilhelm: (kua 46) ... this hexagram, although it is connected with success, is associated with effort of will. ... he must set to work, for activity ... brings good fortune. (p. 178)
Kua 48, The image: THUS THE SUPERIOR MAN ENCOURAGES THE PEOPLE AT THEIR WORK AND EXHORTS THEM TO HELP ONE ANOTHER.(p. 186)
Kua 57, The image: THUS THE SUPERIOR MAN SPREADS HIS COMMANDS ABROAD AND CARRIES OUT HIS UNDERTAKINGS. (p. 221)
This group of kua not only demonstrates the processes, procedures and problems facing the person on the path of the "Great Work." They also describe the character of one who has succeeded. Kua 48 "THE WELL" is termed by the sages who wrote the I Ching: "the field of character." Kua 57 "THE GENTLE" is called by them: "the exercise of character." I will not list all of the attributes for which these kua stand as symbols, they are many, but all of them conspire to describe a being of such noble stature that the epithet "superior" seems appropriate.
We can now turn our attention to some of the supporting symbols and concepts associated with this trump and demonstrate how they find their cognates in the contents of the kua.
In describing the nature of the "Great Work" Crowley has used many metaphors. One of these is particularly pertinent and illustrative.
Crowley: In chemistry, it is the heaviest elements that are unable in terrestrial conditions to support the strain and stress of their internal structure; consequently they radiate particles ... (BT p. 117-118)
Crowley uses radioactive decay as a metaphor for the decay of the spirit under the stress of material existence. The "Great Work," in this context, is learning to control this process of decay and the harnessing of the resulting energy for the betterment of self and humanity. I make the observation that kua 18 has as its alternate title "DECAY."
Through the process of atomic decay the element uranium is eventually transmuted into lead. One of the goals of alchemy was the transmutation of lead into gold. This process is the reverse of decay. The alchemists were seeking to control the natural processes of change, halt decay, then reverse the process and turn the lead (what has decayed or spoiled) into gold. All of this is alchemical symbolism for the real work of strengthening the individual human spirit which, left unsupported within the crucible of materialism, would decay to a state of inertia analogous to lead.
The teaching is: humankind, like all things in the material universe, partakes of the divine nature which supports matter. But unlike the animals, plants and inert materials, humans are among those beings possessing self-reflective consciousness. The stress of bearing this burden is the source of both our joy and our despair. We can become "as gods" only by way of constant vigilance and hard work. Actually "become" is not quite the right word. We are already "as gods," or at least we were at our conception; but even the innocence of the babe is not the "god- like" state of union with the divine. The task is to become aware of the divine aspect which is part of our inheritance.
From the moment of conception spirit embarks upon a descent into matter. The spirit, heretofore free within the will of the divine, is now compelled to obey a new set of rules dictated by the limitations of material existence. The spirit struggles to remember; it yearns for its lost liberty. As a wanderer it seeks its home. The "Great Work" is: the conscious mind lending aid to the spirit in its quest for reunion with the creative source.
From the unconscious come enemies and allies. Likewise enemies and allies manifest in the material world. This is why there is the emphasis, in all schools of "the work," on training for awareness. Only through constant attention and hard work can the spirit maintain itself against the forces of - gravity which holds it prisoner to our planet - entropy which condemns its carrier to physical decay and death - and loneliness (separation from the divine ground) which compels the conscious mind to seek relief in diversions which alleviate (temporarily) the anguish of alienation.
Awareness is the tool which, when turned towards the outer world, gives spirit the means to see its way past the illusions of life; and which, when turned towards the inner realm, allows it to glimpse the divine ground which is the true home of spirit. Train the conscious mind to deal with the vagaries of existence in a liberating and growth oriented way. When mind and spirit animate body in common cause, then one is engaged in the "Great Work."
Saturn, as planet and deity, is a symbolic vessel for many concepts linked to this trump. In the text of his essay on this trump Crowley tells us that Saturn is also called: "the sun in the south" (BT p. 118). In his interpretation of kua 46 he alludes to Saturn.
Crowley: (I Ching, kua 46) "ADVANCE AND ASCENT" The ascent; go seek the lofty one! And in the south give worship to the sun!
The Hebrew letter TAU is attributed to the planet Saturn. In the western symbolic tradition Saturn is related to the "element" of earth. This is also true of the Chinese symbolic tradition. In China there are four "elements": wood/wind, water, fire, metal, and a fifth, earth, which is in the center and from which the others are derived. In the western tradition the four "elements": air, water, fire, and earth are derived from a central fifth which goes by the name of "essence" or "spirit." In both the eastern and western traditions the "center" includes the concepts associated with Saturn, "earth", and "essence" or spirit. It is from the center that life springs. And whether one views the center in a natural way as earth or metaphysically as spirit is in the end irrelevant.
Crowley: Saturn, ... is the old god, the god of fertility, ... (and as "earth") The foundation of the tree (of life) and representative of the reproductive process ... (BT p. 118)
Kua 46, The image: WITHIN THE EARTH, WOOD GROWS. THE IMAGE OF PUSHING UPWARD. (p. 179)
Wilhelm: (kua 48) The image also refers to the world of plants, which lift water out of the earth by means of their fibres. (p. 185)
The process initiated by "THE FOOL" reaches a completion with an understanding of his place in "THE UNIVERSE." The kua of "THE WELL" and "THE GENTLE" represent the character of "THE FOOL" after the work has been engaged in. The work itself is represented by "PUSHING UPWARD" and "WORK ON WHAT HAS BEEN SPOILED." It is important to understand that this work is, because of the relentlessness of material forces, an endless cyclic process.
Crowley: ... but always, as soon as the end of a process is reached, it returns automatically to the beginning. (p. 117)
Kua 18, Commentary on the decision: BEFORE THE STARTING POINT, THREE DAYS. AFTER THE STARTING POINT, THREE DAYS. THAT A NEW BEGINNING FOLLOWS EVERY ENDING, IS THE COURSE OF HEAVEN. (p. 477)
Numbers have always provided man with models of the natural and supernatural concepts his mind has conceived. The number system of a time and culture often reflects the metaphysical and physical paradigms of that time or culture. In the west the concept of zero, representing "the beginning," is a relatively recent development dating back only to the time of the renaissance. In China the concept of zero goes back to the 4th century b.c.e. And the decimal system in China goes back to the 14th century before the common era.
The world now has one international number system. The base 10 system has, by a cultural evolutionary process, become the fittest surviving mode of numerical representation. It has 10 symbols: 0-9. Going beyond them is to embark on a cyclic journey in which the basic symbols repeat at higher levels of significance. After 9 comes 10, which is in a sense, 1 with some "added essence" signified by the zero.
Crowley: The beginning was nothing; the end must therefore be also nothing, but nothing in its complete expansion,... (BT p. 117)
This cryptic statement is the arcanum that explains why "THE FOOL" is assigned the number zero. The process of the "Great Work," being cyclic, will return us to this state of nothingness or unknowing but with the paradoxical addition of knowing that we don't know. This paradox is at the heart of all mystic teachings. The means whereby one regains the innocence of the fool after gaining the experiential knowledge of the universe forms the core technique of the various schools of mysticism.
In Zen schools initiates contemplate "a nonsense concept" or koan to develop awareness and understanding thru concentrated attention. In the Qabalah schools the same goals are approached via information overload. Instead of contemplating one idea intensely the qabalist contemplates many symbols, images, and concepts simultaneously. He then tries to link, relate, and understand them as a whole. Both methods produce a profound state of cognitive dissonance in the student and ultimately lead him/her to an understanding, at a deep level, of the futility of applying pure reason alone to the pursuit of wisdom.
In the qabalistic spirit of symbolic over-kill I will now attempt to describe another way in which the symbols contained in the kua parallel the symbols contained in this tarot trump.
The Hebrew letter TAU has as its meaning: "a cross." The cross symbolizes many things but for now I will concentrate on its function of defining "the center." The intersection of the two crossed lines in any cross-like figure represents the balancing center. This is the point where the opposites, represented by the arms of the cross, meet in reconciliation. In the simplest of cross symbols two concepts intersect and interact to generate a balanced synthesis. The center, where the concepts cross, represents the "place" where the independent meanings meet and merge in that complementary manner so prized by mystics. The center is the place where differences dissolve into sameness. The dualities of the experiential universe merge and cancel each other out - are reduced to "0.".
The cross is thus a fitting final symbol for the tarot trumps and an appropriate sign of the universe. The "Great Work" of enlightenment attempts to put the initiate in the center of the universe of knowledge. This still, unmovable, unchanging perspective is the goal of the aspirant to wisdom. Here the myriad energies and concepts of the conscious mind merge and emerge only to return to the periphery somehow refreshed. It is there, on the circumference of an inscribed circle, that the confusions of material and conscious phenomena exercise their greatest influence upon the wanderer in the world.
It is in the center, under the shade of the Tree of Life, it's roots nourished by the waters of the creative essence, that we dig our well and construct our solitary retreat. Later, after the hard work of construction, we can come and go; center to periphery and back again; knowing that there is a place we can be refreshed and renewed. The home away from home.
Kua 57, The sequence: THE WANDERER HAS NOTHING THAT MIGHT RECEIVE HIM; HENCE THERE FOLLOWS THE HEXAGRAM OF THE GENTLE, THE PENETRATING. THE GENTLE MEANS GOING INTO. (p. 679)
Wilhelm: (kua 57) This means that the wanderer in his forlornness has no place to stay in, and that hence there follows SUN, the hexagram of homecoming. (p. 679)
In "THE WELL" we are given an image of a man-made object; the purpose of which is to nourish all people. It is symbolic of the "superior man" or "the fool re-made." The well is a very important symbol in the I Ching. It has meanings which are cognate with the western symbol of the cross as center and as the source of "the essence."
Crowley: (I Ching, kua 48) "Self-cultivation" - Well; the common fountain of increase. If kept with care, its virtues never cease.
1 | 4 | 6 ----------- 2 | 9 | 7 ----------- 3 | 5 | 8
The agrarian system of ancient China was based on the above diagram. The outer eight fields were used by the individual families. The center field contained the well along with the village and the local lord's fields. The numbering system and symmetry of this diagram was transferred to that I Ching diagram known as: "the early heaven arrangement of trigrams." The trigrams were associated with the numbers one to eight. The center therefore took on the attributes of the number nine.
The significance of the number assignments for the trigrams becomes clear when it is realized that the I Ching, or "BOOK OF CHANGES," deals with the universe as it manifests on the circumference of the circle of trigrams; i.e. the material world of constant change. The center represents the point of intersection of dualities; the place of reconciliation for opposites and the unchanging ground of sameness that symbolizes the universe in its aspect of stability.
Kua 48, The judgement: THE WELL. THE TOWN MAY BE CHANGED, BUT THE WELL CANNOT BE CHANGED. IT NEITHER DECREASES NOR INCREASES. THEY COME AND GO AND DRAW FROM THE WELL. ... (p. 185)
Crowley: Saturn, ... is the old god, ... of the equilibrium between change and stability, ... (p. 118)
There is a "game" that occultists play with numbers. It goes by many different names but the most descriptive is: "theosophical addition." Take any number (such as 137), add all of its digits (1+3+7=11), continue this process with the result until you are left with a single digit (11=1+1=2). The number nine shares with zero the characteristic of "no-change." If any digit other than 0 or 9 is added to the original starting number (137+(3)=140), and the result is "theosophically added" (1+4+0=5), the resulting digit is also changed by that amount (1+3+7=2+(3)=5). However, if 9 is added (137+(9)=146), "theosophical addition" leaves the end result unchanged (1+4+6=2=1+3+7). This is of course true with zero also. Hence it is seen that both 0 as the beginning and 9 as the end (of the base 10 number symbols) have this aspect of changelessness or stability in common.
If we examine the diagram of the early heaven arrangement of trigrams we will note that the numbers of the opposite pairs of trigrams on the periphery of change sum to 9. To view the stable center of this diagram as both zero and nine is to understand the meaning of the universe in its aspects of noneness, and "nothing in its complete expansion;" or nineness.
The letter TAU is the last in the Hebrew alphabet just as Omega is last in the Greek alphabet. ALEPH is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek Alpha. The phrase: "Alpha and Omega" signifying the first or beginning and the last or end is one way of expressing the totality of all that is or will be. The Hebrew version would be: "ALEPH and TAU." To say: "THE FOOL and THE UNIVERSE," is to express the Tarot version of this principle.
Crowley: THE FOOL is the negative issuing into manifestation; THE UNIVERSE is that manifestation, its purpose accomplished, ready to return. (BT p. 118)
In regard to "the center," it has been mentioned that the fifth and central "element" in the western tradition is sometimes referred to as "essence." It is perhaps coincidental that "THE WANDERER" kua 56, which codes for the Hebrew letter ALEPH in my arrangement, is followed in the I Ching by "THE GENTLE" kua 57, which codes for the letter TAU. Together, ALEPH TAU spell ATh, the Hebrew word for "you" which Crowley interprets as "essence."
The essence of Crowley's philosophy of life and living; and the credo of his magickal society is: "Do what thou wilt, shall be the whole of the law."
Crowley: (I Ching, kua 18 line 6) Do what thou wilt, thyself, a slave to none!
Kua 18, line 6: HE DOES NOT SERVE KINGS AND PRINCES, SETS HIMSELF HIGHER GOALS. SUCH AN ATTITUDE MAY BE TAKEN AS A MODEL. (p. 78)
Wilhelm: (kua 18 line 6) Not every man has an obligation to mingle in the affairs of the world. There are some who are developed to such a degree that they are justified in letting the world go its own way and in refusing to enter public life with a view to reforming it. But this does not imply a right to remain idle or to sit back and merely criticize. Such withdrawal is justified only when we strive to realize in ourselves the higher aims of mankind. For although the sage remains distant from the turmoil of daily life, he creates incomparable human values for the future. (p. 78) ... He does not work for one era, but for the world and for all time. (p. 481)