I. THE JUGGLER
• i. De Mercurio
• ii. The Lord of Illusion
This card is referred to the letter
Beth, which means a house, and is attributed to the planet Mercury.
The ideas connected with this symbol are so complex and so
multifarious that it seems better to attach to this general
description certain documents which bear upon different aspects of
this card. The whole will then form an adequate basis for the full
interpretation of the card through study, meditation, and use.
The French title of this card in the medieval pack is “Le Bâteleur”,
the Bearer of the Bâton. [Variant: LE PAGAD. Origin unknown.
(1) PChD terror (esp. Panic
fear) a title of Geburah. Also a thigh: i.e. membrum virile. By
Arabic analogy, PAChD, causer of terror: Value 93!!
(2) Pagoda, a phallic
memorial: Similar, and equally apt.] Mercury is pre-eminently
the bearer of the Wand: Energy sent forth. This card therefore
represents the Wisdom, the Will, the Word, the Logos by whom the
worlds were created. (See the Gospel according to St. John,
It represents the Will. In brief, he is
the Son, the manifestation in act of the idea of the Father. He is
the male correlative of the High Priestess. Let there be no
confusion here on account of the fundamental doctrine of the Sun and
Moon as the Second Harmonics to the Lingam and the Yoni; for, as
will be seen in the citation from The Paris Working, (see Appendix)
the creative Mercury is of the nature of the Sun. But Mercury is the
Path leading from Kether to Binah, the Understanding; and thus He is
the messenger of the gods, represents precisely that Lingam, the
Word of creation whose speech is silence.
Mercury, however, represents action in
all forms and phases. He is the fluidic basis of all transmission of
activity; and, on the dynamic theory of the Universe, he is himself
the substance thereof. He is, in the language of modern physics,
that electric charge which is the first manifestation of the ring of
ten indefinable ideas, as previously explained. He is thus
Logically also, being the Word, he is the law of reason or of
necessity or chance, which is the secret meaning of the Word, which
is the essence of the Word, and the condition of its utterance. This
being so, and especially because he is duality, he represents both
truth and falsehood, wisdom and folly. Being the unexpected, he
unsettles any established idea, and therefore appears tricky. He has
no conscience, being creative. If he cannot attain his ends by fair
means, he does it by foul. The legends of the youthful Mercury are
therefore legends of cunning. He cannot be understood, because he is
the Unconscious Will. His position on the Tree of Life shows the
third Sephira, Binah, Understanding, as not yet formulated; still
less the false Sephira, Da’ath, knowledge.
From the above it will appear that this card is the second emanation
from the Crown, and therefore, in a sense, the adult form of the
first emanation, the Fool, whose letter is Aleph, the Unity. These
ideas are so subtle and so tenuous, on these exalted planes of
thought, that definition is impossible. It is not even desirable,
because it is the nature of these ideas to flow one into the other.
One cannot do more than say that any given hieroglyph represents a
slight insistence upon some particular form of a pantomorphous idea.
In this card, the emphasis is upon the creative and dualistic
character of the path of Beth.
In the traditional card the disguise is that of a Juggler.
This representation of the Juggler is one of the crudest and least
satisfactory in the medieval pack. He is usually represented with a
headdress shaped like the sign of infinity in mathematics (this is
shown in detail in the card called the Two of Disks). He bears a
wand with a knob at each end, which was probably connected with the
dual polarity of electricity; but it is also the hollow wand of
Prometheus that brings down fire from Heaven. On a table or altar,
behind which he is standing, are the three other elemental weapons.
“With the Wand createth
With the Cup preserveth He.
With the Dagger destroyeth He.
With the Coin redeemeth He.”
Liber Magi vv. 7-10.”
The present card has been designed
principally upon the Graeco-Egyptian tradition; for the
understanding of this idea was certainly further advanced when these
philosophies modified each other, than elsewhere at any time.
The Hindu conception of Mercury, Hanuman, the monkey god, is
abominably degraded. None of the higher aspects of the symbol are
found in his cult. The aim of his adepts seems principally to have
been the production of a temporary incarnation of the god by sending
the women of the tribe every year into the jungle. Nor do we find
any legend of any depth or spirituality. Hanuman is certainly little
more than the Ape of Thoth.
The principal characteristic of Tahuti or Thoth, the Egyptian
Mercury, is, firstly, that he has the head of the ibis. The ibis is
the symbol of concentration, because it was supposed that this bird
stood continuously upon one leg, motionless. This is quite evidently
a symbol of the meditative spirit. There may also have been some
reference to the central mystery of the Aeon of Osiris, the secret
guarded so carefully from the profane, that the intervention of the
male was necessary to the production of children. In this form of
Thoth, he is seen bearing the phoenix wand, symbolizing resurrection
through the generative process. In his left hand is the Ankh, which
represents a sandal-strap; that is to say, the means of progress
through the worlds, which is the distinguishing mark of godhead.
But, by its shape, this Ankh (crux ansata) is actually another form
of the Rose and Cross, and this fact is perhaps not quite such an
accident as modern Egyptologists, preoccupied with their attempted
refutation of the Phallic school of Archaeology, would have us
The other form of Thoth represents him primarily as Wisdom and the
Word. He bears in his right hand the Style, in his left the Papyrus.
He is the messenger of the gods; he transmits their will by
hieroglyphs intelligible to the initiate, and records their acts;
but it was seen from very early times that the use of speech, or
writing, meant the introduction of ambiguity at the best, and
falsehood at the worst; they therefore represented Thoth as followed
by an ape, the cynocephalus, whose business was to distort the Word
of the god; to mock, to simulate and to deceive. In philosophical
language one may say: Manifestation implies illusion. This doctrine
is found in Hindu philosophy, where the aspect of Tahuti of which we
are speaking is called Mayan. This doctrine is also found in the
central and typical image of the Mahayana school of Buddhism (really
identical with the doctrine of Shiva and Shakti). A vision of this
image will be found in the document entitled “The Lord of Illusion”
The present card endeavours to represent all the above conceptions.
Yet no true image is possible at all; for, firstly, all images are
necessarily false as such; and, secondly, the motion being
perpetual, and its rate that of the limit, c, the rate of Light, any
stasis contradicts the idea of the card: this picture is, therefore,
hardly more than mnemonic jottings. Many of the ideas expressed in
the design are well expounded in the extracts from The Paris
I. DE MERCURIO
[From The Paris Working.]
Here follows a very full description of the nature of Mercury in
several aspects, particularly his relation with Jupiter and the Sun:
“In the Beginning was the Word, the
Logos, who is Mercury; and is therefore to be identified with
Christ. Both are messengers; their birth mysteries are similar;
the pranks of their childhood are similar. In the Vision of the
Universal Mercury, Hermes is seen descending upon the sea, which
refers to Mary. [The path of Beth on the Tree of Life shows him
descending from Kether, the Crown, upon Binah, the Great
Sea.]The Crucifixion represents the Caduceus; the two thieves,
the two serpents; the cliff in the vision of the Universal
Mercury is Golgotha; Maria is simply Maia with the solar R in
her womb. The controversy about Christ between the Synoptics and
John was really a contention between the priests of Bacchus,
Sol, and Osiris; also, perhaps, of Adonis and Attis on the one
hand, and those of Hermes on the other, at that period when
initiates all over the world found it necessary, owing to the
growth of the Roman Empire and the opening up of means of
communication, to replace conflicting Polytheisms by a synthetic
“To continue the identification, compare Christ’s descent into
hell with the function of Hermes as guide of the dead. Also
Hermes leading up Eurydice, and Christ raising up Jairus’
daughter. Christ is said to have risen on the third day, because
it takes three days for the Planet Mercury to become visible
after separating from the orb of the sun. (It may be noted here
that Mercury and Venus are the planets between us and the sun,
as if the Mother and the Son were mediators between us and the
Note Christ as the Healer, and also his
own expression: “The Son of Man cometh as a thief in the night.”
Also this scripture (Matthew xxiv, 24-7):
“For as the lightning cometh out of
the East and shineth even unto the West, so shall also the
coming of the Son of Man be.”
Note also Christ’s relations with the
money-changers, his frequent parables, and the fact that his first
disciple was a publican, i.e., tax-collector.
Note also Mercury as the deliverer of Prometheus.
One half of the Fish symbol is also common to Christ and Mercury;
fish are sacred to Mercury (owing presumably to their quality of
movement and cold-bloodedness). Many of Christ’s disciples were
fishermen, and he was always doing miracles in connection with fish.
Note also Christ as the mediator:
“No man cometh unto the Father but
by me”, and Mercury as Chokmah “through whom alone we can
“The Caduceus contains a complete symbol of the Gnosis. The
winged sun or phallus represents the joy of life on all planes
from the lowest to the highest. The serpents (besides being
Active and Passive, Horns and Osiris, and all their other
well-known attributions) are those qualities of Eagle and Lion
respectively, of which we know, but do not speak. It is the
symbol which unites the Microcosm and the Macrocosm, the symbol
of the Magical operation that accomplishes this. The Caduceus is
Life itself, and is of universal application. It is the
“I see it all now; the virile force of Mars is far beneath him.
All the other gods are merely aspects of Jupiter formulated by
Hermes. He is the first of the Aeons.”
“The sense of humour of this god is very strong. He is not
sentimental about his principal function; he regards the
Universe as an excellent practical joke; yet he recognizes that
Jupiter is serious, and the Universe is serious, although he
laughs at them for being serious. His sole business is to
transmit the force from Jupiter, and is concerned with nothing
else. The message is Life, but in Jupiter the life is latent.”
“With regard to Reincarnation, the heliocentric theory is right.
As we conquer the conditions of a planet, we incarnate upon the
next planet inwards; until we return to the Father of All, when
our experiences link together, become intelligible, and star
speaks to star. Terra is the last planet where bodies are made
of earth; in Venus they are fluid; on Mercury aerial; while in
the Sun they are fashioned of pure fire.”
[”In the Suns we remember; in the
Planets we forget.” - Eliphaz Levi.]
“I now see the eightfold star of Mercury suddenly blazing out;
it is composed of four fleurs-de-lys with rays like anthers,
bulrushes in shape between them. The central core has the cypher
of the Grand Master, but not the one you know. Upon the cross
are the Dove, the Hawk, the Serpent and the Lion. Also, one
symbol yet more secret. Now I behold fiery swords of light. All
this is upon a Cosmic scale. All the distances are astronomical.
When I say “Sword”, I have a definite consciousness of a weapon
many millions of miles in length”.
II. THE LORD OF ILLUSION
[Extract from Liber CDXVIII
The Vision and the Voice: 3rd Aethyr
(Ed. Princ. p.144.)]
It is the figure of the Magus of the Taro; in his right arm the
torch of the flames blazing upwards; in his left, the cup of poison,
a cataract into Hell. And upon his head the evil talisman, blasphemy
and blasphemy and blasphemy, in the form of a circle. That is the
greatest blasphemy of all (i.e., that the circle should be thus
profaned. This evil circle is of three concentric rings). On his
feet hath he scythes and swords and sickles; daggers; knives; every
sharp thing-a millionfold, and all in one. And before him is the
Table that is a Table of wickedness, the forty-two-fold Table.
This Table is connected with the
forty-two Assessors of the Dead, for they are the Accusers, whom the
soul must baffle; and with the forty-two-fold name of God, for this
is the Mystery of Iniquity, that there was ever a beginning at all.
And this Magus casteth forth, by the might of his four weapons, veil
after veil; a thousand shining colours, ripping and tearing the
Aethyr; so that it is like jagged saws, or like broken teeth in the
face of a young girl, or like disruption, or madness. There is a
horrible grinding sound, maddening. This is the mill in which the
Universal Substance, which is ether, was ground down into matter.
A voice says:
“Behold the brilliance of the Lord,
whose feet are set upon him that pardoneth transgression. Behold
the six-fold Star that flameth in the Vault, the seal of the
marriage of the great White King and his black slave.”
So I looked into the Stone, and beheld
the sixfold Star: the whole Aethyr is as tawny clouds, like the
flame of a furnace. And there is a mighty host of Angels, blue and
golden, that throng it, and they cry: Holy, Holy, Holy art thou,
that art not shaken in the earthquakes, and in the thunders! The end
of things is come upon us; the day of Be-with-us is at hand! For he
hath created the Universe, and overthrown it, that he might take his
And now, in the midst of the Aethyr, I behold that god. He hath a
thousand arms, and in each hand is a weapon of terrible strength.
His face is more terrible than the storm, and from his eyes flash
lightnings of intolerable brilliance. From his mouth run seas of
blood. Upon his head is a crown of every deadly thing. Upon his
forehead is the upright Tau, and on either side of it are signs of
blasphemy. And about him clingeth a young girl, like unto the King’s
daughter that appeared in the ninth Aethyr. But she is become rosy
by reason of his force, and her purity hath tinged his black with
They are clasped in a furious embrace, so that she is torn asunder
by the terror of the god; yet so tightly clingeth she about him,
that he is strangled. She hath forced back his head, and his throat
is livid with the pressure of her fingers. Their joint cry is an
intolerable anguish; yet it is the cry of their rapture, so that
every pain, and every curse, and every bereavement, and every death
of everything in the whole universe, is but one little gust of wind
in that tempest-scream of ecstasy. [This image is to be found
painted (usually on silk, and repeated in varying forms, often
representing the planets, about its central glory) upon the sacred
Banners which adorn the shrines of Tibet].
And an Angel speaks:
“Behold, this vision is utterly
beyond thine understanding. Yet shalt thou endeavour to unite
thyself with the dreadful marriage-bed.”
So I am torn asunder, nerve from nerve
and vein from vein, and more intimately--- cell from cell, molecule
from molecule, and atom from atom, and at the same time all crushed
together. (Write down that the tearing asunder is a crushing
together.) All the double phenomena are only two ways of looking at
a single phenomenon; and the single phenomenon is Peace. There is no
sense in my words or in my thoughts. “Faces half-formed arose.” This
is the meaning of that passage; they are attempts to interpret
Chaos. But Chaos is Peace Cosmos is the War of the Rose and the
Cross. That was a “half- formed face” that I said then. All images
Yea, as in a looking-glass, so in thy mind, that is backed with the
false metal of lying, is every symbol read averse. Lo! everything
wherein thou hast trusted must confound thee, and that thou didst
flee from was thy saviour. So therefore didst thou shriek in the
Black Sabbath when thou didst kiss the hairy buttocks of the goat,
when the gnarled god tore thee asunder, when the icy cataract of
death swept thee away.
Shriek, therefore, shriek aloud; mingle the roar of the gored lion
and the moan of the torn bull, and the cry of the man that is torn
by the claws of the Eagle, and the scream of the Eagle that is
strangled by the hands of the Man. Mingle all these in the
death-shriek of the Sphinx, for the blind man hath profaned her
mystery. Who is this, Oedipus, Tiresias, Erinyes? Who is this, that
is blind and a seer, a fool above wisdom? Whom do the hounds of
heaven follow, and the crocodiles of hell await?
Aleph, Vau, Yod, Ayin, Resh, Tau, is his name. [These are the Paths
forming a Current 1-2-6-8-9-10 on the Tree of Life].
Beneath his feet is the Kingdom, and upon his head the Crown. He is
spirit and matter; he is peace and power; in him is Chaos and Night
and Pan; and upon BABALON his concubine, that hath made him drunk
upon the blood of the saints that she hath gathered in her golden
cup, hath he begotten the virgin that now he doth deflower. And this
is that which is written: Malkuth shall be uplifted and set upon the
throne of Binah. And this is the stone of the philosophers that is
set as a seal upon the Tomb of Tetragrammaton, and the elixir of
life that is distilled from the blood of the saints, and the red
powder that is the grinding-up of the bones of Choronzon.
Terrible and wonderful is the Mystery thereof, O thou Titan that
hast climbed into the bed of Juno! Surely thou art bound unto, and
broken upon, the wheel; yet hast thou uncovered the nakedness of the
Holy One, and the Queen of Heaven is in travail of child, and his
name shall be called Vir, and Vis, and Virus, and Virtus, and
Viridis, in one name that is all these, and above all these. [Vi
Veri Vniversum Vivus Vici, the motto of the Master Therion as an
* * *
The following excerpt from Liber Aleph, the
Book of Wisdom or Folly,
may also help to elucidate the meaning of this card.
“Tahuti, or Thoth, confirmed the
Word of Dionysus by continuing it; for He shewed how by the Mind
it was possible to direct the Operations of the Will. By
Criticism and by recorded Memory Man avoideth Error, and the
Repetition of Error. But the true Word of Tahuti was A M O U N,
whereby He made Men to understand their secret Nature, that is,
their unity with their True Selves, or, as they then phrased it,
with God. And he discovered unto them the Way of this
Attainment, and its relation with the Formula of INRI. Also by
his Mystery of Number he made plain the Path for His Successor
to declare the Nature of the whole Universe in its Form and in
its Structure, as it were an Analysis thereof, doing for Matter
what the Buddha was decreed to do for Mind.”
II. THE HIGH PRIESTESS
This card is referred to the letter Gimel, which means a Camel.
(The symbolism of the Camel is explained later.)
The card refers to the Moon. The Moon (being the general feminine
symbol, the symbol of the second order corresponding to the Sun as
the Yoni does to the Lingam) is universal, and goes from the highest
to the lowest. It is a symbol which will recur frequently in these
hieroglyphs. But in the earlier Trumps the concern is with Nature
above the Abyss; the High Priestess is the first card which connects
the Supernal Triad with the Hexad; and her path, as shown in the
diagram, makes a direct connection between the Father in his highest
aspect, and the Son in his most perfect manifestation. This path is
in exact balance in the middle pillar. There is here, therefore, the
purest and most exalted conception of the Moon. (At the other end of
the scale is Atu xviii, q.v.)
The card represents the most spiritual form of Isis the Eternal
Virgin; the Artemis of the Greeks. She is clothed only in the
luminous veil of light. It is important for high initiation to
regard Light not as the perfect manifestation of the Eternal Spirit,
but rather as the veil which hides that Spirit It does so all the
more effectively because of its incomparably dazzling brilliance.
[The tradition of the best schools of Hindu mysticism has a precise
parallelism. The final obstacle to full Enlightenment is exactly
this Vision of Formless Effulgence].
Thus she is light and the body of light. She is the truth behind the
veil of light. She is the soul of light. Upon her knees is the bow
of Artemis, which is also a musical instrument, for she is huntress,
and hunts by enchantment.
Now, regard this idea as from behind the Veil of Light, the third
Veil of the original Nothing. This light is the menstruum of
manifestation, the goddess Nuith, the possibility of Form. This
first and most spiritual manifestation of the feminine takes to
itself a masculine correlative, by formulating in itself any
geometrical point from which to contemplate possibility. This
virginal goddess is then potentially the goddess of fertility. She
is the idea behind all form; as soon as the influence of the triad
descends below the Abyss, there is the completion of concrete idea.
The following chapter of the Book of Lies (falsely so-called), may
assist the student to understand this doctrine by dint of
In the Wind of the mind arises the turbulence called I.
It breaks; down shower the barren thoughts.
All life is choked.
This desert is the Abyss wherein is the Universe.
The Stars are but thistles in that waste.
Yet this desert is but one spot accurséd in a world of
bliss. Now and again Travellers cross the desert; they come
from the Great Sea, and to the Great Sea they go.
And as they go they spill water; one day they will irrigate
the desert, till it flower.
See! Five footprints of a Camel! V.V.V.V.V.
(For the classical description of the Abyss, the student
should consult Liber 418, The Vision and the Voice,
especially the Tenth Aethyr The Equinox, Vol. I, No.5,
At the bottom of the card, accordingly, are shown nascent forms,
whorls, crystals, seeds, pods, symbolising the beginnings of life.
In the midst is the Camel which is mentioned in the chapter quoted
above. In this card is the one link between the archetypal and
Thus far concerning this path, considered as issuing downwards from
the Crown; but to the aspirant, that is, to the adept who is already
in Tiphareth, to him who has attained to the Knowledge and
Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, this is the path which
leads upwards; and this card, in one system entitled the Priestess
of the Silver Star, is symbolic of the thought (or rather of the
intelligible radiance) of that Angel. It is, in short, a symbol of
the highest Initiation. Now it is a condition of Initiation that its
keys are to be communicated by those who possess them to all true
aspirants. This card is thus very peculiarly a glyph of the work of
Some idea of the formula is given in this other chapter of the Book
The Brothers of A.’.A.’. are one with the Mother of the
The Many is as adorable to the One as the One is to the
Many. This is the Love of These; creation-parturition is the
Bliss of the One; coition-dissolution is the Bliss of the
The All, thus interwoven of These, is Bliss.
Naught is beyond Bliss.
The Man delights in uniting with the Woman; the Woman in
parting from the Child.
The Brothers of A.’.A.’. are Women; the Aspirants to A.’.A.’.
It is important to reflect that this card is wholly feminine, wholly
virginal, for it represents the influence and the means of
manifestation (or, from below, of attainment) in itself. It
represents possibility in its second stage without any beginning of
It is especially to be observed that the three consecutive letters,
Gimel, Daleth, He’ (Atu II, III, XVII) show the Feminine Symbol
(Yin) in three forms composing a Triune Goddess. This Trinity is
immediately followed by the three corresponding and complementary
Fathers, Vau, Tzaddi, Yod (Atu IV, V, IX). The Trumps 0 and I are
hermaphrodite. The remaining fourteen Trumps represent these
Primordial Quintessences of Being in conjunction, function, or
III. THE EMPRESS
This card is attributed to the letter Daleth, which means a door,
and it refers to the planet Venus. This card is, on the face of it,
the complement of The Emperor; but her attributions are much more
On the Tree of Life, Daleth is the path leading from Chokmah to
Binah, uniting the Father with the Mother. Daleth is one of the
three paths which are altogether above the Abyss. There is further
more the alchemical symbol of Venus, the only one of the planetary
symbols which comprises all the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. The
doctrine implied is that the fundamental formula of the Universe is
Love. [The circle touches the Sephiroth I, 2, 4, 6, 5, 3; the Cross
is formed by 6, 9, 10 and 7, 8.]
It is impossible to summarize the meanings of the symbol of the
Woman, for this very reason, that she continually recurs in
infinitely varied form. “Many-throned, many-minded, many-wiled,
daughter of Zeus.”
In this card, she is shown in her most general manifestation. She
combines the highest spiritual with the lowest material qualities.
For this reason, she is fitted to represent one of the three
alchemical forms of energy, Salt. Salt is the inactive principle of
Nature; Salt is matter which must be energized by Sulphur to
maintain the whirling equilibrium of the Universe. The arms and
torso of the figure consequently suggest the shape of the alchemical
symbol of Salt. She represents a woman with the imperial crown and
vestments, seated upon a throne, whose uprights suggest blue twisted
flames symbolic of her birth from water, the feminine, fluid
element. In her right hand she bears the lotus of Isis; the lotus
represents the feminine, or passive power.
Its roots are in the earth beneath the water, or in the water
itself, but it opens its petals to the Sun, whose image is the belly
of the chalice. It is, therefore, a living form of the Holy Grail,
sanctified by the blood of the Sun. Perching upon the flamelike
uprights of her throne are two of her most sacred birds, the sparrow
and the dove; the nub of this symbolism must be sought in the poems
of Catullus and Martial. On her robe are bees; also dominos,
surrounded by continuous spiral lines; the signification is
About her, for a girdle, is the Zodiac.
Beneath the throne is a floor of tapestry, embroidered with
fleurs-de-lys and fishes; they seem to be adoring the Secret Rose,
which is indicated at the base of the throne. The significance of
these symbols has already been explained. In this card all symbols
are cognate, because of the simplicity and purity of the emblem.
There is here no contradiction; such opposition as there seems to be
is only the opposition necessary to balance. And this is shown by
the revolving moons.
The heraldry of the Empress is two-fold: on the one side, the
Pelican of tradition feeding its young from the blood of its own
heart; on the other, the White Eagle of the Alchemist.
With regard to the Pelican, its full symbolism is only available to
Initiates of the Fifth degree of the O.T.O. In general terms, the
meaning may be suggested by identifying the Pelican herself with the
Great Mother and her offspring, with the Daughter in the formula of
Tetragrammaton. It is because the daughter is the daughter of her
mother that she can be raised to her throne. In other language,
there is a continuity of life, an inheritance of blood, which binds
all forms of Nature together. There is no break between light and
darkness. Natura non facit saltum. If these considerations were
fully understood, it would become possible to reconcile the Quantum
theory with the Electro-magnetic equations.
The White Eagle in this trump corresponds to the Red Eagle in the
Consort card, the Emperor. It is here necessary to work back wards.
For in these highest cards are the symbols of perfection; both the
initial perfection of Nature and the final perfection of Art; not
only Isis, but Nephthys. Consequently, the details of the work
pertain to subsequent cards, especially Atu vi and Atu xiv.
At the back of the card is the Arch or Door, which is the
interpretation of the letter Daleth. This card, summed up, may be
called the Gate of Heaven. But, because of the beauty of the symbol,
because of its omniform presentation, the student who is dazzled by
any given manifestation may be led astray. In no other card is it so
necessary to disregard the parts, to concentrate upon the whole.
IV. THE EMPEROR
This card is attributed to the letter Tzaddi, and it refers to the
sign of Aries in the Zodiac. This sign is ruled by Mars, and therein
the Sun is exalted. The sign is thus a combination of energy in its
most material form with the idea of authority. The sign TZ or TS
implies this in the original, onomatopoetic form of language. It is
derived from Sanskrit roots meaning Head and Age, and is found
to-day in words like Cæsar, Tsar, Sirdar, Senate, Senior, Signor,
The card represents a crowned male figure, with imperial vestments
and regalia. He is seated upon the throne whose capitals are the
heads of the Himalayan wild ram, since Aries means a Ram. At his
feet, couchant, is the Lamb and Flag, to confirm this attribution on
the lower plane; for the ram, by nature, is a wild and courageous
animal, lonely in lonely places, whereas when tamed and made to lie
down in green pastures, nothing is left but the docile, cowardly,
gregarious and succulent beast. This is the theory of government.
The Emperor is also one of the more important alchemical cards; with Atu II and III, he makes up the triad: Sulphur, Mercury, Salt. His
arms and head form an upright triangle; below, crossed legs
represent the Cross. This figure is the alchemical symbol of Sulphur
(see Atu X). Sulphur is the male fiery energy of the Universe, the
Rajas of Hindu philosophy. This is the swift creative energy, the
initiative of all Being. The power of the Emperor is a
generalization of the paternal power; hence such symbols as the Bee
and the Fleur-de-lys, which are shown on this card. With regard to
the quality of this power, it must be noted that it represents
sudden, violent, but impermanent activity. If it persists too long,
it burns and destroys. Distinguish from the Creative Energy of Aleph
and Beth: this card is below the Abyss.
The Emperor bears a sceptre (surmounted by a ram’s head for the
reasons given above) and an orb surmounted by a Maltese cross, which
signifies that his energy has reached a successful issue, that his
government has been established.
There is one further symbol of importance. His shield represents the
two-headed eagle crowned with a crimson disk. This represents the
red tincture of the alchemist, of the nature of gold, as the white
eagle shown in Atu III pertains to his consort, the Empress, and is
lunar, of silver.
It is finally to be observed that the white light which descends
upon him indicates the position of this card in the Tree of Life.
His authority is derived from Chokmah, the creative Wisdom, the
Word, and is exerted upon Tiphareth, the organized man.
V. THE HIEROPHANT
This card is referred to the letter Vau, which means a Nail; of this
instrument nine appear at the top of the card; they serve to fix the
oriel behind the main figure of the picture.
The card is referred to Taurus; therefore the Throne of the
Hierophant is surrounded by elephants, which are of the nature of
Taurus; and he is actually seated upon a bull. Around him are the
four beasts or Kerubs, one in each corner of the card; for these are
the guardians of every shrine. But the main reference is to the
particular arcanum which is the principal business, the essential,
of all magical work; the uniting of the microcosm with the
Accordingly, the oriel is diaphanous; before the Manifestor of the
Mystery is a hexagram representing the macrocosm. In its centre is a
pentagram, representing a dancing male child. This symbolizes the
law of the new Aeon of the Child Horns, which has supplanted that Aeon of the “Dying God” which governed the world for two thousand
years. Before him is the woman girt with a sword; she represents the
Scarlet Woman in the hierarchy of the new Aeon. This symbolism is
further carried out in the oriel where, behind the phallic
headdress, the rose of five petals is in blossom.
The symbolism of the snake and dove refers to this verse of the Book
of the Law--- chap. I, verse 57:
“there are love and love. There is
the dove, and there is the serpent”.
This symbol recurs in the trump numbered XVI.
The background of the whole card is the dark blue of the starry
night of Nuit, from whose womb all phenomena are born.
Taurus, the sign of the Zodiac represented by this card, is itself
the Bull Kerub; that is, Earth in its strongest and most balanced
The ruler of this sign is Venus; she is represented by the woman
standing before the hierophant.
Chapter III of the
Book of the Law, verse xi, reads:
“Let the woman be girt with a sword
This woman represents Venus as she now is in this new aeon; no
longer the mere vehicle of her male counterpart, but armed and
militant. In this sign the Moon is “exalted”; her influence is
represented not only by the woman, but by the nine nails.
It is impossible at the present time to explain this card
thoroughly, for only the course of events can show how the new
current of initiation will work out.
It is the aeon of Horus, of the Child. Though the face of the
Hierophant appears benignant and smiling, and the child himself
seems glad with wanton innocence, it is hard to deny that in the
expression of the initiator is something mysterious, even sinister.
He seems to be enjoying a very secret joke at somebody’s expense.
There is a distinctly sadistic aspect to this card; not unnaturally,
since it derives from the Legend of Pasiphae, the prototype of all
the legends of Bull-gods. These still persist in such religions as
Shaivism, and (after multiple degradations) in Christianity itself.
The symbolism of the Wand is peculiar; the three interlaced rings
which crown it may be taken as representative of the three Aeons of
Isis, Osiris and Horus with their interlocking magical formulae. The
upper ring is marked with scarlet for Horus; the two lower rings
with green for Isis, and pale yellow for Osiris, respectively.
All these are based upon deep indigo, the colour of Saturn, the Lord
of Time. For the rhythm of the Hierophant is such that he moves only
at intervals of 2,000 years.
VI. THE LOVERS [OR: THE
This card and its twin, XIV, Art, are the most obscure and difficult
of the Atu. Each of these symbols is in itself double, so that the
meanings form a divergent series, and the integration of the Card
can only be regained by repeated marriages, identifications, and
some form of Hermaphroditism.
Yet the attribution is the essence of simplicity. Atu VI refers to
Gemini, ruled by Mercury. It means The Twins. The Hebrew letter
corresponding is Zain, which means a Sword, and the framework of the
card is therefore the Arch of Swords, beneath which the Royal
Marriage takes place.
The Sword is primarily an engine of division. In the intellectual
world-which is the world of the Sword suit-it represents analysis.
This card and Atu XIV together compose the comprehensive alchemical
maxim: Solve et coagula.
This card is consequently one of the most fundamental cards in the
Tarot. It is the first card in which more than one figure appears.
[The Ape of Thoth in Atu I is only a shadow.] In its original form,
it was the story of Creation.
Here is appended, for its historical interest, the description of
this card in its primitive form from Liber 418.
“There is an Assyrian legend of a
woman with a fish, and also there is a legend of Eve and the
Serpent, for Cain was the child of Eve and the Serpent, and not
of Eve and Adam; and therefore when he had slain his brother,
who was the first murderer, having sacrificed living things to
his demon, had Cain the mark upon his brow, which is the mark of
the Beast spoken of in the Apocalypse, and is the sign of
“The shedding of blood is necessary, for God did not hear the
children of Eve until blood was shed. And that is external
religion; but Cain spake not with God, nor had the mark of
initiation upon his brow, so that he was shunned of all men,
until he had shed blood. And this blood was the blood of his
brother. This is a mystery of the sixth key of the Tarot, which
ought not to be called The Lovers, but The Brothers.
“In the middle of the card stands
Cain; in his right hand is the Hammer of Thor with which he hath
slain his brother, and it is all wet with his blood. And his
left hand he holdeth open as a sign of innocence. On his right
hand is his mother Eve, around whom the serpent is entwined with
his hood spread behind her head; and on his left hand is a
figure somewhat like the Hindoo Kali, but much more seductive.
Yet I know it to be Lilith. And above him is the Great Sigil of
the Arrow, downward, but it is struck through the heart of the
child. This child also is Abel. And the meaning of this part of
the card is obscure, but that is the correct drawing of the
Tarot card; and that is the correct magical fable from which the
Hebrew scribes, who were not complete Initiates, stole their
legend of the Fall and the subsequent events.”
It is very significant that almost every sentence in this passage
seems to reverse the meaning of the previous one. This is because
reaction is always equal and opposite to action. This equation is,
or should be, simultaneous in the intellectual world, where there is
no great time lag; the formulation of any idea creates its
contradictory at almost the same moment. The contradictory of any
proposition is implicit in itself. This is necessary to preserve the
equilibrium of the Universe. The theory has been explained in the
essay on Atu I, the Juggler, but must now be again emphasized in
order to interpret this card.
The key is that the Card represents the Creation of the World. The
Hierarchs held this secret as of transcendant importance.
Consequently, the Initiates who issued the Tarot, for use during the
Aeon of Osiris, superseded the original card above described in “The
Vision and the Voice”. They were concerned to create a new Universe
of their own; they were the fathers of Science. Their methods of
working, grouped under the generic term Alchemy, have never been
made public. The interesting point is that all developments of
modern science in the last fifty years have given intelligent and
instructed people the opportunity of reflecting that the whole trend
of science has been to return to alchemical aims and (mutatis
mutandis) methods. The secrecy observed by the alchemists was made
necessary by the power of persecuting Churches. Bitterly as bigots
fought among themselves, they were all equally concerned to destroy
the infant Science, which, as they instinctively recognized, would
put an end to the ignorance and faith on which their power and
The subject of this card is Analysis, followed by Synthesis. The
first question asked by science is: “Of what are things composed?
“This having been answered, the next question is: “How shall we
recombine them to our greater advantage?” This resumes the whole
policy of the Tarot.
The hooded figure which occupies the centre of the Card is another
form of The Hermit, who is further explained in Atu IX. He is
himself a form of the god Mercury, described in Atu I; he is closely
shrouded, as if to signify that the ultimate reason of things lies
in a realm beyond manifestation and intellect. (As elsewhere
explained, only two operations are ultimately possible---analysis
and synthesis). He is standing in the Sign of the Enterer, as if
projecting the mysterious forces of creation. About his arms is a
scroll, indicative of the Word which is alike his essence and his
But the Sign of the Enterer is also the Sign of Benediction and of
Consecration; thus his action in this card is the Celebration of the
Hermetic Marriage. Behind him are the figures of Eve, Lilith and
Cupid. This symbolism has been incorporated in order to preserve in
some measure the original form of the card, and to show its
derivation, its heirship, its continuity with the past. On the
quiver of Cupid is inscribed the word Thelema, which is the Word of
the Law. (See Liber AL, chap. I, verse 39.) His shafts are quanta of
Will. It is thus shown that this fundamental formula of magical
working, analysis and synthesis, persists through the Aeons.
One may now consider the Hermetic Marriage itself.
This part of the Card has been simplified from “the Chymical
Marriage of Christian Rosenkreutz”, a masterpiece too lengthy and
diffuse to quote usefully in this place. But the essence of the
analysis is the continuous see-saw of contradictory ideas. It is a
glyph of duality. The Royal persons concerned are the Black or
Moorish King with a golden crown, and the White Queen with a silver
crown. He is accompanied by the Red Lion, and she by the White
Eagle. These are symbols of the male and female principles in
Nature; they are therefore equally, in various stages of
manifestation, Sun and Moon, Fire and Water, Air and Earth. In
chemistry they appear as acid and alkali, or (more deeply) metals
and non-metals, taking those words in their widest philosophical
sense to include hydrogen on the one hand and oxygen on the other.
In this aspect, the hooded figure represents the Protean element of
carbon, the seed of all organic life.
The symbolism of male and female is carried on still further by the
weapons of the King and Queen; he bears the Sacred Lance, and she
the Holy Grail; their other hands are joined, as consenting to the
Marriage. Their weapons are supported by twin children, whose
positions are counterchanged; for the white child not only holds the
Cup, but carries roses, while the black child, holding his father’s
Lance, carries also the club, an equivalent symbol. At the bottom of
the whole is the result of the Marriage in primitive and
pantomorphic form; it is the winged Orphic egg. This egg represents
the essence of all that life which comes under this formula of male
It carries on the symbolism of the Serpents with which the King’s
robe is embroidered, and of the Bees which adorn the mantle of the
Queen. The egg is grey, mingling white and black; thus it signifies
the co-operation of the three Supernals of the Tree of Life. The
colour of the Serpent is purple, Mercury in the scale of the Queen.
It is the influence of that God manifested in Nature, whereas the
wings are tinged with crimson, the colour (in the King scale) of
Binah the great Mother. In this symbol is therefore a complete glyph
of the equilibrium necessary to begin the Great Work. But, as to the
final mystery, that is left unsolved. Perfect is the plan to produce
life, but the nature of this life is concealed. It is capable of
taking any possible form; but what form? That is dependent upon the
influences attendant on gestation.
The figure in the air presents some difficulty. The traditional
interpretation of the figure is that he is Cupid; and it is not at
first clear what Cupid has to do with Gemini. No light is thrown
upon this point by consideration of the position of the path upon
the Tree of Life, for Gemini leads from Binah to Tiphareth. There
accordingly arises the whole question of Cupid. Roman gods usually
represent a more material aspect of the Greek gods from whom they
are derived; in this case, Eros. Eros is the son of Aphrodite, and
tradition varies as to whether his father was Ares, Zeus or
Hermes---that is, Mars, Jupiter or Mercury.
His appearance in this card suggests that Hermes is the true sire;
and this view is confirmed by the fact that it is not altogether
easy to distinguish him from the child Mercury, for they have in
common wantonness) irresponsibility, and the love of playing tricks.
But in this image are peculiar characteristics. He carries a bow and
arrows in a golden quiver. (He is sometimes represented with a
torch.) He has golden wings, and is blindfolded. From this, it may
appear that he represents the intelligent (and, at the same time,
unconscious) will of the soul to unite itself with all and sundry,
as has been explained in the general formula with regard to the
agony of separateness.
No very special importance is attached to Cupid in alchemical
figures. Yet, in one sense, he is the source of all action; the
libido to express Zero as Two. From another point of view, he may be
regarded as the intellectual aspect of the influence of Binah upon
Tiphareth, for (in one tradition) the title of the card is “The
Children of the Voice, the Oracle of the Mighty Gods”. From this
point of view, he is a symbol of inspiration, descending upon the
hooded figure, who is, in this instance, a prophet operating the
conjunction of the King and Queen. His arrow represents the
spiritual intelligence necessary in alchemical operations, rather
than the mere hunger to perform them. On the other hand, the arrow
is peculiarly a symbol of direction, and it is, therefore, proper to
put the word “Thelema” in Greek letters on the quiver. It is also to
be observed that the opposite card, Sagittarius, means the Bearer of
the Arrow, or Archer, a figure who does not appear in any form in
Atu XIV. These two cards are so complementary that they cannot be
studied separately, for full interpretation.
VII. THE CHARIOT
Atu VII refers to the zodiacal sign of Cancer, the sign into which
the Sun moves at the Summer Solstice.
[Note that Cheth - Cheth 8-Yod
10-Tau 400-has the value of 418. This is one of the most important
of the key numbers of Liber AL. It is the number of the word of the
Aeon, ABRAHADABRA, the cypher of the Great Work. (See The Equinox of
the Gods, p.138. Also The Temple of Solomon the King.) On this word
alone a complete volume could, and should, be written.]
Cancer is the cardinal sign of the element of Water, [Hence St. John
Baptist’s Day, and the various ceremonials connected with water.]
and represents the first keen onrush of that element. Cancer also
represents the path which leads from the great Mother Binah to
Geburah, and is thus the influence of the Supernals descending
through the Veil of Water (which is blood) upon the energy of man,
and so inspires it. It corresponds, in this way, to The Hierophant,
which, on the other side of the Tree of Life, brings down the fire
The design of this present card has been much influenced by the
Trump portrayed by Eliphaz Levi.
The canopy of the Chariot is the night-sky-blue of Binah. The
pillars are the four pillars of ?he Universe, the regimen of
Tetragrammaton. The scarlet wheels represent the original energy of
Geburah which causes the revolving motion.
This chariot is drawn by four sphinxes composed of the four Kerubs,
the Bull, the Lion, the Eagle and the Man. In each sphinx these
elements are counter-changed; thus the whole represents the sixteen
The Charioteer is clothed in the amber-coloured armour appropriate
to the sign. He is throned in the chariot rather than con ducting
it, because the whole system of progression is perfectly balanced.
His only function is to bear the Holy Grail.
Upon his armour are ten Stars of Assiah, the inheritance of
celestial dew from his mother.
He bears as a crest the Crab appropriate to the sign. The vizor of
his helmet is lowered, for no man may look upon his face and live.
For the same reason, no part of his body is exposed.
Cancer is the house of the Moon; there are thus certain analogies
between this card and that of the High Priestess. But, also, Jupiter
is exalted in Cancer, and here one recalls the card called Fortune (Atu
X) attributed to Jupiter.
The central and most important feature of the card is its centre -
the Holy Grail. It is of pure amethyst, of the colour of Jupiter,
but its shape suggests the full moon and the Great Sea of Binah. In
the centre is radiant blood; the spiritual life is inferred; light
in the darkness. These rays, moreover, revolve, emphasizing the
Jupiterian element in the symbol.
This card in the old pack was called Justice. This word has none but
a purely human and therefore relative sense; so it is not to be
considered as one of the facts of Nature. Nature is not just,
according to any theological or ethical idea; but Nature is exact.
This card represents the sign of Libra, ruled by Venus; in it Saturn
is exalted. The equilibrium of all things is hereby symbolized. It
is the final adjustment in the formula of Tetragrammaton, when the
daughter, redeemed by her marriage with the Son, is thereby set up
on the throne of the mother; thus, finally, she “awakens the Eld of
In the greatest symbolism of all, however, the symbolism beyond all
planetary and Zodiacal considerations, this card is the feminine
complement of the Fool, for the letters Aleph Lamed constitute the
secret key of the
Book of the Law, and this is the basis of a
complete qabalistic system of greater depth and sublimity than any
other. The details of this system have not yet been revealed. It has
been thought right, nevertheless, to hint at its existence by
equating the designs of these two cards. Not only therefore, because
Libra is a sign of Venus, but because she is the partner of the
Fool, is the Goddess represented as dancing, with the suggestion of
The figure is that of a young and slender woman poised exactly upon
toetip. She is crowned with the ostrich plumes of Maat, the Egyptian
goddess of Justice, and on her forehead is the Uraeus serpent, Lord
of Life and Death. She is masked, and her expression shows her
secret intimate satisfaction in her domination of every element of
dis-equilibrium in the Universe. This condition is symbolized by the
Magic Sword which she holds in both hands, and the balances or
spheres in which she weighs the Universe, Alpha the First balanced
exactly against Omega the Last. These are the Judex and Testes of
Final Judgment; the Testes, in particular, are symbolic of the
secret course of judgment whereby all current experience is
absorbed, transmuted, and ultimately passed on, by virtue of the
operation of the Sword, to further manifestation. This all takes
place within the diamond formed by the figure which is the concealed
Vesica Piscis through which this sublimated and adjusted experience
passes to its next manifestation.
She poises herself before a throne composed of spheres and pyramids
(four in number, signifying Law and Limitation) which themselves
maintain the same equity that she herself manifests, though on a
completely impersonal plane, in the framework within which all
operations take place. Outside this again, at the corner of the
card, are indicated balanced spheres of light and darkness, and
constantly equilibrated rays from these spheres form a curtain, the
interplay of all those forces which she sums up and adjudicates.
One must go more deeply into philosophy; the Trump represents The
Woman Satisfied. Equilibrium stands apart from any individual
prejudices; therefore the title, in France, should rather be Justesse. In this sense, Nature is scrupulously just. It is
impossible to drop a pin without exciting a corresponding reaction
in every Star. The action has disturbed the balance of the Universe.
This woman-goddess is Harlequin; she is the partner and
of The Fool. She is the ultimate illusion which is manifestation;
she is the dance, many-coloured, many-wiled, of Life itself.
Constantly whirling, all possibilities are enjoyed, under the
phantom show of Space and Time: all things are real, the soul is the
surface, precisely because they are instantly compensated by this
Adjustment. All things are harmony and beauty; all things are Truth:
because they cancel out.
She is the goddess Maat; she bears upon her nemyss the ostrich
feathers of the Twofold Truth.
From this Crown, so delicate that the most faintest breath of
thought must stir it, depend, by chains of Cause, the Scales wherein
Alpha, the first, is poised in perfect equilibrium with Omega, the
last. The scales of the balance are the Two Witnesses in whom shall
every word be established. She is therefore to be understood as
assessing the virtue of every act and demanding exact and precise
More than this, she is the complete formula of the Dyad; the word AL
is the title of the Book of the Law, whose number is 31, the most
secret of the numerical keys of that Book. She represents
Manifestation, which may always be cancelled out by equilibration of
She is wrapped in a cloak of mystery, the more mysterious because
diaphanous; she is the sphinx without a secret, because she is
purely a matter of calculation. In Eastern philosophy she is Karma.
Her attributions develop this thesis. Venus rules the sign of the
Balance; and that is to show the formula: “Love is the law, love
under will”. But Saturn represents above all the element of Time,
without which adjustment cannot take place, for all action and re
action take place in time, and therefore, time being itself merely a
condition of phenomena, all phenomena are invalid because
The Woman Satisfied. From the cloak of the vivid wantonness of her
dancing wings issue her hands; they hold the hilt of the Phallic
sword of the magician. She holds the blade between her thighs.
This is again a hieroglyph of “Love is the law, love under will”.
Every form of energy must be directed, must be applied with
integrity, to the full satisfaction of its destiny.
IX. THE HERMIT
This card is attributed to the letter Yod, which means the Hand.
Hence, the hand, which is the tool or instrument par excellence, is
in the centre of the picture. The letter Yod is the foundation of
all the other letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which are merely
combinations of it in various ways.
The letter Yod is the first letter of the name Tetragrammaton, and
this symbolizes the Father, who is Wisdom; he is the highest form of
Mercury, and the Logos, the Creator of all worlds. Accordingly, his
representative in physical life is the spermatozoon; this is why the
card is called The Hermit.
The figure of the Hermit himself recalls the shape of the letter Yod,
and the colour of his cloak is the colour of Binah, in whom he
gestates. In his hand he holds a Lamp whose centre is the Sun,
portrayed in the likeness of the Sigil of the great King of Fire (Yod
is the secret Fire). It seems that he is contemplating---in a
certain sense, adoring---the Orphic egg (greenish in colour) because
it is conterminous with the Universe, while the snake which
surrounds it is many-coloured to signify the iridescence of Mercury.
For he is not only creative, but is the fluidic essence of Light,
which is the life of the Universe.
The highest symbolism of this card is, therefore, Fertility in its
most exalted sense, and this is reflected in the attribution of the
card to the sign of Virgo, which is another aspect of the same
quality. Virgo is an earthy sign, and is referred especially to
Corn, so that the background of the card is a field of wheat.
Virgo represents the lowest, most receptive, most feminine form of
earth, and forms the crust over Hades. Yet not only is Virgo ruled
by Mercury, but Mercury is exalted therein. Compare the Ten of
Disks, and the general doctrine that the climax of the Descent into
Matter is the signal for the reintegration by Spirit. It is the
Formula of the Princess, the mode of fulfillment of the Great Work.
This card recalls the Legend of Persephone, and herein is a dogma.
Concealed within Mercury is a light which pervades all parts of the
Universe equally; one of his titles is Psychopompos, the guide of
the soul through the lower regions. These symbols are indicated by
his Serpent Wand, which is actually growing out of the Abyss, and is
the spermatozoon developed as a poison, and manifesting the foetus.
Following him is Cerberus, the three-headed Hound of Hell whom he
has tamed. In this Trump is shewn the entire mystery of Life in its
most secret workings. Yod Phallus Spermatozoon Hand Logos Virgin.
There is perfect Identity, not merely Equivalence, of the Extremes,
the Manifestation, and the Method.
i. R.O.T.A. The Wheel
This card is attributed to the planet Jupiter, “the Greater Fortune”
in astrology. It corresponds to the letter Kaph, which means the
palm of the hand, in whose lines, according to another tradition,
the fortune of the owner may be read. [Kaph 20 Peh 80 =100, Qoph,
Pisces. The initials K Ph are those of .te.. and fa....] It would be
narrow to think of Jupiter as good fortune; he represents the
element of luck. The incalculable factor.
This card thus represents the Universe in its aspect as a continual
change of state. Above, the firmament of stars. These appear
distorted in shape, although they are balanced, some being brilliant
and some dark. From them, through the firmament, issue lightnings;
they churn it into a mass of blue and violet plumes. In the midst of
all this is suspended a wheel of ten spokes, according to the number
of the Sephiroth, and of the sphere of Malkuth, indicating
governance of physical affairs.
On this wheel are three figures, the Sworded Sphinx, Hermanubis, and
Typhon; they symbolize the three forms of energy which govern the
movement of phenomena.
The nature of these qualities requires careful description. In the
Hindu system are three Gunas - Sattvas, Rajas and Tamas. The word
“Guna” is untranslatable. It is not quite an element, a quality, a
form of energy, a phase, or a potential; all of these ideas enter
into it. All the qualities that can be predicated of anything may be
ascribed to one or more of these Gunas: Tamas is darkness, inertia,
sloth, ignorance, death and the like; Rajas is energy, excitement,
fire, brilliance, restlessness; Sattvas is calm, intelligence,
lucidity and balance. They correspond to the three principal Hindu
One of the most important aphorisms of Hindu philosophy is:
“the Gunas revolve”.
This means that, according to the doctrine of continual change,
nothing can remain in any phase where one of these Gunas is
predominant; however dense and dull that thing may be, a time will
come when it begins to stir. The end and reward of the effort is a
state of lucid quietude, which, however, tends ultimately to sink
into the original inertia.
The Gunas are represented in European philosophy by the three
qualities, sulphur, mercury and salt, already pictured in Atu I, III
and IV. But in this card the attribution is somewhat different. The
Sphinx is composed of the four Kerubs, shown in Atu V, the bull, the
lion, the eagle and the man. These correspond, furthermore, to the
four magical virtues, to Know, to Will, to Dare, and to Keep
[These are the four elements, summed in a fifth, Spirit, to
form the Pentagram; and the Magical Virtue corresponding is Ire, to
go. “To go” is the token of Godhead, as explained in reference to
the sandal-strap or Ankh, the Crux Ansata, which in its turn is
identical with the astrological symbol of Venus, comprising the 10
Sephiroth. (See diagram)].
This Sphinx represents the element of sulphur, and is exalted, temporarily, upon the summit of the wheel.
She is armed with a sword of the short Roman pattern, held upright
between the paws of the lion.
Climbing up the left-hand side of the wheel is Hermanubis, who
represents the alchemical Mercury. He is a composite god; but in him
the simian element predominates.
On the right hand side, precipitating himself downward, is Typhon,
who represents the element of salt. Yet in these figures there is
also a certain degree of complexity, for Typhon was a monster of the
primitive world, personifying the destructive power and fury of
volcanos and typhoons. In the legend, he attempted to obtain supreme
authority over both gods and men; but Zeus blasted him with a
thunderbolt. He is said to be the father of stormy, hot and
poisonous winds; also of the Harpies. But this card, like Atu XVI,
may also be interpreted as a Unity of supreme attainment and
delight. The lightnings which destroy, also beget; and the wheel may
be regarded as the Eye of Shiva, whose opening annihilates the
Universe, or as a wheel upon the Car of Jaganath, whose devotees
attain perfection at the moment that it crushes them.
A description of this card, as it appears in The Vision and the
Voice, with certain inner meanings, is given in an Appendix.
[The Vision and the Voice (4th Aethyr.)]
“There cometh a peacock into the
stone, filling the whole Aire. It is like the vision called the
Universal Peacock, or, rather, like a representation of that
vision. And now there are countless clouds of white angels
filling the Aire as the peacock dissolves.
“Now behind the angels are archangels with trumpets. These cause
all things to appear at once, so that there is a tremendous con-
fusion of images. And now I perceive that all these things are
but veils of the wheel, for they all gather themselves into a
wheel that spins with incredible velocity. It hath many colours,
but all are thrilled with white light, so that they are
transparent and luminous This one wheel is forty-nine wheels,
set at different angles, so that they compose a sphere; each
wheel has forty-nine spokes, and has forty-nine concentric tyres
at equal distances from the centre. And wherever the rays from
any two wheels meet, there is a blinding flash of glory. It must
be understood that though so much detail is visible in the
wheel, yet at the same time the impression is of a single,
“It seems that this wheel is being spun by a hand. Though the
wheel fills the whole Aire, yet the hand is much bigger than the
wheel. And though this vision is so great and splendid, yet
there is no seriousness with it, or solemnity. It seems that the
hand is spinning the wheel merely for pleasure-it would be
better to say amusement.
“A voice comes: For he is a jocund and ruddy god, and his
laughter is the vibration of all that exists, and the
earthquakes of the soul.
“One is conscious of the whirring of the wheel thrilling one,
like an electric discharge passing through one.
“Now I see the figures on the wheel, which have been interpreted
as the sworded Sphinx, Hermanubis and Typhon. And that is wrong.
The rim of the wheel is a vivid emerald snake; in the centre of
the wheel is a scarlet heart; and, impossible to explain as it
is, the scarlet of the heart and the green of the snake are yet
more vivid than the blinding white brilliance of the wheel.
“The figures on the wheel are darker than the wheel itself; in
fact, they are stains upon the purity of the wheel, and for that
reason, and because of the whirling of the wheel, I cannot see
them. But at the top seems to be the Lamb and Flag, such as one
sees on some Christian medals, and one of the lower things is a
wolf, and the other a raven. The Lamb and Flag symbol is much
brighter than the other two. It keeps on growing brighter, until
now it is brighter than the wheel itself, and occupies more
space than it did.
“It speaks: I am the greatest of the deceivers, for my purity
and innocence shall seduce the pure and innocent, who but for me
should come to the centre of the wheel. The wolf betrayeth only
the greedy and the treacherous; the raven betrayeth only the
melancholy and the dishonest. But I am he of whom it is written:
He shall deceive the very elect.
“For in the beginning the Father of All called for lying spirits
that they might sift the creatures of the earth in three sieves,
according to the three impure souls. And he chose the wolf for
the lust of the flesh, and the raven for the lust of the mind;
but me did lie choose above all to simulate the pure prompting
of the soul. Them that are fallen a prey to the wolf and the
raven I have not scathed; but them that have rejected me I have
given over to the wrath of the raven and the wolf. And the jaws
of the one have torn them, and the beak of the other has
devoured the corpse. Therefore is my flag white, be cause I have
left nothing upon the earth alive. I have feasted myself on the
blood of the Saints, but I am not suspected of men to be their
enemy, for my fleece is white and warm, and my teeth are not the
teeth of one that teareth flesh; and mine eyes are mild, and
they know me not the chief of the lying spirits that the Father
of All sent forth from before his face in the beginning.
(“His attribution is salt; the wolf mercury, and the raven
“Now the Lamb grows small again, there is again nothing but the
wheel, and the hand that whirleth it.
“And I said: ‘By the word of power, double in the voice of the
Master; by the word that is seven, and one in seven; and by the
great and terrible word 210, I beseech thee, O my Lord, to grant
me the vision of thy Glory.’ And all the rays of the wheel
stream out at me, and I am blasted and blinded with the light. I
am caught up into the wheel. I am one with the wheel. I am
greater than the wheel. In the midst of a myriad lightnings I
stand, and I behold his face. (I am thrown violently back on to
the earth every second, so that I cannot quite concentrate.)
“All one gets is a liquid flame of pale gold. But its radiant
force keeps hurling me back.
“And I say: By the word and the will, by the penance and the
prayer, let me behold thy face. (I cannot explain this, there is
con fusion of personalities.) I who speak to you, see what I
tell you; but I, who see him, cannot communicate it to me, who
speak to you.
“If one could gaze upon the sun at noon, that might be like the
substance of him. But the light is without heat. It is the
vision of Ut in the Upanishads. And from this vision have come
all the legends of Bacchus and Krishna and Adonis. For the
impression is of a youth dancing and making music. But you must
understand that he is not doing that, for he is still. Even the
hand that turns the wheel is not his hand, but only a hand
energized by him.
“And now it is the dance of Shiva. I lie beneath his feet, his
saint, his victim. My form is the form of the god Phtah, in my
essence, but the form of the god Seb is my form. And this is the
reason of existence, that in this dance which is delight, there
must be both the god and the adept. Also the earth herself is a
saint; and the sun and the moon dance upon her, torturing her