Death-key 13, is known as the Path of Nun on the Qabalistic Tree of Life. Nun, means, Fish (illustrated on the Thoth card) and is also the Hebrew simple letter for Movement, thus the running skeleton on the Thoth Card and the Riding Skeleton Knight on the Ryder-Waite.
The 24th Path of Nun runs from Netzach (Victory) to Tiphareth (Beauty) on the Tree of Life, and is one of the three aforementioned paths that leads from the Personality to the Higher Self. The initiate may experience the Higher Self on any one of these Three Paths, Art (The Path of Samekh), The Devil (The Path of Ayin), and Death, the Path of Nun; but the lessons of all three must be mastered. The figures of the Art card, the Devil card and the Death card are all different aspects of the same thing; The Higher Self, which is a collective of many "selves".
On the Path of Nun, one is literally launching the consciousness into the Dark Unconscious of Universal Origins. This takes courage and determination, for the consciousness appears to be extinguished in the Universal Unconscious. I liken the consciousness to an Artificial Intelligence, and the Unconscious as the Real Intelligence This artifice aids me in trusting the dissolution of my consciousness, as a transition towards re-birthing it purified of illusion and deception. In fact, the word meaning of the Path of Nun, Fish, reveals the whole arcane doctrine of the Qabalah, as it is the symbol for the "first matter" that moves within the Infinite Ocean of Unconscious-------i.e. Thought. Interestingly,since Nun is a verb, it means to "sprout or grow"implying the Skeleton is a perpetual seed.
The perspicacious student will note that the Tree of Life has a Path for Death, that of Nun, but seems not to have a Path for Birth: However, The Devil, Path of Ayin, the Hebrew letter for "eye" (I), enchains our Personality in Matter as it leaves the Higher Self on its journey down the Tree of Life. Therefore, the Devil is seen as a card of Birth. Plus there is the fact that both Death and Birth are essentially the same transition. As one is born in visible light and/or "outer World", their "I" sight dies to the invisible or "inner world", just as the personality transitions from the outer world back into the inner world at physical death. One energy Transforms itself by the process of destruction of energy phases. From one phase to another. The Personality constructed consciousness, is indeed extinguished in the Unconscious causing a period of "forgetful sleep" before the Personality exits the Higher Self again and produces another operative artifice known as consciousness used to operate another material form. The exception to this recycling process, is when the consciousness accompanies the Personality back to the Higher Self, without needing physical death to do so. This is done when the consciousness has become discriminatory, and knows the tricks of Matter, i.e. the illusions of senses, that the Personality experiences on the physical plane (The Devil card). These illusions or delusions come from the perspective of separateness and survival thinking of the physical form. Thus, the fear of Death, must be conquered by the consciousness "that won't experience the death sleep". That is to say, the mercurial consciousness that knowing transfers from body to body, by Personal Higher Self manipulation. This comes from "Knowing Thyself" as a trinity who is of Spirit, Mind and Body, and therefore, a collective of multidimensional Awareness.
The Great Work of "As above, so below", is Life itself as a Wholeness-----not a divisionism of separates all trying to prove themselves to a Creator that by the very process of creation, had already Approve them into being! Those who are seeking approval, a survival mechanism of the social animal, are what I call "fish in the Ocean, looking for water" and/ or "Wanna-Be's" who forgot that they already Are and are looking to be something.
The Beauty of Tiphareth, the Higher Self, is that once you return to this aspect of Personality, you return to your body knowing you as a Personality are completely accepted and not fearing rejection in the least ( a mask of fear of death)! In other words, you "Know Thyself".
The Tarot Card- Death-key 13, is called the many texts of the Mysteries, "The Child of the Great Transformers" and also the "Lord of the Gates of Death"; Implying that Nun/Fish is not the Great Transformers themselves, he is their Child. Thus, Nun is not Death itself, rather Nun is the keeper of the Gateway into Transformation. Roughly, this states that the "first matter", thought, is the Gate keeper of Transformation, which is not too difficult to "wrap your head around", if you understand that how you "perceive yourself" transforms your reality. After Traveling one of the Three Paths of the "Dark Night of the Soul", where your consciousness is torn down relieved of all that is not worthy of you, as decided by the Higher Self, and then sent back down the Tree into your Malkuth-body transformation. This death of perspectives of the Personality therefore change from reality to the Real perspectives of the Great Work; To become an aware-sensual-Soul, rather than a socially made personality. This transition is only possible by returning to the Higher Self....Your brain can't do the job as it is an artificial sense of self who is programed by its reaction to environment and peers!
To reiterate, Nun. is the Hebrew word that means Fish , which is the symbol for the First Matter. There is also an alchemical symbol of this Path as putrefaction, which is the decaying black mass in the crucible that eventually transforms into gold and is considered a transformative process of turning death into new life.
The Thoth Tarot card symbolizes this transformative process as a scythe, a harvesting tool that is also a symbol for Time. Time is under the control of Saturn-Binah, the giver and destroyer of Life. This process is Illustrated in this card as the sweeping scythe, harvesting souls, and the trans formative bubbles of new life in its wake, all of which, support this analogy of life giving and life destroying.
The skeleton is the frame work that holds the organs and can be seen as a seed of the body as the minerals that are attributed to bone are the "seeds" of organic forms.
The astrological sign attributed to Death-key-13, is Scorpio, a transformative sign of three symbolic images, the Scorpion, the Serpent and the Eagle. Thus, we have the transformation of a dangerous earth-crawling creature, to a serpent which symbolizes the "sex force", weaving its way upward to become an Eagle (behind and above the Thoth Deck figures head) that soars above all heads. All of which are represented in the Thoth Tarot Card as movement. Movement being seen as change/transformation, which is the skeletal pattern of the Universe. For it is only by constant change can entropy be overcome.
The term "Dark night of the Soul" refers to the darkness of unknowing, where the psyche is striped of the desire nature of the personality. This leaves a dreadful emptiness, almost a complete disinterest in everything. Personally, upon experiencing these Three Paths of the Dark Night, The Devil, Art and Death, there was left only a thought of despair repeating over and over again, abolishing any other desire or thought. It was, " I can't be YOU, You must be me." The Higher Self responded to that by sending my " skeletal awareness" directly to the Great Mother Binah, who then broke down and reassembled the Personality into that of the Divine Child, and I awoke as the "Will to Be" and/or the Desire of the Great Mother of Form. This is a very hard journey to explain and it requires one not to be concerned with living or dying. One becomes a mechanical motion, pushing ahead with great faith, as Life's processes have no value, one still mechanically crawls towards the Higher Self. Moving forward in a total darkness, inch by inch, the Soul (Psyche) begins the process of "putrefaction", believing, but not always so sure, that there will be light that will eventually appear and lead the way. It was a Red dot of light that appeared to me out of indescribable darkness....The Great Red Binah. the purifying Force of resurrection, Bathed me, \Loved me (indescribable ecstasy) and sent me back down the Tree into Tiphareth and the Fiery Light of the Higher Self. Once a Divine Child always a Divine Child....somehow we've forgotten that, and thus disinherited ourselves/ our personality, from the Macrocosm.
The term "Dark Night of the Soul" was first coined by St. John of the Cross where he said."...although this happy night brings darkness to the spirit, it does so only to give it light in everything; and that, although it humbles it and makes it miserable, it does so only to exalt it and to raise it up; although it impoverishes it and empties it of all natural affection and attachment, it does so only that it may enable it to stretch forward, divinely, and thus to have fruition and experience all things, both above and below...." Upon conquering the Path of Nun, the Soul is reconstructed as the Personality of the Higher Self, and the emptied brain is filled with the Primary Imagination...The will to form and the Understanding of the Great "Womb with a view".
Mars rules Scorpio. Scorpio rules the sex organs. Thus this Death Card, represents a Sexual energy, a reproductive energy which is consciously directed in a physical exercises such as that of Tantra, or that of Crowley's Middle Pillar, an activity best represented by Crowley's Death Card. The initiate is now following the "Path of the Flaming Sword" (see Robert Wang's-THE QABALISTIC TAROT) , which is both destructive and constructive and not for the weak of character. or for those who fear death, as shown by trying to dominate others.
The Ryder-Waite Death Card, as did Crowley in the Thoth Card, departed from the Tradition set by the Golden Dawn or the older Marseilles cards. Here the warrior quality of the Death card is expressed as a Skeletal Knight. His medieval presentation of Death as the Black Knight, riding past the fallen King of Matter. Before the Death Knight is the Bishop with fish-shaped Mitre, implying the passing of the Piscean age. The rising sun behind the two towers (first seen on the Moon card) refers to resurrection which is the conquest of death. The flying banner, depicts a white rose of ten petals, five inner and five outer. Being based on five, the white rose refers to Geburah's Martian force. However, the totality of the petals, refers to the entire Universe under Kether, as Kether is presented as the White color (perfect balance of all colors). This also relates to the 0-Fool and Uranus, to which the White Rose is related.
The Death Card, during a reading, suggests:
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