On most Tarot Cards, the Hanged Man is a curious image of Severity and its implications are very different from the previous paths that connect the Personality and the Higher Self; Severity, because this is the Path of Mem (Meaning-Water) that connects Hod (Splendor) and Geburah (Severity) on the Pillar of Severity.
The Hebrew word-MEM, (Water) is a one of the three Maternals, and implies a Baptism in Maternal Waters, as the other two: The Path of Shin (Art) is a baptism in Fire, and The Path of Aleph-The Fool, is a baptism in Air. Of all these three Baptisms, the Baptism in Water (Consciousness) is the central and pivotal experience of the entire Qabalistic Tree of Life.
Consciousness, is the Alchemical First Principle, also called the Thinking Principle and is referred to the physical image of Water because it is alike water in wave motion, and fluid flow. The lowest expression of the First Principle, is first found, by the upward traveling initiate, as the Astral Fluid that is drawn down the Path of the Universe into Yesod, the Foundation Sephiroth. This Thinking Principle, the Astral Fluid Light (everything is made of light waves), is found as the Stable Intelligence, by virtue of consistency, in all Sephiroth and Paths as it underlies everything that is.
The Running Press Tarot, in its minimalistic style, shows the hanged man hanging from the traditional trees. One rope tied around one ankle and the other legged crossed into the upside down sign of the Emperor. The Emperor being the intelligence behind the "Laws of Form", that are under his specific rule . Hence, this card isn't about a catastrophic event, but rather a "giving up something of lesser value to gain something of more value."
On the Thoth Tarot- ATU 12, Pointing downward, the Spirit is drowned in the Maternal Waters of the Formative Astral, where upon, perceiving itself as a Soul, as an intrinsic and inseparably part of the One Consciousness.
Carl Jung, who coined the phrase, Universal Collective Unconscious, describe this Water of Mem as a "...boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty, with apparently no inside and no outside, no above and no below, no here and no there, no mine and no thine, no good and no bad". To him the First Principle of the Alchemists was also described as Water, as he states, "It is the world of water, where all life floats in suspension: where the realm of the sympathetic system, the soul of everything living begins; where I am individually this and that; where I experience the other in myself and the other-than-myself experiences me.....the collective conscious is anything but an encapsulated personal system; it is sheer objectivity, as wide as the world and open to all the world."
I would highly recommend that the initiate reads the works of Carl Jung, on the Universal Collective Unconscious. Thus gaining a modern understanding of the ancient wisdom. To put it another way, in the state of consciousness we are "always the subject that has an object", a reality that is totally turned around in the Universal Collective Unconscious where, we are "the object of every subject", as stated by Carl Jung.
In other words, our subjective Self, I AM becoming objective Self, Me, when immersed in the Maternal Waters on the Path of Mem. THE HANGED MAN; where the invisible becomes visible.
The initiate knows that we must move constantly upward on the inner Paths of the Tree of Life, for only through the hindsight gained by going to a higher Sephiroth, can we experience an understanding of the qualities of the lower Sephiroth. The Path of Mem, leads to Geburah (Severity) which is directly above Tiphareth (Beauty); Geburah is the Fiery or Active part of the Higher Self and is shown as Red in color; the color of Mars. This further illustrates the point that Geburah is the fiery energy on the Pillar of Water below Binah. In the Thoth Tarot card of the HANGED MAN, the Womb of Binah is where the hanging figure's foot is held.; from the oval of the Egyptian Ankh, which is the cross like symbol ( also called the Tau cross) of both Divine Androgyny and Infinity.
To the one who has traveled the Paths to this point, it is to be noted that the Path of Mem, the HANGED MAN, must be approached very differently than the lower paths. Here, the mediator becomes the object of one's own meditation. The individual becomes the "other" which was previously the object of pursuit; the "other" now becomes the initiate. Thus it can be said, that the personality meditates in pursuit of the Higher Self, who then becomes or envelopes the Personality of the pursuer creating a Higher Sensual self.... A manifested self often stated as having "Magick Abilities".
The Path of Mem, THE HANGED MAN- Key 12, has a reverse figure on the card that represents the Higher Self imposing a complete reversal of perspective which is a suspension of individual consciousness. Much like the reflected image in the mirror, looking at the real non-reflected image that is the object of reflection. Upside down thinking, would to be to allow the mirror image to dictate to the viewing image, its identity.
This is however, a willing suspension, done by an initiate's conscious effort, a type of sacrifice or baptism, where the perspective of "I Am" is cleansed of the illusions of the material world, i.e. the ME
Because of this sacrificing of one’s individual perspectives to the Greater Self perspective of All, the Thoth Tarot-HANGED MAN is shown in a suspected state of crucifixion that images the myth of the Dying God. (Dionysus. Osiris, Odin, Christ etc.), Some of my more observant students have asked why the Hanged Man is crucified on the Left Hand Path or one side of the Tree of Life as it would seem logical to have him spanning the Tree.
The reasoning behind this one-sided nonfiction, is because this is an intellectual experience, as shown by the legs positioned into the upside down number 4 which is suspended above the Triangle (3) implied by the positioning of the arms. Four is the number of the Emperor Key-4 of the Thoth Deck Tarot, and represents the rational qualities of the Mind while 3 is the number of the Empress, the imaginative qualities of the mind (also seen in the number 12, 1+2=3). Thus, positioning the rational qualities of the mind over the desire principle.
This suspension and or crucifixion in space, is what happens when the spinning WHEEL OF FORTUNE, the tenth key and the opposite Path of Caph (the Path between Netzach and Chesed) is willfully arrested by the initiate.
The HANGED MAN is repose, while the WHEEL OF FORTUNE is activity, both of which form a balance that is known as the activity and passivity of the ONE THING.
Thus, one of the primary qualities of the HANGED MAN is that it is a Path of eternal probabilities and/or eternal unresolved possibilities. Thus the HANGED MAN is openness without end while THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE, is the exact opposite, as it encloses in eternal motion., i.e. making a limited thought pattern and/or Form. When Mem (Water-consciousness) is closed, it becomes the Ankh (a form of the Tau cross) The Ankh represents Mem reversed.
In Crowley's card of the HANGED MAN, illustrated by Lady Frieda Harris, the figure emphasizes the cross-triangle, and is suspended from the Ankh, being attached to this form of the Tau Cross, by a coiled serpent that symbolizes “the creator and destroyer who operates all change". There is also a lower coiled serpent that represents the effect of the Work of the Divine Creative: As Crowley states in his book of Thoth: "Through his work a Child is begotten, as shown by the Serpent stirring in the Darkness of the Abyss below him."
As I have stated before, this is the card that shows the reversal of perspective, where the individual identity, reflected in the light of consciousness (reflecting side of the Mirror of Self), becomes the Universal Identity (The Dark or non-reflective side of the Mirror of Self) that is manifested as the Universal Collective Unconscious, the Maker of All Things. Successful skrying of this card will reverse perspective, so that the mediator becomes the object of t one's own meditation. Which could be stated as, where the Soul is observing the body, rather than the body seeking its soul, which would be "right- side up" thinking.
When THE HANGED MAN -key/ATU 12, is thrown during a reading,
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