Above all things, know thyself!
"Visit the interior parts of the earth: by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone."
Thoth- ATU XIV-Art
Pour thine all freely from the Vase in thy
right hand, and lose no drop! Hath not thy left
hand a Vase?
Transmute all wholly into the Image of thy
Will, bringing each to its token of
Dissolve the Pearl in the Wine-cup: drink, and
make manifest the Virtue of that Pearl.
-[Book of Thoth, Pg. 253-260]
The Modern Witch Tarot-Key 14-Temperance
In many other more Traditional Tarot Decks, key 14 is called Temperance rather than Art, which implies the heating and cooling of forged steel to make a keen, flexible blade or the slow cooling down process of tempering glass. The Modern Witch Tarot-Key 14 is called Temperance, and in the Thoth Tarot-ATU 14- is called Art, which is indeed what this card is as it is the tempering and alchemical process that is the Art Card's action. The Hebrew letter Samekh, meaning "prop", is assigned to this Tree of Life- Path of Tarot, (shown at the bottom of the Thoth card). Attributed to Samekh is the restriction and control over the forces of existence. Master Theron (Crowley), in his book, 777, made this comment on the letter Samekh: It is "The Womb preserving Life. Self-control and Self-sacrifice govern the Wheel."
Leading from Yesod (foundation)to Tiphareth (beauty), the Path of Samekh/ Art is as from Moon (Self-reflection) to Sun (Solar-Soul Source) and/or from Personality to the Higher Self. On this very difficult Path where opposites are combined, in equal measure, the very enormity of the Great Work (As above, so below) will be experienced as the aspirant may see themselves going through a long dark tunnel, believing (not knowing) there is Light at the end of it.
This Path of Samekh, the Art card, has been called one of the Paths of "the dark night of the Soul", verifying that this is a Path of trial and temptation. Samekh, is the Intelligence of Probation, as the well known Western Master of Hermetic Qabalah, Dr. Paul Foster Case labels it in his text, THIRTY-TWO PATHS OF WISDOM. In various Gnostic texts, it is also called, "Daughter of the Reconcilers, the Bringer Forth of Life." All of these phrases lead us right to the very idea behind this card, The Great Mother/Creatrix Binah. Hence, the central figure of the Thoth card, is depicted as a multi-breasted hermaphrodite who is both "shadow and Light". Also, the ruling sign of the Path of Samekh, is Sagittarius, the Archer who is also Diana the Huntress, goddess of the Moon. All of which repeats the principle, with the exception of the FOOL (0), all the figures of the Tarot are Mother Binah (Understanding) and Father Chokma(Wisdom) in different states of Force and Form. As Diana, she governs the tides of Earth, and the fluctuations of the Astral Current. Therefore, she is the Natural framework and support for the waxing and waning of the Energy of Existence. There is only One Energy, from which the Universe is constructed and She/Creatrix represents the control and manipulation within specific bounds and restrictions and/or measurement that she authorizes the Emperor to supply.
Another helpful reference book, VOICE OF ISIS- by Hariette and Homer Curtis describes the Universal Mother (The Womb with a View) as the "power of bringing forth in humanity the Divine Child or the Christ." This bearing of the Child is our Primary Solar Self reborn and achieved by conquering the Path of Samekh or The Art of Alchemy, in which is done the most difficult task of blending water (emotion, intuition, imagination) and fire (Will, Energy, Spirit). We are not only to be the Moon’s reflections of personality, but also the Solar (soul) Personality, that is the Divine Child of Light.
It is to be understood, the Art/Temperance card demonstrates how the experience of rebirth is brought about, which is to say, through the exchange and equilibrium of opposites which can only be symbolically described, but it does not demonstrate the birth itself. Therefore, the symbolism here is not to demonstrate a "deep Mystery", rather this symbolism demonstrates how limited and inadequate is our language to describe the process. That is why the Qabalistic Tarot Reader, is not one who thinks that by memorizing descriptions and numbers of the cards they are a Tarot Reader. Rather, it is by skrying the individual Cards and subjectively "walking the Paths", turning subjective into objective sensation, i.e. the process of actual experience ....one begins to understand the Tarot. If one reads the Tarot, a certain amount of an inner-Alchemical process is also required and one should set up a special space for their Tarot work. One should also make a skrying mirror, which is a dark mirror. To make a dark mirror one just buys an inexpensive small and framed mirror. Take the glass out of the frame and paint the back of the mirror glass black (traditionally they used soot) after the paint dries then reframe it. Place it on a table where you can sit and comfortably look into the mirror. Place by its sides 2 candles, and prop the Tarot Card you wish to skry, face forward to mirror so that it reflects in the mirror. Stare at this reflection observing the image as it flickers in the candle light. After a time, this image will change, revealing even more arcane secrets to the observer (recommended!).
Thoth- ATU 14-art
The Art Card is not nearly as overly symbolic as some believe, it symbolizes the Alchemical Art where Fire becomes Water and Water becomes Fire (…"When the male is no longer male and the female, female.”- Gnostic Gospel of Thomas). This is a Hermaphroditic process, describing an actual event/process that happens in the initiate’s material body, i.e. an actual physical transformation where the Anima and Animus become/return to the One and become present in the Personality as One. Thereby returning the original 0=2 back to 2=1. Hence, we have illustrated on this card what seems to be an Androgynous figure, combining the Water (consciousness with Lightning -Fiery-Energy) creating in the Golden Cistern (the Human body) what is known as the Living Water and/or consciousness vivified by merging with Fiery Spirit. By bringing Spirit into the body, Spirit's fiery nature not only tempers the consciousness, (blending left side and right side of the brain) one also tempers the Spirit with consciousness, thus forming "something more than the sum of its parts." A union of the Hermaphrodite Master and Masterpiece! Therefore, All in all, the Art Card- ATU/Key14, is the consummation of the Divine Marriage, depicted on the Lovers card ATU/ Key 6, here the "Orgasm of Spiritual flow" has been reached. There is a perfect interchange of forces, as the Red Lion has become white, and the White lion has become Red. The Art card shows Water being poured on Fire, and Fire is merged with Water, all within the purified physical vehicle, shown as the Golden Cauldron, i.e. the Master's body. We know that this cauldron is the physical body by the equal armed cross of the 4 Universal elements and the Raven and Skull sign of Caput Mortem, (death) implying the mortal form. Also Get and read the Textbook, The Qabalistic Tarot by Robert Wang and The Book of Thoth by Aleister Crowley for further in depth explanation of this coded process of returning to the Divine Hermaphrodite. In Alchemy, "the Art", combining water and fire in perfect weight and balance, is considered the most difficult of processes.
Around the central figure, in questionable penmanship, is a golden solar aura, bearing the inscription of : Vista Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem-"Visit the interior parts of the earth: by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone." Hence, describing the Alchemical mystery of the "Philosopher's stone, which in the human body becomes a physical transformation. The Modern Witch Tarot-Temperance, is more traditional in its art work and yet showing very little esoteric meaning. The foot in the water, is a traditional image, such as on the Rider-Waite-Smith card and signifies the contact with the life energy of earth.
the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot-key 14-Temperance
On the Modern Witch Tarot-Temperance, the Angelic being- is combing , "the flow of energy" from above to below, symbolized as if water. On the Rider-Waite-Smith key, the iris flowers in the foreground represents the sacred flower of the Winged Goddess Iris, who is traditionally symbolic of the alchemical union of opposites. The Modern Witch Tarot uses sunflowers as the modern replacement of the Iris. The sun flower, represents the Sun. On the Ryder-Waite Temperance card, this Solar source is shown on forehead of our "Holy Guardian Angel" (Higher Self) as a circle with a dot, the sign of the Sun and the Higher Mind of the Solar Logos, seen as the shinning golden crown in the back ground of the Ryder-Waite Temperance Card. The Modern Witch Tarot replaced these symbols with the Sun alone. The Upper Supernal Triangle is shown on the Chest of the Angel surrounded in the "Cube of the Universe or Space", implying the Higher Self . On the Modern Witch Tarot, the white cube is there, but the Supernal Triangle is shown as white...the pure white light of Kether, the 1st Sephiroth. The Red Wings of the Goddess Iris is shown on both cards.
The Legend of Iris
According to Hesiod's Theogony, Iris is the daughter of Thaumas and the Oceanid Electra and the sister of the Harpies: Arke and Ocypete. During the Titanomachy, Iris was the messenger of the Olympian gods while her sister Arke betrayed the Olympians and became the messenger of the gods' enemy, the Titans. She is the goddess of the rainbow. She also serves nectar to the goddesses and gods to drink. Zephyrus, who is the god of the west wind, is her consort. Together they had a son named Pothos, or alternatively they were the parents of Eros, the god of love, according to sixth century BC Greek lyric poet Alcaeus, though Eros is usually said to be the son of Ares and Aphrodite. According to the Dionysiaca of Nonnus, Iris' brother is Hydaspes.
She is also known as one of the goddesses of the sea and the sky. Iris links the gods to humanity. She travels with the speed of wind from one end of the world to the other and into the depths of the sea and the underworld
The Spiritual Fire of the Solar Self, when focused with the intent of "Above all things, Know thyself", turns the Air, Water, Earth, of the body into the "Philosopher's stone" (The brain looks like a Peach "stone", and is transformed in this heated-bright-warm process of physiological transformation "from above to the below") as it welds together the male and female aspect of the Brain into one magnificent copy of the "Above Mind" of the Divine Creative. The Intent and perfect functional balance of the 2 to become 1, makes the Magus/Philosopher.
In the Traditional Tarot of the Modern Witch Tarot, the mixing of opposites, as shown by the cups, being opposite of each other, one representing the Macrocosm (Universe) and the lower one representing the Microcosm (physical world). This image suggests the inner alchemical imagery, so necessary to understand the awakening of the inner hermaphrodite.
This inner alchemical process is often describe by Qabalists as a personal application of the Yod (fire) and Heh (water) uniting in the body to produce Vau (Air) within the individual crucible of form which is Heh-final and Earth. This is described as a "Spiritual Orgasm" , "The Rapture", or "The Ecstasy" which is a process demanding inner manipulation of sexual forces known as serpent forces and or Vital Life Force (Tantric Kundalini exercise) and is shown in the imagery of the Thoth Card as an golden energy (in the shape of a stylized arrow) firing upward and across the shoulders of the Divine figure in the Art Card. Even the often flesh-o-phobic Christian iconography, has accepted this Spiritual Orgasm. For instance, the ecstasy of the 16th century mystic, Saint Theresa which was described as an angel thrusting a flaming arrow into her heart . This was also noted by the 12th Century Sufi Mystic and Poet, Mustafa Jahaladine Rumi, when he stated: "Give me the Burning!"
The symbolical of the piecing arrow that brings ecstatic enlightenment is actually an archetypal, and mufti-cultural accepted description of a real process of physiological transformation! What happens is a rhythmic, pleasuring motion of inner energy, in a spiral ebb and flow that is confined (shown as the figure eight associate with the Magus) in very specific perimeters (chakras along the spine) but which is taken in either direction of Up or Down, at will. The Magus, knows that by changing the vibration of inner energy, one raises or lowers the level of consciousness, moving from Chakra to Chakra or Path to Path. Simply stated: the Kundalini (sexual/vital life energy) acting upon consciousness produces intuitional and/or astral images; the pictures that form our minds. At first, many students find the symbolism of the Major Arcana complicated; However, the principle of the Path of Samekh or Art, is to produce a consciously controlled vision that is limited by will. The purpose of Hermetic, Qabalistic, Alchemical and Gnostic symbols is to furnish descriptions that most anyone can relate to. If you focus on one symbol at a time they are not remote or really complicated. In fact most of the symbolic language of the Mysteries, has been superseded by the language of Carl Jung and other psychologists. To Carl Jung, this ability to consciously control Visions, would be called "lucid dreaming", which is known to help the individual correct personality disorders.
Robert Wang goes on to explain, in his test book: THE QABALISTIC TAROT,"
It should be added that the Metals described in Alchemical literature are the same as the Seven Chakras of the Hindus, the Seven Planets and the Sephiroth of the Microprosopus [lower seven on the Tree of Life.]. These words have been used as codes over the centuries, meaning seven distinct levels of objective consciousness. Thus when one speaks of a Planet ruling a sign of the Zodiac, what is meant in the relationship of a Sign to a given center of energy both in the Greater Universe and in the Human body." (The brackets are my own explanation).
The Art of awakening these Paths in the Human Body, is the Qabalistic initiates goal. "To Know Thyself" is to know the "As above and so below" nature of our Whole Self. The Art Card, is the sign of Sagittarius, which is ruled by the planet Jupiter, meaning the 4th Sephiroth, Chesed (Wisdom). Here, we should remember that Chesed is the architect of all manifestation, working with the "will to form “and/or "potential to form" of Binah, the 3rd Sephiroth of Understanding. Understanding turns data into information: information becomes in-form-action and/or experience only when intimately experienced (measured by manifested senses).
As explained before, but not enough, the Art-Key 14- The Path of Samekh, is an actual physical process, known for centuries by the Gnostic, Mystics, Tantrics, Alchemists, and Qabalists. And is a willed process of directing the communion or interchange of opposite forces. The beginning of this process is begun by the Higher Self-; a process which is instituted in the 4th Sephiroth Chesed, the most refined, point of Microprosopus, to which the Higher Self is central. Chesed is the enacting force (phallus) of the Great Mother Binah's process of “will to form" (Womb). Until the initiate accomplices this process of the Path of Samekh, the Higher Self (Shown as an androgynous figure on the card) cannot be known to the personality. Thus the Art of "Spiritual Alchemy" describes this Card and the whole process as a preparation of the Personality, and its physical vehicle, to deal with the Solar Forces (influx of Light) which would devastate a "normal" system. This is an on going process of measuring and testing, instigated by the Higher Self, to see how much the physical body can bear. When properly tempered, and the body can handle the stress of such energy as the arrow is released (Kundalini rises). Once contacted on the Path of Samekh, the Higher Self will regulate the flow, so the individual isn't harmed. A great jolt of energy, will tell the individual to "back off" and relax. Because this is a Passion so overwhelming it is often described as Divine Anger, which is apt if we realize that anger is for self-motivation; to get off of one's butt and do something. It could be said that Divine Anger is the motivation for Sagittarius to launch his arrow.
When the Art or Temperance card is thrown during a reading:
- The querent is experiencing or will soon experience, a combination of forces affecting realization and action.
- A blending of all circumstances in order to achieve balance.
- Trials and tribulations that lead to the "middle path", arriving at a profound realization.
- A balance of peace, achieved by care and healing.
- Measurement and combination.
- Do not allow setbacks to turn enthusiasm into its mirror image of dejection.
- Take control.
If ill defined by surrounding cards, it implies:
- Going to extremes.
- Excessive behavior.
- Conserve energy.
- A personality out of control.
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