In most other Tarot Decks, key 8 is called STRENGTH; However, in Aleister Crowley's estimation, the word strength doesn't properly explain this vital passion of creation; an opinion I share.
The LUST/Strength Card is ATU/Key 11 of the Thoth Tarot and Key 8, Strength, in the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot Deck. Key 8 in the Thoth Tarot is the Adjustment Card which is Justice in traditional tarot; However, I'll choose to place Key 11 with Key 8, Strength Card, for Traditional Tarot Readers, as does Robert Wang in his book, THE QABALISTIC TAROT.
The Lust Card-Key 11, is the Path of Teth, the 19th Path on the Tree of Life. The Hebrew letter, Teth, means snake, which is often refereed to as Serpent Force. The zodiacal sign assigned to this card is Sun Powered sign of Leo; Leo is symbolized as a Lion, while Teth, is a Snake, the combination of these two, is the Lion-Serpent, the idea of which fostered the Dragon images of the ancients and the archangel Asmodais. The interchangeability of the Lion and the Serpent symbols represents an important key in understanding the great embedded profundities of this card.
The Serpent is missing in the Rider-Waite-Smith Deck, as the Red Lion represents the Animal Nature that is under the control of the Will of the "Higher Self", seen as a angelic woman figure. Also the Red Lion is the Alchemical symbol of Sulfur (solar power) combined with Mercury-Will (the Magus) which is the Philosophical Mercury underlying the formula of Creation.
The Symbol of infinity (the sign of the Magician) is above the head of the Goddess figure, reinforcing the Magus/Magician connection, and symbolizes the directing willpower of the 12th PATH; called the Philosophic Mercury.
The Path of Teth, connects Chesed (Mercy) and Geburah (Severity) and channels a great outpouring of Energy from the Masculine Chesed, to the Feminine Geburah. This Great Outpouring, is the Path on which Fire becomes Light, which is used in manifestation.
The Supernal Triangle is composed of Kether (Crown), Chokma (Wisdom) and Binah (Understanding), and is composed of what Paul Foster Case stated in his BOOK OF TOKENS,as the "Radiant darkness of the Limitless light." The Supernal Triangle is above the Abyss, while the Path of Teth crosses just below it (the yellow path between Chesed and Geburah). Thus the Path of Teth, Lust, is the first Path of Microprosopus (Microcosm or Lesser Countenance.) and the Primary Path of the Higher Self, linking great opposites below the Abyss.
As symbols interchange, such as the Lion and Serpent, one understands that the realities these symbols represent, can also be interchanged. In truth, the 1st law of Thermodynamics,"One Energy that can not be created nor destroyed, only transformed", is the One Spirit of Qabalah, and can take any form it wills and in great diversity; as the Universe has shown. Wisdom, is represented by the snake holding its tail in its mouth (also a 8 symbol). Many of us of the western cultures, know that the Serpent was also considered the Tempter, in the garden of den myth. However, since it is Fiery, the Serpent is vital Life Force, and/or the Redeemer. But then the Sun itself is both Tempter, that uses the warmth of burning the tempted-sun bather to near death on the beach and Redeemer, by providing Vital Life Force.
Transformation can be confusing but it should be known that without the flow of vital life force between opposites, there would be no "Limited Light", or Solar power, that all manifestation is constructed of. Thus, we have the Greater Countenance, the Macrosopus, of Limitless Light, that can only be known as Darkness or Dark Fire (Dark Energy), designing Two (Male- Female) Self concepts out of one infinite circle of Pi, forming a 8, so that limits could be produced by the interchange of Forces and Form. The Dark Light is the invisible/unseen subjective infinity of the One,(Macrosopus) and the Limited light of manifestation is the Objective, and knowable finite side of the One (Microsopus). The whole of which is often called by Gnostics as "The Mirror"---one side infinitely dark, the Abyss, and the other side reflective of the image of all who look into it. That could also be called the Unconscious and the consciousness.
To put this simply, The Lust of the One to become, by inventing "other"as "self reflection" created 2 who must always join in impassioned flow or mutual attraction, (electric and magnetic). This "vital attraction" is the stuff of Vital Life Force. I think you can now see why Vital Life force, is also called "sex energy".
The Lion symbol, in both the Ryder-Waite-Smith and Thoth-Crowley-Harris Tarot cards, in the context of the Qabalah, has to do with Strength and is not a representation of intellect, as it refers to the greatest strength of all, the Light of the Sun, the ruler of Leo. The Solar Power represented in the Lust or Strength Card, can open the Higher levels of Consciousness beyond the Sun (Tiphareth) itself. The graphic representation of the Ancient god Mithra, whose body was that of a man and whose head was that of a lion, depicts this concept anthropomorphically.
The Brute force (symbolized by the Lion) of Kundalini (Serpent Force--Vital Life Force) can be used destructively or constructively, and on the very Path of Teth, flows the Vital Life force from Chesed (Mercy) to Geburah (Severity) which forges the Sword of Geburah, indicating the possibility of the initiate being overwhelmed by the power which one evokes. We are reminded ( Re-Minded) here, that as the Sun is a vital life force to manifestation, the Dark Sun, is vital to the flow of Higher Thought, but knowing your limits, will keep you from becoming Sun burned in the flesh, and the severity of a Mind Burn ( Emotional trauma) in the consciousness. Lust, in a Godly sense of Eheieh or "I Will Be", can "burn out your lights"! So the initiate must become adept at Self Knowledge, channeling their own solar self, so that they don't damage their "I sight" when joining intelligence with Higher Intellectual Forces.
Putting aside metaphor, too much Sun/Vital Force can be dangerous, so that is why the Tantrics, and Gnostics, go through long, diligent meditations, exercises of intellect, and philological devices so that this flow of Vital Life Force is unblocked, unrestricted, (not feared) and can flow through and out into another, forming a Vital Spiral of energy flow, that Re-Vitalizes Life all around them. So all of you who wish to experience the Rapture of Kundalini, note that the Rapture can become a raptor to those whose "House is not built on a strong foundation" of Love. Love is what holds your molecules together, even under the rapid increase in atomic vibration that your body under goes when the "Kundalini rises"The Lust of God----is the Orgasm that never stops flowing.
To repeat,the Thoth Tarot LUST card, key-11, replaces the STRENGTH, card which is Key-8, in the Golden Dawn and Ryder-Waite-Smith Tarot Decks. So it may be confusing when I place it in the Path of Teth, which is normally called STRENGTH-Key 8. As I stated, I agree with Aleister Crowley's expansion of the STRENGTH card, into the LUST card because the Passion-The Vital Force of Universal Construction, "the motion within the movement" of everything, is the Passionate expression of the I AM As Two, who then Join to become One Passion that creates All, i.e.. the Active and Passive force of Kundalini, and/or of Lion-Serpent. It can also be called "Serpent theory" instead of the Quantum Physics "String Theory", where every particle has a serpentine string of active and passive energy with in it and becomes two particles (positive/active and negative/passive) as it enters this limited light universe. In other words, there is within all, vibratory strings of Vital Fiery Force. Thus, Lust, where active and passive forces come together, seems a more appropriate understanding of the underlying "motion" of Life.
The Kundalini, or Fiery Lion Serpent is the Vital aspect of Life Force, which in manifestation, is duality of passivity and activity. Kundalini is known as the Sacred Fire, when in its active phase, purposely undirected by individual Will.
The UNIVERSE key 21, is the completion of the LUST CARD, and you'll see the Woman figure riding the Lion Serpent on the Lust card, or petting the Lion in the Strength card, dancing with the Serpent Force in the Universe card. Both illustrations are veils, concealing of principles , though at different ends of manifestation. LUST is the beginning of the Microcosm and THE UNIVERSE is the completion of it. Both of these cards are of that which is Womb, at the Highest Level, the womb-man who has tamed the Lion-Serpent and the womb-man who dances in space surrounded by the Cherubim of the four elements are both expressions of that which is the EMPRESS key 3..
Again, this is a very powerful path and those of sensitive psyche, will be profoundly affected. One must appreciate the fact, that this Path of Teth, Lust/Strength, is a statement of methodology; whereby, the Will controls the Vital Life Energy. We must also remember, that the word Power, means "the ability to do work" and our body, if Loved as a master Craftsman loves and adores one's favorite- tools, gives us Will -Power in this dimension of crystallized energy. A power to weave our very own Vital Life Force into masterpieces! This requires a focused willful intelligence, and not some mad hatter personality, that can't even control its own thought. Skry this card only after you are capable of holding a one- thought or image focus during an entire meditation! Any Psyche that Touches the Lust OF The Great Father/Mother, will be profoundly charged, changed, and expanded beyond comfortable perspectives, all of which can be dangerous to our delicate egos. In other words, one must be diligently trained in channeling higher and higher vibratory levels of Vital Life Force, before they "Ride the Lion-Serpent". That is why A.Crowley calls the traditional Strength card Lust. For even the "little lust" of the manifested (Microcosm) seems to be beyond the cultural ego's control, as every politicians "secret life" will show. It is hard to imagine, what the Macrocosmic Lust would do to such a weak psyche... but then again,we have examples in Adolf Hitler, etc.
Lust/Strength represents a very important initiatory formula dealing with Serpent Power. This Spiraling Power is the Force that opens,or stimulates all the Chakras (energy centers) in the Human body. The Principles embedded in the Lust or Strength Card, tell us how to use this power. This is a "Divine Frenzy" which when stated Alchemically,"the heat of the furnace makes the Stone" or if religious,"inflame thyself with Prayer". The Heat applied, is the great passion or "adorable Fire" within the confines of Tantric exercises, or the exercise of the Middle Pillar (Aleister Crowley's book,777), all of which I recommend the interested party research.
Crowley's imagery may shock some, as he presents the Whore of Babylon, taming the Lion-Serpent but then he understood that the epitome of virginity (sign of Virgo), was the Sacred Virgins of the Temples, before Christianity, made them "evil women" or Saints, of which both perspectives were confusingly applied. The Christian word 'Whore" is a bastardization of the Greek word , Hetacrate, meaning female companion. Something more for the diligent student to investigate! The Profaning of the Body Identity done by making its nudity, sexuality and instincts a "sin", is the greatest damage done to the personality by the Patriarchy. The Body is Spirit's temple on earth and is designed for intimacy and union. It is a sacred place for the Soul.
When the Lust or Strength card is thrown during a reading, it means the querent:
- Is relying on spiritual powers to manage the situation at hand and is receiving the strength to over come.
- Following ones own inner light, doing what their "heart of heart". inner -self, says is right.
- There can be an experiencing of a "gut level" driving force, instinctual.and compelling for protection or survival.
- Also, possessing the courage of one's convictions.
- The strength of Passion, in the Higher Nature, which are power, courage, energy, action and magnanimity.
- One is experiencing the Law of Self-Domination, self-rule and self control.
- Resort to magick.
- The use of Magical power.
If ill defined by surrounding cards (Thoth) or reversed (Rider-Waite-Smith), it implies:
- Lack of sexual fulfillment.
- Aggression, perversion, and addiction as a result of repressed instincts.