In many other Tarot Decks, including the Running Press Tarot, key 14 is called Temperance, which implies the heating and cooling of forged steel to make a keen, flexible blade or the slow cooling down process of tempering glass, which is a metaphor for the uniting of the Anima and Animus by kundalini force, into a Solar Oneness of the Divine Androgyny. And in a way, this process is the Art Card's Path of Samekh (meaning -Prop), as it is attributed to the restriction and control over the forces of existence. Master Theron, however, in his book 777, he made this comment on the letter Samekh: It is "The Womb preserving Life. Self-control and Self-sacrifice govern the Wheel."
The Running Press Tarot, although fanciful, still represents the Mystery of the inner Solar Soul, tempering the outer material being. The combination of forces, "Life Forces" of "will to force" and "will to form", are poured back and forth from the pitchers in the Creatrix's hands. The sun on the left side and the crescent moon on the right side, imply that the Creatrix in the center is a combination of both in equilibrium.
Beneath the Creatrix's left foot is the zodiacal sign of Sagittarius and a turtle, while the Hare, a symbol of the Great Mother Hera, and/or Creatrix, resides at her right foot.
The ancients once believed that the World rode on the back of a turtle, who swam through space. On th Asian continent, there was a belief that it was and elephant or the combination of both, that supported the earth in Space. Hence, the turtle and elephant are a symbol of eternal life.
Leading from Yesod (foundation) to Tiphareth (beauty), the Path of Samekh is as from Moon (Self-reflection) to Sun (Solar Source), from Personality to the Higher Self.
On this very difficult Path, the very enormity of the Great Work (As above, so below) will be experienced. On this path, the initiate may experience 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 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 Binah. Thus, the central figure of this card, is Female. 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 that 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. What is really interesting, is that the Divine Androgyny is the One Sex who became Two, male and female but by birthing the opposites, and action of female, all Sephiroth on the entire Tree are Binah, the Creatrix, in various states of activity. Hence, the symbol of Venus, another name for the Creatrix, covers the entire Tree of Life.
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 us reborn and achieved by conquering the Path of Samekh or The Art. We are not only to be the Moon’s reflections of personality, but also the Solar Personality, that is the Divine Child "within".
It is to be understood, the Art 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. Thus, 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, and subjectively "walking the Paths", turning subjective into objective sensation, i.e. the process of actual experience ....one begins to understand the Tarot.
The Art Card is not nearly as 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 process is describing an actual event/process that happens in the initiate’s material body, i.e. an actual physical transformation. Thus we have illustrated on this card an Androgynous figure, combining the Water (consciousness with Lightning (Fiery Spirit) 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, Spirits fiery nature not only tempers the consciousness, one also tempers the Spirit with consciousness, thus forming "something more than the sum of its parts." A union of Master and Masterpiece! To a Qabalist this is the Supreme Person or the Adam Khadmon.
This alchemical process, according to Qabalist, is often describing 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" or "The Ecstasy" which is a process demanding inner manipulation of sexual forces (He-She) and is shown 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.
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, and ebb and flow that is confined (shown as the figure eight associate with the Magus) in very specific perimeters (oval or womb shaped) but which is taken in either direction 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 energy) acting upon consciousness produces astral images, the pictures that form our minds. It is easy to understand the process of O-becoming 8, by I becoming Am, as Am is the "other" of I and/or the "dreamed self". Hence, all is O examining itself, "self -reflecting", producing the 8 which equals one as two and two as one. This 8 symbol is shown lying on its side, and is called the lemnistrate, a Greek word for "ribbon", something we moderns would call a mobius loop.
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, 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 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 (Understanding).
As explained before, 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 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 ongoing 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, 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.
All in all, the Art Card key 14, is the consummation of the Divine Marriage, depicted on the Lovers Card Key 6, here the Orgasm of Spirit 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. Get and read the Text Book, The Qabalistic Tarot by Robert Wang and the Book of Thoth by Aliester Crowley for further explanation of this coded process. Hence, the Red lion, is Male, and the White lion is Female. Here is where 8 realizes it is still 0.
When the Art card is thrown during a reading:
- The querent is experiencing or will soon experience, a combination of forces effecting 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.
- Time of good management and common sense.
- Here, Imagination and ratiocination are in equilibrium. Anima and Animus have reached a conclusion of creation.
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