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Atu IV - The Emperor's new clothes


Aeon418

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One of the unique features of the Thoth Tarot is the correspondence between the cards and the paths of the Tree of Life that differs slightly from the pattern established by the Golden Dawn. The latter has been replicated repeatedly in many Golden Dawn derivative decks. One distinctive way the Thoth Tarot breaks with the Golden Dawn is the attribution of XVII - The Star to the path of Heh, and IV - The Emperor to the path of Tzaddi. The former change is justified by a rather deep soteriological reason that I won't go into here. But the latter change involving the Emperor is often criticised because it does not seem to fit the path of Tzaddi.

 

The 28th path of Tzaddi sits between the Lunar sphere of Yesod and the Venusian sphere of Netzach. Looking at this superficially it appears that the very masculine themed Emperor card is a poor fit between two symbolically feminine spheres. But dig a little deeper and things begin to make a lot more sense.

 

When Crowley placed the Emperor on the path of Tzaddi he left the spiritual exercise associated with this path unchanged. This is significant. This practice involves the conscious raising of Kundalini (Liber H.H.H., section S.S.S.), the "coiled snake" or serpent power. The awakening of this force is associated with enlightenment in many systems of Yoga. Recently I re-read Gopi Krishna's classic, semi-autobiographical book, Living with Kundalini. In 1937 at the age of 34, Krishna experienced an unexpected Kundalaini rising that he described as a sudden roar along with "a stream of liquid light entering my brain through the spinal cord." He goes on to describe this as being "bathed in light and in a state of exultation and happiness impossible to describe." Unfortunately for Gopi Krishna it went horribly wrong. The next 12 years were spent alternating between a state of light and intense joy and deep, dark depression along with feelings of being consumed by fire and intense heat. During this time he felt as if he were suspended by a thread between life and death. Fortunately he eventually corrected the situation, which he believed was caused by an unbalanced Kundalini awakening.

 

This is all well and good. But what does this rather metaphysical and mystical stuff have to do with more mundane interpretations of IV - The Emperor ?

 

The Book of Thoth (p.255) interprets card IV as "War, conquest, victory, strife, ambition, originality, overweening confidence and megalomania, quarrelsomeness, energy, vigour, stubbornness, impracticability, rashness, ill-temper." That's quite a mixed bag, not all of it pleasant. But I contend that this is a perfect description of the high energy path of Tzaddi in both it's balanced and unbalanced manifestations.

 

Tzaddi and the Emperor sits between the spheres of Netzach and Yesod. Netzach is a fiery sphere of aspiration, desire, and emotion. While Yesod represent the subconscious, instinctual and sexual drives that exist within it. (The Moon sphere - Yesod, spelt YSVD, is 80. This connects it numerically it with the Mars force of Peh and Atu XVI - The Tower.) This means that the connecting path of Tzaddi is high energy and possibly explosive. The astrological attribution of Aries makes sense here.

 

Taking the Kundalini symbolism and interpreting it in a more mundane sense reveals some of the dynamics of Atu IV. Instinctual and generative drives can be very powerful and energizing in many positive ways, provided the motivating, guiding aspirations and desires are well aligned and well intentioned. This could be symbolically linked with the Crown worn by the Emperor. But what if that Crown slips and the motivations are less than honourable? In this case the energy finds expression in undesirable and ugly forms. In a relationship this negative expression could indicate violence or arguments. This can stem from misguided aims and a lack of self awareness that repeatedly seeks a cathartic release of internal frustration and pressure by injecting a relationship with disruptive uproar and drama that is wrongly projected outwards onto a partner or spouse, male or female. It doesn't have to be this way. Rightly directed this energy can be changed from outwardly destructive to self-transformative. In another direction card IV represents desires and emotions (Netzach) being imprinted on the subconscious mind (Yesod), similar to the way a Royal signet ring impresses upon a wax seal. This imprinting of desire upon the subconscious foundations of being will eventually begin to manifest in mundane life. Whether these manifestations are constructive and positive additions to one's own personal Kingdom is entirely dependent on Self Rulership.

 

Has anyone else noticed how much anger there is out there in society right now? Hmmm.

 

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Use all thine energy to rule thy thought: burn up thy thought as the Phoenix.

 

Edited by Aeon418
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In the book, "The Thoth Tarot, Astrology, & Other selected writings," Phyllis Seckler (aka Soror Meral) switches the attributions of the paths of Heh and Tzaddi that are drawn from a Kabbalistic text called, The 32 Paths of Wisdom. This text, which appeared somewhere between the 7th to 10th centuries, presents the 10 Sephiroth and the 22 Paths as different states of consciousness. The final 22 "intelligences" correspond to the Major Arcana. Curiously Seckler's 'successor', James Eshelman, switches the intelligences back to their traditional order in his, Liber Theta. I believe Eshelman is right in his view that the 'intelligences' should stay with their respective Path/Letter and not move with a Card.

 

According to tradition the 'intelligence' corresponding to the 28th Path of Tzaddi is the "Natural Consciousness." Is this better expressed through the Emperor or the Star? I think the former is a much better fit.

 

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The Natural Consciousness. Through it is completed (or, perfected) the nature of all that exist beneath the sphere of the Sun.

 

The word 'natural' used here does not necessrily mean the natural world. Rather it is pointing to self-nature. The Sun is Tiphareth. The four spheres below it, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malkuth, are symbolic of those aspects of our self-nature that have the potential to be completed or perfected through the 'consciousness' of the Path of Tzaddi and those forces symbolised by the Emperor card.

 

Netzach: Aspiration, desires, emotions.

 

Hod: The intellect, the formative rational mind. Reason.

 

Yesod: Subconscious mind, instinctual drives including sex.

 

Malkuth: The physical body and the senses.

 

These four aspects of 'self' are the Kingdom that the Emperor governs. In a nutshell this involves the raising of instinctual, generative energies with disciplined self control.

 

In his brief comments on the Natural Consciousness, Paul Foster Case draws attention to the root of the Hebrew word for Natural. This is TBO, which means "to sink." This is said to refer to the letter Tzaddi, the Fish hook, that is able to sink and draw up the transformative sexual energy out of the waters of consciousness. (Tzaddi = 90 = Nun + Mem) But how is this done? In the Sepher Yetzirah the quality associated with the letter Tzaddi is thought, contemplation, or meditation. One form of this is known as Raja or Royal Yoga. An aspect of this has become the latest 'fad' of Mind-fullness. Some have nicknamed this new corporate spirituality, McMindfullness, due to the way it has been cherry-picked out of a wider tradition and is presented as a low cost cure-all for the symptoms of modern day burnout. I feel this approach misses the point and overestimates the effectiveness of meditation in isolation. Anyone practicing meditation while leading a chaotic lifestyle is unlikely to experience anything more than a temporary cathartic release of stress. It's like repeatedly taking the lid off a boiling pot, but without doing anything to control the roaring gas flame beneath. This is where the control and self discipline of the Emperor combine with his attribution to the fiery sign of Aries and Alchemical Sulphur. In a way this practice of self-discipline is a natural "law of the strong," that exists as a real test of fitness in the Natural world. So called "spiritual development" or "illumination" goes hand in hand with self discipline.

 

In the Golden Dawn's, Book T, the cards associated with the spheres Netzach and Yesod are described as:

 

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Netzach: .... Generally shows a force, transcending the material plane, and is like unto a crown which is indeed powerful but requireth one capable of wearing it. ...

 

Yesod: .... Generally they show very great fundamental force. Executive power, because they rest on a firm basis, powerful for good or evil.

 

 

In the fourth Golden Dawn knowledge lecture the path of Tzaddi is described as the "Victory of Fundamental Strength." This is based on the names of the spheres Netzach and Yesod being Victory and Foundation respectively. The Golden Dawn maintains that this describes Atu XVII The Star. Surely, Atu IV The Emperor is a much better fit.

 

A minor digression. I'm reminded of the Arthurian legend of the Fisher King, who is the guardian of the Grail. But due to a wound in his 'groin,' his kingdom is withered and decaying. The remedy to this is indicated by the relationship between Atu's IV and XI via the numbers 90 and 9. The latter is Teth, the Serpent, a symbol of Kundalini. Paul Foster Case hints at this in his Tarot book (p.176)

 

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"Practically, meditation is the only safe regenerative method, because it draws nerve-force up from the reproductive centers without any actual fixation of attention on the centers themselves, and without any thought about the sex-functions.

 

The inference that Case is making here is that meditational breath work (pranayama) and sex magick are very similar, in that they are both based on something that is rooted in the subconscious that can be consciously controlled. This conscious control reverses the process and begins to have an effect on the subconscious and that which dwells within it. Case is rather coyly saying that breath work is "safe" because it is also boring. Crowley comments on this in Magick Without Tears:  

 

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Sex is, directly or indirectly, the most powerful weapon in the armoury of the Magician; and precisely because there is no moral guide, it is indescribably dangerous. I have given a great many hints, especially in Magick , and The Book of Thoth — some of the cards are almost blatantly revealing; so I have been rapped rather severely over the knuckles for giving children matches for playthings. My excuse has been that they have already got the matches, that my explanations have been directed to add conscious precautions to the existing automatic safeguards.  

       

Edited by Aeon418
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On the subject of self discipline going hand-in-hand with spiritual development, the symbol of the Lamb and Flag on the Emperor card is interesting. Traditionally this symbolises the Agnus Dei, or Lamb of God mentioned in John 1:29.

 

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The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

 

This is the doctrine of Vicarious Atonement in a nutshell. It is the idea that someone does something on our behalf so that we don't have to do it ourselves. In essence it is an abdication of personal responsibility and authority. This is why Crowley calls this symbol the "theory of government." More accurately this should be Paternalistic Government and the idea that the government should solve all our problems for us. Given the current state of the world this could be chalked up as prescience on Crowley's part. But I suspect it is just an accurate observation of human nature.

 

In Aleister Crowley's system of spiritual attainment the doctrine of Vicarious Atonement is obsolete. You must do it yourself. In the Book of Thoth and elsewhere, Crowley calls this the "setting of the Daughter on the Throne of the Mother." In plain language this could seen as the progressive revelation and elevation of individual consciousness to Universal Consciousness. Both of the infamous card swaps that Crowley writes about in the Book of Thoth are symbolic ways of conveying this message.

 

The process of transformation of energy depicted in Atu XI - Lust, balances the scales of Atu VIII - Adjustment, thereby setting the Daughter upon the Throne of the Mother. (BoT. p.86)

 

Likewise the process of self control and energy raising shown in Atu IV - The Emperor, gradually unveils the Cosmic Consciousness of Atu XVII - The Star. The new Hebrew letter of card XVII is Heh. The mystic reading of this letter is: "the Mother is the Daughter, the Daughter is the Mother."

 

In my opinion it is the intimate interlinking of these ideas that may have lead to the errors (?) that appear to have crept into the Book of Thoth regarding the swap of the Emperor and the Star card's. The Book of Thoth was written in a rush, without the assistance of an editor, but I'm not convinced that this explains everything. I feel that Crowley was trying to convey an interlinked and looped doctrine through a linear narrative. To the rational mind this can only look like contradiction and confusion. But Crowley's system is rooted in the conviction that the reasoning mind is not the be-all and end-all. In this context the Book of Thoth begins to look like a Zen Koan.

 

In this spirit I will quote the supposedly 'problematic' final passage of Crowley's description of the Emperor card along side a suggested re-write by Marcus Katz in his, Secrets of the Thoth Tarot - Volume 1.
 

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Crowley: "It is finally to be observed that the white light which descends upon him indicates the position of this card in the Tree of Life. His authority is derived from Chokmah, the creative Wisdom, the Word, and is exerted upon Tiphareth, the organized man."

 

Katz: "It is finally to be observed that the white light which descends upon him indicates the position of this card in the Tree of Life. His authority is derived from Netzach, Victory (in its most beneficent state), and is exerted through Yesod, the great crystallisation of energy.

    

Edited by Aeon418
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The Agnus Dei who dies for the sins of the world and the symbolism of Tzaddi the Fish hook, have a distinctly Christian connotation. The latter relates to Jesus as IΧΘΥΣ, the Fish. This is said to be the acronym of ησοῦς Χρῑστός Θεοῦ Υἱός Σωτήρ - Jesus Christ, God's Son, Saviour. This is the same figure who says in Matthew 4:19. " .... Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

 

The fact that the symbolism of the sacrificial lamb and the fisherman have been consolidated into one card, and that card being moved into the lower, more human branches of the Tree of Life, suggests something that we must do for ourselves, instead of projecting it onto a 'Saviour' figure.

 

The key to this is Atu XVII - The Star. Traditionally the Star is said to be the emblem of the arrival of an important person or a saviour. An example of this appears in the Old Testament book of Numbers (24:17) and the Star out of Jacob. In the Zohar the coming of Messiah is said to be heralded by a star rising in the East and swallowing up several stars in the North. In the Christian tradition there is the well known story of the Star guiding the three wise men, kings, or magi, to Bethlehem. The Thoth Tarot's Star card continues this tradition, but with a radically different significance.

 

The Hebrew, Messiah, and the Greek, Christ, both mean "anointed." In the Jewish Messianic tradition this is derived from the symbolism of anointing a King with holy anointing oil. In the Christian tradition this symbolism is echoed with the various accounts of Jesus' anointing found throughout the New Testament. This tradition appears once again on Atu XVII - The Star, where we see the goddess, Nuit, anointing herself. The underlying significance of this is connected to the third verse of the Book of the Law: Every man and every woman is a star

 

This is why Vicarious Atonement is no longer valid. Each and everyone of us has the potential to fulfil the Messianic function and manifest the Christ or Cosmic Consciousness symbolised by card XVII and its new attribution to the path of Heh. The path that unites Chokmah, Universal Will, with Tiphareth, the centre of individual human consciousness and experience. Obviously, no one can do this on another's behalf. But the way is indicated by Atu IV - The Emperor (anointed in Light) and the raising of the Serpent power, Kundalini. 

 

In Hebrew the word Messiah is spelt, MShICh = 358. This is the same numerical value as the word used for Serpent in Genesis, NChSh - Nachash.     

 

  

Edited by Aeon418
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Why is the Lamb and Flag - the Agnus Dei - on the Emperor card at all if it supposedly represents something that is now obsolete. In my opinion it is because it still represents an aspect of human nature that is common to us all. To some degree we all seek safety, security, and comfort. These things aren't necessarily bad. In fact they are quite normal and natural. But when these things become our primary motivation it is a sign that something is wrong. The Emperor sits on the throne, not the Lamb.

 

When we're children we look to our parents for safety, security, and comfort. But as we mature and grow we feel the need to spread our wings beyond the family nest. But those basic needs are still there. Sometimes, possibly without being fully aware of it, we can seek a surrogate parent. This can take many forms. Other people, religious figures, social institutions, and even government. The list could go on, but the main point is that these things can become a source of dependency that can leave us open to control and manipulation. Bad relationships, institutionalised religions, big business, and government can and do prey on this exploitable 'weakness' in human nature. Perhaps this is where some of the more positive, self-reliant and self-assertive aspects of the Emperor are needed.

 

On the flip side of the coin I can see the presence of the Lamb as the necessary feature of a benevolent ruler. Being aware of the human frailty in themselves they are much more likely to empathise with other people. In modern political life we regularly hear the phrase "out of touch" being tossed around. But this can also apply to individuals who are too quick to judge others faults and failures, while all the time being blissfully unaware of their own.

 

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Therefore, watch heedfully the Fault of another, that thou mayst correct it in thyself. For if it were not in thee, thou couldst not perceive it or understand it.

 

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Thus, in low grades of initiation, dogmatic quarrels are inflamed by astral experience; as when Saint John distinguishes between the Whore BABALON and the Woman clothed with the Sun, between the Lamb that was slain and the Beast 666 whose deadly wound was healed; nor understands that Satan, the Old Serpent, in the Abyss, the Lake of Fire and Sulphur, is the Sun-Father, the vibration of Life, Lord of Infinite Space that flames with His Consuming Energy, and is also that throned Light whose Spirit is suffused throughout the City of Jewels.

 

In Liber 418 the Lamb is identified as the "greatest of the deceivers." The "deceiver is traditionally the Serpent of Genesis. The Lamb is thus Serpent power or sexual energy misdirected. The death of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6) heals the Beast (Revelation 13:3), or serpent power harnessed to the Great Work of regeneration. This elevates the Scarlet Woman, the individual soul, to the universal Soul - Babalon. Transfigured, she becomes the New Jerusalem. She is the new bride of the resurrected Lamb, now made one with the Beast (Lion).

 

This is Atu XXI - The Universe, where the Scarlet Woman become the Virgin of the World dances with the Serpent - the Deceiver who is the Messiah. 

Edited by Aeon418
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