The Universe The Keys The Eighth

PATH COLOR: Yellow-Greenish

RELATED SOUND: E Natural SIGN: Leo (Fixed Fire) MEANING: Snake SIMPLE LETTER: Taste ESOTERIC TITLE: The Daughter of the Flaming Sword

Dion Fortune Qabalah

THIRTY-TWO PATHS OF WISDOM: The Nineteenth Path is the Intelligence of all the activities and spiritual beings, and is so called because of the affluence diffused by it from the most high blessing and most exalted sublime glory.

In our upward progress on the Tree of Life the Path of STRENGTH leads to the edge of the Abyss, as did THE HERMIT. And as we come closer and closer to the source of All, the Ultimate Simplicity, it is perhaps paradoxical that the symbolism becomes increasingly complex. In the lower cards, energies and experiences can be accurately described in words. But at this level on the Tree, and above we learn primarily by meditation on the inter-relationship of symbols, in which great profundities are secretly imbedded. Few, for example, might even suspect that this picture of a woman with a lion could have such vast meaning.

In terms of evolution, the nineteenth Path is the first Path of Microprosopus, the Lesser Countenance. It is the outpouring of energy from Chesed to Geburah in the process of manifestation; it is the primary Path of the Higher Self, linking the great opposites below the Abyss. It is the Path on which Fire becomes Light, for manifestation is Light, whereas the Supernals are a darkness which is fiery. Thus, in his Book of Tokens Case speaks of "the radiant Darkness of the Limitless Light."190

To the Path of STRENGTH are assigned both the Hebrew letter Teth and the most powerful sign of the Zodiac, Leo. Leo is the lion, while Teth means snake, and the interchangeability of the lion and snake symbolism is an important key to the meaning of the card. As the symbols interchange, we understand that the realities which they represent can also be interchanged. The One Spirit takes any form It wills, which is an important lesson of this Path. The idea is clearly expressed in the Zohar: "The three principle elements of nature are fire, air and water. Really they are one in use and substance, and are able to change the one into the other. It is the same with Thought and Speech and Logos, they are one and the same in themselves."191

As the Serpent holds its tail in its mouth it represents wisdom and the Universe (noting here that taste is attributed to Teth in the Sepher Yetzirah), whereas the same Serpent is described in Genesis as the Tempter. Moreover, insofar as it is the fiery, vital Life Force, it is also the Redeemer. This is the same, apparently contradictory idea encountered with the primary card of matter, THE DEVIL, which is also both Tempter and Redeemer. And, interestingly enough, the lion is occasionally related to Saturn, the supposed "place of Dwelling" of the Devil. Fortunately, the Qabalah allows us to put these symbols into very clear perspective, as Binah-Saturn is the ultimate source of the Devil's imprisoning matter.

It must be admitted that the lion has been used in so many different cultures and symbolic pantheons, that it may be claimed to have mutually exclusive meanings. But, generally, references to the lion have to do with its physical strength (This is not a card of intellect in any way). The greatest strength of which man can conceive is the Light of the Sun, the ruler of Leo.

And, as we shall consider, it is the lion which is permitted to open the Sacred Scroll of the Apocalypse. This means that the Solar Power, represented by this card, can open the higher levels of consciousness beyond the Sun (Tipahreth) itself. In symbolism, this is shown most graphically by representations of the Sun God Mithra, whose body is human, but whose head is that of a lion.

The lion symbolism always implies a brute force which may be used constructively or destructively. This is the very Path on which the Sword of Geburah is formed, indicating that the possibility of the philosopher being overwhelmed by the power which he invokes is always present. Such danger is stressed, for example, in the story of Daniel in the Lion's Den, one closely related to the symbolism of this card. Daniel is, like Moses, a Magician (Thaumaturge) holding back the destructive power of the lions through sheer force of will.

Daniel, the three Hebrews in the fiery furance, Noah, and other such figures were chosen by the earliest Christians as Biblical representatives of salvation. On the wall of a catacomb, a depiction of Daniel means, in essence: "let him who is buried here be saved as Daniel was saved from the lions." Thus, a simplistic faith in divine protection came to overshadow a symbolism of far greater consequence, that of the enlightened individual controlling the "animal potency" underlying all existence.

In the symbolism of Alchemy, the lion takes three separate forms. First, there is the Green Lion, the energy of nature before it is purified and subjected to the will. Next is the Red Lion, represented on the card of STRENGTH. This is the force of nature under perfect control, what the Alchemists would describe as the Sulphur (Solar Energy) combined with Mercury (Will). Waite underscores this meaning by showing the infinity sign of THE MAGICIAN above the woman's head; this is the directing willpower of the twelfth Path, what Mathers calls the Philosophic Mercury. Finally, there is the Old Lion, meaning the completely purified consciousness, the linking of all components of the Soul with the Highest Spiritual Self which is "older than time itself."

The lion figures in ancient legends and in Christian legends, such as the story of Saint Jerome, where the saint removes a thorn from the lion's paw and the grateful animal becomes his servant.192 The consistent thread running through such tales has to do with the wise person who subjugates the wild animal through the force of his humanity. It is the highest quality of man controlling the highest quality of beast (of which the lion is "King"), an idea sufficiently common in history that it may be considered an extension of Jung's Wise Old Man archetype. In this regard, we appreciate that each and every one of the Tarot trumps represents a body of teaching, legend, or tradition, deeply rooted in the group soul of mankind and expressed in different ways throughout history.

Pursuant to the relationship of the symbolic lion with the Sun, there is some possibility of confusion. At one level the lion is the Kerub of Fire, symbol of one of the Four Elements. But this is not the same as the lion of the Sun's Spiritual Fire, or Kundalini, which is also the Serpent.

The fiery lion-serpent is one aspect of the Life Force which, in manifestation, is a duality of activity and passivity. Kundalini, the Sacred Fire, is the active phase of this energy, purposely unleashed and directed by the will. This is suggested by the double ends of the rods in the hands of the figure in THE UNIVERSE, a card related to STRENGTH in several ways.

It will, for example, be noted that the scarf on the figure in the Golden Dawn card is similar to that worn by the figure in THE UNIVERSE. Both are veils. Both are concealing of principles, though at different ends of manifestation. STRENGTH is the beginning of Microprosopus, while THE UNIVERSE is the completion of the process. The woman who has tamed the energy of the lion, and the woman who dances in space surrounded by the Four Kerubiim, are both expressions of that which is, at the highest level, called THE EMPRESS.

This is a very powerful Path, one on which it is not possible for a sensitive person to meditate without profound effects on the psyche. The card may come to be appreciated as a statement of methodology, whereby the willpower controls the vital life energy. The Book of Tokens suggests that the secret of this methodology lies in number, although as used in that text the word means the germ of separation into what can be counted as divided from the One: "Number veileth the power of the Elohim, for Number is that thick darkness whereof it is written, 'And Moses drew near unto the thick darkness Where God was;' and again, 'Tetragrammaton said that he would dwell in the thick darkness.' " And, it continues: "Of that darkness the Serpent is a sign, the Great Serpent, the royal snake of Egypt. This is the Serpent of temptation, Yet from it cometh redemption. For the Serpent is the first appearance of the Anointed One."193

STRENGTH represents a very important initiatory formula dealing with the Serpent Power. It is this power which is used to stimulate the various chakras, or centers of energy in the body. The principles imbedded in number (as defined above) teach us how to use this power, which is not to suggest that the process is cold and distant. On the contrary, Crowley's title, Lust, is quite appropriate. What is involved is the development of a "divine frenzy," as is meant by the frequently-repeated instruction: "Inflame Thyself with Prayer!" Or, as the Alchemists express it, "The heat of the furnace makes the Stone." The heat is a great passion within the confines of an exercise such as that of the Middle Pillar.194

The method is a recurring theme in the correspondence courses of Paul Case. In one lesson, he says of inner exercises: "By prolonged practice. . . pursued something for months and years without apparent result, those who follow the Way of Liberation effect changes in their subconsciousness. These changes are symbolized by Key 8 and produce at the same time the result shown in Key 16."195 Repeatedly he states that the whole point of meditational exercises is an actual and subtle change in the structure of the body cells. And those who are familiar with Dion Fortune's definition of the Qabalah as the "Yoga of the West," will appreciate that Case said directly things at which she was only willing to hint.

When we have the important keys all mystical literature suddenly opens up and seems genuinely simple. Such is the case with the Book of Revelation

(The Apocalpyse), which utterly confounds most biblical scholars, and is the source of some extraordinary scholarly nonsense. Revelation, like the Book of Genesis, is one of the great Qabalistic documents. Thus, one should not be surprised to find that STRENGTH (or Crowley's Lust) relates directly to that work by St. John.

In Revelation it is stated that the Lion, representative of the Tribe of Judah (the descendants of David), had "won the right to open the scroll and break its seven seals."196 But as the seals are to be broken we discover that the Lamb has taken the place of the Lion. The Lion has, in fact, become the Lamb of "Seven Eyes." These are the seven Chakras which are activated by the Lion-Serpent Power. This is the taming of the Lion by the woman in STRENGTH. In Qabalistic terms this means that to bring the energies symbolized by the Lion under perfect control, is to open the seals on the Book of Reality above the Abyss. The symbolism refers to the method by which one may know that from which manifestation emerges, the Supernal Triangle of the Tree of Life. It should be noted here that the Path of Teth is the highest on the Tree with no direct connections into the Supernals. It is, thus, an important Path of transition. It is, like THE HERMIT, a gateway to Daath.

In the Golden Dawn version of both cards, Daath is suggested by the desert. As we cross the desert, going upwards, we are led out of bondage by the Logos itself (Moses as the Light). Even Crowley's card may be interpreted in this way, though he has placed his card on the eleventh Path, traditionally given to JUSTICE. His symbolism is perfectly consistent with the meaning of the Golden Dawn or Waite cards, relative to Daath, of which he commented in the Equinox: "In Daath is said to be the Head of the Great Serpent Nechesh or Leviathon, called evil to conceal its Holiness."197 This reasoning is interesting in terms of Lust, where he represented the Seven-headed beast of the Apocalypse, with which he personally identified. One may suggest that Crowley related himself to the Beast under the same philosophical twist as he described for the Serpent, i.e., an evil which is only apparent, and actually concealing of the greatest good. One can argue theologically that God creates only good, and that what appears to be the greatest evil must actually conceal good.

At any event, some may find it very uncomfortable, even pathological, that Crowley has so woven the trappings of his own personality into the cards, although it requires some study to understand the extent to which this is the case. Others may find his choice of imagery curious, wondering that he should illustrate a card of such spiritual potency as STRENGTH with the Scarlet Woman of the Apocalypse, riding the Beast. Crowley made the connection through Gematria on the number 666, to which he related his own name, The Sun, what he called the "Stele of Revealing," and the Beast of Revelation.

Although the image is somewhat shocking in this context, Crowley has used the Whore of Babylon to represent the epitome of virginity, that which is symbolized in the Golden Dawn card by the four flowers (Chesed) and by the wreath in Waite's card. The principle is, again, that of the greatest evil concealing the greatest good.

The woman is of the same innocence as The Hermit. She is virgo intacto and it is only as such that she can, with complete safety, deal with the Lion. She might also be considered one of the Vestal Virgins keeping the Sacred Fire.

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Responses

  • haylom
    Which tarot cards represent the serpent?
    9 years ago

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