The Fifteenth Key
□ RELATED SOUND: A Natural
□ SIGN: Capricorn (Cardinal Earth)
□ SIMPLE LETTER: Mirth
□ ESOTERIC TITLE: The Lord of the Gates of Matter; the Child of the Forces of Time
THIRTY-TWO PATHS OF WISDOM: The Twenty-sixth Path is called the Renovating Intelligence, because the Holy God renews by it all the changing things which are renewed by the creation of the world.
The Path of Ayin, THE DEVIL, connects Tiphareth, the center of the Sun consciousness, with Hod, sphere of Mercury and of the intellect. The twenty-sixth Path is formative and, in terms of the structure of the self, is an intellectual bridge between the Personality and the Individuality.
Of all the Paths, this may be the most difficult for those rooted in western cultures to understand, for its interpretation flies in the face of the meaning which most people have come to attach to the Devil. In Qabalistic terms, the Devil is not viewed as an evil entity having its own separate existence. Rather, it represents a special mystery which must be penetrated before one can directly know the Higher Principle of the Self. The Devil, which is the adversary, is the Master of manifest form which we must face and conquer.
Paul Foster Case, in his study course, went farther than any other writer in pointing to the profound implications of this card. He said: "Of all the keys of the Tarot, Key 15 is one of the most important. It is the symbolic veil for the greatest practical secret of occultism. It both conceals and reveals the secret of the powers ascribed by tradition to Moses, David and Solomon. This is the same great secret Pythagoras learned in Egyptian temple schools. It is the great Arcanum of alchemy and magic. To know it is to be able to make the Philosopher's Stone and the Elixir of Life. Yet those who know it cannot tell. For the essential point is beyond the power of words to express."137 Here we understand that we are dealing with a Path on the Tree of Life which is a transition between the intellect of normal waking consciousness and true spiritual consciousness.
There are three Paths leading directly into Tiphareth: THE DEVIL, TEMPERANCE and DEATH. Each of these Paths represents a special trial. But it must be reiterated that the student is not required to travel all three Paths. Those who choose the devotional Path of the Middle Pillar need deal only with TEMPERANCE, leading from Yesod to Tiphareth. Yet the choice of following each and every Path means the acquisition of control over the energies which each Path symbolizes; every Path confers a unique power. On the other hand, to travel the Middle Pillar means to understand and balance, within the Self, the energies of all twenty-two Paths. The difference here is that one can understand these (conceptual) aspects of consciousness, without necessarily developing the ability to manipulate these same energies. It might be said that what differentiates the student magician from the Catholic monk is a greater level of curiosity. Some, of course, come to occult studies through a desire for raw power, but quickly learn that if such power is acquired and misused there is a devastating price to pay. There is no question that the devotional-meditational Path is a much safer one than the magical Path.
That which is symbolized by THE DEVIL is, in fact, raw power. It is the force which brings about the transmutation of THE TOWER, a fact underscored by the relationship of this card to Mars: THE DEVIL is the sign Capricorn in which Mars is exalted. This is a weighty, even blind, sign of Earth, one which symbolizes both the highest and the lowest. Yet it is considered a sign of initiation, or release from the limitations of matter. It is limitation that is suggested by the rulership of Capricorn by Saturn, the planet of Binah, the Great Mother. Capricorn governs the limitations of form, whether that means the enclosure of matter or of time, the artificial system by which we meter and enclose all activities.
The Devil represents the average person's misperception of reality, the belief that our material condition is "real" in the true sense of the word. This misperception is symbolized here in two ways: First, the Devil is intended to be seen as a humorous figure, the bogey-man of our collective childhood. Our belief in the illusion of matter created by the energies symbolized in this card is actually laughable, and it is here more than implied that laughter and good humor about our lives is a tool which will help us to transcend the illusion. We must leam not to take our perceptions of the material world seriously. Mirth is the first great corrective.
Second, our misperception of the real nature of things is suggested by the inverted Pentagram on the Devil's head. The sacred symbol of mankind, turned upside down, means that most people's vision of the world and its relationship to a spiritual reality is itself upside down. And the meaning of the letter Ayin, eye, means that the lesson of this Path is a reorganization of perspective, a new vision of things. Eye symbolizes both our acceptance of what we see in the sensory world as real, and the greater vision which comes through the use of the inner eye. To accept what our physical eye tells us is to be subject to illusion and bondage, a state symbolized in the Golden Dawn and Waite cards by the chained figures. The figures are horned to show that they are, however unwittingly, the servants of this comical creature.
One primary statement of this Path is that the Devil does not exist as he is postulated by the ignorant. As is written in the Emerald Tablet: "all things were from One, by the meditation of One," meaning that there is nothing in the universe not of God, including the so-called Devil. The card contains one of the greatest mysteries of the Qabalah, which is that the Devil is the necessary means of reaching the Christ-Buddha consciousness of Tiphareth. Described variously as the "source of the forms and appearance of relative existence," and as the "Lord of the Gates of Matter and Child of the Forces of Time," the Devil is both the Tempter and the Redeemer. He is also described as the "Prince of the Powers of Air," indicating that this energy is mediating in the flow of Astral currents. Air is to be understood here as the whole of Yetzirah, the Astral Plane which controls the ebb and flow of matter.
This Path confers the ability to bring right-side-up the Devil's Pentagram and to lift his torch upward. In practical terms, this means the ability to reverse the currents of Astral Light. Intellect and disciplined meditation are the means by which this may be accomplished, and by which the Philosophers Stone and Elixir of Life may be produced. The process begins with the intellect of Hod, and leads into the intuition of Tiphareth. This is the meaning of the text of the Thirty-Two Paths of Wisdom, which describes Ayin as the Renewing Intelligence. We understand that it is only through the forces of the Devil, and our right understanding of them, that we may come directly to the Light of God the Son. The scriptures state that even Christ, Himself, passed through the temptation of the Devil. In this the way is pointed out for us more clearly than fundamentalist Christians could ever begin to suspect.
Eliphas L6vi called this Path "The first physical manifestation of the Divine Breath." And here we recall that "Saturn eats its children," meaning that while the creation of the illusion of form is essential to manifestation on the earthly plane (and is what manifestation actually means) the "dissolution of these forms is essential to the Path of Return." For the Alchemists, dissolution means analysis, which is precisely what we apply when we intellectually separate the component energies of ourselves and our universe into twenty-two Paths on the Tree of Life. First we must conceptually (as well as practically) separate out these component parts, then we must reintegrate them through our understanding of their operation. To extend an analogy made earlier: it is only by focusing on each part of our body system, considering each organ separately that we come to an understanding of how the organs work together to maintain our physical being. The reintegration, in this sense, is our overall view of the interaction of the organs. Having come to this overall view, we can then begin to actively apply the new knowledge. This is a positive phase of using what we know. It is the step which follows the dissolution and re-integration. But as we function within an earthly incarnation, everything must be related back to our mundane condition. Each lesson must be grounded.
This is the psychological meaning of a process which has been described in symbolic terms over the centuries. Our psychology has given us words for relationships of energies which the ancients could only symbolize. Words such as "sub-conscious" and "unconscious" have become such an integral part of our vocabulary that they are taken for granted. We are thus, more prepared than any other age to deal with the concepts of the Mysteries, including what has been variously termed the Akashic Fluid, the Odic Force or the Astral Light. This force is manipulated, for whatever end one may choose, through an understanding of THE DEVIL. Here L6vi (who used the term "Great Magical Agent") describes the process of manipulation as, to dissolve, to consolidate, to quicken, to moderate.136 This is dissolution, re-integration, activity and grounding. The same qualities can be described as Fire, Water, Air and Earth.
The requisite interaction of the Four "Elements" is also suggested in the Golden Dawn and Waite cards: The inverted Torch is Fire, the Eagle's claws are Water, the wings are Air, and the grotesque body of the Devil is earth. One interesting, though even less obvious symbolism is in the Devil's being represented with the ears of an ass, a mythological reference pointing toward a sexual interpretation of the card. Priapus was the Roman God of the phallus, to whom the ass was traditionally sacrificed.139 (Readers will note that it is virtually impossible to make this statement without seeming to intend a bad pun).
The symbolism of the Golden Dawn and Waite cards is essentially the same, with one exception. In the Golden Dawn card the Devil holds a single horn in his right hand. This is intended to be the horn of a Ram, the beast or Aries, the Path of THE EMPEROR ruled by Mars. In this, Mathers pointed to the most profound meaning of the card, for this is also the Jewish Shofah, the ram's horn which sounds the call to prayer at Yom Kippur. Thus does the Devil hold up the very means of release from bondage. In him is both that which enslaves and that which confers freedom. Moreover, we are led to understand that what is symbolized by the Path of THE EMPEROR is the pure energy
(recalling Aries to be the first Sign of the Zodiac, and initiator of Spring) which causes the fall of THE TOWER, and the testing of JUDGMENT. All bear a relationship to Binah, which is a fiery red in Atziluth.
Crowley's card is far more complex than the others and is, again, explicitly sexual. He describes the Key as representing "creative energy in its most material form," and as "Pan Pangenetor, the All-Begetter." His goat is Pan standing on the highest mountain-top on earth, against "a background of the exquisitely tenuous, complex, and fantastic forms of madness."140 Between the legs of the goat is the wand of the Chief Adept. It takes little observation to realize that what Crowley has represented in his card is a penis with two testicles, appropriate in that he considered this card to mean the most male of all male energies. He makes a further statement by having the tip of the male organ outside the card, symbolically in the greater heavens, while the testicles contain the bound-up forms of physical manifestation.
Undoubtedly there are many who will be made uncomfortable by the recurrence of pointedly sexual symbolism in the cards. This symbolism has been understood by initiates of the Mysteries for centuries, but it is only recently that our society has reached a stage of maturity where such ideas may be discussed openly and in proper perspective. Certainly, any adult will agree that orgasm is the most powerful natural force to affect the human body, yet it is merely an indicator of a power of God so overwhelming that our minds cannot begin to conceive of it.141
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