The Twenty-first Key
□ RELATED SOUND: A Natural
□ MEANING: Tau Cross, Equal Armed Cross
□ DOUBLE LETTER: Power-Servitude
□ ESOTERIC TITLE: The Great One of the Night of Time
THIRTY-TWO PATHS OF WISDOM: The Thirty-Second Path is the Administrative Intelligence, and it is so called because it directs and associates in all their operations the seven planets, even all of them in their own due course.
Study of the Paths begins not with the first card, THE FOOL, but with the last, THE UNIVERSE.97 This is because we ascend the Tree of Life, working from our material perspective ("below") to the realms of Pure Spirit ("above"). Our understanding of the more refined universal patterns is based on what we learn on this earth. It is with the earth that serious esoteric work begins and ends, as long as our Divine Consciousness is functioning through a physical vehicle.
The Path of Tau, THE UNIVERSE, joins Malkuth (the Earth) with Yesod (the Foundation). It is the first Path out of the material condition and leads toward an understanding of the Personality forged by the Higher Self of Tiphareth for each incarnation. The Thirty Two Paths of Wisdom calls this the "Administrative Intelligence," and says that it "directs and associates in all their operations the seven planets." Symbolically, this Path connects the earth with the balanced powers of Microprosopus represented by the Hexagram (seven planets on the Tree of Life.)
Tau is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Between Aleph and Tau is the entire universe, referred to in Christian Greek terms as the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. Tau means cross, a T-Cross as well as one which is equal-armed, which is appropriate to its position on the Cube of Space as described in the Sepher Yetzirah.
That book refers to Tau as the "Palace of Holiness, sustaining all things." It is both "Power and Servitude." And, when considered on the Cube of Space, it is found to be at the exact central point of the three Maternal Letters, Aleph, Mem and Shin, the symbolic forms of energy from which manifestation was created. The Path of THE UNIVERSE is the key to all of this because it falls at the point where they all cross (refer again to Figure 24). This crossing point, where these primary energies are balanced, is the sanctum sanctorum of the devotional mysteries. Some writers have even described this Path as "Heaven," or "Nirvana," meaning that here one experiences the consciousness of the greater universe, an ultimate reality by comparison with our sensory condition. And by the formula of "As above, so below," we understand that our experience of the completed universal pattern below tells us something about the Creator above.
One symbol which can be applied to both THE FOOL and THE UNIVERSE, the beginning and the end, is the Swastica or Gammadion. In Kether its arms spin so rapidly that they merge and are perceived as a unified point. Such is the lesson of THE FOOL. On the Path of THE UNIVERSE, however, it could be said that the Swastica has slowed its spin so that each of the arms is completely perceptible and are seen to be perfectly balanced around the central point. This is the complete expression of The One in matter.
In discussing THE UNIVERSE we are really discussing the world of matter. Most people have a dualist conception of themselves: they are body and mind, and when they dream or meditate, the images which come to them are considered to be divorced from the physical. Yet the Mysteries have stated for generations that the cosmos is all mind, and that the distinction between mind and body is one of perception, not of actuality. In fact, when we close our eyes and see pictures, what we are first seeing is the most refined form of matter, the images and energy forms which are closest to the physical condition. The concept which must be grasped (an admittedly difficult one) is that most of the physical world is unseen. It is for this reason that on the scheme of the Four Worlds, the Malkuth of Assiah alone is described as our sphere of sensation. The idea is symbolized in the card by the seven pointed star representative of the Seven Palaces of Assiah. To experience the Path of THE UNIVERSE is to be taken to the gateway of these seven palaces.
THE UNIVERSE symbolizes a Path where the components of the Universal Plan become apparent, without necessarily being understood. One may enter the Holy of Holies, and encounter these forces in such a way that he is "in them, but not of them." What is important is that, as opposed to other Paths, the energies are all present in their full expression, and are self-balanced. This, as well as the idea that Tau is the central point of the Aleph, Mem and Shin Paths, is what is meant by the equal-armed cross.
From the standpoint of practical mysticism, THE UNIVERSE may be considered the most important card in the deck, for it is the point at which we begin the process of inner exploration. It is the point where we step abruptly into a reality that may be at once frightening and reassuring because so much of what we encounter on this Path is of our own making. It is on this Path that we encounter our own individual personality consciousness, all that is inside our heads, divorced from the security of physical reality. It is the initiation of the Personality into its own structure, which is a Microcosmic Universe. At the same time, we encounter symbols and ideas which are of a greater consciousness than our own, and begin to see the ways in which our being relates to a total universal picture.
This is a Path which can only be successfully travelled by those who have begun to bring their Personalities into a self-understanding balance; those who have not will find themselves tormented by phantoms of their own making, and the Gates closed to them. On the other hand, those who have truly come to grips with the life experience will find inner help and encouragment at every step. It is on the Path of THE UNIVERSE that one discovers the extent to which the process of inner exploration is guided and, particularly, the very real protection and assistance given mankind by the Archangels. Until one begins these exercises, the Archangels are merely an abstraction, something in which one can vaguely believe or disbelieve.
A word of caution might be in order here. Insofar as THE UNIVERSE is a Path of entry to the Astral, it must be borne in mind that the Astral "seeks to deceive." A great many people believe themselves to be on one Path or another when they are, in actuality, entertaining themselves with an extended fantasy. We must be extremely cautious in accepting any of the images which appear to us as a "reality" of any sort, until we have applied every test of reason and feeling. There comes a time when we know that what we are experiencing could not possibly be of our own making because we are actually learning. We are acquiring new information which can often be verified or corroborated by research. One way or the other, a considerable amount of the gross must be sorted out before we come to the subtle. This is one of the most important lessons of THE UNIVERSE, a Path which must be approached with the virtue of Malkuth, that of discrimination. It is only through discrimination that we can place ourselves in the "Administrative" balance symbolized by the dancing woman draped with the Caph-shaped scarf (reference to the WHEEL OF FORTUNE) and surrounded by the animal symbols of the Four Elements.
In Qabalistic terms, what is represented is, again, the principle of the Four united by a Fifth which is Spirit. Here we may recall that the earliest Qabalists (as in the Sepher Yetzirah) discussed only three Elements: Air, Water and Fire, with Earth and Spirit being a later addition to the philosophy. And, as we have seen, the Tree of Life has changed form over the centuries to accomodate such conceptual changes. One such important change has related to the Thirty-Second Path which in some schemes is the only Path connecting thejsphere of sensation to the Test of the Tree. The addition of the Paths of Shin (JUDGMENT) and Qoph (THE MOON) while primarily bringing the number of Paths in line with the Hebrew Alphabet, secondarily declared a direct connection between Malkuth and the two Side Pillars.
One very interesting illustration from the Sixteenth Century shows a man holding the entire Tree by the Path of THE UNIVERSE.98 So we see that for four hundred years, at least, the essential interpretation of this Path as an experiential foundation for consciously travelling all of the other Paths has not changed, though the concept has been slightly mitigated by the addition of the two Paths.
The principle that we grasp the entire Tree through what is taught on the Path of the Universe is very profound, and brings us back to the idea of the "As Above, so below." We have discussed the "Will to Form," of Binah, the Great Mother, which is the origin of life consciousness, and which is Saturn in the exalted Supernal Realm. This is the same energy, now completely expressed, found on the Thirty-Second Path. The female figure at the center of the card is the fullest expression of the Great Mother who is THE EMPRESS. She is Isis, the Aima Elohim, she is Binah, she is Saturn, she is all the principles behind what we perceive as matter, the Cosmic Dancer who administers and activates the Elements. She is also a doorway to and from Malkuth, Saturn who both gives life and destroys it, the great tester who rules both birth and death. When we die, leaving behind our "animal skin," it is on this Path that we rise like the Dancer, surrounded by a ring of stars.
All of the key Tarot decks are agreed that the female figure should be surrounded by an oval shape of some sort. In Crowley's deck this is a ring of stars. In the Marseilles and Waite decks this is a wreath. In the Golden Dawn deck the oval is formed by twelve spheres (the twelve Signs of the Zodiac) bound together by seventy-two pearls (the Shemhamaphoresch, or Seventy-Two Names of God). What is symbolized is both the womb of the human female, through which the child passes in birth, and the Great Womb into which the soul passes in death.
The profound symbolism of the Great Mother through which one passes as a doorway to and from life is, unfortunately, minimized by some writers (including Case) who state that "tradition" claims the female figure to be hermaphroditic. That idea is unreasonable, but may be an honest attempt on the part of some Qabalistic theoreticians to reconcile the feminity of the Path with the Magical Image of Yesod into which it leads, a "Beautiful Naked Man."99 The latter represents the eternal outpouring of the Christ-Spirit from Tiphareth, personified within Yesod before it passes down to Malkuth. The Christian mystery is not simply an event of two thousand years ago to be recalled with reverence, it is a secret key to a natural pattern. The Christ (Buddha or Osiris or Krishna) force continues to be born into our world, be sacrificed for the benefit of mankind, resurrected and assumed. This is, like the Yod Heh Vau Heh, continual to the end of time, which will be the end of the race's need for sensory experience. Time is, of course, one of Saturn's primary restrictions.
As long as we are functioning within the framework of time, an event, including the downpouring and uprising of Tiphareth force, must have a beginning, a middle and an end. Life processes run in waves, or spirals which come back upon themselves. This is the natural course of the akashic fluid of Yesod. Thus, again, is the woman shown dancing. She swirls and revolves as opposed to her most abstract form of energy, THE EMPRESS, where she is placed solidly on a Supernal Throne. This spiral Force of nature is directed by the wands which she carries: they represent active and passive energy, each of which has two poles.
Crowley's card shows these natural forces as the serpent Kundalini, described as "Coiled in Yesod." This is a reference to the primary sexual forces of nature to be encountered with THE UNIVERSE. These are the forces which we learn to direct in ourselves and onto which we impose the strictures of Binah, the Great Mother, the Great Sea.
Water is very important to this Path which is the Great Sea of consciousness in its most dense and difficult expression. The Thirty-Second Path might be considered a dark cave, filled with treacherous caverns and tunnels, some of which lead to the Light, but others of which lead to the Qlippoth.
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