□ DOUBLE LETTER: Peace-War
□ ESOTERIC TITLE: The Princess of the Silver Star.
2 THE HIGH PRIESTESS
THIRTY-TWO PATHS OF WISDOM: The Thirteenth Path is named the Uniting Intelligence, and is so called because it is itself the Essence of Glory. It is the Consumation of the Truth of individual spiritual things.
Having just considered the Path of THE EMPRESS, one of warm enclosure (a literal return to the cosmic womb) and of maternal protection, the Path of THE HIGH PRIESTESS may be somewhat disconcerting. It is as if the
Supreme Mother has removed her smiling mask, to reveal her true face, which is cold and expressionless, though beautiful. All of the Material help of THE EMPRESS has vanished. There are no more illusions. We must face the crystalline reality of our own absolute free will, the most difficult task of the Mysteries related to the crossing of the Abyss.
The Paths of Gimel (THE HIGH PRIESTESS), Samekh (TEMPERANCE) and Tau (THE UNIVERSE) may be considered aspects of the same energy which together make up the devotional Middle Pillar. This is suggested by the Path colors in Atziluth, which are indigo (deepest blue) and blue which is the color of Water and of the Moon. These three Paths all relate to the Moon.
Gareth Knight describes the Path of Tau as the "Gateway to the inner planes," and those of Samekh and Gimel as "Dark Nights of the Soul."247 The term "Dark Night," coined by the sixteenth century monk, St. John of the Cross, means the desolation and terror that is felt as one is in the middle of the Path towards truth, but has not reached the end. This is particularly applicable to the Path of THE HIGH PRIESTESS, which traverses the frightening desert-Abyss.
But there is the implication that we may be borne across this desert by the forces of the Path itself, for Gimel means Camel. It is a beast which may carry us on the Path which is at once the longest and the most important on the Tree of Life.248 The Path is the first to come from the Supernal Triangle (potential) to the Ethical Triangle (the "actual"). Moreover, its very position on the Tree, between God the Father in Kether and God the Son in Tiphareth, shows it to confer the very highest initiation.
This initiation is through that virgin essence which has been called the "lower Chokmah." There are correspondences between the Path and the Sephira, which can be established by Gematria: The names Gimel ( b to > ) and Chokmah (nnDh ) both add to 73. But, more important, is the idea that Wisdom is alternately expressed as masculine or feminine. The word is feminine in most languages, though applied in Chokmah to the quality of primary maleness. To say that THE HIGH PRIESTESS is the lower Chokmah is to say that as the One expands outward, the seed of expansion contains the means of its own limitation. Then, as Crowley put it: "This first and most spiritual manifestation of the feminine takes to itself a masculine correlative, by formulating in itself any geometrical point from which to contemplate possibility."249 The concept is an impossibly difficult one, and here, more than in other cards, we are faced with the fact that the terms most descriptive of these principles may seem totally nonsensical. The common description of the key is more approachable, that being THE HIGH PRIESTESS as the most pure essence of consciousness, symbolized in the Tarot as the very source of all Water.
The source of Water is the idea behind the idea behind form. Case amplified this concept in saying that: ". . .no matter how many forms develop from it, the virgin substance is itself unchanged. Like water, which holds matter in suspension or solution, this substance remains over itself. Here is one key to the alchemical mystery of the First Matter. Here, too, one may find a clue to the inner significance of the Virgin myths of all religions."250
Almost every writer on Tarot has found such keys to keys in THE HIGH PRIESTESS. She is often, in fact, described as the "Inner Mysteries" or esotericism as opposed to THE HIEROPHANT who is sometimes identified with exoteric religion. But THE HIGH PRIESTESS must be studied in terms of THE MAGICIAN, in that she carries out what he initiates. This interaction can be discussed in a number of terms. She can be called the Root Matter and he the First Matter (Prima Materia), or she can be considered the result of his self-consciousness. However it may be symbolized, THE MAGICIAN symbolizes a condition prior to unconscious "thought." This condition acts upon THE HIGH PRIESTESS in such a way that the Gimel Path becomes the "mind" capable of carrying the thought forms of which the Universe will eventually be composed. She is the source of the vibratory patterns of the Universe which underly everything. Thus, the Crowley card shows a figure composed of waves of energy, under which are the mental forms affected by those waves. Moreover, nothing can grow in the garden of THE EMPRESS without this underlying structure of energies.
The Wisdom of THE HIGH PRIESTESS is in regulation. Her fluctuating rates of vibration establish the direction (sets the pattern) for the First Matter (Prima Materia=Philo8ophic Mercury=MAGICIAN) as it "descends" toward a condition of greater density. It is for this reason that the Moon is attributed to this Path. The vibratory pattern, the waxing and waning, and all of its other attributes, are here found at the most pure source. The Moon represents fluctuations, dualities, tides. It is the Moon which controls the tides of the waters of consciousness.
The Moon is cold, harboring neither good nor bad. Its potent currents, as the meaning of the double letter Gimel, war-peace, suggests, may be problemsolving or causing. But no matter what the result of the activity of THE HIGH PRIESTESS, she herself remains unchanged, incorruptible, ever virgin. She is moreover, the vessel for all the operations of the Supernal Triangle; it is within her that the activity of Mercury, Sulphur and Salt takes place. She is the Uniting Intelligence, an activity which is also related to the Four Elements.
We have shown how four Paths rising into the Supernal Triangle each represent a different Element, and have suggested that each is an aspect of the "Garden of Eden." THE HIGH PRIESTESS, again, is the Uniting Spirit, that fifth element which is symbolized by the uppermost section of the Pentagram. To reiterate: HIEROPHANT=Earth, LOVERS=Air, CHARIOT=Water, EM-PEROR=Fire and THE HIGH PRIESTESS=Spirit. She is at once the source and uniting regulator over the four other Paths. She is also the source of the Four Rivers of Paradise: The Pison (River of Fire), The Gihon (River of Water), The Hiddikel (River of Air) and The Phrath (River of Earth).
The idea of THE HIGH PRIESTESS as pure vessel is commensurate with the retentive qualities of the Camel, an animal which stores water for a long desert trip. This suggests another type of retention, memory. Within THE HIGH PRIESTESS are, in fact, concealed the memories of the race as well as those of the Cosmos. Her veil suggests this concealment. In the Golden Dawn card it is draped around her, covering her eyes so that it is impossible to look directly into her face. The Waite card uses a hanging cloth behind the figure, which has the same meaning. But the Crowley HIGH PRIESTESS seems veiled with Light itself. He calls her the "Soul of Light" in the sense that it is Light which conceals the True Spirit. This is the Spirit which we have called a "Fiery Darkness," and which is the substance of the Supernal Potential. This is THE HIGH PRIESTESS, in any version of the card, understood to be clothed in Light. This is the light before the Abyss above Tiphareth. It is a Light so brilliant that none may look upon it who have not become of the same nature.
What is required here is a re-thinking of the essence of Light. All religions stressing light are based on a Tiphareth Sun-God. These include Christ, Buddha, Apollo, Osiris, Ahurda-Mazda, etc. What is important is that, unlike organized religion, the Mysteries teach that Light does not reveal; it conceals by its very brilliance.
The Path of THE HIGH PRIESTESS, like the Moon itself, goes from the most brilliant light to the most intense darkness. Thus, the principles of the Moon and its deities, Diana-Artemis and Hecate, apply. Of course, one can choose from numerous variations on the same theme, appreciating that mythology grew out of social needs to a large extent. Thus, we find that Hecate, as described by Hesiod, was the original triple-goddess ruling heaven and earth. Later periods concentrated on her more unpleasant aspects as Goddess of the underworld, and the darker aspects of magic. She remained, nonetheless, associated with the Moon as Hecate-Selene, the "Far shooting Moon," an aspect of Artemis.251
Artemis, in one legend the sister of Apollo and daughter of Zeus, was the ^ringer of light and the eternal virgin.252 And as we find that THE HIGH PRIESTESS is called the "Princess of the Silver Star," we are also told that Artemis was known as the "Maiden of the Silver Bow." This suggests TEMPERANCE, the lower extension of THE HIGH PRIESTESS, which is Sagittarius, the Anch«'. Its arrow may fly heavenward, or deeply into the Earth.
Artemis was also the triple Moon Goddess. First she was the maiden, then the (orgiastic) Nymph, then the old crone.253 She was all the phases of woman at once. These aspects of the Moon are symbolized by the crown of the High Priestess in Waite's card: the full Moon is shown at the center, with the waxing and waning moon represented at either side.
One might well wonder how it is possible for Artemis to be at once eternal virgin and orgiastic Nymph, but that is the whole mystery of THE HIGH PRIESTESS. It is rather like the play Camino Real, by Tennessee Williams. Every month, by the light of a full moon, an old gypsy woman turns her prostitute daughter back into a virgin, which is, as she says, quite a trick.
The idea of THE HIGH PRIESTESS as the Uniting Intelligence, the reconciler of opposites, is represented by Waite as the two pillars, black and white, from the supposed Temple of Solomon. They symbolize the union of all polarities on this Path, of which the card number is 2. This is the number of reflection and duplication. And as we called upon the infinity symbol of Waite's MAGICIAN in discussing the Path of Samekh (TEMPERANCE), that figure also applies here on the upper extention of Samekh, the Path of Gimel. To restate our thesis: THE HIGH PRIESTESS acts on the First Matter of THE MAGICIAN and causes it to function in the pattern of the figure eight on its side. One cycle is opposed and duplicated, though the flow of energy is totally unified. The energy of THE MAGICIAN is held in a reciprocal, alternating, pattern by that which is called THE HIGH PRIESTESS. This holding, enclosing and duplicating function is the first female quality on the Tree.
In more contemporary terms, THE HIGH PRIESTESS is what Jung called the "virgin anima,"254 related to the "vrigin's milk," which he called the "Life giving power of the unconscious." The virgin's milk, which is alchemical symbolism is fed to the "Stone" as mother's milk is fed to a baby, is synonymous with the Water of THE HIGH PRIESTESS.
The Golden Dawn and Waite cards both suggest the dispersal of this Water from THE HIGH PRIESTESS. In the Golden Dawn version, the figure stands upon a Moon above waves ; in the Waite version, the robe of THE HIGH PRIESTESS seems to turn into water at its base. Crowley's card is more technical than the others in that it represents a very complicated set of wave forms. More than the others, his design captures the quality of the Path. Crowley states, in fact, that his card is "very peculiarly a glyph of the work of the A. A."255 In his BOTA course, Tarot Fundamentals, Case also attaches broad meaning to the card, which he explains as a summation of the seven Hermetic Principles of the Kybalion (discussed in our introduction).256
Case's BOTA card, a modification of Waite's HIGH PRIESTESS, is less evocative than that of the Golden Dawn or Crowley. On the other hand, Waite's symbolism is extremely precise. THE HIGH PRIESTESS is shown as the unifying agent between the two columns of the Temple; unification and balance being also represented by the cross on her breast, which Waite called a Solar Cross.257 Behind her is the veil of the Temple, covered with palms and pomegranates. Waite was not very explicit about the reason for this choice of plant forms, although Case says (rather unconvincingly) that the Palms are male, while the Pomegranates are female.258 Waite's comments, however incomplete, suggest another explanation. He says of THE HIGH PRIESTESS: ".. .she is really the Secret Church, the House which is of God and man."259 This implies that she represents all the inner tenets of religion. One might, therefore, suggest that the palm is a traditional Christian symbol representing the "triumph" of Christ on his entry into Jerusalem. The Pomegranate, on the other hand, is associated with the very ancient mysteries. It occurs frequently in the Old Testament, and was given special significance by the Eleusian Mysteries.260 It is therefore likely that Waite intended to convey the idea that THE HIGH PRIESTESS is the central core, the unifying factor in all faiths, especially Christianity and Judaism.
Other aspects of the Waite card are more certain, for example, the scroll on which appear the letters T O R A. This is the Scroll of the Law established by THE HIGH PRIESTESS. It is also intended to refer to a common, though simplistic, manipulation of the letters into T A R O and into ROTA, the latin word for wheel. This means that the Tarot is the Law as well as the very Wheel of Life. In this regard, it is seen that in the Golden Dawn deck the Scroll of the
Law is held by THE HIEROPHANT, who administers that which is proposed by Binah. A scroll in the hands of THE HIGH PRIESTESS does, however, point out that she is the repository of cosmic memory.
The Marseilles card is the least interesting of the four, with one exception, which is its very title, The Female Pope. The card is said to represent Pope Joan, described by Stephen de Bourbon in his thirteenth century work. As the story goes, a ninth century English girl fell in love with a monk. In order that they could live together, she dressed herself as a man. After the monk's death, she went to Rome and, retaining male dress, became a priest. Supposedly, she moved up through the ranks of the Church, became a Cardinal, and was finally elected Pope John VIII. She died on the steps of Saint Peter's giving birth.261 The story is mythical, but is important because it was widely believed during the period when the Tarot cards appeared.
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