□ MEANING: Fence, Enclosure
□ SIMPLE LETTER: Speech
□ ESOTERIC TITLE: The Child of the Powers of the Waters; the Lord of The Triumph of Light
THIRTY-TWO PATHS OF WISDOM: The Eighteenth Path is called the House of Influence (by the greatness of whose abundance the influx of good things upon created beings is increased), and from the midst of the investigation the arcana and hidden senses are drawn forth, which dwell in its shade and which cling to it, from the cause of all causes.
The Path of THE CHARIOT runs between Geburah (Strength) and Binah, the Great Mother on the Tree of Life. It is the highest and, thus, the most profound Path on the Pillar of Severity. It is also the third initiation in the series of HERMIT, STRENGTH and CHARIOT, meaning that it is an introductory experience to the Supreme Spiritual Self. It is an initiation across the Abyss, appreciating that once one crosses the Abyss, all of its crossing Paths are understood. The four Paths beside THE HIGH PRIESTESS are in toto, the experience of the "Garden of Eden," as will be understood by considering the
Element attached to each Path: THE CHARIOT is Watery (Cancer), THE LOVERS is Airy (Gemini), THE EMPEROR is Fiery (Aries) and THE HIEROPHANT is Earthy (Taurus). These are also the Four Rivers of Paradise, which flow together into Tiphareth from the Path of THE HIGH PRIESTESS.
THE CHARIOT represents a completion which Waite called a "conquest on all planes,"198 meaning that THE CHARIOT carries the influence of the Higher to all of the lower Planes. The Thirty-Two Paths of Wisdom describes this as the "House of Influence (by the greatness of whose abundance the influx of good things upon created things is increased). . ." Here the ancient text implies that through this Path one may discover the secrets of the hidden senses "which dwell in its shade," meaning the Supreme Darkness above the Abyss.
This card also represents the vision of Ezekiel,199 wherein the prophet described the appearance of "four living creatures." Each had four faces, that of a Man, a Lion, an Ox and an Eagle. Beside each of the creatures was a wheel, "like a wheel within a wheel," and as the creatures moved, so the wheels moved. Above the heads of these apparitions was "a vault glittering like a sheet of ice." Above the vault was a throne, and on the throne was a radiant figure. The implication is that the creatures (Elemental energies of the manifest Universe) are The Chariot.
Students of Jewish mysticism may be naturally curious about the roots of this card, since it is suggestive of one of the most important trends in early Jewish thought, that of the Merkabah. The Merkabah is the Chariot which carries the Throne.200
Of this trend, Gershom Scholem says: "The earliest Jewish mysticism is throne-mysticism. Its essence is not absorbed contemplation of God's true nature, but perception of his appearance on the throne as described by Ezekiel."201 He further states that while in the earliest days, writers spoke of the "ascent to the Merkabah," the later writers discussed enlightenment as the "descent to the Mercabah,"202 presumably meaning a journey into the depths of Self. One way or the other, there is the implication that the Chariot is stationary, as it is shown in the Waite, Crowley and Marseilles cards, an imagery supported by Case, who says that the number of the card, seven, is traditionally related to rest. This is a mystery, for while the Chariot moves continuously through the planes, it is at rest.
Of course, the fact that this card is a clear reference to Ezekiel does not mean that it is indisputably related to Merkabah thought. Ezekiel was a very popular figure in the west during the apparent period of the invention of Tarot, as the art attests. Yet if we are to suppose that the originators of the Tarot had even the slightest knowledge of Qabalah and Jewish metaphysics, we must assume that they were familiar with its oldest expression, Merkabah, and would not have used an image of a chariot casually. The intention here is not to attempt to answer this question, only to acknowledge that it exists and that it is one which may cut to the very core in defining what is modern and what is ancient in the system of Tarot.
Eliphas L6vi, who is something of a bridge between ancient and modern esotericism, made an interesting contribution in his design for THE CHARIOT
card. This was never a part of a L6vi deck, although Oswald Wirth incorporated most of Levi's ideas into his Tarot of 1889.
In the Ritual of Transcendental Magic, L6vi wrote of THE CHARIOT:
A CUBIC CHARIOT, with four pillars and an azure and starry drapery. In this chariot, between the four pillars, a victor crowned with a circle adorned with three radiant golden pentagrams. Upon his breast are three superimposed squares, on his shoulders the URIN and THUMMIM of the sovereign sacrificer, represented by two crescents of the moon in Gedulah [Chesed] and Geburah; in his hand is a sceptre surmounted by a globe, square and triangle: his attitude is proud and tranquil. A double sphinx or two sphinxes joined at the haunches are harnassed to the chariot; they are pulling in opposite directions, but are looking the same way. They are respectively black and white. On the square which forms the fore part of the chariot is the indian lingham surrounded by the flying sphere of the Egyptians.203
Waite followed L6vi closely, his only iconographic contribution being the addition of a river behind the chariot (reference to the Waters flowing from THE HIGH PRIESTESS and to the water sign, Cancer). He has also added a city which we may interpret to mean the "Heavenly Jerusalem," or the "City of God" above the Abyss. Thus THE CHARIOT is shown as intermediary. It is both the above and the below; it is perfect control on more than one plane of existence, while at the same time it protects the sanctity of the "Throne" by maintaining the necessary separation of those planes which it affects.
The relationship of Chariot to Throne is amplified by our knowledge that the angels of Binah are called (Aralim), Thrones, while those of Chokmah are called D'aaiN (Auphanim), Wheels. This is consistent with the idea of Binah as representative of all three Supernals, Binah, Chokmah and Kether. This is important insofar as the Throne is actually Kether (it is not of Kether, it is Kether).
There is no way in which these relationships can become comprehensible except through meditation, and the student should not feel discouraged if the words seem difficult. The really important point here is the relationship of the Divine Spirit to that which in some way contains It. The meaning of the Hebrew letter Cheth, attributed to the eighteenth Path, is fence or enclosure. The Chariot is a wheeled enclosure which holds the Spirit in its "movement" through all Planes. Two principles can be derived here: 1) First is the very idea that an enclosure is necessary, something external to the Self which carries that Self through various levels of the manifest Universe. 2) The idea that the vehicle serves a protective function, as the Book of Tokens says of Cheth:
I am the hedge of protection Enclosing the field of existence.
In this field thou dwellest.
And I am thy defense
Against the darkness which is without.
Yet is this hedge of safety Also a wall of limitation,
And the darkness against which it defendeth thee is the radiant Darkness of the Limitless Light, too brilliant for thine eyes.204
In interpreting this passage, Case refers to the Ain Soph "which is to us a darkness, because it transcends our earthly vision." He also relates this to the idea that "Osiris is a black God,"205 meaning that Osiris (a sacrificed God) was resurrected and then arose above the Light to a Darkness which is at the very pinnacle of the Supreme Spiritual Self in Kether. This experience of the Spiritual Self, pictured in THE CHARIOT, has also been described as the "Exaltation" of Alchemy, where the Alchemist becomes the Philosopher's stone.
Of the four versions of the card, Crowley's most strongly emphasizes the relationship of THE CHARIOT to the text of Ezekiel, with its "living creatures." His card expands on the dual Sphinxes proposed by L6vi, whereas the Golden Dawn follows the earlier design of the Marseilles deck in which the Chariot is drawn by two horses.
Crowley states that he was much influenced by Levi's card design, and since he also claimed to be Levi's reincarnation, he may have wanted to emphasize the development of "his" earlier work. He has, thus, taken Levi's dual Sphinxes and turned them into the Four Kerubiim, each of which has four sub-elements, as in the Tattvas. This is consistent with the biblical text which describes each of the Four Creatures as having four faces. Moreover, we have previously made the connection of the Sphinx with the Pentagram, which represents the Four Elements crowned by Spirit. The Pentagram, which represents the Four Elements crowned by Spirit. The Pentagram, as a five-pointed figure, is appropriate to Geburah, the lower end of this Path. Geburah is also symbolized in Crowley's card by the red wheels, meaning that its energy is the motive power of the Chariot.The complement of Gebruah, Chesed, is implicit here in the various uses of the Four. Chesed-Jupiter is important on this Path because it is the beginning of manifestation, in Microprospus, of the Four Elements which are the symbolic "support" for the heavens. In the cards of both Crowley and Waite, the Binah-canopy is supported by four pillars which are the Elements, and which are the iilfi> . These are also the four columns of the Tree of Life in a Solid Sphere (Plate II).
Above the golden armored figure in Crowley's card is a crab, symbol of the sign Cancer. Almost imperceptibly woven into the canopy, in a fine gold line, is the word "ABRACADABRA," an apparent pun on "ABRAHADABRA," a word which Crowley called "one of the most important Key numbers of the Liber Al... the word of the Aeon... the cypher of the Great Work." The value of this word corresponds to that of Cheth (mn) ; n =8, "> =10, n =400, adding to 418.206
One significant idea found in the Crowley and Golden Dawn cards is the implication of something martial, not unlike the Bhagavad Gita, where the pursuit of enlightenment is symbolized by warring factions which we understand to be within the seeker himself. Here, on the highest Path of the Pillar of Severity, the soul warrior of Geburah has reached a pinnacle. Crowley shows him with ten stars on his armor (representing Assiah-Matter) and seated in a position of sublime meditation. In his hands he holds the Holy Graal, a cup into which we look directly.
For their card, the Golden Dawn chose to represent Odin, God of war, usually shown riding through the sky. The attribute of Odin is appropriate insofar as he was also a god of spiritual development who, like THE CHARIOT, has been related to both the above and the below.207
The primary emphasis of the Golden Dawn card is on the control of the dualities in manifestation by the Supreme Spiritual Self. Here the black and white horses are commensurate with Levi's black and white Sphinxes, as well as with the black and white columns of the mysteries called Joachim and Boaz in the "Temple of Solomon." Between the two horses is an Eagle's head, the Kerubic symbol for Water. The Chariot itself is blue to suggest Chesed. The orange of the warrior's robe refers to Hod, the intellect. Thus, we are pointed toward THE MAGICIAN, the Path to which Mercury is attributed. Waite also referred to Hod by using an eight-pointed star on the crown of the Charioteer, personification of the Spiritual Self.
As was mentioned, the movement of THE CHARIOT conceals a mystery of great significance. In the Golden Dawn card it clearly descends from the sky, symbolizing the descent of the Holy Spirit into manifest creation ("the influx of good things upon created beings"). This is a much more simple iconography that is found in the cards of Crowley or Waite, and is reminiscent of the Chariot of the Sun. In Greek Mythology the Chariot of Helios, the Sun, moved daily across the sky pulled by four horses. The relationship of the Sun to THE CHARIOT card is of critical importance because the Chariot moves between the Light, centered in Tiphareth and the Supreme Darkness at the hidden side of Kether. In Waite's card this Chariot is a stone cube referring to the physical Universe, as well as to the Cube of Space, which Gareth Knight has called a construct within Tiphareth. This idea is amplified by Case's suggestion that while the Throne is Kether, the place of the Throne is Tiphareth.208
But another complexity must be introduced. Despite the fact that THE CHARIOT is related to the Sun, it is guided by the Moon! And, from the standpoint of the Tree of Life, and of the earliest Greek mythology, the Sun is subordinate to the Moon. The Chariot follows this order, for it is the sign Cancer, ruled by the Moon (and in which Jupiter is exalted). On the Tree of Life the Path leading from Tiphareth to Kether is the cardinal Path of the Moon and of Water, THE HIGH PRIESTESS. What takes precedence here is the Water (Pure consciousness) that the Moon represents. It may also be mentioned that in the symbolic pantheon of metals, silver at one time also took precedence over gold.
It was not until the period of Greek history when the Apollo myth began to take over from that of Helios as the Sun God, even coming to be represented as driving the Chariot of the Sun across the sky each day, that the Sun began to be considered of greater importance than the Moon.209
All of these symbols are, of course, deeply involved with the history of religions and with anthropology, which assigns occasionally contradictory meanings to a given symbol. The corrective is that the Tarot Keys represent truly universal archetypes, truths which remain immutable despite the limitations of the attempts to describe them.
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The pathology of the poet says that the undevout astronomer is mad the pathology of the very plain man says that the genius is mad and between these extremes, which stand for ten thousand analogous excesses, the sovereign reason takes the part of a moderator and does what it can. I do not think that there is a pathology of the occult dedications, but about their extravagances no one can question, and it is not less difficult than thankless to act as a moderator regarding them.