□ PATH COLOR: Emerald Green
□ RELATED SOUND: F-Sharp
□ DOUBLE LETTER: Wisdom-Folly
□ ESOTERIC TITLE: The Daughter of the Mighty Ones.
THIRTY-TWO PATHS OF WISDOM: The Fourteenth Path is the Illuminating Intelligence, and is so called because it is that Brilliant One which is the founder of the concealed and fundamental ideas of holiness and of their stages of preparation.
The Path of THE EMPRESS connects Binah and Chokmah. As such, it is the mediating Path of the Supreme Spiritual Self. It is the Path of unity of the Father and Mother, the Path on which their interaction occurs. In this regard, THE EMPRESS is called the "Daughter of the Mighty Ones."
As Chokmah has the potential to emanate the pure "female," so Binah has the potential for the creation of all life forms. Thus the Waite deck and others show the Empress pregnant, in a state of incubation and passivity which is the result of the merging of the energies of Chokmah and Binah. THE EMPRESS is the universal womb in which all manifestation is gestated. It is a transitional state of energy between the Above and Below which has been called the "Gate of Heaven."
Daleth means door. It is a door which effects a transition from One into many. In fact, the key to this card is multiplicity. While the robe of THE HIGH
PRIESTESS is ideally represented as simple and diaphanous, that of THE EMPRESS is appropriately covered with all the jewels of creation.
Of course, in this and in the three cards remaining, words are strictly metaphorical. In fact, at the level of the Supernal Triangle, the Tarot pictures themselves unconsciously communicate a great deal more about the forces involved than could any words. Yet even there we may be painfully aware of the inadequacies of our anthropomorphic symbolism in attempting to present a concept of pure fruition. To this end one might offer an analogy having to do with Netzach, the most dense level of the Venus energy. As an exercise, the student should try to conceive of pure emotion, that is feeling which has no subject and no object, which is neither love nor hate, but which is the raw material of both. That may convey something of THE EMPRESS who is the Great Mother of ideas, Mother Nature.
Almost every culture has some form of Earth Mother, or Mother of the Gods. And in almost every case, this maternal Goddess gives birth to an intermediate deity which directly rules the earth, such as Christ. Not infrequently, also, God the Son appears through a "virgin birth," although as Frazer observes, the idea of a miraculous birth probably comes down from a period when man had not yet recognized that children are the result of sexual activity.240 Thus, the Virgin Mary, the Christian version of God the Mother, may be related to the Empress after she is pregnant or has given birth to Christ. Before this, she is the High Priestess.
It is important to bear in mind that the Great Mother is inextricably linked with Earth, for in incarnation we function only in terms of Earth. All that is natural to the formation of life on earth is the province of THE EMPRESS. She builds life forms around the Spirit of Life, establishing laws of the Universe, having to do with formalization and restriction.
But beyond the idea of law, or formalization, which we have repeatedly stressed in terms of the Supernal female energy, there is another idea which must be stressed, that of love. THE EMPRESS who establishes the laws of Macroprosopus, and gives birth to Microprosopus, is also Venus-Aphrodite, Goddess of Love.
In the Thirty-Two Paths of Wisdom Daleth is called the Luminous Intelligence, as the Path of Chokmah is called the Illuminating Intelligence. The implication is that the brilliance of Chokmah illuminates all things as it passes through the doorway which is THE EMPRESS. "Luminous" has the meaning of being filled with Light, as well as emitting Light. Yet in this context it will be appreciated that Light, per se, is referred to manifestation below the Abyss. The illuminating qualities of Chokmah are the potential for the Light which is emanated by Binah, and which is Microprosopus, the Lesser Countenance. THE EMPRESS may aptly be called the Mother of Light. To pass through her on the Path of return is to enter the Supreme Darkness. One may pass through a door in either direction, which is one of the points to the card.
The dualities of the EMPRESS-doorway relate particularly to the Roman God Janus, always shown with two faces going in opposite directions.
Janus was the God of doorways (janua means door) who presided over communications (the passage of ideas) and who controlled the affairs of men. He was considered the God of Gods, Janus Pater who, like THE EMPRESS, oversaw creation. Ovid described him as chaos, within which life was latent.241 Originally, Janus was also a Solar deity, another parellel with THE EMPRESS, who is the Mother of the Sun. In fact, almost everything that can be said about Janus can be said about THE EMPRESS, despite the fact that the primary God form related to this Path is Venus-Aphrodite.
In Greek mythology Aphrodite rose naked from the foam of the sea, riding a scallop shell. Wherever she stepped onto the land, flowers grew.242 Thus, THE EMPRESS can be described in terms of luxurious proliferation, each facet of nature being so compelling, so beautiful, if not hypnotic, that it is possible to lose sight of the overview of the Path. As Crowley warns: "... the student who is dazzled by any given manifestation may be led astray. In no other card is it so necessary to disregard the parts and to concentrate upon the whole."243
While Aphrodite is usually called "Goddess of Love," she is also known as the "Goddess of Desire,"244 a title with special implications for students of the mysteries. Netzach is often called the center of desire, for to feel is to desire. But there is also a practical lesson in that desire is born with the most abstract principle of form. It is often stated in eastern literature that to lose all desire, i.e., to want nothing is to become truly one with the Universe. The coming to, or leaving of, desire, is one aspect of the doorway which is Daleth.
The symbol of Venus encompasses all of the Sephiroth on the Tree of Life (see Figure 17), another indication that the idea of love is the formative energy of the Universe. Here one should also consider the fact that the lower appearance of Venus is in a Sephira, and is thus objective. Netzach is a part of the Astral Triangle of Personality. But when the Venus energy appears in the highest realm of the Tree of Life, is it on a Path, i.e., it is subjective.
Three planetary forces find their objective expression as Sephira low (meaning density) on the Tree of Life, while their subjective expression, as Paths, are found at the opposite extreme. These are Hod-Mercury, THE MAGICIAN; Yesod-Moon, THE HIGH PRIESTESS; and Netzach-Venus, THE EMPRESS. Thus, the entire Astral Triangle of Sephiroth is expressed subjectively in relationship to the Supernal Triangle. There is a very profound mystery imbedded here.
Turning to the card images, we find that the Golden Dawn EMPRESS stresses ruling qualities more than do the Waite and Crowley designs. This is somewhat better symbolism than Waite's luxurious treatment in that it allows for the fact that the Empress can destroy as well as create. In the Mathers' card the outer robe is the green of Netzach-Venus, but inside is the dynamic and fiery red of Binah in Atziluth. For THE EMPRESS, growth and destruction are concurrent activities. In ourselves, for example, cells are constantly being born as old cells die. This is the process of growth, destruction and renewal. Thus does THE EMPRESS function in us, the Microcosm. To know the energies of this Path of Daleth, the door, is to understand and be able to manipulate the three-fold process. This is a process which reconciles opposites, as is shown by the Ankh Cross, a symbol of life combining male and female, held suggestively at the womb of the Empress. In the other hand she holds an orb of the Sun, meaning that she dominates the Heavens (The Orb and Cross of the Marseilles Tarot means domination of the Earth).
Like THE EMPEROR, The Golden Dawn EMPRESS is seated before a veil, meaning that to pass beyond her is to cross into a completely new level of consciousness where her laws no longer apply. The veil points to a dramatic separation.
No such separation is indicated in the Waite card which emphasizes the flow of life, THE EMPRESS in her phase of munificent fruition. She is Mother Earth and Mother Venus, carrying the planetary sign on her dress and on her shield. The heart shape of the latter is a rather trite way of showing that she is the Goddess of Love. Her pearls and the Cypress trees in the background are also sacred to Venus, while the foreground wheat refers to the figure as Isis. On her head is a crown of twelve stars, the same Zodiac found on THE FOOL. It is the crown of the Illuminating Intelligence (Chokmah/Sphere of the Zodiac). She is also intended to be understood as the woman of Revelation who is "Clothed with the Sun."
The real key to this card is the stream of crystalline pure water flowing downward at the right. This is the water from which Aphrodite is born, what is "activated," i.e., churned into foam, by the "will" of THE MAGICIAN. This is a continuous process whereby the pristine consciousness of THE HIGH PRIESTESS gives rise to the unconscious thought-patterns of THE EMPRESS. In the microcosm this means creative imagination, our own ability to create mental forms, to structure concepts. In the macrocosm this means the same structuring, but of the "pictures," which are general to the human race, rather than specific to the individual. In THE EMPRESS are thought forms which become more dense as they are expressed into manifestation, and are administred by the Sun-center of Tiphareth.
There is an important practical parallel here. God creates the Universe (continuously) by thought. We do the same thing. We create a reality by imagining it, by thinking it into being. All that we create in our minds becomes. This is one of the basic precepts of the Mysteries which is all too often misunderstood or approached with ridicule. At any event, as one grows in spiritual power, the implications of responsibility for what one thinks, are very profound.
In his card Crowley shows THE EMPRESS as representative of alchemical Salt, the inactive principle which is energized by alchemical Sulphur to "maintain the whirling equilibrium of the Universe."245 Here the figure is designed in the shape of the alchemical symbol, a circle with a line bisecting it horizontally. The twisted blue shapes represent flames, and her birth from water. She holds a chalice-like lotus, a living form of the Holy Grail. At her waist is the Zodiac; above her head are the birds of Venus, sparrow and dove; at her feet are the Pelikan who feeds her young with her own flesh (a common Christian symbolism of some interest in that the Great Mother gives birth to
God the Son, who is self-sacrificed) and a shield with the alchemical white eagle corresponding to the red eagle of THE EMPEROR.
To reiterate Crowley's alchemical references: THE MAGICIAN is Mercury, THE EMPRESS is Salt and THE EMPEROR is Sulphur. These attributions should be considered in terms of the attribution of the same symbols in the Golden Dawn documents. There Kether is Mercury, Chokmah is Salt, and Binah is Sulphur.246
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