Friday, 20 July 2007

Meditations on the Tarot: The Empress

Now, you'd think that The Magician would be the symbol of magic, wouldn't you? Not according to the Unknown Friend.

The Empress is the arcanum of sacred magic. There are three kinds of magic: sacred magic, where the power is divine; personal magic, where the power comes from the operator; and sorcery, where the power comes from elemental or other "unconscious forces". All of these are about the principle that "the subtle rules the dense": force rules matter, consciousness rules force, and the superconscious or divine rules consciousness. These three rulerships are symbolized in the card of the Empress by, respectively, the eagle shield, the orbed sceptre, and the crown.

The crown, the divine authorization of magic, renders it legitimate. The sceptre is magical power, and the shield is its aim: "Liberation in order to ascend". The throne is the role of magic in the world.

Miracles and redemption require the union of the divine and the human - the incarnation, in some form (which is why the UF begins this letter with the words of Mary: "Behold the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word"). The double crown of the Empress symbolizes this union, when what is above and what is below are united, and the sacred magician happily serves both what is above (in uniting with the divine will) and what is below (in the act of magic for the sake of "liberation in order to ascend"). This is the result of contact with the divine (mysticism), followed by understanding of the divine purpose (gnosis), put into practice.

The union of wills is potential in the crown, but is actual in the sceptre, which is a union of two cups - one, topped with a cross, pointed downwards, and the other, supported by the staff, pointed upwards. The power of the cross, the Holy Blood, descends downwards and enters the human Grail; the divine presence enters the Eucharist.

The Empress's throne is the realm of Nature, longing for the liberation symbolized by the eagle shield. The back of it resembles wings; they are petrified and immobilized, but the promise is that they will again be liberated.

The verse John 16:6, "I am the way, the truth and the life", summarizes the first three Arcana: the true way or mystical spontaneity, the revealed truth or gnosis, and the transforming life or sacred magic.

The UF now goes into something of a digression on miracle ("the visible effect of an invisible cause, or the effect on a lower plane due to a cause on a higher plane"). In comparison with science, which aims ultimately to mechanize the intellect "in such a manner that it calculates the world instead of understanding it", and which in its practical aspect is the domination of nature by the principle of destruction and death, miracle is concerned with understanding, construction and life, "conscious participation with the constructive forces of the world on the basis of an alliance and a cordial communion with them".

The angel with the flaming sword, guarding the Tree of Life, is preventing humanity from "putting forth the hand and taking", the way of science. The sword is "a weapon of divine magic... a yes and not a no", for the fruit of the Tree of Life is destined for the worthy, but not for thieves. "The Tree of Life is the unity or synthesis of consciousness, force and matter... of mysticism, gnosis and magic." Separating out a part - magic - and making that a humanistic study is ultimately the course of death, and is the ancestor of science, because it concentrates only on visible nature and makes it mechanistic. "One has to demechanize in order to become a mage".

The UF's theme is coming out clearly: In unity, in union, in the understanding of and participation in the whole, in relationship and experience rather than intellectual understanding and analysis, is found life and redemption and divine magic.


Aisha Aakiya said...

This resonates so deeeeeply, especially right now. The Universe is helping me to understand this power. Who is the Unknown Friend?

Mike Reeves-McMillan said...

Hi, Aisha, I'll assume that wasn't a rhetorical question - the Unknown Friend is the anonymous author of the book Meditations on the Tarot, which I'm working gradually through (see my first post: The Magician). Actually he calls the reader "Unknown Friend", but it makes it easier to refer to him if I turn it round. I do know what his name is (and you can find it at Wikipedia if you search on "Meditations on the Tarot"), but he wanted to be anonymous for self-effacing reasons, and I respect that.