With this post we continue a monthly chapter-by-chapter discussion of The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic by Eliphas Lévi, the book that launched the modern magical revival. Here and in the months ahead we’re plunging into the white-hot fires of creation where modern magic was born. If you’re just joining us now, I recommend reading the earlier posts in this sequence first; you can find them here. Either way, grab your tarot cards and hang on tight.
If you can read French, I strongly encourage you to get a copy of Lévi’s book in the original and follow along with that; it’s readily available for sale in Francophone countries, and can also be downloaded from Archive.org. If not, the English translation by me and Mark Mikituk is recommended; A.E. Waite’s translation, unhelpfully retitled Transcendental Magic, is second-rate at best—riddled with errors and burdened with Waite’s seething intellectual jealousy of Lévi—though you can use it after a fashion if it’s what you can get. Also recommended is a tarot deck using the French pattern: the Knapp-Hall deck (unfortunately out of print at the moment), the Wirth deck (available in several versions), or any of the Marseilles decks are suitable.
“Chapter 7: The Flaming Sword” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 83-87).
Lévi’s steady advance toward the practical dimensions of magic continues in this chapter, with an analysis of the core symbolism that was put to work by operative mages in the Renaissance. This symbolism unfolds from the seven planets of ancient astrology: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon. The true believers who are fond of calling themselves “skeptics” these days like to make fun of astrology for calling the Sun and Moon “planets,” but the joke’s on them. The Greek word planetes, “wanderers,” originally referred to every heavenly body that changes position visibly against the background of the fixed stars; scientists changed the definition and then engaged in a flurry of fingerpointing against older meanings of the word. (They did the same thing with the word “elements,” which meant fire, air, water, and earth more than two thousand years before the modern concept of chemical elements was invented.)
By the time Lévi wrote, two more planets—Uranus and Neptune—had been discovered, and a third recently discovered body—the dwarf planet Ceres—was in the process of being downgraded from planetary status, just as Pluto was in 2006. Astrology was in flux as astrologers put in overtime figuring out what influence the newly discovered worlds had on human lives. Lévi was not an astrologer, however, and the seven planets had been a core element of magical practice since Babylonian times, so he used it exactly as he received it; he says partway through the chapter, in fact, that his version of astrology is more invariable than astronomy. He’s not quite correct in claiming that the septenary is sacred in all theogonies (accounts of the creation of the gods) and all systems of symbolism, but given the limited knowledge the West in his time had about the rest of the world, he wasn’t too far off.
Typically, he was sensible enough to interpret the septenary in terms of numbers already discussed. That’s one of the great advantages of number symbolism: you can make sense of it by the basic operations of arithmetic. 3 + 4 = 7 in the language of symbolism isn’t simply a mathematical truism, it’s a statement of considerable importance. 3 is spiritual, 4 material; 3 is the soul, 4 the body; 3 is the Great Arcanum, 4 the elements that it transforms—and 7, the sum of these two numbers, is matter united with spirit, the soul infusing the body, the Great Arcanum transmuting the four elements. It is represented in Lévi’s vision by the seventh trump of the tarot. The charioteer and the two sphinxes provide the 3, the cubical chariot with its four pillars provides the 4, and the result is the sanctum regnum, the holy kingdom or spiritual mastery over the world.
In the symbolism of the Renaissance, everything imaginable was sorted out into seven categories. The seven virtues and vices, which Lévi tabulates in this chapter, are among the classic examples. One of the exercises given to students in occult schools was to write up all this symbolism in the form of a table, giving one column to each of the seven planets and then listing virtues, vices, angels, and the rest of it. It’s a valuable habit, because it helps impress the symbolism on the mind, and makes practical use of the symbols in magical work easier and more effective. If you plan on putting Lévi’s magic into practice, dear reader, I recommend that you make such a table, and add to it as you go.
The septenary also governs time. Lévi is his usual evasive self here, and doesn’t mention the standard sevenfold time pattern used in Renaissance magic—the seven days of the week and the planetary hours, which mesh together neatly. (You can find a good explanation of the system here.) This is what he’s talking about, or part of what he’s talking about, when he distinguishes between Cabalistic astrology and judicial astrology. “Judicial astrology” is the kind that is based on the actual positions of the planets in the heavens; Cabalistic astrology uses the symbolism of astrology but assigns the planetary influences to cycles of time on a different basis.
While he is careful not to mention the planetary hours, Lévi mentions two other sets of sevenfold time symbolism: the assignment of the seven ages of human life to the planets, which he outlines, and the seven planetary ages of Johannes Trithemius, which he does not. Trithemius’ system, given in detail in his book De Septem Secundies (On the Seven Secondaries), assigns the planetary angels to periods of 354 years 4 months each. The order is that of the days in the week, but in reverse: Saturn–> Venus–> Jupiter–> Mercury–> Mars–> Moon–> Sun. Lévi was only one of many occultists in his time who paid close attention to the scheme of Trithemius, because in that calculation the age of the Moon, under the rulership of Gabriel, was winding down around him, and was due to be replaced in the last months of 1879 by an age of the Sun under the rulership of Michael. That age is scheduled to last until 2234, in case you’re keeping track.
The Book of Revelations, the last and weirdest book of the Bible, is likewise full of sevenfold symbolism. Lévi isn’t the first, or even the hundred and first, to connect this with the planetary septenary, or to note the presence of the ternary, quaternary, and duodenary (that is, the numbers 3, 4, and 12) in equal profusion through John of Patmos’ extraordinary vision. Lévi also drops a hint which, as far as I know, hasn’t often been picked up. “the scenes which succeed one another are so many pentacles.” There are of course 22 chapters in the Book of Revelations, corresponding to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the 22 trumps of the tarot deck; what Lévi is suggesting here is that each chapter presents a vivid magical image which can be used, and which he thought were meant to be used, as themes for study, meditation, and spiritual and magical practice.
The cherub Lévi discusses a little further on requires a bit of commentary. The habit of portraying cherubim as chubby little naked boys with pigeons’ wings could only have arisen in a culture that had completely lost track of the reality of spiritual beings. The name “cherub” comes from Babylonian, where it’s pronounced karibu, and what it means in that language is one of those mighty winged human-headed bulls who guarded the gates of Babylon. To Lévi, this is the form of the cherubim who, with a flaming sword, guarded the gates of Eden as well. That same form is also a hint concerning the Great Arcanum: the karibu has four legs, two wings, and three pairs of horns on its crown.
Another hint is given in the divine name אראריתא, Ararita. That’s an acronym—yes, Cabalists were using those long before corporations got to them. It’s the initial letters of the words of a Hebrew sentence that means “One is His beginning, one is His individuality, His permutations are one.” It’s used as a word of power in many magical rituals relating to the planetary septenary.
Lévi says cryptically that Ararita is a translation of the Tetragrammaton, and he’s right, in a typically subtle sense. The name Ararita has four letters, but A appears three times and R twice to make a total of seven. The four letters are of course RITA, and if you notice the similarity to ROTA = TARO, you’re getting good at picking up Lévi’s hints. (There may also be a reference here to the Sanskrit word ṛta, pronounced more or less “rita,” which appears in the Vedas and means the order of the cosmos; the English word “rite,” as in ritual, comes from the same archaic Indo-European root.)
What our text is suggesting here is that tthe sevenfold planetary order—the Seven Secondaries, as Trithemius called them—expresses and manifests the threefold and fourfold primary order of being expressed in the Tetragrammaton. As Lévi also says, however, the septenary contains all the elements of the Great Arcanum but carefully avoids giving the final word that would allow the Arcanum to be understood and mastered. Since mastery of the Great Arcanum gives the closest human approximation to omnipotence, and our species is not exactly known for its capacity to handle power gracefully, this is doubtless just as well.
There follows a flurry of other septenary symbols to add to your table of planetary correspondences; Lévi is merciful to his readers and gives each of these lists in the same odd planetary order he gives elsewhere in this chapter: Sun, Moon, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn. He includes a collection of animals associated with the planets, and explains that the body parts of these animals are common ingredients in spells. He’s correct that this was done routinely in Renaissance magic, but I don’t know of any magical school that teaches this now. It’s as unnecessary as it is inhumane: you can get equally good results using the herbs, woods, and resins of the planets, and the process is a good deal more sanitary and less cruel.
He rounds out the chapter by giving a set of images that are used in talismans of the seven planets. What is a talisman? In modern magical jargon, it’s an object that has been charged with a particular magical influence in order to accomplish some specific magical intention. In magic as in anything else, a single effort can sometimes do what needs to be done, but fairly often you need to apply sustained pressure over days, weeks, or months to achieve your goal. Talismans are among the standard occult tools for applying that pressure. A talisman is charged up like a battery, and then just keeps on going like the bunny in the advertisement, providing a steady gentle pressure in the direction of your goal.
The planetary septenary is especially useful in this context because, as Lévi points out, “the seven planets, in fact, are none other than hieroglyphic symbols of the keyboard of our emotions.” To make and consecrate a talisman, he goes on to say, is “to magnetically attach one’s will to signs which correspond to the principal powers of the soul.” If you want to push your consciousness in a particular direction—to play, in Lévi’s metaphor, one of the keys of your inner keyboard—using the slow steady pressure that yields lasting results, talismans are a classic way to do it.
Just remember that the planetary influences, like every other magical force, have their downsides as well as their upsides; the listing of virtues and vices are a good basic guide to these. Invoke Mars for strength and you’re going to have to make a sustained effort not to give way to anger; invoke Venus for the unconditional love the old books call “charity” and you’re going to have to rein in your sexual cravings, and so on. As with all things, power lies in equilibrium; invoke the magical forces of the planets and you may have to work harder to achieve that.
Talismans in older times were generally made from precious stones or pure metals, both of which were much easier to come by in the days when the human population was smaller, fewer mineral deposits had been mined out, and the wear and tear of history hadn’t entombed so much of them in burials, ruined cities, sunken ships, and the like. Since each precious stone and each metal corresponds to one of the seven planets, making your talisman of such a substance makes the work easier, since the influence o fthe material substance (symbolically, the number 4) can be added to the influence of the spiritual force you invoke (symbolically, the number 3) to give you the omnipotent number 7.
More generally, talismans should resonate with the influence that will be called into them. That’s why a planetary talisman is traditionally made of a substance that corresponds to the planet whose influence will be invoked into them, and that’s also why certain specific images, symbols, shapes, and names are written, painted, or carved on them.The closer the match and the more extensive the symbolism, the more effectively the talisman can receive the influence that empowers it, and the more effective the talisman will be in carrying out the intention placed in it. That’s why gemstones and pure metals were used back in the day, and why some ancient talismans are works of art.
Nowadays, though the cheaper metals are still very much an option—you can get copper and tin in some hardware stores for your talismans of Venus and Jupiter—there are other ways to go about making a talisman. One that’s become quite popular is to get the kind of paper that’s made for watercolor painting, cut out a circular talisman, paint it with a strong herb tea made from herbs of the planet you’re going to invoke, let it dry, and then draw the design on the paper with colored pencils. Another is to borrow a trick from old-fashioned southern conjure and make a mojo bag: get or make a small flat cloth bag of the traditional color of the planet, paint the image of the talisman on the cloth with fabric paints or embroider it with colored thread, and put in herbs, stones, and other material substances corresponding to the planetary energy. Either of these approaches will be found effective and affordable.
The specific designs for talismans of the seven planets Lévi gives are traditional and powerful, but they’re far from the only game in town. If you go looking in Renaissance magical literature, you’ll find many other suitable designs for talismans, and Lévi is generous enough to point you to another good source of these: the tarot deck. He notes that the image of Trump V, Le Pape, is a suitable talismanic image for Jupiter. Exactly which cards to use for the planets was a matter of some debate in the later French occult scene, as Lévi never did explain the rest; for that matter, not everyone agreed with him about Trump V. I’m partial to the Sâr Peladan’s scheme: Magician = Sun, Priestess = Moon, Empress = Venus, Emperor = Mars, Hierophant = Mercury, Lover = Jupiter, and Chariot = Saturn. Of course your mileage may vary.
Inevitably Lévi winds up this important and revealing chapter with an enigma. To understand this chapter, he notes in the final paragraph, it’s useful to review what is written in Chapters 1, 3, and 4. He’s quite correct. Doing so may not enable you to understand the Great Arcanum, but that’s not the only game in town. The septenary of the planets is a lesser arcanum, with its own power. It contains, as our text says, all the elements of the Great Arcanum; even without the final word of that tremendous secret, it has considerable effect. The method of consecrating talismans, uniting the spiritual 3 with the material 4, is given in the second half of the book. What you’ve received here is however a crucial body of information: the knowledge that will enable you to choose an appropriate material anchor for the vortex in the Astral Light your magical working will create.
Notes for Study and Practice:
It’s quite possible to get a great deal out of The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic by the simple expedient of reading each chapter several times and thinking at length about the ideas and imagery that Lévi presents. For those who want to push things a little further, however, meditation is a classic tool for doing so.
The method of meditation I am teaching as we read Lévi is one that is implicit in his text, and was developed in various ways by later occultists following in his footsteps. It is a simple and very safe method, suitable for complete beginners but not without benefits for more experienced practitioners. It will take you five minutes a day. Its requirements are a comfortable chair, your copy of Lévi’s book, and a tarot deck of one of the varieties discussed earlier.
For your work on this chapter, take Trump VII, Le Chariot, “The Chariot.” Your first task is to study it and get familiar with the imagery. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. Spend five minutes doing this on the first day you devote to this practice.
Your second task is to associate a letter with it. Lévi gives you two options, the Hebrew letter ז (Zayin) or the Latin letter G. As noted earlier, you should choose one alphabet and stick to it. The sound values aren’t of any importance here, nor is there a “right” choice. You’re assigning labels to a mental filing cabinet. Most people can make the necessary association quite promptly, but spend a session exploring it. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. Relate it to the letter in any way that comes to mind.
The third and fourth sessions are devoted to the two titles Lévi gives for the card: Netzach and Gladius. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. How does Netzach, Victory, relate to the imagery on the card and the letter you’ve chosen? That’s one session. How about Gladius, “sword”? That’s the next one. Once again, you’ll have to choose a third word for this chapter, and that word is the theme of the fifth session. Approach it in the same way.
Don’t worry about getting the wrong answer. There are no wrong answers in meditation. Your goal is to learn how to work with certain capacities of will and imagination most people never develop. Stray thoughts, strange fancies, and whimsical notions do this as well as anything.
Sessions six through the end of the month are done exactly the same way, except that you take the concepts from the chapter. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. Then open the book to Chapter 7 of the Doctrine and find something in it that interests you. Spend five minutes figuring out how it relates to the imagery on the card, the letter, and the three titles. Do the same thing with a different passage the next day, and the day after, and so on.
Don’t worry about where this is going. Unless you’ve already done this kind of practice, the goal won’t make any kind of sense to you. Just do the practice. You’ll find, if you stick with it, that over time the card you’re working on takes on a curious quality I can only call conceptual three-dimensionality: a depth is present that was not there before, a depth of meaning and ideation. It can be very subtle or very loud, or anything in between. Don’t sense it? Don’t worry. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. Do the practice and see where it takes you.
We’ll be going on to “Chapter 8: Realization” on January 12, 2022. See you then!
Thank you Mr Greer. Is there a missing link where it states: (You can find a good explanation of the system here)?
You note that a lot of things were classified in lists of seven: I’ll add that in two cases that I’d expect to be very familiar to many of Levi’s readers, those were 3 spiritual and 4 physical: the seven deadly sins (3 spiritual and 4 corporal), the seven virtues (3 spiritual and 4 cardinal).
Thank you! I’m still formulating a lot of thoughts, I’ve been thinking a lot about binaries over the last few days, so I’ve been looking back at particularly the second and third chapters, and I’m on the cusp, I hope, of deriving some more practical insights on these topics.
And I keep thinking there must be a connection between the Sphinx’s riddle, the Theban plays, the Grail legend and the asking of the right questions. There’s something there, but I don’t know what yet. A copy of Perceval sits on my bookshelf and seems to taunt me because I haven’t read it yet.
In any case, looking forward to re-reading Chapter 7 with your post in mind.
Hi John Michael,
My apologies if this question has been asked before, but can you comment on Levi’s connection to things Jewish and Hebrew? He was working for the Cathilic Church early in his career. He took the name Levi as an adult, with all its Jewish weight. He has a good familiarity with Hebrew. Did he start out Jewish?
Taking the letter zayin for meditation has a different connotation in casual modern Hebrew. Zayin means, um, “dick”, to the point where calling someone zayin is swearing at them. Unlikely to to have been so at the time of Levi’s wrting.
I’m seeing a similarity between the image on the cover of The Way of the Golden Section and the number seven, and how that image relates to the squaring of the circle, and how that relates to some of what has been discussed in previous chapters. I’ll be continuing to meditate on all this…
…also delighted to see the book club material will work well with the Golden Section work.
Regarding the animal parts and other comments regarding substitutes in talismans (and in all correspondences): to what degree, if at all, is an initiate or group of initiates able to “impute” these correspondences, at a practical level? (On a conceptual level, given that all things are participants, all these are effectively discovered rather than created.) Phrased differently, how much of these correspondences are found vs. imputed (if any)?
Dan, there is indeed. I’ve fixed it; reload the page and you’ll find the link.
SamChevre, an excellent point!
Jbucks, excellent. I’m a little surprised Lévi didn’t discuss the Grail legend at length.
Raphanus, no, Lévi wasn’t Jewish. The magical system he was taught by Wronski came from Judaism by way of Frankists who converted from Judaism to Christianity in the 18th century, and had a lot of Hebrew in it. He took the name “Eliphas Lévi” because that’s the Hebrew equivalent of his first and middle names, Alphonse Louis. As for zayin, funny! I certainly never encountered that in my Cabalistic readings.
Justin, heh heh heh. There are 11 intersections of the circle, square, and triangle in the outer emblem of the Golden Section Fellowship, and 3 x 11 is 33, the number of cards in the Sacred Geometry Oracle. As for this book and The Way of the Golden Section, of course!
Fra’ Lupo, some correspondences are imputed, i.e., arbitrary. Others are found. Most are in the gray space in between — somebody comes up with them, but they fit closely enough that maybe the connection was there all along!
Slight nitpick It’s the Book of Revelation (apokalypsis, “unveiling” or “disclosure”), not “Revelations” (plural).
In my experience, the Chariot often means stubborn determination to act even to the point of blindness…I’ll be very interested in what others have seen about this card…
It’s another Wednesday, and while we talk about magic here on Ecosophia, we’ve got a new blog post on the Green Wizards website.
The word all over the news articles and social media the last few weeks is one those of us here will recognize, that is “Collapse”. If you don’t know, we’re in one and its coming for us all! That is unless you’re a reader of this blog, and of John’s work on The Archdruid Report. Then maybe you aren’t that worried.
We take a few minutes to look at why none of us should be freaking out in “Not “THE” Collapse, But Just “A” Collapse”.
Forum posts this week of interest:
First, the post from last week in the Green Wizard Story Circle, “Enter The Villain Of Our Story…” has generated a brisk discussion of Victorian society in general and Jane Austen in particular. It also asks the question of everyone, “What makes a great villain?”. Come give us your opinion, be you author or reader.
Second we highlight an unexpected disruption caused by the Employer/Employee dynamic of late, and how it is negatively affecting essential emergency medical services and fire protection in rural areas in this post, “Essential Emergency Services In The Long Descent”. EMS services are closing, wait times are rising, and people are worrying. We ask, what disruptions have you seen. Please post, especially if you are a medical services or fire department worker.
And finally long time commenter here and past Green Wizard guest blogger, Justin Patrick Moore, posts a heads up on the book “Durable Trades: family-centered economies that have stood the test of time” by Rory Groves in THIS POST. The book talks about what kind of businesses and services may do well in the Long Descent. Get a heads up now, maybe you can be the next titan of business in a Retrotopian future.
As always, reading the Green Wizard forums and blog posts is public, though you’ll need an account to comment. Contact me either on Facebook Messenger at (https://www.facebook.com/david.trammel.545/) or via email (green wizard dtrammel at gmail dot com).
Is the red bag amulet with salt, hot pepper, and a bent nail technically an amulet of Mars? I have been making mine on Tuesdays during Mars hour, at any rate.
My initial thoughts on this card are making a lot of sense to me, but Lévi seemed to give a lot away, even on the first page. That being said, I’m sure there’s a lot here to unpack still.
I’d like to fish for some hints about the Tarot and the Tree of Life associations that I’ve been mulling over for awhile but don’t have much to show for. There seems to be an evolutionary journey going on from cards 1-22 in ascending order. I don’t quite understand 100% what cards 1, 2, and 3, 4 mean on that journey but I definitely see an evolution from 5 onward. But, the associations to the Tree of Life move down the paths from Kether – Malkuth. Lévi also stops his Tree of Life associations after the first 10 cards. There’s clearly something hidden in plain sight in this difference in directions, but I haven’t figured it out. Obviously a subject for meditation, but I’d figure I’d fish for hints from JMG and the commentariat.
Is there a new DRHM post already? I got so into chapter 6 that it felt like there were a couple more weeks to study. Not complaining. It’s like a good movie that you know you can go back and enjoy more than once.
While it would upset the seven structure, has anyone added planetary talismans for Uranus and Neptune?
For speakers of modern Hebrew, at least, meditation has entered a new phase! 😄
Clearly the most important question is why Oscar Wilde is helping pull the chariot on p397. 🙂
@Kimberly Steele – I was thinking that this noon, when I was starting to feel impatient and testy. I’m down with some minor digestive problems and am taking it easy today but wore the amulet to give me strength. I’ve noticed that when I wear it, I tend to go full-strength (and pay for it the next day!) exactly as I do every Tuesday, since I do my candles & incense but the planetary associations of the days of the week. So I’d say, yes, indeed.
Took it off and tucked it under my pillow before my much-needed nap.
Caveat – Wrestling with the very user-unfriendly checkout site and delivery dates – not provided until you do check out! of one store; and then trying to find matching gifts for twins and their sister in their favorite colors on another site, would try my patience even without Martian energy. It doesn’t help to have the executive functions of a brain-fogged 8-year-old with inclement weather throwing everybody off. And trying to keep them all of similar quality and price, because I know how kids compare these things. I had a sister myself.
Bei, so noted.
Kimberly, good! It doesn’t come from the traditions of planetary magic, but yes, that’s its correspondence among the planets.
Youngelephant, how to relate the tarot to the Tree of Life has been an ongoing source of puzzlement and more than occasional squabbles since about a week after Lévi’s book saw print. There are many ways to do it, and — well, as Kipling wrote, “There are nine and sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, and every single one of them is right.”
Aloysius, yep! You can spend a lot more than a month on any of these chapters.
Chris, there’s been some work in that direction, but none of the proposals have caught on.
Yorkshire, funny! I’m trying to figure out the identity of the Jamaican gentleman who’s glaring at him.
I found The Qabalistic Tarot by Robert Wang to be very valuable in understanding that. It was the 3 dimensional Tree on the cover, and looking through it that was an “Ah HA! !!” moment. This was back in 1983, when such books were only found in “New Age” bookshops 🙂
It’s still available. Even online Take a look
Ch. 7 – The Chariot
Words: Netzach ‘Victory’ – Gladius ‘Sword’
Card No. 7
1) This is a Young Yang card (so I call him that) thus needs less surrounding favorable conditions or less obvious favorable conditions to get an action accomplished because the needed favorable condition for accomplishment is from within. Young Yang is The Emperor No. 4 card in action. But this is not purposeless moving. The Emperor is a no-nonsense card. He is the supreme administrator but when he steps forth to take supreme command he manifests as The Chariot.
2) The triangle above Young Yang is indicating why he will be hard to defeat. The shape with the greatest strength with the least number of sides is the triangle. Young Yang Emperor has that as the form of his force – strength with economy of movement = focus. Thus it is not only indicating force but also the golden mean – nothing in excess – balance. Everything that is needed to accomplish a goal is being used but anything else is left by the wayside.
3) He holds the scepter in his right hand – the hand of Pingala, the nadi of action (the Sun, ‘Ha’) . So he is Master of the action taken. The hand of Ida, the nadi of consciousness (the Moon, ‘tha’) is touching the chariot to communicate his will. It also makes sure everything is grounded. Sun (Pingala) and Moon (Ida) meet on Earth. He is Master of both Body and Mind. A ternary above meets with the tetrad below (see point 4).
4) This card also shows Young Yang Emperor is Master of beings that embody two of the most widely disparate elements of the four noticeable of our universe – Earth and Air. A solidly build ‘earthy’ lionine body with the head of humans – the one species on the planet that has taken the path of Udana vayu’s (wind/air) power to grant speech, communication and oratory to a superb level for any earth species. That the two Cherubim sitting stable on all four limbs (tetrad) are female is a sign their nature is Shekinah, the Force of the universe but it is the consciousness of Young Yang Emperor that provides the guidance. Yet consciousness without Shekinah’s power cannot act and inaction is not what The Chariot is about.
The ternary above meets with the tetrad below. Seven manifest.
5) In reverse Young Yang is as powerful as he is upright but that power becomes destructive. In some rare instances this may actually be a surprise benefit but usually it just indicates something has gone off-course. Since the mastery comes from within the off-course part almost certainly originates there too. It could also be a sign that Young Yang is deluding himself into thinking he’s mastered Body and Mind but the outcome is proving otherwise.
Still have to go back into the text again and start keying it specific passages. But the above is what I have so far. Sorry if I have too many Dharma references. For many years my schema used has always been the Wheel of the Dharma rather than the Tree of Life. It will be fun learning a new way of seeing things and see where one schemata may enliven or even dispute with the other.
This is a great card! This card is about Yoga! This is a card about Supreme Self-Mastery made manifest when in the upright position in a spread. Get onboard with the Chariot or get out of its way!
The Chariot has a canopy so the charioteer is the only person on the cards who’s outside and still has some shelter from the elements. He’s also the only one who doesn’t have to walk.
Hi John Michael,
The number four also just happens to be the mid point of the septenary.
I’ll tell you a funny story. I have to walk in two different worlds, and so have deliberately chosen to work three paid days in my profession, and three unpaid days on the farm. The other remaining day of the week is for rest. For me, I found long term balance in that arrangement, although the economics of the situation incurs considerable personal and social loss, but no matter.
Mate, there is something really weird about those two female sphinxes. And where is the princes left arm? And being blessed with a practical nature, I do wonder how that shield is attached to the chariot. You have to admit, that it appears to be quite useless as a practical defence in the locale to which it is hung in the picture.
I read your comment about Tarot and Tree of Life associations and then Llewellyn included a link to “A Beginner’s Guide to Qabalistic Tarot” in their newsletter (https://www.llewellyn.com/journal/article/2971). Seemed like one of those synchronicities I was supposed to share.
Oooo, thank you for the book recommendation. If anyone else wants to read it, it is on Archive.org (https://ia601903.us.archive.org/9/items/RobertWang-TheQabalisticTarot-1983/WangRobert-TheQabalisticTarot-1983.pdf).
@youngelephant: To JMG’s point that “there are many ways to do it”, Frater Achad wrote an interesting book called The Egyptian Revival that arranged the tarot trumps to the paths in a completely different order than the usual. His system has its merits.
~.:.~ ~.:.~ ~.:.~
Here is an excellent song by Beachouse called Chariot for those who care to give it a listen:
“Just remember that the planetary influences, like every other magical force, have their downsides as well as their upsides; the listing of virtues and vices are a good basic guide to these. ”
One thing that struck me when re-reading this chapter was that Levi is presenting a set of 7 binaries when he discusses the virtues and the vices, and your point later in the same paragraph I quoted above hints at the ternary (the equilibrium).
After reviewing chapters 1, 3, and 4, it’s a bit clearer now to me when thinking about equilibrium: yes, the unary is an equilibrium and it goes nowhere as it already is everywhere, but the ternary is also an equilibrium, through the usage of the common link between two opposites. It’s an equilibrium that is going somewhere, that is, to the quaternary. As soon as a ternary manifests, it becomes the quaternary and thus appears in the physical world. Yet the ternary that informs it is still present as a constantly manifesting force through time, hence perhaps the septenary. Still thinking about it all.
But Levi must have been aware of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and that virtues are midpoints between two extremes (one particular type of ternary). So it appears he’s hinting that the usage of talismans comes with the dangers of enantiodromia if one hasn’t learned the lessons of the ternary.
To clarify my last paragraph, as I didn’t make the link explicit: the mechanism by which, for example, you invoking strength means that you’re in danger of becoming wrathful, is perhaps the snake eating its own tail; that image which Levi often uses, a way of showing how one quality, taken to extreme, becomes its opposite.
I’ve certainly had the experience of going in the other direction: becoming wrathful, and thereby also becoming strong!
Chris at Fernglade #22, the shield isn’t part of the chariot – most Knapp-Hall cards have a crest on them seperate from the main image. The charioteer’s left arm is bent and he’s holding the staff at shoulder height. And if you think those sphinxes are weird have a look at the Wirth http://vampiretarot.com/tarot/oswald_wirth/large/the_chariot.jpg and Universal Wirth http://vampiretarot.com/tarot/universal_wirth/large/the_chariot.jpg decks.
Some random associations on The Chariot:
Bhagavad Gita: Krishna is the charioteer whom Arjuna consults on the battlefield.
Plato (Phaedrus) – allegory of the charioteer: “Let us adopt this method and compare the soul to a winged charioteer and his team acting together. Now all the horses and charioteers of the gods are good and come of good stock, but in other beings there is a mixture of good and bad.”
Prudence was sometimes called “the chariot of the virtues,” Auriga virtutum, self-discipline by reason; moderation.
There is a constellation called Auriga (charioteer), located between Gemini and Taurus, visible in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months. Detailed and interesting mythological discussion here:
“The charioteer is the soul-guiding function.” – C. G. Jung, Children’s Dreams Seminar, 1938/39
The charioteer seems both masculine and feminine in the Knapp/Hall tarot. There are no visible reins. The two animals are, as noted above by @Chris at Fernglade Farm, very strange. They are neither human nor divine, nor of the earthly realm. They’re quite small in comparison to the charioteer and the wheels of the chariot. They have human breasts and faces. Their bodies resemble dwarf lions or large dogs. (“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas any more!”)
My current perspective is that this card represents a vehicle for movement on the astral plane. The higher self directs and controls the two opposing forces, yoked in harmony.
Panda, a good thorough meditation! By all means use Dharma references and symbolism if that works for you — again, there are no wrong answers in meiditation.
Yorkshire, good, but there are at least two others who don’t have to walk — Temperance and the Devil both have wings, and therefore can fly…
Chris, I have yet to see a good set of sphinxes on Trump VII, though Pamela Coleman Smith gave it a good hard try. Lévi’s sphinxes were, ahem, odd…
As for the shield, check the other cards in the Knapp-Hall deck — they’ve all got shields hovering on them, containing emblems.
Jbucks, excellent! You’ve been paying very close attention, I see. 🙂
Goldenhawk, good. These are all useful fodder for meditations on this card (and this chapter).
On Ask the Cards the Knapp-Hall version of ‘The Foolish Man’ doesn’t have a shield – http://askthecards.info/tarot_card_decks/knapp-hall_revised_new_art_tarot_reading.shtml. Why is that one an exception?
Ooh, that is why you say that magicians by doing daily banishings they become walking talismans, the anchor is the human body! Pretty good material. And thus, by more extensive magic they speak a word of a new Aeon.
The astral is more fluid than the material right. What happens to the vortex and the chain of events created by a talisman once you want it’s effects to stop and you burn it? Does it dissipate? I understand astral forms are more fluid and gaseous.
Is this also why it’s a good idea to take the first opportunity after a magical working? Since it anchors it in the material plane then you’ve closed the circuit and the opportunity itself becomes somewhat of a talisman that keeps moving in that direction.
Goldenhawk (no. 28), in Judaism, God himself is imagined riding a throne-chariot. And Shakyamuni Buddha’s “wheel of dharma” uses the image of a chariot wheel. I think the takeaway from all this is that chariots were really important Bronze Age devices.
Besides Krishna, Karna (an ally of the Kauravas in the Mahabharata–think Hector) was raised by parents from the charioteer caste, although his real parents were Kunti (mother of the Pandavas) and the sun-god Surya. Due to the prominence of chariots and charioteers in the epic, I have seen in theorized that the Mahabharata was composed by and for members of this profession. A number of Indian temples are shaped like ancient chariots, e.g.:
On the shields, without color it’s not possible to suggest a blazon.(*) But alchemical art is known for freely borrowing devices from heraldry, as well as other sources of symbolism.
(*) In heraldry, the arms inhere not in a particular shield, or depiction of a shield (escutcheon), but in the formulaic written instructions to the artist (the blazon). Different artists may well depict items to be drawn on the shield (the charges) in different ways, using their own styles, and this is considered part of the art.
For my meditation today, I worked on what my ‘word’ would be for this chapter. I had a hard time picking one word; I finally settled on two (since there has been a lot of discussion of viewing seven as a sum of two numbers). The number four is for ‘guard’, since that is what the sphinxes do. The number three is for ‘guide’, since embracing the equilibrium of the ternary leads us towards the Divine.
Thanks to everyone for all their posts. Now I’ve got all sorts of ideas running around in my head. 🙂
You had mentioned that you thought perhaps the Grail fit in with all this. I was skimming through Hall’s ‘The Secret Teachings of All Ages’ (looking for something else) and found this:
“Like the sapphire Schethiyâ, the Lapis Exilis, crown jewel of the Archangel Lucifer, fell from heaven. Michael, archangel of the sun and the Hidden God of Israel, at the head of the angelic hosts swooped down upon Lucifer and his legions of rebellious spirits. During the conflict, Michael with his flaming sword struck the flashing Lapis Exilis from the coronet of his adversary, and the green stone fell through all the celestial rings into the dark and immeasurable Abyss. Out of Lucifer’s radiant gem was fashioned the Sangreal, or Holy Grail, from which Christ is said to have drunk at the Last Supper.”
It is possible you already knew this, but it was new to me… Michael’s flaming sword knocking a sapphire (Sephorah?) from Lucifer’s coronet? (Lucifer… Tree of Knowledge… Daath, the hidden Sephorah of Knowledge???) Hall had several paragraphs more about the Grail, but that wasn’t what I was looking for, so I haven’t read it all (yet).
But maybe it ties in with what you were thinking?
I think I’ve read chapter one four times now and only in the last reading did I realize that, because each chapter number indicates the quality of the number, the first chapter was using “the word” as the unary. I kept asking myself, what the heck is “the word?” First it’s one thing, then another. Only now am I getting a sense of what he’s talking about. Heavy stuff!
Thanks for the additional resources. That Konark Sun Temple is awe-inspiring!
On the Knapp-Hall deck, the ternary is emblazoned like three flames on the canopy. Directly below it is a crown with three points and so a connection is implied there.
The charioteer holds two scepters that are held much the same was as the Empress and Emperor hold theirs. The Empress holds hers slightly bent. But the charioteer holds them in the hands opposite of the emperor and empress. I see a lot of reversals like that in all of the cards, perhaps reminding me not to get too fixed on the ideas.
The five stars on the canopy are confusing. I thought there would be seven stars on each side. And there are, if you consider that two of the stars have descended onto the cube, making the two pillars (two on each side) of support for the canopy. Maybe the deck is hinting at this with the seven stars in the shield–which means the shield is an important hint for each card that I haven’t been looking at hard enough.
Do the 8 spokes of the wheels imply the Buddhist eightfold path? Maybe that’s a similar idea to the Western idea of the septuanary?
All in all, I think it’s saying that the ternary and quaternary are linked, and to look at only one of the two numbers without including the other is not a good idea.
At first I thought that this card didn’t have as much symbolism as the others. How wrong I was.
Levi refers to the charioteer not as a mage, but a sage. A sage has wisdom and understanding, so I think the charioteer is the Microprosopus. He is behind Jachin and Boaz, so he is within the Temple. Levi also refers to the charioteer as the “crowned warrior”. Zayin is viewed as a “crowned Vav”. (https://hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Aleph-Bet/Zayin/zayin.html) Yod and Heh make Vau (or Vav). Vau is made of two triangles (a hexagram), which relates to six. Six plus one (second Heh) makes seven and manifestation.
Ezekiel’s Wheel has eight spokes, as do the wheels on The Chariot. The spokes can represent YHVH or INRI or TARO; all relate to creation/manifestation as a cyclic process. Levi previously referred to the Sphinx as Ezekiel’s Cherubim. The Cherubim are the wheels on God’s chariot in Ezekiel’s vision.
Levi also says that “Moses’s cherub [which guards the Tree of Life] also represents the great magical arcanum, of which the septenary expresses all the elements, without, however, providing the last word.” And then he goes on about quaternary, dualism, and ternary… and those numbers relate back to the Sphinx’s riddle. The septenary plus the last word equals eight, the spokes on Ezekiel’s wheel. Ezekiel’s wheel represents creation as a cycle, where the last word becomes the first Word: “In the beginning was the Word.”
The Microprosopus’ chariot has his Spirit (Ka) and Body (Ba), but doesn’t have the final Word (or, the first Word) of the Macroprosopus’ chariot, Light (Mer).
(Yup, I worked in another Merkaba reference. 🙂 )
Thanks for the replies everyone. Just to be clear, I was confused about the seemingly ascending order of the Trumps on the evolution of the human juxtaposed with the seemingly descending associations on the Tree of Life paths. Clearly I need to meditate more! I have to finish my Keys to the Temple meditations before starting Paths of Wisdom meditations which I suspect might clear things up.
Everyone, since it has been basically said already, my distilled take on this card is that charioteer is the Higher Self corralling the dual nature of the astral light to accomplish The Choice made in the previous card.
Marlena, I will check out that book.
Justin Patrick Moore, I have heard about the opposite order of associations before and those make much more sense to me at this time, at least at a high level. Still, I’m sure the Golden Dawn and Lévi have their associations for a reason.
Hi John Michael,
Thanks for the image of the better drawn card for card number seven (an auspicious number, if I may say so). The original card looks to me as though the sphinxes were drawn by a talented, yet randy, young artist. And the female faces look so docile and accommodating when compared to the far angrier looking sphinxes.
I also note that one artist has drawn from the Greek tradition (the latter and angrier variety), whilst the original depiction draws from the Egyptian tradition. My belief is that the Greek variety of Sphinx better suits my understanding of the animal world. I share my life with several dogs, and it is not lost on me that whilst we traverse the same road, and share many similar goals, they have their own thoughts on matters and sometimes aren’t afraid to share those thoughts. And the funny thing is that the dogs are the good guys when it comes to the non-human here. Far out.
As an unrelated side note, I had a chance conversation the other day with a mechanic about the diesel urea additive which is in short supply for much the same reasons that the fertilisers are now in short supply. He remarked that the engines will run without the additive, but they’ll produce far more emissions in the process. There are laws to fine drivers if the additive is not in use, but I’ll be curious to hear if those laws are enforced given the circumstances. And all the while, like the increased use of disposable masks and take away all sorts of packaging stuff, pollution increases. If that isn’t a step backwards, I don’t know what is. Far out.
Sometimes I think I read or hear something new, only to reread something else and realize that I had been exposed to the idea before (sometimes several times) and my brain just obviously wasn’t ready to accept it. I think this is one of those times.
Yesterday’s episode of Esoterica discussed the philosophy of Lady Anne Conway, which incorporated some Cabala and Plato into her Christianity. (And some Quaker, too.)
One of the things mentioned in the discussion of her philosophy was that Adam Cadmon IS Christ. That was new to me.
In my readings on Zayin yesterday, I learned Zayin is a crowned Vau and is also The Crowned Vau (a crowned Vau meaning a crowned man but The Crowned Vau meaning Christ). (So Vau = Adam Cadmon = Christ ?!? I have lots to meditate on today…)
So, (JMG and anybody else who knows): Is Adam Cadmon = Christ a common understanding? Or is it something unique to Conway’s philosophy?
I’ve been reading a lot about enantiodromia since the topic came up in my first reading of Maria Louise von Franz’s book The Problem of the Puer Aeternus and Jung’s Man and His Symbols earlier this year. I was delighted to later read a lot about enantiodromia and about von Franz over on Violet’s blog, and all that together with this book club has caused all these ideas to crystallize after see how Levi handles the same topics.
This morning I went back to looking into enantiodromia, and stumbled across a site about this topic and Jung.
The author quotes Jung, which is relevant in this context:
“…the only person who escapes the grim law of enantiodromia is the man who knows how to separate himself from the unconscious, not by repressing it—for then it simply attacks him from the rear—but by putting it clearly before him as that which he is not.”
So the Chariot Tarot seems to reference this. The two opposites, the Sphinxes, are attached to the chariot, and kept in balance by the chariot itself, otherwise they would run off into extremes. As Levi writes in the introduction: if Oedipus had tamed the sphinx and attached it to his chariot…
The process of enantiodromia seems analogous to a sine wave. A sine wave (which also can be geometrically represented by a circle) is the even movement through time of a cycle between two opposites. Something becomes its own opposite through time, which is partly what Levi implies earlier when he talks about how a binary can get locked in.
I believe it’s been said here before: if you want to make something permanent, then oppose it.
The crowned warrior king understands this, and in a way, enters perhaps into a state of timeless equilibrium. He or she (as Goldenhawk pointed out upthread, it’s not clear whether the figure is male or female) uses the propulsive, motive force of the alternating opposites represented by the Sphinxes as a way to advance, as a basis for the four elements to form the stable shape of the chariot itself.
I love this stuff!
One of the advantages of the lockdowns and restrictions is that I have more time to read. A major hint of this chapter, that it has to do with the septenary, also relates again to one of the Theban plays: The Seven Against Thebes. That play involves a wonderful description of the attackers at each of Thebes seven gates, and the defender dispatched to counter each of the attackers. I wonder whether that maps on to the virtues and vices listed in this chapter, or the seven planetary spirits. I want to re-read all the Theban plays again in light of all this.
Interestingly, despite a lot of the reading I do, it wasn’t until yesterday morning’s SOP that a bunch of all this clicked. I was in the middle of invoking Earth when I had to break off for a moment, as all the intuitions clicked together.
@RandomActsOfKarma: Thanks a lot for the reference! That is not at all what I was thinking about, but it’s a thought-provoking reference in its own right, so thanks again for that.
What I meant was that there seems to be a structural similarity between the story told in the Theban plays and the legend of the Grail as told in the Authurian tales. I haven’t read them yet, but I have two books about the Grail legends that I’m waiting to read when I get to the appropriate point in JMG’s Druid Magic Handbook, so I only remember the basics of the Grail legend, but what the tales have in common are:
– A cursed landscape: the plague that leads Oedipus to find the source of the plague that has befallen Thebes, and the wasted, infertile landscape that the Grail legend takes place in.
– The need for the right questions or answer. In Oedipus, that is of course the riddle of the Sphinx. In the Grail, the knight apparently has to ask the right questions. I still remember from childhood the 1984 Excalibur movie, there is a scene later in the movie where one of the knights goes to seek the grail, and reaches the grail castle, and a great disembodied voice intones “what is the secret of the Grail?”. I don’t remember much else other than that.
So I don’t have a firm answer, other than an intuition that arrived after reading the 3 Theban plays that JMG initially recommended along with Oedipus at Colonnus, that the Grail legend and these plays were similar in structure.
I’m still pondering all these half-formed hunches.
re: five stars on each side of canopy
I found the five stars confusing at first, too, because I thought the three flames on the canopy represented the Supernal Triad. On closer inspection, I noticed a weird half-circle reddish ‘mini-canopy’ under the flames. The half-circle canopy has three layers (maybe representing Atziluth-Briah-Yetzirah worlds, leaving Assiah for the Chariot and the Path the Chariot is on). The three flames could represent Aun, Aun Soph, and Aun Soph Aur (or maybe just Azoth?). Then the ten stars (two sets of five pentacles) represent the Sephirah, balanced between the two sides.
You are not the only one confused by how the Trumps are associated with the Tree of Life paths. I am starting my chart (not just of planet correspondences, but including Tarot and Spheres and everything), hoping that will help me make more sense of things. I am not far enough along to say I have any new insights, other than it is going to be a very very big chart.
On the cards we’ve studied so far, the shield (to me) relates to the number of the card. The Fool’s number (according to the Paths of Wisdom) is zero. Maybe Knapp-Hall decided the best way to represent zero with a shield is to not have a shield?
The sphinx next to “Oscar Wilde” could be the American folklore legend, John Henry, the steel drivin’ man. For some reason that’s who popped into my head and since someone said it, I can’t unsee Oscar Wilde. Question is who’s the person behind the reigns?
I was lucky enough to get the Knapp Hall deck and this is the most annoying card of all. From the misaligned logos on the chariot to the expressions on the sphinxes to the out of sync colors I find myself getting irritated just thinking about it. It’s difficult to figure out what the symbolism of the details is never mind trying and unpack them all. Then I realized this “challenging asana” feeling means I have unfinished business here. Good to know.
Goldenhawk (no. 36), you are most welcome!
jbucks (no. 42), Boorman’s “Excalibur was a great movie, and the best Arthurian movie IMHO (rivalled only by Monty Python). If you’re struggling to remember the Secret of the Grail, it was “The king and the land are one.”
Grail fans should be aware of Henry Corbin’s treatment of it. Corbin normally writes on esoteric Shi’ism, but being a friend of Jung’s, finds parallels in all sorts of things. Anyway, here it is (ch. 4):
RandomActsOfKarma (no. 38), this is obviously not the sort of thing one would hear in Jewish circles, but Christians hold Christ to be the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15: 22, 45 ff).
@Copper: “Question is who’s the person behind the reigns?”
Yorkshire, Hall doesn’t explain. You may find it useful to meditate on it. 😉
Augusto, it’s important to release the energies placed in the talisman and banish thoroughly before you destroy the material basis, precisely so that the vortex on the astral disperses. As for taking the first opportunity, yes, that’s part of the reason. The rest is that it’s a way of making sure you really do want what you’re trying to bring about!
Karma, that’ll work!
Jon, it is indeed. There’s a reason this book has been required reading among European occultists since about an hour after it first saw print. As for the card, good — keep going.
Karma, many thanks for this meditation.
Chris, unfortunately Lévi didn’t make a complete set of the trump images!
Karma, I’ve seen the equation between Christ and Adam Cadmon in a few places, but it’s not common. I didn’t happen to remember that Lady Conway taught that, so thank you.
Jbucks, fascinating. All this is very solid, and worth further exploration.
Copper, hmm! I don’t know who he is.
Certainly someone to look into! Thanks to Disney before it totally went to crap, I grew up knowing about a handful of interesting yet Disney-fied American legends such as Paul Bunyan, Johnny Appleseed, The brave Engineer (Casey Johnes), and John Henry.
John Henry was a black American Freeman who worked on the railroads and drove steel drills with a 14 lb hammer to create blast holes for dynamite. Supposedly during this time the invention and introduction of the steam powered drill threatened the livelihoods of many Virginian railroad workers despite its tendancy to break easily and stir up more dust. So he challenged the agents of the drill in a race to see who can do more work within a certain amount of time. When time was called it turned out that he did more work than the machine and thus won, but in the end he collapsed from a heart attack from all the stress the work put on his body, Hammer in hand.
There’s a lot of controversy as to if the guy existed and if he did, where the race actually took place, what he died from, or if the original ballad was actually talking about his bad luck with women. My bet since there’s records of a prisoner by the name of John William Henry who worked for the C&O Railway around the Virginias, working on a tunnel, I’d say he’s as real of a slice of American history as Casey Jones and John Chapman, just veiled in a lot of clutter.
@ Bei Dawei,
Thank you very much for the chapter in Corinthians to read. More to meditate… 😉
Complete talisman noob here. I’m wondering do talismans normally get used for short term effect or for long term correction. For example, a weightlifter could create a talisman for strength in the lead up to a competition. That would be a short term use. Somebody else might think they have a character deficit where they need more strength and so they keep the talisman long term for that purpose.
Also, JMG’s clarification of charity for unconditional love helped make the dichotomy with Lust clear. Some of the other virtue/vice pairs that Levi uses are a bit strange to me. Temperance vs Gluttony makes sense as does Strength vs Anger. But Prudence as the opposite of Sloth is weird to me and so is Hope as the opposite of Avarice. I assume Levi is using these words with a different meaning than what they have in modern English?
Hi John Michael,
For some strange reason, I’ve stared repeatedly at the images of both cards you’ve supplied. And I realise that the cards are depictions, but in neither case would I trust a person with either of those faces. They both lack something which would mark them as effective leaders. This card is a curious card indeed.
Copper, fascinating. Thanks for digging this up.
Simon, for short term effects you’d typically use some other kind of ritual. Talismans are mostly used for the long term. As for Lévi’s pairings of virtues and vices, the connection is planetary in nature. Saturn when he’s well-dignified grants prudence, while ill-dignified that turns into sheer laziness. In the same way, Jupiter well dignified grants hope, which turns into greedy craving when ill dignified.
Chris, hmm. Well, in that case, if any of them run for office, don’t vote for them…
Hmm why on that order? As a dweller of Abred it naturally feels to me that burning would go first but it is not the case. If the talisman is burnt before the vortex is dispersed the anchor doesn’t exist anymore, what holds the vortex in place?
Also, is this the seventh page we should read before sitting down on Levi’s coat and roll back the coverings of our eyes?
@copper #49 and @JMG #53 – As a school child in the 90s, I was taught John Henry as a figure of American tall tales alongside Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed, so I did a double-take to see JMG unfamiliar with him. It only now dawns on me that this might have been a more recent addition to the “canon”, perhaps in an effort to include an African-American character in the not-quite-pantheon, or perhaps due to taking such tall tales more seriously as a part of our culture and looking farther afield for examples. For what it’s worth, I think it’s an excellent addition, as the story deals with a typically American multi-way conflict between work ethic, human dignity, “progress”, and big business.
My personal favorite take on the tale is Johnny Cash’s “The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer”:
Audio only: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQaIMRxIbfw
Just a note that the Sphere of Protection’s seventh gate, the one that is the culmination of the other six, is the lunar gate. Invoking the Moon at the end gives it that fierce protective shield. To my mind’s eye, the lunar gate ignites all of the previous geometric shapes. Though the Thoth tarot deck has problems, I find it interesting that The Chariot has the glyph for Cancer the Crab on it, which is the Zodiac sign ruled by the Moon. The driver with his armor who withdraws into his homey shell to engage in contemplation seems exactly right to me. Do other decks imply or directly label their Chariot trump with symbology for Cancer the Crab?
@ Jeff Russell #55
Im sure that John Henry is comming to light more now because people were most likely starting to pay more attention to history, old stories, old songs and found the ballad of John Henry and the monument dedicated to him at the Big Bend Tunnel to be interesting enough to look into. One would think the woke mob would have paraded the tale, but honestly they’d hate the guy mostly because the reasons you listed ( American multi-way. Conflict of perseverance, “progress”, work ethic, downfalls of technology, etc.) fundamentally goes against the grain of their narrative. Like every other black American figure that goes against their plantation of ideas, they’d try to brush him under the rug, or totally manipulate the story into something totally different so that it does fit their narrative.
As for songs I personally like
John Henry Blues by Jim Mills (audio only)
And the Disney version I grew up with (audio only)
Sorry if I got the links messed up phone clip board likes to mess stuff up.
Hi John Michael,
🙂 Very amusing. Zero chance of that. On the other hand, given the current crop of contenders in that sphere… I tend to believe that the leaders often reflect the undercurrents in the population.
Paul Foster Case associates Cancer with The Chariot. His reasons involve a very different (from Levi’s) mapping of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet onto the cards. Case uses Cheth (hedge or fence) for the Chariot. He connects this with an enclosure, protection or defense, like the crab’s carapace or shell.
It’s interesting that you mention the 7th gate of the SOP in connection with the Moon. I had an insight this morning about the 7th “power” (invoked by the 6 powers previously invoked). It is Spirit Within which establishes the Sphere of Protection, perhaps another way of referring to the Higher Self which drives the Chariot.
Some might want to do a search for “Jawn Henry”
Copper, #35, all:
The history of the Legend of John Henry is mighty complicated.
This is worth a read, though it might conflict with your preconceptions: https://www.currentaffairs.org/2021/07/john-henry-and-the-divinity-of-labor
Seems a bit late in the week for making this comment, but hopefully I will be able to clarify some doubts and elicit a response.
I wanted to comment on Simon’s comment about prudence and sloth not being opposites. Well, they are not. Actually it is better to think of them as the dual of each other. Sloth arises when you take prudence to an unreasonable extreme. Same with hope and avarice.
A simpler example would be honesty and insensitivity. Extreme honesty also necessitates being insensitive, just as extreme sensitivity necessitates being dishonest.
JMG, your comments would be interesting.
I just found out Sri Rohit Arya’s The Sacred India Tarot follows the old Marseilles card scheme rather than any of the newer ones! He said that the more ancient ordering of the cards better fits all the shakti flows he sees and experiences in everyday life within himself, other people and the environment. He says he understands why The Golden Dawn changed the card ordering but his personal experience of shakti flows were more accurate with the more ancient card order so that’s why his deck follows the Marseilles ordering rather than any of the newer ones.
I am shocked and delighted about that because it means I now own 2 decks that I might be able to use with Levy’s book but interspersed with it I can also see what Sri Arya’s own book that came with his deck (it’s rather thick) for understanding as well. Honestly it means I probably just doubled my meditation work because I do it with Levy’s work using the Kabbalah schemata exactly as he originally intended it then repeat it again using Sri Arya’s insights as additional meditation work.
I am so surprised and happy about this!
Sorry about the link below to Facebook but he has a bunch of young disciples and they all use it so he posts where his students read. I think he quit updating his own blog because he discovered his students never bother to check it whereas they will check Facebook every day. Anyway, the first article gives a good overview of how he adapted the Marseilles flow of the cards for his mythic-themed tarot deck rather than the more common ones in use these days.
Regarding the Grail symbolism:
The Knapp-Hall card contains a chalice shape. The canopy forms the cup, the charioteer is the stem of the goblet, and the space between the wheels is the base. I’ve posted an image on my Dreamwidth account:
Oh! I found a website that shows the artwork of several cards in The Sacred India Tarot. Enough to give a sense of what the entire deck looks like. Obviously the illustrations are very different from the Universal Wirth Tarot but it does have me wondering if I will be able to sense anything shared by both decks or if the disparities are so great they need to be treated as separate systems. Particularly since Sri Arya says the thing that inspired his admiration about the tarot is that it shows the rise and fall of “the Force” (aka Shakti) so amazingly well in lives, places and events. He considers the tarot a true European yoga that does not have any Indian influences in it whatsoever yet perfectly encapsulates shakti in all its phases. So here at least is one Indian guru who acknowledges there survives still a living Western Magic tradition worthy of investing time and effort to study and implement.
On p 397 Levi says, “on the square which forms the front of the chariot, we see the Indian lingam, above which is found the flying sphere of the Egyptions.” (I think there’s a misplaced comma in the translation, which I took the liberty of moving.) No coincidence that the “indian lingam” is so close to the grail symbolism.
Augusto, just as you charge a talisman by starting on the highest plane you can reach and descend from there, you discharge it the same way: thank the gods and spirits who assisted you, then dispell the vortex of astral forces, then burn the material basis.
Jeff, I’d encountered the story but it was a long time ago.
Kimberly, the equation between Cancer and the Chariot is standard in the Golden Dawn tradition, which was the basis for Crowley’s system, so any deck derived from that end of occultism will have Cancrian symbolism either explicitly or implicitly on Trump VII.
Chris, as the saying goes, every nation gets the government it deserves…
Loafer, you’ll have to take it up with the medieval theologians who sorted things out that way!
Panda, fascinating! I wasn’t familiar with the deck, but it looks interesting.
Goldenhawk, an intriguing geometrical analysis.
Phutatorius, no coincidence at all, since the Grail is a yoni symbol.
Hopefully not too late..First, thanks for the replies everyone. Second, did anyone notice there are faces on the shoulder plates of the Chariot rider in the Wirth deck? I find that very interesting but have no idea what that is supposed to mean at this point.
Jeff #55, Copper #57 (and JMG),
I’ve loved trains as long as I can remember and John Henry was as much a part of the railroad pantheon when I was a child (1960) as Casey Jones. None of the books I read seemed to doubt the reality of the core story.
Good gracious gods, the building is upside down! Now how did he do that.
Also, “fixed mercury”? Is that the Azoth? Is the knowledge of how to solidify mercury still with us?
Also, “fixed mercury”? Is that the Azoth? Is the knowledge of how to solidify mercury still with us?
Yep. Both Sadhguru and Yogiraj Satgurunath have given talks about it. Supposedly Yogiraj actually has a solidified mercury lingham in one of his ashrams. If both of them know how to do it I’m pretty sure other lineages around the world likely do too.
Found it. New I wasn’t just making this up. It’s an actual science to solidify mercury. Sadhguru gave a fascinating talk about it one day and I was all ears about it.
Yogiraj Satgurunath has also given talks about it. The science is not lost.
Here is the solidified mercury lingham Yogiraj has as proof for the skeptics. And Sadhguru agrees with the claims Satgurunath makes about the amazing properties and benefits of solidified mercury.
Check Satgurunath sitting next to the lingham! It’s quite large! Not a tiny marble of a piece. That much mercury must have cost a small fortune to acquire.
FYI, one of the fascinating things I learned in Sadhguru’s talk about the science behind solidifying mercury is that much of the transformation process used on it can be used by yogis inside their own bodies to slow down the rate of cellular aging (it’s a type of kriya – control of the various energies in one’s body – just like with mercury). We’re talking slow the cellular aging down so much that a yogi could live 200 years or more if there was a need for living that long. Again, some of the principles and processes used to solidify mercury can be done inside your own body to become like Paul Atreides and the Fremen, minus the spice addiction of course.
Oh…and if you slow your cellular aging down that much your body no longer needs to rely upon your lungs for respiration. At that rate the human body cycles through so little energy and oxygen metabolism that respiration through the pores of your skin comes online and is adequate enough (there’s a science to pore breathing)! I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard that. How in god’s name did Frank Herbert know about all this stuff before the internet?!!! He must have had one heck of an amazing occult library! The more I learn the more flabbergasted I am at how much yogic/islamic magic/western tradition ‘science’ is liberally sprinkled through all of Herbert’s books.
Oops. I re-read what I said about pore respiration. What I wrote is slightly inaccurate.
What Sadhguru said is that our body’s pores are always exchanging molecules with the atmosphere. It’s just that surviving with just pore breathing alone is not enough for an ordinary human because our species cycles energy too fast. Bring that rate of energy cycling down far enough and the rate our pores normally exchange oxygen and other molecules with the atmosphere is good enough to keep one alive. Again…he insists there is a real science to this and it takes many decades of dedication to the specific practices that allow it but it is possible if that’s something you really want to learn how to do. You would need to live at an ashram under the guidance by a guru though. Since you are mucking around directly with the forces of life itself in your own body it’s not the kind of thing to do DIY.
@HappyPanda, thank you! I was mostly referring to it being available to someone like me. I am aware that Indian alchemy works extensively with solidified mercury, but I am afraid they do so with completely different methods than the western tradition either by Indian alchemy or prana. And in particular, Sadhguru does it by pure pranapratishta, I definitely don’t have the chops for that! Thought it would be really cool! And cheaper.
I find Sadhguru’s talks to be amazing themes for meditation even though he is extremely sloppy with his logic and analogies and requires extra care when interpretating what he says, since he is speaking to a wide audience. Given that it seems that it falls between the traditions that use the septenary I think at least some themes and techniques from Yoga-Tantra (as you point out on your transcript, they are not different) that can be used as inspiration for the Western Tradition. In particular I think what he does to exalt the physical container of the astral vortices all the way down to the dense ethers by creating a physical ellipsoid of copper (for Devi, which makes sense because copper is “feminine”) with a core of rasalinga (merucry and venus correspondence) and a granite base (very dense stone to hold the charge) to fix them to be an extremely elegant way to create a “talisman” or more properly, a yantra. The avenue I plan to take for this, or rather fancy of taking because I have no idea of the guiding principles nor the slightest of experience or if it would work is to use radionics. If I manage to plant a properly made “earth pipe” at the Isha farm next time I go it would be amazing to see what he thinks, he’ll notice it.
There is a long way to go for the Western Tradition to be rebuilt and for it to be brought all the way down to the cellular level, but I think that is a great opportunity for research!
He talks about solidified mercury in the recording of the consecration of the Devi Yantra in India, by the way, but in his usual fashion, he only says enough for the devotees to go “oooh” without saying much else, understandably.
One of the reasons, and definitely not the only one by a long shot, I am interested in this book is that Sadhguru, when I was at the ashram looked at me square in the eyes in the middle of a talk and repeated the Fourth Virtue to me as if he knew I was a magician! I froze and my volunteer friend had to bring me back to Earth after repeating to me several times “Why is he starring at you?” And I knew why.
On the Chariot card I have, there’s a crest with the letters C and B. Does anyone know that they mean?
I was unfamiliar with the term ‘fixed mercury’. Apparently, mercury (and other alchemical substances) can be fixed or volatile.
Some sources I found considered volatile to be masculine and fixed to be feminine (and apparently mercury can be both). https://occult-world.com/mercury-alchemy/
And I found a discussion on “The Fixed becomes Volatile, and the Volatile must become Fixed. The Body becomes a Spirit and the Spirit becomes a Body.” http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?6125-Volatile-Fixed-Fixed-Volatile/page2
And then something from Paracelsus: “Nevertheless, with this they have endeavoured to fix Mercury and to turn it into gold.” https://www.hermetics.net/media-library/alchemy/the-aurora-of-the-philosophers-by-paracelsus/chapter-x/
I don’t know if this helps you any, but it has given me lots to think about. Thanks for pointing ‘fixed mercury’ out.
My card did not have the faces on the shoulder plates, but someone had posted several other Chariots and many of them do. Most of them definitely have a crescent shape to them, which made me think of the Moon. In the SOP, the solar current (the Sun) is above, the telluric current (the Earth) is below, and the lunar current (the Moon) is within. The Sun is above the Chariot; the Earth is below the Chariot. So perhaps the shoulder plates are referring to the lunar current, the Spirit Within?
My card doesn’t have the C & B. Can you post the name of your deck, so I can see if I can find a picture online to look at?
I am eager to listen to different sides of things irrespective if they are helpful or not. It helps me balance my tendency to dogmatism, which I didn’t know I had. However, what you pointed me too is very helpful! I’ll definitely check those resources out, many thanks for fetching them and sharing them with me and all.
Thanks everyone for the comments, also for the references to the Grail!
@Bei Dawei: And thanks for the reminder on the secret of the Grail from the Excalibur movie!
I’ve had some time to check the resources you’ve shared and found the discussion on the forum you shared about the universal solvent fascinating. I’ve got a full page of themes for meditation from it. Thank you!
It still hovers in my mind, given that we are talking about physical anchors for astral vortexes if Levi is implying that or if “fixed mercury” is a term for some kind of mercury or some other alloy or substance that is meant to be used in case we want to use metals for the anchors. Perhaps “mercury amalgam” is what was intended? That is a way of solidifying mercury using chemistry instead of etheric processes as Panda and I were discussing.
@RandomActsOfKarma: its called the Golden Tarot of Marseilles.
Rachel Pollack’s “Seventy Eight Degrees of Wisdom” sees the Chariot as the the completion of the first sequence in the Major Arcana. She sees the first seven cards as describing normal maturation, with Chariot representing the mature ego active in the world. Her description of the card is very interesting.
She sees the second sequence of seven as representing confrontation with the unconscious and psychic healing, and the last sequence of seven as undergoing a mystical experience.
She has a very psychological insight/approach, which is very different from Levi’s approach that the Tarot contains all magical knowledge. Each has their truth, I suspect.
@RandomActsOfKarma, HappyPanda, JMG and all
Ok, so I researched into making mercury amalgam (solidified mercury at room temperature) and using the resources RandomActs shared about fixed and volatile, masculine and feminine, the hermaphrodite. Well… mercury amalgam is made using copper sulfate and copper is related to Venus. I believe, and please correct me if I am wrong, copper sulfate is done using sulfuric acid, hydrogen peroxide and metallic copper.
Sulfur, in alchemy, has it’s own connotation which I believe is correlated to the internal fire (kundalini??) and sexual energy. Now, I wonder, why there is such a sudden terror of products that contain sulfates! Are we still facing the repression of sex manifested in consumer products? Hmm…
I wonder if C and B stand for Chokmah and Binah.
I searched online to look at the card before I go to work today. I found this page https://www.artefolk.cl/producto/golden-tarot-of-marseille-lo-scarabeo/. The deck was originally made by Claude Burdel. It might be one of those things that has multiple meaning. Goldenhawk suggested Chokmah and Binah. I need to find a better picture, to see the decorations around it. Maybe they are stylized Hebrew letters, that align somehow with Chokmah and Binah.’
But it also might be Claude ‘signing’ his artwork, too.
I will look for a better picture tonight and see what else I see.
Your posts have given me a lot to think about. I know extremely little about chemical alchemy. I am beginning to think, though, that this is one of those phrases that Levi uses with multiple meanings.
The idea that copper sulfate (copper being feminine and sulfur being fire/masculine) is used to fix mercury is fascinating. A compound (a hermaphroditic compound, basically) being used to fix mercury (which is considered hermaphroditic as well)…
and more Hmm…
Good call on the initials CB being those of the artist!
I think sulphur is not gendered in an of itself but relates to energy, however that doesn’t cancel the conclusion!
@RandomActsOfKarma Great call! I’m sure it’s the artist’s signature.
@tomriverwiriter and goldenhawk,
I am glad you think it is the initials. I’ve looked at it for a while and don’t see anything else. 🙂
I found this https://www.praemonstro.com/zelator-scroll-copy which is very interesting. I have skimmed it, but I don’t pretend to understand it yet.
Apparently, salt, mercury, and sulfur represent the body, spirit, and soul. Sulfur (hot and dry) is considered masculine; mercury (cool and moist) is considered feminine. (Sulfur is sometimes called the Red King and Mercury the White Queen.)
Sulfur and Mercury combine to form an oxide. The oxide can be red (Cinnabar) or black (AEthiops mineral). And some alchemists think that gold is made of red mercury and red sulfur.
And one person (on this page http://www.levity.com/alchemy/I-fixing.html) referred to sulphurated Mercury as fixed.
So lots of hmmm…, still.
My favorite thing I found, though, is this video which shows mercury reacting to an iron nail:
About the 24 second mark, the mercury starts oscillating between an upward pointing triangle and a downward pointing triangle…
sources I used:
Thanks for the resources Panda and Random Acts!
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