The first Arcanum of G.O. Mebes’ Tarot Majors Course.
Inspiration, truth to tell, is what constitutes the Hermetic community. It is inspiration which is the link between its members and within which all its members meet one another. The community of inspiration – this is what in reality the community of Hermeticism is.
“In the beginning was the Word” is the law not only of the world but also of the realisation of inspiration in each individual biography. And the entire community of Hermeticists lives under this law, under the law of inspiration.
Everyone lives under this law. The community of Hermeticists is distinguished from the rest of mankind only in that it is borne – in an irresistible way – to be conscious of it and to know what happens both to them and to the rest of humanity.
The lot of Hermeticists differs from that of every human being only in that the former hunger and thirst for comprehensive knowledge of that which the latter simply undergo. Their lot does not bring any privilege with it, on the contrary, rather, it is an added duty with which Hermeticists are charged, notably the inner duty to understand the totality of miracles and disasters which is life and the world. This duty makes them appear presumptuous or childish in the eyes of the world, but it is the Arcanum of inspiration – the Arcanum of the winged entity pouring living water from one vase into another – which renders them such as they are.
Meditations on the Tarot, Letter XIV, Temperance
The card that we have before us bears the traditional name “The Judgement”, and what it represents is the resurrection of the dead at the sound of the trumpet of the Angel of resurrection. It is a matter, therefore, of a spiritual exercise where the use of intuition – that of the nineteenth Arcanum “The Sun” – has to be carried to a maximum, the theme of resurrection being of the order of “last things”, but all the same accessible to intuitive cognition.
Now the “last things” – or the spiritual horizon of humanity – are not the same for the whole of humanity. For some everything finishes with the death of the individual and with the complete dissipation – maximum entropy – of the warmth of the universe. For others there is a “beyond” , an individual existence after death and the existence of a non-material universe after the end of the world. For still others there is not only spiritual life after death for the individual but also his return to terrestrial life – reincarnation – as well as cosmic reincarnation, ie, an alternation of manvantara and prayla. Others, again, see for the individual something beyond repeated incarnations, namely the state of the supreme peace of union with the eternal and universal Being (the state of nirvana). Lastly, there is a part of mankind whose existential horizon goes beyond not only post mortem existence and reincarnation, but also even beyond the peace of union with God – it is resurrection which constitutes their spiritual horizon.
Meditations on the Tarot, Letter XX, The Judgement
Like the preceding Arcana, The Arcanum ‘The Chariot’ has a twofold aspect. It represents, from one side, he who – having triumped over the three temptations – remains faithful to the vows of obedience, poverty and chastity; and it represents, from another side, the danger of the fourth temptation, which is the most subtle and intimate temptation, and is the invisible synthesis of the three temptations: the spiritual temptation of the victorious through his victory itself. It is the temptation to act ‘in one’s own name’, to act as master instead of as servant….
When you resist a temptation or renounce something desired below, you set in motion by this very fact forces of realisation of that which corresponds above to that which you came to renounce below. It is this that the Master designates by the word ‘reward’ when he says, for example, that it is necessary to guard against practising righteousness before other people in order to gain their regard, ‘for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven’. (Matthew, vi, 1). Reward is therefore the action that one sets in motion above by the renunciation of desire for things below. It is the ‘yes’ from above corresponding to the ‘no’ from below. And this correspondence constitutes a basis for magical realisation and for the fundamental law of Christian Hermeticism. Let us guard ourselves from taking it lightly, for here is given to us one of the principle keys of sacred magic. It is not desire which bears magical realisation, but rather the renunciation of desire (that you have formerly experienced, of course). For renunciation through indifference has no moral – and therefore no magical – value.
The charioteer of the Arcanum is the victor over trials, ie, the temptations, and if he is a master, then it is thanks to himself He is alone, standing in his chariot; no one is present to applaud him or to pay homage to him; he has no weapons….The victory achieved in solitude….what glory and what danger it comprises at one and the same time! It is the only real glory, for it in no way depends on human favour and judgement;it is intrinsic glory – the real radiance of the aura becoming luminous. It is, however, at the same time the most real and the most serious spiritual danger which exists. ‘Pride’ and ‘vaingloriousness’, the traditional names which one gives to it, do not suffice to characterise it in an adequate way. It is more than this. It is, rather, a kind of mystical megalomania, where one deifies the regulating centre of one’s own being, one’s ego, and where one sees the divine only within oneself and becomes blind to the divine above and outside oneself. The ‘higher Self’ is then experienced as the supreme and it is far from the supreme and unique being….far from being God, in other words.
It would be as well, now, to dwell on the problem of identification of the self with the higher Self and of the higher Self with God.
C.G. Jung who, having explored the sexual or ‘Freudian’ layer, and then that of the will-to-power or the ‘Adlerian’ layer, of the unconscious (ie, latent or occult consciousness) of the human being, encountered a spiritual (mystical, gnostic and magical) layer during the course of his clinical and psychotherapeutic experience. Instead of drawing back from it or extricating himself from it through a corrosive ‘explanation’, he had the courage and honest to set himself to the laborious study of the phenomenology of this layer of the unconscious. Now, this work proved fruitful. Jung discovered here not only the causes of certain psychic disorders, but also the profound and intimate process that he designated as the ‘process of individuation’, which is nothing other than the gradual birth of another self (Jung called it the ‘Self’) higher to oneself or one’s ordinary ego. The discover of the process of the ‘second birth’ prompted him to extend the range of his exploratory work considerably notably to include symbolism, mystery rituals and the comparative study of contemporary and ancient religions.
Now, this broadening of his field of exploration also proved fruitful. Jung’s arrival at his discovery (which at first racked him, preventing him from speaking of it to a living soul for fifteen years) had its train of consequences, including the knowledge and description of some dangers or temptations belonging to the way of initiation and the process of individuation which corresponds to it, One of these dangers – which are at the same time trials or temptations – is that which Jung designated by the term ‘inflation’, which signifies the state of consciousness of the self inflated to excess, and which is known in psychiatry in its extreme manifestation by the term ‘megalomania’.
Meditations on the Tarot, Letter VII, The Chariot
The joy which results from truth and the belief which results from joy – here is the key which opens the door to understanding the Arcanum of the world as a work of art. For it is this Arcanum which will reveal the world to us as a work of divine creative art, ie, the world of Wisdom “who was at work beside him…rejoicing before him always” (Proverbs viii, 30), and it is this Arcanum again which will reveal the world to us as a work of art of deceptive mirage, ie, the world of maya, the great illusion, who plays her game (lila) unceasingly – or, in other words, on the one hand the world which reveals God by manifesting him, and on the other hand the world which hides him by covering him.
But whether it is a matter of a revelatory world or of a deceptive world, whether it is a matter of the world seen in the light of the sphere of the spirit of truth or of the sphere of the spirit of mirage, it is a joy – a twofold joy – which plays the key role here.
What is joy? What is it in its deepest sense?
Meditations on the Tarot, Letter XXII, The World
The fifteenth card of the Tarot contains an important warning to all those who take magic seriously: it teaches them the magical Arcanum of the generation of demons, and of the power that the latter have over those who have engendered them.
We who have had experience of the demon or egregore in question above, and of the demon engendered by a collective will infatuated by national ambitions and making use of an imagination drawn from the province of biology – the national-socialist demon or egregore – know from first-hand experience what terrible power resides in our will and imagination, and what responsibility it entails for those who unleash it into the world!
How true it is that he who ‘sows the wind, shall reap the whirlwind’ (Hosea ix, 7)…and what a whirlwind!
We know that the ‘great pests’ of our time are the egregores of ‘ideological superstructures’, which have cost humanity more life and suffering than the great epidemics of the Middle Ages.
And having this knowledge, is it not time that we said to ourselves: let us be silent. Let us make our arbitrary will and imagination silent; let us impose on them the discipline of silence. Is this not one of the four traditional rules of Hermeticism: to dare, to will, to know, to be silent? To be silent is more than to keep things secret; it is more even than to guard oneself from profaning the holy things to which a respectful silence is owed. To be silent is, above all, the great magical commandment of not engendering demons through our arbitrary will and imagination; it is the task of silencing the arbitrary will and imagination.
Meditations on the Tarot, Letter XV, The Devil
It occupies the first place in the series because if one does not understand it (ie, take hold of it in cognitive and actual practice), one would not know what to do with all the other Arcana.
For it is the Magician who is called to reveal the practical method relating to all the Arcana. He is the “Arcanum of the Arcana”, in the sense that he reveals that which it is necessary to know and to will in order to enter the school of spiritual exercise whose totality comprises the game of Tarot, in orer to be able to derive some benefit therefrom.
In fact, the first and fundamental principle of esotericism (ie, of the way of experience of the reality of the spirit) can be rendered by the formula: Learn at first concentration without effort; transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light!
This counsel, or command, or even warning, however you wish to take it, is most serious; this is attested by its original source, namely the words of the Master Himself: “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew, xi, 30)
Meditations on the Tarot, Unknown Author, Letter I, The Magician
The preceding Arcanum – ‘The Moon’ – confronted us with the task of human intelligence to liberate itself from the magical enchantment which separates it from spontaneous wisdom, and to unite itself with the latter, ie, to arrive at intuition. The nineteenth Arcanum – “The Sun” – is that of the accomplished union of intelligence and spontaneous wisdom: the Arcanum of intuition.
“The children who are fraternising under the sun correspond all the better to Gemini because this zodiacal constellation berings in the longest days to us” says Oswald Wirth (Le Tarot des imagiers du moyen age), thus locating the nineteenth Arcanum in the zodiacal circle of twelve cosmic mysteries or, speaking in the language of C J Jung, in the circle of twelve archetypal force-images of the collective unconscious which work in the depths of every human soul.
For the zodiac is that which the human soul knows unconsciously; it is the book which the soul “ate” and which is present and active only in his “bowels” – in the depths of his being – from whence it renders him strong or weak, fertile or arid, fervent or tepid, according to whether he is in harmony or not with its teaching-impulse.
Now, the teaching impulse called “Gemini” can be expressed by paraphrasing a little the first statement of the Emerald Table of Hermes:
This is the principle of analogy put into practice, taking its point of departure from the principle of cooperation.
One of the highest aspects of the principle of Gemini, the principle of cooperation, is that which is present in intuition: that of the cooperation between spontaneous wisdom and intelligence. Here it is a matter of a state of consciousnes where intelligence advances from formal knowledge to material knowledge, ie, from knowledge of the relationships of the things to knowledge of the things themselves.
Meditations on the Tarot, Letter XIX, The Sun
We have spoken here of the Buddha-Avatar to come, because he will be the guide in the transformation of potential schizophrenic madness into the wisdom of the harmony of the two worlds and of their experience. He will be the example and living model of realisation of the Arcanum which occupies us.
For this reason he is represented as a Buddha in canonical Buddhist art not in a meditation posture with crossed legs, but rather seated as a European – this latter posture symbolises the synthesis of the principle of prayer and that of meditation.
And for this reason also, he is imagined in Indian ‘mythology’ (as an Avatar) as a giant with the head of a horse, ie, as a being with the human will of a giant and, at the same time, intellectuality placed completely in the service of revelation from above – the horse being the obedient servant of its rider.
Thus, he represents in prodigious measure three activities of human will: seeking, knocking and asking – conforming to the saying of the Master of all masters, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matthew vii, 7).
At the same time, he will not put forward personal opinions or reasonable hypotheses; for his intellectuality – his “horses head” – will be moved solely by revelation from above. Like the horse, it will be directed by the rider. Nothing arbitrary will issue forth. This is the Arcanum at work on the historical plane.
Concerning its application in the domain of the individual’s inner life, it is analogous to the work of spiritual alchemy which operates on the historical plane. This means to say that the individual soul begins initially with the experience of separation and opposition to the spiritual and intellectual elements within it, then advances to – or resigns itself to – parallelism, ie, a kind of ‘peaceful coexistence’ of these two elements within it.
Subsequently it arrives at cooperation between spirituality and intellectuality which, proving to be fruitful, eventually becomes the complete fusion of these two elements in a third element – the ‘philosopher’s stone’ of the spiritual alchemy of Hermeticism. The beginning of this final stage is announced by the fact that logic becomes transformed from formal logic (ie, general and abstract logic) – passing through the intermediary stage of ‘organic logic’ – into moral logic (ie, material and essential logic).
Moral logic, in contrast to formal logic and organic logic, operates with values instead of notions of grammar, mathematics or biological functions. Thus, if formal logic can go only so far towards the idea of God as to postulate the necessity of admitting a beginning in the chain of cause and effect – postulating a First Cause (primus motor) – and if organic logic, that of functions, cannot come further than postulating in the order of existing in the world of existence of God as the ordering principle – the ‘law of laws’ of the world – moral logic comes to the postulate that God is the ‘value of values’, that he is love.
Unknown Author, Meditations on the Tarot, Letter XXI, The Fool
It was neither the straw of the crib, nor the animals that were present, which guided and enabled the mages from the East to find the Child, but rather the “star” in heaven. Similarly, in Hermeticism one will find only straw and animals if one is not guided by its “star”, which exists only for intuition. Now, it is the nineteenth Arcanum of the Tarot, which invites us to occupy ourselves quite especially with the “star” of Hermeticism in the heaven of intuition. What is this “star?” The Zohar says:
“And God made the two great lights….originally, when the moon and sun were in intimate union, they shone with equal luminosity. The names JEHOVAH and ELOHIM were then associated as equals…and the two lights were dignified with the same name: MAZPAZ MAZPAZ….The two lights rose simultaneously and were of the same dignity. But….the moon humbled herself by diminishing her light, and renounced her place of higher rank. From that time she has had no light of her own, but derives her light from the sun.
Nevertheless, her real light is greater than that which she radiates here below; for a woman enjoys no honour save in conjunction with her husband. The great light (the sun) has the name JEHOVAH and the lesser light (the moon) has the name ELOHIM, which is the last of the degrees and the close of thought. Originally she was inscribed above among the letters of the sacred name (YHVH), which are four in number; it was only after diminishing herself that she took the name ELOHIM.
But her power is manifest in all directions….EL being “the dominion of the day,” IM” being the “dominion of the night,” and HE in the middle being the remainder of the forces (“the stars”), participating in both dominions.
It is left to us only to cite another passage from an ancient source – from the eleventh book of Apuleius’ Transformations – in order to have all the elements necessary to grapple, sufficiently equipped, with the problem of the “star” of Hermeticism and “The Sun” of the nineteenth Arcanum of the Tarot. Apuleius summarised his great vigil at the temple of Isis – the “arcana of the sacred night” (noctis sacratae arcana) in the following way:
I approached the very gates of death and set one foot on Prosperine’s threshold, yet was permitted to return, rapt through all the elements. At midnight I saw the sun shining in its brilliant radiance; I entered the presence of the gods of the under-world and the gods of the upper-world, stood near and worshipped them.
Let us now seek for reality, having in view the above-cited passage from the Zohar and the statement made by Apuleius.
Unknown Author, Meditations on the Tarot, Letter XIX, The Sun