Yet, as a wheel mows smoothly, free from jars,
My will and my desire were turned by love,
The love that moves the sun and the other stars.
Dante, Divine Comedy
The throne on which the Empress is seated represents, as we have said, the role of sacred magic in the world. It is its place in the world and in the history of the world; it is, lastly, its basis. In other words, it is that which attends it, desires it and is always ready to receive it. What is this?
In view of the liberating function of sacred magic, it is all that which is deprived of liberty and is bound by necessity. Concerning this, St Paul says:
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it to hope; because the creation itself will be set free fro its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans viii, 19-23)
It is therefore the mineral, plant animal and human realms of Nature – in a word, Nature it its entirety – which constitutes the domain of sacred magic. The reason for the existence of sacred magic stems from the Fall and the whole domain of the Fall – comprising fallen Nature, fallen man and the fallen hierarchies. These are the beings belonging to it who hope ‘with eager longing’ to be ‘set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.’
How does sacred magic operate towards this end? How, for example, does it deliver man?
The throne of the Empress has a back. It strongly resembles two wings, so that certain interpreters of the Tarot have seen the Empress as being winged. Others, however, see only a back. In view of the context of the card, the meaning of the coat-of-arms bearing the eagle, the sceptre surmounted by the cross, and the two-layered crown, could one not see the back here in the form of two petrified and immobilised wings, but which had once been genuine wings and which are again potentially so?
If this interpretation is accepted, not only would it reconcile the two apparently opposing points of view but also it would agree with all that the card teaches about the sphere, the aim, the power and the legitimacy of sacred magic. To give movement to the petrified wings…would this not be in accord with the liberating mission of sacred magic and with the words of St Paul?
Meditations on the Tarot, Letter III, The Empress
You would know the secret of death. But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life. For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond; and like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity. Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king? yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and melt into the sun? And what is it to cease breathing but free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing. And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin the climb. And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.
Together they perform an enchantment that is an evocation of the ideal society of humankind and a reconstruction of the Earthly Paradise or Garden of Eden.
For behold! Out of the forest comes a carole of ladies and knights and maidens and squires, “each holding other by the hands and dancing and singing: and made the greatest joy that ever was seen in any land”…And presently, in the midst of the wild wood, appears an orchard, wherein was all manner of fruits and all manner of flowers, that gave so great a sweetness of flavour that marvel it was to tell. (Vida Scudder, Le Morte d’Arthur of Sir Thomas Malory).
This is no mere infatuation of a magician for a fairy maid. It is a great and pre-ordained work of redemptive magic. Similarly Merlins’ disappearance from the Earth into the world behind outer nature is no falling under a false enchantment but a deliberate sacrificial sacramental act. As Vida Scudder puts it, although she does not appear consciously to realise the deeper implications:
….when she spoke to him of her longing to know how to create the magic tower of air, he bowed down to the earth and began to sigh. None the less he did her will, and on a fateful day they went out through the forest of Broceliande hand in hand, devising and disporting; and found a bush that was fair and high and of white hawthorn full of flowers, and there they sat in the shadow.
And Merlin laid his head on the damsel’s lap, and she began to caress gently till he fell on sleep, and when she felt that he was in sleep she arose softly, and made a circle of her wimple all about the bush, and all about Merlin. And when he waked he looked about him, ‘and him seemed he was in the fairest tower on the world and the most strong; and he said to the damsel; “Lady thou hast me deceived, but if ye will, abide with me, for none but ye may undo these enchantment” And in truth she stayed by him for the most part, “Ye have been my thought and my desire” says she, “for without you have I neither joy nor wealth. In you have I set all my hope, and I abide, none other joy but of you”.
Her impulse is thus love and not self-will. And, whether ‘deceived’ or not, Merlin was well aware, before and after the fact, of the implications of this profound magical union.
Gareth Knight, The Secret Tradition in Arthurian Legend
Holding them in sight, he gave to them their mission, saying: “Fly now each of you in his own direction; neither is swifter than the other. The place where you meet I shall pin down forever as the centre of this world”.
The gods had come down from their clouds and assembled at this place, to mark forever the foundation of their temple on Earth. Zeus’s fair twins Apollo and Artemis, sun and moon, came down to where they had been summoned, swiftly followed by the others, each in elemental guise.
Bearing fruits of the earth and dressed in garlands of flowers, the earth mother Demeter walked hand‐in‐hand with her love‐struck daughter, queen of the Styx‐bound underworld.
Ares, Hestia and Hera, Hephestaeus, Poseidon and Athena ‐ each transpiring from their own dominion – fulfilled the summons from their central being.
A bull emerged from the forest, metamorphosising with a swagger into a shining youth, handsome as only a handsome youth can be. He walked hand in hand with the loveliest female in the land, raising to his moistened lips an earthen jar of ruby‐coloured wine.
Her love‐child laughed with his magician.
Hera gazed broodingly at the twice‐born son of his father and a cloud descended on the assembly. “I hope you will not reserve too many honours for this youth, Dionysus, husband, for he is only quite immortal, with half true blood in his blue, engorged veins”.
Zeus roared with laughter and raised a glass in toast to his progeny. “But see the ones who are with him, sister; you must admit he is in great company: The body of desire with the power of love and the herald of all ages. I see no issue here but that which is great!”
“But come forth now Apollo and shine on me son, step beyond the clouds, for I would have you build me here a house, where men from all corners of the world will
come to learn their destiny”
Have done my credit in Men’s Eye much wrong:
Have drown’d my honour in a shallow cup
And sold my reputation for a song.
Indeed, indeed, repentence oft before
I swore – but was I sober when I swore?
And then and then came spring, and rose in hand
My threadbare penitence a pieces tore.
And much as wine has play’d the Infidel,
And robb’d me of my Robe of Honour – well,
I often wonder what the Vintners buy
One half so precious as the goods they sell.
Alas, that spring should vanish with the rose!
That youth’s sweet-scented manuscript should close!
The nightingale that in the branches sang,
Ah, whence, and whither flown again, who knows!
Would but the desert of the fountain yield
One glimpse – if dimly, yet indeed, reveal’d,
To which the fainting traveller might spring,
As springs the trampled herbage of the field!
Would but some winged Angel ere too late
Arrest the yet unfolded roll of fate,
And make the stern recorder otherwise
Enregister, or quite obliterate.
To grasp this sorry scheme of things entire,
Would we not shatter it to bits – and then
Re-mould it closer to the Heart’s desire!
Ah, Moon of my delight who know’st no wane,
The Moon of Heav’n is rising once again:
How oft hereafter rising shall she look
Through this same garden after me – in vain!
And when thyself with shining foot shall pass
Among the guests Star-scatter’d on the grass,
And in thy joyous errand reach the spot
Where I made one turn down an empty glass!
Taman Shud (it is completed)
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
And a Voice said : Wait
Till you pass the Gate.
“Give me the joy of sight,” I cried, “O Mas-
ter of Hidden Fire !
By the flame in the heart of the soul, grant
my desire ! ”
And a Voice said : Wait
Till you pass the Gate.
I shook the dark with the tremulous beat of
my wings of desire:
“Give me but once the thing I ask, O Master
of Hidden Fire ! ”
And a Voice said: irait!
You have reached the Gate.
I rose from flame to flame on pinions of desire:
And I heard the voice of the Master of Hidden Fire:
Behold the Flaming Gate,
Where Sight doth wait!
Like a wandering star I fell through the deeps of desire,
And back through the portals of sleep the
Master of Hidden Fire
The opening of the Gate!
But now I pray, now I pray, with passionate desire :
“Blind me, O blind me. Master of Hidden
Ope not the Gate.”
Fiona Macleod (William Sharp), The Secret Gate
When love beckons to you, follow him,
Though his ways are hard and steep.
And when his wings enfold you yield to him,
Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you.
And when he speaks to you believe in him,
Though his voice may shatter your dreams
as the north wind lays waste the garden.
For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.
Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,
So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth.
Like sheaves of corn he gathers you unto himself.
He threshes you to make you naked.
He sifts you to free you from your husks.
He grinds you to whiteness.
He kneads you until you are pliant;
And then he assigns you to his sacred fire, that you may become sacred bread for God’s sacred feast.
All these things shall love do unto you that you may know the secrets of your heart, and in that knowledge become a fragment of Life’s heart.
But if in your fear you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.
Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.
Love possesses not nor would it be possessed;
For love is sufficient unto love.
When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.
Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
That hero Sudyumna, accompanied by a few ministers and associates and riding on a horse brought from Sindhupradeśa, once went into the forest to hunt. He wore armor and was decorated with bows and arrows, and he was very beautiful. While following the animals and killing them, he reached the northern part of the forest.
There in the north, at the bottom of Mount Meru, is a forest known as Sukumāra where Lord Śiva always enjoys with Umā. Sudyumna entered that forest.
O King Parīkṣit, as soon as Sudyumna, who was expert in subduing enemies, entered the forest, he saw himself transformed into a female and his horse transformed into a mare.
When his followers also saw their identities transformed and their sex reversed, they were all very morose and just looked at one another.
Mahārāja Parīkṣit said: O most powerful brāhmaṇa, why was this place so empowered, and who made it so powerful? Kindly answer this question, for I am very eager to hear about this.
Śukadeva Gosvāmī answered: Great saintly persons who strictly observed the spiritual rules and regulations and whose own effulgence dissipated all the darkness of all directions once came to see Lord Śiva in that forest.
When the goddess Ambikā saw the great saintly persons, she was very much ashamed because at that time she was naked. She immediately got up from the lap of her husband and tried to cover her breast.
Seeing Lord Śiva and Pārvatī engaged in sexual affairs, all the great saintly persons immediately desisted from going further and departed for the āśrama of Nara-Nārāyaṇa.
Thereupon, just to please his wife, Lord Śiva said, “Any male entering this place shall immediately become a female!”
Since that time, no male had entered that forest. But now King Sudyumna, having been transformed into a female, began to walk with his associates from one forest to another.
Sudyumna had been transformed into the best of beautiful women who excite sexual desire and was surrounded by other women. Upon seeing this beautiful woman loitering near his āśrama, Budha, the son of the moon, immediately desired to enjoy her.
The beautiful woman also desired to accept Budha, the son of the king of the moon, as her husband
Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 9
While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:
In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low;
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:
Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it
Ecclesiastes 12.1 – 6 (KJV)