The Card, “The Pope” puts us in the presence of the act of benediction. It is essential to have this in mind when one undertakes the interpretation not only of the structure of the whole Card but also of each of its particular elements.
One should therefore never lose from sight that in the first place it is a matter of benediction and everything associated with it – no matter who the Pope may be or who the acolytes kneeling before him are, and no matter what the two columns behind the Pope signify, and no matter what his tiara and the triple cross he is holding symbolise.
What is benediction? What is its source and its effect? Who has the authority to bestow benediction? What role does it play in the spiritual life of humanity?
Now, benediction is more than a simple good wish made for others; it is also more than a magical impress of personal thought and will upon others. It is the putting into action of divine power transcending the individual thought and will of the one who is blessed as well as the one who is pronouncing the blessing. In other words, it is a sacerdotal act.
The two sides of the Cabbala – the “right” side and the “left” side – and the two columns of the Sephiroth Tree, the pillar of Mercy and that of Severity, and similarly the two pillars of the Temple of Solomon, Jachin and Boaz, correspond exactly the the two columns of prayer and benediction on this Card. Because it is Severity which stimulates prayer and it is Mercy which blesses.
the venous “blue blood” of Boaz ascends and the arterial “red blood” of Jachin descends. The “red blood” bears the vivifying benediction of oxygen; the “blue blood” rids the organism of the “severity” of carbonic acid. It is the same in the spiritual life. Spiritual asphyxia menaces he who does not practise some form of prayer; he who practises it receives vivifying benediction in some form. The two columns therefore have an essentially practical significance – as practically spiritually as rerspiration is for the life of the organism.
Thus, the first practical teaching of the fifth Arcanum – for the Major Arcana of the Tarot are spiritual exercises – relates to spiritual respiration.
Unknown Author, Meditations on the Tarot, Letter V, The Pope
It was at some stage during the Sacred War, when I was 13 years old, that a renegade party of Crissan soldiers fled from the carnage on their shores towards Delphi, where they set about slaughtering the saints in their beds.
I was already in hiding at that moment, alone in the most secret of secret places.
While I devoted myself to private prayer in this deep underground chamber, by their screams and the quickening of my heart I knew that a band of furies was raging above me. I pulled my veil close about me to ward off the chill of that cold, dark grotto, my only comfort God’s eternal flame.
I counted sincerely on his protection, seeing as all else had failed, and as the night passed I fell deeper and deeper into his hypnotic embrace. Silence fell in stages.
It was the gradual appearance of light – awareness of the sun rising – that brought about my return to consciousness. This and some previously unheard noise.
The noise grew much louder until – with a clanging of metal, blood splattered but gleaming – a great warrior revealed himself at the entrance of the cave.
I turned around quickly, startled and more than a little afraid. He had his sword drawn and the scent of the battle was strong, but I at once saw the insignia of God upon his breast. A glimmer of hope alighted on me like gold dust and grew with miraculous speed; in the blink of an eye I knew that my prayers had been answered and Apollo had come to my aid.
I arose and turned to face him, with palms outstretched in supplication, reciting a prayer of thanks for deliverance against the enemy.
He pointed the sword in the direction of my heart and addressed me in a cool voice. “Are you a Cretan maid?”
I shook my head and a look of what appeared to be relief crossed his face. As I stepped closer it was replaced by one of wonder and his eyes twinkled like stars in the half-light. Softly, he said: “Where are you from then child?”
I lifted my veil. “The Temple of the Sun, my Lord.”
He crouched down on one knee and scrutinized me with an air of fascination. Gently taking the weight of my hair in his hands, he spread his arms to measure the golden sections and then opened his fingers so it fell like skeins of silk around my shoulders.
My eyes rolled upwards of their own accord, and a split second before I fainted, he breathed between the parting of my lips.
The process of induction (which ‘ascends from earth to heaven’) and that of deduction (which ‘descends to earth’), the process of prayer (which ‘ascends from earth to heaven’) and that of revelation (which ‘descends to earth’) – ie, human endeavour and the action of grace from above – unite and become a complete circle which contracts and concentrates to become a point where the ascent and descent are simultaneous and coincide.
And this point is the ‘philosopher’s stone’ – the principle of the identity of the human and divine, of humanism and prophetism, of intelligence and revelation, of intellectuality and spirituality. It is the solution of the problem posed by St Paul, or rather the accomplishment of the task given by him, when he wrote of the Cross being folly to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews, but which ‘to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, is the power of God and the wisdom of God’. (I Corinthians 1, 22 – 24).
The historical and evolutionary mission of Hermeticism is to advance the progress of the alchemical work engaged in developing the ‘philosopher’s stone’ or the union of spirituality and intellectuality. It is called to be the crest of the wave of contemporary human effort aspiring to the fusion of spirituality and intellectuality. This effort and aspiration is larger than the group of Hermeticists, properly said, who are dispersed in the world. There are probably more people who are not avowed Hermeticists and who are engaged in this endeavour aiming at the fusion of spirituality and intellectuality than there are Hermeticists, properly said.
The Spirit blows where it will, but the task of the Hermetic tradition is to maintain – without pretension to a monopoly, God forbid! – the ancient ideal of ‘the thelema of the whole world…..which ascends from earth to heaven…..descends to earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and inferior.’ Its task is that of guardian of the great spiritual work.
Meditations on the Tarot, Unknown Author, Letter XXI, The Fool
The posts of Emperor and Pope are realities beyond as well as on this side of the threshold which separates ‘day’ and ‘night’. And the Pope of the fifth card is the guardian of this threshold. He is seated between the two pillars – the pillar of day or prayer and the pillar of night or benediction.
The Emperor of the fourth card is the master of the day and the guardian of the blood or quintessence of the nocturnal reality of the day. The Pope is the guardian of respiration or of the reality of the relationship between day and night. That which he guards is the equilibrium between day and night, between human effort and divine grace. His post is founded on primordial cosmic deeds. Thus the first book of Moses says:
….and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. (Genesis i, 4 – 5).
And the act of separation of the intelligible from the mysterious signifies at the same time the establishing of cosmic respiration, which is the analogy of ‘the Spirit of God moving above the face of the waters.’ For the divine breath (ruach ‘elohim) above the profoundness of peace (‘the waters’ – it is this which is the psychological as well as th e cosmic reality of nirvana) is the divine prototype of respiration.
Unknown Author, Meditations on the Tarot, Letter V, The Pope
The fundamental thesis of scholasticism was that philosophy is the servant of theology. Intelligence certainly cooperated, but it played only a subordinate role. Thus, scholasticism did not succeed in achieving the marriage of the sun and moon, the result of which is the third principle, called the ‘philosopher’s’ stone in alchemy.
The ‘philosopher’s stone of alchemy is described in the Emerald Table of Hermes Trismegistus as follows:
The father thereof is the sun, the mother the moon.
The wind carried it in its womb; the earth is the nurse thereof.
It is the father of all works of wonder throughout the whole world.
The power thereof is perfect, if it be cast on to earth.
It will separate the element of earth from that of fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with great sagacity.
It doth ascend from earth to heaven.
Again it doth descend to earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior.
This means to say that the process of induction (which ‘ascends from earth to heaven’) and that of deduction (which descends to earth), the process of prayer (which ascends from earth to heaven) and that of reveleation (which descends to earth) – ie human endeavour and the action of grace from above – unite and become a complete circle which contracts and concentrates to become a point where the ascent and descent are simultaneous and coincide. And this point is the ‘philosopher’s stone’ – the principle of the identity of the human and divine, of spirituality.
It is the solution of the problem posed by St Paul, or rather the accomplishment of the task given by him, when he wrote of the Cross being folly to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews, but which “to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (I Corinthians I, 22-24).
Now, the historical and evolutionary mission of Hermeticism is to advance the progress of alchemical work engaged in developing the ‘philsopher’s stone’ or the union of spirituality and intellectuality. It is called to be the crest of the wave of contemporary human effort aspiring to the fusion of the spirituality and intellectuality. This effort and aspiration is larger than the group of Hermeticists, properly said, who are dispersed in the world.
There are probably more people who are not avowed Hermeticists and who are engaged in the endeavour aiming at the fusion of spirituality and intellectuality than there are Hermeticists, properly said. …..The Spirit blows where it will, but the task of the Hermetic tradition is to maintain – without pretension to a monopoly, God forbid! – the ancient idea of the ‘the thelema of the whole world – which ascends from earth to heaven, descends to earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior’. It’s the task is that of guardian of the great spiritual world.
Unknown author, Meditations on the Tarot, Letter XXI, The Fool
The very least of us is blessed with imagination. One might say ‘I think, therefore I am’, or go a logical step further and say ‘I remember, therefore I am’. All of knowledge is an awakening memory within ourselves, a connection with the infinite One.
We experience this unity through love and light, at the moment when our eyes are first opened to the beauty of Christ and ourselves are lost and yet found in the eternity of that moment.
We start to understand the concept of unity, which has profound implications for our relationships with certain people – our kindred spirits and soul mates – with whom we might thereby share the whole of history, as if we had known each other again and again and again throughout the ages and will be friends forever.
In a sense, we activate eternity and come closer to our creator by uniting our beginning with our end and re-enacting the divine teachings through our myriad selves with the help of our soul friends (and foes!). Through the memories these people reawaken, we may go through the portal and (re)enter the esoteric realms of the supernatural, where so much of the Great Work must be carried out for both self, soul, Heaven and Earth.
On the other hand, the notion that Karma consists purely in one reaping either ‘reward’ or ‘punishment’ for the deeds committed in ‘past lives’ is not one that sits so well with me, as clearly there are also ‘accidents’ of savage nature at play in the overall design.
Might it not also be possible that we somehow (in imitation of Christ) atone for one another’s sins and, equally, have the potential to benefit from their prayers, good deeds and so on of others? We are all interconnected, after all, and if karma is about cause and effect, we bring plenty enough of all that upon one another as well as our singular selves.
Perhaps, indeed, it is the greatest tragedy of mankind that we reap what others have sown. It is also our greatest hope, of course, in the person of Jesus Christ. We must also remember, then, to not give up hope in the natural human belief in the one life, the one self and the one Resurrection when time completes its circle and we are free to step beyond the wheel into the ever-expanding spiral of eternity.
At a certain point it was suggested to me that I should maybe go to Atlantis.
Now, I have for long been convinced of the reality of time travel – which is pretty much a scientific fact now anyway – and although I didn’t fancy this Atlantis trip (the idea never had much of a hold on me, I was always much more interested in other things and found the notion too imponderable to be worth bothering with) I decided to try out his suggestion for the sake of the exercise.
We’d been doing a lot of work with guardian angels and he also said I should ask for their protection before going, or trying to go. When I went to lie down in bed in order to think about this, I was oddly not in the mood for meditation (unlike every other night at that time), was not feeling ‘spiritual’ and was more inclined to go to the pub, to be frank.
It was before midnight, I wasn’t tired, didn’t know what to expect and had almost no expectations of getting anywhere anyway. I just didn’t care about Atlantis.
Nevertheless – and almost cursorily, I must admit – I said a brief prayer to the archangels, probably Michael in particular, in which I said something along the lines of. “I’m meant to be going to Atlantis, my buddy thinks it’s a good idea, would you please protect me if you also think it’s a good idea for me to go.”
About 3 seconds later, somewhat to my surprise, I saw through open eyes with second sight a big fish headed being appear to my left above the bed.
Holy Krishna, Siddhartha Gautama, Christ the Lord, please don’t let it fall into the wrong hands! Forgive me for so carelessly misplacing it – I beg of you – let me find the book!
After at least another hour spent rearranging the whole of the small but extremely high-quality library, the Master ascertained that Pros Theon definitely was not on the bookcase. The situation had become intolerable.
For God’s sake, give me a sign!
A prayerful sound that was verging on the desperate escaped the Master’s lips, but still no response was forthcoming.
Did I put it in a safe place following the comet’s ominous portent?
This time the direct question yielded an instantaneous and equally direct response from a spirit guide.
No, you’ve lost it, man.
The Master sighed deeply. It had to be this one; why couldn’t Soaring Eagle have dropped by?
Any idea of where it could be?
Maybe it’s in the outer limit.
Yes, maybe it is, but I just need some light to be shed on where PRECISELY it is right now.
We need lights out here in the perimeter as well.
And why would that be? The Master scowled ferociously. As if we didn’t know already!
Because out here in the perimeter there are no stars, out here we are stoned….
Immaculately, yes, well, if that’s all you can say then I’d prefer it if you maybe meditated in silence or something, perhaps had a think about your shadow.
Hey, why don’t you just chill, man, it isn’t me whose lost it!
I can’t ‘just chill’ – as you so eloquently put it – until I’ve found the book. The Master leveled a thunderous glance at the ceiling.
Two more hours of anguished searching ensued, during which all the drawers were pulled inside out (the contents checked thoroughly for the first time in years) and every cupboard and closet, including the drinks cabinet, turned upside down.
Finally, giving up in despair, The Master poured a quadruple Jack Daniels and injected it with a splash of coke, smoked a large pipe full of pure marijuana and headed into the bathroom with a recent edition of Psychic Circular.
That’s the spirit, man, if you relax, it’ll find you.