I hope you are all well, it feels like so much of the world has turned since I wrote to you about The Magician, when we were just ahead of the Autumn Equinox and summer was not the distant memory it seems today in rainy England!
the full moon is resplendent nonetheless, so I return with some words on the second Arcanum, The High Priestess:
If the Magician of the first Arcanum served to awaken our mystical faculties with both the fecundating spark of Yod – the first letter of the Divine Name - and the initiatory breath of Aleph, the High Priestess is where we reflect upon the revelation inspired from above.
The Hebrew letter association of the High Priestess is Beth and she is seated upon her throne in the place where ‘Wisdom has built her house’, between the pillars of Jakim and Boaz, where she is symbolically serving as the 'Middle Pillar'. This is the Arcanum of Gnosis and - as the receptive feminine principle - also symbolises the second letter of the Divine Name, He, which I wrote a little about in the half moon phase.
On page 39-40 of MotT, the author writes:
"Now, the Master taught of the Father, who is love. The intellect being the reflection - or light - of the fire principle of love, can only be the feminine principle, Sophia or Wisdom, who assists the Creator in the work of creation, according to the Old Testament. The gnostic tradition also considers Sophia as the feminine principle. Pure intellect is that which reflects; love is that which acts....
"....With regard to the third principle, the Spirit, it is neither intellect nor imagination, but Love-Wisdom. In principle it ought to be androgynous, but in practice it is not always so. This, therefore, is all that it seems to me necessary to say on the subject of the problem of two and its significance - the resolution of this problem being the key to the second Arcanum, the High Priestess. For this is the arcanum of the twofoldness underlying consciousness - spontaneous activity and its reflection; it is the arcanum of the transformation of the pure act into representation, of representation into memory pictures, of memory pictures into the word, and of the word into written characters of the book."
Through pure contemplation of the Divine – as Lover to the Beloved – the High Priestess resolves the problem of ‘twofoldness’ and overcomes duality with a union of self with other, through love.
It is not until the Ninth Arcanum, The Hermit, that the subject of resolving binaries is really treated in MotT, but some earlier courses on the tarot – such as that taught in St Petersburg by Tomberg’s Russian teacher, G.O.Mebes – put this key spiritual exercise with The Magician. Seen in this context, the High Priestess of the Tarot resolves through her Gnosis the great binaries which were set in motion during the first Arcanum. For example: Spirit-Matter, Good-Evil, Life-Death.
As the High Priestess is the Arcanum of spiritual hearing, so is The Magician the Arcanum of spiritual touch, or mystical experience. The unified force of these two Arcana – Aleph with Beth, Yod with He, Mysticism with Gnosis – essentially precedes the Sacred act of Creation:
“A mystical act and a gnostic act ‘precede’ in eternity the act of creation as a magical act.”
Such Sacred Magic will constitute the major theme of the Third Arcana, The Empress, the ‘Vau’ of the Divine name.
May the Holy Spirit guide us! 🙂
If The Magician of GOM shows us how to neutralise binaries, The High Priestess accomplishes magical equilibrium. To achieve this one must have a healthy mind, a healthy astrosome and a healthy body.
We have already learned that The High Priestess signifies Gnosis and this tarot key might be described as The Door of the Sanctuary. The pillars on either side of the Priestess represent Jaquim and Boaz, which represent the sun and moon respectively.
GOM asks us to see in the letter Beth - the letter of The High Priestess - the Law of Analogy, so famously described in the Emerald Tablet:
What is below is similar (analogous, not equal) to that which is above and that which is above is like unto that which is below, to accomplish the miracle of the one thing.
The upper part of Beth is only similar to the lower - not identical - and the Jaquim pillar is similar to Boaz, not exactly the same. The horns on the crown of the Priestess also indicate a binary principle, which she herself must neutralise.
This Arcanum also shows us that a profound study of the masculine - feminine binary must be undertaken. The second Arcanum represents the fecund principle of femininity and the principle of motherhood is indicated by the Moon.