Letter V: The Pope
The Pope is placed on the pathway from Tiphareth to Chockmah and is signified by the letter Heh of the Hebrew alphabet.
In contemplating this card, first we might also recall the ultimate high priest, Melchizedek, and note the ongoing significance throughout the history of occult movements of the letter M as a prominent initial letter of initiatory group leaders.
The five wounds of Christ are key to understanding this, the fifth Arcana, which "puts us in the presence of an act of benediction". As the prayers of humanity strive to reach the source of divinity, so does the grace of God flow down towards Earth.
There is also an emphasis on breath in this Arcana, where spiritual respiration is a key theme.
The fundamental role of Prayer is emphasised throughout MotT, especially in the Fifth Arcanum, where the author describes how "The prayers of humanity rise towards God and, after having been divinely "oxidised", are transformed into benedictions which descend below from above." The columns of Jachim and Boaz, seen clearly on traditional depictions of The Pope on Tarot cards, are channels for this rising and falling of prayer and benediction. It is the pillar of Severity which motivates the upward channel of prayer, whilst Mercy delivers the blessings. This process is likened to spiritual respiration.
As the bearer of five wounds in the image of Jesus Christ and guardian of the fifth Arcanum, The Pope of MotT would also seem to correspond perfectly to the upright Pentagram within a human being, as contemplated by G.O.M.
In chapter five of Transcendental Magic. Its Doctrine and Ritual, we find the following summary of Eliphas Lévi's doctrine concerning the pentagram:
The Pentagram, which in Gnostic schools is called the Blazing Star, is the sign of intellectual omnipotence and autocracy.
And then, in The Key of the Mysteries:
The quinary (or quinternary) is the number of religion, for it is the number of God united to that of woman. (Eliphas Lévi, The Key of the Mysteries; trsl. A. Crowley, London, 1969, p.30).
Summing up one of the great problems not just of occultism but human affairs, Tomberg writes further in Letter V: "We have arrived at a very serious problem: that of the pentagram of the evil quinternary and that of the Pentagram or good quinternary”. Here he touches on a matter expounded upon at length by G.O.M. – of the upright vs the involutive Pentagram. A solution to the problem is given by Louis Claude Saint-Martin that is cited in MotT:
“…the quinternary is good "as long as it is united and bound to the decad" and it is "absolutely evil" when it is separated and isolated from it. In other words, the pentagram, as the sign of intellectual autocracy, ie, the emancipated human personality, is good when it is the expression of the personality whose will is united and bound to the fullness of the manifestation of Unity (the decad); and it is evil when it expresses the will of the personality separated from this Unity. Or, in other words again, the sign is good when it expresses the formula: Fiat voluntas tua ("Thy will be done"); and it is evil when the formula of the underlying will is: Fiat voluntas tua ("Thy will be done") and it is evil when the formula of hte underlying will is: Fiat voluntas mea ("my will be done"). Here is the moral and practical meaning of Saint-Martin's statement”.
Here, again, do we see the practice of sacred magic epitomised by the five wounds and fifth element of the quinternary contrasted with personal magic or sorcery, the difference being in “Thy will” over “My will” mentioned above. The difference between “personal sacred magic” and “personal arbitrary magic”.
Take the terms 'limbo', 'purgatory' and 'paradise' in their meaning as undersetood by analogy and you have a clear and precise formula for the working of the magic of the sacred pentegram of five wounds: it effects a change from the natural state ('limbo') adn from the state of human suffering ('purgatory') to that of the blessedness of the divine state ('paradise'). The operation of the magic of the sacred pentegram of five wounds therefore consists in transforming the natural state into the human state and this latter into the divie state. This is the work of spiritual alchemy of hte transformation from Nature ('limbo'), and from the Human ('purgatory'), into the Divine ('paradise'), according to the traditional threefold division - Nature, Man, God.
Let us now consider more closely the practical meaning of the terms 'limbo', 'purgatory' and 'paradise', in so far as they are stages in the work of transmutation - or liberation - of the magic of the sacred pentagram of five wounds.
Their practical meaning is not spatial, ie, referring to 'places', but refers rather to states of the human being - in body, soul and spirit. When we understand it thus, we shall readily discover that the three states are known to us through experience and that experience supplies us with the key of analogy to be able to understand the ideas of 'limbo', 'purgatory' and 'paradise' as such, ie on all planes and at every level - psychological, metaphysical and theological - of their application.
Meditations on the Tarot, Letter V, The Pope, p116