Next up in our weekly discussion of Meditations on the Tarot
: Letter II, the High Priestess.
But before moving on to her, is there anything else we should say about the Magician?
Yes, a couple of lucends. UF makes the critically important point that, with regard to the spiritual world, everything hinges upon the depth of experience. This is not analogous to scientific knowledge, which has no "depth" per se, and may be passed from mind to mind like any other object. The dominance of this latter modality is precisely what leads naive minds to conclude that the world is epistemologically flat, which of course is nonsense (or only
sense, rather). For one thing, if that were true, it could never be known, for the knower could not rise above what he knows.
We'll leave to one side for the moment Polanyi
's argument that the scientific enterprise is actually much closer to spiritual epistemology -- and vice versa -- than scientists realize. The point is, the arcana of which UF writes are like preconceptions, or "empty categories," which must be filled by experience in order to become genuine knowledge. As he writes, "all superficial, incomplete or false experience is bound to give rise to superficial, incomplete and false conclusions." Therefore, the "effectiveness and value depend on the fullness and exactitude of the experience upon which it is based."
For you post-literate sophisticates out there who imagine there is something essentially stupid about religion, always consider the source, as there will always be an abundance of stupid people such as yourselves, especially as more of you are spiritually maimed by the privilege of a higher education. This is axiomatic. It is not analogous to your scientistic religion, which any mediocrity can understand.
Qualifications count all the more in any knowledge that is embodied
and not just theoretical. I am not impressed if my brain surgeon has merely been to medical school. I want to know if he has assimilated the knowledge and successfully put it into action. I don't want him merely to "know stuff." I want him to physically be
the knowledge, to incarnate it in action.
Here again, there is something analogous to being childlike. As UF writes, "The little child does not 'work' -- he plays. But how serious he is, i.e., concentrated, when he plays! His attention is still
, complete and undivided, whereas with one who approaches the kingdom of God it becomes again
entire and undivided.... The Master did not want us to become puerile; what he wanted is that we attain the geniality of intelligence and heart which is analogous -- not identical -- to the attitude of the child...."
It is in this mode of relaxed work-play that we may regain the unity of consciousness, or the union of conscious and unconscious minds; or, if you like, left and right brain, or heart and head. The Magician embodies
the higher synthesis "of the conscious and unconscious -- of creative spontaneity and deliberately executed activity." It is theodidactic soul-jazz, which eventually gets to where it's going, although never by the same route, and never where you imagined.
Bob looks at it this way: "Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it." Children -- well, my child, anyway -- are always laughing
. Humor and human are of the same essence. Therefore, the journey to hyperborea calls for some seriously deep
and laughty revelations. In turn, one can see how the empyrean is unreachable for an embittered comic such as Bill Maher, who is only capable of humor so low, so cheap, so broad, that even Larry King gets it.
Now, on to the High Priestess. Here again we have a somewhat rambling and chaorderly chapter that I will do my best to reduce to its essence.
There is a reason the Priestess follows the Magician, and this has to do with the distinction between the pure Light of knowledge -- which is analogous to the sun -- and its reflection in the book (in her lap) -- which is analogous to the moon (the moon is always female, and not just because of the moonstrual cycle).
UF then veers into an important aside; here again, his constant asides can be disorienting, but speaking as Bob's Unconscious, I am completely sympathetic. The Unconscious is not "linear"; but this is hardly to say that it is not logical. Rather, it simply follows its own logic. You might call it "night logic," or the logic of the Dream. This logic is rich, holographic, fractal, non-linear, and pregnant with implications. Rather than A leading to B leading to C, it's more like....
Well, frankly, unconscious logic is also intrinsically imagistic, and the image that comes to mind is a lung, an upside down tree, or a burning bush that is never consumed by the Fire. Think of how oxygen enters through a single passage, but then fractally branches off into innumerable byways, until it literally touches
the individual blood cells. That is how religious in-spiration works as well. It is how one touches the divine -- or rather, vice versa. And God breathed into him the breath of life, and man became a living being
. His ex-halation is our in-wholation (hale and whole are etymologically related).
Interesting that the French name for High Priestess is, as you can see, La Papesse
, or "The Popess." Interesting because Schuon often refers to the pontiff as the archetype of Man as Such, i.e., Pontifical Man, the latter being the microcosmic vertical principle who bisects all the planes of existence and who contains all potential within himself. The Latin pontifex
connotes "builder of bridges," and Man is indeed the ultimate bridge builder, only it is a vertical bridge (or sometimes ladder) between manifestation and principle; or the many and the One; or Heaven and Earth; or the upper waters and the lower waters.
I am intrigued by this implicit idea of "female pope." What could it possibly mean when we combine -- or play with -- the archetypes of pontifex and female? To put it another way, what does female connote in its vertical aspect? I ask this because female is usually associated with all of the words and concepts derived from mother or mater
, including matter, meter, mara, maya, mattress, measure. There is the Father Principle, or "pure form," which "fertilizes" pure materiality in order to bring about the manifestation (e.g., the play of purusha and prakriti
, or Shiva and Shakti).
Genesis treats this subject in mythopoetic terms, as the woman represents the descending tendency who is seduced by the snake, the symbol of earthbound horizontality. Conversely, Mary is the shadow of Eve (or rather, vice versa), in that she gives birth to the ultimate pontifex, or to the Principle within the manifestation. Thus, Mary-Matter-Maya is "pregnant with God," not just 2000 years ago, but for all time. We don't have time to go into Eckhart's many fruitful ideas about the feminine aspect of divinity, e.g., that God perpetually lays on a maternity bed giving birth. Creativity -- which is often seen as a more masculine activity -- is actually more feminine, both because of the birth motif, but also because true creativity is fertilized "from above."
UF goes into the difference between "Christian" yoga and yoga-yoga, in that the former aspires to a unity of two
rather then the dissolution of twoness into an acosmic and impersonal Oneness. (And don't be put off by the word "yoga," as it simply means the same thing as "religion"; both have to do with "yoking" or "binding" (from the Latin religare
, "to bind"). Thus, "my yoga is easy," as it were.
A Christian yoga must be rooted in the principle that there is something higher than oneness; and that higher principle is the yoke of love
. And clearly, love is not possible -- or, it is merely an illusion -- if all is actually one. But Christianity teaches that love is not only not
an illusion, but the essence of God, even a "name" for God, so to speak. Thus, the recognition of a trinitarian God, which you might say is "one in love" as opposed to one in.... what? I don't know. That was for all those Councils to hash out 1000 or 1500 years ago, and I don't want to rehash it here.
The point is, this does not mean to imply any dualistic cosmos; but it also isn't a monistic one. Duality, as UF suggests, is always pernicious, as it posits two rival "ultimates" which battle it out until the end of time -- which never ends. But it is absurd to think that there could be two ultimates.
You could claim that one of the ultimates is merely an illusion, which is what materialists do. That is, there is a mind-matter duality that is ultimately reducible to matter. This, of course, is a non-starter, as it represents the worst kind of metaphysical nonsense: the intrinsically self-refuting kind.
UF asks, "Does there not exist a legitimate twofoldness
?... a twofoldness which does not signify the diminution
of unity, but rather its qualitative enrichment?
Hmmm, let's see.... I'm thinking of marriage, which strikes me as a legitimate twofoldness that enriches unity. Is there such a thing as a metaphysical marriage? Well, could this perhaps be what Petey was referring to when he quipped, A little metaphysical diddling between a cabbala opposites, and Mamamaya! baby makes Trinity, so all the world's an allusion
As the ironically named Three Dog Night taught us, "one is the loneliest number." And as Petey taught us, It was not good that this Godhead, the Most High, should be allone, so He expired with a big bong and said "let there be higher physics," and it was zo
. Now God had a lila Word with whom to play with keep him company! The point is, eternity would be intolerably dull and monotheotonous without sometwo to love in threeness: Lover, Loved, and the Love that passes between them. Truly, two's a crowd but three's company.
And God's love would not be particularly admirable if he were merely loving himself by proxy. No, God's love is completely unnarcissary. As UF writes, "If God were only One and if he had not created the World, he would not be the God revealed by the Master, the God of whom St. John says: God is
love; and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him."
I suppose I would venture to branch this out a bit, and say that God is also Truth, or Knower, Known, and the Knowledge in between; or Beauty, in the same essential formulation.
The point is, as UF says, mere Being deprived of love "would be the most appalling torment -- the Inferno itself!" Love -- and Truth and Beauty -- is what imbues being with worth
, with value and with meaning. What is the Resurrection if not the triumph of love over broken being? Being itself is morally indifferent, perhaps even vaguely sinister, in the absence of the divine light of love.
UF goes into a lovely little soliloquy on the "gift of tears" which are a sort of fluid membrane between the above and below, a certificate of authenticity of most any encounter with the God of Love. In contrast to the "dry" experience of depersonalized oneness, UF writes that the soul who experiences the miracle of divine love is moved to tears. Only humans cry tears of joy.
Now, man the microcosm is in the image of the Creator-metacosm. The most quintessentially human faculty is the Intellect, or nous
, which actually shares in a part of the "uncreatable" substance of God. Again, it is a purely passive or "female" principle, as it is a lunar reflection of the light of the Father. This is none other than Sophia, or wisdom herself: "Pure intellect is that which reflects; love is that which acts."
(Interestingly, this implies that the solar principle is located in the heart, the lunar principle in the head; more on which later. But you can well understand why so many so-called "intellectuals" become so pathologically feminized, as they are detached from the solar principle above as well as its manifestation below in the heart, or higher mind.)
UF notes that "the intellect is the feminine side of the soul, whilst the fertilizing imagination is the masculine principle. The intellect that is not fertilized by the imagination guided by the heart is sterile." Here again, we can see how our troll has so much to teach us. One thing he teaches us about is how, in the pathologically feminized mind, passions become hardened into irrational pseudo-thoughts.
Back to the Priestess. I won't get into all of the details of UF's reasoning, as I would prefer to focus on the principles. And the main principle embodied in the Priestess is the descent of the Word through the stages of reflection, memory, word, and writing. For example, think of the descent of revelation, only the last stage of which is "The Book." In other words, religion begins in the world of principles, or at the center, and moves out to the periphery.
Science, on the other hand, begins with facts -- "the book of nature" -- and attempts to reason from the periphery to the center (which is strictly impossible, as the very conduct of science presupposes the human center). Put another way, the "last stage" of God's involution is the material world, whereas the latter is the starting point of science.
Mysticism is the science of "spiritual touch," and it must be at the heart of all religion. As UF writes, spiritual touch -- or intuition -- "is that which permits contact between our consciousness and the world of pure mystical experience. It is by virtue of this that there exists in the world and in the history of mankind a real relationship between the living soul and the living God -- which is true religion." It is only because of this faculty of spiritual touch -- which is obviously a subtle sense that needs to be nurtured and developed -- that God is something "more than an abstract notion."
But after mystical touch comes gnosis, or the spirit of understanding; and after gnosis, the magical sense, or the ability to put knowledge into action (or non-action, to be precise); and after magic comes the book, MOTT being as fine an example of the latter as one could imagine. As UF writes, if the God-knower "wants all that he has experienced, understood and practiced to be not limited to himself and his time, but to be communicable to others and transmitted to future generations, he must develop the Hermetic-philosophical sense, and in practicing it he will 'write his book.'"
And how eternally grateful we are that so many of these illustrious pneumanauts left their living books for us! For it is only through the very organicity of the living book that the totality
of tradition may be "held together," from the top to the bottom, from the center to the periphery, from the vertical to the horizontal. To not have this experience of the living whole
is to be possessed by a demon, whether it is the demon of Marxism, or of metaphysical Darwinism, or of materialism, or of scientism. Each of these results in the soul being possessed and ensnared:
"Yes, autonomous philosophical systems separated from the living body of tradition are parasitic structures, which seize the thought, feeling and finally the will of human beings. In fact, they play a role comparable to the psycho-pathological complexes of neurosis or other psychic maladies of obsession. Their physical analogy is cancer."
Ain't it the truth. And there is no cure for this soul-cancer from within the absurcular realm from which it arises, only via relationship
with the higher principle to which the soul is always "feminine."