Union Jack

     English Wordplay ~ Listen and Enjoy

The Magician
The Empress
from the Tarot of Marseilles

Previous Arcanum: The High Priestess

Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord;
let it be to me according to your word.
                             (Luke i. 38)

3. The Empress

Dear Unknown Friend,
The third Arcanum is that of sacred magic, whereby the subtle rules the dense.

The Empress's crowned head indicates the power of the Divine over consciousness;
her right arm, which bears a sceptre topped by a cross mounted on a globe of gold, represents the power of consciousness over force;
and the left arm, which carries a shield bearing an eagle, signifies the power of energy over matter.

The crown is the divine authorisation of magic. The sceptre is magical power . The shield bearing the eagle shows the aim of magical power.

To have the emblem of magic before one's eyes means that one is invited to "to throw the eagles of one's desires to the wind". It is this same emblem - the shield with the eagle - that Papus had in mind when he defined magic as:

The application of the strengthened human will to accelerate the evolution of the living forces of Nature.

Earlier he had written:

Magic is the science of love.

The Legitimacy of Magic

Let us take as our starting point these words from the New Testament

Now as Peter went here and there among them all, he came down also to the saints that lived at Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralysed. And Peter said to him: Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed. And immediately he rose. (Acts ix, 32-34)

This was divine magic. Peter could have done nothing if his will was not united with the divine will.

The Cure d'Ars
The Curé d'Ars

The life and work of the holy priest of Ars shows us the loftiness and splendour of individual sacred magic, which is able to manifest itself in the life and work of a simple country parson.

On the other hand there is corrupt magic.

He who attempts magic without being guided by an authentic master - which is almost certainly impossible in the Occident - will find himself in a situation quite analogous to that of a child, whom one allows to play with all the drugs filling a pharmacy, or to walk with a lighted taper inside a firework factory. Incurable heart problems, slow destruction of the spinal marrow, sexual disorders and madness await those who risk this.
(from The Serpent Power - The Secrets of Tantric and Shaktic Yoga by Arthur Avalon).

The Atom Bomb
The Atom Bomb

Neither Satan, nor Belial, nor Lucifer, nor Mephistopheles have ever deprived anyone of his freedom. Temptation is their only weapon and this pre-supposes the freedom of he who is tempted. But possession by an "evil spirit" has nothing to do with temptation. It is invariably the same thing as with Frankenstein's monster. One engenders an elemental being and subsequently becomes the slave of one's own creation.

One need not fear the devil, but rather the perverse tendencies in oneself. For these can deprive us of our freedom. Worse still they can avail themselves of our imagination and and inventive faculties and lead us to creations which can become the scourge of mankind. The atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb are flagrant examples of this.

The Fall changed the destiny of humanity - so that the mystical union became replaced by struggle or toil, gnosis by suffering and sacred magic by death.

The formula: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, (John xiv, 6) can overcome the effects of the Fall. It is also the summation of the first three Arcana of the Tarot. i.e. of mystical spontaneity (the Magician), revealed truth or gnosis (the High Priestess), and transforming life or sacred magic (the Empress).

The Annunciation by Murillo
The Annunciation by Murillo

Sacred Magic is the Tree of Life, inaccessible to arbitrary fool-hardiness, but manifesting itself in the whole of history of mankind by those who know how to say: Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word. (Luke i, 38)

It manifests itself in life by a miracle - the visible effect of an invisible cause - the supra biological life that continues from century to century, from millenium to millenium; that goodness, truth and beauty do not lose their attraction; that in spite of all there is faith, hope and charity in the world; that there are saints, sages, geniuses, benefactors, and healers; that pure thought, poetry, music and prayer are not being engulfed by the void, that there is this universal miracle of human history; and that the the miraculous exists.

Teresa Neumann
Teresa Neumann

A miracle is often more comprehensible than a so called "natural' and "explained" phenomenon. It is for example more comprehensible that Teresa Neumann, in Bavaria, lived for decades without any food other than the host - in view of the fact that matter is only condensed energy and energy is only 'condensed' consciousness - than the "well explained" fact of a single cell which in multipying itself by division, produces different cells for the brain, muscles, bones, hair, etc.

Modern Exact Science

In the last analysis modern exact science is a matter of mechanising the intellect in such a manner that it calculates the world instead of understanding it. From the 18th century to the present its essential stages are the discoverires and putting into man's service of steam, electricity, the combustion engine and atomic energy. As different as these discoveries seem they are based upon a single principle of the destruction of matter by which energy is freed in order to be captured anew by man so as to be put at his service.

The practical aspect of the scientific ideal is the domination of Nature by putting in to play the principle of destruction or death.

Tree of life
'Tree of Life'
from the Howard Psalter

Imagine, dear Unknown Friend, efforts and discoveries in the opposite direction, efforts in construction or life. Imagine the blossoming out of a constructive atomic bomb. it is not so difficult to imagine because each acorn is such a constructive bomb.

"The Tree of Life" is the negation of the technical and mechanical. It is the living synthesis of celestial light and the elements of earth. It constantly synthesises that which descends from above and that which ascends from below.

The ideal of Hermeticism is contrary to that of science. Instead of aspiring to power over nature by means of the destruction of matter, it aspires to conscious participation with the constructive forces of the world. Science wants to compel nature to obey the will of man.

Hermeticism - or the philosophy of sacred magic - on the contrary wants to purify and illumine the will and nature of man to bring him into harmony with the creative principle of Nature. This the "fruit" of the Tree of Life.

Teresa Neumann
Uriel with Sword of Fire
by Walter Huacac Santa Cruz

In Genesis at the east of the Garden of Eden God placed the Cherubium, which turned every way, to guard the way to the Tree of Life.

The Lord God said: "Behold, the man has become like one ofd us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the Tree of Life, and eat, and live for ever . . .

The motif, method and ideal of Hermeticism is contrary to that of science. The will-to-serve underlies the fundamental Hermetic attitude. Instead of putting forward the hand to take, the human being opens his mind, his will and his heart to receive

The flaming sword of the Guardian of Eden is a weapon of divine magic. It is essentially a "yes" and not a "no". The flaming sword is a benediction to those who seek the Tree of Eternal Love, which is the Tree of Life, and at the same time, by the very fact that it blesses, the flaming force prohibits those who seek the Tree of Life in order to take possession of its fruits.

The traditional teaching of the Church that "Nature is wounded but not destroyed" is absolutely true.

Art and Religion

Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner

Art being seperated from the living organism of the unity of Tetragramaton (Yahweh), is removed from gnosis and sacred magic - from which it springs and to which it owes its substance and the sap of its life. The pure revelation of gnosis has become more and more a game of the imagination. The power of magic has degenerated more and more into aesthetics. Richard Wagner understood this and wanted to remedy it. His work aimed to reintegrate art - to effect reunion with gnosis and mysticism, so that it becomes sacred magic again.

The religious life is not exempt from decadence - when it ceases to be founded in mysticism, illumined by gnosis and actuated by sacred magic.

FAITH is the experience of divine breath,
HOPE is the experience of divine light; and
LOVE is the experience of divine fire.

The divine and flaming Word shines in the world of the silence of the soul and "moves" it.

The three "ways" or stages of traditional mysticism - purification, illumination and union - are those of the experience of divine breath or faith, divine light or hope, and divine fire or love.

The vital élan is advanced by Henri Bergson as the general impulse behind evolution.

In the beginning was the Word and all things were made through him. (John i 1,3). It is because the primordial Word stil vibrates in all that lives, that the world still lives and has the vital élan.

Robert Browning
Robert Browning

In this sense Browning was right in having said, "Nature is supernatural".

FAITH is the source of magic power and all the miracles spoken of in the Gospels are attributable to it. The revelation - all the revelations of gnosis have only one aim: to give, to maintain and to increase HOPE. The book that the High Priestess holds on her knees is written so that hope may continue unceasingly. Mysticism is fire without reflection; it is union with the divine in LOVE.

The Arcanum of sacred magic, the Empress, calls to us to take another way. It calls us to the way of regeneration, instead of that of degeneration.

At this point, dear Unknown Friend, I shall withdraw and leave you alone with your Angel.
It is not fitting that my human voice arrogates the right of uttering things which are a more profound continuation of what is outlined above.

The Fourth Arcanum: The Emperor

Introduction to the Tarot

The Seven Miracles of St. John's Gospel by Valentin Tomberg


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