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The Emperor
The Emperor
from the Tarot of Marseilles

Previous Arcanum: The Empress

4. The Emperor

Blessed is he
who comes in the name of the Lord
                                (Luke xiii, 35)

A person has authority in proportion to what he unites within himself of the profundity of mysticism, the direct wisdom of gnosis, and the productive power of magic.

The Emperor does not have a sword or any other weapon. He rules by means of the sceptre alone.

The human bearer of true authority does not replace divine authority but, on the contrary, cedes his place to it. The Emperor has renounced compulsion and violence. He has renounced ease, being not seated. He has renounced walking, being in a leaning position, and having his legs crossed.

He is on sentry duty, and as such he does not have freedom of movement. He is a guardian bound to his post.

He wears a large and heavy crown. As we have seen from the Empress it is a sign of legitimacy on the one hand, and on the other it is the sign of a task or mission by which the crown is charged from above.

Thus every crown is essentially a crown of thorns.

The Emperor is deprived of the three so-called "natural" liberties of the human being - those of opinion, word and movement. Authority demands this. The purpose for which the Emperor is on sentry duty is not his but that of the throne. It is necessary to create a natural emptiness for the spiritual to manifest itself.

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.

Revelation presupposes emptiness in order to manifest itself. The emperor has made a space in himself for the divine name YHVH, which is the source of authority.

Laozi
Laozi depicted as
a Taoist leader

Lao Tzu reveals the arcanum of authority in his Tao Te Ching. He says:

Clay is moulded into vessels, and because of the space where nothings exists we are able to use them as vessels.
Doors and windows are cut out in the walls of a house, and because they are empty spaces we are able to use them.
Therefore, on the one hand we have the benefit of existence, and on the other, we make use of non-existence.
He who has little will receive.
He who has much will be embarrassed.
The sage does not display himself, therefore he shines.
He does not glory in himself, therefore he excels.

God governs the world by authority and not by force.
If this were not so the first three petitions in the Lord's Prayer
Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done on earth as in heaven,

would lose all meaning. He who prays these petitions affirms divine authority not divine power. Once this authority is recognised and accepted, the powerless become powerful.

The Christian world worships the Crucifix, i.e. the image expressing the paradox of almighty God reduced to a state of extreme powerlessness

Calvin of Geneva
Calvin of Geneva

Opposed to this is the dogma of Scribes and Communists, which states that truth and power are identical:
He saved others; he cannot save himself! If he is the king of Israel, let him come down from the cross and we will believe in him..
Under Communism Moscow Radio asked: 'if God exists, why does he not give a visible sign, if not of his power, at least of his existence?'

Calvinists' faith in God depends on the power of God. They have taught that God has created souls predestined to eternal damnation, and others predestined to salvation.

Some make God responsible for the entire history of the human race, including all its atrocities. God, they say, "chastises" his disobedient children by means of wars, revolutions and tyrannies. God is almighty therefore all that happens is by his consent, they claim.

They prefer a God who is powerful, to the crucified God.

The Withdrawal of God

Let us turn now to the idea of tsimtsum - the "withdrawal of God" - of the Lurianic school of the Caballah. The existence of the universe is rendered possible by the act of contraction of God within himself. God made a "place" for the world in abandoning a region interior to himself.

Gershom Scholem
Gershom Scholem

Gershom Scholem in "Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism" writes:

The first act of "en-Soph", the Infinite Being, is not a step outside, but a step inside, a movement of recoil, of falling back upon oneself, of withdrawing into oneself. Instead of emanation, we have the opposite contraction . . . . The first act of all is not an act of revelation but of limitation.

In other words in order to create the world ex nihilo, God had first to bring the void itself into existence. He had to withdraw within in order to create a mystical space, a space without his presence - the void.

The reflection of the divine withdrawal and divine crucifixion is found in the fourth Arcanum of the Tarot. See how the world (the globe) is ruled by the cross.

Authors in the Middle Ages could not imagine Christianity without an Emperor, just as they could not imagine the Universal Church without a pope. Kings cannot apportion the crown of the Emperor among themselves and pose as emperors in their particular country, because the shadow of the Emperor is always present.

A pyramid is not complete without its summit. The opposite arrives at the dictatorship of the proleteriat, the class hostile to the hierarchic principle, which latter, however is the reflection of divine order. This is why the proleteriat professes atheism.

Napoleon, Emperor of France by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres
Napoleon, Emperor of Europe,
by Ingres

Napoleon, eye-witness of the French Revolution, understood the direction which Europe had taken - the direction to complete destruction of hierarchy. And he sensed the shadow of the Emperor. He knew it had to be restored in Europe, which was not the royal throne of France - because kings cannot exist for long without the Emperor - but rather the royal throne of Europe. He made himself Emperor and he made his brothers kings.

But it was to the sword he took recourse. Instead of ruling by the sceptre - the globe bearing the cross - he made the decision to rule by the sword.

All who take up the sword will perish by the sword.
                                               (Matthew xxvi. 52)

Hitler
Hitler
emperor alone
The Emperor in
an empty space

Hitler also had the delirium of desire to occupy the empty place of the Emperor. He believed that he could establish the "thousand-year" empire by means of the sword.

The Emperor on the fourth card is alone, without a court or retinue. His throne is not to be found in a room of the imperial palace, but rather in the open - in an uncultivated field. He is alone in the presence of the sky, with a tuft of grass as his only company.

The Apocalypse

To understand the Apocalypse it is necessary to establish within oneself a state of consciousness suited to receive revelations. it is the state of concentration without effort (the Magician), followed by vigilant inner silence (the High Priestess), where the conscious self acts with super-consciousness (the Empress). Lastly the conscious self halts its creative activity and contemplates everything that preceded with a view to summarising (the practical teaching of the Emperor).

the ten chakras
The Seven Ckakras
of Hinduism

The aim of spiritual exercises is depth. Arcana, expressed by symbols are both the means and the aim of the spiritual exercises, of which the living tradition of Hermetic philiosophy is composed.

A Hermeticist whose vocation is healing would know things about the relationships existing between consciousness, the system of the "lotus flowers" or chakras, the nervous system and the system of endrocine glands, that another Hermeticist, whose vocation is the spiritual history of humanity, would not know.

Reincarnation

For the Hermeticist reincarnation is either a fact known through experience or it is ignored. But ignorance of reincarnation may have sublime reasons associated with the vocation of the person in question. When a person has a vocation that demands maximum of concentration in the present - for example a priest, a doctor or a judge - he may renounce all spiritual memories of the past.

One can perform miracles without the memory of former lives. However an interpretation of incarnation to the glory of God is to say: to forgive is to grant the opportunity to begin again; God forgives more than seventy times seven, always granting us opportunities anew - what infinite goodness of God!

ask, and it will be given you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
                              (Luke xi, 9)

Hermetic Philosophy does not teach what one ought to believe concerning God, man and nature, but how to ask, seek and knock in order to arrive at mystical experience, illumination and the magical effect of that which one seeks to know about God, man and nature.

This kind of knowing is The Emperor, the practical teaching of the fourth card of the Tarot.

The Archangel Michael

Archangel Michael
The Archangel Michael

Whilst the metaphysical sense operates with the "concept of God", the Hermetic-philosophical sense is orientated towards the living God, the spiritual, concrete fact of God. The Christian Celestial Father and the Ancient of Days of the Cabbalists is not an abstract concept , it is not a notion, but rather a being .

The Hermetic-philosophical (initiate) sense perceives through the facts the entities of the spiritual hierarchies, and through them the living God. For the initiate sense, the Archangel Michael is not a law or principle. He is a living being whose face is invisible, because it has given place to the face of God. This is why he has the name MI-KHA-EL, i.e. "He who (MI) is as (KHA) God (EL). Nobody could endure the vision of the face of Michael, because he is KHA-EL, i.e. "like unto God".

In fact among all that exists, God is that alone which is absolutely real and concrete, whilst created beings are only relatively real and concrete, and what we designate as "concrete fact" is only an abstraction from divine reality.

Archangel Michael
René Guénon

René Guénon and Islam

The metaphysical sense alone will never make a Hermeticist.

Is this not the tragedy of René Guénon who, being gifted with a developped metaphysical sense and yet lacking the Hermetic-philosphical sense, sort always and everywhere the concrete spiritual. And finally, tired of the world of abstractions, he hoped to to find liberation from intellectualism by plunging himself into the element of fervour of the Moslem masses at prayer in a Cairo mosque. The last hope of a soul thirsty for mystical experience and languishing in the captivity of the intellect?

If so, may divine mercy grant him what he sought so much.

Being Truly Human

For human beings to re-become what they are in their essence, they must be submitted to the operation of sublimation. this operation is crucifying of what is base among them and, at the same time it is the blossoming of that which is their true essence. The cross and the rose, the ROSE-CROSS, is the symbol of this operation of the realisation of the truly human man.

The Emperor renounces the four arbitrary liberties of human nature:

  1. the superman of Nietzche,
  2. the superman of India plunged in contemplation of eternity,
  3. the superman-heirophant of Gurdjieff,
  4. and the superman-philosopher of the Stoic and Vedanta philosophies.
Archangel Michael
Christ as Man of Sorrows
between Four Angels,
engraving by Master E. S., c. 1460.

The emperor is in a sense crucified. And as the real symbol of the emptiness which is established because of renunciation is the wound - one could say the emperor is he who has four wounds. It is by these four wounds that the manifestation of the divine likeness of human nature is accomplished in him.

And what of the Divine which transcends it?

In order for the latter to manifest it is necessary to have one wound more. It is necessary to have the five wounds.

Now, it is the following Card "The Pope" which will teach the Arcanum of the manifestation of the Divine transcending human nature by means of the five wounds.

The Fifth Arcanum: The Pope

Introduction to the Tarot

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

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