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In preparation

Force from the Tarot of Marseilles

Previous Arcanum: The Wheel of Fortune

11. Force

This thing is the strongest of all powers,
the force of all forces,
for it overcometh every subtle thing
and doth pernetrate every solid substance.
                   (Tabula Smaragdina, 9)
Virgo potens
Virgo clemens
Virgo fidelis
                    (Laurentian Litany)

In the previous letter we learnt that holy animality is represented in the Hermetic tradition, in the vision of Ezechiel, in the Apocalypse and in Christian iconography, by four holy animals, whose synthesis - the sphinx - is divine instinctivity, or the kingdom of God in and through the unconscious. Saints and poets who say that the birds "praise God" when they sing are not mistaken.

The mystery of natural religion is expressed with remarkable clarity in the Apocalypse:

And before the throne there was a sea of glass
like unto crystal:
and in the midst of the throne,
and round about the throne,
were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
And the first beast was like a lion,
and the second beast like a calf,
and the third beast had a face as a man,
and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him;
and they were full of eyes within:
and they rest not day and night, saying,
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
Our Lady of the Apocalypse
Our Lady of the Apocalypse
by Father William McNichols

The sea of glass is the eye of the whole of Nature for God. The four creatures "full of eyes all round and within" represent the natural reaction to the divine Presence. Perception and reaction are the essence of the natural religion which fills the unconscious core of creatures and wich manifests itself through vital élan.

Fallen Nature also has its unconscious mystery, i.e. its collective instinctivity of perception (its "waters") and its collective instinctivity of reaction (its "creatures"). The Apocalypse describes the "sea" of fallen Nature.

And the serpent cast out of his mouth
water as a flood after the woman,
that he might cause her
to be carried away of the flood.
And the earth helped the woman,
and the earth opened her mouth,
and swallowed up the flood
which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
                    (Revelation xii, 15-16)

Plato or Karl Marx?

Martin Luther
Karl Marx

The waters which pour out of the mouth of the serpent sweep away - like Marxism. The waters of the "sea of glass" like crystal before the throne illumine - like Platonism.

Are you a Plato or a Karl Marx? For twenty three centuries Plato has been the companion of those who love pure thought, seeking only the light; while during the twentieth century Marx swept away millions - those who went to the barricades and trenches in civil wars, and those who went to prisons, either as jailers or as prisoners.

The Four Beasts of the Apocalypse

The Great Whore
from Las Huelgas Manuscript
  1. "The beast with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems upon its horns and a blasphemous name upon its heads. It was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth." (Revelation xxxi, 1-2).
  2. St John goes on to describe "another beast which riose out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.". (Revelation xxxi, 11).
  3. The Apocalypse also speaks of "a scarlet beast, which was full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns" upon which the woman Babylon is seated. (Revelation vii, 3)
  4. Finally, it speaks of the false prophet who in the presence of the two-horned beast, worked signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image." (Revelation xix, 20)
Meteora Monastery Greece

Thus there are four four beasts - the Force which moves fallen nature - which correspond to the Hayoth the holy living creatures before the throne from the book of Ezechiel - the Force which moves non-fallen nature.

These tableaus are summarised in two feminine figures:

... a woman clothed with the sun,
and the moon under her feet,
and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
She was with child cried,
and she cried out in the pangs of birth,
in anguish for  delivery.
                   (Revelation xii, 1-2)
... a woman sat upon a scarlet beast
... arrayed in purple and scarlet,
bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls,
having a golden cup in her hand
full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.
                   ((Revelation xvii, 3-4)
Woman upon a scarlet beast

The former is the soul of cosmic non-fallen Nature (sun, moon, stars) and the latter is the soul of terrestrial fallen Nature (gold, jewels and beast). The first is a mother, the second a prostitute.

The word became  flesh
 and dwelt among us.
                              (John i, 14)

The Virgin-Sophia was present in Mary and it was thus that the soul of non-fallen Nature gave birth to the divine Word. Virgin Nature has her part in all the miracles. The miracles are not creations from nothing. The wine at the wedding at Cana was created from water. It was thanks to the Virgin Mother's initiative that the miracle took place. The multiplying of the loaves was not the creation of bread from nothing. The man born blind had to wash in the pool of Siloam and the clay made with the Master's saliva was applied to his eyes.

The Resurrection

The participation of Nature is apparent even in the miracle of the Resurrection. It was not the creation of a new body, but rather the transformation of the crucified body. The latter had to disappear from the tomb in order to appear to Mary Magdalene and the others; and for Thomas to put his hand in the marks of the nails.

Force without effort

Thus virgin Nature had her part in all the miracles. This is the subject of the eleventh Arcanum, Force, representing a woman victorious over a lion, holding its jaws open with her hands. This signifies power without effort. The lion is subdued by force of a higher level. The lion's bestial animality yields to its holy animality.

Contraversy vis-a-vis Conversation


When one goes deeply into the 11th Arcanum, one needs to distinguish between the opposition or contraversy (flowing against) of the serpent and the concordance or conversation (flowing with) of the virgin. Enormous energies are released into the world through opposition or war. However I owe nothing I confess to learning from polemicists. I owe nothing to early Christian authors who attack paganism. I owe nothing to the learned Protestant doctors of the sixteenth century and the Revolution of the eighteenth century. I owe nothing to the militant savants of the nineteenth century and to Lenin.

It is through the fusion of opposites that truth lights up. True conversation always has the underlying principle of the Gospel:

Where two or three are gathered in my name,
there I am in the midst of them.
                   (Matthew xviii, 20)

For all true conversation calls upon the transcendent Centre.

The Zohar

The Zohar supplies the best example of the creative role that conversation can play. Rabbis - Eleazar, Simeon, Abba and others - join their efforts and experiences to arrive at a deeper understanding of the TORAH. And these rabbis weep and embrace one another when this happens.

as portrayed in the
Nuremberg Chronicle

This remarkable document loves more and more the conversation, which aims at the fusion of opinions. The force at work here is that of the Virgin (which the Zohar calls Shekinah), whilst the energy which elctrifies polemicists is that of the serpent.

Life and energy should be clearly distinguished; yet today there is a tendency to confuse them, and reduce them to electricity alone. Electricity is due to the antagonism of opposites, whilst life is the fusion of opposites.

Empedocles (ca. 490 - ca. 430 BC) saw this difference and taught that the motion of the four elements - earth, water, air and fire - is due to two opposite causes: friendship (love) and strife (enmity).

Celestial Electricity

Celestial Electricity was the means of the miracle of divine anger in the Old Testament:

Nadab and Abihu
Nadab and Abihu
Fire at taberah
Fire at Taberah
Fire at taberah
The earth
swallows Korah

1. Nadab and Abihu offered profane fire to the tabernacle of God. Thus God in His anger caused a flash of fire to come out of the tabernacle and consume them.

2. The people of Israel complained so that the Lord became angry and sent a flash of fire that destroyed the outer edges of the camp at Taberah.

3. In their pride Korah and his men claimed to be equal to Moses and Aaron. So the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up.

4. Elijah's prayer to turn the people away from the worship of Baal: "Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again." Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, "The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God."


Life is like the water of the "sea of glass, like crystal" coming from the throne; it is Force, natural religion, the soul of non-fallen Nature, the Virgin.

Scripture has two different terms in Greek for "life": Zoe and bios. It is bios which flows from generation to generation; and it is Zoe which fills the individual in prayer and meditation, in acts of sacrifice and and participation in the sacred sacraments. Zoe is vertical vivifications; bios is biological life, vitality which flows horizontally. It is not bios which which drains the organism, rather it is electricity.

Electricity is generated through chemical decomposition and by the oppostion of contrary forces. The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil - the fruit of the polarity of opposites is electricity, and entails fatigue, exhaustion, senility and death.

It is elecricity - phyisical, psychic and mental - which was introduced into the being of Adam/Eve, and therefore into life-endowed Nature, in which bios is subordinate to electricity.

  1. The soul of life-endowed Nature in which bios is subordinate to electricity is rthe "Whore of Babylon".
  2. Life-endowed Nature in which bios and electricity are in equilibrium is "suffering creation" of which St. Paul says it "sighs for deliverance."
  3. Life-endowed Nature in which bios dominates electricity, and is dominated by Zoe is non-fallen Nature. Its soul is the celestial Virgin - Force.
Before his works of old.                  
by Mark Ryden
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him.

"When he appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was with him" is a clear statement of the cooperation of the Virgin with the Divine in the miracles of creation and as well of redemption.

The Annunciation by Fra Angelico

Divine Wisdom made our redemption part-dependent on the Yes or No of the Virgin. Our Redeemer had no desire to force himself on people or to assert himself by deploying rights and opportunities easily available to his almightiness. The salvation of the world was to become a reality in an act of faith, and through the faith of a virgin heart. Mary was to be a partner in our redemption.

That is the meaning of her title, Co-Redemptrix. Without the Virgin's faith, there would be no redemption by Christ. Through her faith Mary gave the Word of God a human home. Our Lord's incarnation and the Virgin's faith are an indivisible whole.

Principles do not exist separate from the beings who incarnate and manifest them. Principles are always immanent.

The Blessed Virgin is a concrete, living individuality - like you or I - who loves, suffers or rejoices.


It is not only the children of Fatima, the child Bernadette of Lourdes, the children of La Salette-Fallavaux and the children of Beauraing, but numerous apparitions to adults over the centuries, such as that of Our Lady of Akita in Japan and of Our Lady of all the Nations, when on March 25, 1945 Our Lady appeared in Amsterdam to Ida Peerdeman (died 1996). This was the first of 56 apparitions, which took place between 1945 and 1959.

I may add that I went to Amsterdam to make as scrupulous an investigation as possible. The result (confirmed later by experiences of a personal nature) was complete certainty as to the authenticity of the seer (a woman of forty years of age), but also of the subject of these experiences.

Icon by Deacon
Matthew D. Garrett

Meetings with the Blessed Virgin are so numerous and so well attested that one must at least admit their objective reality, but there is more to it than this. After forty years of endeavour and experience, I realise that one meets the Blessed Virgin inevitably when one attains a certain intensity of spiritual aspiration, when this aspiration is authentic and pure. This is as natural in the spiritual domain as having a mother is natural on earth. The difference is that on earth one can be motherless (remember that the author's mother was shot by Russian revolutionaries), while in the realm of the spiritual this can never happen.

Every Hermeticist who truly seeks authentic spiritual reality will sooner or later meet the Blessed Virgin. This meeting protects one from the zone surrounding the earth known as the "sphere of mirages" or the "zone of illusion". The prophets and the Apocalypse designate this zone as "Babylon". One cannot traverse this zone without the "Mantle of the Blessed Virgin", much venerated in Russia.

The Emerald Tablet

Let us examine the two aspects of Force which the Emerld Tablet speaks of:

  1. "It overcometh every subtle thing".
    The deeper meaning is to turn an enemy into a friend.

The Twelfth Arcanum: The Hanged Man

Introduction to the Tarot

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


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