The Oracle of the Gods is the Child-
Voice of Love in Thine own Soul; hear thou it.
Heed not the Siren-Voice of Sense, or the Phantom-
Voice of Reason: rest in Simplicity, and listen to
Openness to inspiration, intuition, intelligence, second sight, childishness, frivolity, thoughtfulness divorced from practical consideration, indecision, self-contradiction, union in a shallow degree with others, instability, contradiction, triviality, the “high-brow”.
This card and its twin, XIV, Art, are the most obscure and difficult of the Atu. Each of these symbols is in itself double, so that the meanings form a divergent series, and the integration of the Card can only be regained by repeated marriages, identifications, and some form of Hermaphroditism.
Yet the attribution is the essence of simplicity. Atu VI refers to Gemini, ruled by Mercury. It means The Twins. The Hebrew letter corresponding is Zain, which means a Sword, and the framework of the card is therefore the Arch of Swords, beneath which the Royal Marriage takes place.
The Sword is primarily an engine of division. In the intellectual world-which is the world of the Sword suit-it represents analysis. This card and Atu XIV together compose the comprehensive alchemical maxim: Solve et coagula.
This card is consequently one of the most fundamental cards in the Tarot. It is the first card in which more than one figure appears. [The Ape of Thoth in Atu I is only a shadow.] In its original form, it was the story of Creation.
Here is appended, for its historical interest, the description of this card in its primitive form from Liber 418.
“There is an Assyrian legend of a woman with a fish, and also there is a legend of Eve and the Serpent, for Cain was the child of Eve and the Serpent, and not of Eve and Adam; and therefore when he had slain his brother, who was the first murderer, having sacrificed living things to his demon, had Cain the mark upon his brow, which is the mark of the Beast spoken of in the Apocalypse, and is the sign of Initiation.”
The shedding of blood is necessary, for God did not hear the children of Eve until blood was shed. And that is external religion; but Cain spake not with God, nor had the mark of initiation upon his brow, so that he was shunned of all men, until he had shed blood.
And this blood was the blood of his brother. This is a mystery of the sixth key of the Tarot, which ought not to be called The Lovers, but The Brothers.
“In the middle of the card stands Cain; in his right hand is the Hammer of Thor with which he hath slain his brother, and it is all wet with his blood. And his left hand he holdeth open as a sign of innocence. On his right hand is his mother Eve, around whom the serpent is entwined with his hood spread behind her head; and on his left hand is a figure somewhat like the Hindoo Kali, but much more seductive. Yet I know it to be Lilith. And above him is the Great Sigil of the Arrow, downward, but it is struck through the heart of the child. This child also is Abel. And the meaning of this part of the card is obscure, but that is the correct drawing of the Tarot card; and that is the correct magical fable from which the Hebrew scribes, who were not complete Initiates, stole their legend of the Fall and the subsequent events.”
It is very significant that almost every sentence in this passage seems to reverse the meaning of the previous one. This is because reaction is always equal and opposite to action. This equation is, or should be, simultaneous in the intellectual world, where there is no great time; the formulation of any idea creates its contradictory at almost the same moment. The contradictory of any proposition is implicit in itself. This is necessary to preserve the equilibrium of the Universe. The theory has been explained in the essay on Atu I, the Juggler, but must now be again emphasized in order to interpret this card.
The key is that the Card represents the Creation of the World. The Hierarchs held this secret as of transcendant importance. Consequently, the Initiates who issued the Tarot, for use during the Aeon of Osiris, superseded the original card above described in “The Vision and the Voice”. They were concerned to create a new Universe of their own; they were the fathers of Science. Their methods of working, grouped under the generic term Alchemy, have never been made public. The interesting point is that all developments of modern science in the last fifty years have given intelligent and instructed people the opportunity of reflecting that the whole trend of science has been to return to alchemical aims and (mutatis mutandis) methods.
The secrecy observed by the alchemists was made necessary by the power of persecuting Churches. Bitterly as bigots fought among themselves, they were all equally concerned to destroy the infant Science, which, as they instinctively recognized, would put an end to the ignorance and faith on which their power and wealth depended.
The subject of this card is Analysis, followed by Synthesis. The first question asked by science is: “Of what are things composed? “This having been answered, the next question is: “How shall we recombine them to our greater advantage?” This resumes the whole policy of the Tarot.
The hooded figure which occupies the centre of the Card is another form of The Hermit, who is further explained in Atu IX. He is himself a form of the god Mercury, described in Atu I; he is closely shrouded, as if to signify that the ultimate reason of things lies in a realm beyond manifestation and intellect. (As elsewhere explained, only two operations are ultimately possible — analysis and synthesis). He is standing in the Sign of the Enterer, as if projecting the mysterious forces of creation. About his arms is a scroll, indicative of the Word which is alike his essence and his message. But the Sign of the Enterer is also the Sign of Benediction and of Consecration; thus his action in this card is the Celebration of the Hermetic Marriage. Behind him are the figures of Eve, Lilith and Cupid. This symbolism has been incorporated in order to preserve in some measure the original form of the card, and to show its derivation, its heirship, its continuity with the past. On the quiver of Cupid is inscribed the word Thelema, which is the Word of the Law. (See Liber AL, chap. I, verse 39.) His shafts are quanta of Will. It is thus shown that this fundamental formula of magical working, analysis and synthesis, persists through the Aeons.
One may now consider the Hermetic Marriage itself.
This part of the Card has been simplified from “the Chymical Marriage of Christian Rosenkreutz”, a masterpiece too lengthy and diffuse to quote usefully in this place. But the essence of the analysis is the continuous see-saw of contradictory ideas. It is a glyph of duality. The Royal persons concerned are the Black or Moorish King with a golden crown, and the White Queen with a silver crown. He is accompanied by the Red Lion, and she by the White Eagle.
These are symbols of the male and female principles in Nature; they are therefore equally, in various stages of manifestation, Sun and Moon, Fire and Water, Air and Earth. In chemistry they appear as acid and alkali, or (more deeply) metals and non-metals, taking those words in their widest philosophical sense to include hydrogen on the one hand and oxygen on the other. In this aspect, the hooded figure represents the Protean element of carbon, the seed of all organic life.
The symbolism of male and female is carried on still further by the weapons of the King and Queen; he bears the Sacred Lance, and she the Holy Grail; their other hands are joined, as consenting to the Marriage. Their weapons are supported by twin children, whose positions are counterchanged; for the white child not only holds the Cup, but carries roses, while the black child, holding his father’s Lance, carries also the club, an equivalent symbol. At the bottom of the whole is the result of the Marriage in primitive and panto morphic form; it is the winged Orphic egg. This egg represents the essence of all that life which comes under this formula of male and female. It carries on the symbolism of the Serpents with which the King’s robe is embroidered, and of the Bees which adorn the mantle of the Queen. The egg is grey, mingling white and black; thus it signifies the co-operation of the three Supernals of the Tree of Life. The colour of the Serpent is purple, Mercury in the scale of the Queen. It is the influence of that God manifested in Nature, whereas the wings are tinged with crimson, the colour (in the King scale) of Binah the great Mother. In this symbol is therefore a complete glyph of the equilibrium necessary to begin the Great Work. But, as to the final mystery, that is left unsolved. Perfect is the plan to produce life, but the nature of this life is concealed. It is capable of taking any possible form; but what form? That is dependent upon the influences attendant on gestation.
The figure in the air presents some difficulty. The traditional interpretation of the figure is that he is Cupid; and it is not at first clear what Cupid has to do with Gemini. No light is thrown upon this point by consideration of the position of the path upon the Tree of Life, for Gemini leads from Binah to Tiphareth. There accordingly arises the whole question of Cupid. Roman gods usually represent a more material aspect of the Greek gods from whom they are derived; in this case, Eros. Eros is the son of Aphrodite, and tradition varies as to whether his father was Ares, Zeus or Hermes — that is, Mars, Jupiter or Mercury. His appearance in this card suggests that Hermes is the true sire; and this view is confirmed by the fact that it is not altogether easy to distinguish him from the child Mercury, for they have in common wantonness) irresponsibility, and the love of playing tricks. But in this image are peculiar characteristics. He carries a bow and arrows in a golden quiver. (He is sometimes represented with a torch.) He has golden wings, and is blindfolded. From this, it may appear that he represents the intelligent (and, at the same time, unconscious) will of the soul to unite itself with all and sundry, as has been explained in the general formula with regard to the agony of separateness.
No very special importance is attached to Cupid in alchemical figures. Yet, in one sense, he is the source of all action; the libido to express Zero as Two. From another point of view, he may be regarded as the intellectual aspect of the influence of Binah upon Tiphareth, for (in one tradition) the title of the card is “The Children of the Voice, the Oracle of the Mighty Gods”. From this point of view, he is a symbol of inspiration, descending upon the hooded figure, who is, in this instance, a prophet operating the conjunction of the King and Queen. His arrow represents the spiritual intelligence necessary in alchemical operations, rather than the mere hunger to perform them. On the other hand, the arrow is peculiarly a symbol of direction, and it is, therefore, proper to put the word “Thelema” in Greek letters on the quiver. It is also to be observed that the opposite card, Sagittarius, means the Bearer of the Arrow, or Archer, a figure who does not appear in any form in Atu XIV. These two cards are so complementary that they cannot be studied separately, for full interpretation.