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11x14inch pen and ink on paper
i. The Arrow
This card is the complement and the fulfillment of Atu VI, Gemini. It pertains to Sagittarius, the opposite to Gemini in the Zodiac, and therefore, “after another manner,” one with it. Sagittarius means the Archer; and the card is (in its simplest and most primitive form) a picture of Diana the Huntress. Diana is primarily one of the lunar goddesses, though the Romans rather degraded her from the Greek “virgin Artemis”, who is also the Great Mother of Fertility, Diana of the Ephesians, Many-Breasted. (A form of Isis-see Atu II and III.)
The connection between the Moon and the Huntress is shewn by the shape of the bow, and the occult significance of Sagittarius is the arrow piercing the rainbow; the last three paths of the Tree of Life make the word Qesheth, a rainbow, and Sagittarius bears the arrow which pierces the rainbow, for his path leads from the Moon of Yesod to the Sun of Tiphareth. (This explanation is highly technical; but this is necessary because the card represents an important scientific formula, which cannot be expressed in language suited to common comprehension.)
This card represents the Consummation of the Royal Marriage which took place in Atu VI. The black and white personages are now united in a single androgyne figure. Even the Bees and the Serpents on their robes have made an alliance. The Red Lion has become white, and increased in size and importance, while the White Eagle, similarly expanded, has become red. He has exchanged his red blood for her white gluten. (It is impossible to explain these terms to any but advanced students of alchemy.)
The equilibrium and counter-change are carried out completely in the figure itself; the white woman has now a black bead; the black king, a white one. She wears the golden crown with a silver band, he, the silver crown with a golden fillet; but the white head on the right is extended in action by a white arm on the left which holds the cup of the white gluten, while the black head on the left has the black arm on the right, holding the lance which has become a torch and pours forth its burning blood. The fire burns up the water; the water extinguishes the fire.
The robe of the figure is green, which symbolizes vegetable growth: this is an alchemical allegory. In the symbolism of the fathers of science, all “actual” objects were regarded as dead; the difficulty of transmuting metals was that the metals, as they occur in nature, were in the nature of excrements, because they did not grow. The first problem of alchemy was to raise mineral to vegetable life; the adepts thought that the proper way to do this was to imitate the processes of nature. Distillation, for instance, was not an operation to be performed by heating something in a retort over a flame; it had to take place naturally, even if months were required to consummate the Work. (Months, at that period of civilization, were at the disposal of enquiring minds.)
A great deal of what people now consider ignorance, being themselves ignorant of what the men of old time thought, comes from this misapprehension. At the bottom of this card, for example, are seen Fire and Water harmoniously mingled. But this is only a crude symbol of the spiritual idea, which is the satisfaction of the desire of the incomplete element of one kind to satisfy its formula by assimilation of its equal and opposite.
This state of the great Work therefore consisted in the mingling of the contradictory elements in a cauldron. This is here represented as golden or solar, because the Sun is the Father of all Life, and (in particular) presides over distillation. The fertility of the Earth is maintained by rain and sun; the rain is formed by a slow and gentle process, and is rendered effective by the co-operation of air, which is itself alchemically the result of the Marriage of Fire and Water. So also the formula of continued life is death, or putrefaction. Here it is symbolized by the caput mortuum on the cauldron, a raven perched upon a skull. In agricultural terms, this is the fallow earth.
There is a particular interpretation of this card which is only to be understood by Initiates of the Ninth Degree of the O.T.O; for it contains a practical magical formula of such importance as to make it impossible to communicate it openly.
Rising from the cauldron, as the result of the operation per- formed ~ is a stream of light which becomes two rainbows; they form the cape of the androgyne figure. In the centre, an arrow shoots upwards. This is connected with the general symbolism previously explained, the spiritualization of the result of the Great Work.
The rainbow is moreover symbolical of another stage in the alchemical process. At a certain period, as a result of putrefaction, there is observed a phenomenon of many-coloured lights (The “coat of many colours” said to have been worn by Joseph and Jesus, in the ancient legends, refers to this. See also Atu 0, the Motley of the Green Man, Dreamer-Redeemer).
To sum up, the whole of this card represents the hidden content of the Egg described in Atu VI. It is the same formula, but in a more advanced stage. The original duality has been completely compensated; but after birth comes growth; after growth, puberty; and after puberty, purification.
In this card, therefore, is foreshadowed the final stage of the Great Work. Behind the figure, its edges tinged with the rainbow, which has now arisen from the twin rainbows forming the cape of the figure, is a glory bearing an inscription,
VISITA INTERIORA TERRAE RECTIFICANDO INVENIES OCCULTUM LAPIDEM.
“Visit the interior parts of the earth: by rectification thou shalt find the hidden stone”
Its initials make the word V.I.T.R.I.O.L., the Universal Solvent, to be discussed later. (Its value is 726=6 X 112=33 x 22.)
This “hidden stone” is also called the Universal Medicine. It is sometimes described as a stone, sometimes as a powder, sometimes as a tincture. It divides again into two forms, the gold and the silver, the red and the white; but its essence is always the same, and its nature is not to be understood except by experience. It is because the alchemists were dealing with substances on the borderland of “matter” that they are so difficult to understand. The subject-matter of chemistry and physics in modern times is what they would have called the study of dead things; for the real difference between living things and dead is, in the first instance, their behaviour.
The initials of the alchemical motto given above form the word Vitriol. This has nothing to do with the sulphates of either hydrogen, iron or copper, as might be supposed from modern usage. It represents a balanced combination of the three alchemical principles, Sulphur, Mercury and Salt. These names have no connection with substances so named by the vulgar; they have already been described in Atu 1.111 and IV
The counsel to “visit the interior of the earth” is a recapitulation (on a higher plane) of the first formula of the Work which has been the so constant theme of these essays. The important word in the injunction is the central word RECTIFICANDO; it implies the right leading of the new living substance in the path of the True Will. The stone of the Philosophers, the Universal Medicine, is to be a talisman of use in any event, a completely elastic and completely rigid vehicle of the True Will of the alchemists. It is to fertilize and bring to manifested Life the Orphic Egg.
The Arrow, both in this card and in Atu VI, is of supreme importance. The Arrow is, in fact, the simplest and purest glyph of Mercury, being the symbol of directed Will.
It is right to emphasize this fact by a quotation from the Fourth Aethyr, LIT, in The Vision and the Voice. (See Appendix.)
[From The Vision and the Voice, 5th Aethyr]
Now, then, behold how the head of the dragon is but the tail of the Aethyr! Many are they that have fought their way from mansion to mansion of the Everlasting House, and beholding me at last have returned, declaring, “Fearful is the aspect of the Mighty and Terrible One”. Happy are they that have known me for whom I am. And glory unto him that hath made a gallery of my throat for his arrow of truth, and the moon for his purity.
The moon waneth. The moon waneth. The moon waneth. For in that arrow is the Light of Truth that overmastereth the light of the sun, whereby she shines. The arrow is fledged with the plumes of Maat that are the plumes of Amoun, and the shaft is the phallus of Amoun the Concealed One. And the barb thereof is the star that thou sawest in the place where was No God.
And of them that guarded the star, there was not found one worthy to wield the Arrow. And of them that worshipped there was not found one worthy to behold the Arrow. Yet the star that thou sawest was but the barb of the Arrow, and thou hadst not the wit to grasp the shaft, or the purity to divine the plumes. Now therefore is he blessed that is born under the sign of the Arrow, and blessed is he that hath the sigil of the head of the crowned lion and the body of the Snake and the Arrow therewith.
Yet do thou distinguish between the upward and the downward Arrows, for the upward arrow is straitened in its flight, and it is shot by a firm hand, for Jesod is Jod Tetragrammaton, and Jod is a hand, but the downward arrow is shot by the topmost point of the Jod; and that Jod is the Hermit, and it is the minute point that is not extended, that is nigh unto the heart of Hadit.
And now it is commanded thee that thou withdraw thyself from the Vision, and on the morrow, at the appointed hour, shall it be given thee further, as thou goest upon thy way, meditating this mystery. And thou shalt summon the Scribe, and that which shall be written shall be written. Therefore I withdraw myself, as I am commanded. The Desert between Benshrur and Tolga.
December 12, 1909. 7-8. 12 midnight.
Now then art thou approached unto an august Arcanum; verily thou art come unto the ancient Marvel, the winged light, the Fountains of Fire, the Mystery of the Wedge. But it is not I that can reveal it, for I have never been permitted to behold it, who am but the watcher upon the threshold of the Aethyr. My message is spoken, and my mission is accomplished. And I withdraw myself, covering my face with my wings, before the presence of the Angel of the Aethyr.
So the Angel departed with bowed head, folding his wings across.
And there is a little child in a mist of blue light; he hath golden hair, a mass of curls, and deep blue eyes. Yea, he is all golden, with a living, vivid gold. And in each hand he hath a snake; in the right hand a red, in the left hand a blue. And he hath red sandals, but no other garment.
And he sayeth: Is not life a long initiation unto sorrow? And is not Isis the Lady of Sorrow? And she is my mother. Nature is her name, and she hath a twin sister Nephthys, whose name is Perfection. And Isis must be known of all, but of how few is Nephthys known! Because she is dark, therefore is she feared.
But thou who hast adored her without fear, who hast made thy life an initiation into her Mystery, thou that hast neither mother nor father, nor sister nor brother, nor wife nor child, who hast made thy self lonely as the hermit crab that is in the waters of the Great Sea, behold! when the sistrons are shaken, and the trumpets blare forth the glory of Isis, at the end therefore there is silence, and thou shalt commune with Nephthys.
And having known these, there are the wings of Maut the Vulture. Thou mayest draw to an head the bow of thy magical will; thou mayest loose the shaft and pierce her to the heart. I am Eros. Take then the bow and the quiver from my shoulders and slay me; for unless thou slay me, thou shalt not unveil the Mystery of the Aethyr.
Therefore I did as he commanded; in the quiver were two arrows, one white, one black. I cannot force myself to fit an arrow to the bow.
And there came a voice: It must needs be.
And I said: No man can do this thing.
And the voice answered, as it were an echo: Nemo hoc facere potesi.
Then came understanding to me, and I took forth the Arrows. The white arrow had no barb, but the black arrow was barbed like a forest of fish-hooks; it was bound round with brass, and it had been dipped in deadly poison. Then I fitted the white arrow to the string, and I shot it against the heart of Eros, and though I shot with all my force, it fell harmlessly from his side. But at that moment the black arrow was thrust through mine own heart. I am filled with fearful agony.
And the child smiles, and says: Although thy shaft hath pierced me not, although the envenomed barb hath struck thee through; yet I am slain, and thou livest and triumphest, for I am thou and thou art I.
With that he disappears, and the Aethyr splits with a roar as of ten ‘thousand thunders. And behold, The Arrow! The plumes of Maat are its crown, set about the disk. It is the Ateph crown of Thoth, and there is the shaft of burning light, and beneath there is a silver wedge.
I shudder and tremble at the vision, for all about it are whorls ,and torrents of tempestuous fire. The stars of heaven are caught in the ashes of the flame. And they are all dark. That which was a blazing sun is like a speck of ash. And in the midst the Arrow burns! the I see that the crown of the Arrow is the Father of all Light, and shaft of the Arrow is the Father of all Life, and the barb of the Arrow is the Father of all Love. For that silver wedge is like a lotus flower, and the Eye within the Ateph Crown crieth: I watch. And the Shaft crieth: I work.
And the Barb crieth: I wait. And the voice of the Aethyr echoeth: It beams. It burns. It blooms. And now there cometh a strange thought; this Arrow is the source of all motion; it is infinite motion, yet it moveth not, so that there is ‘no motion. And therefore there is no matter. This Arrow is the glance of the Eye of Shiva. But because it moveth not, the universe is not destroyed. The universe is put forth and swallowed up in the quivering of the plumes of Maat, that are the plumes of the Arrow; but those plumes quiver not.
And a voice comes: That which is above is not like that which is below.
And another voice answers it: That which is below is not like that which is above.
And a third voice answers these two: What is above and what is below? For there is the division that divideth not, and the multiplication that multiplieth not.
And the One is the Many. Behold, this Mystery is beyond understanding, for the winged globe is the crown, and the shaft is the wisdom, and the barb is the understanding.
And the Arrow is one, and thou art lost in the Mystery, who art but as a babe that is carried in the womb of its mother, that art not yet ready for the light.
And the vision overcometh me. My sense is stunned: my sight is blasted: my hearing is dulled.
And a voice cometh: Thou didst seek the remedy of sorrow; therefore all sorrow is thy portion. This is that which is written:
“God hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.” For as thy blood is mingled in the cup of BABALON, so is thine heart the universal heart. Yet is it bound about with the Green Serpent, the Serpent of Delight.
It is shown me that this heart is the heart that rejoiceth, and the serpent is the serpent of Daath, for herein all the symbols are inter changeable, for each one containeth in itself its own opposite. And this is the great Mystery of the Supernals that are beyond the Abyss. For below the Abyss, contradiction is division; but above the Abyss, contradiction is Unity. And there could be nothing true except by virtue of the contradiction that is contained in itself.
Thou canst not believe how marvelous is this vision of the Arrow. And it could never be shut out, except the Lords of Vision troubled the waters of the pool, the mind of the Seer. But they send forth a wind that is a cloud of Angels, and they beat the water with their feet, and little waves splash up-they are memories. For the seer hath no head; it is expanded into the universe, a vast and silent sea, crowned with the stars of night. Yet in the very midst thereof is the arrow. Little images of things that were, are the foam upon the waves. And there is a contest between the Vision and the memories. I prayed unto the Lords of Vision, saying: O my Lords„ take not away this wonder from my sight.
And they said: It must needs be. Rejoice therefore if thou hast been permitted to behold, even for a moment, this Arrow, the austere, the august. But the vision is accomplished, and we have sent forth a great wind against thee. For thou canst not penetrate by force, who hast refused it; nor by authority, for thou hast trampled it under foot. Thou art bereft of all but understanding, O thou that art no more than a little pile of dust!
And the images rise up against me and constrain me, so that the Aethyr is shut against me. Only the things of the mind and of the body are open unto me. The shew-stone is dull, for that which I see therein is but a memory.