By Jayne Gibson
“In 32 mysterious paths of wisdom did Jah, the Jehova of Hosts, the Living Elohim…
engrave his Name by the three Sepharim: Numbers, Letters, and Sounds.”
— Sepher Yetzirah 1:1
The Sephiroth are, in a sense, way-stations for the energy of the Divine as it descends towards the Microcosm. As this energy travels through the Tree, it changes and evolves, although its inner essence remains constant, and this evolutionary process is neither slow nor even. On its path from purity to physical manifestation, energy changes until it reaches the utmost point of a certain level or quality and then goes in a different direction. The Sephiroth are vessels which hold the energy of the Divine, and the paths are the changing energy between them. The very fact that the Paths represent changing energy patterns makes them difficult to describe.
In the diagram below, a form of vibrational energy, color, changes from white to black. It can be said that the white circle is white and the black circle is black — they remain constant. But what about the exchange between black and white — gray. How do we determine at what point white dissolves into light gray and light gray into darker gray? To complicate matters further, two people seeing the same shade of gray label it differently. This illustrates plainly the difficulty in explaining the changeful energies of the Paths.
The Upper Arcane of the Tarot are perfect vehicles in this determination for they represent the ever-changing patterns in the lives of human beings. To each card is attributed a number, a Hebrew letter, an Astrological Sign, or Element, or Planetary energy, along with a color and a musical note. These combined ideas give us a good starting point in comprehending the transference of energy between the Sephiroth — meditation and pathworking exalt this wisdom to understanding.
By mapping archetypes on the Tree, one begins a process whereby images, that resonate on a rich and very personal level, rise from the depths of the psyche providing an important tool in the bridging of the unconscious and conscious minds, and an integral set of symbols for this process is the Tarot. This treasure house is the medium understood by the unconscious of all people and is a means by which undifferentiated consciousness can project itself into the sanctuary of the mind. The Tarot, the Tree of Life and Qabalah are all part of Hermeticism. The origin of the Tarot is unknown, however, the connection between these disciplines (and also that of Alchemy) is obvious. The Tarot is the gateway of the soul and the guide to enlightenment because the continued study of Hermetics will lead to the discovery of Truth, the accomplishment of Wisdom, and the power of Freedom.
Key 0 – THE FOOL
The Primum Mobile Acting Through Air on the Zodiac.
Zero relates to Unmanifest Deity, a boundless circle of the pulsating, vibrant, yet undifferentiated Life-force that has neither beginning nor end. It symbolizes boundless space and limitless time in eternity, rendering the Fool a representation of the unknown before it comes into manifestation, the forerunner of Thought, absolute Superconsciousness.
The letter Aleph, is given to the 11th Path and the Fool, and the 11th Path is termed the “Scintillating or Fiery Intelligence” as it “perfectly reflects the first outflow of the spiritual influence of Kether.” It is therefore the spark of life radiating from the Source and permeating all things, animate or inanimate. Aleph means “Ox” or “Bull,” but more specifically it symbolizes creative power or raw force. In antiquity, oxen were the primary motivation for the development of agriculture which, in turn, formed the beginnings of civilization. The Bull was used as one of the earliest symbols of God, especially in the Taurean Age, which immediately preceded the development of Jewish monotheism.
In Hebrew, the word for “Intelligence” is Saykel (ShKL) which also means insight or awareness. The word combines the root soke (ShK) which means “to dwell with” and kole (KL) which means “all” or “the whole.” The inference is that the Intelligences on the Tree each represent a category of God which is an abode (Shk) of God’s entire being (KL). Kether is called “the Wonder” (PLA) or the Wonderful or Admirable Intelligence. It is the root of the entire Tree, and directly from it issue the letters Aleph, Beth, and Gimel. Through word play, the Wonder (PLA) of Kether reflects itself immediately into Aleph (ALP), the first letter, as a mirror does — that is backwards, or PLA = ALP. Aleph has a numerical value of one; Kether is also One. The word Aleph spelled out equals 111, and the Wonderful (PLA) Intelligence (Kether) is also 111. The famous saying, “The Lord our God is One,” has a value of 111, and Crowley notes that the word Aum (the vibration of everything) when spelled out, also equals 111.
Aleph is a mother letter representing the Element of Air. Its first two letters spell out the word AL or “God,” and if we examine the root of Aleph (ALP) we see it combines the idea of God with the letter Peh, the archetype of the mouth or speech. Thus, from Aleph, we get the idea of the Divine Expression of God or the Life Breath manifesting through the element of Air. In Qabalistic Tarot, Aleph means the primary Life-power which moves everything through the power of Breath (Spirit).
The Fool represents the idea of the original seed of all potential, united with the primal God-energy, and relates to that which is all-potent but has no form, for its number is zero — the absence of quantity, quality and mass. Therefore, zero is boundless and signifies unlimited potential. Traditionally, this number represents the entrance of undifferentiated Spirit into matter, making the Path of the Fool the potentiality of thought.
Key 1 – THE MAGICIAN
The Primum Mobile Acting Through Philosophic Mercury on Saturn, the Beginning of Material Production, The Crown of Understanding.
Number 1 represents the principle of unity that underlies all numbers, and it is the first manifestation of what was unmanifest. It is the active principle that, broken into fragments, gives rise to multiplicity. By multiplication, it creates all others, but multiplied by itself to infinity it always retains its unity. Number 1 is equated with the One God, the oneness of mankind, the power of Selfhood, self-reliance, dignity, and rulership. It is the Wand of the Magician, the power placed in the magician’s hands to create and accomplish through the use of Will.
Its planet is Mercury, which symbolizes adaptability – the tree that bends outlasts the storm. The Egyptian god Hermes corresponds to the Greek Mercury, and Hermes is said to have written 42 books on science including astronomy, astrology, arithmetic, geometry, medicine, music and magic. Also the great magician, his caduceus survives to this day as a symbol of the healing arts. Mercury facilitated communication between the gods and brought their messages to mortals, i.e., the Magician is the channel or message-bearer — not the Source itself. In Tarot Key 1, the Magician is a figure representing the intellect in the creative aspect of utilizing power, and represents Man’s will in union with the Divine, achieving the knowledge and ability to bring desired things into manifestation through conscious self-awareness.
The Hebrew letter Beth represents the feminine principle of God which begins with undifferentiated Kether and proceeds to the Mother of form, Binah. It is characterized by feminine imagery because its meaning is “house” indicating its qualities of containment. It is used in biblical scripture to describe a place, such as Bethlehem (house of bread or house of sustenance); Beth-thes-da (house of healing), the pool in Jerusalem known for its healing properties; Bethel (house of God) which was where Jacob had his vision of the stairway to heaven. Beth has a value of 2, and the number 2 is traditionally associated with the feminine because it is related to the ideas of polarity, duplication, repetition, antithesis, unconsciousness and continuation. It is 2 which contains the 1 and brings forth the 3. Beth, therefore, represents the enclosure or containment of existence. The true “house” is the temple of the Spirit, one’s own body, and it is here that we begin to discover the hidden vision of God.
The letter Beth is the first letter in the book of Genesis which begins with the word Bereshith, commonly translated as, “In the beginning,” but meaning more specifically, “At first, in principle.” The symbolism here is that Beth, not Aleph, was the first in creation because Aleph is one and alone and therefore incapable of dividing.
To Qabalistis and Alchemists, the Magician represents the First Matter or the Philosophic Mercury (the astrological attribution of Beth). The 12th Path is called the “Transparent Intelligence” and represents the highest form of spiritual knowledge, which is reflected in the ability to see the image of the Undefinable in the multiple forms that conceal it. It is the Rainbow Bridge between Primal Unity and the Wellspring of Forms, the source of all the diversity of the universe. The business of the Magician, possessing the Opal-fire, is to bring Force into Form. The Magician can therefore be seen to refer to the light, life, power and knowledge of Spirit which are drawn through the Magician’s body and expressed in the physical world.
Key 2 – THE HIGH PRIESTESS
The Primum Mobile Acting Through the Moon on the Sun, the Crown of Beauty, the Beginning of Sovereignty and Beauty.
Number 2 is the symbol of duality, the Mother-principle, as separate from the Father-principle of Number 1, which is now broken up into its positive and negative elements. Number 2 signifies a pair of opposites: day and night, male and female, projection and reception. In Key 2, the High Priestess, or the unconscious, reflects the consciousness of the Magician, and is the vessel which receives the creative force and initiates form. She is the virgin daughter of the Moon, the eternal feminine, sometimes called Isis, Artemis or Diana. She corresponds to all the virgin goddesses of the ancient world, even also to Eve before her union with Adam. She is spiritual enlightenment and inner illumination. Whereas the Fool and the Magician represent only potentiality and the will to create, the High Priestess has the latent power to manifest, for she is the link between the seen and the unseen.
The 13th Path of Gimel has been called the “Dark Night of the Soul” because it traverses the Abyss directly to Kether. The letter Gimel means “camel” and symbolizes a vehicle which alone can cross the seemingly infinite desert of the Abyss. Gimel is the ultimate source of Water and represents the root essence of consciousness. The letter Gimel, spelled out, has the number 73 and this is also the numeration of the Second Sephiroth, Chokmah, Wisdom. Throughout the Old Testament, Wisdom is used in the feminine gender, Sophia. Sophia, or the World Soul, is the intermediary between the Divine and humankind and has been called the “Soul of Light” because it is the first vehicle in which the Light of Spirit clothes itself.
Together with Temperance and the Universe, these Paths constitute the Middle Pillar of the Tree. The Path of Tau (the Universe) is called the “Gateway to the inner planes,” and both Samekh (Temperance) and Gimel (the High Priestess) have been termed “dark nights of the soul” because both traverse an abyss. Although Samekh is lower on the Tree, it still crosses a “smaller” abyss on its journey toward Tiphareth. When on a direct path toward Kether, the aspirant frequently experiences loneliness, seclusion, futility and the dread that they are treading faithfully toward a goal that has no perceivable end.
Working the 13th Path unites the human incarnation to the Eternal Self and when the abyss is safely traveled, the greatest initiation is bestowed. This Path has much to teach about the reconciliation of opposites because the Intelligence of Unity challenges us to see beyond common dualities. Interestingly, the word “Unity” in Hebrew also equals 13, the number of Path of the High Priestess. When the work of this Path is completed, the One, which represents itself in innumerable forms, is (theoretically) directly experienced.
The 13th Path connects Tiphareth (Divine Incarnation) with the Highest Source, Kether, and the High Priestess, whose station is between the two pillars, identifies the central way. In the Qabalah, the High Priestess in known as the “Uniting Intelligence,” uniting the personality or ego consciousness to the Higher Self. It is this Intelligence which bestows the awareness that everything is united by the Divine Mind. This Path is considered to be the Spiritual Bride and Mother, the gate of entry into the Third Order, the reward of the Slain and Resurrected one.
Key 3 – THE EMPRESS
The Zodiac Acting Through Venus on Saturn, the Wisdom of Understanding, the Union of the Powers of Origination and Production.
Number 3 is the number of a trinity – father, mother and son. It also symbolizes the balance of all manifested things, the magnetic force of the Divine permeating humanity. It is the vibratory effect of the interaction of the numbers 1 and 2 — the fruit of their union, the son, or the material universe. The number three is the cementing factor between these two primary numbers and is therefore the number of birth and new beginnings.
The Empress is recognized as the combination of the Magician (consciousness) and the Higher Priestess (the unconscious) implying the union of opposites gives way to totality. The planet Venus is assigned to this card as Venus stands for love, beauty, desire, attraction, and the arts. She is the Goddess of Love, the symbol of universal fecundity. As the High Priestess is Isis veiled, the Empress is Isis unveiled. The High Priestess symbolizes the virgin state of the unconscious, and the Empress typifies the productive, generative activities within it after it has been infused by ideas from the conscious. The Empress can be thus seen as the multiplicator of images.
The cards of both the Empress and the High Priestess refer to the same archetypal feminine, the One Principle which, as Pure Idea, is reflected in many faceted ways. As High Priestess, she is the Virgin and represents the unconscious. As the Empress she is the fertile mother and represents conscious imagination. The Empress reflects the principles of conscious mental imagery which are the seed thoughts that give birth to all manifestation. As a symbolic representation of the creative powers of the mind, the Empress points the way to new levels of conscious awareness through the use of creative imagery and imagination.
The Hebrew letter assigned to the Empress is Daleth which has a numerical value of 4, a number of order, regulation, structure and foundation. The Empress is the Ruler of Life, for the root meaning of the very word is “she who sets in order.” Daleth means “door” and it is by this Door that the potentialities, whose impetus spring from Chokmah, come to be formulated into intelligible concepts within Binah.
The 14th Path, which links Chokmah with Binah, is a Path of Unity, the union of the powers of Force and Form. It is the “Luminous Intelligence,” the “foundation of the concealed and fundamental ideas of Holiness.” The title “Luminous” is an adjective derived from the Hebrew word Aur, meaning Light. The word “foundation” refers us back to idea of primal union and the beginnings of Life, the union of Chokmah and Binah. Therefore, the attributes of this Path all point to concepts inherent in the pairing of the One, filled with light, reflecting light and radiating golden light. In fact, the word “gold” in Hebrew also has a numeration of 14, and the inference here is that the Empress is the Gold of the Philosophers.
An important idea connected to this Path is that of bridging, as the Empress does between two opposites, the male and female aspects within ourselves.
Key 4 – THE EMPEROR
The Zodiac Acting Through Aries Upon the Sun, Initiating Spring, the Originator and Wisdom of Sovereignty and Beauty.
Number 4 is the number of the physical plane, and the corresponding geometrical figure is the square, the base of the pyramid, the most stable of all forms. The various forms of the cross also symbolize 4, representing Spirit (the vertical line) penetrating matter (the horizontal line). Tarot Key 4, the Emperor, similarly represents the solid material plane. This card typifies order, reason, boundaries, discipline, morals, and ethics. Its focus is self assertion and clear, logical thinking. Key 1, the Magician, is the active principle of life; Key 2, the High Priestess, is its opposite – the passive principle; and Key 3, the Empress, is the “word made flesh and dwelling among us.” The Emperor is the active Father force contrasted with the active Mother force through whom his characteristics are brought forth. He is the Magician after his union with the High Priestess has changed her into the Empress and made him the father of her offspring.
The Emperor stands for domination in the material world, authority, paternity, and the regulation of life by law. The word emperor means “he who sets in order,” for he is the mate of the Empress, and they empower and complement each other as interdependent co-creators. The Empress produces the imagery of desire while the Emperor produces the will which empowers it. This implies that the Emperor’s active power of regulation has to do with the control of mental imagery. The Emperor takes the manifesting energy from the Empress and passes it down to the Higher Self of the individual.
This Path connects the Solar Logos (Tiphareth) with the energy of Chokmah, the all-begetter, whose Divine Name is YHVH or simply Jah (YH), the stimulus for all manifestation. It is the manifestation of this Logos (the Word) principle in its identification with the Constituting Intelligence that creates everything in existence, and there is a strong creation theme in this Path because it crosses the Great Abyss separating existence from the Supernals. To “constitute” is to set up, establish, compose, and order, which is represented by the image of the Emperor. In Gematria, the word “constituting” (MOMID) has the same numerical value as “the Pillar” on the Tree of Life (164), the OMDIM, which are the same letters rearranged. This points to the fact that this Intelligence constitutes the structure, support and equilibration of the whole Tree. This path inspires and activates the processes of organization and fundamental laws, constituting the substance of creation in pure darkness. The manifestation of this principle is that which creates, frames and composes everything in existence.
The 15th Path is the letter Heh, a “window.” In the Divine Name YHVH, Heh is the feminine aspect, the Creative and Sustaining force of Tetragammaton. Qabalists call the letter Heh the archetype of Universal Life, for it is contained within the roots of all verbs in the Hebrew language which relate to being. Heh is the first of the 12 “simple” letters in Hebrew and is therefore assigned to Aries, the first of the Zodiacal Signs. Aries, or the Ram, is the Lamb of Gnostic Christianity and refers back to Tiphareth, the Solar World. This is the first path to which a sensory function is attributed, i.e. the sense of sight, referring to the contemplation of Spirit upon Itself during Its descent.
Key 5 – THE HIEROPHANT
The Zodiac Acting through Taurus Upon Jupiter, the Wisdom and Fountain of Mercy.
Number 5 symbolizes man standing midway between 1 and 10. The pentagram or five-pointed star also represents Man, with his head in the sky and his arms and legs outstretched. This number represents the five fingers, the five senses, and temptation — humanity. In the Bible, we read that Joshua killed five kings and hung them in a cave, symbolizing the subjection of his five physical senses to his Will. Jesus had five wounds, suggesting that suffering must be experienced before spirit is resurrected and becomes master. Number 5 can also mean man dominating the physical plane and reaching up to higher realms. In this last meaning we find a relationship to Tarot Key 5, the Hierophant. As a priestly figure, he represents humanity in its divine as well as human aspects.
The 16th Path is that of the letter Vau, the “nail.” Vau has the numerical value of 6, and 6 is the number of Tiphareth for both are mediators. Therefore, this priestly figure inevitably has links with Tiphareth which introduces the aspect of sacrifice as well as the sacrificer, and brings in the Bull again, this time in its Mithraic associations. In Mithraic myth, Mithras, the Sun-hero, was both the Slayer of the Bull and the Bull himself. The Hierophant, as Bridge-Builder, is called “stanchion of unity,” which is associated with the steadfastness of Vau, as the nail, and with the correspondence of the zodiacal Taurus.
Geometrically, the number six allows two interlocking triangles to come together, forming the hexagram, known as the Star of David as well as Solomon’s Seal. It is the classic representation of the ancient axiom, “As above, so below,” and the prime agent for bringing this magical act to completion is the Logos Principle or “God made manifest in the sphere of mind,” for it is the mind which links spirit to body.
Vau is considered to be the fertilizing principle, the active manifestation into form. On the Tree, it links Divine Wisdom to Divine Mercy as well as the Archetypal World to the Creative World. It is, therefore, the fastening link and a symbol of connection because it is the third letter of the Tetragrammaton, considered to be the Son of Yod and Heh, and links the Supernal Triad to all the other Sephiroth. Thus, Vau is the direct link to that supreme state of unity which exists in the Supernals, i.e., the Garden. This union is the “paradise” spoken of in the Sepher Yetzirah. The Hierophant, as the “Magus of the Eternal,” is the mediator, an important link between the Higher Self and the Spiritual Self. His lesson is not understood by the intellect but has to be perceived through feeling, listening to the inner voice, for this is a Path of intuition. Listening to the inner voice representing the central Self is not the same as hearing “voices” which seems to run rampant in many occult circles. It is our opportunity, when working with the energies of this Path, to refine our discrimination, to discern the Voice of Intuition and to practice calming the interior mental clamor so that we may “hear in the silence.”
The Intelligence of the path is named Triumphant because there is “no other Glory like to it” and because it is “The Paradise prepared for the Righteous.” Fittingly, this Path bears the sign of Taurus, which traditionally represents true priestly power — the priest as “Bridge-Builder” between the worlds. The word “Hierophant” comes from the word hierphaine — “to reveal,” and the tone of this Path is definitely one of revelation.
Key 6 – THE LOVERS
Saturn Acting Through Gemini Upon Sol, the Understanding of Beauty and Production of Beauty and Sovereignty.
Number 6 represents the Divine force in nature, the force behind evolution, the urge to perfection inherent in every living thing. In Number 6, we have the higher soul principle (1) added to the human number of 5. The Egyptians considered 6 as a symbol of generation. Six has also been called the number of marriage, and is associated with labor because of the six days of the labor of creation. It also means cooperation and reciprocal action.
This Key is profoundly metaphysical in its symbolism, for it signifies Spiritual Alchemy. The Disposing Intelligence in Hebrew is ha-regash (HRGS) and its esoteric meaning is that the Sun and Moon together equal Shin, the quintessence or spirit of God. This is also reflected in the other Tarot keys ruled by the letters of this word. The main idea of this key is that pairs of opposites are really complements.
To the 17th Path is attributed the zodiacal sign of Gemini. Since it is the Path between Tiphareth and Binah — Solar Brilliance to the Saturnian Water — the duality and changefulness of Gemini are appropriate. The sign Gemini is ruled by Mercury, the Divine Messenger, indicating that the conceptions of the Supernals are carried to Tiphareth. Gemini, as a symbol, consists of the Roman Numeral II. The Serpents twined around the Caduceus are two in number, and the number two is also to be found in the two images of Thmaa (rightness and universal order). Therefore, Gemini (the Twins) signifies the dual manifestation of an original, single entity.
Zain is the Hebrew letter for this path and its numerical equivalent is seven. The ideas connected with peace, rest and retirement are reflected in the concept of the Sabbath, the seventh day of rest. Next to the number one, seven is the most frequently used to denote perfection, reflecting God’s sense of completion and attainment after creating the first six days. This Path illustrates the uniting of the Sun and Moon energies, the conscious and the unconscious, within the initiate which join together and are absorbed back into the Great Sea of Binah. The word Zain means “sword” and has a numerical value of 67, the same number as Binah, which means understanding, insight, and prudence, giving rise to a conception of the “Sword of Discrimination.”
The 32 Paths of Wisdom says, “Zain is the Disposing Intelligence because it disposes the devout to perseverance.” The “devout” of which this speaks are those who have brought their feelings, thoughts and actions into harmony with universal order, a process which requires keen discrimination. The numeration of the verb “to slaughter, kill, sacrifice” in Hebrew is 17 (ZaBaCh), the same number as the Path of Zain, and implies a connection to Tiphareth as the point of departure and the Sphere of the sacrificed god. There is a warning in the interpretation of the 17th Path which says the sword can utterly destroy those who travel across the Abyss, for the ego must undergo a total death before it can be reconstituted.
Key 7 – THE CHARIOT
Saturn Acting Through Cancer on Mars, Understanding Acting Upon Severity.
Number 7 is the number of perfection, the most sacred of all numbers. The Egyptians considered it the symbol of life eternal. It is composed of the triad (3) and the tetrad (4), or God and Nature combined in man. Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with references to 7, particularly in the Book of Revelation, which used 7 to show completion: 7 vials of the 7 last plagues, 7 trumpet calls, 7 angels, 7 kings, and the beast with 7 heads. In Tarot Key 7, the Chariot, we have completion, in the sense that the charioteer has conquered his will and corrected imbalance.
The Path of the Chariot is the first path to cross the Abyss from the lower Sephiroth. The Key represents a conquering on all the planes of existence and alludes also to the descent of Spirit in the lower manifested universe. The purpose of this path is to illustrate that whatever our personal beliefs, we should remain receptive to the influence of the Divine moving through the vehicle of our lives in its own unique way.
The letter Cheth, whose numerical value is 8, signifies “a fence” or “enclosure” and is attributed to the 18th Path which runs between Geburah and Binah. Field or enclosure implies the various means of structuring consciousness into components we can perceive and understand. On the evolutionary path, Cheth represents the enclosure which is the container for the spiritual essence. On the path of return or involution, these forms begin to dissolve. Other ideas associated with the number 8 are alteration, rhythm, vibration, involution and evolution.
One of the Shekinah’s names is “Apple Field” (which leads us back to Cheth) and in Jewish mysticism, it is the Shekinah who is the voice of God. Therefore, Cheth can be considered as the birth of divine language. The Thirty Two Paths of Wisdom say that the arcana which spring from this Path come from the “cause of all causes.” The Tarot is also called arcana because it imparts truths through symbolic language which is older than any human tongue. Cheth has been referred to as “occult speech;” that is, in meditation, symbols bypass the mind and influence us through the unconscious.
Our thoughts cultivate the fields we travel as well as the fences we construct. The Intelligence for this Path is “Influence” (ShPO) which also means “to flow” or “abundance” and has a value of 450. This same value is also found in looakhuth (LVChVTh), the “Tablets of the Law,” which mean the body of wisdom known as the Torah, and Peree etz, “the Fruit of the Tree” (PRYOTz).
Commencing from Geburah, this pathworking is conceived in a robust and warlike spirit, yet the Saturnian-maternal influence of Binah suggests caution and defense. These factors combine in the image of the zodiacal sign Cancer, the Crab, which is a feminine and maternal sign ruled by the Moon, and whose armored shell represents a likeness both of a shield and of the Moon-disc. Because this sign is ruled by both the Moon and Water, it indicates the reflective quality of both the lunar nature and water — or more appropriately, that the Charioteer or human being is a reflection of the Divine. The single most important message of this path is that Spirit must be recognized behind form, and that as a vehicle for Spirit’s intention, form must be directed towards the ultimate reunion with its Source.
No. 8 – STRENGTH
Jupiter Acting Through Leo Upon Mars, Mercy Tempering Severity, the Glory of Strength.
Number 8 is the number of evolution; its symbol is the hourglass and the balance. Since evolution can advance only by reaping what is sown, Number 8 is a perfect symbol of balance or cause and effect. Also, in 8 we enter a higher cycle of evolution.
Leo, the Astrological Sign of this Path, is a fire sign and one with the power of the Sun, i.e., it possesses radiance, authority, and centripetal powers. Leo draws things to itself, as does the woman in Key 8, Strength, who, through her spiritual radiance, controls the lion. The message transmitted in Key 8 is that we must learn to create a balance between our spiritual and carnal natures and thus influence the lower of the two. It signifies the Art of Alchemy, the transformation of one thing into another, indicated by the lion whose tail ends in the form of a serpent. Leo is ruled by the Sun, linking this path to Resh and also to Tiphareth and indicates that Solar Power can open up higher levels of consciousness beyond those reflected in the Sun.
The letter Teth is attributed to the 19th Path and represents a serpent curved into a circle. This serpent is identified as the great serpent curled about the world, whom Hebrew tradition calls Theli. In the Sepher Yetzirah, Theli is described as the Dragon of the Stars, set over the universe as a king enthroned. This signifies the sun’s ecliptic and therefore, the celestial dragon is defined by the 12 Houses of the Zodiac.
The equating of Leo (the Astrological Sign of this Path) with the Serpent of the Zodiac is interesting because the Hebrew name of Leo is ARYH, which gives the numeration 216, adding to 9 — numerical value of Teth. ARYH transposed gives YRAH “awe or reverence,” which, of course, has the same numeration. Likewise, the word ARYH or “Lion,” because it ends in H, is designated as feminine. Auriel which is derived from this root word, is the angel whose name means “Lion of God.” It also means “hero” as well as “Hearth of God,” reflecting its fiery energy. The word rogaz (“to quake”) has a numerical value of 216 also, the same number as Geburahand strength, power or force (GBVRH). The last association in this regard is “blood of grapes” (DM ONBIM) or the sacred wine, also equals 216.
Teth is the ninth letter of the Hebrew alphabet and has a value of 9. From the end of the alphabet (Tau) proceeding backwards to Yod, all the letters have numerical values that are multiples of ten or more. From Aleph to Teth are the first nine single-digit numerals. Since these are primary numbers from which all others are formed, they represent the original nine archetypal ideas. The number 9 carries the obvious ideas of conclusion, goal, fulfillment; also adeptship, union and innocence.
The 19th Path is veiled in many mysteries. The Thirty Two Paths of Wisdom call it the “Intelligence of the Secret of all Spiritual Activities.” Just below the Abyss, the 19th Path connects the two most dichotomous poles in the God energy: Divine Mercy and Divine Severity. Those who think life should always be gentle and kind fail to see that without the equilibrium of strength and severity, the personality’s shadow on this Path, we would not be balanced and would degenerate quickly into cowardly creatures with no force.
Key 9 – THE HERMIT
Jupiter Acting Through Virgo Upon Sol, the Mercy of Beauty, the Magnificence of Sovereignty.
Number 9 is primarily the number of initiation. As the last of the digits, it is the symbol of that which brings things to an end and prepares for a new manifestation. In Key 9, the Hermit denotes the strength of maturity and the discretion of wisdom, and he holds his Lamp of Hidden Knowledge high for those seeking initiation. He is the silent wanderer, bringing the potentialities of the universe into reality at all levels, and is considered the Wise One or consciousness expanding.
The Hermit has attained the perfected state of oneness with the Primal Self and represents Adeptship. He is alone, for the path of individuation prompts us to rid ourselves of the “herd mentality” at all costs. A Path of great determination, the Hermit turns his back on much of what the world has to offer in search of wholeness and once found, extends an open hand to the next seeker as the Path of Yod signifies the ability of the open, extended and creative hand. To the Jews this principle was embodied by the great hermit figure, Moses, who spoke with God and led them from the wilderness. Interestingly, the magical title of this card is “The Magus of the Voice of Light, the Prophet of the Gods.” The 20th Path is Mercury-Earth, that is, the zodiacal sign Virgo. Virgo represents the virgin, ever pure and innocent, an uncontaminated channel for the Divine.
The letter attributed to this Path is Yod. Yod, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, has its counterpart in Iota of the Greek alphabet, which also has the numerical valuation of 10. By both Qabalistic and Pythagorean reasoning, 10 contains the sum of all things within itself and is the number of all potential for no number exists beyond ten which cannot be broken down into a number smaller than ten.
The word Yod signifies “a hand” and becomes the creative hand of Chokmah, for the Sephirah Chokmah has the title “the Yod of Tetragrammaton.” We thus have a symbol which is potently male, the creative hand of the All-Father. The shape of the letter is similar to a “primordial point” the starting point of the development of every form. Yod contains the gestate form of the Ten Sephiroth and also represents their final point of development, and this path represents the self-sustained, original beginnings of manifestation.
The Intelligence of this Path is “Will” and Will forms the patterns of all things. The Hermit is one who reflects, or channels, this Will, seeking not his personal volition, but the Will of the One sending him. He is totally identified with the Primal Will through great concentration, and has become the Thaumaturge or “great magician.” These ideas of “will” and “channel” are linked in Hebrew gematria for the word “will” is rawstone (RTzVN) which also means grace as well as delight. The word for “Hollow,” “Conduit,” “Channel”, etc. is Tzinnor (TzNVR). Both words have a numerical value of 346. In Qabalah, the concept of the Thaumaturge is one who represents the highest vehicle or channel for the God Force, not simply the miracle-working magician.
Key 10 – THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE
Jupiter Acting Through Jupiter Upon Venus, The Mercy and Magnificence of Victory.
Number 10 is the number of completion. In it we meet the 0 of unmanifested force with which we started, but after it has evolved through the 9 digits. Now the first differentiation, Number 1, stands beside the 0, ready to begin a new series of manifestations on a higher cycle of evolution. Beginning with 1, we evolve until we reach the 5 of adulthood. At this point, we become aware of the Divine force, 6, and begin to reach upward in evolution until we attain our initiation in 9. In Key 10, the Wheel of Fortune, the wheel represents the 0 in 10.
The Fool now encounters karma as the unavoidable Law of Cause and Effect for this Key is the ever-turning wheel of fortune which carries our destinies up and down. The Wheel represents the perpetual motion of a fluid universe and the flux of human life within it. The Sphinx at rest on top the wheel is wisdom and the principle of equilibration — stability amidst movement — suggesting that we are not always governed by chance and fatality but possess the power to change our lives.
The 21st Path runs between Netzach and Chesed, and directly reflects the force of Jupiter, the Benevolent King. The alphabetical attribution is the letter Kaph, which in its ordinary form represents a hand cupped to receive. In its final form it represents a hand with fingers outstretched to release. This symbolism corresponds with the alternate rising and falling aspects of the Wheel of Fortune. The letter Kaph spelled out means “palm” as well as the “closed or grasping hand” and has a numerical value of 100, the same as “exertion” and “effort” (MDVN) and the Path of Kaph is of considerable effort and exertion and requires keen discretion in determining what is “Spiritual” and good for one’s soul. Kaph is layered with mystical import and is closely linked to prophecy and visions (ChZH) which is demonstrated by the fact that numerically they have the same value: 20. An interesting point is that Christian Rosencreutz, the (theoretical) founder of the Order of Rosicrucians, was often called “Brother Kaph.” This Path is called the “Rewarding Intelligence of Those who Seek” or the “Intelligence of Conciliation,” meaning that the Wheel is the mediator between the opposites of Personality and Higher Self. This Path links Chesed, Divine Mercy with the desire nature, Netzach. In the process of evolution, it is the Divine Mercy of Chesed descending into matter drawn by the Desire of Netzach. The implication for the path is that after a deep hunger, which has not been found satisfied, the soul’s undefined yearning turns to something higher, stirred by dim memories (Chesed) of richer experiences which are only found in inner life.
Fundamental to the mysticism of this key is the cyclic nature of life for it represents the recurrence of the seasons, the repetitive activities of humanity, and the regularity of astronomical movements in the sky. These cycles of life and nature follow specific laws which humans are subject to until achievement of adepthood (symbolized by Beth, the Magician). The law in the Wheel of Fortune is represented by TORA which is the body of wisdom and law in Jewish scripture. Reading TORA the other way derives ROTA which is Latin for Wheel and TAROT, which embodies the archetypal images on the wheel of life. The Wheel is a symbolic synthesis of all cosmic forces, as well as the passage of time. The Qabalah teaches that the secret of mastering circumstance is to be found through the realization that the center, the heart of the Wheel, the Primary Point of First Unity, is our only safe habitation. When we are identified with the Ruling Power which keeps in balance the wheeling activities of the cosmic cycles, we are simultaneously at the beginning and the end of our quest because they are really the same place.
Key 11 – JUSTICE
Mars Acting Through Libra Upon Sol, The Severity of Beauty and Sovereignty.
Number 11 means a new beginning, but one that depends upon the wisdom and efficiency acquired during the past cycle from 1 through 10. Libra is an air sign, and therefore, mental in outlook. It means balance, poise and peace. Balance is indicated here as it is in the Strength Key. Keys 8 and 11 represent two aspects of the operation of a single power, creative imagination, and all imagination is based on memory. With this Key, the Fool embarks on a higher cycle of manifestation but with all the experience gained during the previous sequence of ten keys. The purified, disciplined personality now recognizes the One Life and has developed the ability to divine right from wrong.
To the 22nd Path is attributed the letter Lamed and the zodiacal sign Libra. Libra is the airy sign ruled by Venus. Here, we have a temperate and mediating influence between radiant Tiphareth and fiery Geburah. The meaning of Lamed is “an Ox-goad.” Bearing in mind that the Ox is the symbol of Air (Aleph – not confusing this with the zodiacal sign Taurus which is of Earth), it follows that Lamed is not only associated with airy Libra but has itself an airy purpose. “Lash of the Winds” is a fitting title for this letter. Lamed multiplies and distributes the powers of the Life Force in a way which is consistent with Divine Justice and perfect equilibrium.
Aleph and Lamed form the word Al which means God, so we understand the Aleph-Lamed connection to represent the vital idea of the primal driving force being controlled. The Ox Goad is something which regulates the primal raw energy of Aleph, the unfathomable Beginning, and Lamed is charged with the responsibility of reconciling and meditating the most powerful forces of the Cosmos. Lamed is called the “Teacher of Teachers” whose instruction is like unto a goad which guides through the circuit of existence. The letter Lamed spelled out equals 74, the same number as the word “circuit” (SBYB) and also the word “constantly” (OD) or “till eternity,” demonstrating the nature of this Intelligence as that of the ever faithful and eternal Spirit.
The archetype of “Our Lady of the Scales” is the Egyptian Maat, goddess of truth, justice and law. Her task was to weigh the souls of the dead to determine their fate in the afterlife. She did this by placing the heart of the deceased on one side of the scale and the “Feather of Maat” on the other. It one’s heart was too heavy with guilt, it tipped the scales. On the other hand, if one’s heart was pure, perfect balance was maintained and one was admitted to the rewards of the heavenly kingdom. Maat was the daughter of Ra, the Sun God, and on the tree of Life, this Path connects Geburah, the Law of Undeviating Justice, with Tiphareth, the Sun-King. Her sword points upward toward the Strength and Severity of the Law, while her scales represent the Beauty and Harmony of Tiphareth. She acts as a regulator of energy and a keeper of the balance. Lamed represents work or action, Maat represents total equilibration, yet at the same time, constant motion.
It is called the Faithful Intelligence, for by it “spiritual virtues are increased and all dwellers on earth are nearly under its shadow.” The word “faithful” in Hebrew is Amen, an auspicious word to Qabalists because its number (91) is the sum of the two great Divine Names YHVH (26) and Adonai (65). Amen is one of the names assigned to Kether and is related to the idea of the original motivational impulse from which everything else proceeds.
Key 12 – THE HANGED MAN
Mars Acting Through Water Upon Mercury, The Severity of Splendor, Execution of Judgment.
Number 12 is called the number of stability or the manifested universe. It is the sign of complete expression. All great religions are, fundamentally, allegorical expressions of the universal Sun Myth. The stages of unfoldment of their Founders correspond to the activities of the physical Sun in nature during the cycle of 12 months. There were the 12 sons of Jacob, who founded the 12 tribes of Israel. There were the 12 princes of Shmael, the 12 Olympian deities, the 12 apostles of Osiris, the 12 apostles of Christ, the 12 knights of King Arthur’s Round Table, and many more. They all correspond to the 12 signs of the Zodiac, with the Sun in the center. The 12th number is not easy to understand because its numerical composition of 10+2 shows it is fruition or perfect in duality, the number 2 indicating the physical separation into male and female, positive and negative. In Key 12, the Hanged Man, we find the lesson that man must hang upside down, with his feet where his head should be, until he accomplishes the Great Work of Regeneration within himself. At the twelfth step, we still find the initiate reversed, although ultimately he must stand on his own feet and surmount the cross (4) with the spiritual triangle (3). We see in the Hanged Man the idea of utter dependency of the human personality on the tree of Cosmic Life. This card has profound significance, even though much of it is veiled. The seeker must now accomplish regeneration consciously and voluntarily.
The letter Mem’s value is 40 and the number 4 is a powerful number reflecting stability and structure. In Hebrew the word for “stable” is Khayam which has a numeration of 160. Forty multiplied by four gives us 160, or the “Stable Intelligence” (the name of this Path), and the word for “Tree” (Otz) also has a numeration of 160 and is the Qabalistic image that contains all the Sephiroth and paths, i.e. all the numerations.
The 23rd Path, running between Hod and Geburah, is a Path governed by the Element of Water. The Hebrew letter Mem means “the Waters”, the seas. Water is considered the First Principle in Alchemy which underlies everything else. It is the most stable, more primordial of the elements. Here, between Splendor and Strength lies the dimness, fluctuation, and mourning of the great waters. Yet this concept of Water as an Element cannot be totally overshadowed by Saturnian Binah. Aspects of Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio, all of the Water Triplicity, must be present (as also in the 31st Path we see the Triplicity of Fire). Therefore, we have here the selflessness of Pisces, the maternal quality of Cancer and the brilliance and reflected fire of Scorpio which reflect the adaptability, sparkle, and conquering endurance of Water. The image of the Hanged Man illustrates this Stable Intelligence because he is inseparable from the Unity that Water represents and is drowned in the Universal Consciousness. The most implicit symbolism is that of reversal or suspension of ordinary consciousness and ordinary activity and immersion in Superconsciousness. This key represents suspension of personal will and absolute surrender. The power of the Dying God, the concept of mythological sacrifice, is universal and cross-cultural. The Norse god Odin hung on the World Tree for nine days, and the Sumerian Dumuzi, the Egyptian Osiris, the Phrygian Attis, the Syrian Adonis, the Roman Mithra, and Greek Dionysos were all sacrificed and resurrected gods. The primary image of the Dying God is one of total absolution, the restoration of the Creator back to the throne, to lose the false personal “self” in order to find the true Eternal Self.
Key 13 – DEATH
Sol Acting Through Scorpio Upon Venus, the Sovereignty and Result of Victory or Osiris Under the Destroying Power of Typhon Afflicting Isis.
Number 13 expresses the perpetual movement of creation, construction and renewal. It is the number of the vernal cross of springtime, in which the sun commences a new cycle of life. Hence, it is the promise of immortality. Although Key 13 means physical death to the unenlightened, to the initiate it means the commencement of a new life through the transformation of material desires into spiritual aspirations. It is a protest against stagnation, and is the twin of Life for creation necessitates its opposite — destruction. As Spirit descends into matter, it must also return to its source, rendering Death as half of the Universal Transformative Principle. Hence, the Destroyer becomes the Creator.
The zodiacal sign here is Scorpio, which is ruled by Mars. Accordingly, we have a modified reflection of the Fifth Sephirah thrown across into this Path between Netzach and Tiphareth. Nevertheless, Scorpio is a sign in the Water Triplicity, not the Fiery; it is a strange interposition between the Spheres of Venus and of the Sun. The 24th Path submits the initiate to the danger of death, and the greatest of mortal dangers is the will to die (the Scorpion). This Path also tells us that when occult powers are sublimated and function below the level of consciousness, they lead to illumination.
The Hebrew letter is Nun, whose name signifies “a fish.” The Fish is that Power which lives at the heart of the waters, familiar with the pulse of these vital currents, which keeps watch over the lost treasures of the deep. Of the Gematric correspondences of this Path, three especially are memorable: the value of Nun is 50 which is a multiple of 5, the archetype of universal life (the letter Heh) and “Death” (MVT) equals 446=14=5. The name of the letter Nun written in full has the value of 756, which reduces to 18 and then to 9, and “Life” (ChY) equals 18, then again reducing to
9. Nun also means “to sprout” or “to generate” and is connected with procreative power, as is Scorpio which rules the reproductive organs. All these ideas constellate around the central theme of universal life, death and transformation through the great power and mystery of generation and regeneration. Final Nun has a value of 700 and two other Hebrew words also have a value of 700: the “mercy seat” or the golden cover of the Ark of the Covenant (KPRTh) and the veil of the Holy of Holies (PRKTh). Both words denote what was concealed in the ark, hinting at the great mystery which was not to be understood by the senses. In the Zohar, 700 is considered a “complete number” symbolizing the profound mystery of male and female. This is also the number of the Angelic Choir of the Melekim (MLKM), the Kings, which reside in Tiphareth. In Tiphareth, we see the marriage of the opposing principles of anima and animus in a whole androgynous Being.
It is called the Imaginative Intelligence because it “gives a likeness to all the similitudes which are created in like manner similar to its harmonious elegancies.” Although these ideas may seem to be disparate from one another, Qabalah teaches that when we bring opposites together in our understanding, a new synthesis emerges. In Alchemy, this is called conjunctio. The esoteric title of this key is Child of the Great Transformers. It is one of the three paths leading from the personality level to the Higher Self and balances the energies of Netzach with that of Tiphareth. Because death is the greatest mystery, Paul Case, Aleister Crowley and other Qabalists tell us that this Key contains some of the most profound secrets of any of the Paths.
Key 14 – TEMPERANCE
Sol Acting Through Sagittarius Upon Luna, The Beauty of a Firm Basis, the Sovereignty of Fundamental Power.
Number 14 is the number of mental foundation, for it is only when the mind has laid a firm foundation and knows what it is to build upon that it can become a balanced producer of thought. Number 4 is the foundation stone of the physical, and 10+4 is this foundation on a higher cycle, the mental. Therefore, 14 is all that No. 4 symbolizes, with the power of 10 added. Number 14 is also 7+7 and just as 7 completes the first octave of creation, so 14 completes the second octave of illuminating intelligence.
Temperance represents the renewed sense of purpose that follows the ego’s death experienced with the Death card. With Temperance, the goal of wisdom and self-mastery looms ahead. In the refinement and redirection of human awareness, the personality slowly grows from the unconsciousness of the Lovers, to the consciousness of Temperance, to the Superconsciousness of the Universe card. The will developed and imagination purified, The Fool has progressed to another stage of occult growth on the path to mastery.
This is the card of vibration, or radiant energy, of tempering and modification. There is nothing in the cosmos but vibration, and all forms of vibration can be modified and managed by the Adept who has mastered the transfer of the Life-force from the imagination (moon) into the activity of the conscious (sun). The allusion seems to be a modification in the inward nature of the initiate. It leads from Yesod, the “Foundation,” to Tiphareth, “Beauty.” On the Microcosmic Tree, the Moon represents the personality and the Sun symbolizes the Higher Self.
The Path of Samekh is called the Intelligence of Probation or the Tentative Intelligence and is the path wherein “the Creator trieth all righteous persons.” The basic meaning of the Path is verification and this key represents the way we may confirm the accuracy of our beliefs and theories in the “Intelligence of Probation or Trial.” When the aspirant has successfully worked this Path, the philosophical gold of enlightenment, which represents verified truth, begins to be distilled from the dark nigredo of matter and its illusionary visions. Temperance really means regulation and the measured proportion of constituent parts. Theories must be carefully weighed and measured to become established and supported. The shape of the letter Samekh is taken to represent a rough stone set up on end, and its Hebrew name means “a support.” The numerical value of the single letter is 60, and connecting this by Gematria is the Hebrew word (BChN) means to “try by fire” and adds up to 60. Another association is (MChZH), meaning “vision” which also equals 60. Therefore, the 25th Path is the mystical Path of the Arrow, the direct road of true vision.
The astrological symbol associated with Samekh is the Sagittarian Archer who is represented as Diana, the Huntress and Moon Goddess and also the Centaur; the horse is a major animal symbol of Luna, and this fittingly represents the rear part of this emblem; while the forepart, under the transforming power of Tiphareth, is altogether human and, gazing upwards, shoots arrows of aspiration to the Sun.
Key 15 – THE DEVIL
Sol Acting Through Capricorn Upon Mercury, The Sovereignty and Beauty of Material (false) Splendor.
Number 15 combines the 10 of completion with the 5 of humanity, or the idea of being “all too human,” and illustrates the pitfalls faced by humanity when failing to use complete discrimination. The forces personified by the Devil are very real, for they are man’s own creations and will disintegrate only when thought and belief are withdrawn from them. In Key 15, the man and woman are chained to the Devil they have erected on a pedestal. However, 6 is the ultimate of 15, and the Divine force must prevail. When the digits 1 and 5 are added together, making 6, this relates this card to Key 6, the Lovers. In the first instance, the suggestion is thought and action brought down to their lowest level; in the second instance we see thought lifted to the plane of the superconscious.
The Devil is generally taken to relate to material prosperity, the emphasis on the trap of materialism. An interesting gematric correlation is that the letter Ayin (the letter of this Path) means “eye,” but another word, of identical spelling in Hebrew, means “wellspring.” Binah is the “Wellspring of Forms,” therefore, reflected from the sphere of Binah is the preoccupation with forms and created shapes.
Remembering that Again means “eye,” recall the words in the first Epistle of John, “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life” (I John 2:16), but against this, the first chapter of Berashith: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Behind the image of the Devil (NChSh = 358) is the Messiah (MShYCh = 358) who delivers. Ayin (when spelled out) and the word “deliverance” in Hebrew both add up to 130, which gives the student much food for thought.
The 26th Path is called the “Renewing Intelligence” because the “Holy God renews by it all the changing things which are renewed by the creation of the world,” signifying one of the great mysteries. It is said Ayin hides many mysteries, and the association in Gematria for this is that the letter Ayin and the word for “secret” (SVD) both equal 70. Ayin, or the eye, is an organ of sight and sees the surface or appearance of things, but cannot penetrate any further. Through the function of the eye, we are made aware of the phenomenon of the Universe or what the East calls Maya, Illusion or Deception. In Qabalah, the world of appearances is not in itself a world of deception but rather illusions arising from our own perception. In Ayin, we learn to use the intellectual eye of Hod to see anew the Light of Beauty illuminated by Tiphareth. The ascent of this Path is the process of transferring consciousness from the concrete mind to the abstract mind, from the ego to the Higher Self.
The Path between Splendor and Beauty might be thought of as an ecstatic experience, but in fact, this Path is the cold, earthy influence of Capricorn, the Earth sign of Saturn. Knowledge and calculation are here, and the material aspect of things which, if developed to the exclusion of love, becomes baneful. If should be recalled that in its qliphothic (excessive or unbalanced) aspect, Hod becomes the sphere of Samael, the Tempter of Eden, and the temptation offered was a way of attainment by Knowledge alone.
Key 16 – THE TOWER
Venus Acting Through Mars Upon Mercury, The Victory Over Splendor, Avenging Force.
Number 16 indicates Spiritual victory, the 10 of completion plus the 6 of the Divine Force manifesting. Here, the Divine Force is struggling with matter – tearing down and disintegrating in order that higher and perfected forms can be created. In Key 16, we see the Divine force at work destroying that which has been built by pride, ignorance and false reasoning — the Tower of ambition built on false premises. The lightening is Divine Fire destroying only what is evil thereby purifying and refining what is good.
We see here the Cosmic Consciousness struggling to break through the thoughts of material ambition and bring them to naught in order to build again. As stated in the Zelator Initiation, “Except Adonai build the house, they labor in vain that built it.”
Why does the key seem to signify destruction? Esoteric teaching tells us that all action is disintegrative and the Active Intelligence began the world by a process of disintegration. Power is released by disintegration as is demonstrated repeatedly in Nature; whenever one type of form appears, another disappears. The message of this Path is the letting go of old forms so that new ones may appear. The implication with regard to the Tower is that if true balance and harmony are not present, power which should consecrate can only disrupt. This Path is called the “Exciting Intelligence” because “through it is consummated and perfected the nature of every existent being.” The intelligence itself means “to be tumultuous.”
The letter of the Hebrew Alphabet here represented is Peh, whose name means “mouth.” It may be significant here that the Sword of Emanations is often shown as a lightning-flash issuing from the mouth a venerable figure (see Revelation 1:16). From the Mouth issued both Breath, representing the life-force (Netzach) and Speech, representing the laws which govern the life-force (Hod). Knowledge likewise represents Hod, while Love in the sense of natural affection represents Netzach. Oracular speech, again, is a combination of natural utterance with inspired knowledge, and this is another manifestation of Peh.
Among the many Gematric examples connected with this letter we may note briefly that the numerical value of Peh is 80: “Breath” (NShMH) equals 395 or 17 or 8; “Precepts, Laws” (PKVDYH) equals 125 or 8; and “to prophecy” (NAB) equals 53 or 8. Peh, the Mouth, is the Power of Utterance and in occult philosophy one imitates this divine power of the Word literally by the correct vibration or intonation of God names. In this key, the lightning flash is the power of this Word or Logos in the process of manifestation. Peh is a profound symbol of the power of speech and the manifestation of creative thought through the uttered word.
Key 17 – THE STAR
Venus Acting Through Aquarius Upon Luna, The Victory of Fundamental Strength, Hope.
Number 17 expresses the interior light that illuminates. Ten plus seven indicates another place of rest, but this time farther up the mountain. Key 17 is a card of meditation, mental occupation, and the mind reaching out for Truth to unveil itself in Silence. From the record of nature’s memory (symbolized by the High Priestess) the Fool gains wisdom through meditation and develops specific powers which in turn control the animal forces in the human personality (symbolized in Strength) rendering this Key as an image of Hope.
The Zodiacal Sign of Aquarius is the Sign attributed to the 28th Path. Proceeding from Fire to Air, this would indeed seem to be a parched and waterless tract, but Binah, the Great Mother whose symbol is the Primal Ocean, is also reflected here. For although Aquarius is an Air sign, it is also the “Water-Bearer” and is ruled by Saturn. Meditation is the mode of consciousness attributed to this Path which links the raw forces of Netzach with the intuition of Yesod.
The letter Tzaddi, which means “fish-hook,” has the numerical value of 90. Ninety is also the numerical value for the word DVMM which means “a great silence” as well as the letter-name of Maim, which means ‘Water.” The fishhook symbolizes the agency whereby one investigates the unseen, and also the patience for “fishing for the Truth” in the depths of the psyche. Tzaddi is the hook, which draws one forth, as well as the door and the outstretched hand which guides the initiate through the portal. This is implicit in the very spelling of Tzaddi (TzDY) which consists of letters that mean, in order: “hook,” “door,” and “hand.” Tzaddi is a symbol of attraction to the Supernals by means of hope and aspiration, and draws the initiate completely out of kinship with the material world.
Netzach represents desire and feelings, and the Path of the Star seeks to balance these with the intuitions and instincts of Yesod. The challenge of this Path is patience in fishing for the spiritual light in the murky waters of the psyche. The symbols of Tzaddi and Nun form powerful symbols for concentrating the mind and balancing the energies of intuition, feeling and the Higher Ego.
The process of meditation is symbolized in the Key by the flow of water from the vessels, in the same sense that meditation is described in Raja Yoga as an unbroken flow of knowledge on a particular object or idea. For the Qabalist, it is focusing on the symbols involved with a particular path or Sephirah until one discovers its Silent Source. The Star is an apt symbol for the eternal Higher Self which seeks to bring the personality of the ego into atonement with the flow of life and nature. Such stabilization and wholeness is identified as Jungian individuation, as well a the priceless alchemical Philosopher’s Gold.
Key 18 – THE MOON
Venus Acting Through Pisces Upon the Cosmic Elements, The Victory of the Material, The Deceptive Effect of the Apparent Power of Material Forces.
Number 18 implies the exploration of secret realms – a quest that is not without its perils. Number 8 is evolution and leads to 1+8=9, initiation. It can also be enumerated as 6+6+6=18, referring to initiation of not only of the individual but also of the race. Consisting of the digits 1 and 8, which add up to 9, a connection between the Moon and the Hermit is indicated. In Key 18, we see that there are many hidden things to be learned, even by those who are already advanced on the Path.
Pisces is the most psychic of astrological symbols and the Moon the most psychic of the Tarot cards. Their meanings blend in suggesting a pathway full of temptations as the Fool travels upward on the long journey. The Towers represent the boundaries of the known, and beyond them are the heights of consciousness. They represent the secrets which cannot be penetrated until we have risen beyond them. As a Key of sleep and dreams, the Moon symbolizes the intuitive and psychic work characterized by deep trance or meditation.
The 29th Path is another Path which menaces the traveler with the danger of disintegration — psychic disintegration because this Path leads to Netzach. What is indicated here is the renunciation of individuality. The journey from Malkuth to Netzach is the joining of the physical and emotional natures, carrying with it powerful emotional complexes and the balance here is to use “reason” when it is called for. The “shadow” crops up frequently on this Path. As Path 31 needs to be balanced with instinct and emotion, the 29th Path need to be balanced with intellect and reason. A Path of flux and reflux, the journey of evolution, the 29th path can be experienced in “psychic fertilization” as we experience birth through vibrant Netzach, the Awakener. All paths which proceed toward Netzach are Orphic Paths, resembling the mythical poet, Orpheus, who charmed nature with the gift of song.
Qoph, the letter of this Path, means literally “the back of the head” as the consciousness which shapes bodies. The back of the head is where the medulla oblongata is located and this is referred to by esoteric traditions as the connecting link between the higher brain centers and the spinal cord and lower centers of the body. It governs respiration, heart movement, circulation, all forms of health maintenance and even carrying on its functions while we sleep. Interestingly, the activity assigned to Qoph is the function of sleep. The value of the letter q is 100 or 10 x 10 (the number of Sephiroth multiplied by itself) as well as the value of the word Kaleem, vessels or instruments, giving us a clear sense of the relationship of the Divine through its medium of expression, the instruments of the body or corporeal intelligences. Called the Corporeal Intelligence, this is truly a path of body consciousness. One of the most important lessons of this Path, stressed in Qabalah again and again, is that is it not to our advantage to attempt to separate the “higher states of the mind” from the “lower gross” forms of the physical body. If we neglect the body, we neglect the Spirit embodied by the flesh. The aim of the aspirant is to begin where nature left off and go on to perfect the work of evolution — much in the way the alchemist works with matter. The image of growth is indicated by the word Qophspelled out which equals 186, the same value as the word mosaph “to increase.”
Key 19 – THE SUN
Mercury Acting Through The Sun Upon The Moon, the Splendor of the Material World.
Number 19 is the number of ultimate attainment, both as 19 and as 1+9=10. The Fool was initiated into the mysteries of the Moon, or the hidden side of nature, in Key 18. Now as the Sun initiate, the aspirant is ready to accomplish on the inner plane that which is comparable to the action of the Sun on the earth. In Key 19, we have the fulfillment of that which the Magician suggested – the completion of the Great Work. Here, the Fool has gained spiritual victory over the lower aspects of its nature — a very different triumph from that which was demonstrated in the Charioteer, Key 7, which was conquest of the will only. The Sun represents the Life and Spirit given to us by the All and represents the Self.
The 30th Path runs between Yesod and Hod. This Path, from the Moon-sphere to Reason, might be though of as dim and cold, a chilling of the creative imagination by the force of intellect. However, the full force of the Sun shines upon it. “Splendor” is suited both to the Sun and to the Sephirah Hod. The Hebrew letter assigned to this Path is Resh which means “head,” and Resh spelled out equals 510 or 15. Hod spelled out (HVD) also has a numerical value of 15. Each of these words ultimately adds up to 6, the number of Tiphareth, whose kingly image is so strong upon this Path.
Resh has a value of 200, which is also the numeration of a magical childlike consciousness or “belonging to spring” (KYTz), also translated as “to awaken.” This Pathworking begins in Yesod, which rules the Moon and imagination, and has its destiny in Hod, the sphere of pure knowledge and visionary inspiration. It is a path of great discovery because it leads to the sphere of the activity of mind — often described as the point of deep contact with the Inner Teachers. It is also a balance between mind and body, striking at the heart of the relationship between the intellect and the intuition. In particular, it is a process whereby most anyone can begin to grow “backwards” toward a recollection of the Source from which we emerge.
The Path of Resh is devoted to the refinement of physical sensation for the purpose of further regeneration of the personality. As stated, Resh means “head” or “countenance” and it is in the human head that the controlling element of life is centered. The controlling element of our solar system is the Sun, and the Sun is a shining countenance. Therefore, the human consciousness is the form through which the Life Force is perfected.
It is called the Collective Intelligence because it synthesizes and adapts all other forms of consciousness, administering the laws which govern reality. The aspirant on this path attempts to cultivate vision, a practice which clears away mental, emotional and physical obstructions to produce deep inner regeneration. This is truly a path where the active work of Alchemy takes place. Astrological references which point to this are the designations of Hod, the planet Mercury and god-form Mercury or Hermes, who presided over all alchemical activities. The Sun represents the goal of the Great Work in the regenerated solar stone.
Key 20 – JUDGMENT
Mercury Acting Through Fire Upon the Cosmic Elements, The Splendor of the Material World.
Number 20 is composed of two complete cycles of 10, each containing the experiences of the previous 9 digits. But, unlike 10, which has 1 standing beside the 0 of unmanifested force, in 20 we have 2 signifying that the Life Force has entered into matter and multiplied. The number 2 is the expression of duality, but it is not a number denoting separation or departure, for it is made up of two 1’s — God and Man united in one figure. It indicates rebirth into complete oneness with Divine power, and the meaning of the card is definitely resurrection and renewal. This is the reawakening of Nature under the influence of Spirit, the mystery of birth in death. Spirit has now fully clothed itself in Humanity, and the Word has been made flesh.
This Path is intimately connected with the Hermetic Arts or Alchemy. The 31st Path is a Path of Fire; and Fire, by its nature, resolves all matter back into the elements of Being. Controlled, Fire transmutes; however, uncontrolled it devours all things and returns them to primal energy — to that Principle which gave them being. The name of the letter, ShYN, signifies “a tooth,” and when written in full (not using the final form of the Nun, for one has that option in Gematria), gives the numerical value of 360, which corresponds to the number of degrees in a complete circle. The Key of Judgment conveys the same meaning but also signifies renewal. Thus, all the Signs of the Fire Triplicity are shown on this Path, i.e., the renewal of Aries, the devouring quality of Leo and the transforming aspiration of Sagittarius.
The letter Shin has a value of 300, the same value as the Divine Breath of Spirit, the Ruach Elohim. This points to the very close connection of this fiery Intelligence with the nature of God. The strongest implication of the final stages of this Path is the beginning of the Knowledge and Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel or that intuitive perception has begun to be felt through the aspirant’s inner ear. The lines on the letter Shin give the magical significance of this Path for the symbolic archetypal manifestation of this event is that of Spirit descending in tongues of Fire — c.
This Path seeks to balance the energies of Malkuth, the body or temple of Spirit, with Hod, reason, the sphere of the Individual Mind. It is in this sphere that the magical arts and sciences commingle, and it is an activating Path of the intellect rather than emotion. What is meant by “Judgment” is the process undergone by the Personality as it strives to become conscious of its own inner workings. It is called the “Perpetual Intelligence’ because such a process takes continual effort. As the aspirant moves closer to the desired goal, the dross is slowly burned away by the redeeming Fire. This process takes place within the physical body as indicated by the Path’s point of origin, Malkuth. The root word of “perpetual” in Hebrew means to “stretch,” “extend,” or “unfold,” (MDD), hence the idea of an extension beyond the limits of the modes of normal consciousness. Judgment also implies completion, decision, and termination. This is implicit in one of the roots for “perpetual” (ThMYDY) which is (TM), a word which means “completion” or “perfection.” The card shows a stage of spiritual unfoldment where the personal consciousness is on the verge of blending with the forces around it. It is on this Path that the initiate realizes that the personality has no separate existence.
Key 21 – THE UNIVERSE
Luna Acting Through Saturn Upon The Elements, The Foundation of the Cosmic Elements And the Material World.
Number 21 indicates the completion of the second cycle of 10 and the beginning of a new cycle, 3×7=21, the highest possible development. In Key 21, we see the Fool has completed its earthly passage and is now co-creator with the Divine force. No longer bound by earthly things, Spirit now surmounts the material. The Fool has reached the final state of Cosmic Consciousness, the supreme goal to which all the other Keys have led.
The Hebrew letter of this Path is Tau, which, spelled in full (ThV) gives the numeration 406, which adds up to 10 — the Pythagorean “Perfect Number” and sum of all things. Tau has the value 400 and the word for “deliverance” or “salvation”, YShVOH, (which is one of the attributes of Saturn, the planet of this Path) has the numeration 391, also adding to 4. The numeration 4 belongs to Daleth, the fourth letter of the alphabet, and the meaning of Daleth is “a door.” Hence to Tau, 400, is ascribed “the ultimate door.” The image of the Tau Cross is called by Qabalists “Light in Extension” for it is boundless to the East, West, North and South. The earth itself is symbolized by the Cross which marks the four directions and the four elements. These elements are pictured in the corners of this Tarot Key and which also appeared in Ezekiel’s vision. They correspond to the four aspects of the Absolute YHVH, the Divine Name called Tetragrammaton. The letter Tau represents a “seal or witness,” and the “sealing” of creation by the Divine Name is one of the most fundamental ideas in Qabalistic literature. Therefore, this letter can be seen as the “seal” of the Great work because Tau represents the end of manifestation and therefore, completeness. However, there is a subtle nuance in the word Tau (ThV) because when it is spelled out, it ends in Vau which means “hook” and is also a conjunction meaning “and” or “also.” Therefore, Tau can be considered the end which is without end because literally translated it means, “The end and . . .” and can be characterized as the fluid ability to move back and forth between beginnings and endings. The structure of the letter Tau is a shape of Resh and a downward extension which resembles Yod. The hidden meaning of this union is that of Spirit, sending its force downward, via Yod (20th Path), into the densest manifestation, Malkuth. This Path represents the first stage of mysticism and the early stirring of the psyche opening to the unconscious. The Hebrew word for “instruction” or “enlightenment” is maskil which also has the numeration of 400. The number 400 also represents the total manifestation of the Sephiroth through the four worlds.
Carrying the reflection of the Sephirah Binah, this Path is shadowed by its influence whose law of limitation gives a definite shape to universal life. Saturn, the god who devoured his children, can be seen to express that mode of consciousness which swallows up all other modes of consciousness. Therefore, Saturn is essentially the force of Rebirth, and Yesod is of Birth, thus making this Path the way of the new-born who has come to tread the Way. Called the Administrative Intelligence, this Path directs the operation of the seven planets and guides them in proper course. The seven planets refer to both the universe as it was known to the ancients and to the chakras “in the midst,” i.e. the human body. The goal of the Great Work is to arrange the Elements or forces of Nature to produce the Stone. The true work of the 32nd Path is locating that sacred point, embedded in matter, which is everywhere because it radiates from the center of one’s own being.
777 And Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley
Archetypes on the Tree of Life, by Madonna Compton
Living the Tarot, by Amber Jayanti
Modern Magic, by Donald Michael Kraig
The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot, by Chic and Tabatha Cicero
Numerology and the Divine Triangle, by Faith Javane and Dusty Bunker
The Sword and the Serpent, by Melita Dennings and Osborne Philips
Copyright © 1997 – 2021 by Jayne Gibson