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The First Septenary, Part 2

July 2, 2017
by Tony Willis     

In Part 1, we learned that the ineffable One divides itself into Two equal and opposite complimentary potencies, Yin and Yang, Force and Form, according to the terminology employed. In the process of division, energy descends one rung on the ladder leading to manifestation. The interplay of dynamism between these Two complimentary potencies gives rise to the Three Alchemical Principles, and the interplay between the Three principles produces the Four visible Elements as well as a Fifth invisible Element, Æther or Spirit, again depending on the terminology employed.

The Emperor

The Emperor, Trump 4 in the Tarot, was associated by the tarot masters of the nineteenth century with the geometric symbol the Square. They also associated it with the equal-armed cross, although nothing is made of this in the occult literature of the period that I have perused, possibly because the equal-armed cross is also assigned to The Papess, Trump 2, and in the program of occult instruction that rigidly follows the numerical order of the Trumps, the major features of this symbol have generally been dealt with under that heading long before The Emperor’s attributes come up for consideration.

On the one hand, Trump 4 stands for the Hermetic Elements of Fire, Air, Water and Earth taken as a group; in fact, a cross with arms of equal length was used in old alchemical texts to denote the Elements as a collective. In concert with this attribution, Trump 4 also stands for the entire plane of Earth, the stage, as it were, on which the Four Elements display their most recognizable modes of physical expression in the forms of electricity and the gaseous, liquid, and solid states of matter. At the same time, the Earth plane is intimately connected in occult thought with the planet on which we live, so that Mother Earth herself is assumed to be the product of a four-fold interaction of agencies. This mindset is embedded in phrases current even today, such as ‘the four corners of the Earth’, and is also in familiar concepts like that of the four cardinal directions, North, South, East and West.

In tarot lore, the Square represents “the Earth and all that’s in it”, and by implication, authority over the world of matter, the capacity to control it, or some part of it, be it a nation or a small personal fiefdom, such as the head of a typing pool might hold sway over. As a result, in divination The Emperor signifies temporal power and the qualities required to maintain it: leadership, physical strength, either strength of the body or, more likely today, strength in the form of wealth, arms or manpower, as well as a degree of moral potency, since nothing causes popular support to evaporate faster than deliberate, undisguised favoritism or looking the other way when illegal acts are committed. The link between temporal power and Mother Earth, in the shape of the mother-country or the fatherland, needs no explanation, I feel sure.

4marseille  4 II  bota trump 04

Examination of the Trump’s secondary symbol, the cross, draws us once more toward the four cardinal directions; for many maps are marked, for purposes of orientation, with a cross, at each point of which is printed a letter corresponding to one of these directions. Most weathervanes are marked similarly. A good many spatial divisions are divisions into four, and both the examples I have just given relate to that concept, a notion so fundamental to the human mind as to be ingrained in us to the extent that we tend automatically to cleave the world spreading out all around us from beneath our feet into four sectors, even if these are only before, behind, to the right and to the left.

Having stated already the connection between the occult principle assigned to The Emperor and its divinatory significance, I will move on to the next number, Five.

The Pope

Just as the number Four in tarot lore relates both to Mother Earth and the Four Hermetic Elements, so does Five relate firstly to the Fifth element, Æther, as the animating factor that enlivens the four visible Elements, which, without its influence would be nothing but dead matter. Secondly Five relates to Spirit envisaged as the polar opposite of Matter. In this arrangement, Matter corresponds to the number 4, Spirit to the number 5.

The geometric symbol given to Trump 5 is the Pentagram, or five-pointed star. When the sigils of the Elements are assigned to the points of the Pentagram, that for Æther is always set beside (or sometimes within) the uppermost point.The illustration below reproduces this idea in diagrammatic form.

pent with elements

When the head, or the powers of common-sense and wisdom, hold sway in an individual, that person functions in the way Shakespeare describes in the “What a piece of work is a man!” speech from Hamlet. “How noble in reason [he is], how infinite in faculty . . . in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god — the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!” Such a person’s actions manifest in the world in a variety of ways but are always rooted in sentiments of goodness, compassion and generosity of nature. Three hundred years ago, in an ideal situation, the person most expected to exhibit these qualities was a man of the church. This would also be the individual many turned to for advice when difficult decisions were in the offing. In Part 1 of this article, the synopsis I gave of Trump 5’s divinatory significances read “Goodness, compassion, generosity of spirit; an advisor or counselor.” Clearly, the card’s occult connotations directly affected the predictive meaning that the great tarot masters of the nineteenth century assigned it.

Throughout the world of western occultism, the Pentagram is universally considered to represent the human being. The symbol is often depicted superimposed over the figure of a man, his arms outstretched and his legs parted so that each of his five extremities coincides with one of the pentagram’s arms, as in the following  illustration.


What is rarely understood is that the pentagram relates – Shakespeare’s eulogy notwithstanding – to the unperfected human being lacking in spiritual enlightenment, the unredeemed man or woman of Christian theology, there often designated ‘the Old Adam’. The traditional symbol of the perfected spiritual human being is the six-pointed star, of which more in a while.

Shakespeare, a master of words if ever there was one, uses simile to describe rational human beings. In action, they are “like an angel”; in understanding, they are “like a god”. Like an angel but not an angel; like a god but not one. Shakespeare, himself an initiate, knew that human beings stand at the center of a scale, and are capable of either rising above that level or sinking below it. The latter propensity we find revealed all too vividly in the reversed meanings given by the tarot masters of another generation to Trump 5 in reverse.

“Self-seeking in religion rather than the helping of one’s fellow-creatures. Another person’s tyranny and selfish interference in the inquirer’s life. Or the inquirer will meet with craftiness, guile, where she expected to meet with loyalty and trust.”

The Lovers

Trump 6 is assigned as its geometric form the Hexagram, two triangles, one apex upwards, the other apex downwards. At times one triangle is superimposed over the other, at other times the triangles are interlaced. Occasionally, the triangles are of different colors, in which case the colors represent opposites such as: White and Black, day and night, action and repose; Red and Blue, fire and water, heat and coolness. In the Hexagram, however, the opposites are not at odds; they are in harmony, that being one of the prime meanings of The Lovers on whatever plane we examine it.

Even so, as Dion Fortune says:

“Force in equilibrium is static, potential, never dynamic, because force in equilibrium implies two opposing forces which have perfectly neutralized each other and thus rendered each other inert, inoperative. Upset the equilibrium, and the forces are freed for action, change can take place; growth, evolution, organization can occur. There is no possibility of progress in perfect equilibrium; it is a state of rest.”

The Mystical Qabalah, p. 301.

The occultist must always have it mind that the potency represented by Trump 6 is temporary, and therefore to be regarded as unstable. Dion Fortune again points us in the right direction.

“Equilibrium is the result of the balance of contending forces; consequently, they must pull one against the other.”

The Mystical Qabalah, p. 301.

This pull, or tension, must prevail eventually. When the equilibrium of the hexagram is upset the two forces that composed it are liberated and the immediate result is growth, evolution, and the organization of the lesser but more complex forces generated in the process, just as Dion Fortune has indicated.

It was with reference to the harmonious aspect of the Hexagram that the early tarot masters gave Trump 6 the divinatory significance of Attraction, Affection, and Love. It was with reference to the pulling of two triangles one against another that they gave the Trump such meanings as Temptation, Two ‘loves’ or rival interests, and Ordeal. The picture on the Tarot de Marseilles version of the card depicts the latter of these meanings while the design of the Waite-Smith card depicts the former.

In divination, when The Lovers denotes an ordeal and is upright, the meaning is “some kind of test that the inquirer will pass successfully”. If the card is reversed, then sadly the chances are that the inquirer will fail the test, in whole or in part. Any ordeal, great or small, that we overcome leads on to a victory on some level, moral, intellectual, or material; and the more rigorous the test, the more illustrious the reward. It is no accident that the Trump coming after The Lovers is The Chariot, the main keynote of which is Victory.

Only where the hexagram symbolizes the perfected human being does it become an emblem of stability. In that instance, it points to a paradisiacal, Eden-before-the-Fall, state. It is this condition we are shown in the Waite-Smith illustration, whereon Adam and Eve, naked to demonstrate their innocence, live in harmony not only with each other and Nature but with the Divine, symbolized by the angel in the upper portion of the card. In this picture, the accent is on the love/affection/harmony facet of the Trump’s energies, and, giving for once his personal view of the card, Waite says that it signifies:

“Material union, affection, desire, natural love, passion, harmony of things; contains also the notions of modus vivendi, concord and so forth; equilibrium.”

bota trump 06   mmTarot 06

Paul Foster Case follows Waite in this, just as he follows him in the use of the Garden-of-Eden-before-the-Fall image for the Trump. In The Tarot, a Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, Case gives The Lovers the meanings:

“Attraction, beauty, love. Harmony of inner and outer life.”

The thinking of both men is that this equilibrium, this harmony of inner and outer life, existed in the Edenic state and will exist again once all human beings have ascended to spiritual perfection. In the Waite-Smith and B.O.T.A. cards, temptation, represented by the serpent coiled up the tree behind the woman, is present but not heavily accented. Conversely, on the Tarot de Marseilles card, temptation, in the form of choice, is emphasized while love/affection/harmony aspect of the card is barely hinted at.

The Chariot

Trump 7 has two geometric symbols associated with it. The first is the Heptagram, the seven-pointed star, and the second is a Triangle standing on a Square    –           3 + 4 = 7.

The Trumps are assigned “grams” and not “gons”. By this, I mean that you will find the pentagram, the hexagram, the heptagram, the octogram, etc., linked to certain Trumps but not the pentagon, hexagon, heptagon, octagon or any other kind of “gon”. The ’gram is considered the more appropriate symbol for a tarot Trump because it signifies an active, out-reaching energy, as denoted by its spreading arms. The “gon” indicates a self-contained and inward-looking force, a state again denoted by the “gons” shape, which encloses, womb-like.

The Heptagram associated with The Chariot generally has the Seven Planets of the Ancients (i.e., the planets one can see with the unaided eye) inscribed upon its arms. (See diagram.) The planets are always distributed in a particular order, such that, if one starts with the Sun and follows the lines of the Heptagram across and back, over and over until one arrives again at the Sun, one will have touched all the planets in their weekday order – Sunday, Monday (Moon day), (what follows is easier to understand if the days are given in French) Tuesday/mardi (the day of Mars), mercredi (the day of Mercury), jeudi (the day of Jupiter), vendredi (the day of Venus), and (back to English again for the final day of the week) Saturday (the day of Saturn). In those occult schools where teaching is given out in accordance with the order of the tarot Trumps, the qualities of the planets are imparted under the heading of the seventh Trump, The Chariot.

planets days of week

The card’s other geometric figure, a triangle standing on a square (see diagram), symbolizes Spirit (the Trinity, represented by the triangle) governing Matter (the square). It is the state of affairs described by the poet Browning as “God’s in his heaven; all’s right with the world.” In most cultures seven is a lucky number, as are multiples of seven. In the tarot Trumps, those numbered 7, 14 & 21 are considered particularly fortunate.


mmTarot 07  07 II  GDtrump7

The condition represented by Trump 7 is preceded by a situation marked with tension or disquiet, as embodied by the Ordeal or Choice aspect of The Lovers. With the ordeal passed, the right choice made, it is as if a page had been turned in the Book of Life. What presents itself now can be described as Advancement, Unhindered Progress, Triumph, Victory, or Success. This advancement or victory is like as not arrived at by the overcoming of obstacles. All of this was encapsulated in the divinatory meanings allotted The Chariot by the tarot masters of old. They remain, by and large, the meanings associated with the Trump by modern day tarot readers, probably because, with the exception of decks from the recent po-mo era, the subject matter of the card has not altered at all. The chariot may face to the side (as in the G.D. tarot) rather than to the front; the charioteer may wear a helmet rather than a crown, or he may wear the double crown of the Egyptian Pharaohs instead of the one decorated with pentagrams that Eliphas Levi gives him; sphinxes or horses or bulls may pull his triumphal car, but essentially the picture presented is of a person in motion, going somewhere, and thus embodying keywords associated with Trump 7 such as advancement and progress.

It is taken as read that the man in the chariot is riding in triumph, and this assumption accounts for the remaining keywords attributed to The Chariot: Victory, Triumph, Attainment, Success.

The occult principle associated with this card corresponds to these keywords, for it is imbued with the will to triumph, to stabilize the unstable, to put errors right. In order to understand the symbol of the Triangle, not only above a Square, but standing on it, we must imagine both shapes first as separate entities, not conjoined, not even in alignment; in a word, disordered. Matter has lost its contact with Spirit; Spirit lacks a role, a raison d’etre. Order must be reestablished if the work of evolution is to continue. It should be realized how much effort has gone into placing the Triangle on top of the Square. That feat accomplished, however, the blocks are off, and it is all systems go, on the spiritual, ethical, and material planes alike.


There is an interesting divinatory peculiarity to Trump 7. I will deal with that, and one other anomaly, in the final part of this article.

To be concluded.

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