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The Third Principle

August 12, 2020

by Tony Willis    

The Empress represents the occult principle sometimes called multiplication. Various schools of magick name it in other ways. On the Gabriel Goulinat Empress card, right at the bottom, you will see the word “Generation” in French. It is a reference to the power of generation mediated by this Trump in any magickally charged tarot. In Mouni Sadhu’s The Tarot: A Contemporary Course of the Quintessence of Hermetic Occultism, again the last word written under the picture of the Empress is “Generatis”, having the same meaning as “La Generation” from the Goulinat card. Above “Generatis” is the word “Partus”, birth. All these words – multiplication, generation, parturition – steer the mind in a certain direction, towards ideas of growth, increase, fertility, coming into being, and abundance. In books dealing with the divinatory meanings of the cards, the Empress is regularly assigned significances such as Creativity and Pregnancy (or Conception) and the empress herself is often times depicted as a pregnant female.

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In occult tarots, the image on the Empress card is a visual representation of the creative force that animates the physical world. This force does not operate alone but in concert with the forces represented by the Magician and the High Priestess. Above the Mouni Sadhu Empress are the words “Phisis” and “Nature”. Physis is a Greek goddess who, the ancient texts declare, gave birth “by her own breeding”, begat “without bridal, without wedding,” that is to say, of herself. From her Greek name we get the English words “physical” and “physics”, the study of the natural world. The Roman equivalent of Physis is Natura, Nature, frequently spoken of as Mother Nature, a personification of the forces lying in back of observable natural cycles such as the planting, shooting up, ripening and gathering in of corn.

Mother Nature receives the energies that Chinese philosophers called Yin and Yang and blends them in a thousand diverse ways to bring into being the natural world, the physical universe in which humankind live and move and function. She then continues to work upon the two opposites in such a way as to sustain and perpetuate the physical universe. The occultist remains ever aware that Mother Nature is the visible, apprehendable aspect of a triumvirate, a Triad of forces: the male, Yang, force symbolized in the occult tarot by the Magician; the female, Yin, force symbolized by the High Priestess; and the force that unites these two in an unending variety of ways, creating the glorious multiplicity that is physical life on planet Earth.

On the Goulinat card you will see the phrase the Mercury of the Wise. Whenever “of the Wise” or “of the Philosophers” or some similar wording is added to a term, it signifies analogy. The Mercury of the Wise refers not to that unusual metal mercury which seems more like a liquid than a metal, but to something that cannot be described in any other way than by saying “it is like the metal Mercury whilst not actually being Mercury.” If you are puzzled by that remark it is because you are meant to be. Occultists of the past were careful to lift only the smallest corner of the veil hanging before the Holy of Holies in the Temple of the Greater Mysteries. They left it to seekers with sufficient wit and daring to attempt to raise that veil even higher. There were clues and hints aplenty scattered about, and one proved one’s worthiness to pass behind the veil by acting on those hints, by putting two and two together and making four.

At the present time, many things that were once held secret have been made public. That being so, I am able, without breaking any oaths of secrecy, to disclose the meaning of the Mercury of the Wise, in one aspect at least. (I could reveal its higher meaning; but, reader, unless you already hold the grade of Lesser Adept you would not understand my explanation.) The key to the phrase “the Mercury of the Wise” lies, as it so often does, in the sigil the magi of the past accorded to the planet Mercury. On the Magician card, we found the infinity sign, indicative of the Sun behind our physical sun. On the High Priestess card, we found a Sun and a Moon placed at the tmercury astro sigilop of her two pillars in some occult tarots; in other tarots, the pillars were black and white, the colors associated with Yin and Yang in the Far East, or they were red and blue, suggesting, to the observant student of the mysteries, Fire and Water, the elements traditionally assigned to the Sun and Moon respectively. The progression is: Sun – Sun and Moon. Logic ought to tell us that the next step forward will concern the Sun, the Moon and some third quality. The imagery revealing what that third quality is is not to be found on the card itself, but in the symbol magicians have attached to the card: the sigil for the planet Mercury. This sigil is built up around a solar disc; above this is a lunar crescent, and below it is a Cross, representing the Four Elements of the Wise, called the Cross of Matter. For matter, as human beings understand the word, only comes into existence along with the occult Force named by the occult tarot as the Empress.

As we have seen, the High Priestess is a symbol for the Prima Materia, the first embryonic manifestation of Matter, so basic in its constitution that it hardly warrants the name of “matter” at all. It is the primitive, formless basis of all matter that is to come. It has much in common with the Greek concept of chaos. Which is to say, it shares many of the characteristics attributed to Chaos in classical mythology. “A rude and undeveloped mass” is how the Roman poet Ovid described Chaos. The Prima Materia would remain in this rude, undeveloped state if it were not acted upon by another Force, a third Force brought into existence so as to stand beside the Power represented by the Magician and the Knowledge of how that Power can be put to good use represented by the High Priestess.

This third Force is generally named “Action” by occultists. The first five occult principles, corresponding to the Trumps 1 to 5 in the tarot, are emanated from the Void of All-Potential. When the third occult principle is so emanated, a Triad is formed. Now, not only do Power and the Knowledge of the ways in which Power can be directed exist; they are united by Action – knowledge activated. In the same way as the Prima Materia is the most primitive form of matter lying behind all manifestations of matter on the physical plane, so is the Empress represent the Action lying behind all subsequent Actions. The image of the Empress in any occult tarot presents a summation of the qualities of the Triad of which she herself is the summit. She is drawn so as to represent Physis, the goddess of Nature, crowned with twelve stars, denoting the zodiac signs mediating the power of Heaven, and seated at the edge of a wheat-field, signifying the fruitfulness of the Earth. Physis, however, is a goddess, just as Mother Nature is an intellectual concept. So far as humankind is concerned, She is immaterial; for in our progression through the tarot Trumps we have not yet arrived in the realm of Form as we understand it. We are almost there, but not quite. In the first two representations of the card towards the start of this article, Physis’s status as a divine being is denoted by the wings she has been endowed with in those designs.

03r_w   03 II   BOTA Empress

Returning to the Goulinat Empress card (the first image above), note the triangle at the top of the card, highlighting the idea of a Triad. Towards the bottom, preceding the phrase “The Mercury of the Wise”, there is the word “Water”. This is the Element associated with Trump 3. On the Waite-Smith Empress card, and on all versions of the Empress influenced by the Waite-Smith imagery, a waterfall is a prominent feature in the background. Also, the wheat depicted in the foreground of the card would not flourish if it were not adequately watered. There was much debate in pre-classical and classical Greece as to which of the four Elements of the Wise held primacy. The three candidates were Fire, Air and Water. The most popular of these was Water. It was favored precisely because of its perceived fertilizing properties; ancient peoples of Europe were well aware that, following rain, plant life flourished, and in more advanced cultures the principle of irrigation was recognized and made good use of. However, occultism teaches that, while the Water of the Wise has a fertilizing nature, it is not the first of the Elements. Indeed, the pattern of the tarot Trumps suggests that it is the third Element to come into being, since it is associated with Trump 3. Any of my readers who have delved into the mysteries of the Qabalah will be aware of a hierarchy of Elements which starts with Fire and proceeds to Water and then Air and finally Earth. This is not the sequence depicted on the tarot Trumps. There we find a hierarchy dictated by observation of the world around us. At its base lies Earth, obviously. Water, in the form of rivers, lakes and seas, lays upon the Earth. Above Earth and Water is the realm of Air, the atmosphere, and above that, it was supposed, lay the Heavens, home of the Sun by day and the stars by night. These celestial objects were recognized as fiery “beings” and the region they inhabited was associated with the Element of Fire.

Before moving on, I will say a few words about another Triad sometimes assigned to the first three Trumps. It is a set of designations relating to theology, a recondite area of study that not many today are drawn to. I am going to list the designations but I am not going attempt to explain them. They represent a highly rarified aspect of occult thought that most people today, even quite advanced adepts, find so detached from magickal theory and practice that they do not bother their heads thinking about it.

Look again at the Mouni Sadhu Empress. Above the word “Partus” you will see the phrase “Divina Natura”, Divine Nature. This phrase must be read in conjunction with the phrases Mouni Sadhu allocates to the two preceding Trumps. He associates the Magician with “Divina Essentia”, Divine Essence, and the High Priestess with “Divina Substantia”, Divine Substance. This is the theological Triad I referred to a moment ago: Divine Essence, Divine Substance (the Prima Materia), and Divine Nature – the essence of Divinity, the material aspect of Divinity (and again ‘material’ refers to something far removed from anything you or I would consider material), and the nature (i.e. the character) of Divinity. Having pointed students interested in such aspects of tarot lore in the right direction, I shall move on to the magickal implications of the Triad composed of Trumps 1, 2 and 3.

In the Occult Tarot, Trump 1 symbolizes the WILL to act; Trump 2 symbolizes the MEANS through which one may act; and Trump 3 is the ACT itself. In terms of ritual work, the first three principles manifest as power (Trump 1), the knowledge of how that power it can be safely used (Trump 2), and contact – contact with the gods, demi-gods, angels, archangels, and daemons that are personifications of a variety of Subtle Energies functioning within the Invisible World (Trump 3). Not until all three sides of this Triangle of Occult Power have been established can magick be performed.

For the student of Occult Tarot who has been following the instructions laid out in this series of articles, the pattern of events invariably runs as follows. The student first takes up the daily practice of sending out love to the whole of humanity (or makes a daily salutation to the Original Energy/God). Next, she is gifted with the realization of the ‘name’ by which the High Priestess is known to the Wise. The student is thereafter taken, in vision, between the pillars of the Temple of the Mysteries so as to be introduced to her tutelary deity, the OtherWorld being who will be her mentor and guide through a series of experiences intended to train and cleanse her soul. The final stage of this initiation (which allows the aspirant to adepthood to call herself a Junior member of the Temple of the Mysteries) is that she is presented with the name of the Path the Higher Powers desire her to follow in the initial stages of her magickal education.

There are three Paths the Junior initiate may be called upon to follow at this juncture. These are the Red Path, the White Path, and the Green Path. They correspond to the first three tarot Trumps. The Red Path is governed by the Magician card, the White Path by the High Priestess card, and the Green Path by the Empress card, for it represents contact with the multiform energies of Mother Nature – the powers of increase and decrease, of growth, fruition, and decay leading to new growth. The visible symbol that the student has been accepted as an apprentice on the Magician, the High Priestess, or the Empress Path to magickal attainment is the short Wand they are allowed to own as a symbol of the Road they are following. The wand is either red, white, or green according to the Principle to which the student has been dedicated. The short wand is about 9 inches (23 cm) long, and takes the form of a straight piece of wood having a bulbous protrusion at the top ending in a point. It is all one color, except that the protrusion is painted with a swirl effect, yellow in the case of the Red wand, cream for the White wand, and leaf green for the Green wand.

I include a rough drawing of the red wand, executed by myself, plus a more detailed view of its tip giving an idea of the swirling yellow lines with which it is decorated.

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In the next article, I will explain a method of working magickally ‘in vision’, and give instructions as to how the short Wand can be incorporated into magickal operations carried out ‘in vision’. At the present time, with social distancing in force in most countries around the globe, opportunities for magicians to gather together to practice magick are limited, and in some cases those opportunities are non-existent. Under conditions such as these, working magick in the mind, or as it is sometimes called ‘in vision’, has become far more normal practice than once it was. Until now, working in vision has been considered to be a form of magick appropriate only for the most advanced magi to engage in. But circumstances alter cases, and today the method of working in vision is being taught to students even of the lesser grades of Neophyte and Junior. It is in that spirit that I will be providing instruction on the blog as to how to carry out magickal workings ‘in vision’ and giving novices in this area of practice a few tips and general guidelines that will hopefully make their efforts more effective.

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