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The Eleventh Principle, Part II

August 31, 2021

by Tony Willis   

The tarot card Strength represents in emblematic form an occult principle assigned a variety of names depending upon the level at which it is operating. It is commonly known as Strength because that word can be so easily adapted; for the card stands for physical strength when acting on the material plane, moral strength on the mental plane, and spiritual strength on the divine plane. It is associated with the heroic virtues of courage, endurance and stability. In divination, the card often represents those qualities or the results of them. Let me remind you of a meaning for the Trump quoted in the previous post: “Invincible strength and dauntless courage. It promises victory and attainment of the end in view to those who know how to direct their natural gifts and will-power into the right channels and who persevere in their efforts with unflagging energy.” In questions concerning a person’s health, Strength signifies vitality. Following the 4 of Swords it would denote recovery from sickness or an operation.

From an occult viewpoint, the card stands for Endurance. In all tarots of the Tarot de Marseille type, the card follows the Wheel of Fortune, signaling the fact that, although evolution consists of a series of cycles, constantly revolving, acting like wheels within wheels, something, some factor or quality, persists. The occultist takes this something to be, at the highest level, the human soul. In Freemasonry, the story of the soul is represented symbolically by the Rough and Smooth Ashlars.

Portland Stone Ashlars LR

The Rough Ashlar is a visual image of the soul in its untutored, untried state; the Smooth Ashlar is the image of a soul that has been given instruction and tested, that is to say that its inner nature has been developed, purified and harmonized, that all its rough edges have been made smooth. At the end of the process, Freemasonry implies that the Smooth Ashlar is in a state that would allow it to become one of the building blocks of the Temple of King Solomon. This whole story is a metaphor for the ascent of the soul to Heaven.

Yet occult teaching states, in these words of the Master Jesus found in one of the Gnostic gospels: “I will take you to the depths of hell, so that you may raise yourself to the gates of heaven.” This journey of descent followed by ascent is no common deed, for as the poet Virgil made crystal clear more than two thousand years ago: "Easy is the descent to hell; all night long, all day, the doors of dark Hades stand open; but to retrace the path; to come out again to the sweet air of Heaven – there is the task, there is the burden." If the assignment is undertaken without due preparation, the soul will be frustrated in its attempts to take Heaven by storm. It will be summarily returned to Earth, its quest for the present time forsaken, and there it must gain its second wind before readying itself for a fresh assault upon the Castle of Hades.

The British occultist Dion Fortune uses another metaphor to outline the same process. Relying on imagery from the Old Testament, she states:

“So in the great journey of the soul to the Promised Land, which is the Way of Initiation, the safety of human habitations has to be left, and the soul journeys houseless and alone into the wilderness and comes to the Red Sea; here it is that the weak turn back and return into slavery to make bricks without straw for which they receive no wages. But if the supreme test of the Red Sea is faced, the waves are parted by an unseen force and the traveller passes though dry-shod, with a wall of waters standing up on either hand; this is the test of faith, for by mundane law those waters would fall; it is only a higher law that keeps them back.”

Esoteric Orders and Their Work and The Training and Work of an Initiate (The Aquarian Press, 1987), p. 19.

This great journey, this descent into hell so that one might raise oneself up to the gates of heaven, should only be embarked upon by those who have developed in themselves the quality of determination, or perseverance, or endurance, however you care to name it. Books on tarot reading tend to associate one or other of these words with the Strength card; either that or they speak of ‘inner strength’. Another word regularly linked to the Trump is courage. From an occult standpoint, determination and courage are key features all would-be Adepts need to possess if they are to gain entry into heaven on the one hand, or to be of practical assistance to their fellow human beings on the other. In respect of the latter aim, occult teaching tells us: “You must have the courage to go down to hell so that you may come back to help others.” That is why Trump 11, courage, precedes Trump 12, the sacrifice that will bring the aspirant to Death (Trump 13). And as Death is not the end of this journey, the aspirant will then have to face in turn the devil (Trump 15) and the House of Pluto as Trump 16 was sometimes called in past times.

12T knapp hall       See the source image

In decks of the Marseille tarot type, the image on the Strength card shows a woman subduing a lion. 11t niceIt is usually taken to represent the higher nature holding the lower nature in check, dominating it. Never forget, however, that discipline must precede domination. Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts, for if you cannot control what you think, you cannot control what you do. Those following the Path of Initiation must induce and correspondingly strengthen their weak points, since only by this means can psychic balance be created.

The aspirant for Adepthood is taught that “There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving and that is your own self.” At the same time, it is said, “The work we do on ourselves becomes our gift to everyone else,” and "What you do for yourself dies with you; what you do for others lasts forever." Dion Fortune again: “For this pursuit industry and intellect are not enough; certain conditions of character and certain attitudes of mind are required, and the would-be student must discipline and develop his nature as well as pursue his researches.” (Esoteric Orders and Their Work and The Training and Work of an Initiate.)

Before we can confront spiritual wickedness in high places we have first to win the battle that rages within ourselves. This is the struggle the Lady Strength has won. As one school of occult thought explains it: "The battle of Horus and Set is within your self. One must become Horus-Ur to conquer the lower demons of self. One then becomes Horus-Set and uses the lower nature to support the Higher Self, one’s divine self." The Strength card illustrates the first half of that equation, the conquest of the lower demons of self. From the stage of spiritual development represented by Trump 11, the aspirant moves to the stage denoted by Trump 12 in order to commence the process learning to use the lower nature to support the divine self. The aspirant advances towards the experience represented by the Hanged Man alone, and, if all previous lessons have been well learned, is heartened by the motto their initiator now awards them. This motto, though frightening to some, is intended to act as support and nourishment along the next leg of the quest: “The serpent, if it wants to become the dragon, must eat itself." (Francis Bacon.)

See the source image

From → occult tarot

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