Dreaming in the Dog Days

But when the artichoke flowers, and the chirping grasshopper sits in a tree and pours down his shrill song continually from under his wings in the season of wearisome heat, then goats are plumpest and wine sweetest; women are most wanton, but men are feeblest, because Sirius parches head and knees and the skin is dry through heat. ~ Hesiod

In the midst of a restless sleep during a stultifying dog day night, following a massive hurricane, I was entertained by a dream. As I pulled into my driveway, I noticed by two closest college friends with a young boy waiting for me. Although they were my friends, they were not friends with each other. On the contrary, each represented a different, mutually incompatible, trajectory of my life. B. had been my friend since grammar school. As such, he represented the conserving element of my past, the drag of inertia. R., on the other hand, was a new friend; together we explored the lifestyle choices of the social upheavals of that era.

Being a trickster, I resolved to deceive them. Pretending not to know them, I casually asked if they had been sent to clear my windshield. To my surprise, they did not recognize me. R. was suspicious and went into my car to look for clues regarding my real identity.

Following him, I found a text and opened it. A secret was revealed to me about the Tarot. I learned I was not in the land where the centre is everywhere. I read the next paragraph, but had trouble understanding it. Multi-coloured balls were dancing around the final word. It was somewhat confusing and I wondered how they could possibly know that to be true. Unfortunately I cannot now recall the word. I suddenly awoke, and the ideas for this essay rushed into my head; I’m afraid I will leave out something essential.

The Crown of Creation

Ace of Pentacles
According to Valentin Tomberg, the Minor Arcana represent an extension to the final Major Arcanum, The World. As such, they represent an ascent, known as Jacob’s Ladder.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot represent the way of ascent from consciousness belonging to the world of action (the phenomenal world) through the world of formation and the world of creation to the world of emanation.

The suit of Pentacles corresponds to Assiah, or the World of Action. This is the mixed, or dualistic world. Not fully God’s creation, it is the result of Adam’s fall. It is ruled by Satan, the Prince of the World. Tomberg explains:

The world of our experience is the phenomenal manifestation of both the world created by the Word and the evolutionary world of the serpent.

This world is the world of images, intellectual constructions, and imagined ideals. However, these are not liberating, but rather keep humanity enthralled. Boris Mouravieff describes it this way:

Dreamlike imagination, which is somnolent, comes from the Absolute III, and is also found to a certain degree in animals: it is a passive force. The latter form of imagination, the ‘dream of the sleeping serpent’, produces a hypnotic effect on man, keeping him in the state in which the vast majority of humans pass their lives.

Tomberg agrees:

It is the Serpent who is the prince of this world, and who is the author and director of the purely biological evolution following the Fall.

Mouravieff is even clearer on this point.

[Satan] is the Regent of organic life on Earth within the limits of the mental and physical life of the three kingdoms of nature: flora, fauna and man. He dominates them by the action of sexual energy in the four phases of life: conception, birth, growth and finally reproduction. This sexual energy is the dynamic expression of his Love, which is carnal Love, while the spiritual life, which is accessible to man through the mediation of his higher centres, remains outside the sphere of the [World of Action].

His task is thus limited and he carries it out, as we said, by the sexual Love which emanates from him, by the force of attraction between the sexes, and by Illusion, the dreams of the sleeping young Serpent. The current of his Love acts like a drug on both man and woman and, in its different forms, keeps them in a hypnotic state from puberty to the end of their days.

The Sephiroth

For preparation, the first step is to identify the qualities of the Sephiroth as they appear in the World of Action. The loss of “vertical consciousness”, i.e., direct consciousness of the Divine, colours our experiences. By forgetting the vertical, the World of Action seems to be self-sufficient and independent of any transcendent foundation. Thus, the philosophy of naturalism – along with its children materialism, positivism, and atheism – seems a reasonable way to understand this world. Hence, some of the sephiroth might be described this way.

  • 6 Beauty. Beauty is sensual and the images of beauty keep us in a dreamlike state. The beauty of nature ties us to the desire for experience. The beauty of people excites the desire for biological evolution, even past the time when that makes any sense.
  • 5 Justice. Justice is the restoration of equilibrium. So in a dispute, Justice would resolve the two points of view with reference to the Will of God. In the World of Action, humanity replaces God, so that man determines what is good or evil. Since there is no belief in transcendence, Justice devolves into a power struggle between the parties.
  • 4 Mercy. In vertical consciousness, Mercy is oriented toward the supernatural end of man. When that awareness is lost, Mercy is oriented toward man’s natural goals.
  • 3 Intellect. The Intellect is dominated by Science. The aim of the Intellect is not to know higher things, but rather to provide the understanding to manipulate nature.
  • 2 Wisdom. There is no true Wisdom. Rather, cunning, slyness, and artfulness are considered to be the hallmarks of Wisdom.

Of course, a meditation of on the Minor Arcana would have to develop similar ideas more deeply. The pip cards correspond to the ten sephiroth.

What about the Crown of the World of Action, the Ace of Pentacles? For most of humanity, life in the Assiah is a difficult struggle. It is bounded by toil, disease, pain, and death. Even during the good times, their presence casts a shadow over life, and they seem to impinge at the most inopportune times.

Nevertheless, at any time there are those who seem to have mastered life. They have physical beauty, sex appeal, intelligence, ability, health, fame, and, of course, sufficient fortune so that the cost of anything never needs to be considered. They become the objects of envy. I’m sure you can name many such people, but I’ll mention two quite different men, if you consider them objectively: George Clooney and Donald Trump. And there are those who suddenly appear, almost out of nowhere, like Jennifer Lawrence.

Everyone desires that life of leisure, and their images are everywhere. They keep us in a hypnotic state, since very few will ever meet such success. In the Mebes Tarot system, the Ace of Pentacles represents Wealth, both Inner and Outer. Outer wealth is visible and comprehensible to the masses.

Inner wealth signifies what must be given up in order to climb the ladder. Idle wealth is useless, rather it must be what is paid. Now, the Crown of the World of Action is related to the Tiphereth of the World of Formation. That latter is represented by the 6 of Swords, which symbolises the Science of Success.

The Seven Sleepers

This morning, I was dreaming about the Seven Sleepers. In the dream, I was communicating via thought about how we would know when to wake up together. Then we all woke up.

The Star of the Magi

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are. ~ St. Augustine of Hippo

As was mentioned in Salvation and Evolution last month, it is worthwhile to repeat this:

Our time makes an appeal to the collective endeavour of Hermetists of today to make a third summary, which will be for our time what the Tarot was for the Middle Ages and what the Emerald Tablet was for antiquity. Thus, just as the Emerald Tablet saved the essence of ancient wisdom, and just as the Tarot saved the essence of medieval wisdom, across the deluges which occurred in the time that separates us from them, may the essence of modern wisdom be saved in a spiritual “Noah’s ark” from the deluge which is going to come, and may it thereby be transmitted to the future, just as the essence of ancient wisdom and that of medieval wisdom has been transmitted to us by means of the Emerald Tablet and the Major Arcana of the Tarot. The tradition of Hermetism blossomed in the past and must live in the future. This is why a new, modern summary is required, which will be as viable as the Emerald Tablet and as the Major Arcana of the Tarot.

It is all too easy to forget that the intention of the Tarot is to preserve Hermetic wisdom. It is an example of objective art, since its symbolism will open itself up to those with the developed intuition to grasp its deeper meaning. Without that, the cards become subjective and arbitrary. So in “our time”, we see a multitude of variously themed decks of cards that have no connection at all to Hermetic teachings, but merely reflect the personal judgments of the artist.

In the Letter on the Fool, Valentin Tomberg reveals his experiences in 1920 with the group who had studied the Tarot with the Russian esoterist Gregory Ottonovitch Mebes. Although his claim to have surpassed their understanding of the Tarot is certainly true, the echoes of that original impulse can still be heard in the meditations.

The Spiritual Battle

Mouni Sadhu had also encountered some members of Mebes’ groups and even hinted at an initiation into the Martinist Order. His book on the Tarot is strongly based on the notes he had from that group. As such, that book is interesting as a framework for the Meditations. Sadhu’s book is analogous to the chord progression and the Meditations are like jazz riffs over those chords.
Star of the Magi
Each Arcanum in the Mebes Tarot deck has three levels of interpretation: archetype, human, nature. It also has a scientific name as well as a common name. For example, the full name of Arcanum 17 is the Star of the Magi. The Magi come up in passing in the Meditations through their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The three levels of this Arcanum are:

  • Hope
  • Intuition
  • Natural Divination

Each of these levels corresponds to the knowledge of the three cosmic forces explained by Fabre d’Olivet:

  • Providence. Supernatural Hope is the knowledge of God’s promises.
  • Will. Intuition is knowledge without thinking.
  • Destiny. Also Fate or Karma. Natural Divination is our knowledge of the physical world.

This is how Sadhu describes this Arcanum:

It is not sufficient to be logically convinced under all circumstances, often Hope is necessary. It is not enough to enforce our will astrally, we should also have tact and intuition. It is not enough to know that Fate is pitiless on the physical plane, but it may be useful to know how to foresee its forms by the use of divinatory methods.

Alfred North Whitehead in Process and Reality describes how those forces interact to create new experiences. At each moment, the accumulation of the past exercises a strong influence to prevent change. God’s influence is also present as a creative, but not coercive, lure. Finally, the human Will acts on those possibilities of manifestation at each occasion.

Our knowledge of the physical world is through science and discursive thinking. However, intuition is our knowledge of higher things. That is why the Arcanum of the Star is about intuition, as it reveals aspects of Reality unknown to science. Sadhu explains:

Providence illuminates the present with its Light. … Hope acts and radiates its rays throughout the darkest corners of our consciousness.

Tomberg identifies this light with Hope:

The light-force which emanates from the star … is hope. … Hope is not something subjective. It is a light-force that radiates objectively and directs creative evolution towards the world’s future.

However, it does not act alone but requires humanity’s cooperation. Sadhu, too, recognizes human evolution, but only:

If humanity’s will is allied with the enlightening influence of Destiny, then it is stronger than Fate. In such cases, the history of humanity has an evolutionary character.

That is the only valid path. Unfortunately, there are false paths that lead to destruction: viz., denying the influence of Destiny, denying the voice of Providence, or even succumbing to Fate.

The latter keeps the will asleep, leading to resignation, routine, quietism, or fatalism. Dualism, on the other hand, awakens the will. Specifically, there must be a Yes and a No, the Will is forced to choose. Without the awareness of a spiritual battle, the Will remains asleep. Johann Fichte’s recognized this very clearly. Bryan Magee summarizes Fichte’s insight:

For morality to be possible there must be a choice, and for choice to be a possibility for me it is necessary that something should exist other than my self. Similarly, for moral action to be a possibility for me, there needs to be some challenge, something that exists in opposition to my self, or at least something that is a potential obstruction to my activity. So if I am to be a moral being at all it is necessary that there should be a world which is not me, a world of objects which can obstruct me. On the basis of this central argument Fichte evolved a philosophy according to which what is primal and original is the noumenal moral will, and this will begins into existence the phenomenal world as the requisite field for the self-objectification of moral activity.

This is represented by the two vases, which are poured into the same stream. Tomberg laments:

Here is the tragedy of human life and mankind’s history and cosmic evolution. The flow of continuity in heredity, tradition and lastly evolution bears not only all that which is healthy, noble, holy and divine of the past, but also all that which was infectious, vile, blasphemous and diabolical. All is borne pell-mell, never ending, towards the future.

There must be righteous Anger against the latter qualities, as well as the Courage to choose the former. Together, those are the daughters of Hope, which “transforms the future into promise.” That promise ultimately is the City of God, the state of Reintegration prior to the duality exposed by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The Light of Hope

To live in the light of Hope is to reject the sleep of Fate. Fate is the Eternal Return, in which nothing is new, but is merely the Past repeating itself indefinitely. On the contrary, Tomberg reminds us:

Each day is a unique event and revelation which will never be repeated.

This is compatible with Rene Guenon’s claim that the same state of existence cannot be repeated, as that would be tantamount to the denial of God’s Infinitude.

Fortune Telling

The Patzer’s of Hermetism remain mired in the residues such as the various forms of Divination or the material tasks of the Alchemists. Mouni Sadhu acknowledges that “Everything in the Universe is mutually connected and bound together or interwoven.” Hope, Intuition, and Destiny – as we pointed out – occur at every moment. Regarding Fate or Karma, Sadhu acknowledges:

Karma reveals its mysteries and secrets to us every hour, every minute, and every second. For every one of us these mysteries are written in the starry sky (astrology), on our skulls (phrenology), on our faces (physiognomy) and on our hands (chiromancy). Karma unveils itself in every one of our movements, in the smallest of realisations (graphology, cartomancy) and so on.

The practice of these techniques requires an intuition to experience images. Although many may have such experiences, Sadhu points out that the main difficulty is not the obtaining of such visions, but rather the art of interpreting them. This is only possible through the full domination of the mind which requires the power of concentration. This is a rare quality.

Recently, I read a comment that claimed that someone with such divinatory powers would become wealthy. That shows an ignorance of the methods of the esoteric sciences, as she can conceive them only in the manner of the secular sciences, which are open to anyone. On the other hand, the mastery of the esoteric sciences requires the moral purification of the will. If such powers are used for egotistical motives or monetary gains, they are likely to be lost. Hence, the charging of money for Tarot card readings should be suspect.

Ultimately, Sadhu rejects such divinatory practices, because they are restricted to the level of Fate or Destiny. They leave out both the person’s free will and God’s Providence from the vision of the future.

The Synthesis of Science and Religion

Tomberg asserts that the synthesis of science and religion if the task and mission of Hermetism. Those who like to play at Hermetism remain obsessed with the early material tasks of the Alchemists: the philosopher’s stone, the elixir of life, the panacea, the transmutation of metals, all in their private laboratory. Tomberg offers an alternative.

It is the world which has become the alchemical laboratory, just as it has become the mystical oratory.

This is not the failure of alchemy, but rather its triumph. This new alchemy is the synthesis of salvation and evolution, which is expressed in three ways:

The work of all those who taught a way —

  • the mystical and spiritual way of purification, illumination and union, or
  • the historical and social way of the progress of civilisation through social and moral justice, or
  • the biological way of evolution from the sphere of chemical elements to the sphere of living organisms and from the sphere of living organisms to that of beings endowed with thought and word

— the work of all these, I say, which teaches us a way of individual and collective perfection, is now resplendent in the rainbow of the synthesis of salvation and evolution, the rainbow of mankind’s hope.