The Spirit breaths where he will; and you hear his voice, but you do not know from where He comes, and where he goes: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (Adapted from the Douay-Rheims edition)
On that glad night, in secret, for no one saw me, nor did I look at anything, with no other light or guide except the one that burned in my heart. (Dark Night of the Soul, tr Kavanaugh & Rodriguez).
Note that I shall usually be using the Douay Rheims translation of the Bible made directly from the Vulgate; I shall also update it to contemporary English for the benefit of subscribers for whom English is a second language.
The first Arcanum is called the “Bateleur”, which means juggler, not magician as the English edition has it. Since it is the key to all the following arcana, it is necessary to get a grasp on it before proceeding. And the key to this arcanum is the gospel verse John 3:8. Further, the verse from St John of the Cross awakens the deep strata of the soul. So here are our clues: to understand the juggler, we must first understand the activity of the Spirit. To do that, we must become conscious of the deep layers of the soul, where the light of the Spirit burns in the heart. That is a secret place, a solitary place, so there can be nothing there but the Spirit. That is how you will know you have reached it.
There is the distinction between allegory, secret, Arcanum, and mystery. An Arcanum reveals its meaning gradually depending on the depth of meditation. As such, it is not an end in itself, but rather it is more like a leavening or enzyme that allows another process to complete. The arcana are meant to stimulate man’s spiritual life. What can prevent it is the spiritual malady of “suffisance” which does not mean self-complacency, but more like self-importance or conceit.
The Great Initiation
A mystery is an event, analogous to birth or death; it is a change in one’s level of consciousness. Hence Initiation is a mystery and it is appropriate that the first Arcanum deals with initiation. The initiation that Jesus described to Nicodemus is called being “born again”. Of course, Nicodemus was a Pharisee who visited Jesus one night. There Jesus told him that to see the Kingdom of God, a man must be born again of the Spirit. This is then tied in with the Light coming into the world.
That is the literal meaning of the gospel passage and there is also an esoteric meaning. Jesus would then be the Master within, the night would be the dark night of the soul, and the light is the one that burns in the heart as John of the Cross describes it. Augustine called it the special incorporeal light and Saint-Martin the torrent that illuminates itself in your heart.
Do you see how beautifully all this is connected together? Ultimately it is the Master who initiates us, hence the Tarot card, as well as any discussion, can serve only as a catalyst for our own Initiation. This theme will be gradually developed.
Although that is a solitary event, there is also a communal dimension. Fellow students of Hermetism will recognize each other by their mutual love for each other. We shall see how that works itself out over the course of time. To illustrate this, Tomberg quotes a passage from the life of St Anthony, who learned something different from each of his fellow hermits.
It is important at this time to beware of “suffisance”, the attitude of self-importance that once in a while develops among Hermetists. There is the temptation to see in it the “true religion” or the “real knowledge” that makes him superior to others. Hermetism does not replace exoteric religion, science, politics, and so on, although it should act as the leavening agent. That is the spirit of Hermetism.
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