This is a transcription of the audio lecture Twenty two Arcana of Tarot and Kabbalah 21 Arcanum 21 Transmutation originally given live on Gnostic Radio, which you can download for free.
The Arcanum 21 depicts in its primary graphic a man who stands upon the back of a crocodile. Within his hands, he grasps a sacred cross, the Egyptian ankh, and he also holds a staff. Over his shoulders is the skin of a jaguar, and under his feet, a crocodile with his mouth open gazes upward, ready to consume the daring warrior, who stands on his back.
The twenty-first arcanum for some centuries now has been misplaced in the western tradition. It has been confused with the twenty-second, the Return to life. The twenty-first arcanum has been called “the Fool” or the card zero, and not without a good basis for this mistake, but we know in the Gnostic tradition that this card of the Fool belongs in the place of the number twenty-one and is related to the Hebrew character Shin.
You will remember that in the Hebrew alphabet there are twenty-two letters. These twenty-two characters symbolize and encode a great depth of initiatic wisdom, and each letter implies and indicates many important facets of the path of the Self-realization of the Being. When we integrate the study of the Tarot with the study of the Hebrew letters, we uncover why each element is in the position that it is in. Therefore, by analyzing the character Shin and understanding the relationship of that character with the arcanum twenty-one, we understand why the card belongs where it does. The primary evidence for this is found mostly through meditation, but we find some scriptural authority upon which we can asseverate the claim that the western tradition has been mistaken on this point for a long time.
When we analyze the books of the Bible, we discover naturally that the Hebrew characters play an important role in illustrating important structural concepts, and by understanding the esoteric and symbolic nature of those characters, we can penetrate deeper into the mysteries present within the Bible. When we look into the book of Genesis written by Moses, we find there are fifty chapters, and the twenty-first chapter has a direct relationship to the twenty-first arcanum, as you would expect. In the same way, when we look into the book of Revelation, which is the last book in the Bible, we also find that the twenty-first chapter of its twenty-two chapters relates directly to the twenty-first arcanum.
It is important for us to analyze this, to take the concepts or intellectual information that we gather from these courses and apply it. The study of the Hebrew characters and the study of the twenty-two arcana is given so that we can advance the knowledge of our own selves, so that we can penetrate deeper into the mysteries that reside within our own consciousness, not so that we can become bookworms or become erudite, and not for us to use to impress others. This information is given for our own development.
The character Shin has a curious shape. Every character in the Hebrew alphabet contains a great deal of symbolic wisdom, and in the character Shin, we see a shape that has three points or in other words, three Iods which are suspended above a base and connected to it by three columns, three passages. Of course, you will recall, throughout all of the lectures that we have given, the importance of the law of three or the tri-unity, the trinity, and it is the basis upon which the law of creation is made possible. So, this character Shin represents a very important aspect of the law of three or the fundamental basis upon which any form of creation can be realized.
We know that by studying varying teachings that every individual has to work towards the development of themselves and this in itself is a form of creation, but self-development is not a matter of intellectual information. True self-development is not a matter of making promises or having good intentions. Self-development arises through works of creation, through works. It arises through practical steps, and this character Shin, the twenty-first Hebrew letter, points exactly to the work that has to be done.
In Gnosis, we call the twenty-first arcanum Transmutation, and the term “transmute” indicates precisely the work that has to be done. The prefix trans- means across, from one to the other, and -mute comes from mutation, which means of course to change, but to change from one form to a different form. So, to transmute is to take some element and to transform it into something totally different, totally distinct.
In Gnosis, you will hear the term “mutant.” We are not referring to comic book mutants. A mutant is a person who is different. Moses is a mutant. Jesus is a mutant. All the great prophets were different people, human, but not like us. This is because they performed the work of transmutation, to take advantage of the possibilities that are latent within the human organism and to perform a work of creation, to become something distinct, something different.
We look into the bible and we discover in the book of Jeremiah that when God is instructing his prophets, he says "Behold I have set before you a way of life and a way of death." This indicates precisely this twenty-first Arcanum, and you will note that this quote is from the twenty-first chapter of Jeremiah.
A way of life and a way of death. What is indicated here is really the one path which Jesus spoke of, but you have to remember that if you are wandering in a wilderness and you come upon a path, that path will go two directions, not just one. So, you have to choose which way to proceed. Life is no different. All of us are stuck in the wilderness, lost in darkness, without any real or true sense of who we are or where we are or where we are going. For us, life is a series of circumstantial accidents upon which we have little or no control. We are tossed about by the forces of life and have very little control or will to exercise upon our own circumstances and in the guidance of our own life. This is because we are in fact, lost in the wilderness. This is the definition of the Fool. The Fool related to this arcanum wanders in the wilderness without a sense of direction, who wanders tossed about, confused, blind. The Fool proceeds along the one path but in the wrong direction: to spiritual death. Only the warrior takes the path in the right direction, to life.
This duality, the way of life and the way of death, the warrior and the fool, is also illustrated in the bible, in chapter twenty-one of the book of Genesis. When we analyze the book of Genesis written by Moses, we have to recall that Moses was an initiate. Moses wrote his books in Hebrew and with a type of code, a kind of system, which would reveal information for those who were initiated further and further, into the mysteries of their own inner development, into the mysteries of God.
When we take, for example, the various arcana that we have been studying and we start to look at the book of Genesis, just to isolate that, we start to see how we can practically apply the teachings we have been gathering in the studies of these arcana. Related to the life of Abraham, specifically, we can start to unfold how the bible takes and encode the arcana of the tarot.
A few lectures back, we discussed the arcanum sixteen. The arcanum sixteen illustrates a fulminated tower or the state of the fallen man, and in that graphic, we see initiates who have fallen from grace; they are symbolized by inverted pentagrams. In truth, this same symbol of the inverted pentagram is also a symbol of the arcanum twenty-one, because twenty-one also has a duality of fallen and arisen. The inverted pentagram is an upside down man, a man who has fallen into the path of death, and an upright pentagram or star represents an upright man, a man who stands on his feet, the warrior. So here we see the first indication of how this twenty-first arcanum can become confusing.
In the process of receiving visions or performing divinations, we can be given the answer “twenty-one” or be shown this image of the twenty-first Arcanum; then we have to determine whether the answer is the warrior or the fool.
In chapter sixteen of Genesis, we read the story of Abraham, and of course, Abraham is the father of all great religions. His name means “father of the multitudes.” To him we attribute the religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. But in the early books of Genesis, in chapter sixteen, he is not yet called Abraham, he is called Abram, and his wife is called Sarai, and they did not have any children. Now of course, we know in Gnosis that all the characters of the bible are symbolic. Abram has levels of meaning; on one level he can represent an initiate, a seeker after the light. He can also indicate the inner Being, the Father.
These two, Abram and Sarai, had a slave, a maid servant whose name was Hagar. So, because they did not have children, Sarai told Abram to fecundate the slave or maid servant, thus they would have a child. So, here we see in the chapter sixteen, that Abram has two wives. It is interesting to note that Hagar is an Egyptian slave, and her name, Hagar, means “forsaken.”
Hagar of course will have a son, Ishmael. The name Ishmael means "God heeds." Now, in this chapter sixteen, a conflict arises and Sarai tells Abram to throw out the slave woman. So, the pregnant woman is ejected from the home of Abram and wanders out into the wilderness, but an angel of the lord comes and tells her to go back and says, "You will have a son Ishmael and he will be a wild-donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone's hand against him.”
So, this wild-donkey of a man is the Fool of the Tarot, the twenty-first arcanum. He is the Fool who is born of the slave woman.
The slave woman symbolizes our own Divine Mother Nature, that aspect of the divine mother who works within the sphere of Malkuth with the forces of involution and evolution. Her children are slaves as well, slaves of the wheel of samsara, slaves of life and death, slaves of karma. Now, what is very interesting about this name of Ishmael is means "God heeds," which means that God respects his own laws. God places laws into motion and respects those laws, whereas we do not, and that is why we suffer, because we break those laws. We are Fools.
In chapter seventeen of Genesis, we see that God offers to Abram a covenant, a promise and this relates well to the arcanum seventeen, Hope.
When we advance a little further, we come to chapter twenty-one. In chapter twenty-one, Sarah has a child and this child is named, "Isaac." So, now we see the warrior. Of course when Isaac is born, Sarah tells Abram to cast out the slave child because he “cannot share in my inheritance,” the inheritance of the household. So, the slave woman, Hagar, and Ishmael are cast out into the wilderness. Again, this is a symbol of the Fool of the Tarot, who wanders in the wilderness of life, and we see Isaac, who remains in the house of his father, therefore it is clear that Isaac symbolizes the faithful soul.
When we look deeper into the names of each of these symbols, we also find many levels of meaning. When you add up the characters that make up the name Ishmael, the total is 451, because each Hebrew letter also represents a number; when you kabbalistically reduce that number 451, it becomes the number 10. So, Ishmael, who is the Fool or “wild-donkey of a man,” the slave son of a slave woman, is a slave of the number 10, the wheel of karma, the wheel of life.
When we look to Hagar, the slave woman, her name added together equals 208, which adds up to 10 once again, so again we see the wheel of samsara, the wheel of life, the wheel of slavery.
As for Isaac, his name, when added together, totals 199. When reduced, this equals 19. 19 is the Alliance, and it is from the sacred alliance, the arcanum 19, that the soul is born.
So, we see within the names themselves how the arcana are perfectly represented and how they indicate the meaning of each character within the Bible. This is how we have to apply the study of these courses, to take the Bible and to study it by analyzing the numbers to see what they mean. Go deeper than the superficial levels.
The one who wants to work in these studies, who wants to advance in the comprehension of their own mind, and approach the comprehension of God, has to take the lessons offered from the scriptures.
We see within ourselves that we have both possibilities. We see we have within ourselves the fool, the fool of the tarot: The one who is lost in the wilderness, being cast out from the home of his father. The father is God. We are cast out because we do not know God. We do not dwell in his house or residence, and this is because of karma, the crimes we ourselves have committed, crimes against the laws God has established. We remain enslaved to the Arcanum 10, the wheel of life and death. We are Ishmael, the slaves of mechanical nature.
The way to rectify that, to change that situation, is taught by the master Jesus in chapter 21 of the book of Matthew. Do you remember what happens in the chapter 21 of the book of Matthew? Anyone? Jesus rides a donkey! He is indicating that we need to ride the wild-donkey of a man, Ishmael. Jesus commands his disciples to bring him a donkey which he rides into Jerusalem. This is a symbol of the necessity for the consciousness, the practitioner, to dominate the mind, to conquer the animal mind, the donkey. Jesus rides the donkey into the celestial Jerusalem. How do we know it is the celestial Jerusalem? Because in the book of Revelation, chapter 21, is described the celestial Jerusalem. Do you see the correspondences? Chapter 21 of Genesis, Isaac is born. Chapter 21 from Matthew, Jesus rides the donkey, and chapter 21 from Revelation, the celestial Jerusalem. There is a relationship between them all. It is a relationship illustrated in this arcanum's graphic.
The initiate has to be a warrior, has to stand upon the animal. In this case, it is an Egyptian crocodile. The crocodile has a dualistic significance. In this particular image, it is primarily representing the ego, the animal mind, the mind of the animal which we have within that wants to consume and eat.
We see that the crocodile has opened his mouth and is ready to consume, ready to eat. But, eat what? The animal is a slave of sensation. The animal does not have the capacity to conquer desire. The animal is enslaved by desire. Ishmael symbolizes the animal mind, the donkey, which is enslaved by animal desire. Desire for what? Sensation. The animal is enslaved by sensations.
Typically, when we discuss sensations, we talk about the physical ones. We have the sensation of sight, the perception which allows us to receive and interpret visual imagery. We have the sensation related to our ears, to taste, to touch. There are five primary physical sensations. But, we fail to realize our own relationship to sensation.
Within us we have the consciousness, that which allows us to be alive, our ability to perceive. As we exist within a physical organism, we are receiving impressions or vibrations from moment to moment. These impressions strike against the consciousness. They are received as impacts from the exterior world, so in this moment, we are receiving visual data. As raw data, it is just images or pictures, but we translate that data and that translation is interpreted.
When we see something, the mind attaches meaning, attaches importance, attaches labels, attaches a value. The value may be good, may be bad, or may be indifferent. But, it is in this process of translation where are problems begin.
When we receive sensations through the senses and our consciousness is not awake, that information or data is interpreted mechanically by the animal mind in accordance with that mind's conditioning. Let us take an example. We see an image of a car. If we come from a background of a native, a person who has always lived in the wilderness, the image of that car will produce a particular kind of action, a reaction in the mind, a particular kind of interpretation, which will be distinctly different from the type of person who has lived around cars their entire life.
Another example may be a dog. A person of the western culture, who sees a dog, perceives that image or impression and will attach to it all of his or her own past experiences related to dogs. So, if that person had a traumatic experience, fear will arise. If that person has always been close to and fond of dogs, then that sight will arouse love within that person, or curiosity. But, in a person from another country where dogs are hated or despised, different reactions will arise, such as repugnance, repulsion. While in other countries where dogs are ignored, and in that type of person, the image of a dog will arouse indifference.
Why is this important? It is important because in each reaction, energy is transformed. Unfortunately, that energy is being transformed without conscious awareness, and this is the problem.
Within our organism exists fire. Shin as a character represents fire, and you can see within its fingers it looks like flames. That fire is the fire of the Holy Spirit, the fire of the trinity, the fire of God. That fire penetrates into our organism as a resource, as a fuel, and we utilize those forces from moment to moment, according to our use of the mind. Of course, the most refined presence of that energy is the sexual energy. It is the most potent. But, that energy is actually what illuminates our three nervous systems and it is through the nervous systems that we perceive sensation.
So, as we perceive imagery, as we hear sound, as we taste and touch, we are transforming forces, and we are utilizing the holy character of Shin. We are utilizing energies which God has given to us. Those are creative forces. The law of three is embodied in this character.
When we receive an image which arises fear in us, those energies are utilized by that fear to feed itself and naturally that fear becomes stronger.
If we have a conflict with a person and someone is speaking lies about us and we hear about it, those impressions, those words, the gossip, the story, enters into the field of our consciousness and we take that data. We interpret it. We translate it, but we translate it according to our pride. Our pride which says, "I am innocent. I am a good person. They are lying about me." What will that generate? Anger, resentment, fear, fear of rejection, fear of people laughing at us, fear of people leaving us. Each one of those little processes is a transmutation, a transformation, but along the path of death, because that energy is being incorporated by the animal mind, the animal mind which desires for pride to feel good, the animal mind which desires to be admired, which desires to be envied, which desires respect.
Sensation is not limited to the desire for chocolate. It is not limited to the desire for sexual pleasure. It includes them, but animal desire is for sensation and sensation is beyond mere taste or touch on the physical level. We tend to think of sensation as merely physical, and it is true that when we experience anger, we may feel physical sensations related to anger. When we feel shame, we may feel physical sensations related to shame. But, we also experience emotional sensations and mental sensations.
Think about it. Where do you feel sensations when you are dreaming? Not with your physical body, because it is asleep. But when you are dreaming, you can taste, you can touch, you can hear, and you can see. This is because the astral protoplasmic body and the astral solar body also perceive sensation, but in the astral world. What we call the mental body, which is really just the animal mind, also perceives sensation, but in the mental world, related to the mind. Our consciousness experiences sensation in its level. In all the levels of the mind and all the levels of the consciousness, sensations occur because there is matter in all levels; sensation is only a vibration of energy and matter, even beyond physical matter.
Here, we have an important aspect of the twenty-first arcanum. Of course if we break down 21 kabbalistically, 2 + 1 = 3. This law of three is that force which manages creation, and of course as I mentioned, we can create for good or we can create for bad. In other words, we as a Fool create foolishness.
What western esoteric traditions have called the “Astral Body” is really just the body of desire, which in Sanskrit is called the kama rupa. In Gnosis, we call it the lunar Astral Body. It is not a true Astral Body. The lunar Astral Body is made up of protoplasmic matter. This body has been given to us by the Divine Mother Nature. Do you remember who she is? Hagar. The slave woman.
Hagar symbolizes how the Divine Mother Nature, through the auspices of God, receives the Iod, the creative forces of God related to the number 10, which is this Iod hidden in the letter Shin. You see the three Iods at the top of the letter. That fire or impregnation develops in us and we enter into the process of evolution. Through that process are born the protoplasmic bodies: the lunar astral, the lunar mental, and of course our physical and vital bodies (which are considered one body).
In all the different religious traditions, this is symbolized. In the Christian Gospels, we know that Jesus, who symbolizes the Christ, the one that can save us, is betrayed by three traitors. These three traitors symbolize three aspects of our own psyche. They are Pilate, who is related to the lunar mental body or the animal mind, which reasons. Pilate says, " I wash my hands of the whole thing, I am not guilty. I did not do anything wrong." He is guilty, but he reasons. He rationalizes, and this is exactly what our own mind does. We commit crimes all the time, but we rationalize them. We justify them, and this is the activity of the demon of the mind.
We also have the lunar astral, which is that body of desires, the kama rupa. It is that part of us which is more emotional or more desiring of feeling or sensation. This is called the demon of desire. This is symbolized by Judas.
Then we have the demon of evil will, who is the priest Caiaphas of the Gospels.
These three traitors are also in Egyptian mythology, called Apopi, Hai, and Nept. As well, they are the three traitors of the Masonic tradition. We have three traitors in many different traditions. In Dante's Inferno, in the ninth sphere itself, in the mouth of Lucifer, there are three traitors.
These three traitors are represented by an inverted, black triangle. It is black because of the ego.
These three symbolize different parts of our own animal mind. These are the parts of our mind which take us on the path of death, to take the forces of Shin and use them to feed desire, to fortify our sense of self, to help us find security in material things, and they hypnotize us with many illusions. That is why in Buddhism these three are represented by the three daughters of Mara, that demon who tempts the Buddha by sending his three daughters, who weave illusions, to tempt him.
These are symbolized by the three temptations of Jesus, when lucifer appears and tempts him three times.
These temptations are within our own psyche and we face these temptations everyday. To become a warrior requires that we take the force of Shin and we comprehend sensation.
The Buddha Shakyamuni said, "Whether in praise or blame, gain or loss, victory or defeat, be like a great tree in the midst of them all." Be serene. Be indifferent, whether in pain or pleasure, whether in profit or in loss, whether in riches or in poverty. To do that requires that we comprehend sensation, that we understand sensation, that we are not enslaved by it, and this is how we are tested. This is how our own psychological trainer, who is within us, presents us with temptations or ordeals, through sensation. Not through the intellect or through beliefs.
If success in spiritual works could be achieved through the intellect, the path would be easy. God would say, "Well ,what do you think? Do you think it is bad to kill?" And we would say, "Of course," so He replies, "Ok, then you can come to heaven." But this no enough. Nowadays, many people think it is. In the same way, people think that beliefs are enough. But be clear with yourself about this: you can believe something or disbelieve it, but your belief does not change anything. People believed the world was flat. People believed the Sun orbited the earth. So, in the same way, people believe in all kinds of things that are not true.
Unfortunately, humanity is hypnotized by sensation. Hypnotized, asleep, and believing and thinking and imagining, all while suffering in the wilderness. Humanity is consumed by the ego, the crocodile in the waters.
To conquer the enslavement of the animal mind is to sit on the donkey as Jesus did, which means that the consciousness has to establish dominion over the mind itself. Consciousness is willpower, attention, but directed in accordance with Gods laws or the dharma, the eightfold path.
In order to conquer sensation, one must comprehend it. That is: when we face an ordeal or temptation, we have to establish conscious dominion over ourselves.
An example: The desire arises to gain a possession. Have you observed in yourself our addiction to shopping? Western culture is completely addicted to the sensations of shopping and they do not even know why. They are infecting the rest of the world with this addiction. Americans shop and shop and shop and they buy things only to stuff it away and never use it. Why is that? It really makes no sense. It is because the American mentality is hypnotized with consumerism, and this hypnosis is based upon the addiction to a particular sensation, and this sensation has different aspects or facets. Primarily, it is a matter of security. Through the media, advertising, and television, big companies and this idea of the American way hypnotizes the viewers of T.V., the readers of magazines with this subtle notion that “if you get this product, you will be happy.” But, this happiness is a happiness that is contrasted with the fear that if you get this “thing,” you will feel secure or successful or feel like “you made it.” Now, this has different aspects depending on what they are selling or promoting. In the end, you can observe in any American city the hordes of people who flock to the stores and malls to buy and buy and buy and waste and waste and waste. People stuff their houses with possessions. They have to get storage spaces for their other possessions, which they do not use. They get one thing and have it for a little while, then they want a better one. So, the old one goes out into the garage and the new one comes. There is this step by step accumulation of material goods. Why? What is this based upon? What does it solve? How does it help? Who finds happiness from material goods? Who finds serenity from possessions, when all possessions are subject to impermanence?
All possessions will be taken away, decay, and fall apart. To find security in external things is futile. The fool of the tarot is the one who does this. If you look at the classic image of that card, you will see he is carrying a stick with a bag. The bag is all his attachments, all the things he thinks he needs to be happy. Be it his need to dress a certain way, or appear a certain way, to have certain possessions, to own things, to belong to certain groups. This is all foolishness, because in the space of a heart beat, death arrives. What difference will all of these things have made?
We have this notion that the material development of our culture has driven us to reach great heights of technological achievements, making our civilization “the greatest in history.” This is a fallacy. Our culture, our world is consumed with suffering. We have so many “beautiful” inventions and still people starve to death everyday. We have so many beautiful things, things we are proud of, yet in these times, there is more slavery in the world than ever before, but we do not know it. Instead, we ignore it. We ignore it because our own donkey mind is so addicted to sensation and trying to make itself feel better that we cannot even perceive the realities around us, the tremendous suffering that is happening within our neighbor, or our family members.
The comprehension of sensation comes when in each moment, we analyze what is arising and passing in us and we question our own impulses to act. We question our own feelings. We question our own thoughts. We begin to exercise conscious control over our activities. It begins here in the physical world. It begins by exercising conscious control over our activities within our three brains.
The three brains are the vehicles through which these three traitors work. Pilate, the demon of the mind, works through our thoughts, through the way we rationalize and reason. "Oh, I really need to buy this because of this and that. I really see good reasons why I need this and that. I need to make this and that change. I really should leave my wife because of a, b , c , and d. I really need to blah, blah, blah." It is all just craving and aversion; both are the same: desire. "I should not do that cause of blah, blah, blah."
Desire works through the pendulum: good and bad, for and against. The intellect loves that game, the game of yes and no, maybe and maybe not. We become identified and hypnotized by the dance of reasoning, and the donkey loves it.
In our emotional center, we are seduced by our own feelings and desires through the heart. We feel bad, so we need to go buy something to feel better. We feel bad, so we need to eat something to feel better. We feel bad, so we need to punish someone to feel better.
The demon of desire works through the heart, tempting us with emotional craving and aversion. The demon of evil will also works through the heart, because it is through emotion or feeling that we express our evil will. In this sense, evil will means will that is not in correlation with the will of God. In other words, egotistical will. The will of the false self.
Through our motor-instinctive-sexual brain we are also tempted, through our instinct, sensation, sex, and habits, through all kinds of mechanical behaviors.
So, we have to develop the capacity to become conscious of all the levels of our mind and to decide consciously, "Is this thing I am doing right? Is it in accordance with Dharma? Is this something that God wants me to do, my own Being, or is it something that I do because I want it?" That has to be questioned.
It is self-will that leads us to suffering. The guidance of God is what leads us to escape suffering and that guidance comes in the form of Dharma, the Law, and his direct guidance. We receive that through Sarah.
Sarah in the story of Abraham has levels of meaning. She is related to the Hebrew letter Zayin. She is related to the Divine Soul, the Divine Consciousness, and the Divine Mother. She is related to the wife of the initiate and the mother of the initiate. She is the three Marys of the gospels, those three Marys of the life of Jesus.
It is through the intervention and blessings of the Divine Mother and through the guidance of our own Being that we come to know divine will, and we will receive the guidance that we need in order to conquer the animal. Who assists the great heroes? Theseus, Perseus, Orpheus, Hercules? The goddesses. It is always Venus, Aphrodite, or Athena who is giving them what they need in order to conquer the Minotaur or the hydra, to conquer all of those animals and beasts, the crocodile which is within our mind.
The goddess is very beautifully represented in Tibetan Buddhism by Tara. The goddess Tara is said to have twenty-one aspects. Tara is the goddess of compassion.
It said that when the Cosmic Christ, Avalokiteshvara or Chenresig, gazed down upon all the creatures who were suffering in the wilderness, he had so much compassion that he cried, and from the tears of the Christ was born a splendorous woman who is Tara, this divine goddess.
Every morning, in all the schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the practitioners sing the Twenty-One Praises to the Goddess Tara, and in these praises, they worship all the aspects of their own inner Divine Mother, who they say has twenty-one faces. Why? Because she in herself is Shin, the fire, the fire which comes directly from the Cosmic Christ. Tara is the goddess of compassion, that flame which can illuminate the mind. Her name means "she who saves." It is by harnessing the forces of Shin that we are able to choose the way of life.
The Divine Mother has to embody herself within us, to be born within us; she in turn gives birth to the soul. In other words, Sarah has to give birth to Isaac. Isaac represents the soul. Isaac represents the solar bodies, that divine chariot which Krishna will drive in the great war. Krishna is the Christ. That soul, the solar bodies, is three, and they are born from the power of Shin, between husband and wife, Abraham and Sarah, when they work in transmutation. In the Bible, Isaac is born after Abraham and Sarah take a vow of chastity. In other words, God commands that every male shall be circumcised. Circumcision is a symbol of an ancient pact to cut animal desire, to cut the addiction to sensation and to save those forces and energies and harness them with divine will in order to create the soul. Those forces, which descend through the Iod-trinity (Shin) of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, descend into us through three Vavs into the Nun, the waters or fish, those sexual waters which we have within us.
By harnessing the forces of the Iod, those potent sexual forces, we can create the soul, which is what Jesus meant when he said you have to be born again of the waters (sexually) and the spirit (God). That process of being born again is the process of creating and developing the three solar bodies: (1) the Solar Causal Body related to Tiphereth, which is the body of conscious will, conscious will over sensation, conscious will over the animal. (2) The Solar Mental Body, which is a divine vehicle for God to inhabit, and (3) the Solar Astral Body, which is another divine vehicle. These three form a triangle. So, here we see again the duality of the number 21, these three forces. The vehicle of the soul is symbolized by Isaac. Of course, he is born in the 21st chapter of Genesis.
In the 22nd chapter, Abraham is tested. Of course, we will talk in depth about the number 22 in the next lecture, but as an illustration of the symbolic meaning of Isaac and Abraham, we look to what happens in the first part of the 22nd chapter of Genesis. God says to Abraham, "You have to sacrifice your son." This is a great test of faith, a great ordeal. Abraham has to sacrifice his most beloved thing, his son, and he agrees to do it. He puts his son on the altar, prepares the wood, and is ready to sacrifice him. At the moment of killing his son, an angel stops him. This is a symbol of Abraham's own initiatic process and of the nature of the soul itself, Isaac.
Number 22 is related to the end of the work. It is the last of the 22 major arcana. The purpose of the path is to develop vehicles for the Christ to inhabit, to create Bodhisattvas, prophets of God. Those prophets can only be born if they surpass the fifth initiation of fire, which is the creation of the Solar Causal Body, and they receive the initiation of Tiphereth. They enter into the Venustic Initiations to incarnate the Christ, to develop Isaac, but that process of incarnating the Christ is the process of incarnating the Law of Sacrifice. The Christ is that vehicle, that force, that energy which sacrifices itself so that life may exist. The Christ is the fire within every atom, every flower, every heart, every planet. That is Christ, that is Avalokiteshvara, that is Tara, the male and female aspects of this energy. When God says to Abraham, "You have to sacrifice your son," this is symbolic of God saying, “You have to give up everything to incarnate me.” To incarnate the Christ, one has to renounce even the virtues, the powers, and the beauties of the soul. The one who enters into the path of the Bodhisattva even gives up his powers, giving them to God, Christ. So, the twenty-first arcanum symbolizes a great process.
Throughout is the necessity for us to comprehend ourselves. If we remain slaves of sensation, always willing to do whatever it takes to feed our pride, to satisfy our anger or lust, we will always remain the Fool.
The prophet or warrior is the one who conquers the animal mind, the one who stands upon the crocodile, holding in his hand the key, the ankh. The ankh is the symbol of the alliance, the crossing of the man and woman, the key of life. We know that this initiate is walking on the way to life because he is holding this key within his hand with respect, and in his other hand, he is holding the staff of Aaron, which represents the spinal column. Over his shoulders is the animal conquered, the jaguar.
In ancient Aztec culture, the Jaguar Knights were warriors who were also initiated into the mysteries of the death of the ego, and the great mystery of the jaguar was to conquer or consume one's own animal. This has a curious relationship to the earliest forms of Bushido, which is the Japanese warrior code. The Samurai would not fight if he were angry nor would he enter into battle if he had a negative emotion in himself. The entire development of that code of Bushido was the perfection of attention, to develop conscious will over oneself, perfectly.
In the top portion of this graphic, we see two moons, one black and one white. These are the antitheses. This shows the fundamental axiom of this card, which is the battle between the way of life and the way of death within our own mind.
Are there any questions?
Q: Can you go over the meaning of Judas within the gospels?
A: Judas, like many of the other biblical characters, has many levels of meaning. Judas as a physical person, as an initiate, was the closest disciple to the master Jesus and thus, was entrusted with the duty to betray him. We also have our own Judas within our consciousness, which is an aspect of our own Being, who will teach us mysteries related to that. But, Judas also represents aspects of the ego. Judas the initiate was demonstrating that by betraying the Lord. His action was designed to symbolize aspects of our own mind. In the same way, Mary Magdalene is thought by people to have literally been a prostitute, but she was not. She symbolizes a tendency or quality of our own animal mind. So, we have to look deeper than the literal levels of each symbol and character. There are many levels.
Q: Judas, Jesus, and Pilate were all real people as far as I know. Why were Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac not real people?
A: Who says they weren't? They are all portrayed symbolically. See, what happens is that the lives of the initiates become stories which are used to illustrate the teachings themselves. So, parts of the initiate’s life are used to later tell the story of initiation. So for example Jesus, his life story was written as a symbol, but that is not his literal life. It is symbolic. It is the same way with Moses. What is written there about Moses is symbolic. It may borrow from his literal story, but it is not entirely literal. The reason we have scripture is to teach us how to come out of suffering, and it would serve us no purpose to know the intimate details of the lives of these people. What helps us is to understand the initiatic processes, the laws, the ordeals, the psychological lessons, and that is why the gospels and other scriptures are written the way they are. Now, this is true of all traditions. In the life story of Quetzalcoatl of the Aztec tradition, we see they same thing. We see a beautiful story of how that particular initiate represented these mysteries, and we see the same thing in the life stories of the different saints and sages from India, China. What is most amazing and confirms this point of view, is when you compare them all, they all have the same elements. So, it confirms that these stories are symbolic. They may have aspects of literal truth, but they are largely told, kept, and passed on to teach us how to change.
Q: Is there a relationship between Abraham and Hinduism, considering the name Brahma?
A: Well, it is curious that you see in the name Abraham the word Braham, which is closely related with Brahma or the "I am" of Hinduism. There probably is a relationship, but as to the details of it, I do not recall.
Q: Why did the angel ask Hagar to return, and then later have her thrown out? Why did Sarai have her cast out, after asking her to conceive Abraham's child?
n the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar there are processes which unfold. Hagar becomes pregnant and is thrown out, then she comes back, gives birth, and is thrown out again. What this represents is our own development. We are what we are because of God, symbolized as Abraham, but we also are what we are because of the ego, our own mistakes. Due to that, our own animal aspect, that donkey Ishmael, cannot take the inheritance of God, so when Divine Mother Nature, Hagar, is separated, this is symbolic of the separation between the terrestrial realm of Malkuth and the realm of God and his house.
When we inhabit this physical vehicle, we are in the wilderness. So, our own Divine Mother Nature gives birth to our protoplasmic bodies, Ishmael, and we inhabit that, which includes this physical body. In the early stages of the evolution of the consciousness, as these bodies are being developed, we are in the house of God, because we receive the commands of God directly, as we develop in the lower aspects of the kingdom of Malkuth. But, there is a stage at which, when we take on these bodies and start to develop the ego, we are cast out, so we have to leave the house because of the ego. We cannot take the inheritance of God because of the ego, so we are cast out. Now, our Divine Mother Nature loves us so much she comes as well, to help and protect us.
What is curious about the love of the Divine Mother Nature is that if we do not kill the ego, she will do it, and it is not pleasant. That aspect of Divine Mother Nature is Durga or Kali, death. She is that goddess who takes Ishmael and pulls him into hell in order to cleanse him of the ego, to consume him, out of love. So in the end he becomes a purified essence once more, and he is then able to restart the process, to try again.
Now, all this time, we have Sarah who has her son Isaac, and this is the soul, the consciousness. This has levels. I am condensing or synthesizing it to make it easier to understand. For the initiate, the one who is walking on the path and creating Isaac, who is working with the Alliance and trying to become a warrior, this process also happens. Where, in order to protect Isaac, to protect the inheritance, there is a separation made between the terrestrial man and the heavenly man. This is why there are sometimes periods of spiritual night, during which the initiate will have no recollection of experiences, will have no visions, will have nothing, and will be in the wilderness, like Ishmael. Now, this is to protect the inheritance and to pay Karma. So, there are levels to this story, but as a basic idea that is the reason the story is written the way it is.
Q: So this means that Sarah and Hagar are always in conflict within us.
A: This is true. These are aspects of the Divine Mother, within in ourselves, who are in conflict with one another because they have developed different parts. Now, ultimately speaking, they are both the Divine Mother, but in our level there is that conflict and this is because of the ego. Interestingly, you can see that in the twenty-one form of Tara. She has many aspects, some are fierce and wrathful, while some are very peaceful and serene. So you see that in all the different traditions, how the different aspects of God are symbolized.