This is a transcription of the audio lecture Twenty two Arcana of Tarot and Kabbalah 13 Arcanum 13 Immortality originally given live on Gnostic Radio, which you can download for free.
The Arcanum 13 of the sacred book of the Tarot depicts a man wielding a scythe. He dips his scythe into the waters in order to harvest the wheat. The image of the Arcanum 13 is an image of a reaper – one who is reaping the seed or culling the grain of the earth.
The card, or the sacred law of the number 13, is called “Immortality.” The word immortality has at its core the Latin term “mort”, which of course begins with the letter “M.” And mort, of course, refers to death.
Interestingly, the 13th letter of the Hebrew alphabet is the letter “M” or “Mem.” The letter “M” is also found in the Sanskrit word for death, which is “mrtyu” in Roman letters. But in the simplest form, in Sanskrit the term “death” can be simply said as “Ma,” or in other words, the letter “M” in Sanskrit.
As everyone knows, in most languages “Ma” refers to the mother, and “Ma” is the beautiful phrase that the child speaks. Often, the very first thing that a child will say is “Ma,” crying for “ma” – for mother. And this term “Ma” of course is related to “mater” in Latin, which also means “mother.” It is the root of the term “matter.”
So we find death and the mother very closely linked, but also the water, the “mer,” the waters, related to the “M”.
In Hebrew, the word for death is “met”, which is spelled, of course, with a “Mem”. So the Arcanum 13 is related with death, and it encodes and contains the synthesis of the science of how to conquer death, or in other words, to acquire immortality, which is the name of this Arcanum. But death has its science.
In order to comprehend what immortality means, what mortality is, we have to understand what death is. In order to understand life, we have to understand death, because life and death are two sides of the same phenomena. It is impossible to have life without death. Life and death are two parts of the same thing.
Unfortunately, in most of the cultures in this day and age, death is avoided. The very subject of death is avoided. The very idea, the very topic, is avoided in our personal lives, in our families, in our relationships. We cannot bear the thought of death, much less the discussion. And oddly, and with great contradiction, we are obsessed with death in our media, in films, and books, and television. What lies at the root of this strange contradiction? Obviously, this phenomena of the avoidance of death in practical terms, and the obsession of death as a concept, lies within our own minds. Something about our own mind is producing this aspect of our culture and this aspect of our lives. What lies within the fear of death? What promotes the fear of death in us? Ignorance.
We ignore. This term, “ignore”, has in its center, “gno” – gnosis, knowledge. But with the “i” at the beginning, it becomes a lack of, or the avoidance, of knowledge. We could say that Gnosis itself is in fact the science of life and death. To have Gnosis, to have knowledge, to have that incarnated in oneself, to have Gnosis be the very basis of one’s action and spontaneity, is to have mastery over life and death. Not conceptual mastery, but mastery in action. This is the opposite of ignorance. So to have that sort of mastery, that kind of understanding, requires that we abandon ignorance.
To understand death, to know about life and death, we have to look at it. We have to study it. We need to understand this Arcanum 13.
Death has two primary aspects that concern the student of Gnosis. First, is its immediate practical aspect, which is obviously the death that each one of us is marching towards at this moment. Every breath that we draw is a breath we take in our march towards death. No one person that exists can avoid that, and yet we avoid it in the mind. We avoid it in the heart. We chose to ignore the inevitability of our own death, and this is a great problem for us.
When we ignore something, we cannot deal with it. If you have a sickness or an illness and you ignore it, it becomes worse. The same is true of the knowledge of death. Some say that the science of Gnosis is the science of preparing for death, the science of the preparation, on a daily basis, for death itself. This is true. When we go deeper into that, what that really means, it means that we have to cultivate a sense of the life and death of all things, which in other terms is called impermanence.
Because we ignore the fundamental truth of impermanence, we develop attachment, and attachment is the cause of suffering. We have a relationship, for example, with someone that we love. Because we ignore the inevitability of the loss of that love, the loss of that relationship, we become attached, and we suffer.
When we grasp tightly to anything, whether it is material or emotional or mental, we suffer, because we are ignoring the fundamental truth of all compounded elements: They will dissolve. All things in the manifested universe are subject to this Law of Impermanence. They arise. They pass away. When we grasp anything with attachment, we initiate the process of suffering in ourselves, and the more tightly we grasp it, the more intense our suffering will be. This is why, in all of the great Asian traditions, there is a lot of discussion about detachment. And it is also at present in the Bible – to always remain aware that all manifested things shall pass away, all earthly things. And earthly, in this sense, means “manifested.”
To cultivate conscious comprehension of impermanence gives us the capacity to treat those things that actually are precious with their true value. When we have attachment for something, when we are grasping it, we are enforcing onto it our own selfish will. This is a cause of suffering. In the case of a relationship, when we are grasping on to another person, be they a spouse or a child, we are enforcing our will over that person, to pull them to us, to hold on to them, to grasp them. This is a prison. It is a cage. We think it is love, but it is not. It is selfishness. To love, in truth, is to love the object of our affection as it is, to have respect for it as it is, to allow it its own process, to allow it its own life.
Take, for example, your own physical body. Because we ignore the fundamental truth that our own physical body will pass away, we become very attached to it. Now that attachment may be craving in the form of loving this body, or it may also be aversion in the form of hating it, but it is attachment. And that attachment to the body causes us to become very afraid, to be fearful, to be vain, to be proud, to be ashamed. That attachment stimulates these qualities in our lives, and the more we grasp out of fear, out of pride, onto this body, the more we suffer. Particularly when the idea of death approaches, or when the practical truth of death approaches. Our suffering becomes more intense. This is all routed in ignorance.
It is very liberating to realize the inevitability of death and to realize in one’s own consciousness, in meditation, that you have already died many times. The Essence, the consciousness that you have inside, is what is, in truth, immutable, in the sense that it continues. It continues. We have experienced death many, many times. We have inhabited bodies and abandoned them and inhabited new bodies and abandoned them. This is why in the Hebrew tradition, one of the scriptures says, “The grave takes life and gives it forth again.”
This concept of the unchanging, permanent nature of consciousness is universal. The exception to this are some of the modern religions, who ignore the truth of death, and teach that once we die physically, that is it. But there is no evidence of that concept anywhere in nature. In fact, Einstein himself proved with his mathematics that reincarnation, or re-embodiment, is a fact, because, as he stated, you cannot destroy anything. You cannot. Energy simply changes shape. Energy becomes matter and then becomes energy again, but you cannot destroy it.
The consciousness itself, the Essence we have, is energy. It is a form of energy. It is something that persists. If the vessel that we have, the body, is destroyed, the energy moves on. What is important for us to grasp, though, is that it moves on according to laws. But how can we comprehend the nature of those laws and how this can be perceived in our own lives?
In the Greek tradition, there are two twin brothers, Sleep and Death. These twins have a very intimate psychological meaning for us. What is hidden in that myth is that the sleep of the physical body and death are very closely related. When we lie down to allow the physical body to sleep, we abandon the physical body, and we dream. The consciousness that we have persists. It perceives, but not physically, not inside the physical vessel, but in a more subtle form of nature. This is what we call “sleep,” the sleep of the physical body.
When the physical body is rested or disturbed, consciousness is pulled back to that physical body. That transition of entering and exiting the physical body is a kind of doorway, a kind of gate, and generally, we do not remember passing through that door because our consciousness is weak. We cannot even remember what happened a couple of hours ago or a couple of days ago. This shows the weakness of our consciousness. To pass through that doorway between physical sleep and physical wakefulness is a kind of shock, and the consciousness that we have now is not strong enough to maintain continuity of awareness through that door.
What allows us to pass in and out of that doorway is called the “silver cord.” This cord is mentioned in the Bible, in the Old Testament. This cord is a kind of link that connects the physical body with consciousness itself, so there is no danger of us getting lost outside of our physical body so long as the cord is intact. The only one who can cut that cord is God, or in other words, the vehicle of God, which is the Reaper: The Reaper, who is, of course, the Angel of Death.
The Angels of Death are angels, perfected Beings, vehicles who express God’s love, who act only in accordance with the Law. And they, with their scythe, cut that cord at the precise moment that death is determined to occur. When that happens, the Essence, which is out of the body, is no longer connected to that body. That is what we call “death.” From the point of view of the consciousness, the experience is the same as going to sleep and dreaming. The Essence abandons the physical body and passes into the world of dreams: or what some call “limbo.” We experience this world every time we sleep physically.
Do you want to know what happens when you die? Look at what happens when you sleep. It is the same. If you remember nothing of your dreams, you will not be aware when the moment of death comes. Your consciousness will not be strong enough to maintain continuity of awareness through the process of death and the processes that occur after death. The consciousness persists, it continues its existence, but in a weakened state. Weak, as it is in us now.
Gnosis is a practical and scientific preparation for that experience. Gnosis (even when known by other names) is the science that we need to teach our own consciousness to be awake, to be aware, to become strong, and to be capable of maintaining continual consciousness, continual awareness, through whatever happens. We must begin that today. We begin by, in this very moment, being very conscious of ourselves, being aware of ourselves, not dreaming, not fantasizing, not projecting our desires, not avoiding the truths of our lives, but perceiving everything as it is. That way, when we lie down to let the physical body rest, we shall continue our awareness exercise, working to maintain the continuity of the concentration of our attention. Thereby, when the physical falls asleep, the consciousness can remain actively aware, and we can pass into the dream world, the Astral world, consciously, with awareness.
And this, of course, is what is called Dream Yoga. Yoga means “to yoke, to control” the dream in ourselves. But that Dream Yoga is not just something to do at night. We are dreaming all day long. Dream Yoga is a practice that must be used in every moment of life.
By doing so, by enacting and enabling our own conscious awareness, we are accomplishing a number of things: We are developing the capacity to remain present and watchful, which all scriptures repeat and repeat and repeat.
“Be watchful. Be aware.”
There is an important reason behind this. These kernels of wheat the reaper is cutting have many levels of symbolism. One such meaning is that the kernels symbolize packets of energy. Of course, as a physical body, we consume wheat to feed ourselves, to sustain the existence of our body, but such sustenance also exists energetically, for our consciousness. And there are a number of levels that this can apply.
Firstly, we look at what Gurdjieff called Bobbin-Kandelnosts, which are packets or values of energy which we receive due to our karma. These are value, or in other words, a certain quantity of fuel, that we receive when we take a new body. That quantity of fuel is determined by our past actions. We have, of course, three brains. We have an intellectual brain, which is related to the process of thinking, the process of thought. We have an emotional brain, which is related to the processes of feeling the emotions that we feel. And we have a motor-instinctive-sexual brain, which is related to our motor activities such as walking and running, and anything we do with the body. It includes instinct, and it includes the sexual forces. And into each of these three brains is deposited a determined amount, a determined value, a certain quantity of energy, or forces. It is this value, this number, that gives us our lifespan.
Certain spiritual theories state that when a person is born, their death is predetermined to a certain hour and day. This is not exact because your own actions have an influence in your destiny. If you are very self-destructive, you will wear yourself out and die before your time or get yourself in a bad situation and die due to some horrible, let us say, “accident.” The truth is, our own will has an influence on the quality of our life and the length of our life. But I mean action psychologically, from moment to moment.
As we are now, asleep, daydreaming, tossed about between our memories of the past and our cravings for the future, or our worries for the future, we are in a self-created Fantasyland. We are not aware of ourselves. We are being buffeted by waves of our own lust and anger, envy and fear. And if all those waves of emotions and circumstances that hit us, we react automatically, without awareness. Someone criticizes us, we respond with anger. Someone blames us, we respond with shame, automatically; without awareness. All of these reactions, all of these mechanical emotions that we go through in life, waste these vital values.
When we become identified with any given idea in the mind, any given feeling in the heart, any given activity in the motor-instinctive-sexual brain, when we become identified, that is: mechanically reacting or acting in accordance with a certain desire, we are wasting energy. We are wasting our own vital values.
For example, you may grow up a very well-balanced, happy person, but you run into some friends that you want to be liked by. You want them to like you. You want them to admire you. They drink alcohol, and in order to be accepted, you should be a part of the group. You should drink, too, and smoke, and talk with bad language, and gossip. Maybe do a little drugs. Maybe listen to some popular music. As you accomplish those activities, desire takes hold. First you have, of course, the desire to be liked, the desire to be included, the desire to be admired, and the fear of rejection. These are all desires. But as the alcohol, cigarettes, the drugs, and the attention of others infiltrates your senses, you become addicted to it. The addiction is not merely to the chemical elements of the alcohol, or the chemical elements of the cigarette. The addiction is to getting attention. The addiction begins with the sensation of doing something rebellious, which is emotional. The addiction is to the fear you see in others when they see you. “Oohh, what a bad person! Look at all the things he is doing.” And we like that. That addiction is emotional. It is mental. It is physical. And those addictions become mechanical behaviors through which we waste these vital values. We waste them.
This is why the alcoholics, the drug addicts, and those people that become addicted to these kinds of behaviors, die young, become sick, become ill, become mentally and emotionally imbalanced. The boxer, the athlete, becomes addicted, totally identified, with the success in their physical activity, and exhausts the vital values of the body, becomes crippled, becomes physically ill. The actor, the drama queen, who becomes addicted to intense emotional sensations, exhausts the values of their heart and develops heart problems. The intellectual, the skeptic, becomes addicted to the processes of ideas and opinions and becomes schizophrenic, manic. They lose their stability in the mind.
Observe humanity and the prevalence of mental illness and emotional sicknesses. They vastly outnumber the physical ones, yet we avoid them. We avoid knowing how prevalent, how strong, how pervasive mental and emotional illness really is in our culture. We cannot deal with it. It is too big of a problem, and, of course, our advertising, our movies, our media are all taking advantage of it, telling us, “You can have a happy life, happiness, contentment, if you buy something, if you look a certain way, if you dress a certain way, if you belong to a certain group.” This is all utilizing desire to hypnotize us, to manipulate us for the purposes of money, power.
For the Gnostic, for the aspirant, awareness becomes the critical step: To be aware, to be observant of one’s own three brains. To always be aware of what one is thinking, to always observe what one is feeling, to always be watchful of sensation, the impulse to act one way or another.
How many of us have chosen a career out of envy? How many of us have chosen a career out of fear? Out of pride? How many of our daily activities are driven entirely by the desire to be admired? To be envied? This is only going to produce suffering. To be aware of those things means we have to stop ignoring ourselves. To observe, to look, to pay attention.
In doing so, we begin to save energy when we recognize that this particular form of action is driven by envy. “Why should I do that? It would be much more intelligent for me to not do that.” And when we take that step of renouncing our own egotistical will, we save the energy that we would otherwise have wasted. In that manner, little by little, we begin to save these values, to accumulate them. This is the basis of Gnostic psychology. In that process is death. We become the Reaper.
Our own consciousness becomes that Angel of Death from moment to moment in ourselves because we, with the staff of our spinal column, harness the energies with that scythe, the blade of discriminating awareness. We slice through the wheat of the moment to moment experience of any given impression, and we pull out from those impressions a seed: comprehension, understanding, wisdom. And we discard the chaff, that which is not useful, that which we do not need. That is a process of death – dying in our own desires. As Jesus said, we must deny ourselves.
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. - Matthew 16:24
Self-denial, in this sense, is psychological: To deny one’s own desires in the mind. To do that requires Gnosis, in other words, knowledge, self-knowledge. We cannot ignore and accomplish the mysteries of death in ourselves psychologically.
By saving those energies, by developing more conscious comprehension, by gathering together the energies from the impressions of life to transform those forces, by saving the energies that are present in our psyche to transform and accumulate those forces, we step towards immortality. We conquer death. This is how we move from being the mere shadow of a human being into becoming a human being. When we develop this conscious awareness of death, death is no longer a fearful thing.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? - 1 Corinthians 15:53-55
When you begin to recall and remember how many times you have already died, you begin to realize that death is not the problem. Ignorance is the problem. Life and death proceed as a cycle, which is natural. The Essence proceeds from body to body, which is natural. There is nothing to be afraid of in that. What is to be fearful of, to be worried about, is to ignore that. The longer we ignore it, the deeper our suffering becomes. When we conserve these forces, we begin to accomplish something that is written in the Book of Corinthians in the Bible. Corinthians says that some will say,
“How are the dead raised, and with what body do they return? Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not brought back to life, is not brought back to life, is not brought to life, accept through death. And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not the body that shall be but grain. All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one kind of flesh of men, another of beasts, another of fishes, another of birds. There are all celestial bodies, and terrestrial bodies. So is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption. It is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor. It is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness. It is raised in power.”
The possibility to acquire the celestial bodies, or in other words, what we would call immortality, is within our own corrupt body, or physical body. The possibility to have resurrection lies within death – death of desire, death of that which is corrupt. The mind that we have is corrupt. The mind that we have is what is producing our pride, our anger, our gluttony, and our suffering. That mind has to die in order for something immortal, perfect, to be born. That rebirth, symbolized in many traditions, many places, but in every case, the symbol is the same. You have to create a soul.
The butterfly is a good example. That ugly caterpillar, which is so grotesque, basically dies in a sense. It places itself into a shell where it resides and waits, like a womb, and with time and energy, the womb bursts, and the butterfly emerges. But that shell remains behind. In a similar manner, we as soul, have to abandon the shell. We would say in this case that the shell is related to the term “Klipoth”, which means “the world of the shells,” and refers to hell, the inferior dimensions. And our shells are our own egos, structures within our own psyche, within which the soul, the Essence, is trapped. When we, through the process of self-observation and meditation, transform the impressions of life, we do it with the purpose of extracting from those shells our own consciousness, which is a process of death. This is also symbolized in the famous story of Noah.
The story of Noah is in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. The word “Noah” is made by these characters “Nun” and “He”, which we will be discussing in a later lecture. But Noah is a servant of the Lord. And when you look into the Bible, at the story of Noah, you see when he is 500 years old, the story begins to unfold about the great flood. We know from previous lectures that when you read about the ages of these initiates, this is symbolic. 500 years refers to that initiate having completed the Fifth Initiation of the Major Mysteries. The Fifth Initiation of the Major Mysteries is related to the complete development of the bodies of the soul. These bodies are the solar astral body, the solar mental body, and the solar causal body. These are the three sons of Noah, his own soul. These sons are the butterfly itself. But Noah has to dissolve the shells. Those shells are the lunar ego, or the lunar astral body, the lunar mental body, and the lunar causal body. And these are symbolized by the evil population of the earth. Earth, in all of these stories, symbolizes our own physical body, our own earth, the microcosm of man. And God, in order to destroy the evildoers, or our own ego, tells Noah, our consciousness, “I am going to send the flood to kill all of those bad people so if you want to be saved, you need to do something. You need to build an ark.” We have pointed out in previous lectures that this term, “ark,” is related to Arcanum or Arcana, and of course, we are studying the Thirteenth Arcanum. But these 22 Arcana all express the one great Arcanum, which is the Ark of Noah, the Ark of the Covenant, which is the same symbol.
What is interesting about this story of Noah is that it is pre-dated by other flood myths from every continent on this planet. There are at least 35 separate individual stories recorded of flood myths. They come from Australia, from Africa, from India, from China, from Iran, from the Native Americans, from South America, from the Nordics, from the Celtics. All of them have a flood myth, and all of them say essentially the same thing: To be saved from the waters, build an ark. In other words, a boat, a vessel, a vehicle which will rise upon the waters.
What is that ark? When we look into the Bible, we see Jesus walking on the waters. This is an indication, a hint, pointing towards the ark. We also hear Jesus discussing and describing the well of the waters of eternal life, or in other words, immortality. And that well, or that water, flows from our belly and gives eternal life, immortality.
We also see in the Bible that Moses takes a staff and strikes a rock from which water flows, which gives life to the Israelites.
But perhaps the most deeply psychological and interesting indication of the nature of the ark is found in Hinduism. The word “immortality” in the Hindu tradition is “Amrita.” So to say immortality in Sanskrit, you would say “Amrita.” Amrita is a liquid, a drink, an elixir, or in other words, as the Greeks and Romans would call it, “ambrosia.” Amrita is a great ocean, and as you may know, this Thirteenth Arcanum is represented in the character “Mem,” which means “water.” So the great Ocean, those profound waters which provide the sustenance which delivers immortality, the waters that come from the rock of Moses, the waters that Jesus walks upon, that fountain of water within our belly, which in Chinese alchemy they call the “Tan tien,” the ocean of energy, which is in our belly or near the belly. That ocean in the Hindu tradition, the Hindu story, is the source of power for all the gods.
Now the story goes that one day Indra, one of the gods, was cursed by a sage. Now it is interesting to know that Indra is the god of the weather, the god of rain, the god of the wind, the god of water, and he carries in his hand a thunderbolt, like Zeus. That thunderbolt is called a “vajra.” The curse that Indra is given is that the gods will lose their power, so the gods become worried. And Brahma, who is the Father, Kether, who is a part of Indra, says, “Very well. Then we need to churn the waters of the oceans in order to retrieve the Amrita for us to persist in our immortality, to give us the power that we need.” But, in order for them to do this, they have to churn the waters of the ocean, and the only way for them to do that is for them vie, to fight, to struggle with the demons, who also want the same power, who also want the power of immortality. And so between them, Indra takes a mountain and places it into the water as a giant pillar to use as a churning rod.
So what do we have here? We have a vast ocean with a vertical rod - a phallus - to be used to churn the waters. On one side of the waters are all the demons, in other words, our own psychological devils, our own ego. And on the other side of the waters are all the gods, or in other words, the free portions of our consciousness, the Being itself. In between them is a rod, a mountain. This rod is obviously the “vajra,” or thunderbolt of Indra, which is the phallus, the masculine sexual potency. And the waters are the female sexual potency, the waters of the womb.
So the gods and the demons take a snake, a serpent, and they wrap it around the rod in the waters, and one group has the head, and one group has the tail, and they begin to struggle and pull back and forth, and the waters are churned. This is representative of something only the initiates will know, those who have been initiated and understand the nature of sexual alchemy. In other words, our own waters, our sexual waters, the waters of Mem, are churned by the conflict between our desires, the demons, and between the Being, the needs of the consciousness. Our own consciousness needs the waters of the oceans in order to remain immortal and to grow. But the demons also want the water to feed themselves and to overcome the gods. The secret of power is this intersection of the phallus with the waters, with the womb.
Now these waters, interestingly, can be related to another Hindu myth, which is the story of Prajapati. Prajapati is the ancient celestial father, “the self-created one.” Prajapati has his sexual forces which form a lake, and the waters of that lake are called Matujam, and that word means “not to be spoiled,” “not to be corrupted.” Desire corrupts. So these celestial waters of our celestial father, Prajapati, should not be corrupted, must remain pure. The other name for these waters is “Manuja,” which means “related to man.” In the term “Manuja” is the term “Manu,” where we get the word “man” or “human.” So these waters, these celestial waters, which should not be spoiled with the corruption of desire, just as the Bible says, should not be corrupted with fornication and adultery.
From these waters comes the mystery of the man, in other words, the solar man, the “Manu.” What has to occur is that we need to choose which side are we on. This is the Arcanum 6. We see in this visual image of the demons and the gods fighting over the waters using the serpent, that this is the Arcanum 6 – Indecision – the battle between the virgin and the whore, the battle between the needs of our own Being and the needs of the ego. And what determines the victory or the defeat is our own individual will. That will is not expressed as intention. It is action. When we say “will,” we do not mean “I intend to do this and that.” We mean that you do it. You either do it or you do not. You either are accomplishing the laws of your own Being or you are not. That is the nature of Karma: action.
From the waters of mem emerge the sons of Noah: the solar bodies. Those waters flow from Prajapati, from our own Ain Soph, and that energy flows down the Tree of Life, through Daath. Daath is here at the top of this card, the two flowers crossing. This is a symbol of the Seal of Solomon, the Star of David, the two triangles which represent Abba and Aima, the father and mother, Isis and Osiris. From this union flows the Schamayim, the fiery waters, the waters of Mem which are enlivened in the fires of Shin, the Holy Spirit. And those forces flow into us. Those waters are placed in Yesod. Those waters are the waters of Amrita, or immortality.
When we look at our esoteric physiology, we, of course, know that we have a physical body. But the physical exists because we have an energetic body, which is within it, which is really one with it, but a superior part, which is called the vital body, the body of Qi, the body of energy, or the etheric body. The etheric body is the body that manages all the energies that sustain our body. That body is actually made of four layers, or four levels – four ethers, or sheaths or channels which receive the solar energy. When we sleep, the physical body is resting. The etheric body is recharging and is healing the physical body. And many of our illnesses, such as cancer, actually are in the etheric body. They are sicknesses of the etheric body, which manifest physically. The doctors today cannot fix many illnesses because they do not recognize the existence of the etheric body.
Nonetheless, those forces, the waters which flow down from Mem, flow into our etheric body. But how do we use them? We exist, we are alive, because of these waters which flow as a gift from God. But how do we use them? This requires, again, more observation of ourselves, more knowledge of ourselves in order to understand.
These four ethers, or four aspects of our own vital body, are symbolized in the Bible as the four rivers of Eden. Eden is a symbol of the fourth dimension of Yesod, “the foundation” which we fell from. We, as Malkuth, the “kingdom,” the physical person; Malkuth fell from Yesod. So Eden itself is divided into these four parts, these four rivers of life, four rivers of water. The first is called Pishon. We call this the ether of light. This is that part of our vital body which is related to memory and imagination. It is also related to Neshemah, the breath of God, from which we can receive inspiration.
So if we observe ourselves during the day, we need to be observing how are we using our imagination. How are we using it? Because that imagination, the capacity to imagine, is given its force, its light, through this ether of light, which is fed by the waters of men. In other words, that out-flowing of the Schamayin from our own Ain Soph. But how do we use our imagination? Are we fantasizing? Are we daydreaming? Are we imagining scenes of lust? Are we imagining scenes of revenge? Are we imagining our anger expressing itself and making others suffer? Is that how we are using the energies that God gives us? If so, we need to change because that produces karma, produces suffering. Not only for those people that we imagine, because that thought, that imagination, is real.
When you imagine something, you are directing forces of energy. So the suffering that you are creating is not just for you. It is not just the karma of what will come, for you will reap from what you sow. Those thoughts, that imagination, that fantasy, affects other people. For example, you can make someone sick with your ill will, with your anger. You can make someone sick. Some illnesses are just that: the ill will of others. You can also feed someone’s ego. If you have lust for a person and you imagine that person in a lustful way, you are feeding them that energy. What is worse is if you activate your own sexual energy and then imagine that person. You are giving them enormous quantities of negatively polarized energies, polarized with lust, which, incidentally, many people take advantage of. Many people encourage that. They want to be lusted for. They want to be wanted. And psychologically, they are stealing those energies from others. This is what we call a “vampire.” Vampires are real. They do not go around sucking people’s blood. They suck what blood symbolizes: life energy. They steal people’s energy by manipulating egos.
So how are we using our own forces of imagination? How are we using our own memory? Are we remembering desires? Are we fantasizing about what we want?
The second river is called Gihon. This one we call the Reflecting Ether, and it is related to the memory and to the senses. The five senses that we have are receiving reflections, vibrations. We are not seeing things as they really are. We are seeing energies reflected, that are reflected. These images can be deceptive, can be illusory. We take them as real, but our perception is very limited. Interestingly, the five senses are related to Indra. In Sanskrit, they are called Indriya. Remember I told you that Indra is the god of the weather, rain, the waters, and he carries the thunderbolt: the vajra. So the five senses are called Indriya in Sanskrit, which indicate that the power to perceive through the senses is a gift of the gods, but directly related to Indriya, which is, of course, these waters of Mem. The spiritual aspirant has to learn to control those senses, to control the attention as it perceives through the senses. In Sanskrit this is called indriya-samvara. Indriya-samvara is just the Sanskrit name for Self-Observation. It is the capacity to control the senses consciously. That is, to not fall into the trap of desire, and instead to observe without attachment to that desire.
So how are we using the waters which flow from God into our own reflecting ether? How are we receiving the impressions of life? How are we perceiving the world? Through the filter of our desires? Through the filter of our fears? Through the filter of our gluttony? Or are we seeing things purely, clearly, as they really are?
The third ether is in the Bible called Hiddekel, the river. We call this the chemical ether. The chemical ether is related to all the chemical processes of the vital body. In other words, nutrition, our metabolism, our digestion. And clearly, again, we see transformations of energy occurring with this ether. As we receive sustenance from life, the vital body transforms those forces in order to nourish us. But again, we have to look at ourselves and analyze. How are we transforming the energies of life, the energies that we need in order to be sustained? When we eat our food are we thinking of other things? Are we daydreaming? Are we desiring things? Or are we consciously consuming those elements?
When we consciously eat, with attention and gratitude, the foods that we eat, and the water, and the air, can be transformed into substances of a much higher voltage than the foods and the water and the air we consume when we are psychologically asleep. And there is an entire course about that, how that works, called The Transformation of Energy.
The fourth ether in the Bible is called Euphrates, and this is the Ether of Life. And this is the way that our own vital body manages the sexual forces, the energies that we use to reproduce, and again, we must ask: How are we using these sacred waters, which are placed within us by our own God? Are we using them to satisfy our desires? To satisfy our lusts? If so, we are producing karma. If so, we are delivering the potency of those waters to the demons. If we choose to follow the Great Arcanum, to build the ark, as Noah did, we can harness these forces of the ether of life, and build the ark.
Firstly, the ark is the creation of those solar bodies: The Solar Astral, the Solar Mental, and the Solar Causal Bodies. But then that vessel has to rise upon the waters, and what is contained in that mystery? The ark itself.
The Bible gives measurements for this force, for the ark itself. In the Bible, God tells Noah, “Make the ark 300 cubits by 50 cubits by 30.” And, of course, understanding the nature of Kabbalah, we know that these numbers are symbolic, not literal. The number 300 in the Hebrew alphabet is the character Shin. Shin is the number of transmutation, the number, or the character, which contains the three forces of creation. And, of course, we will talk in detail about this character in a later lecture, but in synthesis we say it is fire. 50, of course, is related to the character “Nun,” which will be discussed in the next lecture. “Nun” is related to temperance, and is the symbol of the fish who inhabit the waters. 30 is related to “Lamed,” which is the power of sacrifice. So the Great Arcanum, or in other words, White Tantrism, is rooted in these three mysteries, and it is built within them: we must knowing how to work with the Fires (shin) as a fish (nun), utilizing the powers of sacrifice (lamed). In other words: to deny oneself (death), to take up one’s cross (birth, alchemy), and follow after the examples of the great Masters (sacrifice for others).
To ride in the ark means to rely upon the mysteries of transmutation, to dedicate oneself to inhabit the science, to live the science. So the Lord tells Noah to go into the ark with his family. In other words, with his soul, and to take every kind of animal, in other words, his own mind. And the rains come. The rains come for forty days. Now Mem is also the number 40, and 40 plays a significant role throughout the Bible: The 40 days of the rains, the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, the 40 days that the Israelites were in the wilderness. So when we see 40, we need to remember Mem. 40 indicates a period of time to be in the wilderness, to be in the ark. In other words to die as an ego, to be tested. And here Noah faces this. The waters rise. Noah enters the ark. The rain falls for 40 days. And you see that Noah is there with Shem, Ham, and Japheth, who symbolize his solar bodies.
The waters cover everything, and it says in the King James Bible, to a depth of 20 feet, and all the creatures of the earth are killed, except for Noah and his family. 20, of course, the Arcanum 20, which we will discuss later, but it is the number of resurrection. And as you know from Corinthians, there can be no resurrection without death. All of these creatures in the mind of the initiate have to die; all of our anger, all of our envy, all of our fear, all of our pride, all of our lust. These elements have to be completely dead before the soul can resurrect and become perfected. This reflects the real measurement given in other versions of the Bible: the waters rose to 15 cubits.
The Arcanum 15 (again, the subject of a later lecture) is called Passion, or The Devil. The devil in us must die.
When we create the vessel of the ark, in other words, when we create the soul, we become a man, manu, in other words, a human being. As we are, we are just a phantom, or a sketch of a human being, subject to the cycles of birth and death, tossed about by karma, without consciousness of anything. By developing the soul, we become “man”, in other words “manas”, “manu”, a human being. But then we have to become a superhuman. In other words, a resurrected Master, a christified Master, like Moses, like Noah. For that to occur, all of those unclean humanities, which are our own mind (the number 15), have to die. All the discursive desires we have. And once they are dead, resurrection can occur. In other words, the waters reached 20 feet, the number 20, resurrection. When that death occurs, the resurrection comes. Then the soul is born as a resurrected Master, as a perfected creature.
The ability to command the waters is an effort of will. Will is symbolized by sword, by rod. The rod, of course, is this rod of Indra, the rod of the vajra, the thunderbolt of Zeus, the trident of the Poseidon, who commands the waters. All of these gods are symbols of parts of our own Being. This is something else we need to grasp. All of these stories and mythologies are for us, about us, about what we need as a soul. Interestingly, if you look into the symbol of the vajra, the thunderbolt, that Indra, or that Zeus wields, we see in the Tibetan tradition that the vajra takes on an additional meaning. The vajra, in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, is also called the diamond, or adamantine, that which is indestructible. And truly, this is the will of God. The will of God is indestructible, is immortal. But we have to become one with that will in order to acquire the power over death, to become immortal. We have to embody that will, to be that will in our every action: In thought, in feeling, and in deed.
The highest form of Tantrism in the Tibetan tradition is called Vajrayana, which means “the way of the diamond,” or “the diamond path.” And in those schools, we see the Lamas, the priests, wielding a vajra in one hand and bell in the other. The vajra is shaped similar to the symbol of infinity, and that symbol represents emptiness, or shunyata. And this is important. It is with the comprehension of impermanence and the void nature of all things that we develop detachment and equanimity. So that vajra, which represents will, also represents the comprehension of emptiness, which is right view. And with that point of view, the will of God, emptiness, we then have the capacity to harness those waters. But where are they? In the other symbol held in hand by the Tantric Buddhists: a bell shaped like a cup, like a grail. Observe the Dalai Lama with the vajra and a bell in his hands. The vajra is the masculine sexual force. The bell is the feminine sexual force. In other words, the path of skillful means, wisdom and skillful means combined.
But what is interesting is when we combine these two symbols of the bell and the vajra. If you draw an upturned U like the shape of a bell, and you draw the rod in the center of it, you have the symbol of Neptune, the trident, which is the same symbol as Shin, the Hebrew character. Shin is fire. Neptune rules the waters. The fiery waters of Shamayin, which are those waters flowing from the Mem into our own organism as those four ethers of the vital body.
The goal of the initiate is to ride in the ark as an act of will, equilibrating the vajra and the bell, controlling the waters as Jesus walks upon them, and being able to sustain equilibrium as those waters rise and destroy everything that is corrupt. Pay close attention to that. The waters destroy everything.
The waters (mem) are the bringers of life and the bringers of death. Consider that very carefully. If you, as a physical body, could not have water, you would die quickly and painfully. But the same applies to your soul. The soul itself requires water to be sustained, and this is why the gods and the demons are battling over the Ocean of Amrita, because the soul, to sustain itself, to have power, to have life, must have water, but the waters of the Shamayin, the waters of the Being, which are the Manushya, the waters which should not be spoiled. Purified water, transmuted water.
The method to purify our own dirty waters is taught by the Master Jesus in his first miracle. The first miracle that Jesus performs is at a wedding. A wedding is a marriage between man and wife. And at this wedding, he transforms water into wine – the wine of the spirit, the wine of the Eucharist, the wine which nourishes the development of the soul. In the same manner, when the gods defeat the demons in the story of Indra over the lake of Amrita, we see that from these waters arise Sura, the goddess of wine, Kaustubha, the most valuable jewel in the world, Kalpavriksha, the wish-fulfilling tree, Kamadhenu, the first cow, Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and fortune. From the waters arise the Divine Mother, Maha. From the waters arise the Tree of Life.
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish. - Psalm 1
That tree is the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life is routed in Yesod, in our own sexual waters, and grows upon our spinal column. And that tree grants wishes in accordance with God’s will. That tree grows in the womb of the Divine Mother, who is the goddess of wealth and fortune, who is the goddess of wine, who is Ma. Interesting that in Sanskrit, the mother is Ama and in Hebrew, Ayeman, the mother. And also interesting that in Sanskrit, the god of death is Yama, The god of death who grasps in his claws the wheel of life, the god of death who is among the oldest of all divinities of humanity, the god of death who can free us from suffering if we abide by the rules of Dharma, which is, incidentally, his other name.
The God of Death is also called Dharma. That is his name. Dharma means law, truth. This teaching is dharma. It is the law. It is truth. Any true teaching is dharma. Any pure action is dharma. Any wrong action is adharma, without dharma. The name Yama also means “to do.” So when you enter into any school of Yoga in the ancient traditions, the first thing you learn; yama and niyama, to do and not to do. And you are given vows. “Do these things and do not do these things.” By doing so, you enter into the path of dharma, right action, the path of death: the death of the ego.
These traditional yamas, or steps, start with Ahimsa, which is non-violence. Are we living with that guide? Are we acting in a non-violent way in our thoughts, in our feelings, in our actions? If we have violent thinking, anger, resentment, skepticism, fanaticism, which are all anger, which are all violent, we are performing niyama, wrong action.
Number two, Satya, truthfulness, to tell the truth in word and thought. Are we truthful? Are we truthful with ourselves or are we lying to ourselves? Are we deceiving ourselves? Do we justify ourselves? Justifications are lies. Do we ignore our mistakes and make excuses for ourselves? These are lies.
Number three, Asteya, to not enter into debt. I am not talking about money. I am talking about karma. Do not create karmic debt. Do not covet. Do not steal. Do not owe.
Number four, Brahmacharya, to have purity in our sexual energies, to be faithful. Truly, Brahmacharya means “to be faithful.” Someone who is married can be in Brahmacharya, being faithful to their spouse.
Number five, Kshama, to be patient, to be in the now, to be in non-attachment.
The sixth yama, Dhruti, to be steadfast, to be without fear, to be decisive. Interesting that that is the sixth yama, to be decisive. Of course, we know the sixth Arcanum is indecision so the sixth yama is saying: “Decide.” Choose your path and follow it, but in every moment.
The seventh is Daya; compassion. Everyone thinks they are compassionate, but what is compassion? Compassion is conscious love. Conscious. Sometimes conscious love looks like anger, looks like pain. The parent who disciplines his child does so with conscious love. The child does not like it. It is the same thing with God. In his love for us, God gives us debt, gives us our karma, God gives us suffering, gives us hell. Yama, the god of death, is the god of compassion. He is a dharmapala, a protector of the dharma, a dharma king. The Angels of Death do their duty because of compassion.
The eighth, Aarjav, honesty straight-forwardness, renouncing deception, renouncing wrong-doing.
The ninth, mitahar, moderate behavior, no gluttony.
The tenth, shachah, purity, chastity.
These ten yamas are ten rules that the god of death in the ancient Hindu mythologies demands. He demands them as a god of dharma, as an embodiment of dharma or truth. And these ten yamas relate very closely to the Ten Commandments, as you see. In order for us to apply the mysteries of Mem, the Thirteenth Arcanum, we have to go into the waters of ourselves, and in order to do so, we have to understand the 14th Arcanum, which is coming in the next lecture.
Q: What is a near death experience?
A: A near death experience is exactly that: It is the experience of consciousness as it brushes against its own mortality. And generally, those experiences are karmic. They oftentimes can be a gift, let us say from the Being, who is saying, “Hey, stupid: death is just around the corner. You need to wake up.” Most people do not take advantage of that. But a near death experience is true. The trick is, the difficulty is, to interpret that experience. The problem is this: Our mind is a liar. The consciousness that we have is trapped within a whole host of subjective elements. What we perceive is filtered through those elements. So even in the context of, let us say, you get out of the body, you have an out-of-body experience, you have a powerful dream, or even a near-death experience, what you see may be a projection of your own mind. And this is evidenced by fighting groups who have had near-death experiences, whose experiences contradict. Some people see Jesus, some people see Buddha, some people see Krishna. All those experiences are equally valid, and equally invalid because of the subjective nature of the mind and the lack of their ability to consciously discriminate. So if someone has had a near death experience, they should take advantage of that, utilize that as a stimulant for their own conscious growth. The problem comes when we become attached to those experiences, identified with those experiences and we take them at their literal value, which is not really worth much. So, you have to be a little careful when you are looking at near death documentation.
Q: Would you say that every moment of life is a moment of death?
A: Absolutely. Every moment of life is a moment of death and the death is occurring according to our will. You are exactly right. What is really interesting there is that if you observe just the processes of the body, our body is dying. Right now. Throughout your body are cells which are dying, organs which are dying. In all the elements, there is the process of life and death occurring every moment, and there is a great scale that determines the health of your body.
In truth, there is a very wise statement that says, “A state of health is just the slowest progress towards death.” It is true. Being healthy means you are just going a little slower towards what is inevitable. But death is happening in every moment.
Where will comes into play is how you use your energy. The energies that descend into you from God combined with the energies that arrive into you by impressions, impressions of life. Those impressions may be physical or otherwise, but they are impressions, and they have to be transformed.
The application of our own vajra, that expression of will, is what determines what is dying and what is being born. If we remain identified with pride, with anger, with fear, with fanaticism, with any kind of attachment, we are killing our soul. We, ourselves, have put ourselves in our situation. There is no one to blame for our suffering but ourselves. And if you are blaming someone else, it is because you have not comprehended how you yourself produced that karma. You may blame your spouse, but what you are suffering is just coming back to you from what you have done previously. That is why the Bible says, “God is not mocked. Everyone will reap what they sow.” And Jesus said, “Every iota of the law will be fulfilled.” So the answer is: we have to align our will with the will of the law, the law of karma, the law of dharma. And in doing so, we develop the capacity to die psychologically moment to moment, but to be born spiritually. Beautiful, is it not? It is all in will, but it is conscious will, not intellectual, not emotional. It does not mean that you just feel like it is a good idea and you say, “Yeah, I agree with that.” That is good, but that accomplishes nothing. You have to do it. You have to live it moment to moment, begin attentive, being aware, utilizing your energies in the right way, learning what that means in yourself. There is no easy answer.
Q: So are you saying that we have to die to the physical body and how our nature is, you know, in the living world but in the immortal world like when Jesus died and gave Himself completely to his Father that is the way that you live forever.
A: That is exactly right. We must die to everything physical, everything material, even that which is emotional, mental, causal, and beyond. And Jesus repeated that many times.
Q: That is why you should not be afraid then?
A: There is no reason to fear. Exactly. When you really understand death, there is nothing to be afraid of. Death is natural. What is to be afraid of is our own mind because it is our own mind that produces suffering and that keeps us trapped in ignorance. That is what you need to worry about is how you deceive yourself.
Q: Why were we born, I mean, with this life? I mean…
A: Because of karma. We were born in this state because of previous action. If you observe your own life, you can see that. Observe in your own life -- how life becomes more complicated. Life becomes more burdened, little by little, as you act, as you react, as you do things: More complication, more pain, more suffering, because of ignorance. Because, we, ourselves, do not know how to act in accordance with dharma, with the law. And this is why all of the great Masters have stated, “Place your treasures in heaven because anything material will dissolve, will pass away, will rot.” That “in heaven” means your own psychological heaven, your own Being, meaning put your faith in God. Put your values in the values of the spirit. Do not be attached to anything physically; people, places, houses, money, cars, degrees, education, anything. Any given situation, any circumstance, we have to renounce. To be prepared to be poor or rich and be the same person either way; to be loved or hated, to be the same person. That is a process of death, but it is also a process of birth because we are putting the values of every moment into the consciousness, not into attachment, not into desire.
Q: That is a spiritual growth.
A: That is a growth, most definitely, but it is difficult. It takes a lot of effort.
Q: So the problem is not money, but to the attachment to money.
A: Precisely. The problem is not in things. The problem does not lie in whether you have money or you do not. The problem does not lie in whether you are educated or uneducated. The problem is always in the mind: attachment, desire, craving, aversion. This is the problem. You can be an initiate with very high development and advancing, and be a pauper and be happy. You can also be rich and be happy. We can be happy if we know how to be conscious, no matter what the circumstances are. Circumstances are only important to the mind. It is desire which wants to be a certain way, to be perceived a certain way, to have certain things. The Being is the Being. The Being is, and will be no matter what the circumstances are, and the Being is amongst all things. So in the process of psychological death, your Being will present all of these things to you in order to see how you react. And that is part of the meaning of the waters rising. When God tests Noah, when he says to Noah, “The water is coming. Be prepared,” this is related to a certain process of initiation in which the Being brings everything and the initiate has to be prepared for that. We have to be prepared to die to all things; to be presented with the riches of the earth and to be indifferent; to be presented with the possibility of poverty and starvation and to be indifferent; to have contentment and serenity in the face of any circumstance, in the face of any impression, to be the same one. Any soul can accomplish that, but so long as the soul is listening to the voice of desire, the soul will fail. To accomplish the Thirteenth Arcanum, desire must die, in its entirety. Its very shadow has to die, and we are going to get into that a little bit more over the next few lectures – what that means. It is very demanding, but always bear in mind that God is with us, your own Being is with you. Remember that in the Bible it says,
YHVH (Jah Hovah) is my shepherd (guide); I shall not want (I renounce desire).
He maketh me to lie down (be serene) in green pastures (spiritual growth and serenity): he leadeth me beside the still waters (of Mem, which are at peace due to my transmutation of them).
He restoreth my soul (with the waters): he leadeth me in the (dharmic) paths of righteousness (of right action) for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley (of samsara, suffering, my own egotistical mind) of the shadow of death (the Klipoth, the abyss), I (the consciousness) will fear no harm: for thou (my Being) art with me (the Essence); thy rod (of Willpower) and thy staff (within my spinal column) they comfort me (with steadfast serenity).
Thou preparest a table (for my sustenance and benefit) before me in the presence of mine enemies (who are my own egos): thou anointest my head with oil (transmuted sexual waters); my cup (in my mind, heart and sex) runneth over (with the waters of eternal life which you grant for my nourishment).
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever. - Psalm 23
Never forget that. As dire as life becomes, or as good, as beautiful or as painful, as much success you have or as much failure as you have, be indifferent. Be the same: serene, conscious, attentive. And remember your God. And if you can accomplish that, you will fulfill the mysteries of the Thirteenth Arcanum.