The Universe (tarot)
Part of the Thoth Tarot series.
- Name: The Universe
- Title: The Great One of the Night of Time
- Atu: XXI (21)
- Hebrew Letter: tau ת
- Planet: Saturn or Earth
- Tree of Life: Path 32 or Path 32 bis (joining Yesod and Malkuth)
From A Brief Description of the Cards of the Tarot: "The matter itself. Synthesis, world, kingdom. Usually denotes actual subject of question, and therefore depends entirely on accompanying cards."
This Atu represents the termination of the Trumps of the Major Arcana and as such serves as the complement to the Fool. The union of both card’s alphabetical attributions gives both “Ate,” and “Eth,” the Hebrew words for “Thou” (feminine)& essence or Spirit. Another similarity between these cards may be found graphically. In comparing for instance the shape of the tail end of the Universe’s serpent to that of the Fool’s heart-shaped whirlings. Also of interest is how both cards bear symbols that are addressed in Crowley's vision of the 5th Aethyr. From the Vision and the Voice:
- And a voice cometh: Thou didst seek the remedy of sorrow; therefore all sorrow is thy portion. This is that which is written: "God hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all." For as thy blood is mingled in the cup of BABALON, so is thine heart the universal heart. Yet is it bound about with the Green Serpent, the Serpent of Delight.22
- It is shown me that this heart is the heart that rejoiceth, and the serpent is the serpent of Death 22 for herein all the symbols are interchangeable, for each one containeth in itself 23 its own opposite. And this is the great Mystery of the Supernals that are beyond the Abyss. For below the Abyss, contradiction is division; but above the Abyss, contradiction is Unity. And there could be nothing true except by virtue of the contradiction that is contained in itself.
- 22.Cf. Liber LXV.
- I am the Heart; and the Snake is entwined
- About the invisible core of the mind.
- Rise, O my snake! It is now is the hour
- Of the hooded and holy ineffable flower.
- Rise, O my snake, into brilliance of bloom
- On the corpse of Osiris afloat in the tomb!
- O heart of my mother, my sister, mine own,
- Thou art given to Nile, to the terror Typhon!
- Ah me! but the glory of ravening storm
- Enswathes thee and wraps thee in frenzy of form.
- Be still, O my soul! that the spell may dissolve
- As the wands are upraised, and the aeons revolve.
- Behold! in my beauty how joyous Thou art,
- O Snake that caresses the crown of mine heart!
- Behold! we are one, and the tempest of years
- Goes down to the dusk, and the Beetle appears.
- O Beetle! the drone of Thy dolorous note
- Be ever the trance of this tremulous throat!
- I await the awaking! The summons on high
- From the Lord Adonai, from the Lord Adonai! (Liber LXV, I:1)
- 23. This is the most important of all the doctrines that concern the Supernals, for the student of the Mysteries. It explains the necessity of his arming himself with a new kind of logic.
- (Also III:18, where it says: “O Snake of Emerald, Thou hast no time Past, no time To Come. Verily Thou art not.”)
The overall shape of this Atu is modeled after the design of the “New Jerusalem” with the Vesica Piscis serving as the central element and the Kerubic beasts stationed at the four corners. This model is one of many failed attempts at the “squaring of the circle” (“… then this circle squared in its failure is a key also.”- Liber AL)
William Stirling in his classic work on sacred geometry, The Canon, comments as follows on this figure:
- This figure appears to be a Christian variation of the Hebrew city of Ezekiel, and so it is interpreted by Francis Potter. For it will be found, that it encloses the sun's orbit together with that of Mercury, drawn in each of the four corners of the square. It is well known that the four beasts, which appear in the midst of the four wheels in Ezekiel's vision, are identical with the four symbols of the Evangelists, and the devices upon the four standards of the Camp of the Israelites, where they stand for the four corner signs of the Zodiac-Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius. In a thirteenth century manuscript of the Apocalypse in the British Museum (MSS. Add. 18,633), there is a miniature of the city of the New Jerusalem, showing the three persons of the Trinity, in the midst of a square having the four symbols of the Evangelists depicted in the four corners, corresponding to the four orbits of Mercury. This peculiar arrangement constantly recurs in early Christian art. Usually the Christ is surrounded by the Vesica, and it is a remarkable fact, that a Vesica, whose length is equal to that of the city in the preceding diagram, coincides with the four circles of Mercury's orbit, and consequently produces a geometrical figure exactly resembling the common method of representing Christ in Glory. The circumferences of the two circles which form the Vesica being nearly 360, they may be taken to represent the two intersecting circles of the equator and the ecliptic.
- Some interpreters, according to Francis Potter, take the 12,000 furlongs to be the area of the city, and therefore he says, ‘that the perimeter or compass of such an area must be 436 furlongs at the least,’ the side being about tog furlongs. And since 109 is roughly the radius of the sun's orbit measured by the sun's diameter the New Jerusalem is doubly shadowed forth as a vision of the city of the Sun. Inch. xxi., v. g, ‘that great city, the holy Jerusalem descending out of Heaven’ is called ‘the Bride the Lamb's wife, and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.’
- The bride of the Cabala was called ADNI or THORA, and it is evidently she whom St. John is describing under the figure of the heavenly city. The name Tarot has been derived from the Hebrew word THORA, the law; and it is a further confirmation of the cosmic import of this diagram that the hieroglyph of the twenty second card of the Tarot-pack, called ‘Le Monde,’ represents the four symbols of the Evangelists surrounding a Vesica, inclosing the figure of a young virgin. Moreover the circle which surrounds the city has a circumference of 888, the numerical value of the name Jesus.
- Again, Francis Potter constantly connects the New Jerusalem with the number 666, and this may be explained by the fact that its diagonals measure (333 X 2 = 666), and the cross thus formed symbolized what he calls the Antichrist.”
- – Stirling, The Canon, Ch. II: The Holy Oblation
It should also be noted that the length and height of the Vesica Piscis gives one the dimensions for the double cube. It is the double cube shape which serves as the shape for the altar most commonly used in ceremonial magick as it serves as a representation of the ten Sephiroth i.e., the Universe.
The Kerubic beasts are arranged as they are in Atu V, the Hierophant, that is to say with the Eagle representing Aquarius instead of Scorpio as described in the Vision and the Voice thereby giving these symbols an updated meaning in line with Crowley’s Thelemic magickal worldview.
The eye shown in the upper right hand section of this card appears to be similar to the various “eyes” that appear all throughout the Trump cards either graphically, through exposition or by symbolic inference. See the “eye” behind the Fool’s head in Atu 0; The “Eye of Shiva” described by Crowley in Atu X, "Fortune," as well as in Atu XVI, "The Tower." Also, the eye of A’ayin in the Devil card and the “third” eye suggested in The Sun card (Resh, the letter attributed to the Sun card, means “head” in Hebrew, and the shape of the painting suggests the outline of a human head with the Sun in the position of Ajna, the third eye.)
From the Vision and the Voice, 5th Aethyr:
- This Arrow is the glance of the Eye of Shiva. But because it moveth not, the universe is not destroyed. The universe is put forth and swallowed up in the quivering of the plumes of Maat, that are the plumes of the Arrow; but those plumes quiver not.
The eye displayed in the Universe card is emitting ten beams suggesting the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. The central ray (Kether) issues from the pupil and illuminates the interior coils of our emerald serpent. One beam is conveniently occluded by the shaft of the scythe (the weapon of Saturn) suggesting its association with Malkuth and/or Binah. This beam seems to be working in concert with another ray which shines over the serpent to land on the scythe’s tip. It may be likely that this emanation represents Yesod or perhaps Malkuth. Both the scythe and the overlapping ray bring one’s attention to an often overlooked detail: the starry black egg nestled in the serpent’s second coil.
The Virgin who handles the Serpent with her left hand and the blade end of the scythe in her right is associated by Crowley with the following experience:
“The Virgin Universe” From the Vision and the Voice, 9th Aethyr:
- … we are come unto a palace of which every stone is a separate jewel, and is set with millions of moons.
- And this palace is nothing but the body of a woman, proud and delicate, and beyond imagination fair. She is like a child of twelve years old. She has very deep eye-lids, and long lashes. Her eyes are closed, or nearly closed. It is impossible to say anything about her. She is naked; her whole body is covered with fine gold hairs, that are the electric flames that are the spears of mighty and terrible Angels who breast-plates are the scales of her skin. And the hair of her head, that flows down to her feet, is the very light of God himself. Of all the glories beheld by the seer in the Aethyrs, there is not one which is worthy to be compared with her littlest finger-nail. For although he may not partake of the Aethyr, without the ceremonial preparations, even the beholding of this Aethyr from afar is like the partaking of all the former Aethyrs.
- The Seer is lost in wonder, which is peace.
- And the ring of the horizon above her is a company of glorious Archangels with joined hands, that stand and sing: This is the daughter of BABALON the Beautiful, that she hath borne unto the Father of All. And unto all hath she borne her.
- This is the Daughter of the King. This is the Virgin of Eternity. This is she that the Holy One hath wrested from the Giant Time, and the prize of them that have overcome Space. This is she that is set upon the Throne of Understanding. Holy, Holy, Holy is her name, not to be spoken among men. For Kore they have called her, and Malkuth, and Betulah, and Persephone.
- And the poets have feigned songs about her, and the prophets have spoken vain things, and the young men have dreamed vain dreams; but this is she, that immaculate, the name of whose name may not be spoken. Thought cannot pierce the glory that defendeth her, for thought is smitten dead before her presence. Memory is blank, and in the most ancient books of Magick are neither words to conjure her, nor adorations to praise her. Will bends like a reed in the tempests that sweep the borders of her kingdom, and imagination cannot figure so much as one petal of the lilies whereon she standeth in the lake of crystal, in the sea of glass.
- This is she that hath bedecked her hair with seven stars, the seven breaths of God that move and thrill its excellence. And she hath tired her hair with seven combs, whereupon are written the seven secret names of God that are not known even of the Angels, or of the Archangels, or of the Leader of the armies of the Lord.
- Holy, Holy, Holy art thou, and blessed be Thy name for ever, unto whom the Aeons are but the pulsings of thy blood.
This wondrous figure is set against an emerald sphere whose heart contains a Moebius strip with three half twists instead of the customary single half twist thus construing the Universe as a triune topological figure.
Issuing from the sphere are 72 feathery or petal-like extensions. These represent the 72 quinances (arcs of 5 degrees) which make up the belt of the zodiac. There are also 72 letters in the Shemhamphorash, the great name of God and 72 angels generated from that name and its source in Exodus. Additionally, there were 72 conspirators with Set in the assassination of the god Osiris (Budge, Egyptian Religion, p. 65)
Connected to these 72 emanations is a radial grid pattern composed of 216 compartments within which reside the stars of the night sky. 216 happens to be 72 x 3 as well as the sum of 6 x 6 x 6.
Near the bottom of the card we have J.W.N. Sullivan’s diagram of the 92 elements publicly known at the time of the painting of this card. The shape of the diagram almost seems to suggest a Temple, tent or other structure. Behind this luminous golden diagram are three pyramids with the apex of the central pyramid colored in such a way that it seems to suggest an illuminated casing stone.
From The Book of Thoth:
- In the present card she is represented as a dancing figure. In her hands she manipulates the radiant spiral force, the active and passive, each possessing its dual polarity. Her dancing partner is shown as Heru-Ra-Ha of Atu XIX. "The Sun, Strength & Sight, Light; these are for the servants of the Star & the Snake." This final form of the image of the Magical Formula of the God combines and transforms so many symbols that description is difficult, and would be nugatory. The proper method of study of this card—indeed of all, but of this especially—is long-continued meditation. The Universe, so states the theme, is the Celebration of the Great Work accomplished.
- In the corners of the card are the four Kerubim showing the established Universe; and about her is an ellipse composed of seventy-two circles for the quinaries of the Zodiac, the Shemhamphorasch.
- In the centre of the lower part of the card is represented the skeleton plan of the building of the house of Matter. It shews the ninety-two known chemical elements, arranged according to their rank in the hierarchy.
- In the centre, a wheel of Light initiates the form of the Tree of Life, shewing the ten principal bodies of the solar system. But this Tree is not visible except to those of wholly pure heart.
- 1. The primum mobile, represented by Pluto. (Compare the doctrine of the alpha particles of radium.)
- 2. The sphere of the Zodiac or fixed stars, represented by Neptune.
- 3. Saturn.
- The Abyss. This is represented by Herschel, the planet of disintegration and explosion.
- 4. Jupiter
- 5. Mars.
- 6. The Sun.
- 7. Venus.
- 8. Mercury.
- 9. The Moon.
- 10. The Earth. (The Four Elements).
- All these symbols swim and dance in a complex but continuous ambience of loops and whorls. The general colour of the traditional card is subfusc1; it represents the confusion and darkness of the material world. But the New Aeon has brought fullness of Light; in the Minutum Mundum, Earth is no longer black, or of mixed colours, but is pure bright green. Similarly, the indigo of Saturn is derived from the blue velvet of the midnight sky, and the maiden of the dance represents the issue from this, yet through this, to the Eternal. This card is to-day as bright and glowing as any in the Pack.
- 1 Any dark, dull or somber color
From The Book of Thoth (p.260):
- Treat time and all conditions of Event as Servants of thy Will, appointed to present the Universe to thee in the form of thy Plan. And: blessing and worship to the prophet of the lovely Star.
- The matter of the question itself, synthesis, the end of the matter, may mean delay, opposition, obstinacy, inertia, patience, perseverance, persistent stubbornness in difficulty. The crystallization of the whole matter involved.
- Crowley, Aleister. (1981). The Book of Thoth. New York, S. Weiser.
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