What a crazy week it has been up in the universe between my ears, let me tell you!
First, I want to offer a few poignant quotes from my reading in Aaron Cheak's 'Alchemical Traditions', specifically his essay on Taoist Alchemy 'Taking Fire From Water'. Towards the end of the article the conversation turned from the act of alchemy on the physical place to that of the spiritual. It was mentioned early in his piece that the Taoist alchemists were somewhat forced to change direction to spiritual alchemy after a few too many heavy metal poisonings of important patriarchs.
One bit I found interesting follows:
'The purification or refinement of the emotional and cognitive nature mirrors the refinement of black lead and cinnabar (forming white dragon and blue tiger)'
The Taoist Alchemical metaphor of the blue tiger makes me very curious. The only other place in literature I've heard mention of a blue tiger is in the short fiction of Jorge Luis Borges. This is an avenue I will need to explore. I do not put it past Borges to be learned in the history of Taoist alchemy and drawing inspiration from it, but I have yet to read anyone else making that connection or proving that he was a scholar in that area. Let's put a pin in that for later.
The second quote that really got me thinking, and that influenced my tarot meditations for the rest of the week was as follows:
'the mortal... is killed and revivified in an alchemical cauldron... to be turned into an immortal being of gold..."
The juxtaposition of dying and being revived in a cauldron immediately brought images of hell to my mind, but of a different character than I am used to. If this statement is baked into a worldview that is inclusive of heaven and hell, than is is too far a stretch to say that the Devil and Hell are a necessary step towards the evolution of the spirit? Perhaps heaven is the wrong path, the easy path that does not lead to growth but only stagnation. Perhaps becoming a consort to the Devil is the necessary road to take for the magician concerned about elevating his own spirit to greater heights, the experience of hell being a requirement to become that 'immortal being of gold'...
Which brings me to a week of seriously intense meditation on what Gareth Knight terms, 'The Hall of Justice'. I spoke of beginning my work with these archetypes last week, of how Knight's Memory Palace manifested itself as a Memory Forest for me and the Hall of Justice an old cemetery located on an island.
The archetypes went through various changes throughout the course of the week. The Raven (Justice) however stayed the same, perched on a broken grave marker in the middle of the space. Death began as the tenacious Santa Muerte, inscrutable and unapproachable due to my inability to claim any cultural heritage to her. The Tower stood stoic but I began to get a clear indication that this is the symbol of St Barbara and that this Tarot Archetype is tied up in her story, an extension of her and through a syncretic relationship, of the Santerian loa, Shango. I have the feeling that the Tower represents a Christian archetype but one that is much older, much closer to its pagan predecessor, and not understood very well. The Hanged Man was a skeleton in rags, connecting him to Death and representing the futility of human plans to gain happiness since all plans end in death. The Devil on this day took the traditional form of the green feathered fiend from the Etteilla deck with the addition of two slaves at his feet. He was shoving food down their throats as well as his own. The overall feeling was that of Justice, true Justice, comes from well outside the realm of man and that belief and faith in the spirit world will bring prosperity and justice to A life that does not have it.
The next day the archetypes followed the same pattern as the Hall of the Magician and took on more natural forms. The Devil appeared as Old Scratch the guitar player at the crossroads. I can't help what movies were popular as I was growing up, Ralph Macchio was great in that film, I don't care what you think. The insight here begins the feedback loop with the Aaron Cheak quote. Hell is necessary to learn what need to be learned to move on to the next stage, the higher stage, of humanity. Death appeared as a Cairn Stone, a mystery, unmoved by time, deep and possessing a pervasive stillness. The Tower appeared as a redwood, a connection to deep time, fire and lightning in this manifestation of the Tower are not signs of destruction but are necessary for renewal, again, the alchemical cauldron of Hell. The Hanged Man became an Opossum, this is an easy correlation visually but on a deeper level, the Opossum in Ojibwe mythology, brought fire from the Gods to man, sound familiar? The Opossum is the Promethean Thief, a thief of knowledge and technology and empowered by those around him is punished by the unseen forces that would rather mankind stay asleep.
And then it got weird.
Following the meditation, when pulling my card for the day, I pulled Prudence from the deck. This was a major arcana I was not familiar with and, it turns out, the predecessor of our Opossom Hanged Man. She haunted my thoughts all day, a normal enough looking archetype but holding a mirror with a snake coiled around it. The next day, she replaced the Opossom and snakes literally filled my entire meditation. The Devil was the Gorgon, Medusa and Death was a legion of Voyage of Sinbad claymation skeletons. The Tower was again made of stone and its two inhabitants were forced out of the windows by a deluge of snakes. In the end, I knew that Prudence brought the snakes with her and the snake on her mirror is a reflection of the devil. At the very end of the session the cemetery and the island it was on flooded, the Hanged Man appeared again but a snake coiled on itself around his foot, instead of a rope. The whole session really kind of shook me and I asked the Etteilla deck to explain itself directly following the session. The card it produced was the Two of Coins.
My analysis of this card in the context of my question was that all the roads to knowledge were closed. The keyword at the top of the card was Embarras, and looking deeper into its etymology I found that embarrassment was the state of being impeded, obstructed, or entangled.
There is a meditation group at my firm once a week, which happened the day before. I use the opportunity to get a little extra insight. It took place the day before and when meditating on the hall of justice at work, Hindu deities filled the space (the session is led by a super intelligent and driven Hindu architect) Kali appeared as Death, Shiva as the Tower, Hanuman as the Hanged Man, and Ganesh as the Devil. The snakes are the Devil and the Devil holds the key, the Devil opens the path. He had been manifesting as the Lord of the Crossroads. Was the deck telling me that the lord of the crossroads will open the way.
The next day was calmer and a very feminine power prevailed, all of the archetypes appearing as females. The Devil became a goat headed cloven hooves female Faun (I know, Fauns are only male, tell that to my unconscious) and this was the calmest manifestation of the Devil yet, I got a sense of her settling in.
Death was again Santa Muerte represented mystery and a depth of meaning with no bottom. The top of the tower was in ruins from a fire but the rest stood firm, instead of moving down into the solid part of the structure, it's inhabitants jump and die. St Barbara stood outside holding her sword. The Tower is Christianity whose oldest most pagan form, the form that contains miracles as an everyday occupancy, is still strong. The very top is modern Christianity in ruins and crumbling. Instead of abandoning it, moving down into its past stable form is the safest and more powerful path. The Hanged Man was the richly robed Prudence hung upside down by her snake as a noose. I felt good, I felt as if the Devil was satisfied with my understanding of his role and the meaning of his archetype. His writhing manifestation of a thousand snakes was what I needed to wake up to the truth, the Devil is in the details, you see.
I extended the meditation on the Hall of Justice one more day, just to be certain I had learned everything I was going to at this point in my study. The Devil took the now familiar form of the goat-headed Faun and standing next to the crypt were the Lord of the Crossroads as a blues man and Baron Guede, the Lord of the Cemetery. Death remained Santa Muerte, The Tower remained St Barbara, and the Hanged Man was back but with Prudence and her mirror behind him, the snake still encircling his feet. I'll leave some of the details undefined, a bit of intrigue is required in our lives, after all.