Path 12


THE LEMNISCATE


   Like many other sixth graders in California, I toured the Rosicrucian Museum in San Jose. I was only mildly interested in the mummies and the other Egyptian artifacts, but for some reason the excursion triggered in me a feeling of absolute bliss, a “ballooning” of consciousness that I had never experienced before. As the bus was pulling away from the museum, for a moment I also realized with sadness that I might never feel that kind of euphoria again. On the way home the joy eventually subsided, and I soon became obsessed with Rosicrucianism after reading a brochure from the museum--I even wrote an eleven page letter asking to be accepted as a member. The symbols and artifacts had resonated with my subconscious mind in a way that I still don’t entirely understand. I just knew then that I wanted to experience that blissful resonance again.
   I received a letter stating that I was too young to be a member but that I could order a book containing background information about Rosicrucianism. I begged my parents to order it, and about a month later I received a book with a bright pink cover. Most of the information was over my head, but I eagerly devoured the book. As my zeal grew, my parents became more and more suspicious of the Rosicrucians and stated several times that I was just too young to be concerned about such topics.
   Eventually my enthusiasm waned. I forgot about Rosicrucianism as I began focusing more and more on satisfying social needs in middle school. I graduated from high school, went to college, became an agnostic, and started equating mythology with superstition. I didn't give a second thought to religion or spiritual development.
   Thirty years after that sixth grade field trip, I started meditating to alleviate stress. After a period of mental purification, I unexpectedly envisioned archetypal symbols in my mind’s eye, including a gray figure-eight on its side, an equal-armed cross, a golden crown, and a brilliant, many petaled lotus, each of which seemed as real as anything that I have witnessed with my physical eyes.
   One of the first symbols I envisioned was a lemniscate, which is a symbol of harmony and eternity. After an hour and a half of deep meditation, I saw the walls of my room and a gray figure-eight directly over my head so clearly that I thought I had opened my eyes. When I did open my eyes only the walls remained.
   I eventually discovered that many of the archetypes I envisioned are found on the Tree of Life and in the Tarot, which, coincidentally, are symbol systems employed by the Golden Dawn, a mystical secret society whose inner order is essentially Rosicrucian. I also found that the Tarot and the Tree of Life contain a symbolic landscape that can be read in a way similar to the way that one reads the subtle disturbances of the terrain of the physical world.
   Immediately after I first opened a pack of Tarot cards, I found four cards containing the symbol of the lemniscate, the first of which was The Magician, a card that for me remains the key to understanding essential spiritual principles of the Tarot and the Tree of Life. In the Magician, the lemniscate, besides being the mathematical symbol of infinity, is a type of wavy halo that forms a number eight on its side--a number associated with the primal forces of creation and the essential order and harmony behind and within the cosmos.
   Legend has it that at one point The Book of Thoth, which contained powerful spells and wisdom, was hidden in many boxes, the keys to which were spread throughout ancient Egypt. Eventually the mysteries in this lost book found their way into the Tarot, which is now sometimes itself referred to as the ‘Book of Thoth.’ The God of wisdom and magic, Thoth is associated with the Greek Hermes and the Roman Mercury, so the planet Mercury is assigned to this card, which represents a path on the Tree of Life between Kether, the sphere closest to the Source known as the Crown, and the third sphere known as Binah, the primal womb of creation. Thoth, as the heart and tongue of Ra, is the great magus associated with the Logos, the Word that begins the process of creation. The Hebrew letter Beth, also associated with this path, is the first letter of the bible, suggesting, since it is the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet, that a first cause or prime mover exists before the primal act of creation. Beth means ‘house,’ which suggests form enclosing force. In terms of the Tree of Life the twelfth path connects Kether, the source of manifestation, with Binah, the primal sphere of form, so in this card you see the first act of creation, which is echoed in all other acts of creation.
   The Magician holds up a wand with one hand and points toward the earth with the other, signifying his intention to bring harmonious spiritual energy into manifestation. On the table in front of him are the symbols of the four elements, Earth, Water, Air, and Fire, elements that are reflected in the triplicities of the zodiac. In other words, three astrological signs of the zodiac are Earth signs, three are Water signs, three are Air signs, and three are Fire signs, suggesting that, like Thoth, who is whole and completely integrated, the magus uses all elemental energies within creation to establish divine harmony in his sphere of influence.

Tarot Cards with Lemniscates

   In Egyptian mythology, the number eight is associated with the primal forces of creation. The Ogdoad (Greek, meaning “the eightfold”) were eight deities worshipped during the Old Kingdom, from about 2650 to 2100 BC. The eight deities consist of four female and male pairs, the females associated with snakes and the males with frogs. Each pair represents the female and male aspect of one of four concepts, namely the primordial waters (Naunet and Nu), air or invisibility (Amunet and Amun), darkness (Kauket and Kuk), and eternity or infinite space (Hauhet and Huh). More than a tenuous connection between these four basic concepts and the four Elements, Water, Air, Earth, and Fire, exists: the element of Earth is associated with darkness and the element of Fire with the sun and the stars in infinite space.
   The four concepts represent the primal forces of the Beginning. In the myth, their interaction proved to be unbalanced, causing Ra, the fiery source of all life, to arise. The lemniscate, as the number 8, represents these primal forces of creation behind manifestation--as well as a knowledge of the infinitude within.
   The number 8 in some esoteric traditions represents the Christ force. According to Martinism, a form of mystical Christianity concerned with the fall of the first man, the state of privation from the divine Source, and the process of his return, 8 is the number of Christ. In Gnostic traditions it also represents the essential harmony, both immanent and transcendent, within creation, with God as the "Sun behind the sun." The infinity symbol and its connection with the number 8 evokes the Christian Gnostic belief in the rebirth in Christ as a change "unto the Ogdoad." The early Christian symbolism of the Christ as the Spiritual Sun that harmonizes the Ogdoad represents the harmonious spirit behind creation manifesting within nature and within the human mind.
   The Christ is a cosmic force, not a man, and The Magician as a human being manifests this force. Through the Christ force, the cosmos and the individual maintain balance and harmony, which results in sublime beauty, represented symbolically by the lilies and the roses that surround the Magician. Jesus was a man who manifested the Christ force to re-establish spiritual balance through sacrifice, taking upon himself the negative energies of the collective mind for the good of all. The Magician reveals that all human beings have the potential to manifest the Christ-force, eliminating negative, destructive energies and establishing harmony in his or her own sphere of influence.
   Gnostics believe that the vast majority of people see physical manifestation, take it at face value, and assume that a spiritual reality does not exist, but through the faculty of intuition, the higher mind can discern the existence of a greater reality. The Cosmic Christ, the Sun behind the sun which harmonizes the Ogdoad, is both a symbol and an expression of this higher knowledge. Like the human magician, those with the spark of the higher intuition or gnosis catch an occasional glimpse of the higher pattern--the perfect model and the perfect mold of order and harmony that informs all of existence. (http://www.plotinus.com/gnostic_jesus_copy.htm)
   The Magician reveals the integration of the individual being on all planes through the energy of Mercury--the capacity of thought-- represented by the bright yellow atmosphere. He is the male power of creation who acts through conscious willpower and desire, drawing divine power down from the heavens through his white wand, molding it with that energy of thought, and manifesting it in the physical plane. This is that most ancient magic to make real what is imagined, such as when God said, "Let there be Light!' and there was Light," and it manifests on both a human and a cosmic level.
   The Magician’s white gown symbolizes the purity of his divine motive, the red over-garment revealing his passion and power. His gown is belted by an uroboros, symbolizing the endless cycle of energy, death and rebirth--also reflected in the infinity symbol. The white headband, itself a circle, represents the effort and sacrifice involved in the process. Around the Magician, white lilies and red roses grow in abundance, representing the pure creative thought behind the Great Work and the beauty of harmonious spirit manifested in the physical world.

Path 19

   The woman in Strength, who is taming a lion with her gentleness, is the female version of the Magician, except that she embodies spiritual power and manifests it harmoniously through a knowledge of polarity. She is, in terms of Egyptian mythology, Maat, Goddess of balance, consort to Thoth. In the bright yellow atmosphere of Mercury, representing purposeful thought, she tames the wild beast, the red roses wrapped around her waist seemingly merging with the lion’s mane. The sweat band has been replaced by a wreath and the red overcoat has disappeared, revealing a pure, white gown, the passion reflected instead in the roses wrapped around her waist. She literally holds the power of the Magician gently in her hands after it has manifested on the Earth.
   The strength suggested by the title is not physical strength but the mental strength that the higher self manifests. In terms of the Tree of Life, the 19th path is a horizontal path connecting spheres that are essentially opposite. Chesed, the sphere of Jupiter, represents creative, up building, organizing forces and is associated with mercy, abundance, and order. Geburah, the sphere of Mars, represents destructive, restricting, disciplining forces and is associated with severity, power, and justice. Essentially, Chesed and Geburah are the primary creative and destructive forces of the manifested cosmos. The 19th path balances the spectacular primal energies with the perfect discipline of Geburah and the perfect order of Chesed, and that harmony is reflected in the sphere of Tiphareth, known as the Christ-center, below.

Path 32

   The three vertical paths on the Tree of Life connect spheres that are essentially opposite in nature. Understanding the law of polarity is the key to understanding how to handle the forces--the key, really, to spiritual development and basic survival. Obvious examples of polarity are hot and cold, masculine and feminine, love and hate, spiritual and physical. In fact, you can find examples of polarity on all levels of being, and you can always move from one pole to the other by degree. For instance, you can move by degree from hot to cold or from love to hate, or vice versa. The universe is not caught in an eternal conflict between good and evil, God and the Devil. One pole is not absolutely evil and the other absolutely good. The spiritual is not better than the physical, just like cold water is not better than hot water. They are simply two poles of one thing, and everything is relative in context.
   Essentially, the ability to polarize from one state to another to establish harmony reveals to a great extent the degree that a person has evolved. But everything is relative in context. Hot water is better than cold in some contexts. Severity is better than mercy in some contexts. Knowing what is needed and having the ability to polarize to the required state is the true strength. If you develop the discipline, you should ideally be able to move by degrees emotionally, mentally, or spiritually for the highest good in each situation, maintaining balance the way a person on a bicycle maintains balance. The hill of attainment in the background stands behind the woman: Attaining that level of knowledge is no easier than climbing a mountain.

Two of Pentacles

   Two other cards, representing states closer to physical manifestation, reveal the lemniscate in a more subtle fashion: the Two of Pentacles, representing the Earth element in Chokmah, the second sphere on the Tree of Life, and The World, path 32, between the ninth and tenth spheres on the Tree. I like to call them the Lord and Lady of the Dance, for they are both caught up in the eternal dance of spirit and matter represented in the archetypal symbol of the lemniscate.

Take the next path.
Return to the meadow.