THE 18TH PATH
“The 18th path is the key to understanding one of the most basic divisions of the Tree of Life. On the path of ‘The Chariot,’ you are at the end of a cycle related to the higher self and are about to begin a new cycle related to the true Self, the divine spark. In other words, the four lower spheres, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod, manifested in Malkuth, represent the current lower, incarnated personality. The three spheres above, Chesed, Geburah, and Tiphareth, represent the higher self, or individuality, which contains the essence of the experiences of the soul in all of its incarnations.
“In the first cycle, you purify and dedicate yourself to the Great Work, attaining a heightened awareness of the higher self. In the second cycle, you pass through the veil, experiencing the kind of death and rebirth necessary to live in the higher self. In the third cycle, you experience reintegration of the soul and achieve harmony and balance. In the last cycle, you move beyond the soul through the abyss to the core of your being, the divine spark around which the individual soul has evolved, which is completely beyond brain consciousness and materialistic rationality. In fact, you experience the supernal triad of Kether, Chokmah, and Binah primarily through intuition since you move beyond the planes of form.”
“Moving through the abyss beyond the planes of form sounds a little scary.”
“It is perhaps the most daunting task of all, and when you reach this point, you are moving along the edge of a dark frontier. The card has two different meanings, depending on whether the charioteer is a warrior moving toward Geburah, or a knight on a quest for the holy grail, heading toward Binah. The knight wears armor as if going into battle and appears to be moving away from the enclosure of a fort or a city, but the picture contains several oddities. First of all, the animals pulling the chariot are sphinxes, symbols of the combined elements, one white, one black, suggesting the polarity of the two pillars of the Tree of Life, and the sphinxes are lying down, not pulling the chariot. The knight is standing in a cube of gray stone, symbolizing physical manifestation, and the reins he is holding are invisible. The emphasis is again on balance: the knight’s shoulder guards are moons with masks of human faces, one smiling, one grimacing. In the knight’s crown is an eight-pointed star reminiscent of a star that suggests awareness of the soul on an earlier path.”
“But this star is at the knight’s crown, suggesting knowledge of the divine spark of the crown chakra, right?”
“Yes, and depending which way the knight is moving on the path, he is either carrying that knowledge into manifestation or awakening that knowledge by moving toward greater spiritual perception in what the Qabalists call the neshamah. Obviously, several divisions of the Tree of Life need to be memorized. Roughly, the divine Self is divided into three supernal spheres, the conscious self into five spheres, and the physical self into two spheres. Starting at the bottom of the Tree, you have the physical body, the aspect of Malkuth in the individual self known in Hebrew as the ‘guph,’ which is essentially physical matter; in the Qabalah it is little more than a shell that contains the inner aspects of self. The second part known as ‘nephesh,’ corresponds to Yesod and the etheric body, the matrix of energy that is the foundation of the physical body, which contains our instincts. As you rise on the Tree, you find the different aspects of the conscious self known as the ruach, with Hod, Netzach, Tiphareth, Geburah, and Chesed corresponding respectively to the intellect, the emotions, the imagination, the will, and the memory of the enlightened individual who has moved beyond the ego and the conditioned self. Beyond that is Daath, which is not technically a sphere but a bridge to the higher nature. Then the three spheres which correspond to the True Self: Binah, known as neshamah and corresponding to the intuitions of the essential spirit; Chokmah, known as chia and corresponding to the spiritual will; and Kether, known as Yechidah, which is the spiritual essence of the individual that is closest to union with the ultimate reality.”
“So ‘The Chariot’ is a path that connects the conscious mind with the part of the True Self that is closest to it?”
“Yes, and ironically the 18th path on one level helps you to understand form, especially in its relation to force, even as you move beyond form to Binah, the abstract principle of form on the Tree of Life. Again, the Hebrew letter, the astrological sign, and the God name bear this out. First of all, the Hebrew letter Cheth, which means ‘fence,’ or ‘enclosure,’ is associated with this path. When ownership of animals was a primary source of wealth, the fence was extremely important in establishing the boundaries of what a person considered valuable in terms of belongings, suggesting the boundaries of the self, and also of course the very idea of an enclosure suggests form. Cancer, the astrological sign, also relates to form in the sense of a shell encasing a crab, the way that the armor encases the knight. The God name for this path is EL, formed by the letters Aleph and Lamed, and is associated, like the sign of Cancer, with the element of water. Aleph, as you know, means ‘ox,’ and is associated with the great strength and potency of the life force, whereas Lamed means ‘ox-goad,’ and suggests the ability to channel that great power for a particular use.”
“The God name seems more associated with force than form.”
“Remember that this path connects Binah, the sphere of the root of form, with Geburah, the sphere of great discipline and limitation, on the pillar of severity, revealing how force is focused and channeled through the discipline of form, like the combustion within an engine that causes the machine to move. Without the discipline of form, force would remain free-moving and uncontained, its potential unmanifested and unrealized.
“The 18th path is the connection of the ruach with the neshamah and as such channels the highest spiritual intuition into the conscious self. Notice again, the association with Cancer, a water sign, which suggests that each individual, like our friend the knight, is like a crab in a shell in a vast ocean of manifestation, the forms, in another sense, like waves that incessantly rise and fall and rise again. Binah, the great mother Goddess, is associated with the ocean and the moon with its forever changing phases. You see, our friend the knight is not really moving, but is maintaining balance in a constantly changing world, attentive to the call of spiritual intuition.”
“But should you always trust your intuition?”
“That depends. If a person has not attained the consciousness of Tiphareth, intuition consists mainly of vague images and whisperings. Occasionally, you’ll think of a friend and that person will call you. But once you’ve opened up the higher consciousness, you also eventually open up a channel with the neshamah, which presents strong, reliable intuitions.
“The knight might be moving down the path to Geburah, going to war, which suggests on one level that the conscious self within manifestation contains conflicts that need to be harmonized for the highest good. Or the knight might be heading up to Binah in search of the holy grail, the cup holding high spiritual energies. Either way, the knight is aware of the True Self and is letting his star shine bright between all the poles of manifestation.”
Yetzirah: Rich bright russet.
Assiah: Dark greenish brown.
Take the next path.
Cards associated with Cancer:
Two of Cups.
Three of Cups.
Four of Cups.
Cards associated with the fifth sphere, Geburah:
Five of Wands.
Five of Cups.
Five of Swords.
Five of Pentacles.
Cards associated with the third sphere, Binah:
Three of Wands.
Three of Swords.
Three of Pentacles.