This thing is the strongest of all powers,
the force of all forces,
for it overcometh every subtle thing
and doth pernetrate every solid substance.
(Tabula Smaragdina, 9)
Virgo potens
Virgo clemens
Virgo fidelis
(Laurentian Litany)
In the previous letter we learnt that holy animality is represented in the Hermetic tradition, in the vision of Ezechiel, in the Apocalypse and in Christian iconography, by four holy animals, whose synthesis – the sphinx – is divine instinctivity, or the kingdom of God in and through the unconscious. Saints and poets who say that the birds “praise God” when they sing are not mistaken.

The mystery of natural religion is expressed with remarkable clarity in the Apocalypse:
And before the throne there was a sea of glass
like unto crystal:
and in the midst of the throne,
and round about the throne, were four beasts full of eyes before and behind.
And the first beast was like a lion,
and the second beast like a calf,
and the third beast had a face as a man,
and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle.
And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within:
and they rest not day and night, saying,
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
The sea of glass is the eye of the whole of Nature for God. The four creatures “full of eyes all round and within” represent the natural reaction to the divine Presence. Perception and reaction are the essence of the natural religion which fills the unconscious core of creatures and wich manifests itself through vital élan.

Fallen Nature also has its unconscious mystery, i.e. its collective instinctivity of perception (its “waters”) and its collective instinctivity of reaction (its “creatures”). The Apocalypse describes the “sea” of fallen Nature.
And the serpent cast out of his mouth
water as a flood after the woman,
that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood.
And the earth helped the woman,
and the earth opened her mouth,
and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.
(Revelation xii, 15-16)
Our Lady of the Apocalypse by Father William McNichols

Plato or Karl Marx?

The waters which pour out of the mouth of the serpent sweep away – like Marxism. The waters of the “sea of glass” like crystal before the throne illumine – like Platonism.

Are you a Plato or a Karl Marx? For twenty three centuries Plato has been the companion of those who love pure thought, seeking only the light; while during the twentieth century Marx swept away millions – those who went to the barricades and trenches in civil wars, and those who went to prisons, either as jailers or as prisoners.
Karl Marx

The Four Beasts of the Apocalypse

  1. “The beast with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems upon its horns and a blasphemous name upon its heads. It was like a leopard, its feet were like a bear’s, and its mouth was like a lion’s mouth.” (Revelation xxxi, 1-2).
  2. St John goes on to describe “another beast which riose out of the earth; it had two horns like a lamb and it spoke like a dragon.”. (Revelation xxxi, 11).
  3. The Apocalypse also speaks of “a scarlet beast, which was full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns” upon which the woman Babylon is seated. (Revelation vii, 3)
  4. Finally, it speaks of the false prophet who in the presence of the two-horned beast, worked signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image.” (Revelation xix, 20)
The Great Whore from Las Huelgas Manuscript
Thus there are four four beasts – the Force which moves fallen nature – which correspond to the Hayoth the holy living creatures before the throne from the book of Ezechiel – the Force which moves non-fallen nature.

These tableaus are summarised in two feminine figures:
.. a woman clothed with the sun,
and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
She was with child cried, and she cried out in the pangs of birth,
in anguish for delivery.
(Revelation xii, 1-2)

… a woman sat upon a scarlet beast
… arrayed in purple and scarlet,
bedecked with gold and jewels and pearls,
having a golden cup in her hand
full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication. ((Revelation xvii, 3-4)
Hayoth Meteora Monastery Greece
Woman upon a scarlet beast
The word became flesh and dwelt among us.
(John i, 14)
Hayoth Woman upon a scarlet beast The former is the soul of cosmic non-fallen Nature (sun, moon, stars) and the latter is the soul of terrestrial fallen Nature (gold, jewels and beast). The first is a mother, the second a prostitute.

The Virgin-Sophia was present in Mary and it was thus that the soul of non-fallen Nature gave birth to the divine Word. Virgin Nature has her part in all the miracles. The miracles are not creations from nothing. The wine at the wedding at Cana was created from water. It was thanks to the Virgin Mother’s initiative that the miracle took place. 

Mary Virgin-Sophia
The Resurrection

The participation of Nature is apparent even in the miracle of the Resurrection. It was not the creation of a new body, but rather the transformation of the crucified body. The latter had to disappear from the tomb in order to appear to Mary Magdalene and the others; and for Thomas to put his hand in the marks of the nails.

Thus virgin Nature had her part in all the miracles. This is the subject of the eleventh Arcanum, Force, representing a woman victorious over a lion, holding its jaws open with her hands. This signifies power without effort. The lion is subdued by force of a higher level. The lion’s bestial animality yields to its holy animality.

Contraversy vis-a-vis Conversation

When one goes deeply into the 11th Arcanum, one needs to distinguish between the opposition or contraversy (flowing against) of the serpent and the concordance or conversation (flowing with) of the virgin. Enormous energies are released into the world through opposition or war. However I owe nothing I confess to learning from polemicists. I owe nothing to early Christian authors who attack paganism. I owe nothing to the learned Protestant doctors of the sixteenth century and the Revolution of the eighteenth century. I owe nothing to the militant savants of the nineteenth century and to Lenin.

It is through the fusion of opposites that truth lights up. True conversation always has the underlying principle of the Gospel:

Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.
(Matthew xviii, 20)
For all true conversation calls upon the Transcendent Centre.

The Zohar

The Zohar supplies the best example of the creative role that conversation can play. Rabbis – Eleazar, Simeon, Abba and others – join their efforts and experiences to arrive at a deeper understanding of the TORAH. And these rabbis weep and embrace one another when this happens.
This remarkable document loves more and more the conversation, which aims at the fusion of opinions. The force at work here is that of the Virgin (which the Zohar calls Shekinah), whilst the energy which elctrifies polemicists is that of the serpent.

Life and energy should be clearly distinguished; yet today there is a tendency to confuse them, and reduce them to electricity alone. Electricity is due to the antagonism of opposites, whilst life is the fusion of opposites.

Empedocles (ca. 490 – ca. 430 BC) saw this difference and taught that the motion of the four elements – earth, water, air and fire – is due to two opposite causes: friendship (love) and strife (enmity).
as portrayed in the Nuremberg Chronicle
Celestial Electricity was the means of the miracle of divine anger in the Old Testament:
Nadab and Abihu
Fire at Taberah
The earth swallows Korah
  1. Nadab and Abihu offered profane fire to the tabernacle of God. Thus God in His anger caused a flash of fire to come out of the tabernacle and consume them.
  2. The people of Israel complained so that the Lord became angry and sent a flash of fire that destroyed the outer edges of the camp at Taberah.
  3. In their pride Korah and his men claimed to be equal to Moses and Aaron. So the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up.
  4. Elijah’s prayer to turn the people away from the worship of Baal: “Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The LORD, He is God; the LORD, He is God.”
Life is like the water of the “sea of glass, like crystal” coming from the throne; it is Force, natural religion, the soul of non-fallen Nature, the Virgin.

Scripture has two different terms in Greek for “life”: Zoe and bios. It is bios which flows from generation to generation; and it is Zoe which fills the individual in prayer and meditation, in acts of sacrifice and and participation in the sacred sacraments. Zoe is vertical vivifications; bios is biological life, vitality which flows horizontally. It is not bios which which drains the organism, rather it is electricity.

Electricity is generated through chemical decomposition and by the oppostion of contrary forces. The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil – the fruit of the polarity of opposites is electricity, and entails fatigue, exhaustion, senility and death.

It is elecricity – phyisical, psychic and mental – which was introduced into the being of Adam/Eve, and therefore into life-endowed Nature, in which bios is subordinate to electricity.
  1. The soul of life-endowed Nature in which bios is subordinate to electricity is rthe “Whore of Babylon”.
  2. Life-endowed Nature in which bios and electricity are in equilibrium is “suffering creation” of which St. Paul says it “sighs for deliverance.”
  3. Life-endowed Nature in which bios dominates electricity, and is dominated by Zoe is non-fallen Nature. Its soul is the celestial Virgin – Force.
Before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting,
from the beginning,
or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth;
when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled,
before the hills was I brought forth:
before he had made the earth, with its fields,
nor the first of the dust of the world.
When he prepared the heavens, I was there:
when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
when he made firm the sky above:
when he established the fountains of the deep:
when he gave to the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his commandment:
when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
then I was at work beside him.
(Proverbs viii, 22-30)
Creatrix by Mark Ryden
“When he appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was with him” is a clear statement of the cooperation of the Virgin with the Divine in the miracles of creation and as well of redemption
Divine Wisdom made our redemption part-dependent on the Yes or No of the Virgin. Our Redeemer had no desire to force himself on people or to assert himself by deploying rights and opportunities easily available to his almightiness. The salvation of the world was to become a reality in an act of faith, and through the faith of a virgin heart. Mary was to be a partner in our redemption.

That is the meaning of her title, Co-Redemptrix. Without the Virgin’s faith, there would be no redemption by Christ. Through her faith Mary gave the Word of God a human home. Our Lord’s incarnation and the Virgin’s faith are an indivisible whole.
The Annunciation by Fra Angelico
Principles do not exist separate from the beings who incarnate and manifest them. Principles are always immanent.
The Blessed Virgin is a concrete, living individuality – like you or I – who loves, suffers or rejoices.
It is not only the children of Fatima, the child Bernadette of Lourdes, the children of La Salette-Fallavaux and the children of Beauraing, but numerous apparitions to adults over the centuries, such as that of Our Lady of Akita in Japan and of Our Lady of all the Nations, when on March 25, 1945 Our Lady appeared in Amsterdam to Ida Peerdeman (died 1996). This was the first of 56 apparitions, which took place between 1945 and 1959.

I may add that I went to Amsterdam to make as scrupulous an investigation as possible. The result (confirmed later by experiences of a personal nature) was complete certainty as to the authenticity of the seer (a woman of forty years of age), but also of the subject of these experiences.
Icon by Deacon Matthew D. Garrett
Meetings with the Blessed Virgin are so numerous and so well attested that one must at least admit their objective reality, but there is more to it than this. After forty years of endeavour and experience, I realise that one meets the Blessed Virgin inevitably when one attains a certain intensity of spiritual aspiration, when this aspiration is authentic and pure. This is as natural in the spiritual domain as having a mother is natural on earth. The difference is that on earth one can be motherless (remember that the author’s mother was shot by Russian revolutionaries), while in the realm of the spiritual this can never happen.

Every Hermeticist who truly seeks authentic spiritual reality will sooner or later meet the Blessed Virgin. This meeting protects one from the zone surrounding the earth known as the “sphere of mirages” or the “zone of illusion”. The prophets and the Apocalypse designate this zone as “Babylon”. One cannot traverse this zone without the “Mantle of the Blessed Virgin”, much venerated in Russia.
Let us examine the two aspects of Force which the Emerld Tablet speaks of:
1. “It overcometh every subtle thing”.
The deeper meaning of “overcoming” is to change the enemy into a friend. To render him impotent only is not yet victory.

Thus the Germany of 1914 was certainly rendered impotent in 1918, but was not overcome—as the year 1939 proves. But after the defeat of 1945, Germany was certainly overcome—in so far as she is sincerely allied to her old adversaries.
The Young Thomas Aquinas Chases a Temptress from his Room
Likewise the devil will be overcome only at the moment when his voice will be heard in chorus with the choirs of celestial hierarchies praising God. One hopes for authentic victory in the conflict that tradition represents as the struggle between the Archistrategist Michael and the dragon. The day when it is achieved will be the day of a new festival—the festival of the coronation of the Virgin on earth.
The “subtle things” to overcome are the intellectual forces of temptation based on doubt, the psychic forces of temptation based on sterile enjoyment, and the electrical forces of temptation based on power.

However every temptation is similar to a two-way flow of traffic.  Every beautiful temptress, in attempting to tempt a saint, risks finishing up by “wetting his feet with her tears, wiping them with the hair of her head, kissing them, and annointing them with ointment” (Luke vii, 38).

Doubt, sterile enjoyment, power—these constitute together the “technology” of temptation.

Doubt appears when the “higher eye” and the “lower eye” do not see together.
However, doubt that is mastered, under the control of the will and put into its service, proves to be prodigiously useful. If Pasteur had not doubted spontaneous generation on the one hand, and if he had not had faith in observation and experimentation, on the other, we would not now benefit from the fruits of the “Pasteurian revolution” in biology and medicine.
Doubt nevertheless entails expenses that must be paid.

Louis Pasteur discovered the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation, and pasteurization,

For the fact of regularly turning away from the “higher eye” and confining oneself to the “lower eye” (the five senses plus cerebral intellectuality), cannot fail, sooner or later, to have its effect, i.e. to render one-eyed he who assiduously practises the use of one eye instead of two.

Teilhard de Chardin

And exactly as the great doctors of theology, metaphysics and mysticism of the Middle Ages proved to be sterile in what concerns medicine, biology, physics, physiology and other sciences—the help of which saves, in France alone, 69,000 human lives each year from the bane of tuberculosis so are the doctors of the sciences of our time sterile in what concerns the vital spiritual needs of mankind. The former had an eye only for the spiritual; the latter have an eye only for the temporal Is it necessary to be one-eyed in order to produce something of value— whether scientific or spiritual? No. Individual examples, including the recent example of the author of The Phenomenon of Man and Le Milieu divin, prove it.

Esoteric Hermeticism can be a healing agent between spirituality and progress, between religion and science. Just as Trappist monks maintain silence without anyone suspecting them of wanting to keep secrets, so is the community composed of Hermeticists scattered in the world in the right to be silent, in order to maintain the atmosphere of privacy essential for its work, without it being suspected of dark secrets.

Authentic spiritual life requires the inviolable sanctuary of privacy—which has nothing in common with “initiation secrets” or those of “secret societies”, whose secrets, furthermore, inevitably become “open secrets”.

Let us now consider sterile enjoyment. Pleasure is the lowest constituent of the scale: pleasure—joy— blissfulness—beatitude. It is a reaction—at the surface of man’s psychic being—to objective events. A life dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure alone is the most superficial that one can imagine. Joy is more profound. It  is the spreading of the soul beyond the limits of conscious awareness. It signifies an augmentation of the soul’s vital élan.

Blissfulness is the state of the human being where spirit, soul and body are  brought into harmony.
Lastly, beatitude  is the “beatific vision”  of Christian tradition.

Saint Catherine of Siena

Pleasure plays the same role with regard to the soul as doubt. For just as doubt reduces the spirit to impotence, so does pleasure (or sterile enjoyment) reduce the soul to impotence, to a state of passivity. 

Lastly, power

Schools of philosophy and psychology have erected the “will-to-power” as the supreme principle of human activity. According to them religion, science and art are only means power.

It is true that no one desires powerlessness as such. And if we worship the Crucifix, the symbol of complete outer powerlessness, we do so because it is at the same time the symbol of supreme inner power. False power, however, crucifies others.

The technique of temptation in the domain of power consists in substituting false power for that of freedom of inspiration and healing or “life” (Zoe).

Sacred magic has nothing in common with the power which compels. It operates only with currents of “life” or Zoe —spiritual, psychic and physical. Even its “armoury”—such as the “swords” of the Archangel Michael and the Holy Cherubim who guards the gate of Eden—are showers of rays of “life” whose intensity is such as to repulse or put to flight anyone who is either opposed to “life”, or who cannot support its intensity, and on the other hand it attracts and vivifies anyone who aspires to “life” and who can support its intensity.

Who knows how many people otherwise ill or despairing owe the re-establishment of their physical or psychic health to the “sword” of the Archangel Michael?

Thus, here is the choice which each of us is called to make: the choice between the power of crucifixion and that of compulsion. To pray or to order: Which would we prefer?

2. “It doth penetrate every solid substance

Solidity is the experience of an obstacle to our freedom of movement. A well-defined and rigid intellectual system can render you dumb with regard to the person who is held under its power. It would be impossible, for example, to reach the inner organ of comprehension of an orthodox Marxist or a Freudian psychoanalyst in speaking to them of authentic mystical experience. The one would hear only what lends itself to interpretation by the concept of “narcosis”, remaining quite deaf to the rest, and the other would have an open ear only for that which lends itself to interpretation by the concept of “sublimation of libido”, i.e. for what lets itself be reduced to the play of sexuality.
Darwin, Marx, Freud and the diminishment of humanity
An orthodox Darwinist removes a providential God from the picture of creation and replaces him with chance. For him man is not so much a spiritual being, as a mass of protoplasm.
Multiple Sclerosis

Nevertheless, each physical, psychic and mental obstacle, is penetrable by Force or Virginity. The heart having tasted life will breathe into the mind. Sclerosis, the process of gradual alienation of the body from the soul, is therefore death itself. It works during life in modifying, little by little, the living body into a corpse. At least, this is what it appears to be, seen in the light of modern medicine and biology.

There are, nonetheless, two different ways of dying. The one is where the body refuses to serve as the instrument for the soul — which is the case with sclerosis. The other is where the principle which vivifies and animates the body retires and thus is missed by the body; it is then the soul which quits the body.

There are several modes of dying. The Cabbala describes a whole scale of ways of dying, the summit of which is the kiss of the Eternal One. Ecstasy would be the most sublime cause of death. Christian ecstasy is sursum corda (“elevation of the heart”). It is justifiable to say that so-called “natural” death is fundamentally a natural ecstasy—notably, a natural samadhi*, where the transcendent Self accomplishes union with the personal self.

Force has two aspects—that of electricity and that of life (or struggle on the one hand, and cooperation, on the other). These two aspects correspond to the serpent (nahash) and the Virgin.
The Blessed Enter Paradise by Fra Angelico

*  Samadhi in Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and yogic schools is a state of meditative consciousness.

Our Lady of May 7 – The Molcchenskaya icon, Businovo, Russia

In order to realise a spiritual springtime in the western world, thought must become meditative, feeling—contemplative, and the will—ascetic.

The Virgin, the Force of our Arcanum, is the principle of springtime, i.e. that of creative spiritual élan and spiritual flourishing. The prodigious flourishing of philosophy and the arts in ancient Athens took place under the sign of the Virgin. Similarly, the flourishing of the Renaissance at Florence was under the vernal sign of the Virgin.

The sickness of the West today is that it is more and more lacking creative élan. The Reformation, rationalism, the French revolution, materialistic faith of the nineteenth century, and the Bolshevik revolution, show that everywhere mankind is turning away from the Virgin.

It is said that the West is growing old. But why? Because it  has turned away from the source of creative élan, because it has turned away from the Virgin. Without virginity there is no springtime; there is neither freshness nor youth.

The iconoclast is an intellectual murderer. The Hermeticist is, in contrast, an iconophile and traditionalist. He has as a basic principle not only the commandment “Thou shalt not kill’, but also the commandment which is the foundation of all tradition—i.e. all continuity in progress, growth, development and evolution—the commandment: Honour thy father and thy mother. It is the experience of honouring paternal love which renders us capable of raising our gaze to heaven and saying with sincerity and authenticity: “Our Father who art in heaven”. And it is the experience of honoured maternal love which underlies our prayer: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us”. 

The source of spiritual life lies in these  two aspects of love: the virile love which provides for and directs our steps towards what is good for us, and the tender love which assuages all our tears.
The Holy Family

The ten commandments are inspired by the ideal of virginity.

i. surrender to the living God (“thou shalt have no other gods before me”);
ii. non-substitution of products of the human mind, or those of Nature, for the reality of the living God (“thou shalt not make for thyself a graven image, or any likeness”);
iii. activity in the name of God without making use of his name in order to adorn oneself with it (“thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”);
iv. practice of meditation (“remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy”);
v. continuity of effort and .experience (“honour thy father and thy mother”);
vi. constructive attitude (“thou shalt not kill”);
vii. faithfulness to the alliance (“thou shalt not commit adultery”);
viii. renunciation of the desire to accept merit which is neither the fruit of one’s own work nor the gift of grace (“thou shalt not steal’’);
ix. renunciation of an accusatory role towards others (“thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour’);
x. respectful consideration for the private and personal life of others (“thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house”).

These constitute the ten foundations not only for a healthy moral life but also for all mystical, gnostic, magical and Hermetic practice.

The ten commandments are inspired by the ideal of virginity.

The ten commandments constitute the law of life, progress and fertility for spiritual traditions, just as they are that of the life, progress and fertility of each individual engaged on a path of spiritual practice. For the ten commandments—when comprehended and practised—signify harmony with non-fallen Nature, with the Virgin and the principle of virginity, i.e. with the Force of the eleventh Arcanum of the Tarot.