The High Priestess

from theTarot of Marseilles
The Virgin and Child – an allusion to the mystical union between Christ and His church

a Journey into Christian Hermeticism

The previous arcanum the Magician is that of true spontaneity. Concentration without effort and the perception of the law of analogy are its principal fruits.  It is the arcanum of the pure act of intelligence. But the pure act is like fire or wind: it appears and disappears, and when exhausted it gives way to another act.
The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John iii, 8)
The pure act in itself cannot be grasped; it is only by its reflection that we become conscious of it.
Dear Unknown Friend, the second Arcanum, the High Priestess, is that of the reflection of the pure act of the first Arcanum up to the point where it becomes “book”. It shows us how “Wisdom” builds her house.
We require an inner mirror in order to know from where the breath of the Spirit comes and where it goes. Water is required to reflect it. As the Master said to Nicodemus:
Truly, truly, I say unto you, unless one is born of Water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. (John iii. 5)
By these words he states that full consciousness of the truth is the result of “inbreathed” truth and reflected truth.
By the power of the Holy Spirit the Word became incarnate from the Virgin Mary.
The re-birth from Water and Spirit which the Master indicates to Nicodemus is the re-establishment of the state of consciousness prior to the Fall, where the Spirit was divine Breath and where this Breath was reflected by virginal Nature. This is Christian yoga.
Its aim is not “radical deliverance” (Hindu mukti), i.e. the state of consciousness without breath and without reflection, but rather “baptism from Water and the Spirit”, which is the complete and perfect response to divine action. These two kinds of baptism bring about the reintegration of the two constituent elements of consciousness as such —the active element and the passive element.
There is no consciousness without these two elements, and the suppression of this duality by means of a practical method such as that inspired bv the ideal of unity (advaita — non-duality) must necessarily lead to the extinction not of being but rather of consciousness. Then this would not be a new birth of consciousness, but instead would be its return to the pre-natal embryonic cosmic state.
Christian yoga does not aspire directly to unity, but rather to the unity of two. We can decide in favour of monism and say there can be only one sole essence. Or we can decide — from historical and personal experience — in favour of dualism and say to ourselves that there are two principles in the world: good and evil, spirit, and matter. We can, moreover, decide in favour of a third point of view, namely that of love.
These three points of view are found at the basis of the Vedanta (advaita) and Spinozism (monism), Manichaeism and certain gnostic schools (dualism), and the Judaeo-Christian current (love).

Are there only however two separate and rival principles of duality? Saint-Martin suggests there are two centres which we contemplate simultaneously — as would two eyes if they were placed vertically one above the other — two aspects of reality, the phenomenal and the noumenal? And that it is by virtue of the two centres or “eyes” that we are able to be conscious of “that which is above and that which is below”? Or, in other words, two is the divine Breath and its Reflection.
Louis Claude de Saint-Martin
Two is also the language of love, because love is inconceivable without the Lover and the Loved, without ME and YOU, without One and the Other. If God were only One and if he had not created the World, he would not be the God revealed by the Master, the God of whom St. John says:

God is love; and he who abides in love abides in God. and God abides in him.
(I John iv, 16)

He would not be this, because he would love no one other than himself. As this is impossible from the point of view of the God of love, he is revealed to human consciousness as the eternal Trinity—the Loving One who loves, the Loved One who loves, and their Love who loves them: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Being without love would be the most appalling torment – the Inferno itself!
Advaita Yoga
Does love surpass being? Did not the Mystery of Calvary demonstrate the superiority of love over being? The Resurrection demonstrates that love is not only superior to being but also that it engenders it and restores it?
He who chooses being will aspire to true being and he who chooses love will aspire to love. For one only finds that for which one seeks. The seeker for true being will arrive at the experience of repose. The characteristic of this mystical way is that one loses the capacity to cry. An advanced pupil of yoga or Vedanta will for ever have dry eyes, whilst the masters of the Cabbala, according to the Zohar, cry much and often.

Christian mysticism speaks also of the “gift of tears”— as a precious gift of divine grace. The Master cried in front of the tomb of Lazarus. Thus the outer characteristic of those who choose the other mystical way, that of the God of love, is that they have the “gift of tears”.

This is the experience of the breath of Divine Love. The soul which receives this undergoes such a miraculous experience that it cries.
Note by Shaun MacLoughlin: I sometimes receive the gift of tears when I receive the Eucharist. I believe this is not uncommon.
The Buddha
The masters prior to Christ certainly bore testimony to God but the way which they taught and practised was that of depersonalisation, which made them witnesses (“martyrs”) of God. The greatness of Bhagavan, the Buddha, was the high degree of depersonalisation which he attained. This was also so with the Stoics. And this is why all those who have chosen the way of depersonalisation are unable to cry and why they have dry eyes for ever. For it is the personality which cries and which alone is capable of the “gift of tears”.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew v, 4).

Note by Shaun MacLoughlin: I was briefly a temporary Buddhist monk in Myanmar. The wise Abbott said to me: “Buddhists believe in discipline and Christians believe in forgiveness”. One may also cry when one receives forgiveness, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Shortly before his death Father Bede Griffiths had an overpowering vision of the Love of the Divine Feminine
Sophia Divine Wisdom
The powerful magician, the artistic genius, the profound thinker, and the radiant mystic certainly merit all these qualifications and perhaps still greater ones, but they do not dazzle God. In the eyes of God they are dear sheep to him; in his consideration of them he desires that they shall never go astray and that they shall have life increasingly and unceasingly.

Now, the Master taught of the Father, who is love. The intellect being the reflection — or light—of the fire principle of love, can only be the feminine principle, Sophia or Wisdom, who assists the Creator in the work of creation, according to the Old Testament. The gnostic tradition also considers Sophia as the feminine principle. Pure intellect is that which reflects; love is that which acts.

The fact that man is usually more intellectual than woman does not signify that the intellect is a masculine principle. On the contrary, rather: man, being physically masculine, is feminine from the psychic point of view, whilst woman, being physically feminine, is masculine (active) in her soul. Now, the intellect is the feminine side of the soul, whilst the fertilising imagination is the masculine principle.

The Spirit is neither intellect nor imagination, but Love-Wisdom.
The High Priestess is the arcanum of the two-foldness underlying consciousness —spontaneous activity and its reflection.

She is the sacred guardian of the Book of Revelation. She represents the descent of revelation, from the small uppermost circle on her tiara as far as the open book on her knees. She is seated. For, to be seated signifies a relationship between the vertical and horizontal which corresponds to the task of the outward projection (horizontal, book) of the descending revelation (vertical, tiara). This position indicates the practical method of gnosis, just as the standing Magician indicates the practical method of mysticism. The Magician dares — for this reason he is standing. The High Priestess knows — this is why she is seated. The transformation from to dare to to know consists in the change of position from that of the Magician to that of the High Priestess

Spiritual touch (or intuition) is that which permits contact between our consciousness and the world of pure mystical experience. It is by virtue of this that there exists in the world and in the history of mankind a real relationship between the living soul and the living God — which is true religion. Mysticism is the source and the root of all religion. Without it religion and the entire spiritual life of humanity would be only a code of laws regulating human thought and action.

Contemplation — which follows concentration and meditation — commences the moment that discursive thought is suspended. It arrives at this by listening in silence. It is as if one wanted to recall something forgotten. Consciousness “listens” in silence, as one “listens” inwardly in order to call to mind from the night of forgetfulness something that one formerly knew. It is necessary “to be seated”, i.e. to establish an active-passive state of soul which listens attentively. It is necessary to be “woman”, i.e. to be in the state of silent expectation, and not in that of the activity which “talks”. Henri Bergson wrote:

Pure memory is a spiritual manifestation. With memory we are in very truth in the domain of the spirit.
Henri Bergson
The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo
The birth of a baby
Magic, Art and Giving Birth

The talent of the artist consists in in obtaining a more profound effect than those who are not artists. When a woman gives birth to a child, she gives birth to a being endowed with a life of its own, which detaches itself from her organism in order to start an independent existence. The magical sense also projects outwards the contents of the inner life. Magic, art and giving birth are essentially analogous and all project the inner life.

The Church dogma of the creation of the world ex nihilo, i.e. the projection from “nothingness” of matter which are conferred with a life of its own, signifies the divine and cosmic crowning of this series of analogies. Its essential statement is that the world is a magical act.
In contrast, pantheistic, emanationist and demiurgic doctrines deprive creation of its magical sense.
  • Pantheism denies the independent existence of creatures; they live only as parts of the divine life and the world is only the body of God.
  • Emanationism attributes only a transitory, and therefore ephemeral, existence to creatures and the world.
  • Demiurgism declares that out of nothing comes nothing and teaches that there must exist a substance co-eternal with God, which God uses as material for his work of craftsmanship. God is therefore not the creator or magical author of the world, but only its craftsman.
The doctrine of creation ex nihilo is not the only explanation of the world around us, within us and above us. There is room within the vast universe for many levels of constructive activity. However I believe the doctrine of creation ex nihilo is the highest possible expression of divine and cosmic magic.
The Sephiroth.
I recommend Caballah for Dummies
by Arthur Kursweil
Dear Unknown Friend, I believe that the creation of the world is a magical act preceded by a mystical act in eternity. This is followed by the the demiurgic hierarchies, who undertake the work of craftsmanship.

The classical Cabbala furnishes us with a marvellous example of the peace possible between apparently rival doctrines. In its doctrine of ten Sephiroth (see opposite) , it teaches first the mystery of eternal mysticism—AIN-SOPH, the Unlimited.

Then it expounds the gnostic doctrine of eternal emanations from the womb of the Divine, which precede the act of creation. They are the ideas of God within God, which precede the creation — the latter being a conscious act.

Then it speaks of pure creation or creation ex nihilo —the act of the magical projection of the ideas of the plan of creation, i.e. the Sephiroth.

This creative, magical act is followed by the activity of formation, in which the beings of the spiritual hierarchies participate, including man. It is in this way that, according to the Cabbala, the world comes into being, that the world of facts or deeds known to us through experience becomes what it is.
Cabbalists believe believe that this world is preceded by, the world of formation (Yetzirah) ; this is the product of the world of creation or the magical world which is, in turn, the realisation of the world of emanations or the gnostic world, inseparable from God, who in his true essence is the mystery of supreme mysticism -AIN-SOPH, the Unlimited.

It is therefore possible to reconcile the diverse doctrines concerning the creation; it is only necessary to put each of them in its proper place. The Cabbala, through its doctrine of the Sephiroth, provides a wonderful proof that this is so.

Pantheism is true for the “world of emanations”, where there are only ideas within God and inseparable from him; but theism is true when one leaves the domain of uncreated eternity to pass on to the creation that we know through our experience. And formation is true when we contemplate the evolution of beings. But leaving aside the worlds of formation, creation, emanation and divine-mystical essence, one can confine oneself solely to the plane of facts. Then naturalism becomes true.
Yetzirah refers to the universe as being formed by “thirty-two wondrous paths of wisdom.” These paths are the pathways of connection between the ten sefirot .
Caballah provides a synthesis of these seeming divisions, whilst similarly Hermeticism aspires to summarise experience in all planes.

The two following Arcana — the Empress and the Emperor – give greater depth and content to the magical sense and the Hermetic-philosophical sense.

For the third Arcanum of the Tarot, the Empress, is the Arcanum of magic and the fourth Arcanum, the Emperor, is that of Hermetic philosophy.