III. The Empress

Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord;
let it be to me according to your word.
(Luke i, 38)

The Empress is a symbol of sacred magic.  Moreover, our Anonymous Author writes,

3 resized The Empress“All magic, including sorcery, is the putting into practice of this:  that the subtle rules the dense —force [rules] matter; consciousness [rules] force; and the superconscious or divine [rules] consciousness. It is this latter rulership that the Empress symbolises. . . .

“Her crown, sceptre and shield (coat-of-arms) are the three instruments of the exercise of this power. The crowned head indicates the power of the Divine over consciousness; the right arm (according to the viewer of the Card), which bears a sceptre topped by a cross mounted on a globe of gold, represents the power of consciousness over force; and the left arm, which carries a shield bearing an eagle, signifies the power of energy over matter or the volatile over the gross. The crown is the divine authorisation of magic. It is only magic crowned from above which is not usurpatory. The crown is that which renders it legitimate. The sceptre is magical power. It is by virtue of the sceptre that she is not impotent. The shield bearing the eagle shows the aim of magical power; it is its emblem and its motto, which reads: “Liberation in order to ascend”.  And the steady throne on which the Empress is seated symbolises the indisputable and inalienable place which belongs to magic in spiritual, psychic and natural life —thanks to divine authorisation or the crown, to the reality of her power or the sceptre, and to that which she has as her objective or the shield. This is the role of magic in the world” (53-54).

“The third Arcanum of the Tarot, being the arcanum of sacred magic, is by this very fact the arcanum of generation. For generation is only an aspect of sacred magic. If sacred magic is the union of two wills— human and divine —from which a miracle results, generation itself also presupposes the trinity of the generator, the generant and the generated. Now, the generated is the miracle resulting from the union of the principles of generator and generant. Whether it is a matter of a new idea, a work of art, the birth of a child, is not important; it is always the same law of generation which operates; it is always the same arcanum —that of fecundity—which is in play; and it is always the same mystery of the Incarnation of the Word which is the divine prototype here” (72-73).

The core of this understanding entails, 1) the connection of the Empress to sacred magic, 2) the vertical nature of this connection, and 3) the connection of authentic creativity and sacred magic to the idea of service (or submission to God’s will) and incarnation.  The author goes on to connect the Empress to the two preceding arcana as follows:

“The Empress, as a symbol of sacred magic, contains within itself gnosis and mysticism —or the High Priestess and the Magician. These Arcana are incomprehensible when one takes them separately” (69).

With regard to sacred-magic, we saw that The High Priestess added a certain capacity for reflection or gnosis (in our Anonymous Author‘s rather specialized sense) to the mysticism of The Magician.  This capacity for reflection results in the book that she holds on her lap.  The Empress, likewise, adds the gift of healing– that is, in the broadest sense, the liberation of others –which is effected through her submission to the Divine will and is represented by the eagle on her shield:

the shield of the empress“…the left arm, which carries a shield bearing an eagle, signifies the power of energy over matter or the volatile over the gross…”  (54).

the shield of the empress“The shield bearing the eagle shows the aim of magical power; it is its emblem and its motto, which reads: “Liberation in order to ascend” (54).

the shield of the empress“…her task is the sublimation of Nature, as indicated by the shield or coat-of-arms with the eagle in flight, that the Empress holds… (54).

the shield of the empress“…it is precisely “the accelerated evolution of the living forces of Nature” that the eagle of the shield of the Empress represents (55).

the shield of the empress“…to give movement to the motionless is the liberating action represented by the eagle on the shield… (56)

the shield of the empress“The aim of sacred magic, as we have said, is represented by the shield that the Empress holds… the aim of sacred magic is liberating action, i.e. the restoration of freedom to beings who have partially or totally lost it. The eagle in flight depicted on the shield signifies this emblem of sacred magic, which could thus be formulated: “Give freedom to he who is enslaved.” And this includes all the works mentioned by Luke:

<<< Jesus cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many that were blind he bestowed sight. And he answered them: Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. (Luke vii, 21-22)>>>

the shield of the empress“This is the aim of sacred magic; it is nothing other than to give the freedom to see, to hear, to walk, to live, to follow an ideal and to be truly oneself— i.e. to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, the ability to walk to the lame, life to the dead, good news or ideals to the poor and free will to those who are possessed by evil spirits. It never encroaches upon freedom, the restoration of which is its unique aim (61).”

The freedom to see, to hear, to walk, to live, to follow an ideal and to be truly oneself– good news, indeed —the kingdom of heaven is at hand!  Indeed, while the author does not refer to it explicitly, Jesus’ use of Isaiah 61:1  also comes to mind:

 Luke 4:18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Moreover, The Empress is Christlike in another way.  Consider, in this extended excerpt, the sceptre by which she rules and her Christlike submission to the will of God:

 “The sceptre of the Empress comprises three parts: a cross, a globe and a staff topped by a little bowl or bulb. The staff is narrower below, beneath where the Empress holds it, than above, where it supports the globe surmounted by a cross. The globe is divided into two by a belt or “equatorial zone”. Thus, it can be said that it is formed from two cups, one upside down, supporting the cross and turn ed downwards or “below”, the other turned upwards and supported by the staff, is open towards the “above”.

“Now, the joining together of the cup surmounted by a cross and of another supported by a staff—which constitutes the sceptre of the Empress —is the symbolic expression of the method of the realisation of the potentiality represented by the crown.  It is the union of two potential wills in the crown, become actual in the sceptre. The cup surmounted by the cross and turned downwards or “below” is the divine will, whilst the cup supported by the staff and turned upwards or “above” is the human will. Their active union is the sceptre or the power of sacred magic. This power results from the influx from the cross which flows from the upper cup into the empty lower cup and from there descends through the staff in order to be concentrated at its extremity as an “acorn” or a drop. Or to express it in other words: the Holy Blood from above concentrates itself and becomes a “drop” of human blood by the human word and action.

“Perhaps you will say: but this is the Holy Grail, it is the mystical Eucharist of which you speak! Yes, this is exactly to do with the Holy Grail or the mystical Eucharist. For it is there, and only there, that the power of sacred magic resides. This power is. in the last analysis, that of twofold sincerity—divine and human —united in the human word or action. Because not one word or action is truly sincere when it is only cerebral, and when it is only cerebral then it is not a flow of vital blood. The more sincerity there is in the human word or action, the more there is the vital essence of blood. When it happens —and the Angels fall down in adoration when this occurs —that the human wish is in accord with the divine, the Holy Blood is then united to the vital essence of the human blood and the Mystery of the God-Man is repeated, and also the miraculous power of the God-Man is reiterated. Here is the power of sacred magic —or its sceptre.”

We are reminded of Meister Eckhart’s exhortation that we are called to be like Mary and give birth to Christ in our lives and our time:

“We are all meant to be mothers of God. What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself? And what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace if I am not also full of grace? What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to his Son if I also do not give birth to him in my time and my culture? This, then, is the fullness of time. When the Son of God is begotten in us.”

And being the mothers of God in this way, is to make way for the King with whom we rule and reign as our place in the Divine image is re-cognized and the whole of creation is simultaneously re-newed:

“For sacred magic is that life which was before the Fall. The gnosis of the second Arcanum is that consciousness which was before the Fall.  And the mystical spontaneity of the first Arcanum is that relationship between man and God which was before the Fall.  This primordial spontaneity gave the impulse and direction to evolution and the development of the human being” (66).
[…]
“The third Arcanum of the Tarot, being the arcanum of sacred magic, is by this very fact the arcanum of generation.  For generation is only an aspect of sacred magic. If sacred magic is the union of two wills — human and divine —from which a miracle results, generation itself also presupposes the trinity of the generator, the generant and the generated.  Now, the generated is the miracle resulting from the union of the principles of generator and generant.  Whether it is a matter of a new idea, a work of art, the birth of a child, is not important; it is always the same law of generation which operates; it is always the same arcanum —that of fecundity—which is in play; and it is always the same mystery of the Incarnation of the Word which is the divine prototype here.

As life is always generative, the arcanum of sacred magic is at the same time that of generation before the Fall— vertical generation, from a higher plane to a lower one —instead of horizontal generation, which is accomplished on a single plane. The formula of this mystery is well known: ET INCARNATUS EST DE SPIRITU SANCTO EX MARIA VIRGINE [“and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary”].  It contains the trinity of the generator above, of the generant below, and the generated —or: the Holy Spirit, the Holy Virgin and the God-Man.  It is at the same time the formula of sacred magic in general, because it expresses the mystery of the union of divine will and human will in the element of blood. The blood — in its triple sense, mystical, gnostic and magical — is the “sceptre” or power of sacred magic.”

Mary gives birth to Christ, Christ gives birth to the Church, and we have opportunity to rule and reign with him as members of his body and servants in his kingdom, here & now:

“Behold the servant of the Lord, I will do according to your word” (67).

“Sacred magic is the power of love, born of the union in love of
divine will and human will . . . Love is active wherever it exists. It is everyone’s vocation; it is no one’s prerogative” (57, 58).

Moreover, we are now in position to understand the first three arcana together as our Anonymous Author indicates we must:

The Tree of Life is the unity or synthesis of consciousness, force and matter.  Three is its number. . . because it reflects the unity of the Holy Trinity. It is at the same time the unity of mysticism, gnosis and magic.  This is why one should not separate them.  The Empress, as a symbol of sacred magic, contains within itself gnosis and mysticism —or the High Priestess and the Magician. These Arcana are incomprehensible when one takes them separately (69) .

For in this way, the triple effect of our original sin is reversed as we lay down the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and take up the fruit of the tree of life–since it was as a result of the fall (i.e. our aspiration and pretense to a knowledge of “good and evil”) that:

Toil or work took the place of mystical union with God, which union (without effort) is the teaching of the first Arcanum of the Tarot, the Magician.  Suffering replaced the directly reflected revelation or gnosis, whose direct revelation is the teaching of the second Arcanum of the Tarot, the High Priestess.  And death entered into the domain of life or creative, sacred magic, which is the teaching of the third Arcanum of the Tarot, the Empress. For sacred magic is that life which was before the Fall.  The gnosis of the second Arcanum is that consciousness which was before the Fall.  And the mystical spontaneity of the first Arcanum is that relationship between man and God which was before the Fall.

This brings us to The Emperor who, according to Letter IV, represents a post which expresses the complete synthesis of mysticism, gnosis and sacred magic in an authentic initiation that enables the initiate to lay down the law:

“To be something, to know something and to be capable of something is what endows a person with authority.  One can also say that a person has authority in proportion to what he unites within himself of the profundity of mysticism, the direct wisdom of gnosis and the productive power of magic.  Whosoever has this to a certain degree can found a “school”. Whosoever has this to a still higher degree can “lay down the law” (77).

MOTT Study Guides  –>  The Emperor

preview 04. The Emperor

 Second Tier Tarot Resources on the Empress…

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