V. The Pope

“And Melchizadek king of Salem brought our bread and wine; he was priest of God Most High. And he blessed him and said: Blessed be Abram by God Most High. . . and blessed be God Most High” (Genesis xiv, 18-20).

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one comes to the Father, but by me” (John xiv, 6).

“Henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus” (Galatians vi, 17).

Regarding the fifth arcanum of the Tarot, our Anonymous Author writes:

small5.2 The Pope“The Card The Pope puts us in the presence of the act of benediction. It is essential to have this in mind when one undertakes the interpretation not only of the structure of the whole Card but also of each of its particular elements. One should therefore never lose from sight that in the first place it is a matter of benediction and everything associated with it —no matter who the Pope may be or who the acolytes kneeling before him are, and no matter what the two columns behind the Pope signify, and no matter what his tiara and the triple cross he is holding symbolise. What is benediction? What is its source and its effect? Who has the authority to bestow benediction? What role does it play in the spiritual life of humanity?” (99).

The key word, obviously is benediction and, as we shall see, one of the key roles played by the Pope is that of guardian.

“Now, benediction is more than a simple good wish made for others; it is also more than a magical impress of personal thought and will upon others.  It is the putting into action of divine power transcending the individual thought and will of the one who is blessed as well as the one who is pronouncing the blessing. In other words it is an essentially sacerdotal act (100).

History– as, moreover, the life of the individual –is “worked” by day and by night. It has a diurnal aspect and a nocturnal aspect. The former is exoteric, whilst the latter is esoteric. The silence and obscurity of the night is always full of events in preparation — and all that which is unconscious or superconscious in the human being belongs to the domain of “night” (102).

“Now, the posts of Emperor and Pope are realities beyond as well as on this side of the threshold which separates “day” and “night”. And the Pope of the fifth Card is the guardian of this threshold. He is seated between the two pillars — the pillar of day or prayer and the pillar of night or benediction.
. . .  The Pope is the guardian of respiration or of the reality of the relationship between day and night. That which he guards is the equilibrium between day and night, between human effort and divine grace” (103).

preview 05. The PopeFollowing the Cabbala, our Anonymous Author compares the role of benediction to the circulation of blood with prayers going up and blessings flowing down.  This is represented as follows:

1. the hands of the acolytes (one up and one down)
2. the two blue columns (also suggesting the circulation of blood)
3. the triple cross and right-hand of benediction

The two columns suggest the pillars of Boaz (severity) and  Jachin (mercy) in the Sephiroth Tree (aka the tree of life) — the idea being that severity evokes prayers and mercy, in turn, blesses.  Note:  According to this interpretation of the Fifth Arcanum of the Tarot— in contrast to the image of the tree of life — the pillar of severity would seem to be on our right (which would be the Pope’s left, who is facing us).  In any event, our Anonymous Author writes:

three-pillars-of-tree-of-life“The venous “blue blood” of Boaz ascends and the arterial oxidised “red blood” of Jachin descends.  The “red blood” bears the vivifying benediction of oxygen; the “blue blood” rids the organism of the “severity” of carbonic acid. It is the same in the spiritual life.  Spiritual asphyxia menaces he who does not practise some form of prayer; he who practises it receives vivifying benediction in some form. The two columns therefore have an essentially practical significance — as practical spiritually as respiration is  for the life of the organism.   Thus, the first practical teaching — for the Major Arcana of the Tarot are spiritual exercises — of the fifth Arcanum relates to spiritual respiration”  (100).

above below respiration And the essence of spiritual respiration  is said to involve this alternation between prayer, on the one hand, and benediction/grace on the other.

There is horizontal respiration outside inside respirationand vertical respiration:

“Now, the essence of vertical respiration is the alternation between prayer and benediction or grace. These two elements of vertical respiration manifest themselves in all domains of the inner life —mind, heart and will” (100).

If we learn to respire vertically NOW, we avoid the sting of death–otherwise we suffer the agony of an abrupt passage.  The abrupt passage is illustrated by a right angle, while the gentle passage is of the nature of an arc:
angles of incidence with death2Moreover– as we will see below –this vertical respiration has an impact on our horizontal respiration/relationships.

On the one hand there is the prayer, on the other hand the benediction or grace.  Prayer concerning certain problems results in a certain kind of benediction or grace.  This may be illustrated as follows:

Prayer => Benediction or Grace:

problems of the mind => illumination
suffering of the heart => consolation
effort of the will => fruits

Thus, our Anonymous Author writes:

“The law of correspondence between the column of prayer (problems, suffering, effort) and that of benediction (illumination, consolation, fruits) is found expressed by the Master in the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount. The nine (for there are nine, and not eight) beatitudes can thus be understood as the formula of vertical respiration. They teach it to us.  This respiration is the state of soul that the apostle Paul designated as “freedom in God”.  It is a new way of breathing. One freely breathes the divine breath, which is freedom (101).

The greatest commandment pertains to vertical respiration:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew xxii, 37)

The second commandment pertains to horizontal respiration:

“Love your neighbour as yourself (Luke x, 27).

“The three levels of horizontal respiration are:

love of Nature;
love of one’s neighbour;
love of the beings of the spiritual hierarchies (Angels, etc.).

The three stages of vertical respiration are:

purification (by divine breath);
illumination (by divine light);
mystical union (in divine fire).

triple cross“This is why the Pope holds aloft the triple cross  which symbolizes perfections along both axes.  The triple cross is the sceptre of the Pope’s authority (cf. the Emperor).  But whereas the emperor represents toward heaven the divine in human beings (i.e. our divine image and likeness), the Pope represents transcendental Divinity towards humanity (101-102).

The triple love of neighbor and the triple love of God is also suggested by the triple cross:

lower neighbor=Nature
equal neighbor=Human Beings
higher neighbor=Celestial Beings

lower Godliness=breath/faith
middle Godliness=light/hope
higher Godliness=fire/love
(cf. pages 71-72 of Letter III)

“The two posts, that of Emperor and that of Pope, are two spiritual realities. They are as real as the head and the heart are in the life of the individual. The heart is the centre of respiration and blood circulation; the head is the centre of the nervous system and is the seat of thought” (102).

Thus, our Anonymous Author insists, the post of the Emperor cannot be replaced by a collectivity and the post of the Pope cannot be replaced by an ecumenical council… (102).

As indicated in the quotation from page 102, above, history is “worked” by day and by night — it has a diurnal and nocturnal aspect…  The former is exoteric, the latter esoteric…  The former is conscious–the latter unconscious or superconscious.   For example, after the advent of Christ, the ideal of Buddhism changed–the little raft of hinayana gave way to the big raft of mayhayana:

This is the magical side of history, the side of magical deeds and works acting behind the facade of history “by day”. Thus, when the Gospel was preached by the light of day in the countries around the Mediterranean, the nocturnal rays of the Gospel effected a profound transformation of Buddhism. . . . (102).

Thus, both the Emperor and the Pope are realities “beyond” as well as “on this side” — the Pope is the guardian of the threshold which separates day/prayer from night/benediction. [p. 103]

  • The emperor is master of  the day and guardian of the “blood” (or quentessence) of the nocturnal reality of the day.
  • The pope is the guarantor of respiration (the reality of the relationship between night and day)
  • The pope guards the equilibrium between the two–between human effort and divine grace (cf. Genesis 1:4-5 and “the establishment of cosmic respiration”).
  • The relationship/respiration is established in and through separation… (103).
  • The Divine breath above” and “the profound peace of the waters” — respiration is the alternation of absorption and reflection:

“Now, primordial water penetrated by divine breath is the essence of blood; breath reflected by the water is light; the rhythmic alternation from absorption of the breath by water to its reflection by it is respiration. Light is the day, blood is the night, and respiration is plenitude (Salem). MELCHIZADEK, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God (kohen le’el elyon — ) is therefore appointed to plenitude, to respiration, whilst the annointed king, guardian of the throne of David, or the Emperor, is appointed to the day. Although he is appointed to the day, he is annointed by the night and he owes his authority to the night, whose mysterious presence during the day —the blood-he guards.”

In addition to the Pope and the Emperor, there is a third post appointed to the night–i.e. the master of the night discussed in Letter 9 (cf. “prophet, priest and king” — each of these are distinct posts, but one person may occupy two or even all three of them).  [p. 103-104]

hey-pronounced2The Truth, for the Pope is harmonious respiration.  Moreover, a distinction is drawn between the “actual truth” and the “moral truth” (104).  It is also noted that the the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet [HEH] has breath as its primitive hieroglyph.  Thus, the Pope– the Fifth Major Arcanum of the Tarot –is said to be the guardian of spiritual respiration.   As such, the Pope is also said to be the representative of moral logic (recalling that in Letter I, we learned that “the rhythmic system” is the domain of morality and the will).  Benediction and prayer, then– the two elements of spiritual respiration –are the two pillars between which he is seated. It is only that which is ideal which is true for him.” [105]

“…the Pope is always at the middle of a conflict between ideal truth and actual truth, between mercy (chesed) and truth (emeth).  And this conflict is a wound— namely the fifth wound, the wound of the heart.  For if the Emperor has four wounds, the Pope has five” (105).

This fifth wound– the wound of the heart —alludes to “the Sacred Heart” and the blood and water that flowed (separately) from Christ’s side (the wound being caused spiritually by the conflict between the ideal and the actual which are not united).

This sets the stage for a long discussion of the  pentagram which, depending on how it is turned, is thought to represent the good quenternary or the evil quenternary.  The long and the short of it all seems to be that what is critical is not which way the pentagram is turned, but which way the heart and mind of the operator is oriented:

the sign is good when it expresses the formula: Fiat voluntas tua (“Thy will be done”); and it is evil when the formula of the underlying will is: Fiat voluntas mea (“my will be done”). [108]

Fiat voluntas tuaSome elements of this discussion seem (if not confused) rather confusing– e.g. it is far from clear whether or not the “emancipated personality” (as such) is the source of the problem or whether the emancipated personality may live in a right relationship with God, its emancipated status, notwithstanding (cf. pages 108, 111, and 119).  One thing is clear, however–namely, that  the personal will (in and of itself) is tyrannic:

“It is only the pentagram of the five wounds which is the effective sign of personal sacred magic, whilst the pentagram of the five currents of personal will, no matter how the points of this pentagram arc turned, is the effective sign for the imposition of the personal will of the operator on beings weaker than him —it is always a fundamentally tyrannic act.
This is the thesis. Let us now proceed to its explanation” (108).

A magic act depends on a surplus of power which is furnished either by 1) lower forces obedient to the operator, 2) equal forces borrowed by the operator,  or 3) higher forces acting through the operator which (s)he obeys (109).

The three types of magic described above are:

  • Fiat voluntas mea (Faustian magic– “my will”);
  • Fiat voluntas nostra (collective magic– “our will”);
  • Fiat voluntas TUA (sacred magic– “thy will”).

“Faustian” and “collective” magic operates under the sign of the pentagram of the five currents of personal and collective will–it is a matter of compulsion, the strong dominating the weak.  The dark currents of the human will are:

1. To be great… (heart)
2. To take… (right hand)
3. To keep… (left hand)
4. To advance… (right foot)
5. To hold… (left foot)

In contrast to the tyranny of the personal and collective wills which depend on force (in the lower sense of the word), sacred magic depends on purity of will:

“with respect to the third form of magic — sacred magic – the method it makes use of is not the force of the will, but rather its purity. But as the will as such is never entirely pure-for it is not the flesh which bears the stigmata of original sin, nor thought as such, but rather the will —it is necessary that the five dark currents inherent in the human will (i.e. the desire to be great, to take, to keep, to advance and to hold on to at the expense of others) are paralysed or “nailed”.  The five wounds are therefore the five vacuities which result in the five currents of the will. And these vacuities are filled by will from above, i.e. by absolutely pure will. This is the principle of magic of the pentagram of five wounds”  (109 – 110, emphasis added).

At this point, the stage is set for an extraordinary discussion of the five wounds which make possible an objective morality/behavior in the same way that our five organs of sense give us objectivity of perception.  What is a wound and just how are the five wounds of the will (which open it up to sacred/vertical influences) produced?

A wound, our Anonymous Author explains, is a door of sorts–e.g. a biological breach or a skin lesion.  The eyes and other senses are compared to open wounds.  They force us to take cognizance of the external world.  Eyesight enters through the eye which is, by analogy, a wound covered by mobile skin–with the lid closed, our sight is reduced to touch.

Morally speaking, the five woulds are like nails from outside–“nailing my will”, he says, bringing it into submission to the Divine will.  Imagine five organs of action giving expression to five currents of an objective (Divine) will analogous to the five organs of perception through which the objective world is revealed.   These organs of action would be to personal desires what sense perceptions are to the play of fantasy, revealing an objective moral reality in contrast to the subjective whimsy of our personal will.

“This is the esoteric concept of the wound. And this concept can become a spiritual reality, then psychic, and eventually even physical with some people. The stigmatics — from St. Francis of Assisi to Padre Pio in Italy and Teresa Neumann in Germany during the present epoch —are people for whom the reality of the five wounds has reached to the physical plane. These are the future organs of the will in formation, the organs of action which taken together have the sacred pentagram as their sign — the quinternary united and bound to the fullness of the decad, according to Saint-Martin” (110-111).

Once again, the dark currents of the human will are:

1. To be great… (heart)
2. To take… (right hand)
3. To keep… (left hand)
4. To advance… (right foot)
5. To hold… (left foot)

These five currents tend towards actions that accrue to (what we mistakenly imagine to be) our personal well-being (at the expense of others).  The five wounds which correspond to them function not only to limit these avenues of personal expression (at the expense of others), but at the same time, to open our hearts and minds to objective moral reality in the same way in which the “wounds” of our “sense organs” give us access to an objective perceptual reality.

crown of thorns nailsWhile there is a correspondence between four of these wounds to our 4 limbs (arms and legs), there is no specific wound corresponding to the head.  The head does not bear the 1st wound, our Anonymous Author says, because– in all people –it bears the crown of thorns or the “nails” of objectivity “which give consciousness to thought” — and thought, as such is the organ of truth, not illusion. The fifth wound– which he says is “first in the order of importance” –is rather to the heart:

“…it is not thought as such which allows the desire for personal greatness or the tendency towards megalomania, but rather the will which makes use of the head and which can take hold of thought and reduce it to the role of its instrument. And this constitutes the second reason as to why the fifth wound — that of organic humility, replacing the current of the will-to-greatness—is not round in the head, but rather in the heart, i.e. it reaches the heart, penetrating from the right-hand side. Because it is there that the will-to-greatness has its origin and it is there from whence it takes hold of the head and makes it its instrument. This is is why many thinkers and scientists want to think “without the heart” in order to be objective —which is an illusion, because one can in no way think without the heart, the heart being the activating principle of thought; what one can do is to think with a humble and warm heart instead of with a pretentious and cold heart.

“Thus the fifth wound (which is the first in so far as its importance is concerned) is that of the heart instead of the head, the head being from the point of view of the active will an instrument or ‘limb’ of the heart” (111).

But what is the origin of the five wounds–how does one acquire them?  One acquires the five wounds through obedience, poverty, and chastity — whether knowingly or instinctively (112).

All the dark tendencies are arrested through these three practical vows–obedience, poverty and chastity:

“The universal formula of obedience is: Fiat voluntas tua.”
“The vow of poverty is the practice of inner emptiness, which is established as
a consequence of the silence of personal desires, emotions and imagination so
that the soul is capable of receiving from above the revelation of the word, the
life and the light. Poverty is perpetual active vigil and expectation before the eternal
sources of creativity; it is the soul awaiting that which is new and unexpected;
it is the aptitude for learning always and everywhere; it is the conditio sine qua
non of all illumination, all revelation and all initiation” (112)

3 vosOur Anonymous Author goes on to explain that the practice of chastity does not concern solely the domain of sex.  Rather, “it bears equally on all other domains where there is choice between solar law and all sorts of dulling intoxications” (113).  And it is safe to assume that poverty and obedience should be understood in similarly profound and nuanced ways.  Indeed, our Anonymous Author explains that the practice of chastity binds the hunter in us, poverty binds the thief in us, and obedience binds the will to greatness or the will  to usurp (114).  In sum,

“These three vows therefore constitute the sole known and indispensable method which leads to the five wounds, i.e. to the effective pentagram of sacred magic” (114).

Our Anonymous Author goes on to specify that

…it is not a matter of the virtues of humility, poverty and chastity being wholly realised— because no man in the flesh can possess thesevirtues totally —but rather of their practice, i.e. sincere efforts aimed at their realisation. It is the effort which counts (114).

Indeed, our efforts count for something, but even then it is purity of will in presence that is effective:

…it is a matter in the magic of the sacred pentagram of five wounds of accomplishing the living presence of the good alongside the consciousness of the subject of the operation. For good does not fight evil; it does not struggle against it. The good is only present, or it is not. Its victory consists in that it results in being present, its defeat in that it is forced to be absent. And it is the five wounds which assure the presence of the good, i.e. the presence of pure will from above (114).

The example is offered of St. Francis whose wounds were of a spiritual as well as a corporal nature.  Christlike, such wounds enable one to lead souls out of limbo (the natural state) and purgatory (the state of human suffering) to that of paradise (blessedness). The operation of the magic of the sacred pentagram transforms the natural state into the human state and the human state into the divine state.  [115-116]

This is spiritual alchemy–transporting souls from limbo to purgatory to paradise.  These three states are states of the human being — in body, soul, and spirit.  They are known to us through experience by the keys of analogy that experience provides to us so that we can  understand them at every level (psychological, metaphysical, and theological).

  • Limbo = the joy of life that is characteristic of unfallen nature and which we experience from time to time without supernatural grace or Divine assistance…
  • Purgatory = the purgative suffering that falls between the natural innocence of limbo and the heavenly joys of paradise…

Natural human joy is ruined by sin, resulting in suffering, followed by a consoling benediction from heaven:

Now, the magic of the sacred pentagram of five wounds “leads souls out of limbo and purgatory and conducts them to paradise”. This means to say that it makes heaven present in “limbo” and “purgatory”, that it enables it to descend into the domain of innocent and suffering Nature. This, in turn, means to say that it introduces the supernatural into the natural, heals sickness, illumines consciousness and enables participation in the spiritual life. “Purgatory” includes all sickness and all suffering. “To be led out: of it” signifies liberation from it,  i.e. to be healed, illumined and reunited with the spirit (117).

With regard to the the non-sacred use of the pentagram– whether the point is turned up or down —our Anonymous Author makes clear, once again, that it has more to do with the heart and mind of the operator than the physical orientation of the symbol:

“. . . there is more chance in the case of the sign of the pentagram with the point turned above for reason and conscience to make the best of the operation than in the case of the reversed pentagram, but all depends here on the intellectual and moral state of the operator.  A perverse intellectuality would certainly make worse use of the upright pentagram than a sound motivated by a good intention would of the reversed pentagram. Therefore, let us not be afraid of the reversed pentagram, or depend too much on the upright pentagram (118).


He goes on examine the ascendancy of the sacred pentagram as a historical and cultural icon in the west– marked by the triumph of the cross of the middle ages –and contrasts this to the pentagram of the emancipated personality (which he associates with the Renaissance).  The former, to be sure, was characterized by obedience and faith–but was also accompanied by “every abuse imaginable” (118).  The latter, in contrast– while giving rise to a material civilization without parallel –destroyed the traditional order.  And sowing to the wind, in this way, we have reaped the whirlwind (119).

As indicated at the end of Letter IV, it is the Fifth Arcanum— that of the Pope —which, by means of the five wounds, teaches us the manifestation of the Divine that transcends human nature.  The magic of the five wounds operates by the presence of the reality of the superhuman spiritual world which accomplishes the aforementioned transformations.

Now, the post of Pope in the spiritual history of mankind is that of guardian of the sacred pentagram of the five wounds, i.e. he guards the one legitimate way of passing from the cross to the pentagram and from the pentagram to the hexagram.  The function of the spiritual post of Pope is to see to it that it is only after the cross is taken up that the pentagram has its ascent and that it is only after the sacred pentagram of the five wounds is taken up that the raising of the hexagram takes place. The mission of the post of Pope is to take care that spiritual obedience, poverty and chastity—free and holy —do not disappear from the world and that there are always people in the world who embrace them and represent them. For these three practical vows constitute the preliminary condition for living faith, luminous hope and ardent love, i.e. for the spiritual respiration of humanity. Mankind would suffocate spiritually without faith, hope and love or charity. And it would be bereft of these if the practice of spiritual obedience, poverty and chastity— free and holy —were to cease (119).

MOTT Study Guides  –>  The Lover

preview 06. The Lover

 Second Tier Tarot Resources on the Pope…

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