Pope (I)

Notes from a Hermetic Conversation on September 26, 2016

Tarot Study, 9/26 – The Fourth Arcanum, The Emperor and the Fifth Arcanum, The Pope

 June, Joel, and Phillip were present.  

We began with the first five gestures of the Tarot Alphabet.  Then we observed the Fourth and Fifth Arcana juxtaposed with the First and Second.

– First question:  what is going on with the disorderly acolytes?  Why do they look so strange?  The tonsures and hands are the only real points of orientation.  They appear to be incomplete human beings, in need of ordering and completion.  The Pope looks gigantic in comparison.  Could they be elemental beings being ministered unto by the hierarchies?

– This card is the first one that has a 3 dimensional quality.  The Magician is a presentation of objects which go through a process of internalization, ordering and presentation throughout the first 4 cards.  All of them have a very archetypal and “flat” character to them.  For the first time in The Pope, the image has come to life.  

– The Pope is to the first four cards what the High Priestess is to the first card, of taking in the first four cards and letting them gestate.  He is an inversion, however – same robes, even the same shapes in the robes, but opposite coloration.  

– The tonsures look like rapidly revolving spheres of light.  They could be attached to the Pope, to his garment or his throne.  They are unusually small to be heads.

– The Pope, like The Magician, has a very clear and passive spiritual plane above, with a disorderly and active material plane below – a plane of generation.  It almost seems as though the acolytes are growing or budding off of The Pope; a very different form of gestation than that indicated in The High Priestess.

– The Emperor gives the impression of a madman – talking to his scepter, receiving messages from it, out in the middle of nowhere.  He has a “Moses on the Mount” quality.  Whereas The Pope is like Aaron (or Phineas/Elijah) – the High Priest, whose role it is to dispense the teachings to the people.  His larynx is bound, rather than his sacral – “let the Gospel purify that which is impure in my word” – the Priest is bound in his speech.

– The form of the Tree of Life is in The Pope – the tonsures and hands of the acolytes make up the four lower Sephiroth; the blessing hand of the Pope is over the heart; the Pillars are on the shoulders; the three tiers of the tiara make up the upper three Sephiroth.

– The swooping line in the blue portion of the robes of The Pope matches the swooping line of the throne in The Emperor.  What has transformed?  Has the shield become the acolytes?

– There are other similarities to the Magician.  The Pope’s scepter is in the left hand, like the Magician’s wand; the right hand of each makes a conspicuous gesture at the vertical midline; the blessing gesture of the Pope is at the same angle as the Magician’s wand.  Has the Magician’s Table become the Pope’s Robe?

– The Emperor’s robes have the same coloration as the Pope’s.  It is as though the Emperor has turned around to face the front, and his entire lower body has united with what is happening in the foreground (the same ambiguity of the lower portion as the High Priestess).

– The Ball/Sphere has vanished from the Scepter – it has become the head of the right-hand elemental acolyte.

– Reminiscent of the meditation from the Third Level of Trespass – “stream the light of thinking into depths of will…” [Edit Dec 2020: A reference to the Grail Knight’s Practice]

– The only time we have seen a hat is on the Magician – now there is one on the acolyte.

– Maybe the blue pillars are topped with cups, with open spheres?  The white pillar down below is more earthly, not open.  Like a pillar of salt.  Both of the upper pillars are blue – they are open cups, receptive to the spiritual. Maybe they are two halves of something that was split in two?

– The yellow border of the robes creates a shape akin to the Eye of Horus.  It seems like the Pope is bearing an Exoteric Staff (Church of Peter) at the level of the Head in his left hand, and an Esoteric Staff (Church of John) at the level of the Heart, camouflaged by his robes.  The three horizontal lines of the outer staff align with the three levels of the tiara.

– He is the first figure to seem burdened, hunched over – the weight of the spirit (of the pillars)

– We read the quote from page 100 of MOT about the two pillars indicating the circulation of the blood – veinous blood of prayer going up to the spiritual world from the acolyte on our right (his head touches the blue robes), and the arterial, oxygenated blood of benediction coming down to the acolyte on our left (his head touches the red robes).  There is a clear delineation of upper left red and lower right blue.

– The blue robes are not an outpouring like the High Priestess’s, despite the similarity to her red robes.  Rather, they are like a window into another world.  The head/arms of the Pope are as though the frame of this window, door, or gateway.  It looks like a desert night, or the sea. He is like an inverted Madonna; rather than the Feminine bearing the Christ-child, he is the Masculine bearing Nyx, Night – Sophia.  “I am the Door, the Entrance and the Exit.”  Michael as Guardian of the Threshold.  The Pope is the Master of Twilight:  The Guardian of the Threshold between Day and Night (Red and Blue).  

The Pope corresponds to Mercury (Solar Plexus=I Am the Door).  Mercury Retrograde the past few weeks.  It feels like movement, communication, health have hiccups rather than a natural unfolding process.  Mercury is related to Breathing – hiccups are an appropriate metaphor!

Steiner says the lungs just vessels for air; that the kidneys impel them to the actual activity of breathing.  The tonsures look like kidneys – they are the reason for the Spiritual Respiration – without them the Pope would have no reason to empty and fill.  Spiritual Poverty.  

The acolytes are the “disorder” of the asymmetric lower organs.  The only symmetric lower organs are the kidneys.  The lower portion of the card is full of the biological complexity of the lower organs, vs the transparency and clarity of the spiritual above.  The lower body has an amazing complexity of unguided movement – free movement that goes exactly where it should.

– When we work with the Tarot, we go through the door – like the wardrobe to Narnia.  This gateway is like the “negative” of the Emperor’s throne; the spiritual counterpart to the manifest reality of the Emperor; the occult standing behind him.

– This is the first card to establish a true back to front; figures in the foreground and a “door” through which they can go.  The Magician has a clearly established up and down (Feeling) and left and right (Thinking), but the wand and sphere only give an indication, a wish for back to front (the Will).  The Empress established back to front as an orientation (Sacred Magic is related to the Will), but the Pope is the first to make it a reality.  Now there is communication between the acolytes below and the spiritual above – but also the potential for communication between the acolytes in front and the Esoteric Dimension beyond.  The Pope is either blessing, or warning, or both:  “Come into the Night if you Dare, or remain at the Threshold and merely Receive.”