Temperance (II)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on July 18, 2017

Tarot conversation July 18, 2017

Temperance – Phillip and Joel

We began with the Divine Alphabet through the 14th Letter, Nun, with allusions to the Grail Knight’s Practice throughout.

After reading the opening quotes from the Letter/Meditation on Temperance, we focused on a spread of Yod/He pairs, but particularly Death and Temperance:

– Temperance has such tiny, delicate hands.  So slender, disproportionate to her arms.  The others’ hands are not like this. 

– She is not looking at what she is doing (like many of the cards). Most of their gazes are cast in a similar angle.  Justice is an exception (looking directly at us).  The Sphinx in Wheel of Fortune and the Hanged Man are also looking straight ahead, but their circumstances are more peculiar.

– There is a strong emphasis on the Left Hip (where the upper pitcher is held), like in Force (also Emperor, Chariot).  Some cards emphasize the Right Hip.

– The yellow and blue of her robes in her midsection is like a transformation of Force’s clothing. Although on closer inspection her chest seems to be exposed right in the middle. There is no cleavage or indication of breasts, unlike Force. This emphasizes the ambiguity or lack of discussion around the gender of Angels in MOT. On page 373 he refers to Temperance as male, but on 377 he refers to her as female, and later in the page he alludes to Swedenborg and the gender of Angels, but makes a point not to give a point of view on this topic.

– Her yellow scarf is unusual. Not like Force’s traditional medieval garb.  Maybe Eastern influence?

– It is difficult to picture what exactly she is doing – hard to imagine coming across someone in this gesture (unlike other cards).  A bit dream-like.  One example might be a small child, taking pleasure in pouring water from one vessel to another.  Or a bartender, showing off preparing a drink.

– If traditional laws of gravity (rather than celestial) are at work, the water is flowing out of the blue vessel on the left into the red vessel on the right.  Blue is not usually active, red is not usually receptive.  Strange.

– The implication is that there is another being there.  She is pouring out water for someone, not just arbitrarily. This brings us back to the idea of a Guardian Angel – the human being she is caring for is implied.

– It seems that she is on Earth.  A similar landscape to both The Magician and The Chariot.  These two cards have a similar red/blue polarity that is emphasized.

– Suddenly there is an abundance of blue hair (both Hanged Man and Temperance).  The first 5 cards emphasized white hair; then 6-11 were blonde; now it is blue (and will continue to be, see the 16th and 17th Arcana).

– The Yod/He pair of Death/Temperance is challenging, just as Wheel of Fortune/Force was.  How is this an image of mystical experience and its realization in consciousness?  10 and 13 seem so dead and lifeless, while 11 and 14 seem so active and full of life.  These two pairs just seems like pairs of opposites.  10 is like a game that’s not at all entertaining, while 11 is an impressive circus act, a feat of strength and control.  13 vs 14 is Death vs Life. But maybe they are two sides of one whole.  13, Death is what is experienced directly, but when it is raised to consciousness it takes the form of Temperance – like the book that John eats in Revelation, sour in his belly but sweet to the tongue.

– In a way, it is akin to The Magician and The High Priestess, activity vs passivity.  The second is so passive it becomes hard to see what is behind it (without the indications in MOT).  These two are also polar opposites.

– It’s like a turning inside out – 10 is a game that is a trap, while 11 is a game that is heroic.  10 and 11 are showing us mechanism (events occurring automatically, unconsciously) vs miracle (events directed with intention, consciousness).  13 and 14 are Death and Life.  But why are mechanism and death mystical while miracle and life are gnostic?

– The Magician is the creator at play, while High Priestess is the Sabbath, the reflection on what one has done.  What unifies all of the Yod cards is not whether they are positive or negative forms – rather it is that they are all experiential. Whatever experiential content they have is then counterbalanced by the subsequent He. So the positive experience of The Magician is counterbalanced by High Priestess.  The negative experience of Death is counterbalanced by Temperance.

– The objects emphasized in the Yod cards (Magician, Emperor, Chariot, Wheel of Fortune, Death) are primarily wands, swords, scepters – potent objects, tools, weapons.  Whereas for the He cards (High Priestess, Pope, Justice, Force, Temperance) there are more cups or cup-like objects (passive), usually both hands are being used.

– When we look at the Yod cards (which are masculine) we realize that both spontaneous Creation (Magician) and Destruction (Death) are masculine.  The He cards (feminine) are about weaving between, smoothing, counterbalancing.  None of the Yod cards look particularly comfortable, some less so than others – all of them need adjustment and correction somehow.

– The role of the Sphinx in the Wheel of Fortune seems crucial.  There is an ambiguity to his motives as the one in control of the rotation of the Wheel, just as there is an ambiguity to the Magician (is he a genius or a charlatan?). Just as the High Priestess generates the Book through reflection of the Magician, so Force generates the Divine Animal as solution to the riddle of the Sphinx.  What is left over after she distills this solution is the Dross, the Hanged Man.  The whole process of separation from 10-12 is summarized by 13 – Death.

– The gesture we see moving through the YHVH of the cards is a search for stability, one that is only gradually approached. The Magician is unstable – through the High Priestess and The Empress what was unstable in him is addressed.  By the Emperor it is corrected – but a new instability, a lower one, has been uncovered and must be addressed.

– The chaos in the seed of the Magician gradually moving through different rounds, until finally we reach The World.  She is what is wanted from the very beginning (absolute stability), but it takes 22 roundabout paths to get to her.

– We can look at the 13th Card as a principle, a primal activity, rather than a being.  Temperance is what can be drawn forth through the activity of Death, that which could not otherwise emerge.  10-13 is a process of separation and distillation.  13-16 accomplishes this again at a higher octave.  Temperance shows us what can be distilled in a positive sense from Death.  The Dross that remains after the good has been rescued from Death is the 15th Arcanum, the Devil.  This whole process is summarized in the Tower of Destruction.  Is this not the story of our time?

– The Tarot then is a process of digging deeper and deeper for that which needs to be cast out, refined, stabilized, integrated.

– The coloring of her robes, and the shapes in them.  The strong Red/Blue contrast.  Is there a bit of white showing a tiny opening in the robes in between?  The shapes in the blue are like a book unfolding.  In the red it is like leaves or a tongue.

– The angle of the water is familiar from other cards.  It separates above from below.  This used to be more strongly emphasized (up through the 8th Arcanum), and now it returns.  It is there a bit in 11, and in 13 although too far down the card.

– It is a very balanced card, like Justice but not so solid.  There is a certain solidity in her arms, but it becomes tender and flowing.  There is a great symmetry of the plant life compared to 1 and 7.  The curve of her figure is delightful, like someone dancing (especially in contrast to the terrible posture of Death).

– The juxtaposition of Death and Temperance is very much that of physical death vs the etheric review.  One can only imagine the relief of the etheric review after the agony of death.  The refreshing water that she is pouring out – the lost memories of the elderly, especially those with dementia, suddenly flooding back to them in a panorama.

– Much emerges when we place Death and Temperance side by side, as though they are one image.  Her line of site follows the handle of the scythe.  The curve of its blade points up to her.  Death is looking directly at her.  The contrast between them emphasizes her life, the spiritual life she offers.  He is so cold and numb.  There are other connections – the landscapes flow right into each other, and one of the faces in Death is peeking over at her feet.  One almost feels as though they are sparring, that she is decocting a remedy in response to the scythe’s cutting as she backs away.

– One can view them as opposing each other, but also somehow superimposed.  She is rescuing what he is attempting to harvest, the life energy he is releasing through his cutting in the etheric realm.  He is pure activity, like The Magician – only destructive instead of creative.  Whereas the reflection of his activity in consciousness reveals what was really living in what has been cut down, that which can only be released through destruction.  Like ash vs flame.  We can see a fire as a destructive force if we focus on the wood being turned to ash – but the warmth, light and life that is produced can only come from the burning of the wood.  Making them into one image changes the whole perception.

– The slothfulness of Death that was emphasized in the quote from a few weeks ago:  doing things out of time, out of cosmic time vs Temperance which is related to Tempo.  Following cosmic time.  It is when deeds are out of time (stars falling from the sky) that death and evil can make themselves known.  To be temperate is to follow cosmic time.

We ended with the closing of the Grail Knight’s Practice.