Friday, November 28, 2014

The Unicorn and the Lightning-Struck Tower, IV

Previous posts have considered the symbolism of the unicorn, the tower and the lightning flash within Yeats's work and in the system of A Vision, but the most immediate source in many respects is, of course, the Tarot card of the lightning-struck tower. This card is labelled "La Torre" in most Italian packs, such as the one that W. B. Yeats himself had, and "La Maison Dieu" in the older French packs, such as George's Marseilles pack. The majority of designs show a lightning flash, often coming from a cloud, striking the top of a crenelated tower, dislodging its crown, and with two or more people falling, along with a hail of particles.
In the Golden Dawn's specific iconography, the card is named the "Blasted Tower" and titled "Lord of the Hosts of the Mighty". In the Order's syncretic system, the Tarot trumps were identified with the paths connecting the sephiroth on the Tree of Life, and these in turn had correspondences with astrological principles. In their system, The Tower corresponds with the path on the Tree of Life joining Hod and Netzach, one of three horizontal paths on the Tree, identified by the Hebrew letter Peh (פ)  and the planet Mars. In many ways both these attributes have some appropriateness for George: Peh means "mouth" and her work as medium for the automatic script gave words to the communicators, and she was strongly marked as a Scorpio, both by her astrological rising sign and her cycle sign in the system, ruled by Mars (Pluto had not been discovered, and the Yeatses generally used the traditional rulers anyway). George was also said to have a Mars Daimon (YVP3 292) as did WBY.

The symbolism may well extend further. The Golden Dawn's Outer Order was not involved with magic—that came later in the Second Order—rather, it was designed to provide a grounding in the basics of occult knowledge and to help balance the temperament of the aspiring initiates by a series of elemental initiations, Earth, Air, Water and then Fire. In this structure, Water and Fire were associated with Hod and Netzach, respectively, so that the path joining them is the last one that is wholly within that elemental world. Beyond that came the Portal Ritual, after which the successful aspirant would pass to the Second Order. This ritual symbolically involves crossing the "Veil of the Paroketh", separating the lower sephiroth from the central ones.

The lower four sephiroth on the Tree of Life, with some of the Golden Dawn correspondences. For Mathers' diagram of the whole Tree in relation to the GD, see
W. B. Yeats joined the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in March 1890 and, by the time he stood as a candidate for the Golden Dawn's Portal Ritual in January 1893, he had passed through the four initiations of the Outer Order. There was a minimum period of three months at each grade, so Yeats's progress was not unduly fast.

After induction into the Order as Neophyte (0=0), preparation for the grade of Zelator (1=10) focused on elemental Earth and the sephirah of Malkuth; next came Theoricus (2=9), elemental Air and the sephirah of Yesod; then Practicus (3=8), elemental Water and Hod, followed by Philosophus (4=7), elemental Fire and Netzach. These processes focused on exploring and balancing the 'lower' personality, represented by these four sephiroth, preparatory to advancing towards actual magical workings and raising of the consciousness towards the Higher Self in the Second Order, Rosae Rubeae et Aureae Crucis. The Portal Ritual does not have a specific grade related to it, representing a liminal level: the fifth element of Spirit or Akasa, the culmination of the Outer or First Order and an induction into the Second Order.

George followed the same steps, over twenty years later, inducted into the Stella Matutina in August 1914. Her advance through the grades seems to have been a little rapider, with initiations into the next grades in September and then November or December (as far as can be told from astrological charts she drew up that seem to indicate the times of initiations, see Becoming George 69-71). She probably advanced to Practicus (3=8) in May 1915.  At the end of that ritual, the Hierophant congratulates the newly made Practicus, and confers "the Mystic Title of 'MONOCRIS DE ASTRIS', which means 'Unicorn from the Stars' and I give you the symbol of MAIM which is the Hebrew Name for Water" (Regardie, The Golden Dawn, 2:118; see also the earlier version in Equinox 1:2, 274, where the title is "MONOKEROS DE ASTRIS").

Three or more months later, the aspirant might be ready to undergo the initiation to Philosophus. In this ritual he or she is addressed by the title of "Monocris de Astris", and symbolically approaches the sephirah of Netzach via the three paths that lead to it from the lower sephiroth already mastered:
· first from Malkuth by the path of Qoph, identified with the Tarot card of The Moon and the zodiac sign of Pisces;
· then from Yesod by the path of Tzadi, identified with The Star and the zodiac sign of Aquarius;
· and finally from Hod by the path of Peh, identified with The Tower and the planet Mars.

The ritual of the Philosophus, approaching Netzach via the horizontal path from Hod, shows the card as conceived by the Golden Dawn:
          And the Sixteenth Key of the Tarot:
It represents a Tower struck by a lightning-flash proceeding from a rayed circle and terminating in a triangle. It is the Tower of Babel. The flash exactly forms the Astronomical symbol of Mars. It is the Power of the Triad rushing down and destroying the Column of Darkness. The men falling from the tower represent the fall of the kings of Edom. "On the right-hand side of the Tower is Light, and the representation of the Tree of Life by Ten Circles. On the left-hand side is Darkness, and Eleven Circles symbolically representing the Qliphoth."

Aleister Crowley notes that this card "which we have seen in the 4°= 7° Ritual represents a tower struck by a flash of lightning, symbolising the Tower of Babel struck by the wrath of Heaven, and also the Power of the Triad rushing down and destroying the columns of darkness, the light of Adonai glimmering through the veils and consuming the elementary Rituals of the 1°=10°, 2°=9°, 3°=8°, and 4°=7° grades" (Equinox 1:2 293). This underlines that this stage is the true final stage of the elemental levels, associated with a breaking down of the Tower of selfhood that was built before, so that a new one can be constructed consciously to lead to the Higher Self.

A new Tarot pack, coming from the Golden Dawn tradition, actually includes a unicorn in the symbolism of the Tower card.
This Tarot is designed Harry and Nicola Wendrich, painted by Harry, in association with Nick Farrell and the Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea, a successor to the Golden Dawn. The tower seems to have been constructed out of letter blocks, with the base constructed from the twelve so-called simple letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the middle tier from the seven double letters, and the highest level from the three mother letters. (These categories come from the Sepher Yetzirah and correspond in turn with the twelve signs of the zodiac, the seven ancient planets, and the three elements—excluding earth.) The arrow that strikes and topples the crown of the tower issues from a circle in the form of the symbol for Mars, the card's astrological counterpart, and connected to the red colours that dominate this card. The circle is in fact a complex geodesic form of sphere, patterned on the "flower of life". This widespread form of sacred geometry can in turn be used as a matrix to generate the cabalistic Tree of Life: the patterns of the two sets of discs or globes that fall on either side of the tower, as noted by Mathers in the ritual description of the card.
The brightly coloured, positive tree is on the viewer's right and the muddy coloured negative tree on the left, with an extra eleventh sphere at its base, symbolizing imbalance. Over the stormy left side the rainbow arches, recalling the rainbow that came after the Flood that destroyed almost all human and animal life on earth. If the tower recalls the destruction of the Tower of Babel, it is testimony to the less fatal punishment that the promise of the rainbow symbolizes. The Hebrew letters letters for "bow", Q-Sh-Th, also correspond to the three lowest paths on the tree \|/ that meet in Malkuth, which Yeats linked to his vision of the Archer: the arrow is the path of Samekh, which crosses that of  Peh.

"On the right hand side of the Tower is Light and the Tree of Life. There is also the Unicorn of the Stars which is a reference to the 3=8 ritual and the Archangel Uriel. Uriel is the angel of the Mysteries, who overthrows the false perceptions" (Farrell and Wendrich). Traditionally also, Uriel is the angel who warned Noah about the coming flood, so the card brings together many aspects of emerging from an experience in which the old order is swept away to be replaced by a new one. "In fact if you cross the path from Hod to Netzach you are looking at the pulling apart of your existing universe, however if you travel the path from Netzach to Hod you are seeing your higher self creating a new Universe out of the letters it sees. The path of Peh is therefore a destruction and construction" (Farrell at the Wendriches' website).

It seems that the Yeatses must have been thinking about something very similar, and made the connection through study, or more likely through vision. In an e-mail, Nicola informed me that "The inspiration to include the unicorn in the Tower image came from a joint meditation wherein my husband and I met with the Tower archetype, who requested that Harry paint a unicorn in the image to represent the Archangel Uriel.  Uriel is the Angel of the Mysteries, who overthrows false perceptions".  Farrell also made the same connection, independently: "At the time I was inspired by the fact that the Unicorn was a symbol of the Archangel Uriel whose energy tends to unsettle and destroy in this way.  Unfortunately for the life of me I do not know where I got this association from. When I said to Harry I think we should should stick a unicorn in, he said 'oh good we have been getting that in our meditations too' " (e-mail). (See further considerations of the path and the card on Nick Farrell's blog for June 2011.)

With symbolism that is both different and strikingly congruent, the Wendrich card of the Tower bears out much of the passage that was quoted at the end of the "The Unicorn and the Lightning-Struck Tower, III":
In the same way that the external divine of the Thirteenth Cone sends the revelatory shock of the new era in a lightning flash, the Daimon's contact with its human counterpart marks turning points in an individual life. The crises are a form of constructive destruction.
He expresses through a system of images a harmony of related aims and we should discover in this harmony of aims, in this unity of being not the mere intervention of the thirteenth cone but the sphere itself. . . that which only contradiction can expressnot “the  lone tower of the absolute self” but its shattering*; that whi unknown reality painted or sung by the monks of Zen.
* When my Instructors talk of the shattering of the tower they seem to [depend on?] the old symbol. I am thinking of the Tarot trump [of the?] tower struck by lightning.
       (NLI MS 36,272/22, p. 29)
The shattering of "the lone tower of the absolute self" comes through the Daimon's lightning flash and frees the inner being. George's bookplate is thus a symbol of contradiction, a Daimonic moment of crisis, of freedom, connection with "the sphere itself", and Beatific Vision.
It may seem a strange emblem to choose as a bookplate, but it is a constant reminder that the initiate is remaking herself, shattering the tower of self that has been constructed largely unawares in youth, and that part of building a new structure of self and life comes from the words, letters, and speech of the books she reads.

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