Up to this point the Tarot Keys, from Key 0 to Key 13, mostly consist of theory. As a student of the Tarot, it is important that you have a firm foundation in theory before you begin your practice. If you haven’t looked at all of Keys 0 to 13, now would be a good time to review those that you’ve missed. Each Key builds upon the Key prior to it. Learning the terms and how to use the tools required is very important.
But most important of all, these theories must be established and supported in your life. The way to do that means that they must be verified by you before they can become an integral part of your life. The system of Cabala instruction you receive from the Tarot is practical. You have been given so far principals whose effects should already be reshaping your attitude toward yourself and your brothers here on earth. Your success in this work and in your life essentially relies on your realization of the nature and true unity of all mankind.
But memorizing a set of rules or directions that you can follow is not enough. The magical art includes a transformation of your personality, and the raising and expansion of your consciousness, until you perceive clearly the principles and laws whereby you operate. This is where Key 14 Temperance comes in. It is the embodiment of the Law of Verification. Here you begin to experience great trials and testing of yourself by your Self. You are the initiate and the Tarot Keys are the story of your life and your states of consciousness. These principles emanate from the One Identity, which is your innermost Self. You have entered the Hero’s Journey, which I spoke to you about in my post “Introduction – Overview.”
The Hebrew letter Samekh is related to this Key and means, as a verb, to prop, bear up, establish, uphold, sustain. As a noun it means a tent peg (illustrated in the lower right hand corner of the Key), that makes firm the tent, or dwelling-place. Both as a verb and as a noun, its meanings infer the principle of verification. Only through the purging and purification of your personality does it, in time, become a fit channel for the expression of the One Force, a fit Temple of the Most High, a pure and holy habitation for Spirit.
The Law of Verification brings about the establishment or foundation of the House of God. By following these Keys on the Tarot you have announced yourself a candidate for Truth. Truth will be revealed to you when you have proved yourself ready for it. Your first test is the earnestness with which you apply yourself to this preliminary instruction.
Let’s look further at the letter Samekh. In Key 8 Strength we see the serpent coiled, symbolized by the Hebrew letter Teth. In Key 11 Justice we see in the letter Lamed the serpent uncoiled and active, its head erect, and its tail pointing downward and to the left. The letter Samekh shows the completion of the upward movement of the tail toward the serpent’s mouth. It is therefore a reversal of the symbolism of Teth. In Teth it shows the serpent power as it is before it comes under control. Lamed shows it at the half-way stage of our mastery over it. Samekh shows the result of perfect control.
The serpent biting its own tail has been for ages a symbol of eternity and of wisdom. It also suggests circular movement by its shape, thereby establishing a connection between Key 14 and Key 10 Wheel of Fortune, to which Jupiter is attributed. Here is indicated the combination of the idea of cycles and rotation with that of concentration and attentive observation of experience.
The sign Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter, is attributed to Samekh. Sagittarius means “archer” and its symbol is an arrow. See the symbol for it in the lower right hand corner of the Key. It is a fiery sign and rules the thighs and hips, which support the weight of the body in standing and sitting. That fiery activity is a form of intense vibration. The serpent power is vibratory. It is the desire force, which is the energizing principle behind all that we do. It can be terribly destructive when not in control, but it is the power that leads to freedom, the force that destroys limitations and impediments to free expression.
The number 14 represents the principle of reason (Key 4) expressed through the agency of concentration (Key 1). The verification of hypotheses arrived at by the use of reason is carried out by means of concentration. The digits of 14 add to 5, the number of the Teacher. Thus we arrive at the conclusion that the goal of verification is reached by carefully following the instruction imparted by the “still small voice” of intuition.
5 is also the number of adaption and desire. The proper adaption of the tremendous force of desire, through intelligent control, results in the attainment of the higher consciousness. This is the mode of consciousness wherein experience becomes the test of ideas. Temperance, in the day when the Tarot was invented, meant “tempering” or “modifying.” It therefore suggests adaption. Adaption is the basis of all practical work in Hermetic science. To adapt is to equalize, to adjust, to coordinate, to equilibrate. The object of tempering is to impart strength. This object is attained in the Great Work by the proper mixture of opposite forces, that is applying the Law of Equilibrium.
The central figure of the Key is angel Michael, angel of the sun and archangel of the element fire. These attributes connect him to the sun pictured in Key 19 The Sun. His name means “Like unto God.” He is neither male nor female. We use the pronoun “he” for convenience. Neither is he a person. Michael is a personification of the fiery Life-breath of the One Identity. There is a solar symbol on his brow, a golden circle with a dot in the middle, and light radiates from his head. One foot rests on water, symbol of the cosmic mind-stuff, the other on land, symbol of concrete manifestation. He is not the One Identity, but the Life-breath of that One Identity, centered in the heart of personality.
That fiery Life-breath of the One Identity is in continual circulation between its personal center of manifestation and the One Identity from whence it originates. This would be like electricity lighting a lamp which is in continual circulation between the lamp and the dynamo at the power station.
Michael’s white robe, representing purity and wisdom, has inscribed across the neckline the four Hebrew letters of the Tetragrammaton, IHVH, Jehovah. Below the letters is a golden 7-pointed star. This has special reference to skill, because to make such a star, a circle must be divided into 7 equal parts. There is no exact mathematical formula for this. Thus the division of the circle must be made by trial and error. The seven points of the star symbolize the seven Spirits of God, or aspects of the Divine Life. They correspond also to the seven sacred planets, the seven alchemical metals, and the seven chakras of the Yogis.
The 7-pointed star is also a symbol of mastery. This mastery results from single-pointed devotion to the work of making experimental verification of the fact that the real presence of the Higher Self may be known at the heart of our personal lives. To obtain this skill we must have the higher instruction of the angel. The wings of the angel are fiery red, the quality of the astrological sign Sagittarius, with blue highlights, Sagittarius’s color attribution. Remember that the symbol of Sagittarius is an arrow, suggesting aim, will, purpose, intention. Sagittarius has to do with distant journeys, with dreams, visions, religion and philosophy. And, with the quest for knowledge that is implied by the word “verification.”
Upon the fiery lion the angel pours water. The fixed element of fire is represented by the lion. From the torch in his left hand five flames, shaped like the letter Yod, fall on the head of the eagle. The fixed element of water is represented by the eagle. Water on fire, fire on water, or the action and reaction of opposites, is thus shown, and this carries out the general idea of tempering or modifying.
Michael is the real I AM, or Ego of the entire human race. He is shown adapting and modifying the personal stream of psychic energy in the actions and reactions of the self-conscious and subconscious aspects of human personality. The practical import of this picture is that “We do nothing of ourselves.” The Holy Guardian Angel, Michael, makes all the tests and trials which lead us along the path of attainment. Know this, but act as if you were making the tests yourself. The only correction necessary is the intellectual correction. For practical purposes, the wise man acts just as if he were doing things “on his own.” He knows better, that is all.
The water falling from the vase is a reference to the letter Mem and to the doctrine represented by the Suspended Man – reversal. When purified water, or reversed personal consciousness, is poured out on a lion, the meaning is: through suspension of the false notion of personal independence , one comes to understand the true function of personality as the instrument of Divine Will. When this change in consciousness is carried into subconsciousness, a change of heart is brought about. More than this, a definite activity is instituted at the heart center of the physical body.
The rainbow represents the differentiation of the vibratory activity of light into color, by means of water suspended in the upper air. When the water of consciousness has been mingled with the cosmic Life-breath, then is manifest the rainbow of promise. The colors of the rainbow are the colors of the planetary centers, also known as the alchemical “metals,” and the same as the chakras of the yogis. The rainbow refers also to the occult use of color, which is a powerful means for bringing power into the human field of operation. By means of color, we are able to use vibratory activity to modify external conditions.
The path in Key 14 begins in the pool of water and rises between the twin mountains peaks of Wisdom and Understanding. It ends beneath the Crown of the Primal Will. The pool represents Yesod from the Tree of Life, or Foundation. It is also designated as “The Sphere of the Moon.” Remember, all of the water in the Keys comes from the robe of the High Priestess. The gold background and the gold of the seven-pointed star on Michael’s robe represent solar forces.
The purpose of the Ageless Wisdom is to get you to try, not to persuade you to accept. In your practice, shoot at some definite mark. Quit accepting theories and statements, until you have tested them out in actual practice. By trial you will soon realize that the real working power which makes the experiments is something higher than your personality. It is the Angel, on whose robe is written the identifying name of That which was , and is, and and always shall be. Remember, there is nothing in the cosmos but vibration, and all forms of vibration may be modified and managed by mental control.