The Tarot card called The Moon takes us to the fourth stage of spiritual unfoldment, wherein the knowledge gained by meditation is incorporated into the bodily organism. In the previous stages we became aware on Key 15 The Deceiver of our bondage to the world of appearances and that our bondage was just an illusion. In Key 16 The Tower we were struck by a flash of spiritual illumination which forever changed us, overthrowing our false structures of wrong thinking and action. Then Key 17 The Star brings us a period of calm, like that which follows a storm, revealing to us through meditation new relationships. Now we are ready to begin the process of organization, the function of Key 18 The Moon.
The term organization in this context refers to the organization of the human body into a higher type of organism than that which is spontaneously provided by evolution.This finer and more responsive physical vehicle created by self-direction from the level of the conscious mind is made possible by the exercise of imagination. Alchemists call this the “Great Art.”
This process is not by selection and breeding, but by the direct action of man’s will. Also, it’s not just a consequence of personal efforts, though they are necessary for the fulfillment of this transformation to take place. For no man can accomplish this transformation, this “Operation of the Sun,” until he sees, understands, and applies the principles, laws and forces that are involved.
Imagination is the key to this accomplishment. It makes clear and definite our desires and aspirations. Mental images are the patterns that we pass into sub-consciousness, and the subconscious mind is the builder of the body and the controller of all of its functions. Think of your subconscious mind as your Secret Agent of Transformation and Regeneration! Not only do these vivid images provide us with patterns for bodily transformation, but they also steer us into courses of action which help to bring about these bodily changes.
If we look at those who excel in their field, we find examples of this. A musician who spends hours practicing for much of his life has changed the muscular structure of his hands, arms, and legs, plus subtle changes to his hearing and sight centers. If we look at an athlete the changes are quite noticeable. But what is also going on are the affects on his nerve and muscle cells. Eventually he has become what he has imagined, because he has built for himself, by action corresponding to imagination, the specially conditioned body of an athlete. This is the same for a poet or a prophet.
Everything that human beings achieve is accomplished through some kind of bodily activity, and each type of activity is made possible by the development of a corresponding type of organic structure. Whatever your object in life may be, you will achieve it when you have built a physical vehicle that can transform the Life-power into the particular kinds of action corresponding to your mental imagery.
The number 18 expresses the potency of the number 8, working through 1. Thus it represents the Law of Suggestion symbolized by Key 8 Strength as being applied through the directive activity of attention typified by Key 1 The Magician. Reviewing all of the Tarot Keys again and again begins to leave a stronger and deeper impression of your conscious realization of these facts upon the subconscious mind – your personal Secret Agent. In effect, when the subconscious mind knows that we understand what it can do, it works better. The Tarot is a device invented for just that purpose.
Let’s look at the Hebrew letter Qoph, which means “back of the head.” Some of the most important organs of the human body are located in the rear of the skull. Here are the posterior lobes of the cerebrum and cerebellum. The posterior lobe of the cerebrum contains the sight center, so that it is actually true that we see with the backs of our heads.
Just below the posterior lobe of the cerebrum is a knot of nervous tissue, called the medulla oblongata, or brain stem, that unites the brain to the spinal cord and its branches. Thus the medulla is the connecting link between the higher centers of sensation, thought and action located in the head and the subordinate centers located in the body. It has been found that the medulla governs respiration, that it regulates the heart, and that it contains the principal center that controls the circulation of the blood throughout the body. It also has other functions in the maintenance of the body. Interesting to note is that the medulla is really what keeps us alive, for its functions are carried on without interruption, even while we sleep.
Which brings us to why sleep is assigned in the Qabalah to the letter Qoph. What consciousness remains active in personality during sleep has its most important centers in the back of the head. Sleep is the period of rest and recuperation during which the waste caused by the day’s activity is eliminated, and new materials are woven into the bodily structure. This reminds me of the final essential pose in a yoga class called savasana, or corpse pose, which is used for the same purpose. The body rests and absorbs the class, and thereby becomes structurally different. You want to still your mind while in savasana. Let your Secret Agent do its job.
While we sleep, the plans and thoughts we have been concerned with during the day are ripened and brought to maturity. Our mental processes continue at subconscious levels, even while the cells of the upper brain are resting. It is during sleep that our aspirations and efforts are built into our organic structure. What we have thought and done during the day goes on influencing the body while we are asleep. This is why it is advantageous to review each day before falling asleep. This is a very important tool.
As a young aspirant, I was instructed to do a Retrospection of the current day right before falling asleep. It goes like this – we see where we have fallen short, and we determine to do better the next time we find ourselves in a similar situation. I recall saying to myself, “I’ll keep this and that, and I’ll toss out this and that” as I reviewed my day. I didn’t dwell for long on any one item. It should only take a few minutes. We intensify the effect of all our well-doing by this mental repetition of the original actions and thoughts. Then , before composing ourselves for slumber, we once more bring before us the image of that which is our highest and truest desire. Write it down if that helps. By this means we actually build our aspirations into our flesh and blood, impressing our dominant desire on every cell. Our Secret Agent sets out to do the work while we sleep.
Pisces, the Fishes, a mutable, watery sign, is attributed to the Hebrew letter Qoph. It is ruled by Jupiter (see Key 10 Wheel of Fortune) and by Neptune (see Key 12 Suspended Man). The processes we are now learning about are the direct outcome of the “wheels within wheels” of the interlocking cycles and rotations of cosmic activities. At the same time, there is a point in human evolution, represented by the Suspended Man, at which we become aware of the fact that personality is only an instrument or channel for the universal forces active in the Great Work.This awareness is also part of the developmental process represented by the symbolism of Key 18.
The sign Pisces governs the feet of man. Feet are the pathmakers, thus Pisces relates to the Way of which the beginning is found when meditation reveals the “star of the soul.” Venus is exalted in Pisces, which is to say what the Empress Key 3 symbolizes reaches it highest expression in this sign. Thus imagination plays an important part in the activities we are covering. On the Key you’ll see her presence as the cultivated green grass under the wolf and dog.
The number 18 is 9 by reduction. The Hermit Key 9 is the goal of the path shown in this picture. Whenever we experience dreamless sleep we are united with him. Profound sleep is the state in which personal consciousness is perfectly joined to the real I AM.
The Moon symbolizes the reflected light of subconsciousness and its powers of duplication, reproduction, reflection, and the turning of energy back toward its source. Therefore Key 18 symbolizes the Path of Return and thus is a reference to the parable of the Prodigal Son. The drops of light falling from the Moon correspond to the implication that “corporeal,” or body consciousness, is related to “rain.” There are 18 Hebrew Yods, the number of this Key. Also, the number 18 is the value of the Hebrew noun Chai, signifying “life.” Thus the falling Yods refer to the descent of the life-force from above into the conditions of corporeal existence.
These Yods have also be referred to as drops of blood. The idea here is that the powers of sub-consciousness are developed as actual physical structure through changes in blood chemistry. The body is actually built from elements contained in the bloodstream, and the chemistry of the bloodstream is controlled by the subconscious mind, symbolized by the Moon.
The yellow color of the Moon corresponds to the intellectual, conscious principle. The Moon has 16 principal and 16 secondary rays, totaling 32 rays. This is the number of paths on the Qabalistic diagram of the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life shows 10 forces corresponding to the numbers 1 to 10, and 22 forces represented by the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the Tarot Keys. Thus, the rays of the Moon indicate the sum-total of cosmic forces at work in the field of human personality. 32 is also the number of the Hebrew noun liab, meaning “the heart, especially as the seat of knowledge, understanding, and thinking; also, midst, center.” In addition, according to Eliphas Levi, “the heart of man is identified with the sympathetic nervous system.”
The pool below is the same as that in Key 14 Temperance and Key 17 The Star. It is the great deep of cosmic mind-stuff, out of which emerges the “dry land” of physical manifestation. From it all organic life proceeds. Surrounding the pool are rocks representing mineral, inorganic elements and vegetation, representing organic elements.
The crayfish climbing from the pool is a symbol of the early stages of conscious unfoldment. It is a hard-shelled crustacean and its shape is similar to a scorpion. That similarity is on purpose because that which rises, and makes the whole journey on the Path of Return, is the force of the zodiacal sign Scorpio. The shell represents the early stage of the student on the path who still thinks of himself as separate from the rest of nature.
The Egyptian scarab beetle represents the god Khephra, symbol of the sun at night when it is hidden below the horizon. Night represents the predominance of subconscious activities. The symbol of the Sun that the scarab is pushing forward signifies the gold that alchemists refer to as the fluidic light-force at work in the field of the subconscious mind, where it brings about changes in the physical body.
The dog and wolf are from the same genus, the canine family. The wild dog or wolf, dangerous to man, is what natures produces. The dog is the result of modifications effected in the wolf by human thought. Men tame wolves and modify the structure of their bodies by cross-breeding. This is a direct allusion to control of the body-consciousness. The wolf is a symbol of Nature and the dog is a symbol of Art. The path goes between these two extremes, at the point of balance in the middle. In the foreground it traverses a cultivated field, symbolizing matters of more or less general knowledge.
The undulating path continues towards the two towers, which mark the boundaries of the known. Progress on the path is not an unbroken upward climb. There will be times of descent, and then ascent again. There will be times when going on will seem impossible. We can’t be climbing all the time. In the Great Work there is periodicity. The one thing needful is to keep facing toward the goal. As long as we do this, we may be sure we are progressing.
The towers are man-made. They represent the mental attitude of the average man who conceives that he is surrounded by a hostile environment, against which he must fight, from which he must protect himself. Thus the towers correspond to the mental states symbolized by the hard outer shell of the crayfish.
Beyond the towers is a vast region of experience. These experiences are contrary to the wall of the ordinary limits of human sensation and perception. Many have entered that region and created a path whereby we may follow them. The purple mountains in the background represent the two Sephirah called Wisdom and Understanding on the Tree of Life. The path on this card moves slightly to the left side of the mountain, toward Understanding, which symbolizes Mother, mind, substance, and Saturn. The Path of Understanding is a Saturnine path. Saturn implies discrimination.
The Way of Attainment is the Path of Return. The Beyond is really the Source. Thus, there is a sense in which that which is before us, in the future, is also that which is behind us, in the past.”The last shall be first, and the first shall be last,” for when the cycle is completed, end and beginning are one.
The beginning of the Way is in the realm of the familiar. It leads us from the common place, by easy stages, from the known to the less-known, to the unknown. The goal is true Self-recognition, correct perception of the universal I AM, and mental identification with that One Identity. Get to know and consciously direct your Secret Agent! Begin to use your new tool called Retrospection.