The Tarot Tableau is one of the many arrangements of the 22 Major Arcana cards. At the top is The Fool and the remaining 21 cards are in seven columns of three cards each. Each of the three rows represents an attribute. The top row contains seven principles, or dominate mental states. The second row represents agencies, or activities. In the bottom row are the conditions or expressions of the principles of the upper row manifesting through the agencies of the middle row.
Each of the seven columns represents a level or stage of spiritual unfoldment; each stage a foundation or preparation for the next. From left to right the columns represent Bondage, Awakening, Revelation, Organization, Regeneration, Realization, and Cosmic Consciousness. So far we’ve covered the first two stages called Bondage and Awakening. In this third stage called Revelation we begin to recover from our previous errors of separateness and the shock that we experienced at that discovery. With a flash of lightning true knowledge has toppled the crown from the Tower of Common Sense and we enter a period of calm and gradual growth. At this stage the new concept of the Oneness-of-All begins gradually to unfold.
What happens during this unfoldment, and the specific activities involved may be discovered by looking at the Keys of the third column. Here we have the Empress Key 3 as the active principle at the top. Below her is the Wheel of Fortune Key 10, the agency through which the active principle represented by the Empress moves. And below the Wheel of Fortune is the condition of Revelation, as represented by the Star Key 17. Let’s begin with a study of the picture of the Star.
Key 17 develops the esoteric meaning of the Hebrew letter Tzaddi, named the “fish-hook”. In the Sepher Yetzirah (the Book of Formation) this letter is assigned to meditation. In the Kabalistic scheme of the paths on the Tree of the Living Ones, it is the 28th Path, joining Victory (7th sphere) to Foundation (9th sphere). Astrologically, Tzaddi corresponds to the zodiacal sign Aquarius, the sign of the Man, ruled by Saturn. Let’s take a further look at Saturn.
Saturn is the 21st Key, The World, symbol of cosmic consciousness. In mythology the god Saturn was said to eat his children. In esoteric psychology we find that the cosmic consciousness, when it becomes a personal experience, swallows up all of its differentiations. As Saturn was father of the gods, so is the cosmic consciousness really the source of all other modes of consciousness. All the modes of consciousness that we have experienced up to this moment are differentiations of cosmic consciousness. In many of the books of wisdom the methods that lead to cosmic consciousness are described as the Path of Return.
But it is interesting to note that in astrology it is commonly regarded as a “malefic influence”, and is said to be constricting, limiting and confining. It seems to have an unfortunate influence on ordinary worldly affairs. But if you think about it, the reason is that ordinary worldly affairs are conducted from the reference point of limited, three-dimensional consciousness, and are therefore based upon the illusion of personal separateness. To those engaged in the vain endeavor to build their house of life on the shifting sands of common-sense, the influence of Saturn is unfavorable, or even harmful. This is not the case with those who have developed, and are living from, a consciousness of the unity of Being. Here we find that the forces of limitation are transmuted, and become the means of concentrating the Life Power into definite and specific forms of expression.
This is what is found depicted in the Star Key of the Tarot. It is the foundation of the growth and increase in wisdom characteristic of the third stage of spiritual unfoldment. For meditation, which has been described as an unbroken flow of knowledge in a particular object, begins with concentration. Concentration is a voluntary limitation of consciousness. That limitation is Saturnian in quality, and because its consequence is understanding, we find that in the Tree of Life that the sphere of Saturn is the third Sephirah, Binah, whose name means “understanding”.
What is the foundation of your consciousness? Is it based on personal separation or unity of Being? Meditation slowly draws you into the consciousness of unity of Being. It’s not an intellectual awareness, but visceral, a deep inward feeling. The consequence of experience is understanding. As you begin to practice meditation you find yourself actually responding differently to situations, not because you thought to do so, or figured something out, but your response comes from a place that may even surprise you in its clarity.
Meditation is simply prolonged concentration. Kabalists liken it to a fish hook. The analogy is a good one. A central assumption of the ancient wisdom is that every center of the Life Power is related to the whole Life Power. The many are expressions of the One, and the One is conscious of all the details of its expression in the Many. In its perfect knowledge, past, present and future are united. It knows the whole of its self-expression, as a whole and in detail. Our personal consciousness is but the specialization of this cosmic consciousness, and since the Life Power is omnipresent and omnipotent, and perfectly free, there is nothing to prevent its communication to one of its personal centers of any detail of knowledge that it possess. Jesus said, “Of myself I can do nothing”, yet also said, “All that the Father hath is mine.”
The illusion of personal effort persists, but the more we know it for what it is, the less we are deluded by it, and the riper we are. Success in meditation cannot come until we realize that just as the Life Power is the Teacher and Worker, so is It really the one who engages in meditation. We do nothing of ourselves. We are instruments through which the Life Power does certain things. Through us it concentrates, through us it meditates, and through these activities ripens us into perfected centers of all-embracing consciousness.
Let’s return to the connection between Tzaddi, the fish hook and what goes on in meditation. The inner consciousness, or subjective mind, is often compared to a sea, and the various forms of knowledge to fishes swimming in it. When we select some particular object for concentration, and fix attention upon it, we are baiting a hook and dropping it into this sea of subconscious mind. As the fish are attracted by bait, so are various forms of knowledge having an affinity to the object of concentration attracted to our mental fish hook.
Say, for example, that you fix your attention upon one of the Tarot Keys. You may not see much in the beginning, but the longer you watch, the nearer you will come to this experience: some detail of the symbolism will be emphasized in your consciousness, and a glimpse of the meaning below the surface will come to you. This is the time to land your fish. Make a note of what you have glimpsed. Then cast in your hook again, and watch until another thought-form takes bait.
Always maintain a mood of expectancy. Your subconscious mind is like a bay opening into the ocean of cosmic consciousness. Thought forms from the farthest reaches of that great sea of mind will be drawn to you by meditation. There is no such thing as a secret, or as a lost art. Jesus said, “Nothing is hidden that shall not be revealed.” The words are sober truth, without a tinge of exaggeration. Meditation is the method of the Life Power’s self-revelation.
The name fish hook is also a clue to something else that happens in meditation. For human beings, every kind of mental activity has physical accompaniments. These physical changes caused by mental states are by no means limited to transformations of the cells in the brain. In the Hebrew alphabet, the “fish” is the letter Nun. The Book of Formation assigns to this letter Scorpio, the zodiacal sign which rules the part of the body corresponding to Foundation (9th sphere) on the Tree of Life. As a fish hook draws fish out of the water to be eaten, so right practice of meditation lifts up the nerve force which energizes the organs ruled by Scorpio. It converts that energy into food for the growth of the spiritual man.
This third stage of unfoldment, although it makes use of, and modifies the nerve force which is ordinarily employed in the sex function, it has nothing to do with that function itself. Right meditation releases and lifts up the “serpent power” (Kundalini) stored in a nerve center at the base of the spine. In Yoga it is the Muladhara chakra and is known as the sacral plexus in the human body. In meditation, the force stored in this ganglion is made to rise, so that it energizes, in succession, six other centers, of which four are in the trunk and two are in the head.
These seven centers are symbolized in the 17th Key by the 8-pointed white stars, surrounding the great yellow star. The latter indicates the true source of the force which is modified in meditation. It is identified with the Prana of Hinduism and the Ruach of the Hebrew Scriptures. Remember, in your work you are not trying to control some power which is your personal possession. You are simply learning how to obey certain laws of a universal energy, the Limitless Light. Because the primary activity of this light is a whirling motion concentrated in Kether (the Crown) on the Tree of Life, it is represented by an 8-rayed star. The rays are like the eight spokes of the Wheel of Fortune.
The ageless wisdom again and again proclaims the folly of the man or woman who thinks that he or she can save his or herself. They tell us that little by little the Life power ripens its personal centers to the point where they become able to understand and apply the law of liberation. Each person’s liberation is a particular fulfillment of cosmic law. The beginning of meditation is concentration upon things of the external world, upon facts reported through the senses. Whatever the particular object you select, bear in mind the fact that the Life Power already knows all about it and perceives its true relation to other objects. Make yourself receptive to the influx of this knowledge by holding your attention to the selected object in the expectant mood.
As a result of this practice you will gradually begin to perceive the unity behind the various appearances of the external world. The longer you meditate, the clearer will be your understanding of that which is symbolized by the Wheel of Fortune. Gradually you will begin to identify your personal consciousness with the consciousness of nature, or Natural Intelligence. You will begin to know that the operations of your mind are linked to that great system described by Ezekiel as “wheels within wheels”. This is the beginning of your practical experience of the truth of non-separateness. When you see that all your mental states are phases in the manifestation of the One Consciousness which directs the growth of trees and grasses, the flight of birds and insects, the flow of streams and the sweep of ocean currents, you are beginning to exchange mere intellectual assent for that true knowledge which has been called the doctrine of the heart.
Your experience of life comes through your five senses. As your meditation practice evolves, you will discover that you also have five spiritual senses corresponding to your physical senses. As your heart opens up so will these senses open up; you will have access to them. Review the three Keys when you finish reading this. You may wish to meditate on each of these three Keys individually and then with them together.
With this experience comes a new understanding of what is meant by “Mother Nature”, or the feminine aspect of the Life Power. That is why all three cards of the Tarot that relate to the third stage of unfoldment so emphasize the feminine. In Key 3 and Key 17 the central figure is a woman- the same woman, in fact. In the 10th key the title of the card points to the working of the same feminine power, for this is the Wheel of Fortune, the Goddess whom the Greeks called Panthea, or she whom all the feminine aspects of deity were synthesized. It is She who makes meditation possible. Remember, it is the Life Power which through us manifests its ability to meditate. And that ability is the work of the universal subjective, or feminine mode of consciousness. All we have to do is to get our personal selves out-of-the-way!