Spirituality According to the Hermetic Wisdoms

Compiled by Tom Butler

The objective of Spiritualism is to show that we continue as a self-aware personality after the change called death. The purpose of Spiritualism is to teach spirituality based on that understanding. From awareness that we are immortal in an infinite reality comes the understanding that we are citizens in a community of life, and with that citizenship comes responsibility. Understanding that responsibility may be referred to as “spiritual maturity.”

“Spiritual” is defined as 1. Reverence toward Infinite Intelligence. 2. Anything related to Infinite Intelligence. 3. A person who is striving to understand and live in accordance with Natural Law. The question that should be asked and answered is “What does being spiritual mean in my daily life? How do I go about being spiritual?”

For Christians, doing whatever the Bible dictates is being spiritual. Most of the Bible is about behavior but there are references that teach spirituality in the context intended by Spiritualists. For instance, John 14:21 states: He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Jesus told his followers that “I am the way.” By that, we think he was saying that the lessons he represented were the way. From this perspective, Jesus taught a very important path of knowledge for seeking spiritual maturity. Loving Jesus means loving what he taught—the path of knowledge.

The Hermetic Wisdoms also teach the metaphysics of seeking spiritual maturity beginning with the Emerald Tablet thought to have been written by Hermes himself. The first paragraph states: It is true and no lie, certain and to be depended upon, that which is above is as that which is below; and that which is below is as that which is above, for the performance of the one truly great work. The “great work” is the Ancient Wisdom School’s code phrase for development of spiritual maturity. The Emerald Tablet is a roadmap for gaining spiritual maturity.

Around 1200 A.D., teachers of ancient wisdoms invented the system of teaching known as the Tarot. The twenty-two keys of the Major Arcana are deigned to represent the teaching needed to lead the seeker on the path (the great work) to spiritual maturity. These are arrayed in three tiers Key 1-7 representing potencies; Key 8-14 representing laws or agencies; Key 15-21 representing conditions or effects.

For this discussion, Key 1-7 can be thought of as the Natural Law as it pertains to creation, while the second tier represent the formative influences Natural laws have on the creative process and the last tier represents the manifestation of reality in all its complexity. Thus Key 1 operates through the agency of Key 8 to cause the effect of Key 15.

If spiritual maturity is a measure of how well a person understands the operation of Natural Law, then on of the few instructions books I know of that explains how  to achieve this is the Tarot as described by Paul Foster Case in The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages. Every feature, including the colors, numbers and Hebrew letters have meaning that is both obvious and hidden for those who are willing to contemplate their arcane message. You can learn much by simply contemplating these images, but you might also consider taking a correspondence course from The Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.) at bota.org. I should say that this is not an endorsement for the use of the Tarot as a tool for divining.


key-0Key 0 The Fool

The No-Thing

The Fool represents both the beginning and end the education of the student. It represents the active principle of existence, and in many ways, is Infinite Intelligence and the spiritual energy it emanates. He is that which was, is and shall be. The precipice represents the unknown possibilities of the future and the creative process. The dog represents adaptation of nature to benefit the individual. In some systems, it also represents nature’s constant challenge to the student.


key-1Key 1 The Magician

Creative Ability, Attention Intention

The symbols of the Magician refer to powers of the self-conscious phase of personal mental activity. These powers are directed primarily to the control of forces and things below the self-conscious level. The energy utilized comes from above, from superconsciousness. It is fixed and modified by acts of attention. Concentration is the great secret of the magical art. True concentration is perfect transparency, in which personality becomes a free, unobstructed channel for the passage downward and outward of the superconscious radiant energy. Herein is the secret of true volition, and Eliphas Levi tells us, “All magic is in the will.”

Elements of natural life are on the table as: Fire (wand), water (cup), air (sward) and earth (coin). It is noteworthy that, when the magician is seen as a new student, it is necessary to have the tools out where they are easily accessed, but for the adept, as represented by the Fool, the tools are safely stashed in his pack and the Fool is confident in his ability to access them.


key-2Key 2 The High Priestess

Imagination, Potential for Creation

This is the feminine nature in both men and women and represents the collective unconscious of humanity. She is the soul, the anima of humankind. She is receptivity, magnetism, memory, reflection and feminine wisdom. The High Priestess represents access to the collective memory, sometimes known as the akashic records.

Her robe is blue to represent the headwaters of all of the water (stream of consciousness) in the rest of the Tarot. The element water, represents the primary root-substance, the cosmic mind-stuff which is the element particularly attributed to the creative world. She is symbolic of this root-substance. The circles on the drape are pomegranates, representative of fertility of ideas.


key-3Key 3 The Empress

Selection of Potentials, Manifestation, Creation

The Empress represents subconsciousness as the mother of ideas, the generator of mental images. The power by which she works is the power of deductive reasoning. The apparent multiplication of images is really the splitting-up of the seed-ideas into manifold presentations. This is symbolized by the multiplication of the original seed in the wheat-ears at her feet.

She is called the Empress because subconsciousness has control over all sequences of development in the material world. This control extends even to the mineral kingdom, so that adepts are able to effect transformations even in the inorganic world, by purely mental means. The particular mental function peculiar to subconsciousness is imagination, based on memory.

Symbolic of mastery over transformation of the elements. Note the stream of consciousness.


key-4Key 4 The Emperor

Constituting Intelligence, Embodiment

The Emperor represents the self-consciousness of man, when its activities are engaged in the work of inductive reasoning whereby errors arising from superficial interpretation of experiences are overthrown. He is the definer, the lawgiver, the personality. He frames the constitution of your personal world. It is this influence which determines our worldview.
The Emperor represents the ordering process of our minds whereby we control the conditions of our environment. The cube he sits on represents formation of physical reality.


key-5Key 5 The Hierophant

Law and Adaptation

The Hierophant represents intuition, which follows reasoning and adds to it. Intuition is subconscious response to reason; through laws of association at work below the conscious level, thought-relations which go beyond the results attained by reason are attained. Usually these are perceived by interior hearing. Intuition, it should be noted, means literally “inner tuition.”

In the symbols of this Key we find all we need to know in order to distinguish genuine intuitions from baseless feelings which echo our own emotional states and give form to our ignorance.


key-6Key 6 The Lovers

Discernment and Discrimination

This Key is associated with discrimination and the use of mind. It shows how logic and truth can unite. All developed thinking processes: precise thinking, perception and mental vision are at work here. The right and left sides of the brain are working together for a higher purpose here.

Superconsciousness (the Angel) sheds its influence impartially upon both self-consciousness (the man) and subconsciousness (the women). These two figures are nude, meaning they hide nothing from each other. Self-consciousness observes the objective world and gathers accurate data. Subconsciousness acts as the connecting link between self-consciousness and superconsciousness.


key-7Key 7 The Chariot

Receptivity, Will

The charioteer is the result of the mastery of the Keys 1-6 that have gone before. The rider in the chariot is your own true Self. This key represents the Primal Will, as one is able to see the needs of the whole. We have free will but it is a synthesis of innumerable cosmic influences coming to us at a point within us.

The more perfectly we understand that the office of human personality is to serve as a vehicle for cosmic forces, the mores freely does the Primal Will behind all manifestation find expression through us.

The charioteer is the true Self, the Master-power behind all forms of life-expression.

Based on: The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages by Paul Foster Case, Macoy Publishing Company, Richmond VA, 1947. Contact Builders of the Adatum (bota.org).


Concluding Remarks

It is worth repeating that the intention of this discussion is not to teach a method for divining. Nor is it a suggestion that you should consider learning the Cabala. The Hermitic Wisdoms offer important insights into the nature of our being, and the lessons associated with the Major Arcana of the Tarot provide a workable path for your understanding of Natural Law and how it applies to you. It does this largely without dogma and religious overtones, so in many ways, it is an excellent complement to Spiritualism.

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