VI. The Lovers [Or: The Brothers]
This card and its twin, XIV, Art, are the most obscure and difficult of the Atu. Each of these symbols is in itself double, so that the meanings form a divergent series, and the integration of the Card can only be regained by repeated marriages, identifications, and some form of Hermaphroditism.
Yet the attribution is the essence of simplicity. Atu VI refers to Gemini, ruled by Mercury. It means The Twins. The Hebrew letter corresponding is Zain, which means a Sword, and the framework of the card is therefore the Arch of Swords, beneath which the Royal Marriage takes place.
The Sword is primarily an engine of division. In the intellectual world-which is the world of the Sword suit-it represents analysis. This card and Atu XIV together compose the comprehensive alchemical maxim: Solve et coagula.
This is something that is deeply important to understanding The Lovers - analysis. If you think about it, any time you really analyze an idea or an object you must break it down into its components to really understand its identity. For example, take the cat on my bed as I write this. I know that it is a cat and not something else because it has all the qualities of a cat - fur, pointed ears, whiskers, a certain way of sleeping, great ability to balance, etc. But none of these individually does a cat make. If I did not know all these separate characteristics I would not be able to define the life form as a cat; it would simply exist.
This card is consequently one of the most fundamental cards in the Tarot. It is the first card in which more than one figure appears. [The Ape of Thoth in Atu I is only a shadow.] In its original form, it was the story of Creation.
The conclusion is, therefore, that in order for there to be Creation, life in its various forms and functions, there must be division of the original "prime matter," the undefinable substance of Life from which all other life has originated. This is nothing other than Kether, the undefinable Source of All that, in its union with All, cannot distinguish itself from anything else. In order to actually be something it must know itself through analysis, meaning that it must undergo division in order to understand itself. (Note that the path of Zain connects Binah, Understanding and the mother of form, to Tiphareth, Beauty.)
Here is appended, for its historical interest, the description of this card in its primitive form from Liber 418.
"There is an Assyrian legend of a woman with a fish, and also there is a legend of Eve and the Serpent, for Cain was the child of Eve and the Serpent, and not of Eve and Adam; and therefore when he had slain his brother, who was the first murderer, having sacrificed living things to his demon, had Cain the mark upon his brow, which is the mark of the Beast spoken of in the Apocalypse, and is the sign of Initiation.
Frankly, I don't know where Crowley finds the historicity in his claim that The Lovers "originally" depicted this scene, since there is no early tarot deck still extant that displays this imagery anywhere. Clearly this is more based on vision than fact, but this is beside the point. What is important is that Cain is the child of Eve and the Serpent, the "Star and the Snake." Eve is equivalent to Aima, the bright and fertile Mother aspect of Binah, whereas Lilith, Adam's supposedly evil first wife, is Binah's Ama function, the dark and sterile Mother. (Binah is of course the gateway of duality, woman being philosophically dualistic and man being philosophically singular. In the latter there is only Life, in the former there is Life and Death. This is important to understand for later sections in this passage.) The Serpent, therefore, must be Chokhmah, the paternal consort of Binah and the idea of Wisdom, and it is this fact that allows us to say with certainty that Cain represents Tiphareth, the son. The other son, Abel, is actually the real wicked person, having destroyed indiscriminately in blind ignorance of the Truth - the God that transcends the material universe, that is, Kether. Abel is therefore the daughter of Tetragrammaton, the missing piece of the four-fold formula and the individual candidate for initiation.
"The shedding of blood is necessary, for God did not hear the children of Eve until blood was shed. And that is external religion; but Cain spake not with God, nor had the mark of initiation upon his brow, so that he was shunned of all men, until he had shed blood. And this blood was the blood of his brother. This is a mystery of the sixth key of the Tarot, which ought not to be called The Lovers, but The Brothers.
God is inaccessible until the lower self is slain by the higher. Cain is therefore the Redeemer, who opens up the channel of communication with God by liberating the lower self from its misperceptions. We must remember, after all, that the original Golden Dawn depiction of this card showed Perseus rescuing Andromeda from her own mortality and ignorance. It is also important to remember that all spiritually inspired people in the Bible are "shunned of all men." Being an outcast is a good thing spiritually. Look at Jesus or any of the prophets of the Old Testament and you will find that they were all despised by the masses. To be enlightened is to be an enemy of the people.
"In the middle of the card stands Cain; in his right hand is the Hammer of Thor with which he hath slain his brother, and it is all wet with his blood. And his left hand he holdeth open as a sign of innocence. On his right hand is his mother Eve, around whom the serpent is entwined with his hood spread behind her head; and on his left hand is a figure somewhat like the Hindoo Kali, but much more seductive. Yet I know it to be Lilith. And above him is the Great Sigil of the Arrow, downward, but it is struck through the heart of the child. This child also is Abel. And the meaning of this part of the card is obscure, but that is the correct drawing of the Tarot card; and that is the correct magical fable from which the Hebrew scribes, who were not complete Initiates, stole their legend of the Fall and the subsequent events."
It is often suggested that Ra-Hoor-Khuit, the Lord of the Aeon as stated in Liber AL, is a representation of the Holy Guardian Angel, or the Higher Self that guides each of us toward the pursuit of higher things. The current Aeon is centered on the fusion of the mysteries of Birth, Death, and Resurrection - the consolidation of the INRI - IAO formula of the past. It is about LIFE as an entire process, a continual evolution of the individual from its Beginning to its End as guided by its personal deity, the HGA. Knowing that Cain is Tiphareth in this story, and that Knowledge and Conversation of the HGA is the primary mystical experience that occurs in Tiphareth, and lastly that Ra-Hoor-Khuit is the HGA, we can easily draw the conclusion that Cain is Ra-Hoor-Khuit. This is confirmed by the 72nd line of Chapter III in Liber AL that says, "I am the Lord of the Double Wand of Power; the wand of the Force of Coph Nia - but my left hand is empty, for I have crushed an Universe; & nought remains." [My emphasis.] This is the exact image that Crowley has used to describe Cain's murder of Abel. And it is interesting that Abel has not only been smashed to bits by Cain's club (read essentially as "phallus," i.e. will, virility, power, etc.), but he has been shot through the heart by an Arrow, the primary symbol of the Will, or more precisely, Love under Will. This symbolism is developed further on.
It is very significant that almost every sentence in this passage seems to reverse the meaning of the previous one. This is because reaction is always equal and opposite to action. This equation is, or should be, simultaneous in the intellectual world, where there is no great time lag; the formulation of any idea creates its contradictory at almost the same moment. The contradictory of any proposition is implicit in itself. This is necessary to preserve the equilibrium of the Universe. The theory has been explained in the essay on Atu I, the Juggler, but must now be again emphasized in order to interpret this card.
There is nothing true save that it is counterbalanced by its opposite. I cannot say that black is really black without knowing and understanding its opposite, white. Likewise, I cannot say that it is a wet and rainy day without knowing and understanding what a sunny and clear day is like. Both experiences are also coequal, being simply opposing forces of a spectrum of color or quality of day. Not only, therefore, is there no such thing as Universal Truth (as was assumed by the philosophers of the Aeon of Osiris), but any truth is represented by the balance between opposites. The ultimate truth of something is therefore utterly unattainable by logic and reason. We might say that something truthfully is not black or white, but simply colored, as color is an undifferentiated idea. But even "color" contains its own opposite. To know that something is colored, one must know what lack of color is. Both these opposites rotate back and forth in harmony, and it is their duality that is wielded by the Juggler in Atu I in order to create something tangible and experienceable.
The key is that the Card represents the Creation of the World. The Hierarchs held this secret as of transcendant importance. Consequently, the Initiates who issued the Tarot, for use during the Aeon of Osiris, superseded the original card above described in "The Vision and the Voice". They were concerned to create a new Universe of their own; they were the fathers of Science. Their methods of working, grouped under the generic term Alchemy, have never been made public. The interesting point is that all developments of modern science in the last fifty years have given intelligent and instructed people the opportunity of reflecting that the whole trend of science has been to return to alchemical aims and (mutatis mutandis)methods. The secrecy observed by the alchemists was made necessary by the power of persecuting Churches. Bitterly as bigots fought among themselves, they were all equally concerned to destroy the infant Science, which, as they instinctively recognized, would put an end to the ignorance and faith on which their power and wealth depended.
The subject of this card is Analysis, followed by Synthesis. The first question asked by science is: "Of what are things composed? "This having been answered, the next question is: "How shall we recombine them to our greater advantage?" This resumes the whole policy of the Tarot.
And therefore it resumes the whole policy of the universe, as the Tarot is a reflection of the universe. Again we see the idea of analysis being the force that breaks something into its various components.
The hooded figure which occupies the centre of the Card is another form of The Hermit, who is further explained in Atu IX. He is himself a form of the god Mercury, described in Atu I; he is closely shrouded, as if to signify that the ultimate reason of things lies in a realm beyond manifestation and intellect. (As elsewhere explained, only two operations are ultimately possible---analysis and synthesis). He is standing in the Sign of the Enterer, as if projecting the mysterious forces of creation. About his arms is a scroll, indicative of the Word which is alike his essence and his message. But the Sign of the Enterer is also the Sign of Benediction and of Consecration; thus his action in this card is the Celebration of the Hermetic Marriage. Behind him are the figures of Eve, Lilith and Cupid. This symbolism has been incorporated in order to preserve in some measure the original form of the card, and to show its derivation, its heirship, its continuity with the past. On the quiver of Cupid is inscribed the word Thelema, which is the Word of the Law. (See Liber AL, chap. I, verse 39.) His shafts are quanta of Will. It is thus shown that this fundamental formula of magical working, analysis and synthesis, persists through the Aeons.
The Hermit is a representation of Kether, and therefore, after a fashion, Mercury. It is Mercury not in an obvious way as in Hod, but in a subtle and entirely concealed way. We have already talked a bit about Lilith and Eve, noting that they are essentially two sides of the same Goddess, but we have not discussed Cupid. I will comment on him further down, but for now I will simply say that the Hermit conjoined with Eve-Lilith and Cupid represent the Supernal Triangle of the Sephiroth. The Lovers is therefore a representation of the original Prime Matter choosing to separate itself in order to know itself through creating itself. (Confusing, I realize, but accurate.)
One may now consider the Hermetic Marriage itself.
This part of the Card has been simplified from "the Chymical Marriage of Christian Rosenkreutz", a masterpiece too lengthy and diffuse to quote usefully in this place. But the essence of the analysis is the continuous see-saw of contradictory ideas. It is a glyph of duality. The Royal persons concerned are the Black or Moorish King with a golden crown, and the White Queen with a silver crown. He is accompanied by the Red Lion, and she by the White Eagle. These are symbols of the male and female principles in Nature; they are therefore equally, in various stages of manifestation, Sun and Moon, Fire and Water, Air and Earth. In chemistry they appear as acid and alkali, or (more deeply) metals and non-metals, taking those words in their widest philosophical sense to include hydrogen on the one hand and oxygen on the other. In this aspect, the hooded figure represents the Protean element of carbon, the seed of all organic life.
The King in the Lovers is the basic idea of maleness in the manifest universe and the Queen is the idea of femaleness (not necessarily femininity, but rather the idea of what makes something womanly). The Creation of something real (and not something lying in "a realm beyond manifestation and intellect") requires division into opposites. With the Sign of the Enterer, the Hermit, Kether, projects itself (and really the entire Supernal Triangle that is coeternal with it) into reality as both masculine and feminine so that it can hope to understand its true nature and purpose. For through this action alone can we hope to discover the Truth of a Being. We cannot understand how it functions in the Universe without understanding its form, and vice versa, though we might still say that form is subject to function, i.e. that the concept of femininity is coequal to but also subject to the concept of masculinity. This is not an argument in favor of sexism, but rather an evaluation of how the universe simply is. Function dictates form. If I have a set of screwdrivers, all different sizes, it is obvious that the purpose of each one is different. One screwdriver is intended for large screws, another for small. The former is therefore naturally larger than the latter. On a deeper level, all the screwdrivers have the same ultimate function - to deal with screws, but their individual form renders them entirely unique. This is how many people may share a similarity of purpose but they are still not a singular Force or Identity. A small screwdriver might be useable to deal with a large screw but that was not its original purpose, and so it will not do it easily or well. The same is applicable to us as individuals, except we are also fortified by the uniqueness of our personal experiences. Even if hypothetically my True Will is similar to someone else's we will never carry it out in quite the same fashion, or by the same methods. The person who does it more successfully is he or she who knows exactly what kind of path they should be taking based on their own characteristics. It is the difference between trying to deal with all different types of screws with one screwdriver, and focusing on only one type of screw because that is simply what is required of the tool being used. Though the metaphor may not be elevated, let this be understood by any who wish to understand how True Will is connected to Creation. Abel is he who knew not what his purpose was, and so he slaughtered innocents in his foolish belief that that was what was indeed required of him. Cain is he who knows better, and puts a stop to this wantonness through destruction of the lower habits and misperceptions.
The symbolism of male and female is carried on still further by the weapons of the King and Queen; he bears the Sacred Lance, and she the Holy Grail; their other hands are joined, as consenting to the Marriage. Their weapons are supported by twin children, whose positions are counterchanged; for the white child not only holds the Cup, but carries roses, while the black child, holding his father's Lance, carries also the club, an equivalent symbol. At the bottom of the whole is the result of the Marriage in primitive and pantomorphic form; it is the winged Orphic egg. This egg represents the essence of all that life which comes under this formula of male and female. It carries on the symbolism of the Serpents with which the King's robe is embroidered, and of the Bees which adorn the mantle of the Queen. The egg is grey, mingling white and black; thus it signifies the co-operation of the three Supernals of the Tree of Life. The colour of the Serpent is purple, Mercury in the scale of the Queen. It is the influence of that God manifested in Nature, whereas the wings are tinged with crimson, the colour (in the King scale) of Binah the great Mother. In this symbol is therefore a complete glyph of the equilibrium necessary to begin the Great Work. But, as to the final mystery, that is left unsolved. Perfect is the plan to produce life, but the nature of this life is concealed. It is capable of taking any possible form; but what form? That is dependent upon the influences attendant on gestation.
It is my belief that the Orphic Egg is symbolic of both Kether and Malkuth, both of these sephiroth being similar to each other but different. If anything, it is clear that the Egg is an amalgamation of all the symbolism presented hereto, and this aligns it with the meanings of both Kether and Malkuth. The difference is subtle. Kether is entirely innocent through its ignorance because it has not experienced anything at all; Malkuth is ignorant despite having experienced, and is therefore not wholly innocent of its crimes. But the two have a reciprocal relationship, for Kether requires Malkuth in order to experience, and Malkuth requires Kether for the meaning of that experience. This is the meaning of St. John's Gospel when he says that God so loved the world as to send His Only-Begotten. The Will that binds the two polarities is Love. Love is Will and Will is Love. "Love is the Law, Love under Will."
The figure in the air presents some difficulty. The traditional interpretation of the figure is that he is Cupid; and it is not at first clear what Cupid has to do with Gemini. No light is thrown upon this point by consideration of the position of the path upon the Tree of Life, for Gemini leads from Binah to Tiphareth. There accordingly arises the whole question of Cupid. Roman gods usually represent a more material aspect of the Greek gods from whom they are derived; in this case, Eros. Eros is the son of Aphrodite, and tradition varies as to whether his father was Ares, Zeus or Hermes---that is, Mars, Jupiter or Mercury. His appearance in this card suggests that Hermes is the true sire; and this view is confirmed by the fact that it is not altogether easy to distinguish him from the child Mercury, for they have in common wantonness) irresponsibility, and the love of playing tricks. But in this image are peculiar characteristics. He carries a bow and arrows in a golden quiver. (He is sometimes represented with a torch.) He has golden wings, and is blindfolded. From this, it may appear that he represents the intelligent (and, at the same time, unconscious) will of the soul to unite itself with all and sundry, as has been explained in the general formula with regard to the agony of separateness.
(Note Crowley's coy mention of the wings, the torch, and the blindfold. This could easily be a reference to Eliphas Lévi's depiction of Baphomet, Atu XV The Devil, who in Thelema is the Redeemer Concealed.)
No very special importance is attached to Cupid in alchemical figures. Yet, in one sense, he is the source of all action; the libido to express Zero as Two. From another point of view, he may be regarded as the intellectual aspect of the influence of Binah upon Tiphareth, for (in one tradition) the title of the card is "The Children of the Voice, the Oracle of the Mighty Gods". From this point of view, he is a symbol of inspiration, descending upon the hooded figure, who is, in this instance, a prophet operating the conjunction of the King and Queen. His arrow represents the spiritual intelligence necessary in alchemical operations, rather than the mere hunger to perform them. On the other hand, the arrow is peculiarly a symbol of direction, and it is, therefore, proper to put the word "Thelema" in Greek letters on the quiver. It is also to be observed that the opposite card, Sagittarius, means the Bearer of the Arrow, or Archer, a figure who does not appear in any form in Atu XIV. These two cards are so complementary that they cannot be studied separately, for full interpretation.
The previous two paragraphs on Cupid really must be read together, and in many ways they are the most confusing parts of the entire essay, as Crowley even suggests. To understand them, we must remember that in The Vision and the Voice understanding of Creation as written above Abel is shot through the heart by an arrow. It is not clear who shot this arrow in the vision, but we know that the arrow is a symbol of will, and therefore is an aspect of Mercury. Another important point to remember about this vision is that the Serpent of Genesis is clearly present wrapped around Eve. Note that there is no such serpent on the Thoth version (disregarding the Serpent wrapped around the Egg, for that is a consummate symbol, and slightly different from the idea of the Serpent by itself). Now, the source of Cupid in this card is the Marseille Tarot, which shows a man torn between two female lovers with Cupid in the air above him, bow drawn and aiming for him. It seems that this is really the only reason for Cupid's involvement in the Thoth Lovers. But being the child of Mercury (the Hermit in this case), and bearing a bow and arrow plainly labeled with "Thelema," Greek for "will," we can suggest that Cupid is an expression of Chokhmah, the reflection or "begotten son" of Kether. Therefore, again by the Law of Syllogism, Cupid is in fact the Serpent, and represents the Will of the All-Father, which is Love. Hence he is, as Crowley says, the libido to express Nothing as Somethings. Cupid is the hidden message of the scroll wrapped around the Hermit's Sign of the Enterer. Creation is an expression of Divine Love, which carries with it not the fluffy modern interpretation, but rather a more philosophical and scientific understanding that states simply that, a being that has been divided naturally seeks reunification with its entire self. In this case, the All is dividing itself into the Many for the sake of love, that great magnetic force that is the source of all development in the material universe (remembering that the universe is capable of only two functions, solve et coagula). Each child of the One is endowed with this great desire to surmount the "agony of separateness," the will to union, the spiritual impulse. All Life is therefore made in the image of its Creator, and therefore bears the same ultimate Will as its Creator, which is Love. But by virtue of our Uniqueness we must each take our "Will and fill of Love" as is appropriate to us.
Part 2 coming soon!