In some way everything I’ve written is a little experiment in the laboratory of our minds. This blog entry is a little more experimental than anything else I’ve published because of its heavy focus on autobiographical information. In the first part of it, I discuss my interest alchemy, yoga, and a few experiences I had in college that have influenced my worldview. The second part covers the symbolism of a tarot card, Key IX the Hermit, and it includes a lengthy discussion of the concept of the Logos from Greek and Hebrew thought. The two parts – the autobiography and the description of the Hermit – are mutually informative, hence why they appear together here.
Every Western occult philosophy should value the individual, the subjective, and my subjective experience and understanding of the esoteric tradition is paramount for me, just as your subjective experience and understanding should be paramount for you. Many practices in the East work toward dissolution of the ego through meditation, but in the West we practice experiencing the divine through the ego, and its breakdown is more like a byproduct than an objective.
When beginning college, I intended to study mathematics, but that changed while I was in an Introduction to Literature course. I fell in love with literature. It was exciting to me. I pursued teaching literature for my future career: the professor of the literature course happened to be the faculty fellow of the fraternity into which I had been initiated, and, after a few discussions with him, I decided I’d be an English teacher. I always had a lot of respect for my English teachers growing up. I felt like they had some glow, some enthusiasm or energy that my other teachers tended to lack. Generally, though not always, I felt a quirkiness from English teachers that I really liked.
I remember in high school reading a poem from the Spoon River Anthology by the American poet Edgar Lee Masters. The Spoon River Anthology is a series of poems that are imagined epitaphs on grave markers in a city cemetery. The poem helped me begin to see my life as a series of revelations, of overcoming previous versions of myself, destroying the previous worlds I’d built up in my head and building new ones in their place. The poem is called “Griffy the Cooper.”
“Griffy the Cooper” by Edgar Lee Masters
The Cooper should know about tubs.
But I learned about life as well,
And you who loiter around these graves
Think you know life.
You think your eye sweeps about a wide horizon, perhaps,
In truth you are only looking around the interior of your tub.
You cannot lift yourself to its rim
And see the outer world of things,
And at the same time see yourself.
You are submerged in the tub of yourself—
Taboos and rules and appearances,
Are the staves of your tub.
Break them and dispel the witchcraft
Of thinking your tub is life!
And that you know life!
In the novel To the Lighthouse, the narrator, in attempting to talk about the meaning of life, says the following:
What is the meaning of life? That was all – a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
The poem by Edgar Lee Masters was one for me. It sort of shocked me out of complacency in my life, and it helped me see my life as a series of revelations – of changing, developing, growing my own system of belief, and awakening to greater realities. It helped me see my life as creative and exploratory rather than receptive and submissive.
I think Romanticism brought me my next revelation. I was in a college class on British literature, where we had read a play by Percy Shelley called Prometheus Unbound. As I read it, and during class discussion, I felt like the play was telling me something profound but which I couldn’t really understand. The play is a closet play, which means that it’s not written to be performed on the stage. The stage of the play is supposed to be your imagination. It is an adaptation of a play by Aeschylus, and in a preface to it, Shelley explains that with it he didn’t want to repeat the tale as Aeschylus did – he wanted to avoid reconciling the Champion of Mankind (Prometheus) with the Oppressor of Mankind (Jupiter).
I won’t summarize it entirely, but in the first act, the titan Prometheus has been bound to a rock for his crime of stealing fire from the gods to give to mankind. Jupiter has bound him there, and like in the myth Jupiter’s eagles tear at and eat his liver. Prometheus gets into a conversation with Earth, “the mother of all who suffer under Jupiter.” A few things about their conversation interested me – first, that there are really two realities – the reality we experience, and the shadow reality, and only death can unite them. Second, she describes a figure called the Demogorgon. Looking back, I think there was an early subconscious identification with the archetypes in this play. This play sparked something in me. It seemed so mysterious to me – like a puzzle I wanted to solve. I researched the term Demogorgon in the library after class that day, and I came across ideas like the demiurgos and gnosis and gnosticism.
This for me uncovered another layer of my love of literature. I felt inspired to read and devour more. I felt like I was getting something from each story I read – not just cultural knowledge, but their patterns and overlapping themes would excite me greatly. What was the puzzle’s solution? What were they pointing me to? I always felt like there was something secret and profound to some artists’ artistic methods, and I felt these were particularly pronounced among Romanticists – Blake, Coleridge, Shelley, Wordsworth, and later Yeats.
I continued my path into literary studies and, in the summer of 2010, I took a class for fun at the recommendation of a friend that ended up being pivotal in my gaining understanding of the Western esoteric tradition early on: a class about Harry Potter. This was where it really started. Incidentally, Harry Potter is a bit of a joke in two areas in which I was and am involved – academia and esoteric communities.
I liked Harry Potter when I was a kid. My aunt gave me the first book as a Christmas gift when I was just 11. The book had just come out at the time, and I read each subsequent book until after the fourth, when I took a break from them. Nearly a decade later, I thought it’d be fun to explore the series as a literary and cultural phenomenon, so I agreed to take the class with a friend.
As a final project for the class, the professor had us choose topics and split us into groups based on the chosen topics. I had always liked religious studies, and with biblical themes like Harry’s suffering under the Cruciatus Curse and being sent to King’s Cross I felt there’d be a great harvest there.
Much to my chagrin at the time, my group partner, being Jewish, wanted to focus on parallels between Harry Potter and the Abrahamic religions. I didn’t know it, but this was key to my discovering alchemy. She called dibs on Abrahamic religions and insisted I focus on eastern religions. I agreed.
Eventually, I came across a message board where someone was talking about the relation of Harry Potter to the Hindu tradition. The person explained that the Patil twins, whose last name means Petal, were symbolic of something in Hinduism. I was interested, so I read most of what was said throughout the board. Among the posts, I found reference to alchemy – which I had come across in a mythology class I took, but with which I wasn’t that familiar – and reference to a website called Harry Potter for Seekers. I decided to check it out.
On this site, Hans Andrea boldly claims that the Harry Potter series through symbolic structure reveals the secrets of alchemical transformation (the transformation of the leaden human soul to gold), which has been taught in mystery schools and in ancient Egypt. Harry Potter tells the story of the Path of Return, also known as the Path of the Serpent. I didn’t fully understand the profundity of the descriptions on the site upon first reading, but I loved reading and learning about it. Something about it resonated with me and I thought it true. I used the site as my primary source in my presentation, also turning to other sources like Carl Jung and books and websites on alchemy. The professor seemed to enjoy the information I was relating to the class. Much of it resonated with me too – I felt like this was a process I could perform on myself. And I should be pursuing it! Why wouldn’t I want a perfected soul? Later down the road I would come across authors who have addressed the alchemical structure of Harry Potter in a more academic style (rather than primarily esoteric like HPFS’s) such as John Granger and Will Angel.
Among the literature I was exploring, I saw references to Rosicrucianism and Kundalini. Inspired, but not really knowing full well what I was getting into, I started doing yoga and became a vegetarian almost overnight. Additionally, my voracious appetite for all things alchemy and Harry Potter had grown into an unstoppable beast, and I applied to the graduate literature program at the encouragement of the professor of the HP class and my family.
Around this time I was borrowing many occult- and esoteric-related books from the school library. I can’t remember what exactly I read during this time, but I remember I used inter-library loan to get my hands on one of the large edition copies of Carl Jung’s Red Book shortly after it came out. I found a whole new appreciation for Blake’s Romantic opus The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. I read Rudolf Steiner’s Ancient Myths and the New Isis Mystery, and after finishing it I went to one of my professors (who taught my courses on mythology and medieval literature) thirsty for more. I asked her what she could tell me about the Veil of Isis. What is it, what does it mean to her? After a brief discussion, she recommended I read Julian Jaynes’ The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, a book on psychological bicameralism.
I also read Tim Freke’s The Jesus Mysteries, Jesus and the Lost Goddess, and The Laughing Jesus, and Derek Murphy’s Jesus Potter Harry Christ – all books supporting the Christ myth theory and explicating gnosticism. Jung’s Psychology and Alchemy was a big influence, as was Manly P. Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ages. The Perfect Matrimony: The Door to Enter Into Initiation, by Samael Aun Weor is about tantra, but there was a technique in it for solo practitioners that I began doing. The technique from that book supposedly mixes “solar atoms with lunar atoms” and, sounding like mumbo-jumbo, I had no idea what that meant at the time. The book also describes keeping the “cup of Hermes,” which is sexual energy, contained in the body. I also discovered a gnostic study group in Spokane and I traveled to their classes and discussion groups occasionally.
The following summer, finally with much more free time, I read several items on the graduate reading list to prepare myself for the program. I read some Shakespeare plays, Faust, and some other texts, and I remember thinking to myself (not knowing much at all about the Rosicrucian tradition at the time) with all these similaries, were all of these authors Rosicrucian initiates? Why did they all seem to me to be pointing to the same thing, or something near to the same thing? I continued to do nearly an hour of yoga every day and to perform the solo technique I got from Samael Aun Weor’s book. I had started off doing yoga routines with Maya Fiennes and Ana Bret and Ravi Singh, but eventually I started making my own routines from the videos.
Over the next few months, I had a few out of body experiences. I had two of these: in one, I was sleeping, and the experience could have been a dream. In it, I saw myself sleeping as I got up and went into the bathroom. I saw nothing in the mirror. It was dark in the bathroom, but behind the darkness there was nothing. The other experience was much shorter, and I merely floated slightly out of my body and saw my sleeping body below me. I have had one more experience similar to this, in August of 2018, where I felt like something in my abdomen was projecting outside of my body.
One night during my first year in graduate school, I had a dream unlike any other I’ve had. In it, the center of my chest was vibrating tremendously. As the vibration got more and more intense, I heard a sound like a tea kettle whistling. The sound and vibration were so intense that I came to from my dream, and as I came to, I realized that I was making the sound – I was belting a high-pitched note at the top of my lungs. I’ll spare you from my recreating it. Imagine the Jack Black in Tenacious D’s “Master Exploder.”
Later in the morning, I found a note that my neighbor left on my door complaining about “a girl screaming,” with “a girl screaming” underlined twice. She warned me to keep it down with girls in the future because she works early and needs sleep.
As I explored occult science further during these first couple of years, I began to see more and more what Samael Aun Weor meant by mixing solar atoms and lunar atoms. This was helped by reading a book called Yeats & Alchemy for my master’s thesis. In one class in the program, our assignment was to annotate a short work with glosses. I chose a story in which I was interested but which gave me some difficulty the previous summer – “Rosa Alchemica.” For my master’s thesis, I updated this assignment with an introduction and glosses for two other short stories – “Tables of the Law” and “Adoration of the Magi.” You can read it online – a link will be in the show notes.
In the book Yeats & Alchemy Gorski relates Jungian psychology and alchemical literature to some of Yeats’ early poetry. I realized that Yeats aimed to unite “solar consciousness” and “lunar consciousness,” and I related this to Weor’s idea of solar and lunar atoms. Another interesting note is that as I began to study and explore the rituals from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, I realized they bore a vague resemblance to the rituals I went through in Sigma Phi Epsilon, particularly with themes of bondage and liberation.
Throughout all this, I kept a detailed dream journal of every dream I could remember. One in particular sticks with me. In the dream, I woke up sleeping (it was one of those false awakenings where you’re still dreaming) next to a male figure on a mattress on the floor in a corner of an upstairs bedroom. As I rose off of the mattress, I sensed that the man was signaling to me that I should go downstairs and look at the sky. I went down and looked. Behind a large oak tree there were three bright stars aligned, and they seemed to be pointing me to somewhere nearby. I followed the stars into a warehouse, found a hidden door in the back, and stepped through to a dark hallways. In the dark hallway I groped my way through, feeling the walls, walking slowly, finding my way through with no light. Eventually, I came to a sharp corner in the hallway, and I saw a light in the reflection of the left lens of my glasses down the other end. I chased after the light, realizing shortly that it was a glowing goblin. I chased the goblin down the hallway, eventually arriving at a seeming end and a set of stairs that led to an upper floor. That was the end of my dream.
In 2012, someone bought me my first tarot deck for my birthday. I had said that I wanted to get into it. Since I got that first tarot deck 7 years ago, I’ve spent a lot of time with the Hermit card. The Hermit is attributed to Virgo, and I was born on August 24th while the Sun, Moon and three other planets were conjunct in Virgo in tropical astrology.
I’ll be using several versions of the card in this discussion of the Hermit. The ones I’m going to talk about are:
- Builders of the Adytum Tarot
- Navigator Tarot,
- New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot,
- Barbara Walker Tarot.
- Hermetic Tarot, and
- Thoth Tarot,
In most depictions of the card, the Hermit is robed in gray, though sometimes blue or crimson are present. These three colors refer to Chokmah, Chesed, and Binah (Binah is crimson in the King Scale). The figure holds a staff, usually in his left hand. The base of the staff often touches the ground and extends all the way to his head. In his right hand he holds a lamp, sometimes containing a bright hexagram, and he holds it up either to light his path ahead – or, when he’s shown at the summit of a mountain, to light the path below or behind.
In the Navigator Tarot, the Hermit carries a staff in his left hand. Behind the tip of the staff, in the background, rests the Sun’s solar disc, the tip of the staff meeting the center of it. The Hermit has blue skin, a dark blue beard, and a light brown hoodless robe. He wears a protective device around his groin with a keyhole in the front. Behind him, a dark cavern contains an altar with a fire lit on the top, and a figure appears on the wall behind it. An eagle is swooping down to the Hermit’s outstretched hand. He stands at the edge of a cliff, and a maiden stands on a cliff opposite him. A leopard is perched nearby.
In the Cicero’s New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot, the Hermit is depicted with his staff resting on his right forearm with a small snake wrapped around the staff’s bulbous tip. Just below, across the staff and behind his head, a streak of yellow light runs, emanating from the lamp in his left hand. The lamp contains a Yod symbol, and another Yod appears on the palm of his open right hand. While the inner layers of his robe are two shades of blue, the outer layer is crimson, the color of Binah in the King Scale, and on this outer layer the word “LOGOS” appears just above his forehead.
The word logos is Greek, meaning “word, speech, statement, discourse,” and also “reason,” from Proto-Indo-European “to collect, gather.” I think the idea behind the term was to “collect” the correct words to then express to others.
One of the troubles with translating ancient texts – whether they are religious, philosophical, or even simply historical – is the shifting meanings of words. When a translator translates something out of the 4th or 5th century and puts it into modern language, rather than recreating a perspective from the 5th century, the translator necessarily translates the text using their present worldview. Put another way, the person reflects their 20th- or 21st-century consciousness onto the text. This is an idea that philologist Owen Barfield calls logomorphism. Defined more clearly, Barfield calls it “projecting post-logical thoughts back into a pre-logical age” and “surreptitiously substituting our own phenomena for those which our predecessors were in fact dealing with.” In one of his books, Barfield compares logomorphism to the “Spectre” of William Blake’s spiritual mythology. Blake defines this concept in his poem Jerusalem:
The Spectre is the Reasoning Power in Man, and when separated from Imagination and closing itself as in steel in a Ratio of Things of Memory, It thence frames Laws & Moralities to destroy Imagination, the Divine Body, by Martyrdoms & Wars.
Despite this potential problem of anachronistically projecting my thoughts, experiences, expectations, and lived phenomena onto the literature and language of the past, I’m going to try to discuss what the word logos meant to the Greeks around the time of Plato, how it changed and came to mean what it meant in the Gospel of John, and then we’ll carry this into a continuation of our discussion of the Hermit card.
In Greek philosophy, prior to the incarnation of Christ, Logos (λόγος) had referred to a rational, intelligent, vivifying principle of the universe. Greek philosophers compared the universe to a living being, and the Logos, a metaphysical entity, was the rational part of it.
In the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, Logos was used to refer to God’s word. This was translated from the Hebrew davar (דָבָר). Davar can mean either what is spoken or what is done, and thus it applies well to God’s speaking to Abram in Genesis:
After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram…
Davar is also used in reference to God’s words to his prophets in Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Amos (“the word of the Lord came to me”), and throughout the Bible as acts or the will of God. There are over 1400 instances of davar in the Bible, and most of them are translated Logos in the Septuagint.
Philo of Alexandria reconciled the Greek concept of logos with Hebrew thought. I’m regrettably unfamiliar with Philo of Alexandria’s work, so I’m going to quoting from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy profusely here. Philo, in his interpretation of Greek philosophers and the Septuagint:
made a synthesis of the two systems and attempted to explain Hebrew thought in terms of Greek philosophy by introducing the Stoic concept of the Logos into Judaism. In the process the Logos became transformed from a metaphysical entity into an extension of a divine and transcendental anthropomorphic being and mediator between God and men.
Philo’s Logos is the second individual in one God as a hypostatization of God’s Creative Power. The Supreme Being is God and the next is Wisdom or the Logos of God. This Logos is apportioned into an infinite number of parts in humans, thus we impart the Divine Logos ourselves, and as a result we acquire some likeness to the Father and the Creator of all.
Philo’s ideas came before the Christian gospels, in the intertestamental period. Philo was a Jew living in the somewhat mystical Alexandria, educated in the Greek humanist tradition, and an ally of the Roman aristocracy. In his Introduction to the Intertestamental Period, Raymond Surburg writes that his goals with his doctrine were twofold:
1) to justify the jewish religion to the cultured people of Graeco-Roman society. In view of the deterioration of pagan society and religion, he had an opportunity to portray the Jewish faith as fulfilling ‘the desire of all nations.’
2) to show and persuade his strict coreligionists that Greek philosophy and learning were not actually hostile and opposed to the tenets of the Hebrew religion but that each stood for practically identical principles.
In essence, Philo made the Jewish religion philosophical and Greek philosophy mystical and religious. This seems to have paved the way for Neoplatonists, and the following famous phrase, penned by the author of the Gospel of John:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
Which of course is:
In the beginning was the Logos and the Logos was with God and God was the logos.
This was written after Philo’s attempt at a reconciliation between Hebrew and Greek philosophy.
Defined another way, Owen Barfield writes about Logos in a couple of his lectures and essays. In one, he writes:
What do we mean when we speak of Christ as “logos” – the “Word”? We mean that the Son of God and of Man is so constituted that he cannot help creating.
By this, Barfield means that the Logos is the somewhat new drive in the human psyche to seek and conceptualize knowledge about the universe, and speak it into existence, into the collective conception of the universe.
In this and in the Johannine context, Logos refers to both the outward, expressed form of an inward thought as well as the inward thought itself. In this way, the Logos refers to the Word in and between these two polarities – inner and outer.
Last year sometime, someone asked me how the Hermit and Christ were related. I gave a decent answer – I said that in alchemy Virgo is related to sal ammoniac, a type of salt found near volcanoes, which to the alchemists was the element of fire erupting from earth. However, this Logos principle is an additional, related, and in my opinion a better, reason how and why the Hermit is related to Christ.
In Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero’s book meant to accompany their tarot deck, they describe the Hermit as the Kerux, who is “the Lightbearer, the shower of the way to the Hidden Knowledge.”
The Kerux were families of priests that had certain duties in connection with the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Golden Dawn borrows this name for one of its officers.
The symbols and insignia of the Kerux are the red lamp, which signifies the Hidden Knowledge, a black collar, from which hangs a white and black lamen depicting a caduceus, and his caduceus wand, which symbolizes the directing power of the Hidden Knowledge.
The name Kerux, borrowed for the mysteries, is a term for an ancient Greek messenger, but in the more particular sense it is the name of the King’s herald, who proclaims the King’s message. His voice would have carried the unquestionable command of the King. When the King summoned his Kerux, the Kerux would carefully listen to what the king wished to say. He could ask questions for clarification and write the words down precisely. In the end, it was crucial that the message of the King be delivered as the King would want. In the Old Testament, the Kerux was the prophet. The prophet would receive the word, or davar, or logos, from their Lord and proclaim their message to the people.
Sometimes the Hermit’s staff, like the Kerux’s wand, looks much like the messenger god Hermes’ caduceus, with twin serpents running up it. The staff is sushumna, with ida and pingala twisting around the central column.
The ruler of the Hermit’s astrological sign, Virgo, is Mercury, which is the Roman Hermes, and the planet Mercury is also exalted in it.
The Hermetic Tarot depicts the Hermit figure shrouded in a loose robe with a hood. He is seemingly taming a serpent which is wrapped around the symbol for Virgo, the symbol of Mercury, and the name of the angel Hamaliel (or Remliel, which is called the angel of awakening) written in Hebrew.
The hermetic title of the Hermit is Magus of the Voice of Light, and Crowley calls it the Magus of the Voice of Power, directly relating the Hermit to Key I, the Magician, whose hermetic title is “Magus of Power.” In Chic and Tabatha Cicero’s book on their Golden Dawn tarot deck, they write:
The Hermit is attributed to Virgo and thus contains the concept of sexual love in its unmanifested or virginal state. This is reinforced by the fact that Yod, the Hebrew letter given to the Hermit, is phallic. Yod is the Father-Fire letter of Tetragrammaton. It is also related to Kether because it is the basic digit that when drawn forms the rest of the Hebrew alphabet. Yod also represents the Logos, the word of power which links the Lower Self to the Higher, through vibration.
The hand (Yod) of the Hermit is that which reaches down to help the initiate. The Hermit is the Master Magician; very old and very wise. He is the Supreme Will, concealed in robes of Darkness and Mystery. We may only know him by striving ever towards the Summit; reaching for his outstretched hand, attuning ourselves to his vibration. He has the qualities of both Fire (Yod) and Earth (Virgo), and thus he represents the beginning and the end of the elements of Tetragrammaton. This is symbolized by the serpent at his feet that holds its tail in its mouth. The Hermit’s lamp contains the Yod from which light flows out into all planes and dimensions. This is the Sacred Light of LVX which cuts through the darkness and initiates creation.
The Hermit, then, is the the power of the Word to cut through chaos, establish order, and therefore “create” a world with its power to speak it into existence. It is no wonder that the hermetic title of the card is The Magus of the Voice of Light (or Power). The Hermit’s voice, his word (logos or davar), is his power, whereas the Magician holds that power more directly.
Cerberus, the guardian of the threshold between the realms of the living and the dead in Greek mythology, appears on the Hermit in Crowley’s Thoth Tarot. The Hermit, knowing a thing or two about being a guardian of a threshold himself, has tamed Cerberus and therefore walks freely between the realms of the living and the dead, and, as a psychopomp, leads people between the two realms.
In The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, Paul Foster Case says that the card reveals that “the Heavenly Man reproduces himself in the image of the earthly, and that the Christos is begotten, not made.” On the Thoth Hermit, there is a sperm, which is a reference to this principle of life signified by the card.
In the Book of Thoth, Crowley states,
In this Trump is shewn the entire mystery of Life in its most secret workings. Yod = Phallus = Spermatozoon = Hand = Logos = Virgin.
Though I’m not entirely sure those six things are exactly equal, they are related. A Yod is Phallic, it’s inseminating, and like a hand the Hermit’s expression through the Logos is meant to help others climb higher on the Path of Return. The Christos is the redeemer of mankind, begotten sometimes by a Virgin. And the reason that the Christos is begotten by a Virgin is that the insemination process is a symbolic awakening and birth of the Christ principle within an otherwise animal consciousness.
Interestingly, the word Nazareth, Jesus’ birthplace, comes from the Hebrew root “netzer” (נֵצֶר). Sometimes when a tree is chopped down, a shoot will grow from the stump, allowing a new tree to spring up where the old one has died. That shoot is called, in Hebrew, a netzer.
In the Gospel, Christ is born in an untidy, relegated space. In one version of the tale, Joseph and Mary look for an inn for the night, only to be refused and thus forced to birth Jesus in the manger, away from the crowd, among the animals. Similarly, in Yeats’ “Adoration of the Magi,” a brothel worker gives birth to a baby in a brothel in Paris – sequestered to the slums, part of the lower class, among the ostracized and the unaccepted. The story is a reimagination of the myth of the birth of Christ, and in it three men journey to a brothel in Paris to witness the birth of a child. Just as the child is born, a cock crows, and the Greek god Hermes speaks through the mouth of one of the men:
‘I am Hermes the Shepherd of the Dead, I run upon the errands of the gods, and you have heard my sign. The woman who lies there has given birth, and that which she bore has the likeness of a unicorn and is most unlike man of all living things, being cold, hard and virginal. It seemed to be born dancing; and was gone from the room wellnigh upon the instant, for it is of the nature of the unicorn to understand the shortness of life. She does not know it has gone, for she fell into a stupor while it danced, but bend down your ears that you may learn the names that it must obey.’
After a pause, Hermes continues:
‘Bow down and very low, for they have chosen this woman in whose heart all follies have gathered, and in whose body all desires have awakened; this woman who has been driven out of Time and has lain upon the bosom of Eternity.’
In this story, the whore in the brothel of Paris acts as an alchemical apparatus that gives birth to the new aeon. Three old men relay this occurrence, which both distances Yeats from the story and echoes the wise men that come bearing gifts to see the infant Jesus in the manger. Just as the innkeepers refuse space for Jesus’ birth in the Gospel, the marginalized brothel signifies a corner of the waking consciousness that gives birth to the divine, spiritual spark. However, in place of Jesus of Nazareth, the figure born “in the likeness of a unicorn” has, while retaining its chastity and purity, more force and more virility. The birth of a Christ figure in a relegated space symbolizes the birth of the redeemer from a seed planted in the human psyche. The everyday, mundane, spiritually asleep mind doesn’t have room for the birth of a redeemer – a seed must be planted in the fertile earth and grow out of sight, in our animal nature, with the ego – the separated reasoning faculty – unaware, else the ego, like Herod, may destroy it.
In Milton, Blake, mentioned above, equates Imagination to the “Divine Body of Jesus Christ,” and he says that it is both the only “real” and “eternal” world as well as the one power that makes a poet. Blake’s Spectre, his term for Man’s reasoning principle, destroys Imagination when it is separated from it. This is the polarity we talked about earlier – the ego is the Spectre or the Reasoning cut off from redeemer, who is Christ or the Imagination. This tension between reason and imagination is symbolically expressed in the Six of Swords, which in the Thoth deck is titled “Science” and has six swords pointed at a symbolic Rose on the center of a cross.
The Hermit symbolizes not just Christ as Logos, but Christ as the process of spiritual attainment – union with the Father, with the Macrocosm, and a reflection of the Creator through our own creation. Remember that the name for Christ in the books of the prophets is Emmanuel, “God is with us,” which also happens to be the lost word of Freemasonry. We are each a condensed aspect of the one limitless L.U.X. and can experience the polarity of self and not-self.
Owen Barfield said in an interview I read recently that
When you use the word “Logos,” you are laying your finger on the link or the oneness of whatever language is and whatever religion is.
At its core, communication is the spread of information between the self and the not-self. The word communication means literally “making something common.” At its highest expression, human language can help connect people with their own Imaginations, the Divine Body sent from God, and connect them with the generative Logos-principle in their own souls.
The book in which that interview is printed is titled Evolution of Consciousness, and subtitled Studies in Polarity. The polarity that seemed to concern Barfield the most is the polarity between subject and object, which is so essential to language, and this polarity hearkens back to the opposition between the imagination and the ego – the Christ and the Spectre.
Traveling between polarities – imagination and ego, light and darkness, subject and object – the Hermit shines light into the dark corners of the Path of Return.
And he said to them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.John 8:23