In many other Tarot Decks, key 14 is called Temperance, which implies the heating and cooling of forged steel to make a keen, flexible blade or the slow cooling down process of tempering glass. And in a way, this process is the Art Card's Path of Samekh (meaning -Prop), as it is attributed to the restriction and control over the forces of existence. Master Theron, however, in his book 777, he made this comment on the letter Samekh: It is "The Womb preserving Life. Self-control and Self-sacrifice govern the Wheel."
Leading from Yesod ( foundation) to Tiphareth (beauty), the Path of Samekh is as from Moon (Self-reflection) to Sun (Solar Source), from Personality to the Higher Self.
On this very difficult Path, the very enormity of the Great Work ( As above, so below
) will be experienced. On this path, the initiate may experience going through a long dark tunnel, believing ( not knowing) there is Light at the end of it. This Path of Samekh, The Art card, has been called the Path of "the dark night of the Soul", verifying that this is a Path of trial and temptation. Samekh, is the Intelligence of Probation
, as Paul Foster Case labels it in his text, THIRTY-TWO PATHS OF WISDOM.
In various Gnostic texts, it is also called, "Daughter of the Reconcilers, the Bringer Forth of Life." All of these phrases lead us right to the very idea behind this card, The Great Mother Binah. Thus, the central figure of this card, is Female. Also, the ruling sign of the Path of Samekh, is Sagittarius, the Archer, who is also Diana the Huntress, goddess of the Moon. All of which repeats the principle that with the exception of the FOOL (0), all the figures of the Tarot are Mother Binah (Understanding) and Father Chokma (Wisdom) in different states of Force and Form. (Tree of Life Illustration form Robert Wang's book: THE QABALISTIC TAROT)
Another helpful reference book, VOICE OF ISIS- by Hariette and Homer Curtis describes the Universal Mother (The Womb with a View) as the "power of bringing forth in humanity the Divine Child or the Christ." This bearing of the Child is us reborn and achieved by conquering the Path of Samekh or The Art. We are not only to be Moons, reflections of personality, but also the Solar Personality, that is the Divine Child.
Now don't misunderstand, the Art card demonstrates how the experience of rebirth is brought about, which is to say, through the exchange and equilibrium of opposites which can only be symbolically described, but it does not demonstrate the birth itself. Thus, the symbolism here is not to demonstrate a "deep Mystery", rather this symbolism demonstrates how limited and inadequate is our language to describe the process. That is why the Qabalistic Tarot Reader, is not one who thinks that by memorizing descriptions and numbers of the cards they are a Tarot Reader. Rather, it is by skrying, and subjectively "walking the Paths", turning subjective into objective sensation ,i.e. the process of actual experience ....one begins to Understand the Tarot.
The Art Card is not nearly so symbolic as some believe, it symbolizes the Alchemical Art where Fire becomes Water and Water becomes Fire (...."When the male is no longer male and the female, female." : Gnostic Gospel of Thomas). This process is describing an actual event/process that happens in the initiates material body, i.e. an actual physical transformation. Thus we have illustrated on this card a Androgynous figure, combining the Water (consciousness0 with Lightning (Fiery Spirit) creating in the Golden Cistern (the Human body) what is known as the Living Water and/or consciousness vivified by merging with Fiery Spirit. By bringing Spirit into the body, Spirits fiery nature not only tempers the consciousness, one also tempers the Spirit with consciousness, Thus forming "something more than the sum of its parts." A union of Master and Masterpiece!
This alchemical process is often describe by Qabalists as a personal application of the Yod (fire) and Heh (water) uniting in the body to produce Vau (Air) within the individual crucible of form which is Heh-final and Earth. This is described as a "Spiritual Orgasm" or "The Ecstasy" which is a process demanding inner manipulation of sexual forces (He-She) and is shown as an golden energy (in the shape of a stylized arrow) firing upward and across the shoulders of the Divine figure in the Art Card. Even the often flesh-o-phobic Christian iconography, has accepted this Spiritual Orgasm. For instance, the ecstasy of the 16th century mystic, Saint Theresa which was described as an angel thrusting a flaming arrow into her heart .
The symbolical of the piecing arrow that brings ecstatic enlightenment is actually an archetypal, and mufti-cultural accepted description of a real process of physiological transformation! What happens is a rhythmic, pleasuring motion of inner energy, and ebb and flow that is confined (shown as the figure eight associate with the Magus) in very specific perimeters (oval or womb shaped) but which is taken in either direction at will. The Magus, knows that by changing the vibration of inner energy, one raises or lowers the level of consciousness, moving from Chakra to Chakra or Path to Path. Simply stated: the Kundalini (sexual energy) acting upon consciousness produces astral images, the pictures that form our minds. I think this is enough to digest for now.
Don't miss tomorrows blog Part 2 of the Art Card, for further explanation of this Physical- Spiritual Alchemy!
Thank you for your interest and comments. May you live long and prosper!