Apr 20, 2014

The Emperor's Power

The Emperor introduces a masculine conflict to the story of Tarot. The card is attributed to the astrological sign of Aries, ruled by the Roman war god, Mars; also, the alchemical concept of Sulphur, the masculine/activating principle of existence, motivated by the fire of Tetragrammaton, the four-fold name of God. [Though this significance is most explicitly assigned to The Hermit.]

The Emperor is Major Arcanum IV. The fourth Sephirah is Chesed, which is the sphere of Construction and Order. Its symbols are four-sided: the square, pyramid and equal-armed cross; symbols of physical manifestation. The attributions of Chesed and philosophy of Four are, therefore, attributed here, despite the fact that The Emperor does not come into contact with Chesed upon The Tree.

While energies of Force and Form are seen here, there is an implied threat of disharmony. Without regulation, the intensity of force would destroy and render all form into chaos. Too much emphasis placed on enforcing Law and Order in the realm is indicative of a cruel dictator, stifling of all growth. Consciously received, with full understanding of its role, the Power of The Emperor brings great satisfaction and productivity to one's life.

The Fool, Magus and Empress arrange a "Holy Trinity" of idyllic balance above the Veil of the Abyss. The High Priestess transmits "The Law" of this balance to Tiphareth, the most balanced Sephirah. Fittingly, occultists are unable to reach a consensus as to where on The Tree the Emperor card should be placed. Some say its Path connects Chokmah to Tiphareth. Others place it between Netzach and Yesod. [Aleister Crowley, himself probably the source of this confusion, can't even stick with one placement or the other in The Book of Thoth.] As these paths each connect the Pillar of Force to the Pillar of Balance, there is in truth little difference, though The Emperor certainly borrows heavily from Chokmah's nature....


Tetragrammaton is the four-letter name of God (Yod He Vau He, or, YHVH, or, Yahweh), to each letter of which is assigned a suit of Tarot (Wands/Fire, Cups/Water, Swords/Air, Disks/Earth, respectively.)

YHVH is the formula of manifestation: The Father Fire is tempered by Mother Water, producing the Airy Son who impregnates Daughter Earth, perpetuating the eternal cycle. [This formula may be applied to any plane of existence. There is a Fire of Fire (King/Knight of Wands), Fire of Water (King/Knight of Cups), Fire of Air (King/Knight of Swords) and Fire of Earth (King/Knight of Disks).]

Remember that Fire represents "Sexual" Energy (Willpower), Water represents Emotional Energy (Love), Air represents Spiritual Energy (Consciousness) and Earth represents Material Form (Body). The various elements are plugged in to achieve a perfect balance. If any power achieves a lasting stranglehold over the others, the imbalance is readily seen.

The Secretive Emperor

The Marseilles design shows an understanding of the concepts and symbols we've already introduced. The orbs, circles, and crosses are indicative of the philosophy of the number Four. Note that the cross on His scepter, commonly associated with Christianity, illustrates an imbalance. This is the doctrine L'Empereur adheres to outwardly: the importance of mundane detail above other matters. [Note that the Rosicrucian (Rosy) Cross secretly places the element Spirit upon the same arm of the cross as Earth, restoring harmony to the symbol.]

Secretly, L'Empereur is privy to the Hermetic teachings: notice the square created by his legs crossed in the shape of a Four; the embellishment on his helmet is a compass, which calls to mind Blake's Urizen; most importantly, the eagle on his shield has laid an egg, signifying fertility.

The Balanced Emperor

The Thoth design introduces no new concepts, other than Crowley's ever-present obsession with sexual energies. Here is shown balance: Chokmah's light shines onto Him from behind, informing his directives; all symbols are shown as equal (the Maltese cross) or in contrast with an equal opposite (the colors of the rams); the domesticated lamb is here as docile counterpart its aggressive cousins, resting with the flag of truce. (Note that this scenario isn't likely to work out in the lamb's favor. Much as humans must feed, so in turn do our social apparatuses and strictures burn a fuel of a different kind.)

The Energy of the Thoth Emperor is processed in a totally self-aware manner, however, there is no ambassador of Femininity here. The chance that all this masculinity could become volatile should never be discounted. The spirals on His clothing are to show the chaotic impulses of all this passion, seen also in the bumbling flight of the accompanying bees. Recall the clothing of The Empress. Where She clothed herself in the raiments of Her lover, He opts to wear his own garments. 

Thank you for your time. Are there any questions?


<<< III - The Empress
V - The Hierophant >>>

Recommended Reading:

Dion Fortune - The Mystical Qabalah
Aleister Crowley - The Book of Thoth
Alejandro Jodorowsky - The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards
Naomi Ozaniec - The Kabbalah Experience
Joseph Campbell - Tarot Revelations
Paul Foster Case - Tarot Revelations
Lon Milo Duquette - Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot

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