May 4, 2014

Hierophant: A Secret Shared, or, The Labyrinth

Le Pape card from Marseilles Tarot

The word "mystery" has been used heavily in my Tarot articles, often in reference to concepts supposed to exist beyond the scope of human understanding, like with The High Priestess. The Hierophant brings with him an experiential knowledge, theoretically attainable by all humanity, which is known as "Enlightenment" in many circles. (Ta hiera, "the holy" + phainein, "to show.") The Hierophant lives inside us, allowing occasional glimpses or, sometimes, powerful revelations of a Reality beneath, or imbued within, that which we see in our daily existence. 

Tarot is generally of interest to those persons attracted to the fringe. "Occult" means hidden, of course. These cards were created to hide in plain sight the secrets of practices (like, say, Christianity) which were punishable by death at certain times in history. The Hierophant card, previously "Le Pape," or The Pope, most explicitly reveals this side of Tarot. Very clearly, the main figure of the image is in possession of some power, ability, or wisdom sought by the characters kneeling in front of him. But what?

To accompany these articles on Tarot, I've taken examples of each card from differing Tarot decks: the widely familiar Rider-Waite, Crowley's Book of Thoth and Jodorowsky's "restoration" of the Tarot de Marseilles. Let's take a look at a much older design (circa 1700):

Now, this is supposed to be from a deck of cards used to play some sort of game; nothing to do with fortune-telling or spirituality. Interesting, then, that this Pope has equal-armed crosses on the back of his hand, attributed to the four elements represented by the four suits, a reference to the numeral 4 itself - all concepts we dealt with in discussing the previous card, The Emperor. The knowledge dispensed by Le Pape is "of the 4," or, a worldly secret. This is further conveyed by the pillars at back of the card. They do not reach beyond the upper border of the card, as did Le Papesse' veil, which signified that her secrets were hung from on high and unknowable. Not so, here.

Examine the body language in this pictograph. The aspirants kneel before the authority, seeking his favor. He does appear to favor the student to our right: he is turned in his direction; the sign made with his right hand suggests a secret in hand, with fingers pointed where it will be transmitted; the staff seems to penetrate the students' skull - a direct injection of spiritual fulfillment. But look closer: Is Le Pape beginning to smile? Would this have anything to do with his teacher's pet slipping a hand beneath the robe covering Le Pape's lap?

It may be that Le Pape is taking advantage of these young students...

Hierophant card from Crowley/Harris Thoth deck

[Rider-Waite's Hierophant offers exactly nothing of interest, while the contents of Crowley's card (pictured) could fill an entire book, so let's get into it...]

This card is entirely benevolent when compared to those which came before. The Hierophant's symbol of benediction is held towards us, empty palm on display. There are no students; we are the students. In the companion book to his deck, Crowley makes heavy reference to the interplay between the penta- and hexagrams, attributed to the microcosm and Macrocosm, respectively. 

Five, the number of The Hierophant, is "of man" - the four elements + Spirit. The window at back of the card, through which shines the light of the Sun (Pure Consciousness), is in the shape of the five-petalled Rose. Again, the knowledge of The Hierophant is accessible to all humanity. But what is it

Crowley is practically yelling it, here. It takes up more of the card than any other image... 

This Tarot card is assigned to Taurus, the bull. Humans have been worshipping bulls for longer than they've been writing down words, if prehistoric cave paintings are any indication. There are, of course, astrotheological reasons for this, pertaining to primitive agricultural societies' analyses of the night skies through the seasons of the year.... I don't have time to get into all that shit, though, and all it really explains is why these are the symbols we use to evoke, rather than what we are evoking with them...

In The Book of Thoth, Crowley is sure to point out the "dancing male child" of the New Aeon within the pentagram-within-the-hexagram before immediately addressing that the "smirk" of the older Hierophant designs has survived Crowley's renovation of the card. Crowley writes, 
"[The Hierophant] seems to be enjoying a very secret joke at somebody's expense. There is a distinctly sadistic aspect to this card; not unnaturally, since it derives from the Legend of Pasiphaë, the prototype of all the legends of Bull-gods."
Not up on your Greek mythology? Get comfortable.

Abduction of Europa - Rembrandt

Zeus (you know that one, right?) really wanted to get it on with this human chick, Europa, so he took the form of a white bull and hid amongst her father's herd. Now, this bull had some charisma, it being Zeus in disguise and all, and it seemed pretty chill, so Europa went up to pet it. We all know where "petting" leads and pretty soon she decided she wanted to "ride" the bull. So, she got up on its back and Zeus yelled, "Gotcha, bitch!" running off with her to the isle of Crete, where He revealed His true identity and also gave her some jewelry so she'd bang Him. It totally worked. But Zeus had a strict "raw dog, no pull-out" policy, so Europa got pregnant...

Minos probably never liked that story much because that's how he was born. Can you imagine if that was the story your mother told all your high school dates? "Minos, get out the scrapbook so we can show Helena the pictures!" Fuuuuck that... Anyway, yeah, Minos had some internal struggles to deal with but he mostly just took it out on everyone else and fucked people over until he was eventually king. Go, Minos! He knew he'd been a punk, though, so he prayed for Poseidon to send him a sign that Minos really deserved to be king... And Poseidon did! Poseidon sent Minos a white bull. Now, you might think that Minos would be like, "Dude... What the hell? Are you making fun of me?" But, nah, he was totally stoked.

Minos was supposed to sacrifice the white bull back to Poseidon. But Minos thought he'd be slick and sacrifice a different bull because he really liked that white one. However, you don't get to be Lord of the Oceans by falling for the tricks of little chumps like Minos. So, Poseidon was like, "Okay, bro," and he cast a spell on Minos' wife, Pasiphaë, so she'd want to get down with that bull, just like Minos' mommy did with the very first bull. You following all this? Cool. Did you see that I used a purple font so you would remember that this Pasiphaë chick is the one Aleister Crowley was talking about back there? Cool.

Pasiphae and the MInotaur

So, you're Pasiphaë and you want to fuck a bull but that presents some... logistical problems. What do you do? Enlist this dude, Daedalus, to build a way-enticing wooden cow thing that the bull would definitely want to sex, so Pasiphaë could hide inside of it. That's exactly what she did! It worked, she got pregnant and that's how minotaurs are made! As you might expect, Minos wasn't very open-minded about raising a half-bull/half-boy, so he called up Daedalus and was all, "Hey, couldn't help but hear about how innovative you were with that whole 'helping my wife get plowed by a bull' thing... And I was just wondering if you had any ideas for making sure nobody ever, ever, ever finds out about this little abomination?" Daedalus was no doubt thinking, "Man, these people are screwed up." But Minos was also The King so, whaddayagonnado? *shrug*

Daedalus got to work building a labyrinth more complex than any the world had ever seen. This place was so confusing that Daedalus almost couldn't find his own way out. And, once he was finished with it, Minos repaid the favor by imprisoning Daedalus and his son, Icarus. Pretty sure you all know what happened next, with the wings and the flying too close to the son, I mean, sun, I mean, Sun... and all of that. So let's say storytime is over and I'll explain why we just went into all of that, k?

In my article on the television show Twin Peaks, I mentioned that the Ancient Greeks' relationship with their gods isn't the same as a modern person's "relationship with God." The Greeks were possessed by their gods on a daily basis. "Gods" to them could have been nothing more than what we would call a "mood" or "mode of consciousness," except, they would insist that a "mood" is its own entity, rather than a byproduct of you skipping lunch and Karen from work being a bitch. To explain the origin of these gods, the Greeks relied upon a mythology of stories like the one I just butchered. Any story worth its words has a hidden meaning for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. The story of Daedalus and the labyrinth is a story of (the One) Consciousness' descent into material existence.

Knossos labyrinth coin

The Labyrinth is our daily life. Daedalus ["Dad (of) All (of) Us"] is the "God" Consciousness, so involved in this maze [Or, a-MAZE-d with the illusion of existence.] that It's nearly unable to recall Its true nature, or "escape the maze." This is The Hierophant's secret: not only are the students entirely without need of his existence, he knows his own existence is merely an illusion. All separation is illusion, as is said in Eastern religions and spiritual systems. Icarus [I; care; us] represents ego - humans emotionally invested in all the bullshit (!) of their own lives - which cannot survive in proximity of the Illuminating Sun. Many, if not all, Greek myths - of gods forgetting themselves, accidentally or intentionally, in human form, usually with plenty of fornicating involved - can be interpreted likewise. [I guess it's also possible to see these myths as indicative of the possible extraterrestrial origins of language/higher thought that we went over in The Magus' article. Noncorporeal, alien intelligence latching onto animal forms and sparking the evolution of a species?] This experience of Self-remembrance is the goal of most meditative practices, has been written about by mystics for centuries and is one of the aims of sex magick, with which Crowley's deck is saturated.

The orgasmic state of mind is very non-Self, sort of a vacation from dealing with one's own ego and constant inner dialogue. Occultists and practitioners of "magick" have known about this for a very long time. The only way that most alchemical texts make any sense at all is if they were written with the intention of secretly sharing spiritual and/or sexual practices seen as evil by regimes then in power, like guys fucking each other. There is, apparently, a male g-spot right there in the b-hole, capable of inducing an orgasm so powerful it'll make you forget your own name, which is kind of exactly the point of a lot of this stuff we're talking about. It's highly probable that the old Le Pape design up there, with the student's hand entering the lower folds of old Le Pape's robes, was hinting at this.

Say what you will about ancient Greeks, they certainly didn't hate on people for buttfucking. In fact, the Greater Eleusinian Mysteries, a tenet of the Demeter and Persephone cults, which were held every five years over a four hundred year period, were seen as extremely important to those who participated in them. It is considered likely by many (respectable) scholars that ingestion of some form of psychoactive substances, the ego-destroying properties of which are well documented, was involved in the rituals. And of course there was much dancing and merriment. "Merriment." They even sacrificed a bull! Now, you might say, "Sure, that's one hell of a party but it's just a party." They didn't see it that way. To participate, one had to swear a vow of secrecy. Break the vow? They'd fucking kill you. That's pretty serious for a party. As such, little survives of what actually went down there. One thing we do know? The priests who ran the show were called hierophants.

Aleister Crowley was a devout practitioner of sex magick and he definitely knew about the backdoor button. (Crowley loved the D. Loved it.) While, yeah, a total pervert, Crowley's motivations weren't (always) born of physical lust. The object of sexual magick is to "exalt" one's orgasm with a focused intent and an understanding that one will use that orgasm to enter into a meditative/trance state. The sex magician is not a slave to their orgasm, is not compelled towards orgasm for orgasm's sake. The sex magician's orgasm is a launching pad to the highest realms of thought approachable by human mind, or, even, no-thought. [Perhaps now would be a good time to revisit The Fool?] This is Crowley's imagined Aeon of Horus - an Era of Enlightenment, populated by Self-aware humans with plenty of non-self experience.

Thank you for your time. Are there any questions?


<<< IV - The Emperor
VI - The Lovers >>>

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


  1. reblogged on my BOS tumblr page and facebook group page

    1. Awesome! Do you have links to where you posted it?