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Greater Arcana Study Group—The Empress

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Greater Arcana Study Group—The Empress


A stately figure, seated, having rich vestments and royal aspect, as of a daughter of heaven and earth. Her diadem is of twelve stars, gathered in a cluster. The symbol of Venus is on the shield which rests near her. A field of corn is ripening in front of her, and beyond there is a fall of water. The scepter which she bears is surmounted by the globe of this world. She is the inferior Garden of Eden, the Earthly Paradise, all that is symbolized by the visible house of man. She is not Regina coeli [Queen of heaven], but she is still refugium peccatorum [the refuge of sinners], the fruitful mother of thousands. There are also certain aspects in which she has been correctly described as desire and the wings thereof, as the woman clothed with the sun, as Gloria Mundi [Glory of the World] and the veil of the Sanctum Sanctorum [Holy of Holies]; but she is not, I may add, the soul that has attained wings, unless all the symbolism is counted up another and unusual way. She is above all things universal fecundity and the outer sense of the Word. This is obvious, because there is no direct message which has been given to man like that which is borne by woman; but she does not herself carry its interpretation.

In another order of ideas, the card of the Empress signifies the door or gate by which an entrance is obtained into this life, as into the Garden of Venus; and then the way which leads out therefrom, into that which is beyond, is the secret known to the High Priestess: it is communicated by her to the elect. Most old attributions of this card are completely wrong on the symbolism—as, for example, its identification with the Word, Divine Nature, the Triad, and so forth.
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Regina coeli and refugium peccatorum are both references to the Virgin Mary. He's distinguishing between the two. Mary as the refugium peccatorum represents healing grace. I don't think he's saying the Empress is the Virgin Mary, but using her as a type with which to compare the Empress. The Empress has the qualitites of the refugium peccatorum in other words.
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Reginia Coeli, the Queen of Heaven, is also a title of Celestial Venus (Venus Urania), and is for example equated with such by Pausanias in 'The Garden of Venus' (to which Waite refers to in his chapter 'The Garden of Venus' in Studies in Mysticism and Certain Aspects of the Secret Tradition, 1906.*

The two types of Mary also have analogy with the two types of Venus, the Empress being a type of Venus Natura (the fruitful mother), rather than Venus Urania.

There is perhaps also an allusion to esoteric correspondence -- the door or gateway (=Daleth) of the Garden of Venus.

Kwaw

* And elsewhere, for example in "The hidden Church of the Holy Grail",and "The Secret Tradition in Freemasonry.
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Is the Garden of Venus a type of Garden of Eden? I've heard Waite refer to this but not entirely sure what he means. Maybe someone can clarify.
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Venus is the Goddess of Gardens, where 'nature toils for her (Venus's) pleasure'. Waite specifically mentions it in relation to Pausanias. It is to an extent, the natural world, which we all enter into through the process of generation. Thus I say it is relates to Venus Natura, in contrast to Venus Uranis (Regina Coeli). Here is what he has to say about the Garden of Venus in 'The secret tradition in Freemasonry' :

Quote:
The root Greek allegory is found in the fable concerning the Garden of Venus, which is the most explicit pictorial statement concerning the Secret Doctrine that I have found in Greek literature.

I have already dealt with the subject in one comprehensive essay,* and I must not recross my ground. The meaning of this fable has never entered into the heart of any commentator; but beyond the steps which I have measured previously in respect of it, there is one step further which I will attempt to expose in this place.

The Garden of Venus was a certain paradise of delight, into which the soul came forth by the way of manifestation.

There is no description of the issue, and there are indeed no details of any kind, but there always remained in the Garden a very narrow path of return, and this path signified the process of reversion on the work of material generation by which the natural body comes forth with the things that are implied within it. I do not think that there is any one following now the life of thought who can err in understanding if I say that all men come into this life as into the Garden of Venus, and that the mystic work is
actually a going back on the path of entrance. It is, of course, an emblematic work, for there is no need to say that the exit is not physical, as if a man should return whence he came through the body of his mother.

Now it is in this extra-literal sense that the mystery of generation is the root-mystery of Secret Doctrine, which reminds me that mythologists and experts in folklore have always mistaken the sign for the thing signified. It is true, for example, as we have seen, that the solar mythology once served as a veil to delineate those deeper things which underlie all mythology; it is true, as another example, that the secret doctrinal knowledge with greater depths behind it was draped in the mysteries of generation; in fine, it is also true that vegetation, growth and decay, seed time and harvest, that last fashion of folklore, concealed those same mysteries which are not of fashion, because they lie below the common wells of understanding, and are not of a season, because they are as old as manifested consciousness. is none of my concern that these veils and signs and fables were doubtless offered to the profane as the central truths of the cultures, so that spiritual darkness was perpetuated for the people through the long horror of idolatrous ages. But we are almost without means for deciding whether that was not given them which they were fitted to understand only, while there was often a way of entrance left open for the few who could find it. Here is another sense of Pausanias regarding the Mystic Garden.

Again, it is no task of mine to qualify the abuses of the old systems; it is sufficient that a knowledge of what is called the lineal path is a very old scientia sapientia. I do not think that, in any exclusive, invariable, or even general sense, it was preserved among the priesthood, though it usually wore this aspect, and in some cases existed within it. It passed over in Greece to philosophy, and it seems to have been sustained and extended therein when little remained but the forms in official sanctuaries. There came that saving and enlightening time when all the old external theogonies dissolved before the doctrine of Christ, and were fulfilled rather than destroyed therein. During the Christian centuries I believe that the way was always known to a peculiar people, who, with the whole sincerity of detachment, did not merely render to Cassar the things that belonged to Caesar, but all that they claimed in the outward ways to pope and patriarch and priest.

Well, the Secret Doctrine was a mystery of going back on physical generation and being reborn into another Garden, which was not that of Venus. In the sense of sentimental symbolism, this was a Garden of Spiritual Flowers, but in better terminology the correspondence between the two ideas is like that of the House of God as it was externally built by Solomon and Solomons Temple Spiritualised. The mystery is one of rebirth, and it is separable into two modes, the first being that of its formal expression by means of doctrine, and, at a greater distance, by means of type and fable; but the second was the process by which the mystery itself was melted in experience and the epopt did actually return and enter what I have called "not that the phraseology satisfies me " that other and spiritual garden.

He remembered whence he came and he found whither he was going; he was regenerated in the consciousness of the soul, in that state which is apart from the bondage of mortality. There is an almost generic distinction between this process and that which passes in the modern and reformed world under the name of conversion, although the experience of conversion is good, true and real experience, after its own manner.

The one is like the first fruits of redemption, the other is redemption realised. It will be seen that the root-matter of the Secret Doctrine rests in the pre-existence of man's spiritual part, which, so long as it is distinguished from the material and arbitrary systems of metempsychosis and other forms of reincarnation, is not of necessity foreign matter to official Christian theology. It should be understood further, that although the theosophies and mystical schools of the East and West have very strangely divided and sub-divided the spiritual part of man, all the distinctions and all the shades of distinctionare referable to stages of consciousness. It is a question of opening successively the closed doors within us, and it is in this manner that we reach what is called in mysticism the Palace of the King, the Holy Palace at the Centre, wherein we cease from our travellings, having reached the term of all; and seeing that the Presence, which is Divine Immanence in Nature, is also a Presence in us, it is at this term that the Divine Immanence is in fine withdrawn into the Divine Transcendence, and the soul passes with the one that it may attain the other.

This is Divine Union; it is also the exaltation of Christ on the Cross, that He may carry all things after Him.
Kwaw

* In relation to the previous essay he refers too, I believe this is probably 'The Garden of Venus' chapter in his Studies in Mysticism and Certain Aspects of the Secret Tradition, 1906.*
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Many thanks kwaw, that really helps!
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This aspect of Mary seems to be her humanity. She is earthly paradise and mother. She is not queen of heaven or a soul that has wings. She's the source of life in this world, like the Emperor, who is "the power of this world." She is the inferior garden of Eden, while the High Priestess was the higher garden of Eden, spiritual mother.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yelell View Post
This aspect of Mary seems to be her humanity. She is earthly paradise and mother. She is not queen of heaven or a soul that has wings. She's the source of life in this world, like the Emperor, who is "the power of this world." She is the inferior garden of Eden, while the High Priestess was the higher garden of Eden, spiritual mother.
I agree, I think he's talking about the sublimity of the feminine symbol. The idea of the "mother" is inexact, but it is the best we can do under the circumstances since we cannot concieve of the entire shell of the universe. This is similar, perhaps, to Crowley's ideas regarding Nuit and Babalon.
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Well as I interpreted it, it's because the mother is what everyone literally passes through to enter the world. He says the Empress is the gate by which entrance is obtained in this life, and the High Priestess is the way out of this life and beyond.

"There is no direct message which has been given to man like that which is borne by woman; but she does not herself carry its interpretation."

The magician is directing power and light. The feminine is the only source of actual life, but she is not in control of it. The message of God transmitted to man does not equal woman giving birth to God.
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It's possible that the model for this image comes from the fresco of "Good Government" in Siena, depicting PAX (peace): http://www.ugr.es/~fmunoz/html/alleg...ung_friede.jpg

You'll also find depicted a King/Emperor and the four classical virtues. The fresco of "Bad Government" features a striking Devil.
http://www.poderesantapia.com/images...goodgov700.jpg

All from the 15th century. The municipal building is filled with frescos, giving one the overwhelming awareness that when a person came for some kind of hearing & judgement, they had to wait for hours in halls that saturated them with the jewel-like colors of these larger than life images that bespoke the highest qualities that were valued in the society - and Siena probably lived more by these values then most other Italian states. It was a kind of magic infusion.

Siena also has the cathedral where one walks through a pagan temple to the outer entrance and enters to meet a floor mosiac of Hermes Trismegistus and then walks up the central aisle flanked by 8 ancient Sybils until reaching the center (transept?) where one encounters the Wheel of Fortune, and then on into the life of Christ mosaics. I happened, through good fortune, to be there on the one day a year when the entire floor was uncovered!
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