Tarot and the Psychic Body
by Hymenaeus Alpha
The paths of Initiation are many and varied. One of them is Tarot as it relates to the psychic body, i.e. to the chakras, the Tree of Life, the Buddhist Stupa, however we prefer to think about it. In 1961 I was working as an Administrative Analyst for the State of California in Sacramento. It was interesting enough, in its own way, but it could not keep me from my metaphysical turn of mind. One day, while I was sitting at my desk communing with the Great Computer which is the heart, or brain–or soul?–of such agencies, I had a psychic vision. My desk was facing east. On my left (the north) I became conscious of a dark gulf, in the midst of which blazed a single great star, in the conventionalized configuration of a Christmas star. Below this was a great black fortress, or city. It was the Vision of the City of Dreadful Night. I immediately turned to my typewriter on my right (the south) and started writing:
Beyond the Fortress of the Night
That rules the Gulfs of Avatar
My own transfigured soul burns bright
And glorious: A Deathless Star!
When I had finished I titled it, “The Star of the Magi.” It was obviously a subjective reading of Atu xvii, the Aquarius card. Having done it so, it would occur to me that it would be a suitable exercise in psychic self-discipline to write one poem for each of the Major Arcana. It took me about ten months to do so, and by the time I had finished I was working for the Federal government in Washington, D.C. (Which is why I would not know either that Karl Germer was dead or that Aleister Crowley’s library had been ripped off, until years later.) The completed cycle of twenty-two poems I titled The Angel and the Abyss, from Aleister Crowley’s dictum that we really only have two tasks in any particular incarnation: (1) to achieve the Knowledge and Conversation of our Holy Guardian Angel, and, under the guidance of that divine instruction, (2) to essay the Adventure of the Abyss.
I will not say that all twenty-two poems are of uniform quality. Some I like and some I took just to get on with it. But I will say this: the exercise in itself was a fantastic initiatory experience. I was quite a different person when I finished from what I had been when I began. One test for the validity of an initiatory exercise, especially one lasting over a period of time, is whether or not one finds a break-point at which one goes through from here to there, or whatever. In this particular experience the break-point came with “Alien Star,” the poem for Atu xviii, the Moon card. I was not involved with any of the pharmacopeia at the time. I was riding a purely psychic high. But the impression I got, astral or otherwise, was that I was, as it were, a skin-diver feeling my way along at the bottom of a pool of the deepest, blackest night it is possible to imagine. It was a profound experience. After that you will notice a distinct change in style as the imagery becomes more abstract and energy oriented, until it is practically exploding in bursts of radiation, as it were. In any case, each will find their own lessons in it, and it may act as a stimulus for others to do likewise. Or better.
Note: Originally published in Thelema Community Calendar, April 2004