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Astro-Tarot Series

Part 1:  Mercury and the Magus

Elbert Benjamine

Even as we do, the ancients considered mental expression to be the most important, as well as most distinctive, attribute of being human. Had they permitted their imaginations to select a planet to rule over this significant influence, they likely would have chosen a conspicuous orb such as Jupiter or Venus. It is unlikely they would have chosen a planet, so inconspicuous that it is seldom seen with the naked eye, to represent the ability to think

Of all the orbs within the olden septenary Mercury, by far, is least conspicuous and most difficult to observe, and thus the least likely to be selected in any imaginary system as playing so important a part in the affairs of men. We must believe, therefore, that those who gave it rule over thought and mental expression, did so rather reluctantly, and only after a vast amount of observational research had convinced them that it has the precise influence which modern astrology, through statistical studies, likewise has demonstrated.

These old time observers of the stars and students of human attributes, to express the relative qualities of the planets, used one or more of three symbols in different combinations and in different positions. The circle, because like spirit it has no beginning or end, was used to represent spiritual qualities. The sun, presenting the appearance of such a disc, was recognized to be, like spirit, the source of that energy which expresses as life. Because the moon was observed to exert so powerful an influence upon the emotions, and its phases had so noticeable an effect upon the mind, its crescent was used to represent soul, or mind. And as the earth is the place where lunar and solar forces meet, or cross, and where under the impetus of spirit the mind evolves by means of experience, the cross was used to denote that which is material.

To express the qualities of Mercury by means of a simple hieroglyphic, for instance, they placed the crescent of mind above, in a dominant position, showing it to be the guiding force. Immediately below the crescent of mind, was placed the circle of spirit. Thought ever guides and dominates the spiritual principle in man, evolving it or holding it back, as the case may be. Yet below the circle of spirit was joined the cross of matter, to indicate that material things were subservient to mind, and when Mercury’s influence was dominant, of less importance than the things of spirit.

The circle, above and attached to which is a crescent and below and attached to which is a cross, quite precisely denotes in terms of universal symbolism the most outstanding attributes of the influence of Mercury in human affairs. And careful study of the implications of these three symbols thus joined to form the emblem by which this planet is indicated in the common astronomical ephemeris will bring a good general understanding of the planet’s significance. But to convey more detailed information relative to the principle over which Mercury has ruled the ancients had need of something more complex than this hieroglyphic of mind and matter united by spirit. They therefore designed a picture, which should convey in a language altered not by the passing of time nor affected by race, all of importance they had discovered through countless generations of observation as to the significance in the life of man of those things under Mercury’s rule. This is the symbolical pictograph now known as the first Major Arcanum of the tarot.

They had observed that before a man does anything the image of the action is present in his consciousness. Before he builds a house he makes a mental plan. And further observation convinced them that something analogous to thought preceded the activities of plants and animals; and that the thought composition of their astral bodies determined the form into which they grew, their reaction to subsequent environment, and even the type of environment which they attracted. As is plainly indicated by allocating the first tarot card — to explaining the significance of thought, the ancient wise men believed, as do most modern philosophers, that thought is number 1; that is, it is the commencement of everything. As the Bible states; before the light of intelligence was present ‘The earth was without form, and void.’

This first tarot card is called The Magus. A magus is one who practices magic, that is, who uses his thoughts to demonstrate some desired condition. This magus is standing; the attitude of will which precedes action. His robe is of white, image of purity, original or regained. And his forehead is girt with a circle of gold, symbolizing the possession of light, or intelligence.

Each emblem in the picture, and its relation to every other emblem, is portrayed thus to give some definite teaching about Mercury and the things this speedy planet rules. But the most significant teaching, here plainly stated in the language of symbolical pictograph, is revealed by the magus raising a scepter of gold to heaven in his right hand, while with his left he points the index finger toward the earth.

This scepter is raised to the proximity of a four-pointed star. The star with rays extending heavenward is the symbol of the overshadowing genius of his spiritual master directing his efforts and counseling him in his upward struggles. But even more obviously it is the symbol of those planetary forces which have so powerful an influence over the life of every man.
This magus, however, is not negatively reclining; passively waiting for what appears to be a progressed aspect to bring into his life whatsoever it commonly signifies. Instead, he is on his feet, with one of the implements signifying the four chief departments of human life raised in his right hand and the other three before him on the cube signifying the physical plane, handy to his use. As pictured in the very first, or Mercury, tarot card, I’ll briefly explain the astrological significance of these four emblems.
The suit of Scepters (the magus holds a scepter in his upraised hand), which in common playing cards is the suit of Clubs, symbolizes the element fire. This in human life becomes enthusiasm, ambition and enterprise. Consequently, this suit belongs to the department of life having to do with business, occupation, station, honor and profession. In astrology it is represented by the Mid-heaven where the sun appears at noon.

The suit of Cups (a cup is before the magus on the cube), which in common playing cards becomes the suit of Hearts, represents the element water, symbol of the emotions and typical of domestic and affectional relations. It thus broadly corresponds to the western angle of a birth chart, where the sun sinks below the horizon.

The suit of Swords (such a sword lies on the cube of the physical world), which in common playing cards becomes the suit of Spades, represents the element earth, symbol of struggle, allied to affliction and death. It thus corresponds to the Nadir, where the sun is in its grave or lowest point in the diurnal cycle.

The suit of Coins (such a coin as is on the cube before the magus), which in common playing cards becomes the suit of Diamonds, represents the element air, the breath of life. The foods needed to live may be purchased with money and thus money has become the symbol of life itself. It therefore corresponds to the Ascendant of a birth chart, where the new-born sun each day rises above the eastern horizon.

The attitude of will which the magus in the picture plainly holds is not that of submission. Much as Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rod was raised to capture the destructive lightning and conduct it harmlessly to the earth, so the magus holds aloft his scepter to act as an aerial to capture the energies plainly being radiated from the planet. But it is clear to see that he proposes to do more than merely deflect this captured planetary energy into some harmless expression. His whole attitude portrays the determination to use it in connection with the emblems representing the chief departments of his life that symbolically lie before him on the cube of the physical world.

To enable him to capture planetary vibrations and divert them into channels of his own choosing, instead of being shoved about, puppet like, by them, he must possess high intelligence, which is denoted by the band of gold about his head. But even endowed with such intelligence, how can any person rule his stars, as this magus clearly is pictured doing?

The pictograph explains that it is done through the use of thought; that is, through the function which is the distinctive attribute of Mercury; for the characteristic of a magus is that his work is performed through the agency of thought. It is because mental expression is the outstanding quality both of Mercury and of a magus, that such an individual was used to depict the ancient teachings relative to this versatile planet.

Mercury rules the human nervous system over which flow those etheric currents which carry messages to and from the brain. Dr. George Crile in his book, The Phenomena of Life; A Radio-Electric Interpretation, which appeared in February, 1936, gave conclusive proof that these energies are electric in nature, and constitute the vital force of life. And Dr. Edwin J. Cohn, Professor of Biological Chemistry at Harvard, revealed at the meeting of the American Chemical Society on April 12, 1936, that he had measured the tiny electrical charges which carry messages over the nerves, and had found their source of origin on the giant protein molecules, hitherto considered electrically neutral. He pointed out that the movement of such an electro-magnetic molecule is like the armature of the dynamo. It produces an electric current. By means of the electric currents thus generated the mind exercises its control over the body.

Protein molecules are able to release the high-frequency energy of the lightning which fixed the nitrogen that plant life took from the soil. This is in accordance with Einstein’s Law of Equivalence: that the energy of an atom is given out in the same quanta as those received by the atom. And these short-wave radiations have properties with which we have become familiar in the radio. In fact, Dr. Cohn uses the same technical developments in the measurements of the electrical properties of the giant protein molecules that have led to the improvement of the radio.

Of all the cells in the human body, those of the nervous system, which are ruled by Mercury, are best adapted to the production of short-wave radiations, as well as to carrying electric currents. And the gray matter of the frontal lobes of the brain is best adapted of these nerve cells ruled by Mercury in this respect.

This means, as occultists have long held, that the human nervous system is a radio broadcasting set. And it also means, because scientists have found these electrical phenomena of the nervous system to be reversible as when the cells recharge in sleep, that the nervous system is a delicate receiving set, capable of intercepting short-waves which reach it from other broadcasting sets.

Telepathy, which material science very reluctantly is being forced by the experiments of its own savants to accept, thus finds its explanation. And thus also is explained the process which the magus, pictured in the first Arcanum of the tarot, is employing to utilize the energy of a selected planet, or the energy of a planet which reaches him because at the time it receives a progressed aspect.

Not that the ancient initiates, who left to us their explanations of astrology and of life in the language of symbolical pictograph on the tarot, were aware of the modern technical explanation, which is in terms of electrical phenomena. But they, as those who used the power of thought for practical purposes, came to understand how thoughts are able to tune the nervous system and the currents passing over it to the planetary energy they wished to receive; and how because its energies reached the astral body by way of the nerves in such volume, other and more discordant energies were shut out.

But to explain in modern scientific terminology just what Mercury, which rules the thoughts, is shown doing in tarot Arcanum I: Through his thoughts and feelings man has the ability to increase or decrease his mental and nervous tension, which means the rapidity with which the nitrogen compounds release radiant energy, and thus by controlling the comparative shortness of the wave lengths emitted, he can tune in on various levels. And as the etheric energies of the nervous system are ready transformers and conductors of corresponding astral broadcasts, he can tune in on broadcasts through the ether and the astral broadcasts from the planets and from minds that are no longer of earth. The magus of tarot No. 1, is shown in the act of thus tuning in on such a broadcast. And as this tuning in process is accomplished through directing the thoughts, it is eminently fitting that the explanation should be thus pictured on the tarot illustrating the functions of Mercury.

In fact, whether you are aware of it or not, you tune in on the energy of any planet that makes a progressed aspect in your chart. If you have a progressed aspect to Mars, for instance, the aggressive thought-cells in your astral body receive, through the aerial mapped by the aspect, an additional supply of energy. Because they have more energy they can impart it to the nerves of the gonads and of the adrenal glands. This local electrical stimulation releases hormones in the blood. These reaching the cells of the body increase their electrical discharge.

These electrical discharges over the nervous system, unless there is a deliberate effort made to cultivate other thoughts, stimulate thoughts of the aggressive type, which keep the nervous system constantly tuned to pick up still more of the Mars broadcast. But as the brain-cells generate high electrical charges under the processes of thinking and feeling which accompany the Mercury-ruled thoughts, it is within their power to reverse the process. That is, instead of being stimulated by the electrical current coming from the body cells, the process of thought can initiate a current which stimulates another hormone, which has quite a different effect upon the body cells.

As the magus in the tarot picture is doing, by selecting such thoughts as stimulate the feeling commonly induced by the vibrations of a given planet when it receives a harmonious aspect, it is possible to tune the nervous system and the etheric energies flowing over it, so that they pick up, radio fashion the harmonious broadcast of energy from the selected planet. And by association, through the thoughts, the harmonious planetary energy thus acquired can be diverted into working to attract fortunate events which, without the use of thought, would have only come into the life at a time when there was an unusually favorable progression involving the planet.

We of the present age possess mechanical contrivances of which the astrologer initiates of old never dreamed; and in the precision of scientific observation we far surpass their most skillful efforts. But in the practical application of thought and the utilization of astrological forces, by comparison we are mere apprentices. Through the process of trial and error, which continued through the ages unfettered by such materialistic dogmas as confront us today, they learned how to do those things which give control of life and destiny. And while they gave their attention to other things in acquiring such control, they found the chief tool for their mastery of life in the utilization of planetary forces through the proper application of thought.

To state their views in modern terminology, your unconscious mind is built of thought-elements even as your physical body is built of chemical elements. This unconscious mind, or astral body, is fed by thoughts, or states of consciousness which accompany experiences. That is, in its ascent through innumerable lower forms of life, the awareness and emotions accompanying your soul’s experiences built thought-elements into its four-dimensional or stellar body. Through other experiences these thought-elements became organized as stellar cells, and these in turn into dynamic stellar structures.

The most powerful of these thought structures in your astral body are mapped by the planets in your birth chart; and their outstanding relations to other dynamic thought structures are mapped by the aspects in the chart. Thus your birth chart is a map of thought organization of your finer body, or character, as it has been constructed up to the moment of your birth as a human soul.

These thought-groups and the way they are organized indicate your innate natural abilities and, because thought-cell activity has an attractive power, the kind of events that will be attracted into your life unless some effort is made to change the thought-structure of your character.

Thus does Arcanum I give a concise explanation, in symbolical pictograph, that any ability mapped by the planetary positions is due to the volume and arrangement of thought-energies within the person’s unconscious mind. Consequently another person can acquire identical abilities if he builds thought-energies in his unconscious mind in similar volume and arrangement. And it also shows how this is done.

By the proper use of thought you can voluntarily tune your nervous system and the etheric energies flowing over it to pick up the energies of a powerful planet in your birth chart that is selected because it maps a harmonious thought-structure within your unconscious mind. Thus you can acquire, through your own efforts, the ability to attract into your life fortunate events that otherwise could only be brought in when some powerful and favorable progressed aspect is present.

A progressed aspect may be inevitable in the heavens, like rain or snow, heat or cold, wind or calm; but its effect on you is determined by the way you handle it. It means that a temporary stellar aerial is built across your astral body, for the duration of the aspect, which picks up the energies of both planets either harmoniously or loaded with static, according to the nature of the aspect.

It is so much additional energy of a given kind, reaching the thought-cells in a certain compartment of your astral body, and causing them to become unusually active. It is the unusual four-dimensional activities of these thought-cells which attract into your life events at the indicated time.

If, therefore, through some consciously directed process a large volume of energy of a different quality is supplied the thought-cells which otherwise would get only the energy indicated by a progressed aspect, their type of activity is changed and they work from the four-dimensional plane to attract events at that time of a quite different character. Furthermore, as all important events that come into the life are due to the activities of thought-cells that then receive unusual supplies of energy of a particular kind, if these thought-cells are supplied with that particular kind of energy in proper volume the characteristic event will be attracted, even though at the time there is no progressed aspect in the chart.

The ancient masters considered the use of thought, to tune in on planetary vibrations such as would supply the thought-cells with the proper additional energy to attract desired events, of such vast importance that they gave this teaching clearly in the very first tablet on which they inscribed what they had learned of stellar wisdom.

All that the constellation pictures is true enough; but if we now turn to the Virgo tarot card, Arcanum II, showing a woman seated at the Temple of Isis, crowned with a tiara of three stories, and on her knees an open book which she half covers with her mantle, and the symbol of Mercury upon her bosom; we find emphasized that this is a mental sign, that objective consciousness perceives only the external side of truth, that thought determines on each of the three planes of existence the level occupied by the person, and much information on how to acquire a mental harvest of value.

(This concludes part 2 of 23)

To purchase The Sacred Tarot by C. C. Zain (student format, hardbound)

To purchase The Egyptian Tarot Cards

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