Part 4: Scorpio and the Sovereign
Those who in an ancient day scanned the sky in the effort to determine the influence of each section on the affairs of earth, found in the thirty degrees along the annual journey of the Sun mapped by Scorpio a perplexing problem. This was a watery sign; plastic, emotional and receptive as all the watery signs should be; but those born under its influence also exhibited an aggressiveness and force far removed from the ordinary conception of water; quite suggestive, in fact, of fire. We of a later age, familiar with the tremendous force and aggressive quality of water when it has been converted into steam, water which having been sublimated is no longer a liquid, but a gas with properties quite distinct on that account, can consider this aggressive force paralleled by water which has been heated.
Water thus sublimated into gas is no longer rigidly bound to earth, but moves freely in the third dimension. Thus also does human life function freely on the fourth dimension instead of the third to which its physical form has bound it, when through death, which Scorpio rules, it avails itself of its thought-built body, in turn a sublimation of three-dimensional experiences.
One can scarcely contemplate the sign without at once being brought face to face with the doctrine of transmutation, or as our modern psychologists prefer to designate it, sublimation; for from most ancient times to the present day, the sign has been associated with both the highest and the lowest. Those with this birthchart influence strong are never mild and insipid; instead, they are decidedly noble, or completely debased. Thus has it been pictured with an alternate influence; one represented by the eagle soaring into realms celestial, and the other as the crawling vermin of the desert floor.
The oldest seals and boundary stones of Mesopotamia, for instance, bear the picture of the constellated Scorpion; and it is one of the most prominent pictures on the Arkansas Astrological Stone. Yet in old-time zodiacs where the four fixed signs are used, each as representing one quadrant, it is the eagle which is used as emblem of the autumn and never the scorpion.
To know why the men of old used this desert creature to picture the vilest aspect of sex and death, which the sign had been recognized to rule, consider that no other animal, perhaps, exhibits such intensity in its love making, and none is more jealous and cruel once its desires are satisfied. The male and female scorpion, preceding the nuptial union, clasp hands in ecstasy, and each in rapt admiration of the other stands immobile for as much as a night and a day. The enthrallment of the other’s touch seems, for the time being, to lift them to such heights of bliss that they are oblivious of the world and passing time. They are entranced. Desire so permeates their bodies as to render them motionless.
Yet when finally the spell is broken, and fertilization has taken place, a monstrous change in attitude occurs. In members of this and allied tribes, such as the spiders, the female is the larger. And it is as if, satiated by the long embrace, she were consumed with jealousy of a future rival, driven to frenzy that her mate might desert her for another. This, at any cost, and at any cruelty, she is determined to prevent. She therefore grasps her erstwhile lover, and despite his frenzied struggles, his mute entreaties, and his attempts to recall to her the beauties of their recent honeymoon, she tears him limb from limb and devours him completely.
Now consider the eagle, mating for life and maintaining throughout a fine solicitude for the one companion of his choice: a bird which it was believed flew higher than any other creature. At least, in its upward soaring it ascends until completely out of sight. Nor in its attack is it ever treacherous, but bold and vigorous; a bird of tremendous power, of a power and freedom of movement which is paralleled by that of steam when compared with earth-bound water. And thus fittingly has it been employed as the universal symbol of that sublimation by which alone the highest spiritually can be attained.
The scorpion, condensed and conventionalized into the hieroglyph we yet use to designate the sign, conveyed information about the brutal and primitive impulses when their energy was permitted to express in grosser ways. Astrologers give Scorpio the key-phrase, I desire. Yet when these desires which exemplify the scorpion traits, were sublimated, it was recognized that they became the source of those powers so well depicted by the soaring eagle. That is, the scorpion told the story graphically enough, of desires basely gratified; while the eagle told the story equally well of desires properly sublimated. But neither picture told how that sublimation could be accomplished; how the scorpion could be converted into the eagle. It was this that the fourth Major Arcanum of the tarot was designed, through the language of symbolical pictograph, to explain.
Outstanding in this pictorial representation is the upraised scepter of peculiar design. It is chiefly in form a cobra, sacred to the virile sun, and when curled is used instead of the lion, as the hieroglyph by which we represent the sign Leo. And quite intentionally is this Leo emblem here employed; for Leo is natural ruler of the fifth house of a chart of birth, the house that relates to children, love-affairs and pleasures. And all the desires, including those which Scorpio more specifically rules, are founded upon the principle of pleasure. They strain to release energies in the direction of enjoyment or in a direction to escape pain — this latter relatively considered also being in the direction of the greater pleasure.
But this emblem of both power and pleasure related to the dominating Leo sign is not thus held high before the view merely to show the source of Desires which are recognized to be so strong in those born under the influence of the sign Scorpio. For surmounting it is the emblem of spirit, the circle. Thus does it explain clearly in symbolical pictograph that Desires can, and should, be sublimated—as indicated by the circle which is the highest emblem in the picture, yet which is joined to the cobra—through the use of pleasure. In fact that is the only way they can be transmuted; for efforts to change them through the use of force fail completely and result in inner conflicts.
The cube on which this sovereign sits is the emblem of matter and the physical world, the experience with which, little by little, has built into his unconscious the thought-elements and feeling energy which in their present organization constitute that character which his birthchart maps so perfectly. Whatever is now within his unconscious mind is derived from past experiences. Simple sensations have fused to become perceptions, perceptions have amalgamated to produce conceptions, and these in turn combine to express as intuition and reason.
Coincident with every experience, physical or mental, feeling energy, which is some degree of pleasure or pain, is also built into the unconscious mind along with the mental images of the experience. It is this feeling energy which conditions the desires, that is, which tends to cause the organism to act in a certain manner when again brought in contact with a similar situation. An amoeba moving in contact with a drop of acid retreats because of the pain. Next time it comes close to a similar drop of acid it retreats more quickly because it has built a desire thus to avoid the acid. An infant roughly handled by some person, soon learns to kick and cry when that person puts in an appearance. A desire has been built, through the pain associated with the image of that person, to escape from him. Yet an amoeba, a child, or other creature having felt the pleasure of satisfactory food gained through some specific action, because of the desire thus built up in association with that action, quickly learns to repeat it.
This process which the psychologists call Conditioning is not confined to human life, but is characteristic of all organic existence, and is the process through which all learning takes place, and through which all desires have been energized. The cat, as well as the lion, is associated with the house of pleasure, but not in so noble a manner. On the side of the cube here presented, it indicates that the vision of the soul penetrates the illusions of matter; but of greater significance. It signifies that pleasure has organized the unconscious mind as it now exists, and that all the individual has to work with in attaining the spirituality to which he now aspires is the energies built into his unconscious in lower forms of life which now express as his desires.
The chart of birth maps the manner in which the thought-cells and organizations were conditioned at the time of birth: that is, the general trend and intensity of their desires. It does not indicate that they must remain conditioned in that particular way. In fact, even as the primitive desires characteristic of the snake, the scorpion, the badger and the fox, existing in the human astral form as derived from pre-human experiences, are usually conditioned during infancy into socially acceptable channels of expression, so should the primitive desires which now determine the individual’s thoughts and conduct be reconditioned to express in a more spiritual manner.
The cat, because it is an emblem of the house of pleasure in the birthchart, represents the various desires within the unconscious mind as these have been conditioned by pleasure up to the present time. These are shown to be the foundation of the work of sublimation which the sovereign performs.
The apron above the legs which are bent presents the form of a trine above a cross; the symbol of mind dominating matter. Not only should the individual who seeks to lead a higher type of life use careful discrimination in selecting how to condition his desires so that they will release their energies, not as in the past, but in the new paths of his choosing, but he should use high intelligence in selecting that which is truly beneficial to desire. Many false notions of spirituality gain wide acceptance—notions which in practice injure the health and tend toward the disintegration of society.
It has even been taught in the Orient that to be spiritual one must kill out desire. Yet instead of being something inimical to human welfare, the teaching of modern psychology is that desire is the most essential asset possessed by any living thing. Without it there is no activity. Such activity as is expressed, is the expression of desire; and what is done, whether beneficial or the reverse, is determined by the manner in which desire has been conditioned. Therefore, there is but one possible avenue by which man can attain morality or live a life which is better in any respect, and that is not through eliminating desire, but through the proper use, or conditioning, of his desires. That is why this conditioning process is so carefully explained in the Scorpio tarot card.
Essential in this conditioning process is the use of pleasure, as signified by the upraised scepter. That is, it is possible to develop pleasure in almost anything through associating it with other things which already possess a high degree of pleasure. And it is through this process also, that the energy of primitive or anti-social desires can be diverted to flow through spiritual channels which are beneficial to the individual and to society at large.
But before he proceeds with this process of sublimation he must first aspire to make the change in his character which this implies. He must have the prompting to live a higher type of life; and this is portrayed in the picture by the hawk, symbol of aspirations, on the breast, the region where emotions dominate: This man felt high aspirations, and in response to them has decided to be more spiritual than in the past.
But to practice the sublimation which has become his task, he must be able to direct his thoughts. That is, instead of permitting them to wander as fancy dictates, he must be able to select the objects on which to train his attention. If he permits his thoughts to dwell on the pleasure to be derived from the old avenue of expression of desire, action will follow in that direction. Instead of sublimating, he will follow the old habit pattern, and be no more refined than before.
The trine over the cross made by the apron above the legs indicates that mind, symbolized by the trine, has made such a triumph over matter. Not only has this individual used discrimination in selecting the type of desires into which to divert the more primitive energies which seek release in action, but he has cultivated considerable ability to determine what shall and what shall not occupy the attention of his thoughts.
This ability is extremely valuable also in attainment other than sublimation; especially in handling the unseen influences relating to the eighth house which Scorpio naturally rules. Those therefore who designed this Scorpio tarot felt that specific instructions should be included in reference to the influences exerted by the dead; and for this purpose they placed upon the sovereign’s head the helmet of Pluto. The significance of this is clarified through the story of Perseus, who after slaying the Gorgon Medusa, was able to escape reprisals from her two furious sisters through a helmet which made him invisible. This helmet like the one here shown, had been provided by Pluto, ruler of the underworld and of Scorpio.
Such as have difficulties of a psychic nature, who have tampered unwisely with the invisible world, are here instructed by the wisdom of the past, in the best method of escaping such persecution. When through strong desire, we tune ourselves quite completely to one frequency of vibratory rates, this automatically cuts off others. When the dial of a radio set is tuned to pick up the program broadcast by one station, this eliminates the reception of programs which are broadcast over frequencies quite dissimilar. Thus it is, as proved by the experience of many people, that the best way to escape an undesirable psychic influence is not to fight it, which tunes the finer body to receive its rates, but to wear the helmet of Pluto here depicted, and to become invisible and unaffected by its power, through completely and persistently tuning in on some dissimilar and constructive interest.
We cannot transform a Mars desire into a Saturn desire. Mars must always express destructively or constructively and with aggression and initiative. Saturn must always express in terms of safety, but such expressions may be related to fear and selfishness or to system, organization and persistent labor for the welfare of others. Thus it is that sublimation of any desires does not change the basic thought-elements which are striving through it to find expression. Instead it finds a new and better outlet for the energies of those same thought-elements; for the mental factors of the unconscious mind mapped by the same planets in the birthchart.
When the individual decides that some desire or propensity which is customary to himself is not such as to fit in with the high standard of conduct to which he aspires, his next step should be to ascertain through what avenue of expression that same planetary type of energy can express in a manner not in conflict with such standards. The reproductive desire, for instance, may express in gross dissipation, in the finer relations of family life, in engineering, or in any of the creative arts, such as musical composition, writing and painting. As a concrete example of such sublimation of this Scorpio desire consider that Michelangelo never married, yet his name marks the pages of history as a man of almost superhuman talent and energy, both of which were devoted to high accomplishment. He records in his own words how he sublimated his great passion for the one woman of his choice into energies that were expressed by him in his works of art:
“As a stone, when an intaglio is cut upon it, becomes more precious than in its natural state, so am I of greater worth since your image has been graven on my heart. When a sculptor would give shape to an idea, he makes a mold of it in some base material such as clay or wax; then he puts it into marble and secures its immortality. So I born but the model of my future self, have been reformed and made by you, O, lofty and noble lady, into a more perfect expression.”
Of course there are many other desires than the one here considered which can, and should be, sublimated. These cannot be made to express through creative activities, but only through avenues which are of their own essential nature. The desire for significance, ruled by the Sun, for instance, often expresses as an undue tendency to show off, to boast, or to bully others. And its energies can only be made to express, because they essentially are Power energies, in something which will add to the feeling of significance. Yet this object is not difficult to attain through sublimating them to find satisfaction in some worthwhile accomplishment that gains the respect of others and thus heightens the esteem for self.
But to get the desires to release their energies in these sublimated channels, it must be devised, as indicated by the cobra held aloft on Arcanum 4, that the individual gains a more intense pleasure from this new expression than from the old. Habit breaks a channel through which the energies flow with ease. To break a new channel, which must be accomplished in sublimation, is hard work, and therefore essentially painful. Yet the artificial association of something else which is highly pleasurable with this new method of expression lends pleasure to the whole, and thus because it then affords more joy, the new habit is established.
Whatever the nature of the desire to be sublimated, if you have Mars prominent in your birthchart, you can utilize the pleasure you normally feel in Mars expression to assist in that sublimation. You can look upon the old propensity as an enemy to be vanquished. And every time you are successful in diverting the energy of the primitive desire into a more spiritualized type of expression, you can feel the thrill of a victory and the glow of a hero who has vanquished his adversary. The more joy you get from the victory, the greater assurance you may have that similar victories will follow in the future.
Or if you have Jupiter, the religious planet, exceptionally prominent in your birthchart, you can utilize its energies to enable you to sublimate any desire. Think about the sublimated expression you have selected as aiding you to lead a religious life, as something of which the Supreme Intelligence is sure to approve. And when you have succeeded at least temporarily in this task of sublimation, permit yourself to feel deeply thankful to the higher powers. Associate with this expression also the feeling of benevolence and joviality. Because the thought-cells mapped by Jupiter in your unconscious mind possess so much energy, by associating that energy pleasantly with the expression decided upon, it is able to do what no amount of stubborn will power could accomplish.
If you have been accustomed to get high pleasure from using intelligence (Mercury), think how intelligent it is to express the desire energy in a sublimated way. Associate it with the feeling of significance if the Sun is prominent in your chart. In some manner tie the new expression in as giving pleasure to as many other strong desires as can be recognized, such as those mapped by prominent planets in the chart of birth. As explained by The Sovereign of the tarot, in order to sublimate any desire, find a more acceptable channel that will permit the essential nature of the desire to express. Then guide its energies into this channel through associating the desire with this expression, and with the pleasant realization of as many other desires as possible.
(This concludes part 5 of 23)
To purchase The Sacred Tarot by C. C. Zain (student format, hardbound)