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Astro-Tarot Series

Arcanum 18: The Moon and the Awakening

First printed in American Astrology Magazine July 1938

Elbert Benjamine

The Great Pyramid

The original material has been edited for accuracy
and to improve ease of reading.

Even at the present day when arbitrary forms of speech have long since displaced the more primitive use of symbols—like those employed by the tarot—to convey ideas, it is not uncommon to refer to the highest point as being nearest to heaven. This highest point in the zodiac is the place for which pyramids and mounds were erected not only in Egypt, Chaldea and India, but also in ancient America. Such pyramids form a conspicuous feature of the symbolical pictographs used by the ancient Wise Ones who designed the Egyptian tarot to explain the influence of the zodiacal sign Cancer.

The highest point in the zodiac—so far as we of the northern hemisphere are concerned—is the place where the Sun attains its highest northern declination, just as it moves across the solstitial colure from Gemini into Cancer. The Great Pyramid of Egypt was so constructed that at noon on the day the Sun thus entered the sign Cancer, this symbol of spirit and deity appeared to those looking up the northern side as a ball of fire resting on the apex of this representation of the twelve houses of earthly life. And to indicate this same spiritual idea of the earth at times being in direct contact with the realm of spirit, on the night of the summer solstice fires in olden times were lit and kept burning on the tops of the pyramids of Mexico.

Even on the pyramids which so long have remained concealed beneath the great mounds in the Mississippi Valley, some of which recently have been unearthed, there is evidence that such fires periodically were lit on their tops. It seems that even in these, although more crudely expressed, there was an attempt to embody the same formulas, astronomical proportions and cosmic knowledge, which in greater detail and finer precision are incorporated into that most wonderful of all monuments of stone, the Great Pyramid of Egypt.

We do not know just how vast was the range of information possessed by those who built these pyramids in various lands, because as scientists of the present day make new discoveries regarding the structure of our universe, it becomes apparent that at least as general conceptions, such also are included in these monuments to the Wisdom of the past.

So far as we have evidence to indicate, however, it seems that in the work these ancients usually contemplated they had no need for, and did not use, the minute precision which marks the work of present-day laboratory scientists. Their knowledge of astronomical ratios and cosmic relations was derived from applying the Law of Correspondences with the aid of their finely developed psychic faculties—such as the sign Cancer facilitates in the highest degree—rather than through the use of refined mechanical contrivances such as are employed at the present time.

They were interested in the forces and entities, seen and unseen, with which the universe abounds, as they relate to human life and destiny, here and hereafter. And in addition to leaving rules for the safe and successful use of the psychic faculties, it is to their everlasting credit that they worked out a mathematics and formulated methods of procedure, which were adequate to meet their practical astrological requirements.

These ancients held that the commencement of Cancer represented the gate to heaven.

Jacob's Ladder
Jacobs' Ladder

The degrees of the zodiac are not unlike the rungs of a ladder which arches the firmament, extending from earth to sky. And thus was it that Jacob dreamed of such a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached heaven; and angels of God were ascending and descending on it. In this manner do the Sun and various planets move higher and higher in the sky until they reach the first of the sign Cancer and then start their descent to lower declination.

Angels more commonly are considered not to be going up to heaven and returning, but to be coming down from heaven to visit earth and then going back to that higher plane. Yet in Jacob’s dream they were going up, as the Sun ascends to reach the sign Cancer and then coming back to earth, as the Sun again descends after it reaches that family sign.

Such a going up and coming down as the Sun is observed to do each summer evidently signified to those who traced the starry pictures in the sky and gave to each a story, such as the one that has come down to us in Jacob’s dream, a going up and coming down which was suggestive of the movement of those intelligences which have no physical form and which, for want of a better term, may be called angels.

That is, it was their belief that the Soul made progress by gaining experiences in one physical form, passing at its dissolution into the astral world, as Jacob saw the non-material beings do in his dream, and after a period of experience and assimilation in the astral world, descending, as Jacob saw them do, to occupy another, but more complex, physical body on the earth. Each such form occupied constituted one rung in the Soul’s evolutionary ladder.

Every physical cell, every germ or shoot which develops into bacterium, plant or animal is dependent upon parenthood for its existence. And thus, until at last it has gained experience in a human form and by virtue of the development of human consciousness, is free henceforth from descending Jacob’s ladder to the earth, it must have parents who provide it opportunity to gain a new physical body. And such parenthood is more closely associated with the home sign Cancer than with any other zodiacal position.

Walking SidwaysThis coming back to earth for new experiences until the human form has been reached, and the coming back of the Sun toward earth in declination, is suggestive of the movement of the Crab. This creature does not move directly forward as other creatures are wont to do but has a backward side-wise gait. Its movement thus most fittingly represents the backward motion which is adopted by the Sun so soon as it enters this domestic sign.

Yet the coming back to earth by forms of life lower in the evolutionary scale than man for the purpose of gaining those experiences which fit them for a human form, which in turn will fit them for life on a higher plane; and the passing to the inner plane by such lower forms, or the more permanent transition to a higher plane by those who have experienced human life, are not the only passings through this zodiacal region which anciently was called the Gate of Heaven.

Of all the signs Cancer is most sensitive to its environment, be that environment physical or astral. More than any other sign its mediumistic quality facilitates contact with the denizens of the inner plane. Thus in their heritage to future generations, those who drew the tarot pictures evidently felt that their information relative to mediumship should be set forth in the design of Major Arcanum 18, depicting the attributes of the sign Cancer.

Arcanum 18: The MoonThe design, here illustrated, shows a highway*, symbolizing that the instructions relate to a road that may be traveled. And conspicuously in this road, so placed as quickly to catch the eye, there is a scorpion, the symbol used among the constellations to designate the sign Scorpio, which is the natural ruler of the house of death. Obviously, therefore, this is a highway through which in some manner the individual contacts death, or those who already have passed through the Cancerian Gate of Heaven to dwell in the invisible realm.


*The reference to a road is based upon imagery from a tarot deck Elbert Benjamine used while writing this article. At the time of writing, The Brotherhood of Light Egyptian Tarot cards had not been developed. The card pictured here is from The Brotherhood of Light Egyptian tarot, developed under Benjamine's supervision in the early 1930s. Applying Benjamine's text above to the image he developed is difficult to reconcile since there is no road in the Brotherhood of Light Arcanum XVIII. What is important to keep in mind is that both the above text and the pictured card represent times when our surroundings and/or the path we travel feels unfriendly, uncertain, changeable, with only dimly perceived information for moving forward and making decisions.

For a detailed description of The Brotherhood of Light Egyptian Tarot, Arcanum XVIII, see Course 6, The Sacred Tarot by C. C. Zain


This road also holds two other creatures. They are dogs, the traditional companions and friends of people. Thus, they give information that in that realm so aptly designated by the eighth-house sign Scorpio, there are companionable intelligences, those which at least pretend to be friends. And some of these pictographically are shown to be kindly, truthful and benevolent; faithful to the interests of the traveler of that road, and loyal to their welfare. This symbolism is portrayed by the dog of white.

White contains all wavelengths of visible light and is symbolically associated with harmony and enlightenment. By contrast, black is the absence of light, absorbing all the colors of the visible spectrum, reflecting none of them back to the human eye. Symbolically black represents darkness, ignorance and malice.

The invisible realm is the home of departed loved ones and therefore populated by true friends and helpful intelligences. This dog of black symbolically indicates that in that region there are also evil, lying spirits who treacherously pretend to be friends, but who, given the opportunity, work diligently for selfish purposes and to the seeker’s undoing.

Why this is true is explained by the pyramids in the background. Such a pyramid has four sides, each side presenting the form of a triangle. From the square base of matter these triangles slope to a point above, where life takes off from the physical to enter existence on a higher plane. These four triangles which thus lead to a higher phase of existence represent the houses of the chart of birth:

  • One triangle relates to the Trinity of Life: the First House represents the life of the body; the Fifth House represents the life of the Offspring; and, the Ninth House represents the life in Philosophy or Religion.
  • One triangle relates to the Trinity of Wealth: the Second House as wealth in Personal Possessions; the Sixth House as the Labor by which wealth is acquired; and, the Tenth House as the Business through which wealth is made available.
  • Another triangle relates to the Trinity of Association: the Third House represents the association with thoughts and brethren; the Seventh House represents association in marriage and partnership; and, the Eleventh House represents association with hopes and friends.
  • And finally there is the Trinity of Psychism: the Fourth House—whose natural ruler is the sign Cancer—represents the influence of the home and the end of life; the Eighth House represents the influence of those who have passed from earth; and, the Twelfth House represents the influence of secret enemies, sorrows and astral entities such as are symbolized by the black dog in the Eighteenth Major Arcanum of the tarot.

All possible human activities are embraced within the departments of life mapped by these twelve houses so aptly symbolized by a pyramid. Each maps a distinct compartment within the astral body wherein are located the thought-cells derived from previous experiences which relate to the affairs of life designated by that house. And it is the unusual activity of the thought-cells mapped by such a house, due to their acquiring new energy in volume through a progressed aspect to the planet ruling the house, that attracts each important event that enters the life relative to the department of affairs the house thus designates.

One of the pyramids shown in the tarot card called The Moon is white in color, symbolizing a life of light, harmony and rectitude. The other pyramid is colored black to symbolize a life of darkness, wickedness and dissipation. In the road passing these two pyramids there are two dogs of similar color. The symbolic information conveyed is that an individual’s thoughts, motives and actions—that is, the kind of life they live—determines the type of unseen intelligences attracted from the unseen world. If kindly and true the person will attract those from the after-death life of like character to be invisible friends. But if gross, selfish and wicked they will attract invisible intelligences who are cunning and bent on depredation.

These pyramids at the side of the road which leads to the after-death world also reveal why there are wicked intelligences in the unseen realm as well as those better disposed. Each pyramid reaching its apex to the sky indicates a type of life which at the dissolution of the physical enters its existence on the inner plane. For that matter, as the Sun’s entrance into Cancer interpreted by Jacob’s dream and by the apex of the pyramid implies, not only humans but all forms of life pass to this astral realm and abide there at least for a time following physical death. And people who live a certain type of life and therefore have built certain desires strongly into their characters—that is, into the thought-cells of their unconscious minds—do not change merely because that unconscious mind or character no longer possesses a physical body.

The real character of either a human or an animal is not their physical body, it is the thought-organization of their unconscious mind. And it is because a birthchart maps the thought-cell organization of the unconscious mind that such a chart reveals so much relative to the abilities and character. The physical body of an individual, to be sure, is powerfully molded and influenced by the unconscious mind; but the unconscious mind does not alter its structure greatly merely because, as at death, it no longer can function in association with a physical form. The unconscious mind immediately after physical death is practically the same as before departing from the material world.

It is true that the unconscious mind, or real character, of the individual has opportunity to learn and progress on the plane which Pluto, the planet of Scorpio, rules. But changes of character in that invisible region are no more apt to take place suddenly than they are during the same individual’s sojourn on earth. Therefore, in the invisible region immediately surrounding the world there are the same kind of people that one finds on earth. Some are well disposed and kindly, symbolized by the white dog; and some, such as those who have been gangsters and racketeers while on earth, are alert to force their will upon any unwary person and to use them for their own iniquitous purposes. Such is the symbolic significance of the dog of black.

The type of entities a person naturally attracts, as shown by the color scheme of both dogs and pyramids, is determined by thoughts and motives. That is, provided a person makes no special effort to develop an unnatural relation with the invisible realm.

The road, however, with the Scorpion symbol of the unseen world in it, points to a closer contact with the intelligences symbolized by the dogs, than merely the impressions by which one who is sensitive often is influenced by such entities without being fully aware of their existence. It implies that highways are open by which a closer and more conscious contact can be made with those who have passed to the after-death life.

But perhaps the most important of all that which is explained by this Major Arcanum 18 of the tarot, is that there are two distinct and diametrically opposite methods of coming into conscious contact with such unseen entities:

  • The séance room in which control by unseen intelligences is invited and cultivated, is most effective in gaining its objectives when there is darkness, or at least a very dim light, such as is represented in the picture by the Moon hiding its face behind the clouds.
  • The other method is achieved when the individual expands their consciousness through volitional effort, until it contacts the intelligence it seeks. In so doing they have as much control as an individual has when they put on their hat and go out to find and talk to a given friend. This method is represented by the circle of sunlight falling upon the road.

Although at times the result obtained is similar, these two methods of contacting the intelligences of the unseen world are as different as day from night, as Sun from Moon, as positive from negative and as integration from disintegration.

Even as the Moon can only reflect such light as the Sun affords, so that form of mediumship which invites the control of some other intelligence can only see, hear, feel and think that which the control is willing to permit. And the process of developing such negative mediumship is the work of abandoning one of the main objects humans have struggled so hard to acquire in their evolution.

Humans, I believe most would agree, are human and not something else because they have learned how to utilize and control very numerous and complex forces and functions. The Soul, which embraces all the various states of consciousness stored in their astral and spiritual makeup, is able to function through the human body on the physical plane only because through a long period of education and effort it has learned how to control such a body.

The process of evolution is a schooling in the capture, storage and release of energy. The whole struggle for survival is but a struggle of the species and the individual to preserve and perpetuate the control of its organism. Any tendency, therefore, to relinquish the control of the human body or permit another to control it tends toward the destruction of the individuality.

As control is gained by effort and practice, loss of control follows lack of effort and practice. Fish that live for generations in the water of underground caverns often lose their sight. The college athlete ten years after leaving college is unable to do many of the things they could easily do while in college. And every form of life, from its birth to its death, must struggle against the invasion of its organism and more or less complete control of it by other entities. When it ceases to resist it soon perishes.

Whenever any form of life ceases to resist invasion, there are always entities eager to use this loss of control to their own advantage. Whenever a person has relaxed their vigilance politically, they have been despoiled. Look at history and weigh this well. Whenever people cease to resist it, religious intolerance takes control. Read history again. Likewise, whenever people relinquish the control of their body and mind to another they are inviting slavery to a master of whose identity they cannot be sure. It may be to an entity such as in the tarot picture is symbolized by a white dog; or it may be to a deceiving entity, or a racketeer, such as is symbolically represented by the dog of black.

The spirit medium who undergoes so-called development by becoming passive and permitting some discarnate entity to take control, is undoing the most important work of their life and of evolution. Instead of resisting invasion they are permitting another entity to build lines of force in their astral body that when strong enough will permit that entity to take possession of the brain and body in spite of its rightful owner any time it desires to do so. They are permitting lines of force to be established that provide an open door by which any other entity, such as the wicked dog symbolizes, on the physical or invisible plane may gain a like control over them.

The teaching of the Moon disappearing behind the clouds of Major Arcanum 18 is that every time a person goes wholly or partially under control of a spirit, a mesmerist, or a hypnotist, they are assisting in the destruction of their own individuality. Permitting such control is irresponsible and disintegrative mediumship. Persisting in such practices bring the unfortunate subject or medium to a state where they are helpless to repel the invasion of their organism by any active entity, incarnate or discarnate. Irresponsible mediumship tends to destroy the Will and the Soul.

The light of the Sun falling on the road to the realm where intelligences that once were of earth dwell, tells a very different story. It points in unmistakable terms to a method of contacting, not just any intelligence which may be attracted to the séance room by the character of the lives of those attending the séance, but such intelligences only as may be selected. And as the Sun needs no help to gain in brilliance, this method is positive, under control and its cultivation strengthens the Will and increases the independent activity of the Soul.

In this positive method of making voluntary contact with selected intelligences, or with any specific selected environment of the inner plane, there are four distinct steps, each of which when properly performed is as much under the individual’s conscious control as if they were going on the physical plane to see a friend and talk with them, or going on a trip to a given locality.

  • First of all, inhibit objective thought to the extent there is no consciousness of the flow nerve currents or thinking other than being aware of inner plane activities.
  • With this achieved, withdraw consciousness from the physical world and transfer it to the unconscious mind. There will be a feeling that consciousness is functioning on the inner plane.
  • Then send consciousness to the person or object that is decided to contact. This does not mean traveling in the astral body, but merely an extension of consciousness and a radio-like tuning in, by which a person comes intimately into association with the person or thing as determined.
  • Finally, endeavor to bring as much as possible of the information or experience up into the region of objective consciousness, and apprehend with normal thoughts its true purport.

The unconscious mind at all times resides on the inner plane, and under proper training has access to the intelligences and places of that plane. For each of the four indicated steps, there is a definite training to develop a successful technique. The difference of this method from irresponsible mediumship, however, which is the teaching of The Moon tarot picture, is that the individual at all times during each of the four steps is positive, alert, fully conscious of what is taking place and has every factor in the process completely under their own control.

(This concludes part 19 of 23)

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

To purchase The Egyptian Tarot Cards

Back to Classic Elbert Benjamine

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