Sime~Gen Inc. Presents
"The Guardian At the Gate "
Veteran readers of this column know that in order to avoid participating in the commercialization of a sacred holiday, I don't review books in December. This gives you all a chance to catch up on reading the books I've induced you to buy in previous months.
This year's envelope topic has been how to make your first entrance onto the astral plane -- how to gain entree to the part of your mind or level of consciousness where Initiation can occur. Since the first (of many) challenges you meet when you try this is your Guardian Angel, a.k.a. The Guardian at the Gate, who asks terribly complicated questions, we have been studying how to find clues to the answers in science fiction and fantasy novels.
Reading fiction is an excellent way to develop the mental strength to make the transition onto the astral plane and remain conscious enough to bring back what you learn "there." Fictional universes, fictional realms, actually exist on the astral. Writers build them there first, and other talented can go visit anytime -- but ordinary folk do it quite inadvertently just by reading the book.
This was brought home to me some years ago when I got a manuscript in the mail from someone I'd never heard of before. It was a story set in my Sime~Gen Universe, essentially the same as a story I had been incubating and hadn't gotten around to writing yet, though I knew how it connected to the body of the Sime~Gen novels. In other words, for me it was already built on the astral -- part of the Sime~Gen Universe. But this unknown writer had used all original characters. Comparing notes with other professionals, I discovered that such events are quite common. I suspect this phenomenon might be a prime source of a lot of plagiarism suits, too. So these "astral places" are, for me, as real as Web sites.
Unless you've learned how to "go" to this "space" and practiced this transition with magickal "intent," no amount of subjecting yourself to formal training and ceremonial rituals will help you along your Path, just as your computer can't go to the Web without a modem and software to match.
I think we refer to World Wide Web sites as "places" to "go" because what we do with our computers when connecting to and exploring the Web is analogous to what we do with our minds when we shift into an astral level of consciousness. The Web is the "below" which is as the "above" of the astral plane itself. This modern world we're entering (the age of Aquarius) is going to bring mysticism and science into alignment. (Uranus rules Aquarius and is the upper octave -- the "as above" -- of Saturn, and the blend of curiosity and organized discipline of Uranus and Saturn are what we call science.) A lot of people may be deeply disturbed or bewildered by such an inescapable revelation, for mysticism and science are viewed in our culture as mutually exclusive.
It's important to realize that everyone -- without exception -- exists on the astral plane and maintains consciousness on both levels simultaneously all the time. But the searchlight of our attention focuses our awareness mostly on material reality -- just as the hero of the TV show The Sentinel is learning to focus on one sense at a time rather than be overwhelmed by overload. It is interesting that such a TV show has gathered an enthusiastic following (on the Internet) now, at the threshold of this new age.
It is sensory "overload" or "zoning out" as The Sentinel terms it, which is the major danger to sanity when exploring the astral. That is why all mystery schools train candidates in concentration.
In Qabalah, the astral plane is part of the sephirah called Yesod, which means Foundation. It is called Foundation because it pre-exists material reality, or Malkuth. All manifestations within the space-time continuum are built upon what exists on the astral -- just as the book you hold in your hands is built upon the story the writer constructed on the astral plane. All change in the material world must happen on the astral first. If you can't access the astral by that peculiar shift in attention-focus such as The Sentinel uses, you can't change anything in your life, your karma or your world in any fundamental way.
In the Tree of Life glyph, Malkuth is the bottom circle and Yesod is the one just above it. To "go" from Malkuth to some specific "location" within Yesod, you must have the astral URL (Universal Resource Locator -- or address) of the place you want to visit. The Tarot deck (which is structured exactly as the Tree of Life) can be regarded as a Web Browser with a built-in search engine of the Inner Planes -- it even provides FTP [file transfer protocol] and has some nifty graphics so you can build your own Home Page there. Not only that, but it provides Secure File Transfer and virus filters, too. The Tarot's log-on screen that asks for your password is The World card (a.k.a. The Universe). The World is the card that connects Malkuth and Yesod.
There is a very good partial explanation of The World card in a little book titled The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages by Paul Foster Case from Macoy Publishing Company, 3011 Dumbarton Road, Richmond, VA 23228. I bought this hardcover in 1975, but the copyright originated in 1947 and used material from 1927.
In the system Case is using (which I am interpreting here freehand using my own derivations as well as his), Malkuth and Yesod are connected by the Tarot card The World, or The Universe, Key 21 of the Tarot Major Arcana. And this Path or connection between reality and the astral is associated with the Hebrew letter Tav, which has a numerical value of 400.
The dancing figure on The World card represents the personal Guardian Angel I have been referring to -- the one with the trick questions. The figure is devoid of individuality in Tarot illustrations because the actual entity is different for each person who assays this path. The wreath around the Angel defines the gateway to the astral through which the traveler must pass and the composition of the wreath references the Hebrew alphabet. The figures at the corners of the card's picture correspond to the fixed signs of the zodiac, which are the second, fifth, eighth, and eleventh Houses respectively. Add 2, 5, 8 and 11, and you get 26 -- which is the numerical value of the Tetragrammaton, the four-lettered Ineffable Name.
Likewise, there are four suits in the Tarot, four "elements," and coincidentally it takes four variables to create a Boolean algebra. And material reality is constructed on four spatial dimensions. The astral plane is not constructed on four spatial dimensions, which is why it's so disconcerting to "go" there.
Let's examine the meaning of Tav and 400. In Hebrew, there are no "numbers" (separate symbols that represent numbers). Instead, the alphabet itself is the number symbol system. Thus the concept "alpha-numeric string" was invented by the Hebrews long before other folk invented writing. So it isn't that Tav was arbitrarily or mystically assigned to mean 400 -- it is 400. Or rather, 400 is Tav. This system predates the very powerful Arabic number system we use today, but the older system has its own uses; just as computers speak binary and are programmed in hexadecimal, each numerical system has its application.
Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet is also a number. That means that each word is a number. Likewise, each letter in the Hebrew alphabet is a picture, a glyph derived from an older non-alphabetical writing system -- a hieroglyphic system of a sort. The letters are basic sketches of everyday objects -- door, window, fishhook, nail -- each letter is a drawing of an object. And each such basic common object became a letter because it symbolizes an idea which cannot be sub-divided into smaller components -- [just] as a phoneme represents a sound that can't be subdivided and is distinguishable from the other meaningful sounds. As letters in the English alphabet represent phonemes, so the letters of the Hebrew alphabet represent ideas that are the indivisible smallest components out of which larger concepts can be built.
Thus, Hebrew words are composed of letters that represent ideas that, combined, add up to the real meaning of the word. The letters of a Hebrew word also add up to a number which gives a clue about the underlying meaning of that word. The number and the meaning are not two separate things -- they are the same thing. Do you see what I'm talking about here? Machine code. The machine code in which the program for the Universe is written. English doesn't work that way. Modern Hebrew doesn't work quite that way anymore because of linguistic drift. Biblical Hebrew demonstrates this structure most accurately and the study of that peculiar property of Biblical Hebrew is called Gematria -- the foundation of modern numerology.
So 400 is Tav, and Tav is the Guardian at the Gate -- and what common object does Tav represent?
It's a signature -- a personal mark -- as in "put your John Hancock right here" -- your chop mark -- your X. The X which is a legal signature for those who can't write could easily be seen as the equal-armed cross, again the four that squares and thus encompasses reality and gives it shape and dependability. A lot of the mystical side of Masonry is built on this four-square concept of the structure of reality.
That four-square X is a signature when it's been stylized and personalized -- customized. The four-ness of that X or cross is the attribute that defines Malkuth as different from other areas on the Tree of Life (depicted in Tree diagrams by the division of Malkuth into four differently colored segments). Your signature defines you as part of Malkuth, but it is more than that. It is your Word, your bond, your seal, a symbol of your True Name. With your signature you materialize an astral connection between you and the instrument you sign. It is with your signature that you will witness the completion of the Great Work. The signature I'm referring to here isn't the name you scrawl on your checks to validate them, though that is a symbol of your signature.
Your signature illustrates how you have taken the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire and Water) of which your personality is composed and stylized them, personalized them, changed them to represent your own Art of Being.
What the Guardian is asking for with the questions, "Who are you?" and "What is the purpose of Life?" and the other little trick questions, is a response that demonstrates your mastery of stylization -- not of a specific style. That mastery of stylization is evidenced in your signature, part of which resides in ROM installed before you're born, and part of which you invent as you go along through life, and change as you change your style of dress during a "makeover."
The astral plane isn't constructed four-square on four elements. It isn't rigid, fixed, defined and "real." The astral plane is amorphous, ever changing, taking on the shape and coloration and "style" of whatever personality happens to be there. On the astral, it isn't your conscious mind that shapes the stuff of the astral plane around you. It is your subconscious mind that surrounds you with the manifestation of whatever it harbors.
To survive on the astral you must be capable of re-styling yourself and your environment as suits your purpose. Thus a mastery of stylization -- such as would be evidenced by your signature -- is one acceptable sort of password to the full freedom of the astral plane.
Writers develop facility with stylization by donning the personae of their characters in order to discover what such a person would say, do or feel. Actors discover it by playing various characters. Readers and TV viewers discover it by identifying with various fictional characters. Magicians master it by working ceremonials fueled by emotion. When you do such an exercise, your own personal identity doesn't change -- you only add a layer of style on top of your True Self to see what you would look like as this persona. "If I were Captain Picard, I would have raised the shields right then!"
We have seen Quai Chang display mastery of stylization on the television show, Kung Fu: The Legend Continues by becoming a Paris fashion designer, a piano player in a bar, and many other improbable things for a martial artist. And yet it's not improbable -- because it isn't these individual styles that he has mastered; it is stylization that he has mastered. That's why he has such total mastery of the astral that he can step through a book to Shambhala.
That's fantasy, to be sure. But it is a fantasy that accurately depicts an underlying reality. The image of the book of Shambhala as containing the URL of the astral site where Initiation happens is accurate. It's what we do when we read -- connect ourselves to Astral URLs. One of the astral sites you can find via fiction reading may have a link to your personal source-code.
You know you've found a link to your personal source-code -- to the underlying identity that has manifested in various incarnations -- when a novel moves you to tears or laughter, holds you spellbound long past your bedtime, the characters walk off the pages into your dreams, and you find yourself living in that world. That kind of reading experience doesn't happen often -- but we keep reading in search of it. And by reading widely, we learn to style ourselves in many different ways. With practice, we master stylization.
The Guardian doesn't require a particular "correct" answer in order to let you onto the astral. He/She/It is looking for the way you answer -- your style of answering. And there are degrees of mastery of stylization as in anything else. Thus the Guardian will permit you degrees of freedom on the astral so you can get into any site you have the passwords for.
There are two other paths out of Malkuth -- two other levels of consciousness from which the Inner Planes can be accessed. One leads to the realm where the conscious, linear thought mechanisms are the most effective mode of cognition -- i.e., to science fiction -- and the other to the realm where subconscious pattern recognition is the most effective mode of cognition -- i.e., to fantasy.
The least painful and least frightening way into these two realms or Sephiroth is through Yesod via the Astral -- but non-fiction and the school of hard knocks can also get you there. Every life experience is an Initiation of some sort. Remember that the next time your computer crashes.
Send books for review in this column to: Jacqueline Lichtenberg, POB 290, Monsey, N.Y. 10952.
Find these titles by using copy/paste (in MSIE use right mouse button to get the copy/paste menue to work inside text boxes) to insert them in the search slot below -- then click Book Search and you will find the page where you can discover more about that book, or even order it if you want to. To find books by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, such as the new Biblical Tarot series, search "Jacqueline Lichtenberg" below.
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Reviewed by Jacqueline Lichtenberg