I once had a 95-pound German Shepard who fully understood the authoritarian zeal of the Emperor. He was big and strong enough to have ripped my throat out, so every informal training session included a demonstration of my “alpha male” superiority. He loved to mock-fight, so I used to don a pair of heavy work gloves and wrestle with him. At the end I would pin him, stare into his face, and say repeatedly in a loud, commanding voice: “Who’s the boss?” He was smart enough to get the picture fairly quickly, and never challenged me.
I most often see the Emperor interpreted as a “father figure,” whether strictly biological or a stand-in like a boss, administrator or other primary source of authority. This is the simplest way to view the Aries stereotype, which in fact represents the “head” and in this card is an influence of great stability, power, virility, maturity and will. Crowley-isms aside, the Golden Dawn’s other attribution for the Emperor is the Hebrew letter Heh, meaning “a window.” Paul Foster Case described it as permitting “outlook, survey, supervision, control and so on,” all aided by unimpeded vision. This also implies a defensive readiness, since one can see who’s coming before opening the door. The Emperor is the epitome of “Four-ness,” which represents reliability and solid accomplishment. Another interpretation suggests military acumen with a penchant for violence, ambition and great self-confidence. Domineering tendencies may be present when ill-favored in a reading. All-in-all, a “take-charge” kind of guy (unless your current reporting chain happens to be gender-neutral).
The Emperor is a “do-er” who is seldom deflected from his goals and is intolerant of opposition. While the Empress can be prone to wait an obstacle out, the Emperor is more apt to ride rough-shod over it to get on with his agenda. He wields broad administrative jurisdiction and his unshakable foundation of purpose, will and conviction operates most effectively in the arena of practical affairs. He is a perfect example of the “might makes right” mode of governance, since compromise is not one of his dominant virtues.
The Emperor in action sometimes reminds me of the Alice Cooper song “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” He is above succumbing to the tender humanitarian urges of pity, sympathy and charity, and is only interested in unflinching dedication to the higher purpose of “lawful action” (Eden Gray calls it the “domination of intelligence over passion”) in all his dealings. The Emperor will ensure a “fair shake” but not necessarily offer a “helping hand.” He allows the freedom to make our own mistakes after laying down the ground-rules. He is a benign monarch when “all is right with the world” from a law-and-order perspective, but uncompromising – even ruthless – in his enforcement when things go astray. The “long arm of the law” coupled with “summary judgment” neatly defines his modus operandi, and the “law of the land” is his mandate.
I’ve had some fun seeing the Emperor “in extenso” through the presence of the King of Wands in a reading, the King being his agent in the world of mundane affairs. The King is a kind of lieutenant or “little brother” to the Emperor, carrying out his will without having to resort to the ponderous machinations of imperial decree. Regional kings in an empire were usually considered surrogates or proxies for hands-on administration of the Emperor’s interests within their borders.