Water, Water Everywhere

Expanding on my analysis of elemental Fire as described in The Book of Thoth, I examined Crowley’s observations regarding the other two “primal” elements (“completely spiritual forms of pure energy”), Water and Air, and the special case of Earth, which represents a “crystallizing out” or coalescing of the other three in order to effectively impinge upon the corporeal senses. This post will comment upon the principle of Water, to which Crowley – in the section titled “Theories of the Ancients” and elsewhere – attributed qualities of fluidity, undulation, illusion and “imaging” power (which I take to mean the visualizing faculty of imagination).

The adepts of the Golden Dawn assigned the Hebrew letter Mem, “King over Water” in the Sefer Yetzirah, to the Hanged Man of the tarot. Crowley described the posture of the suspended figure as showing voluntary descent of the mind into the sea of the Unconscious, a form of baptism and initiation into the Mysteries. He also went on at some length about Water as the agent for continuation of life, including the amniotic fluid in which the embryonic phase of a human life is spent. Mem is particularly the feminine paragon among the three “Mother letters” because the other two – Aleph (Air) and Shin (Fire) – are masculine, and it therefore has a connection to the Moon, the “Mother of Heaven.” The Moon, apparently because of its fluctuating, inconstant appearance as well as its illusory light, was recognized astrologically as the exemplary planet of Water and thus of the emotional nature, which is also notoriously “mood-y.” (I should mention here that elemental Water was not assigned to either of the two lunar trump cards, the High Priestess and the Moon, but to the card that was associated with the nebulous planet Neptune by occult thinkers of the modern era.)

Water in the suit of Cups is taken to show the emotional response to stimuli of various types as reflected in the nature of the ten numbers of the minor cards. The purity of its expression degrades as it becomes more strenuously immersed in the cares and concerns of material existence, until it perfectly embraces and encompasses all of the shades of human feeling. Chosen judiciously, the Golden-Dawn-based titles of the Thoth Cups for the most part admirably convey the full range of this emotional experience: Root of the Power of Water (Ace); Love (2); Abundance (3); Luxury* (4); Disappointment (5); Pleasure (6); Debauch (7); Indolence (8); Happiness (9); Satiety*, meaning “too much of a good thing” (10).

*Note the “hidden” numerological link between “Luxury” and “Satiety” in the Pythagorean statement that “the Ten is in the Four” (1+2+3+4 =  10), which upon careful comparison of the two meanings makes perfect sense: the saturation of one overflows into the gluttonous excess of the other.

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