Michael Tsarion

THE HIGH PRIESTESS
Slayer of the Gods


I am Isis of the seven veils. No man shall see my face and live.

The numeral of the card is 2, often shown in Roman style script as II. This numeral is likened to a portal, for the figure, as even her surrounding indicates, is indeed a living gateway to the worlds. Man enters the house of life only through the body of the female. So it has been ordained for all time. The physical mother is but the surrogate for the Universal Mother, the supreme Genetrix called by the ancients - Taurt, Isis, Maat, Sophia, Demeter, Gaia, or Mara, etc,.

The number 2 has very interesting properties that are worthy of consideration. It is the only number that has the same product when either added or multiplied by itself. Now 1 is the self-contained monad and becomes multiple by addition to itself, 2. Twoness cannot be unless we allow 1 to be multiple, which it is not for by definition 1 must be itself, undivided and complete. So twoness is therefore a contradiction or logical impossibility, which is why it is connected with duality and dichotomy in mundane numerology. However, it is the number of many secrets. The number 1 can be added to itself and the result is 2. Therefore 2 is the evidence of the multiplicity of 1. It strengthens the identity and power of 1 while at the same time weakening it for it is now not complete, not itself as it was. Esoterically, two is the completion of 1 which cannot fully "know itself" without an object to relate with. Aleister Crowley, speaking of the Kabalistic Tree of Life, clarified a great deal when he wrote that each Sephiroth (or entity) is masculine to that which is below it and feminine to what is above it. The implication being that every entity is itself neuter, neither masculine or feminine. This is surely what the Egyptians had in mind when they called the gods, the “neter.”

That in heaven is in earth, but after a earthly manner and that the earth is in heaven, but after a heavenly manner – Thomas Vaughn

The Priestess’s element is water, our first mirror. And in a mirror 1 again becomes 2. Gaze into one and there are two figures present, that much seems clear. In the glass there is oneself and also our reflection. But are there really two forms there we muse. Surely there is only one, one real self, that is. But even so the reflection is there after all. And there can only be a reflection before us gazing back, if we are real. If the image is not existent then neither are we. But how can a mere reflection be said to exist? Somehow, its very insubstantiality strangely becomes an affirmation of our existence. The image is both an image and ourselves, for it cannot be another. It must exist, for if it does not, nor can we. The reflection is ourselves but is, in one sense, as remote as any stranger. And so the world that likewise appears outside of you is really an image inside your mind and, perhaps, it is no more than that. Reflections have existence and that is all we are, all the apparent universe is, created and sustained remotely by etheric energy of which our minds can know about as much as the pygmy's can know about the nature and function of the microwave.

Specular dynamics are found in the relation of the moon to the sun in the heavens above us. They are found in the play of genders and in the interior imagination of the individual, in the relationship between the conscious and unconscious minds. The lucid thoughts that arise ex nihilo, and which are bathed in insubstantial mental light, each possess their own shadows. This supremely enigmatic card reveals an age old Gnostic premise: that our real inner self is thrown into darkness by the very light of ego-based thought. Light is, indeed, the veil that no “man” can penetrate, for as the Quantum scientists have proven, the act of seeing creates what is seen.

Each thing we see hides something else we want to see - Rene Magritte

Men have always tried to reveal the mysteries of the female with ithyphallic light even when it came from the sadistic gleam in the eyes of the Inquisitioner or from the conflagration of a million blazing stakes. Leonard Schlain writes that Francis Bacon in this Novum Organum:

…consistently used metaphors derived from the witch hunt torture chamber to describe how scientists should force nature to relinquish her secrets.

On some Tarot decks the figure holds the “yin-yang” symbol which shows the wave and the point, the two manifestations of energy and matter, the Fearful Symmetry to which She alone holds the key. As the card shows, both are woven fine on the inexhaustible loom of the remote Priestess. Men cannot know her though they become gods to do so for the very gods are themselves humbled before her. Their combined ages are but an instant to her infinitude. As Pindar expounded:

One race there is of men, one of gods, but from one Mother do both draw their breath

Behind the world of change there is the state of non-change. Behind the façade of the illusory is the Real that stands immutable. Within all cycles is the still point that never increases or diminishes. It is the measure of all yet cannot itself be measured. It is the principle known as Nuith by the Egyptians and Sophia by the Greeks and Gnostics. Though, from our masculine perspective She is customarily defined by feminine connotations and epithets, she represents that which is beyond gender, beyond contradiction and antinomy, beyond good and evil, cause and effect. She represents neither object nor subject. She is space but never empty, is still but not silent, is simple yet profound. Pensive yet resolute She is the original “Uncarved Block” of the Taoist, the "Unhewn Dolmen" of the Druid. She cannot be apprehended by the polarized consciousness, being the supernal essence, the aperion behind and beyond masculine intentionality.

...the comparative passivity of matriarchal consciousness is not due to any incapacity for action, but rather to an awareness of subjection to a process in which it can "do" nothing, but can only let happen...It is an inner possession, realized and assimilated by the personality but not easily discussed, for the inner experience behind it is scarcely capable of adequate verbal expression...For this reason, a plain and simple masculine consciousness finds the "knowledge" of matriarchal consciousness unverifiable, willful, and par excellence, mystic - Erich Neumann (On the Moon and Matriarchal Consciousness)

The Magician card hearkens to the great Pyramid of Egypt, while the Priestess embodies the Nile without which there could be no Egypt. Her flowing blue robe implies that great river which became a seminal symbol for the mystery of life and death. “G” is the esoteric letter of the Priestess. It represents the throne of Isis. It also connotes the spiral, and meant, in Greek, the Self-Existent. In relation to the Kabalistic Tree of Life, her headdress points to Chokmah and Binah, for she is the "marriage" or point of union between the polarities, the masculine and feminine Sephira on the Tree (consciousness).

She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her and happy is every one that retaineth her – (Proverbs 3:15-18)

The Priestess’s connection to the mutable element water links her to the Alchemical stage Solutio. She is the Aqua Femina - dissolver of stars, and the slayer of the gods. Man comes from within her womb and contains her deep within his essence, though he rarely comes to realize it. As infants men come from her, and as babes they do return. As the ancient Egyptians and Celts demonstrated by their aesthetic artifice, the Goddess is man's womb but also his tomb. Though later patriarchal mythographers desecrated the name and significance of the goddess, her true nature has been discerned by the scholars who have shown expertise in comparative analysis.

Thus in Medusa the same two powers coexisted as in the black goddesses Kali of India, who with her right hand bestows boons and in her left holds a raised sword. Kali gives birth to all beings of the universe, yet her tongue is lolling long and red to lick up their blood - Joseph Campbell (Occidental Mythology)

As Shakti, she permits her consort to join with her in the Tantric ritual we call sex, for it is only in the total loss of his fixed identity that she can be truly embraced. Until he crosses the abyss of himself man cannot discover her bower. Is this why the ship and boat have been her symbols for age upon age? One wonders.

When this card falls for us in a traditional style spread reading, or is one of our temporary or permanent significators, we need to prepare for the uncanny and surreal. The normal routine will be suspended and the pace perceptibly slower. We can feel exhausted, drained and strangely disenchanted, and will have less time for idle distraction. There will be deep unfulfillment and ennui that will seem to persist for an eternity. Our search for something to alleviate these challenges will generally lead nowhere, and only exhaust more energy. Those of us who are normally very active and extrovert will be particularly challenged by this card's appearance. The Priestess introduces us to the inherent emptiness within, that we habitually seek to avoid through compulsive external attachments and interests. All the lurid and mediocre pastimes will seem all the more insipid and we can be given to extreme withdrawal. We can also suffer from unpleasant past memories, from physical illness, infection, allergy or extreme melancholy. Again, these maladies will not be rooted in the body but in the soul. The card asks for deep healing, detoxification, retreat, simplification, reflection and recuperation. Under its influence we can become very self-abnegating, focusing on our culpability and guilt, and letting our past errors flood into, and poison the mind. Our proclivity for deception is often increased when this card falls. We must guard against the tendency to manipulate others, and against a general loss of morality. Those who are already so bent, will become more inclined now, and find all manner of disguises and ruses while indulging in their Machiavellian intrigues. Those who avoid the truth about themselves, and those who are inherently vice or addiction oriented will become even less agreeable, or trustworthy, under this card. On the higher octave, we can become deeply interested in art, film, metaphysics, dreams, psychology, occultism and shamanism, etc,. We can find ourselves becoming increasingly sensitive and intuitive, and feel like we are being guided by unseen forces. We will have deep insights and revelations from the deeper strata of consciousness, but will not be able to communicate our visions verbally. As we become less worldly, we also become less wordy. Our predominant means of communication will now be through art, poetry, writing and music. Occasionally, we can experience dramatic and intense reorientations in our lives. Some unexpected experience, or series of experiences, can woo us toward new horizons, and we might find ourselves quickly, yet deliberately, preparing to alter our entire style of living. Our new vision puts us in touch with the underlying pattern, or rhythm, behind the world of flux. We will feel its vibration and seek to align ourselves with its pulse. Under the Priestess, we experience metamorphosis, and inhabit a psychic landscape reminiscent, perhaps, of Escher or De Chirico, in which our old realities becomes our new dream, and the old dreams become the new reality.

Dreams are imperfections of sleep; even so is consciousness the imperfection of waking. Dreams are impurities in the circulation of the blood; even so is consciousness a disorder of life...Awake from the dream, the truth is known: awake from waking, the Truth is - The Unknown - Aleister Crowley (Book of Lies)

A man knows four main female types, or shall we say, more properly, that the Anima archetype appears in at least four main forms to every male. There is the mother, the lover, the wife and the goddess. The Priestess represents man's own inner female, dimly apprehended in his relations with external females. She remains elusive and unfathomable, the dark lover that his corporeal women are unconsciously measured against. When she is too strongly projected externally there are often intense pangs of obsessive and even destructive attachment, for she is sorceress as well as muse. As Kali, Persephone or Lilith, she is the numinous enchantress he fears and misunderstands. He also fears his own desire for her that makes him seek in places both high and low. But his very search estranges, his very desire consumes, for this Grail cannot be grasped by the hand of desire or conquest. So he concedes to know her vicariously, as the somewhat more accessible, yet equally tantalizing, creative Muse.

I am all that has been, and is, and shall ever be, and my robe no mortal has yet uncovered - Plutarch

The projection of the Anima is particularly problematic when it is toward the goddess archetype. As art is unthinkable without the feminine principle and object, so religion is also inconceivable without the presence of the feminine. In the Christian canon we have the Cult of Mary, and the presence of Mary Magdalene, whom the Gnostics believed to be not only the wife of Christ, but the main exponent of his true ministry after his death. However, the inclusion of elusive females has not, and does not preclude intense male bias from existing in the echelons of religion. The biased patriarchy has not the desire for true integration, and its veneration of the feminine serves, primarily, as an inevitable compensation for a predominately masculine theogony. In the Eastern lands the religions, likewise, incorporate the female goddesses but their attributes are conspicuously relevant only in relation to the masculine world-view. Moreover, the maintenance of an unrealistically vaulted imago of femininity cannot endure without the counter-balancing opposite imago, equally unrealistic. Christianity, and orthodox religion in general, still remains unable to reconcile the dichotomy between goddess and whore (Eve and Lilith, Mary and Mary), that it has been plagued with since its inception, and which has caused so much spiritual and physical diremption, misery, violence and injustice throughout the world.

The Archetype that Jung called "Anima," is the sum total of every idea and experience of femininity, motherhood, beauty and passion, that each and every incarnate man and woman has experienced since human life and experience began. She took birth from all the thoughts, ideas, and beliefs that are generated when the mind of anyone encounters the feminine principle during their sojourn on earth. Every human experience of mother, sister, daughter, lover, wife, and of comfort, ease, love, satisfaction, mercy, and compassion (all feminine traits) constellates in the collective mind to become an imago of infinite power. She, the Anima, is the supremely powerful archetype (instinct, compulsion) in the consciousness and unconscious of all human beings. But the Anima has a dark side also, and her terrible side is the most destructive principle known this side of hell. Man can experience the intense frustration when all that is beauteous, fair, loving and caring is denied him. He can experience the pangs of longing for what can never be his. He can suffer the ache which comes with unrequited love, creative malaise or sexual inadequacy. And these dire experiences are also projected onto, and embodied in, the Anima archetype. In myth, the dark side of the Anima is represented by the Lamia, the Medusa, the Femme Fatalle, and the Succubi, etc,.

The spirit of the High Priestess lived in Cleopatra and Nefertiti and Mary Magdalene, in Elizabeth Siddal, Jane Morris, Isadora Duncan and Sylvia Plath, in Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. She lives in Kiri Te Kanawa, Maddy Prior and Lisa Gerard, in Isabellal Adjani, Fay Dunaway, Charlotte Rampling, Claudio Cardinale and Teresa Russell, in Stevie Nicks and Enya.

The Priestess has a two powerful messages for our particular age. Her first message concerns the difference between loneliness and aloneness. The first is a negative state experienced by an alienated ego. The latter is a natural and necessary state of Selfhood. The ego of man is always lonely, and as such it seeks constant interaction and relationship with others who are, themselves, lonely and isolated. The ego has no power of self-definition. It is inherently dualistic. It thrives on the subject versus object dichotomy, and only comes to have a sense of itself when in relation to someone or something else. A man knows he is male only because he has women to relate to. Women know, or think themselves female because they contrast themselves with the beings they perceive outside of themselves as male. But if your idea of femaleness is based on my idea of maleness, then we can never come to know the real, because both ideas are illusions.

Don't question the opinions of another, for you might both be wrong - John Bush (Armored Saint)

The ego is satisfied with relations that are based on the subconscious edict "I'm empty and I need you...You're empty and you need me." Conversely, the Self does not require relationships to define its beingness. The Self's natural state is Aloneness. It does not look for, or desire anything, from another, and is never negatively affected by what others think, say or do. It transacts with others, and engages in meaningful (or intimate) friendships with all, but it is in "relationship" only with itself. The loss of this state, our slavery to the subject versus object fallacy, and to the attraction versus repulsion roller-coaster, is the reason for all the violence, injustice, immorality and degradation in this world.

...a "sannyasin"...a solitary being, a wanderer, absolutely happy in his aloneness. If somebody walks by his side it is okay, it is good. If somebody leaves it is also okay, it is good. He never waits for anybody, and he never looks back. Alone, he is whole - Osho (Love, Freedom and Aloneness)

The second message of the Priestess is that one must define, for themselves, their own sexual persona and not wait for it to come from sundry experiences with as yet unknown women or men. If we wait for this it is likely that our relationships (which should be the source of inspiration and pleasure) will be arduous, painful and ridden with anxiety. And this is the case we find all pervasive in the world. We know next to nothing about ourselves, with everything borrowed. Lacking depth emotionally, psychologically and sexually, we blithely, according to the erstwhile dictates of secular society, enter into all manner of trysts trying to discover our likes and dislikes, our preferences and identifications in any number of haphazard contorted unions. So common is this that to advocate an alternative becomes fairly redundant. But according to the gnosis of the Tarot (her very book) it is imperative for an adolescent to have their sexual persona defined, by and for themselves, before entering into sexual or love relations. To proceed without this is to endure anguish and even gender dysphoria that negatively colors the entire life. More important is this than the social, religious or professional personae. There are no “soul-mates” for the soul is complete, but there is the Alchemical union with one's higher self via union with the Other. Man comes to know his inner Priestess via the lover. Woman knows her inner Priest via hers. The unification of masculine and feminine polarities was, and is, the goal of all magic and yoga and religion. It is Androgyny and few come to know it. Those who do often have to lie across their own "graves" to attain it.

Man’s knowledge (Logos) then encounters a woman’s relatedness (Eros) and their union is represented as that symbolic ritual of a sacred marriage which has been the heart of initiation since its origins in the mystery-religions of antiquity - Joseph L. Henderson (Ancient Myths and Modern Man)

Why are there no Beethovens, Bachs or Handels in today’s world some lament? It is because though there are many musicians there is a big difference between you, artist or musician, falling in love with your Muse and the Muse falling in love with you. It is not difficult to fall in love with that which is beautiful, a fool can do it. The first is not the miracle, the second surely is. When the Muse loves her troubadour in return then there is born a soaring creativity to change the atomic frequency of the worlds. Then come the pictures, poems and music that stand as monuments to immortal rapturous love such as time dare not touch. A man does not possess creative powers, he is possessed by them.

And in the midst of the moon-pool of silver was the Lily of white and gold. In this Lily is all honey, in this Lily that flowereth at the midnight. In this Lily is all perfume; in the Lily is all music. And it enfoldeth me - Aleister Crowley (Book of Lies)

As an archetypal noumenon, the Priestess gives birth and life to all yet is herself deathless. She is darkness only because we have blinded ourselves with mental and physical luminosity. Though the suns of the universe be increased a million fold her countenance remains concealed. She is the Cailleach (veiled woman) of the Celts. The "seven veils" that conceal her august visage are, in fact, those of human ignorance, of seven specific fallacies within the egos of those who stand dislocated and estranged from their relationship with Mother Nature. These fallacies (the real "original sins") constitute dissonance from indolent human instruments which, in the symphony of the cosmos, will ever play false until their strings are tuned and tempered by the vicissitudes of mortal existence. Then, and only then, do we each become living Orphic Lyres in the hands of the Mistress of the Underworld.

The real maya or illusion is not in the natural forms, but in the mind’s propensity to conceive or project forms created by its own inventiveness, but which do not agree with the truth extant or potential in nature - Alvin Boyd Kuhn (Ultimate Canon of Knowledge)

The elusive Priestess sends forth the light emanations from her empyrean into the void of space-time, that we might follow it to her pristine altar. She is the mistress of the Sephira, the keeper of the gate through which all must come and return. She is found when the seeking stops, heard when the speaking ceases and known when all else is abandoned. Her chamber is the universe, her necklace the stars, her shrine the heart of the Earth.

Think of the most beautiful thing you can - contemplate on the most beautiful being that you are capable of conjuring on the canvas of your mind - just close your eyes and do it, for that is the god or goddess within you, the sum of all the beauty in you. Then stand back, for the High Priestess has painted her portrait with the brush of your imagination.

I am she that is the natural mother of all things, mistress and governess of all the elements, the initial progeny of worlds, chief of the powers divine, queen of all that are in hell, the original principle of them that dwell in heaven, manifested alone and under one form of all the gods and goddesses. At my will the planets of the sky, the wholesome winds, seas, and the lamentable silences of hell are disposed; my divinity is adored throughout the world, in divers manners, in variable customs, and by many names...and the Egyptians, which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies accustomed to worship me, do call me by my true name - - - Queen Isis.



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