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Join Date: 22 Oct 2005
Location: Portland, USA
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Alchemical Study Group - XV The Devil


"Instead of a bridal bed and brilliant wedding they were condemned to a strong and everlasting prison."
--The Parabola of Hinricus Madathanus Theosophus (pg. 164)

The charioteer from the Chariot has now met the Great Goddess in all three of her aspects--birth, nurturing and destruction--and dies. He descends to the underworld, where he is trapped by the Devil and transformed into an image of his parents combined into one being. Similarly, Hermaphroditus, the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, united with the nymph Salmacis to form a dual-sexed being that was trapped in the Carlan Lake.

The Devil is Hermes/Mercury showing his sinister, venomous side. The Devil is still part of the descent begun with the Wheel of Fortune, and which is necessary in order for rebirth on a higher plane.

The Devil here is portrayed by a red dragon chained to the vessel we found in the Death card. In the center of the vessel, the substance formed is blacker than black; the goal of the nigredo has been reached. The dragon is an ancient symbol for the forces of darkness. In the Middle Ages, art commonly represented the Christian Devil as a dragon. States The Bestiary from the 12th century, "The Devil who is the most enormous of all reptiles is like this dragon. He is often borne into the air from his den, and the air around him blazes." Saturn, the dour and destructive god of time whom we encountered in the Hermit card, also is called a dragon and old serpent, a reference to the ouroborous symbol.

The alchemical process of the Devil is coagulation, in which matter is reduced to a solid state in a homogeneous body. That body is comprised of the Lovers, who have united the masculine and feminine principles into the single form of the hermaphrodite. They must now coagulate in darkness while awaiting rebirth. The drawing is influenced by Plate 5 in Mylius Johann Daniel's Philosophia reformata.

The number of the Devil is fifteen, which reduces to six (one plus five equals six), the number of the Lovers.

Tarot wisdom: Gnostic philosophers maintained that matter entrapped spirit, and equated it with evil. The Devil represents this imprisonment -- enslavement to our baser instincts, the negative side of our libido, what Jung termed the shadow. This can manifest as a state of anger, jealousy, or fear. It can trap us in an addiction. Or, at its worst, it can lead to destruction and violence. However, our libido is also the source of our vitality and strength; it governs our very survival. Our shadow is only that part of ourselves that we have not integrated. It is only evil when it remains unconscious. When we are unaware of this part of ourselves we can project these negative traits on others, then, thinking that we are good, and the others are evil, we can do our worst -- as in war, when each side thinking that goodness, and God is with them unleashes death and destruction on the other.

When we make our desires conscious we can choose our behavior ourselves. We can probe superficial desires, and discover that at the root of desire is the longing for the unity that we call love. When we find this greater source of satisfaction, addictions drop away, as well as the illusion of nonunity.
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