This card is attributed to the planet Jupiter, "the Greater Fortune" in astrology. It corresponds to the letter Kaph, which means the palm of the hand, in whose lines, according to another tradition, the fortune of the owner may be read. [Kaph 20 Peh 80 =100, Qoph, Pisces. The initials K Ph are those of kteiV and falloV] It would be narrow to think of Jupiter as good fortune; he represents the element of luck. The incalculable factor.
This card thus represents the Universe in its aspect as a continual change of state. Above, the firmament of stars. These appear distorted in shape, although they are balanced, some being brilliant and some dark. From them, through the firmament, issue lightnings; they churn it into a mass of blue and violet plumes. In the midst of all this is suspended a wheel of ten spokes, according to the number of the Sephiroth, and of the sphere of Malkuth, indicating governance of physical affairs.
On this wheel are three figures, the Sworded Sphinx, Hermanubis, and Typhon; they symbolize the three forms of energy which govern the movement of phenomena.
The nature of these qualities requires careful description. In the Hindu system are three Gunas-Sattvas, Rajas and Tamas. The word "Guna" is untranslatable. It is not quite an element, a quality, a form of energy, a phase, or a potential; all of these ideas enter into it. All the qualities that can be predicated of anything may be ascribed to one or more of these Gunas: Tamas is darkness, inertia, sloth, ignorance, death and the like; Rajas is energy, excitement, fire, brilliance, restlessness; Sattvas is calm, intelligence, lucidity and balance. They correspond to the three principal Hindu castes.
One of the most important aphorisms of Hindu philosophy is:
"the Gunas revolve". This means that, according to the doctrine of continual change, nothing can remain in any phase where one of these Gunas is predominant; however dense and dull that thing may be, a time will come when it begins to stir. The end and reward of the effort is a state of lucid quietude, which, however, tends ultimately to sink into the original inertia.
The Gunas are represented in European philosophy by the three qualities, sulphur, mercury and salt, already pictured in Atu I, III and IV. But in this card the attribution is somewhat different. The Sphinx is composed of the four Kerubs, shown in Atu V, the bull, the lion, the eagle and the man. These correspond, furthermore, to the four magical virtues, to Know, to Will, to Dare, and to Keep Silence. [These are the four elements, summed in a fifth, Spirit, to form the Pentagram; and the Magical Virtue corresponding is Ire, to go. "To go" is the token of Godhead, as explained in reference to the sandal-strap or Ankh, the Crux Ansata, which in its turn is identical with the astrological symbol of Venus, comprising the 10 Sephiroth.(See diagram)]. This Sphinx represents the element of sulphur, and is exalted, temporarily, upon the summit of the wheel. She is armed with a sword of the short Roman pattern, held upright between the paws of the lion.
Climbing up the left-hand side of the wheel is Hermanubis, who represents the alchemical Mercury. He is a composite god; but in him the simian element predominates.
On the right hand side, precipitating himself downward, is Typhon, who represents the element of salt. Yet in these figures there is also a certain degree of complexity, for Typhon was a monster of the primitive world, personifying the destructive power and fury of volcanos and typhoons. In the legend, he attempted to obtain supreme authority over both gods and men; but Zeus blasted him with a thunderbolt. He is said to be the father of stormy, hot and poisonous winds; also of the Harpies. But this card, like Atu XVI, may also be interpreted as a Unity of supreme attainment and delight. The lightnings which destroy, also beget; and the wheel may be regarded as the Eye of Shiva, whose opening annihilates the Universe, or as a wheel upon the Car of Jaganath, whose devotees attain perfection at the moment that it crushes them.
A description of this card, as it appears in The Vision and the Voice, with certain inner meanings, is given in an Appendix:
R.O.T.A. - THE WHEEL
[The Vision and the Voice (4th Aethyr.)]
There cometh a peacock into the stone, filling the whole Aire. It is like the vision called the Universal Peacock, or, rather, like a representation of that vision. And now there are countless clouds of white angels filling the Aire as the peacock dissolves.
Now behind the angels are archangels with trumpets. These cause all things to appear at once, so that there is a tremendous confusion of images. And now I perceive that all these things are but veils of the wheel, for they all gather themselves into a wheel that spins with incredible velocity. It hath many colours, but all are thrilled with white light, so that they are transparent and luminous This one wheel is forty-nine wheels, set at different angles, so that they compose a sphere; each wheel has forty-nine spokes, and has forty-nine concentric tyres at equal distances from the centre. And wherever the rays from any two wheels meet, there is a blinding flash of glory. It must be understood that though so much detail is visible in the wheel, yet at the same time the impression is of a single, simple object.
It seems that this wheel is being spun by a hand. Though the wheel fills the whole Aire, yet the hand is much bigger than the wheel. And though this vision is so great and splendid, yet there is no seriousness with it, or solemnity. It seems that the hand is spinning the wheel merely for pleasure - it would be better to say amusement.
A voice comes: For he is a jocund and ruddy god, and his laughter is the vibration of all that exists, and the earthquakes of the soul.
One is conscious of the whirring of the wheel thrilling one, like an electric discharge passing through one.
Now I see the figures on the wheel, which have been interpreted as the sworded Sphinx, Hermanubis and Typhon. And that is wrong. The rim of the wheel is a vivid emerald snake; in the centre of the wheel is a scarlet heart; and, impossible to explain as it is, the scarlet of the heart and the green of the snake are yet more vivid than the blinding white brilliance of the wheel.
The figures on the wheel are darker than the wheel itself; in fact, they are stains upon the purity of the wheel, and for that reason, and because of the whirling of the wheel, I cannot see them. But at the top seems to be the Lamb and Flag, such as one sees on some Christian medals, and one of the lower things is a wolf, and the other a raven. The Lamb and Flag symbol is much brighter than the other two. It keeps on growing brighter, until now it is brighter than the wheel itself, and occupies more space than it did.
It speaks: I am the greatest of the deceivers, for my purity and innocence shall seduce the pure and innocent, who but for me should come to the centre of the wheel. The wolf betrayeth only the greedy and the treacherous; the raven betrayeth only the melancholy and the dishonest. But I am he of whom it is written: He shall deceive the very elect.
For in the beginning the Father of All called for lying spirits that they might sift the creatures of the earth in three sieves, according to the three impure souls. And he chose the wolf for the lust of the flesh, and the raven for the lust of the mind; but me did he choose above all to simulate the pure prompting of the soul. Them that are fallen a prey to the wolf and the raven I have not scathed; but them that have rejected me I have given over to the wrath of the raven and the wolf. And the jaws of the one have torn them, and the beak of the other has devoured the corpse. Therefore is my flag white, be cause I have left nothing upon the earth alive. I have feasted myself on the blood of the Saints, but I am not suspected of men to be their enemy, for my fleece is white and warm, and my teeth are not the teeth of one that teareth flesh; and mine eyes are mild, and they know me not the chief of the lying spirits that the Father of All sent forth from before his face in the beginning.
(His attribution is salt; the wolf mercury, and the raven sulphur.)
Now the Lamb grows small again, there is again nothing but the wheel, and the hand that whirleth it.
And I said: 'By the word of power, double in the voice of the Master; by the word that is seven, and one in seven; and by the great and terrible word 210, I beseech thee, O my Lord, to grant me the vision of thy Glory.' And all the rays of the wheel stream out at me, and I am blasted and blinded with the light. I am caught up into the wheel. I am one with the wheel. I am greater than the wheel. In the midst of a myriad lightnings I stand, and I behold his face. (I am thrown violently back on to the earth every second, so that I cannot quite concentrate.)
All one gets is a liquid flame of pale gold. But its radiant force keeps hurling me back.
And I say: By the word and the will, by the penance and the prayer, let me behold thy face. (I cannot explain this, there is confusion of personalities.) I who speak to you, see what I tell you; but I, who see him, cannot communicate it to me, who speak to you.
If one could gaze upon the sun at noon, that might be like the substance of him. But the light is without heat. It is the vision of Ut in the Upanishads. And from this vision have come all the legends of Bacchus and Krishna and Adonis. For the impression is of a youth dancing and making music. But you must understand that he is not doing that, for he is still. Even the hand that turns the wheel is not his hand, but only a hand energized by him.
And now it is the dance of Shiva. I lie beneath his feet, his saint, his victim. My form is the form of the god Phtah, in my essence, but the form of the god Seb is my form. And this is the reason of existence, that in this dance which is delight, there must be both the god and the adept. Also the earth herself is a saint; and the sun and the moon dance upon her, torturing her with delight.