updates from the never

Hanged Man development, pt. II

Hanged Man development, pt. I  continues...

I thought you'd be interested in an explanation about one of my recent prints, Hanged Man at the Veil of Paroketh.  This was interesting for me because the meaning and content really manifested on their own.  I had been playing around with graphite drawings of broken bones for some time, thinking about the metaphors and symbolism that come with that imagery.  Turns out, bones are used on several occasions in the bible as metaphors for the spirit and/or soul.  Manly P. Hall writes in The Secret Teaching of All Ages,  

“Since the bones are the frame work that sustains the corporeal structure [physical body], they may be regarded as a fitting emblem of the spirit—that divine foundation which supports the composite fabric of mind, soul, and body".

  This is also confirmed by the Apostle Paul. “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body (1 Cor 15:44).”  Further references to bones as metaphor for the soul can be found in scripture (Ezk. 37:1-11) and are used as a metaphor for the state of one's soul (Job 20:11 and Psa. 6:2).  All this provided some explanation as to why I'd been drawn to bones and skeletal structures in my work.

Looking at the digital background layer, from this orientation and with the broken bone layer, an upside-down cross is formed.  I looked into the inverted Ankh to explore the deep symbolism of such an icon.  This drew my attention to the Tarot and 12th key, The Hanged Man.  

In his book The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, A. E. Waite, the designer of the Rider-Waite tarot deck, wrote of the symbol: 

The gallows from which he is suspended forms a Tau cross, while the figure—from the position of the legs—forms a fylfot cross. There is a nimbus about the head of the seeming martyr. It should be noted (1) that the tree of sacrifice is living wood, with leaves thereon; (2) that the face expresses deep entrancement, not suffering; (3) that the figure, as a whole, suggests life in suspension, but life and not death. [...] It has been called falsely a card of martyrdom, a card of prudence, a card of the Great Work, a card of duty [...] I will say very simply on my own part that it expresses the relation, in one of its aspects, between the Divine and the Universe.
The Hanged Man card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck.

The Hanged Man card from the Rider-Waite tarot deck.

There are some other interesting tid-bits about the 12th Key (from this source):

  • A probationary period in the realm of the soul, reflected in the primary colors, red, yellow, and blue referring to the Geburah/Tiphareth/Chesed triad
  • Here the human will surrenders to the divine will, represented by the tree/cross
  • "Mind" and "Man" share the same Sanskrit root - here we have the "Mind in Suspension"
  • The letter assigned to the 12th Key is Mem- which means water.  Water was the first mirror - and the mirror gives us pause; forces us to reflect and re-evaluate
  • The number 12 relates to the 12 signs of the Zodiac, a cycle of completion, and a balancing of archetypes
  • Inversion is part of a process of mixing; the man, hanging pendulum-like, waits meditatively.  It is his only option, being bound by circumstances
  • His position is an inverted alchemical glyph for sulphur, the chemical assigned to the Emperor card.  His legs, in red, form a number 4 - the number and color of the Emperor.  Sulphur is a symbol of "Accomplishment of the Great Work" - a successful transformation of lead into gold
  • His relationship to the Emperor goes deeper.  Aries, home sign of the Emperor, is impulsive, always leaping ahead.  The Hanged Man shows restraint, a poised waiting, assessment of the situation
  • His position suggests Hatha Yoga, a system of exercise.  "Yoga" means "yoke", another form of restraint; discipline.  This is not hanging in a punitive sense, rather this is self-control for a higher purpose

So The Hanged Man represents, inversion, mirroring, seeing the other point of view, and transformation, among other things.  (While typing this I noticed that the colors of this key are the very same colors that comprise the halftone comic book image of my print - synchronicity at its finest!)  At this point in my understand of this work, I was struck by the significance of Mem (the thirteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet).

The gematria (an Assyro-Babylonian system of numerology later adopted by others often of Jewish faith) of mem is forty.  Forty is the number of days it rained during the Flood; it is also the number of days Moses spent on Mount Sinai.  Forty represents a metamorphosis, a transformation (remember what I wrote earlier about bones).  The waters of the flood were not for revenge, but for atonement, to purify and transform the world.  The mem also represents the womb.  In essence, water is the womb of Creation.  Before God created the heavens and the earth, the "spirit of G-d hovered over the waters" - the waters mentioned here are the womb from which Creation emerged, the place of gestation before the world came into existence.  

Mem also corresponds to the 23rd path of the Sephirot.  The following explanation of this path comes from this source:

This path is sometimes called the "Stable Intelligence."  It is moving from Hod, the sphere of mental forms and communication, to Geburah, the sphere of fire/purification which breaks down forms so that Creation remains pristine.  Here we have a type of spiritual technology where "the fire aspect when linked with water produces tremendous power much akin to an hydraulic pump". (Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, The Shining Paths, p 96)  "Hod expands while Geburah restricts [...] The opposing energies of the two energies are forced into compliance with one another, resulting in unusual stability..." (Israel Regard, A Garden of Pomegranates, p 350)  Through the fusion of these two opposites, a universal stability is formed. 
The lesson in this Path is taught sufficiently from the Trump of The Hanged Man, showing how to train the human mind to work from the spiritual perspective.  Crowley calls this Path/Trump the "card of the Dying God." (Book of Thoth, p. 97)  This is the place where old ideas are purged to make way for a new, higher perspective in accordance with the Spiritual Will of the Universe. Ascending the Sephirot, the fiery heart of Geburah tests the purity of forms to discern what is useful and what isn't. 

Another principle of water is reflection. It is in Hod that the principles of the Higher Mind (via Geburah) should be reflected. Also, we are immediately connected to Binah via water, whose influence passes directly through Geburah. "Binah is of the Spirit, the most concrete form of the Spirit qua Spirit, wherein the true image of the Self and Destiny rests." (Gareth Knight, A Practical Guide to Qabalistic Symbolism, Vol. II, p. 143) 

In order to mirror this most pristine reflection of the God Reflection (Itself the mirror-image of the Unmanifest) we must inherit the symbol of the Cup for our being: " . . . the first task is to make the mind into a clear receptive vessel, capable of registering pure reason without being occluded by false opinions or mental taboos." (Knight, p.142-143)

Turning one's point of view upside down, in reverse, is the magical formula of seeing the world via the perspective of Spirit. Further, in the obvious attributions of self-sacrifice as seen in the Tarot Trump, we can understand that the result of this formula rests in relinquishing personal will for the Will of the Greater All.

I began to view my image as representing earth (the brown brick pattern) and toyed with ideas of putting water and even a little boat on it (that would have been adorable).  Somewhere I stumbled upon the notion of The Veil of Paroketh.  The Veil of Paroketh sits between Tiphareth and Yesod (also Hod and Geburah, see above) suggesting is separates our everyday consciousness from our subconscious (morality vs. nature).  It can be seen as a veil between the mirror of the Abyss (below) and our super-consciousness (above).  This concept fit perfectly within the meaning I was constructing - I placed the "veil" in a wave motion to mimic water.  So, this is a transitioning soul, preparing to receive the sublime influx of Light from beyond; a transitory waypoint along the path towards Divination.  This can be micro or macro; a personal tale or a statement of humanity in general.

This all makes perfect sense, right...?

This all makes perfect sense, right...?

Thought bubble or abstract skull-ish face?

Thought bubble or abstract skull-ish face?

One last note about the symbol presented within the thought bubble emerging from the broken bone.  This is just one symbol for sulfur (one of the three essential elements of nature in Alchemy and spiritually analogous to the human soul), also known as The Leviathan Cross or the "Satan Cross".  The Double cross symbolizes protection and balance between male and female (I've placed the sun and moon on either side to reinforce this meaning).  Alchemically, sulfur has the qualities of masculine, hot and dry, combined with Mercury (feminine, cool and moist).  It is often referred to incorrectly as the "pontifical cross of Satan", due to its adoption as an emblem of Satanism by Anton LaVey in the 1960's. The emblem has no history as a symbol of Satanism outside of LaVey's usage, and the attribution is most likely a product of anti-Catholic sentiment, as it is often compared in this context to the Catholic Pontifical Cross (source).  I don't necessarily ascribe to the ideals of Satanism (however they do have some interesting ideas that can be put to good personal use) so that particular association is insignificant to me.  If the idea of Satanism is off putting, I'd suggest informing yourself of said ideology, as fear is usually the result of ignorance.  I am a strong advocate for thinking for one's self and seeking knowledge.  Bad people exist on both sides of the fence (if I were to distill this down to simplistic notions of "good" vs. "evil"), and if something looks "evil" it probably says more about the perceiver than the thing itself.


So there you have it, a very rudimentary explanation of meaning.  I will note that I am no expert on much of anything, let alone issues of Kabbala, Judaism, Alchemy, Satanism, Christianity, Shamanism, etc.  Many of the ideas I've mentioned here vary wildly from source to source.  Sure, I know a few things, but mainly I search for subjective meaning and truth.  Intuition is my guide... 'Truth' (with a capital 'T') is a fickle thing - it is malleable and changes with time (just like everything else) so don't take any of this as the truth, just use it to ponder and investigate.

P.s. - the quote below was copied into this post when I first started writing it about 4 months ago and I cannot, for the life of me, remember how it fits into my understanding of meaning for this work.  It's interesting, so I'll leave it and maybe you can piece it into the tapestry I've started.  If nothing else, it surely stands as testament to the many things I have not been able to write down for you here.

Mr. Joseph C. Pearce’s states in his book: “… it is impossible for us to divest ourselves of culture, for it has penetrated to the roots of our nervous system and determines how we perceive the world. We cannot act or interact except through the medium of culture (p. 57).” So our reality conforms to what we believe (Prov. 23:7) and we tend to believe what the group thinks.

Traces of inspiration swept from the studio floor

Traces of inspiration swept from the studio floor