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The Emperor

What are some key words and images that come to mind when you think of The Emperor?

Write these down if it helps acquaint you with the concept.

How I think of it:

I prefer not to think of the cards in terms of good or bad, positive and negative. Sometimes they can be warnings, like STOP signs, and sometimes they can be predictors, or GO signs.


The Emperor is the male counterpart to the Empress, and relates in the same way to the Magician the Empress relates to the High Priestess. If we put the one and two side by side, and below we have three and four, we see that diagonally connecting them (one and four, and two and three) yields the shape of an X, indicating the fifth key from the first four. Visually, X represents the chalice or cup (above) and the point of the wands suit, or phallus (below). The X is also emblematic of the Hierophant sporting X's at his feet and crossed keys. X also marks the spot, denoting four points which create a square, a classical representation of a foundation. Thus, the first four arcana are the foundation of magical work, in tandem with the foundation of the Universe.

The Emperor may indicate an actual leader or a personification of law, but more generally he represents that immaterial components are in place to begin the karmic process on the physical plane. What has been imagined and desired is becoming a reality. If an individual has graduated from school, created a vision board, or has simply harbored a strong intention for some time now, seeing the Emperor means hard work done in the realm of imagination has become a physical reality. In other words, the Empress sows and the Emperor reaps.


The Emperor represents positive manifestation only when one's actions align with a sense of order. Things become a bit more complex with this notion. the Lovers, key six, is the balance between the conscious and unconscious realms— self-consciousness in which we are fully aware of our divine potential and are supported by Universal Love. Once we attain this awareness, the Chariot represents our ability to navigate the forces of creation and destruction— the in and out breath of the Universe within our own lungs, and the Buddhist assertion that the only constant in life is change. The Chariot represents that we are masters of our own reality, and through utilization of willpower or qi, we choose the life we wish to live.

In this sense, the Emperor is the emergent consciousness surfacing from the realm of the unconscious (subconscious). If what we manifest in our physical realities is not in line with the Emperor's intentions, or the Grand Architect, as we may call him, our paths will constantly be rectified by destruction to maintain balance in the grand scheme. We have not yet reached the Chariot. If we constantly defy movement toward Justice, the lightening bolt in the Tower card will implement destruction of the divergence and order will attempt to begin again.

Psychologically, memory, imagination (including fears and wishes), and dreams are not merely stored in the brain, they are stored within the body. The body is the vehicle for the messages of the unconcious realm. We must pay attention to our incarnate existence: pains, behaviors, and repeating patterns seemingly out of our control (the Devil card may appear in a reading to indicate areas of attention in this respect). These are not things to stop; they are things to be listened to. Any indication of upset is the Universe telling us to steer in a different direction. Whether we are drawn to toxic relationships, continue to self-sabotage, or act out of fear, the consequences are never desirable. We may even somatize unaddressed stress, trauma and emotions. The consequences of acting unconsciously are lightning bolts attempting to shift us back into balance by giving us an opportunity to rebuild.

Think of a building that was started without blue prints, built by someone not consciously skilled in the work. The foundation is poor, and the way it is "organized" is erratic. To make use of the material, the building must be struck down and rebuilt.

Applying this to a person, this is why many saints previously lived a debaucherous lifestyle before finding a connection with the divine. If someone does not achieve this balance in their lifetime, karma will see them born again until they reach the stage of Justice, or Justification prior to the beginning of another cycle.

To emphasize, I do not use the term divine in a religious sense, but rather to represent the ultimate power of the Universe, not higher than us, but higher within us.

Paul Foster Case states: "Psychologically, therefore, (the Emperor) represents the self-consciousness of man, when its activities are engaged in the superficial interpretation of experience are overthrown. He is the definer, the lawgiver, the regulator. He is the mental activity in human personality. He frames the constitution of your personal world."

The Number 4:

It’s impossible to discuss the Emperor in a numerical context without mentioning the inner journey I’ve traveled while in contemplation of this fourth tarot key. The number 444 has been relentless in its appearance these past two years, and while I never knew what it meant, I decided it was a sign indicating a higher guide. When I see it, I feel like a glorious glowing fractal into the grand design. A reminder that while I am an intrinsic piece of the puzzle, as we all are– I am merely a piece of the puzzle.

My understanding of this synchronicity has recently increased. The personal gnosis received associated with the number four is truly unprecedented in my life. In fact, many synchronicities and insights have arisen in conjunction with contemplating and writing on the Major Arcana (literally meaning “powerful secret”) in general. What started off as an intended academic pursuit to better retain the card meanings, proved to be a mystical one instead. As Paul Foster Case and predecessor, Eliphas Levi, mention, the cards are a pictorial manuscript containing Universal Knowledge.

What I seek is a natural connection between magic and science. I have treaded this path carefully in order to convey my thought process in writing, yet the message is still phenomenological in nature. My insights should be considered with wonder, not taken as facts. There are days in which I do not believe in anything I hold to be true, and of utmost importance to me is Netflix and chill— and pizza (I recommend Dark, btw). But belief has little to do with Truth, and is a function of ego. It is ultimately inconsequential to the whole of existence. It is not necessary for magic, or prayer or opening a tight jar of salsa to work. There are a myriad of other factors in play.

My discovery has to do with the fourth dimension and the “Advent of Time”, which emerges instantaneously from the birth of the physical realm beginning with the Emperor (I utilize quotes because Time is not actually time as we know it, and as we will see— there is no true beginning to it). This is potentially reflected in Paul Foster Case’s concept of the Cube of Space in tarot. He relates his revelation of the cube to the Sefer Yetzirah in Jewish theology.

The Cube of Space could be an insight into the existence of the fourth dimension as well. It is also mildly similar to the geometric representation of a Tesseract. It is important to keep in mind that The Cube of Space is personal gnosis specific to Paul Foster Case, which is now a part of tarot mythology, and should not be considered as evidenced historical fact. I feel the same about Eliphas Levi’s mystical interpretation of tarot. It seems that he and the former have received profound insight from the cards, but I do not think that this means tarot itself physically dates back to Egyptian times.

What we are getting at here is not a literal historical connection via an ancient root race, or alien intervention, but the fact that we, as potential Hierophants, harbor the secret knowledge manifested in the tarot. This knowledge is accessible by ascending beyond our physical bodies in the fashion of Christ Consciousness, or the rising of Osiris. Pictures are the language of the unconscious realm; it makes sense that similar symbols would arise naturally in different spiritual systems. Essentially, the “Whole” or the Universe is communicating through them, which makes personal gnosis of the utmost important.

The Cube of Space as it relates to tarot and the twenty two paths of the Qabala

Depictions of 2D, 3D and 4D. The fourth dimension is theorized to be related to Time.

With the Emperor, the next three keys populate: The Hierophant, The Lovers and the Chariot. All seven keys combined (seven— a divine number) create the physical world. Remember, on the seventh day in creation, God rested. The physical world cannot exist without time and change. Thus, life and death are natural consequences of Malkuth. Although I had gleaned, while meditating on the High Priestess, that there are no real numbers and only implied rates of change, I now understand this notion on a much deeper level. The human mind is limited by third dimension perception where time only appears to be linear. Numbers are merely differentiated from one another for constructive purposes, but in fact they are all relative to each other. When we really think about it, the lines blur, and numbers take on meaning only as they relate to one another. Thus, it is reasonable to suggest that something (1) emerges from nothing (0) in the same way it is sensible that two emerges from one.

Points and The Hourglass

In the back of our mind, we will keep the correspondences loosely with the Qabala. However, the focus is the first eight tarot keys emerging from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries whereas the major arcana were associated with the twenty two paths in the nineteenth century.

I had the inclination to explore the keys as points associated with events. Doing this allowed me to visualize exactly what the keys meant. The Magician was a single point, and combined with the High Priestess, a line was created. The relation of one point with another does indeed create a path which eventually forms the shape of the fabric of the Universe (abstractly speaking), and uncannily— the infinity symbol (the figure eight) and a perfect hourglass (when drawn).

Depiction of how I visualized the first 7 and emergent 8th tarot key— forming an hourglass (with notes from consequent research).

The first three keys create a triangle. However, this is a triangle in the second dimension. It remains flat, meaning that it is not yet material as we know it in the physical world. It floats within the womb of the divine feminine.

Something wasn’t right with my approach. I appointed the Magician as a pinnacle, with the High Priestess and Empress descendant from him. Visualizing it this way, The Emperor would then become a fourth point forming the base of a bottom tetrahedron. This was a fantastic discovery. During my meditations, I kept visualizing what looked like a peace sign inside of a two dimensional triangle. In continued contemplation of the Emperor, I eventually made the connection. It was the two dimensional representation of a three dimensional tetrahedron!

In my conclusion, the Emperor formed the base of the physical world. Excited, I mentioned this insight to my husband. He thought it was interesting I learned this through insight, and informed me that similarly, Lon Milo Duquette places the Emperor atop the physical world. Aha! He is NOT the cornerstone of the foundation as I was visualizing him, but rather ruler of the foundational Kingdom— a monarch seated in his throne at the apex of the material realm. My mistake was making the Magician the pinnacle. I corrected this in my visualization so that now the High Priestess takes her seat next to the Magician, with the Empress creating the third point in the heavens: the triangular base of an upside down tetrahedron. The Emperor then fell into place— the heart between Above and Below. I know was able to visualize Above as the shape of a cup appropriately indicating the divine feminine.

While the Emperor is now at the bottom of the reverse tetrahedron, he is now also atop the next three keys, The Hierophant, indicating Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, representing adepthood (rather than priesthood) that we can all attain, The Lovers, being the liaison between the conscious and unconscious realms which microcosmically connect the known (physical world) with the unknown (heavens or immaterial realms), and the Chariot. The Chariot is particularly interesting because it represents quite blatantly navigation of the Yin Yang, and shows up in many myths, including Egypt and the Far East, symbols of which are employed in the RWS. The Chariot also completes the form of the hourglass, after we connect and create all the vertical lines in place, of which there are three. Later incarnations of the hourglass are depicted with three, not four poles, creating an obvious triangle from an aerial perspective.

The eighth key, Strength, is automatically indicated in the first seven. We see on the Strength card an infinity symbol. The hourglass itself, from the placement of the first seven, creates an infinity symbol (the number eight) suggesting that eight emerges from the first seven. Eight is four times two (as above so below). Strength is similar to the Chariot. Once we can understand or navigate the qi, the flow of Yin Yang in the Universe, we can overcome our physical vices and/or inclinations.

One of the first tarot decks is the Cary Yale Visconti deck, which emerged around the same century (or thereafter) of one of the earliest depictions of the hourglass in an allegorical painting by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. The hourglass is held by Temperance— an alchemical symbol. As we see in this series of painting on government, other tarot archetypes also appear, including Security (Strength), who holds an image of a blindfolded hanged man, the Tyrant (Devil) and Justice, bound by the Tyrant in the Effects of Bad Government. Furthermore, Securitas also holds a flag stating:

Without fear every man may travel freely

and each may till and sow,

so long as this commune

shall maintain this lady sovereign,

for he [the commune] has stripped the wicked of all power

Effects of Bad Government in the City: Ambrogio Lorenzetti 1338/1339

Allegory of Good Government: Ambrogio Lorenzetti 1338/1339

This phrase quite accurately represents the visual meaning/depiction of the Strength card. The red lion represents the Devil, and one could say that the woman in the Strength card is actually Justice. Furthermore, in this painting itself, some interpret “Securitas/Security” which is synonymous with Strength, to actually be Justice herself.

In another Italian painting “North Italian Illumination” (dated 1459) the Hermit (key nine, emerging from Strength) holds an hourglass, not a lantern, and in the background in the sky we see The Chariot. In the Cary Yale Visconti deck, the Hermit is also holding an hourglass. The hourglass symbolism is congruent with archetypes known in Italian culture. Furthermore, the tarot has clearly retained its potentially original Christian symbolism, dating back to the Cary Yale Visconti deck. This may represent the hidden meaning of biblical allegories which harbor esoteric truths. In this respect, Eliphas Levi and Paul Foster Case were not wrong in their symbolic applications in later years, in the same way it is not wrong to relate this information to modern scientific discovery, or its potential relationship with the hourglass.

In Paul Foster Case’s application of the tarot onto the Cube of Space, the Hermit is in the Northern face. This also aligns with Masonic tradition:

“The direction North is also of great importance in the rituals of Freemasonry, for the North symbolized that which is unknown. The general shape of the lodge room used in Masonic ritual work is oblong. The North is symbolized by an empty, open post of this oblong, shrouded in darkness. Correspondingly, on the Masonic altar are three great lights, or candles…” (David Allen Hulse, New Dimensions for the Cube of Space)

The title Itself, North Italian Illumination suggests sparking the darkness of the Northern spiritual journey with one’s own inner flame lit by knowledge.

Prior to knowing the significance of the North, after taking a hike (IRL) where I’d seen two loons (loons represent dreams and the unconscious), I dreamt I was passing a lake or river of countless loons. There was hesitancy in traveling further North, but I trekked on, although at the point I decided to continue, I awoke.

North Italian Illumination 1459

Hermit: Cary-Yale Visconti tarot: ~1447

A Dream and Sacred Geometry

The Emperor lies in the middle between past and future. He is the present. He is the connection between as above and so below, and is the emergent karma from causality existing in the above. The sand in the hourglass and its usage indicates that the meaning behind the first seven keys, how they come together to form time. The hourglass is oddly similar to a light cone. I explain all of this in our current conception of linear time, which is incorrect, but necessary for conceptualization. Is this why all of this information seemed to populate in my mind? With the appearance of the Emperor in my thought field, did “Below” instantly reflect from the work I had done in contemplating the components of “Above”?

As I looked into scientific concepts relating geometry to time, I discovered a potential alignment with the symbolism in the first seven/emergent eighth keys. Rudolf Steiner suggests that in the fourth dimension things are reversed and they cast three-dimensional shadows. In a light cone, where the cones between past and present meet, exists the present. The present creates a plane of four directions. As soon as the sands of time pass through the midpoint of an hourglass, they become the past. While they remain in the Above, they are the future. Thus, the plane created by the meeting point of past and future is the present (a light cone). Many ancient symbols look like an hourglass which both looks like and transmits the same implications as a light cone; a light cone potentially reflects the totality of existence. There are examples listed below, all representing the same concept, pointing toward the divine feminine in which all knowledge is sourced. Interestingly enough, in the RWS deck, the hourglass has been replaced by a lantern, indicating the connection between light and time.

Light Cone

RWS Hermit with lantern (enclosing the six-pointed star which the mergence of the two triangles indicating Above and Below)


Now it is necessary to mention a dream I had, which propelled me further in this discovery. Perhaps I continued my venture North while in waking life! The dream was followed by a plethora of synchronicities.

The dream, which I had while meditating upon the High Priestess, I came to discover was about the Clifford Torus.

I did not know what the form was when I had the dream and I had tried to Google search it in vain. Ironically enough, a few days after this dream, I decide to watch a movie called Buster’s Mal Heart, a dark comedy which addresses the concept of multiple realties within the same time frame; the underlying theme is a madman’s obsession with what he calls the “double asshole theory.” Even in researching this film, I could not find a scientific correspondent to the form depicted in the movie.

By happenstance, I was compelled to order a book on sacred geometry, and this is where I discovered the Clifford Torus. In modern science, it is thought to be the immaterial form of the Universe. Hmm. Maybe this is why I love donuts so much? A cross section of this is the vesica piscis (the torus in two dimensional form) which has been around for centuries previous to the torus theory. Another delightful synchronicity was finding a youtube animation of a double torus creating the Yin Yang (which I highly recommend watching). Time flows like a breath within this geometrical form.

The vesica piscis (cross section of the torus) symbol represents the divine feminine. This is the same shape as the Ichthys, or “Jesus fish”. But doesn’t the meaning of “Ichthys” itself represent Jesus, the son of a masculine God? Not if we simply consider that the biblical form of God may actually be feminine. If this is a symbol of the divine feminine from which all originated, I wondered— where was the divine masculine, aside from the obelisk representing the phallus?

The entire physical world, ruled by the Emperor, is masculine. If the reversed tetrahedron shape, a cup, represents the womb, then a three sided pyramid in the physical realm is a phallic. A thought occurred to me: could this be why the Western world is currently existing in a patriarchy? Since things must be proven according to Newtonian science, are we are leaving out, completely, the role of the divine feminine? Of Quantum physics?

Utilizing the feminine power of intuition and imagination could advance us considerably toward a state of unification rather than division symbolized by the Devil: the division between masculine and feminine each separately bound to the Devil with chains. The reader sees the Devil sitting upon a two dimensional rectangle (focus in the physical realm without consideration of the Whole), rather than the three dimensional cube the Emperor rests upon in the BOTA depiction (as David Allen Hulse mentions), while The Lovers is unification of the two under God.

The divine feminine is also the essence of magical work.

My dream torus

Dream torus in motion

Real torus (animated)

Vesica Piscis

Sheela Na Gig: Vesica Piscis depiction

Christ inside the center of Vesica Piscis

Relation to the Human Body

As mentioned previously, the Vitruvian Man (1490) is a representation of the biblical assertion that we are created in the image and likeness of God— a microcosm of the divine. The human embryo forms a mouth at FOUR weeks, and a sphincter at EIGHT weeks. We begin our forms as a torus! We could in fact, scientifically be formed in the image and likeness of the divine!

In the dream, the ebb and flow of the energy within the center of the torus happened simultaneously, where both holes in the original sphere were impressed and met at the middle. As you can see in the images below, the empty space within the torus is shaped as an hourglass. As the energy in the middle met, the outer form of the sphere parted, and the structure formed what looked like an apple core. Within the dream, I had the thought that this was relevant to implosion, or what is talked about in The Secret Doctrine, an in-breath of the Universe. This is also the secret of meditation. Our breaths literally reflect the breath of creation. We understand this to be true, but here is the potential “science” behind it. The concept of Root Lock in meditation employs the perineum muscle between the anus and genitals to activate kundalini. With this consideration, we have another cultural representation of this facet of innate knowledge.

Human Embryo Development

All Really Is One

Here is where it gets trippy! If time is not linear, it is necessary to consider that the reverse is also true, thus indicating the paradox of existence. One is able to flip an hour glass upside down for a reason. The past, present and future exist simultaneously. We have created the cosmos in the image and likeness of man. Here we understand the notion that man is in fact God, and vice versa. To consider only one and not the other limits understanding of the Yin Yang, and prevents us from acquiring the ability to navigate the Chariot. This is what is meant by “All is one”, rather than a profane connectivity between all things, or a unified humanity.

In the past, I grappled with the idea that separatedness is an illusion, a Buddhist perspective, and instead I personally held it to be true that things were both separate and not. However, I now understand that separateness truly is an illusion. It is an illusion that perseveres because it is how things appear to us, and we must move through this illusion to literally get to the heart of matter! Or, erm— the Emperor, and all that he can unlock!

So, what came first, the chicken or the egg? The answer is: Both! This illusion is also relative to the saying, “Art is a lie that tells the truth.”

(I would like to note that in discussing the mergence and separation of masculine and feminine, this is not meant to perpetuate heteronormative culture, and refers only to physical biology of creation outside of the imposition of cultural morals. This is irrelevant to individual gender expressions or sexual preference, which should be respected and accepted unconditionally. The way I look at it, accepting masculine and feminine energy as two parts of a whole, merging in myth to form the the holy androgyne, supports homosexuality, bisexuality, and all gender expressions. We harbor these energies within us at all times.)

Kuan Yin: "The one who perceives the sound of the world" (Notice the Vesica Piscis/vaginal shape of this particular depiction.)

Labrys: Minoan Double Axe: "In ancient Crete, the double axe was an important sacred symbol of the supposed Minoan religion. In Crete the double axe only accompanies female goddesses, never male gods. It seems that it was the symbol of the arche of the creation (Mater-arche)." - Wikipedia

Mere Dane: West African Adinkra symbol for time changes, looking simultaneously like a light cone, the torus (with two openings North and South) and the middle plane where exists the present. Also indicates the duality of light and darkness. Note: I am not sure what the actual symbol is meant to depict; these are my observations/associations.


Originally, and only a few weeks ago, I found the idea of the divine feminine much more alluring, as this I had thought was where all the answers lay, in the origins. This is the split between esotericism and religion. Esotericism always harbors the divine feminine, as it remains hidden in the immaterial womb. Religion is masculine, as it is manifest here, physically on Earth. The tip in either direction in the history of religion and the occult is not holistic. One continues to tip further, in the fashion off a see-saw, to balance out the other when what we seek to achieve is balance. We cannot hold this notion in our minds because in the third dimension which we perceive, time is in fact linear. From an evolutionary standpoint, we have not, as a species, been able to break down the paradigm of Newtonian physics. Essentially we are brainwashed into an imbalanced way of thinking. However, if we use the powers and potential of the divine feminine, an aspect of the fourth dimension which harbors dreams, visions, memory, imagination, we understand that we can easily visit the past in our present experience. Furthermore, we can perceive the inhabitants of immaterial realms as well, both existing inwardly in the microcosm, as the Hindu deities, and outwardly in the macrocosm.

The Emperor: Builders of the Adytum tarot

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