Card: The Emperor
Card Number: 4
Suit: Major Arcana
Astrological Analog: Aries
Theme: Leadership, Dominion
Positive qualities: Creativity, order, structure, objectivity, clarity
Negative Qualities: Tyranny, control, pettiness, abuse of station
Such an unappreciated card, but just as important as the rest – and such a struggle to know where to begin.
Atu IV shows us where, on the path of the Major Arcana, that the talents, inspirations, and creative chaos go after their gestation in the Empress of Atu III. One might argue, The Emperor could describe the formation of any particular entity, biome, or thought. The Emperor defines rules, expectations, makes clear the murkiness of cause and effect, gravity, photosynthesis, so on, some such. Thus, the Emperor presides over the absolute basic structures deemed necessary for the physical to remain so. Typically, a wise and fair ruler. At his best, the Emperor is King Solomon: His scepter or wand a symbol of divinely inspired authority, and his globe in the alternate hand a sign of the responsibility he accepts. At his worst, he is Atilla: His scepter becomes a battering ram, and the globe his trophy. This potential duality is reflected in the twin rams behind his throne: one sits in the light of illumination, the other in it’s shadow. One the velvet glove, the other an iron fist.
… Which takes us to his astrological analog, Aries. Consider: It is Aries that must initiate the Spring, and despite any conjured images of serenity that Spring might entertain, to initiate the Spring is a very active, if not violent force. There is snow to melt, ice to thaw or crush, hibernating bears to poke with sharp sticks, bee hives to kick – Spring is a very aggressive season, and thankfully so as it governs the success of a given year.
To give form:
To pay special attention to the iconography of Atu IV is to understand. The Emperor gives structure to an otherwise primeval world, adopting (in spirit), all that preceded him. Particularly so, the Empress. Where the Empress gestates, the Emperor directs. In Crowley’s Thoth, to pay attention to the artwork of both is to understand. Where the Empress wears a robe adorned with bees to symbolize the trust in growth, cycles and fertility, the Emperor wears the same to symbolize the natural order that runs like machinery. The dual headed white eagle on the shield of the Empress illustrates receptivity, the fiery orange of the Emperor – exertion, will made manifest.
Alchemically, the Emperor is one of three “alchemy” cards. We see this in the fiery eagle, but most importantly in his posture: It is formed after the original alchemical symbol for Sulfur, not to be confused with the symbol for sulfur associated with Leviathan in LaVeyan Satanism. The disks containing the sixteen points on either side of his throne, too, represent sulfur – sixteen being the atomic number of the element of the same name.
Sixteen, too, connects the Emperor (Aries) with Atu XVI – The Tower (Mars).
The Law of Four, Creation given stabilization – “The Human Genome”:
His number is Four, stabilization absolute independent of the abstracts – “What does it mean? What is it all for? Am I happy?” The stabilization of will made manifest in corporeal terms is his goal – the abstracts of culture, faith, ideology, and meaning don’t arrive until later (Atu V through Atu 8 in Thoth). We see this in the evolution of civilizations, the development of the individual, and even nature.
The number Four repeats itself in the stabilization of many things. Four Cardinal directions (North, south, east, west), Four seasons, Four elements, four limbs on the human body – and the list goes on. But most important, and most relatable to we of human persuasion would be the human genome: Our very DNA. Every molecule of our DNA is made up of one pair of a combination of four nucleotides: Cytokine, Guanine, Thymine, Adenine. They always pair, one as sulfate the other as sugar, held together by hydrogen. From an alchemical perspective, we might liken one to Sulfur (The Emperor), Salt (The Empress), and hydrogen to Mercury (The Magician, sometimes the Hermit – and one would dare say sometimes any of the Major Arcana that rules the mutable signs or the planetary ruler of a mutable sign). The introduction of these three takes us to The Lovers, the merging of these three to Temperance/Art.
The Descent into Matter:
As with the Minor Arcana, the Emperor describes the stabilization of the energy reflected in the Fours. I repeat myself, only to drive the point home. Something interesting happens with the Fours: “Four” forgets, neglects, ignores or mocks it’s origin and assumes or acts as if it is the first. In Kabbalah, the fourth Sephirot is the first Sephirot that emanates past the Veil of the Abyss, the experiences of the previous three Sephirot either a distant memory or forgotten entirely. We might even liken this to the Fourth World of Kaballah – Assiyah. The the material world, the residence of matter. Where here, in Assiyah, we take the experiences of the previous three worlds to put them to use.
On the personal level, even we do this: As children, we might seldom understand that there was an entire history that made us. There was a mother and a father, at one point man and woman, that gained awareness of potential (The Ace/The Magician), saw the opportunity to initiate (The twos/The High Priestess), and thus we had opportunity to gestate (The Empress/The threes). Even upon the realization that our origin preceded our own awareness, we might struggle to appreciate this as our progenitors do. On the greater level of the Macrocosm, civilization too endures this. We forget that there was a time before kingdoms, empires, or even small tribes – these things also grew, from a “collision of pairings”.
But from this balance in the Four, comes the restlessness and discontent of a search for meaning and definition. Thus the challenge of the fives, anchored by the Hierophant.
The Emperor readily reflects this in Thoth, but only in minor ways in Rider Waite. While we have touched on all he has adopted from the Empress, we might see three more adoptions, or appropriations:
- - He wears the slippers of the Fool. He commandeers the journey of creative chaos and fashions an order from it.
- - He has reimagined the wand of the Magus into a sign of his Will. An otherwise non-descript wand now has a Ram’s head, Aries, as the point.
- - He has narrowed and focused the far-reaching visions of the High Priestess. Where the High Priestess knows the sensations beyond immediate perceptions, the Emperor has directed these deep, profound sensations to the material – represented by the globe in his hand.
The Descent into Matter, continued: Gnosticism and Demiurgos:
Tangent is again risked, without apology.
The Gnostics claim that the corporeal world – here, where we are, is governed by an entity that isn’t the highest, the original, the purest or even the source of all things. Some writings seem to imply that the Gnostics believed this entity is as corporeal as the rest of us. Of scant (available) writings that survived the purge initiated by the Catholic Church shortly after it’s formation, we glean that they called this entity Demiurgos, or Demiurge. It is a Greek word and translates roughly into Artisan or Craftsmen.
The nature of this entity is described differently across a few texts, quite likely from the influence of different local groupings and sects. At it’s worst, it is parasitic and deliberately cruel towards creation. At it’s best, it has a level of ignorance comparable only to the demands and mannerisms of a toddler playing with it’s toys.
An aberration born of divine anomaly, Demiurgos is ignorant of it’s origin – for good reason (I encourage a Google search because oh my this tangent), proclaiming itself first. Similar to the Emperor of Atu IV who has collected the experiences, ideas, inspirations and methods of it’s predecessors and created a structure out of them. With these tools, Demiurgos is said to direct, initiate and control all things in the world of matter.
General: Processes clarified; initiative based on understanding.
Profession: Management or supervisor elements, if not self-employment or starting a new business venture. Clarification of standards and expectations. At worst, a confrontation with a workplace authority.
Relationships: Clear communications on status, definitions of the relationship annunciated, issues of controlling or directing the relationship (for better or worse).
Environment: Creating order out of a chaotic mess.