International Order of Kabbalists - Tree of Life (Western Hermetic Tradition)

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Situation on the Tree:
Between Chokmah and Chesed.

Key: The Hebrew Letter Vav. Hook, Peg, Nail.

Titles: Magus of the Eternal.

Spiritual Significance: Taurus. The Bull.

Tarot Card: V - The Hierophant.

Colours in the Four Worlds:
In Atziluth: Red orange.
In Briah: Deep indigo.
In Yetzirah: Deep warm olive.
In Assiah: Rich brown.



The Sixteenth Path of Vau symbolises the influences between Chokmah and Chesed on the Right Hand Pillar.

(Updated 08 January 2021)


The Hierophant - 16th Path

By Doreen Sturzaker

The Path runs between Chokmah and Chesed. The Hebrew letter is VAU, or a nail, hook, something linking to something else.

The Wisdom of Chokmah flows along to Chesed, wisdom meeting Mercy, or it can be expressed as the Spirit linking with the Individuality. Taurus is attributed to it, ruled by Venus, so the Solar energies of the Hierophant, or the Universal Energy of Chokmah blend with the Venusian qualities of imagination and mental imagery. There is a reference to the hearing of the Inner Voice and there is clearly a contact being made with the super-consciousness.

In Atziluth the dominant power of the Red Ray symbolises the All-Father active energy. The Orange side of it gives the quality of self-control, which you would expect from one who sits balanced between two Pillars. The ability to organise is shown in the Orange, there is also the transmutation between the lower and higher nature. Orange induces this and has a very liberating effect. The Red-Orange is a very powerful Ray combination symbolising the Creative Will expressed.

In Briah the colour is Deep Indigo, a Ray of Devotion. There is fore-sight, which presumably at this level would include the higher clairvoyance, a deep devotion to the highest ideals, which, in the World of Briah, there would be an awareness of these ideas. Great clarity of mind is shown here too.

In Yetzirah, the World of Formation, the Path is a Deep Olive Green. Along this Path there is a link between sub-consciousness and super-consciousness and a direct experience of Reality is encountered, which is to be expected with one end of the Path in the Sphere of Chokmah

The Hierophant is balanced, integrated as symbolised by the two Pillars; he has struggled through to Harmony in his functioning and has gained stability. Having glimpsed Universal Consciousness, he is able to carry on with persistence, although he realises there is still much to be learned before the Wisdom of Chokmah is really a part of his consciousness permanently. The Grey shows endurance and the struggle of the soul for freedom.

In Assiah the colour is a Rich Brown. Because the one treading this Path has caught a glimpse of Reality, the intuition is developed and active; there is single-mindedness and assurance, they know where they are heading for with great certainty so there is a calm confidence.

Telepathic powers will most probably have been developed; Brown is a Ray of silent communication and as it contains some of the Orange Ray there is also Wisdom too.

The Ray of Deep Indigo is one of deep devotion, devotion to a cause, etc.; the Hierophant is one who has a knowledge of the Path of Evolution for our Universe thus must and willingly co-operate with it. In Briah, the Creative World, he receives from Chokmah the pure Wisdom, the ideas are clearly impressed upon his consciousness; there is an unimpeded flow of knowledge from higher sources, which will be contained and focussed in the higher clairvoyance in Binah, the Deep Indigo devotion signals the activity of the Crimson of Binah to give in colour natures a Deep Purple, the Hierophant has won the right to teach and guide others. He is a leader of those who are aspiring to join him in his elevated position. Yet, although possessed of great powers, pride is not in him. He knows that his achievements do not belong to him, that drawing upon Universal Wisdom, he partakes of all knowledge that is and distributes it from the great Power House, not to all and sundry, but in his discernment to those whom he sees are ready to receive it and put it to good use.      

Looking at the Path in the Sphere of Gedulah, it is a Deep, Warm Olive, with a background of Deep Violet. Consciousness expands to touch hitherto undreamed-of heights, surpassed only by the Path in the Sphere of Chokmah, where he attains to Pure wisdom.

He has the power to wield Universal Forces and maintain a balance. Power flows from him and is radiated down to those not yet in his sphere of consciousness. The link has been forged between sub-conscious and super-conscious; he is able to control directly and at will higher planes of ‘Being’ and Reality. He has achieved harmony, the Warm Olive shows it has not been a trial of difficulty but the warm tinge has given understanding and strengthened the power of the Violet to become an all-pervading love and server of all Life.

Although on the positive Pillar, the Hierophant has reached a position of balance as symbolised by his seat between the two Pillars; he himself has become the balanced Middle Pillar and is well able to instruct and aid others along the way.


The Path of the Hierophant

By A. Pearson (1982)

The Hierophant is the Fifth Arcanum = 5

The Hierophant is the 16th Path = 7

The numerical number of Vau, which is the Hebrew letter for this Path is = 6

Vau means Nail . . . a nail is a fastening, a link, a means of union.

The Hierophant has Taurus as its astrological sign. Taurus is a fixed astrological sign. Something must stay where it is in order to be a fastening or a link. It must be stable. The Hierophant must be steadfast in order to use the wisdom of Chokmah in acts of love and mercy in the Sphere of Gedulah.

The Sanskrit noun for union is “yoga”, so be still, do not be the butting, obstinate bull. Still the animal within you, control it; hold the bull down, hold the animal down. The bull is held down by the nail and “union” can be made with God. Be still, feel the whirl of Chokmah and wait for the seeds of wisdom to be whirled around you.

Taurus is a solid sign and is an earth sign. At this high level the solidness of earth is very much needed. Be the Tree, with your roots firmly in the ground with your slender branches reaching up to the sky. Receive and be passive in order to be able to radiate love and true forgiveness in the Sphere of Gedulah, the Sphere of the Masters. Venus has a very important part to play here. Taurus is ruled by Venus. Venus is the planet of love and the spiritual experience of Gedulah is the “Vision of God face to face” and the virtue is devotion. When one loves someone, one is devoted to that person and can certainly look them straight in the face.

Now to bring in the importance of the number 6 which is the numerical value of Vau. Numerically, a 6 person is sympathetic, attractive and loving. It inclines the person who has this number predominant to strive for love. There is a strong desire for harmony and beauty. Views and ideas are basically conservative. Happiness to the number 6 is essentially sharing and harmony in relationships. 6 is also the 6th Sephirah of Tiphareth, the sphere of Love and Beauty. Numerically, Chokmah is the second Sephirah and Gedulah the fourth. Add them together and we get six, the “unifying” Vau of the Hierophant between these two Sephiroth. Going back to the start of the article, we also see how 6 comes between the five (5th Arcanum) and the seven (16th Path).

When I looked at the Crowley card of the Hierophant, all I could see at first was the symbol for five, but at last I saw that the Hierophant was holding a staff of three overlapping circles, which added up to six shapes when “unified” on the top of each other. On the Waite pack, the Hierophant is holding a golden staff of three bars, but which are six lines when broken into two parts by the control staff, the “line of union”. The knob at the top symbolises the dominion of the life power through the planes of Nature according to Paul Case.


The staff on Crowley’s card          The three-barred staff of the Waite pack

Case also says that the three bars on the staff correspond in meaning to the three rows of trefoils on the tiara and the knob at the top of the staff corresponds to the circular ornament at the top of the crown. If one looks at the pattern of the three inner shapes of the overlapping circles, one can see that it is like a trefoil.

The Hierophant sits on a throne between two stone pillars. These and the throne are grey, a colour associated with Wisdom, because grey is the tint resulting from equal mixture of any two complimentary colours. Since colour compliments are also opposites, grey stands for the perfect balance of all pairs of opposites, and this is the practical aspect of the Wisdom of Chokmah.

The design on the capitals of the pillars is a phallic symbol of union. The crosses on the Hierophant’s white shoes refer to the union of male and female, positive and negative, and to the order which results from that union. The equal-armed cross is a symbol of Chesed, as also is the solid figure, the throne on which the Hierophant is sitting. The equal-armed crosses symbolise power over the four elements of the earth, but love and mercy must be taken into account when this power is used.

The staff on the Waite pack can also be seen to be the shape of a pyramid, which is symbolic of Gedulah.

The magical weapon of this Path of the Hierophant is the Labour of Preparation. When the time is right and when the Hierophant has prepared himself, he may pick up the two keys, which are in front of him and unlock the doors to Chokmah, the Sphere of number two.


The Hierophant

By Peter Oddey (2000)

The Path of the Hebrew letter Vau runs from the sephirah Chokmah to the sephirah Chesed. This is the highest path of the Pillar of Force and crosses the Abyss. As with all five paths that cross the abyss of the Tree of Life, the High Priestess, the Star or the Emperor, the Hierophant, the Lovers and the Chariot, the path of Vau is a path of duality. It creates a duality of the force that pours from the Supernal World onto manifestation below the Abyss and it reconciles the same duality on the path of return, from manifestation into the divine. This duality can be found represented in the twin pillars of Waite’s High Priestess, the two urns of the Star or the opposites found in the Emperor, the two figures in The Lovers, the twin horses and sphinxes of the Chariot and the twin figures at the feet of the Hierophant.

The duality of the Hierophant is the emotional nature and the intellectual nature of mankind, both of which must be reconciled in the approach to the divine. This is nicely depicted in Waite’s card, where the two priests situated beneath the Hierophant, represent these polar natures; both are participants in the mystery which the Hierophant administers.

The path of Vau is clearly a path of the higher spiritual self and this is supported by the Yetziratic Text of The Thirty-Two Paths of Wisdom:

“The sixteenth path is the Triumphal or Eternal Intelligence, so called because it is the pleasure of the Glory, beyond which is no Glory like to it and it is called also the Paradise prepared for the Righteous”.

Some schools of Western, esoteric Kabbalah teach that this path, along with the other four that cross the Abyss, mentioned above, is the key to the locked gates of the Garden of Eden; our fullest realisation and perfection. The path of Vau is the intelligent link, the Pontifex Maximus, between the inner spirit and the outer manifestation. The path enables life’s experiences to be assimilated, interpreted and memorised in spiritual terms. Vau is the nail that secures the meaning and purpose of our days on the earth and beyond the gate of death.

There is something particularly exalted about the sixteenth path, placed between the worlds of Chokmah and Chesed, in the highest reaches of the Tree. The path of the Hierophant is a particularly ‘male’ path and this may have found greater emphasis, due to the undoubted nurturing of Kabbalah in general and Tarot in particular, at the time of the Renaissance, within the Roman Catholic Church. Even today, the Roman Catholic Church remains a bastion of male dominated authority and there is a heavy male weightiness for a path, generally associated with a Pope-like figure, situated between the Fatherly world of Wisdom in Chokmah and the world of the father-like love in Chesed.

These attributes of the Tarot card, are further supported by the Minor Arcana ascriptions to both Chokmah and Chesed. The twos ascribed to Chokmah generally imply the beginning or fecundation of a matter and the fours represent the initiatory force, rapid, powerful and swift; the commencement of Material Forces and these find their resolution below the Abyss, in Chesed. It would appear that Chokmah, which is a female noun and denotes the primary quality of maleness, is able to self-reproduce, as did Adam and Eve and that in a sense, Chesed is the progeny. Chokmah is the Father of the Supernal world and Chesed is the Father of the created order. The sixteenth path of Vau is the connecting link between the two.

The Hebrew letter Vau means a nail or hook. Paul Foster Case speaks of Vau as, “...the link or bond which joineth together the parts of the fabric of existence.” “As that which uniteth all things in the world of the manifest...”.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, the sixth letter Vau is Tiphareth, the Son of God. The depth and profundity of the symbolism attaching to the idea of the Son of God, reconciling the fallen creation to God, through being nailed to a tree, is matched only by the countless number of lives spent in pursuit of its realisation. But wherever the nailing of the Christ to the tree is mentioned, we find a reconciliation of opposites. St. Paul speaks of The Christ uniting both Jews and Gentiles (a duality) into one New Man, by his death on the cross in his letter to the Ephesians. Even Aleister Crowley appears to endorse the view, in The Book of Thoth, that, “There is a distinctly sadistic aspect to this card...” Crucifixion must surely rank as one of the most sadistic methods of execution.

For me, however, the mystery of the Hierophant is the mystery of mankind’s expulsion from Paradise and the key to our return. In most of the paths considered this year, we have touched upon the River that flows from the highest sephirah along the path of the High Priestess, down through the path of the Empress and behind the figures of either the Star or the Emperor. The path of the High Priestess retains the purity and immediacy of the blessings of that River, as it flows from Kether into Tiphareth. The remaining four paths that cross the Abyss, the paths of Heh, Vau, Zain and Cheth have been revealed as the four Rivers which, we are told, flow from Paradise. Genesis 2:10-14, “A river flowed from Eden to water the garden and from there it divided to make four streams. The first is called Pison....the second is called Gihon....the third is called Hiddikel and the fourth is called Phrath”. Each of these four rivers can be assigned one of the four elements and one of the Tarot cards:

To the letter Heh          Pison       Fire        The Star or Emperor
To the letter Vau          Phrath     Earth      The Hierophant
To the letter Zain         Hiddikel    Air          The Lovers
To the letter Cheth       Gihon      Water     The Chariot

The path of the High Priestess provides the fifth element of the Spirit.

Of course, this Niagara of elements issuing forth from the Supernal world across the Abyss, are not the elements which we know, perfectly blended in Malkuth. These are the primordial forms of the elements, prior to constitution in manifestation. It was Elizabethan physiology which sought to describe man in terms of the four humours: Choleric meaning fiery and passionate; Phlegmatic meaning cool and even-tempered; Melancholic meaning gloomy and depressed; and Sanguine meaning full-blooded and active.

It is the perfect equilibrium of these four elements within a person, inspired by the fifth, the Spirit, which is the realisation of the fullness of each individual. In this respect, the path of the Hierophant is but one fifth of that required for the realisation of the garden of Eden.


The Hierophant

By Michele Piper (1987)

This Path runs between Chokmah (Wisdom) and Gedulah (Love and Mercy), being the first Path completely positive. This Path is called Paradise Prepared for the Righteous.

As we see the Hierophant sitting on his throne he looks like the Pope - hands held up in benediction. His throne and the two pillars, in fact, most of the card, is grey, the colour of Wisdom found in Chokmah. The two pillars before the temple represent the entrance to higher initiation. The pillars are positive and negative showing us that even at this stage the initiate can still take the negative Path.

In his hand the Hierophant holds the triple cross, symbolising his mastery over the physical, emotional and mental worlds; he has yet to master the spiritual.

His gown is red for love, sacrifice and purification, and beneath his gown flow the blue waters of the Star, showing he is full of spiritual awareness. Also beneath his feet are the crossed keys of Wisdom.

He wears the three-tiered crown of the three Worlds.

Before him stand his students - bare headed in humility, to receive his knowledge for he is the magus - the teacher. Once his students have passed through the pillars they too will become the Hierophant.

The Path of the Hierophant is one of the major initiations - this is the last but one of the Earth initiations, second only to the Empress.

In each of the four Worlds it is self mastery of the four aspects of oneself which needs to be achieved - in the Yetziratic world this could be mastery over negative thoughts.

On this card we see that there is still a choice between the positive and negative Paths, and I feel that is an important aspect of this card. At this stage the Hierophant has achieved powers over the four elements of the universe - he has developed his intuitive powers to help him in the next stage of his journey, however, these powers, if used negatively, would corrupt.
'Be still and know that I am God' - the Hierophant is able to recognise the Ain Force within him - but the Hierophant is not a god, but a god in the making.

Uranus is assigned to Chokmah - the Magician - here we have mastery over ceremony and ritual.


The Hierophant

By Vipin Prithipaul (1999)

The Hierophant is the 5th arcanum and the 16th path bridging Chokmah and Gedulah. This is completely positive as the spheres it connects are on the positive pillar and it partakes their repsective qualities i.e. wisdom (Chokmah) and mercy (Chesed).

The Hebrew letter Vau, meaning nail, is assigned to this path also known as the path of Eternal Intelligence.

In most Tarot packs the Heirophant is depicted seated between two pillars. Heirophant means “One who reveals the sacred” – the one who transmits the essence of initiation to someone else. The two pillars between which the Heirophant is seated represents the ones that stood at the entrance of King Solomon’s temple and they are nowadays pieces of Lodge furniture in temples of certain magical or esoteric groups. These two pillars symbolise the opposing forces in nature, like light and darkness, heat and cold, etc…

As the temple represents the Macrocosm, in man – the microcosm, these two pillars stand for or symbolise love and hate, joy and pain, life and death, sleep and waking …. essentially, any pair of opposites that our minds can conceive of, can be mapped on these two pillars.

Seated between these two pillars the Heirophant symbolises the central pillar of equilibrium, the harmonious balance of the interaction of those two antagonistic forces. The two pillars thus represent the entrance the “entrance to high initiation”.
At this level the Heirophant has mastered three of the four worlds, namely the physical, emotional and mental worlds – the fourth, the spiritual, has yet to be mastered. Still at this level the Heirophant is “a god in his making” in the sense that, having mastered the four elements or principles of manifestation depicted by the equal armed cross on his gloves, he seems to be a god. He can impart the hidden mysteries of creation but surely not those of the creator. His god-like attributes do not make him a god! The Heirophant is a narrator of godliness with the particularity that he has achieved inner initiation and can thus impart his knowledge to sincere seekers.

The aspirant is at a crossroads, either he understands that he is a microcosm, a minature version of this macrocosm, or rather a reflection of the latter by self-discipline, concentration and meditation (stillness of the mind) and starts to tread on the path of the great work, or the process of being released from his karmic debt, might be “initiated” by a Heirophant. We must bear in mind that both ways are starting points and that the path of return cannot be completed overnight or even in a lifetime!

“Initiation” is thus the beginning of the great work and it can only be imparted by someone who has himself (been initiated or self-initiated) masterred the mysteries of the universal forces, that is why some scholars have associated the Heirophant to a high religious dignitary who knowledge. Still others have named the Heirophant “Pope”.

A Pope is the supreme pontiff – derived from pontifex meaning ‘Bridgemaker’ revealing that the Heirophant is a supreme bridgemaker who has mastered the Royal Art of Building, a sacred science known to only a few. But this does not make him a god and the antagonistic forces depicted by the two pillars can lead the Heirophant from one extreme to another, bringing about a state of unbalanced power as too much mercy can become weakness and too much severity can lead to cruelty and tyranny. This path can be a very dangerous one as th “fool” can swing from one extreme to another and lose his sense of equilibrium, truth and self-knowledge. Instead of being freed from the opposite forces he can become attracted to the left hand negative path forgetting the “Ethics of the Magnus” being tempted and lured by greed, power, domination, tyranny, etc…

Another interpretation is that the Heirophant is himself a ‘bridge’ between the One and its manifestation, that is why Vau the nail is assigned to this path. Just as a nail fastens things together so the Ain force is linked and unites all its forms in manifestation.

If the magical power assigned to this path is physical strength, the magical weapon is the labour of preparation, the astrological influence Taurus and the related animal the Bull, may I venture to say that just like the Ox assigned to the path of Aleph represents the heavy burden undertaken by the Ain to manifest, on the lower level of Vau the Bull represents the hard labour, the perserverence and dedication of the “fool” on his path of return as in a sense the path of Vau is an extension of that of Aleph which has densified through Chokmah. Though the 16th path is one of higher initiation as well as one which is dangerous in the event that the “fool” losses the central column of consciousness by swinging between the side pillars, I believe that it is also a path of inner tuition as well as one of sacrifice as for the initiate to reach the level of the Heirophant, much self-sacrifice is required.


The Hierophant - Chokmah and Gedulah

By Sylvia Swinborne (1980)

What is a Hierophant? We can, as always, gain a clue from the number of the Arcanum, number 5. The number which is said to denote mental inspiration, creative thought, moral law, and intellectual synthesis. It is also said to represent man as the hand or tool of god, which he would be, once these qualities were developed. The four elements within him are united in a common centre.

This is also symbolised in the Hebrew letter for the path - Vau or nail. This is said to symbolise the uniting of the microcosm with the macrocosm. In the Hebrew alphabet the Vau is the result of the union of Yod and He, the active and receptive elements of manifestation. The Vau is the result of the union of the male and female poles active in manifestation. In the Hebrew name of God, the Tetragrammaton, spelt Yod, He Vau, He, the Yod is attributed to Chokmah, the He to Binah, the Vau to Yesod, and the final He to Malkuth, thus covering the whole plan of creation. The point of the Yod is attributed to Kether as the first point of manifestation. The Hebrew name of God thus contains the whole of manifestation differentiated into different levels.

The Vau on the 10th Path on which is placed the Hierophant, is the Spirit active in manifestation at the point of mental contact between the macrocosm and the microcosm, the level of the Masters.

The triangle of Kether, Chokmah and Binah is thought of as the Spirit; the triangle of Gedulah, Geburah and Tiphareth as the Individuality, and the triangle of Netzach, Hod and Yesod as the Personality. This path then represents the influence of the Spirit upon the Individuality. In Christian terms, the nail is that which nails the Spirit to the Cross of Matter.

We have spoken of the Hierophant as the hand or tool of God. There are many who attempt to become a channel for the power and inspiration of the creative source in this way, but they are not hierophants. The Hierophant is at the level of mastership, for the 10th path lies between the spheres of Chokmah and Gedulah.

Gedulah is the sphere of the Masters, for this sphere is the highest development of the mental levels. Here sits the Hierophant drawing down creative wisdom from the creative level of Chokmah.

The figure on the Arcanum is depicted as a Pope, but this I feel is a development by the Christian Kabbalists of the Middle Ages. No bestowal of rank in a physical church can make the holder a hierophant, just as an initiation which is purely physical cannot automatically confer a higher level of development or understanding. Though some Popes may be wise, very seldom does a Master return to incarnation, except when mankind has reached a stage of receptivity to a new form of teachings.

Crowley says that there is a legend of the Hierophant that he moves only at intervals of 2000 years. This is the Great Circle of the Zodiac when a new aspect of teaching is given to man. We cannot take this to mean that a new world teacher comes into manifestation every 2000 years or that the spirit of the Hiero­phant only makes itself felt every 2000 years. His influence or the influence of the Spirit as initiator is always present for those who are able to receive it.

We should perhaps consider the symbolism of the fact that the Hierophant, like the High Priestess, is seated. The Egyptian hieroglyph for a god is a seated figure. Obviously then, the seated position of the Hierophant and the High Priestess indicates their high links with the Spirit.

It perhaps seems strange to us that a god should be seated. This is well worth discussion and consideration - but a first thought is perhaps that this is a hint on passivity expressed by the absorption of the wisdom and understanding of the binaries of the two columns. The Spirit, and the spirit or god within man which is the true self, is essentially quiet and still.

The Hierophant, like the High Priestess, is a teacher and an initiator, seated before the pillars of the Temple. But the Hierophant initiates us only into the wisdom of Chokmah. His pillars are both of the one pillar of the Tree, whereas those of the High Priestess are the two pillars of the Tree of Life. Her knowledge reaches up into Kether itself.

The Hierophant is himself an initiate of the mysteries of Isis or the High Pries­tess of the Middle Pillar. He therefore gives to man a stage of initiation prior to that of the High Priestess. His instruction is a secret instruction, for the two priests kneel closely before him and his hand is raised in the gesture of silence, but we notice that unlike the High Priestess he does not hold a book on his lap. His tuition is practical and oral. This is also shown by his male sex and the fact that his Path leads to Chokmah on the Active Pillar. He is an active symbol, putting knowledge into practice in life itself. This brings us back again to our interpretation of the number of the Arcanum and the Vau of the Path.

He represents Will, but enlightened will and will power.

This thought of Will brings us to a consideration of the astrological sign of the Path, Taurus. At first sight this seems strangely at odds with the driving will of the Spirit expressed by the Hierophant, for Taurus is a fixed Earth sign. Esoterically we think of Taurus as a sensual sign due to its enjoyment of the pleasures of life. However, even the exoteric ruler of Taurus - Venus - gives a hint to the true nature of Taurus, for the sensuality and love of life expressed by Venus is not a material gathering together of its benefits; or a sexually voracious collecting of experiences, but simply love and enjoyment of life itself.

If we consider the sign in its esoteric aspect, its attribution becomes even clearer. Taurus is the sign of desire in all its phases. In the subjective man he is impelled by this desire to experience life. This is the first stage necessary to man's development, to appreciate the life created by the Ain. In the disciple, he is driven forth by desire on to the Path of Return to his source. In the initiate, this desire becomes transmuted to will, the will to cooperate with the Divine Plan of the Ain. This is the initiation given by the Hierophant, the transmutation of desire into will, and the bestowal of an understanding of this Plan.

Whilst all these aspects of desire manifest in different ways within man according to his stage of development, they are all an expression of the creative source in its most potent aspect, and can be termed the Will of God. This desire or Will is the basic root of the creation of manifestation, and of its continuance. It is the Will to Live and to Be. The Will of the bull of ancient religious cults expressed by the High Priest of the cult, who acted as the initiator Hierophant.


The 16th Path - The Hierophant
Magus of the Eternal

By Mollie Thompson (1994)

The 16th Path is the route between Chesed (Gedulah) and Chokmah and it combines the qualities of the two sephiroth - that is - the Love/Mercy aspect of Chesed and the wisdom aspect of Chokmah. Since both Chesed and Chokmah are on the same pillar, Mercy the positive pillar, this seems to form a spiral arc between the two sephiroth - so that Chesed is in the same position as Chokmah but on a lower arc.

It is almost as though what is ‘begotten’ by the wisdom, Father or AB in Chokmah and born as an idea-pattern in Binah then crosses the abyss into matter and is then organised, preserved and continued in Chesed.

The Hebrew letter for the 16th path is Vau ( w ) which can be interpreted as a nail or a peg. This again reinforces the idea of a connecting link or fastening; perhaps even a peg on which to hang the whole of the All-begetter’s creation. the significance of the letter Vau can also be linked with the number 6. Not only is Vau the 6th letter of the Hebrew Alphabet but it also has a close connection to the 6th sephirah, Tiphareth, which is a mediator between that which is above and that which is below.

Yet another connection between Vau and 6 can be seen in the following: Vau is the third letter of the Tetragrammaton - Yod-He-Vau-He ( HVHY )  where Vau links the supernal Triangle to all the sephiroth and the Earth below because, when applied to the Tree Yod ( Y )  (being masculine) is attributed to Chokmah with its point resting in Kether.  To He ( H ) belongs the feminine Binah, the mother principle. To Vau ( V ) is attributed the next six sephiroth, i.e. all the spheres beneath Daath. To the final He ( H ) belongs Malkuth, the Gaia principle, also called the Bride of Tiphareth.

As Yod is considered to be the Father and He the Mother, so is Vau considered to be the Son. In such a schema we can see that Moses, David, Christ ( and probably many others) were all sons of the Tiphareth Sun, and so were mediators between above and below.

The word mediator comes into play again when we look at the Intelligence of the 16th path, known as the Triumphal ‘with no other Glory like unto it’. In Tarot terms it’s mediating functions are performed by the Heirophant, but this one has many names amongst which are Teacher, Abbot, Magus of the Eternal and Pope - but this last name can be misleading because of its esoteric connection. The word Pope coming from Latin ‘papa’ or Greek ‘papas’ both mean ‘father’ - so we are back to ‘Ab’ the Hebrew Father and the Father Principle in Chokmah.

Personally I like ‘Magus of the Eternal’ and it is interesting to note that one of Chokmah’s symbols is the starry Heaven, and the radiant essence of the Spirit of Chokmah is heralded by a brilliant star shining in the East - the place of great symbolic light and revelation. I like to find these little nuggets of wisdom wrapped up in folklore and faerytale, so perhaps we should look at the symbolism behind those three gifts that the ‘Magi’ are supposed to have taken to that stable?

Anyway, back to the path of the Hierophant (whose name means ‘the revealer’). He is enthroned on a cube between two columns, the pillars of high initiation. He wears a triple tiered crown and holds in his left hand a sceptre surmounted by three crosses, while with his half-closed right hand he gives a benediction to two tonsured figures kneeling at his feet. In front of him are crossed keys and pentacles, indicating his dominion over the physical world. In this sense the teacher figure reveals his role as spiritual lawgiver, he represents the integration of the concealed knowledge and its outer manifestation; he reveals daily the sacred aspects of life by his gestures and by the crossed keys. Righteousness and rigidity are his inherent characteristics and yet he bestows grace upon those who wait at his feet.

He is not religion as we understand the word but he is the means of its manifestation to many who require the sternness of the lawgiver. The triple crown and crossed sceptre symbolise his ascent through the physical, emotional and mental worlds and his power of redemption.

The fact that the Hierophant sits on a cubic stone is significant. In Hebrew the word stone or rock is ‘Ebhen’ or ABBN and since this word can also be split into AB-Father and BN-Son we have the concealed mystery of the identity of Father and Son revealed to us. Together they form the ‘cornerstone’ of the Wisdom, their union also being linked via the number 6 and the letter Vau - as previously discussed.

In addition to this the Y shaped ‘pallium’ on the robes of each of the kneeling figures is a further reminder, this symbol being of a yoke or union. These kneeling figures receiving the blessing are actively listening or praying in silence, since hearing is the function or skill needed on the 16th path.

The Hierophant who sits on the stone is the teacher, we are the receivers of inner gnosis through its mediation. It is this foundation stone which restores us to the state of consciousness before our delusion of separateness - represented by the Garden of Eden. So, Vau is a direct link to a supreme state of unity which exists in the Supernals - as we travel the path from Chesed to Chokmah, back to the ‘garden’.

In Gematria the link is again reinforced because:

‘garden’ = GN (Gimel 3, Nun 50)
‘stone’ = ABN (Aleph 1, Beth 2, Nun 50)

Both of these equal 53 - the union is ‘paradise’.

The keys of the kingdom which lie crossed at the Hierophants feet are the alchemical symbols of gold and silver, like the sun and the moon - and their ‘cleaving together’ (AChZ - Aleph 1, Cheth 8, Zain 7) equals 16, the number of the path.

It is the path of intuition, of listening within to your Inner Voice which represents the Central Self, not the little self.
Moving along the 16th path and working with its energies gives you the opportunity to refine your discrimination the better to hear that Voice of Intuition which comes in silence.

The watchword for the hopeful initiate on the 16th path is caution, because the higher you climb the more painful the fall - in spiritual terms. Even at this point, the very boundary between the worlds of form and the formless glory, there is still the possibility of turning towards the negative aspect.

However, the Hierophant is there waiting to welcome and guide the initiate through the last major initiation, after which they will stand shoulder to shoulder as Gods in the making.


Pathworking On The Hierophant

By Malcolm Ballan (1996)

1) Relax.... We find ourselves standing on a dry rocky hillside - dressed in a simple robe with sandals upon our feet. The hot sun is beating down from a clear blue sky, the heat however is almost oppressive and we can feel our bodies sweating in the dry heat.

2) We gaze out from our lofty position to see ancient Jerusalem nestled amid the hills, and to our left a rocky path that meanders towards a hill upon which a number of crosses stand erect. Even from this distance we can see the bodies of men tied to the cross's and can hear the wailing of womenfolk.

3) We follow the path that draws us to towards the crosses - we feel great sadness for those who are being put to death in this terrible way and gaze up to one of the victims, his face racked with pain and yet his eyes seem to hold a special light, as if he has glimpsed what lies beyond the veil of death.

(On a second visit to this path the crosses are bare of victims, yet blood remains smeared upon the rough wood - this we find ourselves reaching out to touch.)

4) We hurry down the hillside towards the great gates that are the entrance to the city - the gates lie open and our destination lies at the heart of this wondrous city. The streets are empty - as we wander through them to the centre of the city we see no one - the streets and market stalls are all quiet, no voices or sounds can be heard. We walk the meandering streets and alleyways until we reach the centre - before us lies the great Temple, its walls soaring up to the heavens, its stonework majestic and awe‑inspiring.

5) Seven steps lead up to the great door which stands between two vast pillars. We slowly climb the steps counting them off as we climb. At the top we pause and reach out to touch each of the pillars - the first is of white marble and is cool to the touch, the second is of blackest ebony and feels warm, almost alive in the heat of the sun.

6) We push the great door open to find ourselves in the Temple - the air is perfumed with the scent of old incense, there is a feeling of reverence and something almost magical about the Temple. It is devoid of trappings, but with twelve pillars running down through the Temple towards a door at the end.

7) We hear footsteps and turn to see a young man dressed in a white robe, he bids us welcome to the Temple and asks if we wish to enter the Holy of Holies. We reply yes and he guides us to the door at the end. Before we go through it he tells us what we may expect on the other side of the door and to not be afraid. He pushes open the door and we step beyond.

(On a second visit to this Temple he asks us to sit with him and asks why we want to go through the door and what do we expect to find beyond.)

8) We find ourselves floating in total darkness yet we feel relaxed and refreshed - as we almost slumber in this void, images begin to arise and a voice calls us to enter through another doorway which hangs in the darkness - this we do..........

Again we hear the voice of the young man and turn to find him by our side. We turn to follow him back through another doorway into the Temple.

9) Once we have recovered from our experiences he asks what we saw and what we may learn from them. He then guides us across the Temple to the main entrance - just as he reaches out to pull the door open we notice that his wrists are damaged as if great nails have been forced through them and his feet too are marked with the signs of crucifixion. We look up somewhat ashamed that we had not noticed before, but he merely smiles and tells us that "he is just one of so many, whilst we are one of the few".

10) And with those enigmatic words we step through the main Temple door to find ourselves back in our own room.


To Be Continued...