Considering this being Good Friday, I thought I would share with you some thoughts that I have had lately regarding the mystery of crucifixion and the Passion as related to the initiatory path. Basically I believe the dramatic events of the Easter (Passover) being resumed in all Adepti Grades. The Adeptus Minor 5°=6° Grade obviously corresponds to the suffering and Crucifixion, i.e. the Passion of the Christ. It also marks the necessary sacrifice by the ego made upon the Cross of Suffering, and the deliverance (or passover) of the lower will to the Higher and True Will. It is marked by that mystico-magico state known as the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, or the realization of the Higher Self or Divine Genius. It is of the leap of faith, of having a fundamental trust in the Father that everything eventually will work out for the better. All this is resumed in the 12th Key of the Tarot - The Hanged Man.
The Adeptus Major 6°=5° Grade is a continuation of this theme as it deals with the death of the body upon the Cross. The sacrifice is consummated - Tetelestai, it is finished! However it is not an actual death per se but instead marks the dramatic change in the life of the initiate; the entrance to the immeasurable region. This theme is resumed in the 13th Key of the Tarot - Death.
But before the initiate is ready to enter the immeasurable region he must face his own Evil Persona. Therefore the Adeptus Major Grade also deals with the descent of Christ into Hades (or Hell) and his final resurrection on the third day. It is said that Christ made a new covenant between the souls of the dead and God, as a preparation for The Last Judgement. This descent is of course a reference to the task of the Adeptus Major who now must work with the averse forces within himself, i.e. demonic evocation, to finally root out their dominion over his lower nature. This relates to the 16th Key - the Fallen Tower. This Key fitly depicts the Kings of Edom and how they finally are cast down by the Divine Will or Martial Principle.
The resurrection from death of the Adeptus Major finally marks the transition into the liberated state of the Adeptus Exemptus. This is aptly resumed in the 2oth Key of the Tarot - The Last Judgement, where the Child Horus is seen being resurrected. Remember that Horus is the Godform of the Adeptus Major Grade; Osiris is slain and purified in the Adeptus Minor Grade of Tiphareth and resurrected as the child Horus in the Adeptus Major Grade of Geburah.
Finally the Adeptus Exemptus 7°=4° Grade relates to the transfiguration and ascension of the Christ. (The ascension may here relate the passing of the Abyss.) This is a natural outcome of being liberated of your own shadow, the Qlippotic complexes of the unconscious. This is partially depicted by the 21st Key of the Tarot called Universe or The World. This card shows the ascended state of the Adept, which is placed in the centre of the Zodiac (the wreath) and the Elements (the Kerubim at the corners), holding the dual forces in both hands and in equilibrium. All this imagery clearly is a reference toward perfect equilibrium and harmony, of wholeness, of holiness - the very antithesis of the Qlippoth and the Sitra Ahra ("the Other Side"). Also notice the scarf flowing around the nude figure in the shape of the Hebrew letter Kaph, which corresponds to Jupiter. This is the Planet referred to as Chesed, the Sephirah of the Exempt Adept Grade. Some correspond the Egyptian Godess of Truth or Maat with Chesed, so the nude female figure may actually represent Maat, which in the Neophyte Hall (or Hall of Maat) manifests equilibrium and reconciliation between the opposites as represented by the two Pillars.
Also notice how the figure holds its legs, in the form of the cross - a reference to the Cross of Suffering and also Equlibrium. This is the same position in which the Hanged Man holds his legs in the above mentioned Key of Tarot. Now the figure is reversed. So in the final analysis, the Second Order initiatory process reenacts the dramatic events of the son of man from Good Friday to the Ascension of Christ, while the Outer Order may be regarded as enacting the journey that Jesus makes from his baptism, mission, etc. unto the events which occurs in Gethsemane. The Portal Grade in my opinion to the final night at Gethsemane before the apprehension by the Roman soldiers, where we find Jesus crying overwhelmed by feelings of forsakenness by his Father, i.e. the dark night of the soul.
So as can be seen, the life of the Messiah or Master Jesus may be regarded as a metaphor for the way of the initiate, as it is envisioned for the Great Work in the tradition of Les Frères Aînés de la Rose+Croix (F.A.R+C.). I further believe that the Analysis of the I.N.R.I. (as depicted upon the Cross of Suffering) is the key to unlock the mystery of the Crucifixion and Passion of the Christ. This Analysis of the Key Word (as it is called in the Golden Dawn tradition) relates to the Grade Signs of the Adeptus Minor, the Signs of L.V.X. The letters I.N.R.I. brakes down as into the following:
is translated into the Hebrew letters of
(I) Yod : (N) Nun : (R) Resh : (I) Yod
which in turn corresponds which
(I) Virgo : (N) Scorpio : (R) Sol
which in turn relates to the deities of
(I) Isis : (N) Apophis : (R) Osiris
which translates into the Sacred Word
I. A. O.
and constitues the Signs and Letters of
(I) L. (A) V. (O) X., LUX
This is the traditional attribution of the Golden Dawn which I have pondered for quite some while now. The L.V.X. signs are so rich in symbology that one easily could write a whole thesis on this subject. But to be brief, its meaning can be interpreted on different levels (as with all good symbology, as for example with alchemical symbolism). I will break it down further into these levels, and in this I will focus on the Egyptian deities which gives the key to the understanding of the Letters. First we have the basic or archetypal meaning:
Isis = Life; Apophis = Death and decay; Osiris = resurrection and rebirth.
This is the everlasting cycles of life and all manifestation. Compare for example with simple group dynamics or partnership, where we have the initial "honeymoon" in which we find everyone from their best sides and disregard all faults, which corresponds to the phase of Isis. Then we have the phase where all and everything is scrutinized and criticized; suddenly we find everyone in their worst image, which corresponds to the phase of Apophis. Fortunately this eventually leads into the last phase where we finally are able to view everyone in a more realistic way, and where everyone finds their natural place and position within the group. This is the Osiris phase.
This is also very much alive in the path of the initiate and his or her relation to the initiator, which finds its correlation in psychotherapy and obviously is a recapitulation of the parental relationship between the child and the parent. It is part of what is referred to as transference or projection of inner "objects" upon outer objects. Initially the initiate idealizes the Hierophant, which soon enough turns into its opposite where he suddenly does everything wrong. This splitted up black and white picture of the parent or initiator is finally resolved and integrated where the initiate recognizes both his faults and strengths - in a more realistic manner. As can bee seen the I.A.O. formula is a common existential phenomena which can be observed both in the small and in the large.
This I.A.O. formula can also be seen as a important part of the path of the mystic: Isis = First beneficial spiritual development, great initial impetuous, seeing first glimpses of what's behind the Veil of Isis; Apophis = The dark night of the Soul (i.e. loosing the initial contact with the divine, the curtain being drawn back before one's eyes, lack of motivation); Osiris = The Greater Initiation, the birth of the new persona, contact with the Self, illumination of the Golden Dawn, etc. This formula has thoroughly been expanded upon in a thesis by an old Frater of mine called Initiation and Death.
This can further be transcribed to the initiatory process of the Golden Dawn: Isis = the Outer Order (or initial Elemental Grades); Apophis = Philosophus and especially Portal Grade; Osiris = Second Order (especially the Adeptus Minor Grade). These also corresponds to the major Grades of the Golden Dawn: Isis = First Grade (Malkuth, the Elemental Grades); Apophis = Second Grade (Yesod, The Portal of the Vault of the Adepti); Osiris = Third Grade (Tiphareth, Adeptus Minor).
The three higher Grades of the Second Order is also to be understood in the formula of the I.A.O. as follows: 5°=6° is to be related to Isis (or the work with beneficent forces) and the 6°=5° to Apophis (i.e. the work with averse forces or Qlippotic spirits), while the 7°=4° is to be attributed to Osiris (i.e. the accomplishment of the Great Work, the final liberation before the crossing of the Abyss).
Finally, there is great significance to be found of the placement of Apophis (the Serpent) between Isis and Osiris. Isis is the spouse of Osisis. Isis is Earth, Mighty Mother Earth. Osiris is the Heavenly Father; he who has transcended his earthly existence. Apophis is the Serpent Power, Kundalini which in Golden Dawn symbology is referred to as the Red Dragon, the Serpent on the Tree of Knowledge; the force that liberates itself from Mother Earth and transcends (or is sublimated) to the heavenly Father Osiris.
This is again to be found hidden in the formula of the 13th Key Death, which depicts the sublimation of the scorpio force or scorpion (which corresponds to the genitals in astrological medicine), i.e. the Mars force; the serpent power, which transforms into the serpent in this process of sublimation and is turned into the alchemical eagle, the transmuted (or distilled) form of that which is contained in the prima materia of Scorpio. This is the reason for de allocation of the Eagle symbol for the Element of Water (which corresponds to the Kerubic or fixed Sign of Scorpio).
So, basically, Apophis is the reconciler between Isis and Osiris. Apophis is in this respect the Serpent of Wisdom, or he (or rather she, as I see the Serpent Force as a female power) has the potential to become the Serpent of Wisdom. In his Apophis phase he is the Red Dragon, the un-directed or un-controlled Serpent Power, the sex force, which is Qlippotic in is original fallen state within natural man. This may be directed by the Adept and hence transmit the power of Isis (the basis of the Serpent force; in tantra called shakti) to again meet with her bridegroom Osiris.
In the beginning these two forces were conjoined, but after the fall the lovers were separated - hence matter was crated as separate from spirit. This is depicted in the myth of Eden where man - Adam - is created first as a man and woman, and later is to be found separated with the creation of Eve as distinct from Adam. Isis is the Shekinah (in Malkuth), symbolized by Eve, and Osiris the Microprosopus (in Tiphareth), represented by Adam. Aphopis is the serpent on the three of Knowledge of Good and Evil, who makes Adam and Eve conscious of their separated state, the first step of reconciliation and integration is to become conscious of the actual condition to be remedied. Apophis, as the Serpent Power, represents the current transmitted from Shekinah to Tiphareth - the arrow or path of Samekh. The Hebrew letter Samekh is actually a snake biting his own tail - the ouroboros.
The symbology of the ouroboros resumes the old alchemical adage hen to pan, "one is the all". This also includes the reconciliation of all opposites and in this context the reuniting of the King with his Queen - the Hieros Gamos or Alchemical Wedding. So to restore the world to its original state the Adept must make use of this Serpent force to reconcile the Father with the Mother within him or her. He or she as Adept must become "the rider on the serpent" to use a Zoharic term. In the Zoharic context this rider is associated with Samael. But we have to remember that Samael is also to be associated with the Black Pillar or more specifically with Geburah. This is the principle of stern Divine Will and Judgment. It is by the authority of this power that the Serpent or Crooked Dragon is subdued - with evil shall the evil be conquered. (Remember that according to the Book of Jobe Satan is considered as a Son of God.) Only through the guidance of Divine Will is the Adept able to ride upon the serpent and take advantage of it powers. This obviously refers to the work of the Greater Adept in Geburah and is foreshadowed by the diagram upon the Lid of the Pastos.
The positive outcome of this is the liberation of the initiate which makes him or her an Exempt Adept, which I already have associated with the transfiguration and ascension of the Christ. This is also foreshadowed on the second diagram upon the Lid of the Pastos. This is also a reference to the vision of the Alpha and Omega in the Book of Revelation. So, the goal of the Great Work is to become the Alpha et Omega, who in my opinion more relates to the Three Alchemical Magisteria of Magister Templi 8°=3° Grade, Magus 9°=2° Grade and Ipsissimus 10°=1° Grade, which is foreshadowed in the mystical state of the Exempt Adept.
So basically Apophis is a benevolent or rather necessary principle in all initiation and spiritual progress. It has the potential to destroy the aspirant, or deliver or redeem him. It's a double edged sword, obviously.