The Fourth Day
by Jack Courtis
Now it would have been very fitting for one of us to have spoken somewhat on this occasion, but seeing we were all troubled with the falling of the uvula, at length the old Atlas stepped forward and spoke on the King's behalf: "Their Royal Majesties do most graciously rejoice at your arrival, and will that their Royal Grace be assured to all, and every man. And with thy administration, gentle Virgin, they are most graciously satisfied, and accordingly a Royal Reward shall therefore be provided for thee. Yet it is still their intention, that thou shall this day also continue with them, in as much as they have no reason to mistrust thee." Hereupon the Virgin humbly took up the branch again. And so we for the first time were to step aside with our Virgin.
It is significant that the virgin has also been tested and rewarded. Her task was guidance and this she has done very well. And what of old Atlas? In Greek mythology, he is one of the old gods, a Titan who symbolises karmic justice. His duty is to hold up the sky. This is not only an inhuman burden, it is also another polarity because he separates heaven and earth. Of course, we must also do both; we too must shoulder the crushing burden of our karma and clearly discern the Above and the Below. We must maintain the opposition of the sun and the moon, until we are able to conjoin them. But this is later on the inner journey.
This room was square on the front, five times broader than it was long; but towards the West it had a great arch like a porch, and within the circle stood three glorious royal thrones, yet the middle-most was somewhat higher than the rest. Now in each throne sat two persons.
What a curious "square". The proportions tell us that a principle of sacred geometry is involved. The great arch again reminds us of the masonic connection, as do the 3 royal thrones. How many principal officers are there in a masonic lodge and what kind of geometry do they study? Note also the polarity principle. What does it all mean? There are 3 pillars on the Tree of Life and each pillar functions on the principle of polarity. There are also 3 pillars that support a masonic lodge.
In the first sat a very ancient King with a gray beard, yet his consort was extraordinarily fair and young. In the third throne sat a black King of middle age, and by him a dainty old matron, not crowned, but covered with a veil. But in the middle sat the two young persons, who though they had likewise wreaths of laurel upon their heads, yet over them hung a large and costly crown. Now although they were not at this time so fair as I had before imagined to myself, yet so it was to be. Behind them on a round form sat for the most part ancient men, yet none of them (at which I wondered) had any sword, or other weapon about him. Neither saw I any other life-guard, but certain Virgins which were with us the day before, who sat on the sides of the arch. Here can I not pass in silence how the little Cupid flew to and fro there, but for the most part he hovered and played the wanton about the great crown; sometimes he seated himself between the two lovers, somewhat smiling upon them with his bow. Nay, sometimes he made as if he would shoot one of us. In brief, this knave was so full of his waggery, that he would not spare even the little birds, which in multitudes flew up and down the room, but tormented them all he could.
The first point to note is the 3 pairs of male/female figures. The Tree of Life has 3 pillars that function on the principle of male/female polarity. Secondly, each pair sits on one throne to demonstrate the symbiotic relationship of the polarity. The opposites work together (in conjunction), not in opposition. Remember CRC’s gold medal. He must go from his present state of opposition to his future state of conjunction. Thirdly, there is the crown over the middle throne. This is the "Crown" of Keter over the Tree. Cupid is easy to misunderstand. Today, we see him as a silly, sentimental figure and think of cartoons or comics. However, as the son of Lady Venus, he symbolises a powerful force that drives the mechanism of the kosmos - the Wheel of the Law. Cupid is the desire that fuels the need for birth and rebirth and all the processes of life and death. Note also the flocks of birds. We are reminded of the language used by initiates; the Language of the Birds.
The virgins had also their pastimes with him, but whenever they could catch him, it was not so easy a matter for him to get from them again. Thus this little knave made all the sport and mirth. Before the Queen stood a small, but impressive curious altar, wherein lay a book covered with black velvet, slightly over-laid with gold. A small taper in an ivory candlestick stood by its side. Now although it were very small, yet it burned continually, and stood in that manner, that had not Cupid, in sport, now and then puffed upon it, we could not have conceived it to be fire. By this stood a sphere or celestial globe, which of itself turned clearly about. Next to this, a small striking-watch and by that a little crystal pipe or syphon-fountain, out of which perpetually ran a clear blood-red liquor. Last of all, a skull, or death's head which contained a white serpent, which was of such a length, that though she crept circle-wise about the rest of it, yet her tail still remained in one of the eye-holes, until her head again entered at the other, so she never stirred from her skull, unless it happened that Cupid twitched a little at her, for then she slipped in so suddenly, that we all could not choose but marvel at it.
The virgins capture Cupid in their games. Is this connected with the processes of the Hermetic or Virgin Birth?
Let us pause and look carefully at the following symbols:
- Altar (place of sacrifice).
- Book (of the Law) covered with black velvet and slightly overlaid with gold (black is the first stage of the Great Work; gold is the product of the Philosopher’s Stone, the last stage of the Work).
- Small taper in ivory candlestick, burning with perpetual fire (light of the kosmos).
- Celestial sphere perpetually turning (mechanism of the kosmos).
- Striking watch (kosmic time).
- Little fountain spouting blood red liquid (life of the kosmos).
- Skull (death/transformation/regeneration) with white serpent (of wisdom) circled (Ouroboros) through the eye sockets.
At the metaphorical place of sacrifice we experience the Law and we must efface our karma by performing the Great Work. This is done via the 4 kosmic processes and culminates in the principle represented by the serpent and the skull. There are 7 symbols to consider. The combination of numbers and symbols is important. All of this is a description but not an explanation. This must be lived and experienced; not read about in a book. Symbols are a doorway through which we project our consciousness in the combined effort of the Spiritual Disciplines, study, meditation, prayer, solitude, simplicity and service. The 7 symbols remind us of the 7 pairs of opposites and also that we are in the kabalistic level of reality, Formation. This is the place of images and symbols.
Together with this altar, there were up and down the room wonderful images, which moved themselves, as if they had been alive, and had so strange a contrivance, that it would be impossible for me to relate it all. Likewise, as we were passing out, there began such a marvellous kind of vocal music, that I could not certainly tell, whether it were performed by the virgins who yet stayed behind, or by the images themselves. Now being for this time satisfied, we went with our virgins, down the winding stairs again to where the musicians were already present, and the door was diligently locked and bolted.
The moving images are a representation of reality. But what is this reality? We shall ask this question again as we are led down to a lower level of consciousness and the way behind us is locked and our projections of consciousness are prevented.
As soon as we were come again into the hall, one of the virgins began: "I wonder, Sister, that you dared adventure yourself among so many persons." "My Sister," replied our president, "I am fearful of none so much as of this man," pointing at me. This speech went to the heart of me, for I well understood that she mocked at my age, and indeed I was the oldest of them all. Yet she comforted me again with promise, that in case I behaved myself well towards her, she would easily rid me of this burden. Meantime a collation was again brought in, and everyone's virgin seated by him, who well knew how to shorten the time with handsome discourses, but what their discourses and sports were I dare not blab out of school. But most of the questions were about the arts, whereby I could lightly gather that both young and old were conversant in the sciences. But still it run in my thoughts how I might become young again, whereupon I was somewhat the sadder. This the Virgin perceived, and therefore began, "I dare lay anything, if I lie with him tonight, he shall be pleasanter in the morning." Hereupon they began to laugh, and albeit I blushed all over, yet I was fain to laugh too at my own ill-luck.
In a subtle way, CRC is told that he will gain his youth if he has sex with one of the virgins. It is part of the mystery tradition that the sex function is one end of the spiritual spectrum. The other end, is enlightenment. The Eternal Youth is a symbol of Tiferet. In one aspect, the virgin is Malkhut and this implies a connection between birth and marriage in the union of Tiferet and Malkhut. These are deep mysteries to which we must bring to bear, all of the Spiritual Disciplines. There is no intellectual answer here, only direct experience. And why is CRC feared?
Now there was one there that had a mind to return my disgrace again upon the Virgin, whereupon he said, "I hope not only we, but the virgins too themselves will bear witness in behalf of our brother, that our lady president hath promised herself to be his bedfellow tonight." "I should be well content with it," replied the Virgin, "if I had no reason to be afraid of these my sisters; there would be no hold with them should I choose the best and handsomest for myself, against their will." "My Sister," presently began another, "we find hereby that thy high office makes thee not proud; wherefore if by thy permission we might by lot part the lords here present, among us, for bed-fellows, thou should with our good will have such a prerogative." We let this pass for a jest, and began again to discourse together. But our Virgin could not leave tormenting us, and therefore began again, "My lords, how if we should permit fortune to decide which of us must lie together tonight?" "Well," said I, "if it may be no otherwise, we cannot refuse such a proffer."
Sex is a great distraction and we can easily be misled as to the virgin’s motives. The clue is the discussion about choosing partners by lot, in other words at random. Does the kosmos truly operate this way? Randomness implies blind chance, therefore there can be neither meaning nor purpose to the event that transpires. The virgin is very concerned that she wishes to be with CRC. In the 17th century, when this book was written, to choose something by lot was a legitimate means of divination, that is, a means of finding God’s will. This is not the same as fortune telling. The virgin is trying to impose her own will on the process of choosing. This is a deliberate attempt to set into motion the hidden processes of the kosmos, as distinct from allowing those processes to reach the logical conclusion of the present circumstances. Left to itself, the kosmos will produce predictable results. However human intervention is the wild card and creates new possibilities. Sexual desire is the powerhouse that energises these new possibilities and creates new karma in the process.
Now because it was concluded to make this trial after meat, we resolved to sit no longer at table, so we arose, and each one walked up and down with his virgin. "Nay," said the Virgin, "it should not be so yet, but let us see how fortune will couple us," upon which we were separated asunder. But now first arose a dispute how the business should be carried, but this was only a premeditated device, for the Virgin instantly made the proposal that we should mix ourselves together in a ring, and that she beginning to count from herself, the seventh, was to be content with the following seventh, whether it were a virgin, or man. For our parts we were not aware of any craft, and therefore permitted it so to be; but when we thought we had very well mingled ourselves, the virgins nevertheless were so subtle, that each one knew her station beforehand. The Virgin began to reckon, the seventh next to her was again a virgin, the third seventh a virgin likewise, and this happened so long until (to our amazement) all the virgins came forth, and none of us was hit. Thus we poor pitiful wretches remained standing alone, and were moreover forced to suffer ourselves to be jeered too and confess we were very handsomely cozened. In short, who ever had seen us in our order, might sooner have expected the sky to fall than that it should never have come to our turn. Here our sport was at an end and we desired to satisfy ourselves with the Virgin's waggery.
A game is now played based upon the number 7 and the cycle of a kosmic circle. It is contrived that all the virgins are counted out and there is no pairing off. What is the point of all this? Clearly, sex is involved but it must be in a manner that we usually do not consider. This is a secret of initiation. Further, the playing of a game implies a deliberate setting into motion of the hidden processes of the kosmos. In this case, the number 7 implies the 7 psychic centres and the emphasis on sex implies the kundalini fire.
In the interim, the little wanton Cupid came also in unto us. But because he presented himself on behalf of their Royal Majesties, and delivered us a health (as from them) out of a golden cup, and was to call our virgins to the King, withal declaring he could at this time tarry no longer with them, we could not sufficiently sport ourselves with him. So with a due return of our most humble thanks we let him go forth again.
Cupid reappears and we should remember that he is a higher aspect of the force we call kundalini. It should also be noted that for some time, we have been observing the Spiritual Discipline of celebration. All 12 Disciplines have emerged from the text, but we are nowhere near the marriage itself. This implies that the process of transformation has several stages. This is confirmed by the game of the 7 with its implication of the 7 pairs of opposites that have to be reconciled.