The Fourth Day
by Jack Courtis
This is more than a sentimental statement about love and marriage. The parents are Chakhmah (the Father) and Binah (the Mother). The king is the bridegroom (Tiferet) and the bride is Malkhut. These sefirot on the Tree are bound together by love. There are 3 orientations to God and love is one of them. Thus the Marriage is a process that culminates in an approach to God through love. On the Tree of Life, the orientation of love is usually expressed as the pillar of Mercy. However, this is balanced by the pillar of Severity and that is about to be described.
After this thanks were returned, and the comedy was finished with joy, and the particular good liking of the Royal Persons wherefore (the evening also being already late) they departed together in their aforementioned order. But we were to attend the Royal Persons up the winding stairs into the previously described hall, where the tables were already richly furnished, and this was the first time that we were invited to the King's table. The little altar was placed in the midst of the hall, and the six fore-named royal ensigns were laid upon it.
Again, CRC ascends the stairs to a higher level of reality and the number 7 is brought to his attention; altar (1) + 6 ensigns. The 1 + 6 = 7 formula is a subtle reference to the way in which our psychic centres function. The first 6 centres are reconciled as a group, in the 6th centre (the Brow centre) co-located with the pituitary. There is an ontological gap between them and the 7th centre known as the Crown. This is symbolised in the staff of Hermes (caduceus) where the twin serpents cross over 6 times and are surmounted by the globe on the top of the central staff. This is also hinted at in the Apocalypse of John, by the way in which the 7 Seals are described.
At this time the young King behaved himself very graciously towards us, but yet he could not be heartily merry. But although he now and then discoursed somewhat with us, yet he often sighed, at which the little Cupid only mocked, and played his waggish tricks. The old King and Queen were very serious, only the wife of one of the ancient Kings was gay enough, the cause of which I yet understood not. During this, the Royal Persons took up the first table, at the second we only sat. At the third, some of the principal virgins placed themselves. The rest of the virgins and men all preferred to wait. This was performed with such state and solemn stillness that I am afraid to make many words of it.
There are 3 tables mentioned together with Cupid as the personification of love. Again, the emphasis on the 3 orientations to God with particular reference to love. Why the significant silence? In the mysteries, such a silence points to a very important stage in the process of self transformation.
Here I cannot leave untouched how that all the Royal Persons, before meat, attired themselves in snow-white glittering garments, and so sat down to table. Over the table hung the great golden crown, the precious stones whereof, without any other light, would have sufficiently illuminated the hall. However all the lights were kindled at the small taper upon the altar; what the reason was I did not know. But this I took very good notice of, that the young King frequently sent meat to the white serpent upon the little altar, which caused me to muse.
The 3 tables and the great crown are a reference to the 3 pillars on the Tree of Life. The 3 pillars are an alternative description of the 3 orientations to God, because the pillar of Mercy is love, the pillar of Severity is knowledge and the central pillar of Grace, is that of sacrificial action. All of this is the backdrop for the altar that we already know, contains within itself the 7 symbols of the mystery process. Hence the bridegroom (Tiferet) feeds the white serpent. Tiferet is at the centre of the Tree of Life. There are 7 single paths leading to it. The 8th, is a double path. As a whole, the way in which the aspirant to the mysteries uses the Tree of Life, is called "the Path of the Serpent". The hidden message is that Tiferet is the Christ centre. Christ is the Messiah and in Hebrew kabala the Messiah = 358 = Serpent. Further, Christ must be crucified and the Serpent Path is fed with His blood; just as the young king feeds the white serpent, in this scene. Finally, 358 is a cryptic reference to the 3rd sefira (Binah), the 5th sefira (Gevurah) and the 8th sefira (Hod). They are all on the left pillar of Severity. The love of Christ is balanced by the severity of the Messiah/Serpent.
Well might CRC muse on this.
Almost all the prattle at this banquet was made by little Cupid, who could not leave us (and me indeed especially) untormented. He was perpetually producing some strange matter. However, there was no considerable mirth, all went silently on, from whence I, by myself, could imagine some great imminent peril. For there was no music at all heard; but if we were demanded anything, we sought to give short round answers, and so let it rest. In short, all things had so strange a face, that the sweat began to trickle down all over my body; and I am apt to believe that the most stouthearted man alive would then have lost his courage.
The silence of the mysteries is again emphasised. Indeed, courage is important in the mystery tradition. Without it, we are lost. There is no easy way to salvation.
Supper being now almost ended, the young King commanded the book to be brought to him from the little altar. This he opened, and caused it once again by an old man to be propounded to us, whether we resolved to abide with him in prosperity and adversity; which we having with trembling consented to, he further caused us sadly to be demanded, whether we would give him our hands on it, which, when we could find no evasion, was willed so to be. Hereupon one after another arose, and with his own hand wrote his name down in this book. When this was performed, the little crystal fountain, together with a very small crystal glass was brought near, out of which all the Royal Persons one after another drank. Afterwards it was reached to us too, and so to all persons, and this was called, the Draught of Silence. Hereupon all the Royal Persons presented us their hands, declaring that in case we did not now stick to them, we should now and never more hereafter see them; which verily made our eyes run over. But our president engaged herself and promised very largely on our behalf, which gave them satisfaction.
This is the classic description of a mystery initiation and in particular, the final step that is required from each of us. There can be no evasion or equivocation. After such a deep commitment, there can only be silence. Indeed, to "be silent" is an injunction of the mysteries.
Meantime a little bell was tolled, at which all the Royal Persons waxed so mighty bleak, that we were ready utterly to despair. They quickly put off their white garments again, and put on entirely black ones. The whole hall likewise was hung about with black velvet, the floor was covered with black velvet, with which also the ceiling above (all this being before prepared) was over-spread. After that the tables were also removed away, and all had seated themselves round about upon the floor, and we also had put on black habits. Our president came again, as she had gone out, and brought with her six black taffeta scarves, with which she bound the eyes of the six Royal Personages. Now when they could no longer see, servants immediately brought in six covered coffins, and set them in the hall.
The little bell signals a complete change of circumstances. Blackness is brought about and the lower 6 psychic centres are shut down. By subtle implication, we are being told that at this stage, we cannot rely on anything that is familiar to us. We can only rely on our least used faculty - faith. Notice the 6 coffins. We must "die" to our lower self. We are coming now to the death and resurrection ritual familiar to Freemasons.
Also, a low black seat was placed in the midst. Finally, there steps in a very coal-black tall man, who bare in his hand a sharp ax. Now after that the old King who had been first brought to the seat had his head instantly whipped off, and wrapped up in black cloth, but the blood was received into a great golden goblet, and placed with him in this coffin that stood by, which once covered, was set aside. Thus it went with the rest also, so that I thought it would at length have come to me too, but it did not. For as soon as the six Royal Persons were beheaded, the black man went out again; after whom another followed, who beheaded him too just before the door, and brought back his head together with the ax, which were laid in a little chest. This indeed to me seemed a bloody Marriage, but because I could not tell what would yet be the event, I was fain for that time to captivate my understanding until I was further resolved.
There are 7 beheadings; 6 royal persons and the beheader himself. We must do more than shut down our psychic centres we must experience the horror of the Dark Night of the Soul. A bloody Marriage indeed.
For the Virgin too, seeing that some of us were faint-hearted and wept, bid us be content. For, she said to us, "The life of these standeth now in your hands, and in case you follow me, this death shall make many alive." Herewith she intimated we should go sleep, and trouble ourselves no further on our part, for they should be sure to have their due right. And so she bade us all good night, saying that she must watch this dead corps this night. We did so, and were each of us conducted by our pages into our lodgings. My page talked with me of sundry and various matters (which I still very well remember) and gave me cause enough to admire at his Understanding. But his intention was to lull me asleep, which at last I made to do, whereupon I made to go fast asleep, but no sleep came into my eyes, and I could not put the beheaded out of my mind.
The key to this scene is the virgin’s comment that this death shall make many alive. This is the mystery of the Resurrection. There is no point in thinking about it because logic will give us no answers. Like CRC, we must sleep on it and use our intuition.
Now my lodging was directly over against the great lake, so that I could well look upon it, the windows being nigh the bed. About midnight, as soon as it had struck twelve, on a sudden I saw on the lake a great fire, wherefore out of fear I quickly opened the window to see what would become of it. Then from far I saw seven ships making forward, which were all struck full of lights. Above on the top of each of them hovered a flame, that passed to and fro, and sometimes descended quite down, so that I could lightly judge that it must needs be the spirits of the beheaded. Now these ships gently approached to land, and each of them had no more than one mariner. As soon as they were now gotten to shore, I presently espied our Virgin with a torch going towards the ship, after whom the six covered coffins, together with the little chest, were carried, and each of them privily laid in a ship.
The lake is our consciousness of normal experience. The ships are vehicles of consciousness and the flames or spirits are even higher vehicles that infuse the ships. In kabalistic terms, the lake is the level of Action, the ships are the level of Formation and the flames are the level of Creation. This is corroborated by the numbers; 12 is associated with Action and 7 with Formation. The 6 coffins and (1) chest are placed on the ships so they can sail on the lake. Thus the contents of the coffins and chest correspond to our vehicle of consciousness, Body. The ships correspond to our vehicle of consciousness, Soul; and the flames or spirits correspond to our vehicle, Spirit. Beyond our vehicles is our true beingness, our Divine Spark.
Wherefore I awakened my page too, who hugely thanked me, for having run much up and down all the day, he might quite have overslept this, though he well knew it. Now as soon as the coffins were laid in the ships, all the lights were extinguished, and the six flames passed back together over the lake, so that there was no more but one light in each ship for a watch. There were also some hundreds of watchmen who had encamped themselves on the shore, and sent the Virgin back again into the castle, who carefully bolted all up again, so that I could well judge that there was nothing more to be done this night, but that we must expect the day; so we again betook ourselves to rest. And I only of all my company had a chamber towards the lake, and saw this, so that now I was also extreme weary, and so fell asleep in my manifold speculations.
It is easy to overlook that CRC awakens his page. He deliberately invokes the Spiritual Discipline of guidance. CRC has witnessed part of the mystery ritual of death and resurrection and significantly, he is the only one of all his companions. He falls asleep on this night before the wedding, the end of the Fourth Day. Let us pause and consider that it has taken 4 days for CRC to get to this point. What does it mean? A clue comes from the Masonic ritual where the candidate advances by a designated number of "regular steps". That is a cryptic reference to the 7 psychic centres. Here, CRC has advanced by 4 steps in that he has progressively rectified his 4 lower psychic centres. He has now paused at his Heart centre. This is related to Tiferet with all its implications. The wedding, a process involving higher centres, is yet to come. This is consistent with the alchemical elements (earth, water, fire, air) being related to the lower 4 centres and the 3 alchemical principles (Salt, Sulfur, Mercury), being related to the 3 higher centres. There is a qualitative difference between the elements and the principles. The elements are passive and the principles are active. The principles are masculine and the elements are feminine. The wedding unites them according to kosmic law.