The Esotericon

Hermit - Teth

Carrying his lantern of inner illumination, this hieroglyph is the symbol of divine wisdom and the meditative reflection necessary in the gathering of this wisdom. The center of this wisdom resides in the balance that occurs when knowledge is correctly accumulated and assimilated so that all aspects of any particular issue are carefully contemplated and considered.

The name of the ninth character of the ancient alphabet is linked to the ninth hieroglyphic symbol of the Tarot. The original design of this character (pre-1200 B.C.) looks like this...

The ancient letter of Teyth

The ninth key of the Tarot is connected to the name of the ninth letter of the ancient alphabet. There is no single character that is the English equivalent for this letter. It is present in the modern Greek alphabet as the letter Theta. The word that represents this letter in the ancient alphabet is formed from the triliteral stem of Teth, Yod, and Tav, which is derived from the biliteral root of the letters Teth and Tav. This root has the most primitive meaning of “twist” – the etymology is quite obvious. From this basic meaning, the more common meanings of “serpent” and “hunger” are associated with the word. The meaning of “serpent” comes from the twisting of the snake, and the meaning of “hunger” comes from the twisting of the bowels.

The Hermit and Charon

Four versions of the Hermit trump of the Tarot de Marseille

One of the first noticeable features of this hieroglyph is the resemblance of the image to Charon the ferryman and his infamous lantern. This would be of high relevance, when one considers the transcendental nature of the mercurial essence and the labor of Charon in helping souls cross over the river Styx into the underworld. There is also a direct scientific corallary to the blood-brain barrier in the human body, whose cells actively transport metabolic products across the barrier from the blood stream into the cerebral spinal fluid. Once again, the ancient tales present analogies that directly demonstrate advanced scientific knowledge that has been woven into the mythology of antiquity.

The central nature of mercury's core essence is that of pure and unadulterated intellect. It is the frequency of logic and cognition. Its purest realm of study is epistemology with cosmology and ontology close behind. These realms are concerned with knowledge for knowledge's sake. It is this type of speculative study that allows for actual and substantial growth in the central energies of this mercurial center of the intellect.

Emotional neutrality and objective thinking are not only of highest importance in these realms, but can be thought of as absolutely essential to this region of intellectual and philosophical endeavor. This concept is expressed in the staff of the left hand of the central figure of this Tarot icon. The royal sceptre of power has evolved and grown into this mighty staff that is far larger and far more powerful. Also, because of its increased size and power, it no longer requires the superficiality of ostentatious displays of wealth or regal privilege, because its true power is intrinsic and needs not prove its worth to anyone. It is true power of logic that cannot be corrupted – it is the fortitude of pure reason.

The Rider-Waite Tarot does not deviate from the original design presented in the Noblet deck or any of the later variations of the Marseilles Tarot. In the accompanying text to the Rider-Waite Tarot, Waite says, “The variation from the conventional models in this card is only that the lamp is not enveloped partially in the mantle of its bearer, who blends the idea of the Ancient of Days with the Light of the World. It is a star which shines in the lantern. I have said that this is a card of attainment, and to extend this conception the figure is seen holding up his beacon on an eminence. Therefore the Hermit is not, as Court de Gebelin explained, a wise man in search of truth and justice; nor is he, as a later explanation proposes, an especial example of experience. His beacon intimates that "where I am, you also may be."

The Hermit of the Rider-Waite Tarot

It is further a card which is understood quite incorrectly when it is connected with the idea of occult isolation, as the protection of personal magnetism against admixture. This is one of the frivolous renderings which we owe to Éliphas Lévi. It has been adopted by the French Order of Martinism and some of us have heard a great deal of the Silent and Unknown Philosophy enveloped by his mantle from the knowledge of the profane. In true Martinism, the significance of the term Philosophe inconnu was of another order. It did not refer to the intended concealment of the Instituted Mysteries, much less of their substitutes, but – like the card itself – to the truth that the Divine Mysteries secure their own protection from those who are unprepared.”

One of the first interesting points brought up by Waite is the rejection of the ideal of “occult isolation.” It is this very idea that is the basic foundation of Hermeticism. It is the triliteral stem formed from the letters H, R, and M that forms the words hermit, Hermetic and Hermes. The meaning of "isolation" or "separation" to protect against admixture is even extended into modern day chemistry when the words hermetically sealed are used. To say that the very essence of the hermit does not represent this concept in any way seems to be a rather risky proposition to assert and subsequently defend against any type of debater – even one possessing only rudimentary skills. Why Waite would assert such a proposition is truly enigmatic, indeed.

There is, however, another bold statement that reinforces one of the basic theories proposed in this section, and that occurs in the last sentence of Waite's statements, which says, “the truth that the Divine Mysteries secure their own protection from those who are unprepared.” This statement backs up a point made elsewhere in this text and that is, “The only real secrets are those that keep themselves.”

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