The devil is an archetypal figure whose ancestry reaches back into antiquity. It relates to the 16th Hebrew letter, Ayin, and translates as “eye”. It has a relation to the 10th simple Hebrew letter and stands for mirth. It is connected to the twenty sixth path on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life which is called the Renovating or Renewing Intelligence.
The being depicted on the Tarot Card No.15 is Baphomet, the master of demons. It was not until Satan appeared in our Judeo-Christian culture that he began to assume more human characteristics and conduct his wicked activities in ways that humans could more readily understand. The devil’s image has become more humanized during the course of the centuries. The devil is a shadow aspect of ourselves, so we can’t blame some infernal demon for our own satanic underside; this is the truth about the devil.
It is usually through testing and trying out things the wrong way that we learn how to do things the right way. And so it is through the misuse of the body, that we learn the right use of the body or how to be righteous. (Card No. 6, The Lovers, shows the right use. If you ponder these two cards, you will notice the similarities in the positive and negative portrayal of the cards.)
The two beings on this card, “THE DEVIL”, are shown as half human and half animal. The horns, the hooves and the tails signify that they are living entirely in their animal nature. The man is being controlled entirely by his animal or sub-conscious sensations. That means he is under the control of the sensations of his body and that the body is dictating to him instead of him dictating to the body. The body is controlling the mind, and so he returns to an animal state because he is pandering to his sub-conscious appetites. His tail has the red of the Mars vibration indicating the sexual influence from the torch of the devil. This goes to show that when reason takes its cue from external appearances alone, then human consciousness, trapped in illusion and glamour, becomes both bestial and enslaved. The woman’s tail is in the shape of a bunch of grapes indicating that it is the purpose of the subconscious mind to bring to fruition the desires of the conscious mind.
All pain is a consequence of wrongdoing. Pain is not a punishment dealt out by some angry God. It is a consequence of your own acts brought upon by yourself. It comes as an opportunity for you to stop and look at yourself so that you can take a new step in your growth. That new step will probably include effort and self-discipline. So called evil is only the most radical tool of the Spirit, and it will come about when or where change is required, if the person concerned will not change voluntarily. And you can see an example of this in the Tower card.
A knife in itself is not an evil thing, it should be used for spreading bread; but it can also be used to kill someone. It all comes back to you. The devil is undisciplined. But the disciplined body will exalt you. This concept is also revealed in the type of Intelligence assigned to this card, the Renewing Intelligence. That which tempts you to use your body wrongly, opens the door to love and wisdom when you use it correctly. Man brings about his own spiritual evolution by his own efforts.
The letter Ayin means “the eye as an instrument of sight.” As your spiritual evolution proceeds, that is, as you walk the Return Path back to Source, you will shape finer and finer instruments to see with, until at last, you will not need any instrument at all, because you will begin to see without eyes. This is not so strange when you think that in your dreams you see without your physical eyes, and sometimes more vividly than with your physical eyes. To see without eyes means the development of the clairvoyant faculty. What you learn to see, of course, is the Primal Matter, the Prima Materia of the universe; that is, the electro-magnetic fluid of the universe from which all things are made.
To move out of the natural or earthly body into the supernatural body, which is just matter vibrating at a higher frequency, one needs to learn control of the element of earth; that is, one must begin on the lowest level first. The lowest level is the complete expression of the animal instincts, the flesh. This is the only means we have of self-realization at this level. And unless we utilize this expression fully, we will never be able to move out of it. We will be entrapped by its glamour. As long as we misunderstand this earthy elemental principle, we will not be able to use it to build better and better forms. Through the process of civilization, man learns to improve, refine and enlighten himself by transmuting his animal instincts into more creative avenues. The body, the flesh, is man’s means of liberation if he but learns how to control it.
In 1 Peter 3: 1, we read. “Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives.” Here we have a passage which has been much misunderstood, and we can begin to glean its meaning from the two Tarot cards, THE DEVIL and THE LOVERS. In both cards, we see a figure with wings; one a devil, the other an angel. The devil has the two animal-humans in chains (which could quite easily be removed by slipping the chains over their heads if you carefully look at the card.) but they are kept in bondage by their own senses.
In the card, THE LOVERS, the angel is blessing the humans standing below. The conscious mind (symbolized by the man) in the Lovers is not demanding sensation from the sub-conscious mind (symbolized by the woman) but offering itself in service to the superconscious mind (symbolized by the angel.) The subconscious mind is indicating the same position to the conscious mind. (the woman is in subjection to her husband) Here, she is powerful, beautiful and vital instead of helpless and deformed as depicted on THE DEVIL card. And this is exactly how it should be. Words like subconscious, conscious and superconscious were not known in biblical times, so an allegory using the male and female principles was used to illustrate the point.
Let us have a look at the symbolical meaning of this card. Here we have a creature similar to the Goat of Mendes the mythical creature created by Eliphas Levi to represent the great magical agent or astral light. The Goat of Mendes is identical to Baphomet, the mystic pantheos of the disciples of ceremonial black magic. It is said that Baphomet exists as the master of the demons. The bat wings are symbolical of the bat that flies at night; a time when man and his rational mind are asleep. This is the time that humans lie unprotected and open to all kinds of suggestions. The horns are those of a goat symbolizing the sign of Capricorn. The head has donkey ears, perhaps suggesting that humans will not listen to the voice of the higher forces but are still stubbornly entrenched in their own animal pleasures. Unfortunately most will choose gratification of the senses over the beginnings of spiritual awakening. The human part of the body is coarse and thickset suggesting that sin is always the absence of grace and beauty. The hand that is raised suggests that he is blessing their desire for physical sensation. The thighs are those of an animal indicating that it is the gratification of the animal desires that drives the two animal-humans forward. Between the thighs in the sexual centre is a serpent uncoiling, symbolizing the sex force. Instead of feet at the end of the legs, we see eagles claws. The eagle is the symbol of the upraised sex force, but as this is all there is of the eagle, it suggests sex used entirely for sensual pleasure.
Over the head of the devil is an inverted pentagram. The pentagram right way up symbolizes perfected man, the two lower points are the subconscious mind and the conscious mind working under the direction of the upper point, the superconscious mind. When the pentagram is inverted, it shows that the subconscious mind is in control; it shows man (Adam) falling into materiality, not as a punishment, as most presume, but as a means of learning the lessons of the flesh, in physical incarnation The man below the devil is living entirely in his subconscious mind, and although he may think he is consciously in control, he is gaining his sensations from the woman. He is using her solely for his pleasure. He is being incited by the devil who is holding a torch of the Mars vibration near his sexual centre to arouse his sexual desires. We can tell that this is the meaning because it does not light up the background; only the two figures in the front.
There would be no light at all if it were not for the torch inflaming the man’s desire. In this instance it is better to have coarse desire than no desire at all. Desire is the impetus used to push man forward. Sensation is only a quality in matter and it is the pull of sensation and its reflex in consciousness, desire, which produces rebirth. The black background in this instance means ignorance. By pandering to his sexual desires, the man has not only malformed himself but the female as well, as we can see by the body shapes. As he uses her to build himself up, he actually depletes her and we can see this in the way her face is turned away from his. She does not submit willingly.
Yet we must go through this stage to realize what we must not do. The half cube on which the devil sits is black indicating half knowledge or ignorance. A cube usually represents the physical world and the influence of the four elements. So, we have here a little knowledge, but knowledge in its darkest or earthy form, and ignorance of the higher spheres. Progress is the result of learning to overcome our limitations or obstacles that are set on our path, and there is no other power that can show us how to do this, but the power of the so-called devil. We cannot have positive desires until we learn by sore experience, that negative desires bring pain. We are the arena for the interplay of those two forces, and it is by learning to transmute evil into its opposite pole that we evolve. A great deal of humanity has not yet moved out of the Temple of Ignorance into the Temple of Learning, but each one who does, also helps his fellow man, and so the progress of humanity is assured. When one moves out of the Temple of Learning, one will then move onto the Temple of Wisdom.
As there can be no day without night, so can there be no good without evil, no yang without yin. No person has ever found God without first finding the devil. Sin is just separation from one’s Source. We all have to learn the right way by going the wrong way. We need to find some way to overcome the many obstacles that confront us. We learn through the bitter experience of trial and error. Only this painful perception can set our feet on the Pathway to Self Mastery.
I have given part explanation only of this pictograph on the THE DEVIL tarot trump to inform those who are sincerely searching for knowledge that there is much more to the tarot than meets the eye. This is the truth about the devil.