The Mystical Journey Of the Soul
Students of the qabalistic tarot are familiar with the Tree of Life and its numerological and astrological correspondences to the tarot. These correspondences are based on specific arrangements of the Hebrew letters on the Tree. However, the Sepher Yetzirah, a centuries-old book of Jewish mysticism and one of the foundational texts of qabalah, describes a different map of the Hebrew letters. It assigns a direction and position to each letter, creating a cube. (See the handout.) When the appropriate tarot cards are placed in this arrangement, we have the Cube of Space. This model reveals a unique and astonishingly eloquent story of the evolution of the soul.
Exploring the tarot card positions and relationships can kindle years of study and meditation. But even learning the basics of this system can reveal deep insight not just into the symbols of the Major Arcana, but into our own spiritual journey. Where does your soul fit into this evolutionary progress?
You can watch a video version of this article at the Joy Vernon Astrology * Tarot * Reiki YouTube channel. Please scroll to the end of this article for more information, links, and handouts.
Translated to Tarot: Knut Stenring and Paul Foster Case
Tarot expert and BOTA founder Paul Foster Case, inspired by the work of Sepher Yetzirah translator Knut Stenring, applied the Major Arcana cards of the tarot to the Cube of Space.
It is likely his innovation to place the Fool, Hanged Man, and Judgment (the cards for the three Hebrew mother letters) as the x, y, and z axes of the Cube.
New Dimensions for the Cube of Space: David Allen Hulse
Esotericist and author David Allen Hulse (find his works here and here), after decades of study, writing, meditating, and working with the Cube of Space, uncovered the journey around and through it and the resulting story of spiritual evolution.
He realized that each face of the Cube is a degree or grade of spiritual development. Furthermore, the edges of each face are the tasks the seeker must accomplish. After completing these assignments, the student receives the initiation of the grade and advances to the next level.
The path around the Cube of Space follows the order of the seven traditional planets from slowest to fastest. Not only does this sequence logically start and conclude with the World card in the center, but it also outlines an infinity sign.
The Cycle of Evolution Begins and Ends with the World
The wreath around the dancer is shaped like the number 0, the Fool. As a circle (and for other esoteric reasons), it represents the Wheel. The figure-8 red ribbons at the top and bottom of the wreath are the lemniscate infinity signs. They indicate both the repeated cycles of birth and rebirth, as well as the ultimate ascension to the Infinite.
The Evolution of the Soul on the Cube of Space
The soul proceeds through seven grades of initiation as it follows the paths on the Cube of Space.
- 0. Preparation for Incarnation
- 1. Birth and Rebirth in the West
- 2. Quest in the North
- 3. Initiation in the South
- 4. The Student Becomes the Teacher in the East
- X. The Unnumbered Grade
- 5. The Master of Light
- 6. The Master of Darkness
- 7. Joining the Lower and Higher at the Center
Preparation: Descent into Personality
In preparation for its evolutionary journey, the soul descends from the realm of Godhead via the Above-Below axis (the Fool).
First, it stops at the Center (World), the point of the beginning and end of its journey, where it dons the mask of the personality it will wear in this lifetime.
It then proceeds along the East-West axis (the Hanged Man), the path of birth, to the West.
After completing the North face, the soul will pass via the narrow path of spiritual rebirth from North to South (Judgment).
The intersection of the three directional axes at the center is the both the starting and ending point. The beginning of the journey as well as the seventh and final initiation of total enlightenment.
Grade 1: Birth in the West
In the West face of the setting sun and eve of darkness, the individual is asleep to the spiritual plane. This Sleeper must endure repeated births and deaths until becoming aware of the spiritual nature.
The Wheel of Fortune represents the ongoing cycle of death and rebirth.
The Devil indicates the soul is bound in material existence unaware of its own spiritual life.
Death stops the soul from advancing until it feels remorse and compassion for humanity.
Temperance is the Holy Guardian Angel. Connection with the HGA is achieved when the soul becomes aware of and desires its spiritual nature.
Justice evaluates the honesty of the soul’s desire. If it is true, grants it the degree of the West face and allows it to advance to the North.
Grade 2: Quest in the North
The Sleeper, or sleeping soul, is now the Seeker. On the North face, the midnight direction of greatest darkness, the student is isolated, completely self-reliant with no community support.
Justice will now let the soul incarnate directly into the North-West edge of the Cube, no longer having to experience lifetimes born into the servitude to the material world.
Following the Hermit, the Seeker looks within, casting light into the darkest corners to rout out fears, preconceptions, and misconceptions.
The Emperor is a secret teacher, hidden to the student, who nevertheless watches over him and determines when he is ready to pass to the next level.
Strength represents the practices and techniques, including meditation, contemplation, and visualization, that the soul learns. The seeker performs these practices incorrectly or without result at this stage.
Eventually, the seeker has a powerful and personal mystical experience, symbolized by the Tower. He at last glimpses his higher self, and from that new perspective, the face of God. This experience sends him through the Narrow Path of Spiritual Rebirth, the Judgment card, through the Center (World) of the Cube, arriving at the South face.
Grade 3: Initiation in the South
The Seeker now becomes the Initiate. Whereas before he worked alone in darkness in the North, now he experiences the bright light of the noonday Sun in the South. There he meets teachers and friends, reveling in a supportive community. He becomes a member of a spiritual lodge, fraternal order, or mystery school.
The Sun is the light of wisdom from his teacher.
As the Moon, the student reflects that wisdom, climbing the long but ever rising path of study and knowledge.
Death from this perspective is no longer the cloak of forgetfulness. Instead it is the opening of memory of past lives and the knowledge gained there.
When the Initiate experiences the Star, which is the light that inspires his teacher, he finds the Divine within.
Then he is admitted to the Hierophant’s inner circle of the secret tradition where he learns directly from the teacher’s mouth the wisdom he will need as he becomes a teacher himself.
Grade 4: The Teacher in the East
No longer an acolyte to the Hierophant, the Initiate becomes the Teacher.
The Chariot’s wheels remind him that he values the repeated incarnations that help him achieve self-mastery. At this time, the Teacher formulates his own doctrines and teachings, expressed and documented in words, such as recordings or writings.
As the Emperor, watching over the Seekers in the North, the Teacher must be strict in his tests and stern in evaluating the students’ progress.
Eventually, as symbolized by the Lovers, the Teacher must make a choice between the Path of the Saint or the Ascent to Godhead.
If he chooses the Path of the Saint, he passes through the womb-door of the Empress to be reborn again in the West. Alternately, choosing the Path of Godhead opens the final step of the East side, the Empress, as the experience of Divine love. He then passes through the Lovers at East-Above to arrive at the Above face, the Magician.
Secret Grade of Saint/Messenger
Passing from the East via the Path of the Hanged Man, the soul is reborn in the West at the Wheel, this time through his own choosing.
In this lifetime the soul lives completely from the position of Temperance.
He helps those laboring under the unfair yoke of the Devil to experience compassion and see the hidden spiritual life so they can advance. On this path, the Devil holds no sway over him.
He reaches Death at the time of his choosing.
At that point he immediately advances to Grade 7 as an ascended master, the return to Center (World). As a disincarnate teacher, his spirit is available on the inner planes to all who seek his wisdom.
Grade 5: Master of Light
The grade Master of Light grants the height of all spiritual knowledge. In previous grades, the student walked step by step through the lessons of the edges of the face. Now above the vertical sides, the four lessons of the Lovers, Star, Temperance, and Strength are all realized simultaneously.
The Lovers teach sacred sexuality.
The Star endows permanent heightened awareness and a knowledge of astrology.
Temperance allows for continual communication with the spirit planes.
Strength embodies the Master with a charismatic personality combined with compassion for all sentient life that will draw students to the path of initiation.
Achieving the level of the Magician, the Master, through a perfectly focused mind united with a clear will, has the power to change the world.
Grade 6: Master of Darkness
Descending the Path of the Fool, the adept joins above and below, uniting the higher and lower selves. The Master of Darkness is initiated into the deepest and darkest mysteries.
The silence of the High Priestess allows the Master of Darkness to intuit the true nature of God, “which begins where human knowledge ends.”
Overcoming the Devil, the master now settles all karmic obligations.
The Moon opens the essence of lunar magic to the master. Natural magic, knowledge of how to work in harmony with the lunar cycles, and angelic language are realized.
The Charioteer teaches the Master of Darkness divination, number systems, and sacred alphabets. The Chariot, 7, allows the seven chakras to be fully opened and balanced, allowing the chariot of light to transport the soul throughout the universe during meditation.
The Hermit illuminates the hidden side of God, the revelation of secret wisdom.
Grade 7: Uniting Higher and Lower
The seventh initiation at the Center is the experience of total enlightenment. This intersection of the three axes is the inner sanctuary of the temple where the higher self comes face to face with God. The soul will no longer experience reincarnation.
The Fool now grants the Master cosmic consciousness.
The Hanged Man no longer provides the experience of repeated cycles of birth and death, instead indicating the completion of the Great Work.
The spiritual rebirth of Judgment is complete.
The World ultimately provides the reconciliation of above with below, resulting in the permanent union of the higher and lower selves.
The Fool (air), Hanged Man (water), and Judgment (fire), combine into the element earth in the World card, the temple beyond time and space.
The Infinity Paths of Evolution on the Cube of Space
The Primary Path of Evolution
The lemniscate outlining the primary path of evolution:
- from Center (World)
- proceeding to the West (Wheel)
- around to the North (Tower)
- through to the South (Sun)
- around to the East (Empress)
- and back to Center (World)
The West-North Infinity Path
The lemniscate outlining the Sleeper/Seeker path:
- from the center of the West face (Wheel)
- around the West edges (Devil, Death, Temperance, Justice)
- through the North edges (Justice, Hermit, Emperor, Strength)
- ending in the center of the North face (Tower)
The South-East Infinity Path
The lemniscate outlining the Initiate/Teacher path:
- from the center of the South face (Sun)
- around the South edges (Moon, Death, Star, Hierophant)
- through the East edges (Hierophant, Chariot, Emperor, Lovers)
- ending in the center of the East face (Empress)
The Infinity Paths Bounding the World
Elegantly, the two infinity paths, both the West to North infinity path and its corollary in the South and East, embrace the World card in a beautiful mirror of the red figure eight ribbons at the top and bottom of her encircling wreath.
The Inward and Outward Double Spiral
But that’s not all! There’s also an inward and outward double spiral from the top face to the bottom face. We start with the Lovers, circle around to the Star, then Temperance, Strength and in to the Magician at the center of the Above face. Next we descend via the Fool, coming out at the Below face at the High Priestess. The spiral continues around, touching in order: the Devil, the Moon, the Chariot, and the Hermit.
Keep in mind that the bottom face when looked at from different perspectives shows different orders of the cards. This is in alignment with the symbolism of the High Priestess, which corresponds to the luminary the moon, as being kind of a mirror. If you look from the perspective of Above, gazing into the Cube and down at the bottom face, you’ll see a different order than if you lift the cube up and look up at the Below face.
The Spiral Wands of the World
But where do we have that in the tarot? In the World card, the dancer holds a spiral wand in each hand, as illustrated in the Paul Foster Case BOTA version of the card.
One with the Infinite: Spiral Wand in Space
The morning of my presentation on the Cube of Space, I noticed an interesting headline in my inbox: Astronomers Spot Largest Rotation In The Universe.
I eagerly read the article. It reported that astronomers discovered that the filaments of the cosmic web rotated. They were looking at the universe on the grandest scale, in which there are great filaments made of galaxies, separated by giant voids. And they found that these long, thin cylinders of galaxies and matter, forming the vast cosmic filaments of the cosmic web, rotate on the scale of hundreds of millions of light-years.
As the early universe expanded outward from the Big Bang, and as galaxies began to form – the galaxies pulled themselves into these vast filaments, creating the cosmic web. The astronomers speculated that just like an twirling ice skater spins faster when she pulls in her arms and legs to a longer line, so as the long filaments stretched out they began to rotate.
The galaxies in the filaments funnel on corkscrew paths into the clusters at their ends. To me, the galaxies mirror the Above and Below faces of the Cube, while the filament reminds me of the corkscrew wands of the World card. As a result of mapping this, scientists discovered that the filaments themselves spin, the largest rotation in the Universe. We become one with the Infinite when we walk the paths of the Cube of Space.
“The Cube of Space: The Evolution of the Soul as Told by the Tarot” Video Version and Handouts
This material was first presented as a joint event for the Greater Seattle Tarot Meetup and the Denver Tarot Geeks. A video recording of that presentation is available on my YouTube Channel. The above article is not a transcription of the lecture. Instead, it consists of an edited version of my notes for the event.
The video contains additional material not included in the article above. Most importantly, it features an animated description of the construction of the Cube of Space, created and presented by John Michael Allen. Also, there is more commentary from me in the video version. I tended to stray from my notes!
Here are the handouts from the class: