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…Concerning thy Travellings in thy Body of Light or Astral journeys and Visions so-called do thou lay this Wisdom to thy Heart O my Son that in this Practice whether Things Seen and Heard be Truth and Reality or whether they be Phantoms in the Mind abideth this Supreme Magical Value namely: Whereas the Direction of such Journeys is consciously willed and determined by Reason and also unconsciously willed by the true Self since without It no Invocation were possible we have here a Cooperation of Alliance between the Inner and the Outer Self and thus an Accomplishment at least partial of the Great Work…” – Aleister Crowley ‘The Book of Wisdom or Folly’
‘The Sword & the Serpent’ follows the progress of the magician (in the person of Ankh-af-na-Khonsu) as he ascends through the astral planes that correspond to the Trumps of the Tarot and communicates with the spiritual beings, the bizarre, beautiful and sometimes horrific entities that exist upon the paths, to reveal the hidden natures of powerful occult symbols.
Crossing these Paths of the Serpent is a spiritual pilgrimage for the new age taking the traveller not to a place in the world but to a place in himself where the mystery of his being is revealed piecemeal in the procession of the Passion of the Aeon of Horus.
The Tarot Trumps are central symbols in the Hermetic system of ceremonial magick and the symbols that they employ tie together a wide variety of spiritual schools into one cohesive scheme. The twenty-two Tarot Atus represent universal principals of human consciousness but even these seminal occult symbols are only a façade for the spiritual perception which they symbolize. The visions of these paths are the personal experience of those spiritual perceptions in increasingly finer and more essential steps.
In the Golden Dawn system of magick each of the twenty-two Tarot Trumps also corresponds to one of the paths representing the essential spiritual energy that is expressed by the individual paths. The nature of these paths is determined by the numbers which they connect in the intricate pattern of the tree of Life giving each path an individual yet connected interpretation and taken together they represent a holistic image of self awareness. The Golden Dawn (and later Crowley’s A. A.) presented the path of initiation as the incremental progress from the bottom number on the Tree of Life to the completion of the Great Work in the Unity of the Crown. This made the importance of the paths in the process of initiation patently obvious and the Golden Dawn Novice level initiations concentrated on making symbolic crossings of these paths to invoke the level of self awareness that they represent.
The journeys collectively represent the entire path of initiation into the mysteries of Hermetic Magick and the secrets of the Sepher Yetzirah (the ancient ‘Book of Formation’) perhaps the most important and influential text of early kabbalah.