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The Symbolism of the Ninth Gate

The Ninth Gate is a film by the well known director, Roman Polanski. It is billed as a raising
the devil movie (as opposed to simply raising Cain). For example, the DVD's cover includes
such quotes as:

"The only thing more terrifying than searching for the Devil... is finding him."

"Johnny Depp goes head to head with Lucifer in Roman Polanski's new thriller!"

"Johnny Depp unlocks the gates to hell in Roman Polanski's newest thriller. Depp stars as
Dean Corso, an unscrupulous rare-book dealer who is hired to locate the remaining copies of
'The Nine Gates of the Shadow Kingdom,' a demonic manuscript that can summon the Devil.
Corso becomes embroiled in a conspiracy involving murder, theft and satanic ritual, and
ultimately finds himself confronting the devil incarnate."

Wow! That sounds pretty scary. Sort of like playing with fire and getting burnt (pardon the


Within the community of true disciples seeking enlightenment, there is a well established
tradition or standard whereby profound truths are clothed in apparently scary stuff -- what
might otherwise be described as a sheep in wolf's clothing. The gist of the technique is that
only those with the courage, understanding, ability to discriminate or see beyond the facade
can be allowed the opportunity to discover the esoteric ("for the few") truths. For anyone else
there are only left-overs, the exoteric ("for the many") apparent truths. The key factor here is
that the spiritual path is only destined for those who are willing to pay attention to the man
behind the curtain (a reference to the Wizard of Oz, another movie with hidden truths). That
is, instead of simply blindly following the path of the Willfully Ignorant.

Accordingly, an unwillingness to look beyond the cover of a book simply because its subject
matter appears to be unsavory can lead to a condition where important truths can be
overlooked. Admittedly, there are probably few esoteric truths to be uncovered in a movie like
Chucky battles Jason in Halloween 666. (And I apologize to everyone if I've inadvertently
given some demented soul the idea for a title of just such a movie.) But well-established
actors such as Johnny Depp and Frank Lagrella, and their appearance in a movie might
motivate one to revisit the movie/book and take a deeper look.

For example, is it possible, a Johnny Depp fan might ask, that Roman Polanski's The Ninth
Gate is far more than it seems? The book, The Dumas Club by Arturo Perez-Reverte, the
original engravings by Francisco Sole, and the screenplay by Enrique Urbizu, Roman
Polanski, and John Brownjohn all certainly provide for "an irresistible Gothic thriller." But is
there more in the movie than what might appear at first glance?

Well obviously there is, or why else would the question have been asked! Duh!

On the one hand, Philip Coppens' article "The Ninth Gate Opens" does constitute an excellent
treatise in providing what might be termed the exoteric interpretation of the movie (and
book). His relatively brief article is well worth reading... we'll wait here for your return.

Back already? Well then... Now that you're somewhat intrigued by the possible depth of The
Ninth Gate, consider just a few comments by Mr. Coggen. For example,

"Lucifer is said to be... quoted in the Corpus Hermeticum. Whereas... "the Hermeticum
could not be further removed from demon worship." [emphasis added]

"Aristide Torchia, though fictional [supposedly the author of the 'The Nine Doors to the
Kingdom of Shadows', written in 1666], is created from the life of Giordano Bruno."

There is no evidence the historical figure, Giordano Bruno, ever attempted to summon the
devil, but nevertheless he was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church. But instead of his
charred remains representing a blot upon his character, his death at the hands of the Catholic
Church places Bruno in the best of company. One might surmise that upon his arrival at the
pearly gates, the guardians thereof almost certainly exclaimed, "What? You were burned by
the Catholics? Then welcome honored guest! Such a distinction can only add to your glory.
Quickly, bring out the fatted calf, notify the heavely caterers of a great feast, and don't forget
to inform the dancing girls that there services will be once again in demand!"

But I digress.
Another, far more intriguing essay on the hidden merits of The Ninth Gate has been written
by Laurel Whitney, and her essay is the primary content of the ten pages (being posted here
with her kind permission). Ms. Whitney does an astounding job of relating the contents of the
movie and the book to the Qabala, The Tree of Life, and to the general contents of this
website. By analyzing the movie in considerable detail, she shows that Roman Polanski's
movie is sufficiently filled with symbolism and otherwise apparently insignificant detail, that
it's almost certainly intended as such. The profound truths that seem to be lurking in The
Ninth Gate can almost certainly have been intended by all of the creators of the book and

An example of such underlying meanings -- which is my responsibility and not Ms. Whitney's
-- is the tendency to think of Johnny Depp's character (Corso) as intially shallow and self-
serving, and by the moral standards of today, something to be avoided. However...

In the movie, it is apparent that Corso lives in a relatively sparse apartment (decorated for the
most part with primarily books, in effect his stock in trade). Other than his briefcase which he
is never without, he has no affiliations, relationships (other than business), and is quite
literally unattached. His interest is not in having friends, but as he points out to a bookstore
owner, but in his "percentage". One can assume, therefore, that he has no particular baggage
which might hinder his quest. Losing the baggage is in fact considered one of the prime
requirements for anyone seeking enlightenment.

Baggage, it should be emphasized, is more than just stuff. Baggage might also be construed as
emotional baggage (a failure to get ye over it), societal baggage (doing what is politically
correct, i.e. not being shallow and self-serving), and paradigm baggage (the possible inability
to see beyond one's current understanding of reality, and at the same time a possible
unwillingness to allow radical change to occur in one's view of the world). One can hardly
expect success on their Fool's Journey or Hero's Journey with any of the limitations imposed
by Baggage (with a capital "B")!

In the movie, the character played by Johnny Depp, Lucas Corso, has apparently rid himself
of the societal baggage of doing only what is correct, i.e. not being shallow and self-serving.
Corso also shows no indication of having or having had any close personal relationships, and
in fact seems to be content to have sexual relations with anyone as the opportunity arises. His
paradigm baggage is also apparently minimal in that revelations [pardon the pun] do not seem
to dissuade him from his pursuit. Corso is, in effect, the epitome of The Fool, and like the
Fool on his Journey, he carries only his sachel, and is otherwise pretty much oblivious to all
the warnings of what might happen if one does not follow the straight and narrow.
It must be suggested here that someone's eagerness to please others is NOT a good sign for a
person entering upon a quest to reach a higher level of existence. Instead, there has to be a
willingness on the part of the initiate to do whatever is necessary to reach his or her goal --
and "to hell with what anyone else thinks!" (Again, pardon the pun.) The true "Hero's
Journey" is not about being a nice guy, a good provider, or a pillar of society. (Pillars, after
all, are singularly inept at traveling.) One can take the path of The Fool, but where it is
understood that no one expects the Fool to make a positive contribution to society. This
therefore allows the Fool to be shallow -- by definition -- as well as self-serving, if only
because the Fool is forgiven for all such transgressions inasmuch as, well... he's a "fool".

Keep in mind also that certain authorities have attempted to incarcerate Roman Polanski for
allegedly having sex with an underage female -- the latter whom may or may not have
initially been a willing participant. If one assumes that consensual sex is okay, and
furthermore that no one was harmed, then it's difficult to see a crime. [The caveat, of course,
involved the female who was considerably underage, even if she may have looked the part.]
Accordingly, the seeming contempt by the movie's "hero", Corso, of certain societal mores
may have been intentional in the movie as a means of Polanski's own apparent contempt .
Polanski may in fact have a better understanding of truth than we might have imagined.


Roman Polanski's Journey Beyond Evil
Light Shines in Polanski's Darkness
In the first scene of the film "The Ninth Gate", an older, very wealthy and cultured gentleman
calmly commits suicide by hanging himself from the chandelier in his tastefully appointed
library full of priceless rare books. Once his feet have stopped twitching, the camera pans
across the shelves behind him to a vacant spot where one book is missing. As we later
discover, that book is "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows", a 17th century grimoire
(1666 to be precise), said to have been co-authored by the Devil himself. Over the course of
the film, five more people will suffer violent deaths because of their associations with this
infamous book.
Three of these victims are self-described Satanists: the first, a crippled German baroness and
best-selling author on the subject of the Devil, is strangled in her wheelchair and her famous
library of satanic books set ablaze; another, a beautiful, iron-willed, sex-exploiting vamp,
nude under her hooded black robe, is choked with her own pentacle necklace while
conducting a fire-lit, group Satanic ritual at her secluded French chateau. The final victim, a
billionaire business mogul, collector of occult books, and cold-blooded serial murderer, burns
himself alive in a deserted Cathar castle while performing a ritual which he is convinced will
summon the Devil.
Now, try to imagine for a moment reading this brief outline of the setting for a horror/murder
mystery film, and thinking to yourself "Wow! This would be the perfect vehicle to introduce
the general public to the principles of one of the world's great traditional spiritual teachings,
the Qabalah's Tree of Life!" Personally, I still can't quite imagine how that particular chain of
thought ever came together, (even the esteemed author of the book on which the screenplay
was based wasn't quite *that* ambitious, although he did start the ball rolling by
commissioning the series of nine symbolic engravings which appear in "the Devil's book",
whose symbols tell the story of the journey on the Tree). But however far-fetched this idea
may seem, the film's co-writer and director, Roman Polanski, didn't just think it, he actually
pulled it off.
When it comes to popular films with "spiritual" themes, it's impossible not to think of the
most recent, high-profile example, the one in which a zealously pious director presented
traditional religious imagery in what many felt was a psychologically disturbing, obsessively
sadistic, ugly and dispiriting way to deliver a message which was widely perceived to be
controversial, religiously polarizing and divisive. The contrast between this and Polanski's
film could hardly be greater or more ironic.
"The Ninth Gate", despite the dark reputation of its director, is a quirky, unassuming but
genuinely redemptive, non-denominational morality play in which almost all the parts are
played by evil "satanists" and one enigmatic character in particular is widely speculated to be
Lucifer "herself". Polanski's surprising twist of using over-the-top, murderous devil-
worshippers in an almost tongue-in-cheek way to illustrate a message of genuine, non-
sectarian spiritual hope, definitely makes for a refreshing change. In fact, I can't think of a
film that more richly deserves to develop a wide-spread, intelligent cult following. The only
element missing up to now has been a publicly accessible key to the mysterious, unexplained
symbolism of the engravings which appear in the film's infamous book, which is why I
decided to write this article.
Two Hidden Keys to 'The Nine Gates'
I saw the film 'The Ninth Gate' the first time mostly because Johnny Depp was in it and he can
usually be relied on to pick interesting projects. The engravings intrigued me, but until I
began to look seriously at their symbolism, I had no idea of how highly unusual the film
actually is. In my opinion it's one of a kind because it has done something that no other movie
that I'm aware of has attempted. Although the Tarot's Hanged Man, Hermit, Death and the
Fool were easy to recognize, other symbols in the series of engravings were more elusive and
as I began the process of interpreting them, I wasn't sure how deep the symbolism would go
or how internally consistent it would be. What I discovered went far beyond anything I had
What the designer of the engravings has actually done is to use a mixture of symbols taken
from the Tarot and the Qabalah's Tree of Life to describe key transition points on the journey
of spiritual evolution 'up' the Tree, beginning at the bottom with ego consciousness, making
the crossing at the middle of the Tree into the realm of Soul to achieve the union of ego with
Soul, and culminating at the top of the Tree with the wedding of Soul to Spirit and the
opening of the 'Ninth Gate'. In order to understand the meaning of the engravings, we must
begin to become familiar with the two occult "keys" to their symbolism: the diagram of the
Qabalah's great teaching of spiritual synthesis, the Tree of Life, and the meaning of a half
dozen or so symbolic figures taken from the Greater Trumps [the Major Arcana] of the Tarot
which are traditionally assigned to describe the nature of certain "paths" on the Tree.
Two Sets of Gates, The Choice: Light or Fire?
The film tells us there are three copies of the book "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of
Shadows", and that each book contains nine engravings, each engraving representing one of
the nine gates. But as Johnny Depp's character Corso discovers, the engravings which appear
in the three books are not all identical. In each book, six engravings are initialed "AT" for the
book's author, Aristide Torchia, and three engravings are initialed "LCF" for "Lucifer", widely
speculated to be the "co-author" of the book. All of the AT engravings are identical, but the
LCF engravings contain small variations in the symbolism which greatly change the meaning
of the scenes depicted. And because the engravings which are initialed LCF vary from book
to book, all three books are necessary to obtain a full set of LCF engravings describing all
nine gates.
In order to illustrate the meaning of the variations in the symbolism of the engravings, the
film has us follow along on the adventures of two main characters. The first, rare book dealer
Corso, starts out as a paid agent of his employer, Balkan, but with the help of an enigmatic
character known only as "the girl", Corso manages to make the true journey which is depicted
in the LCF engravings -- a journey from ordinary ego consciousness all the way to ultimate
enlightenment and an experience of the world in the form which is symbolized in the Book of
Revelation as 'The New Jerusalem'. This ultimate destination which the traveler through the
LCF gates reaches is symbolically represented in the film's final scene in which Corso walks
into a castle blazing with Light.
There is a clear correlation between the order in which we see the engravings in the course of
the film and the progress which Corso is making on his journey up the Tree (through the
gates). The modifications which Roman Polanski and his fellow screenwriters made to the
plot taken from the book are completely consistent with the symbolism of the journey
depicted in the engravings, so much so that it can only have been intentional.
The second main character, Boris Balkan, is a business tycoon and lecturer on occult subjects
who has dedicated his life to pursuing wealth and power and has assembled the world's
largest collection of books on satanism and the Devil. After managing to gain possession of
one of the three copies of "The Nine Gates", he tries to use it to perform a ritual which he
believes will "summon the Devil" and who will then grant him unlimited wealth and power.
When his ritual doesn't work, he suspects forgery and hires Corso to track down the other two
copies of the book.
When Balkan finds out from Corso about the LCF variations, he begins secretly shadowing
Corso, ruthlessly murders the other books' owners and steals the remaining six LCF
engravings from their books which he believes will allow him to conduct a successful ritual.
Finally in possession of all nine of the LCF engravings, Balkan travels to an abandoned castle
apparently identical to the one depicted in the engraving for the Ninth Gate, surrounds
himself with a circle of fire, lays out the nine engravings in an order of his own devising and
conducts a ritual in which he recites his interpretation of the meaning of the engravings.
Confident of his success, he sets himself on fire to demonstrate his invincibility and instead
burns to death (or he would have if Corso hadn't finally shot him as an act of mercy). When
Corso later asks the girl why Balkan didn't succeed, she says it was because his LCF
engraving of the Ninth Gate (depicting the castle in flames) was a forgery. But is it really as
simple as that? As we will see, the journey which Balkan made *in real life* followed the
path described in the AT version of the engravings, and the path through the nine AT gates
leads inevitably not to Light but to fire.
'Mumbo-Jumbo', Ritual, or Walking the Walk
Judging from ongoing comments to the boards for this film at the Internet Movie Database
(IMDb) website, there seem to be two different opinions about exactly what was necessary in
order to 'pass through' the nine gates. Some, like Balkan, believe that all that was required
was to possess the original nine engravings initialed by LCF, to place them in a particular
order, and recite some words. I believe that to look at it in this way is to confuse the map with
the territory and to risk falling into the category of 'mumbo-jumbo'.
The engravings describe two possible paths which must be followed *in real life*, each path
leading to radically different experiences and endpoints. There are scenes in the movie which
physically mimic the symbolism of the engravings, like the scene of Bernie the book-seller's
body hanging in the pose of the Tarot's "Hanged Man" as shown in the engraving for the Sixth
Gate, and the resemblances between some of the characters in the engravings and real people
Corso encounters on his journey. I believe these were included to give viewers the clue that
the journey depicted in the engravings was also happening in the lives of the movie's main
characters. But since the journey up the Tree is one of internal spiritual evolution (in Corso's
case) or the lack of it (in Balkan's), depicting it outwardly would be difficult to impossible
except through the use of such periodic, symbolic clues. Not every engraving is illustrated in
this literal, visual way.
For some, symbolic rituals performed as part of a spiritual path may help to focus the mind,
but they are certainly not required. The engravings may be valuable in their function as maps,
but you still have to make the journey. In the movie, Corso is the one who successfully
completes the journey because he enters into partnership with 'the girl' who helps him to
follow the path which is symbolized by the LCF variations of the engravings. Balkan, the so-
called 'black magician', refuses to make the journey beyond ego-dominance and tries to use
the energies of the Tree to serve the desires and power drives of his own ego.
Balkan's path is symbolized by the AT variations of the engravings and it ends in exactly the
kind of fiery destruction which the collective ego consciousness of our time is now trying to
convince us is also our 'fate': Armageddon, 'the end of the world'. But as the LCF engraving
of the Fourth Gate illustrates, "Fate is not the same for all" and for those who devote
themselves to the real-life 'journey up the Tree' described by the LCF version of the
engravings, the ultimate fruit of the Quest is nothing less than personal transformation and
the experience of the world from the perspective of the Higher Self, as depicted in the
genuine Ninth Gate's symbol of 'The New Jerusalem'. [emphasis added]
LCF vs. The Devil -- A Case of Mistaken Identity
The movie's characters all seem to agree that the purpose of the combined content of all of the
LCF engravings is 'to raise the Devil'. Most of them (with the exception of Corso) take this to
mean that the engravings are to be used to construct a ritual at the end of which a supernatural
entity representing the force of evil in the world will appear (Poof!) and grant the one
performing the ritual special powers. The main problem with this is that the symbolism of the
engravings doesn't support that idea at all, but instead suggests an entirely different
interpretation of the phrase 'to raise the Devil'. The symbolism used actually impressed me
very much. I believe that either the illustrator was a serious student or initiate of a mystery
tradition himself or he must have worked in close collaboration with someone who was. The
way in which director Roman Polanski and his fellow screenwriters integrated the meaning of
the engravings into his vision of the plot of the movie is also impressive and is the subject of
Section VIII of this article, "The Polanski Code".
The most interesting twist with the engravings is that it is the variations bearing the initials
LCF which actually represent stages in the development of the very positive internal spiritual
state which leads to the experience depicted in the genuine LCF engraving of the Ninth Gate,
the encounter with Light. This confirms to me that, despite what any of the movie characters
might believe, LCF stands for 'Lucifer, the Light-Bearer', a symbolic figure representing a
non-dual, spiritual-evolutionary force which is separate and distinct in its nature and function
from our current popular conception of the degenerate symbolic figure of evil, 'the Devil' or
The Journey Beyond 'Evil' -- All Climbers Welcome
In Torchia's AT version of the engravings, small symbolic variations describe a path which
has only one final destination, an ultimate dissolution/destruction of the same nature as the
destruction of the body by fire which Torchia himself suffered. If you take the time to explore
the symbolism of the engravings, I believe it will be clear that although Balkan 'possessed'
almost all of the necessary LCF symbols, his pre-existing mindset made it impossible for him
to gain a true understanding of the meaning of the symbolism and so he made no effort to
align himself spiritually with the variations depicted in the LCF engravings. His internal state,
in fact, corresponded exactly to the symbolism of the Torchia version, so that even if he had
possessed the genuine ninth engraving, his unevolved internal spiritual state would still have
condemned him to suffer the same destructive result.
The lesson is that in the determination of 'fate', it is the nature of the internal spiritual state
which is the deciding factor, and the nature of your own internal spiritual state is entirely up
to you and the life choices which you make. To follow Corso's successful path, at some point
it is necessary to forge an alliance with your own best understanding of a Higher Power, a
benevolent spiritual guiding force which can help, inspire, and challenge you to grow beyond
ego consciousness and align yourself with the greater purpose, power and harmony of your
own Soul. (This is the real-life equivalent of the guiding and protective function which "the
girl" provides to Corso in the film. For an analysis of her enigmatic nature and ultimate
identity, see my response to the first reader's comment in the Commentary section of this
Every religious tradition has its own language to describe this same process of spiritual
evolution in different ways and those who have completed the journey, no matter what
tradition they followed, have been unanimous in recognizing that all paths 'up the mountain'
lead to the same 'Peak'. This is easy to see when you're looking 'down', but much less obvious
from the ego's perspective at the very base of the mountain. The 'path of return' of the Tree of
Life is one traditional way up this same symbolic mountain.
The major problems come in the earliest stage of the journey in the case of those who don't
progress beyond the perspective of ego and expend their energies not in completing their own
journey, but in declaring that those who are following all of the other paths up the mountain
are 'evil', making war on them, and trying to stamp them out. From the perspective of ego
consciousness, the symbolic figure of 'the Devil' is identified with anyone-who-doesn't-
believe-exactly-what-I-believe, and for this reason, it is in the realm of ego consciousness, the
realm of the lower mind at the base of the mountain, where the concept of 'the Devil' finds its
ultimate playground.
This is why the teachings of Jesus the Christ, for example, require disciples first and foremost
to love one another, to love their neighbors as themselves, to judge not lest they be judged, to
love and forgive even their 'enemies' and to remove first the 'beam' in their own eye before
presuming to remove the 'speck' in their brother's eye. At the top of the mountain, in the realm
of Spirit/Soul, the divisive concept of "the Devil" has no power. The realm of the domination
of the ego-mind is finally left behind in the passage through the Sixth Gate, and as we will see
in the analysis of the Ninth Gate, it is this very lower ego-mind which the Apocalypse of St.
John rightly identifies with the destructive nature of 'the Beast' and the number 666.
Where's That '100th Monkey'?
The analysis of the symbolism contained in the engravings and in the plot of the movie is not
a simple subject, and I originally took on this challenge because of my own fairly obsessive
curiosity and for my own use. But since it seems clear to me that the world as most of us
know it is currently at risk of being destroyed by the raging desires and fears of a collective
ego consciousness which is long overdue to be brought into balance under the guidance of the
wisdom consciousness of the Soul, and since this essential transition can only happen if each
one of us makes his/her own journey individually, I thought it would be worth the effort to try
to describe, in the simplest possible way, what the journey represented by the symbols in the
engravings is all about (for those who are not familiar with it). As some of you reading this
will know, there are a great many people in this world who have already quietly and
unobtrusively completed the journey which the engravings symbolically describe, and their
numbers will only increase with time. No membership in any 'secret' organization is required,
only the desire for a better life and a better world and the will to achieve both by working on
yourself to become a better person.
Once this work is begun in earnest, the spiritual development which follows is an entirely
natural and spontaneous evolutionary process, and the more people who make the trip, the
easier it becomes for others to follow. You may have heard of the famous case of the group of
monkeys on one island who learned that washing their sweet potatoes in the ocean made them
taste better. Soon all of the monkeys on the island copied their example and started washing
their potatoes and at a certain point, called the 'tipping point', enough monkeys had adopted
this behavior that monkeys on another island, who had no contact with the original monkeys,
suddenly started washing their potatoes too. The lesson is that there is a level at which
consciousness is collective, and when that '100th monkey' (as this syndrome is called) makes
the transition to a new standard of behavior, everybody else evolves right along with him. As
a perennial optimist, I'd like to dedicate this article to that potential '100th monkey' who may
be reading this sentence right now.


The Frontispiece Engraving -- The Serpent on the Tree
The fictitious book in the film is called 'The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows' and it
would probably be helpful to know right from the start that the journey depicted in the
engravings *begins* in the 'Kingdom of Shadows', which is how many people now perceive
this world, and the 'nine gates' are passed through on the journey *out* of the Kingdom of
Shadows. Most of the owners and pursuers of the book never understand this and in fact
believe exactly the opposite, and it is this mindset which is at least partly responsible for
drawing to them their various gruesome fates.
The Frontispiece engraving of the book shows a tree being struck by lightning which causes a
portion of the tree to fall, while a snake with its tail in its mouth winds itself around the base
of the tree. Those who are familiar with the basic teachings of the Qabalah will recognize this
as a reference to the qabalistic diagram called the Tree of Life. The diagram of the Tree is
made up of ten circular centers referred to as a sephira (singular) or sephiroth (plural). These
are connected by 22 paths, each path corresponding to one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew
alphabet and one of the 22 Trumps of the Tarot's Major Arcana.
Each sephira on the Tree is related to a state of human consciousness and the film's nine
'gates' correspond to specific points of transition which the individual traveler encounters on
his journey of evolving consciousness 'up the Tree'. He will 'climb' from a state of minimal
ego awareness at the very bottom of the Tree and ultimately reach the realm of Spirit and the
vision of Light at the very top of the Tree, which is the opening of the Ninth Gate. A thorough
study of this diagram and navigation of the experienced realities which the symbols of the
Tree of Life represent might be the work of many lifetimes, but it is possible to touch the high
points which are represented in the engravings of the Nine Gates and get a general idea of the
territory and the journey.
To help in visualizing the paths which the traveler of the engravings takes as he climbs the
Tree of Life, a [more or less traditional] diagram of the Tree with the names of the ten
sephiroth and the names of the Hebrew letters which are assigned to the paths can be viewed
at [Editor's note: It might
be worthwhile to print out this description of the Tree of life for use in reading this essay.]
Also, as you read the interpretations of each of the Nine Gates, you might be 'mentally
pronouncing' the names of the ten sephiroth many times and if you would like to pronounce
them correctly, Appendix P contains a pronunciation guide.
The Hebrew and Greek Letters & The 'Number of the Beast'
There is a long tradition in Tarot of correlating individual cards with the meaning of Hebrew
and Greek letters, each letter having a corresponding numerical value. In the descriptions for
each gate, rather than reproducing the Hebrew and Greek letters which appear at the top of
each engraving, I have spelled out the names of the letters instead. It's important to note that
while the 22 Hebrew letters are assigned to the paths between the sephiroth on the Tree, the
Hebrew letters that appear at the top of the engravings do not refer to the paths. The symbols
shown are simply the first 9 letters of each alphabet in sequence except for the Greek where a
substitution has been made in the letter representing the number 6.
According to the Cornell University Epigraphy Project
numcode.html, in order to construct a complete numerical system from Greek letters, 27
letters were required: nine letters for the single units 1-9, nine letters for the 'teens', and nine
for the hundreds. Because there were only 24 letters in the Greek alphabet at the time, three
obsolete letters were reinstated, including a letter variously called 'digamma' or 'stigma' to
represent the number 6.
The form of this letter (which we will call 'stigma') begins with a variant lower case form of
sigma (with a snakelike "S" shape) which is used only at the end of a word. This variant form
of sigma was modified by adding an extended, horizontal rather than curved 'cap' which is
taken from the top of the letter 'tau'. So the letter representing 6, called 'stigma', is a composite
of the variant form of sigma (bottom) and the form of tau (top). The regular, non-variant
lower case form of sigma (roughly circular with a 'cowlick') has the value of 200.
The Greek letter which appears on the engraving for the Sixth Gate is the snakelike, lower
case form of sigma which is used only at the end of a word, with its curved top unmodified.
Although there is a table at Wikipedia which shows this symbol as representing 6, it appears
this is a misidentification based on a confusion between the similar forms of 'sigma' and
'stigma'. I have found no other reference which identifies the unmodified variant form of
'sigma' with any official numerical value.
If this letter form of sigma has no 'official' numerical value, the only number associated with
it would be 18, since it is the eighteenth letter of the existing Greek alphabet. In terms of
numerology, the number 18 can be represented as 1 + 8 = 9, or more provocatively, 6 + 6 + 6
= 18. This is not the technical equivalent of 'the number of the Beast' which in gematria is 'six
hundred sixty-six', but I think it can legitimately be seen as a reference to it. We will have
more to say about this when we come to the analysis of the symbolism of the Ninth Gate.
There we may discover not only why Greek letters were prominently featured on the
engravings, but also why attention may have deliberately been called to this particular
variation of the Greek letter sequence which appears on the engraving for the Sixth Gate
showing the symbol of the Hanged Man.
With these preliminaries established, we now begin the symbolic journey of the 'Path of
Return' or the 'Path of the Serpent', from the lowest point on the Tree of Life in the realm of
ego, to the highest point in the Realm of Spirit, a journey which begins with the opening of
Aleph (Ox) = 1st Hebrew letter * Roman Numeral I * Alpha = 1st Greek letter
In the book version of the engraving, the caption is:
Literal Translation: "No one attains who unlawfully contends"
Book Translation: "Only he who has fought according to the rules will succeed"
The engraving shows a mounted knight with his right index finger to his lips making the sign
for "Silence". He is riding towards a castle which has three towers.
This is the LCF Version [In the two AT engravings, the castle has 4 towers]
In the movie version, the caption is:
Silence is Golden
Beginning with the symbols which remain the same between the two versions, we have a
knight, which suggests the idea that he is on a quest and perhaps also suggests all of the high
moral qualities and determination to prevail which we associate with ideal knighthood. He is
riding a horse which brings in the symbol of the helpful animal or being in touch with one's
instinctive, intuitive sense which, in case you get lost, 'knows the way home'. The knight is
approaching a castle, which is often a symbol of the location of a treasure which the castle
walls protect.
He has large feather plumes on his helmet, apparently ostrich plumes, which in the symbolism
of heraldry represent obedience and serenity. A similar feather appears in the headgear of The
Fool in some versions of the Tarot. The ostrich plume was also the feather of the Egyptian
goddess Ma'at, associated with justice and truth. In the underworld, Ma'at would weigh the
deceased's heart in her scales against this feather, and only the heart which was unburdened
by the weight of worldly sin would escape being devoured by the crocodile-headed Ammit.
The variation in the engraving in terms of the number of the castle's towers directs our
attention to the difference in symbolic meaning between the numbers three and four. The
classical distinction is between the transcendent or spiritual level of reality and the material or
mundane level. Divinity is often expressed as a trinity, the Holy Trinity, the Triple Goddess,
and in the Tree of Life symbol, the first three sephiroth or centers of energy at the top of the
tree (the Supernal Triad). The latter represents the Transcendent Source from which all of
Creation is born, and the fourth sephira/center, just below it, is the first manifest, incarnate,
human-level expression of that Source energy.
The number four reflects the qualities of the created world: the four directions, the four
seasons, and the four classical 'elements': fire, air, water, earth. There are also four dimensions
to everything that we are capable of experiencing in the material world: the three spatial
directions (length, width and height) plus time. In the LCF version of the First Gate, the
knight rides towards a castle with three towers which is a symbolic indication that the treasure
which he seeks is not a mundane, material treasure, but a transcendent, spiritual one.
The 'Silence' gesture is a reminder to students of spiritual wisdom traditions that not everyone
in the general public is prepared to properly understand the teachings. [This is particularly
true of movie critics!] In the context of the journey up the Tree portrayed in the engravings,
those whose consciousness are still dominated by the perspective of the ego, represented by
the lowest levels of the Tree, will interpret everything as the ego sees it. They will then
assume that the goal of the quest involves personal profit and power over others -- unless the
student is lucky enough to have a qualified teacher to help him or her avoid this kind of
distorted viewpoint.
Wisdom traditions are traditionally meant for those who have already become disillusioned
with the material world-view of the ego, and who are ready to pursue the spiritual treasure
which is found on the 'upward' path on the Tree. The best translation of the 'Silence' gesture
that I know is 'Don't talk about it, just do it.' In the film, practically all of the characters except
Corso have something to say about their own deluded ideas of what the engravings mean, but
it is only Corso, with the help of the girl, who keeps his own counsel, quietly pursues the true
journey, and ultimately succeeds.
So why am I apparently breaking this rule of silence now? First, because I have made, and
continue to make, my own journey on the Tree and my intuition, which I have come to trust
absolutely, tells me that sharing what I have learned so far is the correct thing to do. [Editor's
note: One might argue that "the girl" in the movie is doing the same.]Secondly, everything
which Balkan's path of destruction illustrates is already happening in the world around us
every day and there is nothing in this article that could make this situation any worse. The
only antidote that I know of for the apparently precarious state of the world today is for as
many people as possible to start making their own 'Journey Beyond Evil'. The film "The
Ninth Gate" seems to me to be an interesting way to introduce people to the idea of the
journey and to provide a general description of the experiences which may be encountered.
(Also, the truths of the Tree which I present here were discovered through long-term study
and practice, a method which any sincere seeker can also follow. I am not a member of any
arcane organization, don't advocate any potentially risky "short-cuts" on the spiritual path,
and have taken no blood-curdling vows of secrecy.)
So back to the First Gate. As for the idea that it's necessary to fight 'according to the rules', not
all knights were virtuous, and for one who is on a quest for material treasure and earthly
power (Torchia's version of the engraving showing a castle with four towers), and who is
perhaps a member of some secret organization whose goals are equally materialistic, it's
possible that according to 'the rules' which such a person would live by, leaving a trail of dead
bodies behind him might be considered to be perfectly acceptable. In terms of the symbolism
of the First Gate, Balkan is obviously on the path which Torchia's version of the engraving
describes and, based on the decisions which he makes over the course of the movie, he is
clearly convinced that following his own personal rule book is the way to 'win'. But as the
motto of The First Gate warns, if he contends unlawfully, he will not attain the true high goal
of the Quest.
The First Gate can be associated with the lowest sephira on the Tree, Malkuth, also known as
The Kingdom, the material realm. Those who follow the path symbolized by the AT version
of the engraving will seek their material treasure here. Those who follow the LCF version will
look to the very top of the Tree as the goal of their Quest which brings us to the next
engraving, a kind of 'flash-forward' from the lowest sephira of the *human* realm of the Tree
to the highest.
Bet (House) = 2nd Hebrew letter * Roman Numeral II * Beta = 2nd Greek letter
They open that which is closed
The engraving shows a figure who is recognizable as The Hermit, the Ninth Trump of the
Tarot's Major Arcana. He stands before a closed door with two keys in his left hand. His lit
lantern is on the ground in front of him to the right and a small dark dog faces him to his left.
The Hebrew letter Teth (numerical value = 9) appears next to The Hermit's head. It's
interesting that this is the only door in any of the engravings that has a knocker, which
happens to be circular, symbolizing again Spirit (the value of 'pi' being 3 plus an infinite
number of decimal places). The knocker suggests the activity of internal seeking which the
Hermit is engaged in ("Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it
shall be opened unto you: for every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him
that knocks it shall be opened.” --Matthew 7:7–8)
LCF Version [The two AT engravings show the keys in the right hand]
Beginning first with the symbolism that remains the same in both versions of the engravings,
we have the Hermit figure from the Tarot, who has two traditional possessions. The first is his
lantern which is always burning, even in daylight. This symbolizes the development of an
understanding which illuminates the true nature of things, even those which you might have
thought were already clearly seen by the light of ordinary consciousness, but were not.
The second is a staff which is symbolically also represented as a snake. The snake is a symbol
of the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom as well as the kundalini force which, turned inward
and upward, empowers the inner quest. It seems at first that the staff/snake is missing in this
engraving, but it is actually present in the form of the Hebrew letter Teth. Hebrew letters have
individual meanings and Teth means 'the serpent'.
Since Hebrew letters are read from right to left, if you look at the shape of Teth, you will see
not only that it resembles a snake but that it reflects the truth that the first movement in the
'ascent to God' is a movement 'inward', a knowing of God at the heart of our own being ("The
Kingdom of Heaven is within you"). Teth is an appropriate attribution for the stage of
discipleship which the Hermit symbolizes, a period of time in which attention and energy
must be withdrawn from ordinary engagement with the outer world and turned inward in a
quest for inner meaning and self-knowledge.
Teth is also the Hebrew letter which is assigned to the final horizontal path just below the
Abyss which separates the lower seven sephiroth of the Tree from the transcendent realm of
the Divine Creative forces of the Supernal Triad. The Tarot symbolism for the path of Teth
will be the subject of the engraving for the Ninth Gate. The Hermit card is assigned to the
path which connects the balance point of the realm of the Soul at Tiphareth/Beauty with the
highest human level sephira on the Tree, Chesed/Mercy. Accordingly, what we see reflected in
this symbolism is the final stage of the Quest which the knight in the engraving of the First
Gate is just beginning. ?????
The symbol of the dog is not in itself either 'good' or 'evil' and despite speculation which I
have been seen on some threads at IMDb, there is no reason to assume that it stands for 'the
devil'. In fact such an interpretation would be completely foreign to the symbolic system of
the Tarot from which the figure of the Hermit comes. The dog traditionally symbolizes a
domesticated, helpful form of our animal instincts which can 'smell' and warn of danger,
loyally defend us against would-be attackers, nip at our heels if we don't keep up the pace,
and keep us in touch with our physical, feeling side when we are in danger of getting lost in
the intellect. In addition to the higher knowledge and wisdom which the Hermit seeks, he
must also get back into touch with and integrate into his conscious psyche his own helpful
animal instincts, which the little dog symbolizes.
The two keys in the Hermit's hand also appear in several of the Tarot's major trumps, one key
being traditionally silver and the other gold. This symbolism parallels other polarities like
Sun/Moon and masculine/feminine, and indicates that the Hermit must achieve a balanced
synthesis of intellect and feeling, of both left and right-brain perception, and must remain
open to receive inspiration from both superconscious and subconscious if he is to unlock the
doors/gates which lead to true wisdom.
The horizontal path of Teth connects the sephira Chesed/Mercy on the right-hand Pillar of
Mercy with the sephira of Geburah/Judgment (sometimes also called Pachad/Fear) on the left-
hand Pillar of Severity. When the human figure is superimposed on the diagram of the Tree,
the face is looking towards you, so that the sephira of Chesed/Mercy is identified with the left
Although Judgment and Mercy constitute a polarity on the Tree which must be correctly
balanced, Mercy is actually higher up on the Tree as it was the first incarnate energy to be
created or 'emanated' by the Supernal Triad. In order to maintain an 'upward' orientation on
the Tree, to keep heading in the direction of Spirit, once an effective working balance has
been achieved between them, Mercy must always be given the edge over Judgment. This is
another way of expressing the Christian truth that Christ came not to destroy the law but to
*fulfill* it, to perfect the law it by placing it into the context of Divine Mercy/Love.
In Canto IX of Dante's 'Purgatorio', the angel who guards the gate from Hell to Purgatory uses
these same gold and silver keys to unlock the gate for Dante to pass, saying "From Peter these
I hold, of him instructed, that I err rather in opening than in keeping fast." The Hermit holding
the keys in the left hand symbolizes this same necessary preference for Mercy. In a more
general context, the right hand may also symbolize what is already known and conscious and
the left that which remains unconscious. The Hermit's search takes him deep into the realm of
his own unconscious and the collective unconscious of humanity. The fact that he is holding
the keys in his left hand also indicates that it is his true and deepest intent to seek genuine
truth and wisdom, and not just to cultivate the outward appearance of being knowledgeable.
The First Gate established the basic orientation of the disciple toward either material or
spiritual goals. The Second Gate is a kind of 'flash-forward' which shows what the dominant
attitude of consciousness must be to succeed in the quest. Although in the context of the end
of the quest, the concept of Judgment will have a more evolved function, from the perspective
of ego (which is the vantage point which our traveler now has), Torchia's version of the
symbols, emphasizing Judgment, represents an egocentric and competitive attitude. The
sephira Judgment is identified with the planet Mars, the implication being that in order for
you to win, everyone else must lose.
This assumption naturally generates fear (that someone else will get what you want first),
anger (at anyone who looks like they might be ahead of you or who stands in your way), and
judgment (an automatic tendency to disparage and look down on others and to take upon
yourself the power to condemn and execute as 'unworthy' any competitors or rivals). This
represents the AT version of the keys held in the right hand (right arm, Geburah/Judgment).
It's not very difficult to recognize that this is the path which Balkan took.
In the LCF version, holding the keys in the left hand symbolizes an attitude aligned with the
sephira Mercy which reflects the qualities of the planet Jupiter: a wise, open, generous,
sharing spirit that recognizes that 'we're all in this together' and that, on a genuine spiritual
path, the surest way to succeed yourself is to do your best to help everyone else to succeed
along with you. Chesed/Mercy is the highest sephira in the realm of what I will call the Soul,
and on the journey through the 'gates'. It is the first path which we will encounter which will
lead us from the realm of the ego to the realm of the Soul is the subject of THE THIRD


Gimel (Camel) = 3rd Hebrew Letter * Roman Numeral III * Gamma = 3rd Greek Letter
The lost word keeps the secret.
In this engraving, a traveler who resembles the Tarot's Fool with his bundle hanging from the
staff over his shoulder, is following a path which leads to a bridge connecting the two banks
of a river. The bridge is heavily fortified with a guard tower on each bank. Above the bridge,
resting on a little cloud, we see a cherub (who in the movie version resembles one of the
Ceniza twins) holding a bow and arrow. The bow is drawn and the arrow aimed downward,
apparently towards the near side of the bridge. We see that there is a second arrow In a quiver
on the cherub's back.
LCF Version [In the two AT versions, there is no second arrow in the quiver]
[Editor's Note: The engravings provided by An Eclectic Historian do not show this
second arrow, but the movie does show a second arrow in its LCF version. I.e. both
engravings at the website are AT versions.]
Beginning with the symbols which remain constant, we have the Tarot's Fool carrying his
traditional sack over his shoulder -- it's an interesting detail that Corso is virtually never seen
without his satchel. He is traveling towards a heavily fortified bridge which suggests that
passage from one side of the river to the other may not be possible. This raises the question:
What determines whether the traveler is allowed across or not? Given the two towers, it will
be necessary for him to pass through a total of four doors to make the crossing. There are
several clues here which tell us not only that we are in the symbolic territory of the Tree of
Life, but also exactly which sephira/center and path we're dealing with. This is a complex
subject, but I will try to identify only the essential elements. Please understand that there are
variations in the paths to which the Tarot cards have been assigned on the Tree and I am
presenting here the system that makes the best sense to me.
The cherub (or Kerub) is a class of angel assigned to the sephira Yesod, called the
'Foundation' and identified with the sexual/desire nature. Just as in the engraving of the
Hermit we discovered that the left hand is associated with the sephira Chesed/Mercy on the
right-hand Pillar of Mercy, the sephira of Yesod/Moon/Foundation on the Central Pillar of
Equilibrium is associated with the genitals. Yesod, the realm of the astrological Moon, is
associated with the twin sister of Sun god Apollo, the great Moon goddess Artemis/Diana, the
wild huntress with her crescent Moon-shaped bow.
Yesod represents the unconscious/'astral'/dream world of desire (and fear). The angelic cherub
with the bow is identical to the classical Cupid/Amor whose arrows wound the heart with
Love. Once this arrow finds its mark, the 'Beloved' who is the perceived cause of this
wounding becomes a mirror in which we see the qualities of our own Soul reflected. In
pursuing the Beloved, we pursue the Soul, and in the course of this pursuit we are drawn
'upward' on the Tree to the sephira which is the central balance point of the Realm of the Soul,
Tiphareth, called 'Beauty' and associated with Love and the Heart.
The symbols of the bow and arrow also refer to the "Path of the Arrow" -- the bow, visualized
horizontally pointing upward at the level of Yesod, shoots its golden arrow of Will straight up
the Middle Pillar of the Tree, from the astral desire world of Yesod to the central balance
point of the realm of the Soul, the sephira Tiphareth, the Heart. This, of course, is the familiar
'Saint Valentine's Day' symbolism in its pre-Christianized form.
We have seen that arrows have symbolically been identified with 'will', and that there are
potentially two 'arrows' at this point of transition at the Veil of Paroketh. If the arrow of the
personal will takes a 'downward' alignment on the tree -- i.e. pursuing the 'four tower' material
quest of the First Gate and adopting the 'right-hand' fear/anger/judgment attitude of
consciousness of the Second Gate -- the hardened ego will not permit the heart to be wounded
by the arrow of the Eros cherub. Without this wound, the Power of Love to draw the traveler
'upward' on the Path of the Arrow towards communion with the Soul cannot be ignited, and
the Veil of Paroketh cannot be pierced (that is, the symbolic bridge in the engraving cannot be
[Editor's Note: See the Qabalistic Background (the next web page in this essay) for a more
detailed explanation of the Veil of Paroketh, and other Qabalistic aspects of the Tree of Life.]
Instead, the traveler would see reflected back at him by the watery barrier of the Veil, an
illusory world corresponding to his own desires and fears and his own ego's belief system. All
of the negative energy which his personal will directed outward at others would then be
reflected back and turned against him (downward arrow). This is why one interpretation of the
engraving is a warning of 'danger descending from above'. The real danger comes from the
violent projections of the ego which, reflected by the Veil, only *seem* to be coming from
'above'. We see in the movie that Balkan once again proceeds confidently according to his
own flawed understanding, following the Torchia single-arrow version of the Third Gate. In
the process he leaves a trail of destruction behind him and ultimately destroys himself, all
without ever leaving the illusory realm of the ego.
In the Latin phrase for this Gate, which was translated as 'The lost word keeps the secret', the
word 'dimissum' (lost) also carried the meaning of 'abandoned' or 'left behind'. There is
another similar case of a 'lost word' in masonic mythology in which, in terms of the
symbolism of the Tree, the original meaning was 'lost'/'left behind' above the Abyss and a new
one had to be substituted below it. This is because the nature of reality above the Abyss is so
entirely 'other' than the reality below it, that there is simply no way to 'translate' between the
two without the radical change in the nature of 'being/Being' which crossing the Abyss
effects. The same is true at this 'lower' barrier between ego and Soul. The power to pierce the
Veil comes from 'above' and is evoked by the Love of the Soul, which is an experienced
reality which no mere 'word' (ego concept) can ever connect with.
Dalet (Door) = 4th Hebrew Letter * Roman Numeral IV * Delta = 4th Greek Letter
Fate is not the same for all.
A Jester, wearing a two-'eared' cap 'n bells, stands at rest holding a serpent/staff in his right
hand which balances him. He stands on a low rise of ground looking down on an irregular
hexagonal enclosed maze whose shape is slightly elongated, suggesting the shape of a coffin.
The entry door to the maze is closed and viewed from above, the maze is seen to be full of
dead-ends. Three dice lie on the ground to the Jester's right, each with three readable sides
with numbers 1, 2, and 3 showing. One die has its number 1 side up, one has 2 up, and one
has 3 up. On the far back wall of the maze is an archway which opens to the outside, whose
top has five crenelations.
LCF Version [in the two AT engravings, the back archway is walled up]
There are two figures in the Tarot who resemble the Jester: the Fool, whom we saw as the
traveler on the path in the Third Gate engraving, and the Magician, also known as the Juggler
or Magus. Both of these Tarot characters are aspects of the archetypal figure known in
astrology as Mercury, and in alchemy as Hermes or Mercurius. In the symbolism of the Third
Gate, we traveled the Central Pillar path from the sephira Yesod (realm of the ego) up to
Tiphareth (realm of the Soul). In the Fourth Gate, we are dealing with Mercury/Hermes,
associated with the sephira Hod on the left-hand Pillar of Severity, at exactly the height of the
mid-point between Yesod and Tiphareth, but below the Veil of Paroketh. Hod/Mercury (ego
realm) is associated with the lower mind and is the left pole of a horizontal polarity. The right
end of the polarity, on the right-hand Pillar of Mercy (also at the height of the mid-point
between Yesod and Tiphareth), is the sephira Netzach/Venus (ego realm), associated with ego
values and lower feeling.
In the passage through the Third Gate, the personal love for a 'Beloved' was the catalyst that
began the quest for the Soul which pierced the barrier between ego and Soul, an illustration of
the contribution of the Venus realm of lower feeling to upward progress on the Tree. Now in
the Fourth Gate, we come to the role of the realm of Mercury, the lower mind. The maze is an
appropriate symbol here since a maze, seen from above, is a kind of map of what will be
encountered inside it, and the function of the ordinary intellect or lower mind has a lot to do
with 'mapping' or defining experience. And just as the configuration of the walls of the maze
limits the freedom of movement of a traveler within the maze, it is also true that life
experience may be limited by the kind of configuration of the territory which the mind is
capable of conceiving (or 'mapping'). It is this last truth which is the subject of the engravings
of the Fourth Gate.
Though the terms 'maze' and 'labyrinth' have been used interchangeably, most of us today
think of a labyrinth as having a single path which winds, without obstruction, to the center, at
which point you simply retrace your steps to exit. Like the one in Grace Cathedral in San
Francisco, such labyrinths have become popular meditation tools. These designs, often
circular, are inlaid into the floors of some medieval cathedrals including the labyrinth at
Chartres outside of Paris, which was the model for the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral. This
suggests that the labyrinth had a traditional spiritual application, perhaps as a symbolic
pilgrimage or form of penance.
The 'maze', by contrast, more often appeared in secular contexts, was often square, with
passages that intersected at right angles, and was more of a left-brain puzzle, with an intricate
network of intersecting passageways and many dead-ends. . Since it was a puzzle, the
challenge posed by a maze was to 'solve' it in order to reach a goal which was something
*other* than the place where you entered the maze. The classic method for finding your way
through a maze was to keep your right hand always in contact with the wall, which ensured
that you would pass through all of the passages in the maze, eventually being sure to find the
'goal'. If we look at the maze as a symbol of the passage through life, full of unforeseen
twists, turns, and blind alleys, the 'one-hand' technique for solving the maze would parallel
the gnostic belief that the individual must pass through all possible forms of experience
before reaching the point where a return to earthly life would no longer be necessary.
Perhaps you can see the correspondences between the round labyrinth and the three towered
castle representing a spiritual goal (value of pi = 3...), and the four towered castle representing
a material ego goal and the angular maze as a lower mind puzzle. If the maze is a symbolic
map of earthly life, then the question becomes 'what is the goal?' The answer to that question
will depend upon what level of consciousness is asked, and in terms of the engravings of the
Fourth Gate, there are two possibilities: the ego consciousness of lower mind/Mercury (AT
version) and the intuitive consciousness of the Higher Mind of Hermes or the Magician (LCF
If it is the lower mind of Mercury which responds to the question, the answer will be based on
the map of reality which the ego recognizes, in which all possible goals exist within the
bounds of the mundane world (such goals as wealth, power, fame, celebrity, pleasure or
security). Since the ego is incapable of imagining a goal that exists beyond its own mundane
world, there would be no concept of wishing to pass beyond the ego realm of the maze itself
and therefore no 'exit' from the maze on the ego's map of life.
The traveler who chose a 'downward' orientation on the Tree (towards material goals) at the
First Gate, an ego attitude of competitiveness, anger and fear at the Second Gate, and who
was incapable of making the transition from ego to Soul at the Third Gate, on arriving at the
Fourth Gate, would find himself confronted by Torchia's no-exit version of the maze, a map of
life which would also represent his 'fate' until such time as he might be able to evolve enough
(through longer life experience) to achieve a higher perspective. The fact that the open
archway is built into the structure of the maze and appears to be only temporarily bricked up
suggests that this barrier is not an absolute one, but is experienced only from the perspective
of the lower mind/ego consciousness which is what creates it.
This engraving reflects the number 6 in the sum of the numbers facing upward on the three
dice and in the six-sided shape of the maze. Six is considered a number of luck and is most
famously associated with the six-pointed star, the Seal of Solomon which represents balance
and completion. The Seal symbolizes the union of the upward and downward pointing
triangles, the union of above and below and heaven and earth as well as the Soul and ego.
If you count all of the visible numbers on each of the dice, the result will be 6, 6, 6. We will
understand why the illustrator associated the 'number of the Beast' with the Fourth Gate of the
lower mind as well as the Sixth Gate of the transition to Soul when we come to the analysis of
the Ninth Gate. Dice were among the implements found on the table of the Tarot's Magician
in early versions of the Tarot, representing not games of chance but divination of the future or
one's 'fortune'. At this Gate, fortune would favor the traveler who has the advantage of access
to the intuitive Higher Mind functions of the Magician, the latter which come from the union
of ego and Soul.
Let us return to the question "What is the goal of life?". If it is the consciousness of the
Magician which responds, the answer would be to master the lessons of earthly life, to unite
ego and Soul, develop the capacity for Spiritual discernment and become an effective
instrument of unselfish Divine Love. Within such an expanded context, the events of earthly
life are no longer experienced as being 'mundane' but are seen and understood in an entirely
new light. Since the goal envisioned by the Magician requires transcending the world of the
ego, the Magician's 'map' of earthly life would have to include the idea of 'passing beyond' the
ego's territory and this is represented in the engraving by the open archway at the far side of
the maze.
The five crenelations of the arch might represent the five-senses which are the basis of the ego
consciousness of the lower mind which is transcended beyond this passage. The references to
death in the coffin-like shape of the maze and its many dead-ends, might refer to the fact that,
in the context of the mundane world and from the ego's perspective, there is a sense in which
'fate' *is* the same for all: death. And it might also refer to the fact that, on the Magician's
first passage from ego to Soul, his ego's experience is one of the 'death' of its autonomy,
which then gradually becomes a permanent subordination of ego consciousness to the greater
power, wisdom and guidance of the Soul.
Balkan's temperament will not allow him to subordinate his ego to anyone or anything, even
the guidance of his own Soul, and this will prevent him from genuinely piercing the Veil of
Paroketh which separates the realm of ego from the realm of Soul. However, as a student of
'black magick', he would have a distorted *concept* of the existence of powers to be acquired
from traveling on the Tree, and this distorted view might represent one version of an 'exit'
from the maze for him, even if an illusory one.
Because Balkan's concept of the nature of the higher powers of the Tree would be limited to
how they could serve his own ego goals, his interactions with the sephiroth above the Veil
would actually be a kind of unreal 'shadow-boxing' with the desire and fear-generated
illusions of his own imagination in which he wouldn't actually connect with the
transformative reality of these powers at all. So in terms of the Fourth Gate engraving, Balkan
would still be wandering around inside the ego maze but would be laboring under the illusion
that he had passed beyond it. In spite of his illusions, he would still be following the path of
the AT version of the engraving.
The third and final path to be traveled to pass beyond the Veil of Paroketh begins at the
sephira Netzach/Venus/lower emotion, and is the subject of THE FIFTH GATE.
Heh (Window) = 5th Hebrew Letter * Roman Numeral V * Epsilon = 5th Greek letter
In vain
A bearded man, (a mature man, not a youth), is sitting in a room, counting out stacks of gold
coins from a very large sack on the floor before him. The man is seemingly unaware of the
hooded figure of a skeleton standing just behind his left shoulder and holding two symbols. In
his right hand is an hourglass in which all of the sand has run out into the bottom chamber,
and in his left hand he holds a pitchfork which is shaped like a trident. The trident is the
traditional symbolic implement of the Western gods who rule the oceans, Poseidon/Neptune,
and the powerful Indian god of destruction and creation, Shiva. This is the only engraving in
which the figures are shown *inside* a structure where the door is clearly bolted (and can be
unbolted) from the inside.
LCF version [in the two AT engravings, the sand is in the top of the hourglass]
[Editor's Note: Both of the versions in An Eclectic Historian show the LCF version.]
The symbols here seem simple and straight-forward. Storing up material riches is ultimately
futile since death is certain and "you can't take it with you". But if we stop at this level of
interpretation, the story doesn't go anywhere, and symbolism in the Tarot is always about the
stages of a journey. There are two references to the symbolism of the Tarot in this engraving,
the most obvious being Death, Tarot Key #13, associated with the path on the Tree of Life
which connects the sephira Netzach/Venus (ego realm) on the right-hand Pillar of Mercy to
the sephira Tiphareth/Sun (Soul realm) on the Central Pillar of Equilibrium.
We have already traveled the two other paths from ego to the Soul realm in the Third and
Fourth Gates. This is the last remaining path which brings the traveler to confront the watery
Veil of Paroketh, the illusory barrier between ego and Soul. The Hebrew letter name of this
path is Nun, which means 'fish', and the Tarot key Death is related to the water sign of Scorpio
which rules the alchemical processes of transformation, the dissolution and putrefaction of the
old structure, freeing up its energies and elements to be re-embodied in a new form.
The second Tarot reference is to the Minor Arcana card, the Ten of Pentacles, called 'Wealth'.
Pentacles are the suit representing the material element of earth. Numbered one through ten
(comparable to diamonds in the modern playing card deck), they are called 'coins', 'shields', or
'disks' in some versions of the Tarot. Ten is the number of completion in the Tarot Minor
Arcana in which the energy which came into existence with the Ace has expressed itself to its
fullest possible extent. Once the force of the element is exhausted, the resulting stagnation
begins the process of transformation, freeing the energy to take on a new form.
Netzach/Venus is the realm of feeling, and we have already seen one aspect of its power in its
collaboration with the sexual nature in the Third Gate where personal love for a 'Beloved' is
transmuted into Love of the Soul. This reflects Venus' role in relationship (Venus rules the
astrological Seventh House and sign of Libra, symbolic of marriage and serious partnership).
But Venus, as the astrological ruler of the Second House and sign of Taurus, symbolic of
material resources, also rules the desire for and the ability to attract material wealth and it is
this aspect which is considered in the engravings for the Fifth Gate. There is certainly nothing
wrong with the desire to have enough material possessions to sustain and support your life,
but the situation reflected in this engraving is one in which the man has accumulated wealth
far beyond his need to spend it.
Those who have attained great wealth eventually find that there is a point at which no amount
of money is 'enough' because once you have more than you could ever possibly spend, you
realize that it is money and material possessions *in themselves* which are simply 'not
enough' to fill the void which is still felt inside. This is the point at which the sand finally runs
out into the bottom chamber of the hourglass. The incarnating Soul has submerged itself in
the values of the ego and immersed itself in the world of materiality to the fullest possible
extent, and the only way forward from this point is through the death of the ego's old
materialistic value system and the birth of a new perspective which begins to recognize the
value of spiritual attainments and to feel the magnetic 'pull' to make a conscious return to the
realm of the Soul.
Why does the figure of Death hold a trident instead of the traditional scythe? The function of
the Indian god Shiva, that of transformation, has already been covered in the description of
the related function of Scorpio. The symbolic figure of the devil also wields a trident-shaped
'pitchfork', though no one seems to have much insight into *why*, beyond its obvious use as
a weapon with which to torment 'sinners'. But the symbolism of trident-wielding Neptune can
shed some light on this. The Roman god Neptune commanded the water realm which is
symbolically the realm of feeling. However, he was not associated with small bodies of water
which might be compared to the feeling nature of the ego, but was the ruler of the vast,
undivided expanse of the oceans symbolizing the Soul's Transcendent Higher Feeling realm in
which the Soul recognizes no boundaries.
Astrological Neptune represents the ideal Spiritual energies of the Soul. Once you have made
the return trip which unites ego with Soul, you are aware of the world as the Soul perceives it
and this is the only proper context in which the transcendent energies of Neptune express
themselves in an entirely positive way. 'Below' the Veil of Paroketh, before the ego becomes
consciously aware of the Soul, the ego believes itself to be the ultimate master and interprets
the visions of Neptune as if they were intended for itself. This is a delusion which brings
nothing but disaster.
The Soul knows itself to be connected to all other Souls and knowing this, sees all other
human beings as spiritual equals. The ego, catching a glimpse of the ideal Neptunian vision,
yet believing itself to be separate and apart from all other selves, appropriates the divine
message as if it applied to itself alone and translates it as Balkan does:
"I alone have grasped the secret. I alone have fathomed the Master’s grand design. I alone am
worthy to enjoy the fruits of that discovery: absolute power to determine my own destiny... I
am invulnerable! I am invincible! I can float on air, walk on water! Behold, I plunge my
hands in fire - I feel no heat. It's miraculous! I feel nothing, nothing at all!"
The film showed us just how well this delusion worked out for him.
Here Balkan demonstrates what is known as 'satanic pride' -- the Neptunian vision of the Soul
subverted to serve the lower instincts and power drive of the lower mind and ego. The
symbolic figure of the devil, representing unevolved, debased humanity, is usually red, the
vibratory color of the lowest human energy, that of the animal instincts. It has cloven hooves,
horns, and a tail, and clutches the trident of Neptune but, not being even fully human in its
development, doesn't allow this transcendent energy to draw it 'up' the Tree in the direction of
full humanity and union with Soul. Instead it deludes itself that Neptune's powers are its own,
and attempts to use them to satisfy its animal appetites and instinctive drive for power. Only
the repeated experience of disillusionment and destructive consequences can break the
negative Neptunian spell and convince a 'devilish' human that he is *not* the personal equal
of God.
To return to the Fifth Gate, only the individual himself can know when the sands of
satisfaction with materialism have completely run out. At that moment, he will stop seeing
reflected back to him in the watery barrier of Paroketh the vision of his own continuing desire
for material riches and possessions that only serve to feed the vanity of his ego. Once he is no
longer dominated by the illusive ego desires which would draw him 'downward' on the Tree,
he is free to be inspired by the true vision of Neptune. He can then direct the same powerful
will that was once devoted to material goals towards the attainment of spiritual goals, until the
Love of the Soul ultimately draws him 'upward' into a union of ego with Soul at the central
balance point of the Tree at Tiphareth.
For those like Balkan who are still entranced by the illusion that material power and
possessions can provide ultimate satisfaction, as in the AT version, the sand is still in the
upper chamber of the hourglass and the death/transformation of the lower mind/ego which
leads to ultimate union with the Soul will have to wait until this negative Neptunian spell
which deludes the ego is broken. Appropriately enough, in the Latin phrase assigned to the
Fifth Gate, the word 'frustra' can also be translated as 'deceived'.
The nature of the major transformation which the traveler is about to undergo from ego
dominance to Soul dominance is the subject of THE SIXTH GATE.
Vav (Nail) = 6th Hebrew Letter * Roman Numeral VI * Sigma = 18th Greek Letter
(The Greek letter shown on the engraving is the variant form of lower case sigma used only at
the end of a word. In addition to resembling a snake, this variant of sigma as the 18th Greek
letter also has interesting numerological properties as the number 18 can be represented as
1+8 = 9; or as 6+6+6. We will consider the possible implications of this in more detail at the
Ninth Gate.)
I am enriched by death.
A man is hanging upside-down from the battlement of a castle wall by a noose-like rope
wrapped around his right foot. The 'hangman's knot' is tied at the top loop of the rope that
encircles the crenelation thus placing the crenelation of the castle wall in the place where the
usual hanged man's head would be. This is just one example of the general pattern of 'reversal'
in this engraving. The man's left leg is bent at the knee at almost a right angle and crosses
behind the right knee. The arms are held behind the back, apparently restrained there. The
man's face is relaxed and serene and there is no sign of the effect of gravity on his hair or
clothing. To his right is a closed entry door to the castle and above it and to the left is a
narrow arched window opening through which a mailed right arm is extended holding an
upright, flaming sword.
LCF Version [in the two AT engravings, the man hangs by his left foot.]
Here we have the Tarot's Hanged Man, Key #12, hanging not from the usual Tau cross or tree,
but from the wall of a castle on the outside. Since, in this series of engravings, the castle is
symbolic of the final goal of the quest, the traveler here is shown for the first time to be
entirely 'dependent' upon it, instead of separate from and traveling towards it, as he was in the
past. This is a symbolic reflection of the great change which he experienced upon passing
through the Veil of Paroketh, leaving the realm of the ego and entering into the realm of the
The flaming sword is another symbol related to the Tree of Life and is one name given to the
path of the Tree's transcendent energy which flows on a downward course to sustain all of the
lower sephiroth of the Tree. This is the path which the Transcendent Creative Energy
originally took from the top of the Tree to the bottom, emanating each of the centers of the
Tree as it went, in the original creative process. Because it zig-zags from pillar to pillar, it is
also known as the 'path of the lightning bolt', a symbol which first appeared in the engraving
of the Frontispiece showing a lightning-struck tree.
Up to now, the question of whether the traveler was maintaining an 'upward' or 'downward'
orientation on the Tree has been a fairly simple matter. At each of the earlier gates, the LCF
version of the engraving illustrated a choice which placed the traveler on an 'upward' path.
But in the Fifth Gate, just preceding this, the LCF traveler finally left the realm of ego
domination and entered the realm of the Soul, and this is a transition which involves a
profound reorientation of the will. The Hanged Man is now aligned with the path of the
'flaming sword' in which the energy comes *from above* and as long as he maintains this
orientation, the protective flaming sword which is spoken of in Genesis will not obstruct him
on his journey up the Path of Return to the Garden.
He is no longer riding or walking up a path by his own will and energy, but has adopted a
posture in which his accustomed ego-motivated activity is deliberately stilled. His feet aren't
on the ground because he doesn't need to *go* anywhere in the old materialistic sense of
reaching ego goals. His hands are behind his back because he doesn't have to *do* anything
except learn to attune himself to his own Higher Will so that he can become a perfect
instrument of the True Will of his Soul which is always in perfect alignment with the Will of
God. Of course this doesn't mean that he stops all activity -- this is a symbolic representation
of the inner attitude of receptivity to direction from Spirit which will, from now on, guide all
of the traveler's actions.
The fact that the traveler is hanging by his right foot indicates that we are in the territory of
the left-hand Pillar of Severity, whose base is the sephira Hod/Mercury (right leg). Not
coincidentally, the path which connects Hod with the next sephira 'up' the Pillar of Severity,
Geburah/Mars, is (in the system I have been using) assigned to the Tarot card The Hanged
Man. Geburah/Judgment, whose symbol is the sword, represents purposeful Will, the faculty
of spiritual/moral discernment and the fiery destruction of anything which is not in alignment
with the Higher Will. Geburah's destructive function parallels that of the alchemical 'solve' in
the process of 'solve et coagula', in which the ego's old way of perceiving and understanding
has to be dissolved before the new, more highly evolved perspective of the Soul can take its
The related myth of Odin, who hung from the world tree for nine days in search of
transcendent knowledge, reflects the fact that the transition from ego-dominance to Soul-
dominance is a process which occurs over a period of time during which the ego's impulses to
action are restrained until a working attunement to the impulses coming from Soul is
achieved. T. S. Eliot describes the experience of this transition beautifully in these verses
from East Coker:
"I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
for hope would be hope for the wrong thing;
wait without love
For love would be love of the wrong thing;
there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light
and the stillness the dancing."
In terms of the structure of the Tree of Life, we are now approaching the highest horizontal
polarity which normal, embodied human consciousness is able to reach: Geburah/Judgment
on the left-hand Pillar of Severity and Chesed/Mercy on the right-hand Pillar of Mercy. On
the upward path of return, the sephira of Chesed is the last stop before the great Abyss which
separates the seven sephiroth of the lower created world from the Supernal Triad, the top
three transcendent sephiroth of the Creative Godhead.
The nature of Chesed has been described as the boundless outpouring of the divine desire to
give. In the balance which must be achieved between Chesed and Geburah, this 'boundless
outpouring' must be shaped and measured to serve the highest moral purposes of the Soul
which recognizes the equal necessity and compassionate nature of intelligent restraint and
generosity, each to its proper degree and in its rightful place.
Since the movie is structured to follow the progress of Corso as Balkan's agent and witness to
his misadventures, it is naturally a priority to keep Balkan in the game as long as possible,
right up to the final gate, and since he reflects the typical mindset of the would-be 'black
magician', the romanticized idea of the 'left-hand path' of the Pillar of Severity would
naturally appeal to him. He would think of it as the route which would give him the closest
access to his own distorted conception of the final goal of the quest: harnessing the Higher
Will to serve the deluded purposes of the lower mind/ego.
When we last left Balkan, he was still ruthlessly pursuing his ego goals and counting out his
gold pieces at Netzach/Venus, unable to make the Fifth Gate transition to the realm of the
Soul. So in terms of the Sixth Gate engraving, Balkan would not have achieved the inverted
perspective of the Hanged Man and would instead be (symbolically) standing upright on his
left foot with his bent right leg crossing it (as in the AT version). In this posture he resembles
the Tarot's Emperor figure, a symbol of earthly, material, ego-based power who, in the Thoth
deck, sits on a throne with his right leg crossed over his left.
The route on the Tree which Balkan has actually taken so far bypasses the realm of the Soul
on the Pillar of Mercy and the Central Pillar above Yesod. It begins at the bottom sephira,
Malkuth, and progresses through the astral realm of Yesod, touches the lower feeling realm of
Netzach (the 'left foot'), then crosses over to the 'right leg', the sphere of the lower intellect of
Hod and makes an attempt to proceed up the Pillar of Severity towards Geburah/Judgment.
Since this 'left-hand path' by-passes the transition from ego to Soul, Balkan never goes
through the process of union with the Soul which is symbolically represented by the Hanged
Man and it is his unregenerate ego alone which attempts to rise to Geburah.
Balkan's goal as a 'black magician' is to use the energies of the Tree which are available to
him to satisfy the materialistic desires of his ego. Whether he was somehow able to rise to the
level of Geburah or only experienced the illusion of doing so as visions of his own desire
were reflected back at him by the watery surface of the Veil of Paroketh, the end result is the
same. Balkan clearly believed that he would be 'enriched by death' in the sense that the death
of his competitors would ensure that the prize he was seeking would be his alone. But the
violence which he directed out towards others inevitably returned to its source to wreak its
destruction on him.
The genuine Hanged Man experiences the 'death' of the autonomy of his old, illusory ego
identity and the ego's value system and way of seeing the world, and in compensation for this
loss of the illusory personal self, he discovers the Soul, the true, eternal Self which is the heir
to the entire Kingdom. This is 'The New Jerusalem' of the restored and unified Tree. The
symbolic form which this reunification takes is the subject of THE SEVENTH GATE.
Zayin (Sword) = 7th Hebrew Letter * Roman Numeral VII * Zeta = 7th Greek Letter
The disciple surpasses the master.
A bearded, mature, crowned King and a younger man dressed as a peasant or common person
(we will call him the disciple), are playing chess on a board where all the squares are black. In
the background, up two steps and against the right-hand wall, a black dog and a white dog are
leaping up, as if in play. The black dog is visually 'above' the white dog and their
configuration suggests the yin/yang symbol. Above them is an arched window through which
we see the Moon. The disciple is visually 'below' the dogs, the Moon, and the two steps. Also
in the background, in the left-hand wall, is a closed door. The King is visually 'below' the
door. The symbols of the Moon are also visually 'above' the figure of the King (at a higher
level in the picture). In the corner where the two walls meet is one pillar. If a line were
extended from the bottom of the pillar, it would cut the chessboard in two, diagonally, into
two triangles.
LCF version [the two AT engravings show all-white boards]
Interestingly, the movie showed the LCF version of this engraving as having an all-white
board. I have no idea whether this was an error or, if it was intentional, what might have
prompted the director to make this change, but I believe that the original version from the
book reflects the symbolism which the creator of the engravings intended, and that is the
version I will use.
First of all, the scene shown in this engraving can be read as a description of a portion of the
Tree of Life. In the foreground and at the visual low-point of the scene is the disciple, the
common man who began his journey at the lowest sephira, Malkuth. On the right-hand wall
are the symbols of Tarot Key #18, The Moon, with its two dogs (sometimes a dog and a wolf)
symbolizing the realm of the animal instincts. The Tarot card called The Moon also depicts an
invertebrate (lobster/crab) emerging from the water, representing the astrological sign of
Cancer the latter which is ruled by the Moon and symbolizes the unconscious. The two dogs,
one black and one white, in their yin/yang configuration, also reflect the fact that on the Tree
of Life, the sephira Yesod/Moon is the balance point of the ego realm of duality. That there
are two steps leading up from the man of Malkuth to the symbols of The Moon might refer to
the next two sephira above Malkuth which (together with Yesod/Moon) make up the Lower
Triad of the realm of the ego: Hod/Mercury/lower mind and Netzach/Venus/lower feeling.
The one pillar suggests the Central Pillar of Equilibrium, on which the next sephira 'up' from
Yesod/Moon is Tiphareth/Sun, the central balance-point of the realm of the Soul, whose
symbol is a King. The door which appears visually 'above' the King symbolizes the
mysterious 'non-sephira' Daath/Knowledge, located directly above Tiphareth on the Central
Pillar of the Tree and representing the Seventh Gate which we will describe below.
The next level of symbolism comes from Alchemy, specifically, the 'Conjunctio', the
conjoining or 'sacred marriage' of the alchemical King/Sun/Solar Consciousness/Soul and the
alchemical Queen/Moon/Lunar Consciousness/ego. This is an essential stage in the
production of the ultimate goal of Alchemy: the alchemical 'Gold', the Unus Mundus (Unified
World), or Philosopher's Stone. This unification/integration of Sun/Moon, King/Queen,
Soul/ego is also a central goal of Qabalah, represented by the symbol of Solomon's Seal, the
union of upward and downward-pointing triangles.
There is a tradition that when the Tree of Life was first created, the first and highest sephira,
Kether/Crown, representing Transcendent Unity, emanated the second highest sephira,
Chokmah/Father/Wisdom/Force, which emanated the third highest sephira, Binah/Mother/
Understanding/Form. These three transcendent sephiroth represent the Creative Force of the
Supernal Triad/Godhead. The union of Chokmah/Father/Force and Binah/Mother/Form then
created a fourth sephira, Malkuth, the Daughter. As symbolized in the myth of the Garden of
Eden, Malkuth 'fell' from its original state of transcendent Unity with the Divine into a state
of created duality, and in the course of the 'Fall', the other six lower sephiroth of the Tree
came into being.
Tradition holds that in the process of the 'Fall', the Garden of Eden's Tree of Knowledge
became the left-hand Pillar of Severity/Form, and the original Tree of Life became the right-
hand Pillar of Mercy/Force. The Central Pillar of Equilibrium represents the equivalent of the
Buddha's 'middle way', the path of balance between the extremes of the two outer pillars. This
is the path of ascent which must be followed to restore the lost unity of the original Tree.
After the 'Fall', the transcendent sephiroth of the Supernal Triad were separated from the rest
of the Tree by a barrier called the Abyss. In the center of the Abyss, in the place from which
Malkuth fell, the diagram of the Tree shows a circle usually made of dotted lines, with no
number, which represents the 'non-sephira' called Daath/Knowledge. Binah/Mother (the last
Transcendent sephira above the Abyss), the non-sephira Daath, and the Abyss are all
associated with the color black. Daath is also called the 'Throne of Binah'. There is a tradition
that it is the destiny of Malkuth, also called the Kingdom and the Bride, to one day 'sit upon
the Throne of Binah', which would bridge the Abyss and restore both the Kingdom and the
Tree itself to its original state of Unity.
It is said that when the energies of the lower seven sephiroth of the Tree have all been
accessed, developed and integrated in the individual human Soul/ego to a point of ultimate
balance, the energy of the highest Soul-level sephira, Chesed, reverses its vitalizing force
from flowing 'down' the Tree to flowing back 'up' the Tree on the 'Path of Return'. The other
levels of consciousness of the lower Tree experience this at first as a feeling of desolation and
abandonment, until at last they begin to sense the pull of the turning tide and, filled with
longing to pass upward again into the Infinite, they follow in Chesed's wake, turning their
faces towards 'Home'. This is the moment of 'Ascension.'
The ultimate union of the ego and Soul is symbolized in the conjunctio of Tiphareth/Sun and
Yesod/Moon to form the six-pointed star, Solomon's Seal. Imagine that the lowest four
centers, Malkuth, Yesod, Hod, and Netzach rise up as if there were a fold on the diagram of
the Tree just above the Lower Triad, at the place where the Veil of Paroketh, the separation
between ego and Soul, used to be. Yesod/Moon then conjoins Tiphareth/Sun in the Sacred
Marriage of King/Queen-Sun/Moon, as Yesod/Moon descends 'on top of' Tiphareth/Sun (as
the black dog was on top of the white dog in the Seventh Gate engravings). Malkuth, the
Bride, is then positioned to sit on the Throne of Binah, resuming her original state of Unity,
bridging and annihilating the Abyss, and taking the place of the 'non-sephira' previously
known as Daath. Ego is wed to Soul, and the disciple of the engraving, the common person of
Malkuth, having 'leaped over' Tiphareth/the King to the superior former position of Daath on
the Tree, "surpasses the master".
In the traditional interpretation of the symbol of the six-pointed Seal of Solomon, the upward
pointing triangle is sometimes shown in white and represents Spirit while the downward
pointing triangle is shown in black and represents the manifest world of matter. In my
personal opinion, symbolism like this is not set in stone but is subject to interpretation
depending upon the context. In the context of the Ascension of Malkuth, the downward-
pointing triangle on the Tree is the 'Ethical Triad' (Soul realm) made up of Geburah/Chesed/
Tiphareth and the upward-pointing triangle is the 'Lower Triad' (ego realm) made up of Hod/
Netzach/Yesod which, at the moment of the union of Tiphareth and Yesod and the ascent of
Malkuth, assumes an upward-pointing orientation as we have seen. The ego energies of the
Lower Triad have symbolically reversed themselves to join in union with the Soul energies of
the Ethical Triad.
Before this redemptive Conjunctio is possible, before Malkuth can bridge the Abyss,
symbolically wedding 'Earth' (realm of ego/Soul) to 'Heaven' (realm of Transcendent Spirit),
the Soul/ego consciousness must be capable of crossing the Abyss. Once all of the lower
centers have been developed and balanced, there is only one obstacle which can prevent this
crossing and it is symbolized by the same Tree of Knowledge that was the original symbolic
cause of the 'Fall'. The intellectual power of the ego is based on duality, and cannot make the
crossing back into the realm of Unity. In order to cross the Abyss, the Soul/ego must give up
its insistence on intellectually understanding, on 'knowing' its experience in terms of duality.
It must lay down the intellect, which essentially represents a voluntary temporary 'death' of
the ego consciousness. This is accomplished by a deceptively simple but profound gesture of
assent by the Higher Will and the capacity of the ego to recognize its relative insignificance
and to kneel in genuine humility and holy awe before the threshold of the Greater Mystery.
In Dante's 'Paradiso', Virgil (a master of medicine and mathematics as well as poetry), who
had been Dante's guide through Hell and Purgatory, had to be left behind at the gates of
Paradise not just because he was a 'Pagan', but because of the quality of consciousness which
he represented. It was Beatrice, symbol of the Divine Love of the Soul who led Dante into the
Transcendent Realm. In just the same way, once the last barrier of duality, the intellect, is left
behind, it is the Divine Feeling nature of Chesed/Netzach which joins in ecstatic Union with
its transcendent Source in a 'knowing'-by-participation in the One Ultimate Being of the
Transcendent Godhead before which the Abyss, a barrier perceptible only to the duality-based
consciousness of the ego, ceases to exist. What the Soul experiences as blissful union with the
Love/Light of Heaven is to the intellect/ego a 'via negativa', a passage into the darkness of
The ego has been predisposed to value light and to despise darkness, to see white as symbolic
of 'good' and black as symbolic of 'evil'. This dualistic perspective represents a last barrier
which must be overcome because in crossing the Abyss, in terms of its essence, nothing of the
created world is 'left behind'. This includes the ego's idea of 'evil/ the devil', a concept which
is 'redeemed' at this point in the journey when it is perceived in its ultimate nondual symbolic
form as 'Lucifer the Light-Bearer', the ever-faithful servant of God and 'honorable adversary'
of man.
And here we have the last obstacle which a would-be 'black magician' like Balkan is
incapable of overcoming. Willingly consenting to sacrifice his intellect, submitting even to the
temporary 'death' of the fierce will and power drive of his ego, would represent the complete
defeat of everything the black magician strives to attain. The ego sees only by the 'lesser light'
of the intellect and the ego of the black magician, having forged no alliance with Soul, once
deprived of the intellect's light, falls into darkness and is powerless.
The AT versions of the Seventh Gate engraving show a chessboard with all white squares
which, in the context of the passage through the Abyss, represents the refusal/ inability of
Balkan's dualistic ego-consciousness to pass into the darkness. The LCF version of the all
black board represents the capacity of the Soul to value the darkness as the equal of the light.
It also symbolizes the Soul's ability to continue to 'play the game' in the territory of the Abyss
and the Transcendent Realm of Spirit, which the dualistic ego consciousness of lower mind
experiences only as a descent into oblivion.
At this point, the 'black magician' Balkan, unable to cross the Abyss or to cross over to the
Soul realm of the Central Pillar and Pillar of Mercy, is left to deal with the processes of the
highest sephira which he believes is accessible by those who follow the 'left-hand path'. This
is the highest sephira on the Pillar of Severity/Form, Geburah/Judgment, also called (as
experienced from the perspective of the unregenerate ego), Pachad/Fear, which is the subject
Chet (Fence) = 8th Hebrew Letter * Roman Numeral VIII * Eta = 8th Greek Letter
Virtue lies defeated.
The original LCF engraving for this gate, as commissioned for 'The Club Dumas', (the book
on which the movie 'The Ninth Gate' was based), shows a young woman in a flowing gown,
kneeling with her hands clasped in prayer. A knight, with a halo encircling his head, stands
behind her and to her left with his sword raised up over his right shoulder in the classic pose
of the Archangel Michael, apparently about to behead her. In the background behind the
knight is a Wheel of Fortune with three human figures apparently attached to the outer surface
of the wheel. One figure is headed up towards the top, one is kneeling on his left knee at the
top of the wheel, and one is headed back down. Also in the background, behind the kneeling
woman, is a castle with a closed door.
LCF version [According to the book, in the two AT versions of the engraving, there is no
halo around the knight's head.]
This engraving was modified for purposes of the film to show a young man who looks like
Corso, wearing a monk's robe and kneeling with his hands clasped in prayer. Meanwhile a
knight who looks like Balkan (with no halo around his head) stands behind him and to his
left. He holds a studded mace (a large spiked club) raised up over his right shoulder,
apparently about to hit Corso in the head. The weapon was most likely changed from a sword
to a club because of the scene in the movie in which Corso is sitting at a table in the library of
the Kessler Foundation looking at this engraving when he is hit on the head and knocked
unconscious from behind. Because the symbolism of the sword is a more exact fit with the
symbolism of the Tree of Life, I will use the original engraving from the book to describe the
passage through the Eighth Gate.
The most immediately recognizable symbol, located in the background of the engraving, is
the Wheel of Fortune, Tarot Key #10. Just as the symbol of the Wheel provides the visual
background for the central figures of the 'executioner' and the 'victim', so an understanding of
the meaning of the Wheel symbol provides the proper context in which the meaning of this
particular execution is to be understood.
The Wheel of Fortune card is assigned to the path which connects the sephira Netzach/Venus/
lower feeling at the bottom of the right-hand Pillar of Mercy in the realm of ego, with the
sephira Chesed/Mercy/Higher Feeling at the top of this Pillar, in the realm of Soul. This path
is the the right-hand Pillar equivalent of the left-hand Pillar path of the Hanged Man which
was the subject of the Sixth Gate.
The traveler whose consciousness reflects the level of Netzach/lower feeling will find that his
emotional response to the 'ups' and 'downs' of life is colored by his ego's assessment as to
whether what is happening to him is 'just' or 'unjust'. If he believes that the experience is
'unjust', he will feel victimized by powers that are apparently beyond his control and may
come to believe that there is no moral order in the world or that the world is actually 'evil'. If
he believes that his experience is 'just', he may draw the conclusion that by behaving in
accordance with certain rules, he can control what happens to him in the future. For example,
he may expect that good behavior will result in favorable experience ('favorable' as defined by
the ego, of course). Notice that the two perceptions are extreme opposites -- the belief is
either that the individual has no control over what happens to him (and this is perceived as
'evil'), or that the individual has absolute control over what happens to him (and this is
perceived as 'good'). From the ego's perspective, the most important thing is that it always be
'in control'. If it perceives that it is *not* 'in control', it feels that it is being 'victimized'.
As the traveler crosses over into the realm of Soul and rises on the path towards Chesed/
Higher Feeling, he begins to become aware that he is being subtly guided by what seems to be
the intelligent essence of a Higher Moral Organizing Principle (which some label 'Guardian
Angel', 'Higher Self', or 'God'). It appears to the traveler that this Force somehow arranges to
draw into his life those people and experiences which will most help him to correct his
shortcomings and to develop and grow into the fullness of his highest potential. As the
traveler begins to notice this pattern developing in his life, his perspective gradually shifts as
he realizes that the most difficult experiences may actually bring the most valuable results in
terms of his growth as a person, his spiritual development, and the ultimate experience of joy
which is the fruit of this growth.
At this point, the question of whether an experience is 'just' or 'unjust' loses its power to
provoke an emotional response. The traveler whose feeling nature reflects the Higher Feeling
perspective of Chesed comes to trust in the ultimate goodness of the Higher Moral force
which he understands to be guiding the events of his life and on that basis he accepts and
values as 'good' whatever experience he encounters, seeing it as an appropriate learning
experience -- a gift -- simply because it has happened to him.
The response then becomes one of anticipating and being open to the new growth, as in:
'Okay, what is it that I don't understand now that this experience has come to teach me?'
Emotional security, satisfaction and happiness are rooted in the relationship of absolute trust
which exists with the 'Guardian Angel' Force, no matter what the outer circumstances of life
might be.
[Editor's Note: This might be best expressed by Rumi:
This being human is a guest-house, every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an un expected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep
your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invited them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.]
The consciousness which passes beyond the Veil of Paroketh on all three paths, from Yesod/
Moon/instincts (Third Gate), from Hod/Mercury/lower mind (Fourth Gate), and from
Netzach/Venus/lower emotion (Fifth Gate), comes to a point of union with the central balance
point of the Soul, Tiphareth. Here the lower feeling experience of emotional 'ups' and 'downs'
as experienced by the figures on the outer rim of the Wheel gives way to the Higher Feeling
state of serenity which comes with the view from the center of the Wheel. This is the 'still
point' which T. S. Eliot famously wrote of in his poem 'Burnt Norton':
"At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance."
Directly opposite the sephira of Higher Feeling (Chesed/Mercy), is the sephira of Higher
Moral Discernment, Geburah/Judgment, (first visited in the Sixth Gate), whose symbolic
weapon is the sword. The sword, in the symbolism of the Tarot, represents the ability of the
intellect to dissect, analyze, and discriminate in the realm of ideas. The sword in the context
of the Higher Mind in the realm of Soul, also carries the meaning of moral discernment -- the
ability to intuit what constitutes the highest good in any particular situation. Geburah is also a
symbol of the Higher Will, the determination to live always in alignment with the Soul's best
understanding of what represents the highest good.
Although in the realm of the ego the perception is that in order for one to 'win' others must
'lose', in the realm of the Soul, the highest good of each individual is understood to be in
perfect alignment with the highest good of all others because the Higher Moral Organizing
Principle is the One Source with which all Souls are aligned, even while each follows his own
highly individualized life path. The principle is one which the American writer Flannery
O'Connor used as the title of one of her short stories: "Everything That Rises Must
Although the ego may maintain its 'righteous' self-image by paying lip service to society's
secular laws and religion-based moral codes, its internal standard of 'right' is often 'whatever I
can get away with' and what is really considered 'wrong' is 'getting caught'. From the ego's
perspective, what is 'good' is always defined as whatever best satisfies personal ego needs
(sensual pleasures, material security, 'winning') and If it is necessary to lie, cheat, steal,
trample on the rights of others or even kill others in order to achieve its goals, the
unregenerate ego feels that these sorts of actions are simply what it takes to be a 'winner'. The
belief is that 'sin' is the price which must be paid for material 'success', and it is only a short
mental trip from that belief to the symbolism of 'selling one's soul to the devil' as a way to
ensure 'success' in life.
From this debased ego perspective, 'virtue' is the equivalent of 'weakness', and those who are
'foolish' enough to insist on behaving virtuously are simply setting themselves up for
inevitable defeat. This cynical viewpoint is reflected in the AT engravings in which the figure
who represents non-violent morality (in the book version the demure woman and in the film
version the monk), is executed/defeated by the knight whose superior power is based simply
on the fact that he is willing to use violent means in order to prevail ('might makes right').
This is the ego's interpretation of the phrase describing this engraving, "Virtue lies defeated".
In the realm of the Soul, the moral positions of the two figures are reversed because from the
perspective of the Soul and its capacity for Higher Moral discernment, there are times when
the social and/or religious standards which are enforced by conventional laws and moral
codes are simply wrong. Unjust laws and immoral religious codes exist until more highly
evolved moral discernment exposes their evil nature and demands reform. There was a time
when a 'good Christian' saw no problem with owning and exploiting the lives and labor of
slaves. Secular law upheld the 'rights' of slave owners and socially sanctioned religious
institutions turned a blind eye to the obvious injustice. Ego justified this situation by defining
slaves as 'property' and considering them to be 'sub-human'. Parallel injustices exist today.
The Soul, recognizing all others as its equals, is unable to sanction this kind of legalized
injustice or religious hypocrisy and must use its higher moral authority to oppose any
conventional definition of 'virtue' which would accept such injustice. In the LCF version of
the Eighth Gate engraving, the halo surrounding the head of the sword-wielding knight
identifies him as a personification of the Higher Moral function of Geburah/Judgment which
is not deceived or deterred by the outward pretense of 'virtue' but strikes unerringly at the
underlying injustice. From this perspective, it is the Higher Moral discernment of the Soul
before which the ego's self-serving, conventional definition of 'virtue' lies defeated. This is
exactly the fate which awaits Balkan if he should somehow actually venture within range of
Geburah's sword.
The traveler who originally began his journey at the very base of the Tree of Life in the purely
material realm of Malkuth at the First Gate, has since made his way up the Tree to the very
top of the created realm and now stands before the edge of the Abyss. Just below him is the
final horizontal path which connects the highest two created sephiroth, Geburah/Higher Mind
and Chesed/Higher Feeling. This path is assigned to Tarot Key #8, which is called in
traditional decks 'Strength' and which depicts a woman crowned with the transcendent sign of
Infinity, gently, fearlessly and effortlessly guiding with her hands the opening or closing of
the jaws of a lion.
But it is the symbolism for this card which is used in the Thoth Tarot deck (where it appears
as Key #11), which best represents the passage across the Abyss for the very good reason that
its creator designed it specifically with that purpose in mind. Crowley renamed the card
'Lust' (qualifying this by explaining that it refers to "the lust of the Spirit') and apparently took
its symbolism from the Apocalypse of St. John, although the meaning of the symbols as
popularly understood in the context of the Apocalypse is reinterpreted in a very interesting
way to reflect the traditional wisdom about this stage of the 'path of return' on the Tree.
The card depicts a naked woman holding an upraised Grail cup in her right hand,
triumphantly and ecstatically riding on the back of a seven-headed beast. And it is with this
image that we come to the actual crossing of the Abyss, the removal of the final 'veil' (the
word 'Apocalypse' comes from the Greek Apokalypsis or 'unveiling'), and the opening of THE

Teth (Serpent) = 9th Hebrew Letter * Roman Numeral VIIII * Theta = 9th Greek Letter
Now I know that from darkness comes Light.
According to the book 'The Club Dumas' (on which the movie 'The Ninth Gate' was based),
all three engravings of the Ninth Gate contained in the three books were the same. At the very
end of the plot line in the book, Corso discovers that at some time in the past, a forgery
occurred but there is no information or speculation presented in the book as to what the
original symbolism might have been.
The book version shows in the foreground a naked woman riding on the back of a seven-
headed horned beast. In her left hand she holds an open book. Her right hand rests on the
shoulder of the beast and there is an upward-facing crescent Moon in her lap. In the
background on a hill is a castle engulfed in flames.
The engraving as modified for the movie version shows the same scene except that the face of
the woman has been redrawn to resemble the character of 'the girl' in the movie. There is no
crescent Moon in her lap, and her right arm is raised, her index finger pointing to the castle
which has been redrawn to resemble the actual castle used in filming the movie. In the movie
version of the genuine LCF engraving, which Corso finally recovers from the Ceniza
Brothers' shop, the castle is not on fire, but instead is blazing with light. Whoever made the
decision to contrast the AT version of destruction by fire with the LCF version of blazing light
in my opinion should be congratulated because this symbolism fits very well with the
traditional wisdom about the ultimate experience the traveler encounters as he finally crosses
the Abyss and enters into the Transcendent Realm of Unity.
In the analysis of the Seventh Gate ('The disciple surpasses the master'), we learned that the
'non-sephira' called Daath/Knowledge, located at the center of the Abyss, was the original
place of Malkuth/The Daughter before her 'Fall' from a state of Unity created the lower
portion of the Tree. It is a Qabalistic tradition to consider the 'Fall' described in the Old
Testament story of the Garden of Eden not as the Fall of man as a separate being from his
Creator, but rather as the voluntary Fall of one aspect of the Divine from Unity into the realm
of apparent separation and duality in search of knowledge through experience. And as each
individual Soul completes its journey through the evolving states of consciousness
represented by the lower seven sephiroth of the Tree of Life, as the Soul makes the crossing
back into Unity, it not only reunites its individual indwelling transcendent spark of Divinity
with its Source but also brings its share of the riches of the lower Tree -- the energies of The
Daughter, ripe now with the fruit of life experience -- and adds this share of treasure to the
great harvest of Knowledge at Daath. [data collectors all -- saith Inanna!]
Crowley called the woman who rides the beast 'Babalon'. He received the vision of the
symbol after he had conducted invocations using the Enochian system of magick, and the
Enochian word BABALOND is translated as 'harlot'. Babalon is identified both with the
returning Daughter of the lower Tree (who created the lower sephiroth in the process of her
Fall and collects and returns their energies to Unity on her return) and also with the first
Transcendent sephira at the place of return, Binah, the Mother of all Form. In both contexts,
her upraised Grail Chalice (on the Tarot card) represents the receptacle of all possible
varieties of earthly experience. As both Binah/the Mother and Malkuth/the Daughter, She is
the 'womb' from which all of the forms of the lower Tree were born and it is She who
welcomes all returning travelers back into Herself and into ultimate Union with their Source.
She refuses no one, becoming One with all who cross into Unity, which is the basis of her
symbolic role as 'Sacred Prostitute'
[Editor's Note: From Starhawk, we have:
I who am the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mysteries
of the waters, I call upon your soul to arise and come unto me.
For I am the soul of nature that gives life to the universe. From Me all things proceed and
unto Me they must return.
Let My worship be in the heart that rejoices, for behold -- all acts of love and pleasure are My
rituals. Let there be beauty and strength, power and compassion, honor and humility, mirth
and reverence within you.
And you who seek to know Me, know that your seeking and yearning will avail you not,
unless you know the Mystery: For if that which you seek, you find not within yourself, you
will never find it without.
For behold, I have been with you from the beginning, and I am that which is attained as the
end of desire.]
In her aspect as The Daughter, Babalon returns to the realm of Unity riding the 'Beast' whose
seven heads are the energies of the seven lower sephiroth. In Crowley's description, the heads
are those of an angel (Chesed), a saint (Geburah), a poet (Tiphareth), a sensuous woman
(Netzach), a valiant man (Hod), a satyr (Yesod) and a Lion-Serpent (Malkuth). There have
been many attempts to interpret the vision of the Apocalypse of St. John in terms of historical,
current or future political events, and it may or may not be possible to do that. But what is
certain is that it was written in the form of an encoded 'occult' document which symbolically
describes a process of transformation whereby the 'fallen' consciousness of the human Soul
may find its way back to 'the Garden'.
The Apocalypse is called A Revelation *to* John. According to Elizabeth Van Buren, author
of 'Sign of the Dove', the true name of the Dove in Greek is Ionas. John of the Apocalypse is
also Ionnes, the Dove, the one who has been initiated into the Mysteries and has received the
Holy Spirit. This is not a message originally intended for the general public, but a vision
received by an initiate. It was recorded in the symbolic language of initiation, coded to
disguise its Gnostic elements and is seeded with Qabalistic references which survive even in
translation, including a structure of 22 chapters, a number related to the 22 paths of the
Qabalistic Tree.
The clues as to the context in which this work is to be interpreted are there for those "who
have ears to hear", a phrase which is repeated many times in the text itself, and numerical
codes related to the original Greek language in which it was written are one central key to its
meaning. For purposes of understanding the nature of the transformation which occurs with
the opening of the Ninth Gate, we will focus on the numerical codes which were used (for
those familiar with their derivation) as clues to the occult meaning of the four beasts which
the vision describes, including 'the Beast' whose number is 666.

It is now believed that St. John's Apocalypse was originally composed in Greek (not just
translated into Greek from an earlier Aramaic source) which may explain why some have
observed that in its structure and ideas it more closely resembles the writings of the later
Greek philosophers than it does the Old Testament sources of the apocalyptic tradition of the
Hebrews. The most convincing and fascinating exposition of the Revelation to St. John that I
have found is based on James Morgan Pryse's 1910 book, "Apocalypse Unsealed," with
updating provided by Michael Wassil. A review of the Pryse book at gives a
good short synopsis. The following is adapted from Wassil's analysis.
The writer of the Apocalypse issues his most famous challenge in these words: "He who has
wisdom (the wisdom of the Greek Higher Mind, the 'nous'), let him count the number of the
Beast for it is the number of man." The 'nous', a familiar term in classical Greek philosophy,
referred to the Higher Mind and was considered to be the highest achievement of man. Given
this clue, one familiar with Greek philosophy would automatically think of the other three of
four 'somatic divisions' of the human body.
Just as Qabalists equated parts of the Tree of Life with parts of the human body, Greek
philosophy (with some variations) correlated four general areas of the body with four levels
of human function. These are:
1) The head/brain, the center of the Higher Mind, 'the nous'. This is the equivalent of the
Tree's Ethical Triad, the realm of the Soul.
2) The heart and above the diaphragm, center of the lower mind, called 'He Phren'; equivalent
to the upper two chakras of the Lower Triad, the realm of the ego.
3) The region of the abdomen, the center of the desire nature, called 'Epithumia'; the
equivalent of Yesod in the Lower Triad, the ego's desire nature.
4) The procreative organs, the center of the animal instincts, called 'Akrasia'. In Greek thought
this was equated with the physical body, the Tree's Malkuth.
The Apocalypse of St. John, not coincidentally, also refers to four 'beasts' which correlate
directly with these four 'somatic divisions':
1) A Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes who is identified as 'Iesous'/Jesus which
correlates with the 'Nous' or Higher Mind;
2) A monster resembling a Leopard with bear's feet, a lion's mouth, seven heads and ten
horns; it is this monster in particular which is referred to as 'the Beast' which correlates with
'He Phren' and the lower ego/mind;
3) A Red Dragon with seven heads and ten horns who is named 'the Devil and Satan' which
correlates with the ego's desire nature; and
4) A Beast with two horns like a Lamb but speaking like a Dragon, identified as the 'False
Prophet' which correlates with the instinctive physical self.
Just as with Hebrew letters, Greek letters have a numerical value and the value of the sum of
the letters in a word is recognized as a part of its meaning. The numerical value of 'he Phren'
is 666. The value of 'Iesous' is 888. 'Epithumia' is 555 and 'Akrasia' is 333. There are other
correspondences in the series: 'Epistemon' (intuitively wise) which is 999, 'Stauros' (the cross
of matter on which Divinity is crucified) which is 777, and 'Speirema' (the serpent coil or
kundalini force) which is 444. These are all considered in detail at Michael Wassil's
fascinating website 'The Dance of Ecstasy'. For our purposes here, we will consider only the
esoteric meaning of the four 'beasts'.
We Have Met "The Beast" and He is Us
The four beasts of the Book of Revelation, incorporated within their numeric context are:
999 - Epistemon, intuitively wise, the initiated, integrated Higher Self
888 - Iesous (Jesus), the Higher Mind/Ethical Triad, the upper three sephiroth in the realm of
the Soul; symbolized by beast #1 the Lamb; and
777 - Stauros the cross of matter on which Divinity is crucified, symbolized by the cross on
the Tree connecting the ego and Soul, whose center is Tipareth.
666 - He Phren, the lower mind, the upper two sephiroth in the Lower Triad, realm of the ego;
symbolized by beast #2 called 'the Beast';
555 - Epithumia, the desire nature, Yesod, the lowest sephira in the ego realm, symbolized by
beast #3 the Red Dragon;
444 - Speirema, the serpent coil or kundalini force which powers the journey up the Tree.
333 - Akrasia, the body, Malkuth, the lowest sephira on the Tree, symbolized by beast #4, the
False Prophet.
I would like to point out here that on the engraving for the Sixth Gate, the designer used a
form of the Greek letter Sigma which is not assigned a value in the Greek system of
numbering but as the 18th letter of the Greek alphabet, is the numerological equivalent of
6+6+6. The subject of that Gate, symbolized by the Hanged Man, was the transition from the
realm of the lower mind/ego (the functional equivalent of the Greek He Phren) to the realm of
the Soul, whose balance point is at Tiphareth/The Heart, the part of the body which the
Greeks identified with 'He Phren', 'the Beast', and 666.
In the qabalistic system, the sephira Hod/lower mind is the functional equivalent of the Greek
'He Phren'/Beast and in the engraving for the Fourth Gate, whose subject was Hod/lower
mind as symbolized by the maze, we find the only other reference in the engravings to 6+6+6
as the sum of the visible numbers on the dice. That, in my personal opinion, is the symbolic
equivalent of what a mathematician might call 'an elegant equation'. It is also, I suspect, the
reason that the designer chose to give the Greek letter sequence such a featured place on the
engravings themselves.
Just to be clear, we have just learned that the Book of Revelation identifies "the Beast of the
Apocalypse" whose number is 666, the dread figure which we now call "the Anti-Christ", as
the collective consciousness of the human lower mind/ego. This Beast of our collective lower
consciousness is already well on its way to destroying our world and will certainly continue
to do so until we disarm it in the only way it *can* be disarmed -- one consciousness at a
time. If we really love and fervently desire to see peace in the world, we must continually
work to disarm our own individual, internal 'Beast'. In order to do this effectively , it is first
necessary to be very clear about what 'the Beast' actually is.
'The Beast' is that aspect of our being which, confronted by the 'First Gate', sees *value* only
in material things and like Balkan, tramples spiritual values such as honesty and justice
underfoot in its ruthless pursuit of personal wealth and power. 'The Beast', approaching the
'Second Gate' seeks to learn only what will give it an advantage over others and uses its
knowledge of the powers of the animal instincts in order to stir up fear in others to turn them
violently against each other, the better to control them and profit from the destruction. It
hordes what knowledge it gains to empower itself at others' expense. 'The Beast' at the 'Third
Gate' hardens its heart against the experience of real love because it must always be "in
control" and so is not willing to make itself vulnerable to another. It is only willing to enter
into relationships in which it is able to exercise unequal power over the other and use the
relationship to serve its own needs without having to consider the needs of the other.
'The Beast' is unable to conceive of the possibility of a greater satisfaction in life than the
accumulation of money and power and being able to use these to take unfair advantage of
those with less money and power (which it calls "winning"). Because of this it will never find
the exit from the 'Fourth Gate's' dead-end ego-maze of the lower mind, nor will it be able to
recognize the existence of spiritual treasure which is worth infinitely more than the sacks of
gold coins which it will forever continue to count and recount at the 'Fifth Gate'. 'The Beast',
confined to the material world below the Veil, sees all others as either 'enemies' or rivals to be
destroyed or victims or 'inferiors' who must be weakened and subjugated so that their
existence serves only to increase the wealth and power of 'The Beast'.
As we each express our individual 'Beast' consciousness in the world, it is the sum total of all
of this lower ego/mind energy which *creates* and *empowers* 'Babylon the Great', the
collective 'Beast consciousness'. Any political, religious or social institution which could
possibly be identified by the label 'Babylon' as it is used in the Book of Revelations can only
exist by gaining its power from the collective 'Beast' consciousness of all of us who continue
to 'worship' the accumulation of wealth and power above truth, justice, and peace -- who
continue to 'worship Babylon'.
The fact that every political, religious and social institution which reflects this 'Babylon' lower
ego/mind consciousness in its values, is now self-destructing from its own excess of
negativity is a reflection of the fact that the time is now ripe for the promise of the Age of
Aquarius to begin to bloom, the age in which the spiritual energy of the era will empower the
understanding and consciousness of individual "common people" like us. It is finally time for
each one of us to begin to realize that blaming "the powers that be", this cabal of corporations
or that religious group or the other political ideology for all that is evil in the world, is a self-
defeating mindset.
None of those entities could exist in their present form in the absence of a collective human
consciousness on the same moral/energetic wave-length to create and sustain them. Every
religion and every political system which exists is capable of producing some version of
justice, equality and peace, provided that *the consciousness of those individuals who are
exercising power within those systems is not dominated by 'the Beast'*. The 'flip-side' of this
truth is that even the most ideal utopian vision will end in oppression and conflict if the power
of the Beast is still controlling the consciousness of those trying to live out the vision.
It is *not possible* to defeat the Beast in an external way "out there" in the world because
"Socialists" will see the powers of the Beast being exercised by "Fascists" (and vice versa),
"Republicans" will see it embodied in the ideas and policies of "Democrats" (and vice versa),
and many religions will see 'the Beast' at work only within *other* religions (or in those
without religion) while believing themselves to be immune from such corruption (and vice
versa). The end result, as history shows us, is a combination of self-righteousness, confusion,
"shadow-boxing" and denial which only empowers 'the Beast' even more.
A Refresher Course on How to Defeat the Anti-Christ
The answer to this dilemma is deceptively simple and is the great moral challenge of our
time. We are entering an era when we must realize that saving the world is "an inside job".
Each one of us has to recognize and disarm our potential inner Beast while at the same time
recognizing, honoring and empowering the potential angel within ourselves *and all others*,
no matter how different from us those others may be. In a Creation as beautifully diverse as
ours, there is room to accommodate *many* different visions, once the Beast is brought under
As the Great Soul, Mahatma Ghandi realized, "The only devils in the world are those running
around in our own hearts, and it is *there* the battle must be fought." To undertake the
journey up the Tree is to fight this battle on its proper and only effective ground. Only in this
way can we destroy the seeds of hatred, violence and destruction which exist as potentials
within each one of us *before* they can take root in our thoughts (symbolized as the "mark
on the forehead" -- accepting the validity of divisive, destructive ideas), or in our emotions,
our speech and our actions (symbolized as the "mark on the hand" -- acting in divisive,
destructive ways as a 'vehicle' of the collective "Beast" consciousness).
Not "accepting the mark" means not being manipulated by fear of economic hardship
(inability to "buy or sell") into supporting employers or other organizations which feed on
and/or profit from destruction, exploitation and war. It means taking a stance of quiet, non-
violent, non-cooperation with divisive and destructive agendas, whether political or religious
or, as the 'winning' formula of the Beast is presenting itself to us today: those divisive/
destructive political agendas *clothed in* politically co-opted, divisive/destructive/distorted
religious language.
Politicians who get elected when it takes millions of dollars to run an effective campaign,
only remain successful if they serve the economic interests of the few who can afford to
financially ensure their success and by doing so "buy their votes". These wealthy few profit
from the sale of armaments, "war industries", and stealing the natural resources of other
nations under the pretense of political conflicts *at the expense of the innocent common
people of other legitimate nations*. If we hope to see a more just world, we cannot continue
to allow ourselves to be duped by cynical political strategies designed to divide us so that we
vote against our own best interests and continue to support those who profit from human
misery. It is a *spiritual* challenge to become hate-proof, to rise above any danger of being
recruited into supporting the *politics of hate* which is a necessary precursor of the *politics
of profit-through-war*.
This is the true function of all genuine spiritual teachings. They represent the powers of the
Loving Heart and Higher Mind, the Ethical Triad, the 'Nous', 888 the Lamb Iesous/Jesus, the
healing power of Divine Love which must be empowered to over-ride the instinctive drives,
fears and blood-lust of the inner Beast. This must happen within the heart and mind of every
individual person. None who are lovers of God can allow themselves to be persuaded by
those "false prophets" who serve the Beast that war, murder and destruction can be done in
God's name.
The qualities which Jesus Christ defined as "blessed" in his "Sermon on the Mount", the
Beatitudes, can be read as an inventory of the only "weapons" which are capable of defeating
the Beast, and every one of us can quietly and non-violently take them up:
1. "Poor in spirit" - humble before God and respecting others as equals
2. "Meek" - being an instrument of God's will first (the highest good), not your own
3. "Mourning" - due to your own spiritual shortcomings and those of the world
4. "Hungering and thirsting for justice" - not seeking unjust personal advantage
5. "Merciful" - forgiving others and so receiving forgiveness from God
6. "Pure in heart" - having simple and sincere good intentions towards all
7. "Peace-maker" - standing for true justice which is the sole foundation of peace
8. "Persecuted" - living "in Christ", you are blessed no matter what anyone says about you or
does to you ("blessed" in Matthew's original Greek was "makarios", more specifically
translated as "possessing an inward contentedness and joy that is not affected by outer
If, by way of contrast, you consider those qualities which are the opposite of those which
Jesus defined as"blessed", you have a list of the "weapons" of the Beast, the destructive
powers of the spirit of the Anti-Christ. You can decide whether or not you want to empower
this spirit by allowing your own energies to align with it:
1. Arrogantly pursuing god-like powers so that you can dominate "lesser" others
2. Using your powers to achieve your personal will at others' expense
3. Valuing the corrupt state of your Soul and the world because it empowers you
4. Desiring to subjugate and exploit others and avoid facing justice for your crimes
5. Seeking vengeance on anyone who offends you or gets in the way of your profit
6. Wicked of heart: deviously arranging for all others to lose so that you can win
7. War-maker: always trying to provoke and profit from violence and destruction
8. Refusing to tolerate criticism, much less opposition; "you can do no wrong"
These are very simple, straight-forward standards by which every sincere person may
recognize and support true "righteousness" (whether affiliated with any religious system or
not) and recognize, reject, and deny support to "the spirit of the Anti-Christ", no matter how
much it may pretend to be "patriotic" or "holy". It is certainly not necessary to be a Christian
to understand and appreciate the power of the "blessed" qualities to heal our world, or the
power of the "Anti-Christ" qualities to continue to destroy it.
The coded symbolism of the LCF gates describes the qualities of the person who will be
allowed to pass through them and these qualities happen to closely parallel those described in
the Beatitudes. Achieving the final goal behind the LCF Ninth Gate is symbolized in the film
by walking into a blazing Light. In John 8:12, Jesus said: "I am the Light of the world: he
who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of life." Other spiritual
teachings also use the symbol of Light in this way because it reflects a reality which can be
The coded symbolism of the AT gates actually describes a person who demonstrates all of the
"Anti-Christ" qualities listed above. So Balkan, who also behaved in these ways, stands as a
symbol for all of the misguided Souls, in high places and low, who are now in the process of
passing through the AT/"Anti-Christ" gates. And how was the final goal behind the AT Ninth
Gate symbolized? Destruction by fire. And how did Balkan end up? Right.
Here we should recall that the translation of the Latin motto for the Fourth Gate was "Fate is
not the same for all". According to the symbolism of the engravings, as you pass through the
LCF gates, you become a part of the collective Christ Consciousness, to use the Christian
term. (Christ prayed, [John 17:21], "that they all may be One, even as You, Father, are in Me
and I in You, that they may also be in Us").
Still, it's important to remember that the symbolism of the "gates", like the symbolism of the
Qabalistic Tree of Life, is non-denominational. Anyone who has the qualities to 'climb the
Tree' or pass through the LCF gates is welcomed into the Light. The down-side of this is that
if your unrepentant behavior takes you all the way through the AT Ninth Gate, no
denominational label will save you from the destructive consequences of your own actions.
If, based on the quality of your own behavior, you are unfortunate enough to symbolically
pass through the AT/"Anti-Christ" gates, you become a part of the collective raging-ego/Anti-
Christ consciousness which is currently creating great wastelands of death, destruction and
misery across our world, a consciousness which eventually becomes the final victim of its
own destructive nature. Symbolically, as you pass through the AT Ninth Gate, you yourself
become an Anti-Christ in the sense in which the Bible uses the word. We might even say that
the spirit of the Anti-Christ is "born again" in you.
To disarm this spirit, to end the duplicity, greed, and exploitation which continually fuel war,
we must each recognize and disarm our personal inner "Beast" so that we may become
*harmless* to *all* of the fellow human beings and fellow creatures who share our world. We
must be the first to learn to become instruments of peace and the 'leaders' will have no choice
but to follow. If you have a consciousness, you have the power to begin making this change in
the only place that it *can* be made, and now that you *know* that you have this power, you
have no excuse for not taking it up. Now might be a good time -- if not now, when?
With the help of the symbolism in the engraving for the Ninth Gate, we have now discovered
that the four 'beasts' of the Book of Revelations are comprised of the seven lower sephiroth of
the Tree of Life, which are the seven 'heads' of the composite 'beast' on which The Lady
Babalon, the Daughter, rides back to the Realm of Transcendent Spirit to union with the great
Mother of Form, thereby restoring the Unity of the Tree and redeeming Malkuth/The
Kingdom from duality. "And the wolf (Beast) shall dwell with the Lamb (Iesous)...and they
shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain." The source of the earlier evil functioning
of the 'beasts' 666, 555 and 333 was the fact that these unbalanced lower energies were
allowed to operate independently. The drives of the desire nature (333/555) and the self-
serving lower ego/mind (the Beast 666) will inevitably express themselves in an unbalanced
and distorted way until they come under the guidance and the polarity-balancing influence of
the redeeming Higher energies of the Soul (888).
Once our journey up the Tree brings us to a point of balance and integration of ego and Soul,
the former evil is overcome. The crowning achievement of this reunion is symbolized in the
Apocalypse as The New Jerusalem in which the returned traveler becomes conscious of the
eternal and infinite Spiritual beauty which shines through all of the finite and temporal forms
of the Kingdom, confirming the declaration of the Gospel of Thomas: "The Kingdom of
Heaven is spread upon the Earth and (most) men do not see it."
Getting Ourselves 'Back to the Garden'
Although the ego experiences the passage into Unity as darkness/unknowing, and the Soul
experiences its participation in Unity as Living Light/Love ("Now I know that from darkness
comes the Light"), this is not the end of the journey. There are four Qabalistic 'Worlds' which
are represented in the 'Jacob's Ladder' form of the Tree of Life as extending vertically one
above the next but overlapping so that the Daath of each lower world, once achieved,
overlaps and becomes a passageway to the Yesod/Foundation of the next higher world. The
Four Worlds, beginning with the highest, are:
1) Aziluth (The World of Emanation) - the eternal unchanging Divine world;
2) Briah (The World of Creation) - 'Heaven', the Throne of God and archangels;
3) Yezirah (The World of Formation) - the abode of the 'lower angels' and the Garden of
Eden; and
4) Assiah (The World of Action) - the material universe in which we live.
In the process of Ascension, the consciousness of the man of Malkuth/The Kingdom enters
into Unity at the Daath of the material universe/Assiah and emerges at the Yesod, the
Foundation of the World of Formation/Yezirah, where he sees The New Jerusalem as if it is
coming down from Heaven. This is the fully sanctioned return to the idyllic state of the
'Garden of Eden' but the experience this time is perceived by the individual awareness of the
fully formed Soul/ego which was developed during the sojourn through the 'fallen' world of
What was unconscious has become conscious. The fallen Daughter has risen to the Throne of
Binah and become the Bride of Wisdom, wedding the Earth of Assiah to the Heaven of Assiah
and at this point all of the sephira of the Tree of Assiah are integrated into One. Symbolically,
the sky recedes like a scroll rolling up, every mountain and island is removed from its place
(Rev. 7:14), and there is a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth
have passed away (Rev. 21: 1-2) and the holy city, The New Jerusalem, comes down out of
heaven from God, so that God's dwelling place could be with men (Rev. 21:3). It must be
understood that this is an *internal* revolution of consciousness which happens "in the
twinkling of an eye", and results in a radically different *experience* of the world, with no
external, physical upheaval required.
In the old world of Assiah, the only contact with the Heaven of Briah was at Assiah's very
highest Transcendent sephira, Kether, whose Supernal Light the human Soul could only
receive brief glimpses of. In the new World of Formation of Yezirah, The center of the realm
of the Soul at Tiphareth overlaps/is identical to the Malkuth of Briah (the 'Kingdom' of
'Heaven') and the Daath of the new world, once attained, is the passageway to the Foundation
sephira of the Heaven of Briah, abode of the archangels and the Throne of God. This
symbolism is another way of saying that the Divine Light of God will shine through the forms
of The New Jerusalem, just as the light blazes out of the castle in the genuine LCF engraving
of the Ninth Gate.
And where is Balkan? You might remember that after the Fall, the Garden was guarded by
cherubim and 'a flaming sword'. Until Balkan freely chooses to submit his ego to union with
his Soul and completes the journey through the upper paths of the Tree of Assiah, the way
back to the Garden is barred to him. If he should make an illicit attempt to gain access to the
Divine Light through the inadequate vehicle of his unredeemed ego, what the Soul
experiences as Light will be experienced by the unredeemed ego (the ego unescorted by Soul)
as Fire, as the AT engraving of the Ninth Gate and Balkan's fiery fate in the movie so
graphically illustrate.
There is one last question to consider. Balkan clearly played the role of the failed magician to
illustrate the fate of those who attempt to use the energies of the Tree to serve the lower
desires of the ego. But what roles did Corso and 'the girl' play?
CORSO'S RUN - The Journey in the Film
In addition to showing the audience the symbolic images representing the journey through the
Nine Gates, director Roman Polanski also presented us with two 'real-life' variations on this
journey: one a truncated AT version made by Boris Balkan (which we followed during the
interpretation of the symbolism of the engravings), and the other the successful LCF journey
which Corso was able to make with the help of 'the girl'. Following is a summary which
correlates the characters and plot points of the film with the stages of Corso's journey as they
are represented in the symbolism for each of the 'Nine Gates'.
THE FIRST GATE - Malkuth/Materialism: Andrew Telfer
I don't think it's a coincidence that this film begins with an *actual* hanged man whose
suicide suggests that a materialistic lifestyle is, in the end, not enough in itself to sustain the
will to live. This is the ultimate dilemma faced by the knight in the AT engraving of the First
Gate who travels towards the castle with four towers, symbolic of the material treasure of the
purely material realm of Malkuth. Dean Corso never met Andrew Telfer, but as 'the man who
had everything', yet still couldn't find a reason to stay alive, who remained unsatisfied or even
despaired despite his material success, Andrew Telfer provides a good example of the state of
consciousness of the person who eventually feels compelled to set out on the quest for
spiritual treasure. And Corso's mindset at the beginning of the film seems to have a lot in
common with the kind of bleak outlook which apparently drove Andrew Telfer to kill himself.
The one thing that we know he did before committing suicide was to sell the copy of 'The
Nine Gates' which he had originally bought for his wife. He knew how much she valued it, so
we may assume that the Baroness Kessler was right when she said "That creature Liana
married him for his money. If he ever finds out what his wife is up to at these gatherings (of
the Order of the Silver Serpent), he'll probably kill himself." Corso may also have been right
when he confronted Liana at the chateau: "He sold (the book) to get back at you. What
happened? Did he catch you with that albino?" It seems that Liana must have managed to get
Andrew to fall in love with her and then cold-bloodedly proceeded to exploit his fortune and
betray his trust. So apparently it was a failure of love which drove Andrew to kill himself.
And where do we find Dean Corso at the beginning of the movie? He lives in a fairly
nondescript apartment, doesn't seem particularly concerned with appearances, apparently has
no love interest in his life, and has problems with addiction, being a chain smoker and
drinking not just for recreation but simply to be able to cope with his life. He admits to Bernie
that he 'screwed' another book dealer by deliberately overestimating the value of a collection,
a petty cruelty which brought no profit to himself except the satisfaction of knowing that it
made life more difficult for his competitor. Although he has a congenial relationship with
Bernie, he doesn't budge an inch when Bernie makes a friendly case for a higher percentage
on a book deal. Corso practically never smiles, and seems to spend most of his time
conducting his business and drinking. When Balkan guesses that he doesn't have any friends,
Corso responds "That makes two of us". Corso apparently has a fairly cynical view of life,
doesn't appear to get much satisfaction out of anything and shows clear signs of being
depressed. When Balkan asks "Are you a religious man, Mr. Corso -- I mean, do you believe
in the supernatural?" Corso replies "I believe in my percentage."
Andrew Telfer owned the book 'The Nine Gates' for years but never discovered the true nature
of its contents. Corso is apparently ready enough to change that when the book crosses his
path, it becomes the catalyst for a series of mysterious events which intrigue him enough to
put him on the 'upward' path on the Tree. This is the first essential step in a journey which will
bring him to the symbolic spiritual posture of the Tarot's hanged man and, for the first time in
his life, into a conscious partnership with his Guardian Angel/Higher Self/Soul. The First
Gate engraving is the first one that we see in the film when Balkan is showing the book to
Corso in his library and Corso is about to accept the assignment to track down the other two
copies, and about to begin the journey that will ultimately take him to the very top of the Tree.
THE SECOND GATE - Chesed/Higher Feeling: Victor Fargas
The symbol of the engraving for the Second Gate is the Hermit, whose inner search takes him
on the path from the balance point of the Soul at Tiphareth to Chesed, the realm of Higher
Feeling. Victor Fargas lives alone in his fine old family mansion which has seen better days
and the almost empty main floor of his home suggests that he has survived for some years
already by selling off its furnishings, artworks, and some of his collection of rare antique
books. He is unassuming, kind to Corso, and philosophical about the decline of his fortune.
Some have mentioned that the face of the Hermit figure in the engraving resembles Fargas,
and since the Hermit's face was not modified from the original book version, this probably
means that the role for the film was cast based on this resemblance.
Fargas is a cultured man, plays the violin, and cherishes his few remaining fine crystal glasses
for their beauty and workmanship rather than their monetary value. His appreciation of fine
music and art is a Higher Feeling function and he seems to value his occult books in the same
way, as rare 'art objects', without investing himself intellectually in exploring their content.
His copy of 'The Nine Gates' is a treasure of his collection for the quality of its workmanship,
its notoriety and its great rarity. This is why he tells Corso that he won't sell it at any price,
even though he must realize that if he did sell it, he could live the rest of his life on the
The Baroness tells Corso that Fargas is an 'unbeliever', but this is an oversimplification
because Fargas is not indifferent to the content of the book. When he asks Corso what he's
looking for in comparing the two books and Corso replies "I'm not sure", Fargas says "Some
books are dangerous -- not to be opened with impunity." It is as Corso is comparing the
engravings in the two books that we first see the Second Gate/Higher Feeling engraving of the
Hermit, and then the Jester and maze of the Fourth Gate/lower mind, and this combination
seems to reflect very well the way that Fargas' consciousness looks at the book.
Balkan is a good example of one way in which the lower mind/ego relates to the subject of
'the occult' (which simply means 'hidden' teachings). He embraces his own idea of it in the
delusional belief that it will provide him with a secret way to get what he desires and to gain
power over others. Fargas is an example of the other typical lower mind/ego reaction. He
fears and avoids the subject altogether because of the common misconception that all of its
students are like Balkan. Desire and fear are the unavoidable stock-in-trade of the ego and
lower mind until the union of the ego and the Soul introduces into the equation the Love of
the Soul which tames desire, casts out fear and greatly expands the capacity to understand.
Corso begins by taking Balkan's assignment for the money (desire), and when his apartment
is ransacked, Liana attacks him, and Bernie is killed and left in the pose of the Hanged Man,
Corso naturally reacts with fear and wants to quit. Balkan's offer of a lot more money puts
him temporarily back on the job (desire again). Then, after a Ceniza twin indirectly warns him
of 'danger descending from above' just before the collapsing scaffolding barely misses falling
on his head, and after he encounters 'the girl' again and understands that she will be
accompanying him on his assignment, hist curiosity starts to get the better of him as he begins
to realize that there may still be important dimensions of life which he hasn't yet discovered.
From then on he becomes motivated more and more by a powerful Higher Mind-based will to
know the secrets of the book for their own sake. Corso's feeling state vacillates between
desire and fear until he sees that he is being drawn into a partnership with 'the girl' who seems
to be guiding and protecting him through his adventures. At that point he begins to trust in her
guidance and to go willingly wherever it is that she's leading him, regardless of the
circumstances, a change which reflects his transition to the value system of the Higher
Feeling nature.
THE THIRD GATE - Yesod/Sexuality: Liana St. Martin Telfer
The information given earlier on the symbolism of the Third Gate described the ideal
situation in which the sexual desire nature of Yesod collaborates with the lower feeling nature
of Netzach with the subconscious participation of the Soul at Tiphareth to produce the
phenomenon of 'falling in love'. Seeing the qualities of one's Soul reflected in the 'Beloved'
and pursuing a union with this 'Beloved' is the most common way in which the ego is led into
an ultimate union with the Soul. But we actually first see the Third Gate engraving in the shop
of the Ceniza Brothers and as we will see below, this symbolically represents the perspective
of the ego's lower mind. On this lowest ego level, the experience of Yesod may simply
involve a physical interaction without much personal feeling entering into it (let alone any
Higher Feeling), either strictly for pleasure or as a way to achieve power, money, or some
other ego goal.
This was the nature of Liana's original 'relationship' with her husband and was also the basis
of Corso's coupling with Liana. She was using her sexuality as bait to get Corso to help her
get her book back, while he was simply giving in to the opportunity for a casual sexual
interlude. He had no intention of stealing the book for her and when she found she'd been
tricked, she attacked him. Just as the Ceniza twin warned when we first saw the engraving for
the Third Gate, one who ventures too far on this path for strictly ego-gratification purposes
must expect the likelihood of 'danger descending from above'. In Corso's interaction with
Liana, the aggressive nature of his willingness to cheat her out of the agreed 'payment' for her
sexual favors was reflected back to him in the form of a liquor bottle descending on his head.
In just the way depicted by the LCF Third Gate engraving, Corso was eventually drawn by
the girl into a partnership with his Soul. However, it wasn't until he came to the point of the
Ninth Gate that he experienced the true, sacred, tantric aspect of the energies of Yesod --
which drew on both the lower and Higher Feeling energies which had been kindled between
them -- to carry Corso across the Abyss and into temporary ego death and union with Spirit.
THE FOURTH GATE - Hod/lower mind: The Ceniza Brothers
Although we don't actually see the engraving for the Fourth Gate of Hod/lower mind until
Corso visits Fargas, the subject itself is raised just before that when Corso makes his trip to
Toledo, Spain to the workshop of the Ceniza twins. Director Roman Polanski included an
interesting detail in the film which is repeated in a slightly different form both times that
Corso is walking down the alley towards the Ceniza Brothers' shop. On his first visit, we hear
a woman's voice calling out from somewhere on the right side of the alley and then a young
boy comes running from Corso's left and crosses in front of him, answering "Si, si, mama!"
When Corso returns the second time, we only hear the young boy's voice calling "Si, si,
This might simply be something which has a personal meaning for Polanski. But the fact that
it was repeated twice gives it some importance and it can also be seen as reinforcing another
clue which he gave us about the symbolic identity of the Cenizas, the fact that they are twins.
'The Twins' is a name associated with the astrological sign Gemini which is ruled by Mercury
and symbolizes the lower mind. Mercury, also known as Hermes, is sometimes called 'the
puer', symbolically a boy or youth who doesn't grow up. Gemini traditionally rules the Third
House of an astrological chart, just to the left of the bottom center point of the chart, and just
to the right of the center point is the Fourth House which is traditionally ruled by the sign
Cancer, the sign of the Moon, which is associated with the Mother. The Ceniza Bros. shop
was located to the left of the alley from where the boy ran and the twins' trade also involved
books and the written word, both ruled in astrology by Gemini and Mercury and symbolized
in Qabalah by Hod/Mercury/lower mind.
We have already covered Corso's transition from lower mind to Higher Mind but there is one
more symbolic point here. The Ceniza Brothers' shop (as a symbol of Gemini/lower mind)
was the source from which Liana originally acquired her copy of the book, the same copy
which ended up in Boris Balkan's hands. As one of the twins observed when Corso told him
of the book's new owner, "Each book has its own destiny." Apparently it was the destiny of
the Ceniza Brothers' copy of the book to be owned by people who saw it and valued it only
from the perspective of the lower mind and used it only to serve the desires of their egos and
since Balkan had it with him in the castle, its final end, like his, was complete destruction by
As we will see when we get to the Eighth Gate, the Baroness at least made an attempt to
develop her Higher Mind functions though she ultimately failed and she never made the
transition from lower feeling to Higher Feeling. And judging by the position of the book
where Corso left it on the Baroness' desk, we can assume that it too was entirely consumed by
fire. Fargas saw his copy and valued it from the perspective of the Higher Feeling function of
the Soul, and from what we saw of him, seemed to have developed at least that half of the
functions of the realm of the Soul. Perhaps this is why his copy was only half burnt. The
Ceniza Brothers' shop will play one last symbolic role when Corso returns to find the genuine
Ninth Gate engraving, representing the final stage in the transformation process which will be
described in "Is that it?" We will consider then one possible reason why Polanski directed one
of the twins to drop ashes all over the book when Corso first brought it back to them.
THE FIFTH GATE - Netzach/lower feeling: Bernie the Bookseller
We first see the engraving for the Fifth Gate when Corso brings the book to Bernie's and asks
him to hide it for him. Corso's apartment had been ransacked while he was at the research
library where he had just briefly seen the same mysterious girl who was at Balkan's lecture.
Corso wasn't sure at that point who was after Balkan's book, but it was clear to him that
somebody was. Bernie was impressed by seeing the infamous book whose value he estimated
at 'a million dollars' and as he leafed through it, we saw the Frontispiece, the Fifth Gate
engraving of the man counting out his gold with Death lurking over his shoulder, and finally
the Hanged Man of the Sixth Gate.
We talked about the transition from lower feeling to Higher Feeling when we discussed the
Second Gate above, but Corso's reaction to Bernie's death was the first time that his
previously dominant ego-based, lower feeling value system, centered on profit, was
challenged by the shock of a personal loss. When Corso came out of the bookshop after
finding Bernie hanging like the Hanged Man, he was clearly shaken, enough to call Balkan to
tell him he was quitting. Only when Balkan told him to 'add another zero' to the dollar amount
of his fee, was the financial incentive impressive enough to keep him on the job.
Corso's motivation shifts away from the financial when he partners with the girl, (and as we
will see, this is correlated with the Sixth Gate symbolism of the Hanged Man). Money finally
becomes completely irrelevant to him at the point when, not yet having received his check for
his assignment, Corso pulls a gun on Balkan at the castle in an effort to take the engravings
away from him. As Balkan understands, Corso is unable to use a gun in cold blood (having
developed too strong a Higher Feeling function), and he is finally only able to shoot Balkan as
an act of compassion when he sees that Balkan is burning to death.
THE SIXTH GATE - Tiphareth/The Soul: 'The (Mysterious) Girl'
From the time that Corso first meets with Balkan, takes possession of the book, and accepts
his assignment to track down the other two copies, the character identified only as 'the girl' is
always somewhere nearby. She's at Balkan's lecture, at the research library, and we see her
feet outside the window at Bernie's when Corso stashes the book there. [She's the one
squashing out a lighted cigarette which had just been dropped, while the litterer was most
likely 'the albino'.] We don't see her in Toledo, but she apparently was there since Corso runs
into her on the train from Toledo to Sintra. This is the point at which he finally understands
that she will be accompanying him on his journeys [albeit for reasons he doesn't yet
understand. Corso is assuming that she is working for Balkan, but later at the St Martin
Castle, when he accuses her of having been working for Balkan, she answers, "I thought you
were the one working for him."]
On the plane from Sintra to Paris, Corso makes one of several attempts to get the girl to
explain to him who she is and what role she is playing. When he asks her who was
responsible for Fargas' murder, she says "He's dead - who cares?" He replies "I do, It could
have been me." Girl: "Not with me to take care of you." Corso: "Oh, I see, you're my
Guardian Angel then?" Girl: "If you say so." Corso: Someone's playing a game with me."
Girl: "Of course. You're part of it, and you're getting to like it." Earlier, she told him that she
was a student "in a way", and we see her reading a book on how to influence people. This is
pretty much all that she tells Corso about herself, but in the context of the journey described
by the engravings, her role is clear.
At first, when Corso is dealing with the ego functions of the lower mind (the research library
and the Ceniza Bros.), lower feeling (Bernie) and sexuality (Liana), the girl either seems
absent or Corso only catches glimpses of her and when he tries to find her, she disappears .
But from the time that he visits Fargas, representing the first Soul level sephira of Chesed/
Higher Feeling, the girl starts to take charge of Corso's journey and they begin to act as a
team. At first the girl plays a protective role and does the bulk of the fighting but gradually,
although it's clear that she is always potentially stronger than Corso is, he grows into being
more of an equal partner. By the time they arrive at Liana's chateau, Corso is the one taking
the initiative. When the albino is escorting them at gunpoint down to where he is instructed to
kill them, it is Corso who throws him down the stairs and knocks him unconscious. Corso
does this all on his own, a milestone which the girl acknowledges with obvious approval and
satisfaction. In the context of self-defense, this is a legitimate exercise of the power of
Earlier, when Corso first expressed his admiration and gratitude to the girl for fighting for him
against the albino down by the river, we saw the bond of Higher Feeling growing between
them. It was at this point that the girl looked lovingly at Corso and drew with her fingers three
vertical lines on his forehead with her own blood, the central line extending down his nose.
There is a long spiritual tradition of marking the forehead as a sign of spiritual protection and
initiation in both Eastern and Western traditions and three vertical marks on the forehead is
the traditional Hindu sign of initiation of those who worship God in the form of Vishnu, the
Preserver, whose qualities (like those of Chesed) are kindness and mercy. Such marks are also
worn as a reminder of the consecration of the body as the temple of the Spirit, and in Corso's
case might represent a sign of his initiation into Higher Feeling and the realm of the Soul.
[Corso's blood stained forehead is not immediately cleaned.]
In the context of the Tree of Life, the three symbolic marks might also refer to the three
Transcendent Creative energies of the Supernal Triad (which, when the body is superimposed
on the Tree, are located in the head). The elongated center mark might symbolize the Central
Pillar which extends downward from the highest central sephira of the Godhead, Kether/
Crown, representing the route of the path of return which Corso is traveling. The girl begins
as a symbolic figure who models for him the qualities of the Soul which he will gradually
grow into, but once Corso has achieved the union of his ego and Soul, the inter-dimensional
figure of the girl remains a symbol of the non-dual Spirit. It is his union with her in this
capacity which will carry him across the Abyss and into union with the Spirit with the
opening of the Ninth Gate.
THE SEVENTH GATE - Daath/Ascension: Corso & The Girl, Inc.
We first see the Seventh Gate engraving (the disciple surpasses the master) after Corso has
made an end-run around the fierce, hyper-vigilant secretary at the Kessler Institute and is
showing the Baroness the variations in the engravings. "Variations?" she says, "If that were
true, it would be a revelation..." which, given the symbolism of the Ninth Gate engraving, is
an interesting choice of word. The integration of ego and Soul which is depicted in the
engraving actually represents a consolidation of all of the functions of the seven lower
sephiroth of the Tree. Since we are now describing Corso's journey, all of these energies
would be a part of his consciousness and this integration would prepare him for a entirely new
way of experiencing life.
Corso demonstrated his determination to go beyond the world as he had been capable of
understanding it in the past when, after the interrupted ceremony at the chateau, he *had* to
chase after Balkan as the latter left with the engravings on his way to the castle. The fact that,
as the girl pointed out, he was now 'out of a job' meant nothing to him compared with his
desire to *know*. Corso has a final moment of doubt about the girl because she stopped him
when he tried to prevent Balkan from strangling Liana. It's true, as the girl said, that since
Balkan had now killed someone in front of witnesses, Corso would be 'off the hook' for
Balkan's earlier murders of Fargas and the Baroness, but there is also a symbolic aspect to this
death. In terms of Corso's experience with her, Liana represented the negative exploitation of
lower feeling and sexuality to serve the purposes of ego. Now that Corso has achieved the
union of ego and Soul and become conscious of his Higher Feeling function, this is a kind of
experience which will no longer be possible for him.
It is an interesting detail that Corso gets into Liana's car to chase Balkan but the girl makes no
move to go with him and only hands him his coat and satchel. Still dressed in his black
ceremonial robe disguise, Corso peels out to chase Balkan but when Balkan fords a large
stream, Corso's borrowed car stalls out in the middle of it. Symbolically, the 'vehicle' of a so-
called 'devil-worshipper' is not adequate for the journey which Corso is destined to take. He
abandons the car, takes off his robe, discovers Liana's gun in the pocket of his coat, and
returns to his hotel to regroup.
Corso gets his shoes cleaned for a fresh start, gets directions and makes his own way to the
castle, first hitching a ride on a truck which is hauling large logs, a symbolic equivalent of
Corso's own present condition: a resource which has grown to maturity over many years until
it was ready to be harvested, stripped of its non-usable parts, and is now on its way to undergo
a metamorphosis of form to become part of an entirely new structure. Corso then continues in
the back of a small truck carrying sheep and hay. This is perhaps a reference to the Nativity,
since the goal which Corso is approaching is a significant new birth into an experience where,
like a baby, he will be starting over 'at the bottom' again. The symbol of Tiphareth/Soul in his
present world is that of a King, while in the new world which he will enter, it is the King as
Divine Child. Corso covers the last distance on foot, arriving at the castle just as night is
falling, a reflection of the black color of Daath and the symbolic state of darkness in which he
will finally cross the Abyss at the Ninth Gate.
THE EIGHTH GATE - Geburah/Higher Mind/Will: Baroness Kessler & Secretary
We get a brief first glimpse of the engraving for the Eighth Gate ("Virtue lies defeated") in
Balkan's private library when Corso first accepts Balkan's assignment. We next see it when he
visits the Baroness at the Kessler Institute, and he is in fact looking at this engraving when he
is knocked unconscious from behind. It is my understanding that the decision to modify the
engravings to resemble film characters wasn't made until after filming for the movie had
already started, so it's possible that the casting director for the movie may have had this in
mind, but to my eye, Simone, the Baroness' formidable secretary-from-hell, bears an uncanny
resemblance to the strapping swordsman in the original book version of the engraving.
This is only fitting since she is a very effective example of one of the major functions of
Geburah/Higher Mind: a vigilant, unbending, militant determination not to allow anyone
undeserving to proceed any higher on the path of return. In the context of the individual's
Geburah function, this would be the faculty of mental and moral discernment, not accepting,
condoning or acting on unworthy ideas.
I'll just mention one other symbolic touch which Polanski added concerning Simone. When
Corso arrives for his original appointment, we see that the secretary has an orange, and as he's
leaving, we see that she has peeled the orange and makes a tentative effort to hide it as he
walks past. On Corso's second visit, as he's running down the stairs away from the fire, he
literally runs into Simone who is returning from lunch and knocks a bag of oranges from her
hands, sending them bouncing down the stairs.
Following the rule that when some apparently random detail is repeated twice it may not be
random, I looked for some symbolic function of oranges and found it in the context of the
Godfather movies where it serves as a warning of imminent death. If you enter the words
"Godfather," "oranges," and "symbols" in a search engine, you'll find examples and discussion
about this death symbolism. I thought this was particularly ironic since it is a widely held
opinion that the film many believe to be Polanski's masterwork, 'Chinatown', would have won
the Oscar for Best Picture of 1974 if it hadn't been up against Godfather II that year. Perhaps
this was Polanski's way of having a little fun with one of Coppola's recognized 'serious'
symbolic devices. In the 'Ninth Gate', Simone doesn't die but the Baroness does.
There are indications that the Baroness had attempted to develop her Higher Mind functions.
She apparently studied the book over a period of years, calling her knowledge of it
"profound". She wrote a biography of its author, and her copy of the book was stuffed full of
notes. The latter might be an indication also of her apparent lack of a developed Higher
Feeling function since she seemed to have no appreciation of the artistry which the book
represented in its workmanship and didn't respect it as an art object. But though you might
expect a student of an 'occult' subject like 'the devil' to have at least a passing familiarity with
the symbolism of the Tarot and the Tree of Life, the Baroness apparently never understood the
true meaning of the engravings. Perhaps her preconceived ideas and romantic notions about
having 'seen the devil' when she was fifteen years old prevented her from coming to any
deeper level of understanding.
She tells Corso that her younger years were devoted to something very similar to the kind of
theatrical rituals that we saw at Liana's chateau. It's not clear whether the Baroness became
disenchanted with this before or after she sustained her crippling injuries, or if she just
decided that her 'orgy days were over'. She ended up devoting her life to using what
knowledge she had to making large sums of money writing books about 'evil' and 'the devil' --
and thereby subverting her Higher Mind function to serve her lower feeling material desires.
The Baroness would be a mirror image of Fargas' equally one-sided development except that
she seemed to experience a failure of the will to move forward in the development of Higher
Mind. She gave up and settled for exploiting her partial knowledge for money, and I see this
failure of will reflected in her crippled body and particularly in her partially amputated right
arm, the arm which should be wielding Geburah's sword. This is poignantly obvious in the
scene in which she sharply orders Corso out of her office, pointing her poor stump of an arm
towards the door. Simone seems to be the human equivalent of a prosthesis, the Baroness'
'good right arm'.
At the beginning of the film, Corso was apparently so disinterested in the subject of
metaphysics that Balkan's lecture actually put him to sleep. But maybe it was just Balkan's
particularly shallow and skewed viewpoint that didn't appeal. By the time Corso arrives at
Liana's chateau, he is completely motivated by his desire to know the secrets of the book and
is willing to do whatever it takes (within the limitations of what his Chesed Higher Feeling
function will permit) to achieve that. His one Geburah failure, a lack of discernment, is what
makes him susceptible to being knocked unconscious from behind in the Baroness' library.
Corso had enough clues by then to have figured out that Balkan was closely following him
and was probably responsible for the murder of Fargas. He knew that the LCF engravings had
been removed from the Fargas copy of the book before it was burned, and that Balklan was an
obvious suspect. Balkan knew that Corso was at the Institute during the lunch hour when the
secretary was absent [he had in fact told Corso to go there at that time], and Corso's intuition
should have told him that Balkan wouldn't settle for a simple description of the variations in
the Kessler copy. Even if, at this point, Corso also suspected the 'albino', Corso still should
have thought to take more precautions than he did.
In the description of the engraving of the Hermit, we noted that in addition to the inner
knowledge that the Hermit seeks which leads him to the Higher Feeling function of Chesed,
he also needs to integrate into his consciousness his natural animal instincts which warn of
danger, as symbolized in that engraving by the little dog. We see that Corso has not yet
accomplished this when, despite the fact that his life has been threatened more than once, he
sits with his back to the door in a strange place and apparently doesn't register the approach of
danger which should have been signaled to him by his aura/energy body in the form of a
prickling feeling at the back of the neck.
After he regains consciousness and escapes the fire -- as he is across the street recovering at
the fountain -- we see a larger, more imposing version of the Hermit's little dog standing
nearby, apparently giving Corso a hard look and a message which I will translate here from
the original canine body language: 'Tsk-tsk. If you want to fare better in the future, you'll have
to remember to pay more attention to me."
THE NINTH GATE - Crossing The Abyss: Corso & The Girl, a joint venture
Corso's first stop, after he accepts the assignment from Balkan to examine the other two
copies of the book, is a research library where we see him looking first at the Frontispiece
engraving of Balkan's book and hear him translating to himself 'Sic Luceat Lux, Thus let the
Light shine'. Next he removes a large volume from the shelf, sees 'the girl' facing him as she
replaces a book directly on the other side of the stack, and when he opens his volume, we see
the engraving for the Ninth Gate in which the woman riding the Beast resembles the girl. And
although it is the AT version of the engraving that we see then, with the castle in flames, in the
genuine LCF engraving which Corso recovers at the very end of the film, it is the Light which
the Frontispiece is referring to which we see shining from the castle.
The girl appears as a more-than-human but personalized symbol of the spiritual evolutionary
force which accompanies Corso from the very beginning of his journey to discover the
meaning of the book to the point at which she takes him 'across the Abyss' in front of the
flaming castle. She then directs him to the location of the genuine Ninth Gate engraving, and
it is Corso alone who makes the journey 'back from enlightenment", which is the subject of
"Is that it?" below.
In addition to the progression from fire (AT) to Light (LCF), there is another very interesting
and parallel symbolic detail in the Crescent Moon which, as the book puts it, 'hides the
woman's sex' in the AT engraving, but which disappears in the genuine LCF version. I
understand the Moon in this context as the balance point (Yesod/Moon/Sexuality) of the
Lower Triad of the Tree, representing the perspective of the ego's sexual, lower feeling and
lower mind functions. As we saw in the discussion of the Third Gate, without the participation
of the Higher Feeling function of the Soul, the sexual energies serve only the desires and
purposes of the ego, and their energetic 'frequency' is confined to a level at which they
symbolically create heat but no light.
Once the union/Conjunctio of ego/Moon/Yesod and Soul/Sun/Tiphareth has been achieved,
the engagement of the energies of the Higher Mind and Higher Feeling nature raise the
frequency of the sexual energies to the point of being able to carry the traveler who is
prepared to undergo this experience, across the Abyss and into ultimate Union with the
Transcendent energy of Spirit under the guise of its last and finest veil of form: Supernal
Light. This ascent of the sacred kundalini energies which the ego calls 'sexual' but which
express themselves at all levels of human experience (as conceptualized in the inter-
dimensional energy system of the chakras), is the goal of the Eastern practice of Tantra. But
as symbolized by the kundalini serpent on the Tree in the Frontispiece, this energy also rises
naturally as the journey up the Tree progresses whether special practices are followed or not.
In the context of this higher experience of the sexual energies, the ego's typically either
repressed or prurient attitude towards the subject of sexuality is no longer present and so the
Moon, its symbol, no longer appears in its previous strategic location in the genuine LCF
As Corso leaves the castle after the fire which Balkan set has spread, we see seven separate
flames shooting out of the castle windows behind him, perhaps symbolic of the full function
of the seven lower sephiroth of Corso's inner Tree which he has now attained. As Corso and
the girl engage all of these energies in raising the kundalini force through the seven inter-
dimensional chakras, we see the emergence of three new flames in the castle behind them,
symbolic, I believe, of the union of Soul and Spirit, the union of the seven lower sephiroth
with the three Transcendent energies of the Supernal Triad of the Tree. This represents the re-
uniting of all of the energies of the Tree with the 'crossing' and annihilation of the Abyss.
In interpreting the expressions which we see on Corso's face and the variations in the ways in
which the girl appears to him, remember that there is a part of him, his ego function, which
temporarily enters into darkness at the crossing of the Abyss which the ego/lower mind
experiences as 'death'. When this function 'resurrects', it will take a new form, as we will see
next in The 'Journey Back From Enlightenment'.
"IS THAT IT?": And What's With All The Shells? - The Journey Back From 'Enlightenment'
From the dramatic high point of the Conjunctio with the blazing castle in the background, the
film next takes us to ordinary daylight and the mundane front seat of a car which, for the first
time, Corso is driving with the girl as a passenger. Corso has apparently recovered from his
metaphysical rite of passage, but this appearance is deceiving. He will be in a state which is a
psychologically protective form of denial and the spiritual equivalent of physical 'shock' for at
least several days during which time he will act as if everything is 'back to normal' while
being acutely aware, deep within his own psyche, that it is not.
Corso asks, almost flippantly, "Is that it? Is the game over?" The girl answers that it's over for
Balkan but not for him. Corso asks why Balkan didn't succeed. The girl explains that the
Ninth Gate engraving was a forgery. Corso immediately responds "Where's the real one? I
want it." And as the audience metaphorically leans forward as one, in anticipation of this
long-awaited moment of revelation, the girl says "You're running low on gas" and they pull
into a Shell station. (What?!)
The unsubtle appearance of the Shell logo in the film has been speculated about at IMDb, and
it may be true that Polanski received a handsome fee from Shell for product placement. But if
so, I have to give him credit for using Shell to achieve his own purposes as much as Shell
used the appearances in his film to achieve theirs, because, in the context of Corso's journey
of return on the Tree of Life, the word 'shell' has another meaning.
There are various versions of the symbolic location and function of the shells (called
'klippoth' in Qabalistic tradition). Some see them in the form of a 'shadow Tree' in which each
sephira has a corresponding 'shell' version whose energy is fatally unbalanced so that it
produces evil effects instead of good. Others see the lowest world of Assiah (the Tree of the
material world on which Corso has been journeying) as itself representing the realm of shells
since the Divine energy which originally descended from its Transcendent Source has
reached, in Assiah, the point of maximum incarnation into form. At this lowest level of the
Tree, the Divine nature of Creation may be virtually undetectable from the perspective of ego
consciousness and the world, as the ego experiences it, may appear to be something more
akin to Hell.
The fear of Hell and the desire to escape it was certainly a motivating factor for Christians in
medieval times who made long journeys to certain spiritual destinations in order to atone for
their sins or gain spiritual merit. The large scallop shell which the Shell company adopted as
its logo is also probably the best-known form of pilgrim's badge which signified that a
Christian had completed a pilgrimage to the popular shrine of St. James (in Spanish,
Santiago) at Campostella, Spain. So to recap, the first two associations with this shell symbol
are to an experience of a form of 'Hell on Earth' and a determination to undertake a sometimes
arduous journey in order to escape 'Hell'.
The first time that we see the shell symbol is on the grounds of the Fargas mansion where it is
a central decorative motif on the fountain/pool where Fargas' body was discovered. The
second time is on a small sign outside Corso's hotel in Paris where he goes to visit Baroness
Kessler. In both cases, Corso was leaving behind the ego's perspective of this world as a form
of 'hell realm', and making a journey that would help him to escape the ego realm of 'Hell'.
Fargas represented the function of Higher Feeling, Corso's first contact on his journey (other
than the girl) with the realm of the Soul, and the Baroness represented at least a partial
achievement of the function of Higher Mind, also in the realm of the Soul. And now the third
encounter with the shell symbol comes as Corso is preparing to make a transition which will
take him out of the world of Assiah, the realm of shells, entirely.
This refueling stop also gives the girl an opportunity to disappear, since Corso now has
everything he needs in order to complete his journey and must proceed from this point on his
own. She leaves him one last direction on where to find the genuine Ninth Gate engraving, in
a note written on the forged copy and stuck under his windshield wiper, saying "Ceniza Bros."
As the Phoenix From Its Ashes, So Rises "The Star"
As Corso is walking down the alleyway to the Cenizas' shop, we hear once more the young
boy's voice, 'Si, si, Mama' but it sounds farther away this time, almost like an echo or a
memory, and when Corso arrives at the shop, he sees that it has been vacated and is being
dismantled. All the books are gone and the two workmen who are removing a last tall
bookcase (men with different last names, so they are not twins), don't speak Corso's language
and have nothing useful to tell him. The answer he's looking for comes unexpectedly from
*above* the place where the previous books were. As the bookcase is tipped over, a paper
floats down from its top -- the genuine engraving of the Ninth Gate showing an 8-pointed star
(or Sun, which is also a star) shining from the castle.
'The Star' is the 17th Trump of the Tarot's Major Arcana, and is traditionally represented as an
eight-pointed star accompanied by the naked figure of a woman with two pitchers, one
pouring water into a pool and the other pouring water onto the land. This is a symbol of
uncertain derivation which can be seen as the agency of Soul uniting the realms of matter and
Spirit -- just as the Soul mediates between the ego realm of matter and the Supernal realm of
Spirit on the Tree. The eight-pointed star is a symbol of fullness and completion, and has been
associated with the eight basic trigrams of the Chinese 'I Ching' whose combinations produce
the full cycle of 64 hexagrams. These hexagrams represent all possible interactions between
the dual, polar energies of active/solar yang (solid line) and receptive/lunar yin (broken line),
all of the interactions still being recognized as reflections of One underlying Unity.
The eight-pointed star is also traditionally used in representations of the Star of Bethlehem
(the birth of the Christ child who was both human and Divine) and is identified with
regeneration and rebirth into Spirit. Its related form, the octagon, is considered the
intermediary form between the square and the circle (symbolically uniting the four and the
three, matter and Spirit). It is also the traditional shape of baptistries and baptismal fonts in
which the body is sealed with the sign of Spirit through the agency of water. So in addition to
the symbol of Transcendent Light/Spirit emanating from the (material) castle in the genuine
engraving, we have a reference which is, significantly, not to the transcendence of matter and
ego, but rather to the underlying *unity* of ego/Soul/Spirit and of the outer material form of
Creation and the Divine Creative energy which informs and animates it.
Why did the Ceniza brothers forge the ninth engraving? 'The twins', as a symbol of the sign of
Gemini, represent the ego's lower mind, the duality consciousness of the Beast, and from the
perspective of this lower mind -- in terms of its autonomous existence -- the end of the
journey *is* annihilation. Polanski gave us a clue to this in the name Ceniza which means
"ash" and in the one twin who smoked and rather spectacularly dropped ashes all over the
precious book.
At that time, only one victim, Bernie, was associated with Corso's relationship with the book,
but there were four more yet to come: Fargas, Baroness Kessler, Liana, and Balkan himself.
The number five in this context perhaps symbolically relates to the five physical senses on
which the consciousness of the lower ego mind is based as it was in the case of the five
crenellations which marked the exit from maze of the lower mind in the engraving for the
Fourth Gate. Considering that Aristide Torchia, the author of the lower mind/AT versions of
the engravings -- and all three of his books -- were reduced to ashes, (except for the Higher
Mind/LCF engravings which were rescued by Corso), it may be more than coincidence that
there is a Spanish idiomatic expression "tener el cenizo" which means to have bad luck or to
be jinxed.
In the Christian Ash Wednesday liturgy of repentance (from the Greek 'metanoia', a change of
mind and heart), when a cross of ashes is inscribed on the forehead, we are told, "remember
that you are dust and to dust you shall return". This is a reminder to the consciousness of the
lower mind/ego/body to align itself with the purposes of Soul in preparation for its Easter
resurrection into Spirit. When consciousness no longer looks out from the limited vantage
point of the lower mind, but from the enlightened perspective of the Higher Mind, the shop of
Gemini, which represents the old limited vision, is symbolically vacated -- its view of the
world is no longer adequate. Only once this shift has occurred, is the true vision revealed
from a symbolically 'higher' source (the genuine Ninth Gate engraving floats down from the
top of the bookcase, *above* where the books used to be).
The castle which Corso enters at his journey's end is a version of the symbol of The New
Jerusalem. Like "Solomon's Temple", the Temple "not made with hands", it exists at once as
both "Macrocosm" (the perfect Creation) and "microcosm" (the individual enlightened
consciousness). The essence of our Being and of the created world has always been Divine.
Only the temporary, limited perspective of our ego-bound consciousness has prevented us
from experiencing this truth. Once Corso is able to look at last through the eyes of the Spirit/
Soul, he experiences what was always there for those 'with eyes to see': the Divine Light of
Heaven which continually blazes from the heart of all created forms.
'The Kingdom of Heaven is spread upon the Earth...' (The Gospel of Thomas)
I believe that Francisco Sole, the designer of the original engravings, Arturo Perez Reverte,
the author of the book 'The Club Dumas' and Roman Polanski, both as director of the film
'The Ninth Gate' and as co-writer of the screenplay with John Brownjohn and Enrique Urbizu
-- all deserve our gratitude for their parts in making available to a wider audience the basic
outline of this inspired and inspiring traditional wisdom teaching.
The simple interpretation which I have given only barely scratches the surface of the riches to
be found in the study of the Tree of Life. There are lots of resources on the Tarot and Qabalah
available online and I encourage those of you who found this analysis interesting to begin
your own journeys of exploration. I believe there is only one ultimate and sure solution to the
precarious state of the world as it appears today, and that is the spiritual evolution of
consciousness, one person at a time. If you have ever felt the desire to become part of the
solution, I hope you will feel inspired to take up the essential portion of world-changing
power which has been entrusted to you, and begin.


Posted 2 February 2007 by Mercurio:

There is a dualistic approach in Ms. Whitney's essay in which there are only two real
alternatives -- i.e. the good guys and the bad guys. While this duality may be reflected in the
nature of the two versions of the engravings, the author has made a perhaps unwarranted leap
in her interpretation of these two possibilities.

On the one hand, there is the undesirable version, what the author might describe as the "ego-
dominated" individuals, who

"expend their energies not in completing their own journey, but in declaring that those who
are following all of the other paths up the mountain are 'evil', making war on them, and trying
to stamp them out. From the perspective of ego consciousness, the symbolic figure of 'the
Devil' is identified with anyone-who-doesn't-believe-exactly-what-I-believe, and for this
reason, it is in the realm of ego consciousness, the realm of the lower mind at the base of the
mountain, where the concept of 'the Devil' finds its ultimate playground."

This path does in fact appear to have all the ingredients to lead one to fiery demise. But then
the author takes a Devil-may-care turn and decides that for a " successful path",

"it is, necessary to forge an alliance with your own best understanding of a Higher Power, a
benevolent spiritual guiding force which can help, inspire, and challenge you to grow beyond
ego consciousness and align yourself with the greater purpose, power and harmony of your
own Soul."
This sounds very much like: Failure on the path is destined for "anyone-who-doesn't-believe-
exactly-what-I-believe," i.e. if you're not willing to accede your destiny to a higher power,
some ill-defined divine spirit with which to direct your life... you're in a heap of trouble! It's
the old "Let not my will, but thy will be done" scenario. There is an inconsequential
difference between selling one's soul to the Devil, and selling one's soul to some "Higher

The author also spends considerable energy in relating the "successful path" to various
artifacts of Christianity. While she appears to be highly tolerant of other religions or paths to
the "peak", the fact remains that many mainstream religions have lost a great deal of
credibility in terms of acting in the best interests of its supplicants. Taking bits and pieces of
different religious hints of wisdom may be more a matter of interpretation than of pragmatic
fact, but does not justify the author's interpretation that one must still look to a Higher Power
for marching orders.

It might be well to remind ourselves that as the author points out in one of the engravings:
"Fate is not the same for all. For those who devote themselves to the real-life 'journey up the
Tree' described by the LCF version of the engravings, the ultimate fruit of the Quest is
nothing less than personal transformation and the experience of the world from the
perspective of..." one's very individual, egotistical Higher Self?

Perhaps the third alternative -- or another interpretation of the "successful path" -- is to be

found in one achieving their own sovereignty -- not at the expense of others, but purely as a
personal quest. This is not the goal of finding some Higher Power to blindly follow, but
instead to become a Higher Power. It's not about stomping on others to reach such a goal, but
to follow a path that is individually empowering (and not purely a power greather than
others). It is entirely possible that "the girl" who assists Corso is one who may have found her
path (possibly with the help of another) and who is now simply "paying forward" her debt to
her benefactor(s) by helping Corso.

The key is that instead of acknowledging servitude to some alleged Higher Power -- or even
to some fashionable moral code -- perhaps the true divinities of the universe are more likely
delighted at one of their "children" coming of age and taking charge of their own destiny.
After all, the key to universal enlightenment is diversity, with the paths taken -- and even the
diversity of goals -- being the critical factor.

Keep in mind that Roman Polanski is not, judging by his movies, someone who is preaching
the texts from some established, mainstream religion. He may very well being following his
own path -- one that does not necessarily conform to the standards of polite and politically
correct society. Clearly, his hero, Dean Corso, is not a prime example of the righteous and
compassionate disciple. Roman has instead embedded Corso with a shallow, self-serving
personality, who even in the last moments of the movie has not hinted at his intentions or
motivations in following the path through the Nine Gates. It is just entirely possible that
Polanski's suggested path -- as exemplified by Corso -- may be one of several "successful
paths" in becoming a Higher Power.

Author's Reply:

Hi Mercurio,

Re: We Don't Need No Stinkin' "Higher Power"! (Just a little levity)

Thanks very much for the feedback and the opportunity to clear up the question of what I
mean by a "Higher Power". I realize that this term may be understood in different ways
depending on the experience of the reader and clearly I should have been more specific about
it in the article. When I wrote the sentence that contains that term, I was thinking of it in the
context of the symbolism of the film and the function of "the girl." She seems to me to be a
pretty good symbolic representation of what the experience of a "Higher Power" is like in the
context of the journey of spiritual evolution "up the Tree".

You're right that there is a basic perspective of duality in the analysis of the engravings
(because there are two versions of each engraving), but I wouldn't characterize the choices as
"good guys" versus "bad guys". Balkan is portrayed as fairly villainous for the sake of the
drama, but Corso isn't particularly "good" by most standards . And of course it *is* possible
to be a relative "good guy" at the level of ego, until you're ready to move on. I would define
the choice as one between the viewpoint of the ego which is *not* ready to evolve versus the
viewpoint of the ego which *is* ready to begin the evolutionary journey.

Just to recap, the symbolism of the AT engravings illustrates a perspective on life and way of
being which acts to restrict your consciousness to the level of the separative ego which
always manages to find some "other" whether individual, group, or organization, to fight
against. The symbolism of the LCF engravings reflects a perspective and way of being that
will take you beyond the separative ego's dualistic perspective and eventually into the
conscious experience of Unity which is how the initiated "Higher Self" or "Soul" experiences
the world.
Three Developmental Stages of Consciousness

Although the two sets of engravings represent two categories of traveler (the ego that is ready
to evolve and the ego that is *not* ready to evolve) there are actually at least *three* stages of
consciousness which are represented in the film and on the Tree (to the best of my

1) First there is the ego's duality consciousness which is experienced "below the Veil". This is
symbolically represented by the lower Triad of Yesod, Hod and Netzach (and in the film by
Corso acting on his own, and in the engravings by the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth Gates).

2) Second, there is the awakening consciousness of what I have called the "Soul". This is
symbolically represented by the Ethical Triad of Tipareth, Geburah and Chesed (and in the
film by Corso acting in partnership with "the girl", and in the engravings by the Second, Sixth
and Eighth Gates).

3) And third, there is the enlightened consciousness which comes when the "Soul" is initiated,
consciously experiencing its identity with Transcendent Spirit by symbolically "crossing the
Abyss" (represented in the film by an enlightened Corso walking into the castle blazing with
Light and in the engravings by the Seventh and Ninth Gates).

It is at the second stage of developing consciousness that the "sticky terminology" problem
arises. At this second stage of spiritual evolution, consciousness has begun to break through
the first-stage illusion that the separative ego represents the totality of its identity, but has not
yet achieved the third-stage Unitive vision which comes with the awakening to enlightened
consciousness (crossing the Abyss and passing through the Ninth Gate).

In this in-between second stage, the individual consciousness encounters the experience of
becoming aware of an entirely benevolent guiding "Presence" Who is *felt* as being very
personal, loving, powerful and protective, and *more than human*. In my own experience,
this "Presence" also had a "feminine" nature and I think the character of "the girl" in the film
is actually a pretty good representation of this. In all my studies, I had not come across any
reference to the existence or function of such a Presence in this context and so I had no
preconceived idea about it. Even today I have no handy terminology to draw on to define my
experience of it. "Higher Power" was the closest non-denominational term I could think of

I think it was very wise of Polanski not to give that enigmatic character a name or to try to
explain her nature or function. The way the function of "the girl" changes over the course of
the film until she eventually disappears is a very accurate representation of my own
experience of the mysterious appearance of this sense of a "Higher Power" and its gradual
disappearance as a perceived "separate entity".

Although this Presence is at first experienced as being separate from your own accustomed
identity, this is only because the perspective of your consciousness has not yet expanded
enough to include the potential powers of your own Soul and Spirit as a part of your
recognized self. At this second stage of the development of consciousness, "the girl" or the
"Presence" seems to be a "Higher Power" -- it represents your perception that these Soul and
Spirit powers are separate from you but in a form that remains close to you and plays a
guiding/supportive role in your life. These Soul/Spirit powers are perceived as separate from
you only until your consciousness expands enough to encompass and integrate these powers
and recognize them as your own. The nature of the perceived reality is always a function of
the stage of evolution of the consciousness doing the perceiving.

Whose Will Be Done?

In terms of the symbolism of the engravings, it is Love which draws the traveler upward
through the Veil and into a more conscious partnership with his own Soul. The vehicle which
inspires this Love may be a romantic Beloved, or a religious/spiritual figure of some kind,
depending on the temperament of the traveler. The important thing is that whatever form the
perceived Beloved takes, it must be able to represent (or to use the terminology of depth
psychology, "carry the projection of") the energies and powers of the Soul.

The Beloved exerts an irresistible magnetic attraction on the traveler because he rightly feels
that it "belongs to him". *It is an unconscious, as-yet-unrecognized part of himself*. Only if a
Beloved, whether perceived as human or spiritual, is able to represent to the traveler the
energies and powers of his own Soul, will that Beloved have the power to draw the traveler
through the Veil and into an experience of his own Soul. There is never any question of the
traveler surrendering his will to anyone or anything other than the power of Love whose
Source is his own Higher Self and this experience can only occur when the consciousness has
reached the developmental stage at which it is prepared to begin the journey.

Because it is this powerful experience of Love which motivates the traveler's journey, the
transition -- from relying on the drives of the separative ego to guide his decisions, to
assuming the "rooted in Heaven" posture of the Hanged Man which looks to the higher, wider
Vision of the Soul for guidance -- is an entirely voluntary and joyful one. The face of the
Hanged Man is serene because he is experiencing, for the first time, a part of his own being
which was lost to him below the Veil. The Higher Will which he learns to align himself with
is still *his* ; it is different only in that it reflects the Will of his Higher Self, that part of his
being which is larger and more all-encompassing than his separative ego alone was capable of

"Who Is ‘The Girl ’?"

The answer to the most frequently asked question about the film, "Who is 'the girl'?" depends
upon what level of consciousness is responding to the question.

1) At the beginning of the film, Corso's consciousness is focused at the level of the ego and
from the perspective of the ego's duality-consciousness, the girl is at first assumed to be an
ordinary person -- until she demonstrates the uncanny ability to disappear in mysterious ways.
Although the girl represents the potential powers of Corso's own Soul and Spirit, he is at first
entirely unaware of this. At this stage, she appears to him as a mysterious presence which
intrigues him but which he can only catch fleeting glimpses of as long as he is preoccupied
with the concerns of his ego.

2) As Corso is drawn in by the mystery of the fact that the symbolism of the engravings is
beginning to appear in his "real life", the girl also begins to play a larger role in his
adventures. They become "partners", which represents the point at which Corso's
consciousness passes through the Veil and he begins to experience his life in a different way
-- because of the presence and influence of the girl.

Corso gradually begins to grow into the ability to exercise the powers of his own Soul,
symbolically represented on one level as his evolution from something of a wimp who relies
on the girl to do his fighting, to a take-charge guy who saves his own life by throwing the
murderous "albino" down the stairs. As he grows into his powers, the function of the girl
gradually changes until she finally represents for him the bridge to a conscious experience of
Transcendent Spirit , which is the last as yet unrealized potential aspect of his Identity.

3) It is only when Corso makes the transition from the perspective of the lower ego-mind of
Hod to the enlightened Mind of the initiated Higher Self (represented by the Star in the
genuine Ninth Gate engraving) that the girl disappears. When Corso walks into the castle
blazing with Light, all of the functions which the girl has represented to his evolving
consciousness have now been integrated into his own larger Identity. I tried to convey this
idea at the very end of the article in these terms:
"The castle which Corso enters at his journey's end is a version of the symbol of The New
Jerusalem. Like "Solomon's Temple", the Temple "not made with hands", it exists at once as
both "Macrocosm" (the perfect Creation) and "microcosm" (the individual enlightened
consciousness). The essence of our Being and of the created world has always been Divine,
and only the temporary, limited perspective of our ego-bound consciousness has prevented us
from experiencing this truth."

When Corso walks into the Light, he does not become the personal equivalent of the
Transcendent Godhead, but becomes consciously aware of his ultimate *identity with* that
Transcendent level of Being, while still remaining an individual, embodied expression of it.
Corso is and always was his own "Higher Power", he just wasn't aware of the higher levels of
his Identity *in those terms* until he "grew into" them.

Although this Presence is at first experienced as being separate from your own accustomed
identity, this is only because the perspective of your consciousness has not yet expanded
enough to include the potential powers of your own Soul and Spirit as a part of your
recognized self. At this second stage of the development of consciousness, "the girl" or the
"Presence" seems to be a "Higher Power" -- it represents your perception that these Soul and
Spirit powers are separate from you but in a form that remains close to you and plays a
guiding/supportive role in your life. These Soul/Spirit powers are perceived as separate from
you only until your consciousness expands enough to encompass and integrate these powers
and recognize them as your own.

Beyond Duality and Sectarianism

The two spiritual traditions which I am personally most familiar with, Christianity and
Buddhism, both contain symbolism which can be read to reflect the experience of the same
journey which Corso undertakes in the film. Of course, this in no way means that all who
contributed to these teachings would agree with this assessment or that every individual who
is involved in a form of Christian or Buddhist practice will be able (or willing) to see their
religious symbolism in this way.

The nature of perceived reality is always a function of the stage of evolution of the
consciousness which is doing the perceiving. You don't get the Unitive view from the
Mountain Peak until you reach it ; you can't reach the Peak without going through all of the
learning stages of the journey ; and each stage is a necessary and positive step towards the
goal. I personally was completely disillusioned with Christianity as it is now being taught
before I encountered my own first awakening experience and it was only *after* this that I
was able to see and appreciate the truth at the core of the symbolism. But at that point, it was
also clear that the same truths were reflected at the core of many other symbolic systems as

From the perspective of the top of the mountain , just as it's easy to see the core of truth in
every religious tradition , it is also easy to see how these truths have been co-opted and
distorted by individuals and institutions reflecting the power-driven consciousness of the ego-
mind/"Beast". I used Christian references in the article first of all because this is the spiritual
tradition that I'm most familiar with and I thought that might also be true for many readers;
second, because the symbolic figure of "the Devil" seems to have been greatly shaped and
empowered by the lower ego-mind's interpretation of the Christ message (some even claim
that traditional Christianity "created" the idea of the Devil in the form in which we now think
of it); and third, because it's impossible to ignore the way in which the idea of the "Anti-
Christ" scenario is now being used to influence political decisions in a very "Beast-like" way.

At the beginning of the journey, when the traveler's consciousness is focused at the level of
the ego-mind, there is no way for him to avoid the fact that his understanding of Christianity
-- or any other religious tradition -- is distorted by the dualistic nature of his consciousness. At
the same time, he doesn't have the perspective necessary to recognize that this distortion of
his understanding even exists. As long as he remains satisfied with the value system of the
ego-mind, he will have no motivation to journey in search of something else. So the ideal
state of mind to prompt a traveler to begin the journey would be one in which he had either
"lost faith" in any traditional religious system or never had such "faith" to begin with.

This is why I think your point about Corso not conforming to the "politically correct" (or
"religiously correct") stereotypes of a "spiritual seeker" is an important one. You don't really
have the drive that it takes to begin the journey up the Tree until you are no longer able to
achieve any meaningful satisfaction from ordinary ego pursuits -- including the distorted ego-
level practice of traditional religions -- and this "I can't get no satisfaction" state of mind is
not a happy place to be, as Corso's demeanor at the beginning of the film demonstrates. But
the good news is that the presence of a sense of frustration means that you have a reservoir of
untapped energy ready to empower you, and being in a state where you don't have anything to
believe in, where you have no serious investment in any particular world-view, is a form of
"beginner's mind" -- the necessary emptiness which is required in order to be open to receive
a radically new vision.

Bearing all this in mind, I admit that there is a potential down-side to my decision to include
references to Christian symbolism in the article, since a large part of the target audience I'm
hoping to reach, if they're just beginning the journey or are still in its earlier stages, would
probably find these references distasteful, based on their present dualistic understanding of
Christian symbolism and their experience of the way that many so-called "Christian"
institutions have distorted and co-oped it; (I have certainly felt that way myself).

But those who are farther along on the journey or have had a first glimpse of the view from
the Mountain Peak will recognize the parallels that I've drawn with the journey on the Tree
and I think maybe it's important to file the idea away in the back of your mind that at later
stages of the journey, you will see the symbols of Christianity and other traditional religions
from a very different perspective, one which recognizes their redemptive qualities, even in the
distorted form in which they first appear to the consciousness of the ego-mind.

And the same situation applies when it comes to understanding the nature of the Unitive
consciousness which is the goal of the journey. Contrary to many traditional religious notions,
the Unity which the traveler achieves on crossing the Abyss is not a state in which there is
only Light and no Darkness (which would mean the end of the "Earth Game"). As the
Jungians would say, the goal is Wholeness rather than some version of the ego's dualistic
notion of one-sided "perfection". My favorite quote on this subject comes from Alan Watts
and goes like this:

"No one can be moral – that is, no one can harmonize contained conflicts – without coming
to a working arrangement between the angel in himself and the devil in himself, between his
rose above and his manure below. The two forces or tendencies are mutually interdependent,
and the game is a working game just so long as the angel is winning, but does not win, and
the devil is losing, but is never lost."

I hope this attempt at explanation may have defused some of your objections. I think we're
actually pretty much on the same page except for a difference in the perceived definition of
the term "Higher Power" (which I hope I've cleared up), but if you should still have doubts, I
would welcome the opportunity to try to address them.

Thanks for the feed-back, :)


If you look closely at the engravings from the movie, you will see that the people in them
resemble or take on the likeness of the actors in the movie. ‘The Girl’ character is most
noticeable in the ninth engraving, but, on closer examination, you will see that the old man
holding keys in the second engraving has similar facial features to Fargas; the man aiming the
arrow in the clouds looks blatantly like the Ceniza brothers in the third engraving; and in the
eighth engraving, the praying man is clearly Corso, and the man swinging the mace at the
back of his head bears the facial likeness of Balkan. There are larger images available on
Google Image search where you can see these features more clearly.

Anoush Jay Sansom

Not sure if I’m seeing things that aren’t there, but did anyone else make the connection that
the Old City of Jerusalem has nine entrances, or gates, one of which is bricked up as it is
believed that the Messiah will return through this gate? This seems to have parallels with the
illustration of the 4th gate, and would further explain why Balkan is unable to enter. This
interpretation is supported by the fact that the key engravings are split into 3 books. If you
follow up some biblical references to the Whore of Babylon you will find; “The Woman is
Split into 3 Divisions” (Revelation 16:19) Another name given for her is “Babylon” and it is
said that “The Woman sits on 7 Mountains” (Revelation 17:9) and that she is ” located where
Jesus was crucified” (Revelation 11:8). Jerusalem is built on 7 hills – Mount Zion, Mount
Ophel, Mount Moriah, Mount Bezetha, Mount Acra, Mount Gareb, and Mount Goath and it is
of course where Jesus is sais to have been crucified.
This seems to point to the idea that Corso is somehow ‘chosen’ to be the one to pass through
the ninth gate. Whether he is a heavenly or diabolical messiah is still open to interpretation.