Atu XXI: The Universe
Letter: ת Tau (Th)
Proximity: Sephira #9 (Yesod) to Sephira #10 (Malkuth)
Pent #32 “Serving” – Water of 坤 (K’un) The Receptive, Earth (Above/Below)
Water of 坤 (K’un) The Receptive, Earth (Without/Within)
Berashith: “Elohim saw all that He had made”
(Upper right) Fire: Hex #23: 剝 (Po) Splitting Apart
(Lower left) Air: Hex #24: 復 (Fu) Return / The Turning Point
(Upper left) Water: Hex #44: 姤 (Kou) Coming to Meet
(Lower right) Earth: Hex #43: 夬 (Kuai) Resoluteness / Breakthrough
Keywords (Dignified): Culmination, Completion, Destination, Closure, Kingdom, Finalization, Accomplishments, Recognition, Coordination, Synergy, Wholism, Solidification, Materialization, Unification, Perfection, Liberation, Kundalini
Keywords (Ill-Dignified): Antisocialism, Shortsightedness, Shallowness, Vanity, Ungrounded, Lost, Petty
Historical: Called The World in the older decks, the ATU represents the physical world we live in and all of its glorious variety. The ATU is the culmination of all previous ATU and the final destination of the Fool. The four corners are filled with the beasts of revelation that surround the throne of God. It is supposed that the nearly naked figure is a hermaphrodite, though the groin is usually covered so one cannot tell. There is a wreath or ouroboros surrounding everything. The wreath often represents a serpent, where serpent symbology is viewed with suspicion by the vulgar, especially Christians. It represents desire fulfilled or one’s true desire.
Golden Dawn: Called The Universe, The Great One of the Night of Time, The Universe card corresponds to the planetary Saturn and the zodiacals Taurus, Leo, Aquarius and Scorpio and places between Sephira #9 (Yesod) and Sephira #10 (Malkuth) in the Golden Dawn system.
Thoth: Also called The Universe in the Thoth, the card is a depiction of a hermaphrodite or shemale dancing with a serpent which is capturing the light from the all-seeing eye of God.
Mutational Alchemy Interpretation: Our Universe is decidedly female, and the serpent is male. There is no need to divide the serpent from God since it is *our* God, or as similar a being to God as we will ever permit in Mutational Alchemy – this is not to say there are others, but the format of Gods is a transmutable thing, not some single person that drifts about in the heavens managing things microscopically. The silly corner animals have been dispensed with entirely, they are already there in the hexagrams if you like. This card has always been a victim of stupid and ill-wrought scenes, with the exception of the Thoth tarot and the very old Visconti packs, where it is properly shewn as being the alembic of Godhead, a centrifuge or mere plaything.
In Hex #23: 剝 (Po) Splitting Apart we have the centrifuge. This is the number of Discord and Eris for the Chaotes and Discordians among us. The hexagram is about major and unavoidable upheaval. It is perhaps the nature of the world to be in turmoil. Hex #24: 復 (Fu) Return / The Turning Point follows Splitting Apart, here we have a reticent student returning to a teacher, or a wayward lover returning to her paramour, or someone who has lost their True Will’s path returning to it. In #44 the element of Water is shown as a powerful maiden who is not beneficial to the advancement of a person. It may be she has her own agenda. This comes back to the idea of a universal alembic where the two male and female parts are sorting out issues and kinks. Finally in Hex #43: 夬 (Kuai) Resoluteness / Breakthrough warns against trying to hold on to anything. It is an image of death here. The man must dispense of all he owns as he passes to the other side. There is no material objects in the other world. This is terrifying to some people, as it should be. Most people squander their lives and rest on their laurels. The universe therefore has an ominous aspect. True desire, it seems, is well hidden from our lower animal base natures.
The Scene: The Universe is depicted seated in the Tree of Life surrounded by the Oroboros. Like Devi, who is said to manifest in and as young girls (one of the foundational precepts of the Shakti cult) the Universe is depicted as a young prepubescent girl. This attribution is not only Vedic – the Coast Salish peoples with whom the artist and author has relations with also regard young pure girls as sacred and use their hair to decorate their most sacred magickal instruments. Similar rites are certainly to be found elsewhere on the planet. Shakti is a serpent, but here the masculine force is both the tree and the serpent as the Oroboros. The species is modelled after the Woma, an Australian species equated to the Rainbow Serpent. Serpents have a long history in religious iconography, such as in Judaism, where they were venerated for a very long time as the Nachash, or in Hinduism where the Lord of the Ego, Ananta, supports entire universe, to Zuni beliefs where the Serpent is the fertile father protector of the people and the waters. The Oroboros symbolizes the constant renewal and self sustaining nature of Universe. The Universe is sufficient first cause unto itself, requiring no other creator. This form of the creation is similar to the model in Kabbalah, where an infinite, never beginning and never ending light, Ain Soph Aur, self creates the vast pocket of space that contains the physical universe in its entirety. It is here that the light develops into the Supreme Personality of Godhead, called Elohim by the Jews, Krsna by the Indians and so on and so forth. This masculine god has a counterpart in the emptiness created through this action, the container herself. Devi is said to be most accurately portrayed as a “jar”, as a young girl, or as clay especially a clay idol. It is the jar, or alembic form that summarizes the nature of The Universe in the context of totality – that is what is outside Universe as well as within – Ain Soph Aur, the Boundless Light and the Boundless.
The card is highly auspicious but like all of the cards, it carries with it the hint of boundaries. Knowing the boundaries of a space or situation allows one to break out of and into different worlds and universes.