Cathedral Building: The Priestess


priestess of Isis 2003

priestess of Isis 2003

This is a sequence of meditations on the Tarot High Priestess and on Cathedral building.  I wrote them down in about 1991, just before I learned of vesica pisces.   Vesica pisces is the compass of sacred architecture.  You put a stake in the ground and string to walk a circle around it;  you intersect it with a further circle whose centre is on the circumference, and so on, as the petals grow.  The proportion flowers to a Plan on which the Stone safely stands.

I have some more material about the Priestess and the Moon specifically :  for a later post.


20 September 1991 – Behind the Rampart:  Solitude

“The divine principle of that which belongs to it,  the perceptions of the pure intelligence, conceal themselves behind the rampart of the body.”

“The Lord and Author of all things whom we call God,  brought forth a second God, visible and sensible … not because he himself has sensibility,  but because he is perceptible to the senses.”   (The Universe,  the Son or Word made flesh)

“In the manifold way of universal life,  the innumerable individualities distinguished by their variations are nevertheless united in such a manner that the whole is one,  and everything proceeds from unity. 

“  … Lend me now all the powers and penetration of thy thought;  for the idea of Divinity which cannot be conceived save by divine assistance resembles a rapid stream precipitating itself onward with impetuousity,  and often therefore outstrips the attention of the listeners and even of him who teaches.”

Hermes Trismegistus:  The Virgin of the World



sleeping beauty, 1957

sleeping beauty, 1957


A Journey

… CONTEMPLATION now opens into the knowledge that my consciousness is but a point of space in limitless space — not the familiar body at all.

It is a bit vertiginous.   There’s a slight feeling of vertigo, with my awareness working its way ADRIFT. Endless space it is,  it is space with no end, to plummet infinitely deep in all directions.   But it isn’t fear.   It isn’t fear when taken into the heart.

The concept is similar to being in intergalactic cosmos I suppose.   But the reality is that all substance, all matter, every kind of “support” subatomizes to space, to the quantum of being.

The feeling of this was especially strong – it came on while I was sitting at my kitchen table eating my supper and reading Hermes T.  – the passages above; with household chores undone, and chaos everywhere.   My elbow on table, bum on seat, every act or object is  limitless, a sacred invitation within reality, within each dot or point of space … everywhere … the point of it all:  contact.   Touch.  Bottomless contact with the Earth.

Or into measureless depth of water float.   Stay … this “adrift” feeling, opens.   It is hard to leave the shelter of the rock and push off into this  …    (I want to.)  SAMADHI must be when all the dots or points of nothingness open into incandescent and simultaneous Being.

Anyway,  it brought a slowly approaching hint (like just before dawn).  I am the soul or inner fact of the world,  even though there are still thoughts and person-ego, etc.

It wasn’t possible to read or do anything for a bit.   The desire was to sit with it quietly.   So I did.

Small planet Earth in Space.

Knowing this is frightening.   But with a pure and interested party being investigative,  what is there to fear?   To hang out in and as the slowly developing idea of all directions of space without time, doesn’t frighten.  There is beingness,  only beingness,  all alone.   Yet only this must be wanted.

Have I the strength to let go of the rest?

The Cross


 21 September 1991 – Tools to Build a Cathedral 1

Like the Magus in the First Arcanum,  the Priestess has a set of vocational tools.   They correspond to the Second Degree of the mason’s Craft,  and are read in the Hermetic Cross over her heart.   They are the Plumb,  the Level and the Square.   Correspondingly, these same tools on the Tree of Life are the Triad of the Soul – Hesed, Gevurah, Tifareth.

Hesed is Jupiter (expansion and grace), Gevurah is Mars (severity and restraint) and Tifareth is the Sun (the seat of the inner ruler, the heart, consciousness.)

My view is that levels of initiation are basic, few, and universal.  They are the Law.  Further and higher degrees refine the application.  An Initiation awakens Consciousness in a region which was blind.  Any one Initiation applies to life, and may take many years, even lifetimes.

“Only those who do the Work for its own sake are initiated.  Only the individual who wants to make manifest what Kabbalah reveals, can be an ‘Initiate’.

Zev ben Shimon Halevi

What follows is my own line of discovery.


1A blend of various traditions.  This drawing, and some of the section which follows, is inspired by The Way of the Craftsman by W.Kirk McNalty – a study of the symbolic structure of craft freemasonry, by a Kabbalist.

Tools of craft Masonry - after Kirk McNalty

Tools of craft Masonry – after Kirk McNalty


Method, Root and Shoot

Take first the Plumb.  This drops a weight from boundless sky to gravity.   Does it balance and straighten the spine, to build a Cathedral?   The plant roots downward and shoots upward, like the flame of Siva.

Let this movement be a plummet to sink restless mental waves deep down into foundation,  the waters of the interior well.   Let it fall now,  fall through the column of my body, through the chord of spine to its root and beyond,  deep down and out into space, beyond my seat, beyond my tail.   That hidden sphere of space, like the borderless blue night, expands.   It has no speech or picture.

As the plummet sinks, the white flame of Siva rises into the empyrean … like a sunflower.

Feel the core of this ascending/descending stillness.  Feel it stretch: the opening of the grain of space from within the seed of space.   Now time is not here.   I am not.   There is only an opening and informing Source of this moment,  this current.

There came a sense of desolate solitude,  of vertigo in the infinite, being only one point in the infinite, wobbling.   No “friends”.   No thoughts.   No supports.  The Earth in endless space shrinks into the personal-ego and all its possessions. I am afraid because there is nothing around me.   Who am I?   Where are my feet?

This vertical expansion – the Plumb –  widens horizontally, like opening out the arms,  to each side, to see … that Isolation also is Not.

The “emptiness” is a congeries of opening “points” or subatomic sources of itSelf.   All of these are.   All are empy for all, and each to each, are equally awareness;  a being in touch.   The I is not an astronaut.   The I is emergence … everywhere, as here … of the inward, measureless grains of space for it.   In this way, inexplicably, I find a lateral sustenance.  Vertigo vanishes.

My thought feared for its possession, falling into the grain of space.  But reality  does not wobble, nor does it choose.   All is well.

My momentary silence hears the tune or current of the world.   Let the being of the many I … let it breathe.   Rest within it.   This is the horizontal tool that corrects and levels.   It is the Spirit-level of the mason.  It integrates my formlessness with the walls and windows of life.

The sea, very deep, swells back and forth,  breaking over old rocks which rise out of it.   The surface of the sea is veiled and turgid with the wind.   As I watch,  it seems the wind disappears,  the swell diminishes,  and the surface of the deep sea loses its wrinkling.  It becomes a mirror clear and calm to the shining sky.

pembroke coast


The Plumb belongs to the Active Pillar of Force on the Tree of Life.   It opens and expands the Sefira of Grace (Hesed) in a Jovian crescendo of consciousness.  The plumbline finds and opens the well.

The Spiritlevel, on the Pillar(passive) of Formation, brings in the factor of restraint.   As “judgement” it sharpens the critical eye to produce a plane from all points of the line,  and to be the structural Gevurah.

The vertical movement is “To Will”.   The horizontal movement intersecting it is “To Be Silent.”

And so the Square,  or right angle tool at Tifereth, the seed or point of intersection, focusses, adjusts and corrects the relationship and aesthetic balance of the Plumb and the Level.   It is Self correcting.   Here is consciousness.   Watch any bricklayer at work, with his vertical and horizontal pieces of string.   Watch a dowser for hidden water with a pendulum and a map.

This is the building of Cathedrals … on the spot, wherever I am.

master mason tools - note the Compass on the Plan

master mason tools – note the Compass on the Plan


The Widows and the Sons of the Widow

The Western face of the Cathedral has two round Rose windows.  Through these two eyes, the rays of the setting sun enter to journey East … to the Sunrise itself … (through the ISIS of night to the resurrection of OSIRIS).  In the great Cathedral, East and West come to meet one another through the great arch or vault of its pillars, North and South — Bohaz and Jakin.

Rays of sunrise are eyes to see.   Look into your own eyes, and you shall see.   Consciousness is travelling from West to East, towards Sunrise.   The priestess in the cathedral is the rood screen upon which consciousness travels and is projected.   But consider now this Second Arcanum!   Is not the priestess herself travelling blind?

The pillars in whose Middle Space she sits,  are the Sun and the Moon to her own right and left.   If we are on Earth’s Northern hemisphere,  I see from this that the Pillar of the Sun to her right must be due South, while the Moon to her left, representing the night, is due North.  So she herself is journeying Eastward !   towards …

High Priestess - Arcanum 2

High Priestess – Arcanum 2


The spectrum through “Yang” and “Yin” of the light, south and north, symbolises day and night.   In the primal unity of opposites, the seed consciousness is a whole rotation through states manifest and latent, like the behaviour of the mysterious electron.   In the fourth dimension, all states are the One which is their seed.  The eyes of the priestess are veiled, so she travels in the dark.  (A new degree initiate to Masonry, is blindfolded first.)  The disk of the Moon between her horns, however, receives on its face the full light of the Sun.   So the Moon is Full, in exact opposition to the Sun.   This, in the old Tridentine Mass,  is the position of the Celebrant to lead and receive the Communion.  Towards the altar with his back to the congregation, he leads them and concelebrates.  He is their eyes, facing sunrise.

At Full Moon, when the sun rises on the Eastern horizon, the moon is setting opposite, at the Western antipodes.    Receiving the Sun’s light here in full, for a moment, two lamps in equilibrium, the moon then disappears below the horizon.  She “travels” through the dark fortnight towards conjunction, symbolic reunion.

Thus the priestess,  the bride or “Yin” of ADONAI, passing the antipodeal crest of FULL differentiation, makes her journey eastward along the chequered pavement to orient her knowledge within … “I”.   For “I” am the witness, the place of meeting, of marriage.


Tarot priestess 2003

Tarot priestess 2003


She is the feminine priestly power of a congregation.  She also, very swift and still,  is the LAMB.   She sees me rise.   I rise in the East.   I fill her with light, to travel through the dark.   For I am OSIRIS.   I am receiving …  through long ages of my sister ISIS …  an osmosis of all the earthly fragment of my body … up into the arms of my whole Light.   And when we are wed at dawn, she rises with me, and has disappeared.

Here is a mystery clear and bright with paradox, of sacramental sacrifice.   In Arcanum Two, the priesthood is the Bride of the Lamb of God:   the oracle.    Arcanum Four – The Emperor – carries the 5th letter, HEH.   This letter is assigned to Aries and the spring equinox.   He is the Ram, or Lamb.

human pentagram

human pentagram

In Arcanum Five, we shall meet the High Priest, or Hierophant.   His number “Five” refers to the apex of the four elements, or sides of a pyramid,  and also to the divine spark of prana or breath, which enters the clay of life.   In the human Pentagram (YOD HEI SHIN VAV HE ,  Jehoshua, Iesu or “JAH LIBERATES”) he is redemption.   He offers his person to the translation.

But the Hierophant is an adaptation of the Priestess.  His letter is VAV, his sign is Taurus, the Bull whose horns the Priestess wears.

The Moon – the Priestess – is exalted when it is in Taurus, for plants open their flowers to the Taurean season – April and May.    The earth produces abundantly, and people have “green fingers”.   Taurus is ruled by Venus.    The tides of earth and moon together, when Taureanly attuned, symbolize our subconscious in mature operation.


BOTA tarot key 2

BOTA tarot key 2


I read of a masonic tradition called “The Sons of the Widow”.   These are “Masters” upon whom the builders of the Cathedrals would call,  when in need.   In this tradition the Craftsman or builder is journeying from West to the East,  to seek help and instruction.   The Master mason (a Son of the Widow,  or of Man before the Fall)  simultaneously comes to meet him from the East.   On this journey, the Master is looking for something which was lost when the Temple was nearly complete.   In the legend,  Hiram Abiff the chief architect of the LORD, was murdered by two Companions (who wished to possess his powers of operation, and the plans of the Temple)  and hastily buried under a sprig of acacia (springlike)  which revealed to his avengers the deed.   The secrets of the Master were buried with him,  for they are not available to the ungoverned desires of the non-integrated psyche.   They have to be earned.

Light and Shadow 1987, after Eliphas Levi

Light and Shadow 1987, after Eliphas Levi

The Craftsman and the Master mason  are coming together to repair a loss.   They travel the East-West meridian of the setting and rising sun, along which the body of Hiram Abiff was buried,  to complete a sacred Circle that is never complete.         ( … “for mine eyes have seen the Glory …”)

Across the meridian of light there is an arch.  Solomon’s two original pillars,  Jakin and Bohaz,  were “constructed hollow for storage”.   It is said they were built of brass and cast in clay ground outside the Temple.   They are functional pillars of the psyche.   They are the archive.  In their great dual granary are stored as rebirths, deaths and memory, the active and passive seeds of History – the moving surface of the waters.   The pillars portray the masonic Rule of Three.   Their polarity is balanced and neutralised by the evolution of the Third Pillar:  this is Self-awareness –  the gnosis of the Just Man in the space between, like violet incense spiralling toward the lofty vault;  Jacobs Ladder at every point of meeting.

The height of the pillars, or twin spires of a Gothic cathedral, is ballasted by their depth and strength of foundation.   The visible shape heavenward of a great and ancient tree, hints at the hidden sky “below”.   The stem and flowering of the tree reflect as in water the stem and flowering of its subterranean root bowl.   Tree, what a many branched bowl of sky is yours!    Above as below, what a starry sky of stars!   The higher the pillar, the deeper it penetrates the ground and heart – the Masters’ Eye.

And so, the two round Rose windows, through which the rays – (of sunset, or of the moon opposite sunrise) – peer into a cathedral, are themselves the pillars of sight,  south and north.   My eyes are windows.   Who is looking inward?   Who travels in space?

seeds of light


In ritual,  the pillars of the inner world are approached as a doorway.   There may be a password, prayer or mantra to offer, before being invited in:   or the condition may be dark, or silence.   The veil is drawn back to an approach of inner peace.   What is then seen may have no name or form.   The nature of the work accords with provide-ence and its karmas.   But Meister Eckhart,  journeying among his congregations in fourteenth century Germany from door to door, told them God does His deepest and most mysterious Work in the soul which is at rest.

As well as the pillars and three tools,  the chamber of the Second Degree of masonry contains the bodies of the sun and moon,  the globes of terrestrial and celestial providence,  and the mysterious single letter “G”.

In a nutshell the gesture is:  to see within, be still and touch source.  This is the meridian of light, consciousness, west, east.   Across it there appears the meridian of earth, the archway north, south.   This is the membrane or prima materia, the task of space and time, to grow.   The resistance is the open door when welcomed.  Embrace both planes with arms open wide.  Feel their simultaneous expansion .

 “all experience is an arch where thro’
gleams that untravel’d world whose margin fades
for ever and for ever as I move …”


 The archway is our parents, through whom we look, learn and grow.

parental gothic arch

parental gothic arch


22 September 1991 – Visitors to Ramana’s Ashram

This morning I went again into this business with the Plumbline and the Level and found it to be a sound “method” or tool.   The sinking of the plummet opens up the spine, perhaps a trace of kundalini or serpent awakening.   There was a feeling of ascent and expansion. The “I” sensation opens and is proud in the upper spine.   Be aware with it, and bring it back into the heart.   Ask “who”.   Let the question be there – that is sufficient.

In so doing, the horizontal beam crosses the vertical, and becomes the mason’s Level.   So the horizontal arms of the Hermetic Cross bring that lateral dimension of space and of being, into play.   Self enquiry, from the point of intersection, defuses any tendency to inflation.

This inner gesture offers up my will to:  THY WILL BE DONE.   This is the prayer for my personality and conditioning to be less obstructive to truth.   It seems yet a considerable “way ahead”;  but I feel the opening of that Way,  nor am I impatient.   Evolution back into source,  into realisation,  is given acording to the Will.   It is all the time here and now the clearing of shadow to be able to see.

Tunnel vision open wide

Tunnel vision open wide


I know and joyfully accept that the time frame for my realisation is immaterial.   There is no “me” to be realised.   There is realisation.   It is a fait accompli … in Ramana, and in others, plain as a gooseberry, and I don’t care how many more births it takes, or how long it has already been,  how much grittiness to be borne.   It is …  in full leaf, like the summer of a tree.   Clap hands for joy!   All this is realisation.   Ramana went through everything.   Then everything disappeared in him.   The in and out of this is beauty.

The granule of eternal living-space, of enquiry, opens.   The tree of life is my body.   The spiritual heart is a little to the right and the physical organ a little to the left, of centre.  Can I see my eye which gives me sight of the world.   Can I with my mind describe the place from which the seeingness arises?.   But in this place there rests – neutrally at first – a knowledge of beauty and of balance,  and of the delicate and continual adjustment of  planes of being.   Watch a cat about to pounce;  he concentrates, moving from side to side before he springs.   Watch an artist, architect, dancer or lover of geometry at work.   Watch the bricklayer on the building site, with his vertical and horizontal pieces of string, stepping back and forth.

The Square or Rightangle is a perpetual instrument of focus in Tifareth.   It is a point of isness, of awareness.   Practice is a fraction steadier than before.   I am certain that this is right.   That is why it is called the “rightangle” of the Cross.   From fluid centre flows forth an energy of love, like the growth of a flower through earth.     There is a deep and matter-of-fact intuition of the symbols of  Christ.

As the arms of the Cross are open wide,  so is the breath or prana.   Like the ascent in an aeroplane through cloud to brighter upper regions, comes a barely perceptible “knowingness” of an inner light or element to breathe which is pure and cool … and rooted in the ground.


These are gleams of perception.   They are not bursts of ecstasy.   Apart from concentration’s effort to keep my mind still,  I see no visions, hear no voice, nor anything tangible.   This used to disappoint me during “guided meditations” in which it was suggested that I should.   At its best, there is nothing.   There is an intensity of focus,  and a wide quiet pool of space.   At the same time I am aware of my body.   A few very simple ideas or shapes, barely sketched – like the Cross,  like the fact behind the sentimental ikons,  like the heart of the Rose within – ripen and become more solid later;  for instance right now while writing this.   Truly there is the continual faculty of mental distraction,  of thoughts and plans like importunate aspirants …….

Importunate aspirants?    Ah – the cat pounces!   What a revelation!   that my thoughts themselves come with their burden of problems and property, like pilgrims to the Temple !    This is why – now I realise!  I am shown – why visitors to my inner Ashram should not be turned away but welcomed, without hurry and without opinion …  like the way Sri Ramana received all people, animals,  all thoughts of the world that approached His granite couch in the Hill,  day or night.

The enquiry is deeply into and along the current of each visitor, without hurry and without opinion.  It does not reinforce belief in the surface shape or costume of the visitor’s problem.  It gives space and healing and recognition to … the life force which approaches the sage for awareness from within the problem – from within the fluid gesticulation of her colourful silk sari and gold bangles.   The smile of the sage enters into and receives her.

Ramana Maharshi

I first saw or felt the “compassionate” receptivity of thoughts within myself when I attended my first satsang with the London Ramana group a week ago.   There stood a small head and shoulders portrait of Sri Ramana,  with a chunk of red rock from the Hill,  a vase of pink lilies,  some incense, the red dust and white ash of Shiva, and a candle.   And there sat souls, in all of whom dances the Self:  Alan, Alasdair, Rhoda, Nair …

Of course,  the thought tends to feel SO IMPORTANT that it chatters on about its family, the state of the harvest and the economy.   But it is not my enemy.   They are all – each domestic samskara is – my own Self.  I felt the current which strives within all thoughts good and bad, dark and light, complex or noble,  worried or whatever, and how sacred, indestructible, naked and beyond the word it is.


ramana & mother


I can see the lady in the sari.   She is his mother.   She squats on the ground by the cave of her long-nailed shaggy-haired emaciated young son in the hot sun.   With every power of persuasion the eloquence of her voice and pliable brown hands, bangles a-jingle can employ,  she weeps, implores and begs him to come back to his family like a good son and have a square meal.   They will build a little temple over him if that is what he wants.

Her young son replied to her with a silence which,  pouring from those dark eyes,  at last one day drew her into the Cave of the Heart, with him  …   whom she had never left.

This is a wonderful mystery of the whole shakti universe being received back into Shiva,  into the ALEPH:   its child.


“….no problem should now worry me.   The very existence of problems,  says Maharshi, proves our spiritual ignorance.   It is quite true,  for the very putting of a problem means an attempt to bring down Reality to the mental level,  and this is equal to the effort of attempting to draw water with a sieve.   Even an ordinary vessel cannot hold a subtle ethereal substance …   

“The understanding of all this comes only then we have been able to transcend the limitations of the mind-brain.”

Mouni Sadhu  In Days of Great Peace


Priestess of black Isis

Priestess of black Isis





Aquariel – an angel of the waters and of the air through the woods of life.

COPYRIGHT – All art and creative writing in this blog is copyright © Janeadamsart 2012-2013. May not be used for commercial purposes. May be used and shared for non-commercial means with credit to Jane Adams and a link to the web address

6 thoughts on “Cathedral Building: The Priestess

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