Review by Bonnie Cehovet
I came to this book through the back door, so to speak. I was looking for material that would help me better understand the structure of Qabala in relation to the Tarot, especially with the tool of pathworking. "The Sword & The Serpent" is part of the "Magical Philosophy Series" by Melita Denning and Osborne Phillips, active members of the Order Aurum Solis, a metaphysical organization following the Ogdoadic tradition. This one volume, the second volume of the "Magical Philosophy Series", brings together Books III and IV of the original edition. Book III addresses the external Qabalistic universe, while Book IV addresses the internal Qabalistic universe. The "Magical Philosophy" series was designed for the student of magick that wishes to work outside of a lodge setting ... i.e. they wish to work as solo practitioners.
From the introduction: "Magick is within you, a part of your essential being, and you need but to bring it forth and to surround yourself with it, to live magickally." In this book we see ceremonial magick and its relation to the Qabala. (Note: This also gives students of the Tarot a basis for working in greater depth with the Qabala, especially in the nature of pathworking and personal growth.)
The ultimate goal is to bring together the external and internal universes into one united whole. The Qabalah acts as a map that provides an overview of life, so that the Seeker may start at that point on the path that is best suited to his or her personal growth. This book interested me in terms of magickal and Qabalistic qualities, but also in that the Tarot can also be easily applied to the Qabalistic Tree of Life, and both systems (or, in this case, all three systems) work together to aid the Seeker.
The Two-Fold Universe is the universe that is external, and the universe that is internal. I have to talk for a moment about the glyph on the front cover ... an upright sword, upon which a snake (serpent) has wound itself, it's head at the top, hissing, white lightening bolts in the blue background. From that alone, one could get at least some inkling of why this book is such a highly regarded text amongst ceremonial magicians. The Great Work is exactly that ... the integration of the inner and outer worlds of the Seeker.
Not only is the esoteric structure of the Qabala explained, but the manner in which it functions in the life of the Seeker, and how the Seeker can put this knowledge to best use, is explained. This is a wonderful textbook that is written in the language of the layman (this was one of Melita Denning's goals as Grand Master of the Order Aurum Solis - to bring esoteric wisdom to the general populace), while retaining the integrity of the subject. Intent is everything, and in more than one place in this book the authors explain why an individual of a certain temperament would not, could not, be accepted into their organization.
The book begins with a discussion of the three Negative Veils of Existence, the Four Worlds (Atziluth, Briah, Yetzirah and Assiah), the Tree of Life, the Emanation of the Ten Sephiroth, and the Qliphoth (unbalanced and distorted sephirotic forces). From here we move on to the Emanations, working with the three pillars (Severity, Equilibrium, and Mercy), and the three Triads. The presentation continues on to cover all associations with the sephiroth: color, musical tone, God Names, Angel and Archangel Names, Hebrew names and symbols.
The twenty-two paths are shown with their position on the Tree of Life, their Hebrew letter, influence on the path (astrological or elemental association), God Name, Archangel, and Magickal Image.
The section on the Magickal work I thought was outstanding, One of the things mentioned here is that the Seeker may use whatever system of Gods/Goddesses works best for them in doing the Great Work, so someone from a Celtic tradition can use Celtic Gods/Goddesses, while someone from, say, a Hindu tradition can use Hindu Gods/Goddesses for the same purpose, with the same results.
There is information here on the use of archetypal images ... which should always be visualized as luminous, according to the authors. the colors used in ceremony are dependent on which of the four worlds the work is being carried out in, and there is an extensive chart of colors for the four world presented (using the Aurum Solis scales).
There is extensive use of charts and correspondences, cautions, and the sharing of stories that illustrate the work being done, and how we can see this in our physical lives. This is an excellent reference book, but it is also a very hands on book for working with Magick and the Qabala. It would be very easy to overlay the Tarot on the Tree of Life and use all three systems together (or the Qabala and the Tarot alone, if that is preferred).
© Bonnie Cehovet
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.