IV. The Tetrad - The Caters


The Triad has created a Path between the Poles of the Dyad, thus forging a higher Unity, but the Unification is one-dimensional and unstable. The Active Dyad divides the Unification, creating another Path between the Poles, and the resulting Passive Tetrad is a Double Dyad. In addition, the Active Monad acts to unify the two Poles in the Triad, thus creating a Return (re-turn = turn back) from the End to the Beginning, and the resulting Passive Tetrad comprises a Monad and a Triad. In both cases the resultant multiple linking of the Poles creates Stability and Completeness.

Active Tetrad

The Active Tetrad is the Process that brings the Passive Tetrad into Being. It completes the connection forged by the Active Triad, either by coming full circle and completing the Cycle, or by reciprocating the connection of the Triad and forming a return connection. The Active Tetrad brings the End back to the Beginning, and returns from the place where the Goal was reached to that where the Impulse arose. The Active Tetrad brings Well-rounded Completion and Stability. It is also Solidification, Crystallization, Ossification, Petrification, Materialization.

The Active Tetrad represents the Fourth Cosmological Stage, in which the Intercourse of the Gods brings about the Four Quarters of the Heavens, of the Earth and of the Abyss. Thus does Enlil mate with His Mother Ki, to bring about the Organized Universe (so in the Sumerian "Epic of Gilgamesh").

Alternately, in the Babylonian "Enuma elish," Anu gives the Fourfold Winds of Enlil to Marduk, who has Four Eyes and Four Ears; He completes the creation, begun by His Father Ea, by "Squaring the Quarters" - fixing the Four Quarters of the Three Worlds: the Heavens, the Earth, the Abyss; He gives the Gods Their Stations, organizes the Circle of the Zodiac, and defines the Cycle of the Year.

So does Trivia (Hecate) negotiate the return of Persephone to Her Mother (the return, reciprocation and reconciliation of the Demeter-Persephone-Hades Triad), and thus stabilize the Fourfold Cycle of the Year.

Passive Tetrad

As the Complete Cycle, the Passive Tetrad is Stability and Perfect Completion. Having returned from Its journey, the Passive Tetrad is Rest, Weariness, Tranquility, and Stasis. It is the Treasure brought back, the Reward, Satisfaction, Complaisance and Stasis. It is Return and Relaxation from Extension (Triad).

The Tetrad is Fixed, Firm, Four-Square, a Solid Structure, the Unshakable Four Quarters, the Four Elements, the Four Powers or Qualities; it is the Complete and Stable Totality in a given Plane. The Quartered Square represents Earth, Natural Motion and Linear Change (Growth, Progress, Evolution, etc.), and the Quartered Circle represents the Heavens, Celestial Motion and Cyclic Change. Combined they are the Fourfold Root of all Being and Becoming.

For the Pythagoreans, the Tetrad was the first Actual Even Number, since the Dyad is only Potentially Even, and so not Even in the full sense. The Monad and Dyad are principles of Potentiality beyond the Odd/Even distinction. Thus, the Potential of the Monad and the Dyad are brought to Actuality in the Triad and Tetrad.

The Pythagoreans called the Tetrad Heracles, Justice, and Perfect Harmony (the Four Concords). They also called the Tetrad Hermes, for He was born on the Fourth Day of the Fourth Month, and He is the God of the Four-cornered Herm (Marker Stone), which gives stability to Boundaries, which defines the Four Corners of the Land, and which marks the Cross-Roads (Quadrivium). As Hecate is the Magician of the Three Ways (tri-via), so Hermes is the Magician of the Four Ways (quadri-via).

Wands: Earned Rewards

In the Cater of Wands, the initial success of the Trey of Wands has been consolidated (made solid). Having achieved the goal and tied up loose ends, we are confident that it is solid achievement rather than beginner's luck, so we may happily harvest the fruits of our labor, celebrate our accomplishments with confidence, and take a respite from striving. The roaring fire has settled into warm, comfortable glowing embers. Solid Accomplishment.

The danger here (as in all the Caters) is complaisance: we are too comfortable, and so we're reluctant to rock the boat and risk losing what we've achieved by undertaking new adventures.

Image: A cross formed of a yellow torch on the left, a blue torch on the right, a green caduceus above and a red keraunos (thunderbolt) below, all defining a warm, orange circle on a dark background. The torches face to the sides.

Commentary: In all the Fours, the fourth element stabilizes the configuration, providing a firmer support than the air, which established the original connection; stability is symbolized by the fourfold mandalas of the Fours. Red is the color of power, strength and fortitude (Cooper s.v. Colours); it is complementary to green (the color of inexperience), as earth opposes air (as firm earth supports ephemeral air). In the Four of Wands the fourth element is represented by the keraunos of Zeus, Lord of the Four Quarters. The warm circle, like a hearth fire, represents security and comfort in the midst of the surrounding darkness. The outward facing torches suggest a protective circle.

Swords: Peace

In the Cater of Swords, strife and division have come full circle; the fight has been won, an indefensible position abandoned, a truce formed, or a compromise reached. (The intellectual/military ambiguity is intentional.) The situation has stabilized, oppositions are balanced. Intellectual activity has arrived at a well-rounded idea, a worked-out theory, a coherent system, a stable organization. This is a good time to take advantage the peace and stability to consolidate ideas, contemplate the organization of things and explore consequences of that organization. However, conceptual stability and familiarity can lead to intellectual stagnation. Take advantage of the peace and quiet to look for weaknesses, shore up defenses and regroup forces for the next advance. Stable Boundaries.

Image: A cross of four swords, points outward, hilts to center; yellow hilt on left, blue on right, green above and red below; all on a peaceful background of clouds and sky.

Commentary: The four swords form a stable, balanced configuration. The hilts are toward the center, where there is peace; the points are outward, protecting the peace. The background is also peaceful, although clouds (future troubles) are still visible.

Cups: Doldrums

With the Cater of Cups the relationship has matured; it has been tested in many ways and found to be stable, but also wears some battle scars. The early excitement is tempered by "reality," bad as well as good memories, perhaps some regrets, and unfulfilled dreams. But it has been strengthened by shared experience and growth, and much water under the bridge.

Unfortunately, because of its stability, the relationship tends to be taken for granted, and so it may lose its excitement and become boring. Though the relationship is comfortable, its stasis sows the seeds of emotional dissatisfaction and prepares the way for future change. Though there may be little to complain about, there may be a feeling that something is missing. Solid Relationship.

Image: Four cups arranged in a cross, bases toward the outside, on a blue-green background. Yellow cup on left, blue on right, green above and red below.

Commentary: The mouths of the cups are toward the center, to represent the containment and mutual fulfillment of the relationship, although nothing is observed to flow between the cups, which bodes ill. The blue-green background suggests peace, but perhaps also coolness.

Pentacles: Productivity

The - perhaps ephemeral - success of the Trey of Pentacles, has been built into a reliable pattern of productivity in the Cater: The craftsperson or artist has sufficient skill in his or her craft to work efficiently and reliably with dependable quality. The business is well established, and can be expected to remain profitable. The athlete has reached an admirable level of proficiency; regular victory is to be expected.

The Cater of Pentacles represents success, comfort, material well-being, and financial security. However, excessive attachment to comfort or possessions, fear of loss or failure, hoarding, miserliness, greed, and preoccupation with money, prizes or success all may retard growth. Material Security.

Image: On a brown background, four pentacles, each engraved with an elemental symbol, in a cross formation: yellow pentacle of fire on left, blue of water on right, green of air above, red of earth below.

Commentary: The four pentacles are in a (perhaps overly) stable configuration. The brown background represents fertile, but somewhat immobile, earth.

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Last update: Sat Jul 3 18:19:32 EDT 1999