VII. The Heptad - The Septs*

[*Not attested as an English word; pronounce "set."]


The Heptad is the Monas Arcana (Hidden Monad) or Second Monad, for it is the impulse that finds completion in the Decad, just as the First Monad finds completion in the Tetrad (10-7 = 4-1). Like the Monad, the Heptad is its own independent Principle; it is Incommensurable, because it neither divides nor is divided by any of the other numbers of the Decad, excepting only the Monad. The Monads and their Completions form an arithmetic progression (1, 4, 7, 10), the First Completion being the Mean of the two Monads (4 = mean[1,7]), and the Second Monad being the Mean of the two Completions (7 = mean[4,10]). In each case the Monads (1, 7) evolve through stages of Separation (2, 8), Completion (3, 9) and Consolidation (4, 10).

Similarly, the Pythagoreans call the Heptad "Athena", for like Her the Heptad is born of neither mother (Even) nor father (Odd), but is a Second Monad, sprung like Her from the Source, the First Monad, the Head of the Father. As Athena, the Forager (Agelaia), gathers disparate things and brings them together in one place, so the Heptad gathers together many disparate influences and from them makes a new Monad, a new Beginning, a new Principle of Generation.

Likewise the Pythagoreans call the Heptad a "Flock" (Agelos), for it is a Cluster of multiple forces, as when the Seven Planets act at once, each exerting Its own influence. This Cluster of Forces is an unsymmetrical and unstable equilibrium, and so the Passive Heptad has a delicate structure and represents an ill-defined situation. Thus the slightest perturbation may cause a sudden, unpredictable change, for whichever force happens to dominate at that moment may thereafter prevail over the others. Therefore, the Pythagoreans call the Heptad "Chance," since it represents the Critical Point, the Crisis, the Coincidence, and thereby the Impulse to the Second Creation and thus the Second Completion, which constitutes Full Embodiment.

The Heptad itself is Victory and Fulfillment, for it brings many things to completion. The Heptad is a return to the Unity and Wholeness of the Monad. As there is a Descending Triadic Path, from Unity (1), through Goal (2), to Achievement (3) and finally to Order (4); so also is there an Ascending Triadic Path, from Order (4), through Crisis (5), to Reconciliation (6) and finally to Hidden Unity (7). In this way too a person's life is brought to completion in Seven Stages (corresponding to the Planets), and the Seventh Stage brings one to the Threshold of Rebirth. So also is the Heptad the Root of all Cycles, of the moon, of women, of tones, of weeks, et cetera.

The Heptad is the Seventh Door, the Gateway to Initiation and Rebirth, for it is both the Completion and the New Beginning (the Second Monad). Such was Inanna's (Ishtar's) Descent to the Underworld, which was through Seven Gates. Further, the First Tetrad (1, 2, 3, 4) is the Nigredo, the Descent to Matter; the Second Tetrad (4, 5, 6, 7) is the Albedo, the Ascent to Spirit; but the Third Tetrad (7, 8, 9, 10) is the Rubedo, the Descent of the Spirit into Matter. This is what the Alchemists tell us.

There are two Symbols of the Heptad, for it is seven asymmetrically arrayed forces, converging on a point, the Seven-Rayed Star. Or it is the Monad blazing again in the Center of the Hexad, which is therefore the Seven Places: Center, Above, Below and the other Four. Thus does the Monad of the Rational Soul blaze in the Hexad of the Living Animal, for Plato said the Soul has Seven Numbers.

The Heptad is the Complete Person, the Embodied Spirit, for it is the Three Psychical Elements (Cognition, Spirit and Appetite), and the Four Material Elements. (And so there are Three Spiritual Virtues and Four Practical Virtues.) The Greek Numeral for the Heptad is Z, which stands for Zao (Zeta-Alpha-Omega = to Live), for the Heptad is Life, since it is the Offspring of the first Actual (vs. Potential) Numbers that are Odd and Even: Father (3) and Mother (4) and Child (7).

The Heptad controls all material things, for it comprises the Four Elements and the Three Means that bind them together, Fire to Air, Air to Water and Water to Earth, and these Means govern the elemental changes. Thus the elements Fire, Air, Water and Earth form a geometric progression, for as Earth is to Air so is Water to Fire; and as Earth is to Water so is Air to Fire. Look at the triangular figures, their Alchemical Signs, and you will see.

In summary, the Heptad represents an unstable situation; either a new force upsetting the harmony and balance of the Hexad, or a new impulse arising in its center. There are many possible outcomes. If the opportunity is missed, another cycle of seven is to be expected, but if the critical moment is seized, the result will be a rebirth into a new transformative process.

Wands: Advance into the Mystery

You will need the courage you earned with the Sice of Wands, for now you are poised at the brink; the way looks difficult, but your quest may succeed if you have confidence, put aside anxiety, indecision and hesitation, and advance boldly into the mystery. However, if the critical moment is missed, you will be back at square one. Initiation, rebirth.

Image: Six staffs arranged in a hexagram (as for the Six of Wands), except that its center is occupied by a glowing, purple caduceus, which sends fiery rays into the dark around the hexagram.

Commentary: The caduceus represents entry to the mysteries, since it is the staff of the Psychopompos (Guide of Souls); it shows the way in the darkness. It also represents the Hidden Monad in the center and Mercury, the third celestial element (after Sun/Moon = gold/silver = sulphur/salt) beyond the four mundane elements. Purple is both an imperial color and a color of the underworld; it is associated with confidence, truth and justice (Cooper s.v. Colours).

Swords: Leap to Commitment

The Sice of Swords brought serenity and understanding, but also a certain paralysis, for it quenched your commitment to old (intellectual or other) loyalties. The Sept reveals that you are subject to many conflicting tendencies. Without firm commitments, there is a danger you will turn with each breeze, but the very instability of the situation makes it likely that you will commit impulsively and take daring action in a direction you and others are unlikely to have foreseen, a "leap to commitment." However, success is far from assured. Leap to commitment, daring or impulsive action.

Image: A single, large upright sword with a purple hilt stands upright amongst six swords, three to each side, with their points directed inward. The horizontal swords are a little larger than the diagonal. From top to bottom, the hilts of the swords on the left are yellow, orange and red, those on the right, green, violet and blue.

Commentary: The upright sword represents the Hidden Monad, but also the leap to commitment cutting through the previous worldview (represented by the Hexad). It represents the third celestial element (Mercury), as the large, horizontal swords represent the Sun and Moon (gold and silver, sulphur and salt), the poles of the Cosmic Axis (orange and violet); the smaller four represent the mundane elements (yellow, green, blue, red). The swords are directed inward to represent paralysis and conflicting influences, pushing you first one way, then another.

Cups: Pursuing Dreams

The Sept of Cups brings a plethora of attractive possibilities, some actual, some imaginary. You are pulled in many directions at once, and if you fall under the wrong influence or are misled by an illusion, the hard-won permanence of the Sice of Cups may be shattered, and the relation reduced back to prima materia. On the other hand, pursuing the right dream will take you into a new realm of emotional fulfillment. Imagination, illusion.

Image: Six cups, three to each side, around a large, inverted purple cup. The two horizontal cups have their mouths toward the center and are larger than the four diagonal cups, which have their mouths to the outside. From top to bottom, the cups on the left are yellow, orange and red, those on the right, green, violet and blue.

Commentary: The two larger, horizontal cups represent the Sun and Moon (gold and silver, sulphur and salt), the four smaller, diagonal cups the mundane elements. They all represent opportunities. The inverted cup (Mercury) represents the emptying or exhaustion of the old and the need for new fulfillment.

Pentacles: A New Venture

The Sice of Pentacles has given you the resources, skills, reputation, etc. for accomplishments in the world - especially risky projects - beyond the capabilities of others. There are many opportunities, and some indecision and anxiety is to be expected. Nevertheless, with wise choice, ingenuity, good timing, perseverance and hard work your goal will be reached, though perhaps not quickly. On the other hand, failure is possible, with resulting disappointment and loss of resources, reputation or credibility. However, the Sink and Sice have taught you to withstand such tribulations, so the risks are more than balanced by the opportunity of taking on a new role and accomplishing something important in the world. Risk taking.

Image: Six pentacles, three to each side, around a large purple pentacle engraved with the symbol for Mercury. The others are engraved with the symbols of the other six planets: clockwise from the left, Sun, Jupiter, Venus, Moon, Saturn, Mars; their colors are orange, yellow, green, violet, dark blue, red. Yellow-green background.

Commentary: According to Ptolemy (Tetr. I.4), earth corresponds with Mars (because drying), water with Saturn (cold), air with Venus (wet), and fire with Jupiter (hot). Therefore, proceeding clockwise from the upper right, we have the Way of the Earth, through Water to the Abyss, and on the right, the Way of the Air, through Fire to the Heavens. The two alchemical seeds (Sun/Moon or gold/silver) stand on either side of the four mundane elements in their usual square of opposition. Mercury stands in the center, mediating all oppositions, but also disrupting the structure of the Hexad.

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Last update: Sat May 27 11:54:55 EDT 2000