Fourth Day: The Vault of Lady Venus
At dawn the next day, which is the wished for day of the intended wedding, C.R., is secretly shown some very significant hidden mysteries of the castle by his guiding page.
First they go down an underground stairway where they find a great iron door. Upon it is inscribed in letters of copper, “Here lies buried Venus, that beauty which hath undone many a great man both in fortune, honor, blessing, and prosperity.”
Beyond the door is a dark passage that leads to a small door. This, the page reveals, was first opened only the day before, to bring out the coffins. It has since remained open. We are on the threshold of deep Mysteries of love and the creative principle revealed only by sacrifice.
Within the little door is a marvelous vault, lit by the glow of precious jewels. This, C.R. is told, is the king’s treasure. We may recall that to reach this place we have come an underground way, and that in Greek mythology the king of the underworld is associated with great riches.
The main wonder of the place is a central sepulchre, fantastically adorned with precious jewels and of a peculiar and significant shape.
It is triangular, which Qabalists will recognize as the principle of form, and has a great polished copper bowl at its center. Within the burnished copper bowl stands an angel, holding in his arms a strange and mysterious tree, from which the fruit fall into the bowl. As they do so they liquefy and run into three small golden bowls standing by. These form a little altar, supported by an eagle, an ox, and a lion. These are three of holy living creatures of the vision of Ezekiel. They are normally four in number, the fourth being represented by a man or an angel—who in this instance may be identified with the angelic figure in the central copperr bowl.
The page then repeats the message that was found in mysterious script on the outer iron door, and shows C. R. a copper trapdoor into the floor of the vault. They go through it and descend into pitch darknesss. The page opens a little chest to reveal a perpetual light (ever a symbol of the inmost spirit and source of our being) with which he lights so they can see.
CR. is overtaken by great fear at their temerity in advancing so far into these hidden Mysteries, but the page assures him that all is safe as long fie sacrificed royal persons are still at rest.
He then shows C. R. a great bed hung about with rich curtains. Drawing one of these aside, and heaving up the coverlets, he suddenly reveals that which in the ancient Mysteries was held to be unknowable and unseeable by mortal man. That is, the naked form of Lady Venus—or Isis Unveiled
She is in fact sleeping, which may explain the page’s remark that this is a unique occasion and opportunity. It is a time in the process of sacrifice and regeneration when all is quiescent; and the dynamics involved may be revealed to the rare soul who is worthy to see them. Over of the bed of the sleeping Venus is a tablet inscribed with an esoteric script. The declines to translate it, saying that C. R. will learn its import through his own experience. In fact it says,
“When the fruit shall be quite down then I shall awake and be the mother of a King.”
The page extinguishes the torch after drawing the covers again, and they climb to the vault of the triangular sepulchre. C. R. is now the better able to examine the place and sees that the tree is melted by heat radiated from the shining precious stones in the walls. These to clearer sight seem not only precious stones but mineral tapers burning with a uniquely clear fire. The tree, as it melts in their heat, continually produces new fruit.
The page then tells C.R. what was written above the bed of the Lady and that this information emanates from Atlas. At this precise moment the little Cupid flies in and discovers them. It is plainly a matter of great enormity that someone has penetrated to these depths, and come to discovering the sleeping Venus. Cupid hastily seals the copper trapdoor. C.R. and his page do not dare admit that they have in fact penetrated into the sanctum sanctorum. Even so the Cupid says that he punish C. R., at least in token, for coming so close to his mother’s couch. Accordingly he pricks C.R. on the hand with one of his darts. Which he has heated in one of the glowing stones that provide the heat for transformation of the magical tree. This draws a drop of blood from C. R.’s hand.
There is more to come as a result of this incident, for it is pregnant with hidden meaning. Cupid, jesting, bids the others take good care of CR as his wound will soon bring him to the end of his days. By this he means not physical death but the death of initiation.
Serious mysteries may be describable only in terms of paradox or what passes for jest. Cupid continues to jest and make merry during the following funeral arrangements. Indeed jesting deception is the rule in the ceremonies that follow. The six coffins are solemnly laid in a sepulchre, even though from his observations of the night before C.R. knows them to be empty. Thus all the funeral pomp is a charade.
The coffins are laid in a wooden edifice of seven columns surmounted with a crown and a flag depicting a phoenix. The fact that the building is of wood, rather than the gold and jewels we have come to expect, suggests that it is a mere emblematic show. As the phoenix flag is raised the Virgin of Lights tells them that if they are constant in their endeavors the dead will rise. To this end she bids them go with her to the Tower of Olympus.