Card IIII: The Emperor (L’Empereur)

[Back to Table of Contents]




      The number 4 = 2 + 2 = 2 x 2 = 22, that is, the fundamental operations of arithmetic. It is the only number which possess this property which makes it synthetic and gives it an integral multiplicity of combinations.

2 is found, thus, twice in 4 with three different characteristics; as, in essence, 2 represents matter as still and as plastic, one of the 2s underscores the idea of remaining still, thus, matter proper, just as the other aspect of the number 2 represents the active part of this matter in all its aspects and with all its combinations.

One can, on the other hand, regard this double 2 as forming a crosswise polarity, one passive, the other active, which combined guarantee a balance; 4 signifies therefore a balanced force in matter.

General and Abstract Meaning

            Card IV shows a man (therefore an active principle), but remaining passive since he is in a sitting position and, as he is in complete profile facing left, he is giving himself over to reflection, medication, and making judgements about matters.

It represents THE ACTIVE POWER OF MATTER and, consequently, its changes and alterations, because this activity never leaves it motionless. This results from a mental influence subordinated to cosmic principles; it operates through the impression it makes on consciousness more than through direct action; it creates life on the spiritual and biological planes.

The Juggler and the Female Pope represent the two poles of the spiritual world, the Empress and Emperor the two poles of the material world.

The Empress symbolizes the passive power of matter, the Emperor its active power. The Empress symbolizes the passive power of matter, the Emperor its active power. The Empress emphasizes evolution, the Emperor expresses development. This card therefore denotes a state which has been achieved, a production.

Specific Analogies

            The meaning of the scepter is the same as in the preceding Empress card; the orb of gold surmounted by a cross shows the power of matter when it is penetrated by a spiritual influx. This is the sign of scientific knowledge.  Without this quality, the septer would be without any power, because all science which is not animated by spirituality is sterile. The Emperor bears the scepter in his right hand because it is the positive pole; the Empress holds hers in her left to indicate the negative pole; the two cards taken together are the realization of a balance of the poles. The Emperor holds his scepter before him to affirm his actions, while the Empress lets hers rest against her shoulder to underscore her passivity. The Emperor’s scepter also indicates that his thoughts are directed in accordance with justice and harmony, without any ambiguity.

The positive pole represented by the Emperor can only animate the matter when connected with the negative pole, as represented by the Empress.  This is why the shield, a symbol of the powerful flights of intelligence acquired by man, rests on the ground at his feet, at his disposal although he makes no use of it, while the Empress holds hers against her belly, available to ensure the birth of material creations.

The eagle depicted on the two shields is nearly identical, the only difference being that the Empress’s eagle has its head turned to the right and the Emperor’s eagle is turned to the left, each one to the side of the scepter to indicate that the idea which presides over intellectual impulses is intuitive and inspired by the Empress, but reasoned and willed by the Emperor. This is underlined by the position of the wings of the eagle, raised upwards on the Empress’s shield, but naturally spread out and symmetrical on the the Emperor’s shield, and how, in the case of the latter, the eagle brings an applied intelligence to practical things. By straddling a fissure its legs indicate that it unites two separate entities: it establishes an equilibrium.

While the Empress is seated squarely on a throne, the Emperor is merely leaning back on a small, flesh-colored chair, in an unstable position to indicate that although he is motionless, he is posed to stand up and is not as sedentary as the Empress. Only one of his feet is resting on the ground: a symbol of his disposition to advance, therefore to evolve, with some indication that the positive pole is able to have only intermittent contact with matter. He is wearing white shoes, a symbol of nothingness, thus emphasizing the fact that he is not able to walk: the Emperor who seemed like he always ought to be in motion can neither advance nor retreat; he has “immobility in action,” an apparent contradiction which means that, although positive and therefore performing actions, he is in matter that he is fundamentally negative and holds him in his place, as noted in the preceding paragraph.

His white collar, next to his head, is an indication that he is able to achieve understanding by himself and assures his sterility if he remains isolated  […est l’indice qu’il peut attendre l’intelligence par lui-même et confirme sa sterilte s’il demeure isolé]. This white collar also indicates the seperation between the head and the body, specifying that in matter, the Fall comes by means of the head, the Principle Animator.

His crown, similar to that of the Empress, has the same meaning.

His necklace consists of a cord of golden rope; this braided link signifies an attachment and not an enslavement like that of the Empress. It shows that the positive pole, being only a state of spirituality, can have nothing but a fragile bond with the spiritual. The ring attached to his collar represents the circle and its principle, to which the Emperor must subordinate himself in order to bring about accomplishments.

His clothing, a tunic and breeches, is blue ending in white on the collar and feet, denoting therefore a latent state of spirituality, but the blue of his legs shows that he is always able to go towards it and achieve it. His red coat indicates that he is enveloped in the Matter of which he is the animator.

His left hand is holding onto his yellow belt to show that he is able, through a psychic contact, to seize, to grasp the bond which attaches intelligence to the material plane, and to use it in order to exercise his dominion over the material world.

The tuft of yellow grass has the same significance that it does in the preceding card: passive fertility; the yellow earth: the fulcrum of wisdom.

Orientation of the Figure

             The position of the Emperor, leaning against a throne, indicates passively waiting prior to an action, which his raised foot represents as imminent. It is a complete realization [?], because every realization implies a result, a change. The Emperor makes a decision before acting.

Specific and Concrete Meaning

            The name of the card, “THE EMPEROR” indicates somehow who judges actions and who has the power of creation. From a utilitarian point of view, it is a card of practical applications and useful councils.

Meanings as They Relate to the Three Planes

            MENTAL. Balanced intelligence not exceeding what is useful for a plan of action.

ANIMISTIC. Agreement, peace, understanding, an accordance of opinions.

PHYSICAL. Transient goods, transient powers. Signature on a contract, the fusing of two or more societies, a given situation. A healthy balance but overcrowded.

INVERTED. Results contrary to those described above, everything returned, a disruption of balance. A fall, the loss of property, of heath, or of control.


            In sum, in its Elementary Sense, “THE EMPEROR” represents the material energies necessary for Man to impart to his fleeting creations a momentary reality.

[Back to Table of Contents]





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s