Primeval Darkness – Symbolic Analysis

Posted on April 7, 2011


“…each mind/body/spirit complex shall and should and, indeed, must perceive each archetype, if you use this convenient term, in its own way. Therefore, you may see that precision is not the goal; rather the quality of general concept complex perception is the goal.”- Ra, Session 77



Arcanum 15

Key Observations

  • The main figure is said to be Typhon (or Set), the great demon and is neither male nor female. This symbolism might suggest the inherent nature of the spirit being otherworldly, super human. In modern decks, Baphomet plays the lead occasionally portrayed as a synonym of Satan or a demon, a member of the hierarchy of Hell.
  • The wings: it is suspected that like the symbolism for wings in other images, the message is that the soul is on its flight back to source, these wings have been drawn to be large and open making up nearly a third of the body of the beast.
  • The umbilical serpent: the serpent itself was a cultural symbol for wisdom; however in most cases the serpent represented powerful magic ability. When placed at the solar plexus, it takes on a negative connotation.
  • The staff: is generally symbolic of the will. Note the design of the cap of this particular scepter. The circle shape, echoing the orb of spiritual power only nested with in a “V” with a double cross at the base. Note: the “V” shape is a common symbol for female energy or principal, the double cross, could be likened to a patriarchal cross also known as ‘The Cross of Lorraine’, rarely seen these days, holds great significance in being the reconciliation of the sun and moon… as the microcosm and macrocosm unite through the vertical vertibrae/spine/axis mundi/tree of life.
  • The torch (sometimes smoldering):  is said to suggest that the spirit has within itself its own source of light to follow. Sometimes, however the only evidence of the light that can be seen in the extreme darkness is the smoke instead of the fire itself. Hinting to the ideology of ” where there is smoke there is fire.” This is a relevant interpretation when considering the journey the spirit is on as it traverses creation, sometimes one must use the subtle clues that will guide it in the right direction as opposed to well lit or clearly defined road ways.
  • The flame atop the head of our central figure most likely represents the eternal flame, each spirit is apart of the all which is infinite, carries its own spark of the creator.
  • The fallen pillars, trampled or destroyed could denote the nature of this energy crush structures, foreshadowing the imagery of Lightning (Arcanum 16), that great force that destroys false structures to make way for new, more light-filled energy.
  • The two chained beings are sometimes depicted as male and female. Both energies, or polarities must be balanced by the spirit and are used as stepping stones or building blocks for the souls evolution. Additionally, it is the work of the spirit to continually recognize and free itself when it has become bound to thoughts, other-selves, ideologies, etc. that no longer do serve the self or keep it trapped in antiquated paradigms. There has been suggestion that these two images are making parts of a magical configuration, neither of them complete.

Deeper Meanings: suggestions are embedded within every image pointing to perspective, functions and relationships each archetype has with polarity, the material world and the other archetypes. Observing the left or right hand or the position of the figure (forward or side facing) are two examples of another layer of symbolism that can be considered. Ex. the right hand may be considered to represent the right-handed path or the “service-to-others” path, while the left hand may be considered the left handed path or “service-to-self”. Facing to the left may suggest that this archetype is naturally attention is directed toward the self.

  • Is it possible that these two pillars that lie in ruin beneath the feet of the winged beast are the same pillars on either side of the High Priestess?
  • The scepter is held in the right hand while the smoldering fire is held in the left. What might this suggest?

“The spirit is so infinitely subtle that the fructifying influence of light upon the great darkness of the spirit is very often not as apparent as the darkness itself. The progress chosen by many adepts becomes a confused path as each adept attempts to use the Catalyst of the Spirit. Few there are which are successful in grasping the light of the sun. By far, the majority of adepts remain groping in the moonlight and, as we have said, this light can deceive as well as uncover hidden mystery. Therefore, the melody, shall we say, of this matrix often seems to be of a negative and evil, as you would call it, nature. It is also to be noted that an adept is one which has freed itself more and more from the constraints of the thoughts, opinions, and bonds of other-selves.Whether this is done for service to others or service to self, it is a necessary part of the awakening of the adept. This freedom is seen by those not free as what you would call evil or black. The magic is recognized; the nature is often not.”- Ra,Session 80

The Matrix of the Spirit to me:  my eyedeas 😉

When pondering the matrix of the spirit the first exercise for me is to imagine what the Ra given title “Primeval Darkness” means to me. When I imagine the darkness personified I imagine something cool perhaps, vast, difficult or inability to see anything because there is no light. So what would such a thing be like, total darkness. This reminds me of when I sleep and wake without remembering that I have dreamed.

I think about our pupils and how they are black so that the light can be absorbed so that we can see. The image of the gluttonous beast is appropriate if you think about how darkness itself behaves; how it can envelope or has the ability to obscure all sight. Darkness can be scary and there is probably a reason why this character is usually described as a devil. Ra suggests that there is a negative tone or quality to this energy.  To address the negative aspect darkness is simple, darkness is receptive and absorbs, this is inward flow, negative. Darkness does not reach, it is there always as counter balance to the light. Waiting for the light almost, because what would darkness be without the light? For example, would my shadow even exist unless I was standing in the light?

To apply these ideas to the spirit we could gather that the spirit  (or the Matrix thereof) is designed with the purpose or the inherent capacity for receiving light for it has none of its own. In both images, however the beast is guided by something; in one image a burning torch or smoldering and smoking torch. On a basic level I think the spirit matrix has some sort of focus or attention, that being in the direction of the fire. This is interesting, knowing that we will inevitably end up with the Sun being the apex of the spirit cycle. Interesting that primeval darkness points in the direction, or guided by the self (left hand) by a flame or at the very least smoke  (evidence of a flame). Where else have we seen a flame?



  • flame symbolism is found in crown of the The Alchemist (Arcanum 14), the left hand of Wisdom (Arcanum 9)
  • staff or scepter can be found in the Hierophant (Arcanum 5), the Chariot (Arcanum 7), Wisdom (Arcanum 9), Sun (Arcanum 19)
  • pillars are found in the High Priestess (Arcanum 2), Lightning (Arcanum 16), the Empress (Arcanum 3), the Emperor (Arcanum 4), the Hierophant (Arcanum 5).
  • two figures in opposite can be found in the the Hierophant (Arcanum 5), the Chariot (Arcanum 7),  Lightning (Arcanum 16), the Moon (Arcanum 18)
  • winged creatures can be found in the Empress (Arcanum 3), the Emperor (Arcanum 4), Balanced Working (Arcanum 8), Wheel of Fortune (Arcanum 10), the Alchemist (Arcanum 14), Primeval Darkness (Arcanum 15), Faith (Arcanum 17), the Sarcophagus (Arcanum 20), and the Universe (Arcanum 21)

“Each student may see some other nuance. We, as we have said, did not offer these images with boundaries but only as guidelines intending to aid the adept and to establish the architecture of the deep, or archetypical, portion of the deep mind.”- Ra, Session 91

Modern day key words for Primeval Darkness

Materialism —– Ignorance —– Stagnation —– Self-bondage

Lust —– Egoism —– Obsession —– Anxiety —– Anger

Ganance —– Hedonism —– Passion —– instincts

Sexuality —— Temptation —– doubt —– Vice

Futility —– Physical attraction —– Pessimism —– insight