The Altar

Standing in the center of the Temple is the Altar of the Mysteries. This altar is in the shape of a double cube, that is, an upright rectangular solid. This means it is just as deep as it is wide, but it is twice as high as it is deep. Often an altar needs a top surface of at least 24" square in order to hold all the implements. If so, this means it should be 48" high.

The double cube has a number of interesting symbolic meanings. One is based on the fact that it is the shape of a church altar, but standing upright. The intended symbolism is that the Christos is not sacrificed, as in the mass, but rather is standing upright, resurrected. Such an altar was called the Altar of Incense by Mathers who said the following:

"It was in the form of a double cube, thus representing material form as a reflection and duplication of that which is Spiritual. The sides of the Altar, together with the top and bottom, consist of ten squares, thus symbolising the Ten Sephiroth of which the basal one is Malkuth, the realisation of the rest upon the material plane, behind which the others are concealed."

The single cube has six square faces. The double cube is composed of ten of these faces, since two are juxtaposed. This implies the tenth sephirah, Malkuth, the sphere of earth. As Malkuth, it is the focal point for the four elemental vibrations entering from the quarters. As the Golden Dawn material makes explicit, the ten sides of the altar can be unfolded to reveal a cross of ten squares. Again, Mathers wrote:

"The Calvary Cross of Ten Squares refers to the Ten Sephiroth in balanced disposition, before which the Formless and the Void rolled back. It is also the opened out form of the Double Cube and of the Altar of Incense."

There are other symbolic aspects to the shape. The number six, the number of sides of the double cube represents Tiphareth, the sphere of the Christos. This fits with the symbolism of ten faces, for the two numbers, six and ten are mathematically linked. Note that the summation from one to six is 21, the number of the tarot key assigned to the path extending from Malkuth, the tenth sphere.

The cubic shape and the four-square sides call to mind the seat of the emperor, Key 4. There is also a mathematical link between four and ten because the summation from one to four is ten.

The altar is traditionally painted white to illustrate that the true nature of Earth is Spirit. It is draped in black to illustrate that spirit veils itself in matter. "There is no part of me that is not of the Gods."

Prepared by Emmanuel Rose
Ó Emmanuel Rose 2001