|The Book of Thoth - Part I
(13276 total words in this text)
The Great Wheel of Samsara.
The Wheel of the Law.
The Wheel of the Taro.
The Wheel of the Heavens.
The Wheel of Life.
All these Wheels be one;
yet of all these the Wheel of the TARO alone avails thee consciously.
Meditate long and broad and
deep, O man, upon this Wheel, revolving it in thy mind!
Be this thy task, to see
how each card springs necessarily from each other card, even in due order from
The Fool unto The Ten of Coins.
Then, when thou know'st the
Wheel of Destiny complete, may'st thou perceive THAT Will which moved it first.
[There is no first or last.]
And lo! thou art past
through the Abyss.
The Book of Lies ΚΕΦ.ΟΗ.
On 18th November, 1898
e.v., Aleister Crowley was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn;
he took the motto "Perdurabo' '---"I shall endure to the end" [To trace his
progress in the Order will assist the reader to follow his work. He attained the
grade of Adeptus Minor 5º=6º (Era: R.R. et A.C.) in January, 1900 e.v. That of
Adeptus Major 6º = 5º, taking the motto "OL SONUF VAORESAJI", in April, 1904
e.v. That of Adeptus Exemptus 7º = 4º, taking the motto OY MH, in 1909 e.v.
(Fra: A.: A. That of Magister Templi 8º = 3º on 3rd December, 1910 e.v.
accepting the motto previously (Oct., 1906 e.v.) bestowed upon him, Vi Veri
Vniversum Vivus Vici. See Liber 418pp. 73-76 et al. That of Magus 9º = 2º taking
the motto ΤΟ ΜΕΓΑ ΘΗΡΙΟΝ (ןוירת)
on October 12, 1915 e.v. ]
In February of the year
following, he attained the grade of Practicus, and was accordingly entrusted
with the secret attributions of the Tarot, especially those of the Atu. (See
He worked daily on these
MSS., for the most part under the personal instruction of G.H. Frater 7º = 4º,
D.D.C.F. (S. Liddell Mathers) and V.H. Fratres 5º = 6º Iehi Aour (Allan Bennett,
later Sayadaw Ananda Metteya) and Volo Noscere (George Cecil Jones) as host or
guest of one of these Adepts.
He continued these studies
alone during his first Voyage around the earth in search Of the Hidden Wisdom.
On 8th, 9th and 10th April,
1904 e.v., he received the Book of the Law. Chosen by the Masters to carry out
Their sublime plan, he began to prepare the way for the establishment of the New
Aeon, as They instructed him. (See The Equinox of the Gods for a very full and
detailed account of this, the most important event in his career). He
accordingly published the previously secret attributions of the Tarot in the
vel Prolegomena symbolica ad systemam
Sceptico-mysticae viae explicandae, fundamentum hieroglyphicum sanctissimorum
Following the tradition of
Eliphaz Levi, much of his magical writing is modelled on, or adorned by
references to, the Tarot. Notable in this connexion are:
• Ambrosii Magi Hortus Rosarum (The Sword of
Song, 1904 e.v.).
• The Wake-World (Konx Om Pax, 1907 e.v.).
• Liber XXX Aerum vel Saeculi sub figura
CCCCXVIII: being of the Angels of the 30 Aethyrs the Vision and the Voice (1911
• The Book of Lies (1913 e.v.).
• Magick in Theory and Practice (Book 4, Part
III) 1929 e.v.
He published a full account
of the Tarot, according to the MSS. of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in
The Equinox, Vol.1, Nos. 7 and 8 (1912 e.v.).
During all this time the
Tarot was his daily companion, guide, and object of research. He succeeded in
uniting under the Schema of the Holy Qabalah, of which the Tarot is the greatest
single element, all philosophical and magical systems soever, including that of
the Chinese. This, and his "Naples Arrangement" are with little doubt his
greatest achievements in scholarship.
For many years he had
deplored the absence of any authentic Text of the Tarot. The mediaeval packs are
hopelessly corrupt, compiled by partisans of existing political systems, or
otherwise far from presenting the Ancient Truth of the Book in a coherent
system, or a shape of lucid beauty.
It had from the beginning
of his study been his fervent wish to construct a worthy Text.
Eliphaz Levi had himself
wished to execute a similar task, but succeeded only in leaving us two of the
Atu, "The Chariot" and "The Devil". Many others have attempted the work, but
without even the knowledge of the true Attributions. Their attempts have been
gross, senseless, pitifully grotesque.
But the Masters who had
watched, guided, and chastised the author of this present volume, had in store
the reward of his labours. They introduced to him a skilled artist, Frieda
Harris, who, though she had little or no previous knowledge of the Tarot,
possessed in her own right the Essential Spirit of the book.
Together they bent their
energies to the formidable task of preparing the 78 cards of the Book of Thoth.
His original idea had been
to execute a pack after the tradition of the Mediaeval Editors, corrected in the
light of the descriptions given in The Equinox I, vii and viii. But she found
technical difficulties, such as introducing "10 rayed Angelic hands" all over
the place, producing a grotesque effect; and she also observed that his
teaching, in the course of his explanations went far higher and deeper than
any-thing in any accessible models. She accordingly forced him---the laziest man
in three continents!---to undertake what is to all intent an original work,
including the latest discoveries in modern science, mathematics, philosophy, and
anthropology; in a word, to reproduce the whole of his Magical Mind pictorially
on the skeleton of the ancient Qabalistic tradition. He accepted this colossal
burden; it renewed his energy and his enthusiasm.
Yet the burden was sore:
the anticipated three months' work extended to five years. Her success as his
interpreter surpasses belief. She had to work from his very rough sketches,
often from mere descriptions, or from reading between the lines of the old
packs. She devoted her genius to the Work. With incredible rapidity she picked
up the rhythm, and with inexhaustible patience submitted to the corrections of
the fanatical slave-driver that she had invoked, often painting the same card as
many as eight times until it measured up to his Vanadium Steel yardstick!
May the passionate "love
under will" which she has stored in this Treasury of Truth and Beauty flow forth
from the Splendour and Strength of her work to enlighten the world; may this
Tarot serve as a chart for the bold seamen of the New Aeon, to guide them across
the Great Sea of Understanding to the City of the Pyramids!
The accompanying booklet
was dashed off by Aleister Crowley, without help from parents. Its perusal may
be omitted with advantage.
S. H. Soror I.W.E. 8º =
3º A.'. A.'.
PART ONE: THE THEORY OF THE TAROT
THE CONTENTS OF THE TAROT
THE TAROT is a pack of
seventy-eight cards. There are four suits, as in modern playing cards, which are
derived from it. But the Court cards number four instead of three. In addition,
there are twenty-two cards called "Trumps", each of which is a symbolic picture
with a title itself. At first sight one would suppose this arrangement to be
arbitrary, but it is not. It is necessitated, as will appear later, by the
structure of the universe, and in particular of the Solar System, as symbolized
by the Holy Qabalah. This will be explained in due course.
THE ORIGIN OF THE TAROT
The origin of this pack of
cards is very obscure. Some authorities seek to put it back as far as the
ancient Egyptian Mysteries; others try to bring it forward as late as the
fifteenth or even the sixteenth century. But the Tarot certainly existed, in
what may be called the classical form, as early as the fourteenth century; for
packs of that date are extant, and the form has not varied in any notable
respect since that time. In the Middle Ages, these cards were much used for
fortune telling, especially by gypsies, so that it was customary to speak of the
"Tarot of the Bohemians", or "Egyptians". When it was found that the gypsies,
despite the etymology, were of Asiatic origin, some people tried to find its
source in Indian art and literature. There is here no need to enter into any
discussion of these disputed points. [It is supposed by some scholars that the
R.O.T.A. (Rota, a wheel) consulted in the Collegium ad Spiritum Sanctum--see the
Manifesto "Fama Fraternitatis" of the Brothers of the Rosy Cross--was the
THE THEORY OF THE CORRESPONDENCES OF THE TAROT
Unimportant to the present
purpose are tradition and authority. Einstein's Theory of Relativity does not
rest on the fact that, when his theory was put to the test, it was confirmed.
The only theory of ultimate interest about the Tarot is that it is an admirable
symbolic picture of the Universe, based on the data of the Holy Qabalah. It will
be proper, later in this essay, to describe the Holy Qabalah somewhat fully, and
to discuss relevant details. The part of it which is here relevant is called
Gematria, a science in which the numerical value of a Hebrew word, each letter
being also a number, links that word with others of the same value, or a
multiple thereof. For example, AChD unity (1+8 +4) =13; and AHBH love
(1+5+2+5)=13. This fact is held to indicate "The nature of Unity is Love". Then
IHVH Jehovah (10 +5+6+5) =26=2 X 13. Therefore: "Jehovah is Unity manifested in
Duality." And so forth. One important interpretation of Tarot is that it is a
Notariqon of the Hebrew Torah, the Law; also of ThROA, the Gate. Now, by the
Yetziratic attributions---see table at end---this word may be read The
Universe---the new-born Sun---Zero. This is the true Magical Doctrine of
Thelema: Zero equals Two. Also, by Gematria, the numerical value of ThROA is 671
=61 x 11. Now 61 is AIN, Nothing or Zero; and 11 is the number of Magical
Expansion; in this way also, therefore, ThROA announces that same dogma, the
only satisfactory philosophical explanation of the Cosmos, its origin, mode, and
object. Complete mystery surrounds the question of the origin of this system;
any theory which satisfies the facts demands assumptions which are completely
absurd. To explain it at all, one has to postulate in the obscure past a
fantastic assembly of learned rabbins, who solemnly calculated all sorts of
combinations of letters and numbers, and created the Hebrew language on this
series of manipulations. This theory is plainly contrary, not only to common
sense, but to the facts of history, and to all that we know about the formation
of language. Nevertheless, the evidence is equally strong that there is
something, not a little of something but a great deal of something, a something
which excludes all reasonable theories of coincidence, in the correspondence
between words and numbers.
It is an undeniable fact
that any given number is not merely one more than the previous number and one
less than the subsequent number, but is an independent individual idea, a thing
in itself; a spiritual, moral and intellectual substance, not only as much as,
but a great deal more than, any human being. Its merely mathematical relations
are indeed the laws of its being, but they do not constitute the number, any
more than the chemical and physical laws of reaction in the human anatomy give a
complete picture of a man.
THE EVIDENCE FOR THE INITIATED TRADITION OF THE
1. Eliphaz Levi and the Tarot
Although the origins of the
Tarot are perfectly obscure, there is a very interesting piece of quite modern
history, history well within the memory of living man, which is extremely
significant, and will be found, as the thesis develops, to sustain it in a very
remarkable way. In the middle of the nineteenth century, there arose a very
great Qabalist and scholar, who still annoys dull people by his habit of
diverting himself at their expense by making fools of them posthumously. His
name was Alphonse Louis Constant, and he was an Abbé of the Roman Church. For
his "nom-de-guerre" he translated his name into Hebrew-Eliphas Levi Zahed, and
he is very generally known as Eliphas Levi. Eliphas Levi was a philosopher and
an artist, besides being a supreme literary stylist and a practical joker of the
variety called "Pince sans rire"; and, being an artist and a profound symbolist,
he was immensely attracted by the Tarot. While in England, he proposed to
Kenneth Mackenzie, a famous occult scholar and high-grade Freemason, to
reconstitute and issue a scientifically-designed pack. In his works are new
presentations by him of the trumps called The Chariot and The Devil. He seems to
have understood that the Tarot was actually a pictorial form of the Qabalistic
Tree of Life, which is the basis of the whole Qabalah, so much so that he
composed his works on this basis. He wished to write a complete treatise on
Magick. He divided his subject into two parts---Theory and Practice which he
called Dogma and Ritual. Each part has twenty-two chapters, one for each of the
twenty-two trumps; and each chapter deals with the subject represented by the
picture displayed by the trump. The importance of the accuracy of the
correspondence will appear in due course. Here we come to a slight complication.
The chapters correspond, but they correspond wrongly; and this is only to be
explained by the fact that Levi felt himself bound by his original oath of
secrecy to the Order of Initiates which had given him the secrets of the Tarot.
2. The Tarot in the
At the time of the French
Renaissance of the eighteen-fifties, a similar movement took place in England.
Its interest centred in ancient religions, and their traditions of initiation
and thaumaturgy. Learned societies, some secret or semi-secret, were founded or
revived. Among the members of one such group, the Quatuor Coronati Lodge of
Freemasonry, were three men: one, Dr. Wynn Westcott, a London coroner; a Dr.
Woodford, and a Dr. Woodman. There is a little dispute as to which of these men
went to the Farringdon Road, or whether it was the Farringdon Road to which they
went; but there is no doubt whatever that one of them bought an old book, either
from an obscure bookseller, or off a barrow, or found it in a library. This
happened about 1884 or 1885. There is no dispute that in this book were some
loose papers; that these papers turned out to be written in cipher; that these
cipher manuscripts contained the material for the foundation of a secret society
purporting to confer initiation by means of ritual; and that among these
manuscripts was an attribution of the trumps of the Tarot to the letters of the
Hebrew alphabet. When this matter is examined, it becomes quite clear that
Levi's wrong attribution of the letters was deliberate; that he knew the right
attribution, and considered it his duty to conceal it. (It made much trouble for
him to camouflage his chapters!)
The cipher manuscripts were
alleged to date from the earliest years of the nineteenth century; and there is
a note to one page which seems to be in the writing of Eliphas Levi. It appears
extremely probable that he had access to this manuscript on his visit to Bulwer
Lytton, in England. In any case, as previously observed, Levi shows constantly
that he knew the correct attributions (with the exception, of course, of
Tzaddi---why, will be seen later) and tried to use them, without improperly
revealing any secrets which he was sworn not to disclose.
As soon as one possesses
the true attributions of these trumps, the Tarot leaps into life. One is
intellectually knocked down by the rightness of it. All the difficulties created
by the traditional attributions as understood by the ordinary scholar, disappear
in a flash. For this reason, one is inclined to credit the claim for the
promulgators of the cipher manuscript, that they were guardians of a tradition
3. The Tarot and the
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
One must now digress into
the history of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the society reconstituted
by Dr. Westcott and his colleagues, in order to show further evidence as to the
authenticity of the claim of the promulgators of the cipher manuscript.
Among these papers, besides
the attribution of the Tarot, were certain skeleton rituals, which purported to
contain the secrets of initiation; the name (with an address in Germany) of a
Fraülein Sprengel was mentioned as the issuing authority. Dr. Westcott wrote to
her; and, with her permission, the Order of the Golden Dawn was founded in 1886.
(The G .'. D .'. is merely
a name for the Outer or Preliminary Order of the R.R. et A.C., which is in its
turn an external manifestation of the A .'. A.'. which is the true Order of
Masters---See Magick, pp.229-244.) [An impudent mushroom swindle, calling itself
"Order of Hidden Masters", has recently appeared---and disappeared.]
The genius who made this
possible was a man named Samuel Liddell Mathers. After a time, Frl. Sprengel
died; a letter written to her, asking for more advanced knowledge, elicited a
reply from one of her colleagues. This letter informed Dr. Westcott of her
death, adding that the writer and his associates had never approved of Frl.
Sprengel's action in authorising any form of group working, but, in view of the
great reverence and esteem in which she was held, had refrained from open
opposition. He went on to say that "this correspondence must now cease", but
that if they wanted more advanced knowledge they could perfectly well get it by
using in the proper manner the knowledge which they already possessed. In other
words, they must utilize their magical powers to make contact with the Secret
Chiefs of the Order. (This, incidentally, is a quite normal and traditional mode
Mathers, who had manoeuvred himself into the practical Headship of the Order,
announced that he had made this link; that the Secret Chiefs had authorized him
to continue the work of the Order, as its sole head. There is, however, no
evidence that he was here a witness of truth, because no new knowledge of any
particular importance came to the Order; such as did appear proved to be no more
than Mathers could have acquired by normal means from quite accessible sources,
such as the British Museum. These circumstances, and a great deal of petty
intrigue, led to serious dissatisfaction among the members of the Order. Frl.
Sprengel's judgment, that group-working in an Order of this sort is possible,
was shown in this case to be wrong. In 1900, the Order in its existing form was
The point of these data is
simply to show that, at that time, the main preoccupation of all the serious
members of the Order was to get in touch with the Secret Chiefs themselves. In
1904 success was attained by one of the youngest members, Frater Perdurabo. The
very fullest details of this occurrence are given in The Equinox of the Gods.
[Consult especially pp. 61 to 119. The message of the Secret Chiefs is even in
the Book of the Law which has been published privately for initiates, and
publicly in The Equinox, Vol. I, No.7 and No.10; also, with full details, in The
Equinox of the Gods, pp.13 to 38. In a pocket at the end of that volume is a
photolithographic reproduction of the manuscript. There is also a cheap pocket
edition of the text of the Book by itself. There are also American Editions of
It is not here useful to
discuss the evidence which goes to establish the truth of this claim. But it is
to be observed that it is internal evidence. It exists in the manuscript itself.
It would make no difference if the statement of any of the persons concerned
turned out to be false.
4.The Nature of the
digressions have been essential to the understanding of the conditions of this
enquiry. It is now proper to consider the peculiar numbering of the Trumps. It
appears natural to a mathematician to begin the series of natural numbers with
Zero; but it is very disturbing to the non-mathematically trained mind. In the
traditional essays and books on the Tarot, the card numbered "0" was supposed to
lie between the cards XX and XXI. The secret of the initiated interpretation,
which makes the whole meaning of the Trumps luminous, is simply to put this card
marked "0" in its natural place, where any mathematician would have put it, in
front of the number One. But there is still one peculiarity, one disturbance in
the natural sequence. This is that the cards VIII and XI have to be
counterchanged, in order to preserve the attribution. For the card XI is called
"Strength"; on it appears a Lion, and it quite evidently refers to the zodiacal
sign Leo, whereas the card VIII is called "Justice", and represents the
conventional symbolic figure, throned, with sword and balances, thus obviously
referring to tile zodiacal sign of Libra, the Balance.
Frater Perdurabo had made a
very profound study of the Tarot since his initiation to the Order on 18th
November, 1898; for, three months later, he had attained the grade of Practicus;
as such, he became entitled to know the Secret Attribution. He constantly
studied this and the accompanying explanatory manuscripts. He checked up on all
these attributes of the numbers to the forms of nature, and found nothing
incongruous. But when (8th April, 1904 e.v.) he was writing down the Book of the
Law from the dictation of the messenger of the Secret Chiefs, he seems to have
put a mental question, suggested by the words in Chapter I, verse 57: "the law
of the Fortress, and the great mystery of the House of God" ("The House of God"
is one name of the Tarot Trump numbered XVI) to this effect: "Have I got these
attributions right?" For there came an interpolated answer, "All these old
letters of my book are aright; but
is not the Star. This also is secret; my prophet shall reveal it to the wise".
This was exceedingly annoying. If Tzaddi was not "the Star", what was? And what
was Tzaddi? He tried for years to counter-change this card, "The Star", which is
numbered XVII, with some other. He had no success. It was many years later that
the solution came to him. Tzaddi is "The Emperor"; and therefore the positions
of XVII and IV must be counterchanged. This attribution is very satisfactory.
Yes, but it is something a
great deal more than satisfactory; it is, to clear thought, the most convincing
evidence possible that the Book of 'he Law is a genuine message from the Secret
For "The Star" is referred
to Aquarius in the Zodiac, and "The Emperor' to Aries. Now Aries and Aquarius
are on each side of Pisces, just as Leo and Libra are on each side of Virgo;
that is to say, the correction in the Book of the Law gives a perfect symmetry
in the zodiacal attribution, just as if a loop were formed at one end of the
ellipse to correspond exactly with the existing loop at the other end. These
matters sound rather technical; in fact, they are; but the more one studies the
Tarot, the more one perceives the admirable symmetry and perfection of the
symbolism. Yet, even to the layman, it ought to be evident that balance and
fitness are essential to any perfection, and the elucidation of these two
tangles in the last 150 years is undoubtedly a very remarkable phenomenon.
SUMMARY OF THE QUESTIONS HITHERTO DISCUSSED
1. The origin of the Tarot is quite irrelevant,
even if it were certain, It must stand or fall as a system on its own merits.
2. It is beyond doubt a deliberate attempt to
represent, in pictorial form, the doctrines of the Qabalah.
3. The evidence for this is very much like the
evidence brought forward by a person doing a crossword puzzle. He knows from the
"Across" clues that his word is "SCRUN blank H"; so it is certain, beyond error,
that the blank must be a "C"
4. These attributions are in one sense a
conventional, symbolic map; such could be invented by some person or persons of
great artistic imagination and ingenuity combined with almost unthinkably great
scholarship and philosophical clarity.
5. Such persons, however eminent we may suppose
them to have been, are not quite capable of making a system so abstruse in its
entirety without the assistance of superiors whose mental processes were) or
are, pertaining to a higher Dimension.
One might take, by way of
an analogy, the game of chess. Chess has developed from very simple beginnings.
It was a mimic battle for tired warriors; but the subtleties of the modern
game-which have now, thanks to Richard Réti, gone quite beyond calculation into
the world of aesthetic creation-were latent in the original design. The
originators of the game were "building better than they knew" It is of course
possible to argue that these subtleties have arisen in the course of the
development of the game; and indeed it is quite clear, historically, that the
early players whose games are on record had no conscious conception of anything
beyond a variety of rather crude and elementary stratagems. It is quite possible
to argue that the game of chess is merely one of a number of games which has
developed while other games died out, because of some accident. One can argue
that it is merely by chance that modern chess was latent in the original game.
The theory of inspiration
is really very much simpler, and it accounts for the facts without violation of
the law of parsimony.
THE TAROT AND THE HOLY QABALAH
THE NEXT issue is the Holy
Qabalah. This is a very simple subject, and presents no difficulties to the
ordinary intelligent mind. There are ten numbers in the decimal system; and
there is a genuine reason why there should be ten numbers, and only ten, in a
numerical system which is not merely mathematical, but philosophical. It is
necessary, at this point, to introduce the "Naples Arrangement". But first of
all, one must understand the pictorial representation of the Universe given by
the Holy Qabalah. (See diagram.) This picture represents the Tree of Life,
which is a map of the Universe. One must begin, as a mathematician would, with
the idea of Zero, Absolute Zero, which turns out on examination to mean any
quantity that one may choose, but not, as the layman may at first suppose,
Nothing, in the "absence-of-anything" vulgar sense of the word. (See
"Berashith", Paris, 1902).
"THE NAPLES ARRANGEMENT"
The Qabalists expanded this
idea of Nothing, and got a second kind of Nothing which they called "Ain
Soph"-"Without Limit". (This idea seems not unlike that of Space.) They then
decided that in order to interpret this mere absence of any means of definition,
it was necessary to postulate the Ain Soph Aur-"Limitless Light". By this they
seem to have meant very much what the late Victorian men of science meant, or
thought that they meant, by the Luminiferous Ether. (The Space-Time Continuum?)
All this is evidently without form and void; these are abstract conditions, not
positive ideas. The next step must be the idea of Position. One must formulate
this thesis: If there is anything except Nothing, it must exist within this
Boundless Light; within this Space; within this inconceivable Nothingness, which
cannot exist as Nothing-ness, but has to be conceived of as a Nothingness
composed of the annihilation of two imaginary opposites. Thus appears The Point,
which has "neither parts nor magnitude, but only position".
But position does not mean
anything at all unless there is something else, some other position with which
it can be compared. One has to describe it. The only way to do this is to have
another Point, and that means that one must invent the number Two, making
possible The Line.
But this Line does not
really mean very much, because there is yet no measure of length. The limit of
knowledge at this stage is that there are two things, in order to be able to
talk about them at all. But one cannot say that they are near each other, or
that they are far apart; one can only say that they are distant. In order to
discriminate between them at all, there must be a third thing. We must have
another point. One must invent The Surface; one must invent The Triangle. In
doing this, incidentally, appears the whole of Plane Geometry. One can now say,
"A is nearer to B than A is to C".
But, so far, there is no
substance in any of these ideas. In fact there are no ideas at all) except the
idea of Distance and perhaps the idea of Between-ness, and of Angular
Measurement; so that plane Geometry, which now exists in theory, is after all
completely inchoate and incoherent.. There has been no approach at all to the
conception of a really existing thing. No more has been done than to make
definitions, all in a purely ideal and imaginary world.
Now then comes The Abyss.
One cannot go any further into the ideal. The next step must be the Actual---at
least, an approach to the Actual. There are three points, but there is no idea
of where any one of them is. A fourth point is essential, and this formulates
the idea of matter.
The Point, the Line, the
Plane. The fourth point, unless it should happen to lie in the plane, gives
The Solid. If one wants to know the position of any point, one must define
it by the use of three co-ordinate axes. It is so many feet from the North wall,
and so many feet from the East wall, and so many feet from the floor.
Thus there has been
developed from Nothingness a Something which can be said to exist. One has
arrived at the idea of Matter. But this existence is exceedingly tenuous,
for the only property of any given point is its position in relation to certain
other points; no change is possible; nothing can happen. One is therefore
compelled, in the analysis of known Reality, to postulate a fifth positive idea,
which is that of Motion.
This implies the idea of
Time, for only through Motion, and in Time, can any event happen. Without
this change and sequence, nothing can be the object of sense. (It is to be
noticed that this No.5 is the number of the letter He' in the Hebrew alphabet.
This is the letter traditionally consecrated to the Great Mother. It is the womb
in which the Great Father, who is represented by the letter Yod which is
pictorially the representation of an ultimate Point, moves and begets active
There is now possible a
concrete idea of the Point; and, at last it is a point which can be
self-conscious, because it can have a Past, Present and Future. It is able to
define itself in terms of the previous ideas. Here is the number Six, the centre
of the system: self-conscious, capable of experience.
At this stage it is
convenient to turn away for a moment from the strictly Qabalistic symbolism. The
doctrine of the next three numbers (to some minds at least) is not very clearly
expressed. One must look to the Vedanta system for a more lucid interpretation
of the numbers 7, 8 and 9 although they correspond very closely with the
Qabalistic ideas. In the Hindu analysis of existence the Rishis (sages)
postulate three qualities: Sat, the Essence of Being itself; Chit, Thought, or
Intellection; and Ananda (usually translated Bliss), the pleasure experienced by
Being in the course of events. This ecstasy is evidently the exciting cause of
the mobility of existence. It explains the assumption of imperfection on the
part of Perfection. The Absolute would be Nothing, would remain in the condition
of Nothingness; therefore, in order to be conscious of its possibilities and to
enjoy them, it must explore these possibilities. One may here insert a parallel
statement of this doctrine from the document called The Book of the Great Auk
to enable the student to consider the position from the standpoint of two
"All elements must at one
time have been separate.---That would be the case with great heat.---Now, when
the atoms get to the Sun, we get that immense, extreme heat, and all the
elements are themselves again. Imagine that each atom of each element possesses
the memory of all his adventures in combination. By the way, that atom,
fortified with memory, would not be the same atom; yet it is, because it has
gained nothing from anywhere except this memory. Therefore, by the lapse of time
and by virtue of memory, a thing could become something more than itself; thus,
a real development is possible. One can then see a reason for any element
deciding to go through this series of incarnations, because so, and only so, can
he go; and he suffers the lapse of memory which he has during these
incarnations, because he knows he will come through unchanged.
"Therefore you can have an
infinite number of gods, individual and equal though diverse, each one supreme
and utterly indestructible. This is also the only explanation of how a Being
could create a world in which War, Evil, etc., exist. Evil is only an
appearance, because (like "Good") it cannot affect the substance itself, but
only multiply its combinations. This is something the same as Mystic Monotheism;
but the objection to that theory is that God has to create things which are all
parts of himself, so that their interplay is false. If we presuppose many
elements, their interplay is natural."
These ideas of Being,
Thought and Bliss constitute the minimum possible qualities which a Point must
possess if it is to have a real sensible experience of itself. These correspond
to the numbers 9, 8 and 7. The first idea of reality, as known by the mind, is
therefore to conceive of the Point as built up of these previous nine successive
developments from Zero. Here then at last is the number Ten. In other words, to
describe Reality in the form of Knowledge, one must postulate these ten
successive ideas. In the Qabalah, they are called "Sephiroth", which means
"Numbers". As will be seen later, each number has a significance of its own;
each corresponds with all phenomena in such a way that their arrangement in the
Tree of Life, as shown in the diagrams (pp.266, 268, 270), is a map of the
Universe. These ten numbers are represented in the Tarot by the forty small
THE TAROT AND THE FORMULA OF TETRAGRAMMATON
are the Court Cards? This question involves another aspect of the system of
development. What was the first mental process? Obliged to describe Nothing, the
only way to do so without destroying its integrity was to represent it as the
union of a Plus Something with an equivalent Minus Something. One may call these
two ideas, the Active and Passive, the Father and Mother. But although the
Father and Mother can make a perfect union, thereby returning to Zero, which is
a retrogression, they can also go forward into Matter, so that their union
produces a Son and a Daughter. The idea works out in practice as a method of
describing how the union of any two things produces a third thing which is
neither of them.
illustration is in Chemistry. If we take hydrogen gas and chlorine gas, and pass
an electric spark through them, an explosion takes place, and hydrochloric acid
is produced. Here we have a positive substance, which may be called the Son of
the marriage of these elements, and is an advance into Matter. But also, in the
ecstasy of the union, Light and Heat are disengaged; these phenomena are not
material in the same sense as the hydrochloric acid is material; this product of
the union is therefore of a spiritual nature, and corresponds to the Daughter.
language of the alchemists, these phenomena were classified for convenience
under the figure of four "elements". Fire, the purest and most active,
corresponds to the Father; Water, still pure but passive, is the Mother; their
union results in an element partaking of both natures, yet distinct from either,
and this they called 'Air".
constantly remember that the terms used by ancient and medieval philosophers do
not mean at all what they mean nowadays. "Water" does not mean to them the
chemical compound H20; it is an intensely abstract idea, and exists everywhere.
The ductability of iron is a watery quality. [Its magnetic virtue (similarly) is
fiery, its conductivity airy, and its weight and hardness earthy. Yet, weight is
but a function of the curvature of the "space-time Continuum": "Earth is the
Throne of Spirit."] The word "element" does not mean a chemical element; it
means a set of ideas; it summarises certain qualities or properties.
hardly possible to define these terms in such a way as to make their meaning
clear to the student. He must discover for himself by constant practice what
they mean to him. It does not even follow that he will arrive at the same ideas.
This will not mean ~ that one mind is right and the other wrong, because each
one of us has his own universe all to himself, and it is not the same as anybody
else's universe. The moon that A. sees is not the moon that B., standing by him,
sees. In this case, the difference is so infinitesimal that it does not exist in
practice; yet there is a difference. But if A. and B look at a picture in a
gallery, it is very much not the same picture to both, because A's mind has been
trained to observe it by his experience of thousands of other pictures; B. has
probably seen an entirely different set of pictures. Their experience will
coincide only in the matter of a few well-known pictures. Besides this, their
minds are essentially different in many other ways. So, if A. dislikes Van Gogh,
B. pities him; if C. admires Bougereau, D. shrugs his shoulders. There is no
right or wrong about any matter whatsoever.
This is true,
even in matters of the strictest science. The scientific description of an
object is universally true; and yet it is not completely true for any single
observer. The phenomenon called the Daughter is ambiguous. It has been explained
above as the spiritual ingredient in the result of the marriage of the Father
and the Mother; but this is only one interpretation.
THE TAROT AND THE ELEMENTS
conceived of Fire; Water and Air as pure elements. They were connected with the
three qualities of Being, Knowledge and Bliss, previously mentioned. They also
correspond with what the Hindus called the Three Gunas - Sattvas, Rajas and
Tamas, which may be translated roughly as "Calm", "Activity", and "Slothful
Darkness". The alchemists had three similar principles of energy, of which all
existing phenomena are composed: Sulphur, Mercury and Salt. This Sulphur is
Activity, Energy, Desire; Mercury is Fluidity, Intelligence, the power of
Transmission; Salt is the vehicle of these two forms of energy, but itself
possesses qualities which react on them.
must keep in his mind all these tripartite classifications. In some cases, one
set will be more useful than others. For the moment, concentrate on the Fire,
Water, Air series. These elements are represented in the Hebrew alphabet by the
letters Shin, Mem and Aleph. The Qabalists call them the Three Mother Letters.
In this particular group, the three elements concerned are completely spiritual
forms of pure energy; they can only manifest in sensible experience by impinging
upon the senses, crystallising out in a fourth element which they call "Earth",
represented by the last letter of the alphabet, Tau. This, then, is another
quite different interpretation of the idea of the Daughter, which is here
considered as a pendant to the Triangle. It is the number Ten suspended from the
7, 8, 9 in the diagram.
interpretations must be kept in mind simultaneously. The Qabalists, devising the
Tarot, then proceeded to make pictures of these extremely abstract ideas of
Father, Mother, Son and Daughter, and they called them King, Queen, Prince and
Princess. It is confusing, but they were also called Knight, Queen, King and
Princess. Sometimes, too, the Prince and Princess are called "Emperor" and
for this confusion is connected with the doctrine of the Fool of the Tarot, the
legendary Wanderer, who wins the King's daughter, a legend which is connected
with the old and exceedingly wise plan of choosing the successor to a king by
his ability to win the princess from all competitors. (Frazer's Golden Bough is
the authority on this subject.)
It has been
thought better, for the present pack, to adopt the term "Knight", "Queen",
"Prince" and "Princess", to represent the series Father, Mother, Son, Daughter,
because the doctrine involved, which is extraordinarily complex and difficult,
demands it. The Father is "Knight" because he is represented as riding on a
horse. It may make it more clear to describe the two main systems, the Hebrew
and the Pagan, as if they were (and had always been) concrete and separate.
system is straightforward and irreversible; it postulates Father and Mother from
whose union issue Son and Daughter. There an end. It is only later philosophical
speculation to derive the Father-Mother Dyad from a Unity manifest, and later
still to seek the source of that Unity in Nothing. This is a concrete and
limited scheme, crude, with its causeless Beginning and its sterile End.
system is circular, self-generated, self-nourished, self-renewed. It is a wheel
on whose rim are Father-Mother-Son-Daughter; they move about the motionless axis
of Zero; they unite at will; they transform one into another; there is neither
Beginning nor End to the Orbit; none is higher or lower than another. The
Equation "Naught=Many =Two= One= All= Naught" is implicit in every mode of the
being of the System.
this is, at least one very desirable result has been attained: to explain why
the Tarot has four Court cards, not three. It also explains why there are four
suits. The four suits are named as follows: "Wands", attributed to Fire; "Cups",
to Water; "Swords", to Air; and "Disks" ("Coins", or "Pantacles"), to Earth. The
student will notice this interplay and counterchange of the number 4. It is also
important for him to notice that even in the tenfold arrangement, the number 4
takes its part. The Tree of Life can be divided into four planes: the number I
corresponds to Fire; numbers 2 and 3, to Water; numbers 4 to 9, to Air; and the
number 10 to Earth. This division corresponds to the analysis of Man. The number
I is his spiritual essence, without quality or quantity; the numbers 2 and 3
represent his creative and transmissive powers, his virility and his
intelligence; the numbers 4 to 9 describe his mental and moral qualities as
concentrated in his human personality; the number 6, so to speak, is a concrete
elaboration of the number I; and the number 10 corresponds to Earth, which is
the physical vehicle of the previous nine numbers. The names of these parts of
the soul are: I, Jechidah; 2 and 3, Chiah and Neschamah; 4 to 9, Ruach; and
lastly 10; Nephesch.
planes correspond once more to the so-called "Four Worlds", to understand the
nature of which one should refer, with all due reservations, to the Platonic
system. The number I is Atziluth, the Archetypal World; but the number 2, as
being the dynamic aspect of the number I, is the Practical attribution. The
number 3 is Briah, the Creative World in which the Will of the Father takes
shape through the Conception of the Mother, just as the spermatozoon, by
fertilizing the ovum, makes possible the production of an image of its parents.
The numbers 4 to 9 include Yetzirah, the Formative World, in which an
intellectual image, an appreciable form of the idea, is produced; and this
mental image becomes real and sensible in the number 10, Assiah, the Material
It is by
going through all these confusing (and sometimes seemingly contradictory)
attributions, with unwearying patience and persistent energy, that one comes at
the end to a lucid understanding, to an understanding which is infinitely
clearer than any intellectual interpretation could possibly be. This is a
fundamental exercise in the way to initiation. If one were a shallow
rationalist, it would be quite easy to pick holes in all these attributions and
semi-philosophical hypotheses, or near-hypotheses; but it is also quite simple
to prove by mathematics that it is impossible to hit a golf ball.
main theme of this essay has been the Tree of Life, in its essence the
Sephiroth. It is now proper to consider the relations of the Sephiroth with each
other. (See diagram, right)
It will be
noticed that twenty-two lines are employed to complete the structure of the Tree
of Life. It will be explained in due course how it is that these correspond to
the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It will be remarked that in some respects
the way in which these are joined up appears arbitrary. Notably, there is an
equilateral triangle, which one would think would be a natural basis for the
Operations of Philosophy, consisting of the numbers 1,4 and 5. But there are no
lines joining 1 and 4, or 1 and 5. This is not an accident. Nowhere in the
figure is there an erect equilateral triangle, although there are three
equilateral triangles with the apex downwards. This is because of the original
formula "Father, Mother, Son", which is three times repeated in a descending
scale of simplicity and spirituality. The number 1 is above these triangles,
because it is an integration of Zero and depends from the triple veil of the
Sephiroth, which are emanations of the number 1, as already shown, are
things-in-themselves, in almost the Kantian sense. The lines joining them are
Forces of Nature, of a much less complete type; they are less abstruse, less
THE TWENTY-TWO KEYS, ATU, OR
TRUMPS OF THE TAROT
Here now is
an excellent example of the all-pervading doctrine of Equilibrium. The equation
always reads ax2+bx+x=0.
If it does not equal 0, it is not an equation. And so, whenever any symbol loses
importance in one place in the Qabalah, it gains in another. The Court cards and
small cards form the skeletal structure of the Tarot in its principal function
as a map of the Universe. But, for the special significance of the pack as a Key
to magical formula, the twenty-two trumps acquire a peculiar importance.
symbols are they attributed? They cannot be related identically with any of the
essential ideas, because that place is taken by the cards from 1 to 10. They
cannot represent primarily the Father, Mother, Son, Daughter complex in its
fulness, because the Court cards have already taken that position. They are
attributed as follows: the three Mother letters, Shin, Mem and Aleph, represent
the three active elements; the seven so-called double letters, Beth, Gimel,
Daleth, Kaph, Peh, Resh and Tau, represent the seven sacred planets. The
remaining twelve letters Heh, Van, Zain, Cheth, Teth, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samekh,
A'ain, Tzaddi and Qoph represent the Signs of the Zodiac.
There is a
slight clotting or overlapping in this arrangement. The letter Shin has to do
duty for both Fire and Spirit, in very much the same way as the number 2
partakes of the nature of the number I; and the letter Tau represents both
Saturn and the element of Earth. In these difficulties there is a doctrine.
cannot dismiss these twenty-two letters thus casually. The stone that the
builders rejected becomes the head of the corner. These twenty-two cards acquire
a personality of their own: a very curious personality. It would be quite wrong
to say that they represent a complete universe. They seem to represent certain
rather curious phases of the universe. They do not seem essential factors in the
structure of the universe. They change from time to time in their relation to
current events. A glance at the list of their titles seems to show no longer the
strictly philosophical and scientific spirit of austere classification that is
found in the other cards. There leaps at us the language of the Artist. These
names are, the Fool, the Juggler, the High Priestess, the Empress, the Emperor,
the Hierophant, the Lovers, the Chariot, Lust, the Wheel of Fortune, Adjustment,
the Hanged Man, Death, Art, the Devil, the House of God, the Star, the Moon, the
Sun, the Aeon, the Universe. Obviously these are not plain, straightforward
symbolic representations of the signs, elements and planets concerned. They are
rather hieroglyphs of peculiar mysteries connected with each. One may begin to
suspect that the Tarot is not a mere straightforward representation of the
Universe in the impersonal way of the system of the Yi King. The Tarot is
beginning to look like Propaganda. It is as if the Secret Chiefs of the Great
Order, which is the guardian of the destinies of the human race, had wished to
put forward certain particular aspects of the Universe; to establish certain
especial doctrines; to declare certain modes of working, proper to the existing
political situations. They differ; somewhat as a literary composition differs
from a dictionary.
It has been
very unfortunate, but quite unavoidable, to be obliged to go so far into
argument, and that this argument has involved so many digressions as a
preliminary to a straightforward description of the pack. It may make it simpler
to proceed to summarize the above statements. Here is a simple statement of the
plan of the Tree of Life. The numbers, or Things-in-Themselves, are ten,
successive emanations from the triple veil of the Negative. The small cards
numbered 1 to 10 correspond to the Sephiroth. These cards are shown in fourfold
form, because they are not the pure abstract numbers, but particular symbols of
those numbers in the universe of manifestation, which is, for convenience,
classified under the figure of four elements. The Court cards represent the
elements themselves, each element divided into four sub-elements. For
convenience, here follows a list of these cards:
Knight of Wands, Fire of Fire
Queen of Wands, Water of Fire
Prince of Wands, Air of Fire
Princess of Wands, Earth of Fire
Knight of Cups, Water of Fire
Queen of Cups, Water of Water
Prince of Cups, Air of Water
Princess of Cups, Earth of Water
Knight of Swords, Fire of Air
Queen of Swords, Water of Air
Prince of Swords, Air of Air
Princess of Swords, Earth of Air
Knight of Disks, Fire of Earth
Queen of Disks, Water of Earth
Prince of Disks, Air of Earth
Princess of Disks, Earth of Earth
trumps are twenty-two in number; they represent the elements between the
Sephiroth or Things-in-Themselves, so that their position on the Tree of Life is
significant. Here are one or two examples. The card called "The Lovers", whose
secret title is "The Children of the Voice, the Oracle of the Mighty Gods",
leads from the number 3 to the number 6. The number 6 is the human personality
of a man; the number 3 is his spiritual intuition. Therefore, it is natural and
significant that the influence of the 3 upon the 6 is that of the intuitional or
inspirational voice. It is the illumination of the mind and the heart by the
again the card joining the number I to the number 6. This card is called "The
High Priestess", and is attributed to the Moon. The card represents the Heavenly
Isis. It is a symbol of complete spiritual purity; it is initiation in its most
secret and intimate form, descending upon the human consciousness from the
ultimate divine consciousness. Looked at from below, it is the pure and
unwavering aspiration of the man to the Godhead, his source. It will be proper
to enter more fully into these matters when dealing separately with the cards in
foregoing it will be clear that the Tarot illustrates, first of all, the Tree of
Life in its universal aspect, and secondly, the particular comment illustrating
that phase of the Tree of Life which is of peculiar interest to those persons
charged with the guardianship of the human race at the particular moment of the
production of any given authorised pack. It is therefore proper for those
guardians to modify the aspect of the pack when it seems to them good to do so.
The traditional pack has itself been subjected to numerous modifications,
adopted for convenience. For instance: the Emperor and the Empress, in the
medieval packs, were referred quite definitely to the Holy Roman Emperor and his
Consort. The card originally called "The Hierophant", representing Osiris (as is
shown by the shape of the tiara) became, in the Renaissance period, the Pope.
The High Priestess came to be called "Pope Joan", representing a certain
symbolic legend which circulated among initiates, and became vulgarised in the
fable of a Female Pope. More important still, "The Angel", or "The Last
Judgment", represented the destruction of the world by fire. Its hieroglyph is,
in a way, prophetic, for when the world was destroyed by fire on 21st March,
1904, [See The Equinox of the Gods, loc. cit. ] one's attention was
inevitably called to the similarity of this card to the Stele' of Revealing.
This being the beginning of the New Aeon, it has seemed more fitting to show the
beginning of the Aeon; for all that is known about the next Aeon, due in 2,000
years' time, is that its symbol is the double-wanded one. [See AL III, 34. The
reference is to Maat, Themis, Lady of the Balance.] But the new Aeon has
produced such fantastic changes in the settled order of things that it would be
evidently absurd to attempt to carry on the outworn traditions, "the rituals of
the old time are black." It has consequently been the endeavour of the present
Scribe to preserve those essential features of the Tarot which are independent
of the periodic changes of Aeon, while bringing up to date those dogmatic and
artistic features of the Tarot which have become unintelligible. The art of
progress is to keep intact the Eternal; yet to adopt an advance-guard, perhaps m
some cases almost revolutionary, position in respect of such accidents as are
subject to the empire of Time.
THE TAROT AND THE UNIVERSE
The TAROT is
a Pictorial representation of the Forces of Nature as conceived by the Ancients
according to a conventional symbolism.
The Sun is a
star. Around him revolve a number of bodies called Planets, including the Moon,
a satellite of the Earth. These bodies revolve in one direction only. The Solar
system ~ not a sphere, but a wheel. The planets do not remain in exact ~ but
swing to a certain (comparatively small) extent from one side of the true plane
to the other. Their orbits are elliptical. The Ancients imagined this wheel very
much more clearly than modern minds are wont to do. They paid particular
attention to the imaginary rim. Within the limits of this rim, they conceived
that the Fixed Stars beyond were in a special way connected with the apparent
motion of the Sun. This rim or belt of the wheel they called the Zodiac. The
constellations outside this belt did not seem to them to matter so much to
mankind, because they were not in the direct line of the great whirling force of
the wheel. (T.A.R.O. R.O.T.A. = wheel.)
THEORIES OF THE ANCIENTS
1. In old
times, it was supposed that the Earth was the centre of the Universe. The
Heavens being above the Earth-they did not realise them as being equally below
it-they were accounted as of the Divine Nature. And as they recognised
imperfections and irregularity in mundane affairs, they thought that the
movements of the Heavenly Bodies, which they observed to be regular, must be
started some a priori thinking. Their mathematicians had the idea that a
Circle was a perfect figure; therefore (they said, with characteristic
theological reasoning) all heavenly bodies must move in circles. This religious
assumption caused great trouble to the astronomers. As their measurements became
more extended and accurate, they found it increasingly difficult to reconcile
observation with theory, at least to do so without putting themselves to vast
inconvenience in their calculations. So they invented "cycles" and "epicycles"
to explain the observed movements.
Copernicus was goaded by this annoyance to suggest that it would really be very
much more convenient (if only the idea were not so wicked) to imagine that the
Sun, and not the Earth, was the centre of the System.
mathematics there are no fixed facts. Bertrand Russell says that in this subject
"nobody knows what he is talking about, and it matters to nobody whether he is
right or wrong".
Begin with the assumption that the Moon is the immovable centre of the Universe.
Nobody can contradict it; one simply switches the calculations over to suit. The
practical objection to this is that it would not facilitate the work of
navigators. It is important to have this idea in one's mind, because otherwise
one fails to grasp the whole spirit of modern Science-Philosophy. It does not
aim at Truth; it does not conceive of Truth (in any ordinary sense of the word)
as possible; it aims at maximum convenience. They did not understand that the
Circle is only one case of the Ellipse: that in which the foci coincide.
2. To return
to the picture of the Solar System. The Sun is the Hub of the Wheel; the
outermost Planet is on its rim; and beyond, but laterally within that rim, are
the Twelve Constellations of the Zodiac. Why twelve? The first rough division of
the circle is into four, according to the observed seasons. This choice may also
have been influenced by the division of the Elements into Four-Fire, Air, Water,
Earth. (These do not mean the objects now understood by these words, as
because they thought it necessary to introduce so sacred a number as Three into
everything heavenly, or else because the observed constellations happened to be
naturally divided into twelve groups, they divided the Zodiac into twelve signs,
three to each Season.
of the Sun upon the Earth was observed to change as He passed through the Signs.
So did quite simple things like the measure of time between Sunrise and Sunset.
When one says
that the Sun enters the Sign of Aries, one means that if a straight line were
drawn from the Earth to the Sun and prolonged to the Stars, that line would pass
through the beginning of that Constellation. Suppose, for instance, that one
observes the Full Moon on the first day of Spring, one will be able to see,
behind her, the stars of the beginning of Libra, the sign opposite to Aries.
observed that the Moon took approximately twenty-eight days to pass from Full to
Full; and to each day was assigned ~w hat was called a Mansion. Her mysterious
influence was supposed to change in each Mansion. This theory does not enter
directly into the Tarot, but it must be mentioned to help to clear up a certain
confusion which is about to complicate the question.
astronomers calculated that the Sun took 360 days to go round the Zodiac. This
was a closely guarded secret of the learned; so they concealed it in the divine
name Mithras, which adds up, according to the Greek Convention (M 40---I
10---Th. 9---R 100---A 1---S 200) to 360. Better observation showed 365 days to
be more accurate; so they decided to call it "Abraxas" (A 1---B 2---R 100---A
1---X 60---A 1---S 200). When the others found this out they put themselves
right by altering the spelling of Mithras to Meithras, which adds (like Abraxas)
to 365. In this there is still an error of not quite six hours; so that, in the
course of centuries, the Calendar kept slipping. It did not assume its present
form until the time of Pope Gregory.
The Point of
all this, that they divided the Circle of the Zodiac into 360 degrees, is that
this is a convenient basis for calculation.
measure of 10 degrees was called a Decanate. Of these there are thus thirty-six,
dividing each Sign of the Zodiac into three sections. It was supposed that the
influence of the Sign was very swift and fierce in the first Decan, powerful and
balanced in the second, spiritualised and deciduous in the third.
digression. One of the most important doctrines of the Ancients was that of the
Macrocosm and the Microcosm. Man is himself a little Universe; he is a minute
copy of the big Universe. This argument was, of course, worked backwards; so the
characteristics above given of the qualities of the Three Decans in the sign
were probably due to an analogy with the course of a man's life.
4. The above
remarks constitute a fairly complete idea of the arbitrary, or mostly arbitrary,
presentation of the Cosmos by the Ancients. First of all, the division into Four
Elements. These Elements pervade everything. They would argue something like
this about the Sun. They would say that he was principally Fire, for obvious
reasons; but he would have also in him the Airy quality of Mobility. The Watery
part would be shown by his power to create Images; and the Earthy part, his
a Serpent, they would call his power of Death fiery; his Swiftness, airy; his
undulatory motion, Watery; and his habit of life, Earthy.
descriptions are obviously quite inadequate; they have to be filled up by
attributing planetary qualities and zodiacal qualities to all objects. Thus, the
Bull in the Zodiac is an Earthy sign, and this is the central sign of the three
through which the Sun passes during Spring. But the bovine nature is also
gentle; wherefore they said that Venus rules the Sign of Taurus. The Cow,
moreover, is the principal milk-giving animal, so they made her the Great
Mother-Goddess, thus identifying her with the Moon, the Mother of Heaven as the
Sun is the Father. They represented this idea by saying that the Moon is
"exalted" in Taurus-that is, that she exerts the most beneficent aspect of her
influence when she is in that sign.
5. It is
confusing at first, but most instructive and illuminating when the principle is
thoroughly assimilated, to note how all these Elements subdivide and coalesce.
One can only reach the comprehension of any one of these Symbols by making a
composite picture of it, one composed of all the others in varying proportion.
Thus each of the planets gives a certain portion of its influence to any object.
This habit of thought leads to an understanding of the Unity of Nature (with its
proper and spiritual exaltation) which could hardly be attained in any other
way; it produces an internal harmony which ends in an acceptance of Life and of
It is now
almost time to analyse and define the traditional characteristics of these
symbols; but perhaps it would be better, first of all, to build on a sure
foundation by consideration of the number Two, which hitherto has not been taken
only two operations possible in the Universe, Analysis and Synthesis. To divide,
and to unite. Solve et coagula: said the Alchemists.
is to be changed, either one must divide one object into two parts, or add
another unit to it. This principle lies at the basis of all scientific thought
thought of the man of science is Classification, Measurement. He says, "This
oak-leaf is like that oak-leaf; this oak-leaf is unlike this beech-leaf". Until
one has grasped this fact, one has not begun to understand Scientific Method.
were fully cognisant of this idea; The Chinese, in particular, based their whole
philosophy on this primary division of the original Nothing. One must begin with
Nothing; otherwise the question would arise, Whence came this postulated
Something? So they wrote the equation---Zero equals plus one plus minus one
they called the Yang, or Male Principle; "Minus One", the Yin or Female
Principle. These then combine in varying proportion, giving the idea of Heaven
and Earth in perfect balance, the Sun and the Moon in imperfect balance, and the
Four Elements in unbalanced form (See diagram at right: The Chinese Cosmos).
This Chinese arrangement is thus tenfold, and has been shown to be admirably
equivalent to the System which has been here examined.
ancient scheme of the Elements, Planets and Zodiacal Signs, was summarised by
the Qabalists in their Tree of Life.
between the two systems was masked, until quite recently [The present author
discovered this fact during his study-still incomplete-of the Yi King], by the
fact that the Chinese continued with their doubling-up system, and so turned
their eight trigrams into sixty-four hexagrams, while the scholars of Western
Asia joined together their ten numbers on the Tree of Life by twenty-two Paths.
have thus sixty-four principal symbols as against the thirty-two of the Tree;
but the Qabalists have a concatenation of symbols which is capable of very
subtle interpretation and handling. It is also better fitted to describe the
internal relations of its Elements. Moreover, each can be multiplied or
subdivided at will, as convenience may require.
THE TREE OF LIFE
figure must be studied very carefully, for it is the basis of the whole system
on which the Tarot is based. It is quite impossible to give a complete
explanation of this figure, because (for one thing) it is quite universal.
Therefore it cannot mean the same to any one person as to any other. A's
universe is not B's universe. If A and B are sitting opposite each other at
table, A sees the right side of the lobster, and B the left. If they stand side
by side and look at a star, the angle is different; although this difference is
infinitesimal, it exists. But the Tarot is the same for all in the same way in
which any scientific fact or formula is the same for all. It is most important
to remember that the facts of science, though universally true in the abstract,
are still not precisely true for any one observer, because even if the
observation of any common object is made by two people of identical sensory
reactions from the same spot, it cannot be done directly at the same time; and
even the smallest fraction of a second is sufficient to move both object and
observer in space.
This fact is
to be emphasized, because one must not take the Tree of Life as a dead fixed
formula. It is in a sense an eternal pattern of the Universe, just because it is
infinitely elastic; and it is to be used as an instrument in one's researches
into Nature and her forces. It is not to be made an excuse for Dogmatism. The
Tarot should be learnt as early in life as possible; a fulcrum for memory and a
schema for mind. It should be studied constantly, a daily exercise; for it is
universally elastic and grows in proportion to the use intelligently made of it.
Thus it becomes a most ingenious and excellent method of appreciating the whole
2. It seems
probable that the Qabalists who invented the Tree of Life were inspired by
Pythagoras, or that both he and they derived their knowledge from a common
source in higher antiquity. In any case, both schools agree upon one fundamental
postulate, which is as follows: Ultimate Reality is best described by Numbers
and their interplay. It is interesting to note that modern Mathematical Physics
has been finally driven to some similar assumption. Further, the attempt to
describe Reality by a single definite term has been abandoned. Modern thought
conceives Reality under the image of a ring of ten ideas, such as Potential,
Matter, and so on. Each term has no meaning in itself; it can only be understood
in terms of the others. This is exactly the conclusion which appears earlier in
this essay, with regard to the way in which the planets, elements and signs were
all dependent on each other, and composed of each other.
further attempt to reach Reality led the Qabalists to sum up the qualities of
these rather vague and literary ideas by referring them all to the numbers of
the decimal scale.
then, are the nearest approach to Reality which is shown in this system. The
number 4, for instance, is not so specially the result of adding one to three,
or squaring two, or halving eight. It is a thing in itself, with all sorts of
moral, sensible, and intellectual qualities. It symbolises such ideas as Law,
Restraint, Power, Protection and Stability.
Qabalistic system the original idea is Zero, [it is intentional to repeat here,
in other language, the ideas explained already in this essay] which appears
under three forms, rather as (in Chinese philosophy) the Tao becomes manifested
little by little through the Teh, or as (in the best of the Hindu systems) the
god of Destruction and Annihilation, Shiva, becomes manifested through the
Infinite Energy, Sakti. The system begins therefore with Am-Nothing, Am
Soph-Without Limit, and Am Soph Aur-the Limitless Light.
One may now
proceed to imagine any point in this "light", to select it for observation; the
fact of doing so makes it Positive. This gives the number I, which is called
Kether, the Crown. The other numbers arise by reason of the necessity of
thought) as explained in the following table:
THE NAPLES ARRANGEMENT
[So called because first worked
out in that city]
61=0. 61 +146=0 as Undefined
(Space). 61 +146+207=0 as basis of Possible Vibration.
1. The Point: Positive yet
2. The Point: Distinguishable from
3. The Point: Defined by relation
to 2 others. The Abyss-between Ideal and Actual.
4. The Point: Defined by 3
5. Motion (time)---He', the Womb;
for only through Motion and in Time can events occur.
6. The Point: now self-conscious,
because able to define itself in terms of above.
7. The Point's Idea of Bliss
8. The Point's Idea of Thought
9. The Point's Idea of Being
10. The Point's
Idea of Itself fulfilled in its complement, as determined by 7, 8 and 9.
It will be
seen from the above that by means of these ten positive numbers, but not by any
lesser number, one can arrive at a positive description of any given object or
So far, the
argument has been erected on a rigid, mathematical basis, with only the
slightest tincture of philosophy to give it form. But it is at this point that,
for the purpose of describing the objects Thought and Sense, one is compelled to
join hands with the astrologers The problem now is: to assign to Pure Number the
moral ideas which go with it. This is partly a matter of experience, partly
tradition derived from older experience. It would be unwise to discard tradition
with complete contempt, because all thinking is bound by the laws of the mind
itself, and Mind has been formed rough thousands of years of evolution in each
man by the thoughts of his ancestors. The cells of all living brains are just as
much the children of the great thinkers of the past as the development of the
organs and limbs.
very few people today who have heard of Plato and Aristotle. Not one in a
thousand, perhaps ten thousand, of those have ever read either of them, even in
translations. But there are also very few people whose thinking, such as it is,
is not conditioned by the ideas of those two men.
In the Tree
of Life, therefore, is found the first attempt to connect the Ideal with the
Actual. The Qabalists say, for example, that the number 7 contains the idea of
Venus, and the number 8 that of Mercury, that the connecting path between I and
6 refers to the moon, and that between 3 and 6 to the Sign of Gemini.
Then what is
the true meaning, in the category of the Real, of these planets and signs? Here
again one is faced with the impossibility exact definition, because the
possibilities of research are infinite; also, at any moment in any research, the
one idea merges into the her and clouds the exact definition of the images. But
this, of course, is the objective. These are all blind steps on the way to the
real Light: when the Universe is perceived as one, yet with all its Lights, each
necessary and each distinct.
of this work is, however, easy enough. One requires no more than elementary
classical knowledge. Roughly taking, for a start, the natures of the planets are
described by those of the gods after whom the actual bodies in heaven were
named, according to the old astrological ideas of their influence on the affairs
of men. The same is true, to a less extent, of the Signs of the Zodiac. There is
not so much information available about their natures; but it is helpful to note
which planet rules which sign, and in which sign which planets are exalted. The
individual Fixed Stars do not enter into the system of the Tarot.
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