The Book of Thoth - Part II


The Tarot, while based on these theoretical attributions, was designed as a practical instrument for Qabalistic calculations and for divination. In it is little place for abstract ideas. The subject of the book-the Tarot is called The Book of Thoth or Tahuti-is the influence of the Ten Numbers and the Twenty-two Letters on man, and his best methods of manipulating their forces. There is there fore no mention of the Three Veils of the Negative, which was discussed in the description of the Tree of Life. The description begins with the "small cards", numbered 1 to 10. These are divided into four suits according to the four elements. 

Thus the Ace of Wands is called the Root of the Forces of Fire. It pertains to Kether, and purports to represent the first positive manifestation of the idea of Fire.

The 2 pertains to Chokmah. But here is already no more the simplicity of the idea of fire. An Idea in action or in manifestation is no more the pure Idea.

This card is attributed to the first Decan of the fiery sign Aries, which is ruled by Mars; this, then, gives the idea of a violent and aggressive force. The card is therefore called the Lord of Dominion. This progressive degradation of the idea of Fire goes on increasing through the suit. Each successive card becomes less ideal and more actual, increasingly so until, with the number 6 which corresponds to the Sun, the centre of the whole system, the fiery idea resurges, balanced; hence pure, although complex. Beyond this, the force is beginning to expend itself, or to spiritualise itself, in the cards of the Decan of Sagittarius. But the best fixation of the fiery force is found in the 9, which number is the foundation of the structure of the Tree of life. Thus the card is called The Lord of Strength. The fire has been purified, etherealised and balanced. But in the 10, showing complete materialisation and nimiety, the effect of fire is pushed to its extreme limit. Its death is impending, but it reacts against this as best it can by appearing as the Lord of Oppression, formidable on the surface, but with the seeds of decay already sprouting. The above summary can easily be applied by the student to the other suits. 

The Court cards are sixteen in number, four to each suit. There is thus a subdivision of each element into its own system. The Knights represent the element of Fire, so that the Knight of Wands represents the fiery part of Fire, the Knight of Cups, the fiery part of Water. Similarly the Princesses or Empresses represent Earth, so that the Empress of Disks (Coins, or Pantacles) represents the earthy part of Earth.

These cards have many manifestations in natural phenomena. Thus, the Knight of Wands has the attribution of Aries, and represents swift violence of onset, the lightning flash. But the airy part of Fire is sympathetic with Leo, the steady force of energy, the Sun. Lastly, in the watery part of Fire, the harmony is with Sagittarius, which shows the fading, spiritualised reflection or translucence of the image of Fire, and this suggests the Rainbow. (See table of the Triplicities of the Zodiac).


THE ATU OF TAHUTI Or: The Twenty-two Houses of Wisdom,  Or: The Twenty-two Trumps of the Tarot.

[Atu: House or Key, in Ancient Egyptian. Tahuti: Egyptian God of Wisdom, magick, Science, also Illusion. In Coptic, Thoth: in Greek, Hermes: in Latin, Mercury. The Hindu and Scandinavian Gods corresponding are debased forms.] 

Twenty-two is the number of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It is the number of the Paths of the Sepher Yetzirah. These paths are the paths which join the ten numbers on the figure called the Tree of Life.

Why are there twenty-two of them? Because that is the number of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and one letter goes to each path. 

Why should this be so? Why should these paths be arranged on the Tree in the way that the diagram shows? Why should there not be paths connecting the numbers 2 and 5 and the numbers 3 and 4? 

One cannot answer any of these questions.

Who knows "How A got leave an ox to be, No camel, quoth the Jews, like G". (Browning)? One knows only that this was the conventional arrangement adopted by whoever it was that devised the Tarot.

What is worse, it seems very confusing, very annoying; it shakes one's faith in these great sages. But at least there is no doubt that this is so. 

The letters of the Hebrew alphabet are twenty-two. There are three " Mother" Letters for the Elements, seven "Double Letters" for the Planets, and twelve "Single" Letters for the Signs of the Zodiac.

But there are four Elements, not three. Or, including the element of Spirit (an important matter to initiates), there are five.

There are therefore two letters of the alphabet which have to do double duty. The element of Fire is very close kin to the idea of Spirit; so the letter Shin, belonging to Fire, may be taken to mean Spirit as well. There is a special reason why this should be so, although it only applies in later ages, since the introduction of the dogma that Spirit rules the four elements, and the formation of the "Pentagram of Salvation" connected with the Hebrew word IHShVH, Yeheshuah.

With regard to Earth, it was considered adequate to make the letter Tau, belonging to Saturn, correspond also to Earth.

These additions are clear evidence that the Tarot took definite and arbitrary steps to assert the new discovery in Magick some two thousand years ago; for no system is more rigid than a Hebrew system. And the system of the Sepher Yetzirah is the deepest rooted of all the elements of the Hebrew system, the most dogmatic of them all. 

The Tarot is justified not by faith, but by works. The departures from the original bone-dry Qabalah have been justified by experience. The point (raised above) about the way in which the paths are selected to join certain numbers and not others, is found to express important doctrines connected with the facts of initiation. It must always be borne in mind that the Tarot is not only an atlas for recording facts, but a guide-book showing one how to travel through these countries previously unknown. 

Travellers in China are somewhat bewildered at first when they are told that it is 100 li from Yung Chang to Pu Peng, but only 40 li from Pu Peng to Yung Chang. The answer is that the li is a measure of the time of marching, not of miles. The difference of calculation informs one that Pu Peng is a long way up the hill.

It is very much the same with the Tarot. The 6 of Wands is referred to Jupiter in Leo, and called the Lord of Victory. This dictates not only what victory is like, but also the conditions to be fulfilled in order to obtain victory. There is need of the fiery energy of the suit of Wands, the balance of the number 6, the stubborn courage of Leo, and also the influence of Jupiter, the little bit of luck that tips the scale.

These considerations are particularly important in dealing with the Atu, or Trumps. The Planets are already represented in the numbers or Sephiroth of the Tree of Life. But they have also attributions to certain of the Paths.

Some etymologists of a singularly idle disposition have tried to derive the French word "atout" from the ATU meaning House. It may seem simpler to suggest that "atout" is short for "bon atout", meaning "good for anything", because a Trump will take any card of any suit.

The Atu of Tahuti, who is the Lord of Wisdom, are also called Keys. They are guides to conduct. They give you the map of the Kingdom of Heaven, and also the best way to take it by force. A complete understanding of any magical problem is necessary before it can be solved. Study from outside, and action from outside, are ways abortive.

It is of the utmost importance to understand this extremely specialised character of the Trumps.

To say that the Trump numbered III, called The Empress, represents Venus, means something much less and also much more 'than appears if Venus be studied from a strictly astrological standpoint. One abandons the contemplation of the whole in order to take practical advantage of a part. Just so Tactics differs from Strategy. A great general does not think of war in the abstract, but confines his attention to a minute part of his perhaps vast knowledge of the subject by considering the disposition of his forces at a given place and time, and how best to employ them against his adversary. This is of course true not only of the Trumps, but of all the other cards; and it must be true of any specialised studies. If one goes into a shop and asks for a map of a certain country, one cannot get a complete map, because any such map would necessarily merge into the Universe as it approached completeness, for a country's character is modified by the adjacent countries, and so on for ever. Nor would even any useful map be complete in the most vulgar practical way without leading to confusion. The shopman would want to know whether his customer wanted a geological map, an orographical map, a commercial map, a map showing the distribution of population, or a strategic map; and so on for ever. 

The student of the Tarot must not therefore expect to find anything beyond a careful selection of the facts about any given card, a selection made for a quite definite magical purpose.

However, the Tarot does try to resume, in a single pictorial symbol, as many as possible of the useful aspects of the idea. In studying any card, one ought not to neglect any of the attributions, because each class of attribution does modify the form and colour of the card, and its use. This essay will endeavour, in the section describing each card in turn, to include as many of the correspondences as possible.



[Some paragraphs of this section repeat, in slightly different phrases, statements already made in earlier pages. This is intended.]

The Trumps are numbered in Roman figures in order to avoid confusion with the Arabic numbers of the Sephiroth. It has puzzled the traditional writers on the Tarot that these numbers should run from 0 to XXI. They seem to have thought that it would be proper to assume that 0 was the Fool, because he was a cipher, a good-for-nothing. They made this assumption simply because they did not know the secret doctrine of the Qabalistic Zero. They did not know elementary Mathematics. They did not know that mathematicians begin the decimal scale with Zero. 

To make it quite clear to initiates that they did not understand the meaning of the card called The Fool, they put him down between Atu cards XX and XXI, for what reason it baffles the human imagination to conceive. They then attributed the card number I, the Juggler, to the letter Aleph. In this simple yet ingenious manner they the attribution of every card, except The Universe, XXI, wrong.

Meanwhile, the true attribution was well guarded in the Sanctuary; it only became public when the secret lection issued to members of the Grade of Practicus of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn was published as a result of the catastrophe attending the English branch of the Order in 1899 and 1900, e.v., and the reconstruction of the whole Order in March and April, 1904, e.v. By putting the card marked 0 in its proper place, where any mathematician would have put it, the attributions fall into a natural order which is confirmed by every investigation.

There was, however, one kink in the rope. The card called Adjustment is marked VIII. The card called Lust is marked XI. to maintain the natural sequence, Lust must be attributed to Libra, and Adjustment to Leo. [The old titles of these cards were respectively "Strength" and "Justice": they are inadequate or misleading.] This is evidently wrong, because the card called Adjustment actually shows a woman with sword and scales, while the card called Lust shows a woman and a lion. 

It was quite impossible to understand why this reversal should have taken place until the events of March and April, 1904, which are recounted in detail in "The Equinox of the Gods". One need here give only one quotation: "All these old letters of my Book are aright; but j is not the Star". (AL. 1.57.) This was making darkness deeper. It was clear that the attribution of "The Star" to the letter tzaddi was unsatisfactory; and the question arose, how to find another card which would take its place. An incredible amount of work was done on this; in vain. After nearly twenty years the solution appeared. 

The Star represents Nuit, the starry heavens. "I am Infinite Space, and the Infinite Stars thereof." (AL. 1.22.) She is represented with two vases, one pouring water, a symbol of Light, upon herself, the other upon the earth. This is a glyph of the Economy of the Universe. It continually pours forth energy and continually reabsorbs it. It is the realisation of Perpetual Motion, which is never true of any part) but necessarily true of the whole. For, if it were not so, there would be something disappearing into nothing, which is mathematically absurd. The principle of Carnot (the Second Law of Thermodynamics) is only true in finite Equations.

The card which must be exchanged for "The Star" is "The Emperor", who bears the number IV, which signifies Power, Authority, Law, and is attributed to the sign Aries. This proves very satisfactory. But it became infinitely more so as soon as it was seen that this substitution cleared up the other mystery about Strength and Justice. For Leo and Libra are, by this exchange, shown as revolved about Virgo, the sixth sign of the Zodiac, which balances the revolution of Aries and Aquarius about Pisces, the twelfth sign. This is a reference to a peculiar secret of the ancients which was very deeply studied by Godfrey Higgins and others of his school. It is useless to go far into the matter here. But the position is made clear enough by the accompanying diagram. It will be seen at a glance that now, for the first time, is a perfect symmetry established in the Tarot. 

The justice of the exchange is evident when one considers Etymology. It is natural that the Great Mother should be attributed to He', which is her letter in the Tetragrammaton, while the letter Tzaddi is the natural letter of the Emperor in the original phonetic system, as shown in the words Tsar, Czar, Kaiser, Caesar, Senior, Seigueur, Seflor, Signor, Sir.



Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with the Will. In other words, it is Science, Pure and Applied. This thesis has been worked out at great length by Dr. Sir J. G. Frazer. But in common parlance the word Magic has been used to mean the kind of science which ordinary people do not understand. It is in this restricted sense, for the most part, that the word will be used ill this essay. 

The business of Science is to explore Nature. It's first questions are, What is this? How did it come to be? What are its relations with any other object? The knowledge acquired may then be used in Applied Science, which asks: How can we best employ such-and-such a thing or idea for the purpose that, to us, seems fit? An example may make this clear. 

The Greeks of old were aware that by rubbing amber (which they called Electron) upon silk, the amber acquired the power of attracting to itself light objects such as small pieces of paper. But there they stopped. Their science was hoodwinked by theological ~ and philosophical theories of the a priori type. It was well over 2,000 years before this phenomenon was correlated with other electrical phenomena. The idea of Measurement was hardly known to anyone but mathematicians like Archimedes, and astronomers. The foundations of Science, as it is understood to-day, were hardly laid at all 200 years ago. There was an immense amount of knowledge; but it was nearly all qualitative. The classification of phenomena depended chiefly upon poetic analogies. The doctrines of "correspondences" and signatures" were based upon fanciful resemblances. Cornelius Agrippa wrote of the "antipathy" between a Dolphin and a Whirlpool. If a meretrix sat under an olive tree, it would bear no more fruit. If anything looked like something else, it partook in some mysterious way of its qualities.

This sounds to-day to many people mere superstitious ignorance and nonsense; but it is not altogether so. The old system of classification was sometimes good and sometimes bad, as far as it went. But in no case did it go very far. The natural ingenuity of their natural philosophers did compensate very largely for the weakness of their theory; and it did ultimately lead them (especially through Alchemy, where they were forced by the nature of the work to add real to their ideal observation) to introduce the idea of Measure. Modern Science, intoxicated by the practical success which attended this innovation, has simply shut the door on anything that cannot be measured. The Old Guard refuses to discuss it. But the loss is immense. Obsession with strictly physical qualities has blocked out all real human values. 

The science of the Tarot is entirely based upon this older system. The calculations involved are very precise; but they never lose sight of the Incommensurable and the Imponderable. 

The theory of Animism was always present in the minds of the mediaeval masters. Any natural object possessed not only its material characteristics, but was a manifestation of a more or less tangible idea on which it depended. The Pool was a pool, true; but also there was a nymph whose home it was. In her turn, she was dependent on a superior kind of nymph, who was much less closely attached to any given pool, but more to pools in general; and so on, up to the supreme Lady of Water, who exercised a general supervision over her whole dominion. She, of course, was subject to the General Ruler of all the Four Elements. It was exactly the same idea as in the case of the police constable, who has his sergeant, inspector, superintendent, commissioner, always getting more cloudy and remote until you reach the shadowy Home Secretary, who is, himself, the servant of a completely intangible and incalculable phantom called The Will of the People. 

We may doubt how far the personification of these entities was conceived as real by the ancients; but the theory was that while anyone with a pair of eyes could see the pool, he could not see the nymph except by some accident. But they thought that a superior type of person, by dint of searching, study and experiment, might acquire this general power. A person still more advanced in this science could get into real connection with the superior, because subtler, forms of Life. He could perhaps cause them to manifest themselves to him in material shape.

A good deal of this rests upon the Platonic ideology, which maintained that any material object was an impure and imperfect copy of some ideal perfection. So men who wished to advance in spiritual science and philosophy strove always to formulate for themselves the pure idea. They tried to proceed from the Particular to the General; and this principle has been of the greatest service to ordinary science. The mathematics of 6+5=11, and 12+3=15, was all in bits. Advance only came when they wrote down their equations in general terms. X2Y2=(X +Y) (X-Y) covers all possible cases of subtracting the square of one number from the square of another. So the Meaningless and Abstract, when understood, has far more meaning than the Intelligible and Concrete.

These considerations apply to the cards taken from the Tarot. What is the meaning of the Five of Wands? This card is subject to the Lord of Fire, because it is a Wand, and to the Sephira Geburah because it is a Five. It is also subject to the sign Leo, and to the planet Saturn, because this planet and sign determine the nature of the card. This is no more than saying that a Dry Martini has got some juniper in it, and some alcohol, and some white wine and herbs, and a bit of lemon peel, and some ice. It is a harmonious composition of various elements; once mixed, it forms a single compound from which it would be very difficult to separate the ingredients; yet each element is necessary to the composition.

The Five of Wands is therefore a personality; the nature of this is summed up in the Tarot by calling it "Strife".

This means that, if used passively in divination, one says, when it turns up, "There is going to be a fight". If used actively, it means that the proper course of conduct is to contend. But there is a further point about this card. It is governed from the angelic world by two Beings, one during the hours of Light, the other during the hours of Darkness. Therefore, in order to use the properties of this card, one way is to get into communication with the Intelligence concerned, and to induce him to execute his function. There are thus seventy-two "Angels" set over the thirty-six small cards; these are derived from the "Great Name of God" of seventy-two letters, called Shemhamphorasch.



This word means the Divided Name. The "Name" is Tetragrammaton: I.H.V.H., commonly called Jehovah. He is the Supreme Lord of the Four Elements which compose fundamentally the whole Universe.

There are three verses in Exodus (xiv, 19, 20, 21) each containing seventy-two letters. By writing down the first of these, and underneath this the next verse backwards, and under this again the last ~ verse forwards, seventy-two columns of three letters each are obtained. These are read downwards, and the terminations AL or AH according as they are male or female, appended. There is also an attribution of these Intelligences, one to each of the quinaries or segments of five degrees of the Zodiac; but there are also innumerable other angels, demons, magical images, lords of triplicities, lesser assistant angels and so on, with demons to correspond. It is quite useless to study all these attributions. They could only be wanted in case of wishing to get into actual communication with one of these for some special purpose. These matters are here mentioned for the sake of completeness; but the Tarot will lose all its vitality for one who allows himself to be side-tracked by its pedantry.



The Tarot is, thus, intimately bound up with the purely magical Arts of Invocation and Evocation. By Invocation is meant the aspiration to the highest, the purest form of the part of oneself that one wishes to put into action. 

Evocation is much more objective. It does not imply perfect sympathy. One's attitude to the Being evoked may even be, at least superficially, hostile. Then, of course, the further advanced one is in initiation, the less the idea of hostility enters one's mind. "Tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner." Thus, in order to understand any given card, one must identify oneself with it completely for the moment; and one way of doing this is to induce or compel the Intelligence ruling the card to manifest to the senses. For, as explained above, the ancient theory of the Universe included the thesis that every object in Nature possessed a spiritual guardian. Roughly speaking, this did not apply so much to manufactured objects, though there are exceptions to this, as in the case of the Gods of the Hearth, the Lintel, and the like; or of angels or spirits as supposed to be interested in one's sword or one's spear. A particularly powerful weapon was likely to get the reputation of not having been manufactured at all by human hands, but forged in volcanoes or in fairy-land, and thus imbued with preternatural powers. Some famous swords had names, and were regarded as living beings; they were liable to fly out of the window if the owner played about too much, instead of killing people as is proper.



It is only natural, therefore, that at a time when pictorial or written representations of ideas were beyond the comprehension of any but a very few people, when Writing itself was considered magical, and Printing (as it is) an invention of the Devil, people should regard hieroglyphs (whether written or pictured) as living things having power in themselves. It may be that, even today, there are houses in darkest Shropshire where anyone who put another book on the top of the Family Bible would be told never to darken those doors again. Automatic action is everywhere ascribed to inanimate objects; for instance, Horseshoes on doors. There is an entire class of such superstitions. The problem of how any given superstition arose has not always been satisfactorily solved. One can (ignorantly) derive the Sitting-down-Thirteen-at-Table nonsense from the legend of the Last Supper. (Incidentally, it can hardly have been the first time that those thirteen sat down to table.) 

But the really primitive superstitions cannot be explained so simply. It seems more probable that they arose from the unscientific habit (extremely common among men of science) of generalising from too few facts. It might happen by chance that on half a dozen occasions within a short period, a hunter, setting out at Full Moon, was killed. The old fallacy of Post hoc propter hoc would come in; and the village would say, "It is unlucky to go out hunting at Full Moon". This would gather force, as it was repeated through the generations, by virtue of mental indolence; and it would not be disturbed, because Tabu would render the original coincidence unlikely to recur. If, however, something similar came off at the New Moon, there would be a new superstition; and presently there would be a complete nexus of Tabu about the Moon. 

A recent case. The late Mr. S. L. Mathers published, in 1898-9, the translation of a manuscript called The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage in a small private edition. Some hundreds of people bought it. One special group of purchasers under his personal observation were all, or nearly all, hit by misfortune. Within a year, people were saying that it was terribly dangerous to have the book on one's shelves.

Would this theory have resisted statistical examination? Who can say? But, curiously enough, in 1938 e.v., a neglected copy was taken from its hiding-place on an obscure shelf. Immediately, disasters occurred to most of the people concerned, and to those with whom they were in close relationship. Post hoc propter hoc. But who can be sure?



Victorian science, flushed with its victory over Supernaturalism, was quite right to declare the Immeasurable "Out of Bounds". It had a right to do so on technical grounds, and it was a strategical necessity of its offensive; but it hampered itself by limiting its scope. It laid itself open to the deadliest attacks from Philosophy. Then, especially from the angle of Mathematical Physics, its own generals betrayed its dogmatism. The essence of Science to-day is far more mysterious than the cloudiest speculations of Leibnitz, Spinoza or Hegel; the modern definition of Matter reminds one irresistibly of the definition of Spirit given by such mystics as Ruysbroek, Boehme and Molinos. The idea of the Universe in the mind of a modern mathematician is singularly reminiscent of the ravings of William Blake. 

But the mystics were all wrong when they were pious, and held that their mysteries were too sacred to analyse. They ought to have brought in the idea of Measure. This is exactly what was done by the magicians and Qabalists. The difficulty has been that the units of measurement have themselves been somewhat elastic; they even tend to be literary. Their definitions were as circular as, but not more fugitive than, the definitions of the physicists of to-day. Their methods were empirical, though they strove to make them accurate, as well as lack of precise measures and standard apparatus permitted, because they had not yet formulated any true scientific theory.

But their successes were numerous. All depended on individual skill. One would rather trust oneself in illness to the born physician than to the laboratory experts of Battle Creek.

One of the great differences between ancient and modern Chemistry is the idea of the Alchemists that substance in its natural state is, in some way or other, a living thing. The modern tendency is to insist on the measurable. One can go into a museum and see rows of glass globes and bottles which contain the chemical substances which go to make up the human body; but the collection is very far from being a man. Still less does it explain the difference between Lord Tomnoddy and Bill Sykes. Nineteenth century chemists were at great pains to analyse opium and isolate its alkaloids, rather like a child pulling a watch to pieces to see what makes it go. They succeeded, but the results were not altogether wholesome. Morphine has much more direct hypnotic effect than opium; its action is speedier and more violent; but it is also a very dangerous drug, and its effects are often disastrous. The action of morphine is sensibly modified by the other twenty odd alkaloids which exist in opium. The intoxicating effect of alcohol differs according to whether one absorbs it in Richebourg '29 or in synthetic gin. An even more startling example comes from Venezuela, where running messengers chew coco leaves, cover their hundred miles a day, and sleep till they are rested. They have no bad reaction, and they do not acquire the habit. Cocaine is a different story. The adepts of the Tarot would say, quite simply, "We are alive and the plant is alive, so we can make friends. If you kill the plant first, you are asking for trouble." 

All this is here written in defence of the system of the makers and users of the Tarot, of their methods of dealing with Nature, of making experiments without undue attention to the wish to get things done quickly. They would expose a mixture to the rays of the sun or moon for weeks or months, thinking that everything would be spoilt if they boiled it up violently. The processes of Nature (they would say) are slow and temperate; let us copy them! 

There may have been good grounds for these views. Experience leads to that conclusion.

This is by way of Introduction to a thesis most necessary to the understanding of the Tarot. Each card is, in a sense, a living being; and its relations with its neighbours are what one might call diplomatic. It is for the student to build these living stones into his living.



[Note that 'Fool' is derived from 'follis', a wind-bag. Even etymology gives the attribution to Air. Also, to puff out the cheeks is a gesture implying readiness to create, in the sign-language of Naples. Worse, some English Guardians of Democracy impute folly to others by the "Razzberry".]

• The Formula of Tetragrammaton 

• The "Green Man" of the Spring Festival, "April Fool," The Holy Ghost 

• The "Great Fool" of the Celts (Dalua) 

• "The Rich Fisherman"; Percivale 

• The Crocodile (Mako, Son of Set, or Sebek) 

• Hoor-Pa-Kraat 

• Zeus Arrhenotheleus 

• Dionysus Zagreus; Bacchus Diphues 

• Baphomet 

• Summary 

• i. Silence 

• ii. De Sapientia et Stultitia; De Oraculo Summo

• iii. De Herba Sanctissima Arabica;De Quibusdam Mysteriis, Quae Vidi; De Quodam Modo Meditationis; Sequitur De Hac Re; Conclusio De Hoc Modo Sanctitatis; De Via Sola Solis. 

This card is attributed to the letter Aleph, which means an Ox, but by its shape the Hebrew letter (so it is said) represents a ploughshare; thus the significance is primarily Phallic. It is the first of the three Mother letters, Aleph, Mem, and Shin, which correspond in various interwoven fashions with all the triads that occur in these cards, notably Fire, Water, Air; Father, Mother, Son; Sulphur, Salt, Mercury; Rajas, Sattvas and Tamas.

The really important feature of this card is that its number should be 0. It represents therefore the Negative above the Tree of Life, the source of all things. It is the Qabalistic Zero. It is the equation of the Universe, the initial and final balance of the opposites; Air, in this card, therefore quintessentially means a vacuum.

In the medieval pack, the title of the card is Le Mat, adapted from the Italian Matto, madman or fool; the propriety of this title will be considered later. But there is another, or (one might say) a complementary, theory. If one assumes that the Tarot is of Egyptian origin, one may suppose that Mat (this card being the key card of the whole pack) really stands for Maut, the vulture goddess, who is an earlier and more sublime modification of the idea of Nuith than Isis.

There are two legends connected with the vulture. It is sup posed to have a spiral neck; this may possibly have reference to the theory (recently revived by Einstein, but mentioned by Zoroaster in his Oracles) that the shape of the Universe, the form of that energy which is called the Universe, is spiral.

The other legend is that the vulture was supposed to reproduce her species by the intervention of the wind; in other words, the element of air is considered as the father of all manifested existence. There is a parallel in Anaximenes' school of Greek philosophy.

This card is therefore both the father and the mother, in the most abstract form of these ideas. This is not a confusion, but a deliberate identification of the male and the female, which is justified by biology. The fertilized ovum is sexually neutral. It is only some unknown determinant in the course of development which decides the issue.

It is necessary to acclimatise oneself to this at first sight strange, idea. As soon as one has made up one's mind to consider the feminine aspect of things, the masculine element should immediately appear in the same flash of thought to counterbalance it. This identification is complete in itself) philosophically speaking; it is only later that one must consider the question of the result of formulating Zero as "plus I plus minus I". The result of so doing is to formulate the idea of Tetragrammaton.



It is explained in this essay (see 16, 34, et al.) that the whole of the Tarot is based upon the Tree of Life, and that the Tree of Life is always cognate with Tetragrammaton. One may sum up the whole doctrine very briefly as follows:

The Union of the Father and the Mother produces Twins, the son going forward to the daughter, the daughter returning the energy to the father; by this cycle of change the stability and eternity of the Universe are assured.

It is necessary, in order to understand the Tarot, to go back in history to the Matriarchal (and exogamic) Age, to the time when succession was not through the first-born son of the King, but through his daughter. The king was therefore not king by inheritance, but by right of conquest. In the most stable dynasties, the new king was always a stranger, a foreigner; what is more, he had to kill the old king and marry that king's daughter. This system ensured the virility and capacity of every king. The stranger had to win his bride in open competition. In the oldest fairy-tales, this motive is continually repeated. The ambitious stranger is often a troubadour; nearly always he is disguised, often in a repulsive form. Beauty and the Beast is a typical tale. There is often a corresponding camouflage about the king's daughter, as in the case of Cinderella and the Enchanted Princess. The tale of Aladdin gives the whole of this fable in a very elaborate form, packed with technical tales of magic. Here then is the foundation of the legend of the Wandering Prince---and, note well, he is always "the fool of the family". The connection between foolishness and holiness is traditional. It is no sneer that the family nitwit had better go into the church. In the East the madman is believed to be "possessed", a holy man or prophet. So deep is this identity that it is actually embedded in the language. "Silly" means empty-the Vacuum of Air-Zero-"the silly buckets on the deck". And the word is from the German selig, holy, blessed. It is the innocence of the Fool which most strongly characterizes him. It will be seen later how important is this feature of the story.

To ensure the succession, it was therefore devised: firstly, that the blood royal should really be the royal blood, and secondly, that this strain should be fortified by the introduction of the conquering stranger, instead of being attenuated by continual in-breeding.

In certain cases this theory was pushed very far; there was probably a great deal of chicanery about this disguised prince. It may well have been that the king, his father, furnished him with very secret letters of introduction; in short, that the old political game was old even in those primeval times.

The custom is therefore developed into the condition so admirably investigated by Frazer in the Golden Bough. (This Bough is no doubt a symbol of the King's Daughter herself). "The king's daughter is all glorious within; her raiment is of wrought gold."

How did such a development come to pass?

There may have been a reaction against playing politics; there may have been a glorification, first of all of the 'gentleman burglar', finally of the mere gangster-boss, rather as we have seen in our own times, in the reaction against Victorianism. The "wandering prince" was closely examined as to his credentials; unless he were an escaped criminal he was not eligible to compete; nor was it sufficient for him to win the king's daughter in open competition, live in the lap of luxury until the old king died, and succeed him in peace; he was obliged to murder the old king with his own hand.

At first sight it would appear that the formula is the union of the extremely masculine, the big blond beast, with the extremely feminine, the princess who could not sleep if there was a pea beneath her seven feather beds. But all such symbolism defeats itself; the soft becomes the hard, the rough the smooth. The deeper one goes into the formula, the closer becomes the identification of the Opposites. The Dove is the bird of Venus, but the dove is also a symbol of the Holy Ghost; that is, of the Phallus in its most sublimated form. There is therefore no reason for surprise in observing the identification of the father with the mother.

Naturally, when ideas so sublime become vulgarised, they fail to exhibit the symbol with lucidity. The great hierophant, confronted with a thoroughly ambiguous symbol, is compelled, just because of his office as hierophant---that is, one who manifests the mystery---to "diminish the message to the dog". This he must do by exhibiting a symbol of the second order, a symbol suited to the intelligence of the second order of Initiates. This symbol, instead of being universal, and thus beyond ordinary expression, must be further adapted to the intellectual capacity of the particular set of people whom it is the business of the hierophant to initiate. Such truth accordingly appears to the vulgar as fable, parable, legend, even creed.

In the case of this comprehensive symbol of The Fool, there are, within actual knowledge, several quite distinct traditions, very clear; and, historically, very important.

These must be considered separately in order to understand the single doctrine from which all sprang.


The "Green Man" of the Spring Festival. "April Fool." The Holy Ghost.

This tradition represents the original idea adapted to the under- standing of the average peasant. The Green Man is a personification of the mysterious influence that produces the phenomena of spring. It is hard to say why it should be so, but it is so: there is a connection with the ideas of irresponsibility, of wantonness, of idealization, of romance, of starry dreaming.

The Fool stirs within all of us at the return of Spring, and be cause we are a little bewildered, a little embarrassed, it has been thought a salutary custom to externalise the subconscious impulse by ceremonial means. It was a way of making confession easy. Of all these festivals it may be said that they are representations in the simplest form, without introspection, of a perfectly natural phenomenon. In particular are to be noted the custom of the Easter Egg and the "Poisson d'avril". (The Saviour Fish is discussed elsewhere in this essay. The precession of the Equinoxes has made Spring begin with the entry of the Sun into Aries the Ram, instead of Pisces the Fishes as was the case in the earliest times recorded.)


The "Great Fool" of the Celts (Dalua)

This is a considerable advance on those purely naturalistic phenomena above described; in the Great Fool is a definite doctrine. The world is always looking for a saviour, and the doctrine in question is philosophically more than a doctrine; it is a plain fact. Salvation, whatever salvation may mean, is not to be obtained on any reasonable terms. Reason is an impasse, reason is damnation; only madness, divine madness, offers an issue. The law of the Lord Chancellor will not serve; the law-giver may be an epileptic camel-driver like Mohammed, a megalomaniac provincial upstart like Napoleon, or even an exile, three-parts learned, one-part crazy, an attic-dweller in Soho, like Karl Marx. There is only one thing in common among such persons; they are all mad, that is' inspired. Nearly all primitive people possess this tradition, at least in a diluted form. They respect the wandering lunatic, for it may be that he is the messenger of the Most High. "This queer stranger? Let us entreat him kindly. It may be that we entertain an angel unawares".

Closely bound up with this idea is the question of paternity. A saviour is needed. What is the one thing certain about his qualifications? That he should not be an ordinary man. (In the Gospels people cavilled about the claim that Jesus was the Messiah because he came from Nazareth, a perfectly well-known town, because they knew his mother and his family; in brief, they argued that he did not qualify as a candidate for Saviour.) The saviour must be a peculiarly sacred person; that he should be a human being at all is hardly credible. At the very least, his mother must be a virgin; and, to match this wonder, his father cannot be an ordinary man; there fore, his father must be a god. But as a god is a gaseous vertebrate, he must be some materialisation of a god. Very good! Let him be the god Mars under the form of a wolf, or Jupiter as a bull, or a shower of gold, or a swan; or Jehovah in the form of a dove; or some other creature of phantasy, preferably disguised in some animal form. There are innumerable forms of this tradition, but they all agree on one point: the saviour can only appear as the result of some extra ordinary accident, quite contrary to whatever is normal. The slightest suggestion of anything reasonable in this matter would destroy the whole argument. But as one must obtain some concrete picture, the general solution is to represent the saviour as the Fool. (Attempts to attain this condition appear in the Bible. Note the "coat of many colours" of Joseph and of Jesus; it is the man in motley who brings his people out of bondage.) [Call him "Harlequin", and a Tetragrammaton evidently burlesquing the Sacred Family springs to sight: Pantaloon, the aged "antique-antic"; Clown and Harlequin, two aspects of the Fool; and Columbine, the Virgin. But, being burlesque, the tradition is confused and the deep meaning lost; just as the medieval Mystery-Play of Pontius and Judas became the farce, with opportunist topical variants, "Punch and Judy".]

It will be seen later how this idea is linked with that of the mystery of paternity, and also of the iridescence of the alchemical mercury in one of the stages of the Great Work.


"The Rich Fisherman": Percivale

The legend of Percivale, integral of the mystery of the Saviour Fish-God, and of the Sangraal or Holy Grail, is of disputed origin. It appears certainly, first of all, in Brittany, the land best beloved of Magick, the land of Merlin, of the Druids, of the forest of Broceliande. Some scholars suppose that the Welsh form of this tradition, which lends much of its importance and its beauty to the Cycle of King Arthur, is even earlier. This is in this place irrelevant; but it is vital to realize that the legend, like that of The Fool, is purely pagan in origin, and comes to us through Latin-Christian recensions: there is no trace of any such matters in the Nordic mythologies. (Percivale and Galahad were "innocent": this is a condition of the Guardian ship of the Grail). Note also that Monsalvat, mountain of Salvation, home of the Graal, the fortress of the Knights Guardians, is in the Pyrenees.

It may be best to introduce the figure of Parsifal in this place, because he represents the western form of the tradition of the Fool, and because his legend has been highly elaborated by scholarly initiates. (The dramatic setting of Wagner's Parsifal was arranged by the then head of the O.T.O.)

Parsifal in his first phase is Der reine Thor, the Pure Fool. His first act is to shoot the sacred swan. It is the wantonness of innocence. In the second act, it is the same quality that enables him to withstand the blandishments of the ladies in the garden of Kundry. Klingsor, the evil magician, who thought to fulfil the conditions of life by self- mutilation, seeing his empire threatened, hurls the sacred lance (which he has stolen from the Mountain of Salvation) at Parsifal, but it remains suspended over the boy's head. Parsifal seizes it; in other words, attains to puberty. (This transformation will be seen in the other symbolic fables, below.)

In the third act, Parsifal's innocence has matured into sanctification; he is the initiated Priest whose function is to create; it is Good Friday, the day of darkness and death. Where shall he seek his salvation? Where is Monsalvat, the mountain of salvation, which he has sought so long in vain? He worships the lance: immediately the way, so long closed to him, is open; the scenery revolves rapidly, there is no need for him to move. He has arrived at the Temple of the Graal. All true ceremonial religion must be solar and phallic in character. It is the wound of Amfortas which has removed the virtue from the temple. (Amfortas is the symbol of the Dying God.)

Accordingly, to redeem the whole situation, to destroy death, to reconsecrate the temple, he has only to plunge the lance into the Holy Grail; he redeems not only Kundry, but himself. (This is a doctrine only appreciable in its fulness by members of the Sovereign Sanctuary of the Gnosis of the ninth degree of O.T.O.)


The Crocodile (Mako, son of Set; or Sebek)

This same doctrine of maximum innocence developing into maximum fertility is found in Ancient Egypt in the symbolism of the Crocodile god Sebek. The tradition is that the crocodile was unprovided with the means of perpetuating his species (compare what is said above about the vulture Maut). Not in spite of, but because of this, he was the symbol of the maximum of creative energy. (Freud, as will be seen later, explains this apparent antithesis.)

Once again, the animal kingdom is invoked to fulfil the function of fathering the redeemer. On the banks of the Euphrates men worshipped Oannes, or Dagon, the fish god. The fish as a symbol of fatherhood, of motherhood, of the perpetuation of life generally, constantly recurs. The letter N. (Nun, N, in Hebrew means Fish) is one of the original hieroglyphs standing for this idea, apparently because of the mental reactions excited in the mind by the continual repetition of this letter. There are thus a number of gods, goddesses, and eponymous heroes, whose legends are functions of the letter N. (With regard to this letter, see Atu XIII.) It is connected with the North, and so with the starry heavens about the Pole Star; also with the North wind; and the reference is to the Watery signs. Hence the letter N. occurs in legends of the Flood and of fish gods. In Hebrew mythology, the hero concerned is Noah. Note also that the symbol of the Fish has been chosen to represent the Redeemer or Phallus, the god through whose virtue man passes through the waters of death. The common name for this god, in southern Italy to-day, and elsewhere, is Il pesce. So, also, his female counterpart, Kteis, is represented by the Vesica Piscis, the bladder of the fish, and this shape is continually exhibited in many church windows and in the episcopal ring. ["IXO*YC, which means fish and very aptly symbolizes Christ." The Ring and the Book. The word is a Notariqon of Iesous Christos Theou Huios Soter (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.)] 

In the mythology of Yucatan it was the "old ones covered with feathers that came up out of the sea". Some have seen in this tradition a reference to the fact that man is a marine animal; our breathing apparatus still possesses atrophied gills.



[The Fool is also, evidently, an aspect of Pan; but this idea is shewn in his fullest development by Atu XV, whose letter is the semi-vowel A'ain, cognate with Aleph.]

Arriving at highly sophisticated theogony, there appears a perfectly clear and concrete symbol of this doctrine. Harpocrates is the God of Silence; and this silence has a very special meaning. (See attached essay, Appendix.) The first is Kether, the pure Being invented as an aspect of pure Nothing. In his manifestation, he is not One, but Two; he is only One because he is 0. He exists; Eheieh, his divine name, which signifies "I Am" or "I shall Be", is merely another way of saying that he Is Not; because One leads to nowhere, which is where it came from. So the only possible manifestation is in Two, and that manifestation must be in silence, because the number 3, the number of Binah-Understanding-has not yet been formulated. In other words, there is no Mother. All one has is the impulse of this manifestation; and that must take place in silence. That is to say, there is as yet no more than the impulse, which is unformulated; it is only when it is interpreted that it becomes the Word, the Logos. (See Atu I.)

Now consider the traditional form of Harpocrates. He is a babe, that is to say, innocent, and not yet arrived at puberty; a simpler form of Parsifal, he is represented as rose pink in colour. It is dawn- the hint of light about to come, but not by any means that light; he has a lock of black hair curling around his ear, and that is the influence of the Highest descending upon the Brahmarandra Chakra. The ear is the vehicle of Akasha, Spirit. This is the only salient symbol; it is the only indication that he is not merely the bald baby, because it is the only colour in the blob of rose pink. But, on the other hand, his thumb is either against his lower lip or in his mouth; which it is, one cannot say. There is here a quarrel between two schools of thought; if be is pushing up his lower lip, he emphasizes silence as silence; if his thumb is in his mouth, it emphasizes the doctrine of Eheieh: "I shall Be". Yet in the end these doctrines are identical.

This babe is in an egg of blue, which is evidently the symbol of the Mother. This child has, in a way, not been born; the blue is the blue of space; the egg is sitting upon a lotus, and this lotus grows on the Nile. Now, the lotus is another symbol of the Mother, and the Nile is also a symbol of the Father, fertilizing Egypt, the Yoni. (But also the Nile is the home of Sebek the crocodile, who threatens Harpocrates.)

Yet Harpocrates is not always thus represented. He is shown by certain schools of thought as standing; he is standing upon the crocodiles of the Nile. (Refer above to the crocodile, the symbol of two exactly opposite things.) There is here an analogy. One is reminded of Hercules-the infant Hercules-who spun the wheel in the House of Women; of Hercules, who was a strong man, who was innocent, who was ultimately a madman, who destroyed his wife and children. It is a cognate symbol.

Harpocrates is (in one sense) the symbol of the Dawn on the Nile, and of the physiological phenomenon which accompanies the act of waking. One sees, at the other end of the octave of thought, the connection of this symbol with the succession to the royal power described above. The symbol of Harpocrates itself tends to be purely philosophical. He is also the mystical absorption of the work of creation; the Hé final of Tetragrammaton. Harpocrates is, in fact, the passive side of his twin, Horus. Yet at the same time he is a very fully-fledged symbol of this idea, which is wind, which is air, the impregnation of the Mother Goddess. He is immune from all attack because of his innocence; for in this innocence is perfect silence, which is the essence of virility.

The egg is not only Akasha, but the original egg in the biological sense. [The Black Egg of the element of Spirit in some Hindu schools of thought. From it the other elements Air, Water, Earth, Fire (in that order) proceed.] This egg issues from the lotus, which is the symbol of the Yoni.

There is an Asiatic symbol cognate with Harpocrates, and though it does not come directly into this card it must be considered in connection with it. That symbol is the Buddha-Rupa. He is most frequently represented sitting on a lotus, and often there is behind him spread the hood of the Serpent; the shape of this hood is again the Yoni. (Note the usual ornaments of this hood; phallic and fructiform.)

The crocodile of the Nile is called Sebek or Mako-the Devourer. In the official rituals, the idea is usually that of the fisherman, who wishes protection from the assaults of his totem animal.

There is, however, an identity between the creator and the destroyer. In Indian mythology, Shiva fulfils both functions. In Greek mythology, the god Pan is addressed "Pamphage, Pangenetor", all-devourer, all-begetter. (Note that the numerical value of the word Pan is 131, as is that of Samael, the Hebrew destroying angel.)

So also, in the initiated symbolism, the act of devouring is the equivalent of initiation; as the mystic would say, "My soul is swallowed up in God". (Compare the symbolism of Noah and the Ark, Jonah and the Whale, and others.) [Note the N of Jonah, and the meaning of the name: a dove.]

One must constantly keep in mind the bivalence of every symbol. Insistence upon either one or other of the contradictory attributions inherent in a symbol is simply a mark of spiritual incapacity; and it is constantly happening, because of prejudice. It is the simplest test of initiation that every symbol is understood instinctively to contain this contradictory meaning in itself. Mark well the passage in The Vision and the Voice, page 136:

"It is shown me that this heart is the heart that rejoiceth, and the serpent is the serpent of Da'ath, for herein all the symbols are interchangeable, for each one containeth in itself its own opposite. And this is the great Mystery of the Supernals that are beyond the Abyss. For below the Abyss, contradiction is division; but above the Abyss, contradiction is Unity. And there could be nothing true except by virtue of the contradiction that is contained in itself." 

It is characteristic of all high spiritual vision that the formulation of any idea is immediately destroyed or cancelled out by the arising of the contradictory. Hegel and Nietzsche had glimmerings of the idea, but it is described very fully and simply in the Book of Wisdom or Folly. (See citation, below, Appendix.)

This point about the crocodile is very important, because many of the traditional forms of "The Fool" of the Tarot show the crocodile definitely. In the commonplace interpretation of the card, the Scholiasts say that the picture is that of a gay, careless youth, with a sack full of follies and illusions, dancing along the edge of a precipice, unaware that the tiger and crocodile shown in the card are about to attack him. It is the view of the Little Bethel. But, to initiates, this crocodile helps to determine the spiritual meaning of the card as the return to the original Qabalistic zero; it is the "He' final" process in the magical formula of Tetragrammaton. By a flick of the wrist, she can be transmuted to reappear as the original Yod, and repeat the whole process from the beginning.

The innocence-virility formula is again suggested by the introduction of the crocodile, for that was one of the biological superstitions on which they founded their theogony---that the crocodile, like the vulture, had some mysterious method of reproduction.


Zeus Arrhenothelus

In dealing with Zeus, one is immediately confronted with this deliberate confusion of the masculine and the feminine. In the Greek and Latin traditions the same thing happens. Dianus and Diana are twins and lovers; as soon as one utters the feminine, it leads on to the identification with the masculine, and vice versa, as must be the case in view of the biological facts of nature. It is only in Zeus Arrhenothelus that one gets the true Hermaphroditic nature of the symbol in unified form. This is a very important fact, especially for the present purpose, because images 6f this god recur again and again in alchemy. It is hardly possible to describe this lucidly; the idea pertains to a faculty of the mind which is "above the Abyss"; but all two-headed eagles with symbols clustering about them are indications of this idea. The ultimate sense seems to be that the original god is both male and female, which is, of course, the essential doctrine of the Qabalah; and the thing most difficult to understand about the later debased Old Testament tradition, is that it represents Tetragrammaton as masculine, in spite of the two feminine components. [It was a tribal necessity of the savage wanderers to have an uncivilized and simple Demiurge for god; the complexities and refinements of settled nations were to them mere weakness. Observe that the moment they got a Promised Land and a Temple, under Solomon, he went "an-whoring after strange women" and gods. This infuriated the Diehard prophets, and led within a few years to the breach between Judah and Israel, thence to a whole sequence of disasters.] Zeus became too popular, and, in consequence, too many legends gathered around him; but the important fact for this present purpose is that Zeus was peculiarly the Lord of Air. [The earliest accounts relate the distribution of the three active elements as Dis (Pluto) to Fire, Zeus (Jupiter) to Air, and Poseidon (Neptune) to Water.] Men who sought the origin of Nature in the earliest days tried to find this origin in one of the Elements. (The history of philosophy describes the controversy between Anaximander and Zenocrates; later, Empedocles.) It may be that the original authors of the Tarot were trying to promulgate the doctrine that the origin of everything was Air. Yet if this were so, it would upset the whole Tarot as we know it, since the order of origin makes Fire the first father. It is Air as Zero that reconciles the antinomy.

Dianus and Diana, it is true, were symbols of the air, and the Sanskrit Vedas say that the storm gods were the original gods. Yet, if the storm gods really presided over the formation of the Universe as we know it, they were certainly storms of fire; to this astronomers agree. But this theory certainly implies an identification of air and fire, and it seems as if they were thought of as before Light, that is, the Sun; before creative energy, that is, the phallus; and this idea continually suggests itself, that there is here some doctrine contrary to our own most reasonable doctrine: one in which the original confusion of the elements, the Tohu-Bohu, is to be put forward as the cause of order, instead of as a plastic mass on which order imposes itself.

No system truly Qabalistic makes air in the conventional sense the original element, though Akasha is the egg of spirit, the black or dark blue egg. This suggests a form of Harpocrates. In that case, by "air" one really means "spirit". However this may be, the actual symbol is perfectly clear, and should be applied to its proper place.


Dionysus Zagreus. Bacchus Diphues.

It is convenient to treat the two gods as one. Zagreus is only important to the present purpose because he possesses horns, and because (in the Eleusinian Mysteries) it is said that he was torn to pieces by the Titans. But Athena rescued his heart and carried it to his father, Zeus. His mother was Demeter; he is thus the fruit of the marriage of Heaven and Earth. This identifies him as the Vau of Tetragrammaton, but the legends of his "death" refer to initiation, which accords with the doctrine of the Devourer.

In this card, however, the traditional form is much more clearly expressive of Bacchus Diphues, who represents a more superficial form of worship; the ecstasy characteristic of the god is more magical than mystical. The latter demands the name Iacchus, whereas Bacchus had Semele for a mother, who was visited by Zeus in the form of a flash of lightning which destroyed her. But she was already pregnant by him, and Zeus saved the child. Until puberty, he was hidden in the "thigh" (i.e., the phallus) of Zeus. Hera, in revenge for her husband's infidelity with Semele, drove the boy mad. This is the direct connection with the card.

The legend of Bacchus is, first of all, that he was Diphues, double-natured, and this appears to mean more bisexual than hermaphroditic. His madness is also a phase of his intoxication, for he is pre-eminently the god of the vine. He goes dancing through Asia, surrounded by various companions, all insane with enthusiasm; they carry staffs headed with pine cones and entwined with ivy; they also clash cymbals, and in some legends are furnished with swords, or twined about with serpents. All the half-gods of the forest are the male companions of the Maenad women. In his pictures his drunken face, and the languid state of his lingam, connect him with the legend already mentioned about the crocodile. His constant attendant is the tiger; and, in all the best extant examples of the card, the tiger or panther is represented as jumping upon him from behind, while the crocodile is ready to devour him in front. In the legend of his journey through Asia, he is said to have ridden on an ass, which connects him with Priapus, who is said to have been his son by Aphrodite. It also reminds one of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. It is curious, too, that, at the fabled birth of Jesus, the Virgin Mother is represented as being between an ox and an ass, and one remembers that the letter Aleph means Ox.

In the worship of Bacchus there was a representative of the god, and he was chosen for his quality as a young and virile, but effeminate man. In the course of the centuries, the worship naturally became degraded; other ideas joined themselves to the original form; and, partly because of the orgiastic character of the ritual, the idea of the Fool took definite shape. Hence, he came to be represented with a Fool's cap, evidently phallic, and clad in motley, which again recalls the coat of many colours worn by Jesus, and by Joseph. This symbolism is not only Mercurial, but Zodiacal; Joseph and Jesus, with twelve brothers or twelve disciples, equally represent the sun in the midst of the twelve signs. It was only very much later that any alchemical significance was attributed to this, and that at a time when the Renaissance scholars made rather a point of finding something serious and important in symbols which were, in reality, quite frivolous.



There is no doubt that this mysterious figure is a magical image of this same idea, developed in so many symbols. Its pictorial correspondence is most easily seen in the figures of Zeus Arrhenothelus and Babalon, and in the extraordinarily obscene representations of the Virgin Mother which are found among the remains of early Christian iconology. The subject is dealt with at considerable length in Payne Knight, where the origin of the symbol and the meaning of the name is investigated. Von Hammer-Purgstall was certainly right in supposing Baphomet to be a form of the Bull-god, or rather, the Bull-slaying god, Mithras; for Baphomet should be spelt with an "r" at the end; thus it is clearly a corruption meaning "Father Mithras". There is also here a connection with the ass, for it was as an ass-headed god that he became an object of veneration to the Templars.

The Early Christians also were accused of worshipping an ass or ass-headed god, and this again is connected with the wild ass of the wilderness, the god Set, identified with Saturn and Satan. (See infra, Atu XV.) He is the South, as Nuit is the North: the Egyptians had a Desert and an Ocean in those quarters.



It has seemed convenient to deal separately with these main forms of the idea of the Fool, but no attempt has been made, or should be made, to prevent the legends overlapping and coalescing. The variations of expression, even when contradictory in appearance, should lead to an intuitive apprehension of the symbol by a sublimation and transcendance of the intellectual. All these symbols of the Trumps ultimately exist in a region beyond reason and above it. The study of these cards has for its most important aim the training of the mind to think clearly and coherently in this exalted manner.

This has always been characteristic of the methods of Initiation as understood by the hierophants.

In the confused, dogmatic period of Victorian materialisation, it was necessary for science to discredit all attempts to transcend the rationalist mode of approach to reality; yet it was the progress of science itself that has reintegrated these differentials. From the very beginning of the present century, the practical science of the mechanician and the engineer has been forced further and further towards finding its theoretical justification in mathematical physics.

Mathematics has always been the most severe, abstract, and logical of the sciences. Yet even in comparatively early schoolboy mathematics, cognisance must be taken of the unreal and the irrational. Surds and infinite series are the very root forms of advanced mathematical thought. The apotheosis of mathematical physics is now the admission of failure to find reality in any single intelligible idea. The modern reply to the question "What is anything?" is that it is in relation to a chain of ten ideas, any one of which can only be interpreted in terms of the rest. The Gnostics would undoubtedly have called this a "chain of ten aeons". These ten ideas must by no means be considered as aspects of some reality in the background. As the supposed straight line which was the framework of calculation has turned out to be a curve, so has the point which had always been taken as the type of existence, become the ring.

It is impossible to doubt that there is here a continually closer approximation of the profane science of the outer world to the sacred wisdom of the Initiate.

* * *

The design of the present card resumes the principal ideas of the above essays. The Fool is of the gold of air. He has the horns of Dionysus Zagreus, and between them is the phallic cone of white light representing the influence from the Crown [Kether: see the position of the Path of Aleph on the Tree of Life.] upon him. He is shown against the background of air, dawning from space; and his attitude is that of one bursting unexpectedly upon the world.

He is clad in green, according to the tradition of Spring; but his shoes are of the phallic gold of the sun.

In his right hand he bears the wand, tipped with a pyramid of white, of the All-Father. In his left hand he bears the flaming pine- cone, of similar significance, but more definitely indicating vegetable growth; and from his left shoulder hangs a bunch of purple grapes. Grapes represent fertility, sweetness, and the basis of ecstasy. This ecstasy is shown by the stem of the grapes developing into rainbow - hued spirals. The Form of the Universe. This suggests the Threefold Veil of the Negative manifesting, by his intervention, in divided light. Upon this spiral whorl are other attributions of godhead; the vulture of Maut, the dove of Venus (Isis or Mary), and the ivy sacred to his devotees. There is also the butterfly of many-coloured air and the winged globe with its twin serpents, a symbol which is echoed and fortified by the twin infants embracing on the middle spiral. Above them hangs the benediction of three flowers in one. Fawning upon him is the tiger; and beneath his feet in the Nile with its lotus stems crouches the crocodile. Resuming all his many forms and many- coloured images in the centre of the figure, the focus of the microcosm is the radiant sun. The whole picture is a glyph of the creative light.

This article comes from The Book of THOTH - The complete guide to the Tarot, Magick and the Occult

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