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 TO 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 pp.5-10).

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 Book 777

Prolegomena symbolica ad systemam Sceptico-mysticae viae explicandae,

fundamentum hieroglyphicum sanctissimorum scientiae summae.

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 e.v.).
• 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.’.


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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 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 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.


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 Cipher Manuscripts
At the time of the French Renaissance of the eighteen-fifties, a similar movement took place in England. Its interest centered 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 of Truth.


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 authorizing 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 of procedure.)

Shortly afterwards, 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 destroyed.

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 the text.]

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 Evidence
These historical 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 j 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 Chiefs.

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.


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.


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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 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 existence).
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 different minds.

“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 cards.


What, then, 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.

The simplest 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.

In the 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

One must 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 summarizes certain qualities or properties.

It seems 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 Ancients 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.

The student 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.

These two 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 “Empress”.

The reason 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.

The Hebrew 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.

The Pagan 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” implicit in every mode of the being of the System.

Difficult as 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

  • 10, Nephesch

These four 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

  • This mental image becomes real and sensible in the number 10, Assiah, the Material World

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.

Hitherto, the 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 Negative.

Now 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 abstract.

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.

To what 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 fullness, 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.

But one 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

The Tarot 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 Great Mother.

Consider 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 turn.

From the 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 authorized 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.

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