The totality of the symbols which form the Tarot is distributed through a series of 78 plates or cards, instead of being presented in a single figure; the reason for this is, that the signification of this totality is very multiple; for it is at the same time theologic, cosmologic, psychologic, and divining, and this variety is the result of the different combinations which can be produced by the arrangement and comparison of these 78 cards. This variety is not one of the lesser beauties of this unique masterpiece, in the sense that it adds movement and consequently life to the usual immobility of every written representation, without counting the diversity of its appliances, which include numbers, words, form, and color.
The Tarot can, therefore, be made to speak when one of its innumerable combinations has been found; that is to say, when the student knows how to arrange the whole or part of his cards upon the table, in the order necessary to discover the answer which he seeks.
We ask him: What is the Creation from man’s point of view, that is to say, what is the life of the Great All, and how can or should man participate in it? The whole Tarot, with its 22 great arcana and 56 minor arcana, will answer us, as we shall show by quoting only a few of the profound interpretations which it provides To obtain this information we must remember that the three first cards which express the Trinity form at the same time the key to the 22 great arcana, which, when the 0 is abstracted, are only seven repetitions of this Trinity. We must also notice that the card M, the fourth term of the divine Tetractys, is both the realization of the Trinity restored to the unity and the first term of the following Trinity. The four first cards thus represent the divine name of 4 letters, IEVE (יהוה) so that if we repeat the Trinity seven times, to obtain the sequence of the 21 great arcana, the numbers will correspond to the four letters as follows–
We will assume that these letters are thus attached to the corresponding arcana, and this remark will be the first key to the arrangement which we are looking for.
To find the second key, we must redeal our cards in a. given space; at first, only their place in the plane will appear; then it will be clearly defined. We know that the Kosmos is conceived as the final expansion of the mathematical point, that is to say, of the Absolute, which before this expansion included all force or potentiality in its nothingness. Let us draw this sphere (see Fig. 1). The center of it will be represented by one of the cards, 0, the Foolish Man or Crocodile, which is the pivot of the whole pack, at the same time that it participates in all the other cards, for they include all the properties of our universe. From some point of the sphere, a point which becomes our north pole, the movement will start, by which the creation will appear on its surface.
Around this point upon the sphere, the reflex of the center, we will place the cards of our 3 first arcana: I. (the Mage, the Spirit, י); II. (Knowledge, Substance, ה); III. (Love, the fertile Power, the Being, ו); and in order that this Trinity may be repeated in the whole septenary of our distribution, we will make it the root of 3 great divisions, representing the 3 terms of the Trinity, which will divide the surface of our sphere by 3 meridians.
We can then continue the distribution of our cards upon this surface in the following way. The head of each partial Trinity will be in division 1; each second term will be in division 2; each third term in division 3. Consequently our IV. card (the Emperor, ה) will be in the L; the V. card (the Pope, ו) will be in II.; the VI. card (Liberty, ה) will be in III., and this second sequence will form a new zone upon the sphere. A third, a little inferior, will be formed by cards VII., VIII. and IX., cards XI., X. and XII. will occupy the Equator and the 9 cards from XIII. to XXI. will be distributed like the 9 first, in 3 bands placed upon the lower hemisphere as shown in Fig. 1.
Now our 22 great arcana are placed; let us pause and look at their significations. Above the Equator, we see an ever-increasing expansion of the North Pole, represented by the 3 upper triangles, then by the 6 trapezes which follow, each larger than the one before. Here are the three planes of the Creation: The Divine, metaphysic (I., II., III.), the Intelligible, moral (IV., V., VI.), and the physical, that of the generative attributes or elements (VII., VIII., and M).
The creation is realized upon the equatorial line (X., XI., XII.), in which the first term, with the preceding cards, represents the 10 sephiroth of the Kabbalah.
Below the Equator, in the world of material realization which is quitted by Death(XIII.), this expansion is retracted and synthesized by an inverse and symmetrical movement of the above. The arcana which follows represent Initiation carried to its extreme limits, the path by which the creature (X.) returns from its multiplicity to the unity of the spirit, goes back to the point–the southern pole–a new reflex of the Absolute, towards which it reascends by the vertical axis of the sphere.
The Neophyte, after his preparation (positive science, magnetism, and alchemy, X., XI., XII.), travels through the sublunar world (XIII., XIV., XV.), then through the solar system (XVI., XVII. and XVIII.), and escapes by the sun in the abyss of the Infinite (XIX., XX., XXI.).
We may now end this short explanation of the practical distribution of our 22 arcana upon a plane (the reader will do well to imitate it upon a table with a pack of Tarot cards). The student should imagine that our sphere is seen from a considerable distance, vertical upon its axis; for instance, at the distance of the earth from the sun, the upper hemisphere only will appear, the other being seen but transparently; and it will look like a circle, with the Equator for its circumference. The limits of the 3 superposed zones appear like 3 concentric circles; the meridional planes, seen by their dividing lines, only look like 3 equally divided radii, making of the 3 sectors 3 equal axes. This representation, which geometricians name projection upon the plane of the Equator, gives the second figure (the 4 circles of the centre only); to it, for the sake of clearness in the symbols, has been added an equilateral triangle inscribed in the inner circle, with the points posed upon the 3 meridians. The Roman figures inscribed in the circles represent the numbers of the cards placed m we have said, and, consequently, also indicate their place upon the table. The arcana of the lower hemisphere are indicated in the figure in dotted letters, in the same circles as the preceding; since the lower zones, seen only transparently, might be confused with the upper, through their mutual symmetry.
Here, in its great features, is already an answer to our questions: the Spirit descends by three trinities from the Absolute into Matter (upper hemisphere). It is realized by the trinity X. (Malchut), XI. and XII. (the Equator), and it returns to the Absolute by a trinity of growing synthesis, which constitutes human progress (lower hemisphere).
We will presently explain some of the philosophic interpretations which this distribution furnishes; let us first complete it by our 55 minor arcana. They especially represent our solar world.
Since we are now in the world of realization, 4 is its number, its fundamental basis; it is the Trinity realized; the divine name of 4 letters IEVE (יהוה). Our cards will be divided into 4 sections: the 4 colors of the pack, spades, hearts, clubs, and diamonds, with their hieroglyphic and far more significant names: the Sceptres, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles.
Everything is dual in this world, where the equilibrium is unstable, unable to find any rest, except in the return to the Trinity, from which it proceeds. Thus, these 4 fundamental divisions will divide into 2 duads: the one spiritual, the other material, each composed of a masculine and feminine principle, namely–
Spiritual duad, the Sceptre (spades, a full triangle, masculine); the Cup (heart, an open triangle, feminine); religious attributes; Material duad: the Sword (club, a lobed triangle,), and thePentacle (diamond, double triangle); the attributes of the warrior and of the artisan.
Four other divisions correspond to these 4 colors, those of the figures which also form 4 duads, namely–
King and Queen;
Knight or Warrior, and Knave.
As to the numbers which follow these figures, they lead us to another consideration, which is also essential to the distribution of our cards–
If 4 is the fundamental number of these minor arcana, the symbols of our world, we must not forget that it is also connected with the Trinity, from which it emanates; that it realizes it, and returns to it. We must then also find the ternary element in it: after the colors and the figures, which have provided the basis of our word, the numbers, which are, as it were, the essence of it, will reflect the sephiroth in it, and by them the act of creation. They pause, in fact, at 10, including 3 trinities besides the tenth, Malchut, which unites them.
Our distribution must also take the two numbers 3 and 4 into account, by combining them so as to utilize all the elements which we have just enumerated. This is how we can do this (follow Fig. 1 upon the plane of the Equator, represented as a ring. outside the sphere)–
We will first separate some of the cards: the Knave of each of the 4 colours (ה), which, as the realization of the Trinity, King (י), Queen (ה), Knight (ו), serves as the transition from the quaternary to the ternary; and the 10 of each colour, the unity of complete realization, the multiple unity 1 and 0–Malchut.
The Knaves, by their participation in the quaternary and ternary, and their return to the Unity of the Trinity, have a universality which connects them with the unnumbered card 0 of the great arcana; we will, therefore, place them around this card, as a cross, in the center of our equatorial circle. In this way the centre will express: By the card 0, the original unity, the source and aim of creation; by its triangle, the primitive Trinity; by its 4 colours, the quaternary in which it is realized; by the character of the 4 Knaves, the return of this quaternary to the ternary; in short, the whole creation assembled at one point, in potentiality, which is the characteristic of the Spirit.
On the other hand, the four 10 will be placed at the extremities of the cross formed by the Knaves, outside of all our circles, as the expression of the Unity multiple, in its last term of differentiation.
As to the other cards, they include first 3 kinds of figures, which correspond to the 3 terms of the Trinity; it is quite simple to distribute them in the 3 parts of our external equatorial plane, corresponding to the 3 divisions of the sphere–
The Kings opposite to division I (י);
The Queens opposite to division E (ה);
The Knights opposite to division V (ו);
and, since there are 4 colours for each of them, 4 subdivisions are naturally produced in each of our 3 principal divisions; these 4 subdivisions, corresponding to the Sceptre (י), the Cup (ה), the Sword (ו), and the Pentacle (ה), also repeat the Divine name of 4 letters (IEVE) (יהוה), and form the passage from the ternary to the quaternary.
Now only the numbers remain to be placed, and we have only to make them correspond with the terms of the Trinity–
The four 1 behind the Kings;
The four 2 behind the Queens;
The four 3 behind the Knights.
Then, in a still more external circle–
The four 4 outside the Kings and the 1;
The four 5 outside the Queens and the 2;
The four 6 outside the Knights and the 3.
Finally, an outlying circle will include the four 7, 8 and 9 in the same order. As to the four 10, they are placed quite outside, as we have already said.
We thus obtain the distribution represented by the figures 1 and 2.
Let us now consider their signification.
The living atom descended upon the sphere has reached the point represented by arcanum X., the wheel of Ezekiel, which raises a man and lowers the elemental. From this, the atom falls, so to speak, through the material world, which he has just entered. He first descends through the spiritual decade (Sceptre and Cup) (see the figure), traversing numbers of increasing complexity: King, 1, 4, 7, then 10 By this 10, the multiple unities, limit of materialization, which unites the two portions of the decade Sceptre-Cup, he resumes in an inverse sense, as though by a reascending are, the road which will lead him back to plate X., remounting the 4, 7, 10, and King of Cups and Swords, the substantial duad.
This is only one-third of the voyage which the living atom must accomplish in the real world; and, in this first excursion through matter, he has still retained the spiritual character which he received from Yod (י), the characteristic of plate X.; he must now lose this character for that of the following E (ה). To this end, he passed from plate X., which he has just re-entered, to plate XI. (ה), the Hermit, the veiled Lamp, to pass in the same way as he has already done through the dual series of the Sceptre-Cup, through the Queens, the 2, 5, and 8, passing by the 10 of Cups, and remounting by it through the second series, Sword-Pentacles, to the arcanum XI., the starting-point of this second excursion.
Finally, from this last arcanum, he passes to number XII. (י), the Sacrifice descends the neuter series of the Knight, 3, 6, 9 of Sceptres and Cups, crosses the 10 of Swords and the 10 of Pentacles, and remounts by the dual Swords and Pentacles to the intelligible world.
His journey across the material world is completed; he has traveled over the Zodiac; he will now die; the arcanum XIII. is ready for him, and will give him access to the spiritual world, to the Redemption.
We will now explain some other features of this distribution.
It divides the external circle of the Equator into 3 arcs, subdivided into 4 portions; in all 12 divisions of different characters. These are the 12 signs of the Zodiac. The first is naturally ranked with the first card of the minor arcana in the spiritual sector, i. e. the King of Sceptres (Spades); the second corresponds with the King of Cups, and so on to the twelfth.
One observation will suffice to justify the connection between the zodiac and our cards. We must note the 12 divisions of the circle into the triple repetition of the 4 letters of the Sacred Name; an operation legitimized by the remark already made, that these 4 colors correspond with these letters (see Fig. 2, in the intermediate circle, where the signs of the Zodiac are written). We at once recognize the 4 trigons of the Zodiac, corresponding with the elements which the 4 colors also represent, and these trigons are characterized as well as designated.
The earthy trigon (, ), corresponding to the Cup and to the letters ההה namely, two E’s of the name of 3 letters, and the final E of the name of 4 letters–an essentially feminine character, substantial, but of a superior order.
The watery trigon (, ), corresponding to the Pentacle and to the letters ההה, comprising, this time, the final E of the name of 4 letters twice repeated, and the E of the name of 3 letters–the dominant character, the inferior feminine.
But we must leave the minor arcana to the investigations of the reader–they would lead us too far–and return to some further notice of the great arcana.
Let us first notice how the three chief sectors preserve and reproduce their innate characters in all their divisions.
We find, in the first, that of the letter Yod (י), the Spirit, the numbers of the unity, I., IV., VII., X. (repeated in the minor arcana); as figure, the Kings; as colour, the Sceptre; in theZodiac, the lines of the ascension of the sun above the Equator from the spring to the solstice.
In the second sector (ה) the substantial principle is the feminine numbers II., V., VIII., XI. (repeated in the minor arcana); as the figure, the Queens; as color, the Cup; in the Zodiac, the four signs of the descent of the sun towards the Equator; the season of harvests and vintages, fecundity in all its forms.
In the third sector (ו), the Son, the Element, are the sacred numbers which participate in the two preceding orders, III., VI., IX.; as figure, the Knight; as color, the Pentacle of the practical world, and the Sword also, which close the preceding sector; in the Zodiac, the signs through which the sun passes in the southern hemisphere; our winter, the season for the consumption of the produce of the earth, of renovation for the cycle which follows: Christmas is in the center; the new birth in the winter of death; the time when the Son was born into an inferior world to reanimate it.
The divine Name יהוה is not only written in the series of concentric circles, it is also found upon the lines belonging to those circles, either in descending or in remounting.
The first sector gives it without transposition, as we see in Fig. 2.
In the second sector the divine Name is preceded by the feminine letter E, the Mother, and finally pauses at it: E, IEVE, IE. (See the figure.)
In the third, it commences by the letter of the Son and ends by that of the Father, to which he returns: VE, IEVE, I.
We shall now inquire from the symbols of the cards the different ways of pronouncing the divine Name, and also the various manifestations in the Kosmos of each of these four letters. Let us question even the spirit of these symbols, instead of their number, color, or form, which have chiefly occupied us at present.
By first following the regular order of our arrangement we shall find–
In the divine world: the arcana I., II., III., IV., the divine Tetractys, comprising: (1) theAbsolute Being; (2) the Consciousness of the Absolute; (3) Love or the power of fecundity; (4) the realization of the virtualities of the Absolute.
In the world of laws: arcanum V., the laws of the relation of the Created with the Uncreate (theInitiator, Fear also).VI. (Liberty, Beauty); knowledge of good and evil; knowledge of the Law. VII. (Glory); a rule of the Spirit over Matter, the fertile power of the Law; and VIII. (absolute Justice, Victory), a realization of the Law.
In the physical world: arcana IX. (the veiled Lamp), the light extinguished in the darkness of the substance, the spirit imprisoned in the material world, Yesod. X. (Wheel of Fortune), which raises the fallen spirit to lead it back, with nature which it has spiritualized, to all its power, byStrength (arcana XI.), and by Sacrifice (arcana XII.).
The phases of spiritualization then follow. XIII.: First phase: (Death) to the physical world. XIV. (the two Urns) the combination of the movements of life. XV. (Typhon). Magic. XVI. (the Lightning-struck Tower); the interplanetary force.
Second phase: XVII. (the flaming Star), the internal light. XVIII. (the Twilight), the aurora of the divine sun. XIX. (the Sun), central; and XX. (the Judgment), after which the supreme realization is obtained, the Crown of the Magi.
We have said that the divine Name is again enunciated in following the three sectors.
In the first are the arcana I., IV., VII., X. The absolute, the realization of its virtualities, the dominion of Spirit over Matter, and the animating principle of beings. Then, in return, XIII., XVI., XIX. and I. Death (Inertia), the astral light, the central sun, and the Unspeakable himself.
This is the account, by the principles, of the differentiation and integration of the Absolute.
In the second sector, the one which corresponds to the consciousness of the Absolute or faith, we have the series, V., VIII., XI., XIV.: the Hierophant, or religion; Justice, Force, and the combination of the movements of life; the image of the Saints; the Mystics of all religions, who by absolute Faith and Justice, receptive, feminine virtues, acquire, without seeking for it, the power of working prodigies.
Lastly, in the third Sector, that of Love or power of fecundity, we have the series: IX., Wisdom, and Prudence; XII., the Sacrifice; XV., self-abandonment to the astral forces; and XVIII., the attainment of the Infinite. The essence of this series of efforts, both active and passive, constitutes Initiation, the Redemption.
Let us once more seek for the divine Name, through the three divisions at once. We shall find, for instance, the arcana L, II., III., VI., which demonstrate the divine Trinity, manifesting itself by Beauty and Liberty in the Intellectual world: it is the passage of the Father (י) to the Son (ו).
Or again, I., VI., IX., X.: The descent of the Father (י) into the physical world (X.) by the Son (VI.) and by Yesod (IX.); the Word made flesh. This is the Redemption, the series which in theSepher Yetzirah represents the Column of the Sephiroth (Kether-Tiphereth-Yesod and Malchut).But we
must limit these examples, which the reader will easily multiply for himself. Let us only add a few more words to our second problem: the different manifestations of each of the three persons of the divine Trinity.
The Yod is found in the arcana I., V., IX., XII. and XIII.; in Keter, in the Hierophant, in the Wise Old Man; then it presides over death, which will bring the world from the depths of gloomy Inertia to the resplendent crown of the Magi, by the internal light.
It will be noticed, at the same time, that the Yod is the only one of the four letters which, by its various positions, forms a complete spiral around the sphere, from the north to the south poles; a symbol which may appear very remarkable to anyone acquainted with the mysteries of the life of a planet.
The first E, the celestial Mother (arcana II.), is found in the arcana VI., X., XIV. and XVIII., that is to say, Beauty, Form, the Angel of Temperance, which balances the movements of life, and the aurora of the divine Sun; Diana the Moon.
The V, the Son, is characterized upon the various planes by the arcana III., VII., XI., XV., and XIX.; Love, the fertile power; the Ruler over Matter, Force; then Typhon, the mysterious Baphomet of the Templars, which collects the superior forces to spread them over the Earth; and lastly, the central Sun. In a word, theChrist of the Gospel, the Spirit of Love, the Master of the Elements, the Word made flesh spiritualize the flesh; the divine reflex of the Universal Sun.
Lastly, the second E; the terrestrial Mother is seen in the arcana IV., VIII., XII., XVI. and XX. The realization of the divine virtualities, and also Mercy, absolute Justice, Sacrifice, the overwhelmed and suffering Spirit, and finally Resurrection; the head of the Serpent crushed beneath the woman’s heel, by the force of abnegation and resigned faith.
We need only follow these various arcana upon the sphere, to see once more that the Yod has 3 superior arcana (northern hemisphere), and 2 inferior;
That the V (ו) has only 2 superior and 1 medium (upon the Equator);
And that the E has 4 superior, 2 inferior, and 2 medium.
Let us close these remarks, already too lengthy, by a simple observation of the general effect of our arrangement.
The three worlds, Divine, Intelligible, and Physical, are found not only in the three zones of the sphere, but they are again reproduced in the whole arrangement; the Divine is in the centre, through the Foolish Man of the Tarot, and the cross of four colours; this we have already pointed out.
The Intelligible and its developments are provided by the sphere (Fig. 1), or the circular distribution of the 21 great arcana (Fig. 2).
The physical is seen in the external plane of the Equator (Fig. 1), with the distribution of the 56 minor arcana, representing the Zodiac and the various degrees of the multiplicity of Force through the substance to the extreme pole, the negative unity 10.
Moreover, the whole (Fig. 1) reproduces the form of the planet Saturn, with its ring, a form which in itself, according to the theories of our positive sciences, is the clearest manifestation, the demonstration of the great laws of the formation of the Universe; namely, the concentration of the substance in a radiant state around a point of attraction, producing with a progressive condensation a rotatory movement, particularly accentuated at the Equator, and giving birth to the stars, planets, and satellites, thus descending from the ethereal nébuleuse to the atom, to the solid ultimate; from living nothingness to inert nothingness, from the unit to an infinite multiplicity.
Thus, the Tarot, the secular fruit of the genius of our ancestors, can represent not only the creation of its actual state, but its history even in details, and its future. with that of the human creature, even to their principles; yet avoiding, by the combination of its analogical symbols, borrowed from natural life, the rock upon which all philosophy breaks–namely, the definition of words, the clear, full expression of theWord in the sublunar world.