BEYOND DIVINATION: MINOR ARCANA'S Role in SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION
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Back in 1999, I never dreamed when our friend Elizabeth handed me The Rabbi’s Tarot that it would have such a profound effect on understanding our mission. At that time, Elizabeth told me the reason we needed to read it was because it was vital to our work. As I understood the Tarot as a tool for divining the future, I wondered why she would want us to read a book on fortune telling, as she knew that neither Craig nor I had the slightest interest in studying divination. On the contrary, our focus was on discovering the secret to spiritual evolution. Yet, something told me to listen to our friend, which proved a wise decision as within reading the first few pages it was clear that Elizabeth was not exaggerating when she said it would be vital to our work, because it involved transformation. Nevertheless, the true value of the book and its author would not become apparent for several years…
Rather than addressing the 14 cards of each suit in order, Suzzan chose to focus on their connections. As a result, she listed the 40 numbered or “pip” cards between 1 to 10, and each royal position for the 16 Court Cards. To give you an example, we include part of chapter 5.
Before I discuss the Ace of Wands, I want to address the suit of Wands in general. Most Tarot aficionados attribute the suit of clubs in the regular playing deck to the Tarot’s suit of Wands. The one exception I found was the creator of the Rider-Waite deck, A.E. Waite himself. In his Hidden Church of the Holy Grail: Its Legend and Symbols, linking Wands to the Spear of Destiny, which made sense, he assigned Wands to the suit of Diamonds. Mr. Waite’s reasoning was that Diamonds represented the diamond shaped point of the Holy Lance. Since most Tarot writers agree that Diamonds replaced the suit of Pentacles, it caused quite a problem for me. Yet, as the criteria for investigating the mystery of the Minor Arcana was to consider all views as valid, I needed to keep this in mind.
Causing even more confusion was the fact that another author, A. E. Thierens, who A.E. Waite appeared to support, disagreed with assigning the suit of Wands to diamonds. As I said previously, I say that the latter appeared to support his first namesake because Mr. Waite wrote the introduction for Thierens’ book The General Book of the Tarot. Presenting a thoroughly logical reason for assigning Wands to clubs, in his book Thierens explains that the trefoil, the symbol associated with clubs was a Masonic symbol and always signified the Triangle or Trinity. Notwithstanding that the Trinity in his time was wholly male, rather than the Holy Spirit being the Divine Feminine, he brings in another writer’s opinion, P.D. Ouspensky, who I mentioned in connection to the seven divisions of Christianity in my treatise. Thierens believed that as Ouspensky drew the three-part leaves on the wands in his graphics, it was to convey not only the Trinity, but also the Masonic emblem of the trefoil.
Apparently, this trefoil was also a symbol for “the principle of activity”, depicted by the wands themselves. Like A.E. Waite, Thierens connected the suit of Wands to the Holy Spear of Destiny, but he added that when two staffs or wands were crossed, it symbolized the apex of Creation. A perfect example of this is seen in the Greek symbol for The Christ, with X represented by the two staffs crossing a capital P. (right)
Although Thierens concurred with the majority in assigning the suit of Wands to clubs in the deck of cards, he did not agree with designating either wands or clubs to the element Fire. He believed, as I reported that Air is the apex of Creation and movement. Therefore, in respect to the suit of Wands, he felt they must represent Air. As the Element Fire denoted the highest level or plane in every system I had investigated, I wondered how Thierens reached his conclusion. To reiterate, I found his reasoning sound, because of his use of the Secret Doctrine’s information on the dissolution of the universe at the end of each Manvantara. Another consideration for him, is the teaching that Earth’s atmosphere is the connection between Earth and outer space, which he calls the Ether. As such, he thinks it indicates that the suit of Wands connects the Major and Minor Arcana.
There is one more association Thierens makes in his argument to replace Fire with Air as the highest Element, which I must mention. It concerns the Roman Mercury or Greek Hermes, both of which rule the Element Air as well as knowledge and mental acuity. As the accredited Messenger of the gods Hermes symbol, the caduceus, is further evidence of assigning Wands to the Element Air. This is because there is little doubt that the two serpents are coiling around a staff or wand. In respect to this, Thierens points out that Hermes was also known as Trismegistus meaning threefold, which he translates as Great Trefoil, or the King of Wands. So, do either A.E. Waite or A.E. Thierens have a point in going against the norm, in deviating from others concerning the suit of Wands? To answer that I needed to see what other writers I was led to had to say about the subject, and without exception they all equate the suit of Wands to the Element Fire. Due to Mr. Waite being included in these writers, I questioned why he endorsed Thierens book by writing the Introduction? The simple answer is that he must have considered Thierens’ information of value. However, I think that Mr. Waite was saying something else here that involved his connecting Wands and the Element Fire to the suit of Diamonds.
Like Papus, Jonathan Dee in his Tarot Mysteries: Rediscovering the Real Meaning of the Cards, relates that the suit of Wands represents the masculine energy, as does Daphna Moore in our Ancient Teaching on the Ego…, and Benefield Wen in her Holistic Tarot: An integrative Approach to Using Tarot for Personal Growth. This clearly makes Wands and Fire both masculine and active which is interesting, because the modern deck of cards is divided between masculine and feminine or active and passive, which is portrayed by the colors red and black respectively. Black, which represents the suits of clubs and spades, is energetically considered feminine and passive; whereas, Red, which represents the suits of diamonds and hearts, is energetically masculine and active. Now let us contemplate their respective counterparts in the Tarot. Traditionally, apart from the one variant of A.E. Waite equating wands to diamonds and pentacles to clubs, these are Wands = Clubs, Cups = Hearts, Swords = Spades, and Pentacles = Diamonds. By switching diamonds and clubs, Mr. Waite was exchanging the masculine/active for feminine/passive and vice versa, why? I believe it was to convey the message that each affects the other, as in Fire affects the Earth and that Earth contains the Fire. Obviously, I am not speaking literally here, but Gnostically, in that the Element Fire represents the emotions and passions, which need to be transmuted back to spirit.
ACES IN GENERAL
Regarding the color, in Crowley’s 777 Liber, because all Aces connect to the Sephirot Kether in the Plane of Atziluth, the King, Queen, and Emperor/Prince’s Scale are assigned the color of variations of brilliant white. Only in the Empress/Princess’ Scale does the description vary with white flecked with gold. The message here is that Kether, as the highest level in the Tree of Life reflects the brilliance of Spirit, which is confirmed with the Ace’s association with Yod and the Hermit, meaning the Hand of “God”, Divine Will, and Spirit according to Daphna’s group. Speaking of Kether, Dion Fortune had a lot to say on the ten Sephirot in the Tree of Life. Yet, it was the author stressing the importance of considering each of the ten Sephirot as a whole unit that I found most intriguing. This is because she related that each Sephirot comprises of associations, tensions, and likenesses, consequently, they have no relevance on their own.
Even so, for me to understand the Sephiroth’s connection to the Minor Arcana suits, I needed to also examine them individually. On its own according to the Sepher Yetzirah, Kether denotes the Hidden Intelligence, the unmanifested, the First Principle and the Concealed of the Concealed. It also describes Kether as the Abyss from whence everything originated. This made me think of the Gnostic Ogdoad, where the First Father produced from Silence (the Abyss) the six other members. Obviously, this creation myth is a variation of all the world’s attempts to explain Creation. Still, Ms. Fortune related the Sepher Yetzirah also referred to Kether as the Ancient of Days and Adam Kadmon, both of which allude to the Gnostic concept of the Demiurge/Creator. So, it would seem that Kether represents Spirit in general, because she wrote that Kether is not consciousness per say, but rather the essence and source of consciousness at the individual or microcosmic level, and the very source of Life itself at the universal or macrocosmic level.
Bringing in the concept of four individual Trees of Life in each Plane or World, Ms. Fortune wrote that Kether represents different spiritual aspects in the three upper Planes. Not surprisingly, in Atziluth, the Archetypal, or Fire/Spirit Plane, it represents pure Spirit, whereas, in Briah, Creative or Mental and Air Plane, it represents the Archetypal mind. Reflecting the imagination, in the Formative and Water Plane of Yetzirah, Kether represents the visual consciousness of the Astral Plane. We find Kether’s connection to the Minor Arcana in this Plane too, as Ms. Fortune explained in Yetzirah, Kether’s agents refer to Ezekiel’s vision of the four Holy Living Creatures. She believed the four Aces representing the roots of the Elements depict this association, as another designation for Kether is the primal essence behind all four Elements.
ACES/NUMBER ONE AND THE I-CHING
According to Wynn Westcott’s, Numbers: Their Occult Power and Mystic Virtues, numbers “referred every object, planet, man, idea and essence to some number or other, in a way, which to most moderns must seem curious and mystical in the highest degree.” The philosopher Porphyry wrote that Pythagoras taught numbers “were hieroglyphic symbols, by means whereof he explained all ideas concerning the nature of things.” Interestingly, Paul Foster Case tells us that our number system, generally attributed to Arabs, is in fact the brainchild of Hindu priests. Evidently, Arabian mathematicians adapted these numerals for their own use before presenting them to Europeans. Moving forward to the late 1800s, evidently, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, in her Secret Doctrine felt that “Numbers are a key to the ancient views of cosmogony—in its broad sense, spiritually as well as physically considered and to the evolution of the present human race; all systems of religious mysticism are based upon numerals.” As for the number 1, Pythagoras considered the monad or number 1 as representing “Intuitive knowledge.” Citing H.P. Blavatsky’s Isis Unveiled Mr. Westcott wrote that “The sacredness of numbers begins with the Great First Cause, the One, and ends only with the naught or zero---symbol of the infinite and boundless universe.”
Due to Éliphas Lévi believing that the I-Ching was the Chinese Tarot, I wanted to see if and how the hexagrams connected to the Minor Arcana. As the four Aces are also numbered one, naturally they all correlate with the first hexagram, which in effect doubles heaven. I will be omitting the interpretation of the individual lines as these focus on divination, instead, my focus is on the hexagram’s connection to the Aces in the overall interpretation and its Judgment and Image:
Above - CH'IEN THE CREATIVE, HEAVEN
Below - CH'IEN THE CREATIVE, HEAVEN
- Judgment - THE CREATIVE works sublime success, Furthering through perseverance.
- Image - The movement of heaven is full of power. Thus, the superior man makes himself strong and untiring.
Ch’ien - Ch’ien consists of six unbroken lines, which according to my copy of Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the I-Ching or Book of Changes, represents the primordial power, the source of Light, the active principle, and strength, but above all it denotes Spirit. Since all six lines are unbroken, it is the epitome of endless energy, which is appropriate as it reflects heaven itself. This hexagram signifies perpetual motion as in timelessness. Wilhelm interpreted this double trigram as representing dual aspects of activity on both the universe (macrocosm) and human beings (microcosm). Macrocosmically, Ch’ien signifies Divine action in Creation, and microcosmically the action of a saint-like individual or wise leader, who through leadership inspires others to awaken their Higher selves.
We see the imagery of the four Aces reflected in Ch’ien’s Judgment. Without going to deeply into the divinatory aspect of the interpretation, the initial implication of the Judgment consists of two pairs of attributes, (1) sublimity, potentiality of success, and (2) power to further, and perseverance. Basically, it means sublime success comes from the primordial power in the origins of the universe and only through patient perseverance and doing the right thing can anyone achieve contentment.
According to Richard Wilhelm, in the beginning the Chinese words for the four attributes were far from clear. For instance, the word translated as “sublime” has three other meanings, which are head, origin, and great. He related that Confucius explained “Great indeed is the generating power of the Creative; all beings owe their beginning to it.” Evidently, the great philosopher also believed that this “power permeates all heaven.” Our translator believed that the attribute of sublimity encompasses all four attributes. Therefore, it denotes that the origin of everything exists in unmanifested mental images. Nonetheless, Ch’ien as the “Creative” perseveres and formulates actual forms from the archetypal realm, suggested by the addition of the word success in the first pair of attributes and reflected in natural phenomena. namely: “The clouds pass, and the rain does its work, and all individual beings flow into their forms.” Further on Mr. Wilhelm reports more Confucius comments on the first, Ch’ien, trigram’s Judgment. Apparently, he said that “The course of the Creative alters and shapes beings until each attains its true, specific nature, then it keeps them in conformity with the Great Harmony. Thus, does it show itself to further through perseverance.” Confucius felt that the message of the trigram was the way it elevated a person, as in “towering” over “the multitude of beings”, which results in uniting “all lands in peace.”
Regarding the Image for the first hexagram, we see that it also reflects the imagery of the four Aces, when it relates that the movement of heaven is full of power. This is because the “superior man makes himself strong and untiring.” There is only one heaven, irrespective of what philosophy or religion we follow. Therefore, with the trigram Ch’ien – Ch’ien including above and below and in effect doubling heaven, it suggests to us activity or Creation. Wilhelm also saw the double trigram as referring to the cyclic never-ending nature of time, which is driven by the eternal enduring heaven. It represents the integral nature of the creative force in Creation. The reference to the “superior man” strengthening himself, apparently, refers to the wise man using the imagery of the hexagram as an example to not only to persevere in his own improvement, but to also learn how to maintain his influence over others. Ultimately, Wilhelm interpreted the microcosmic message of the image, to mean that the wiseman must learn to strengthen himself in every respect, in order to achieve “indefatigability” through deliberate disciplined and restrained action.
There were so many instances in Richard Wilhelm’s translation that pointed to the four Aces connection to the first hexagram. Most notably was the reference to the wiseman or sage, alluding to card 9 - the Hermit in the Major Arcana. Although the Hermit card is a part of the Major Arcana, I say it is most notable because of the Hebrew Letter, Yod assigned to it. Like I said in chapter 4, Papus believed all the Aces represent the Yod of the Tetragrammaton Yod Heh Vau Heh. This is confirmed by the word Yod meaning the “Hand of God” in Hebrew. It is impossible to miss this association in the four Aces with their four “hands” appearing out of the clouds, which incidentally is also mentioned by Confucius in his interpretation of the trigram above. Then there is the four Aces representing the Roots of the Four Elements, as the hexagram also represents the “origin of everything.” Even more relevant is Dr. Papus belief that the Aces represent the first row of the Tarot Tableau, which means they are associated to the “Chief Principles of Consciousness.” As will be shown, this fact helped with interpreting the message in the cards.
Thank you all for taking the time to read this.
Namaste, Peace, Love & Compassion Always, - Suzzan and Craig