I consider myself a Thelemite. I’ve never been a member of the O.T.O. or any other magical fraternity, other than a two-week stint in the QBLH. Why? I’ve never been very talented at toeing the line, or at believing things just because someone else said they were true. Dogma is very much a part of Thelema, especially as dictated by magical orders, and I’ve seen many friends undergo dogmatic transformations upon joining a magical order. However, to me, Thelema is very much about blazing your own trail and declining to let others do your thinking for you (and spoon feed you the results). Aleister Crowley went to great lengths to weed out the chaff, the students too willing to swallow his instruction literally. Much like other great masters of philosophy and religion, he had no respect for those who couldn’t be bothered to do their own work. Somehow I don’t think he’d be all that friendly to the bulk of those claiming to be Thelemites today. They’re far too willing to denounce any practice of Thelema that doesn’t follow Crowley to the letter.
I’m going to have to disappoint you, if you are one of those “Crowleyites.” I’ve read appallingly little Crowley for a Thelemite. I tend to take him in small doses with long breaks between. But in my heart, I am a Thelemite. I have a great love for the philosophy as I understand it. It’s that understanding I’d like to share with you. I’m going to provide my view of a few Thelemic tenets, interspersed with my beliefs as a human being who has searched within, long and hard, to find her core. And while I feel I’ve found many concepts that represent core realities to me, I consciously strive to allow my views and my system of Thelema to evolve as new information and concepts arrive. Thelema is a living system, and it doesn’t deserve to be shoved into a hope chest for generations until Prince Charming (or the next leader of the next “real” O.T.O.) happens along.
Up until a few days ago, I’d never succinctly defined my beliefs. I think that’s because they’re complicated and involve a huge amount of nuance. I do prescribe to the tenets of True Will, the Abyss, and the Holy Guardian Angel, and I am a passionate proponent of Qabalah, which of course Thelema employs at length. However, unlike most ceremonial magicians, I am a mystic (and perhaps a shaman) in these ways:
- I work with spirits, and use this work to the best of my ability to aid others in my community.
- 90% of the work I do is internal or is processing the internal via external means.
- 90% of my current practice is completely self-originated. I am under-read, because I have read very little Crowley to date and don’t study the works of other magicians at any great length. What I do, I learned to do by doing it. I’m not taking someone else’s formula and mimicking it. As they like to say, “The map is not the territory,” and I left the map behind a long time ago. When I do read books on magick, I frequently recognize things I’ve done on my own that I never would have comprehended upon reading if I’d read the material in advance.
Regarding the tenets above, here’s my view:
While this and the HGA are covered in my above-linked article, I’ll provide a basic explanation of my views here, for those who’d rather not click. In a nutshell: The True Will that can be identified is not the True Will. I paraphrase the Tao Te Ching here, because it’s true. Thelemites like to speak of their True Will as if it gives them license to do whatever they damn well please. Or they’ll say, “I am turning on the light switch. Therefore, it is my True Will to turn on the light so that I may see better, bringing me closer to the manifestation of my purpose.” Blah blah blah.
While we may well have our individual callings, and discovering and working toward those callings (and fulfilling them) may put the winds of the Universe against our backs, this is the True Will that can be identified. Those callings are but stepping stones or way stations along the path to our true True Will — that of the Great Work of self-transformation. This earthly calling is something we can apply our real world effort towards, while we truly are evolving as spirits and as individuals, toward some incomprehensible whole that we will not discover until we cross the Abyss. (And I don’t care what Crowley said: Show me a human being who can convince me he’s crossed the Abyss while still alive, and I’ll kiss his ass live on CNN.)
(As an aside, I should mention that I don’t see Crowley as a human being worthy of emulation. But he was a brilliant magician, and he was an instrument in a higher message coming through. So yeah, he was the prophet. But that doesn’t make him a god.)
To further expound upon my view of True Will:
- I believe that it’s impossible to not follow your True Will, once you have made any effort to apply yourself to your personal evolution via a spiritual or magical path. We may be taking the long and circuitous route until we gain clarity, but the True Will is always keeping the end goal in sight. Even without conscious contact with the HGA, our desire to push forward toward that goal invites our HGA to take the reins. It gets easier, obviously, once that contact is made and we have a much clearer idea of what we’re meant to do. But the True Will is always there, in the background, issuing whatever nudges are necessary. To continue. . .
- I believe that wherever we are and whatever we’re experiencing, the Universe is always striving to put (and keep) us on the most direct path possible (at any given moment) to our destiny. Destiny, to me, is not as simple as having fate laid out for you. There are nuances to destiny — a higher destiny as well as a mundane one, as I described above — and we always have a choice. Meridjet likens this to a river. The river is the path to our higher destiny — evolution. But as we travel the river, we have an infinite array of choices about our experience along the way. We can take tributaries; hang out in lagoons; dock at a big, exciting distraction; take the rapids and do some whitewatering; use a canoe or a speedboat. But we’re all traveling the same course toward the same destination (which isn’t a destination at all).
Obstacles that arise in our lives occur to direct our course, to call our attention to things, and sometimes to issue one hell of a wake-up call. They also occur because there are things we need to learn that those experiences teach us — though sometimes we don’t comprehend those lessons until years later. If a lesson happens to be terminal (such as a fatal disease), then I’d surmise that we gain that understanding after death if not before, during our Abyss journey if nothing else.
- I believe that synchronicity and déjà vu are indicators that we are traveling along an optimal course. When you are making the most beneficial choices, the momentum of the Universe is behind you and things fall into place.
- I believe that, therefore, everything happens for a reason. Even trivial little mundane moments, when taken as filling the moments of your day that lead you to the Next Big Thing, have reasons for their occurrence. They provide influence not only on our timing but also on our psyches. We just don’t tend to notice those things until they accumulate enough to call our attention to them, and by then oftentimes the original moment of influence has been lost in a stew of trivial moments and will never be recognized. And by “trivial,” I don’t mean meaningless. I mean they are moments we take for granted and never give a second thought to.
I’ve had the benefit of a glimpse of this through Meridjet’s eyes, and what follows are his words (channeled):
Imagine entering a darkness, not only in your sight, but in your mind. All around you is foreign, emerging suddenly into your vision and receding with equal speed. You’re frightened, and you’re lost, and you have no idea how to correct either. You remember something from your past, and it gives you a moment of strength before it is stripped away, gone, as if it had never been.
Each issue of your lifetime — the happy, the sad, the guilt-ridden, the resentful, all of them — are faced and become your everything until you have made peace with them. Then they, too, are taken from you. The challenges of the Keeper at the Gates bear teeth, and they will rend you.
Everything you know, everything of your life or your history that gives you a sense of belonging, your place in the scheme of things — even your name, it’s all stripped away, layer by painful layer until you are naked. You have nothing — no sense of individuality, no sense of self; you are reduced to a point of consciousness in a vast dark (and occasionally screaming) nothing, unaware that you observe, unable to direct your focus. You are an infant in the vastness of the Universe, with no frame of reference to provide an awareness of your existence.
And there you float, lie, swim — pick your preference — until eventually it changes. It may be, in the measures of time on Earth, moments. It may be millennia. Typically, it is merely years. But eventually, there’s a glimmer, a tiny little glow at the center of your consciousness that is different from how it’s “always” been. There’s no explanation for this change except one: you are becoming. In spite of all that brought you here and all that would hold you, you are becoming and you will not be thwarted.
As the glimmering point of light that is love, self, God, All, everything and nothing, grows, you begin to . . . not re-form, but re-emerge, birth yourself from the emptiness that emanates from Kether and gives shape to all. You become not who you were, because that person or being is no more. You become who you are, who you were always meant to be underneath the baggage and the blinders and the endless rules of conformity that strain to contain each of us our entire lives. It’s almost like a deflated vinyl balloon, shapeless in the attic for 11 months, re-emerges as the beloved December snowman or nutcracker, brought to life once more for another holiday season.
As your consciousness expands from awareness of self to awareness of All to awareness of Self-as-All-As-Self, you regain the knowledge of your deeds and ideas, as well as their process of understanding. You have made it across the chasm of the lost and the damned, and you will walk away not only unscathed, not only healed, but whole in a way you have never imagined.
You Become. And the knowledge of that Becoming inspires a desire to find expression for your gratitude. So, if you’re like me, you go back to that special person you once had to leave, and you take up the mantle of Teacher. You begin to guide her to reach her own Becoming, with hope, love, and pure unadulterated joy.
Words are not the best tools for such rapture or for describing what happens to each of us, but know this: Becoming is not the end of the journey. It is the Beginning.
The Holy Guardian Angel
I’ve written on this topic before (see link above), but to put not too fine a shine on it: The HGA is the embodiment of our potential, a potential so great we can’t conceive of it. It takes the form of an autonomous spirit, insanely attractive, fully involved, and largely without mercy. It teaches us hard lessons and refuses to submit to any request for either coddling or consoling, until the lesson is past and there is no danger of sympathy causing us to falter. It tests your strength in ways you would swear were intolerable. And it facilitates your growth like nothing else can. Through it all, you never doubt that you are loved, in spite of the cruelty, the challenges, and whatever you may feel about yourself in your moments of weakness.
It will lead you to face things in yourself that you’ve denied your entire life. It will reveal bliss undreamed of. When a decade or more has passed, you will wonder how you became who you are now, out of who you used to be. With this in mind, I present my remaining beliefs (or those that come to mind):
- I believe that living consciously and mindfully should be a goal of every living person, so that we strive to be aware of our effect on other people and ourselves, and also strive to fill our waking moments with something more than automatic pilot. This is a difficult thing to do, rather like trying to maintain a meditative state throughout your entire active day. We must do our best to remind ourselves until it becomes a habit of living without habits or automatic responses. Have you ever walked into a dark room when the power was out, and flipped on the light switch expecting it to work? Most of our actions are of this nature. If we could feel as foolish every time we chose automatically, as we do when flipping that light switch without thinking, it would teach us to be more mindful.
- I believe to “Know thyself” is profoundly important and that most people don’t. See above. Lives lived completely based upon superficial concerns are a tragedy.
- I believe the rational mind is both a blessing and a curse. I believe that this world’s emphasis on facts (while calling them “truths”) and rationalism is unbalanced and therefore crippling, but without rational thought we would learn much, much more slowly. Abstract concepts are powerful things (and include true gnosis) and should always be included in any balanced person, but it’s not until an idea swims around in our deeper selves a while then percolates up into thought and realization via the intellect that we gain knowledge and understanding beyond instinctive response. Yet our skeptical insistence (and oh, I’m a skeptic) upon things being rational keeps us from understanding worlds that don’t fit that very firm mold. We are indeed crippled when it comes to astral projection to any world other than this one, and we insist on defining things that are beyond our experience. (For instance, any thought of parallel universes usually results in a person thinking of them as nearly identical to this one, if not in appearance or geography, at least in terms of the most basic things: Breathing, food, water, belongings, other creatures, etc. Any thought of a spirit world, conversely, usually involves the person visualizing an endless expanse of gray fog through which featureless and ethereal spirits float about. BOR-ing!)
- I believe that conventional religion is a means of control, offering the congregation (is there a better word?) salvation if they toe the line and give away their money, and offering the congregation true knowledge not at all. I believe magical orders are shaping up to do the same thing.
- I believe that politicians should be accountable for deception and any type of malicious manipulation of the people or their resources. I believe that corporations should be regulated and held accountable, particularly when acting out of greed at the expense of the environment, their workers, or the public. I believe in socialist medicine. I believe this world has a long way to go and that we might not survive as a species long enough to put away the war machine for good and start truly thinking of our fellow man.
- I believe in compassion, empathy, and honesty. I believe in cultivating gratitude and optimism. I try to practice them consciously. I’m not perfect, by any means, but I keep trying. “Compassion is the Vice of Kings.” This, to me, does not mean that compassion is a vice to be avoided. It means that compassion, feeling empathy and the desire to help, for our fellow living creatures and our planet, is something that as “kings” we must accept and utilize. It is an emotion that is addicting, because giving to or helping someone feels good, as does the power to create their happiness or gratitude. It becomes a vice due to that addiction, but as kings we must accept that vice in exchange for the power to help someone in need. And it is a lesson long overdue for those in power. Don’t shit where you eat. Be generous and compassionate toward those who can’t help themselves, and the whole universe gains.
I am a Thelemite. I am dedicated to the Great Work. I am a star, dancing in the heavens in celebration of my ability to experience this world, with its joys and tragedies. Would you care to dance?
©2010 by Sheta Kaey.
Sheta Kaey is a lifelong occultist and longtime spirit worker, as well as Editor in Chief of Rending the Veil. She counsels others with regard to spirit contact and astral work. She can be reached via her blog.
In my most recent article for Reality Sandwich, “Magic: It’s More Than Just Finding Parking Spaces,” I discussed the stigmas or problem issues that surround the use of the word “magic” and the subculture of the occult, and I pointed out that until these stigmas are dealt with decisively, magic will never be rehabilitated. One commenter pointed out that it might be easier to say, “willful intentionality,” instead of saying, “magic,” because of all the baggage associated with the word. This leads me to ask, “Is magic another four letter word?”
Within the occult subculture, it could be argued that magic isn’t a four letter word, but I’m reminded of a recent incident where I overheard a description of a social networking meetup for local occultists. “We get together and hang out. We’ll talk about our jobs, or something fun we want to do, or plan when we’re going to go out and dance. We don’t about magic or any of the magical work we’re doing.” The passion that this was exclaimed with and the emphasis placed on not discussing magic at the meet up demonstrated an odd kind of attitude about magic, even from people who practiced it. It was as if people who came to such an event shouldn’t discuss magic, because it has no place in everyday life. Magic had become a four letter word.
While there is a lot of baggage associated with magic, another question I asked in the aforementioned article was about what the benefits of magic are, and in light of that question, I am going to use this article to address what those benefits are and why we shouldn’t treat “magic” as a four letter word.
One of the benefits of magic is that it provides access to alternate ways of knowing, ways of experiencing reality that fall outside the conventional approaches, such as religion, materialism, or science. Alternate ways of knowing incorporate techniques such as chemognosis, meditation, sex magic, ritual magic, energy work, but can also draw on disciplines outside of magic. The recent focus on semiotics and memetics is an example of practices from non-occult disciplines that have influenced magical practice.
Another benefit of magic is that it provides access to a variety of resources that fall outside the traditional spectrum of reality which we’re conditioned to believe in. These resources can include gods, angels, and demons, but also include cultivating our natural gifts, which may fall into disuse if not cultivated. A non-linear awareness of space/time, or the conscious manipulation of the physiology of the body is an example of accessing resources that fall outside the traditional spectrum of reality, but another example can be the intentional use of writing or collages to shape reality in a particular manner. By conventional standards, it would be argued that writing can’t directly shape reality. However, there are plenty of cases where writing has shaped a person’s life or events. William S. Burroughs and Ernest Hemingway are two examples; one knowingly did it and the other didn’t, with tragic consequences for him.
Magic also provides a person the opportunity to find answers to the spiritual questions s/he asks. Praying to a god is one way to find the answer, but the magician can also create the answer by his or her own efforts as well. And magic isn’t applied only to spiritual questions, but also to the practical concerns that can arise in living life. Utilizing magic to help you through a financial rough time or for healing a disease would be an example of a practical concern.
One could argue that everything I’ve mentioned above could be filed under “willful intentionality,” but would most people even understand that or know what “willful intentionality” meant? Certainly magic has its baggage and is sometimes a four letter word, but there are many associations with it that are positive. Many people have benefited from practicing magic and incorporating it into their lives. And many people, including yours truly, are proud to talk about magic with others, as well as practice it daily, instead of attempting to treat it as something you only deal with during special events or holidays.
Willful intentionality doesn’t have the negative associations, but it doesn’t have the positive associations, either. Another comment made to the aforementioned article was that if we were going to rehabilitate magic, it’s not a question of rehabilitating the term; it’s about rehabilitating how that term is used. I think this is an accurate point to make, and yet also a semantic one, because really what it points to is the need to rehabilitate the varied definitions of magic. Certainly, examining the definitions is important. It provides us an idea of how people understand the term as well as their own agenda for defining it in a particular way. But the application and processes also need to be considered carefully. When we do that, we aren’t just looking at magic from an abstract perspective, but also considering it from an experiential understanding of it.
Magic isn’t a four letter word. But how it’s been used and how it is understood has not always portrayed it in the best light. There is a lot of cultural and religious baggage associated with the word and even though it is marginally more acceptable now than it used to be, magic may not ever be free of that baggage. This may not matter to the occult subculture at all, but it does matter if we ever choose to take the concepts and practices of magic and present them to a more mainstream audience. At that point, “willful intentionality” may be the best choice of words to explain how those concepts work (or not, as I don’t think magic is just about an application of will and intent), but in the process we will have to lay out many of the underlying assumptions and beliefs inherent within the word “magic.” It makes for a semantic challenge, but also necessarily may force us to consider anew just what the benefits of magic are, as we share them with a broader audience than just the occult subculture.
Taylor Ellwood is the author of Space/Time Magic, Inner Alchemy: Energy Work and the Magic of the Body, and Pop Culture Magick, among other works. You can visit his blog at http://magicalexperiments.wordpress.com/ and his website at http://www.thegreenwolf.com/.
©2008 by Taylor Ellwood
Edited by Sheta Kaey
Origins of the Tarot
The Tarot has been a central part of the Western esoteric tradition since 1781, when Antoine Court de Gébelin (1728-1784) made it a topic of interest by including two analytical essays on the subject in Volume 8 of his nine volume encyclopedia, Monde primitif, the separate volumes of which were published between the years 1773 and 1782. One of the essays was written by de Gébelin himself, and the other by Louis-Raphaël-Lucréce de Fayolle, comte de Mellet (1727-1804). My English translation of both essays was published in an earlier edition of Rending the Veil.
Court de Gébelin believed that the Tarot was Egyptian in its origins, that its 22 picture cards, known as the trumps, were based on the 22 letters of an Egyptian alphabet related to the Hebrew alphabet, and that it had been spread throughout the world by gypsies, who were thought by many scholars at the time to have come from Egypt. In all of these particulars he was quite wrong. Even so, his essay exerted a profound influence over the esoteric interpretation of the Tarot in France during the following century, through the writings of such occultists as Alphonse Louis Constant (1810-1875), who wrote under the pen name Éliphas Lévi, and Gérard Encausse (1865-1916), who was known as Papus. From France this bias made its way into the beliefs and practices of various esoteric schools, such as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in England, and the Builders of the Adytum in America.
The true origins of the Tarot are, on the surface at least, quite mundane. They are known in a general way, although no one can say exactly when the Tarot was invented, or by whom. It first appeared in northern Italy around 1425 as a card game for bored and wealthy Italian aristocrats. The game was called the game of Tarot, and was a trick-taking game somewhat similar to bridge. It is still played today, and it is why the picture cards of the Tarot are known as trumps. The inspiration of its inventor was to add the 22 trumps to a set of 56 cards that was very similar to the common decks of playing cards in use in Europe at the time the game of Tarot was invented. More than one kind of Tarot deck came into being in the early decades of the 15th century, and the number of cards varied, but the Tarot quickly settled into its present pattern of 22 trumps and 56 minor cards in four suits.
Court de Gébelin may have been mistaken in his belief that the Tarot had an ancient and lofty origin among the priest class of Egypt, but he was not wrong to assign it a profound esoteric significance. Even today, the Tarot speaks to those who study it, using the language of symbolism. It became the central device for the system of occultism of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, a secret Rosicrucian society established in London in 1888. The leaders of the Golden Dawn based much of their interpretations of the cards on the work of the French occultists of the 19th century. Through the teachings of the Golden Dawn, the Tarot correspondences used in that occult order were spread throughout the world, and are still the prevalent Tarot correspondences today.
Tarot correspondences are the sets of esoteric symbols associated with the Tarot. Each card is linked with symbols of occult forces, or names of spiritual beings, drawn from various sources such as alchemy, astrology, numerology, the Kabbalah, and geomancy. The links are more numerous in the case of the Tarot trumps, which bear images rich in meaning. For example, the trump the Magician is linked in the Golden Dawn system of magic with the Hebrew letter Beth, the number one, the astrological planet Mercury, the twelfth path on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and with the ox, a beast associated esoterically with the Hebrew letter of this trump. Correspondences provide bridges to other correspondences. Because the trump, the Magician, is associated with the planet Mercury, it is also linked with the angel of Mercury, Raphael, the Intelligence of Mercury, Tiriel, and the Spirit of Mercury, Taphthartharath.
Since the occult correspondences for each Tarot trump are connected by various associative bridges, to manipulate any of them is to gain a measure of control over all of them. This works on the basis of the same general magical principle that governs the well known magical law of contagion, which states that a thing that was once in physical contact with someone is still in touch with that person on some deep level, and therefore manipulating the object causes influence to be exerted on the person it formerly touched. The associations connecting the forces and beings that form the occult correspondences for a Tarot card are like links in a chain. Move one link, and they all rattle.
The Golden Dawn Tarot correspondences are rooted in Court de Gébelin’s casual observation that there are 22 trumps, and 22 Hebrew letters. The French occultists such as Éliphas Lévi had already placed the trumps on the Hebrew alphabet by the time the leader of the Golden Dawn, S. L. MacGregor Mathers (1854-1918), came to create its system of esoteric Tarot correspondences. Mathers did not adopt exactly the same relationship as that used by Lévi, and that difference and others like it are what this essay is all about, but he followed the same general principle. Each Hebrew letter has various esoteric associations. By linking the Hebrew letter to a Tarot trump, those associations can be transferred to the trump.
Since, in modern Western magic, the Tarot trumps derive their correspondences through the Hebrew letters, it is obviously a matter of great significance which Hebrew letter is linked to which trump. The ordering of the Hebrew letters is not open to reinterpretation, but has been established and accepted for thousands of years. However, the ordering of the Tarot trumps does not have such an ancient or well-established history. Indeed, the earliest Tarot decks were unnumbered. The sequence of the Tarot trumps was a matter of oral tradition. It was passed on between those who played the game of Tarot, and it appears that in the decades following the invention of the Tarot, there was more than one accepted ordering for the trumps.
But, when the pack was first standardised, the subjects of the trump cards were standardised, too; they were at first everywhere the same.
Somewhat surprisingly, however, they were not everywhere arranged in the same order. The variations in order were not a later development, but must have occurred from the earliest moment when Tarot cards were known in the principal original centres of their use — Milan, Ferrara, Bologna and Florence.1
Trump Sequence of the Marseilles Tarot
We need not go into the earliest sequences of the trumps, some of which are uncertain, but may begin with Court de Gébelin, since it is with his Tarot essay of 1781 that the esoteric history of the Tarot really begins, at least in a documented manner — for there was an esoteric tradition of the Tarot in use in France in the late 18th century, when de Gébelin published his essay, but exactly what it taught, we cannot be sure, other than that some of those teachings must be reflected in de Gébelin’s essay.
Court de Gébelin accepted the traditional ordering of the trumps of his day, as it was codified in the numbering of the French pack of Tarot cards known as the Tarot of Marseilles. As I mentioned, the earliest Italian Tarot decks were unnumbered, but as early as 1490 card makers in Ferrara, Italy, probably began to place Roman numerals on the trumps, fixing them into a specific sequence. This practice was carried on by the early French card makers. It is uncertain which of the Italian trump sequences was adopted in what came to be known as the Tarot of Marseilles, but it is speculated that it may have been the ordering used by the Tarot card makers of Milan.2 The Marseilles sequence of trumps, with its original French spellings as they appear on the 1761 pack designed by Nicolas Conver, is as follows:
I. Le Bateleur (The Juggler)
II. La Papesse (The Female Pope)
III. L´ Imperatrice (The Empress)
IIII. L´ Empereur (The Emperor)
V. Le Pape (The Pope)
VI. L´ Amovrevx (The Lover)
VII. Le Chariot (The Chariot)
VIII. La Justice (Justice)
VIIII. L´ Hermite (The Hermit)
X. La Rove De Fortvne (The Wheel of Fortune)
XI. La Force (Strength)
XII. Le Pendu (The Hanged Man)
XIII. — (Death)
XIIII. Temperance (Temperance)
XV. Le Diable (The Devil)
XVI. La Maison Diev (The House of God)
XVII. L´ Etoille (The Star)
XVIII. La Lune (The Moon)
XVIIII. Le Soleil (The Sun)
XX. Le Jugement (Judgement)
XXI. Le Monde (The World)
Le Mat (The Fool)
A few points are to be noticed. The method of writing Roman numerals is slightly different from the accepted manner of today. Instead of using IV to represent the number four, IIII was used. Sometimes the letter “v” was employed where we would put the letter “u” today. The trump L´ Amovrevx is usually called the Lovers, but the singular form, the Lover, may be more accurate. It is translated in this way on the trump in the well-known Grimaud Tarot. The trump Death did not have its name written on the face of the card at all, although the title of this card was known to everyone using the Tarot. This was in keeping with the popular superstition that to speak the name of Death was to invoke this dreaded dark angel. The trump the Fool did not bear a number of any kind.
Trump Sequence of Court de Gébelin
Court de Gébelin renamed some of the trumps to give them a more Egyptian flavor, but he retained their Marseilles sequence. It was the usual custom to place the only trump that remained unnumbered, the Fool, at the end of the sequence, following XXI the World. Court de Gébelin declared that it should be numbered zero, because like the zero of mathematics, it has no value of its own, but only acquires value when added to other cards. This statement exerted profound influence over later occultists who wrote about the Tarot.
Court de Gébelin believed that the trumps should be arranged from highest number to lowest number, in the belief that the Egyptians &”began counting from the highest number, going down to the lowest4.” To interpret the cards correctly, he asserted, they must be examined in this manner. It was on this basis that he felt free to rename the Marseilles trump Judgement, which from its name might be expected to come at the end of the sequence, as Creation, which might be expected to come at or near the beginning. Here are the changed titles that de Gébelin applied to the trumps in their reversed order, followed by their usual Marseilles titles in English.
XXI. Time (The World)
XX. Creation (Judgement)
XIX. The Sun (The Sun)
XVIII. The Nile (The Moon)
XVII. The Dog-Star (The Star)
XVI. Castle of Plutus (The House of God)
XV. Typhon (The Devil)
XIV. Temperance (Temperance)
XIII. Death (Death)
XII. Prudence (The Hanged Man)
XI. Fortitude (Strength)
X. Wheel of Fortune (Wheel of Fortune)
IX. The Sage (The Hermit)
VIII. Justice (Justice)
VII. Osiris Triumphant (The Chariot)
VI. Marriage (The Lovers)
V. Chief Hierophant (The Pope)
IV. The Emperor (The Emperor)
III. The Empress (The Empress)
II. The High Priestess (The Female Pope)
I. Lord of Chance (The Juggler)
0. The Fool (The Fool)
Trump Sequence of the comte de Mellet
What de Gébelin did not do was make a direct relationship between the trumps and the Hebrew letters. However, it is obvious what arrangement he intended, and indeed, his contributor the comte de Mellet supplied the explicit arrangement that must also have been in de Gébelin’s thoughts, and applied the inverted sequence of the trumps to the Hebrew alphabet, with the final numbered trump, XXI the World, on the first letter, Aleph, and the unnumbered trump the Fool, to which de Gébelin gave the zero, on the final letter, Tau.
De Mellet seems to have been the first person to explicitly define a relationship between the trumps and Hebrew letters. He called the Fool by the title Madness, and changed some of the other names of the trumps, although his interpretations are not always exactly like those of de Gébelin. It is evident from his descriptions of the Pope and Popess (Female Pope) that he used the Tarot of Besancon, rather than the standard Marseilles pack, where the Pope is replaced by Jupiter and the Popess by Juno.5
Here is his sequence of the trumps on the Hebrew letters, along with the interpretations he gave them, translated into English. The more conventional names for the trumps are placed in parentheses.
XXI. The Universe (The World) — Aleph
XX. Creation of Man (Judgement) — Beth
XIX. Creation of the Sun (The Sun) — Gimel
XVIII. Creation of the Moon (The Moon) — Daleth
XVII. Creation of the Stars (The Star) — He
XVI. House of God (House of God) — Vau
XV. Typhon (The Devil) — Zayin
XIV. Angel of Temperance (Temperance) — Cheth
XIII. Death (Death) — Teth
XII. Prudence (The Hanged Man) — Yod
XI. Strength (Strength) — Kaph
X. Goddess Fortune (Wheel of Fortune) — Lamed
IX. The Sage (The Hermit) — Mem
VIII. Justice (Justice) — Nun
VII. Chariot of War (The Chariot) — Samekh
VI. Choice Between Vice or Virtue (The Lovers) — Ayin
V. The God Jupiter (The Pope) — Pe
IV. The King (The Emperor) — Tzaddi
III. The Queen (The Empress) — Qoph
II. The Goddess Juno (The Female Pope) — Resh
I. The Juggler (The Juggler) — Shin
0. Madness (The Fool) — Tau
Trump Sequence of Éliphas Lévi
When Éliphas Lévi brought forth the second volume of his two-part Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, published in French in 1855-6), he applied the sequence of the Marseilles trumps to the Hebrew alphabet in its traditional order, but he placed the Fool just before the final numbered trump, on the second-last Hebrew letter. Either he did not understand Court de Gébelin’s intention to invert the sequence of trumps, or as seems more likely, he chose to ignore it. He was convinced that the posture of the upper body of the Juggler defined the shape of the first Hebrew letter, Aleph, writing “His body and arms constitute the letter Aleph6.” This cannot be denied, but since few, if any, of the other figures on the cards resemble Hebrew letters, its significance is questionable. Below are his titles for the picture cards of the Tarot, and his placement of the trumps on the Hebrew letters.
I. The Juggler — Aleph
II. The Female Pope — Beth
III. The Empress — Gimel
IV. The Emperor — Daleth
V. The Pope — He
VI. Vice and Virtue — Vau
VII. Cubic Chariot — Zayin
VIII. Justice — Cheth
IX. Prudence — Teth
X. Wheel of Fortune — Yod
XI. Strength — Kaph XII
The Hanged Man — Lamed
XIII. Death — Mem
XIV. Temperance — Nun
XV. The Devil — Samekh
XVI. Tower Struck By Lightning — Ayin
XVII. The Blazing Star — Pe
XVIII. The Moon — Tzaddi
XIX. The Sun — Qoph
XX. The Judgement — Resh
0. The Fool — Shin
XXI. Kether — Tau
The placement of the Fool second from the end of the trump sequence had considerable influence on later writers on the Tarot. It is difficult to know how to justify this location for the Fool, which appears to have been put at the end of the trumps in the earliest arrangements of the cards, and was placed at the end of the inverted trump sequence by Court de Gébelin. The French occultist Jean-Baptiste Pitois (1811-1877), known by his pen name Paul Christian, imitated Lévi in this quixotic location of the Fool second from the end of the trumps, when he published his monumental (in size if not in content) work, Histoire de la Magie in 1870.7 Papus also followed Lévi’s lead in his Tarot of the Bohemians, first published in 1889, by placing the Fool on the second-last Hebrew letter, Shin, just before the final trump, the World.8 Neither bothered to justify this location for the Fool.
A. E. Waite also followed Lévi’s example and put his Fool second from the end of the trump sequence in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot, published in 1910, even though he held it to be incorrect. As a member of the Golden Dawn, Waite was bound by oath not to reveal the occult secrets of that Hermetic order, so he could not present the Golden Dawn sequence for the Tarot trumps, which he believed to be esoterically accurate. He deliberately presented what he knew to be a false arrangement of the trumps.
On the placement of the Fool, Waite wrote:
Court de Gébelin places it at the head of the whole series as the zero or negative which is presupposed by numeration, and as this is a simpler so also it is a better arrangement. It has been abandoned because in later times the cards have been attributed to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and there has been apparently some difficulty about allocating the zero symbol satisfactorily in a sequence of letters all of which signify numbers. In the present reference of the card to the letter Shin, which corresponds to 200, the difficulty or the unreason remains. The truth is that the real arrangement of the cards has never transpired.9
This quotation from Waite’s Pictorial Key is worth examining on several points. He was wrong to state that Court de Gébelin placed the Fool “at the head” of the trumps, since de Gé inverted the sequence, making trump XXI the head, and the zero card the Fool the tail. It is true that de Gébelin shifted the Fool from the end to the beginning of the sequence, but then he inverted the sequence, which put the Fool back on the end.
It is curious that Waite did not locate the Fool at the beginning of the trumps. This was the esoteric teaching of the Golden Dawn, so perhaps he felt honor-bound not to do so, lest it be construed as a betrayal of a secret. He felt that he knew the “real arrangement” of the trumps, but also felt that it must remain hidden from profane eyes. So he imitated Lévi, fully aware that Lévi’s placement of the Fool made no sense, and stating as much to his readers in his book.
In view of his reluctance to put the Fool at the head of the trumps, it is curious that Waite felt free to invert the places of VIII Justice and XI Strength. This inversion was based on the esoteric teaching of the Golden Dawn, and should have been just as taboo for Waite as the true location of the Fool. In his Pictorial Key he made this switch, but did not explain it or justify it to his readers.
Trump Sequence of the Golden Dawn
The location of the Fool at the head of the trumps, and the inversion in the places and numbers of Justice and Strength, are innovations of S. L. MacGregor Mathers, chief of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Around the time the Golden Dawn was establishing its first London temple, in 1888, Mathers and his wife were working on an esoteric Tarot deck. His wife Moïna, formerly Mina Bergson, sister of famous French philosopher, Henri Bergson, was an artist, and it was she who actually painted the designs for the new Tarot. Since she was a psychic who often helped her husband in receiving esoteric teachings from the spiritual leaders of the Golden Dawn, known as the Secret Chiefs, it is safe to assume that she was deeply involved not merely in the design, but also in the esoteric interpretation of the new Golden Dawn Tarot. Indeed, it is quite possible that the composition of the Golden Dawn Tarot owes more to Moïna Mathers than to Samuel Mathers.
The major innovation of the Golden Dawn was the absolute determination that the Fool be placed at the front of the Tarot trumps, before the Juggler, which in the Golden Dawn Tarot was called the Magician. This bumped all the trumps up one Hebrew letter. It created the awkward condition of having a card numbered zero falling on a Hebrew letter with a numerical value of one, and so for the rest of the trumps, each out by one number from its Hebrew letter — or at least, the first ten Hebrew letters, since after the letter Yod the number values of the Hebrew letters become non-consecutive, increasing by a factor of tens, and then hundreds.
This awkwardness becomes less distasteful, from an aesthetic point of view, when we realize that the numbers on the trumps are not in any way a part of the trumps. For example, the VII on the trump the Chariot is not attached in any way to this card — it merely indicates the location of this card in the trump sequence. How do we know this? Because originally no Tarot trump was numbered. The trumps are picture cards — their identities are in their pictures. The Roman numerals were applied to the trumps merely as an aid to memory, to insure that errors were not made in their sequence. The seven on the Seven of Wands is very much a part of that Tarot card — indeed, the greater portion of its identity — but the VII on the trump the Chariot is not a part of that trump, and may be removed without in any way diminishing the meaning of the trump.
The second innovation of the Golden Dawn, the inversion of the locations of Justice and Strength, was dictated by the way Mathers and his wife applied the trumps to the Hebrew letters. They used as their guide the most ancient of Kabbalistic texts, Sepher Yetzirah. In this texts, the 22 Hebrew letters are divided into three groups:
3 Mother letters: Aleph, Mem, Shin
7 Double letters: Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Pe, Resh, Tau
12 Simple letters: He, Vau, Zayin, Cheth, Teth, Yod, Lamed, Nun, Samekh, Ayin, Tzaddi, Qoph.
The Mother letters are associated with three of the four philosophical elements, the Double letters with the seven planets of traditional astrology, and the Simple letters with the twelve signs of the zodiac. In the version of Sepher Yetzirah translated by W. Wynn Westcott, a leading member of the Golden Dawn, the placements of the elements and zodiac signs on the letters are explicit, but the placement of the planets is somewhat obscure, and open to various interpretations.
If the Tarot trumps were simply applied in order to the Hebrew letters, with the Fool on the first letter, then the trump VIII Justice would fall on the Simple letter Teth, and XI Strength would fall on the Simple letter Lamed. In the correspondence between the Simple letters and the zodiac signs that is given in Sepher Yetzirah, this would put the sign Leo on the trump Justice, and the sign Libra on the trump Strength.
But there is an obvious problem. Leo is the sign of the lion, a beast symbolic of virility and strength, and Libra is the sign of the scales, the primary symbol of justice. The trump Strength shows in its picture a lion, and the trump Justice shows in its picture a set of scales. It was obvious to Mathers, and indeed would be obvious to almost anyone, that it would be more appropriate to link the trump Justice with Libra, and the trump Strength with Leo. How could he do this? The Hebrew letters could not be inverted. The associations of the zodiac signs with the Simple letters could not be changed, since they are quite explicit in Sepher Yetzirah. The only thing to do was to invert the locations of trumps Justice and Strength, and this Mathers did. He renumbered Justice as XI and placed it after the Wheel of Fortune, and renumbered Strength as VIII and placed it after the Chariot. This corrected the obvious error in symbolism on these two trumps.
Here is the sequence of trumps used by the Golden Dawn, along with their Kabbalistic associations from Sepher Yetzirah. The names of some of the trumps were updated by Mathers, based primarily on suggestions in the writings of Court de Gébelin and Éliphas Lévi.
0. Fool — Aleph (Air)
I. Magician — Beth (Mercury)
II. High Priestess — Gimel (Moon)
III. Empress — Daleth (Venus)
IV. Emperor — He (Aries)
V. Hierophant — Vau (Taurus)
VI. Lovers — Zayin (Gemini)
VII. Chariot — Cheth (Cancer)
VIII. Fortitude — Teth (Leo)
IX. Hermit — Yod (Virgo)
X. Wheel of Fortune — Kaph (Jupiter)
XI. Justice — Lamed (Libra)
XII. Hanged Man — Mem (Water)
XIII. Death — Nun (Scorpio)
XIV. Temperance — Samekh (Sagittarius)
XV. Devil — Ayin (Capricorn)
XVI. Blasted Tower — Pe (Mars)
XVII. The Star — Tzaddi (Aquarius)
XVIII. The Moon — Qoph (Pisces)
XIX. The Sun — Resh (Sun)
XX. Judgement — Shin (Fire)
XXI. Universe — Tau (Saturn)
Mathers chose to call the Juggler the Magician. He changed the Female Pope to the High Priestess, and the Pope to the Hierophant. Strength was called by its common alternative, Fortitude. The World became the Universe.
As you can see by examining the Golden Dawn arrangement of the trumps, the zodiac signs that fall on the twelve Simple letters of the Hebrew alphabet are in their natural order beginning with Aries. This is in keeping with the information presented in Sepher Yetzirah. The three elements on the Mother letters cannot really be said to have any fixed order, but they also are placed according to Sepher Yetzirah. The planets, however, are a different matter. They do have a natural order, and it is not preserved in Sepher Yetzirah — indeed, in the Westcott edition of that Kabbalistic book, which was used as a source by Mathers, the way in which they are intended to be placed on the seven Double letters is not explicit, but is open to interpretation.
Order of the Planets in Sepher Yetzirah
The text in Sepher Yetzirah reads: “So now, behold the Stars of our World, the Planets which are Seven: the Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, Saturn, Jupiter and Mars10.” It is obvious that the planets cannot be applied to the Double letters in this order, since that would result in incompatible matches. It would place Mercury on the Empress, for example, and the Moon on the Wheel of Fortune, which would be symbolically incorrect.
Mathers chose to disregard both the order of the planets presented in the text of Sepher Yetzirah, and their natural order. The natural order of the planets is based on their apparent rapidity of motion, as view from the surface of the Earth. From slowest to fastest, their order is: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon. But from fastest to slowest, their reverse order is: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. Mathers adopted neither ordering, but created his own for the Double letters and their associated Tarot trumps.
There are hints in Sepher Yetzirah as to how the author of that ancient text intended the planets to be applied to the Double letters. He gives sets of opposites for each of the letters, and it is possible to apply these sets to the seven planets, thus generating a list of the planets on the Double letters. Which planet matches which pair of opposite qualities is a matter of conjecture. Here is the relevant text, from the fourth chapter of Sepher Yetzirah.
The Seven double letters, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Peh, Resh, and Tau have each two sounds associated with them. They are referred to Life, Peace, Wisdom, Riches, Grace, Fertility and Power. The two sounds of each letter are the hard and the soft — the aspirated and the softened. They are called Double, because each letter presents a contrast or permutation; thus Life and Death; Peace and War; Wisdom and Folly; Riches and Poverty; Grace and Indignation; Fertility and Solitude; Power and Servitude.11
Matching up the qualities of the planets with these pairs of opposites, we might get the following list, which may be how the author of Sepher Yetzirah intended the planets to be assigned to the letters.
Beth — Life and Death — Sun
Gimel — Peace and War — Mars
Daleth — Wisdom and Folly — Saturn
Kaph — Riches and Poverty — Mercury
Pe — Grace and Indignation — Venus
Resh — Fertility and Solitude — Moon
Tau — Power and Servitude — Jupiter
This arrangement is only conjecture on my part. In any case, it does not match very well the nature of the Tarot trumps that fall on the seven Double letters of the Hebrew alphabet. It would place the planet Mars on the trump the High Priestess, which seems obviously wrong. Even had Mathers derived this list, he would not have used it. The key innovations of Mathers and the Golden Dawn with regard to the order of the trumps and their esoteric correspondences are thus the explicit numbering of the Fool as zero, and the placement of the Fool at the head of the trumps; the inversion of the locations and Roman numerals of Justice and Fortitude; and the unique assignment of the planets to the seven Double letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Trump Sequence of Aleister Crowley
Aleister Crowley (1875-1947), who was a member of the Golden Dawn, and perhaps possessed the greatest esoteric knowledge of the Tarot of any man who has ever lived, made surprisingly few innovations in the order of the trumps. He regarded the Golden Dawn arrangement, which Mathers had received from the Secret Chiefs — they conveyed to him psychically the correct locations of the planets on the Double letters — as received sacred wisdom, and did not attempt on his own initiative to meddle with it. He may have had a low regard for Mathers after departing the Golden Dawn under a black cloud, but he always held the Secret Chiefs in the deepest respect.
It was only when Crowley’s guardian angel, Aiwass, came to him while Crowley was visiting Cairo, Egypt, in the year 1904, and dictated to Crowley a holy book titled Liber AL vel Legis, or the Book of the Law, that Crowley felt bold enough to modify the sequence of the Tarot trumps. In the received text of this book is written the statement, “All these old letters of my Book are aright; but [Tzaddi] is not the Star12.” The word “Tzaddi” was not written out, but was in the form of the Hebrew letter Tzaddi. The “old letters” obviously refer to the ancient Hebrew alphabet. The reference to “my book” is to the Book of Thoth, another name among occultists for the Tarot. The “Star” which is capitalized in Crowley’s received text, must refer to the Tarot trump the Star. In the Golden Dawn arrangement, XVII the Star is linked with the Hebrew letter Tzaddi, and the zodiac sign Aquarius.
For years Crowley puzzled about this cryptic message. If Tzaddi was not the Tarot trump the Star, to which trump should it be assigned? The solution reached by Crowley in his Book of Thoth is based on the inversion of the trumps Justice and Strength made by Mathers in the Golden Dawn Tarot. Crowley wrote the twelve signs of the zodiac in their natural order around the rim of a reclining oval, with Pisces on its left side and Virgo on its right side. When this is done, the inversion made by Mathers may be represented graphically by pinching the right end of the oval and giving it a twist to form a little loop, so that the signs of Leo and Libra exchange places around the pivot of Virgo. To balance this change, Crowley took the other end of the oval of the zodiac and gave it a similar twist around the pivot of Pisces to form a second loop, so that the signs Aquarius and Aries changes places. In this way, the model of the zodiac was balanced.13
By this trick, Crowley determined to his own satisfaction that Tzaddi was “not the Star” but was instead, the Emperor. The trump the Star receives Aquarius and the Hebrew letter Tzaddi in the Golden Dawn arrangement, and the trump the Emperor receives Aries and the Hebrew letter He. Crowley inverted this assignment. He did not make this change with the same degree of elegance as Mathers, however. Instead of giving the Emperor the Roman numeral XVII and the Star the Roman numeral IV, Crowley left them where they were in the sequence of the trumps, and broke the continuity of the Hebrew alphabet, inverting the two Hebrew letters, along with their linked esoteric correspondences.
This seems inconsistent on Crowley’s part. To exactly balance the change made by Mathers in the loop at the other end of the zodiac, Crowley should have exchanged the Roman numerals and the placements of the trumps the Emperor and the Star, but kept the integrity of the sequence of the Hebrew alphabet, which has been established for thousands of years. Mathers moved the trumps — he did not move the Hebrew letters. Crowley should have done the same, had he wished to mirror the change made by Mathers.
Instead, Crowley chose to return the Roman numeral VIII to Justice, and XI to Strength, which places them back in their original locations in the Marseilles sequence of the trumps, but he retained the Hebrew letters and zodiac signs given to these trumps by Mathers, thereby violating the sequence of the Hebrew alphabet a second time.
In the Tarot trumps of Crowley’s Thoth deck, the card of the Emperor bears the Hebrew letter Tzaddi, but still retains the zodiac sign Aries. Similarly, the card of the Star bears the Hebrew letter He, but retains the zodiac sign Aquarius. This appears to be an error, since it would be assumed that the zodiac signs should have been changed along with the Hebrew letters — indeed, this was done in the table of the trumps that appears near the end of Crowley’s Book of Thoth.14 Below is Crowley’s arrangement of the Tarot trumps, as it appears in that table. He has changed many of the names of the trumps, but not so radically that they cannot be recognized. Justice was called Adjustment, Strength became Lust, and Temperance was called by Crowley Art.0. Fool — Aleph (Air)
I. Magus — Beth (Mercury)
II. Priestess — Gimel (Moon)
III. Empress — Daleth (Venus)
IV. Emperor — Tzaddi (Aquarius)
V. Hierophant — Vau (Taurus)
VI. Lovers — Zayin (Gemini)
VII. Chariot — Cheth (Cancer)
VIII. Adjustment — Lamed (Libra)
IX. Hermit — Yod (Virgo)
X. Fortune — Kaph (Jupiter)
XI. Lust — Teth (Leo)
XII. Hanged Man — Mem (Water)
XIII. Death — Nun (Scorpio)
XIV. Art — Samekh (Sagittarius)
XV. Devil — Ayin (Capricorn)
XVI. Tower — Pe (Mars)
XVII. The Star — He (Aries)
XVIII. The Moon — Qoph (Pisces)
XIX. The Sun — Resh (Sun)
XX. Judgment — Shin (Fire)
XXI. Universe — Tau (Saturn)
Trump Sequence of Donald Tyson
The Tarot has been central to my esoteric studies and practices for over thirty years. I have spent considerable time considering the arrangement of the trumps, and have come to some conclusions that I wish to offer here, for those who may be interested in my own sequence and occult correspondences for the trumps. This material previously appeared in the appendix to my book Portable Magic (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2006), which deals with the use of the Tarot for works of ritual magic. Since I believe it is important, I wish to make it as widely available as possible.
My own sense is that Crowley’s change is not valid. It does apply a kind of balance to the loop of the zodiac, and Crowley was obsessed with balance in magic — he believed that all true magicians have an innate sense of harmony and balance, and that they naturally abhor anything in their art that is lacking in symmetry. Well, maybe so, but I see no necessity to balance the inversion of Justice and Strength made by Mathers. The change has its own inherent balance, in that each trump replaces the other. I believe that the change made by Mathers is valid, and indeed inevitable, given the symbolism on the two cards and the zodiac signs involved. Leo must go with Strength, and Virgo must go with Justice.
My primary problem with the Golden Dawn sequence of the trumps lies in the Double letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which are linked with the seven planets. In astrology and in magic, the planets have a very definite ordering, as I explained above. Since the zodiac signs are arranged on the twelve Simple letters in their natural order, it seems to me that it would make good sense to arrange the planets on the seven Double letters in their natural order as well. The reason Mathers did not do this is because it creates some problems. However, in my opinion these issues are not beyond solution, even though some of the changes I propose may seem fairly radical.
The placements of Mercury on the trump of the Magician by Mathers, through the mediation of the Double letter Beth, and the Moon on the High Priestess through the mediation of the Double letter Gimel, have a rightness that would be difficult to challenge. This suggests that if the planets are placed on the trumps in their natural astrological order, it will be an ascending order from quickest and nearest, to slowest and furthest removed. But there is a serious problem. The first planet in this ascending order is the Moon, not Mercury, which is the second planet. To simply apply the planets to the trumps of the Double letters would result in the Magician receiving the Moon, and the High Priestess receiving Mercury. This does not seem symbolically correct.
The solution is obvious, but daring — to invert the location and Roman numerals of trumps the Magician and the High Priestess, so that the High Priestess receives the Roman numeral I and is placed directly after the Fool, and the Magician receives the Roman numeral II and comes after the High Priestess. It is safe to say that this change is the most likely to arouse controversy, among those I have advocated. There is a natural prejudice that the male Magician should come before the female Priestess. However, when we consider why this should be so, it is not easy to come up with a reason. There is something to be said for the Priestess opening the sequence of the trumps — for the Fool, although he is nominally placed at the beginning, really has no place of his own, as his zero designation indicates, but moves where he wills, and relates to all the other trumps equally. The pillars of the Priestess are like an open doorway into the mysteries of the Tarot.
There is another change necessary to apply the planets in their natural ascending order on the seven Double letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and their corresponding trumps. In the Golden Dawn arrangement, Jupiter is placed on trump X the Wheel, and the planet the Sun is placed on trump XIX the Sun. I asked myself, if the planet the Moon is not located on trump XVIII the Moon in the Golden Dawn arrangement, who should it be necessary to locate the planet the Sun on the trump of the same name? It is not necessary, and indeed, not even desirable to do so. When the planets are applied to the trumps of the Double letters in their natural order, it is the Sun that falls on the Wheel, and Jupiter that falls on the trump the Sun.
This change works very well. The Sun is a great fiery wheel rolling across the heavens, and has been characterized in this way in stone age petroglyphs of shamans, and in numerous systems of mythology around the world. It is symbolically apt to link the astrological planet the Sun with the trump the Wheel of Fortune. As for the trump of the Sun — what could be more appropriate to represent it than the beaming countenance of the god Jupiter, as represented by his planet? Jupiter is the dispenser of benevolent laws, the patriarch of the heavens. The planets Jupiter and the Sun have always had harmonious natures in astrology.
It can be seen that by inverting the locations of the trumps the Magician and the High Priestess, all seven of the planets fall on highly appropriate trumps when applied to the sequence of the Double letters in their natural ascending order. The placement of the planet the Sun on the Wheel of Fortune is so right, it is difficult to imagine how Mathers could have avoided making it. Perhaps the designation of Jupiter as the “greater fortune” in astrology swayed his judgment. Even so, I cannot agree with his choice, and believe that the Sun should be on the Wheel, and Jupiter on the trump the Sun.
There are actually three fortunes in astrology, as Cornelius Agrippa pointed out in his Occult Philosophy: “There are three Fortunes amongst the planets15.” These are the Sun, Jupiter, and Venus. However, Jupiter is usually called the Greater Fortune and Venus the Lesser Fortune. I mention this merely to point out that the Sun has at least as much connection with the Wheel of Fortune, thematically, as Jupiter. Both Sun and Jupiter are astrological fortunes. It also shows the close tie between the planet Jupiter and the trump the Sun.
There is one more essential change in the sequence of the trumps that must be made before they can be considered perfected. It involves the inversion of trumps XIV Temperance and VII the Chariot. It has long been my conviction that the zodiac sign Cancer does not belong with the Chariot. In spite of the valiant attempts by Mathers and other occultists to justify its location on the Chariot, there is nothing warlike about the sign of Cancer. The characterization of the fierce Crab with her savage pincers raised for battle strikes me with amusement every time I encounter it. The sign of the Crab is not fierce — it is watery and feminine.
Similarly, I found nothing appropriate in linking the rather warlike zodiac sign of the Archer, Sagittarius, with the feminine and watery trump Temperance. Indeed, there seems no obvious symbolic harmony between the two. The bow and arrow is a weapon of war, and a weapon of the hunt. It is designed to deal death. But the waters poured between the two vessels on the trump Temperance are the waters of life.
I have no hesitation in advocating that these trumps be inverted, and their Roman numerals exchanged, so that Temperance is placed just after the Lovers, and receives the number VII, and the Chariot is placed just after Death, and receives the number XIV. Indeed, this change strikes me as the most obvious and inevitable of all the changes that I have made, and I am amazed that Mathers did not make it himself.
You will notice that this results in an series of violent or warlike cards: the Hanged Man, Death, the Chariot, the Devil, and the Tower. In the common sequence of the trumps, and the Golden Dawn sequence as well, the card Temperance breaks up this set. Equally, the older placement of the Chariot seems completely wrong — it comes in the midst of a peaceful series of trumps, after the Hierophant and the Lovers, and before Strength and the Hermit. Strength is not violent, but is the strength of self control and restraint. The overtly violent and warlike Chariot is completely wrong for this series.
Here, then, is my rectified sequence of the Tarot trumps, according to my best judgement. It is my experience that it lends itself very well to the paths on the Tree of Life — better than the Golden Dawn sequence. Of course those accustomed to using the Golden Dawn arrangement on the Tree will find it an effort to change mental gears, and try something new, but those who make the change will not want to go back.
0. Fool — Aleph (Air)
I. High Priestess — Beth (Moon)
II. Magician — Gimel (Mercury)
III. Empress — Daleth (Venus)
IV. Emperor — He (Aries)
V. Hierophant — Vau (Taurus)
VI. Lovers — Zayin (Gemini)
VII. Temperance — Cheth (Cancer)
VIII. Strength — Teth (Leo)
IX. Hermit — Yod (Virgo)
X. Wheel — Kaph (Sun)
XI. Justice — Lamed (Libra)
XII. Hanged Man — Mem (Water)
XIII. Death — Nun (Scorpio)
XIV. Chariot — Samekh (Sagittarius)
XV. Devil — Ayin (Capricorn)
XVI. Tower — Pe (Mars)
XVII. The Star — Tzaddi (Aquarius)
XVIII. The Moon — Qoph (Pisces)
XIX. The Sun — Resh (Jupiter)
XX. Judgement — Shin (Fire)
XXI. World — Tau (Saturn)
- Decker, Ronald; Thierry Depaulis; Michael Dummett. A Wicked Pack of Cards. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996, page 25.
- Ibid., page 41.
- Ibid., page 43.
- Ibid., page 62.
- Ibid., page 70.
- Lévi, Éliphas. Transcendental Magic. New York: Weiser, 1979, page 386.
- Christian, Paul. The History and Practice of Magic. New York: Citadel Press, 1963, page 110.
- Papus. Tarot of the Bohemians. New York: US Games, 1978, page 184.
- Waite. A. E. The Pictorial Key to the Tarot. New York: Weiser, 1980, page 29.
- Westcott, W. Wynn. Sepher Yetzirah. New York: Weiser, 1980, page 23.
- Ibid., page 22.
- Crowley, Aleister. Book of the Law. Quebec: 93 Publishing, page 26.
- Crowley, Aleister. Book of Thoth. New York: Weiser, 1974, pages 9-11.
- Ibid., page 278.
- Agrippa, Cornelius. Three Books of Occult Philosophy. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn, 1993, page 250.
© 2008 by Donald Tyson.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Donald Tyson is the author of Sexual Alchemy: Magical Intercourse with Spirits, Familiar Spirits: A Practical Guide for Witches & Magicians, and Soul Flight: Astral Projection and the Magical Universe, among other works. You can visit his website here.
Many people have been curious about our work with the glyph and have interacted with us on a number of levels in an attempt to understand what it is we’re doing. The following is the text of a sort of panel discussion in which these questions are addressed by the folks most intimately involved.
Interviewer: What the hell do you think you guys are doing?
Dr. Silver: In effect, we are trying to bring balance and harmony to our community by drawing upon the subtle forces of the cosmos and aligning them through the process of ritual with the larger macrocosm. Drawing upon the hexagram as the symbol of the macrocosm, and its embodiment in the planetary spheres. We are trying to “juice” our community with the radiant energy of the sun, in Tipareth. Source of Love, Compassion, and Beauty. Such energy is sorely needed in our world today.
Magnus Po: Birthing a machine which filters stray psychic emanations from a city into seven parts, those parts being analogous to the sevenfold division of humankind’s perception of the universe used in planetary magick. Workings then bring down additional energies to selected points for application.
Frater A.: I certainly can’t improve on that, aside from the remarks made earlier in the book.
Interviewer: What if somebody gets hurt? Helped?
Dr. Silver: What if? The actual causal relationships would be hard to track. My own philosophy states that pure will, unassuaged of purpose, and delivered of the lust of result, is in every way perfect. I’m comfortable with my intentions, and trust that whatever happens, or if anything happens at all, it will be for positive purposes.
Magnus Po: I suppose there is a possibility of woe in this as in any technology. The degree to which the innocent bystander is hurt is usually dependent on what kind of lunatic is at the wheel, what sort of idiot has his finger on the button & the specific type of imbecile at the controls. In this case I suppose that you will just have to take our word for it that we are just the right kinds of lunatics, certainly the correct types of idiots, and precisely the sorts of imbeciles you, and everyone else, would jump at the chance to place in positions of authority over a gargantuan world-changing energy juggernaut such as the Glyph. Actually we are all very ethical folks. Misuse in this generation is unlikely. As for the possibility of spontaneous dangerous effects on the energetic level I would suppose this to be most possible at the focii during a working. Those responsible would then be those affected.
Frater A.: We didn’t start this big puppy up without a pretty clear idea of how to shut it down if we have to. We expect subtle effects over the course of a few years…
Interviewer: What gives you the right? Did you study up on this first?
Dr. Silver: What gave the Druids the right to use Stonehenge? What gave the Egyptians the right to build the pyramids? Not that our project is anywhere so lofty, but the key is the intention and the perspiration behind that. We felt that our community with its rising crime, drug rates, road rage, family violence, police brutality, and such was an ideal candidate for bringing about change in conformity with Will. Our initial intention was positive, and instead of protests, sit ins, or political rallying, we choose to work in more subtle dimensions to facilitate change. All of us are quite well versed in magical philosophy and practice. My own interest as an anthropologist rested largely in my curiosity with Margaret Mead’s activities with a similar group in Denver.
Frater A.: I might add that what gives me the right, even the audacity, to run for public office, and, upon winning that office, make decisions that will affect thousands or even millions? It is much the same thing. We have a genuine willingness to improve the lives and lot of our fellows and of ourselves and are bending our will in that direction using the tools at our disposal.
Magnus Po: We are unaware of having stepped on someone’s toes and are eager to make right any injustice for which we are responsible. In terms of study this project is the overlap of our areas of obsession and that was how we came to it.
Interviewer: What’s with the Star of David?
Dr. Silver: The Star of David, or Hexagram, is a symbol of the Macrocosm in harmony. Two triangles symbolizing the “upper” celestial, and “lower” terrestrial energies come together to reflect the union of opposites in the coincidata oppositorum of the Cosmos. As the symbol of union, it rests in Tipareth, the Heart, were all dimensions meet. As such, it’s the ideal symbol for our purposes.
Magnus Po: This is actually a black-ops project of the Priory of Sion.
Frater A.: Oooh! That’s funny! We started by looking at the lay of the land and seeing what forms were suggested by it. We found a lot of geophysical features with relationships to each other of about 60 degrees and this suggested a triangle, not unlike the Denver device. However, a simple triangle suggests the number three and so the energies of Saturn. We didn’t want to build a device that manipulated odic force in a Saturnian way, so doubled the figure, checked it against the map and were amazed by the correspondences that resulted. We felt that something in the nature of Tipareth would serve us better; the project evolved from there.
Interviewer: To what end did you want to draw down the planetary energies?
Dr. Silver: In drawing upon the various planetary energies, we acknowledge all facets of being and respect their various spheres. Mars, Venus, Saturn, etc.… are all metaphorical expressions of dimensions of Being. As such, in our work we seek a holistic and integral harmony that shuts no key dimension out. The Blessing was meant as an overarching empowerment and harmonization for the town, though its effects are in no way geographically bounded by the hexagram itself.
Magnus Po: Possible applications are endless.
Frater A.: We’ve seen our odd-but-lovable city undergoing a certain cultural entropy and sought to, at the very least, attempt to balance the forces here on a large scale to see if it would have any notable effect, feeling that no significant harm is likely to arise.
Interviewer: Do you plan to use these energies in later workings?
Dr. Silver: I personally, plan to “use” these energies in as much as they affect me in my daily life in society.
Frater A.: It was assumed that the Glyph would provide concentrations of specific planetary energies and these energies might be used in, say, empowering a talisman. Talismanic magick has always interested me, partly because it is so easy to quantify/qualify the results of such magicks in a fairly scientific statistical manner: either a thing happens within a specified period or it doesn’t. Being an eyewitness to a number of talismanic “successes” and very few “failures” made a believer out of me years ago. The thought that these focuses might facilitate visioning “in the Spheres” was also been discussed at length, and our preliminary results are suggestive of success, but it’s too early to tell.
Interviewer: You drew all your triangles in the same direction. Do you think Tyson’s dictum against doing such has any merit?
Dr. Silver: I feel Tyson’s system works for him. I don’t feel there are such “hard and fast” rules in this game. The quality of intention is the key.
Frater A.: We were intrigued by this thought of tracing the triangles in both strengthening & balancing directions. We adhered pretty much to the G.D. figure because it was the only one we had to hand that made enough sense, what with designing heptarchic magick using a hexagonal figure. I’ve noticed that G.D. and derivative traditions seem to like to “wind up” a ritual (or force) using circumambulation while Aurum Solis (the framework within which we choose to operate) rites stress the balancing of such things. I suspect we thought of kicking the glyph into a sort of motion by invoking the presences/powers of the planets as thoroughly as we could. It makes a great deal of sense to us to conduct circumambulations in the manner Mr. Tyson’s method suggests and we have incorporated this in present works, as shown in earlier parts of the Book of the Glyph.
Interviewer: It seems that you were trying to evoke the power of the Sun with your hexagram. Does it make sense to do so by invoking the powers of all the planets?
Dr. Silver: As all the planets existence and energy emanates from the Sun, it makes total sense to invoke their power as expressions of the center of the solar system. Once again, in addressing the totality, all dimensions are seen in relationship to a larger whole.
Magnus Po: The emphasis on the Sun is, I think, incidental. The hexagram was settled on in large part for geographical reasons and this left one planet in the middle. The Sun was the obvious choice for cosmological^/psychological mirroring.
Frater A.: I’d like to think it wasn’t left so much to chance. We are invoking the qualities of the power of the Sun, e.g. harmony, balance. We see the entire figure of the Sun and his family of planets as creating a balanced figure in and of itself, which happens to be divisible into 7 discrete entities, each with their own unique utility. Considered Qabalistically, we are dealing with the Will, Tipareth and one’s Knowledge and Conversation with one’s Holy Guardian Angel, so I expect those sorts of energies to be magnified in some way, perhaps even if only on a small scale. I guess I mean to say that the Glyph is envisioned as taking in local, non-organized energy, then imparting a pattern to it. This energy is concentrated in various places but also spreads a harmonious influence within its bounds, radiating out into the adjoining countryside as far as whatever encountered friction allows. At least, that’s our visualization so associated.
Interviewer: Was your ritual design too grand in scope?
Dr. Silver: Asking for a job, a sex mate, or a new car is the common use of people’s will and intention. Asking to bring harmony and peace to one’s community is far from “Too Grand in Scope.” It is hoped others will take such interest in how the powers of will and intention on the plane of mind bring about effects in the larger community.
Frater A.: I’m not sure we can say yet. We plan to give it five-plus years of effort to see if it attracts interest outside of our small group. By a simple formula not unknown to dynamic sciences: if you’re not going to have as much energy, you’re going to need more time. We believe we can make a measurable difference (the Glyph being detectable to dowsing/magnetics/etc.) with 6-7 regular participants working for 4-5 years. But, at least one of us is the sort of person (had they enough personal influence on our local scene) who would schedule a road race to be run upon the Glyph’s very course while the “elect” held rites of alchymical transubstantiation at some key location(s). Forgive my waxing poetic — we think we’ll wait and see how large an area upon which it can actually have a notable effect. It is, after all, an experiment.
Magnus Po: Full sized circumambulation is an exertion. It is also a real pleasure. We have been flexible enough so far to deal with it, whereas rigid thoughtforms make such things unendurable.
Frater A.: Boy howdy!
Interviewer: Would it have made more sense to draw down the powers of the planets one at a time over a much longer period? Did you take care to balance the planetary energies, or if that was even a valid consideration?
Frater A: I was concerned that that this would produce a potential abundance of one sort of energy or another over too-long a time. All planets were used in the original invocations, each merely “hi-lighted” at a different time. As a point of note, Magnus Po and I set out one day on bicycles to map out the precise location of the glyph upon the lay of the land, and since at least one of us is no longer a spring chicken, we were unable to complete the second circuit until later. We traced Moon-Mars-Jupiter-Moon on that day and that night a disturbed individual (and some buddies, it is supposed) took a notion to run about town with bedsheets and spray paint, decorating places with nazi-type swastikas and white supremacist slogans. The cops figured that it wasn’t a serious threat — just some kids acting out some weird fantasy. We took this incident a bit to heart, as it’s hard to imagine a better connection to Jupiter, Mars and Luna! We’ve elected to be more careful in future, just in case.
Dr. Silver: I favor the “All together now” approach. We are going for a specific effect that addresses multiple facets of being in totality. Thus, by invoking the energies together we address their essential relationality, and integral embodiment in the larger domain of Tipareth.
Magnus Po: Maybe it would have been a good idea. In any case we coalesced it in little more than seven weeks. Balance is inherent in form and my subjective experience of the astral temples is that they are of equal magnitude.
Interviewer: It looks as if you started with Saturn and worked your way inward through the planets. Why start with Saturn?
Dr. Silver: Saturn is form and foundation. It’s the root and structure. By starting with Saturn, we give the macrocosmic glyph a lasting and grounded basis for more Mercurial, Jovial, or Venusian energies.
Frater A.: When the sun comes over the eastern horizon, it’s rays first reach the place consecrated to Saturn, therefore Saturn had to be first, just as the Sun had to hold the middle position. We personally fiddled with a variety of possible allocations of planets to geographical places before settling on the current arrangement. Saturn, you’ll note, has an association with the idea of “a gate,” and we thought this also appropriate for the easternmost point.
Interviewer: Have you had considered using a unicursal hexagram? That glyph gives you a clear way to move back into the center. Might this be helpful as a practical matter during the performance of the ritual?
Dr. Silver: Crowley’s Unicursal Hexagram, though having six points, does not convey the idea of the linking of macro and microcosms through the conjoining of two inverted triangles. The linkage of celestial and terrestrial energies is most visible in this diagram.
Frater A.: I sat down and attempted to trace the unicursal hexagram in a variety of ways and couldn’t come up with a satisfactory arrangement, no matter what I tried. Some describe the force of this hexagram as “weak” and we imagine this is due to the alleged fact that such a figure cannot be constructed precisely, using any real mathematical proofs. A hexagram cannot be unicursal, and relies upon the clever alteration of the width of the drawn line to accommodate the idea. The introduction of Crowley’s Magick says as much. Significantly, drawing this figure creates anything but a sense of balance and more a sense of taking two steps backwards followed by three little ones forward. The territory is covered but more in the manner of an ambling drunkard than in a straight forward formula of balance and equity. For what it’s worth, Po and I discovered that if you trace the planets out in their order as given on the Tree of Life, you’ll come up with the figure that adorns the fly-leaf of the book. If you trace it in the order suggested by our planetary holiday schedule, you will get a unicursal hexagram.
Interviewer: Your magick seems to have a geomantic component to it. You can draw down the energy and establish the astral temples, but it seems that these temples must be grounded and founded on the earth for their greatest effectiveness. Stamping on the earth, calling the spirits of the earth for your aid seems like a good idea.
Dr. Silver: The Chinese geomantic art of Feng Shui with which I am familiar, addresses “Dragon Lines,” celestial “energies” and terrestrial forces through various methods, including landscaping, invocation, ritual, and such. Very little, if any “stamping” is visible in the Chinese relationship to receptive, earthy, “Yin” energies. This seems to be largely a creation of Western earth based religions. As such, there is no inherent need for such action.
Magnus Po: Temples are grounded because we are. Things must be located somewhere. Things astral manifest physically through a place to which they are anchored by natural or artificial correspondence (or through the mind/intent of an autonomous being).
Frater A.: The geomancy thing comes up quite a bit, but that’s not at all what we had in mind. I didn’t even know that the act of driving metal pins in the ground was a part of that tradition. I don’t fully subscribe to what’s going around this set of theories because I can’t really find much science behind it.
Interviewer: You perform part of the ritual with a willow wand. Perhaps that wand was a gift from the tree? Did you get any impression as to how local spirits/devas/dryads reacted to your ritual?
Dr. Silver: They liked it.
Frater A.: Yes, YES! We broke the damn tree! It was an accident, okay? But seriously — you’re right. We merely preserved a portion of the tree for later/permanent use in the rites that might follow. Laws of Association and Contagion, you see. We’ve seen a number of animals in various parts of the glyph and it’s interesting to note that some plant life is springing up, many of the wildflowers quite pertinent to their location.
Interviewer: Could it be that you were building upon the energy matrix that was already present?
Magnus Po: As above, so below. If one applies a natural form to the world one comes up with correspondences whose apparent significance says much about the world, the symbol, and the one doing the application. We are all it, unfolding, forever: Ewige Blumenkraft! In other words, I have absolutely no inkling whatsoever.
Frater A.: It was our assumption that some sort of energic flow is present in any case, likely modified by arrangements of geophysical features in the area. We wished to discover this arrangement and expand upon it, refining it, if possible.
Interviewer: Did you do any dowsing or any other kind of preliminary observations that could help verify this hypothesis?
Dr. Silver: Not to my knowledge.
Frater A.: Not as yet. That is part of our plan for evaluation.
Interviewer: What would constitute a success in the context of this ritual? For example, success can either be achieving whatever goal is held in the conscious mind, or good but unintended consequences that seem meaningfully related to the work.
Dr. Silver: Success for me would be a greater sense of ease, and harmony in my own relationship to my community, which I do feel, and in the overall tone of people’s relationships in our community.
Frater A.: We would consider success to be along those same lines, generally. In particular, this is a success if it a) is detectable by magickal or scientific means, b) shows any sign of attracting people to its maintenance, c) can be shown to positively effect the charging of talismans, d) can be shown to positively affect experiments in scrying, pathworking or similar workings. This is where we are headed, but it is very early in the game, we feel, so this is far from an exhaustive list.
Interviewer: Have you noticed anything that points towards the achievement of your goals or any unintended consequences, good, bad, or indifferent?
Dr. Silver: I enjoy the company.
Frater A.: It’s too early to tell, but there have been reports from Po that these exercises have stirred something odd in him and put a finer polish on his visualization skills. The feelings the rest of us have are about as vague at this point. It is interesting to note that, in the first period of evaluation, we obtained the services of a few “remote viewers” or clairvoyants and asked them to check up on what we had done, feeling fairly certain that they did not have access to much of the specific details of the project. The results they returned were quite significant. The overall shape and precise location were both described by these people. But stay tuned! That’s the sort of thing that’s going into Glyphbook 2.
More information about the Western traditions of planetary magick and the Companions of the Glyph can be found on their website located at: www.geocities.com/athens/oracle/8465.
This interview originally appeared in Cup of Wonder magazine.
©2006 Frater Auxilior Arti
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Frater Auxilior Arti (nee Fr. Adsum Iterum) is an initiate of the Astrum Sophia, co-founder of the Companions of the Glyph and author of the Book of the Glyph and PRAXIS: The 2nd Book of the Glyph. A life-long student of the paranormal, he brings a scientific/Fortean viewpoint to the subject, a thing he feels is sadly neglected. You can find his Facebook page here.
Meditation in Theory
Meditation is the foundation of all magical and mystical systems of all cultures. It may seem a bit beginnerish to spend an entire article on the subject, but I believe this topic to be important enough to cover over and over again. I don’t think that I’ll have to do that here, but I at least want to get out my views on the topic for the general reader.
To give an idea of what meditation is at its core, allow me the presumption of a crude allegory. Consider an unpolished block of marble. This is your mind, complete with rough edges, nooks, points, spines, and crannies of all varieties on every side. Thoughts (my ideas of which will be explained further in a moment) are as snowballs being slung at the marble block. With all of the rough spots, there is ample friction for the snow to stick, and more than enough nooks in which the snow can be caught. Meditation is a process by which we buff, chisel, and polish the marble until it is smooth. At this point, the mud can only stick for but a few moments, after which it simply slides off the nearly frictionless surface. Such are the thoughts that are thrown at a meditative mind.
As stated, this is merely an allegory. No thoughts of my own could possibly tell the whole story, but it gives you a good idea. This allegory, in my opinion, also answers a question that troubles many would-be magicians and mystics. Most of us are taught at the beginning that if we do not achieve complete mental vacuity, we have failed in our meditative efforts. While mental vacuity must be our goal, meditation almost always falls short of this ideal. We are not failures for this. A Zen practitioner friend of mine once told me in response to a question on this that no matter how many years you’ve been at it, there will always be a bit of mental chatter. The goal is to attain a state in which thoughts melt away as quickly as they appear.
Why, some readers may ask, would we want to achieve such a state at all? Isn’t thinking good? Of course thinking is good. Any extremist which tries to tell you that thinking is bad has entirely missed the point. Meditation is useful in numerous ways. The most practical use for most people is that meditation calms the mind such that thinking throughout the rest of one’s day is smoother and much easier to direct and focus.
Additionally, meditation puts one in touch in a very direct and open way with what we may term Divinity or The Source by way of the essential “emptiness” of all things. Meditation does not empty us, but instead aids us in realizing our own preexisting emptiness, or what William G. Graycalls “Nil.” Think of Nil as our essential Self, but likewise Nil is the essence of everything and everyone else, so it is our one true and complete means of unity with all other aspects of existence and even non-existence. For more culturally specific modes of expressing this idea, think the Kabbalistic Yechidah, or the Taoist statement that it is only by a thing’s emptiness that it is made useful.1 A wheel is only usable if it has a central hole for the axle, and a vase is only a vase if it is hollow.
For many magicians, the primary role of meditation in their practice is as a convenient and portable means of casting “spells” or “sigils.” After all, while sitting in your company’s lunch room it’s much easier to achieve a meditative state of mind than it is to jump up and do an ecstatic dance or perform a complete ceremonial invocation! Meditation is indeed quite useful for this purpose, based on my experience, but please do not make the common mistake of believing that this is the only ‘true’ goal of meditation.
Now for the question of the nature of consciousness. Without using any one system’s concept of the structure of a human’s subtle bodies and aspects of Self, I will provide my own theory based on my own experience from 5 years of serious meditation. I hope that it will give somebody a bit of insight into what meditation actually accomplishes and how it does so.
I recommend that everybody try the Neophyte meditation of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.2 Spend several minutes performing rhythmic breathing in your preferred fashion. The Golden Dawn themselves suggested the Fourfold Breath (count of 4 in, count of 4 hold, count of 4 out, count of 4 hold, etc.) but this is not necessary as long as you are breathing in a rhythmic, relaxed, and thoroughly oxygenating manner. Now, consider a zero-dimensional point. Focus all of your attention on that concept the best you can. Consider the concept directly (no tangential thoughts, please!) for five to ten minutes, then note down your experiences and insights.
The demonstration this simple exercise makes is that consciousness is very much like that point. That point, in Kabbalistic terminology, is like your personal Kether. Kether is much like the Eye in the Pyramid: the Observer. Aha, now you know what the title of this article means! The Observer is my name for the essential consciousness of each person. The implications of this idea are simply astounding, and make more sense the more one meditates.
We do not create ideas, at least not most of them. We observe them as they float by us on the Mental Plane. Let that sink in for a moment. Read it again. We observe thoughts as they float by us on the Mental Plane. The Mental Plane is not limited by time and space, so when I say, “as they float by us,” I mean that only as a simplification. A proper clarification may be that we observe those thoughts that best catch our attention, this being dependent upon our personality and individual circumstances on the Astral and Physical levels. The untrained Observer is naturally drawn to any shiny and fun thoughts that happen to enter its field of awareness. Meditation is the best method by far for training the Observer; in other words, of gaining and mastering the ability to focus the Observer’s attention on any given idea in particular.
Curiously, I have observed that we can generate certain thoughts. In particular, we generate our self-reflections. These are developed mostly in our Mental Matrices rather than in our Minds proper. A person’s Mental Matrix is the energetic interface developed between the Spirit/Mind and the Soul/Astral Body. These thoughts are generated in the individual’s Mental Matrix, then projected “outward” (or “inward,” depending on perspective) to the Mental Plane at which point they become observable to the Mind-Observer proper. This allows us a more direct mode of self-reflection as opposed to waiting for ideas about ourselves to generate spontaneously in the Mental Plane.
If this seems like a lot of unnecessary theory, you may safely disregard it in your own meditative pursuits. I, however, have found these ideas to be exceedingly useful in my own efforts as well as the efforts of some others with whom I have shared these ideas privately.
Meditation in Practice
There are two major Orders of Operation for meditation, and which one you use is dependent upon your purpose for meditation at that time. For your initial efforts, until you have mastered the techniques involved, I recommend that you stick entirely with the first or ‘mystical’ method. After that, experiment with the ‘magical’ method and get to know the differences for yourself. The practical differences are slight, but the effectual differences cannot be overstated.
The Mystical Method should be the starting place of all Initiates and Initiates-to-be. It can be found in many systems of training worldwide, from Yoga and Tantra to Franz Bardon’s Hermetics. Here, I’ll be using Franz Bardon’s descriptive titles for the steps in the method, and explaining them in my own words.3
- Thought Control is not the literal control of your thoughts. That comes later. It’s more the control of your conscious focus and awareness. Do not attempt to grab one thought and hold to it entirely. That also comes later. Your goal here should be learning how to let go. Simply observe your thoughts as they flow by. Do your best to keep track of them, but don’t fall into the trap of focusing on any of them alone or in groups. Merely let them flow and ‘watch’ them as if on a movie screen. Continue with this step alone until you are able to maintain this state of mind for five minutes consistently. Twice daily, once in the morning and once in the evening, is best. Then add the next step to your routine. Do not replace one with the other, as they are both still important.
- Thought Discipline is the next step, and is what most people generally associate with the term “meditation.” In this step, you must determine yourself to focus on one and only one thought, be it of any type of sense-input soever. Each person will find thoughts associated with certain senses to be easier or harder for them personally. For me, thoughts in the form of internal sound (internal dialog, a song stuck in your head, etc.) are much easier to hold than visual thoughts or olfactory thoughts, for example. For you, it could be very different. In this exercise, training our other internal senses is not the goal, however, so feel free to stick with your strongest in order to accomplish your present purpose. If you choose the sentence, “God is in us all,” repeat the sentence mentally for as long as you can without allowing your mind to wander even to tangentially relevant thoughts. Similarly for if you wish to focus on an image (a cross, a circle, or any other simple image is best) or anything else. Work on this exercise immediately after the first one. Do not move on to the third exercise until you are able to maintain this state of mental focus for at least five minutes.
- Mastery of Thought is the third and final exercise in mastering the mystical method of meditation. Immediately following Thought Discipline, relinquish the thought you had been focusing on and allow your mind to remain clear. As I said before, there will always be some level of mental chatter. Simply allow this chatter to dissipate. Do not force it out, because that force will merely create further distractions. You will know well when you have succeeded in this exercise, as it is quite unlike any other mental state that you have experienced. Work on this exercise until you are able to maintain this vacuous state of mind for five minutes consistently.
I must emphasize that when I say to work up to five minutes with each of these exercises, I do not mean to limit yourself to that duration by any means. In fact, Bardon suggests ten minutes as a bare minimum before you can consider the techniques to be mastered, and even then do not neglect them, but continue to increase your ability with them by deepening your state of consciousness and advancing your durations. Before moving on to any more advanced techniques of magic or mysticism, a bare minimum of ten minutes each (30 minutes total) should be a consistent standard. We will always have our highs and lows, so do not be disappointed if you usually are capable of the full 10 minutes with an exercise but have a few days during which you cannot go more than two minutes without losing focus. These things happen; simply carry on with your daily work and you will soon find yourself better for it.
The Mystical Method of meditation as described above is mystical insofar as it is a self-sexual process of conception and birth of our own goals for ourselves on the Inner Planes. The thought control exercise can be considered a sort of generation of our Mental Seed. Thought discipline is the conscious choice of one among the many Seeds we have at our disposal and the implantation of it within our Inner Womb (Deep Mind, unconscious, etc.). Thus, the Seed or thought chosen for this second exercise does not have to be of a profound or spiritually abstract nature, but it should be a thought or symbol with which we would wish to inseminate the egg of our own Future Selves. Thus, statements of our ideals, important ideas from our chosen magical⁄mystical system, statements of personal goals (as long as they are compatible with our spiritual growth and do not run contrary to it) are all suitable. We are not truly enchanting for these things, but simply planting the seed for them. Future magical work involving these goals is liable to come to fruition much more easily as a consequence. Finally, the mastery of thought exercise is much like the gestation of the fertilized egg within our own psyches. We are allowing ourselves to become for a few moments (with the goal of eventually becoming on a more permanent basis) our true Inner Selves and to simply ‘be and become’ within the emptiness of our Inner Womb. The Observer may observe purely and without bias toward any one thought or idea.
The Magical Method is very similar, but not identical. It involves a different Order of Operations, but using the identical exercises described above. It is important that the practitioner master the exercises in the Mystical Method before moving on to the Magical Method. We require a handle on our Inner lives before we can hope to strongly influence the Outer with any safety and effectiveness. Power over yourself is more challenging and more rewarding than power over the outside world, and is ultimately the foundation of any healthy outer lifestyle.
The Order of Operations which follows is that used by Peter J. Carroll in his Liber Null & Psychonaut: An Introduction to Chaos Magic.4
- Thought Control is described in Carroll’s book as the physical act of motionlessness, which is accurate insofar as it resembles zazen, or “sitting meditation,” the goal of which is a gradual stilling of the mind by relaxing our eyes and minds on a plain, solid background. This state requires at the very least the ability to stay mostly still and relaxed rather than tensely forcing ourselves to focus.
- Mastery of Thought is switched here. We begin from a state of mental vacuity that we may act first as the womb into which we will implant our desire.
- Thought Discipline is the final step. In the Magical Method, it acts as the impregnation of our previously empty Inner Womb with our desire.
The basic difference is obvious insofar as two steps are switched, but the functional difference is more subtle. In the Mystical Method, we work toward our essential silence, while in the Magical Method, we invoke our silence in order to more strongly make Inner contact and impregnate our desire into the Inner Planes. This is the secret to all magic, and goes beyond a mere altered state of consciousness if properly understood. An altered state of consciousness can only be an aid to this state. Once meditation proper has been mastered, such methods become redundant (though sometimes still fun).
The simplest magical usage of a meditative state is to spend the third step focusing on an appropriate sigil or mantra.5 This method is generally slow, as your desire must be ‘brought to term’ and born like any other offspring (outspring?). A way of speeding up the process, or at least adding power to it, is to utilize the process of Step 3 to first invoke the aid of an appropriate and friendly god or spirit, drawing the entity into your own emptiness as a means of close communication. Once this entity is fully invoked, or invoked to the depth of your present ability, you may request of it your desire. Do not try to force a god or spirit to do as you say. Ask it if it believes that your desire is wise and, assuming that it is, ask it to bring the desire about for you by adding its own power to yours. If the entity believes your desire to be unwise, ask its aid in reformulating your desire in such a way as to be of actual benefit. This, of course, is only the simplest of magical methods, but one that can become central to your overall practice. It can form the nucleus of larger ceremonies, or stand on its own for more basic wants and needs. It is especially well suited to acts of illumination and behavioral modification, but its power is definitely effective for Outer ends.6
No matter how advanced you get in magic and mysticism, basic meditation as described in this article must not be neglected. It is more difficult for some than for others, but is a worthy use of time and effort for everybody. I have on occasion had people ask me what single practice is most important for a person with limited free time. My answer is always daily meditation. Once daily is good, twice daily is better. Most people can find 60 minutes out of every day to devote to this practice, and those rare few who cannot find such time may surely find 15 or 30! Unfortunately, we are not God with the power to create time when needed, but we do have the power to clear some time from our schedules in order to improve ourselves and open up Inner and Outer opportunities for ourselves and, by sympathy, all of humanity and perhaps all of the Cosmos.
- For more on Kabbalah, please see Israel Regardie’s A Garden of Pomegranates, available from several publishers. For more on this Taoist idea, read Tao Te Ching (Skylight Illuminations) by Lao Tzu (Lao-tzu, Lao Tze, etc.) and available in numerous translations and editions.
- Available in the First Knowledge Lecture in Israel Regardie’s The Golden Dawn, Llewellyn Publications.
- Franz Bardon’s book Initiation into Hermetics is, in my opinion, the single finest training manual in practical and mystical Hermetics. It is available in a new translation from Murker Publication Company (2001).
- Weiser Books. This book is definitely a must-read for anybody who has not already encountered it. No matter what system or tradition you belong to, you will find something useful.
- See Liber Null & Psychonaut again for practical information on sigils.
- For more on basic magical and mystical practice, please see my own book, The Four Powers: Magical Practice for Beginners of All Ages from Megalithica Books, an imprint of Immanion Press.
©2006 Nicholas Graham
Edited by Sheta Kaey
To Mecca thou hast turned in prayer with aching heart
and eyes that burn: Ah Haji, whither wilt thou turn when
thou art there, when thou art there?
— J. E. Flecker, Gates of Damascus
It’s amazing to see how things get back to you and what distorted forms they take, what odd transformations they undergo. I was at a party recently where I overheard some teenagers talking about a group of arcane magicians who tramped about the countryside in and around Our Fair City, summoning up strange forces to drive a great magical machine to who knows what end. I was most stunned by the fact that the good folks over at Rumor Control got it almost exactly right. But let us set the story completely straight.
It all began a long time ago, in a small park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Denver, Colorado. An adept of the Art Magickal told me a curious story about a group of well-to-do magicians who found themselves in the position of being city planners and developers in the 1920s and ’30s. According to my friend, these folks constructed a large-scale device designed to capture the psychic forces of the city itself and to direct them to a location where they could be refined and manipulated to various ends, the least of which was the acquisition of personal wealth for the members. A wild story indeed, but it got me thinking… Could we design a similar device and place it upon the landscape of a given city, intent upon providing a magical force of harmony and balance thereto? Could we build a magical machine to Make Everything Okay? This is how the project known as “The Glyph” came to be.
We began as small group of students of mysteries East and West that consisted of an anthropologist, an artist, an alchemist, a scholar and a teacher. We’ve grown a bit and now have an even broader mix of talents and people. Several of us are Qi Gong and Kundalini Yoga instructors; a few are card-carrying O.T.O. members; most hold degrees in Reiki. We met and discussed matters of general import to the Western Esoteric tradition until we concocted the full details of the Project and began its implementation.
Obtaining a few satellite maps of our city, we looked them over carefully, looking for various likely arrangements of geographical features. We knew that the butte rising just north of the center of town was long regarded as a power spot of sorts by the natives of this region, this reputation being due to more than just the curious deposits of columnar basalt. As we desired to build a device to produce harmony and balance, we chose a hexagram for the basic form such that it would answer to Tipareth on the Tree of Life. We were quite simply amazed at how naturally it all clicked into place, this great figure spanning about 2 ½ miles to a leg, each point landing squarely in an accessible and symbolically significant location.
Our membership being a cross-section of NeoPlatonists of the Aurum Solis school, the O.T.O. and the Golden Dawn, we assigned a planetary force to each point, expecting them to invoke the Apollonian Ideal as the Sun at the center. Following Marsilio Ficino’s lead, we sought to compartmentalize the psyche (whether of a city or of an individual) into the seven visible heavenly bodies and to erect a vast astral temple wherein to bring them to productive balance.
It began on a bright Father’s Day morning at dawn with the Aurum Solis Salutation to the Sun:
“All hail, life-enkindling sun, child of creation’s lord!
O’, thou lone, all-seeing eye of the vault celestial,
extend thy light that I may see, but dim thy glory
that I be not blinded.
“Unmask thy countenance, O’ God of Light, for I am a lover of truth and would behold the spiritual essence concealed in thy golden disk.
“So reveal unto my perception thy shining and inmost nature,
even that high spirit which infuses thee and is one with the
primal flame of mine own being.
“Life-enkindling sun, child of creation’s lord — Salutations and praises unto thee!”
We had previously prepared a collection of artifacts manufactured of metals sacred to the Sun and decorated with appropriate sigils and divine names. These we ceremoniously drove into the ground at the precise locations as we laid out the figure in the land, saving the central key piece to which the others were tied by magical sympathy. In four hours, the initial construction was complete, but it took us another 14 weeks to complete the series of planetary chargings designed to kick the device into gear. By the time we finished, we knew we had done something grand and set out to document it as thoroughly as possible, making the results of our researches available to all who might wish to evaluate them. To that end we launched a large website, wrote a book, and have designed a collection of related materials.
But now that it was built, what all could we do with it? Obviously, its principle function was to provide a harmonizing force for the place in which it operates, but we knew it could be much more. As the device is laid out in the manner of the familiar hexagram used by the Golden Dawn in their ritual of the Hexagram, we knew that it could theoretically be used to create invocations of planetary forces on a good scale, and this it seems to do. These are accomplished by the simple expedient of circumambulation, token sacrifice and planetary invocations using either a balanced method or an unbalanced method.
It is explained thusly in The Book of the Glyph:
“Our method is illustrated below. In the following diagram, the force of Mercury is being invoked, but note that it can also be said that its opposite force, that of Jupiter is also being invoked, such that a balance is being struck, as it were. This is essentially the Golden Dawn formula for Invocation.”
“To clarify the above diagram a bit, the first triangle, pictured at the left, is drawn in a clockwise fashion from the top point to return there. The tracing finger (or ritual item, as might be the case) then crosses directly to the opposite point, where the other triangle (shown in the center) is traced, also clockwise. The downward arrow in the completed diagram is to indicate the path of the tracing as it moves from the completed first triangle to the point where the second triangle is begun.
“Below, we show a method whereby a hexagram can be drawn such that one force is being invoked while its opposite force is being banished, and such a method is a part of the Glyph’s mechanics, but has a special use that will be dealt with later on in this volume. One can readily see that the only difference is that the second triangle is traced in a counterclockwise manner relative to the first.”
We refer to these methods as balanced (where both opposites are invoked) and unbalanced (where one is invoked and its opposite is banished). In the vast majority of cases, a balanced working was what we were after, but it came to our minds that unbalanced circumambulations would have suitable uses as well.
The best occasion for an unbalanced working that we have found is in the performance of a sphere working, where the operator is stationed at one point of the Glyph while the balance of the party is circumambulating it either physically or in an astral sense. This ongoing research project forms part of the core discipline.
In the three years since the inception of this project, a great deal of material has been gathered indicating some success in our endeavor. There is, for example, an ongoing program wherein folks blessed with clairvoyant faculties can view the device from afar and allow us to record their descriptions. So far, the results of that project have been a good success. The first wave of such folks correctly deduced the size, shape, location and even a few specific features at a time when there was still very little in print. We have currently narrowed the scope of this project to reflect the large volume of data that is now published or on its way there.
Additionally, a series of High Holidays has been constructed to honor The Glyph’s “duty cycle” of nine months “on” and three months “off,” the centerpiece of which is the annual “Glyphest” held at the Summer Solstice. As it has been our express intention to interest others in this type of project — hopefully to create enough enthusiasm to sustain similar projects in other cities. We use this gathering to swap information and give presentations. I suppose we would be remiss to mention the raging party that follows…
Why did we do this? We believe in public service. As the police attempt to keep the peace in their fashion, as business developers plan for economic vibrancy and as each citizen and denizen contributes what he or she has to their community, so we too believe that we have something to add: magick.
If you feel you can add something to your town in this way, why not dialogue with us? Our website (located at http://www.companionsoftheglyph.org or http://www.geocities.com/athens/oracle/8465) holds an archive of Glyph related materials and lore, a complete collection of planetary correspondences optimized for our particular flavor of planetary magick, a discussion group and just about everything anyone would need to get a project like this afloat anywhere. Won’t you join us?
©2006 Frater Auxilior Arti
Edited by Sheta Kaey.
Frater Auxilior Arti (nee Fr. Adsum Iterum) is an initiate of the Astrum Sophia, co-founder of the Companions of the Glyph and author of the Book of the Glyph and PRAXIS: The 2nd Book of the Glyph. A life-long student of the paranormal, he brings a scientific/Fortean viewpoint to the subject, a thing he feels is sadly neglected. You can find his Facebook page here.