Book Club Post

The Doctrine of High Magic: Chapter 10

With this post we continue a monthly chapter-by-chapter discussion of The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic by Eliphas Lévi, the book that launched the modern magical revival.  Here and in the months ahead we’re plunging into the white-hot fires of creation where modern magic was born. If you’re just joining us now, I recommend reading the earlier posts in this sequence first; you can find them here.  Either way, grab your tarot cards and hang on tight.

If you can read French, I strongly encourage you to get a copy of Lévi’s book in the original and follow along with that; it’s readily available for sale in Francophone countries, and can also be downloaded from If not, the English translation by me and Mark Mikituk is recommended; A.E. Waite’s translation, unhelpfully retitled Transcendental Magic, is second-rate at best—riddled with errors and burdened with Waite’s seething intellectual jealousy of Lévi—though you can use it after a fashion if it’s what you can get. Also recommended is a tarot deck using the French pattern:  the Knapp-Hall deck (unfortunately out of print at the moment), the Wirth deck (available in several versions), or any of the Marseilles decks are suitable.


“Chapter 10: The Cabala” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 100-109).


Chapter 9 of our text was short but contained a great deal of material in compact form; the present chapter is considerably longer, but it expresses a single idea from various angles and in different degrees of detail. That idea, one of the essential principles of Lévi’s work, is the use of a sequence of numbers, letters and images as an alphabet of ideas expressed in symbolic form.  The numbers he uses are the natural numbers one through ten.  The letters Lévi uses are Hebrew primarily, though his book is set up so that readers can use the standard Latin alphabet in the same way. The images he uses, of course, are the twenty-two trumps of the tarot deck. From these, he constructs a universe.

When Lévi repeats the old claim that ancient sages originally wrote in pictures, as it happens, he’s not wrong. In most of the world, the oldest writing systems were picture-writing, and the scripts descended from these first systems—Egyptian hieroglyphics. Sumerian cuneiform, the hieroglyphic scripts of the archaic eastern Mediterranean, the Mayan and other Mesoamerican scripts, and the last one still standing, the Chinese script—show their ancestry among pictures very clearly. Later scribes rounded off the hieroglyphic images into simpler patterns and used them to represent individual syllables or phonemes, but even in the latest and most abstract alphabets, it takes only a little effort of imagination to see the picture behind the letter.

Our letter A, for example, was originally the Phoenician letter ‘Alep, which looks like an A on its side; go back further to Egyptian, and it’s a little drawing of the head of an ox.  Write a capital A upside down, and with a little imagination, you can see that archaic Egyptian ox still staring at you!  To call the standardized images of hieroglyphics a book is to beg any number of questions, and Lévi goes out of his way not to answer them yet. (We’ll get to what he means by that turn of phrase in a later post.) What matters for the moment is the concept that an alphabet can serve as something more than a handy way to jot down spoken language in an enduring form.  Each letter can have its own unique meaning, and the letters of a word—at least in theory—can be examined one at a time to make sense of the word.  This is the basis for one of the core elements of classic Western occultism—a habit to which Lévi gives the Hebrew name Cabala.

Cabala (in Hebrew, קבלה) literally means “tradition.”  In the first post in this series, we talked about its origins in Greek Neopythagorean circles, its complex history since that time, and its role as a lingua franca of Western esoteric spirituality.  Lévi’s system of high magic, like most Western systems of ceremonial magic and practical occultism, is based entirely on the Cabala, and the scheme he introduces in this chapter will need to be understood clearly in order to make sense of a great deal of the material later on.

True to form, Lévi makes that more difficult than it has to be by leaving out the diagram that makes sense of his comments. That diagram, the Tree of Life, is shown on the left. The ten numbered circles are called sephiroth in Hebrew—that’s the plural form; the singular is sephirah—and the twenty-two lines that connect them are the twenty-two paths. (The dotted circle toward the upper end, labeled Daath, is not a sephirah—it’s the point of intersection between the three upper and seven lower sephiroth, and isn’t discussed in this chapter.)

What are the sephiroth?  In one sense, they’re ten places in the first chapters book of Genesis where God is described as saying something:  “And God said, Let there be light” is the first sephirah, Kether, and and so on down the Tree. In another sense, they’re the first ten natural numbers.  In still another sense, they’re ten states of human consciousness, of which the lowest is ordinary awareness of the material plane and the highest is union with God. In yet another sense, they are the planes of being of which humans can be conscious. For the time being, think of them as ten cubbyholes in an odd and ornate piece of furniture, which you can fill up with various things as we go.  The paths that connect them also have plenty of room to be loaded with curios, as we’ll discuss in a bit.

There are various stories, legends, and justifications for the Tree of Life and the other dimensions of the Cabala, but Lévi chooses instead to explain the usefulness of the Tree in a fascinating and useful way.  The unique doctrine of magic, he says, is that “the visible is for us the proportional measure of the invisible.”  Take some time to think about that phrase.  What he is saying is that the things that we as human beings cannot know about directly can be understood, to some extent, by using metaphors taken from the things we can know about directly. The genesis of the Tree is a fine example.  Equilibrium, the balance established and maintained by opposing forces united by some common factor, is one of the most common patterns of the existence we can know; the Tree of Life takes this and applies it to the Unseen.

Thus the divine unity manifests itself in two complementary expressions—call them stability and motion, necessity and freedom, mercy and justice, or what have you—and the balance between these polarized expressions brings the world into being. It’s a little more complex than that simple fourfold pattern, for reasons Lévi will hint at as we proceed, but the end result of that process of equilibrium working itself out is the establishment of another equilibrium, the one between the divine unity at the top of the Tree and the world of multiplicity down at the bottom. Those two and the eight intermediate levels between them make up the Tree, and Lévi provides a helpful summary of the ten sephiroth to get you started.

Of course he doesn’t stay in that helpful mood for long. No sooner does he finish up the listing of the ten sephiroth but he presents a distinctly odd image of the Tetragrammaton, the divine name YHVH, festooned with 24 crowned circles, each crown having three points. This diagram, he says, indicates the number, source, and relationships of the divine names. He’s right, as it happens, but he carefully doesn’t mention which divine names. He’s talking about the Shem ha-Mephoresh or, as it’s called in older sources, the Shemhamphorash, the “divided name” which contains 72 divine names, one for each point on those crowns. He mentions that a little later in the chapter for the benefit of those readers who are paying attention.  The mysteries of the Shem ha-Mephoresh belong to the more advanced end of Cabalistic study and practice, however, and needn’t be set out in detail here.

That bit of misdirection, however, is there for the very serious purpose of distracting attention from the paragraph that follows. Here Lévi continues building on a theme he’s developed at length in previous chapters, and talks about the difference between divinity and its images in the human imagination. The Devil, he suggests, is the image of God reflected at the lowest level of existence or consciousness.  There’s an old bit of poetry by Alexander Pope that claims “an honest man’s the noblest work of God;” the famous nineteeth-century skeptic Robert Ingersoll liked to turn that around and suggest that an honest god is the noblest work of man.  Grant for a moment that all our notions of gods reflect our own exceedingly limited capacity to understand the divine, and it’s a valid point. Quite a few dubiously honest gods have received worship down through the ages, some of them in Pagan nations and some of them in Christian societies. Lévi suggests a few examples, and more could easily be added.

The different ways of experiencing and thinking of the divine, in turn, are mapped onto the Tree of Life in a straightforward way. Each of the sephiroth has a divine name assigned to it; these names represent the way divinity is perceived from the standpoint of that sephirah. The set of names that Lévi gives isn’t the one most commonly used in the English-speaking world these days, but it derives (as the more popular one does) from Cabalistic tradition and can be used in magical practice by those who wish to do so.

Lévi then proceeds to make the equation that would turn out to be the most influential of his many contributions to Western occultism—the equation of the Hebrew alphabet with the trumps of the tarot deck. As mentioned earlier in this series of posts, the tarot wasn’t created in the deeps of time in Egyptian temples, as Lévi thought it was; it wasn’t the teraphim of the Hebrews, nor was it the primordial book of wisdom or the source of all myths and cults. The earliest version of the tarot, which was concocted by Marziano da Tortona in Milan around 1415, had sixteen trumps, not twenty-two, and since it was used solely for playing card games until late in the eighteenth century, when cartomancers in Paris and Bologna discovered its exceeding usefulness for divinatory purposes, it’s quite possible that whoever first started using twenty-two trumps never thought of linking it to the Hebrew alphabet.

None of that matters in the least, of course, to the practicing mage. It so happens that the trumps and the Hebrew letters can be equated with one another; in point of fact, they can be equated in several different ways, each of which works quite tolerably well in occult practice. It works on the same principle as the one that governs the assignment of Hebrew and Latin letters to the chapters of this book:  if you choose any two symbols and put some work into it, you can find a connection between them, and that connection, arbitrary as it might be, is just as effective as the equally arbitrary connection between the letter A and the sound that this letter indicates.

To assist the industrious student in making sense of all this, Lévi provides some doggerel verses to explicate the symbolic meanings of the trumps and, a little later on, the ten sephiroth.  These can be memorized, either in French or in my English translation, which is admittedly somewhat labored but at least is better than A.E. Waite’s. (The temptation to make the second line assigned to 13 מ  “And with strange eons even death may die” was pretty intense, but I resisted it. No, neither Lévi’s version nor Waite’s have anything approaching that phrasing; I checked, as I wondered whether Lovecraft, who read this book closely, might have been inspired to write his famous couplet by that line.)

What our text has done here is as simple as it is remarkable. Each card of the tarot deck, using Lévi’s scheme, has its own definite meaning assigned by the Cabala—the trumps from the Hebrew alphabet, the number cards of each suit from the sephiroth, and the court cards, though Lévi doesn’t make this explicit, from the Tetragrammaton—and this meaning can be used as a framework in meditation, divination, and magic.  It’s crucial to keep in mind that this is a framework, not the complete meaning of any of the cards; that develops gradually with study, meditation, and other forms of practice. The framework of symbolism, however, is as necessary as the skeleton is for your body.

If you take the time to read books on magical symbolism from the Renaissance—Cornelius Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy is as good an example as any—you’ll find a more looser and more inchoate mass of symbolism assigned to each element, planet, and Cabalistic sephirah.  One of Lévi’s great innovations was precisely the recognition that those symbols could be correlated, so that symbols line up in one-to-one linkages, creating a language of image and meaning with immense potentials for work in magic and other occult arts. Where he went, other occultists promptly followed.

With that in mind, it’s ironic that his last paragraph hearkens back toward older traditions of Cabala that would largely drop out of use in Western occult circles after his time. Berashith is the Hebrew title of the book of Genesis, and Merkabah is the Hebrew word for “chariot,” referring to the divine vehicle described in the first chapter of the book of Ezekiel; intricate interpretations of both these played a huge role in Cabalistic writings from the Middle Ages through the early modern period, and still have a central place in the specifically Jewish branch of the tradition. The practices of gematria and temurah—calculating the numerical value of Hebrew words and sentences, and replacing one set of Hebrew letters with others according to traditional systems—saw a great deal of use in those interpretations, and still do.

In the tradition of high magic Lévi’s book set in motion, by contrast, such concerns played little if any role. The mathematics of meaning that Lévi borrowed from the writings of Rámon Lull took center stage in their place. We’ll be covering that in detail in later posts.

Notes for Study and Practice:

It’s quite possible to get a great deal out of The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic by the simple expedient of reading each chapter several times and thinking at length about the ideas and imagery that Lévi presents. For those who want to push things a little further, however, meditation is a classic tool for doing so.

The method of meditation I am teaching as we read Lévi is one that is implicit in his text, and was developed in various ways by later occultists following in his footsteps.  It is a simple and very safe method, suitable for complete beginners but not without benefits for more experienced practitioners.  It will take you five minutes a day.  Its requirements are a comfortable chair, your copy of Lévi’s book, and a tarot deck of one of the varieties discussed earlier.

For your work on this chapter, take Trump X, La Roue de Fortune, “The Wheel of Fortune.”  Your first task is to study it and get familiar with the imagery. Sit down, get out the card, and study it.  Spend five minutes doing this on the first day you devote to this practice.

Your second task is to associate a letter with it. Lévi gives you two options, the Hebrew letter י (Yod) or the Latin letter K. As noted earlier, you should choose one alphabet and stick to it. The sound values aren’t of any importance here, nor is there a “right” choice. You’re assigning labels to a mental filing cabinet.  Most people can make the necessary association quite promptly, but spend a session exploring it. Sit down, get out the card, and study it.  Relate it to the letter in any way that comes to mind.

The third, fourth, and fifth sessions are devoted to the three titles Lévi gives for the card: Malkuth, Principium, and Phallus. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. How does Malkuth, Kingdom, relate to the imagery on the card and the letter you’ve chosen?  That’s one session.  How about Principium, “beginning”?  That’s the next one.  How about “phallus”?  That’s the third. Approach these in the same way as the concepts you explored in earlier meditations.

Don’t worry about getting the wrong answer.  There are no wrong answers in meditation.  Your goal is to learn how to work with certain capacities of will and imagination most people never develop.  Stray thoughts, strange fancies, and whimsical notions do this as well as anything.

Sessions six through the end of the month are done exactly the same way, except that you take the concepts from the chapter. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. Then open the book to Chapter10 of the Doctrine and find something in it that interests you.  Spend five minutes figuring out how it relates to the imagery on the card, the letter, and the three titles. Do the same thing with a different passage the next day, and the day after, and so on. If you run out of material for meditation in this chapter, you can certainly go back to the previous chapters and review what they have to say.

Don’t worry about where this is going. Unless you’ve already done this kind of practice, the goal won’t make any kind of sense to you. Just do the practice.  You’ll find, if you stick with it, that over time the card you’re working on takes on a curious quality I can only call conceptual three-dimensionality:  a depth is present that was not there before, a depth of meaning and ideation.  It can be very subtle or very loud, or anything in between. Don’t sense it?  Don’t worry.  Sit down, get out the card, and study it. Do the practice and see where it takes you.

We’ll be going on to “Chapter 11:  The Magical Chain” on April 13, 2022. See you then!


  1. Interesting. I would like to thank you first for your help a week ago.
    Some of the crazyness is starting to look silly at this point. I will start reading your earlier posts on Levi, as to the situation at hand I am having a laugh, like when our goverment is wondering why people hadn’t kicked out Putin from office this time (after all the attempts have failed before and they are expecting them to work now)
    The Polish goverment response now is to Russian opposition to “protest harder” (even though it will cause them to be instantlly labeled as insurgents and give Putin a reason to crack down on them). Imagination have failed completely. And let’s not involve censorship of information and propaganda broadcast that contradict what was said before in the same broadcast. Oh well at least I have this blog with sane advice.
    Cheers Wer

  2. Not specific to this chapter, but something I have been meditating on is correlating the Cabala (as described by Levi in High Magic and you in Paths of Wisdom) with the Cosmic Doctrine. My meditations led me to include The Kybalion and Mystery Teachings of the Living Earth as well.

    My write up ended up being too long to be a comment in the blog, so I created a document and saved it as a PDF. (I have not posted it anywhere yet.) The first part of the document is done as a graphic novel (of sorts). I include your phrases from Paths of Wisdom (reality is, reality acts, etc.), but rather than doing an attribution each time, I did an acknowledgement at the beginning, listing the phrases as coming from your book. Is this acceptable?

    In the latter part of the document, I included a quote for each Sphere from Mystery Teachings of the Living Earth (with an attribution by each quote). Is this acceptable?

    If yes, may I post a link to the PDF to share with the commentariat here?

  3. This is also the last chapter of Illuminatus!, which I’ve read along with this. Towards the end of that book some interesting synchronicities started popping up.

    Since there are no wrong answers in meditation(right?), I am drawing oracle cards based off my personal experience for each chapter/french tarot just for fun. It helps refresh things I learned or forgot by going back to it. So far I’ve drawn through the Emperor. The interesting thing about doing this is that although I have a specific abstract concept in mind, once I’m finished I always find more.

  4. Wer, you’re welcome. One of the reasons I keep doing these book club posts is that they’re a good steady counterbalance to the craziness of our time.

    Random, by all means post a link!

    Dmekel, I’m quite sure Lévi would have appreciated the children in the Tenth Trip singing “Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May,” and I suspect he would have liked the golden submarine as well… 😉

  5. Integrating each of the trumps seems to go from easy/peasy to rather difficult. I am just now integrating “The Devil,” no easy lift. However, it is becoming quite clear that forward progess requires this one, and all (of course). I am “bad,” but I’ve never thought of myself as “Devil” bad – although, there are definite advantages to going there …

  6. “they’re ten places in the first chapters book of Genesis where God is described as saying something”

    OK, that sort of also explains why Etteilla marked seven of the trump cards of his Book of Thoth deck with the days of the creation, amongst other things. For the record they were (in card order, not day order):

    – 2 Explanation (Fire) = 1st day (2nd element, Taurus)
    – 3 Intention (Water) = 3rd day (1st element, Gemini)
    – 4 Robbery (Air) = 2nd day (3rd element, Cancer)
    – 5 Journey (Earth) = 6th day (4th element, Leo)
    – 6 Night (Day) = 4th day (Virgo [Scorpio on later edition])
    – 7 Support (Increase) = 5th day (Libra)
    – 8 Female querent = day of rest (Scorpio [Virgo on later edition])

  7. May I assume, the 10 traveling around the wheel of fortune becomes the 1, Malkuth and earthly existence returning to the source to emerge again as Kether, “conforming ever to his crown of flame”?

    Though I am unclear as to what Levi means by “His unique Kingdom is four times the same.”

  8. It’s interesting that the Tarot corresponds so well to the Kabbalah, because Tarot was developed as an upper class parlor game with apparently no knowledge of the Kabbalah at that time…Powerful synchronicity!

  9. I found the descriptions of Netzach and Hod somewhat confusing.

    For example,‘victory’ is used to describe each of them, though victory is the common description of Netzach alone. Additionally, ‘justice’ would seem to be more rightly correlated with Hod (Which has been associated with Trump 8). It almost seems like one could swap the two descriptions and be as well or even better off…

    Honestly I have struggled with those two cards more than the others over past months, and these descriptions have made me even more confused. Is there a deeper meaning here that I am missing?

  10. I have been working on a series of meditations to correlate The Cosmic Doctrine with the Cabala (as presented by Levi in High Magic and JMG in Paths of Wisdom). As I worked with the ideas, I began to see how a theogony of the Greek pantheon could be aligned with the Cabala (“a” theogony, not “the” theogony, as I borrowed deities and myths from a variety of mythographers).

    I don’t consider my metaphor to be “right” or “done”; I’m sure I’ll be revising it as I learn and grow. I attribute much of my learning and growth to JMG and his commentariat, so I am sharing this in hopes that some of you may have time to read my metaphor and provide feedback or, if you have been working on your own metaphor or Cosmic Doctrine/Cabala alignment, that you’ll consider sharing yours.

    My metaphor is a PDF posted here:

  11. Hello there Ecosophia! Sorry to interrupt the usual commentary on this series of posts, but I must mention to the Ecosophist community at large about an essential resource that I discovered last weekend.

    Someone there said to me, “collapse early and beat the rush!” However when I asked, they did not know the author of the quote, our esteemed host here of course! I took it as a sign that these allies should become better known to us, and we to them…

    The Solari and Weston Price gangs were well represented but few green wizards seemed in attendance. Yet they were talking about exactly what y’all are, only in legal detail about very clever ways to organize local food production and distribution that’s healthy, profitable and highly resistant to Federal and state interference based on deep and solid precedence in US law and policy.

    Stay tuned for future conferences planned for local rural locations across the country later this year and next. They are committed to local events sponsored by regional independent farmers, makers and builders, and it’s a powerful event full of positive, effective and competent people:

    Rogue Food Conference

    Highly recommended for collapse-proofing your life and larder! Now back to our regularly scheduled magic…

  12. Cobo, Trump XV is subtler than he looks. I’m currently meditating my way through Mouni Sadhu’s fine book The Tarot, which builds on Lévi to a very great extent, and the three concepts he assigns to The Devil are Logica (logic), Serpens Nahash (the serpent Nahash, which represents the astral vortex that draws souls down into incarnation), and Fatum (fate). Make of that what you will!

    Kerry, interesting. I wasn’t aware of that.

    William, I’d tell you if I knew!

    Pyrrhus, that’s one of the many remarkable things about the tarot…

    Paul, Netzach and Hod can be challenging to tell apart, and in fact in some early Cabalistic sources they are reversed. Sit with that and let it teach you what it teaches you.

    Random, thanks for this.

    Malleus, thanks for this also.

  13. @Malleus M – Great Minerva, that actually makes the Cosmic Doctrine comprehensible to me! (“(Sigh) “You want I should draw you a diagram?” “Yes! Please! Oh, yes, yes, yes, thank you.”)

    Thank you.

  14. “Wer, you’re welcome. One of the reasons I keep doing these book club posts is that they’re a good steady counterbalance to the craziness of our time.”-JMG, thank you for the counterbalance…

  15. Hello JMG,

    What about a possible relation between the sum of numbers related to Tree of Life diagram (22 paths + 10 sephiroth + Daath = 33) and the number of degrees in Scottish Rite Freemasonry? I hope my question is not a sensitive one for Freemasons.

  16. @jmg

    Thank you for the historical context on Netzach and Hod. I will continue to ponder / sit with this topic as you suggest.

    If another question on the previous chapter is not out of line…

    In my own mind, I’ve been viewing the Judson Exercise as a sort of ‘Mantle of Apollonius’ (I.e. as a means to isolate oneself from the currents of secondary causes). Does this seem a correct or useful correspondence to you? And if so, are there equivalent methods for cultivating the qualities of the lamp and staff?

  17. Chuaquin, you’re welcome. I figure it’s something I can do to help.

    Minervaphilos, good. Yes, there is a connection, but as I’m a 32° member of the Scottish Rite it’s not something I can discuss in detail. BTW, don’t worry about whether questions like this are “sensitive” — if it’s not something that Masons can answer, due to the pledges they’ve made, they’ll tell you.

    Paul, that’s a fascinating suggestion, and it makes a great deal of sense. (It’s also helpful in the context of one of my current research projects, so thank you.) There should certainly be practices corresponding to the other two items. If I wanted to structure a system of practice that way, I’d assign the lamp to discursive meditation, which allows reason to be enlightened by science (in Lévi’s sense of this latter word), and the staff — which represents the assistance of the occult forces of nature — would be some form of practical magic, such as natural magic. But one of the elegant things about this kind of symbolism is that you can apply it in many different ways.

  18. “Our letter A, for example, was originally the Phoenician letter ‘Alep, which looks like an A on its side; go back further to Egyptian, and it’s a little drawing of the head of an ox.”

    Where might I find similar information for the other 25 letters of the western alphabet?

  19. First reading of this chapter and I could spend the entire day just geeking out on the symbolism. I’m really looking forward to re-reading over the month.

    I have a question about loss. In the Cabala there is not a way to talk about loss, is there? Everything we experience can be represented in some form, but what happens we we lose a relationship or experience we value? Is it that it just changes form and its never really gone?

    I’ve be sadly pondering all that I lost this past two years and the new reality that it isn’t coming back for a a variety of reasons. Even if I did all the things demanded of me, I’m not going to have what I had before. Its gone.

    And then it occurred to me in the reading this chapter that perhaps its not gone, but transformed into something else? Or perhaps I can transform it if it hasn’t already?

  20. @JMG – This is way, way OT: but, remember your tracing the pundits’ long history of blaming systematic dysfunction on the individuals affected? Slaves, housewives, wage workers …

    …and now salaried office workers, and here’s someone who has blown the whistle on their plight. I thought you and the readership needed to know, since the source was obscure and not mainstream.

  21. I don’t have much to offer at the moment, between this chapter, the Tree of Life material for the FHR on the other blog, and my own meditations on the Wheel of Life in the DMH, I’m finding that a few layers of the Tree have unfolded and I’m still reflecting on it all.

    It was quite a juxtaposition to read Levi’s usual rich, allusive text about the Cabala and then read Gilbert’s crisp and clear words on the same topic, they reinforced each other nicely!

    One thing that has popped out, or been reinforced rather, is that I need to keep remembering the lightness of things on the astral. As stated in the post, one can, with work, find linkages between any two symbols, and that this work involves a form of storytelling as well as meditation itself. For the longest time, I thought that meditation on occult symbols was about meditating on symbols as riddles, in order to find “the right answer”, when it seems to some degree rather like improvising music based on a common framework.

    @RandomActsOfKarma: Thanks a ton for the Metaphor, it looks like a lot of reading and meditation went into that, not to mention the work involved in creating it. I’ve read through much of it, and I’m grateful to you for giving me more related material to chew on!

  22. I’ve been immersed in a deep dive into last month’s chapter, encountering L’Ermite again and again in my readings and thoughts. At the same time, The Twilight of Pluto arrived, capturing my a large share of my attention. The result is a brief paper on the symbolic connections between L’Ermite, on the one hand, and Pluto on the other. My ongoing attempts to assimilate Jung’s work supplied a unifying third element in this meditation.

    The paper is too long to post here, so I’ve created a pdf:

    Grateful acknowledgement to you, JMG, for your edifying, inspiring and many-tentacled workings!

  23. If I look at the wheel of fortune with my eyes half-closed, I can imagine the wheel turning and turning …

  24. Steve, Wikipedia, surprisingly, has a decent article on the subject.

    Martin, thanks for this!

    Denis, loss appear on the Tree of Life in several forms. Binah, the third sphere (corresponding to Saturn), is the sphere of hard limits: you wanted that but you’ll never be able to have it. Geburah, the fifth sphere (corresponding to Mars), is the sphere of irrevocable change: something you cared about has changed and will not change back. Malkuth, the tenth sphere (corresponding to Earth) is the sphere of mixture: nothing is ever entirely the way you prefer it. In each of those cases, there’s a balancing factor: Chokmah balances Binah, giving you the freedom to seek something else; Chesed balances Geburah, making some things remain; Tiphareth balances Malkuth, so that there’s an essence that’s pure even when the manifestation is not. I hope reflecting on that helps!

    Patricia M, okay, that’s fascinating — and a very important sign. If the pundits are now blaming the lower echelons of their own class, the fewmets may be about to smite the windmill…

    Jbucks, I’m glad to hear this! Exactly — meditation is like musical improvisation; you may start out with some established patterns, but you can go just as far from there as you like.

    Goldenhawk, many thanks for this. I’ll look forward to reading it when time permits.

    Chuaquin, that reminds me of a song

  25. @JMG – the lower echelons of the PMC are – have been – considering their “burnout” to be a personal problem, or the vagaries of having a bad boss, or whatever. I read these burnout stories and never once thought of it as anything but circumstantial overwork, to be corrected by taking time off. So, yes, the organic fertilizer is indeed about to hit the rotary air-cooling device as soon as this “Long PTSD” idea spreads more.

  26. Hello Mr. Greer,

    I speak modern Spanish and not Medieval Catalan, but I I’m pretty sure Llull’s first name is written “Ramón.” You placed the accent on the wrong vowel.

    Sorry for being a stickler about this…

  27. @William Hunter Duncan,

    In the Druid Magic Handbook, JMG describes how the eight stations of the Wheel of the Year (the solstices, the equinoxes, etc.) “can be seen as eight archetypal realms of being, like the spheres of the Cabalistic Tree of Life…” Figure 2-7 in the book maps out the paths (using Ogham instead of the Hebrew alphabet). When you place the Spheres in a ring, Malkuth ends up connecting back to Kether.

    Re: the Kingdom is four times the same, Manly P. Hall described the Cabala as having four sets of Spheres, nested within each other, so there were four Malkuths. So maybe that is what Levi is referring to?

    Another option for explaining the ‘four times the same’ is how the number 10 is written on the card (in the Knapp-Hall deck). It is similar to how it is written in The Study of Numbers (and to Pythagora’s tectractys). I will be pondering that and will let you know if I come up with anything…


    Oooo… thank you for sharing! Jung is not something I’ve studied, so I look forward to reading this and learning more about his work.


    Thank you so much. 🙂


    I think I may have been keeping myself super-busy so I wouldn’t have time to think about how things have changed and will never go back. I like the idea that they’ve transformed rather than they’re just gone. A good meditation theme. Thank you.

  28. Hey jmg

    Something I want to point out about the Tetragrammaton made with 24 points is that they all group into ternaries, in particular the god and vau have 3 points and the 2 hehs have 9 which is 3×3. Written this way the Tetragrammaton becomes a symbol of equilibrium, or maybe a fractal of ternaries.

  29. Goldenhawk, that’s a classic! Thanks for this.

    Patricia M, well, I’ll be doing my part. That essay will be linked to, and discussed, in next week’s post — so thank you again for it.

    Ray, well, I don’t speak either one, so I’m quite willing to accept correction.

    J.L.Mc12, excellent! Lévi would have appreciated that.

  30. That helps considerably – thank you! Lots to meditate on there and a different level of thinking which I always appreciate.

    I was in Philadelphia recently and the life force that animated that city is gone. Its as if the people remaining don’t realize it because they are so busy trying to pretend things are normal or that they are just dealing with it and fine, thank you very much. Any given block sidewalk in Center City which used to be filled with people, and even this time last year 2021 was busy, has maybe 6-10 people total on it. I noticed even a few more places closed from when I was there last month.

    I sat with my grandmother for a week while she was dying. She had severe dementia and wasn’t able to communicate and interact for the last year of her life, so I’d talk to her and not get much acknowledgement back. When her body started to give up, it didn’t go quickly. It was on autopilot but the life force that animated her was gone. She breathed these raspy quick shallow breaths, keeping busy but not really alive.

    That is the city now. It doesn’t know it is almost dead. I don’t know where the energy went that animated it but its gone.

    So I’m dealing with my own personal losses of activities I can’t do any longer due to mandates which has been ongoing all year, but now realizing that even if the mandates lifted today, there’s nothing left to go back to, is really hitting me. And people chose to do this to the culture which really hits me even harder.

    Per Patricia’s article about PTSD in the Zoom class. They are suffering from guilt and shame for what they have done and just don’t realize it yet. As long as they see themselves the victims in what’s occurred rather than the responsible actors, than the losses will continue to pile up.

    My daughter and I were talking yesterday about how people don’t see themselves as creators. People really believe they are part of a larger script and can’t break free of it. She blamed it on Marvel movies and we had a good laugh about how nothing from those films is memorable and yet they control the culture. She said that covid will be used as word to describe how people broke down these past few years and it will have nothing to do with the disease itself. I think she is on to something there.

    Meanwhile where I live is vibrant and thriving with people greeting each other warmly. As long as I stay within 10 miles of my house, life is better than it was prior to covid. People staying closer to home has been a benefit here. For this I am thankful.

    Working through the OSA work has me feeling the loss and not reflexively getting angry about what I’m experiencing. Thank you for posting those lessons again. I wouldn’t chose to be sitting here crying normally, but working through a process of acceptance has been life changing.

  31. Hi John Michael,

    The line from the poem you quoted: “an honest man’s the noblest work of God;”, began me considering the line itself. Maybe I’m way off track, but a pure honest person can also cause great harm to other people. I really don’t understand how this can be a noble work. Dunno, but it is possible to project an extreme version of honesty, and do great evil. Mate, I’m scratching my head about this one. Beats me. Can you lend me some insight?



  32. Hi John Michael,

    Patricia’s article was fascinating (respect to Patricia 😉 ), and I’ll be curious to read your thoughts.

    This subject has been on my mind lately, as I have basically no benefits deriving from my work other than of course the financial recompense from clients. As you can imagine from long association, I focus my business interests on building relationships as well as providing a service and the two are invariably linked. I’ve recently severed one and have taken time to consider why I did so. Turns out that you can’t have a relationship with a corporate entity. You can have a relationship with people, but an entity, nope. So I’m guessing that the social bonds are rather frayed in that regard. It is possible that something along that line is going on with the great resignation – I can assure you that getting good staff is a very difficult thing nowadays.

    As a young bloke I experienced a hard recession in the early 1990’s and the lessons I took away from that time I have always kept at the back of my mind. We’re in strange times I tell ya, strange times.



  33. Denis, that’s fascinating about Philly. Not surprising, but fascinating. I’m delighted that the OSA work is helping you — it certainly was a game-changer for me.

    Chris, Alexander Pope, who wrote that poem, was by all accounts a very nasty person — one of his nicknames, based on the place where he lived, was “the wicked wasp of Twickenham” — so it’s quite possible that he was pleased with God for creating so many annoying individuals. As for the article, I’ll be discussing it in next week’s post — stay tuned!

  34. “Thus the divine unity manifests itself in two complementary expressions—call them stability and motion, necessity and freedom, mercy and justice, or what have you—and the balance between these polarized expressions brings the world into being. It’s a little more complex than that simple fourfold pattern, for reasons Lévi will hint at as we proceed, but the end result of that process of equilibrium working itself out is the establishment of another equilibrium, the one between the divine unity at the top of the Tree and the world of multiplicity down at the bottom.”

    This resonates very well with the 42nd stanza of Tao Te Ching, especially the following part:
    “Tao gives rise to one.
    One gives rise to two.
    Two gives rise to three.
    Three gives rise to all things.
    All things carry yin and embrace yang,
    Drawing chi together into harmony.”

    I always find it awe-inspiring to see such parallels between Western occult philosophy and early Taoist texts. It seems like a fertile ground for choosing topics for daily discursive meditations. I wonder if there is any Cabalistic or Neopythagorean translation/commentary of Tao Te Ching in the Western occult literature.

  35. @William Hunter Duncan,

    I have been pondering “His unique Kingdom is four times the same, Conforming ever to His crown of flame.”

    I reread some of Lubicz’ The Study of Numbers. I am still meditating my way through the book, so my interpretation might be off. My take on it so far is that realization (or manifestation) starts with the irreducible One, then a cycle of polarization, a cycle of ideation, and then a cycle of formation (similar to Cosmic Doctrine). His chart towards the end of the book is structured such that superficially it looks like the cycles occur on one Tree, but in the text, he states that the cycle of ideation starts with 10, which is really 9+1. (And ideation happens after polarization, so that implies that polarization goes through 9 steps, gets to 10, which is really 1 of the next cycle (ideation).)

    That reinforced my initial thought that the “four times” meant the Malkuth of the four Worlds.

    Then I went down a Pico della Mirandola rabbit hole (thank you, @boccaderlupo!) looking for something completely different and happened upon this, which had a picture of the teractys and a quote from Plutarch:

    “The nature of number is the decad, but the power of ten… is in the four and in the tetrad… [and] our soul is also composed of a tetrad: contemplation (noun), knowledge (epistemen), opinion (doxan), sensation (aisthesin).”

    Then the author says “Thus, four stages of spiritual ascent correspond to four levels or functions of the soul.”

    So maybe each part of the soul is assigned to one of the Cabalistic Worlds?

    About this time, I decided to go back and read Levi to see if there was any detail I hadn’t picked up on that might be relevant.

    Yup, there sure was.

    Levi referred to Guillaume Postel’s Wheel or ROTA and I originally thought he was referring to the ROTA Wheel from an earlier chapter. But just to see, I did an Internet search on Guillaume Postel’s Wheel. I found two really interesting things.

    First, some people call a type of map ( a Postel Projection or a Postel Wheel because he made a map in that style. I cannot find a picture of his map, but I found this Hmm. A wheel with 12 spokes. And 6 planes, not including the point in the middle. Seems an awful lot like Chokmah and Binah, if Chokmah is the Zodiac and Binah the planes.

    Second, some people call the round part of Postel’s Key Postel’s Wheel. And around the perimeter of the round part of Postel’s Key is ROTA. (What is Postel’s Key? I didn’t know, but I found a picture of it here and there is enough there to keep me busy meditating for a good long while…)

  36. Why does the chapter heading alphabet jump from i to k?

    Have others who have read Phillip Pullman felt a parallel between reading an aleithiometer and the method of creating cubbyholes to fill with meanings filed away by letter along with each tarot trump (or in the odd and ornate furniture of the Tree of Life) as described in the practice section each month? The quieting of the mind and the openness to suggestion of images and associations is I guess a widely used technique but after joining this book club and then finding The Secret Commonwealth by Pullman the method ‘clicked’ a bit more. He lets the Gyptian people do some of the best teaching to the young heroine about how the more-than-material world works. One tells her (paraphrase cause I already returned it to the library without taking a proper note!), ‘there’s people that scoff at the Secret Commonwealth and say it don’t exist— ignore them. And there’s those who takes it literal— watch out for them and stay away. And there’s those who know to look at it sideways and with metaphor.’

    Greatly appreciate this chapter and commentary for building out the skeletal structure of my symbolic language a bit more rigorously.

    I did a reading in the last month for a grandmother and grandson who work with me. The son-father between them is up for parole hearing; the cards were very compelling in their message and the mamaw gave me a pair of fortune cookies. I opened one —‘Attention is the mother of memory.’ and later gave one to my partner. He got the same fortune! Never seen that before. Message received and it feels like a good one for the time being!

    Love your metaphor Random.

    Thanks all

  37. Hi John Michael,

    He seemed like a smart bloke. I’m guessing that his earlier experiences pushed him to excel, but also introduced a barb to his words which he may not otherwise have wielded. It’s an option, I guess. And also certainly a point of differentiation.

    Please excuse me if I’m over simplifying things, but isn’t the Tree of Life when used in this context, something of a road map of the territory one covers when traversing these matters?



  38. @John Michael Greer

    I find it interesting that Magic involves forces beyond one’s own body very often. Leading to the archetype at times of the old frail wizard with incantations and drawing hermetic circles.

    But in East Asia it’s far more often the body itself that is the instrument involving the manipulation of impersonal spiritual forces present in said body like Qi or Ki in certain kinds of Martial Arts. And that archetype is more conducive to an elderly man who is quite fit for his age.

    The Spiritual and Physical is far more integrated if I am not mistaken in regards to how East Asia went about this sort of thing.

    But I could be wrong.

  39. I wanted to add also this resource
    I appreciate Anne-Marie so much for gathering all the different tarot card images in one beautiful place. Including this page has Levi’s drawing of the wheel of fortune and the wheel of Ezekiel, and all around much great fodder for the meditative mind to chew over.

    Reading your note and link to a postel projection made me think that one trick of the wheel is that if you are looking from the North Pole view down at the wheel then what is perceived to be up and down is actually around and around, a Buddhist exhortation to keep a lightness of being while ‘suffering what there is to suffer and enjoying what there is to enjoy.’ But when one puts the kundalini evolution spin on things there definitely seems to be more of an up and down. And our alchemical vessel certainly sticks to the earth heads up…

    Hope Anne-Marie is useful to y’all if you haven’t seen her place yet.

  40. Minervaphilos, the only one I know of is by Aleister Crowley, and it’s not very good. It’s something I’d like to see, though.

    Claus, nope. That’s the traditional order.

    AliceEM, I and J were originally variants of the same letter — Y is another (it started out as a double i, written ij in the Middle Ages). In the same way, U, V, and W are variants of the same letter. Lévi treats them as one letter each, and so gets 22 English (or French) letters. As for Pullman, that’s fascinating — I haven’t read him, but if I recall correctly he’s one of those hardcore rationalist atheists for whom Cabala is like garlic for vampires. Interesting that he’s gotten that close to magic!

    Chris, you’re not oversimplifying at all. Do you recall those old-fashioned highway maps that turned the routes from city to city into straight lines and gave the mileage on each of them? The Tree of Life is a schematic map of the same general sort.

    Info, nah, the internal work of Western alchemy and magic is just much more secret than the external work; there’s plenty of it. (It had to stay out of sight for a very long time because so many people in the west were so freaky about sexual energies.) There’s also a vast amount of external ritual work in Eastern traditions — you might see if you can find a copy of Michael Saso’s Taoist Master Chuang someday; it provides a good introduction to Taoist ceremonial magic, and makes it clear just how remarkable the parallels are between that and the Western version.

    AliceEM, thanks for this.

  41. Hi John Michael,

    Ah, thanks for that explanation. Makes sense. The distance of the journey is variable and thus the course is obscure, whilst the destinations are shown. And like those old highway maps (thanks for the useful analogy) travel direction is not specified. Hmm.



  42. JMG, the letter which came out of the fusion of i and j was y with trema, sometimes used in the early modern period. The letter y as such was taken over in antiquity from the Greece letter upsilon into the Latin alphabet for writing Greek loanwords.

  43. @JMG

    “Info, nah, the internal work of Western alchemy and magic is just much more secret than the external work; there’s plenty of it. (It had to stay out of sight for a very long time because so many people in the west were so freaky about sexual energies.”

    Outside of Sexual energies. You mean there is the equivalent of acupuncture and flows of Chi?

    Was there Western Martial Arts that did something similar to some Eastern Asian Martial Arts in this regard?

  44. @JMG, @Paul,
    Sorry, I should have explained myself regarding the Hod/Netzach swap. I think the numbers look better, meaning on the left side of the tree: 3+5+7 resolves to 3+12 resolves to 15; and on the right side of the tree 1+2+4+8 resolves to 1+2+12 resolves to 15. So the swap would result in a balanced equilibrium on each side of Tiphareth. And, weirdly, the next message I get is “the left hand of darkness”, perhaps referring to a political sci fi book by Ursula K LeGuin.

  45. HI John Michael,

    Hang onto your hat mate, it’s gonna be an interesting ride. I did hazard a guess a while ago that the authoritas would take a heavy handed approach to inflation. Whoo Whee! Yikes.

    Looking forward to reading what you have to say about things with tomorrows essay. 🙂



  46. @Patricia+Matthews Indeed, “who the gods would destroy”. Musk seems to fit perfectly with Levi’s examples in the last chapter of leaders who were destroyed through different forms of vanity. Luckily Musk doesn’t run a country.

  47. Chris, you’re most welcome.

    Booklover, so noted. For Lévi’s purposes, however, equating non-trema y with ij allows him to get 22 letters, which was the point of the exercise.

    Info, Western esoteric arts went in a different direction from the Indian and Chinese traditions — that’s true of healing and martial arts both. The energies the Western healing and martial arts work with are elemental and planetary, and are seen as flowing into the body from the cosmos, and then flowing back outwards again. But yes, there are internal Western martial arts — I translated a classic text on one of them a few years back.

    Patricia M, “…they first make stupid.” 😉

    Claus, maybe so, but the way I showed it is the traditional one. I take that more seriously than some; it seems to me that it’s a good idea to assume that the people who created a tradition knew what they were doing, and if something doesn’t seem to make sense to me, that means I need to study it more.

    Chris, hang onto your hat indeed. Fun times!

  48. Esteemed Archdruid and ever-inquisitive commentariat, I’m the troublemaker using a Marseilles deck who, back on Chapter Six, pointed out that the young woman of “L’Amoreux” has two left hands. Well, the Marseilles-deck card for Lesson/Chapter 10 has me gasping. What IS that thing? The perspective is nightmarish. Two spokes are missing from the wheel; the axle the wheel is intended to turn on terminates at the wheel hub; the crowned-winged-sword bearing creature atop the wheel is crouching on… what exactly?; the rim of the wheel is out of plane to the spokes; the ascending and descending creatures interwoven into the wheel spokes are so fluid in their postures as to seemingly have no bones; the crank-end is angled such that no one could turn it without dislocating something; the axle-bearing support for the far end only comes part-way up; the support base is in its perspectives a chopped-up mess. Don’t make me go on! It’s as if a nine-year-old tried to imitate an MC Escher painting, and failed. Whew.

    I’ve considered the saying in the chapter “…the visible is for us the proportional measure of the invisible” as a possible clue to understanding the many visible flaws of the card. Just wondered if anyone else using the Marseilles Deck is as perplexed and bemused by “La Roue de Fortune” as I am.

    All the best to all!

  49. Only just got to this but a quick thought – the wheel of fortune presumably turns continuously, like a kind of perpetual motion machine. Therefore there should be a way to tap the energy of both the upswing and downswing – a cosmic version of a Wells turbine. Are there ways to harness the energies of failing fortune?

  50. Fun times indeed, but we’ve either reached a major turning point, or I’ve stepped into an alternate reality. First of all, Congress took a bulldozer to the big Post Office mess, and swept away the worst of the nonsense loaded on that poor hybrid creature’s back. Bipartisanly.

    Now – unanimously – the Senate has swept away the century-and-more-old nonsense about Daylight Saving Time.

    Standing there gaping — a Congress that, if one side said the sun was shining, the other would insist it was raining, and vice versa – agreeing on anything. Not narrowly, as in squeak by with a tiny margin, but sweepingly. The skies are extremely dark overhead, but there’s a tiny glimmer of light way, way in the distance. Because just as the sun seems biggest and brightest just before sunset, as many a Decline-&-Fall observer has said, from Kipling on, but the same is true at the other end of the day.

    Fourth Turning, which is not an oracle nor a bible, but which has had some very useful observations, notes that historically, the beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning, comes when everything that loomed so large for the past decades is suddenly seen as a pile of trash that’s getting in the way of Getting Things Done! And usually goes along with younger, more pragmatic people moving into positions of power. I note Senator Rubio is young enough to be Joe Biden’s son. (Facepalm – Rubio, for whom I have rarely had a good word since moving here. Yup. The hero of the much-jerked-around hour. Surely the Second Coming is at hand.)

    I may yet live to see the beginning of the current Recovery. Or, as you have put it, “breathing stage before the next lurch downward.”

  51. @ Patricia M – except that what the Senate agreed to do is make Daylight Savings Time permanent. Our esteemed Senators probably don’t get up early enough, or get outside often enough, to notice that the sun won’t rise before 7am for more than half the year where I live (St. Louis, MO). It won’t rise until 8:20am near the winter solstice. And it’ll be worse farther north.

    If they had agreed to make standard time permanent, on the other hand, I would be right with you.

  52. @JMG, Info, #45

    About> “Info, Western esoteric arts went in a different direction from the Indian and Chinese traditions — that’s true of healing and martial arts both. The energies the Western healing and martial arts work with are elemental and planetary, and are seen as flowing into the body from the cosmos, and then flowing back outwards again.”

    For what’s worth, I do recall an acupuncture textbook (it might be Peter Deadman’s “A Manual of Acupuncture”, but I am nor really sure) which claims that the system of meridians that map the flow of Qi around and around the body is a relatively new innovation, fully developed sometime in the 1400-1600s. The Classics, – the Yellow Emperor’s and specially the Spiritual Pivot, – depict a much older system which speaks of humans drawing in the Qi of Heavens through their fingertips (then the channels of the arm into the torso) and also pulling up the Qi of the Earth through the sole of their feet (then the channels of the leg into the underbelly). If this remind you of the solar and telluric currents, well, so it does to me.

    This paradigm, for lack of a better term, was thoroughly cleansed/expunged from the official TCM schools in mainland China during the Maoists purges, but survived in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the rest of the Chinese diaspora. A direct application in acupuncture is the therapeutic use of the Five Shu-Transport Points.

  53. RandomActsOfKarma@65, that one is very similar, but the exact card I have is the one that JMG uses at the top of this post. Both examples are quite a mess!

  54. @bryanallen,

    Maybe the six spokes are for the Spheres below the Abyss (and the Wheel is resting on Malkuth)? The crowned creature with a sword could be Tiphareth… The rabbit (?) is wearing a shirt, but no trousers. The monkey (?) is wearing a skirt, but no shirt. And the creature with a sword is wearing a cape over its wings? (And other than that, just its birthday suit!) Goodness, the mer-bull on my card seems positively sane compared to your card!

  55. @bryanlallen @random – for card X, La Rove De Fortune my Marseilles deck is the same design as @bryan and the card JMG uses for this post except the color scheme is different.

    As for the link @random provided that just confirms what I have come to accept with tarot cards and that is I think we are dealing with two different things here in that the artwork and design was vastly different way back when plus also the different games companies*** have their own interpretations. There are so many different versions of the tarot out there and I guess the key for a good deck of tarot cards and consistent divination is to find a deck that most stimulates one’s imagination.

    *** I stated “different games companies” and went to look at the 3 different tarot decks I purchased for my studies.

    – I have the Marseilles deck which I purchased when starting this Doctrine of High Magic Course. I use this deck for divination.

    – I also purchased the Oswald Wirth deck at the same time as the Marseilles deck. This is the one I use for the imagination / meditation work during our Doctrine of High Magic Course.

    – Recently purchased the Rider Tarot deck for the Fellowship of the Hermetic Rose studies.

    All three are produced by the same company (U.S. Games Systems)….

  56. @JMG

    “But yes, there are internal Western martial arts — I translated a classic text on one of them a few years back.”


  57. Hi JMG. First off, I’m new to this entire frontier, but I must say the spirit has seized me. Thanks for your careful elucidation. A basic question: I can’t find an instruction that indicates we should linger over each chapter (and its attendant meditation) for an entire month, but it’s implicit in the instructions. Is it important that I stay on Chapter 1, and Le Bateleur, for an entire month before moving on to the next month’s meditation? And if I do hold off on advancing to the next card, is it advisable to read ahead in the book?

    Gratitude and blessings to you.

  58. I picked up your translation of Levi’s book a couple months ago, and I’ve now “caught up” as it were to your commentary. I also got a Conver Ben-Dov TdM deck to go along with it. Many, many years ago I bought a copy of Modern Magick and RWS deck. I quickly lost interest in them, which I now regret. I’m not sure what possessed me to get back into this, but it’s been a fun ride these past couple of months.

    Relating to the topic for this month, about a month ago I read Chicken Qabalah by L. M. DuQuette. It definitely took the difficulty out of learning the concepts behind the Qabalah. “Hell, no! Don’t worry about it!” to quote Rabbi Ben Clifford. As an aside, I also got the late Dr Yoav Ben-Dov’s book on the Open Reading and watched a couple of his YouTube presentations. It’s a very different process than what I previously tried using predigested meanings from those LWBs that come with every tarot deck.

    But then the fun begins when I realized that the Golden Dawn ordered the Hebrew alphabet on their tarot differently than Levi! Then I started to look into what Crowley had done! Then I got irritated (mildly) that I was putting time into learning Hebrew that could be spent reading more! So, I found a web site that is all about the English Qabalah. Hmmm, they order things very, very differently than Levi (and the Agrippa Key) did for Roman characters. Who is right? Everyone? Nobody? Maybe the journey is the destination?

    Did I mention I’m enjoying this? Well, I am! Truly, my CBD TdM deck is developing a “depth” for me which I had not imagined before, nor felt with the RWS deck I got so many years ago. Yes, there is something to be said for meditation on the cards as you recommend. At the same time, I’ll probably finish The Doctrine long before you complete your commentaries. I’ll be looking forward to your monthly posts, however!

  59. I think I found the answer to my own question. “Who is right?” with respect to the ordering of Hebrew characters on the tarot majors: “It doesn’t matter. Use what works best for you.” In this case, since we’re discussing Levi’s book, his suggested ordering makes sense within the context of the TdM. Yet, there’s a bit more to it than that.

    While pondering the tarot and the varied associations made with it over the centuries, it occurred to me how easily a budding oil or acrylic painter can get caught up in choosing the “correct” brushes, mediums, paints and canvases. Add to that the potential confusion which might result if a student consults different books and “authorities,” they might put off even attempting to draw or paint until they’ve found the “perfect” tools for the job.

    I was not encouraged to draw or paint as a child, however, in my young adult years I dabbled with acrylics and oils. I collected books on the subject and bought some materials. Of course, I had to get exactly the materials specified, or the entire project was sure to be a failure, or so I thought. I managed a few copies of paintings from a book that I liked. A few of them came out alright, but others were a source of frustration that made me put down the brushes for years. I’m not saying that knowledge of tools, materials, and techniques is unimportant. My problem was an unwillingness at the time to find a balance between the recommendations of any teacher or instruction book and my own particular needs. Sometimes one just has to “make do” with the resources at hand while figuring out the rest over time.

    The Magician takes tools out of the satchel and places them on the table. Should the tools become the overwhelming focus of attention, then the magician unwittingly constructs a trap. I can pull English, Hebrew, Latin, Runes, or even Ouranian Barbaric out of my satchel onto the table and make any association I desire with my tarot cards. They are just tools, and I use them creatively. If I tried to find the “correct” way, the One Universal Truth of the Tarot that Fits Everything with Perfection, I might as well be designing a magical trap for myself!

  60. K_Eno_371

    Yes, you have said very well what I have been coming to understand, both within the context of this Tarot study and other areas of my life. There is no one right answer, there is no fixed and unchanging “meaning” to any given symbol or archetype. We are each on a journey to create our lives out of the particular meanings we imagine within the framework and limitations of our moment in space and time.

    Also, your comments on art and tools hits home, and seems to dovetail with the topic of the current Ecosophia post on “Slack.” I’ve been working on some origami models of the Platonic solids, a new exploration for me in the pursuit of a long-standing hobby. Origami requires a balance of precise attention, as well as regular doses of slack. I work up tension when the model doesn’t seem to be coming together like the picture shows. I take a break (slack!) and release my need to do it “right.” When I come back to the project, relaxed and a little wiser from the experience of “failing,” very often a kind of magic happens and the troublesome model just seems to “flow” into place. Out of the tension/slack comes the energy to persist, and try again.

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