Book Club Post

The Doctrine of High Magic: Chapter 21

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 for free 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 21: Divination” (Greer & Mikituk, pp. 177-182).


Among the things that must be kept in mind when reading The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic are the changes that have reshaped the entire concept of occultism in popular culture and the occult community alike since Lévi’s book first saw print. One of the more striking of these changes is the way that understandings of occultism itself have changed.  Nowadays, when the subject of occultism comes up, a very large number of people think of it as mostly having to do with magic, and specifically with the kind of magic that causes things to happen in the world. An occultist is someone who makes things happen by nonordinary means:  that’s the standard view these days, splashed around fantasy novels and Hollywood movies or simply taken for granted among ordinary people.

It’s interesting to speculate about how that happened, and to wonder how much of it came from our modern fascination with technology.  Between the zap guns brandished by the heroes and heroines of cheap science fiction, and the lightning bolts coming out with dreary inevitability from the fingertips of countless imaginary wizards, there really isn’t that much difference, after all. Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s famous dictum, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” gave a crisp verbal form to a very common attitude—and of course a certain number of pop-culture occultists have followed suit by pretending to be able to do the kinds of things that technology does, but by nonordinary means.

Widespread as that notion is, however, it’s quite simply wrong.  Magic is not technology; the differences between them aren’t simply a matter of means but of ends. That’s why, if you go hunting in online archives or used bookstores for books on occultism from before the great occult revival of the 1970s, most of the volumes you find won’t have much to say about spells to make this or that happen. What they’ll teach you, sometimes in astonishing detail, is divination.  That was the heart of the older conception:  an occultist is not someone who makes things happen by nonordinary means, he or she is someone who knows what’s happening and what’s going to happen, using nonordinary means to gather that knowledge.

Knowledge rather than power is the keynote of the older occultism. That’s a concept to keep in mind any time you venture into most pre-1970s traditions of magic. Now of course there were exceptions even in those days. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn taught a lot of ritual magic to its initiates, for example, and Aleister Crowley made ritual magic one of the two core elements of his system of occult training and initiation—but the Golden Dawn was an outlier in its own time, however influential it has become since then, and Crowley was almost universally dismissed in his lifetime as an irritating crank. Most occultists back then went a different route.

All this is of crucial importance in reading this chapter of our text, because Lévi wants to discuss the ultimate secret of occultism:  in his words, “the Great Arcanum, that terrible secret, that secret of life and death expressed in the Bible by the formidable and symbolic speech of the symbolic serpent itself: I. You shall never die, II. but you will become, III. as gods, IV.  knowing good and evil.” (Those numbers, of course, are not in the Bible verse Lévi is quoting, and they are also far from irrelevant.)  This ultimate secret, in turn, he proposes to reveal in a chapter about divination.

In this chapter Lévi comes as close as he ever does to revealing the secret of the Great Magical Arcanum, the supreme secret of the occultist.  He gives a riddle, the answer to which is one of the names of the Great Arcanum, and I’d encourage those of my readers who know their way around Hebrew gematria to try their hand at solving it.   He also has some rather less cryptic things to say about the subject, however, and we’ll consider those here.

The word “diviner” in English, like its cognate devin in French, comes ultimately from the Latin word divinus, “belonging or relating to a deity.” English allows a less labored pun here than the French one Lévi is forced to use:  to divine is to interact with the Divine. This is why the oracles of the ancient world, the most famous places of divination in those times, were all under the guardianship of a deity, and why less prestigious forms of divination such as augury by the flight of birds still had their mandatory religious rituals. The same insight, interestingly, can be found on the other side of the world:  in the esoteric Buddhist traditions that fed into the Japanese martial art of ninjutsu, the goal of certain practices meant to achieve supernormal awareness is described as attaining “the eyes and mind of God.”

Here, of course, we are not talking about telling fortunes. We are talking about using the methods of divination—especially, as our text points out a little further on, the tarot deck—as a way to expand consciousness beyond its ordinary limits and perceive the spiritual patterns that underlie all material happenings. Central to the art of divination as Lévi conceives it is the principle he has described as the unique doctrine of magic and the primordial doctrine of Hermes:  that the visible is a representation of the invisible. Take the visible world as a symbol representing the Unseen; what does that symbol mean, and what does it have to teach you?

Implied in this concept is a central theme of Lévi’s teaching.  It’s a common habit of modern thought, as widespread in Lévi’s time as in ours, to see the material world as a closed system. Whatever other reality might exist, according to this way of thinking, its effects can’t break through the hard boundaries of the world of matter.  This is true whether that other reality is theological, as in the sort of popular Western Chritstianity that treats religion solely as a ticket to a happier afterlife; cognitive, as in the even more popular custom of thinking of the contents of mind and consciousness as existing solely in a world of their own, without any capacity to influence the closed system of material cause and effect; or imaginative, as in all those fantasy novels that contrast some colorful magical place way off there on the far side of the rainbow with the irredeemably dreary real world in which we all are supposed to live.

Lévi rejected this way of thinking root and branch; so do the occult traditions for which he spoke, and of course so do the spiritual traditions of nearly all places and times. To all of these, the material world we see around us is a realm of effects, and the causes of those effects are found in the Unseen:  the visible is the representation of the invisible. He also held that the laws that govern the material world also govern the spiritual world, and vice versa; this is why he affirmed the reality of the alchemical transmutation of metals, since he already knew of the alchemical transmutations of minds and spirits.

Divination in the technical sense was, in Lévi’s view, simply a collection of ways to focus the will and imagination of the diviner on the process of divining. He recognized three broad ways of doing this. The first involves using some source of random blots as a spur for the imagination: tea leaf reading is the form of this that most people nowadays have heard of.  The second involves using a blank visual field to give the imagination somewhere to project its images:  looking into a crystal ball is the form of this second version familiar to most people today.

Both these methods rely on what Lévi calls “the universal and magical doctrine of analogies.” The same logic that psychotherapists a century ago used to interpret dreams was applied much earlier by diviners to a wider range of imagery—though divination by dreams was already an ancient tradition when the Old Testament was written, as the patriarch Joseph’s career as a dream interpreter demonstrates. Look at the cluster of tea leaves or the dream-images that surface in a crystal ball:  what do they mean?  That’s where skill comes into play.

Then there is sortilege, which is the technical term for any form of divination in which the diviner generates or extracts one or more symbols out of a fixed set. Tarot divination is the version of this that Lévi knew best, and discusses in this chapter. There are 78 tarot cards; if you deal yourself one of them, you are certain to get a symbol that you recognize and can interpret—which is not always the case with tea leaves or images in a crystal ball!  Once you have your card, you have to figure out how its message applies to the question you have asked; this is where imagination comes into play, and also where intuition takes over from any more mechanical way of interpreting the cards.

Lévi, as it turned out, was a crucial figure in defining the tarot deck as the most important and influential form of sortilege in the Western world. Before his time, and for some time afterwards,  tarot was mostly a card game; diviners in Paris and Bologna had picked up the habit of using it for fortune-telling, but the same was true of every other commonly used card deck in those cities, and card divination elsewhere typically made use of whatever decks were most commonly used in card games where they lived.

Well before Lévi’s time, Antoine Court de Gebelin had claimed that the tarot was  a surviving wisdom tradition from ancient Egypt, and interpreted the enigmatic word “tarot” as a garbled version of tar rosh, which was supposedly Egyptian for “royal road.” Unfortunately for this theory, Court de Gebelin wrote before Egyptian hieroglyphs had been deciphered, at a time when not one person on the planet knew a single word of ancient Egyptian; as it turned out, tar rosh doesn’t mean anything at all in ancient Egyptian, and “royal road” turned out to be w3t nesw. You can still find people repeating the business about tar rosh, I’m sorry to say; the occult scene has its virtues, but an enthusiasm for accurate history is not often among them.

Jean-Baptiste Aliette, the wigmaker turned diviner Lévi discusses in this chapter, took up the cause and founded a Society of the Interpreters of Thoth to teach his version of tarot divination, but it was still a specialized taste in the occult scene when Lévi picked up his pen. The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic changed that forever, defining tarot  across much of the occult community as “the perfect instrument for divination.”  It was in response to Lévi’s enthusiasm for the tarot that Oswald Wirth, Pamela Colman Smith, Paul Foster Case, and the other creative minds who made the tarot what it is today picked up the 78-card deck and did things with it.

Unquestionably the tarot is a very effective instrument for divination. I’m far from sure it’s fair to call it, as Lévi did, the best such instrument. Myself, I get equally good results with several other card-based methods of sortilege, and better results with geomancy.  That said, Lévi was a pioneer, making a first exploratory trek through a landscape abandoned by European intellectuals for two centuries; if his report requires amendment in the light of later ventures, it still provides extremely useful guidance to today’s explorers.

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 0, “Le Fou.”  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 ש (Shin) or the Latin letter X. 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 through fifth sessions are devoted to the titles Lévi gives for the card: Dentes, Furca, and Amens. Sit down, get out the card, and study it. How does Dentes, “teeth,” relate to the imagery on the card and the letter you’ve chosen?  That’s one session.  How about Furca, “fork”?  How about Amens, “mindless”?   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 Chapter 21 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 22, “Summary and General Key to the Four Occult Sciences,” on March 8, 2023. See you then!


  1. Even though Court de Gebelin’s theory was wrong, I guess he wasn’t too far off the mark. Because the word “tarocchi” (the original Italian version of “tarot”) sounds suspiciously similar to the Arabic word “tariqah” which has several meanings like “path”, “way” and “Sufi order”. If the earliest Italian tarocchi cards were influenced by Egyptian Mamluk playing cards, this adds another element to his “ancient Egyptian origin” story. I think most of the occult origin stories shouldn’t be taken literally, but should be taken as symbolic narratives to train the mind, such as the legendary journey of Christian Rosenkreuz to the East.

  2. I just wanted to add an insight from something we talked about last year. The tarot cards with the canopies, that is, The High Priestess, The Hierophant and even The Chariot are the paths that lead us through the Abyss. Strangely, the Chariot’s canopy is half open. Perhaps that’s just an artistic addition. Or maybe that path gives us a better glimpse of what is beyond the Abyss?

  3. I’ve been using the Marseilles deck for study with the book and decided to do a three card divination with the deck. It was shocking how different it was from using the Rider Waite. Completely different vibe which best I can describe felt like it saw through me. With the Rider Waite I feel like I’m being invited to see something.

    Anyway, next month for the summary chapter, would it be ok to ask questions from any of the book thus far? I’m thinking of taking a retreat day and re-reading the chapters and my notes. Maybe I won’t have any questions. We’ll see!

  4. Fra’ Lupo, it was quite common back in the day to use theurgic ritual as a frame for divination, so you’re not mistaken.

    Minervaphilos, it’s quite possible that there’s some serious Muslim influence involved, but the origins of the tarot are known; it was invented some time between 1411 and 1415 by Marziano da Tortona, who was secretary to the Duke of Milan. Art historians have been discussing this for a century, and it’s embarrassing how little attention the occult scene has paid to it! As for Christian Rosenkreutz, I’ve wondered more than once if there’s a real figure concealed under that name, as “Damcar” — the goal of his pilgrimage — is a misprint in the first printed edition for Damear, modern Dhamar in Yemen, which was an important center for religious and scientific studies going back long before the coming of Islam.

    Jon, a fruitful theme for meditation!

    Denis, it does have its own flavor, doesn’t it? As for questions from elsewhere in the book, sure; you could even do that now, as the weeks in which I post Lévi commentaries tend to be pretty slow.

  5. Accomplished and ever-intriguing Archdruid, I noticed right up front that we somehow have skipped over Tarot XXI (Le Monde) and have proceeded to Tarot Zero (Le Fou.) Even more confusing for me, my Marseille deck calls Tarot Zero “Le Mat”, which through a little bit of sleuthing is a deprecated 19th-century French term for Fou (Fool.) And then of course I wondered hey, why did Levi skip V and W (double-U) and plow ahead to X? Which then sent me on a search where I finally discovered that Levi had also skipped over “J”. Are these skipped English/French letters due to there being no corresponding letters in Hebrew? I’m guessing on that one. But I have NO idea why we would skip over one of the major Arcanum trump cards. Anyway, this course of study continues to hold my interest!

    All the best to you and to fellow followers of this book study.

  6. Thanks for keeping on with the book club, month after month, and for hosting us here.

    Where was the clue that this month’s card is the Fool? I got a little ahead and had already been meditating on Card 21, the World, for a few days.

  7. Thank you for the post, I’m continuing to enjoy following along and finding it fruitful, even if my meditation theme plate is already full from other sources.

    More a historical question than esoteric (I think, but then, who knows?) – if I remember right, you’ve mentioned before that early 20th century occultism didn’t much go in for divination, disparaging it as “fortune telling” (with the Golden Dawn being an exception, as it apparently also was about ritual magic when new), which this post implies was quite a shift from the views when Levi was writing in the middle of the 19th century. If this is accurate, any idea what happened there?

    I’d suspect that it might have been out of a desire by occultists to distance themselves from the failed predictions of spiritualists and the like, but as you pointed out in your recent Regeneration Podcast appearance, that didn’t stop anybody from making sweeping claims about the past and future via visions, so that doesn’t seem like a good hypothesis.


  8. JMG, oh sigh, old proofreaders never die. Not for posting if you wish. Anyway, your text specifies Chapter 19 rather than 21 to be reviewed, and at the very bottom it’s written “Sunnary” rather than “Summary.” Also, what’s with the Hebrew letter on the sample card (amusingly overlaid with “Wolfgang Loves Mabel”), as it appears to be a mirror-image of the intended Hebrew letter?


  9. “the Great Arcanum, that terrible secret, that secret of life and death expressed in the Bible by the formidable and symbolic speech of the symbolic serpent itself: I. You shall never die, II. but you will become, III. as gods, IV. knowing good and evil.”

    One thing that tends to happen to me since I began studying magic around 7 years ago is that I will “catch” various phrases that superior beings place in my head. I know I’m not the originator of these sayings because frankly I’m not that smart. I once asked a deity what it is like to be a god and the deity replied “it’s like teaching an amoeba to play the piano”. LOL… if you think about it, this is true in the literal sense over the vast span of time and incarnations!

  10. “Matto” in Italian means crazy, as in Cibbo Matto, “crazy food”, a band which, among other things, made an appearance at The Bronze in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series. So “Le Mat” would derive from that, given the Italian origin of the Tarot. I also note, while looking at an Italian-English dictionary, that “matta” refers to the joker or wild card, which presumably corresponds to the joker in the French-suited decks common in England and the United States, where it depicts a court jester, or fool. In the Sola Busca deck, the oldest complete deck, the Fool is “Mato”, and numbered “0”, which I mention because in the Marseille [sic] decks it is unnumbered.

  11. JMG: “Between the zap guns brandished by the heroes and heroines of cheap science fiction, and the lightning bolts coming out with dreary inevitability from the fingertips of countless imaginary wizards, there really isn’t that much difference, after all.”

    Cross-culturally, our notions of the supernatural tend to be inspired by our ordinary lifestyle and technology: hunting cultures have animal gods, and so on. Consider the name of the 19th-c. Spiritualist newspaper, The Spiritual Telegraph.

  12. Thank you very much for this.

    Curiously, upon your mention of the inventor of the Tarot, I did an Internet search for Tortona and found that it is also the hometown of the doom band Ufomammut.

  13. @bryanlallen (#6):

    In the Middle Ages, I and J were regarded as variant forms of the same letter, as were U and V; either form of each letter could serve as either a vowel or a consonant. Which form one used in any given word depended, usually, on its place in the word, not its pronunciation: thus vncanny [ = uncanny] as well as very, and iump,/b> [ = jump] as well as into. And W was just, as its name suggests, two U/V letters run together, not a letter in its own right.

    So the Medieval alphabet had either 22 or 23 letters, depending on whether Y was counted as a separate letter (called “Greek i”) or as two I/J letters run together. [Some Medieval manuscripts distinguished consistently between “Greek I” (used in learned borrowings) and “wy” (used in certain Latin words): Ѵ vs. Y. Those scribes worked with a 23-letter alphabet; scribes who did not distinguish between the two had a 22-letter alphabet.

    I’m not sure when, exacty, our current 26-letter alphabet became the standard — probably sometime in the 1500s. Probably the invention of printing and the publication of printed elementary schoolbooks had something to do with it.

  14. Agreement with Denis (#4 above). Since I have been taking time trying to figure out the tarot/qabalah, I have spent entirely too much of my limited disposable income on Tarot decks. All and any of them definitely have differing feels when looked at beside the others. I tend to prefer the Waite, but the feel and the symbols of the Marseille feel “older” and “slower”. That isn’t a bad thing.

    The Crowley deck is just creepy. I really don’t like it at all, makes me wish that he was still alive so that I could punch him.

    I just got the reprint of the Knapp-Hall deck, I like the feel of them, but they are very cheaply made. I feel nervous using them.

  15. Bryan, the order is the one that Lévi uses — the Fool comes between Judgment and The World. We’ll get to The World next month. As for the letters, what Robert said: Lévi also combined I and J back a few chapters. To make a 22-letter Latin alphabet, I, J, and Y ( = II) are all one letter, and U, V, and W ( = VV) are all one letter.

    Dylan, I probably should have flagged that, shouldn’t I? In Lévi’s time the Fool always came between Judgment and The World, since that’s how they score in most variants of the card game.

    Jeff, that was a Theosophical thing. The Theosophists were hostile to divination, ritual magic, spiritualism — well, basically anything but reading Blavatsky and a little light meditation; their notions became very widespread around the turn of the last century, and it was only after the Theosophical Society crashed and burned in the Krishnamurti hullaballoo of 1939 that divination started to reclaim lost ground.

    Bryan, duly noted and fixed! As for the Hebrew letter, I don’t think Hall or Knapp consulted with a rabbi, as they should have.

    Kimberly, I like that! Especially having written a couple of books in which a musician teaches various things to shoggoths…

    Bei, oh, granted. It’s just that in this case the gap between actual occultism and the faux-occultism of popular culture is unusually glaring.

    C.M., ha! Good for Tortona; I gather it’s a happening place. 😉

    Degringolade, to each their own!

  16. Bei Dawei re: Spiritual Telegraph
    That makes me think of the underlying meanings of common newspaper titles and whether they have something to tell us about those newspapers’ egregores:
    – transfer of info: Telegraph, Courier, Herald, Mail, Messenger
    – events/history: Times, Age, Chronicle
    – moralism?: Guardian

  17. To those who are interested, here are all of the requests for prayer that have recently appeared across the Ecosophia community. Please feel free to add any or all of them to your prayers.

    If I missed anybody on the full list, or if you would like to add a prayer request for yourself or anyone who has given you consent (or for whom you hold power of consent) to the list, please feel free to leave a comment below and/or at the prayer list page.

    Lp9’s recent prayer request for their hometown of East Palestine, Ohio
    , latest news seems to indicate the controlled demolition of the problem car full of vinyl chloride was successful. However evacuated residents still have no idea when they can return home, and the environmental impact looks harrowing.

    Finally, if there are any among you who might wish to join me in a bit of astrological timing, I pray each week for the health of all those with health problems on the list on the astrological Hour of the Sun on Sundays, bearing in mind the Sun’s rulerships of heart, brain, and vital energies. If this appeals to you, I invite you to join me.

  18. “Kimberly, I like that! Especially having written a couple of books in which a musician teaches various things to shoggoths…” I like it too; if I gave up cheese, maybe I’d be a better violinist.

    And, thank you for clarifying why The Fool corresponds to this chapter. I was expecting The World, as were others. I mean to go back and check whether the earlier chapters clearly match the various trumps.

  19. Hi John Michael,

    Hey, didn’t the original actual old school wizards of history use knowledge as their raison d’etre?

    The seen can also reveal unseen new paths, or even unexpected paths to those who care to look. An utter failure to acknowledge those twisty and windy paths are a core problem with the decline of the west. Sometimes I joke around with my wife that: ‘The patterns aren’t right’. She gives me this long suffering look in return, perhaps with a sound which may or may not indicate exasperation. Not sure, but whatever, I might be right. 😉

    To live all, to experience all, and to know all, but of course. How else? Or am I off the mark there. No need to reply on that. Probably why I have to work so hard these days. What can I say, I probably brought this rubbish down on my own head. 🙂



  20. Hi John Michael,

    Oops, almost forgot to mention. The traveller has a good looking dog, but he might want to take his sight down to earth and away from the more lofty airs. Trouble is in the offering.



  21. “…. I. You shall never die, II. but you will become, III. as gods, IV. knowing good and evil.”

    One line of thinking:

    I. You shall never die, – counterintuitive but material plane & reincarnation.
    II. but you will become – etheric plane
    III. as gods, – astral
    IV. knowing good and evil. – mental

  22. Thanks for the card order clarification. I was sufficiently intrigued by the little gematria puzzle that I dug out a letter-number correspondence chart I thought I remembered skimming one time. It was in the book The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order, by Paul Foster Case.

    Skimming that book, in turn, helped me remember why I never ventured deeper into gematria. Case goes through such a torturously complicated interpretation of the coded message supposedly hidden in the original Rosicrucian manifestos that I ended up drawing rather the opposite conclusion from his: like the zany protagonists in the novel Foucault’s Pendulum, you can use this method to make anything mean anything.

    But then here is the notoriously empirical JMG, who touts the efficacy of numerology, of all things, quietly suggesting giving the riddle a try. Well, that arcanum has eluded capture thus far and is still mighty enticing, so we’ll see…

  23. A closer examination of “Le Fou” makes me wonder if that’s a hippie headband that’s slipped down or a blindfold that he’s peeking under. Peeking under it might enable him to evade the gator, at least. The dog behind and the gator in front reminds me of a “Far Side” comic that depicted a person on a beach, caught between sharks in the water and bears on land.

    My Wirth deck “Le Fou” shows a demonic looking cat-like creature with a hold on the poor guy’s britches, a wilting tulip between his legs and a tiny green frog (?) or something atop a pile of boards watching from a distance. Le Fou, himself, looks fairly wretched, as if perhaps he didn’t finish college.

  24. @JMG #16 re: Theosophy’s hostility to divination and ritual magic

    Ah, thank you, I should have guessed! This suggests a rule of thumb for early-to-mid 20th century occult history that is only a little tongue in cheek: “When in doubt, blame Theosophy.”


  25. Quin, thanks for this as always.

    Phutatorius, I posted the card that goes with each chapter, for whatever that’s worth.

    Chris, exactly. The word “wizard” literally means “wise person,” the same way that “drunkard” means “drunk person” — wisdom rather than power was the wizard’s traditional stock in trade. I suspect their wives, or husbands as the case may be, gave them long-suffering looks from time to time too!

    Scotty, nicely done!

    Roldy, you took the words right out of my mouth. 😉

    Dylan, that’s the secret of gematria. It really can make anything mean anything. So when you watch someone like Case at work, don’t assume that he’s extracting meaning that’s already there — he’s got a meaning in mind, and he wants you to follow along as he expounds it.

    Phutatorius, funny.

    Jeff, Theosophy has a lot to answer for, but it also has a lot of accomplishments to boast. For good or ill, nearly every branch of Western alternative spirituality for the century after 1875 bears its imprint.

  26. @JMG #27, re: Theosophy

    Fair enough, I went for “When in doubt, blame Theosophy” over “Wheny in doubt, Theosophy did it” for comedic effect, but I didn’t truly intend a blanket condemnation. It truly is remarkable how widespread their influence was for a time, and how utterly forgotten by the mainstream they are these days, even as you find echoes of their beliefs in odd places like self help books and corporate wellness classes.

  27. JMG & Dylan, re: Gematria:

    Back when I was into Kenneth Grant, that was one of the things that flustered me the most about him: It seemed like he could use it prove any point he wanted. Yet as much as it flustered at times it illuminated. His books do tend to get bogged down by it though, sometimes, as far as reading experience goes. At the same time it was kind of cool to see someone using gematria so thoroughly.

    John, I think you were right when you said Grant missed his calling or a calling and should have been an author of lurid (occult) fiction.

    As far as divination goes, I’ve had the experience recently with the Sacred Geometry Oracle of getting advice in interesting pairs. In one instance I got the Dodecagram reversed, but the advice that followed for how to handle that complexity was the Dodecahedron upright, transcendence. This was followed by another reading that week where I had the Octahedron reversed, but I had the Octogram upright as a second card I drew when asking how best to approach the situation that Octahedron reversed stood for. So it’s interesting to start see these pairs, show a way to transcend or overcome an issue, by accessing the power of a related form.

    I’m sure there is a lot more to unlock…

  28. @Phutatorius – this ties in with earlier comments concerning how different decks “feel” and the input one receives from them.

    I use the Wirth deck for the Doctrine & Ritual meditations and I don’t like the Le Fou card. The demonic / rabied cat creature cannot be anything but malicious and Le Fou’s head is distorted. Not pleasant.

    The card accompanying this post opens another interpretation and instead of the rabied cat creature my initial impression is of a faithful pet dog, saving the deluded fool the only way he can by trying to stop Le Fou from walking into the alligator’s jaw.

    Not saying the Wirth deck Le Fou card isn’t worth meditating on, it’s trying to impart its own message but I’d prefer to meditate on the card accompanying this post.

  29. Something just clicked that makes so much sense of the modern world we’re living in, given that spirituality reflects the society it’s embedded in, and vice versa, any excesses seen in one is probably going to appear in the other. Now, 19th century spirituality in the form Levi espouses tended towards one excess, preferring divination over practical applications: in other words, preferring to gather knowledge over using it. This also shows up in the way that so many intellectuals in the 19th century were unable or unwilling to put their insights into practice; the knowledge is there, but the will to use it is lacking. It even appears in the way that so many people in the 19th century cultural classes were able to identify problems, but the will to do anything about any of them was so much harder to find, and tended to emerge from the more radical elements of society.

    Today, we have swung to the opposite extreme: we value action over knowledge. This shows up with the occultists who disparage divination or meditation, the fondness for emptiness meditation, but it also shows up with surprising regularity with the “Something must be done!” phenomena, where when confronted with a problem, the default reaction among many Westerners today is to assume that any action taken must be better than doing nothing. It’s only in the radical spaces of current society that the question of “will this even work” gets asked: the general consensus is that once a problem or predicament is identified, any action is better than none.

    Hmm, I think this deserves a lot of further thought and reflection.

  30. I remember – I can’t recall who said it – reading that “The dog in that card is the body trying to communicate with the soul.”

  31. My understanding is that the dog represents earthly passions or the like and is biting the fool on his exposed legs (on my Marseilles deck the animal (a large cat of some sort) looks to be biting the fool’s genitalia through a hole in his trousers!)

  32. The past several Levi chapters align with the meditations I’ve been doing on Herakles and alchemy. The sequence of the cards (chapter 17-21) isn’t perfect, but it’s close.

    I’ve been working with Herakles on the Wheel rather than the Tree. If the wheel is rotated so that Kether is at the top, Malkuth is on the bottom. Tiphareth and Yesod form a column between Kether and Malkuth.

    The Sun represents our will. The Moon represents our emotions. The Stars represents our thoughts. The alchemist must learn to control his will (with temperance), his emotions (with courage), and his thoughts (with prudence). When he does, judgment (with justice) manifests (on Malkuth). These are the classical virtues which Herakles achieves.

    To translate these to the magical virtues, prudence is “to know”, courage is “to dare”, and temperance is “to will”. When the alchemist achieves those, “to be silent” manifests.

    The Fool card shows an alchemist who has achieved silence. Because he is silent, he can hear the Divine. (From Cosmic Doctrine, manifestation started as movement, then light, then sound. The Fool is beginning his journey back toward the Divine, so he starts with sound.)

    Because he can hear the Divine, he is walking toward the Pool of Illusion. The crocodile is similar to the crab (and somewhere I read that the Egyptians sometimes used it for representing Cancer, but I cannot find that source right now) in that it lives in two worlds (in water and on land, so liminal). Since the Fool hasn’t pierced the Veil of Illusion yet, he cannot see.

    The dog is perhaps a reference to the “dog from the west” referenced in the Book of Lambspring. He represents untamed will trying to keep the Fool firmly in Malkuth. But the Fool has mastered his will (represented by his red shirt), ignores the dog, and continues his trek toward the Pool. (His tattered green pants show that his untamed will has done some damage to his Earthly body in the past.)

    (I know Temperance, Prudence, Strength/Courage had their own cards previously. I think Herakles actually did two trips around the Wheel, once for the Lesser Mysteries and once for the Greater Mysteries, and the ‘virtue cards’ go with one trip and the stars/moon/sun cards go with the second.)

  33. @bryanlallen, does your deck refer to La Mat as ‘zero’ or as ‘o’? A circle could have a very different meaning than a number…

    Also, the Pool of Illusion shows the reflection of the astral light. Perhaps the mirror-image of Shin is a reflection of the astral Shin?

  34. @Scotty, I like how you interpreted the 1-4 to align to the planes. I originally saw it as aligning to the Cabalistic worlds, so now I’m going to go back and see if I can see a relationship between the planes and the worlds. Thank you!

    My interpretation, for now 😉

    1. You shall never die-Atziluth/Kether
    2. But you will become-Briah/Chockmah-Binah (Masculine and feminine, which create)
    3. As gods-Yetzirah (Tiphareth, et al, since they are aligned to the classical planets, which are assigned to gods)
    4. Knowing good and evil-Malkuth (You eat the Fruit of Knowledge, you get kicked out to Malkuth…)

  35. @RandomActsofKarma

    Nice! And thank you. I’ve yet to devote time to study the Tree of Life so this is great insight and I look forward to the results of your study.

    For extra reading I just found this:

    Midway through there is reference to the serpent stating “you will become AS gods”, versus Jesus stating “you will be God” and “The divinity of man” ties in to many statements in the Doctrine & Ritual’s Divination chapter:

    “To be devin, according to the forces of this word, is thus to be divine….”


    “The two signs of human divinity, or of divine humanity, are prophecies and miracles”.

    I’m wondering if the word that Levi provided a mathematical riddle to solve doesn’t come out to be something like “man”?

  36. I vaguely recall an evangelical book listing the four promises of the serpent as follows (and connecting them to popular New Age teachings):

    1. Ye shall not die (reincarnation, no hell)
    2. Your eyes shall be opened (gnosis)
    3. Ye shall become as gods (the divine within)
    4. Ye shall know good and evil (nonduality, above ordinary morality)

    Anyway, I thought it was a cool list.

  37. Jeff, it really is something. I suspect that the same thing will be true of Neopaganism in a hundred years.

    Justin, as long as you know what you want to communicate, gematria makes a great way of communicating it — and if you’ve got a document that was put together with that in mind, now and then you can figure out what the author was trying to say. Delighted to hear that you’re having fun with the SGO! One of my upcoming projects is going to be a book on various ways you can use any oracle deck for occult training, and the SGO will be the example I use. I think you’ll like it.

    Kevin, hmm! That’s a very good point and one I’ll want to meditate on.

    Patricia M, I like that. Thank you!

    Kerry, ouch! 😉

    Random, thanks for this — a very solid and intriguing meditation.

    Bei, interesting.

  38. @Scotty #22 and @Random #36 My thought was
    I. You shall never die (the unmanifest/ the All)
    II. But you will become (Duality, the High Priestess, the tension driving all becoming)
    III. As gods (Generative, the Empress)
    IV. Knowing good and evil (Discerning, Emperor)

    @Jeff Russel #28 and well, Re: theosophy, Blavatsky and “light meditation” turning up in corporate wellness classes, a story:
    I’m taking this class on Transhumanism with Victoria Alexander. One of the other students mentioned Allison McDowell. I decided to look for her work. Her site is but the video I watched was a three hour piece taken from three days at some conference and it was the best gathering of connections, mapping the intention of the techno-matrix control scenario I have ever ever found. “Smart Cities, the Transhumanist Game and Lifelong Learning”. One of the connections she maps was the Lucis (originally Lucifer) Trust dedicated to the teachings of Alice Bailey, who was brought into the occult sciences with intro to Blavatsky; now her people bring “light meditation” (har har JMG) to the United Nations (and I gather corporate wellness classes). A while back I had found her book in Goodwill (the thrift store, not the global quasi-religious movement of the Lucis Trust), The Rays and Initiations. She was an occult alice, so it drew me right to it, tho I’m not sure quite what to make of it, particularly its current relationship to ideas about the merging of technology and spirituality. Also, recently encountered a podcast that led with this idea of magic as fundamentally “will to power” which I thought was kind of off, as I carry a sense of magic, particularly getting advice from tarot, as mostly about knowledge and self-knowledge, not trying to do stuff to people or the like. Wanting to shift my balance perhaps a little more from knowledge to action as I’ve just been granted power through funding in regenerative agriculture and need to get ready to wield it adeptly…

    So what to make of this reappearing of Lucis Publishing, and how to respond to this agenda mapped in Allison’s talk and elsewhere. I ask the i ching. I get 52-Ken-Keeping Still Mountain over Mountain with all four of interior lines of the hexagram marked (I’ve never gotten four/six marked lines). If the four lines were to transition to their opposites, it would be 6-sung-Conflict. Seems like a wise message of caution, with some other nuances… I don’t have much time following the historical currents of occult thought. Anyone willing to give me a primer on Alice Bailey and what her (and “the Tibetan’s”) students have done?

  39. At times I think how funny it is that a good deal of “occult”-ism is hidden only in plain sight. Why, any old fool might with a bit of thought, attention, and dedication work out at least the basics of occult knowledge on their own. It’s only a learned or willful blindness that keeps most folks from seeing what’s right in front of their eyes—myself often included.

    Many thanks for helping some of us learn to see.

  40. First, I want mention Hebrew Today, which has a series of pages dedicated to Kabbala-friendly introductions to the Hebrew alphabet, with a modern appearance.

    I first tried mapping the statements to the sefirot, but then tried something more creative:
    I. — Could point to Keter/Celi by itself, or could refer to the whole supernal triad as the ultimate 3-bodied soul from the Cosmic Doctrine.
    II. — Tipareth/Muner, the part of the soul that changes in life, and transforms/builds out that highest self in death.
    III. — Chesed/Ener, the exercise of will, and the power of change.
    IV — Geburah/Modur, the accumulation of karma, and understanding the destiny that unfolds from it.

  41. RandomActsOfKarma @ 35: My Marseille deck is by Grimaud, and the card has no number on it; the number field at the top of the card is empty. However, the interpretive booklet of the deck shows a distinct “0” (zero) for Le Mat, with Le Mat following 21 “Le Monde” in the booklet.

    Robert Mathiesen @ 14: thanks so much for your detailed answer. Fascinating! I had never realized that our alphabet was so recently modified!

    JMG: the edits for typos don’t seem to have “stuck”, as when I refresh the page or even use another browser “sunnary” and “19” still show up.

  42. Hi John Michael,

    I had not been aware of the origins of the word ‘wizard’, although knew something of the history of the profession. King Arthur definitely needed Merlin, no getting around that part of the story. Curiously, there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom, in that wisdom suggests possible outcomes from the implementation of knowledge. Dunno, but the difference seems important to me.

    Thanks for the laughs too. I’m sure it happens in your household too, to either of you! 🙂



  43. @Scotty,

    Oooo… that looks interesting.

    I have only skimmed it, but the sentence

    You will be God, for God is my Father, my Father and I are one and I intend that you and I shall be one:

    Reminds me of the caption of Figure XV in the Book of Lambspring


    (I’m not shouting. That’s how it is printed here

    And that prompted me to thinking about the Gematria riddle again, which I have just about given up on.

    (If anyone is still working on the riddle, don’t read the rest of this! Not that I think my answer is right, but if I read someone else’s answer, it tends to bias my own thinking, so this is your spoiler alert.)

    I don’t know French. Or Latin. Or Hebrew. So the chances of me teasing out the answer seem slim. Then JMG’s comment about how it can make anything mean anything. So I started working backwards from what I thought the answer might be… taro? Nope, didn’t seem significant. Then I figured out that SOPHIA reduced down to 1, if I just substituted the Hebrew letters for the English spelling. Then I tried MALKUTH. That didn’t do anything interesting, but I looked up the Hebrew spelling MALXUS; that reduced to 4. Hmm. That was interesting. But then your comment took me back to Lambspring, which mentions the Great Medicine with a few of the figures. And the Great Medicine is Truth. So the internet helped me translate Truth to Hebrew… “emet” (ooo! a tetragrammaton! this might be interesting!) Did a search… found how to spell it in Greek here: Figured out the names of the letters… Tau Mem Aleph. Hmm. Start with Aleph (#1, the Magician), end with Tau (resurrection). What does Mem mean? Go here,, read the first blurb under Advanced Information (especially the sentence under their Gematria calculations). Water! In my Herakles’ Wheel, The Great Sea figures prominently. Binah. Water. So the Magician to Water (like the Fool’s card) leads to Resurrection. Might not be at all what Levi intends, but it fits my Herakles’ stuff quite well, so I am a happy camper. Thank you so much for your comment that led me here.)

  44. Dylan:

    “…you can use this method to make anything mean anything.”

    Yes! The rational mind goes around in tortuous circles until I feel like it’s all madness, folly.

    Aha! An epiphany dawns!

    – – – –

    I too was primed to read Le Monde this month, so am having to refocus.

    “The pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
    And being swept along is not enough.
    Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
    Until they span the chasm between two contradictions,
    For the god wants to know himself in you.”

    – Rilke

  45. AliceEm, I haven’t followed Bailey’s group closely. She has some fans in well-to-do places, but my contacts with her followers didn’t exactly leave me convinced that they’re the kind of world-ruling secret society portrayed by some folks in conspiracy culture.

    Valenzuela, wasn’t it Mark Twain who pointed out that there’s nothing less common than common sense? I’ve devoted 45 years to studying occultism, and most of what I’ve learned has been a matter of realizing what was staring me in the face the whole time.

    Jeff P, thanks for both of these!

    Bryan, hmm. No, the changes somehow got lost here too. I’ve remade them; we’ll see if that sticks.

    Chris, I must have used the word “wizard” ten thousand times before it occurred to me what it literally meant.

    Goldenhawk, thank you for the Rilke!

  46. @Jeff P,

    Thank you very much for the Cabala-friendly alphabet page! And I like your mapping of 1-2-3-4 very much.


    Ha! Your 1-2-3-4 ends with the Emperor, which Wirth aligned to Herakles (in Tarot of the Magicians). Perhaps myths are similar to gematria… you find what you need to find. 😉

    And a weird little synchronicity, you bringing up Alice Bailey. (I had no idea that Lucis was originally Lucifer Trust!) In my Herakles research, I found her interpretation of the myths ( I will say it is probably the most detailed interpretation of the myths I’ve come across, though I cannot say I particularly liked the interpretations.

  47. Thank you for this poem fragment, Goldenhawk! I had to search a bit to find the German version, which I found more difficult to understand than the English translation 🙂 At one point the translation is a bit more impersonal than the original. Instead of “The pattern grows more intricate and subtle”, one might rather say (in more syllables) “The interweaving becomes more and more intimate”, suggesting that two originally separate pieces of cloth are being woven into one piece.

  48. @Jon G, re: your comment about the Chariot’s canopy,

    I’ve been studying Herakles with the Wheel of the Year (which organizes the Spheres in time) instead of the Tree of Life (which organizes the Spheres in space) (because I see the Zodiac as more time than space).

    But the Chariot represents control of the will. The High Priestess could represent control of emotion. And the Hierophant could represent control of thought. Hmm. Hmm. Hmm. Here I thought I was almost done figuring Herakles out, and now this.


    I have Paths of Wisdom. I am looking at the Path of the Serpent. When does the Path between two Spheres open, when the Serpent crosses in front of OR behind the Path, or after the Serpent has crossed both in front of and behind the Path? (Or if this is something that should wait for Magic Monday, I’ll ask again then.)

  49. @Bryanlallen #6, Robert Mathiesen #14 Re: Why did he skip to ‘X’?

    Well it could be for reasons related to the depth of thought that went into the Doctrine of High Magic– Or could be I am reading too much into it;

    Anyway the ‘Shin’ character in Hebrew has a near analogue in Arabic that is apparently used in Arabic-language mathematics to represent something unknown– In the West we typically use ‘X’ as an unknown variable, so in this way, both the Arabic Shin and X represent something unknown.
    Amens–The mindless fool is about to step into the unknown — We can see the card so we know he is stepping into danger, but he does not know it.
    The Fool does not know what he does not know. How can he escape this woeful ignorance?

    Dentes/Teeth: ‘Shin’ looks a bit like teeth. The dog has his eyes wide open, is aware of the danger, and is biting his master in the leg. If The Fool pays attention to the pain in his leg, he just may avoid walking into the mouth of the alligator.

    Sometimes, pain is our only clue that we are in a bad way and on the wrong path. The pain caused by the faithful dog is pain that comes from love, and can save The Fool; The pain he will encounter in the mouth of the alligator is the pain of destruction.

    ‘Shin’ also reminds us of the Hebrew phrase ‘Sh’at ha shin’ — The last possible moment for action in the eleventh hour. Certainly, this is where The Fool is.

    ‘Furca’ the fork in the road. The fool can turn to the left or right, or go back the way he came. He has a choice, and his universe is trying to educate him about his choices. Best to lift the blindfold, but perhaps the pain in his leg will educate him enough.

    ‘Shin’, in its iconography, also represents the Temple in Jerusalem, the horizontal line at the tip of the middle pillar between two valleys, the valley of Hinnom (where refuse is burned; a picture of destruction) and Kidron (where winter rains flood through, a picture of renewal). It is the first letter of ‘Shaddai’ a name of God that suggests ‘God of Mountains’ and also ‘God of Breasts.’

    Is The Fool at the Temple Mount? If he is, will he step into destruction, or renewal?

    Lotta material here for meditation, that’s for sure!

  50. Morning from cloudy Herefordshire. A few disjointed thoughts…
    ‘You shall become as gods’ is not the same thing as ‘you shall become gods’. What is the difference? To know good and evil, but with the capacities of humans, not gods? I think at present we are the opposite, with powers of gods but with no knowledge of good and evil…
    If the occult is “that which is hidden”, it occurs to me that this could just be the Real. We cannot directly see reality due to all the filters we see it through (education, memes, culture, etc). A good example is the “discovery” of our gut-brain. Dissections had been carried out for centuries without anyone “seeing” the gut-brain because of the view that the world is heirarchical (great chain of being, etc), with the Brain as a kind of director of the body. This view was altered in our society after the internet (and systems theory) was developed and it became generally acceptable that decentralised, nonheirarchical structures are possible. Then the gut-brain was “seen”.
    Could the occult practices be for enabling people to just see what is there via right-brain symbolism, rituals, etc?
    Your book’s on order.

  51. PSA:

    Happy Alchemy Day!

    The “Mutus Liber” was published February 11, 1677. Justin Sledge (of the YouTube channel Esoterica) has therefore proclaimed February 11 as “Alchemy Day” and has released a video in which he gives a detailed analysis of the images included in the book. (The images were used by Jung in “Psychology and Alchemy”.)

    So, if you like alchemy and don’t mind videos,

    (And lest you think I can actually make a comment without bringing up Herakles, the last image in the Mutus Liber does have a man wearing a lion skin… 😉 )

  52. What’s striking to me as I meditate on The Fool is how the animal looks to be pulling the skin of the leg off and exposing green underneath. As if the meat suit is covering up life and vitality. There is a cup hidden in the sack, as if the emotions need to be bundled up behind him to move forward.

    In a different meditation I laid out the trumps of the Rider Waite deck this morning and @RandomActsofKarma’s “The Sun represents our will. The Moon represents our emotions. The Stars represents our thoughts.” strikes me as interesting how it moves from 17 The Star, 18 The Moon, and 19 The Sun – thoughts to emotions to will. It certainly feels like my own journey from thinking about it, to experiencing a range of emotions, to recognizing the significance of the will to make real progress. Always hesitate to use that word progress, but can’t think of a better one.

  53. Will1000, that’s almost endearing in its clunkiness.

    Random, that’s a Magic Monday question! I’ll look forward to it in a couple of days.

    Benn, hmm! Yes, that would be a very good definition of occultism.

    Random, thanks for this.

    Denis, hmm again! Yes, that works rather well. As for “progress,” it’s a perfectly valid word; it can’t be blamed for the delusional civil religion that’s built up around it.

  54. Hello JMG,
    Thank you for your work.
    Thinking about the card… It’s associated with the Hebrew letter ש. Shen is tooth in Hebrew. Teeth figure prominently in the card’s image. The Fool stumbles blindly forward. Yet behind him there is a dog (his childhood? his actions? his assumptions?) biting his leg and impeding his walk. He can not see the dog’s teeth yet they bite him. Even bigger teeth await him – a crocodile at the sea below. Ouch! The Fool doesn’t know any better – he is compelled to move. It looks hopeless, yet we know that he is going to make it all the way to the World eventually. Careful look allows to assess what it is that the Fool has in his possession to avoid the crocodile’s teeth. Everything is going to be better if he just stops and puts down his sack. He can then remove the blindfold and fight off the dog. Seeing the world around him and not being harassed by the dog allows him to adjust his route and continue to go where he needs to be. The crocodile can not jump out of the water and can’t eat him unless the Fool falls blindly into his teeth. If he does… well… off he goes toward his next incarnation, and the next… until he eventually figures it all out. Figuring this all out will change the Fool an the profound ways… He won’t be foolish anymore.

  55. Hi John Michael,

    Yeah, that had never occurred to me either, but it’s there now that you’ve pointed it out. Out of curiosity, what language was the word derived from do you reckon? Heard a good one liner years ago, which may be appropriate in this instance: “Out front of a rock and roll band is where I hide.” Very clever really, and at the core of the art of the illusionist.

    Hope you’re getting heaps of work done on the various book projects? I respect your work ethic, and these Doctrine of High Magic weeks bring out the serious students, but also give you a bit of a break from lengthy replies. Hey, I’ve got an on-going joke with my wife about reader numbers if ever they decline: Reader numbers have dropped, better write about Oil next week. 🙂 Strangely enough amusing stories about dog antics do the same trick. Who knew?



  56. @RandomActsOfKarma #45

    **Fair warning**
    This is a long post that may or may not give useful clues to someone else solving the riddle– I don’t think I solved it– You may want to skip it if you are not that interested in the riddle.

    JMG, feel free to not post or edit, if you think it is too far off topic, a waste of time or the information at the end about the gematrix website is dangerous.

    Trying my hand at the riddle too (mostly for fun, not with much hope of solving it):
    “He who understands perfectly the absolute value of [aleph]”
    Hebrew letters also have numerical values. While the value of aleph is assigned “1”, it is composed of a ‘yud’, a ‘vav’ and a ‘yud’ which have the values 10, 6, and 10. So you could say that the ‘absolute
    ‘ value of aleph is ’26.’
    “N” is the 14th letter of the Western alphabet.
    So– The Value of Aleph (26) multiplied by N (14) would be 26*14 = 364. A bit short of the number of days in a year…

    “With the grammatical force of the final N in words which express science, art, or puissance”
    Not sure how this bit contributes, but here’s what I found–
    Synonyms in French that end in “N” might include
    For Science– érudition, instruction, organisation;
    For Art — précision, érudition, instruction
    For Puissance — implication, domination, pression.
    They mostly end in -tion and pretty much mean the same in English as in French.

    “…then adds the five letters of the word “DEVIN” in such a manner as to enter five into four and two into one.”

    The letters D_E_V_I_N are letters 4,5,22,9 and 14 of the alphabet. Each of the two letter values, added together in pairs in sequence, would yield 4 numbers: D+E = 9; E+V=27; V+I=31; I+N=23, or 9, 27, 31, and 23.

    “And two into one”
    Reduce the two-digit values to one-digit values by adding gives 9, 9, 4, 5.

    “That person, in translating the number he finds into primordial Hebrew letters will write the occult name of the great Arcanum…”

    OK, back to numbers;
    from the above, we have 3-6-4-9-9-4-5

    “Primordial” I take to mean ‘stick to the single number letter values.’

    From this webpage:

    Hebrew values for 3,6,4,9,9,4,5 are ‘gimel’ ‘vav’ ‘dalet’ ‘tet’ ‘tet’ ‘dalet’ ‘he’.
    So GVDTTDH, or maybe GiVaDaTeTeDaHe…

    Other- Explore only with caution:

    There is a Gematria Calculator at this webpage:
    It allows you to enter a name or a number and then view different names or phrases that it calculates in Hebrew or English Gematria.

    There are many pages of results for each entry–
    3649945 does not give a result;
    ‘364’ results include ‘Books of Enoch’, ‘Banana Split’ and ‘Tupac’

    ‘9945’ —ehhhh. Another mystery–.
    Gematrix spews out a series of sentences, a single page of them. Some religious in nature, inflammatory or both. They sort of have the look and feel of demonic ramblings, of the ‘1 + 1 = tulip’ variety. I tried other 4-digit combinations and came up with similar collections of random and disturbing sentences–
    I don’t recommend 4-digit entries to gematrix.

  57. Had one of those aha! moments today, though I suspect others have figured this out way before me. Gematria is a version of alchemy… solve and coagula. You have a word. You separate into parts and then put it back together.

  58. @ Bei Dawei #38

    It is a good list.

    When reading your list I had the thought that the serpent was a good salesman and didn’t go over the fine print, just like the old advertisements with small print at the bottom saying “batteries not included” for “Ye shall know good and evil”. Nice to know that but without the battery / wisdom to use that knowledge…

  59. @ RandomActs @45

    I’m happy that my comment could spark the thought that lead to more insight for you. More proof of the positive magic in action on the Archdruid’s message board and particularly the book club series of posts.

    I’ve been mulling over Levi’s riddle but I think I am pretty much unsuited to figuring it out. I tend to think too literally. Reading your comment I believe you have figured out what he meant by “4 into 5 and 2 into 1”, i.e. transliteration from French (or in your case English) words into the Hebrew characters.

    I think you may be onto something in not to take it too literally, especially when confronted with this:

    1. Understand perfectly the absolute numerical value of aleph (I get it, “1” but I think there is a trap in “understand perfectly” but I’ll go with one).
    2. multiplied by N (from prior discussion on this post I’ll use the 22 letter alphabet so after combining I and J the letter N is now the 13th letter = 1 x 13 = 13)
    3. with a grammatical force of the final N in the words which express……?????

    And here is where I flounder. Multiplying by or with a grammatical force??? Well my grammatical force will be different some someone else, and that is where I’m thinking the “anything means anything” path might be one to explore.

    Anyway, I guess we already know the answer “divinity of man” and I guess that is the easy part but just like a prior comment of mine, the hard part is how do we use that divinity?

  60. Aldarion:

    Thank you for your translation. The weaving imagery a lot adds a new dimension of meaning for me. So much of poetry’s magic depends on language!

  61. I didn’t see any green underneath, nor the cup in the sack, unless it was one of the lumps. I do notice (apart from the tiny “Wolfgang loves Mabel” across his shins) that, unlike in the conventional decks, this is not a pageboy in the kind of tunic that looks like a dress, but a bearded man in ragged trousers – i.e. an adult wanderer with a good tunic or jacket and simple shoes. Are the trousers ragged because the dog had been trying repeatedly to get his attention? Or has he just been on the road for a long time? And then we have the blindfold. Imposed on him? Covering sightless eyes? Or willfully chosen?

  62. I’ve seen a few places where Levi hints that action is the root of power: notice that two of his four virtues amount to “Do something!” He places knowing first, but he hints in a few places that without action, knowledge is worthless, and this is one of them.

    This contrasts rather well with Fortune’s notes that Limitation is at the root of all power. Building off my insight there that Fortune was saying Saturn is the root of all power, if I’m reading Levi right, he’s hinting that Mercury and Mars are the root of power.

    Both are right, in a way, since all three planets are a necessary component of power: Mercury provides knowledge ,without which power is impossible since a blind force is useless; Saturn focuses it, and Mars takes the focused power and turns it into action. Take away any of the three, and there can be no power: without knowing where to direct it, any amount of force is useless at best, and possibly counterproductive; without focusing it by limiting it, it is to dispersed to do anything; and without taking risks and using the focused energy for something, all that happens is the creation of a massive amount of potential.

    I think I’ve found my theme for my morning meditations for the rest of February, at the very least.

  63. Kirsten, a good workmanlike meditation! Thank you for this.

    Chris, “wizard” is a hybrid. “Wise,” the first element, is Old English originally, from wis, “wise, learned,” which is *wissaz in Proto-Germanic and *wittos in Indo-European. The suffix “-ard” is from Norman French. The word “wysarde,” as it was originally, first shows up in the early 1300s. As for posts and book projects, oh, granted — it’s convenient to have some extra time now and then, though I’m going to have to take a little more shortly. Stay tuned!

    Patricia, I couldn’t resist Wolfgang and Mabel. 😉

    Kevin, and good meditation fodder that definitely is.

  64. Once my sister accidnetally left something on the stove and set the kitchen on fire. Our dog tried to alert her by barking but she ignored the warning, so she got chomped. When she got up retaliate she noticed the smoke and flames. For me the Knapp-Hall fool tarot card and theme of divination go together really well. The dog is like the cards trying to wake us up to potential danger as we blindly stumble through life. Sometimes the message is painful, but learning to accept it can save us from a real disaster.

  65. Since I started reading your translation of Lévi last month, I keep thinking about my ex-partners late father. He was born in Slovenia in the 1930s to a rich family that lost everything to war and communism. And he was a philosopher, a real one, like in getting his 1000-page habilitation work refused for containing too many original ideas, not to mention a theory of the whole universe. It certainly contained some very original language that only his family had learned to understand – long compound german words like „Tendenzdominanzumkehr“, for instance.

    So he worked as a salesman for medical supplies for the rest of his life to keep his family afloat, and spent the nights writing in his basement. He wrote to Werner Heisenberg, asking him for support for his theories, but the famous physicist refused to get his hands dirty.

    I failed to meet him because he died just as I met his son, but I always wondered if he was an occultist. He invented his own martial art and knew about the secrets of thieves, tricksters and funfair artists.

    My friend once created his own homeopathical remedy for me, by pressing his hands on a bottle of „empty“ globuli. Apparently, his father had told him something to the effect of: It’s intention that is the main agent, but man needs a material substance as anchor to make it work – hence the globuli.

  66. Levi (pg. 179):

    “…to succeed at the Great Work, one must be divinus, or devin, in the Cabalistic sense of the work, and it is indispensable to have renounced, for one’s own interest, the advantages of the wealth of which one will become the dispenser”.

    I have been thinking over this statement and at first, wondered how it fit in with an earlier statement (pg. 178) “To be a prophet is to see ahead of time….,it is to read the astral light, to make miracles is to act upon the universal against and submit it to our will” .

    I believe the answer is contained in the first chapter:

    Pg. 33 “Only the person who is his own master can truly possess the pleasure of love, for he has vanquished the love of pleasure. To be able to do and to abstain from doing, is to be twice able”.

    Wonder if others agree?

  67. While digging around Chapter 1 for the last comment I found the following which I believe ties into the discussions for this chapter on the Grand Arcanum and divinity:

    Pg. 32

    “the first magical science, and also the first of all the works of science, was knowledge of oneself, it is that which contains all the others and which is the principle of the Great Work, it is the creation of oneself…….”

    This helps me see past what I thought was an incongruency with Levi stating the essence of the Grand Arcanum as becoming divine and the Serpent promising a transformation to become as gods. I think those who would abuse any power gained by magic or mastery of the astral light will focus upon “become as gods” versus Levi’s emphasis and requirement to focus upon “you will become”.

  68. Aloysius, thank you for this! That casts a useful light on the card.

    Njura, fascinating. It’s quite possible he was an occultist; I hope the family is doing something to get his ideas more exposure — in the era of the internet, that’s a lot easier than it used to be.

    Scotty, good on both counts — and in both cases, well worth further meditation.

  69. @Scotty and @Emmanual Goldstein (and any others mulling over the gematria riddle),

    “Devin, in French, contains the four letters of the word DIEU, plus the letter N, which corresponds… to Aleph [which is the figure of the Magician.”

    So we want DEVIN and Aleph.

    D + E + V + I + N is five characters

    4 + 5 + 6 + 10 + 50 into four characters =

    4 + 5 + 6 + 60

    Two into one changes the 60 to 6, so

    4 + 5 + 6 + 6, which can be

    4 + 17 or 4 + 8, which is D + H.

    Add the original Aleph back on and we get

    DHA, which is Hebrew word for ‘one’ or ‘unity’. So the Magician is reunited into the Unity.


    It doesn’t really incorporate Aleph multiplied by N, unless N is really Aleph, in which case it is 1 * 1, which is 1, so it just stays Aleph.


  70. Hi John Michael,

    Thanks for the information on the word. Our language is clearly anchored in the past, and words themselves have a tale to tell.

    No worries at all, a bloke needs time out to rest up, spend time on other projects. 🙂

    You mentioned that: “the Fool comes between Judgement and The World”, and that’s true. I’ve got a somewhat gentler view of that story, and was curious as to your thoughts.

    I mean, we’re not trained to critically assess anything really, and most of what we’re taught to do is to parrot back what we’ve been told. Nice parrot, good parrot. That cultural blind spot goes right up the food chain too. Take that cultural practice far enough and narrative takes precedence over the facts on the ground or even direction, and then narrative gets parroted back. However, the mismatch between the two is technically known as an untruth, and in some impolite circles as a lie. The sad thing about the liar is that the person if caught, soon loses credibility, but does that stop them acting so? Hmm. And parroting gives energy to narrative (a powerful tool), but where does vision stand in all of that? The tool of narrative has an element of control to it, as it appears to be used nowadays, and is not always the case. Vision on the other hand is something else, and you don’t see it being used. Vision may be able to guide the fool in the circumstances you cite. Dunno.



  71. @RandomAct

    Bravo. Your method has merit and interesting it leads back to one. I would not have thought of N as the stand in for Aleph but 1 x 1 =1 and “it just stays Aleph”.

    I think Dion Fortune said it best:

    “In these occult teachings you will be given certain riddles, under which you are instructed to think of certain things. These riddles are not descriptive but symbolic, and are designed to train the mind, not to inform it.”

  72. @random, I was glad to be shared that Bailey take on herakles. While I think I can feel what you didn’t much like about her interpretation, some of the introduction fit really well with the Levi chapter: on achieving the divinity which allows for seeing future effects and enacting miracles through work on the universal agent.

    Bailey wrote/channeled: Everything outer and tangible is a symbol of inner creative forces
    Through self-awareness…
    He is no longer identified with the matter aspect but is the One who uses it as a medium of expression.

    And the Aries chapter fit my Aries friend to a T.

    Maybe I need to go dig into your herakles work cause I also recently read ‘until we have faces’ by cs Lewis which is a retelling of psyche’s story. And like you are obviously finding, there’s so much richness in those myths. I like myths more than those gematria puzzles!

    @JMG I agree that the Bailey ppl might have friends in well-to-do places but that they aren’t driving any world-ruling secret society agenda, tho it’s easy to imagine conspiracy culture folks imagining that they were. The recommended ‘Smart Cities, the Transhuman Game, and Lifelong Learning’ I wouldn’t call conspiracy culture. The lucis reference was a little one off in a massive compilation of primary sources that she mostly knew much more thoroughly than she knew about the occult influences. She did want to note that there were occult influences which weren’t as much in her wheelhouse to dig into.

    Anyhow, I listened to their (Lucis) current top leader Christine ___from South Africa on a zoom call and I got the sense of her as actually riding a runaway horse, pulling on the reins this way or that not having an impact. The Bailey folks constant invocation of group service and humanity’s greater destiny, combined with an actively ungrounded (like divorced from any specific rooted home lands) approach to finding the common threads in all Great Teacher figures— this is all catnip for people who get off on the technoutopian dream and there’s a lot of them in well to do places these days. She said something about love of Nature and I just felt like she was struggling watching her organization be co-opted, like she had puked up her own koolaid. Maybe she has seen too many fall off the psyche path to the psychopath: People seeing the great destiny of humans as needing us all to join The Internet of Bodies and to trade social impact bonds on AI gathered data from little pre-k kids learning at play tables with digital sharing games, facial recognition and QR codes to identify and score each child’s behavior.

  73. Hello JMG and fellow commenters,

    I am fairly new to the topic of magic / occultism so excuse me if my question seems basic or dumb. There is a lot of material on magical geometry but is there such a thing as magical analysis / algebra? When I studied maths I read that Georg Cantor, one of the main contributors heard “voices” that gave him insights. Again, excuse my lack of knowledge on the topic of magic.

    Best Wishes for all!

  74. @collapse aware engineer (#78):

    Georg Cantor is known to have had a long-standing interest, at a minimum, in Rosecrucianism and in Christian mystical theology. Therefore it’s not at all unlikely that he found out a way–there are more than one such way–to bring pre-verbal mathematical insights down into the realm of words, where he could then work with them as a professional mathematician.

  75. Regarding the symbolic serpent and its speech:

    You shall never die
    but you will become
    as gods,
    knowing good and evil

    I wonder if this connects somehow to the four-fold breath, but the division into four seems to me to be forced and arbitrary.

    In today’s discursive meditation I used this, from Max Heindel:

    As a physical action
    is but the physical manifestation
    of the invisible thought
    which must precede it…

    …which I was also connecting with the four-fold breath.

  76. Huh. I just today finally had a chance to read this post. Crazy week. The post is especially interesting to me because for the last couple of months I’ve been working on creating a divination system of my own, partly because I wanted to understand how it worked and I thought the best way to do this is to try creating one myself. The other reason is that I wanted to have a divination system that prioritized understanding the connection between my higher self and the various aspects of my personality and my life. I also find with the Tarot that I get bogged down in the emotional and psychological morass that it gives me and I find it difficult to get clarity.

    So I based the system on the SOP, using glass beads like here:

    They have a flat side and a round side making it easy to tell reversed from upright.

    I chose 7 beads, the meaning of which pretty much follows the Druid Handbook:
    white for inner spirit
    yellow for air
    red for fire
    blue for water
    green for earth
    orange for spirit below
    purple for spirit above

    I cast the beads and interpret them based on whether they are upright or reversed, along the lines of connected/disconnected, relevant/not relevant, balanced/imbalanced, or other possible meanings. The orange and purple ones are more commentary on spiritual forces having a bearing on the situation, being forces outside of me, but the meaning of the other 5 depend on the druid/occult meaning of each colour, and the relationship between the beads as cast.

    For example, if white, red and green are upright, but yellow and blue are reversed, it seems to mean:
    Yup, you have the will/desire and resources to do something spectacularly stupid (badly thought out), but because white is upright it’s probably karma, meaning that your higher spirit is onboard with this. If white is reversed, it’s still stupid but it’s not necessarily what your higher spirit wants.

    Each evening I ask about myself for the next day, cast the beads, leave the arrangement intact the next day and try to figure out what the message is for that day and how it plays out with what happens.

    I have also ordered the possible arrangements (32) starting with all reversed going to all upright, with the progression starting at green (body only) upright, working my way up the planes, with upright and reversed going back and forth for each bead, till all aspects of my being are unified (upright), each arrangement having a meaning along the continuum of possibilities. I’m working on the meanings of each step as well.

    Anyway, sorry for rambling on. It’s a fascinating project.


  77. @AliceEm,

    Though I didn’t like her interpretations, I did find value in reading her “book”.

    If you are interested in studying myths (or one myth), I have posted my resources, in case it might be helpful to you. And even if you aren’t interested in the Greek myths, some of the sources compare the constellations of Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. And the Symbolical Language of Ancient Art and Mythology covers many many different cultures.

    (And eventually I am going to share write-ups of the ‘big stuff’ I learned. It is just taking me a while to get things organized.)

  78. Collapse aware engineer (no. 78), the following is from the Jeeves / Wooster (but mostly Wooster) / Cthulu pastiche “What Ho, Gods of the Abyss?” from Alan Moore’s comic “The Black Dossier.” The narrator is Bertie:

    “I tossed and turned all night, racked with a strong yet inexplicable conviction that my room’s geometry was somehow faulty, even though if I’m entirely honest I’m not sure exactly which one’s algebra and which one’s geometry. If I’m wrong and geometry’s the one with all the letters, then I mean that my room’s algebra was wrong. Whichever one it was I hardly slept a wink…”

  79. I’m late to the party this time! After re-reading the chapter several times, I have lots of thoughts swirling around but nothing solid to post yet.

    Just piping up before the end of the comment cycle to say that I continue to be grateful for these book club posts and all the informed commentary from everyone!

  80. Chris, the idea of narrative and vision as complementary factors has a lot to offer. Hmm.

    AliceEm, that doesn’t surprise me at all. The broader Theosophical tradition to which Alice Bailey’s organization belongs has been through the same thing before — in the 1920s, that sort of occultism was largely coopted by certain factions of the wealthy class, and so the Theosophical movement was very nearly destroyed by the 1929 crash as a result. I hope the Lucis Trust people have the sense to start backing away from the current incarnation of that class in time.

    Engineer, the only branches of mathematics that have really been put to work in occult circles are arithmetic and a couple of branches of geometry. It wouldn’t surprise me at all, as Robert notes, if Cantor had derived some of his ideas from occult sources, but as far as influence going the other way — more advanced mathematics influencing occultism — the only modern example I know of is that some occultists in Rudolf Steiner’s end of the movement have done quite a bit with projective geometry. Magical algebra and magical analysis are certainly possible, but as far as I know nobody who knows their way around ordinary algebra and analysis has gotten to work applying them to occult uses.

    Phutatorius, that’s a great theme!

    Myriam, hmm! That sounds like a very useful little oracle.

    Bei, great tentacled horrors, there’s another Wodehouse/Lovecraft pastiche? The only one I was aware of was Peter Cannon’s very fine Scream for Jeeves.

    Jbucks, you’re welcome and thank you.

  81. This was discussed before in this book club but I didn’t follow the conversation and can’t find it but any background on the roses pictured in the Oswald Wirth tarot?

    The Fool, Mage, Emperor and Temperance cards features a rose. The rose is wilted on the Temperance and Fool cards.

    Two other cards features flowers, the Empress which has a white flower, maybe lily beside her and the Stars (card 17) which is probably a rose bush with its red flower.

    Closed I could come to this is Oswald Wirth created the card deck under the guidance of Stanislas de Guaita, who was a Rosicrucian and created the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Cross the year prior to Oswald creating his tarot deck.

    I’m not well versed in the Kabbalah but what I found is an ethnocentric interpretation of a “rose amongst thorns” with the rose and its 13 petals representing the “Community of Israel” but also “Kabbalistic code for the Shechinah, the female aspect of God, who has within herself the potentialities (derived from the male elements whose juices flow into her) for Divine Mercy and Divine Judgment. These are manifested in the physical world by the rose’s sometimes being red (= Judgment), sometimes white (= Mercy).”

    My initial thought is that the meaning intended by Oswald will relate to the meaning given to it by the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose though that meaning is probably strongly influenced by the kabbalistic traditions.

  82. @Scotty,

    I had mentioned the rose briefly in the discussion for Chapter 20, referencing the first few paragraphs of It isn’t new symbolism (compared to the info given in your third link), though. I had not noticed a waxing/waning rose on my Knapp Hall cards. I will look for that tonight and will let you know if I find anything. (Also, Manly Hall’s Secret Teachings of All Ages had a chapter or two on Rosicrucian stuff. (

  83. This thought came to me during one of the element invocation phases of the SOP but I was wondering again on the Serpent stating we would live forever and become as goods, knowing good an evil (as opposed to elementals not having a sense of right or wrong).

    If we, as a swarm of souls, started in the material plane as single cell organisms this implies the serpents offer of god-like awareness came sometime during this swarm, not before. This also implies that either someone/something made the choice for this collective group of souls or that sometime during our sojourn on the material plane and preparations to go back up, we all individually made this choice (my thought on most likely).

    If we chose as individuals to become “as gods” wondering what the traditions say about those that said “not for me thanks”. Did they stay as elementals, allowed to maintain a steady state throughout eternity on the level they enjoy (i.e. as a rock)?

    I also wonder what the traditions say as we progress back up? Reading JMG it seems we have no choice. You keep getting replays until you finally get it right but wondering if we have another moment with the Serpent offering a new deal: 1. you will keep living forever 2. you will keep becoming 3. as gods 4. and have true knowledge of the meaning of things??

  84. @Robert Mathiesen Thanks, I didnt know that!

    @JMG Thanks for the reply. I will look into the projective geometry you mentioned.

    @Bei Dawei I can definetly relate to Bertie. Thanks for the excerpt, made me smile.

  85. @RandomActs
    Thank you and glad you are still reading this post. Some notes below to start stimulating my thoughts on the rose question. Note that page #’s are of the .pdf, not the page number shown upper left corner of the scan on some pages.

    “The rose and its Eastern equivalent, the lotus, like all beautiful flowers, represent spiritual
    unfoldment and attainment”

    pg. 269 Of all symbolic flowers the locus blossom of India and Egypt and the rose of the Rosicrucians are the most important. In their symbolism these two flowers are considered identical. The esoteric doctrines for which the Eastern lotus stands have been perpetuated in modern Europe under the form of the rose. The rose and the lotus are yonic emblems, signifying primarily the maternal creative mystery, while the Easter lily is considered to be phallic (note: lily on Card III the Empress?).

    pg. 271 The Rosicrucians used a garland of roses to signify the same spiritual vortices (note: spinning vortices of spiritual energy located at various points along the spinal column and
    called chakras) , which are referred to in the Bible as the seven lamps of the candlestick and the seven churches of Asia (note: maybe Anne-Marie is right to interpret every tarot card as referencing kulandi energy?).

    pg. 379 of the .pdf. Not sure if this is a new section scanned in but interesting chapter on the Tarot. Discussion of The Fool / Le Mat card begins on pg. 382

    pg 414 The rose is a yonic symbol associated with generation, fecundity, and purity. The fact that flowers blossom by unfolding has caused them to be chosen as symbolic of spiritual unfoldment. The red color of the rose refers to the blood of Christ, and the golden heart concealed within the midst of the flower corresponds to the spiritual gold concealed within the human nature. The number of its petals being ten is also a subtle reminder of the perfect Pythagorean number. The rose symbolizes the heart, and the heart has always been accepted by Christians as emblematic of the virtues of love and compassion, as well as of the nature of Christ–the personification of these virtues. The rose as a religious emblem is of great antiquity. It was accepted by the Greeks as the symbol of the sunrise, or of the coming of dawn. In his Metamorphosis, or Golden Ass, Apuleius, turned into a donkey because of his foolishness, regained his human shape by eating a sacred rose given to him by the Egyptian priests.

    pg 430 As regeneration is the key to spiritual existence, they therefore founded their symbolism upon the rose and the cross, which typify the redemption of man through the union of his lower temporal nature with his higher eternal nature. The rosy cross is also a hieroglyphic figure representing the formula of the Universal Medicine

  86. And my final comment on the Fool card.
    I’m referring to the Oswald Wirth tarot.

    Wondering about the awkward position of the Fool’s left hand crossing the chest to hold the stick with attached knapsack over the opposite shoulder?

    This occurs across many types decks (

    Maybe the Fool’s left shoulder started to get tired (left hand positioned outwards) and it could be not much thought was given by the artist to the hand position but to replicate this, the left hand is tight across the chest (not comfortable) in order for the knapsack to be in the position it is in.

  87. @Scotty,

    Somewhere I read that the lotus also represented initiation. The lake (pond, where ever the lotus is growing) is the Great Sea. From the Water comes Earth (so the muck at the bottom of the pond) and from the muck grows the lotus, eventually coming into the light (Fire) and blossoming.

    But I can see how it also fits with feminine creative mysteries.

    Re: every card referencing kundalini energy; I’ve about decided that every person can see whatever it is they need to see in the Tarot. 🙂

    I rooted a clipping of a wild native rose. I will count the petals on it this summer when it blooms. I am curious to know if it has ten petals, too!

    About the Fool using his left arm to hold his stick over his right shoulder: maybe it is to signify uniting the left and right (feminine and masculine) by crossing over the heart (or the solar plexus?) (I have not studied chakras, so I’m not sure which one is there.) Regardless, maybe it indicates he is coming into balance or equilibrium. Or at least making an effort to get into balance.

  88. I’m thinking about Levi’s law of analogy. I think it means that there are symbols and forms — for example, the four elements and what they represent, or the chemicals of alchemy — and that analogy is recognizing the symbols in everyday life. Of seeing the flightiness of an air sign, or the deep memory of an earth sign. Analogy is seeing the symbols manifest. Like getting a king of coins in a Tarot spread, and realizing that means a particular person in the querant’s life who is an older Capricorn man. Divination has to work this way, of finding an analogy between the symbols of the divination and the facts of the querant’s life.

  89. @tomriverwriter, I like your phrase “analogy is seeing the symbols manifest”. Over the weekend, I was at a thrift store and happened upon a Rider-Waite deck. I bought it and the little white book mentioned Waite’s book ‘The Pictorial Key to the Tarot’. I downloaded it and read it. In his instructions for doing a Celtic Cross reading, he says you are to find the Court card that looks most like you (dark or light hair and eyes and such) and place that in the center of your card spread (which means you would never draw that card in your reading). I had never read of doing that before and now you bring up analogy in divination and I guess I will figure out which Court card I am and do my readings that way from now on. 🙂

  90. If anyone is still reading this thread..
    Yesterday’s meditation on The Fool card was to consider how the three words at the beginning of the chapter (teeth, fork and mindless) realate as a whole to the card.

    The more I think about it the more I think the hints Levi gives for this card have less to do with divination (see ahead of time the effects that exist in the causes) and more towards making miracles (act upon the universal agent and submit it to our will), even though the chapter focuses on divination and miracles are just mentioned in passing.

    Fork – the fork is the tool that brings the food to our mouth. Represented in this card by the Hebrew letter shin. The fork gathers.

    Teeth – teeth “transform” our food. Three sets of teeth in this card. Teeth are an essential part of “separate and unite” and preparing to send back out the Astral light we have gathered in.

    Mindless – not sure about this but this process and our interaction with the Astral Light is constant and do not require our knowledge of it happening, albeit if we are mindless in this area then we’ll probably walk into the jaws of the crocodile.

    Also, I notice that the card is divided by the walking stick and the stick used for the knapsack resting on the Fool’s shoulder. There is a set of teeth in each section of the card. Fool’s on top (possibly representing our mindless selves in the material world), the demonic looking cat biting the fool’s leg in the middle (harsh lessons in life to help us grow or avoid the alligator) and finally the alligator which may represent a big set of teeth ready to deal with us in the astral….

  91. @Scotty,

    Yup. I’m still here. 🙂

    Thank you very much for sharing your insights.

    I love the idea that teeth transform our food (solve and coagula!). The fork can gather (as in getting food to our mouth). But a fork can also separate (as in a fork in the road).

    Now, for “mindless”, I am still meditating about that. My current thinking is that the Lords of Flame impressed us with how to create a Soul; the Lords of Form impressed us with how to create a Body; the Lords of Mind impressed us with how to create a Mind. As we involved down to a dense body, we became disconnected from our Soul and our Mind, so our task now is to work to reconnect with them. And the Fool hasn’t connected with his Mind yet, so he is Mind-less. But this is definitely a meditation-in-progress…

  92. @Random

    Thank you. I believe you “mindless” meditations are on the mark and if there were flashing lights and dropped balloons your last comment would get them. Reason is that yesterday I received John Gilbert’s The Doors of Tarot and I’ve copied his take below:

    “Key Zero depicts us as The Fool who has just made the decision to leave the world of the unmanifest and manifest ourselves in the world of matter”.

    Reading Gilbert’s book he stresses that it is up to us to assign our own meanings to the tarot cards. Basically, assign the meanings that work for you and your subconsciousness will use those meanings when communicating via the tarot. I’ve always thought it was a possibility that Levi’s riddle (…absolute numerical value of Aleph multiplied by N, with the grammatical force of the final….) is similar. Different people will come up with different answers but it is the journey, not the destination that counts…

    In fact, more and more I think any great secret is that in this manifestation it is 90% up to us to figure it out. Deities, gods, spirits and powers may help here and there and lot’s of malign beings, manifest and unmanifest are to be dealt with but 90%, all alone to figure it out on our own and do the best…..

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