Mar 16, 2014

The Magus Speaks

image of Le Bateleur from Marseilles Tarot deck

The Fool of Tarot has been introduced as the Main Player upon the stage of The World, the One (or None) beneath the disguise that is every other human form of the Major Arcana. Travelling through the cards "in order," the first of these Masqueraders we meet is The Magus (or Magician, or Juggler.)

To properly understand this Trump, we will first need to investigate The Tree of Life (or Otz Chim) of Qabalah, which fully incorporates and organizes the subsets of symbols necessary to our aims. Next, language itself must be considered. Many occultists regard the spoken/written Word as one of only two forms of true magick available to human beings, the other being sexual energy, of course.

It needs to be said again, looking to history for evidence of the connections between a deck of playing cards and every documented religion is not only a fruitless endeavor but also misses the entire philosophy at work in Tarot. What's important is that these pictographs have the power to impact an individual's life because they represent the Life of the Individual. ["Historical evidence" relies on written language, in which the margin for error and/or duplicity invades the entire surface of the page.]

image of the Tree of Life symbol of Qabalah

The Tree of Life

Whatever the origins of this design, it is the single most useful filing system for categorical meditation upon the mysteries of The Universe. The 10 circles/spheres (Sephiroth, collectively; Sephirah, individually) represent objective states, realms, or qualities of existence, comprehension of which is furthered by the assignation of a number (and the number's inherent philosophy) to each. The Minor Arcana of each Suit correspond in like manner. [1 - Kether; 2 - Chockmah; 3 - Binah; 4 - Chesed; 5 - Geburah; 6 - Tiphareth; 7 - Netzach; 8 - Hod; 9 - Yesod; 10 - Malkuth]

Kether is One, which is the same as saying it is None. It is only upon the One's division in Two, with Chokmah, that relationships between "things" become possible. Kether, the "root" of All, is cloaked in mystery, but may be thought of as the initial potential for Life or Consciousness - the state in which qualities we see as "opposite" exist before manifestation as those opposites, which cancel each other out again. This is to say that the instant a new concept comes into being, the opposite, too, is presented. Therefore, the Sephiroth are not created in order, 1-10. As soon as Kether exists, then Chockmah, Binah and Tiphareth exist, which cause Chesed, Geburah, Hod, Netzach and Yesod to manifest, until finally Malkuth is formed. This is due to the emanation of Force from each Sephirah, along the Paths. [Study the image to make sense of this.]

The Sephiroth are connected by the 22 Paths. The assignation of each Path is to a Major Arcanum (or Trump) of the Tarot, with all of its alchemical/astrological attributions included. Each MA and Path is also assigned one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Believe me, I understand how incredibly overwhelming this can be to follow. It may be worth reviewing The Fool from the new perspective offered by The Tree.

The Fool travels the Path between the Primordial Positive-Negative/Negative-Positive of Kether and the Initial Positive of Chockmah. Therefore, Chokmah may be thought of as The Source of All Energy, with Kether as The Source of The Source. All phallic icons are of Chockmah. Consider Aleph, the Hebrew letter attributed to the Path, which means "Ox" but resembles a plough in shape. Consider the assignation of the elementary concept of Air, which represents the communicative aspects of Consciousness. This suggests that Consciousness was/is a Prime Director of Life, readying the Chaos of Abyss for Physical Order. This is in stark contrast to the labeling of Consciousness as a byproduct of Evolution.

But what happens when we travel in the other direction from Kether, to the Initial Negative of Binah, the third Sephirah? Magick, you Fool...

image of Le Bateleur from Marseilles Tarot deck

The Juggler

"Chockmah" literally translates to "Wisdom." "Binah," then, means "Understanding." One without the other would be entirely useless. It is of special importance that these words refer to the highest aspects of Consciousness. Wisdom implies an Active Force of Consciousness; a transmission of thought which will hopefully Be Understood. Understanding is the Passive Form of Consciousness; the Receiver of Wisdom. This principle is how the duality of positive/negative manifests itself in existence; this is why The Negative is crucial, rather than preventative, to the creation of Form. Force without a receptacle is never molded into anything.

The prevalent symbolism in The Fool is of action, energy, force and fertility. The Fool's first role, The Juggler (or Baton Bearer, or Magus, or Magician), stands behind a table of objects, or tools. [Often, the objects include a wand, a cup, a sword and a coin, to represent the four suits of the Minor Arcanum] What is a tool? A tool is nothing without the application of Force, else owning a guitar would be the only prerequisite to becoming a great musician. The Baton, or "Magic Wand," is, in theory, used to direct Energy under the Will of the Mage, a representation of the conduction of Force through Form. This is what The Juggler is juggling.

With the Wand createth He
With the Cup preserveth He
With the Dagger destroyeth He
With the Coin redeemeth He

One meaning of these words, with bolding in what follows indicating translation of what was bolded in the passage above, approximates to:
  • Manifested Reality is composed of Directed Energy
  • Attachment (in the Buddhist sense) to Manifested Reality is Emotionally Motivated
  • Initiate must "destroy" attachment to Manifested Reality via Meditative Thought
  • Initiate's Mundane Actions upon Manifested Reality may now serve a Higher Purpose

This is the Infinite Dance, that which the unenlightened of the world see as a struggle, between the Positives and Negatives, Creation and Destruction, Spiritual and Physical, etc. And, of course, The Juggler's hat brim greatly resembles the mathematical sign for Infinity. [The Rider-Waite card blatantly places the Infinity sign above the Magician's head. I've chosen to not show this version, however, because of the ignorant or purposeful obscuration by the artist of the card's position on the Tree.] Further than its proximity to the head, this glyph is a sideways numeral 8, refering us to Hod, the sphere of the knowledge of Mercury. Lest there be any doubt as to the veracity of this reference, I'll wait for you to count the whorls in our Magician's hair.

Meaningful images reference and cross-reference each other into oblivion. All we can see and touch may be thought of as an asterisk directing our attention elsewhere. Without these significances, no aspect of time-space would be distinguishable from any other - all would be as Chaos. [Lacan said that schizophrenia may be rooted in the victim's inability to function within the symbolic nature of reality.] This is the only way for us to organize our daily experience of life. There is one category of symbol which we use more frequently than any other: words

image of Magus card from Crowley/Harris Thoth Tarot deck

In the Beginning was The Word

Or, in The Word was the Beginning. Substitute language for fire in the myths of Prometheus and a suitable metaphor is in place for the impact of language on the evolution of society. [Word = Logos = God = Redeemer] The figure depicted on Aleister Crowley's Magus card, here, is Hermes, later called Mercury by the Romans but previously known as Thoth (or Tahuti) to the Egyptians. (As in, The Book of Thoth that is the Tarot.) All knowledge of writing, mathematics, poetry (language), science, magic, commerce and the like are attributed to these gods. Are all of these connections falling into place yet? 

The small monkey is a cynocephalus: a dog-headed baboon creature, said to follow Thoth around, functioning as something of a heckler, mocking his every Word, in order to distort the meaning. There are multiple interpretations of this but it is generally accepted that the implication is of the above-mentioned "margin for error" within all forms of language: every word carries the potential of being a lie. This meaning has proven dissatisfying, in my own explorations of Tarot. I propose an alternate explanation...

William S. Burroughs said, "Language is a virus from outer space." The humanoid forms of the Major Arcana do not represent "people" but modes of Consciousness. A virus is a living thing, a microorganism, which replicates itself within the biology of a larger organism. Any person who has made an attempt at practicing meditation soon faces the realization that their relationship with Language is not what they previously assumed it to be. With no need of conscious effort there is a constant whirlwind of chatter in our thoughts, as if piped in from an external source... Think of this "whirlwind" as the Creative Force motivating all endeavor towards poetry, science and the other skills attributed to Thoth/Hermes/Mercury because Hermes represents this Force, which has attached itself to our human (monkey) mind. Thoth is the Trickster God; all creation is good to Him. It is only through channeling this influx of linguistic chaos into practical endeavors that humans are able to create anything of value. The Ape of Tahuti may be following The Magician in a more literal (!) function than as a mere symbolic reminder of the faults of language. 

The "vibe" of Crowley's card implies more action than the Marseilles card, though the doctrine of tools are still represented. First, the dualistic nature of the card is established through the blatant androgyny of The Magus in this design but also, in the Marseilles, the figure has long, flowing hair and the matter of identification by genital type is truly "under the table." In addition to this, however, we must consider Aleister's motives for designing his own deck: the heralding of a New Aeon. Now, much deliberation has been suffered towards establishing historical dates of when this and that Aeon of Humanity was entered and exited. I believe time spent on such endeavors was, unfortunately, time wasted. Crowley himself wrote in The Book of Thoth that there can be no such thing as an objective Universe. Here's where you say, "But I thought The Tree of Life was a map of The Forces of The Universe?" It is! It's a map of Your Universe.

When Crowley writes of The Universe entering the Aeon of Horus, it is so very likely that what he's talking about is the revelation he hopes his teachings will have upon your individual Life, reestablishing the Spirituality we may have set aside by engaging in certain forms of organized religion. I've never had a conversation with a Crowley enthusiast who has understood or even considered this possibility! This has been my own motive in writing this series on Tarot and I do hope that it will serve in some way, no matter how small, to allow you a new, more fantastic perspective on the world around you and The World within You.

Thank you for your time. Are there any questions?


<<< 0 - The Fool
II - The High Priestess >>>

Recommended Reading:

Dion Fortune - The Mystical Qabalah
Aleister Crowley - The Book of Thoth
Alejandro Jodorowsky - The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards
Naomi Ozaniec - The Kabbalah Experience
Joseph Campbell - Tarot Revelations
Paul Foster Case - Tarot Revelations
Lon Milo Duquette - Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot

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