Tarot, Mysticism, Divination and Traditions

The poet's pathology says that "the undevout astronomer is mad"; the very simple man's pathology says that "the genius is mad"; and the sovereign justification takes the place of a moderator and does what it can between these extremes, which stand for ten thousand comparable excesses. I do not believe that the pathology of occult dedications persists, but no one should doubt their extravagances, and it is not less painful than ungrateful to act as a moderator about them. In comparison, if it existed, the pathology would presumably be an empiricism rather than a diagnosis and would not give any requirements.

Now, occultism is not like mystic faculty, and it rather rarely operates in conjunction either with business aptitude in the things of everyday life or with a knowledge of the canons of facts of its own domain. I know that for the high art of ribaldry there are few things more boring than the critique which maintains that a thesis is untrue, and cannot understand that it is decorative. I also know that it is often refreshing, in the field of this craft, to deal with what is clearly deception or at least utter unreason after a long deal with questionable doctrine or with challenging science.

But, as seen through the prism of occultism, the forces of history are not, as a rule, decorative and have little refreshing gifts to repair the lacerations they cause on the rational perception. In the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, it almost takes a Frater Sapiens dominabitur astris to have the patience that is not lacking among clouds of stupidity when the Tarot's consideration is conducted in compliance with the higher rule of symbolism.

Symbolism is the real Tarot; it knows no other language and does not give any other indications. They become a kind of alphabet, provided the inner significance of its emblems, which is capable of indefinite variations and makes true sense in everything. It gives a "Key" To The Mysteries on the highest plane, in a way that is not subjective and has not been read in. But it has been told the wrong symbolic stories about it, and in any published work that has so far dealt with the topic, the wrong history has been given.

Two or three authors have intimated that this is inevitably the case, at least in terms of definitions, since few are familiar with them, while these few keep pledges through transmission and will not compromise their trust. On the surface, the suggestion is brilliant, because there seems to be a certain anti-climax in the proposition that a specific meaning of fortune-telling should be reserved for Sons of the Doctrine, I'art de tirer les cartes.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that there is a sacred custom surrounding the Tarot, and since there is always the possibility that a small arcane of the Mysteries may be made public with a flourish of trumpets, it may also be appropriate to go before the event and to alert those who are interested in such matters that any discovery will contain only a third of the earth and sea and a third of the earth and a third of the moon.

This is for the simple explanation that no more has been put into writing in either root-matter or creation, so after every pretended unveiling, more will remain to be said. Therefore, the guards of those initiation temples who hold watch over the secrets of this order have no reason for concern. As far as the series of larger symbols is concerned, their ultimate and highest meaning lies deeper than the typical image or hieroglyphic language. Many that have received any portion of the Hidden Custom will recognize this.

They are meant to set aside the follies and impostures of past attributions, to place those who have the gift of wisdom on the right path, and to take note, within the limits of my possibilities, that they are the reality as far as they go, as regards the linguistic meanings assigned here to the more relevant Trump Cards.

In many ways, it is regrettable that I have to admit to such doubts, but there is a matter of honor at issue. In comparison, between the follies on the one side of those who know little of the practice, but are, in their own view, the exponents of something called occult science and philosophy, and on the other side of the make-believe of a few writers who have earned part of the tradition and believe that it constitutes a legitimate title to scatter dust in the eyes of the outside world.

We shall see in due course that the history of Tarot cards is mostly of the derogatory kind, and that, when the problems are cleared by the dissipation of reveries and gratuitous speculations articulated in the terms of certitude, there is in effect no history prior to the fourteenth century. The deceit and self-deception about their roots in Egypt, India or China put the first expositors' mouths in a lying spirit, and the later occult authors did nothing more than replicate the first false testimony in the good faith of an intellect that was unawakened to the research problems.

All exhibits have operated within a very limited spectrum, as it happens, and owe little, relatively speaking, to the imaginative faculty. At least one genius chance was lost, for it has not occurred to anybody so far that the Tarot might have done duty and perhaps emerged as the Albigensian sects' secret symbolic tongue. In the tradition of Gabriele Rossetti and Eugene Aroux, I commend this recommendation to the linear heirs, to Mr. Harold Bayley as another New Light on the Revival, and at least as a taper in the gloom that may be helpful to Mrs. Cooper-zealous Oakley's and all-searching mind with great reverence.

Think only about what the supposed testimony of watermarks on paper could obtain from the Pope's or Hierophant's Tarot Card in connection with the notion of an Albigensian secret patriarch that Mr. Bayley finds so much information for his intent in these same watermarks. Think of the High Priestess' card as portraying the Albigensian church itself for just a moment; and think of the Tower struck by Lightning as representing the desired ruin of Papal Rome, the city on the seven hills, with the pontiff and his temporal force thrown down from the sacred edifice as it is demolished by God's wrath (Nature).

The possibilities are so various and convincing that one of the elect vwho has invented them almost deceives in their speech.

But there is much more to it, even though I barely dare to quote it. When the time came for the Tarot cards to be the topic of their first systematic description, some of their most notable emblems were replicated by the archaeologist Court de Gebelin, and, if I might name it, the codex he used, by his carved plates, as a reference basis for many subsequently released collections. The figures are rather primitive and, as such, vary from the cards of Etteilla, the Tarot of Marseilles, and those which are still present in France.

In such things, I am not a strong judge, but the fact that each of the Trumps Majors may have replied for watermark purposes is shown by the cases I have cited and by one of the most impressive examples of the Ace of Cups.

In the manner of a ciborium, I should call it a eucharistic symbol, but this does not mean at this time. The argument is that in his New Light On The Renaissance, Mr. Harold Bayley offers six analogous instruments, which are watermarks on seventeenth-century parchment, which he says to be of Albigensian origin and to represent sacramental and grail emblems. Had he only read of the Tarot, had he learned that these divination cards, the cards of fate, the cards of all the vagabond arts, were perhaps present in the South of France at that time, I assume that his enchanting, but all too fantastic, theory would have dilated even more in the atmosphere of his imagination.

No doubt we should have had a vision of Christian Gnosticism, Manichseanism, and all the true primal Gospel knows, sparkling behind the images. I do not look through those lenses, and at a later stage I can only commend the topic to his attention; it is said here that I will add the marvels of arbitrary speculation as to the past of the cards with an unheard-of wonder.

It should scarcely be useful to enumerate them with regard to their type and number, since they must be almost universally recognised.