Revival of Magick

Magick includes astrology and religious mythology. The term is inclusive of metaphysics, philosophy, theology, theurgy, divination and prophecy.

There is no such thing as self-initiation. We can try to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps but the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Theurgy is the “practice of the divine”—solipsism is therefore a considerable bar to meaningful progress. A unity necessarily encompasses All and None.

Magick

It is impossible to convey any sense of what magick is all about to the mind of the person that lacks the ability or the will to perceive it for their self. To explain and rationalise magick in the hope that ‘men of science’ and other worthies might achieve illumination is a mission doomed to failure from the outset. Every idea the mind of man is able to conceive breaks down completely when subjected to analysis. The fact completely escapes those requiring proof of reality. Most persons today comfortably imagine magick to be no more than superstition and fantasy.

Magick: ROTA or Rose Cross Mandala with Crux Ansata from the book, Magical Theurgy

Magick includes astrology and religious mythology. The term is inclusive of metaphysics, philosophy, theology, theurgy, divination and prophecy. Magick embraces the life of the human soul, for the soul cannot be weighed, measured or otherwise accounted for. One can hardly overstate the fact that a considerable body of traditional knowledge collected over many thousands of years has been lost, forgotten or discarded as useless.

The revival of magick since the repeal of the Witchcraft Act in Britain (1951) owes a great deal to Aleister Crowley (1875–1947) and Violet Firth (better known as Dion Fortune, 1890–1946). Neither of these would have described themselves as witches, even if it had been lawful then to do so. If anything, they thought of themselves as practitioners of a Sacred Science. There is a dry, academic side to the occult, but to those that dare practice it, the romance and glamour surrounding the subject is indispensible to its effective operation. Both Crowley and Firth were aware of this, incorporating it in their writings. The part that romance plays is frequently misunderstood by historians and academics. ‘Factual’ accounts of the Western Magical Tradition are therefore suffused with allegations and counter-allegations of fraud and charlatanism. Crowley provided a rational explanation for magick that has been widely adopted:

Magick is the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in conformity with Will.[1]

Crowley nonetheless insisted that magick should, even at the very outset, be directed towards a mystic goal, defined as the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.

It is necessary to deal with, and to dispose of, some myths. Firstly, we must deal with the notion of belief. There is much talk of beliefs and of ‘systems of belief’ whenever the subject of magick is discussed. The way of the magician or occultist is the Way of Knowledge, called Jnanayoga by Hindu philosophers. Belief is the enemy of knowledge, since the noun implies a static state of affairs, an end of the matter. In nature, there is nothing static; there is nothing that can truly be said to have an ending or a beginning. Why then should we have any need for belief? Belief is the weakness of clinging to an illusion in the vain hope that by doing so, an illusion can be turned into reality. To seek the real, we must eschew the folly of belief. Crowley had no intentions of making a religion out of magick or the Law of Thelema—this was done posthumously, in his name. The Egyptians, and other ancient races and cultures predating the introduction of compulsory state monotheism around 500 BCE, had no word in their language for “religion”.

Close on the tail of belief is hypnosis and hypnotism. Making oneself the passive subject of any hypnotic experiment was regarded with such horror by the adepts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn that a mighty oath was sworn by its aspirants, who solemnly pledged never to allow this. It is not uncommon now to hear that hypnotism is not only useful in magick but is also an indispensible requirement. Altered states of consciousness are sometimes referred to as trances, but the need to discern the difference is not a matter of semantics. The idea that magick works by implanting suggestions in your mind—or worse, the minds of others—to enable something to become true that you previously thought to be false or unlikely is patently absurd. It may obtain ‘results’ for persons obsessed with the objects of their desire but such results are entirely in the realm of illusion. It is the art of the stage conjuror.

We are therefore happy to follow Aleister Crowley in adopting the spelling of magick with a “k” so as to distinguish what we do from that which is done purely to transfer cash from gullible and easily distracted persons to the pockets of the professional con artist.


Notes

[1] From the Introduction to Magick in Theory and Practice, Aleister Crowley.
This article is from the book, Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot.
The ROTA crux ansata Tarot illustration is from the cover art to the above book.

© Oliver St. John 2015, 2018
Visit Ordo Astri: Thelemic Magical Collegium
Subscribe to The 93 Current monthly Journal
Tantrika Home

Thoth Tarot Spread

Our Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread is also presented below: jump to the Alchemy Tarot Spread.

The Fifteen-card Tarot spread is sometimes called the “Thoth” Tarot spread, as it seems to have been devised by the publisher of some early editions of the Crowley-Harris Thoth deck. The advantage of this spread is that cards are read in sets of three, so the elemental dignities of the Tarot can be applied. The method of laying out the cards is very attractive, since a widdershins spiral is formed, outward from the centre. Numerically, there is a strong relationship with the Pentagram. The number 15 is the grand number of the pentagram as 5 multiplied by the trinity. It is also the Mystic Number of the Pentagram a the sum of all the numbers from 1 to 5: ∑ (1–5) = 15.

Thoth Tarot Spread: 15-card Thoth Tarot Key

The three centre cards represent the question and the questioner. The upper left cards are a future development of the upper right cards, if the two sets agree (see the example below). If the upper left and upper right cards do not agree, then the upper right position represents the course of action the querent would naturally take, and the upper left cards an alternative course of action that changes the natural outcome. The lower left cards represent the attitude of the querent or psychological basis of the question. The lower right cards represent destiny, spiritual forces or karma that is beyond the control of the querent; as such, these three cards are to be regarded as advice.

The Fifteen-card Thoth spread has six cards (centre and lower left) that represent the questioner. This can produce surprising insights, since it is often not realised quite how much the question and its likely outcome is determined by the spiritual, mental and emotional state of the questioner. Here is an example of the cards on the top right and the top left in agreement, from the journal record of an actual divination:

Thoth Tarot Spread: Thoth Tarot Example (detail)

The cards Adjustment VIII and The Priestess II mirror each other; they are both feminine figures, represented by Libra and the Moon respectively. The Five of Disks mirrors the Prince of Disks; the Ten of Wands mirrors the Nine of Wands. Since the two sets of cards are clearly in agreement, there is a flow or natural development of the future, reading from right to left.

The three centre cards represent the question and the questioner. The upper left cards are a future development of the upper right cards, if the two sets agree (see the example below). If the upper left and upper right cards do not agree, then the upper right position represents the course of action the querent would naturally take, and the upper left cards an alternative course of action that changes the natural outcome. The lower left cards represent the attitude of the querent or psychological basis of the question. The lower right cards represent destiny, spiritual forces or karma that is beyond the control of the querent; as such, these three cards are to be regarded as advice.

Tarot Dignities

Traditionally, the cards on either side are used to evaluate the meaning of the centre card. The elemental qualities of classical Hermeticism are used.

Wands and Cups are inimicalFire and Water are contrary
Wands and Swords are mutualFire and Air are complementary
Wands and Disks are mutualFire and Earth are complementary
Cups and Swords are mutualWater and Air are complementary
Cups and Disks are mutualWater and Earth are complementary
Swords and Disks are inimicalAir and Earth are contrary

If (for example) a card of Wands has a Wand on either side, it is greatly strengthened for good or ill, according to the nature of the cards on either side. If a card of Wands has a Cup on either side, it is greatly weakened for good or ill, according to the nature of the cards on either side. If a card of Wands has a Sword or Disk card on either side, it is moderately strengthened by those cards, according to their nature.

If a card of Wands has a Cup (inimical) on one side, and a Sword (mutual) on the other side, it is said that the “Sword takes the Cup to the Wand” and the Wand is moderately strengthened according to the nature of the two cards on either side. But if the Wand has on one side a Sword and on the other side a Disk, it is said that the two cards on the outside cancel or neutralise each other, since Swords and Disks are opposite in nature. In that case the two cards on either side have little or no effect on the Wand in the centre.

Trump cards, as a rule, greatly outweigh the small cards; their operation is on a different plane and in a reading they tend to represent spiritual forces or destiny. One must be careful, therefore, when there is a mixture of trumps and small cards. The trump cards correspond to zodiacal, planetary and elemental forces. Fortune X (for example) corresponds to Jupiter, and so if this card appeared with The Hermit IX, which corresponds to Virgo, the effect would be similar to that of Jupiter in Virgo in an astrological chart. The Tower XVI corresponds to Mars and so if this card appeared with The Empress IV, the trump for Venus, the action would be similar to Mars aspecting Venus in an astrological chart.

The three elemental trumps can be problematical. The Fool 0 (for example) is the primary element of Air. What if this card appears with The Devil XV, corresponding to Capricorn, a cardinal Earth sign? Air and Earth are inimical, yet the trumps are more than elemental; they are composite glyphs that mirror the paths of the Tree of Life. Both cards, in fact, depict an aspect of Pan the All-Begetter. Fortunately the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, can be assigned to the elemental trumps:

Tarot and Outer Planets

The effect of The Devil XV and The Fool 0 together can then be taken as similar to that of Uranus in Capricorn. In any reading one should look first to see if there is a predominance of any element or type. Many Wands in a reading, for example, would indicate much energy and activity. A majority of court cards would indicate that many persons were involved in the question, or there is much social activity. A large number of trumps in a reading indicate forces of destiny or karma involved with the question.

The Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread

The Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread appears, with hints and an example reading, in the “Divination” section of the book:

Stella Tenebrae—Journal of Hermetic Magick Volume One Number 2.

Thoth Alchemy Tarot Spread

We devised the Alchemy Thoth Tarot Spread primarily for the purpose of problem solving, though no doubt it has more subtle uses. The three-card groups allow the Tarot dignities to be used. One advantage of this layout is its simplicity; it is based on the idea that Rajas (Sulphur, action) acts upon Tamas (Salt, inertia) to bring about Sattwas (Mercury, wisdom).

Alchemical Salt (5 2 8): The inertia that must be overcome; the problem or any difficulties around the question.

Alchemical Sulphur (6 3 9): Activity; the action that is most likely to be taken by the Querent.

Alchemical Mercury (4 1 7): A synthesis of forces; the solution; that which will come to pass.

If desired, a card may be chosen and placed in the centre of the triad before shuffling and laying the other cards, to represent the Querent.

Notes

© Oliver St. John 2012, 2018
This article on the Thoth 15-card Tarot spread is part of the tutorial on Tarot divination in the book, Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot.

View Magical Theurgy—Rituals of the Tarot and all books by Oliver St. John
Tantrika books by Oliver St. John
Subscribe to The 93 Current monthly Journal
Visit Ordo Astri: Thelemic Magical Collegium

Return to top