Thelemic Tarot Spread

The Thelemic Tarot of the Book of Thoth deck, or any Tarot deck that utilises the Golden Dawn magical correspondences (777), requires the method called ‘dignities’ when used for divination. The method is fully explained in a related article: 15-card Thoth Tarot. The cards are read in sets of three, so we can apply the elemental dignities of the Tarot.

Book of Thoth Thelemic Tarot The Aeon XX

The simplest method of using dignities for accuracy of divination is as follows:

0. Prepare yourself and the deck by invoking.

I invoke thee IAO, that thou wilt send HRU, the great Angel that is set over the operations of the Secret Wisdom, to lay his hand invisibly upon these consecrated cards of art. Thus shall I obtain true knowledge of hidden things, to the glory of thine ineffable Name! AUM.

1. Shuffle and cut the deck into three piles. Put them back together in one pile ensuring that the cards that were at the bottom of the deck before cutting are now on the top.

2. Lay out the first card. That will be the central focus. Place a second card to the right of the first. Place the third card to the left of the first. The significance of the centre card may then be evaluated according to the modifying influence of the other two (supporting) cards.

Thelemic Tarot Three-card Spread

Thelemic Tarot Spread

In the sphere I am everywhere the centre, as she, the circumference, is nowhere found. Yet she shall be known and I never.

Liber AL, II: 3–4

The Thelemic Thoth Tarot Spread is a three-dimensional expansion of the three-card method. The first three cards will be laid out to form an upright triangle. The fourth card is numbered zero and placed in the centre. It is numbered zero as it represents Da’ath, the non-sephira figured by Set-Hadit. One should bear in mind that on the Tree of Life, Da’ath is the apex of a tetrahedron of which the first three numbers form the base.

Thelemic Tarot Pyramid Spread

Prepare yourself and the deck by invoking. Shuffle, cut and replace the cards as previously described. Lay out the cards as shown here, forming a supernal triad with Da’ath at the apex of the tetrahedron.

The first card (Kether) is the focus for the matter that one wishes to know something about. The second and third cards (Chokmah and Binah) modify it as according to their nature. Thus, the method of reading by dignities is identical to the three-card spread, except the second and third cards are dropped below to form the base of the pyramid.

The first three cards symbolise how things appear. They represent, therefore, the matter itself that is the subject of the enquiry, as exoteric. The centre card, the apex of the pyramid, symbolises the Will, which is esoteric. The centre card thus supplies an answer to the question, or a way in which the question may be approached so that better understanding is gained. That may require further meditation, or otherwise be suggestive of certain actions to be taken.

Bear in mind that the nature of the Will (Hadit) is esoteric. The ‘Effect’ (Nuit’s appearance) is exoteric. Thus, however skilful we may be in the art of divination, and however adept we may be with the method of dignities, what we are seeking may not be fully revealed until reification of the Will-current has come about. Nonetheless, when divination is performed with the right attitude of mind, a powerful magical operation is set in place. A magical act has been declared. The invocation appeals to the ineffable. That which is hidden will surely and most certainly come to light.

To ‘divine’ is not necessarily to make a prediction of future events, which is an error of deterministic thinking, that one thing ‘causes’ another thing in an endless chain from past to future. Such thinking is described in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law as the “word of Sin” that is “Restriction”.[1] The word ‘divine’ originates from the Latin, divinus, which means, ‘like a god’. That is to say, in the image of a god one may know something about that god. Put in plainer terms, it is to know the truth of a matter. As it was put by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the tales of Sherlock Holmes,

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.[2]


Notes

1. Liber AL vel Legis, I: 41, “The word of Sin is Restriction”.
2. The Sign of the Four and other stories, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

© Oliver St. John 2018
The Esoteric Doctrine of Thelema is revealed in ‘Lapis Philosophorum’, Babalon Unveied! Thelemic Monographs [Ordo Astri].

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Virgo: Lamp and Staff of the Hermit

Virgo is the sign of the pure maiden, the inviolate sceptre—which is all a way of veiling with words and images an inexpressible truth. The yod, bindu, flame or seed-star that is the letter of the 20th path and Tarot trump The Hermit IX on the Hermetic Tree is, in the absolute sense, Hadit, the giver of Life, the animator of all things that live and move and have their being.

The Hermit IX Thoth Tarot Atu

The Tarot image for this path has the esoteric title, Prophet of the Eternal: Magus of the Voice of Power. The 20th path of Yod connects Chesed, the sphere of Jupiter, with Tiphereth, the sphere of the Sun. The path is imaged forth by the Tarot key, The Hermit IX. The path is called The Intelligence of Will since it is the stream of light or intelligence forming the innermost structures of mind or intellect in man. The Intelligence of Will is called thus “because it forms all patterns, and to know this Intelligence is to know the whole reality of the Primordial Wisdom.” The knowledge of the spiritual will constitutes the full realisation of the cosmic purpose or meaning in all things; on this path arises the possibility of knowing and doing the True Will, as it is termed in the cults of Thelema.[1]

The Hermit as Mercury

The Thoth Tarot picture for this path depicts a hermit, for Hermes is the Greek deity that the Romans called Mercury. Hadit is Mercury in the highest—or most simple or abstract—form. Mercury is the planetary ruler of the astrological sign of Virgo, and Virgo is unique in the Zodiac in that Mercury rules her sign and is also exalted therein. The lamp of the hermit is a metaphor for the Hermetic Light, which he veils from the world. His staff is the energy, the Occult Force, which he applies with strict vigilance and economy of means towards the Great Work. Behind him is Cerberus the three-headed hound of hell. Cerberus, the son of Typhon, doubles as both scourge and Guardian of the Gate—for he prevents those that have become ensnared in the underworld from ever escaping.

It is to be noted that Aleister Crowley directed the artist Frieda Harris to depict the Hermit as according to his ‘phallic’ magical philosophy. The spermatozoon in the lower left corner is thus an unintentional ‘blind’. While Crowley felt he might be revealing too much of the mysteries, he was in fact not even revealing the half of it! Even in the Golden Dawn system of correspondences adopted by the ‘Beast’, Virgo is the sign of Isis. The will-seed is hers in a subtler sense. While Asar (Osiris) has this seed-star latent within him, if he limits or restricts Isis (the woman) through adoration of his personalised will then he dooms her (thusly, his soul) to the fate of the scarlet woman as described in the (Egyptian) Book of the Law, III: 43.

Fragmentation of the Atomic Age

The mundane character of Virgo, the mutable earth sign, is all about the particulars, the details of every-thing. The conceptual mind, driven forwards by the scourge of Hadit, yet thrown back into the abyss by the son of Typhon, breeds and begets more and more infernal children. Thus Conceptual Art is now the predominant doctrine in today’s academic institutions. It is a sign or omen that the analytical mind has attained its full immersion in the realm of matter at its lowest or most dense level. At this material extremity of the human mind, the situation depicted in the minor Tarot card called the Ten of Swords comes about. The human heart or soul is broken up into fragments that are blasted, blown and scattered through the echoing emptiness of space—torn apart by the divisive power of the sword of the reasoning mind.

As a race, we are still in the aftermath of the explosion of the first atom bomb. We live in an age that trembles before the terrifying shadow of the Ape of Thoth as it is depicted in the Tarot trump assigned to Hermes-Mercury. That is why we sometimes use the atom and particle physics as a metaphysical analogy.[2] The fragmented atom sweeps matter away in a lightning-fast cloud of fire and smoke. The trauma of that tremendous atom-smashing event, that has rended apart far more than even physical matter, now continues to reverberate on the plane of mind. The cell phones, computers and other digital devices that are now the plague-fetishes of our times are no more than ‘particular’ vehicles of expression for the lasting imprint of that hellish atomic atrocity upon the collective intelligence of humanity. That singular event demonstrated that the most clever and subtle scientific minds the race could produce were only, in the end, capable of producing senseless, barbaric mass-destruction on a scale never before imagined.

Kenneth Grant, in his Typhonian Trilogies, told how even the very first atom-splitting test tore open the fabric of space and time. A crack was then opened up in the delicate membrane that encircles the planet—the invisible egg of light that once served as a barrier or ring-pass-not against the intrusion of those from ‘Outside’. That is why The Fool 0 that Frieda Harris had painted for the highest path of Aleph on the Hermetic Tree wears a mask of madness and horror—for he has opened a veil that was once so tightly drawn to appear seamless, and therefore invisible to mortal eyes. What is the secret that the Fool beholds? It is himself that he sees, hurtling downwards towards the abyss.

The physical destruction unleashed by the atom is itself a metaphor for the intellectually destructive philosophical atomism, which was introduced through the arguments of the ancient Greeks. Causal determinism is still the dominant intellectual mode of our times. The tragic consequences of this are but dimly perceived by the legions of cerebrally and sensually anaesthetised hominids—those who dare not take their eyes and ears away from the beguiling artificial world of digital information. The configuration of stars and planets signifies that we have truly entered a new era. It is an era in which Initiates must conserve all of their energy and direct it towards the Great Work. Only then will they succeed in rising up above what is metaphorically termed, the waters of the Nile flood. While the water of the flood is not evil in itself, the dwellers that lurk within present a foe more formidable than mankind has ever imagined.


Notes

1. The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri] provides a commentary on the wisdom texts of the Sepher Yetzirah.
2. The Law of Thelema—Quantum Yoga [Ordo Astri].
© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018 (revised and extended)

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Solstice Chariot to the Stars

Cancer is the 18th path on the Hermetic Tree of Life and is the intelligence linking the Understanding of Binah, the throne of Saturn, with Geburah, the energy of Mars. The esoteric title of the path is Child of the Powers of the Waters: Lord of the Triumph of Light. The Thoth Tarot trump is The Chariot VII, depicting Binah as the Holy Graal and Geburah as the furnace of the Sun, which is the blood or energy poured into the Cup by the magician.

Thoth Atu VII Chariot to the StarsThe sixteen subquadrants of the elemental Watchtowers of the Universe are depicted as composite sphinxes drawing the Chariot forward. The letter of the Tarot Atu is cheth, ‘fence or enclosure’. Cheth spelled in full (ChITh) is equal to 418, the number of Abrahadabra, which is emblazoned upon the Chariot’s canopy. Aleister Crowley’s solar interpretation of Abrahadabra as ‘Father-Sun-Hadit’ conceals a lunar formula, which is that of the magical spirit-body called the Khu in ancient Egyptian sacred texts and in Liber AL vel Legis. In cosmic aspect the Khu is the ‘company of heaven’ referred to in the Egyptian Book of the Law, Liber AL vel Legis I: 1–4:

Had! The manifestation of Nuit. The unveiling of the company of heaven. Every man and every woman is a star. Every number is infinite; there is no difference.

The 18th path of Cheth is called the Intelligence of the House of Influence. Cheth means ‘a wall’ or ‘enclosure’. From the interior of Binah, runes of secret knowledge flow forth via the Abyss. Secreted in these shades or stars are the keys of union with Nuit, the Queen of Space. The power or intelligence of the 18th path is experienced as consciousness that flows like water from the innermost depths, symbolised as the walled City of the Pyramids (Vision and the Voice, Aleister Crowley).

Secrets of the Chariot

Much of the labour of the Great Work is to make the frail human personality a suitable vehicle for the influx of cosmic consciousness that would otherwise overwhelm it. The preliminary work is to train the mind and increase the power of concentration—to hold an image steady in the mind like an unwavering flame. The mental powers are then applied to the building of a ‘Chariot’ or Merkebah, as depicted in the Tarot trump. This is the vehicle of will, called the resurrection body in mysticism. By this vehicle, the secret paths of the Hermetic Tree may be negotiated. The Holy Ghost and Holy Graal are cognate terms. The Cup of Babalon or Binah is the receptacle from which the feminine spirit, Khu or Shekinah, is imbibed, producing divine intoxication—not to be confused with ordinary drunkenness. The magical power of the 18th path is the Power of Casting Enchantments.[1]

Khephra Scarab by Jeff-DahlTaken at the most superficial level, the Power of Casting Enchantments is suggestive of the kind of magick usually associated with witchcraft or voodoo, where village folk consult with their shaman to settle a dispute with their neighbour, get revenge on someone that has slighted them, or perhaps cook up a potion to help them seduce someone. More seriously, the ancient Egyptian image for Cancer is the scarab beetle, Khephra. Khephra, or the sun at media nox, is the supreme totem of enchantment and of all transformations. Khephra is the neter (principle) of Becoming. Khephra is self-created, self-born, self-becoming, ever-changing and ever-living. Khephra is the Becoming—the magical transformative principle itself. Through this principle the soul is able to pass through the underworld and undergo transformation into a radiant Khu or Phoenix—the resurrection bird.

The magical discipline is such that powers of the mind are directed towards the building of a ‘Chariot’ (merkebah), as depicted in the Tarot trump. In mysticism, this is called the resurrection body. The Holy Ghost and Holy Graal are cognate terms: the Cup of Babalon or Binah is the receptacle from which the feminine spirit, the Egyptian Khu, is imbibed. The resurrection body is introduced in Liber AL vel Legis, I: 8, “The Khabs is in the Khu, not the Khu in the Khabs”.

Influential occultists of the 20th century were deluded by the pseudo doctrine of the Theosophists, where the individual ego is supposed to ‘reincarnate’ for life after life. Aleister Crowley, Dion Fortune and others readily embraced the Theosophical notion as it provided almost limitless possibilities for story-telling. Fictional characters could travel back and forth in time; a magician could be anything they want to imagine in a ‘past life’—very often a priest or priestess from the sunken isle of Atlantis with incredible supernatural powers, or a mysterious adept endlessly reincarnating into new earthly lives to fulfil a supremely appointed destiny. If taken in any way seriously this is flattering for the individual while leading the aspirant into a spiritual cul-de-sac. The misinterpretation of ancient Greek and Hindu scriptures was later packaged and sold to naïve Westerners by New Age entrepreneurs.

Acceptance of the Theosophical doctrine has prevented Crowley and his followers from interpreting the Egyptian Book of the Law on vital matters, such as, “What happens to the soul after death?” “What must an Initiate do to prepare for this?” Even the aim and purpose of a Great Work becomes obscure once the pseudo doctrines of the New Age movement are accepted. Crowley, who was heavily influenced by Madame Blavatsky and her ‘Secret Chiefs’, proclaimed that Thelema is a ‘New Law for Humanity’. It is in fact the very ancient law and eternal truth that governs Initiation and soul survival. The doctrine of Thelema is identical with the Setian Gnosis of ancient Egypt, and in particular, of the Setian cult of Menthu in Thebes of the 26th Dynasty.[2] Egyptologists have served to further obfuscate the truth by placing emphasis on the late dynastic Osirian mummification process. Yet even The Egyptian Book of the Dead (so-called) reveals a consistent ancient Egyptian doctrine of the afterlife. The work of one unique incarnation determines whether the soul survives the second death or suffers annihilation through the dispersive forces of the underworld. Thelema, as according to Liber AL vel Legis, continues the ancient Egyptian Setian Gnosis where magical initiation and the life of the soul after mortal death are notions so intimately related as to be identical.[3]


Notes

1. This passage and the previous were adapted from The Flaming Sword Sepher Sephiroth [Ordo Astri].

2. The source of the Thelemic transmission mediated by Rose Crowley in Cairo in 1904 was the Stele of Revealing, the funeral stele of a priest of the cult of Ankh-af-na-khonsu, Thebes, 26th Dynasty (around 500 BCE).

3. See Babalon Unveiled! Thelemic Monographs for new translations and commentaries on spells from The Egyptian Book of the Dead. The ancient Egyptian (and Thelemic) doctrine of the afterlife is there fully explained.

© Oliver St. John 2013, 2018
Khephra Scarab drawn by Jeff Dahl

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