--Transcendental Magic, Levi, 368.
The word Tarot may be written in the form of a cross
and read ROTA, a wheel.
In this presentation it is the wheel of Ezekiel. It is also formed by Constantine's monogram of Christ--the Latin P or R found between the Alpha and Omega--engraved upon the cross which Constantine saw in his vision, .
The 1st card of the Tarot, corresponding to the letter A, is called the Juggler. Occupying the central position in the picture stands a young man with a rude wooden table in front of him upon which are placed 3 of the symbols which distinguish the 4 suits of Tarot cards, i. e., Cup, Sword, Pentacles, while the 4th, the Scepter, is in his left hand. Corresponding to and derived from these symbols, the signs denoting the suits of the modern playing cards are respectively hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs. On his head is a hat which forms the Symbol of Life and evolution . As a sign of his dominion over the earth and her increase he stands firmly upon the ground which is bringing forth vegetation. In his left hand, which is raised toward heaven, he carries the Scepter, the magic wand, symbolizing that only as man draws his power from on high can he become the Master over the forces within himself and nature. His right hand bent towards the earth is a symbol of his power to accomplish upon the physical plane. The position of his hands symbolizes man's position in evolution. In man, The Christ-principle, the "Breath of Life," has become more than the passive Urge of Evolution towards perfection, for man as here represented is the active principle, or the co-worker with evolution. The 4 mystic symbols represent the powers innate in man, but which he must develop and use. The rude table symbolizes the plain, unpretentious and uncultured character of physical man, who nevertheless has given to him the possibilities of future greatness. These are the portion of goods given to the prodigal Son (man) by his Father-in-heaven, by the right use and understanding of which he must accomplish his Great Work.
The powers contained in the 4 symbols--the Cup, the Sword, the Wand or Scepter and the Pentacle, are summed up by Eliphas Levi in the following words: "To attain the sanctum regnum, in other words, the knowledge and power of the magi, there are four indispensable conditions--an intelligence illuminated by study, an intrepidity which nothing can check, a will which nothing can break, and a discretion which nothing can interrupt and nothing intoxicate. To Know, To Dare, To Will, To Keep Silence--such are the four words of the Magus, inscribed upon the four symbolical forms of the sphinx." (Transcendental Magic, Levi, 30.)
These 4 words correspond to the 4 mystic symbols in our modern playing cards. 1st the Cup (To Know), which corresponds to Hearts. The Cup is the container into which is poured all life's experiences and from which the Soul drinks either the Wine of the Spirit, or the dregs of bitterness and sorrow. The heart suit in modern playing cards has the same symbology. This is the Cup given by The Christ to His disciples which He blessed, saying: "Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood" (life-force). But it is man himself who can make it "The cup of blessing which we bless," the drinking from which in love, is indeed the true Communion with The Christ. Or in man's hands it may become like the Cup in the hands of the Woman in Scarlet spoken of in Revelation (Chapter xvii, 4): "Having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication." Equally is it true that "whosoever shall * * * drink of this cup of the Lord (the heart or esoteric doctrine of the law), unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord." The same symbology is expressed by the Chalice or the Cup used in the Eucharist, also by the Holy Grail, the vision of which is vouchsafed only to the pure in the heart.
This is beautifully expressed in Tennyson's poem, "Sir
Galahad"; for if we would find the Holy Grail we too must be, "A maiden
Knight--to me is given such hope, I know not fear." Then will we hear in
all nature the voice of the angelic hosts, as did he.
The Sword (To Dare) corresponds in our modern playing cards to Spades, and symbolizes primarily the "Sword of the Spirit" penetrating matter and informing it; secondarily it symbolizes the courage which every true man must have to face himself and cut from the personality every thing that hinders his advance; to fight the foes within and without, or the power needed to "fight the good fight"; the attitude of the True Knight, who dares to face the foe because his heart is true and his sword is keen and strong. As Sir Galahad, after his vision of the Holy Grail, is made to say: "My strength is like the strength of ten, because my heart is pure." Hence he is undaunted though his way lead through ignorance, superstition, persecution and crucifixion. The Sword is also the cross on which The Christ is crucified until he has vanquished his last enemy, death. Truly the modern playing cards have turned the Swords, if not into plow shares, at least into spades. Yet the symbology is similar, for with the spade we labor to make the earth give forth her increase; with it we overcome the inertia of matter and by the might of man's industry conquer physical conditions. But perverted, the Sword becomes the instrument which digs and undermines man's citadel.
The Wand or Scepter (To Do), corresponding in modern playing cards to Clubs, is a conventionalized figure, embracing the idea of power. It is 1st the Wand of the Magician, the power placed in man's hands to accomplish through Will. It is also the Staff of Wisdom upon which man can lean as he climbs the difficult Path of Spiritual Attainment; the Staff or 1 Life given him by his Divine Self; that which he can trust and lean upon. It is also the Shepherd's Crook which not only helps him to climb the steep heights, but also by using the crook at its end he can lift and assist the lambs over the dangerous places, i. e., by the use of this Staff man can help those weaker than himself and thus obey the mandate: "feed my lambs." The same idea is represented by the Bishop's Crozier or Pastoral Staff. This is an emblem of high authority, dignity and power carried upon great occasions by Bishops and Archbishops, but only after special sanction from the Pope, as it is not a Dignity belonging to the office of Bishop itself. In giving a pontifical blessing the Bishop holds the Crozier erect in his left hand, with the crook pointing toward the penitent, leaving the right hand free to touch the head of the kneeling penitent or to bless a congregation. This posture is but a variation of that assumed by the Juggler with his Wand.
The Crozier carried by the Armenian Bishops is formed by 2 intertwined serpents whose combined heads form the crook, thus connecting it with the Caduceus of Hermes, 1 of the most ancient and mystical of symbols. Among the Bishops of the Greek, Coptic and Armenian churches a veil is thrown over the Crozier and entwined in the crook, thus symbolizing the fact that in this material age the full meaning of the Crozier is veiled from the multitude. Just as in our present day playing cards the Wand has become the Club, so has this symbol of power been degraded until we find it in the shillalah of the Irishman, the walking-stick of the Englishman, and even the billy of the policeman, as well as in the baton of the musical director--always, however, the symbol of authority and power of some sort. Instead of ruling through the Staff of Divine Authority (Wisdom), it has come to mean ruling through personal will or force.
The Pentacles (To Keep Silent), correspond in modern playing cards to Diamonds. In the Tarot pentacles are round discs supposed to be talismans, an idea hard to fully understand today but very common in former ages. By their shape they symbolize cycles. They represent the in which all things can manifest; in other words man's field of operation; a talisman for good if rightly used, or for evil if abused. They represent man's possibilities. The meaning, however, that has crystallized around the Pentacles, as well as around the Diamond, is that of money or worldly wealth. This is quite natural in an age when the enlightened mind can conceive of no good for man higher than that represented by worldly wealth.
The Pentacles also represent in a religious sense the "Host," or the bread which is given by The Christ to His disciples when He says, "Take eat, this is my body which is given for you." Hence they represent man's field of operation in which he must build up The Christ or Spiritual Body in himself and in humanity. This growth can only take place in the silent communion within the Sanctuary of his own heart, or the Closet in which when ye have entered in and shut the door, "The Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."
The Juggler symbolizes man with the 2 principles, active and passive, positive and negative. This is represented by the position of the Juggler's hands, symbolizing man's power to stand in the midst of his creations and by the power of his Will, represented by the Magic Wand, find his balance. Through man's power to accomplish, with 1 hand he reaches up to God, with the other he reaches down to earth and makes her forces subservient to him. Hence the meaning of this Card is God, man and the Universe.