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Ouspensky's "The Symbolism of the Tarot"

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 07 Dec 2001, and now archived in the Forum Library.

tarotbear  07 Dec 2001 
Does anyone else have this book? Has anyone else ever noticed that the numbering on two of the cards is messed up? They have the Chariot listed as number five and the Hierophant listed as number seven. ( Strength is eight and Justice is eleven.) 

MeeWah  07 Dec 2001 
At first, I thought it a typo; however it is repeated in other places so it is intentional. Also, in a discussion early in the book, he lists them as 7 & 5 respectively & refers to the more familiar numbering in parenthesis next to each card; however, there is apparently no explanation offered for the difference. The Fool is listed last.
The book is interesting in some of what it puts forth, but there is a curious sense of incompleteness. 

Melvis  07 Dec 2001 
This is a little off the subject, but I think it relates...

I was recently looking at a Dictionary of Symbols to see what it had to say about numbers. All the explanations of what numbers symbolize made sense according to the Major Arcana...except for the 5 and 7! I'm paraphrasing, but it said 5 was a number that signified victory and advancement, while 7 was a more contemplative and spiritual number! It's like the two cards should be switched, according to this symbology.

Odd, eh? Apparently whoever wrote my symbol book is acquainted with Ouspensky!



Freddie  07 Dec 2001 
I like this book alot. I'm thinking about getting some of his other books. Anyone hear read any of his others? He has a book on the Devil that looks interesting.


jmd  08 Dec 2001 
Mouni Sadhu described this book of Ouspenski's as the work of his youth... at a time he was presumably still relatively immature in his esoteric researches.

I tend to agree with Mouni Sadhu, who also dismisses as youthful misguidance Ouspenki's changes in the numbering of the Chariot and the Hierophant (Ouspenski was aware of the Waite deck, and its already newly made inter-change of Justice and Strength... so why not others?)

I have personally never found Gurdieff or Ouspenski very inspiring... But do have a look at Ouspenki's A New Model of the Universe, especially the latter part of the book. Further developments, which are, as far as I am concerned, far more sensible, can also be found in Bennett's 4-volume The Dramatic Universe

MeeWah  08 Dec 2001 
Melvis: Is the book you refer to J.E.Cirlot's "A Dictionary of Symbols"? A fascinating book with a lot of material!
Every number has its peak (high point) or valley (low point).
Since 5 is the mid-point of 1 (beginning, birth) & 10 (achievement, completion, end), it is associated with The Hierophant, High Priest, so on. The Hierophant acts as the intermediary between "heaven" & "earth"; the spiritual & the material. One who teaches by his knowledge & understanding (wisdom) of spiritual laws/concepts, which is why this card often represents authoritative figures or teachers. Often, one's first acquaintance with spiritual matters (especially with organized religions) is through the spiritual leader of a church or a member of the clergy. It pertains to learning or lessons within a structure, following 4 wherein structure is created or manifested.
5 refers to Man: the horizontal line is fallen man supported by the half-circle/crescent, soul or the Divine. 5 is echoed in the attributes of the human life: 5 fingers or 5 toes on each limb, 5 senses. It is the conscious mind that seeks to access beyond the fetters of earth using (inner) knowledge; the imperfect, incomplete mind reaching for perfection or completion. It is a number of change, usually change associated with conflict & struggle from which there can be progress or growth/advancement. Change itself is neutral, but it is how the mind processes change that determines if it is for the better or worse.
The association of 7 with The Chariot pertains to the union between the lower & higher selves, where there is the blossoming of the spiritual, an initiation. It is spirit (3) joined to matter (4), spiritualizing (7) the purpose, goal, etc. Man has learned to harness the powers of both ends of the spectrum. It is the end or completion of a cycle & the beginning of another. Fallen man (horizontal line) is supported by the I Am (vertical line).
7 refers to the 7 spiritual centers of the body (pathways to perfection); 7 Sins & 7 Virtues, others. 

MeeWah  08 Dec 2001 
JMD: Regarding the comments on Ouspensky--perhaps that is why the book feels incomplete. 

bec  08 Dec 2001 
Iīve just recieved this book, and I must say I was a bit disapointet in it. Been trying to read it a couple of times, but the style totally puts me off. I havenīt given up on it yet though.
Havenīt notised the change of numbers !! but hey I regonized the authorīs name in the thread, so somewhere in all this I have been paying somewhat attention. 

Melvis  10 Dec 2001 
Slightly off-topic...sorry! ;)

Meewah: Actually I was mistaken on the book's topic. It wasn't really about symbols, it was a book called "The Language of Gifts", and it gave meanings for all kinds of things that you could use for personalizing your gifts for someone. Besides numbers, it described traditional and unusual meanings of colors, gemstones, animals, objects, and more. They also had suggestions for how to use certain symbols in gift giving. Very cool book! I'm sorry, I can't remember the author's name right now (book's at home, I'm at work), but I'll post if I remember to write it down at home!



The Ouspensky's "The Symbolism of the Tarot" thread was originally posted on 07 Dec 2001 in the Talking Tarot board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Talking Tarot, or read more archived threads.

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