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MikeH  MikeH is offline
Join Date: 03 Nov 2007
Location: Oregon USA
Posts: 443
Etteilla's summary of the majors

For a summary of the Etteilla majors, I will go to Etteilla himself in the Second Cahier, pp. 39-46ff. The text contains several obsolete spellings, so I am not altogether sure of the translation sometimes. I give links to scans of the pages at the end.

Slightly before this passage, Etteilla has explained how the pages of the Book of Thoth divide into four volumes or books: the fist is the twelve pages from 1 through 12; the second includes the five pages from 13 through 17; the third is 18 through 21 plus the Fool; and the fourth book is the 56 suit cards.

Also, it appears that for his card no. 19, the Lightning-Struck Tower, Etteilla is thinking of something like the Marseille-style image rather than the one he later published himself, because he speaks of hail, corresponding to the small, globes on the Marseille card, and of the two figures as falling into the abyss. Neither of these features are on his card. Earlier he described the two figures on the Marseille card as falling into water: “The Maison-Dieu sits in water, and if they know how to swim, they perhaps won’t drown” (p. 35: Maison-Dieu baigne dans l’eau, de que s’ils savent nager, ils ne se noieront peut etre pas."] Flornoy’s restoration of the Noblet Maison-Dieu card (below left) in fact shows water at the base of the tower, as opposed to the Conver (center). Etteilla’s “abyss” may not be water, but it is something other than a flat plain. In De Gebelin’s drawing of the card (below right), which Etteilla could have been using, the wavy lines at the base of the tower might be seen as water.

Here is Etteila’s account of all 22 cards, which he presents as though translating the pages of a book written in hieroglyphics. If you do not know the images well, I would recommend flipping through Sumada's Etteilla I sequence at as you go:
No. 1 Truth appeared; because although it was in the Universe and it contained the Universe, it was not itself the Universe, but an emanation; just as the heat that leaves a man is not him, but could not be without him. Truth was then for all time, and its emanation for all time, and thus its essence, which is from it, by it and itself.

No. 2. The light was of the spirit of the divine fire, and by the divine will. See the Pymander, translation cited above.

No. 3. The moisture was drawn from the waters that covered the waters, and from the water and from the fire.

No. 4 was to draw the air that was fixed in the fire, and in the water.

From these three Elements, activated by the supreme will, came the next, namely No. 5, matter terrestrial, lunar, martial, mercurial, and in sum the matter of all the Globes, which at the time were put in place, and this fourth Element, named Earth, was the Globe that we inhabit.

Water, the first Element, was given to matter for its maintenance; and Air, the third Element, to Fire for its conservation. Here we have a little trouble rendering all the beauty that is in the original.

No. 6 was all that is on the surface and in the interior of all the Worlds, all that has life [Footnote: life was not then in action] in its genus and its species; for then Death had no place, nothing was yet subject to death.

No. 7 was Man and all rational Creatures having bodies, lives, and souls in all the habitable places, elemented, that is to say, where the Elements could penetrate.

No. 8 was the seventh day, which was the general repose; for the Creator reposed in order to contemplate his works; everything lived in itself and was called rest.

Nos. 9, 10, 11, 12, Justice, Temperance, Strength and Prudence, were spread on all the Earth, on all the Worlds and in all the Universe; and the Creatures that alone had a soul, found in them Faith, and Hope in God, and Charity toward the rational and irrational Beings: all whose lot was movement.

And the Creatures sensed then that they lived by God and for God alone forever, to adore him and serve him, and continued immortals [?: et se connutent immortelles]; and the Creator gave to the Creatures the right to all things of their Universe, if they knew their place and obeyed at the same time the one alone who had given them intelligence so as to render praise to him.

No. 13. Here commences the second volume of the Book of Thoth. At this number 13, Man became weak; he stumbled; and seeing Death, he repented. God pardoned him, strengthened him, and prolonged his days to the number 17, the number 10 being an allegory of the circle of the Divinity, and 7, of the true knowledge of Man, in order to rise up and be in the Divine circle, and to imitate this divine circle by knowledge and wisdom in the Universe below.

No. 14. In the preceding page, Man had been weak, but in that, he was proud concerning all that is not him; he misunderstood the intention of the Creator; his heart became hardened, and he is unable to feel pity; his pain alone makes him shed tears; finally he was Sovereign, by Force more than knowledge or wisdom.

No. 15. He is attacked by anxieties and infirmities.

No. 16. Judgment is pronounced upon him, that after having suffered all the human pains, he will be purified by No. 17, Death.

No. 18. Here commences the third Book. Man, having sinned, is covered in a shirt of hair. Deprived of the true light which had been given him, he employs an artificial light; finally, his stick indicates that he walks with little assurance in the darkness into which he is plunged: he searches for what he has lost; but retrieves, No. 19, the similitude of true wisdom, while building idolatrous temples, where he is precipitated into the abyss by the resplendent Truth, under the hieroglyph of the Sun, which throws its thunder and hail in order to destroy these houses of iniquity.

Man comes to adore the Idols, so that they will offer [?] him temporal goods, No. 20, Fortune; he no longer puts limits on his desires, his pride increases by reason of his ignorance, and he mounts, No. 21, a chariot, with all the attributes of vainglory and despotism, cuirassed like the vile Alexander, surnamed “The Great,” because he massacred and had massacred a very great number of men, and [?] thinking no more of him who wished to preserve their legitimate dominion.

0, zero, Madness. Here indeed is the center of the human spirit, the true place where reposes Man the Half-Wise; for he does as he determines, and does what? To understand, it is necessary to penetrate the fourth Book; the life of all Mortals has been written there by the Sages, and ends with this sentence:

Man who trusts in artifice in order to have repose will be punished with death by Wise Nature, before having found it.
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