Join Date: 03 Nov 2007
Location: Oregon USA
the "signs of death"; the 78 cards in 5 and 6 groups
I found something else in Etteilla’s 2nd cahier that clarifies something that Decker et al left somewhat murky, namely, the so-called "signs of death," the extra numbers on cards 13-17. Etteilla writes about them in the Supplement, written 1786. But since it seems to refer back to one of the ways of grouping the cards, the one “in five books,” I will translate that section first, and the part with the heading “in six books” as well, because it is short and also says something about these cards 13-17 as a group. These two sections are the continuation of what I started translating in my previous post.
I will not deal yet with the final way of grouping the cards, “in seven Books,” because it is rather long and does not seem to relate very directly to the material in the Supplement.
So here is first my transcription of the French, pp. 136-140 of the 2nd Cahier, followed by my translations of these passages, the sections entitled “in five parts” and “in six parts.” Then I will go on to the Supplement, which is what I am really interested in.
En cinq Livres.
(1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12) le signe de l'unité, 1. Les cinq derniers nombres = 50, représentant parfaitement le grand & divin nom de l'Éternel en hébreu. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) les oeuvres de Dieu. (13, 14, 15, 16, 17,) tout ce qui est à l'homme & dépend de l'homme, par order, permission & bonté divine, dans le cercle de l'homme, ce nombre ayant en lui le 10 du multiplié 5, & le 12 de l'assemblage des nombres vulgaires. (18, 19, 20, 21, 0) la foiblesse de l'Homme vue comme foiblesse. (22 jusqu’à 77) la foiblesse de l'Homme vue comme orgueil.
En six Livres.
(1, 8,) Dieu, son repos en lui. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,) les six jours de la création. (9, 10, 11, 12,) le sceau de l’harmonie dans la Nature sensible. (13, 14, 15, 16, 17,) Nature physique. (18, 19, 20, 21, 0,) défectuosité apparente dans les mouvemens généraux, & défectuosité réelle des mouvements particuliers. (22 jusqu’à 77,) vertus & vices confondus par l’ignorance des Hommes, & les huit fois sept chemins différens qui leur son offerts pour arriver au faux bonheur.
And my literal translation:
In five books.
(1, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12) the sign of unity, 1. The five later numbers = 50, representing perfectly the great and divine name of the Eternal in Hebrew. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) the works of God. (13, 14, 15, 16, 17) all that which belongs to Man and depends on Man, by divine order, permission, and grace, in the circle of Man, this number having in it the 10 of the multiplied 5 and the 12 of the assemblage of the vulgar numbers. (18, 19, 20, 21, 0) the weakness of Man seen as weakness. (22 to 77), the weakness of Man seen as pride.
In six Books.
(1, 8,). God, his repose in himself. (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,), the six days of creation. (9, 10, 11, 12,) the mark of harmony in sense-related Nature. (13, 14, 15, 16, 17,) physical Nature. (18, 19, 20, 21, 0,) apparent defect in general movements, and real defect in particular movements. (22 to 77,) virtues and vices confounded by Men’s ignorance and the eight times seven different roads that are offered to them for arriving at false happiness.
These two groupings are fairly similar. All the section “in six books” has done is to take the numbers pertaining to the male (1) and female (8) questioner out of the group they were in before. 1 and 8 pertain to God. 9-12, the four virtues, pertain to the archetypal world of ideals, which are in the same third of the Universe as God. 2-7, form a unit as the six days of creation, the “works of God.” 13 to 17 also form a unit. I have no idea what "the 10 of the multiplied 5" and "the 12 of the assemblage of the vulgar numbers" mean. He perhaps explained it earlier, but if so I cannot find it.
The rest of the characterization of cards 13-17 is “all that which belongs to Man and pertains to Man, by divine order, permission, and grace” and “physical nature.” Here the problem I have in understanding, is that cards 18-21 also could be described in the same way. In fact, when describing the cards “in two books,” he described all of 1-21 in terms of “divine order, permission and grace.”
What he has done now, it seems to me, is to separate out 5 of the group (13-21 plus 0) as fitting another set of descriptions, “weakness of Man viewed as weakness,” further refined to “apparent defect in general movement and real defect in particular movements.” What this last designates. I think, are the areas of life which seem to be defects in the creation, and so indicative of a defective creator, but in fact are defects in man’s particular choices. These areas of life are marriage (13), temptation (14), sickness (15), judgements (by others and by God, 16), and death (17); they are universal and God-given. But betrayal (18), misery (19), fortune (20), dissension (21), and folly (0) are products of human weakness recognized as such. They are further distinguished from the suit cards, which offer the roads of virtue and vice to false happiness, really expressions of human weakness manifesting as pride.
Bearing all this in mind, let us turn to the Supplement, 2nd Cahier pp. 161-162, the comment to p. 12, “The Number Two.” I have no idea what this comment has to do with p. 12 or the number 2. It seems to me to have more to do with the astrological correspondences of the 4th Cahier, and the seven ways of dividing the cards at the end of the 2nd Cahier, pp. 134-142. Here is the French, followed by my translation.
p. 12, Le Nombre 2. Onze feuillets ont plusieurs nombres, & avec les 10 derniers feuillets (tous nombres cabalistiques portant des signes & planetes) on trouve de ce côté 21 feiillets distincts, comme aussi 21 premiers feuillets distincts; & pour concevoir ceci, il faut se reporter sur les pages 95& 96 du troisième cahier. Deux objets à entendre
1. Quoiqu'il y ait des planettes de marquées, comme le soleil & la lune, les deux grande luminaires, sur les premiers feuillets, il n'en est pas moins vrai que les planettes sont vues, dans l'étude de ce livre appartenir aux 10 derniers feuillets, comme les 12 signes aux 12 premiers feuillets.
2. Que les doubles nombres du troisieme livre 13, 14; 14, 15; 15, 16; 16, 17; 17, 13, are afin d'indiquer, suivant le livre de Thot, la chaîne de la naissance à la mort, la liaison qui existe entre l'aspiration & l'expiration de tous les êtres, etc.
And my literal translation:
P. 12, the number 2. Eleven pages [i.e. cards] have several numbers, and with the last 10 pages (all cabalistic numbers bearing signs and planets) we find in this way 21 distinct pages, as also the first 21 are distinct; and to conceive this, it is necessary to refer to pages 95 and 96 of the third cahier. Two objects to be understood.
1.Although there are planets of note, such as the sun and the moon, the two big lights, on the first pages, it is nonetheless true that the planets are seen, in this book's study, as belonging to the 10 last pages, just as the 12 signs [of the zodiac] are in the first 12 pages.
2.The double numbers of the third book 13, 14; 14, 15; 15, 16; 16, 17; 17, 13, are to indicate, according to the book of Thot, the chain from birth to death, the connection which exists between the aspiration [or inhalation] and the expiration [or exhalation of all beings, etc.
My comments: In the first paragraph, the "pages" with several numbers are 2-8 (which have the day of creation as well as the card number) and 2-5, which also have an element number on them. These, 7 + 4, equal 11. Adding the last 10, which have the planets and 3 other astrological signs on them, we get 21. In the same way, the first 21 cards are special, in that they are above the rest. Etteilla is not so much concerned with the number 21 as he is with the number 7, which he says governs the tarot, in 7 and its multiples. Another example of 7 in the tarot that he gives is that there are 77 numbered cards.
In the second paragraph, Etteilla is saying that the planets are seen in the 10 pip cards of the suit of coins, which are the last 10 cards. And the signs of the zodiac are seen in the first 12. This doctrine is one he already introduced in the 4th Cahier and its Supplement, which came out the year before this Supplement. Seeing the cards as a progressive degeneration from God (the principle also used by de Mellet), coins and money are the lowest, the most contributory to false happiness. To them are assigned the “little gods” of Egypt, as Decker et al quote him somewhere.
The third paragraph, on p. 162, is the most interesting, because it involves a formulation we haven’t seen elsewhere. First, Etteilla calls cards 13-17 the "third book" of the great book of Thot. This phrase, applied to cards 13-17, is one we have seen: in the fifth way of dividing the cards, cards 13-17 are the third of five groups. In that context, then, Etteilla is trying to explain why there are extra numbers on the cards. He describes them as indicating "the chain from birth to death."
When you look at the keywords for these cards, you see that number 13, marriage, leads to children. 13 appears at the beginning and the end of the sequence. In between are the God-given realities of life in the physical world to which we are subject ("Judgment" can be either divine or human).
13, 14: Marriage, Major Force (Temptation).
14, 15: Major Force, Sickness.
15, 16: Sickness, Judgment.
16, 17: Judgment, Mortality.
17, 13: Mortality, Marriage.
In the beginning of the sequence, besides children, the responsibilities of marriage lead to domination by materialistic concerns that do violence to the spirit; at least that is what Etteilla found in his own case, until he freed himself of both his family and material wealth (Decker et al p. 78). On top of that we have sickness. And then comes Judgment, by our fellows and God, and Death. Then Marriage, by one’s children, starts the cycle all over again. Marriage seems to be the one God-given thing on this list that is unqualifiedly good, despite its bad consequences for the individuals involved, because it allows humanity a triumph over death in the physical domain.
We might say, in other words, for the last pair, 17/13, that awareness of mortality leads to new life by way of marriage, which in producing children defeats death in the physical world. In Etteilla's personal life, marriage to his "Xanthippe" (see 1676 entry in my timeline) was a calamity, except for bringing him his son. Then we can say something more-I don't know if I am straying from Etteilla's thought, but I don't think so: it was during his marriage that he says he first understood the tarot. Thus he experienced “Major Force” in the sense of being gripped by Spirit, as described in the word-list for that keyword, and in his own case in the quote I gave in my timeline entry for 1767. In publishing his books, he has now gone a step further and put this inspiration into physical form for others to see and continue. So the "chain from birth to death" is really a circle, in two ways: there are two kinds of children, physical and one's acts of inspired service to humanity, the universe, and God. Or, to put the matter in terms of Etteilla's last phrase, "la liaison qui existe entre l'aspiration & l'expiration de tous les êtres," there are two kinds of "aspiration"--a child's first breath and a person's inspired hopes and actions.
In conclusion: This third paragraph on p. 160, besides showing more of Etteilla's philosophy, also shows that the double numbering of cards 13-17 was in fact part of Etteilla's plan as early as 1786. And it shows that their association with death didn't start with the Dictionnaire Synonymique
of de La Sallette, which is where Decker et al picked up the trail (p. 93). And they are not simply "signs of death" ("signes de mort") as they are characterized there according to Decker et al; they signify "the chain from birth to death" in relation to--if I may draw from the other passage--"all that belongs to Man and depends on Man...in the circle of Man."