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Join Date: 28 Mar 2008
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Posts: 255


In Hall I also found this: "The diverse opinions of eminent authorities on the Tarot symbolism are quite irreconcilable. The conclusions of the scholarly Court de Gébelin and the bizarre Grand Etteila--the first authorities on the subject--not only are at radical variance but both are equally discredited by Levi, whose arrangement of the Tarot trumps was rejected in turn by Arthur Edward Waite and Paul Case as being an effort to mislead students. The followers of Levi--especially Papus, Christian, Westcott, and Schuré-are regarded by the "reformed Tarotists" as honest but benighted individuals who wandered in darkness for lack of Pamela Coleman Smith's new deck of Tarot cards with revisions by Mr. Waite.

Most writers on the Tarot (Mr. Waite a notable exception) have proceeded upon the hypothesis that the 22 major trumps represent the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. This supposition is based upon nothing more substantial than the coincidence that both consist of 22 parts. That Postel, St. Martin, and Levi all wrote books divided into sections corresponding to the major Tarots is an interesting sidelight on the subject. The major trump cards portray incidents from the Book of Revelation; and the Apocalypse of St. John is also divided into 22 chapters. Assuming the Qabbalah to hold the solution to the Tarot riddle, seekers have often ignored other possible lines of research. The task, however, of discovering the proper relationship sustained by the Tarot trumps to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet and the Paths of Wisdom thus far has not met with any great measure of success. The major trumps of the Tarot and the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet cannot be synchronized without first fixing the correct place of the unnumbered, or zero, card--Le Mat, the Fool. Levi places this card between the 20th and 21st Tarots, assigning to it the Hebrew letter Shin (ש). The same order is followed by Papus, Christian, and Waite, the last, however, declaring this arrangement to be incorrect. Westcott makes the zero card the 22nd of the Tarot major trumps. On the other hand, both Court de Gébelin and Paul Case place the unnumbered card before the first numbered card of the major trumps, for if the natural order of the numbers (according to either the Pythagorean or Qabbalistic system) be adhered to, the zero card must naturally precede the number 1.

This does not dispose of the problem, however, for efforts to assign a Hebrew letter to each Tarot trump in sequence produce an effect far from convincing. Mr. Waite, who reedited the Tarot, expresses himself thus: "I am not to be included among those who are satisfied that there is a valid correspondence between Hebrew letters and Tarot Trump symbols." (See introduction to The Book of Formation by Knut Stenring.) The real explanation may be that the major Tarots no longer are in the same sequence as when they formed the leaves of Hermes' sacred book, for the Egyptians--or even their Arabian successors--could have purposely confused the cards so that their secrets might be better preserved. Mr. Case has developed a system which, while superior to most, depends largely upon two debatable points, namely, the accuracy of Mr. Waite's revised Tarot and the justification for assigning the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet to the unnumbered, or zero, card. Since Aleph (the first Hebrew letter) has the numerical value of 1, its assignment to the zero card is equivalent to the statement that zero is equal to the letter Aleph and therefore synonymous with the number 1."

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