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Join Date: 22 Oct 2005
Location: Portland, USA
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Alchemical Study Group - 0 The Fool


"Fools understanding the sayings of the Philosophers according to the letter do find out the truth."
--The Rosarium Philosophorum (pg. 11)

The Fool represents the neophyte alchemist, who is the beginning of the Work, and ultimately becomes the end of it as well. To obtain the philosopher's stone, the alchemist must learn to maintain and balance the adventure, honesty and sincerity possessed by the novice with the wisdom acquired by the adept. In Zen, this is called "beginner's mind." We must never lose our sense of wonder in the pursuit of truth.

The Fool is blindfolded to signify his ignorance of the basic principles of alchemy. He does not yet comprehend the prima materia, the first substance needed for the Work. It exists everywhere, but the Fool does not recognize it or realize its value. As a result, he risks stumbling about in darkness. The word "blind" derives from the Indo-European term bhlendhow, which means confusion and not knowing where to go. It is related to the word "blunder," which comes from the Old Norse term blunda, to shut one's eyes.

If the Fool could see, he would find the prima materia all around him. Since he cannot, it manifests in the form of a hare, a symbol with profound alchemical, archetypal and shamanistic meanings. In alchemy, the hare teaches the axiom, "visit the interior of the earth and by rectifying thou shalt find the hidden medicinal stone" (from Musaeum Hermeticum, translated by A.E. Waite, pg. 259). The hare lives in the earth, and is an archetypal guide to the underworld of the unconscious. The animal appears here to guide the Fool down into those depths--the darkness that must be charted for the Fool to lose his ignorance and reemerge into the light. It is a shamanistic journey, for the shaman goes down into a hole in the earth, led by a spirit guide, to enter other realms.

In addition to not seeing the hare, the Fool is unaware that he is under divine guidance. The star over his head is the Platonic star that guides every person through life. It is, in Jungian terms, the higher self. The feathers in the Fool's cap, done in the alchemical colors of opposites, function like antennae or sensors for the higher self, dividing the energy into masculine and feminine aspects. This guidance functions in spite of the Fool's foolishness, and when he drops his blindfold, he will be able to utilize this guidance much more astutely.

Psychologically, the Fool represents the natural mind. He seeks to find harmony in the universe. He is the beginning and the end, the place where the head of the ouroborous bites its own tail, forming the unbroken circle of the cosmos--the cosmic egg. The Fool is the newborn. Thus, the number of his card is zero, which is both beginning and end.

Tarot wisdom: The Fool shows us that everything we need to begin our spiritual journey, to initiate change, is within our grasp. We come into beginning with the raw material of transmutation ready before us. If we place our trust in a higher order, we will be guided through the dangers and darkness and into the light. We need only open our eyes and go forward with both awe and courage.

The drawing is based on Steffan Michelspacher's Cabala (1616).
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