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Tarot, number four, and some random thoughts on the Kabala

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Tarot, number four, and some random thoughts on the Kabala


I am looking for people patient enough to read a large text, with little basis other than my own convictions, and my incessant wonder before how large tarot is. Please, I would love to hear some comments on this.

I know very little bout numerology, but still can play with numbers. One of this days I was “getting fun” adding card’s numbers, and was amazed at how much number 4 seems to be fundamental to Tarot.

If we add both digits in number 22, regarding the major arcane, we find number 4; the minors are 56, that is, 14 x 4, or, better yet, 4 x 10 (40 pip cards) and 4 x 4 (16 court cards). We can even go a bit further, and add the majors without including two cards that are somewhat different of the rest, that is, the unnumbered arcane and the unnamed arcane; we are then left with 20 cards, or 5 x 4 cards! Plus, the two cards “removed” are cards number XIII (13 = 1+3 = 4) and XXII (as Le Mat is generally referred to: 22 = 2+2 = 4).

The add of the first and the last numbered cards, Le Bateleur and Le Monde, is (obviously) 22 again; but it is very interesting to find number four depicted in those cards in such a symbolic way! In card XXI, we find the four Living Creatures, symbolizing the four elements, the four directions, etc – the totality of the Cosmos; in card I, we find a three-legged table, an image that clearly evokes the missing leg – tables are four-legged. The square tabletop is also incomplete, and a square is again a symbol of the quaternary.

Looking for number 4 in the cards takes us to card IV (a number presented in the crossed emperor’s legs, as many authors point), card VIII (2x4, or 4+4, a formula that reminds me of equilibrium and visually evokes the two plates in the scale – I use a Marseilles deck), card XII (again the crossed legs, but reversed), card XVI (a truly square number, 4x4, or materiality in its most achieved form – the earthly Jerusalem, as opposed to the Heavenly city), card XX (where the souls escape from square coffins, or from the ultimate prison of materiality). We can also consider card XIII, as already pointed, since 13 ads 4; in card XIII materiality is perfectly depicted as material death and the return to earth.

All of these cards share something else: the end of a system. In card 4 (L’empereur), the control of material aspects of live is achieved – card V (Le Pape) already establishes a bridge with divinity, pointing a new direction to the man that was born and grew from I to IV. Card VIII (La Justice) has got to symbolize the end of a cycle, since in card VIIII (L’Hermite) we are told to look back and integrate all past lessons, in order to continue (towards change, or card X). Card XII is, due to its number, certainly related to the end of a material cycle. 12 is an astrological number, pointing to totality; in card XIII a door is opened, and a new spiritual cycle begins, into which we are guided by an angel… Card XVI is the graphic expression of another end, the end of all pre-established systems and all preconceptions. In card XVI, all that is rotten comes down, so a new start can be made. It also opens a cycle in which heavenly phenomena appear; and, as the pope received those ending the first cycle (I-IV), as a monk illuminated the steps of those finishing the second cycle (V-VIII), as death (followed by an angel) guided in the underworld those finishing the third cycle (VIIII-XII), so the star receives those coming from the fourth (4x4) cycle. In card XX, liberation comes: what those finishing the fifth cycle (XVII-XX) will find, I cannot say… But for those interested in Kabala, it could be something compared to the description of Kether.

Here, I must say that my thoughts about the importance of number four in Tarot are related to something I’ve already posted in another thread: as I see it, the most important correlations between Tarot and Kabala are not to be found in the first ten major Arcana, but in the last ten. Every time I look at the 22 major cards I see the first 12 as a depiction of a kind of “astrological” system, and the last ten as representative of the ten Sefirot, this latter system being hierarchically “superior” to the first. Card number XXII is to me a vivid picture of the characteristics of Kether: Kether is the uppermost aspect of the Sefirot that can be contemplated by humans. It means the birth of a new system, a new sequence, a new world, or the refreshment of an old world or system. The angels of Kether are the Holy Living Creatures, the four Seraphim, and also the four elements or the four fixed signs: Bull (Taurus), lion (Leo), eagle (Scorpio), man (Aquarius). In Kether, God is actively creating our universe. Regarded as a level of consciousness, Kether represents union with God, the Completion of the Great Work, the end and aim of any mystical experience.

If we accept that Le Monde can be compared to Kether, or The Crown, then card number XIII is related to Malkhuth or Shekhinah, Foundation or The Kingdom. Again, in card XIII we can find number 4, or the number of physical matter, a great symbol of The Kingdom. Malkhuth is the king's consort, the earth, or the world in its broader sense of the universal manifestation perceived by the senses. No better card to symbolize it than the unnamed arcane, presenting the earth, the material world, death and the promise of “rebirth”, the beginning of another circle, the work of Mother Nature.

Tarot appears to me as a system of base four, that is, a system that essentially reflects man’s path in this material world – an obvious assertion, of course. Card number XIII is the door to the upper spiritual aspect of this path.
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Wonderful reflections, smleite...

Just to add a little to your post, another instance of four is in the number of pips in each suit, for each ten cards can be described as a triangular number of base four.

Also, if one counts all the implements on the 40 pips, we find there are 220 (55 in each suit), which, by the method you suggest, would also 'reduce' to four.

A book which may also be of interest is Knight's Tarot: a fourfold mirror of the Universe, in which the whole of the Atous are presented upon a fourfold basis, with the four cardinal virtues 'heading' a fourfold folding.

With regards to Kabalistic considerations and personal workings, I personally also tend to prefer to place XXI the World within Keter, as mentioned in another thread. On the other hand, I tend to pair each of the cards (according to their Roman numeration, ie, I & XI, II & XII, etc, to the Fool & XXI) and place each pair upon a way of ascent up the Tree, from Malkut up to Keter (with X & XX, as containing no 'numeral', in Da'at).

Having said this, I also see that the Major Arcana has other similarly important structures which emerge on reflection, and a threefoldness and fivefoldness, in addition to the twofoldness and fourfoldness, also yields, in my personal view, great reflective insights.

If one wants to further reflect on fourfoldness and the Tarot, than each of the individual cards may be seen as somehow reflecting such. For example, II the Papess has a number half of four; the Empress has both an orb with fourfoldness of cross, but also a shield upon which the eagle is spread, fourfold fashion; the Emperor has already been mentioned, and is obvious and clear in both its numbering and in his Jupiter-type legs as representing the Hindo-Arabic '4'; the Pope has four hands, and four 'heads' (the 'hat' of the smaller supplicant to the left of the card suggests another head); the Lover has, like Judgement, four figures; the Chariot's four posts are clear; Justice already has been mentioned; the Hermit is clearly related also by its clear numbering as V & IIII; the Wheel of Fortune, it should be noted, has for its number the fourth triangular number (ten); Strength's arms also seems to suggest, like the Emperor's legs, the figure '4'; XII and XIII have already been mentioned, and Temperance has the clarity of its number again given: X & IIII; the Devil card often has four faces (one upon the main figure's belly); sixteen is of course 4 squared; the Star, though having 2 X 4 stars depicted, has also, to my eyes more importantly, two sets of two 'flows': her hair, and from the urns; the Moon has four living figures; the Sun has that important XV & IIII, as well as having those two individuals, thereby duplicating the two arms and two legs and two eyes and (etc) of each one, making a total of four limbs (&c); Judgement has already been mentioned, as has XXI; as for the Fool, not only are four legs visible, but his own four limbs have been extended by those two sticks...
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Quote:
Originally posted by smleite
In card XXI, we find the four Living Creatures, symbolizing the four elements, the four directions, etc – the totality of the Cosmos; in card I, we find a three-legged table, an image that clearly evokes the missing leg – tables are four-legged. The square tabletop is also incomplete, and a square is again a symbol of the quaternary.
Interesting smleite, almost as though card I suggests what can develop by means of progression through the deck, & card XXI represents it as fait accompli (I guess this is obvious, but I wouldn't have seen it in light of number symbolism on my own).

I finished reading Letter IV of Meditations a little while ago, and was a bit surprised to discover within it a lengthy exposition of hermeticism as lifestyle . . . After beginning with the notion of authority (a discussion I expected) the unknown friend moved on to a topic which in retrospect seems so broad that a part of me is surprised to find it (thus far) focused in/limited to the fourth arcanum only. But, in light of your emphasis on the number four as a structural foundation or key to the whole, this makes perfect sense.

(Thank you )

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Punchinella.

Of course you read jmd’s comments on my post; they are very important, but allow me to emphasize his remark about “the number of pips in each suit, for each ten cards can be described as a triangular number of base four”, since this refers to a fundamental aspect of the subject…
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I do not understand this concept. I'm utterly & completely lost.
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O
OO
OOO
OOOO
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Aaaah (thank you)
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Exclamation A near miss, I dare say


Somehow you have Le Monde numbered wrong: it's XXI in the Marseilles, which is the complete original. But your seeing the Sefirot in the last ten -- and in the 'reversed' order to boot -- is amazingly close to an aspect of that original which I can explicate.
The trumps can be seen as the Sefirot of Olam he-Beriyah ('world of creation'), second of Ezekiel's four wheels, arising out of Le Mat, space, as Keter divided by OUR duality into trumps I and XXI, Magician versus World, culminating in trumps X and XII, the fortune we will and the fortune we see (Wheel of Fortune, OUR projection onto IT, and Hanged Man's inverted image on the back of the eye, ITS projection onto US). Between these two exists a Force, XI.
As for zodiac signs, the method of the ORIGINAL Qabbalah had the simples, beginning in aries, in the order samekh-tzaddi-cheyt-vav-ayin-qof-teyt-heh-zayin-yod-lamedh-nun, corresponding to bardic Ng-Ss-H-U-O-Q-Aa-E-I-Ii-L-N, the bardic numbers 8-20-0-17-4-18-21-2-3-19-14-13, in that order. This was based on, for example, oxygen, atomic number 8, being the only atom type without which there IS no 'up' or aries, and the horizontal diameter II-U (yod-vav) being the potassium (19) and chlorine (17) involved in control of fluids WITHIN the cell (zodiac of the torso), the line extended out from this third wheel (Olam ha-Yetzirah) onto the second (Olam ha-Beriyah) reaching it at T or tav, which is the sodium (11) that acts with nearby chlorine to control the fluids OUTSIDE the cell. The system obviously predates Judaism to the time before the destruction of the last civilization, some thirteen (?) millenniums ago. The above order is based on calendrical order of bardic tree-letters in the case of consonants, on phonetic order and seasonal fit in the case of the bardic vowels, the only really 'out-of-place' one being ayin, O (spring), whose 'mis'placement is the key to the whole alchemical structure: leo is the heat engine of the year and stimulates mercury's column in the vessel or year to form vapor in the vessel's upper half, which is spring. The presence of mercury's column (based in leo's month and roofed in taurus's) is what makes gemini and virgo Mercury's domain.
And so on. (Sorry, I talk too much.)
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Perhaps I have read through the above posts too quickly, but did not notice anyone mentioning Le Monde numbered as anything other than XXI.

As to the order of the Sefirot, there is an order of emanation that clearly flows out of the Ein Sof from Keter through to Malkut - and again do not note anyone making errors in terms of this.

The order of emanation is not necessarily the order of the path of return that at least some of us consider the Atouts of the Tarot to possibly show.

I also see that you, like a number of us but in a differing fashion, have a personal preference for the pairing of the Atouts, and in your case prefer to, if I have read your explanation correctly, to have the pairs merging towards the centre of the numbered cards (somewhat as Wirth also prefers):
I - XXI
II - XX
III - XVIIII
:
:
X - XII
With the Fou and XI 'outside' the series.

When you say, however, that 'This was based on, for example, oxygen, atomic number 8, being the only atom type without which there IS no 'up' or aries', I personally find this to be taking modern chemical understanding as somehow being either important or influential in the development of Tarot - and going further than I personally consider likely, either from a spiritual or historical perspective.

Still, it is useful to be able to consider and discuss various possibilities.
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Thanks for replying to this thread, venicebard. I have nothing else to say about the subject at present, possibly because since I wrote the first post I’ve started studying the Kabala “for real”, and, the more I see, the more I feel I am such a beginner, I’d better be quiet…

Anyway, I’ve read the former posts, and found that, at a certain pint, I wrote “Card number XXII”. Is that what you are referring to? It is obviously a typing error. I will not edit the post, for the sake of clarity in this matter, but the correct number is, of course (how could it be otherwise?), card number XXI.

Thanks,

Silvia
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