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Lil Red 
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Thoth Question


Hi everyone,

Thoth sure is an interesting deck and I fell more in love with it after reading "Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot" . After I read his book I understood what Aleister was trying to say much clearly. The problem was that I noticed that the deck is based on the Gold Dawn, but I honestly believe it emphasize more on the quabalistic approach (I also understand that it emphasize Thelma as well). It got to the point that I visited a couple of times a qabalah temple (B.O.T.A more precise).

What I am trying to say is instead of viewing tarot using qabalah, what is the holistic approach to Thoth tarot?

Also what is another approach I can use to learning more about Thoth?

Lastly, I understand that I do not need to read Crowley bio to understand his work, but are all his books helpful to understand Thoth Tarot?

Oh ya before I forget, I was thinking in buying the Gold Dawn tarot to compare each card as well to see the similarity of the deck. I am just fascinated on the idea of it as well the inspiration of how thoth came to be.



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Last edited by Lil Red; 18-10-2014 at 18:35.
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Michael Sternbach 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lil Red View Post
Hi everyone,

Thoth sure is an interesting deck and I fell more in love with it after reading "Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot" . After I read his book I understood what Aleister was trying to say much clearly. The problem was that I noticed that the deck is based on the Gold Dawn, but I honestly believe it emphasize more on the quabalistic approach (I also understand that it emphasize Thelma as well). It got to the point that I visited a couple of times a qabalah temple (B.O.T.A more precise).
Hmm... I read and reread your post, but I'm still not sure if I'm getting you right. For the Thoth emphasizes the qabbalistic approach [i]as understood by the GD.[/b] AC's qabalistic system is identical with the GD tradition except that he attributed The Star to the letter and path that "traditionally" belongs to The Emperor, and vice versa. The B.O.T.A. approach coincides with the GD system as well, as P. F. Case was a member of the order, too.

It probably goes without saying that outside the GD tradition almost any aspect pertaining to the Tree of Life and its relation to Tarot has been (still is) open to discussion.

Quote:
What I am trying to say is instead of viewing tarot using qabalah, what is the holistic approach to Thoth tarot?
The Thoth deck is holistically interweaving qabalistic, hermetic, astrological, mythological, magic(k)al, alchemical, colour and projective geometrical symbolism. Oh, and let's not forget that at least all the Court cards are connected to the I Ching according to Crowley. Some aspects of natural sciences enter the picture as well. Its integrative character is exactly why this deck merits its name (Thoth = Hermes Trismegistos). So if you want to take a truly holistic approach to it, you should delve into all of these topics! Welcome to a very worthwhile lifetime of study!

No, I don't mean to be sarcastic at all. When I got to know (um, fell in love with) this deck 26 years ago, it introduced me not only to Tarot in general, but also to a whole bunch of other things. It's no exaggeration to say that it's an encyclopedia of the Occidental (and to some degree, other) mystery traditions.

Quote:
Also what is another approach I can use to learning more about Thoth?
Meditating with the cards. Using them for divination. Putting them under your pillow. Reading all kinds of different books about them (even the ones not approved of by the Crowley fundamentalists ).

Quote:
Lastly, I understand that I do not need to read Crowley bio to understand his work, but are all his books helpful to understand Thoth Tarot?
Well, you don't NEED to do anything, in principle ("do what thou wilt"). But if you are seriously planning on making a survey of Crowley's work, it might in fact be helpful to read one or the other biography (don't let your mum see it!). Talking about AC's books, he makes a lot of references to a lot of them in the Book of Thoth (you do have that one, don't you!?). It might be interesting to follow up at least the more readily available ones. For starters (other than the BoT), I'd suggest the part about Tarot in Equinox Vol. I, No. 8 (hey, here he actually explains the divinatory meanings of all the cards!), also Liber 777, The Book of the Law, The Book of Lies – all these are directly intertwined with the Thoth deck.

Quote:
Oh ya before I forget, I was thinking in buying the Gold Dawn tarot to compare each card as well to see the similarity of the deck. I am just fascinated on the idea of it as well the inspiration of how thoth came to be.
Robert Wang's GD deck (if that's what you are referring to) is quite different from the Thoth. Much more simple. For comparing Thoth with GD in general, I would certainly read Wang's The Qabalistic Tarot, though. You might also find Lon Milo DuQuette's Tarot of Ceremonial Magick (the cards as well as the book) interesting in this regard.

Hope this helps... we can talk more about the Thoth Tarot if you wish!

Last edited by Michael Sternbach; 19-10-2014 at 21:13.
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Abrac 
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I've compared the Thoth with the Golden Dawn deck many times and I think it's helpful to do so.

You can probably pick up bits and pieces from any of Crowley's writings that are helpful in understanding his tarot, but his companion book, The Book of Thoth, is the most extensive and easily available for free online.

While Crowley and Thelema are very different from the Golden Dawn, Crowley was heavily influenced by the GD so a fairly good understanding of the GD is helpful to see how Crowley was influenced by it and how he's different. Studying the GD system can be mind-deadening, but it helps to get a clearer picture of where Crowley came from.

The GD was still in the mode of magic where everything depended on following strict guidelines, invoking angels or spirits using the correct (oftentimes secret) names, following the correct procedures, etc. Thelema's magic can be boiled down to one phrase, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."

The Thoth deck contains a lot of remnants from the GD, Qabalah, Astrology, and the like, which contain deeper mysteries if a person cares to delve into them, but it's easy to get bogged down in it. The main thing to understand is Thelema = "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."
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Aeon418 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Abrac View Post
The GD was still in the mode of magic where everything depended on following strict guidelines, invoking angels or spirits using the correct (oftentimes secret) names, following the correct procedures, etc. Thelema's magic can be boiled down to one phrase, "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."
It's odd then that Crowley continued to teach Golden Dawn style methods and techniques until the end of his life. He was well aware that in order to go 'freestyle' one needs to absorb the 'classical forms' beforehand. And there is nothing in Crowley's writings that obviates the Golden Dawn magical hierachies and the process of invocation.

The A.'.A.'. grades before Adeptus Minor are devoted to the learning and mastery of classical techniques. Once this has been achieved one can then proceed to use these 'tools' in a unique Work of Art in the highly personal invocation of the HGA.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Israel Regardie
I cannot separate Crowley from the Golden Dawn,
because Crowley was the Golden Dawn and the Golden Dawn was Crowley.



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Zephyros 
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I tend to agree. It's roughly the same magical language, but used to say different things.



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Michael Sternbach 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Abrac View Post
The Thoth deck contains a lot of remnants from the GD, Qabalah, Astrology, and the like, which contain deeper mysteries if a person cares to delve into them, but it's easy to get bogged down in it.
Why bogged down? The Thoth deck will take you by the hand and lead you to Wonderland (that is, if you're Alice or Neo). Just don't expect to be back by the end of the week.
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Zephyros 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Sternbach View Post
Why bogged down? The Thoth deck will take you by the hand and lead you to Wonderland (that is, if you're Alice or Neo). Just don't expect to be back by the end of the week.
This is true. All that kabbalah and stuff is the easy part, and is easy enough to study in order to get beyond. What the actual meat of the deck is what it actually says using that symbolism and structure. That's the real journey, not the language in which it is written.



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Michael Sternbach 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by closrapexa View Post
This is true. All that kabbalah and stuff is the easy part, and is easy enough to study in order to get beyond. What the actual meat of the deck is what it actually says using that symbolism and structure. That's the real journey, not the language in which it is written.
Right, the symbology is there to take you down the rabbit hole.
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Owl Tarot 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lil Red View Post
What I am trying to say is instead of viewing tarot using qabalah, what is the holistic approach to Thoth tarot?

Also what is another approach I can use to learning more about Thoth?

Lastly, I understand that I do not need to read Crowley bio to understand his work, but are all his books helpful to understand Thoth Tarot?
For your first question, I think that highly depends on your personal religion, the system of beliefs you live by. What no one should forget and remain sceptical about, I think, is that Crowley promoted his religion through the deck using the best techniques many religions had to offer. However, that does not mean you need to be a Thelemite (with all regards to this or any other religion) to understand, use, or appreciate and grow by it, after many years I have realised you can indeed incorporate any religion or belief system in it (even Atheism), easily. Crowley tried to promote drastically his religion using this method of intergrading many belief systems into this deck, using the tried and true system of marketing, adapting to your target audience and broadening it. This is why you can go down the rabbit hole in the first place, it is a working system of ideals and beliefs originating from many traditional systems (Hellenistic, Egyptian, Christian, Buddist, Hindu, Alchemical, Astrological, Golden Dawn's e.t.c.), thus making it easy to fit to any system you like.

That being said, I do however think you should read the Book of Thoth (#1 read), and read it again and again. It will help you more and more once you get the basics straight. The Thoth Companion by Snuffin can aid you as well. As far as Crowley's writings go, Michael Sternbach covered me as far as the basics go and I would add one more book from Crowley's work, the Liber 418. Now, I would advise you to grab a nice book regarding the Qabbalah (explanation of each Sephira and the four Qabbalistic Worlds is really useful, I believe). You don't need to offer it prayers as well, regard it as a philosophical system if you like. Next comes Astrology and Alchemy. For those there are many nice articles over the net where you can find what you need and tons of books as well. After you read some on those subjects as far as they are presented in the Thoth deck, read the Book of Thoth again. It will make more and more sense with every read.

For your second question, I think you should meditate on the cards by just spending time with them and realising what those cards say to you (I think this is the best way to learn about them). This I find to be a far more powerful method of finding what you yourself see in those cards. Crowley had his own beliefs and thoughts and walked the prophet path as well. What about you? Take the cards and try to hear what they say to you, what they are suggesting.

For your third question, a good biography can aid you see the man from a different point of view than the one he wants you to see him, thus realising more about the nature of his work through him. I don't think it's necessary, merely a helpful way to learn more about the author and see both his bright and dark sides (we all hae them, after all) so you can navigate yourself better through his work.

An extra: As far as tarot readings go, I have seen excellent readers of this deck who don't use many of the "orthodox" interpretations of the cards. The reader makes the reading, not the deck. A good deck aids the reader in his divination. Understanding the deck better can give you more weapons for your arsenal, not make you a reader in the first place. You could read the works of the author (Crowley) so you can understand both his works and his deck. Again, that doesn't mean you need to become a Thelemite, it means you need to go through a personal understanding process, just as you would do with any form of art by expanding on the works of the artist of a work you like.

Just my opinions and personal experiences regarding this wonderful deck which I use myself.

Last edited by Owl Tarot; 21-10-2014 at 02:15.
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Zephyros 
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I always find it odd that people see the Thoth as heavily pushing an agenda, with other decks like the RWS as seeming more neutral, when exactly the opposite is true. The RWS very much propounds Waite's ideas, so much so that modern card meanings derived from the PKT seem to parrot his views on life and morality.

The Thoth does not push its agenda more than any other deck. What it does is speak in a very specific symbolic language which it is useful to understand when working with it. That language is designed to be abstract so that anyone learning it would be able to take it in whatever direction it takes them, from an empowered and informed perspective. That's where "do what thou wilt" comes in, not do what you want, which is what boiling things down generally amounts to.



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