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Join Date: 05 Aug 2001
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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jmd 
A Martinist or Masonic connection? from when?


Having just read Christine Payne-Towler's latest issue of her ArkLetter (19), I am, as with her other writings in general, impressed and in agreement with much that she presents.

I agree with that tarot has come to be part of the occidental esoteric corpus. Where I do not agree, however, is in the implied inclusion of tarot within the Martinist 'programme' in its early days. I am of course willing to stand corrected, but the writings of early Martinists seem to be oriented in ways that are, in the first place, very Christian (which of course does not exclude tarot) and quite 'Hebra´c' or Kabalistic; and in the second magico-hermetic-masonic - for want of a better term.

In fact, quite the opposite to an inclusion of tarot appears to be the case.

One can also of course see that at least since the writings of those early French authors (also each in Freemasonry) prior to Eliphas Levi - ie, Comte de Mellet, Court de Gebelin and Alliette (Etteilla), tarot was going to be seriously considered and further 'researched' or at least in various manner exegeted within Masonic and quasi-masonic lodges. It is only a further fifty years before Eliphas Levi brings to light more explicit Hebrew-Atouts correspondences.

I would suggest that it is highly likely that private discussions, notes and reflections were made amongst, for example, the Philalethic Lyon Lodge in the early 1800s, and that it is from such that both the later Levi considerations and the future Papus-oriented Martinists are likely to ultimately derive their source. To discuss St Martin in this context is to say, in many ways, no more that he too was part of that same masonic milieu in which he was exposed to the various considerations on tarot following the publication of De Mellet's and De Gebelin's essays.

In terms of evidence, however, I have absolutely none - other than to re-iterate the words of the C. de M.; mentioning that he, as others, were masons interested in a variety of symbolic exegesis that at least since the publication of Le Monde Primitif included Tarot; and that Levi's Masonic crossweavings were likewise going to reflect this interest and this more 'recent' inclusion.

This is distinct, of course, to the possibility that something like the Marseille is itself what Mark Filipas has called an 'Alphabetic Masquerade'. Even if the case, however, I would suggest that this was already 'lost', forgotten, or never transmitted by the time of the late 1700s (De Gebelin) and the early 1800s.

So what is the 'concern' I have with Christine's presentation? On the one hand, I am in total agreement that anyone involved in Freemasonry in Lyons or Paris (or other places, but let's leave it there for the moment) following the publication of vol. VIII of Le Monde Primitif was very likely going to not only be exposed to Tarot, but also involved in determining or exegeting its supposed allegories and symbolism; on the other, this is quite different to suggesting that tarot's esoteric inclusion within Martinist circles somehow predates the early writings from those within masonic circles upon which the inclusion of Tarot within the occidental esoteric corpus is based. And for this, I refer to, exclusively, Le Monde Primitif.
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