Etteilla v. Waite: Part IX

Last time, I took a look at the four cardinal virtues of the GE and matched them with their respective virtues from the RWS. Following the creation through binary opposition, existence is preserved by the four elements maintaining separateness from each other.* The four elements correspond to the four virtues, which represent the pillars of a stable and moral society. Thus the framework for the Preservation of the world has been erected; now I shall take a look at what goes on within this framework.

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High Priest: The title of this card suggests the Hierophant, but the imagery suggests the Lovers, especially the Lovers from Mr. Crowley’s Thoth deck. Because I already brought attention to this fascinating similarity in part III, I will say nothing more about it here.

I think this card intentionally combines the Hierophant with the Lovers. The Hierophant suggests a bridge between man and God, while the Lovers (in their more mundane sense, as opposed to the choice I spoke of previously) suggests marriage. In other words, this is a card of unity, of a happily functioning society.

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Devil: The Devil of the GE matches up with the Devil from the RWS pretty easily. It acts as an agent of chaos, a counterpoint to the harmony of the previous card. The Devil has a few levels of meaning, ranging from evil to enlightening, but in every case, there is no better card to match it than another Devil.

As a counterpoint to the High Priest, the Devil introduces a sense of balance to the Preservation section of the progression. This is appropriate, because Preservation is all about keeping equilibrium. Eventually, however, the balance is thrown off, and that’s often the Devil’s doing. Therefore, I think the Devil signals the beginning of the end of Preservation, and foreshadows the era of Destruction.

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Magician or Juggler: Again, pretty obvious, although it’s worth noting the differences between these two cards. The RWS Magician (or TdM Juggler) is certainly more benevolent than that of the GE, whose divinitory meanings offer only maladies for the querent. The picture of the GE Magician also seems comparatively sinister, as he manipulates a mannequin on a tablecloth covered with symbols of the occult. This suggests malfeasance to me, and could symbolize the beginning of the Destruction of mankind. This does not, however, match with anything at all associated with the RWS Magician, who is a creative force. Perhaps it’s only another superficial match, like the Suns of part V. Perhaps his toying with a mannequin could instead represent the manipulative Trickster archetype, which does match the TdM Juggler well enough. Perhaps, though, there’s another way of looking at the Magician, upon which I expounded in part IV. In a nutshell, the Magician is a point of contrast to the High Priest, one on either side of the Devil. Both characters react to the Devil in different ways, and we will see their respective fates as we continue down the line.

The latter interpretation is entirely my own theory, and is based only on artistic details in the cards. In such a case, the Magician is probably better considered a part of Preservation rather than Destruction, and despite his apparent manipulation of the Voodoo-doll-thing, he would ultimately turn out to be a positive character. Of course, this fits better with the positive nature of the RWS Magician, but in the end this is all only speculation.

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This is the point of the mythic progression where I’m starting to rely more heavily on my own interpretations. Obviously the first eight cards are the Creation, so I wasn’t stretching much there, and I think the Preservation and Destruction fit naturally enough with the progression of the cards; but all the same, I must confess to making most of this up. As I stated earlier in this series, I don’t have much to go on in the way of outside sources when it comes to making sense of this version of the Major Arcana.

In any event, the next installment of Etteilla v. Waite will continue to examine the cards as they appear in the progression of the GE, and though the demarcation line between Preservation and Destruction may be blurry in this section, next time we will have undoubtedly entered Ragnarok, the era of Destruction.

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*I opted not to lose myself to a digression about the four elements while discussing the Creation cards, since I was just focusing on RWS counterparts, but perhaps I should have. The elements are the building blocks of creation, after all. Four of the eight Creation cards are indeed assigned to an element, as follows: Fire is the Sun, Air is the Sky, Water is the Plants, and Earth is assigned to Man and Beast. Which element corresponds to which virtue, on the other hand, is up for debate. I tend to associate Fire with Force, Air with Justice, Water with Temperance, and Earth with Prudence, per Paul Huson, but that’s not the only possibility.

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The Magus, Part VI.

Last time, I elaborated a bit on the Magus’ baboon. It’s the first time we see a creature besides the Magus himself in the card. It’s odd, too, because the first card is supposed to represent singularity. But because we know that the Magus is Mercury and the baboon is Thoth, and Mercury is Thoth, we can surmise that the baboon is an aspect of the Magus. More accurately, the baboon is the Magus’ shadow, or his Devil. The Devil is essentially the trickster gone bad, or the Juggler at his most extreme. The baboon suggests the pitfalls of language, how it pulls us further from the divine, not closer to it. It also hints at the brutal reality of a wild animal just beneath our fragile constructions.

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In part four, I discussed the demiurge, or the creator of the world. The demiurge is not the supreme power in the Universe, although he is not necessarily conscious of forces beyond his sphere of influence.

In mythology, the demiurge typically manifests as a masculine sky god. This includes figures like Zeus and Odin, as well as Jehovah. The stories say he created order from chaos, and that the world was shaped by his actions or his commands, and can be altered according to his will. The Magcian similarly manipulates the worldly elements on his table.

In some myths, the Sky Father subsequently assumed control of Creation and all its occupants by ostensibly declaring himself King Of The Castle. Zeus and Odin are each the pater familias of his respective pantheon, and while the Biblical God has no divine peers, He descended from heaven to Mt. Sinai to pass his Commandments along to Moses and his people. Thus the demiurge becomes the Lawgiver. We can easily recognize this development in the Emperor.

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Even more rudimentary than the law is the language in which it is written. The myths that tell about the invention of language and stories often involve death and magic. The god of wisdom journeys to the underworld to obtain the letters, and then returns with his boon for mankind. This is Thoth, and Odin. With the aid of monkey-Thoth and the quill and scroll, the Magus can ascend to the heights represented by the Hermit, who is this god of wisdom. And with storytellers such as Anansi, we see again the ties to the trickster.

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The trickster, the demiurge, and the wise man. The Devil, the Emperor, and the Hermit. What do all of these have in common? I pondered this for some time before the obvious hit me over the head one evening: they are all men, like the prototypical Man that is the Magus.

It is often said that three is a magic number. What’s that occult saying? From One comes Two, from Two comes Three, and from Three comes everything…? Something like that. The idea is that consciousness boils down to recognition of three (not two, as I asserted in part four to make a point about the Magus and the Priestess). The archetypes are the Father, the Mother, and the Child.  Man, Woman, and the integrated Individual. One, Two, and Three. Each of our many perceptions are unconsciously constructed from a pair of binary opposites, and the self stuck somewhere in between them.

I’ve read that the corresponding Tarot cards are the Magus, the Priestess, and the Empress, because of their respective numbers. This makes enough sense, but I believe that the archetypes actually match up like this: The Father-Magus, the Mother-Priestess, and the Child-Fool. After some playing around with the Major Arcana, I found a way to divide the cards into categories based on these three. Each card depicts either a Father figure, a Mother Figure, or the Hero at some point along his or her quest for individuation. I will eventually write more about this; but for now, back to the Magus. HPIM0442

Aside from the Magus, the male cards are the Emperor, the Hierophant, the Hermit, and the Devil.* Three of these were mentioned at the start of this post; the fourth – the Hierophant – also has a connection to the Magus, which I discussed here. Each of these characters is only a possible manifestation of the Great Father or Male archetype, which is mythically associated with the sun and sky; the Magus is the epitome of this archetype. And like Mercury, he has a suit for every occasion, able to perform with skill any role he takes on.

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I think it’s interesting that the lemniscate, whether overt or implied, is one of the only constants in all three versions of this card that I’ve covered so far. This is what I’ll be exploring next time, and I believe it is the key to understanding the Magus, no matter which version you’re dealing with.

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*I’ve just named four Tarot cards, coinciding with the number of elements or suit symbols on the Magician’s table. This tickles me. Off the top of my head, I’d associate the Emperor with the Pentacle, the Hierophant with the Cup, the Hermit with the Sword, and the Devil with the Wand.

 

The Lightning-Struck Tower.

When folks think about scary cards in the Tarot, usually the Devil and Death are the ones that come to mind.

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The Tower – DFW

Of course, this makes sense. But if I were to select the card which held the scariest implications for me, I would pick the Tower.* Everyone knows the Devil is to be feared. That very fact, to me at least, tends to lessen the fear a little bit (I doubt I would feel that way if I were actually faced with the demon, but from my spot of comfortable safety, that’s how I feel). And Death isn’t so scary from a certain viewpoint. It’s inevitable, anyway, so to fear it is useless. The Tower, on the other hand, represents security; confidence, even. It’s an impenetrable fortress from which you can see any danger far before it reaches you. Or so you think.

You know to fear Death and the Devil. In fact, you count on your Tower for protection from these things. No one ever expects that his or her Tower will fail. But if you pull this card, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. And that, to me, is far scarier than the things you hide from in the dark.

Like all the cards, the Tower is really just a metaphor. It’s symbolic of rigid worldviews that you might use as a crutch to help get you through this chaotic existence. Once it’s formed, it’s very difficult to get rid of, and most people wouldn’t ever care to get rid of it, anyway. People build their walls, creating a comfort zone, and most are incredibly reluctant to make even a slight change to it.

And of course, despite all self-imposed illusion, the Tower cannot stand up face-to-face with the Devil. That’s why it’s place in the sequence of the Major Arcana is directly following the Devil, and that’s why it’s shown being blown apart. That’s a scary thought.

But things aren’t always as they seem, especially with the Tarot. I’ve already written about the ambiguous nature of the Devil; eventually, if you follow the path set by the Majors, you’ll come to a point when you realize the Devil isn’t to be feared at all, but embraced (with more than a little caution, of course). And it is that realization which shatters the Tower, not the Devil himself. You might notice that it is not always a lightning bolt which levels the Tower; sometimes it’s a column of flame from the Sun. Either way, it’s coming from above, a sign that a higher power is taking control. An act of God, if you will. If you’re the type to believe in acts of God, you’re probably also the type to believe they don’t happen without reason.

Nobody ever enjoys the destruction of their Tower. It can be quite traumatic. But it’s ultimately liberating. People tend to think of their Tower as protection, never realizing that it’s actually a prison. The lightning bolt tears across the sky, striking down with divine force the Tower you’ve worked so long to build, but which you’ve outgrown in the process, like a snake shedding its skin.

So yes, it is pretty scary when the Tower shows up in a reading. But it’s not the end of the world, no matter how much it may feel that way for a time.

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There is so much more to be said of this card, but I’m going to sign off for now. I think each of my thoughts would be better addressed on their own, rather than trying and failing to make a coherent post here stringing all of them together. Think of this as an introduction.

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Some of the things I intend to discuss in the future are deck-specific, like the Eye in the CHT.

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*Actually, I might select the Moon, because while the image of the Tower is scarier on the surface, I think the Moon can be downright terrifying in its false light and illusion. But I’ve already written about the Moon, so here we are with the Tower.

The Devil.

Where to begin with this one.

Is this the card of Evil? What are you supposed to think or do if you should turn it up? It’s unsettling, to say the least. After Death, this card is probably the most frightening in the deck to most people.

I suppose I’ll just start on the surface and go deeper from there.

The surface is pretty much all bad. There’s no way around it: the Devil is the Antagonist, the Fallen, and he makes it his business to bring you down with him.

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The picture of the Devil is a perversion of both the Hierophant and the Lovers – RWS

Like the Hierophant and Judgement, the imagery of this card (at least in the RWS and TdM) is based on Christian tradition. It depicts a winged beast-man with horns, with two lesser demons (or are they people? They’ve got horns and tails either way) chained to his pedestal.

The Devil used to be an angel, much like those pictured on the cards Temperance, Judgement, and the Lovers (again, using the RWS here – no decks prior to this one pictured an angel on the Lovers). Before Creation, the Devil, called Lucifer, or the “Bringer of Light” or “Morning Star”, rebelled against God, sparking a great cosmic war. God triumphed, as God tends to do, and Lucifer and his fellows were cast out of Paradise, hence the ‘fallen angels’ designation. Apparently, the fall caused great disfigurement to the Devil, because the former Bringer of Light became an ugly and horned satyr-like creature.

The Devil doesn’t have to refer to Lucifer; many people use it interchangeably with ‘demon’, both of which are an umbrella designation that could also refer to one of Lucifer’s many minions, my favorite of which is Mephistopheles from the Faust legend. When Faust “sold his soul to the Devil”, he was not actually dealing with Lucifer at all, although I suppose Mephisto was probably just working on commission. As a general term, though, the Devil could mean someone (mortal or not) who is anywhere from mischievous to downright evil.

The Devil is sort of like the Trickster gone bad, like Loki from Norse myth. Loki starts out as a good, if somewhat mischievous guy. Sure, he starts a lot of trouble for the Aesir, but he was always on their side, there to bring them back out of whatever situation he caused. As time went on, though, this began to change, until ultimately he led a great host of demons and giants against the gods in the final cataclysmic war that destroyed everyone, himself included. One can see parallels between this and the Christian myth of the war before Creation, although the Norse were not so optimistic as the Christians are (which is saying something).

Like the Trickster, the Devil manipulates. But while the Trickster generally manipulates simply for the sake of shaking things up (one gets the sense that the Trickster is easily bored), the Devil does so for his own selfish and perverted ends. I would bet that the Devil’s motto is “misery loves company.” He’s damned for all eternity, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to endure it alone. He and his minions spend all of their time tempting us humans to sin until we’re so heavy with it that we fall to their level. Or maybe he just wants revenge on God. If we’re God’s children, then it must be painful to watch as some of us shun his loving embrace in favor of Lucifer’s bed. The Devil may not be able to reach God himself, but he sure as hell can reach us.

All this is assuming the Devil really is evil. But is he?

There are theories which state that the Devil is nothing more than God’s shadow. Following this train of thought, he is no less a part of God than Jesus Christ, the epitome of virtue. How can this blasphemy be so? Think about it like this: God is everything. Or rather, everything is an aspect of God. This includes the dark just as it does the light. Most God-fearing Christians refuse to accept this, but consider the Old Testament. God was the one who struck down the sinners, not the Devil. God can and is willing to be quite brutal.

We should remember that “good” and “evil” are human creations. They do not exist in nature. Is the Lion evil because it has slain the Lamb? Of course not. It goes without saying that there are terrible things in this world. We have come to see good and evil as a way of categorizing what is basically pleasant and unpleasant for us. These concepts have gone a long way in building a successful society where we’ve all generally agreed not to kill each other. Without them, we would never have evolved past hunter-gatherers. Without the notion of evil, there would be no good. In this way, the Devil is just playing the role that no one else is willing to, but which must be played all the same. In the end, though, it’s all part of God’s plan. And think about it: if God is all-powerful, would he really allow the existence of the Devil if he didn’t have to?

Now the Devil’s role begins to take on a level of ambiguity. Perhaps he is just misunderstood. It is the Devil, not God, that led us to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. We curse him for tempting us, for driving us to commit the original sin. But without that fruit, we would be no different from the animals. The Devil didn’t bring us closer to hell by doing so; he brought us closer to heaven. God subsequently expelled us from Eden before we could eat from the other Tree – the Tree of Life. He was afraid that, should we eat from both trees, we would become like him. Who was really trying to help us in this situation? The irony is, prior to eating from the Tree, Adam and Eve simply didn’t know any better. It is only by following the advice of the Devil that they learned to see good and evil. And for that, the Devil has forever been branded as the evil one.

I’m not a proponent of Satanism. I’m not trying to say God is really the evil one, and the Devil is our savior. But I do think that perhaps they really might be one and the same. Two sides of the same coin, if you will.

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What if the Devil was never demonized? – CHT

But how does all this relate to the Tarot? On the surface, this card is the card of temptation. We can be slaves to our vices, and this is what most people see when this card comes up. And it’s perfectly valid. Many people are indeed chained to their Devil’s pedestal. But on a deeper level, the Devil symbolizes the opportunity for enlightenment through our baser desires.

Why does the Devil look like a scary goat-man, anyway? Prior to Christianity, the Horned God was a common figure throughout Europe. He stood for man’s connection to nature – to our animal desires. Pagans didn’t necessarily see this as a bad thing. It’s true, after all. Despite our higher understanding, we are all still animals at the end of the day, subject to the same needs and urges, and ultimately doomed to die and return to the Earth. The Devil looks most like the Greek god Pan, the satyr god of nature, responsible for instilling the animal state of panic in men. The civilized Greeks respected this god, even feared him to an extent, but they also celebrated him. Our animal sides need to be embraced before they can really be controlled.

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The Devil is nothing more than the Force of Nature in our lives – GE

In the Hero’s Journey, the Devil represents the most difficult stage. The Hero has died and descended into the Underworld. Now he has to face the great antagonist. On a psychological level, this Devil is none other than the shadows of the self, kept in the deepest, darkest recesses of the psyche. We need to face those aspects of ourselves that we hide from the world, and integrate them into our personality to truly become whole.

Facing the Devil is not to be done lightly, however. He holds great power. Many people try to wield this power only to fall victim to its corruption. There is a reason the Devil is situated so far along the path of the Major Arcana. Only after passing through all of the previous stages, becoming a master of Temperance, can you hope to be successful in your contest against the Devil. Even then, your fate is not guaranteed. To dance with the Devil, one must be ever vigilant, and to know when to bow out. But should you succeed, you will be forever changed. You will understand the true value of both good and evil, and that they are both ultimately just illusions. Only then can you begin your return journey, back to the world of the light and the living, as a true Hero.

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It is only by eating from the mythical Tree of Life that we can hope to transcend our worldly bounds, to become truly divine. Unfortunately, we have been barred from the garden in which it grows. But should we ever find the Tree again, it is only by following the advice of the Devil, and by breaking the orders of God, that we could ever eat of its fruit. Should you be wary of what the Devil whispers in your ear? Certainly. He is a Trickster, after all. But you should still listen. The Trickster saves as often as he condemns.