1. Eliphaz Levi and the Taro.
Although the origins of the Tarot are perfectly obscure, there is a very interesting piece of quite modern history, history well within the memory of living man, which is extremely significant, and will be found, as the thesis develops, to sustain it in a very remarkable wav. In the middle of the nineteenth century, there arose a very great Qabalist and scholar, who still annoys dull people by his habit of diverting himself at their expense by making fools of them posthumously. His name was Alphonse Louis Constant, and he was an Abbe' of the Roman Church. For his "nom-de-guerre" he translated his name into Hebrew-Eliphas Levi Zahed, and he is very generally known as Eliphas Levi. Eliphas Levi was a philosopher and an artist, besides being a supreme literary stylist and a practical joker of the variety called "Pince sans rire"; and, being an artist and a profound symbolist, he was immensely attracted by the Tarot. While in England, he proposed to Kenneth Mackenzie, a famous occult scholar and high-grade Freemason, to reconstitute and issue a scientifically-designed pack. In his works are new presentations by him of the trumps called Tile Chariot and The Devil. He seems to have understood that the Tarot was actually a pictorial form of the Qabalistic Tree of Life, which is the basis of the whole Qabalah, so much so that he composed his works on this basis. He wished to write a complete treatise on Magick. He divided his subject into two parts---Theory and Practice which he called Dogma and Ritual. Each part has twenty-two chapters, one for each of the twenty-two trumps; and each chapter p.6
deals with the subject represented by the picture displayed by the trump. The importance of the accuracy of the correspondence will appear in due course. Here we come to a slight complication. The chapters correspond, but they correspond wrongly; and this is only to be explained by the fact that Levi felt himself bound by his original oath of secrecy to the Order of Initiates which had given him the secrets of the Tarot.
At the time of the French Renaissance of the eighteen-fifties, a similar movement took place in England. Its interest centred in ancient religions, and their traditions of initiation and thaumaturgy. Learned societies, some secret or semi-secret, were founded or revived. Among the members of one such group, the Quatuor Coronati Lodge of Freemasonry, were three men: one, Dr. Wynn Westcott, a London coroner; a Dr. Woodford, and a Dr. Woodman. There is a little dispute as to which of these men went to the Farringdon Road, or whether it was the Farringdon Road to which they went; but there is no doubt whatever that one of them bought an old book, either from an obscure bookseller, or off a barrow, or found it in a library. This happened about 1884 or 1885. There is no dispute that in this book were some loose papers; that these papers turned out to be written in cipher; that these cipher manuscripts contained the material for the foundation of a secret society purporting to confer initiation by means of ritual; and that among these manuscripts was an attribution of the trumps of the Tarot to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. When this matter is examined, it becomes quite clear that Levi's wrong attribution of the letters was deliberate; that he knew the right attribution, and considered it his duty to conceal it. (It made much trouble for him to camouflage his chapters!)
The cipher manuscripts were alleged to date from the earliest years of the nineteenth century; and there is a note to one page which seems to be in the writing of Eliphas Levi. It appears extremely probable that he had access to this manuscript on his visit to Bulwer Lytton, in England. In any case, as previously observed, Levi shows constantly that he knew the correct attributions (with the exception, of course, of Tzaddi---why, will be seen later) and tried to use them, without improperly revealing any secrets which he was sworn not to disclose.
As soon as one possesses the true attributions of these trumps, the Tarot leaps into life. One is intellectually knocked down by the rightness of it. All the difficulties created by the traditional attributions as understood by the ordinary scholar, disappear in a flash. For this reason, one is inclined to credit the claim for the promulgators of the cipher manuscript, that they were guardians of a tradition of Truth.
3. The Tarot and the Heremetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
One must now digress into the history of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the society reconstituted by Dr. Westcott and his colleagues, in order to show further evidence as to the authenticity of the claim of the promulgators of the cipher manuscript.
Among these papers, besides the attribution of the Tarot, were certain skeleton rituals, which purported to contain the secrets of initiation; the name (with an address in Germany) of a Fraulein Sprengel was mentioned as the issuing authority. Dr. Westcott wrote to her; and, with her permission, the Order of the Golden Dawn was founded in 1886.
(The G .'. D .'. is merely a name for the Outer or Preliminary Order of the R.R. et A.C., which is in its turn an
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The pathology of the poet says that the undevout astronomer is mad the pathology of the very plain man says that the genius is mad and between these extremes, which stand for ten thousand analogous excesses, the sovereign reason takes the part of a moderator and does what it can. I do not think that there is a pathology of the occult dedications, but about their extravagances no one can question, and it is not less difficult than thankless to act as a moderator regarding them.