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Kabbalah and Tarot History

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.consciousness.mysticism,talk.religion.misc
From: (James W. Revak)
Subject: Re: Kabbalah and Tarot History (was Hermetic QBL ...)
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2001 05:34:48 GMT

On Tue, 18 Dec 2001 21:41:41 GMT, hara  wrote:

>> Papus published a partial deck in his _The Tarot of the Bohemians_, 
>> a set of Majors drawn by Wirth, but they look similar to the Tarot 
>> de Marseille -- not Waite's deck.
>what about symbolism resonance? 
What on earth is symbolism resonance?

>> Later, in his _Le Tarot divinatoire_ Papus published a deck drawn by
>> Goulinat -- but it doesn't look even remotely like Waite's....
>has a strict comparison been done in someone's book(s) or online? 
>it might be helpful in evaluating Waite's originality.

The following page has a good table showing where Waite and Smith got
much of their visual symbolism.  I can't vouch that it is 100%
accurate, but it's probably at least 95% accurate.  Go to:

If you want to read about Papus and see a scan with explanation from
the Papus-Goulinat deck go here:
>> Naturally, LÚvi, Papus, and Crowley wrote about Tarot, sometimes in
>> detail, during their lives.  But where's the hard evidence that Waite
>> merely copied their doctrines.  I haven't found any.  In fact, with
>> regard to LÚvi and Papus, we have evidence that he often didn't think
>> much of their ideas.
>and with good reason, depending on the standards he wished to maintain.
>> On the other hand, Waite, like many designers of decks, was certainly
>> influenced by a variety of other Tarotists and intended that his deck
>> be viewed from an esoteric perspective.  Nothing terribly surprising
>> about this.  But was his deck a "copy"?  I don't think so.  If nothing
>> else the numeric cards are fully illustrated with scenes.  This was
>> very rarely done prior to Waite....  
>I remember someone informing me that Waite may have been inspired by
>alchemical drawings or mystical diagrams. 

I'm sure he and Smith were.  They were also inspired by a wide variety
of other sources, including numerous pre-existing decks.

>there's a relevant story
>here that I'm forgetting. I looked into JKarlin's Tarot FAQ but did
>not see anywhere he mentioned inspiration for Waite's small card images.

The Minors are, to a significant degree, illustrations of fairly
divinatory meanings in fairly common use in France during and prior to
Waite's day.  To a lesser extent, they reflect divinatory meanings and
philosophy specific to the GD.  Occasionally, they have been adapted
from pre-existing decks.  For example, the Three of Swords:

>RBrzustowicz and JKarlin and I had a conversation about 'emblems' with
>respect to Tarot history and the Small cards (if I'm not mistaken) in
>May of 1997) which seemed a bare connection, but I'm unsure.
>> Similarly, was his doctrine of Tarot merely a copy?  It is very
>> difficult to say.  Waite was extremely coy about commiting his notions
>> of the "deeper" meanings of Tarot to print, and his _The Pictorial Key
>> to the Tarot_ is rarely helpful in this regard.
>JKarlin mentions the same, and that it was based on Etteilla's guide book.

To a significant degree Waite's _Pictorial Key_ derives from Etteilla
and his students, especially with regard to the divinatory meanings.
It is also indebted, to a lesser degree, to Mathers' _The Tarot_.  You
can read an analysis by me of (a) Etteilla's influence on Waite and
Mathers and (b) Mathers' influence on Waite here:

You can also read divinatory meanings suggested by these same sources
side-by-side here:

>he suggests that PFCase was probably a better source for occultists on
>account of Waite's attitudes towards magic 

Perhaps.  However, I don't think it has a lot to do with Case's stance
with regard to magic.  In fact, Case stripped most magic from the GD
curriculum when he adapted it for use in BOTA.

>(something Poke mentioned
>also -- that AEWaite wasn't writing for mages, but for someone else,
>'documenting' things and at times corrupting 

I've never seen hard evidence that Waite purposely "corrupted" stuff
or produced "blinds".  Anybody have hard evidence?  Rather, if he
didn't want to explain something he simply did not mention it, or made
very oblique references.  In addition, being human, he made occasional
mistakes.  But purposely leading others astray?  I don't think so.

Instead, I think authors often yell "blind" (which is equivalent to
yelling "liar") when they find something they *personally* object to,
or something that doesn't fit with a particular doctrine or teaching
they *assume* to be held by the author, or something they just don't
understand.  Personally, when I hear the world "blind" bandied about,
one of my first comments is, "OK, prove it.  Show us solid evidence
that Magus XYZ lied to us about such-and-such."  Convincing evidence
is rarely forthcoming.

>them so that the ignorant
>would not be able to accomplish 'bad things' like Goetic evocations).
This sounds like pure legend to me.  Enough people talk about Waite,
LÚvi, Crowley, or whoever creating blinds, and before you know it
people think it's fact.  A classic example is the GD, including
Crowley, insisting that LÚvi's Tarot-Hebrew correspondences are a
blind.  Well, if this is true it means that Papus, Wirth, and umpteen
other reputable Tarotists who use LÚvi's system, are also lying as
part of an international occultist plot, or they are complete and
total idiots.  And where's the evidence for this?  Nowhere.
Therefore, personally, I choose to reject the notion of blinds in this

In reality, when the GD, including Crowley, insist that LÚvi's
correspondences are blinds, they are apparently seeking ways of
legitimizing their own teachings and/or reducing the cognitive
dissonance they experience when they say the Magician = Beth, but LÚvi
clearly says the Magician = Aleph, etc., etc.

>> However, if someone insists that Cabala literally formed the basis of 
>> Tarot from day one, it is clearly another matter.
>this seems to be the problem, yes.
>> Then they are either totally ignorant of current research or possibly
>> a true charlatan.
>this is where an assessment of Levi, Papus and Crowley (where Kabbalah
>are concerned) is in order. were they merely being "romantic" as Poke
>maintains, and are thereafter misunderstood by Scholem, or was their
>motivation more dastardly and deceptive?

I personally am uncertain.  With LÚvi it may have been a little of
both.  LÚvi liked to boast about possessing all manner of occult
knowledge and wisdom, and sometimes he apparently possessed selected
occult knowledge and wisdom.  On the other hand, sometimes he
apparently didn't.  And with regard to making tons of money from his
books and practice, he didn't.  For a while he lived comfortably on
royalties from books and conducting magic on behalf of paying clients.
However, in his final years he was reduced to utter poverty.

Also, to be fair, keep in mind that access to Jewish Cabala in LÚvi's
day must have been almost impossible for a goy magus.  Today, we're
spoiled.  Discussion is much more open and some (although hardly all)
of the great Cabalistic texts have been translated from the original

With regard to Papus, his "romanticism", perhaps more accurately
described as his "metaphysical worldview", may have led him to make
the outrageous claims that he did concerning Cabala and Tarot.  He was
also admittedly a student of LÚvi and other similar French occultists.

Similarly, Crowley may have been led by his metaphysical worldview to
make the claims that he did concerning Cabala and Tarot.  However,
interestingly he was unimpressed by a lot of the BS which had grown up
around Tarot since the late 18th century.  Still, he believed that
Tarot was linked to Cabala from early on.  For example, in his _Book
of Thoth_ he wrote, "The origin of Tarot is quite irrelevant, even if
it were certain.  It must stand or fall as a system on its own merits.
. . .  It is beyond doubt a deliberate attempt to represent, in
pictorial form, the doctrines of the Qabalah."

>how was he [Papus] different than Waite, if both were Christian mystics?
>I gather that Encausse was French, perhaps a true follower of Levi,
>whereas Waite was English, apparently a son of the Church.

Papus and Waite had some things in common.  Both were indeed Christian
mystics and influenced significantly by the French mystic
Saint-Martin.  Waite wrote a biography of Saint-Martin and Papus
reconstituted and led the Martinist order, a society originally
founded by Saint-Martin and devoted to Christian mysticism.  Papus
also approved of magic and held LÚvi in high regard.  On the other
hand, Waite detested magic and typically held LÚvi in fairly low

Waite was very influenced early on by the Catholic Church; he was
raised Catholic.  Although he was not an active member of the Catholic
church during most of his adulthood, he always had high regard for it
as far as institutional religion goes.  Later, like Papus, he led an
esoteric Christian organization.  In Waite's case it was called the
Fellowship of the Rosy Cross.
>>> and without historical legitimacy. claiming it, one loses credibility,
>>> and is open to the criticism of being a charlatan. the term is in this
>>> case rightly applied.
>> In that case, we have to throw the entirety of the Zohar out. It is
>> well documented that it is a forgery.  It isn't as old as it is
>> supposed to be.  
>I think you may be confusing levels of criticism here. it is one thing
>for a document to have legendary origins, but it is another for someone
>to pretend to represent a mystical tradition and people with whom they
>have no connection. the way I'd distinguish them would be that as far
>as Kabbalah (and Scholem's view, well-founded), Levi, Papus, and
>Crowley were charlatans because they attempted to deceive, 

 *Specifically* where, when, and how did they deceive with regard to
Cabala?  Were they really deceiving or simply positing another kind of
Cabala, one which is sometimes called the Hermetic Cabala?

>whereas at
>least Waite had the right idea and merely suffered from a lack of
>proper sources. the only way I could get charlatanry into the Zohar
>would be if people tried to pass it off as something real when in fact
>it is a forgery. 

At times folks did pass it off as a work which was much older than it
really was.  It was sometimes passed off as an ancient midrash mostly
written by Simeon b. Yohai.   It even includes fictional references.  

Modern Jewish Cabalistic scholars disagree on some of the specifics
but there's general consensus that it isn't as old as these folks
claimed and it wasn't written by Simeon.  Instead, most of it was
composed during the 13th century by a single author, quite possibly
the Spaniard Moses de Leon in (died 1305 CE) who figured importantly
in the Zohar's initial distribution.  So, yes, it is a
"forgery"--albeit a pious one.  But then lots of religious texts would
be classed as "forgeries".

>the document itself, like the teachings of these three
>men, may be incredibly valuable.
>> Again, the reality is that many mystical and
>> religious works are given questionable ancient pedigrees and it is
>> probably unfair to describe this as a sordid form of "glamor"....
>agreed. and here it is the description being discussed, rather than
>the pedigree of any particular document. whether the writer sought
>to identify with the Jewish mystics and yet knew little about them
>or their tradition would seem one of the qualitative criteria, but
>Scholem doesn't really give us much to go on as to his methods. I've
>figured someone really versed in the subject would know.
>> Does this mean that _Yetzirah_ is "bogus" and unworthy of study.  
>no, and I think only the hypersensitive would presume this was the
>necessary outcome. is Hermetic Qabalah therefore "bogus" or "unworthy
>of study"? no, that's not the point (which is only to identify good
>sources on Jewish mysticism -- Kabbalah -- and perhaps to move on
>from there and see how the Christian and Hermetic counterparts may
>compare, whether or not this be over the objections of scholars of
>Jewish mysticism such as Scholem).

If one wants to learn about *Jewish* Cabala, one ought *not* to turn
to folks like LÚvi, Papus, or Crowley.  To a lesser extent, one should
*not* turn to Waite either.  Scholem and Idel are far, far superior.
Luckily, for those of us who don't read Hebrew there are sound books
on Jewish Cabala today, and sound translations of such major classics
as the _Yetzirah_.  Only a few decades ago, it would have been another
story.  And to be fair, that is the world LÚvi, Papus, and Crowley

>>>> The Jewish kabbalah has no Tarot, 
>> But here's a really strange quote from Waite.  I've never been able to
>> figure out exactly what he meant.  It is from his _The Holy Kabbalah_:
>>	There is, moreover, a Jewish Tarot of great rarity which 
>>	has never been published; but it belongs to the worst side 
>>	of so-called Practical Magic.  
>page #? publishing data? I'd love to archive this for future reference!

A.E. Waite (1996), _The Holy Kabbalah: A Study of the Secret Tradition
in Israel_ (Hertfordshire, England: Oracle), p. 556.  If you have
another edition, look to book 11, section 5.
>> Now, what does Waite mean here?
>referring to Levi?? :>

Actually, I've thought of that myself.

>the only point where charlatanry becomes an issue is where deception
>appears to be part of the expression, pretense at being something one
>is not. I got the impression, in this case, that Scholem considered
>these three (Levi, Papus, and Crowley) to be charlatans where Kabbalah
>is concerned, and I've seen evidence for this in at least Levi's and
>Crowley's text (I haven't yet really scoured the work of Papus).
Papus is not a great Cabalist from the Jewish perspective.  For one
thing, he trusted too much in LÚvi to be a great Cabalist from this

JAMES W. REVAK - San Diego, CA, USA -

From: (James W. Revak)
Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick,alt.divination
Subject: Re: Elegance, Tarot and Qabalah (was Qabalah and Tarot History ...)
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On 9 Jan 2002 11:23:11 -0800, (Joshua O'Brien)

>nagasiva  wrote:
>> I haven't seen anything out of Waite
>> that indicates he identified the assignments of the Trumps with the
>> Sefirotic Tree's paths in accordance with the GD instruction.
>How about this comment from PKT on Temperance? "A direct path goes up
>to certain heights on the verge of the horizon, and above there is a
>great light, through which a crown is seen vaguely."

So?  This may merely be a reference to the mystical journey during
which one returns to the Divine.  This was a regular theme in Waite's
writings.  This doesn't indicate to me that Waite assigned Temperance
to a path on the Tree of Life.  

Now, the reference to a crown may imply Kether.  However, if Waite
really did put Temperance on a Path, this may indicate that Waite was
"doing his own thing".  Why?  Because, according to the GD, Temperance
does *not* lie on a Path which connects to the "Crown" (Kether).
>The High Priestess has "a horned diadem on her head, with a globe in
>the middle place, 

So?  What does this have to do with Paths?  If anything, it indicates
the High Priestess is closely associated with the moon and is a lunar
goddess.  In fact, Waite makes this clear in his book, _PKT_.  And
guess what?  This does *not* follow strict GD doctrine.  Planets,
including the Moon, are assigned to Sephiroth--not Paths.  So, maybe
Waite really thought of the High Priestess as closely associated with
a Sephira rather than a Path.  

He makes similar statements about other Trumps.  For example, he
closely associated the Star, not with a Path, but the Sephira Binah.
He says this very clearly in his book.

>and a large solar cross on her breast" 
>and tellingly
>sits between the pillars.

This all by itself means nothing.  The High Priestess (Papess) is very
frequently shown between two objects which occultists have
traditionally interpreted as two pillars--and all this way before
Waite ever designed his deck.  So pillars fail to show that the High
Priestess was assigned by Waite to a middle Path, or any Path.

Also note that the Hierophant (Pope) is shown between two pillars in
Waite's deck.  But guess what?  The Hierophant does not occupy a
middle Path according to GD doctrine.  So why should we suddenly
interpret the pillars of the High Priestess to indicate that she sits
on a middle Path?

As I think many readers will see, trying to figure out exactly what
system exists under Waite's deck is very difficult.  And I still
haven't seen good, hard evidence that he generally adhered to the GD
system of correspondences.
JAMES W. REVAK - San Diego, CA, USA -
Villa Revak / A Tarot Web Site:

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