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Waite's translation of Levi, Transcendental Magic

To: alt.magick,alt.tarot
From: Jess Karlin 
Subject: Re: Waite's translation of Levi, Transcendental Magic
Date: Fri, 03 May 1996 11:40:05 +0000

George Leake wrote:

> Waite seems to make some thinly veiled references to Crowley.

Like what for example?
> Levi really didn't do his research very well.

Are you sure he simply did not have a different idea than you 
of what was meant by 'research'? Things have changed on that
point in 150 years you know.

> The fact that Crowley idolized Levi, 

Crowley did not idolize Levi. He simply thought he had been Levi
in his immediately former life. Crowley was known to 
criticize 'himself'.

I think, to properly illustrate this relationship it's helpful to
look at a couple of things from 'Key to the Mysteries'

For example, this is Bill Heidrick's note about the importance
of this text---

"THE KEY OF THE MYSTERIES< and that Levi doesn't seem to
> understand some things very well, in part explains why Crowley ignores
> certain magical works. 

No, rather that Levi and others had well-defined opinions about
their magical forebears---

Refer to page 11 of the introduction to Transcendental Magic
for Levi's view of Agrippa (and read the note at the bottom of
the page). Clearly, he thought Agrippa an interesting but
in no way a profound magician.

> In particular it is odd, isn't it, that Crowley
> does not recommend Agrippa, and Levi's characterizations of that work.

Crowley and Levi do, in a way, recommend Agrippa's works, since
they reference them---for example, Crowley talking about a 
magical figure used in the creation of a ritual circle---

"The Sigil of the Spirit (which is to be found in Cornelius 
Agrippa and other books) you would draw in the four colours with 
such other devices as your experience may suggest."

> Could it be that Levi/Crowley's point of view is based on the degree to
> which people focus on the kabbalah?

What people? View about what?
> And what about the tarot? Both men seem to take it for granted that the
> tarot has its roots in Egypt.

Crowley on the 'origin' of Tarot, from Book of Thoth---

"The origin of this pack of cards is very obscure. Some authorities
seek to put it back as far as the ancient Egytpian Mysteries; others
try to bring it forward as late as the fifteenth or even the
sixteenth centuries. But the tarot certainly existed, in what
may be called the classical form, as early as the fourteenth
century; for packs of the date are extant, and the form has not
varied in any notable respect since that time."

"In the Middle Ages, these cards were much used for fortune-telling,
especially by gypsies, so that it was customary to speak of the
"Tarot of the Bohemians" or the "Egyptians". When it was found
that the gypsies, despite the etymology, were of Asiatic origin,
some people tried to find its source in Indian art and literature.

He concludes all his speculations by saying---

"The only theory of ultimate interest about the Tarot is that it is
an admirable symbolic picture of the universe, based on the data
of the Holy Qabalah."


1. Crowley was not a great tarot historian, but few people have
2. His conclusions about the origins of tarot settle on the idea
that the answer is ultimately mysterious and probably unknowable
but that this fact is irrelevant to the purpose for which
tarot has now been assigned (or for which it has finally been
revealed to be the sacred instrument).

I do not agree with him that the only theory about tarot of interest
is kabbalistic. I do tend to agree that one can bury themselves
in concerns over the origins of tarot at the expense of focusing
on any modern exploration of 'what it's good for'.


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