After the Wheel, Wirth stopped using the individual characterizations of the sefiroth. He saw cards 11-18 (pp. 30-31) as aspects of "terrestrial Adam" (p. 29), followed by a quick ascent to the top in cards 19-21 (p. 31). It seems to me, however, that cards 11-18 should also be seen in an upward direction, of which 19-21 are then the culmination. The difference from the descent is that the ascent is one that can and should be carried out while the soul is still in the body, corresponding imaginally to the medieval cosmograph, Wirth's contribution is thus to place the cosmograph in the human body, as indeed the Kabbalists did as well--the later cards light up, as it were, particular areas of the body, rather like the Hindu chakras but perhaps not so individually assigned. I will continue citing Wirth and Case, with the object of relating their ideas to the medieval cosmograph structure.
The difficulty in making the sequence 11-21 into an ascent through the sefiroth, I think, is that the cards' symbolisms do not always fit Jewish Kabbalah. It is only when the Jewish conceptions are adapted to Christianity that correlations to the cards are understandable, or so I hope to demonstrate. So I will, for each sefira, start with the Jewish interpretation and then move to the Christian.
11. Malkhut, Kingdom, as Strength.
In the journey to the divine that the Tree represented for the medieval Kabbalists, what is necessary now is to reconnect with the divine. What is required to move upwards is precisely Strength, card 11. In the Marseille version of the Wheel of Fortune, there is an Egyptian sphinx at the top of the Wheel, a lion with the head of a man. This lion is now at the bottom of the Strength card; it willingly rewards the soul's trust by giving it the Strength to climb up the tree.
Malkhut, the Kingdom, in Jewish history is associated with David. The Lion is associated with Judah in Genesis 49:9, where Jacob calls Judah a lion cub, to whom "shall be the obedience of the peoples". This prophecy is then fulfilled by King David. For the Christian, this prophecy is fulfilled in Christ, according to Revelation 5;5, which says that "the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed". So the Christian, overcoming his or her fear, looks to the new David, Jesus, for the strength to ascend, gained by having the courage to trust in Him. He or she is in the position of Malkhut, the member of David's Kingdom, seeking to connect with the power of God, represented by the sefirot above her.
The lion is a solar animal, and the sun, in Christianity, is associated with God and Christ. Just so, the lady reaches down to the lion, an act that begins the reconnection and gives her inner strength.
In this interpretation, the lady is not overpowering the lion, but rather showing her trust and courage in the face of a force much more powerful than she. The "force" is the lion. The lady putting her hand on the lion's mouth is a standard medieval symbol of Fortitude. Compare, for example, the depiction of fortitude in Chartres Cathedral, 12th century (left). with the first known tarot Fortitude card, for the Visconti (center). On the right is a very different representation, of physical force subduing the lion, as in the case of Samson or Hercules; but the lady's action is not like that. It might be that the card got the French name "Force" from such a depiction.
Neither Wirth (at right) nor Case (below right) makes an effort to correlate the card with a sefira. Some of what Wirth says fits my interpretation: "Reason and feeling combined to master instinct" (p. 100). But it is not only the instinct for aggression - "brutality", Wirth calls it--that is mastered, but the fear of that which can get one killed. Fortitude, especially with Christianity's emphasis on martyrdom, is the ability to stand up to danger for the sake of the ideal. It is also the willingness to give oneself up to a power greater than oneself and thereby affirm a positive relationship, a kind of covenant.
In The Tarot: A Key (p. 106) Case interprets the card as the taming of subhuman, animal forces, which is also an expression of cosmic energy:
The lion, as king of beasts, represents all subhuman forces, all subhuman expressions of the cosmic vital energy.He adds that what is happening is that "The woman tames the lion" in the sense of humanizing it. It does so by opening its mouth, which is to give it the power of speech and so of thought. At least he has the woman opening the mouth, as in the traditional image. Waite had her closing the lion's mouth (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f5/RWS_Tarot_08_Strength.jpg).
In my view, the Lion, besides the sub-human, is also the super-human, a representation of God as ruler of the cosmos. At Bologna cathedral, for example, there is a pair of lions at both the front and side doors. Here is one of them:
Elsewhere in this section, Case speaks of the lion's energy in terms of the Kundalini energy of yoga (p. 104):
The astrological symbol for Leo resembles a serpent, and the sign, governing the spine, is thus related to the nerve-currents directed upward through the spinal centers in the practice of yoga.While this language from India is historically foreign to the symbolism, it is nonetheless true that the woman's strength comes from the divine Lion surging upwards. On the Tree, it is a surge downward from the upper 8 through Yesod to her at Malkhut, where the soul is positioned to ascend and now has the strength and courage to proceed through some difficult moments.
12. Yesod, Foundation, as the Hanged Man.
We are on a path upwards. In all the sources, the one path from Malkhut to the rest of the tree is to Yesod. Even Cordovera, the first explicit writer on paths, says that there is only one path from Malkhut, and that is to Yesod (see previous section). Yesod's function is precisely to connect Malkhut to the rest of the Tree.
Here is Gikatilla on Yesod:
giving justice (iustus L52); good, good wisdom intellectum bonum L55), redeeming angel (redemptor angelus L60); covenant (foedus L62); circumcision (circumcisio L62); sign (Oss, signum L63); statute (statutum L64); portion (Hyka, Latin unclear L64); mountain (montem L64); Zion (L67); day (93); protector (Abir 105, Evir L67); lower loving-kindness (106, Hessed, gra inferior L67); connects the nine upper spheres with the tenth (L97);Ricci and Reuchlin are similar, and Pico and the Gate of Heaven. In part, it is redemption through circumcision--see the end of my previous quote from Ricci, in section 9--the covenant and its sign of the rainbow, whereby Malkhut reconnects with the upper nine. Yesod is the sefira of circumcision. For a Christian, it is Jesus, whose sacrifice--and Judas's as well, in setting the crucifixion in motion--that made it possible for the circumcision of the flesh to no longer be necessary, being replaced by the baptism into Christ's kingdom. Yesod is also the safira of the just or righteous one, who is now Christ but also the Christ-image within each Christian.
The halo-like hair, present in all the Milan-based versions, fits the Germanic legend of the upside-down man as well, Odin reading the runes. It is someone who has connected with the divine source.
Wirth gives a similar interpretation, among others (p. 104):
The soul freed from its enclosing body. Mysticism. Priest. The man entering into a contract with God. Collaboration with the Great Work of universal change from evil into good.The idea of the contract is of course the "covenant" symbolized by Yesod, which allows the soul to ascend while still in the body. Of the Hanged Man himself, Wirth says (p. 102):
..it is not the conquest of heaven that the Hanged Man aspires to, his head being turned towards the earth. It is saying that his preoccupations are earthly and he is devoted to the good of others, to the redemption of pure humans, the victims of their own ignorance and selfish passions.On Wirth's card, a nice touch is the blue on the bottom of the two poles, turning to green as they go up. Of the poles he says (pp. 102-103):
Their blue bark turning gradually to green indicates from the start a serene contemplation, faithful devotion to religious practices, then a progressive vitalization aiming at freeing the practice of religious services.That is Christ's mission in the context of the Sanhedrin-controlled Judaism of the time. Wirth notes the 12 knobs on the two poles. In his interpretation, they represent the zodiac, with the yellow horizontal beam as the sun moving through them.
Case's version, like Waite's (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/2/2b/RWS_Tarot_12_Hanged_Man.jpg), turns the blond hair into a sunburst. At least Case retains the poles, although obscuring the notches. There is no water in the hole at all, even though he emphasizes that theme in what he says about the card, in his Book of Tokens:
Thus we retrace our steps into Yesod once more, the Foundation for what is to come, both below and above. The restoration of the covenant requires the union with Tiferet, after which they can ascend to Binah.
And by the addition of its letters, M I M,
Revealeth the number Ninety,
Which representeth the operation of YESOD
Through the ten Lights of Emanation.
Consider this well, O Israel,
For as YESOD is the Foundation of existence.
So are the Waters the substance of that Foundation.
From WATER do all forms have their beginning,
Even as it is declared in Genesis.
Absorb thyself in this Great Sea of the Waters of Life.
Dive deep in it until thou hast lost thyself,
And having lost thyself,
Then shalt thou find thyself again,
And shalt be one with me,
Thy Lord and King.
Thus shalt thou learn the secret
Of the restoration of the King unto his throne.
13. Hod, majesty, as Death.
..draws on the left (sinistras), the side of Isaac, from Binah (prudentia) and fear (timor) or strong judgment (fortitudenem iudicium), converts us (converte nos) and wages war (bellum) for YHVH of Hosts (120, L70); majesty (Hod 123, Hod, decum vel laus); dressed in courage and might (123, deus est magnificientia et fortitudo L71); Boaz, one of the columns of Solomon (125, L72); prayers of supplication and thanksgiving, for annulment of verdicts (123, confessio L72); praise (laus L71/L89; flames of Seraphim to burn the unworthy (125, L72)...
Death also represents liberation from the body. The Hanged Man's pain ends in death, One may assume that his body was buried in the hole beneath his head, present even in the PMB Hanged Man. By the time of the Marseille Death cards, new sprouts appear, including those of a crowned prince and princess, around which the man with the scythe appears to be clearing away the weeds.
Of this card Wirth says, among other things (p. 108)
The transforming principle which renews all things .. Liberation. Spiritualization. Dematerialization... Death in the initiating sense. Detachment...Regarding the two heads on the bottom of the card he observes (p. 107):
The scythe which restores the bodies to the earth greedy to assimilate them, seems to spare heads, hands, and feet. The faces keep their expression as if they were still alive. The one on the right bears a royal crown, the symbol of the regality of the intelligence and will. The features of the face on the left have lost none of their feminine charm, for affections do not die, and the soul continues to love beyond the tomb.There is more, about the other body parts, but I will stop. I would only observe that these features are shared by the heads on the Noblet and Conver.
14. Netzach, eternity or victory, as Temperance.
Netzach, as Victory, affirms the rebirth implied by Death. It is the gate to higher realms. Here is Pico:
Saturn (11>48); addressing of petitions for the birth of sons, and their granting (11>50); in the soul, that which converts to superior things (11>67)And Reuchlin:
"Victory" (triumph'); the Lord of hosts (Adonai Sabaoth), crus (not translated into English), the right leg and foot (all there is in the Latin is "pes," foot or leg), the right column (columna dextera), the great wheel (rota magna), the prophets' vision (visio prophetiae), Moses.Reuchlin has read Gikatilla::
works from side of highest loving-kindness and Abraham (116, gra que Abraae, grace of Abraam L69/L76); place that nurtures prophecy, dreams, and visions, for those who see through opaque mirror (119, speculae intueri opus non erat L70); positive decrees, favors (124, L86); Yacin (143, Yochim, preparar L76); place to address petitions for sons (134; p filior gnati oe depeaturi accedunt L74); luck, unmerited benefits (135); place of counsel and conferring with higher powers (138, L75); triumph (Netzach 142, Neza victoria L76); Eye of Mercy (143, oculum miseracordiae L76); place to direct prayers for mercy (143); "compassion upon Israel" (142)..This is the granting of mercy for fulfilling the positive commandments out of love of God. Love returns love. That corresponds to the mixing of the two fluids in the Temperance card. That was traditionally the mixing of water with wine for a milder drink, or hot and cold for something in between. In Judaism, there were the ritual But here, for Christians, it could he forgiveness of sins, as in the Christian Eucharist, where water and wine are also mixed.The Temperance lady is usually made red and blue, which suggests all of these interpretations. In the "Marseille" versions, however, she is given wings, suggesting an angel of mercy, who can lift the soul into higher realms..
Another aspect of Temperance is the practice of resisting the extremes in regard to the passions, something the ascending spirit needs, so as to avoid being pulled down to the level of material concerns, either as a spirit after death or while in meditation while still in the body.
In the Kabbalah, after death the Nefesh soul continues to be attached to its former material life (see my discussion of the Chariot). The soul needs to rise higher, and for that it needs the connection to the Ruach, "spirit", which is connected to the Neshama, or divine soul, so as to rise according to the merits of its life on earth. Fire rises, water falls. As such they are appropriate symbols of the Neshama-attached Ruach and the body-centered Nefesh respectively, connected by the exchange of fluids..
In the spheres above the earth in the Ptolemaic universe, the first one is that of water, which is precisely what we see on the card. From that perspective, the Death card would symbolize earth, the repository of the earthly body. Water is on the right side of the Kabbalist "tree".
Far from suppressing life, death provides for its eternal rejuvenation. It decomposes the 'container' in order to liberate the 'contained' that one can envisage as a liquid unceasingly poured from one perishable vessel into another without one drop being wasted.In Kabbalah, this would be the soul's transition from the body-connected Nefesh to the Neshema-connected Ruach. In the body, the Hindus associated the life-force with the "root chakra", at the base of the spine. Spiritualization is then the movement up the spine, turning on the various centers along the way.
In his section on divinatory interpretations, Wirth says, among other things (p. 112):
Universal Life: its unceasing movements, its motion within living people; The animating fluid which restores spent energy. The repairing and restoring agent of whatever wears out and ages. ... The transfusion of life-giving strength, healing magnetism, occult or mystic medicine. Transmutation of a vital order. ... Regeneration.This is what the Christian ritual of the Eucharist corresponds to, as well as other forms of energy transmission and circulation, including those between embodied souls.
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f8/RWS_Tarot_14_Temperance.jpg), who followed the "Marseille" version. Case's lady holds a torch in one hand, above an eagle, and pours water out of the other onto a lion. In his verses, the theme is that of purification by fire, for example:
I sustain creationCase's Sefira here seems to be Gevurah. However later he also speaks of Hochmah and Tiferet:
In the midst of a perpetual ebb and flow,
Therefore do I assume the appearance of a refiner's fire,
Forever purging out the dross of forms outworn,
This is mine aspect of Severity,
And of this it is written,
"Tetragrammaton Elohim is a devouring fire."
And in the renewal of thy powersHere the Great Name, Case says in the notes, is Ja (usually spelled "Ya"), associated with Hochmah (although I think YHVH, associated with Tiferet, would make more sense, as it is a goal to be achieved). Tiferet is Beauty and the Heavenly Son (and glory). Temperance is somehow to lift the Son into the "abode of Wisdom". That is indeed the function of Gevurah on the ascent. But purification by fire is a theme I would associate with the Tower card, which early on was called "Fire". On the historical Temperance card, there is no fire, and water is the most prominent aspect, due to the unusual way it is portrayed, suspended diagonally between two jugs. Case's verses do not even mention water.
Shall be made manifest
The plenitude of my Great Name in the abode
For when thou hast been tried as by fire
The gold of thy Beauty shall be purged of all dross
And the glory of the Heavenly Son shall all men behold.
Both water and fire are in fact used in the "tempering" process with metal. According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tempering_%28metallurgy%29) the water comes first, to maximize the hardness, and is called "quenching". "Tempering" is then the heating of the metal to increase toughness and decrease hardness (although sometimes, Wikipedia says, the term has been applied to both parts of the process). This is perhaps what Case is thinking of when he speaks of "trials by fire", aimed to make us tougher and less brittle. But is not a matter of removing impurities, but rather of the restructuring of carbon compounds,
The 7th sefira, known in the Renaissance as Victory, Endurance or Eternity, is on the side of water more than fire. If it is the mixing of liquids, water serves to promote detachment. Military leaders (and readers of Othello) know that the heat of anger is conducive to rash acts rather than maximizing one's information and then doing the strategizing needed for victory. Festina lente was a popular motto in the Renaissance: make haste slowly. According to Edgar Wind (Pagan Mysteries of the Renaissance, p. 101), the saying came from Aristotle, who taught that before any momentous action, such as defeating one’s enemies, one should deliberate carefully, and then move quickly. In other words, first water, then fire. Perhaps it explains his pupil Alexander's successes.
In as much as this process is metaphorically a cooling and then a heating, it corresponds very much to what Case has on his card, from left to right. The traditional card, in contrast, does not depict tempering per se, but rather the standard medieval concept of "temperance", which is more inclusive, a process of disconnection from domination by matter, by connecting with spirit and the archetypes in the mind of God. This definition fits both temperance in the sense of abstinence, temperance in the sense of moderation of extremes, and the quenching and tempering of the soul by first cooling the Nemesh and adding the Neshama-Ruach symbolized by fire.
15. Tiferet, glory or beauty, as Devil.
On the way down, the Love card is a reminder of the divine love as seen in the beloved, in the Platonic interpretation of human love. That aspect operates against the progression into material concerns. Likewise the Devil, reminding us of beauty in the material realm, is a force pulling the soul downward from its upward course.
The "Marseille" Lover card, interpreted as a choice between two types of love, of virtue and God vs. the pleasure of the senses, is also an apt comparison. Choosing the first makes the soul light enough to ascend; the second makes it easy for the demons to drag the soul downward.
Visually, the Devil card looks a little like Tiferet--with a pretty lower face--with Yesod, Hod and Netzach below. The early "Love" card has a similar structure, with a winged figure above and the man and woman below. The lower face is obvious on the Noblet; it is only suggested on the Conver, if you want to see it: the breasts are the eyes, the navel the nose, and below that a smile (as a discussion participant pointed out to me).
Tiferet was also known in the Renaissance as Glory. The same point would apply there: secular glory or fame is a strong temptation, but is not the true glory which is of God.
Writers on Kabbalah usually stress the positive aspects of Tiferet. But not all is sweetness and light. Gikatilla says:
awesome or horrible (Nora 235, horribilis L90); has two sides, from the right mercy, the left true judgment and fear, (210, quare dextris areolis miseracordum... sinistris vero iudicium et timor L84)In Judaism, a Satan is an accuser, who recounts one's sins before the heavenly court. It is also a tempter, as in the Book of Job or with Jesus in the Wilderness. In that way Devils serve as "guardians of the threshold" in the Hero's Journey, to which the tarot conforms: those who prevent the unworthy from ascending to heaven. It may be of such demons that Waite speaks when he says that this card signifies "the Dweller on the Threshold without the Mystical Garden when those are driven forth therefrom who have eaten the forbidden fruit" (http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/pkt/pktar15.htm). But he also says of those chained below, "he who is exalted above them is not to be their master for ever".
la vitalite de tous les etres"):
The Soul of the World seen as the reservoir of the vitality of all beings.We may think here of the dark horse of the Chariot card, full of driving energy unguided by reason yet drawing the charioteer closer to the image of Beauty. That energy that is the good aspect of the Devil, taking us out of ourselves. Wirth comments (p. 116, correcting a mistranslation of "impuissant" as "important");
Without a diabolical ardour we remain cold and impotent [impuissants]: we need to have 'le diable au corps' [the devil in the body] in order to influence others and in this way act outside of ourselves.Unfortunately the cold light of reason does not get people's attention, or 90% of it. But this energy can also be a trap, if we do not also submit ourselves to the cold light of reason warmed by the heart. This power can easily be misused by demagogues and others. He enumerates some of the dangers when one "acts on the unconscious state of others" (p. 118):
Domination of the masses. Incantations, disturbing eloquence. Rousing of appetites of course instincts and base passions. Demagogy, revolution, upheaval, denial. ...Over-excitement, panic, ...intrigue, use of illicit means... Greed, lack of moderation in all forms.It is sexual energy, but used for the purpose of power, which the Hindus centered in the solar plexus.
Yet there, in the body's center: (p. 116)
The divine spark which is in us must conquer coarse instinct, and from this victory results a 'glory', that is to say, an ambiance, a halo [Fr. aureole] (aura), an instrument of our occult [Fr. occulte, from occulter, to hide] power.Perhaps this is the "glory", Tifereth, which in the Hebrew Bible is given to God, and which the Kabbalah says humans have within themselves, the "ruach" [spirit] connected to the Divine Soul within us. This is a motif seen positively in the Lover card, but there in the upper figure rather than coming from within the body. Our physical appetite for beauty would know the true Beauty, if only it could distinguish it from the false. If not, the demonic forces in the realm of ruach, breath or air, which the spirit within has lifted us up to, will surely capture us and send us down.
Case's version of the card is much like the "Marseille", but with a couple of added symbols and, like Waite's (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/55/RWS_Tarot_15_Devil.jpg), a downturned torch. In Book of Tokens Case does not link it with any sefira, but emphasizes that the Devil, too, is an aspect of God:
The Sefer Yetzirah agreed, putting "a depth of evil" as one of the sefirot (short version 1.5, at http://www.psyche.com/psyche/txt/kaplan_sy_short.html). And in 6.2:
I am Lord, not of light alone,
But also of darkness...
For I the One am all-pervading.
Is it not written in Exodus
That the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh.
And again, in Isaiah,
"I create both the evil and the good."
"Also every desire, one opposite the other was made by God" (Ecclesiastes 7:14). Good opposite evil, good from good, evil from evil. Good makes evil recognizable, and evil makes good recognizable. Good is kept for the good, and evil is kept for the wicked.This particular feature of the Sefer Yetzirah was admired by Pico's Jewish friend Alemanno, who writes in his Book of Solomon's Ascents of this book, traditionally attributed to Abraham (Lesley p. 130):
The wisdom that Abraham invented is the science of unification, which unites opposites, such as day and night, the greater and the lesser light, heaven and earth, north and south, and in general all opposites. He demonstrated the falsity of the belief in duality, of good and bad divinities, which was widespread in his time. He also introduced the science of the sefirot, which was not known in his time.This language on Alemanno's point is no doubt influenced by Nicholas of Cusa's famous On Learned Ignorance, which described the ascent to God in terms of the mind's embracing of such opposites beyond its power of intellectual understanding. Cusa in turn had been much influenced by Llull.
16. Gevurah - power, fear, severity - as the Tower.
What is depicted on the card (from left to right: Cary Sheet c. 1500, Metropolitan/Budapest sheets 16th century, Noblet c. 1650, Vieville c. 1650) seems to be what Gevurah is about, the cleansing power of fire. Here again is Gikatilla:
that which purifies (263); , murky waters, snakes, scorpions, evil beasts, informants and prosecutors (265, L94); place of destructive angels (264, sordidi angelorum L94); emitting flames of fire (267, ignis flamma emittitur L95); Gehenna (268. Gehennam id est inferni L95); night terror (Laylah Pachad 269, timore nocturno L95); negative commandments (223, L86); end of all flesh, destruction of the world; power to make ill or heal, annihilate or sustain (270)The imagery of fire associated with Gevurah is very much in the Tower card (which early on was called "Fuoco", meaning fire, or "Sagitta", meaning lightning). It is Gevurah as harsh judgment toward sinners, such as Jehovah displayed against the Tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, and which the medieval Hell and even Purgatory offer to sinners in Christianity (below is an image, unfortunately reversed in my source, from a 15th century manuscript of Lydgate's Fall of Princes). If you look closely at the black and white image above, I think you will find the same devil in the doorway as in this illumination.
It is also the rain of fire and hail of the last days as described in Revelation and its medieval illustrations (e.g. the detail below, from a 14th century French illuminated manuscript of the Apocalypse). The Tower is a card of purification by fire and loss. The little globes on the "Marseille" versions should probably be interpreted as hail and fire. These come, in the medieval image of the cosmos, from the sphere of fire, which also assails the soul in its ascent.
For Wirth the building on the card is the Tower of Babel, a symbol of whatever is the result of human presumption going beyond the bounds of reasonableness. He writes 9p. 121):
There is a risk in rising too high; we are warned of this by the thunderbolt from the Sun which takes the top off the Tower; The Sun is a symbol of Reason which governs men and is opposed to their extravagant ideas.
In the interest of transmutory work to which we are bound, we must forget God in order to identify ourselves with matter. God makes this command when we are made flesh; he does not want us to be distracted from our initial task by nostalgia for Heaven.However when we go beyond the bounds of reason in that task, then the lightning strikes; the incapacitated figures are the architects and rulers of this presumption, he says. Yet there is also something positive in this high structure. He relates the Tower to the constellation of Scorpio, harbinger of the decline of the light whose poison links it to the serpent, not only that of the Garden but also the healing fluid of "the serpent of Aesculapius, who refuses to crawl in the mud". He continues (p. 122):
This is an allusion to the great magic agent, that is to say, to the vital fluid which is sublimated by its detachment from the selfish grasp of the living. When we act to help others with our bodily dynamism, we are practising ancient holy medicine.So there is a contradiction at the heart of the card. "Spirit imprisoned in matter" and "vital construction" but also "radical egoism in action" "pride, presumption, pursuit of fancies" (p. 123).
One way in which the tarot of Noblet (in the middle above) differs from Wirth's is that the energy goes both ways in Noblet, smoke or flames reaching toward the Sun as well as fire from heaven. Moments of catastrophe can also be moments of one's noblest contact with the divine. Prosperous but God-fearing Job was nonetheless hit by the fire from the sphere of fire, his possessions and family destroyed, yet his faith stood firm and he was rewarded in the end. It is an ascent of the divine part of the soul and the removal of the accretions it acquired in the descent and earthly life.
In the body, it feels to me like energy coming from the solar plexus into the strong right arm of the terrestrial Adam (if we imagine the Tower as the human body), reaching up and out, and meeting the left side of the divine Tree (its left side, where Gevurah is) coming down as lightning.
Case's card, like Waite's (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/53/RWS_Tarot_16_Tower.jpg, is much like the "Marseille" version, except that the circles have been turned into little yods (10 on one side, 12 on the other), and both figures are shown falling (as in the Lydgate). Unlike Waite's, the yods are arranged in patterns, of which one is the "tree" (see card below). It retains the upward movement of fire from within the Tower, which had been in the Noblet and which Wirth unfortunately removed.
While for Case the card corresponds to the path between Splendor (Hod) and Victory (Netzach), he does not assign the card to any one sefira; it is "the balance between the two", and between Severity and Mercy. It is destruction, but for the sake of "building anew". But perhaps that is the point of the
Apocalypse indicated on the card and Gikatilla's associations suggestive of it. Some of what Case says seems to indicate those Last Days:
I am the Mouth whence issues the breath of Life,That Mouth would seem to be the vital energy which made its appearance in the Devil card, yet also the Abyss of an unknowable God. But the Tower dos not signal that we have to start all over again. It is destruction before renewal, to be sure, but it seems to me the removing of impurities, i.e. bad ideas and influences, as indicated by the two falling figures. And if the fire doesn't kill them, it will strengthen them. On Noblet's card, the falling figure is about to enter water, as can be seen by his partly submerged hand. Later card makers, not knowing what to make of that detail, tended to cut the card off at that point or making his fingers somehow penetrate into solid ground. If he is falling into a lake, that merely cools his former ardor.
I am the all-devouring one
Whereunto all things return.
17. Mercy (Hesed), or greatness (Gedullah), as the Star.
After the purification by fire comes the Mercy of Hesed. Gikatilla writes:
light (206), water (215, Aqua L85); the south, openness (265): source of length of days (264); long-forbearing, to allow time for repentance (274); extending the nose, the entrance-way of the court, so that the punishers will have to travel further (274); tipping the scale toward merit (275); if the sins are still too heavy, lightening the punishment for merit, or rewarding after punishment (276). (Some of these might be on L96; I can't tell.)There is one 16th century Italian version of the Star card, unfortunately cut off at the bottom (Kaplan, Encyclopedia of Tarot vol. 2 p. 274), that looks like the biblical David, if we take as its model the famous statue by Michelangelo, then newly carved. There is an episode in his life that is reminiscent of this card. In the Old Testament, as in the New, washing and anointing are for cleansing of sin and making one suitable for being favorably received into God's grace, as David was after his child with Bathsheba was born dead. That death was God's punishment for David's wrong-doing, having relations with another man's wife and then arranging to have the husband killed. After that David washed himself in water and had himself anointed with oil, to be in a fit state to ask God's mercy. Bathsheba conceived again, and this time Solomon was born.
The usual version of the card has a maiden or an androgynous figure pouring out the contents of two jugs. In the light of the foregoing, one of the jugs could contain water, for the purpose of washing away sin and the negative, and the other oil, for the purpose of anointing one, to make oneself suitable for what is higher. The negative, the dirt, is what falls on the land; the oil, which is put on after cleansing, can go back to the sea.
This interpretation, taken metaphorically, fits others not so based in the Old Testament. In the Purgatorio, where at the top of the Mount of Purgatory Dante encounters two streams, Lethe and Enoie. They come from one source, a spring presided over by a nymph named Matilda. Drinking from one stream, Dante forgets all his sins, and so also forgets who Beatrice is. Drinking from the other, he remembers his good deeds, and so his memory of Beatrice is restored. Drinking from both is necessary before Dante can enter Paradise. So we have the two streams on the card. One washes away sin, and the other admits one to the next higher stage.
A parallel image is in the Palacio Te, in Mantua of the late 1520s, a fresco of a water-nymph with two jugs that pour muddy water into a crack into the earth. Nearby is an old man, probably a river-god, with two similar jugs that pour into a lake. In a nearby scene on the same level, there is a banquet of the gods. So the scene with the jugs is set in the heavens. The little stream is probably the beginning of the River Lethe, forgetting, and the lake the Lake of Mnemosyne, remembering. In modern psychological terms, the clean water emptying into the lake perhaps symbolizes one's good points, what one does right, rather than one's bad points.
It is a question of the living soul bound to matter, hence the young Eve of the Tarot whose mother, queen of Ethiopia according to mythology, is in reality productive Nature, depicted as the Priestess [Fr. Papesse] (arcana 2). Her father the black king who rules over the unfathomable abyss of the Infinite, becomes the Fool whose domain escapes human reason. Perseus who marries Andromeda corresponds to the spiritual soul (NESHAMAH) whose union with the life of the corporeal soul (NEPHESH GAIAH) lifts her away across the airs of spirituality.That is well put. So among the divinatory meanings he has "Eve to whom the Redeemer is promised. Soul binding matter to spirit" (p. 129).
In the body, the energy in this card seems to me in the arms. We already know the left arm, which continues the action of removing accretions by washing them away. To that is added the right arm, associated in Kabbalah with the sefira of Chesed. And between them is her heart, also on the right side of the card, offering love for one's better nature.
In Case's card, and Waite's (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/db/RWS_Tarot_17_Star.jpg) makes it clear (some do not) the two streams continue fall, as in Mantua, onto land (even if the stream is not dirty) and the other into a pool. As in the Cary Sheet, one small star seems particularly associated with the girl, thus associating her with Venus. What is new is the animal in the background. Wirth (like Etteilla) had a butterfly, which he identified in passing as that of Psyche, Greek for both "soul" and a type of moth. For Case it is a large red bird perched watchfully on a tree.
Understand this saying if thou canst:In The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, p. 179, Case identifies the "Hook", as besides the meaning of the Hebrew letter he attaches to the card, the beak of the bird in the background, which he says is the "scarlet ibis... the Egyptian bird sacred to Hermes": "its bill is a natural fish-hook". It corresponds to the act of meditation, which gleans "knowledge...from the imperishable record of the memory of nature, symbolized by the scroll of the High Priestess". The same is true for the girl's act of pouring the liquid into the pool, which "is stirred into vibration by the act of meditation".
The Hook and the Gate and the Right Hand am I.
I draw forth men from the death of error
Into the life of truth.
I am the hand extended
To guide them through the Portal.
The scarlet color is a bit suspect, in that the ibis was never depicted with that color in Egypt; its natural habitat is South America and the Caribbean, according to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarlet_ibis). On earlier cards, the bird was invariably black. The ibis associated with Thoth was the sacred African ibis, which has a white body but black head, tail, and legs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_sacred_ibis). It was venerated for its eating of snakes (Herodotus, quoted at the last mentioned site) and magical ability to kill pestilence-bearing flies (Pliny, Natural History Book X according to Wikipedia, although I cannot find the reference). If the bird is an Ibis, its killing of snakes corresponds to the cleansing power of the the river Lethe. An association with Hermes/Thoth would associate it with that guide of souls, both down and up. This association was well known in the Renaissance, being mentioned by Plato at Phaedrus 274c-d, Hyginus at Astronomica II.28, Horapollo at Hieroglyphica I.36, and Martianus Capella at Marriage of Mercury and Philology II.174 and 178 (for this last, an online reference is here).
The hand referred to in the Tokens meditation is that of mercy, on the right of the Tree, after the death by fire or water (of the figure falling into a lake, as it seems to for Noblet) of the preceding card.. In the meditation he does not relate the card explicitly to that sefira, Chesed. In the notes, however, he invites us to compare this meditation with that of the Emperor, which he earlier located there.
18. Binah, Understanding or Intelligence, also known as Teshuvah, Penitence, as the Moon.
Here is Gikatilla
repentance, return (Teshuvah 300, Heb+ poenitentia/conversio L99); highest justice (302, Heb+ iusticia superior L99); life in world to come (219, L101?); unites with Malkhut in the atonement, first He with last He, together with Tiferet as Mishpat, eternal life (285); connects lower six with upper three (386); unified with Malkhut in the jubilee year, the two facing each other (294)For Agrippa and Alemanno, Binah is Saturn as a god of judgment. Alemanno says (Idel 187f):
And they say that  Saturn is the true judge and the planet of Moses, peace be with him. But if they [the Jews] do not keep the way of God, it will spit forth everything that is bad: prophecy will occur to fools and to babies in an insufficient manner, and to women and to melancholies, and to those possessed by an evil spirit and maleficent demons that obliterate the limbs, and bad counsels and sorceries, and anxieties and erroneous beliefs:Binah is on the left side, the negative one, with negative judgments and the requirement of repentance and atonement. But also there is the unity with Tiferet and Malkhut. It heralds the great redemption of the world at the end times.
Overhead in the "Marseille" versions (including Conver), is what appears to be a conjunction of the sun and moon. Since Tiferet is the card of the Sun, for both Pico and Agrippa, the placing of Moon and Sun together might be the marriage of Tiferet with Binah, as Pico seems to say, or perhaps Tiferet and Malkhut at the level of Binah, that Gikatilla talks about. In the "Marseille" versions of the card, it looks very much like a solar eclipse, i.e. the conjunction of moon and sun, which nonetheless is dark and frightening to those underneath, fearful of Binah's judgment.
In the end times, the Virgin is the "woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet". bearing a child, the Christ-child, a second time.
Wirth mostly emphasizes the difficulty of separating illusion from truth, reality from shadows, by the light of the moon. Colors fade into shades of gray. As in walking through the tarot itself, we are in the realm of interpretation rather than facts. In that context the bright red crayfish, stands out. Wirth observes (p. 131):
By "ponderous beliefs renewed" Wirth means extracting from them the valuable lessons they have to teach us, like discerning the meaning of a symbolic tale. People want to forget the past, and indeed the Star-lady has separated us from it. But there remains the diamond in the crayfish's claws, which Wirth has missed. Binah is Tevurah, repentance. It is not enough to separate from the past, because the past carries itself with us. It must be dredged up, repented and suitable penance done, not by means of meaningless gestures to assuage our guilt. That is the crayfish's work, and also ours. The past contains shadowy monsters in its depths, but they must be faced. In the fairy tales, the dragon is slain and the maiden rescued. Such is the nature of past trauma that lives in us sectioned off from consciousness.
In the body, this card feels like the back of the neck, where it is hard for us to see, except in the barber's chair after he or she is done.
Case's card, similar to Waite's (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/7f/RWS_Tarot_18_Moon.jpg), has the right mood, although I prefer the Conver version (to which Wirth is closer), with its monstrous, jewel-holding crayfish, sitting there in the primal, womb-like waters. In the meditation Case conveys the card's mood of places of darkness where is also light:
In his notes, Case associates this card with the En Sof, the "radiant darkness"'; this is because the letter Qoph means "back of the head", and Kabbalists described the En Sof as "the head that is not a head". It seems to me that just about every card can be associated with either En Sof or Kether. In the progression upwards, we are not yet at the top. Perhaps Case did not know Binah as the repentance that brings salvation, which is also a light in the darkness.
But in the street and marketplace,
In the abode of sin
As well as in the house of prayer
Mayest thou say with thy Father Jacob,
"Surely the Lord is in this place,
And I knew it not."
19. Hochmah as the Sun.
Hochmah is "pure mercy", an appropriate descriptor of Jesus, perennially associated with the sun, as god of compassion On the way down, this sefira was Sophia, consort of Jehovah. But in Philo of Alexandria Wisdom is also the Logos, and in the gospel of John the Logos is a creator-god (by him all things were made, (John 1:1), identified in with Christ on high.Pico observes:
Jesus...is...God the Son of God and the Wisdom (sapientiam) of the father (11>7); day of Christ (11>37); Jesus correctly said, before Abraam was born, I am. (11>42]; Son of God comes with baptismal watersIn the tarot, the Sforza deck's sun card shows a nude child reaching for the sun. Kabbalistically, this is the soul reborn with new innocence after the purification of successive bouts of water and fire. Matthew 18:3 has it:
And [Jesus] said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.One might think of the Christ Child, typically portrayed nude in Renaissance art. But at the end of a long sequence of descent and ascent, he would be naked because he has finally cast off the garments of this world. It is the outcome of a process whose beginning is described in Mark 10:50, of one coming to Jesus (Douay-Rheims translation):
Who casting off his garment leaped up, and came to him.In the Kabbalah, it is clear that spiritual beings lack garments, at least metaphorically. Recanati says (quoted in Wirszubski, p. 46)
All spiritual things that operate and go on a mission in this inferior world are all of them clothed as the occasion requires, and afterward they are stripped and leave off their clothes.That Pico knew this passage is indicated by his Thesis 28.34:
Nothing spiritual, descending below, operates without a garment.For the Cary Sheet version (above middle), only half the card is extant, which Andy Pollett constructed a believable whole card out of that. It is again a nude child, this time with a flag.. It could be the newly reborn soul, waving its flag in victory. Or it could be the child born of the woman clothed with the sun, the Christ child of the Book of Revelation.
This idea is developed a little further in the Vieville card of c. 1650 Paris (far right above). Here it is a young man; he could be the figure of Christ. as the man on a white horse of Revelation 19:11-16 was understood, the one who would victorious over the anti-Christ.
11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.In some regards Vieville's image departs from this account: the man wears no white garment stained with blood (verse 13), nor do swords come out of his mouth (verse 15).
12 His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself.
13 And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God.
14 And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.
15 And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords.
Waite's image of the Sun card (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/17/RWS_Tarot_19_Sun.jpg) seems to derive from Vieville's, at least to the extent of having a figure with a banner on a horse. That it is a child, however, comes from elsewhere, perhaps the two to the left of the Vieville above. Biblically, I do not know where it comes from. Perhaps it is the child of Rev. 12, the Woman clothed with the Sun, put on the horse of Rev. 19.
We could perhaps see the "Marseille" versions (at left, "Sforza Castle" of 16th century, Dodal of c. 1701, Noblet of c. 1640, and Conver of 1761) as versions of the unity of the soul with Christ, or of the Virgin with Christ (where the pair are male-female), or of the return to Eden, pictured as a walled garden.
But these figures do not look exalted or innocent enough for this role. It seems more fitting to see them as merely the two souls that have been appearing in one form or another throughout the tarot sequence, acquiring experience as they go.
Another problem :why do they have such sad faces, whether as male-female or male-male, as in the variations above? Their poses are those of the zodiacal sign of Gemini, and we know how that story went. Sons of Zeus, one was immortal, and the other, born of a mortal woman, was not. When the mortal one died, the immortal one was so filled with grief as to gave up half of his immortality--i.e., time in Olympus--to the other, and spend the rest of the time in Hades. The only problem was that Hades insisted that one of them be there at all times. Out of pure love, he accepted the deal, even if it meant never seeing his brother..
The story was seen as a precursor to Christ's sacrifice. We might also see it as a recognition that our time in retreat and meditation must, for one reason or another, come to an end. We will have to face the physical world again, and that might break the relationship with this world beyond worlds.
There is also the other side of the equation. It is even more frightening to contemplate what comes next on the journey. For when the soul embarks on the final leg of the journey, to God's highest presence, something very precious is lost and so an object of sadness: not the body, of course, but the individual ego, surrendered (as an illusion) to what Case calls the Primordial Will. The Renaissance had various names for it: The Averroist term "Agent Intellect" springs to mind, and also the Neoplatonist "One". At the level of the Sun, that surrender has not yet happened, but it is the step the soul knows is to be taken next. as the light gets more intense, obliterating the shadows that in part define us.
As we have seen in relation to the Chariot and Temperance, there was a Kabbalist version of the Platonic idea of different levels or parts of the soul. One part, the nefesh, is, unless influenced by the other part, focused on life in the body, like any animal, even if somehow it survives for a time after the body's death. Another part, the ruach, the spirit, has the power to distinguish between good and evil and so can raise the nefesh above the animal level. The third part, the neshama, is the Divine soul, desiring union with God (there is a nice summary at http://www.safed.co.il/kabbalah-and-the-inner-spirit.html).
Gikatilla addresses this topic in several places. Here is a fuller version of what I quoted earlier, from his first chapter, on Malkhut. Gikatilla says, after describing the "middle line" of Malkhut (ADoNaY), Tiferet (YHVH), and Kether (EhYE) (p. 52; words in parentheses are the translator's):
Just as there are three Names connected in unity and they are ADoNaY, YHVH and EHYE, so too there are three elements intrinsically tied to man and they are the NeFeSH (the living force), the RUaCH (the spirit) and the NeSHaMaH (the Divine soul). For a man must tie his NeFeSH to the RUaCH and the RUaCH to the NeSHaMatH and the NeSHaMaH to ADoNaY... Therefore one must try with all one's strength to cleave to the Name YHVH and the way one atttaches oneself is through ADoNaY, as it is stated,So Ruach is the sense of right and wrong, the knowledge of good and evil, that alone can raise the Nefesh, the life-force or soul in general, to the level of the world to come, i.e. Binah.
"...to Him shall you hold fast." (Deut. 10:20)For our merciful, loving God has taught us the way to hold fast to Him, and He will help us to do His will in this world so that we may merit our life in the world to come Amen.
The Nefesh, while apparently born in Malkhut, has its origin in Binah, as he seems to say in the chapter on that sefira. Speaking of Binah, Gikatilla says (p. 300):
In the language of the Sages this Sphere is called "TeSCHUVaH (literally return, repentance), the reason being that the souls emanate from this place, for the spirits come from TiFEReT and the lower souls from the Sphere MaLCHUT. They connect with each other until they merit an attachment with the Sphere BINaH.He then explains again how the Nefesh attaches to the Ruach and the Ruach to the Neshemah, "which is connected to the Sphere Binah" (I gave a fuller quote earlier); he also describes the failure of such attachment, due to sin, a severing that can only be repaired if she "betters her ways and repairs the pathways" (p. 301).
This view is seen also in Pico (I quoted this in Chapter 5):
28.6. The great north wind is the source of all souls simply, just as the other days are sources of some of them and not all.
28.8. Souls descend from the third light to the fourth day, and from there to the fifth, from which departing they steal into the night of the body.According to Wirszubski (p. 28), "fifth day" is Pico's misconceived way of referring to the tenth sefira, and "great north wind" is therefore the third sefira or "light".
But none of this explains the two individuals in the Sun card, if it represents Hochmah. I see two ways of getting to Hochmah, one short and the other long. The short answer is based on the Bahir, section 15. It refers to five aspects of the soul: "the five names of the soul: Nefesh, Ruach. Neshamah, Chayah Yechida" (Kaplan, The Book Bahir p. 19) These two aspects or souls are apparently also in the Zohar, according to the website I cited on the first three, http://www.safed.co.il/kabbalah-and-the-inner-spirit.html, and derive from the rabbinical Midrash Rabbah (confirmed by Kaplan p. 192). Apparently the upper two play no role in the soul's life in the body, because they are hardly mentioned. If the Neshemah indeed goes only as far as Binah, then the card might have the two higher souls, after death, separating from each other in Hochmah, where the Yechida goes on to unite with Kether.
The long answer is to question whether the Neshemah really originates in Binah. There might be a rel relationship to EHYE, i.e. Kether, for Gikatilla writes, as I have already quoted (from p. 52):
Just as there are three Names connected in unity and they are ADoNaY, YHVH and EHYE, so too there are three elements intrinsically tied to man and they are the NeFeSH (the living force), the RUaCH (the spirit) and the NeSHaMaH (the Divine soul).Also, the first time Gikatilla talks about the three souls, on p. 18 of the translation, he connects them with "three of the highest emanations". Elucidating the verse "Bless (BaRChee) the Lord (YHVH), o my soul (NeFeSH)." He says:
This verse also tells us that the blessings connect to the generic soul (NeFeSH) through three of the highest emanations.Then he goes on to say that in order for the Ruach to receive one blessing from the Nefesh, the Nefesh must say ten. And in order for the N'shema (as he spells the word there) to receive one blessing from the Ruach, the Ruach must have ten from the Nefesh. So for the N'shema to get one blessing, the Nefesh must say 100, all in the same day.
But what are the "three of the highest emanations"? Malkhut, as the lowest emanation, is clearly not one of them. Nor is Tiferet, the 6th sefira, very likely. Perhaps the origin of the Nefesh, or "generic soul", is in Binah, as the one of the "souls" that Gikatilla says "emanate from there" and "merit an attachment" there. Likewise the Neshema is related to Kether, as we may surmise from the first quote (p. 52). Since Ruach is between the other two, I infer that it has its origin in Hochmah. That is to say, the knowledge of right and wrong comes from a source higher than Binah, Understanding, namely, Wisdom.
But only rare individuals, such as Solomon, can reach that source, Hochmah, in life, which is from where Solomon wrote the books of the Bible associated with him. This is a view I find elucidated in only one source, Alemanno's Song of Solomon's Ascents. A condensed translation was done by Arthur Lesley in his 1976 Ph.D. dissertation. Alemanno argues, against accepted opinion, that Solomon was wiser than Moses. One evidence is his ability to go beyond the law in elucidating difficult cases, notably that between the two women who both insisted that a certain infant was theirs and that the other's had died (see Chapter 4 for a fuller discussion). Solomon had to go to Hochmah for the intuitive wisdom that would resolve the case.
Another piece of evidence is precisely what Solomon was judged harshly for doing, namely, building thousands of temples to his wives' foreign gods. He did so, Alemanno says (Lesley p. 132), in order to understand religions other than his own, not to replace his own, but to understand it better, from a higher source, even though God later punished him for doing so through evils visited upon his son. Alemanno quotes his Italian forebear Recanati:
"All my days I have been astounded that such a wise man should have been trapped by women, when his own book, Proverbs, is full of warnings about them. When I recognized that the text says that he had a thousand foreign wives (I Kings 11:3), I understood that these mean the thousand ranks of unclean spirits that are influenced by the higher tree, Tiferet, and that Solomon, attached to this sefira, tried to complete his wisdom by understanding them. This is what was intended by the verse, 'For Solomon went after Ashtoreth (I Kings 11:5): not that he worshiped them, but that he sought to complete his knowledge and went beyond the permissible point of investigation."Alemanno comments:
Solomon tried to understand the customs and cults of the nations. In contrast, Moses sought only to preserve his power of receiving influences through Tiferet, the commandments of the Torah, as is written, "That caused his glorious (tifarto) arm to go at the right hand of Moses (Isaiah 63:32)."A Kabbalist commonplace is that Moses ascended as far as Binah, opening 49 of its 50 gates. The idea is that the wisdom to which Solomon aspired, and sometimes achieved, is a sefira higher than that.
(As an aside, it seems to me that this defense of Solomon is an implicit recognition of the prisca theologia (ancient theology) that somehow disseminated to all the nations, even though expressed in its highest form in only one, for him Judaism (just as it was Christianity for Pico and Ficino). Such understanding was necessarily an intuitive one, the Wisdom that articulated the Law known by Moses.)
Another piece of evidence is in the Bahir, which speaks of the source of the "seed" harvested (i.e. born) in Malkhut as having its origin in the brain (Kaplan translation pp. 56-57):
155. ...The spinal cord originates in man's brain and extends to the [sexual] organ, where the seed is. It is therefore written (Isaiah 43:5), "From the east I will bring your seed, [and from the west, I will gather you]."Kaplan (p. 175) explains that Malkhut is seen as lying down with her head in the east; her womb is then in the west. Likewise. the primal male, Zer Anpin, also has his head in the east. His sexual organ is then in the west. But what sefira corresponds to the brain? That has already been made clear (Kaplan p. 25):
156. ...This teaches us that it is brought from the east and sowed on the west. He then gathers what he has sowed.
70. The Alef is the first of all letters. Besides this, the Alef causes all the letters to endure.Moreover (Kaplan p. 11),
The Alef looks like the brain.
26. ...My son, Alef is the head...There is also Kaplan's comment on p. 102, "The Aleph is the Sefirah of Keter-Crown". Also, the Bihar said clearly that Beth is the second sefira, Wisdom (Kaplan pp. 6-7):
14, ...Do not say Bet, but Bayet (house).So the middle line is like the spinal cord, and the origin of the soul is Kether, even though though it is born in Malkhut. That is the Nefesh, whose divine seed in humanity is the Neshemah.
It us thus written (Proverbs 24:3): "With wisdom the house is built, with understanding it is established."
15. What does this Bet resemble? It is like a man, formed by God with wisdom...
What I am leading up to is that the "Marseille" Sun card could be seen as the two higher parts of the soul, the Nefesh and the Neshemah, in a place higher than either the Bihar or Gates of Light explicitly mention, and separating from each other in Hochmah. The Ruach returns to its source there while the Neshemah goes one sefira higher, to merge with what Case calls the Primal Will. At these places, moreover, they might be identical to the highest two of the five aspects of the soul mentioned in the Bihar and Zohar.
There is a parallel in the Platonism of the first century, which may have been what inspired this version of the card in the first place. At the end of On the Apparent Face in the Orb of the Moon, the Middle Platonic essayist Plutarch (c.e. 46-120) elaborated a myth in which spirit and soul part on the other side of the moon; spirit ascends so as to merge with the sun, and soul remains on the moon and merge with it. Speaking of the separation of soul and spirit (here "soul" would be the Ruach and "mind" the Neshemah) he says (944E):
They achieve it, some sooner and some later, once the mind has been separated from the soul. It is separated by love for the image in the sun through which shines forth manifest the desirable and fair and divine and blessed towards which all nature in one way or another yearns.For a pair that has gone through so much together, it is a sad day, even though a necessary one for the spirit’s return to the Sun—where it, too, will dissolve into raw material for new spirits, just soul does so on the Moon. The "Marseille" cards from Death to Sun correlate with imagery in this myth, as I have elaborated elsewhere. A Kabbalist interpretation of the Sun card might be simply offer Jewish way to express the same point about the soul's ascent. Instead of the two sides of the Moon, one facing the heavens (including the Sun), the Kabbalah has Binah and Hochmah. If not that, I have no other interpretation.
Wirth (at right) and Case (below right) avoided the problem by changing the pair to two happy, innocent children, the male and female souls that have been occurring throughout the deck, now happy innocents bathing in the sun. It is a return to the naked child eagerly grabbing at the sun or waving a victory banner as the sun looks down, but doubled.
Here what Wirth says is relevant to this conception (p. 32):
The Sun. Spirit. Redeemer. Divine Reason enlightening created man, to regenerate and make him divine.That is quite a change from the dark deceptions of moonlight. Yet the card is not the Last Days; it is just two happy children at peace with each other under a placid sun.
Wirth has more to say of this pair:
They represent the individual soul in harmony with the spirit whose feelings are married to reason, that is to say, agreement and harmony realized on a small scale within the sphere of human personality, straining to to be realized on a large scale in harmony as a whole, universal agreement.But more than that, the pair, of opposite gender, signify how "only the spirit of enlightened intelligence (by the Sun) will bring about earthly happiness by the harmonious working together of opposing social groups reconciled by reciprocal understanding." The opposing groups, of which his examples are labor (energy, hence red) vs. capital (accumulated knowledge and wealth, yellow), are represented by the red and yellow bricks in the wall. The blue bricks are something else: the task of reconciliation needs something besides the light of reason: the warmth of the heart (my translation):
What binds is religious and comes much more from the heart than the brain, hence the importance of the blue layers on the rampart of civilization [the blue in the wall behind the pair]. They relate to the religion of the Sun that the sages teach, who, not content to be enlightened coldly, are filled with generous warmth, stimulating acts of a constant moral beauty.And again:
We will find lost Eden again as soon as we accept our tasks as creatures condemned to work, not through punishment, but by reason of progress for we cannot raise ourselves from our animal-like condition except by a complete willingness to work for the love of work, and pleasure in work. From being bound slaves of sharp mercenaries, we become Free Artists, Free Builders, or Freemasons, carrying out the plan of the Supreme Architect by virtue of our understanding of the ineluctable law of life which is that of creative work.The founding fathers of both the American and French Revolutions were mostly Freemasons. Their opstimism was still alive in the early 20th century. It sounds simple enough, but these ideals have so far been fought fiercely against from without and eroded away from within. They remain the only acceptable options posed yet.
In the body, this card seems to activate the part of the head just behind the eyes, as well as re-invigorating the heart.
Case avoids politics. In the notes, he explains that part one of his meditation is built around various names for the sefira of Kether; the White Head, the Profuse Giver, the Small Point, the Most High. These all fit the sun well enough. However the allegory includes at the bottom of the card, which is altered from the traditional one. Also, the wall suggests that there is still limitation. The end of this part of his meditation, Case says, refers to the 30th Path of Wisdom, that of "Collective Intelligence". That is not bad.
I am the White BrillianceThe greatest and the smallest, I would think, refer to the circle whose center is everywhere and curcumference nowhere, a definition of God popular in the Renaissance. But I think the most important thought is that "in me are all opposites united". As the Kabbalists knew, pure light implies pure darkness: Kether is the revealed side of the En Sof. But also, giving abundance implies giving scarcity. The sun's.dryness kills, and so does its heat; life thrives in it, but so does disease and death. The ascent to universal goodness is the abolition of the individual self. To that extent, it is a time of sadness as well as joy. The "Marseille designs seem to want us not to forget that.
Of the Head that is not a Head.
I am the Profuse Giver of all abundance.
Yet though I am the greatest of the great,
I am also the smallest of the small.
I am the depth as well as the height,
The without as well as that which is within,
For in me are all opposites united.
I am the Glory of the Eternal Source,
And I am the Foundation of the Ageless Result.
20. Kether, crown, as Judgment.
Judgment. Soul. The act of Redemption. Holy spirit or divine breath, enriching [French fécondant] understanding (intelligences]. Eternal life.In the Sefer Yetzirah, the "Divine breath" is at the beginning, from which everything else flows; it is both warm, like fire, and wet, like water. Wirth also says that the two people on the sides are the parents of the children on the Sun card, representing the head and the heart, and the young man in the middle is their son, uniting both (p. 160) and also a witness to "the past still living". He is of course also Hiram of the Freemasons' myth. But it seems to me that if he is an older version of the children of the Sun card, then he is also allegorically both male and female.
That androgeny is perhaps what Case is thinking of when speaking of the two merging into a a "Perfect unity",
This living flame is the power of the Anointed One,The last line seems to me to express the same thought as "In me are all opposites united" of the Sun card. It is the Neoplatonic One, which in Kabbalah is the top of the Tree, Kether. But it seems to me that turning the middle figure into a child, as Waite did before him (https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/dd/RWS_Tarot_20_Judgement.jpg) reduces the effect. If it is a child, it is one who has gone through many incarnations and remembered them all.
The Power of the mighty thunders of the swift flash
Which divideth the One into the Two,
And in its return,
Absorbeth the Two into the perfect Unity.
In his notes Case identifies Hochmah as the "living flame", which "springs from the descent of the primal whirling motion which begins in KETHER and it descends through the path of ALEPH, to which is attributed Ruach, R V Ch, the Life-Breath" (p. 184). But Hochmah is on the "white", watery side of the tree. Fire is on the red side, starting with Binah. Also, in regard to sefiroth, he has already assigned to the Magician, at the top of the Tree. Since the Life-Breath of the Sefer Yetzirah starts in Kether, it makes sense to put it there, and not in Hochmah.
Case's imagery derives in part from his letter assignments in relation to sefiroth. The Bahir is the only traditional Jewish text I have found that does such, and it assigns Aleph to Kether and Beth to Hochmah (Bahir sections 14 and 15, as I discussed in relation to the Sun card). After that, it is difficult to tell. In Section 157, Mithridates' translation, translated into English (p. 334 of the 2005 Torino edition) has "What is then heth?" The original Hebrew has the eighth letter of the alphabet spelled out in letters, three of them, as an editor's footnote makes clear. Kaplan (p. 57) has "What is the eighth one?" The problem is that in Hebrew the words for letters are also words for numbers. In section 169, the same issue comes up for the ninth and tenth.Mithridates (p. 346) has:
What is theth? He said to him: theth and iod are together, like nine and ten. The one is opposite the other and the one is higher than the other by five hundred years.Again a footnote explains that these are the names of the letters spelled out in three characters each.
In contrast, Kaplan (p. 64) has:
What is the ninth?I leave it to others as to which is right. The 2005 editor at least does not correct Mithridates here.
He said to them: The ninth and tenth are together, one opposite the other.
One is higher than the other by 500 years.
In the body, this card, since it spiritualizes the whole body, seems to energize the entire body of "terrestial Adam".
21. World: Kether approaching En Sof
When the soul is being raised to the level of God, it finds its personal will dissolving and being replaced by the Primordial Will, in Case's terms. It is perhaps on the way to ascending off the Tree altogether.
The Sforza card of the 1460s-80s (left) has the New Jerusalem, in the air to represent that it is not in this world. That is a Jewish concept, too: the restoration of the Temple at the end of time.
In a 16th century uncolored card found in Milan's Sforza Castle (middle), the figure inside looks feminine, but given how males were sometimes portrayed in the Renaisance (e.g. Leonardo's apostle John in the Last Supper), it could be either.
In a variation on tradition, the so-called "tarot of Mantegna", E series (second above, on right), put a cosmograph in the middle, with the card symbolizing the "Prima Causa", i.e. God, the Unmoved Mover. This card was the 10th of a series of 10 cards representing the spheres of the Ptolemaic universe as completed by Neoplatonism and Christianity. The 10th sphere was for the Empyrean heaven, two heavens above the visible universe, which in Dante's Paradiso was the dwelling place of God and those beings made of pure light. The animals in the four corners symbolized the four evangelists, whose teachings were the means for attaining such heights. .
In 17th century Paris, the cardmaker Vieville put a man in the center, probably meaning Jesus; Noblet, at around the same time, put in a rather masculine-looking female. I put the two, done at around the same time and place, together with what appears to be their common ancestor, all with similar cloaks.
Noblet's masculine-looking female was soon changed into a more eye-pleasing figure of a lithe and agile girl, clothed in only a scarf. One impetus for this change--or reversion to something closer to the original shape--might have been Durer's "Urania" of the early 16th century, which I put next to a modern version of the card, in which only the face has masculine features, reputedly taken from an old woodcut plate of the card. Androgyny is preserved.
The four creatures, in Jewish mysticism would of course be the four of Ezekiel's vision of the divine chariot.
Waite says that the idea that the card represents the Absolute--i.e. the En Sof--is "ridiculous". But if it is not the absolute, it is probably the entryway to that realm. It points to the En Sof.
The World. Body. Redemption accomplished. Reintegration into the divine unity. Matter rendered spiritual, glorious and divine. Reign of God. Holy Jerusalem. Perfection attained.Although "Body" is on the list, it is the body as spiritualized. As far as the physical world is concerned, it corresponds to the world of the Masonic future in which all are harmoniously engaged in creative labor that satisfies all three parts of the Platonic soul. It is rather like the communistic society of which Marx dreamed, but without violent class struggle, a victory of reason achieved through the heart, love and compassion, rather than hate.
Additionally, Wirth makes the point that on what he calls "the Italian" version of the card, there are four roses on the sides and top of the mandorla, which if joined form a cross (p. 146). That is a detail I had not noticed. It starts in the "Sforza Castle" card--which may be either Italian or French--and continues in the Noblet of c. 1450 Paris. Of these roses he says (p. 146):
Their sweet perfume charms souls and exalts their noble ardour, at the same time drawing them away from violence and ferocity. The rose befits the knights who put their strength and unshakable courage in the service of an ideal of pure love.He also relates these roses to the four brightest stars in the night sky, which are in the constellations of the Bull, the Lion, the Eagle, and the Fish. In the middle, he says, is the Pole Star, "the motionless state in the center of heavenly movement" (p. 146). (Given that her sash and legs suggest movement, at least around her center, I would rather see the Pole Star as the guide of travelers.) These constellations of course correspond to the four animals in the corners (Pisces being the sign of Christ and the Angel), whose connecting lines form an X, whose middle is in the same place as that of the cross. He concludes:
When we are penetrated with Divine Light, raised forever from our fall, we become full of enlightenment and we thus complete the cycle of our regeneration.I would add that the object for which the card is named is no longer at the top of the card, as in the all the other cards since Death, but in the center, i.e. in our centers. Correspondingly, the energy of this card is a contraction, from the whole body to its center, and also an ellipse around the body, as in the wreath in the card.
Case makes no explicit association between this card and a sefira, but surely his wording implies the either Kether or En Sof, or more likely both. For he says:
Like Wirth, Case relates this card to the sign of the cross, in that most of his meditation has to do with the letter Tau, the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which he says means "mark, or cross" (p. 189).
The end which is without end,
Even as the beginning.
Now the burden of the instruction is this:
End and Beginning are One.
"End and beginning are one", Case says. In the Magician card there were four suit-objects and one Magician, now (as for Waite, https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/ff/RWS_Tarot_21_World.jpg), there are the four creatures, with one baton-holder at the center.
I would add: and just as the Hanged Man bends his leg at the end of a rope, so the figure in the World bends hers in the dance. the sacrificed now the dancer.
In this regard there is a lovely poem by Mechtilde of Magdeburg, envisioning the Virgin in heaven as a dancer (I get this from "Jesus’ Round Dance and Crucifixion” by Max Pulver, translated by Ralph Mannheim, in The Mysteries: Papers from the Eranos Yearbooks, ed. Joseph Campbell, pp. 175-176). I reproduce it along with the Conver World card, very feminine in her nakedness.
Could a naked young woman, such as we see on the card, be an image of the Virgin Mary? I don't know. But Jesus's admonition that unless we are as little children, and the man casting off his garment (presumably a cloak) come to mind, as well as Recanati's insistence that spiritual beings "leave off their clothes" upon returning from the inferior world (see my comments on the Sun card). Moreover, Christian paintings of the Last Judgment typically made souls both above and below nude. Michelangelo even had a nude Christ in his. Yet the Virgin was not so portrayed, out of respect for her modesty. Of prominent women saints, the only one painted nude that I can think of is Mary Magdalene, although often fully covered by her red hair. Since the Church held that she was formerly a prostitute, artists had some license. But in the context of the mandorla and the creatures, she is unlikely as the subject of the World card, unless by chance someone wanted to elevate her to the Virgin's status.
Next to the Conver card I have put a Coronation of the Virgin surrounded by the four creatures. This comes from a late edition (certainly after 1453, judging from the two-headed eagle that was adopted by the Empire after the fall of Constantinople) of the Heilege Dreifaltigkeit, a book of "spiritual alchemy" originally sponsored by the father of the Duchess of Mantua. Barbara of Brandenburg (1422-1481); John of Brandenburg was reputed to be a practicing alchemist (see Wikipedia). Here the Virgin is clothed in more than a scarf, but again, that is for modesty's sake; they don't take their clothes with them.
In Mechtilde's poem, she first has the Lord saying:
Maiden, dance as deftly before me as my elect has danced before thee.And the Virgin replies:
I would not dance, Lord, unless thou leadest me.This would seem to recapitulate the fourth through first sefiroth, if not beyond.
Wouldst thou that I spring mightily,
Then must thou sing for me.
Thus will I leap into love,
From love into knowledge,
From knowledge into joy,
From joy beyond all human senses.
In the following section are fuller versions of the quotations from the pre-1550 sources, including much I have omitted here.