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Tarot and ThROA, the Gate.


Aeon418

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On Page 4 of The Book of Thoth, Crowley says the Tarot is a symbolic picture of the Universe based on the Holy Qabalah. To illustrate this point he launches into a brief and highly technical explanation that frequently leaves many people confused.

 

Reading through Barleywine's 101 thread I noticed that he passed over it in silence, despite the fact that Lon DuQuette artfully dodged an explanation in his Thoth book. In my opinion this section of the Book of Thoth is not difficult to understand, but it is very concise and might benefit from a little unpacking.

 

Here goes.       

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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. It will be proper, later in this essay, to describe the Holy Qabalah somewhat fully, and to discuss relevant details. The part of it which is here relevant is called Gematria, a science in which the numerical value of a Hebrew word, each letter being also a number, links that word with others of the same value, or a multiple thereof. For example, AChD unity (1+8 +4) =13; and AHBH love (1+5+2+5)=13. This fact is held to indicate “The nature of Unity is Love”. Then IHVH Jehovah (10+5+6+5) = 26 = 2 x 13. Therefore: “Jehovah is Unity manifested in Duality.” And so forth. One important interpretation of Tarot is that it is a Notariqon of the Hebrew Torah, the Law; also of ThROA, the Gate. Now, by the Yetziratic attributions---see table at end---this word may be read The Universe---the new-born Sun---Zero. This is the true Magical Doctrine of Thelema: Zero equals Two. Also, by Gematria, the numerical value of ThROA is 671 = 61 x 11. Now 61 is AIN, Nothing or Zero; and 11 is the number of Magical Expansion; in this way also, therefore, ThROA announces that same dogma, the only satisfactory philosophical explanation of the Cosmos, its origin, mode, and object.

 

I first read The Book of Thoth back in the late 80's. At that time I was just getting into Tarot, Qabalah, Thelema, and the Western Mystery tradition in general. During my first reading of Aleister Crowley's masterpiece on the Tarot I quickly realised that he does not write for the complete beginner. The quote above is a classic example. As early as page 4 the casual reader is brought up short by a passage that might as well have been written in Egyptian hieroglyphs. It certainly confused the hell out of me. Back in the 80's I naively believed that if I read that passage again and again it would eventually make sense. I was wrong. 😄

 

In the intervening years I read more widely and deeply. My knowledge of Crowley's writings increased and I filled in many of the gaps in my knowledge. I picked up The Book of Thoth again and, as if by magic, the same passage that had baffled me previously was now understandable.

 

In 2003 the first edition of Lon Milo DuQuette's Thoth Tarot book was published. In my opinion Understanding Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot is a wonderful resource. I wish that it was available when I first started. While it does not attempt to replace The Book of Thoth, it does serve as a very useful entry into the subject. After doing it the hard way myself, "little bits of things you should know before beginning to study Aleister Crowley's Thoth Tarot" is a very respectable attempt at getting new readers up to speed. Armed with Lon's distillation of a variety of esoteric subjects anyone can approach The Book of Thoth with a fair degree of confidence. After reading Lon you're not going to understand everything, but you're not going to be completely lost either.

 

But if I have one criticism it is that Lon side-stepped any explanation of the "mystery passage" on page 4. Over the years I have spoken to numerous people who have stumbled over that part of Crowley's book. Some have used it as an excuse to skip all of the introductory material, while others have simply closed the book and never gone back. While not wishing to be overly critical of Lon, I feel he could have at least attempted a brief overview to clear up some of the confusion. Quoting a confused Frieda Harris with Crowley's seemingly high-handed reply in footnote 18, feels like a bit of a fudge to me.          

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It has just occurred to me that Lon DuQuette's Thoth Tarot book was reissued in 2017 in a new and expanded edition. I did not bother buying it after previous experience with some of Weiser Publishing's other "new editions," where they simply tack on a new introduction or an extra chapter, while the main text remains unchanged. I don't know whether that happened in this case but I would not be surprised if it did. 

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@Aeon418 I have the new edition of the UACTT. I compared it to my friend's old version, and I remember that aside from the preface, the main text is pretty much verbatim. You made a good call. 

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10 hours ago, Akhilleus said:

@Aeon418 I have the new edition of the UACTT. I compared it to my friend's old version, and I remember that aside from the preface, the main text is pretty much verbatim. You made a good call. 

 

Thanks, Akhilleus. I took a quick look at an online preview of the book last night. You're right. It's the older edition plus a new preface. The text of the two viewable chapters looked unchanged to me and the pagination listed on the contents page is identical.   

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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.

 

Right from the start Crowley asserts an identity between the Tarot and the Qabalah, or more specifically the "data" of the Qabalah. This "data" is also referred to later as the Yetziratic attributions. These are the so-called "correspondences" that are created when the Tree of Life is used as a classification system of both the Universe and the human condition. By this method of classification affinities and relationships are revealed between the objective Universe and subjective human experience. This is an expression of the hermetic axiom: As above, so below. Or in other words, the microcosm reflects the macrocosm and vice versa. (This is one reason why the Tarot is said to be one of the tools of the Magus of Atu I, the mediator between heaven and earth.) The Tarot is a pictorial representation of some of the more important correspondences, most of which can be found on page 278 onwards in The Book of Thoth. In my opinion Crowley stresses the "data" angle to draw a line between the Tarot as a practical tool of divination and meditation, and the many and varied and often convoluted theories and ideas that fall under the heading of Qabalah or Kabbalah as the case may be.

    

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It will be proper, later in this essay, to describe the Holy Qabalah somewhat fully, and to discuss relevant details. The part of it which is here relevant is called Gematria, a science in which the numerical value of a Hebrew word, each letter being also a number, links that word with others of the same value, or a multiple thereof.

For example, AChD unity (1+8+4)=13; and AHBH love (1+5+2+5)=13. This fact is held to indicate “The nature of Unity is Love”. Then IHVH Jehovah (10+5+6+5) = 26 = 2 x 13. Therefore: “Jehovah is Unity manifested in Duality.” And so forth.

 


The examples chosen to illustrate how Gematria works are not random. They are another way of expressing, "As above, so below." The connection to Tarot comes through the name IHVH. Traditionally this is one of the names of God in Judaism. But in the esoteric tradition this name is said to represent the manifest Universe under the symbolic categories of Fire, Water, Air, and Earth. Or Father, Mother, Son, Daughter. Anyone familiar with Tarot will immediately spot the connection with the Minor and Court cards. The inference that is being made here is that Tarot is a dualistic representation of the Ultimate Unity who's nature is Love, or the Union of Opposites. Here Crowley is hinting at his 0=2 formula. (More on that later.) But a Tarot reader might prefer to contemplate the relationship between Atu 0 - The Fool and Atu XXI - The Universe, where the Fool represents Unity unexpressed and the Universe is manifest duality. The implication is that the Tarot deck you are holding in your hand is a dualistic representation of the Supreme Unity, Divinity, the Absolute, etc. The One (or None) is the ALL under the guise of multiplicity. And, most importantly, it is a representation of YOU.

     

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One important interpretation of Tarot is that it is a Notariqon of the Hebrew Torah, the Law; also of ThROA, the Gate.

 

Strictly speaking Notariqon is a method of creating acronyms from the initial letters of words in sentences written in Hebrew, the magical alphabet of the Western Mystery tradition. This method can also be used in reverse to expand a word into a whole sentence or phrase. A well known example is the name AGLA found the Ritual of the Pentagram. This word is an acronym of Atah Gibbor le-Olam Adonai - "Thou art mighty, forever and ever, O Lord."

This isn't what Crowley is referring to here. Instead he is taking a non-standard and qabalistic spelling of Torah(Law) and rearranging the letters to make other words.

 

But beyond this letter manipulation, the Law/ThORA being referred to here is not the first 5 books of the Old Testament. This Law is more like universal Law, similar to the way Dharma is used in the East, where this indicates the nature of reality and the spiritual teachings that point the way to it's realization.

 

Th-O-R-A. - The corresponding Tarot cards are XXI - The Universe, XV - The Devil, XIX - The Sun, and 0 - The Fool.

 

Rearranging the letters of ThORA (Law) into ThROA - the Gate. Also possible is:

 

ThARO = Tarot.

ROThA = Wheel.

AThOR = Hathoor, Lady of Love (Venus). Atu III - The Empress. Tarot = "Her book."

ORATh = Prayer, reverence, devotion. (Latin: Oratio.)

ThORA = The Law. (A qabalistic spelling of the usual ThURH, Torah.) Equivalent to Dhamma/Dharma in the East.

ThROA = The Gate. A title of the 10th Sephira, Malkuth.

 

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Now, by the Yetziratic attributions---see table at end---this word may be read The Universe---the new-born Sun---Zero.

 

ThROA.

 

Th - XXI, The Universe, Tau.

R - XIX, The Sun, Resh.

O - XV, The Devil, Ayin. 

A - 0, The Fool, Aleph.

 

I think this symbolic meaning of the word ThROA is fairly self-explanatory, apart from the "new-born Sun" bit. Where does Crowley get that? Traditionally in the Northern hemisphere the Winter Solstice, at the Sun's entry into the sign of Capricorn, marks the rebirth of the Sun because the days begin to get longer. The sign of Capricorn corresponds to Atu XV - The Devil, the greatest darkness and also Lucifer, the light-bringer. It is Spirit incarnating in matter.

  

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This is the true Magical Doctrine of Thelema: Zero equals Two.

 

0=2 is Crowley's ontological theory. At the risk of grossly over simplifying, this formula is symbolic of the way the Absolute, Divinity, etc., seeks experience and self knowledge of it's limitless but latent possibilities and potential through limitation and duality. Using the language of Tarot we see the Fool entering the Universe to gain experience. Or flipping this around, it is the Universe seeking to experience itself from a unique point of view. "Every man and every woman is a star." The natural corollary to this is that each one of us is a necessary part of the universe but with a unique purpose. Everyone is ultimately the same and also totally different and unique at the same time. Unfortunately the price paid for this self knowledge is Sorrow (3 of Swords). Time, space, causality (karma), change and death are intrinsically part and parcel of the package tour we call life. In some respects this mirrors the biblical Garden of Eden story that uses symbolic and mythological language to show how Divinity willingly eats the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil (i.e. duality) and gets expelled as punishment. But Crowley's doctrine of Thelema asserts that there is no punishment for an imaginary Original Sin. You are here because, at a very deep level, you wanted to be here and are needed right where you are, right now. Crowley called this purpose, True Will. The awakening to this purpose and the ultimate realization that "existence is pure joy" is hidden in ThROA, the Gate, and it's numerical value of 671.

   

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Also, by Gematria, the numerical value of ThROA is 671 = 61 x 11. Now 61 is AIN, Nothing or Zero; and 11 is the number of Magical Expansion; in this way also, therefore, ThROA announces that same dogma, the only satisfactory philosophical explanation of the Cosmos, its origin, mode, and object.

 

61 is AIN, the Not, the Naught, the Void, the No-Thing, the Qabalistic Zero that both precedes and emanates the entire Tree of Life. 11 is symbolic of duality, 1<>1, and unity, 1 + (-1) =0. But it is also symbolic of the relationship and Union of Opposites that creates experience. (C.f. Atu XI) 11 is also 5 + 6 or the Union of the microcosm and the macrocosm, or love under will.

 

But 671 is also the sum of the letters Aleph, Daleth, Nun, and Yod spelt in full. (111+434+106+20 = 671.) These four letters spell ADNI in Hebrew. This is Adonai, the Lord, or what Crowley called the Holy Guardian Angel. With an eye on some of the other connections to 671 this can be summarised as the unique Way, the Truth, and the Life for each one of us. Tarot, being ThARO-671, is a key to this. And the Law, ThORA, is nothing other than this.

 

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

 

Love is the law, love under will.

 

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WHEEL AND---WHOA!

 

The Great Wheel of Samsara.

The Wheel of the Law. (Dhamma.)

The Wheel of the Taro.

The Wheel of the Heavens.

The Wheel of Life.

All these Wheels be one; yet of all these the Wheel of the TARO alone avails thee consciously. Meditate long and broad and deep, O man, upon this Wheel, revolving it in thy mind!

Be this thy task, to see how each card springs necessarily from each other card, even in due order from The Fool unto The Ten of Coins. Then, when thou know'st the Wheel of Destiny complete, may'st thou perceive THAT Will which moved it first. [There is no first or last.]

And lo! thou art past through the Abyss.

 

 

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Orath wouldn't work in Hebrew letters without an aleph, just sayin'. And in Latin, Orat means "he prays" so it doesn't really fit (infinitive orare).

 

And there is no ayin in Thora. You can't rearrange the letters of Thora into Throah, they're not the same letters in Hebrew. And there is no word in Hebrew written tav, resh, ayin, aleph. In Hebrew, gate is called shaar, שער. 

 

Thora is תורה tav, vav, resh, heh, and its Gematric value is 611. 

 

Thruah,  תרועהthe trumpet call, is tav, resh, vav, ayin, heh, and its Gematric value is 681. 

 

I have always suspected that Crowley didn't really know Hebrew. You can't rearrange Latin letters (that English uses) and do the same with Hebrew letters, the language doesn't work the same way. An A appears sometimes as end-heh, or as aleph, or as ayin. 

 

Oh, and another thing. Ayin can either be written like that: אין with an aleph and then it means "not", gematric value 61. Or it can be written עין with an ayin and then it means eye, gematric value 130. These are completely different words. 

 

And Adonai is written aleph, dalet, vav, nun, yud. You can't leave away the vav. It changes the gematric value. 

 

In short, this is very free use of a language that is the foundation of what he calls Holy Kabbalah. 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Nemia
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@Nemia I did mention that the spelling of Torah is non-standard. Beyond that, none of these manipulations of the letters of Tau, Resh, Ayin, and Aleph are specifically Crowley's. He took them from other sources. That they don't follow the rules of Hebrew grammar and syntax is beside the point. It is a means of conveyance for a specific doctrine. To some it is a creative art to use language in unorthodox ways to express THAT which is beyond language. But I understand that to others it completely invalidates everything. To each their own. I'm fine with that. 🙂  

 

BTW. The "Orat" bit is not Crowley's either. I borrowed that from Paul Foster Case.

 

And I think ThROA, the Gate, is Aramaic and not Hebrew.  

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Yes, it's Aramaic, many Aramaic words end on an aleph. 

 

Either you use Hebrew and the tradition of the Kabbalah which is anchored in the rules of the language, or you just play around creatively with letters from a language you don't know and treat these letters as though they function like the language you know. Both is possible. But if you disregard the Hebrew syntax and grammar, then say so upfront. Some of the authority of Crowley's writings is based on the fact that people who don't know Hebrew think that Crowley does. 

 

I'd have a lot more respect for the people who just take the English letters of Thora and juggle with them if they said: hey, this doesn't really work in Hebrew, but let's play. But Crowley doesn't do that. He dons the mantle of ancient wisdom. 

 

How much real truth do these games reveal if they're not based on anything but personal associations? Kabbalah is a strict discipline. In my opinion, you have to know a discipline very well to start making up your own rules. It's the same in art - you can't experiment competently with perspective and undermine it without first really understanding it. Once you do, start getting creative. 

 

You may think that's beside the point, okay, then let's agree to disagree. 

 

 

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@Nemia We will have to agree to disagree on different spellings of Adonai. The ADNI spelling appears in magical literature going back centuries. Of course you can argue that many of the authors where Gentile Christians, but not all of them. But it's harder to discount Jewish Kabbalists, performing exegesis on biblical Hebrew.  And that's ignoring the amount of cross pollination that took place. While there may have been a divergence between Jewish and Christian Cabalists somewhere around the middle ages, they were still influenced by one another.

 

But I do respectfully disagree with your characterisation of other peoples perceptions of Crowley vis a vis ThORA. The spelling did not originate with Crowley. Should he have apologised for someone else's work? He could have, but he didn't. But the thing is that ThORA is quite clearly a phonetic transliteration, not a translation. I find it a little hard to believe that Crowley would have smuggled it in hoping no one would notice.

 

It's possible to argue that transliteration is illegitimate and invalid, but there is historical precedence for this. As chance would have it I recently read about a 2000 year old example in Tobias Churton's new book, Aleister Crowley in Paris. On page 250 Churton references a recent deciphering of a combined Hebrew and Greek gematria in John 21:11's miraculous draft of 153 fish.

 

Personally I've long thought 153 was somehow linked to Atu XVII - The Star because 153 is the sum of the numbers 1 to 17. This along with the old attribution to the path of Tzaddi the Fish hook was intriguing, but I could get no further and the gematria for the number is unconvincing. (I'm not suggesting that the writers of the Gospels had this in mind either.) However, Tuvia Fogel has recently put forward the idea that it is really a phonetic code.

 

All learned Jews of that time knew Greek. To write 153 in Hebrew using the smallest combination of letters gives you 18 possible combinations. And not one of them is a real word. But one combination is significant. Ayin, Gimel, Peh. Pronounced, it makes A-ga-pe, the Greek word for Love. In the following verses, Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves him, using the Greek word for love. I find this fascinating given that Crowley, without knowing the 153 link, moved the Star to the path of Heh, the path of the Fixed Mercury or the Will made conscious. In Greek, Agape = 93 = Thelema.

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Oh, I agree with a lot of your points! I'm a Thothie and will always be, and Crowley was inspired, no doubt, and it all makes sense somehow. Only when I feel that he does violence to the Hebrew language that I know very well and love, I shake my head. I don't want to derail this thread and take my two pet peeves over to my journal 😄 

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8 hours ago, Serpentwand said:

Those wanting to explore for themselves might like this online Gematria Calculator.

 

For example, using Hebrew Gematria,

 

Aleister Crowley = 1768 = The Son Of Light Jesus Christ 🙀.

 

I have no idea how that site works. Looking at the number values it assigns to the letters makes no sense to me. Just looking at the name "Aleister" is a puzzle.

 

A = 1 = Aleph. Ok, fine.

L = 20? But L = Lamed = 30.

E = 5? If we assume E = Heh.

I = 9? But Yod is 10 not 9.

S = 90? Tzaddi is 90. But Samech, 60 is closer to the English S.

T = 100? Teth is 9. Where do they get 100 from?

E = 5/Heh.

R = 800? Resh is 200. Where did the extra 600 come from?

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I wouldn't spell Aleister with a he in the middle. The he is only for -e or -a at the end of a word. I'd write it 

 

אלייסטר Aleister 

aleph, lamed, yod, samech, tet, resh

 

קראולי Crowley

kaf, resh, aleph, vav, lamed, yod

 

This is also the way it's spelled on Hebrew Wikipedia

 

Using a Gematria calculator that I find reliable, Aleister is 310 and Crowley is 347. 

 

If we feed the calculator with the number 310, we get a number of words with the same gematric value. 

 

It's a nice game to try with your own name, and see whether there are words with a strong meaning for your name. But actually, it's anchored so strongly in the language of the Hebrew Bible that it might seem a bit arbitrary to use it with non-Hebrew words or names. 

 

1768 is the result of the English letters. 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Nemia
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1 hour ago, Nemia said:

It's a nice game to try with your own name, and see whether there are words with a strong meaning for your name. But actually, it's anchored so strongly in the language of the Hebrew Bible that it might seem a bit arbitrary to use it with non-Hebrew words or names.

 

I agree. Gematria works best within the context of biblical Hebrew. And even then it has to used with care.

 

However, there are occasions when English-Hebrew transliteration is highly suggestive. For example we can look at the whole chain of ideas of unity and oneness that surround the Hebrew letter Aleph. Spelt in full it is ALPh = 111. Through a bit of unorthodox transliteration the English word "LOVE" can be rendered in Hebrew letters as LOVH (Lamed, Ayin, Vau, Heh.) This also has a numerical value of 111 (30+70+6+5) and points to the unity and oneness of love.

 

Is this really valid within the context of Hebrew Gematria? Of course not. But it is highly suggestive and illuminating if used with care within a particular and well defined symbolic framework.  

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If anyone is interested in the spelling of their name in Hebrew, you can write me, either here or as PM. I'm busy but I'll try to answer quickly 😉 

 

Nemia is  נמיה and it's actually a Hebrew word - it's a mungo, and where we live, we see them a lot. Funny little animals. Gematric value: 105

 

In a Hebrew Gematria calculator, I can find Hebrew words with the same value. You can simply copy and paste the Hebrew word into the search menu and get Hebrew results. Google Translate (which I have installed as an extension in my browser) will give you the English meanings. "God is love" אלוהים אהבה is also 105, if we're looking at suggestive meanings. I confess, I like to look up these meanings and often try to calculate gematric values in my head. 

 

I'm not usually a numbers person, but the numerical values are part and parcel of the Hebrew alphabet. You use it to write words and numbers. I like that idea although it makes numbers a bit unwieldy. High numbers turn into long sequences of Hebrew letters. 

 

That's why Hebrew speakers turn these long sequences into words again. An example. Today is the 20. day of the month Elul in the year 5783.  

 

5783 is in Hebrew letters תשפ"ג - tav, shin, peh, gimel. In order to save ourselves the breath to say this long sequence, we turn it into a word by adding vowels; usually the a. So right now, the year is tashpag. We use these strange number-words for academic years or school years that start in September like the Hebrew New Year. 

 

This is just to explain how deeply ingrained the relationship between numbers and words is in Hebrew. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Natural Mystic Guide said:

I cannot use the calculator because I no longer have a Hebrew keyboard.


Maybe you can calculate the number manually using the table then put that in.

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12 hours ago, Serpentwand said:

Maybe you can calculate the number manually using the table then put that in.

 

But that still requires a number in the first place.

 

English to Hebrew transliteration, and vice versa, is based on phonetics. It's not translation. You're basically trying to create a spelling of a name or a word in one language that 'sounds' similar when spoken in another language. Because of this there's always a possibility that different spellings can be obtained. 

 

This is how Crowley managed to get two different spellings of his name to total 666. 

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