One cannot make an in-depth study of the Tarot without mentioning that body of ancient knowledge known as the Qabalah. This mystical tradition is the foundation upon which the modern Hermetic Tarot rests. Indeed, the cards of the Tarot can be used as windows through which one can explore and better understand the Qabalah, the complexity of which might frustrate many students. Whether or not the original creators of the Tarot intended to create a pictorial system that would explain the basic principles of the Qabalah is unimportant. It is irrefutably evident that the two systems fit together so completely that one explains the other, and both point to the same Divine Truths. What will be given in this chapter is a brief look at Qabalah basics and how they correspond to the make-up of the Tarot and to specific cards. Total absorption of the material given on the following pages of this chapter will reward the reader many times over in his/her quest for Tarot knowledge as well as spiritual growth.
"Qabalah" is a Hebrew word which means "tradition." No one knows where or when this doctrine of ancient knowledge came into being. What is known is that it existed for many years as an oral tradition passed from mouth to ear, among the Hebrew priesthood, long before being written down. There are some elements of Egyptian and Chaldean influence buried in its archaic pages. In fact the Qabalah is a whole system of mystical knowledge which has influenced to some extent the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. At one point in its history, the Qabalah was condemned by Orthodox Judaism as being heretical, but its teachings were never lost. It regained popularity in the 19th century when Europe experienced an occult revival. In England, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn used the Qabalah as the heart and cornerstone of the Order's magickal foundation. The Qabalah as it exists today is a living and active philosophy of the entire Universe, the mind of God, and the spirituality of humankind. It is a precise system that defines Cosmic Laws and shows us how to apply mystic principles to mundane life. This is a universal Qabalah, which can be studied by anyone of any faith to gain access to magickal techniques and spiritual knowledge through meditation.
The Qabalah is usually classified under four heads which overlap each other in some instances.
THE DOGMATIC QABALAH is comprised of the study of Qabalistic texts and literature including such famous ancient books as the Zohar, the Torah, and the Sepher Yetzirah.
THE PRACTICAL QABALAH deals with the construction of talismans in Ceremonial Magick.
THE LITERAL QABALAH deals with Gematria—the relationship between numbers and the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, which yield many hidden meanings of Hebrew words and names.
THE UNWRITTEN QABALAH refers to correct knowledge of the sacred symbol known as the Tree of Life. This book will concentrate on the Unwritten Qabalah because knowledge of the Tree of Life is crucial to proper understanding of the Tarot.
The Tree of Life (Etz ha-Chayim) is the most important symbol of the Qabalah. Just a glance at this diagram will reveal it to be a system of perfect mathematics, symmetry, and beauty. It is represented as ten circles known as Sephiroth, which are spheres or emanations of the Divine. Each sephirah is assigned a number from one to ten. The ten Sephiroth and the twenty-two paths which connect them are known together as the Thirty-Two Paths of Wisdom. The Sephiroth were formed from the Divine by means of the Flaming Sword or Lightning Bolt cutting through the veils of negativity, instantly creating the manifest universe in a brilliant flash of light. The twenty-two paths were formed by the ascent of the Serpent of Wisdom, the reflux current aspiring to reach the
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