The Symbolism of the Tarot
|The work below was sent to me by an anonymous contributor. From what I was told it
is an excerpt from a much larger piece of work by P. D. Ouspensky that was published in
the early part of the 20th Century.
Apparently Ouspensky rearranged the cards
of the Major Arcana and then gave his imagination free rein to journey through them. The
text below is the result of his venture. The writing is quite eloquent at times and
certainly merits an audience. The cards and descriptions are presented in the same order
as the author used.
I Saw the Man.
His figure reached from earth to heaven and was clad in a purple mantle. He stood deep in
foliage and flowers and his head, on which was the head-band of an initiate, seemed to
disappear mysteriously in infinity.
Before him on a cube-shaped altar were four symbols of magic--the sceptre, the cup, the
sword and the pentacle.
His right hand pointed to heaven, his left to earth. Under his mantle he wore a white
tunic girded with a serpent swallowing its tail.
His face was luminous and serene, and, when his eyes met mine, I felt that he saw most
intimate recesses of my soul. I saw myself reflected in him as in a mirror and in his eyes
I seemed to look upon myself.
And I heard a voice saying:
--"Look, this is the Great Magician!
With his hands he unites heaven and earth, and the four elements that form the world are
controlled by him.
The four symbols before him are the four letters of the name of God, the signs of the four
elements, fire, water, air, earth."
I trembled before the depth of the mysteries touched... The words I heard seemed to be
littered by the Great Magician himself, and it was as though he spoke in me.
I was in deep trepidation and at moment I felt there was nothing, before me except the
blue sky; but within me a window opened through which I could see unearthly things. and
hear unearthly words.
And I saw another man.
Tired and lame he dragged himself along the dusty road, across the deserted plain under
the scorching rays of the sun. He glanced sidelong with foolish, staring eyes, a half
smile, half leer on his face; he knew not where he went, but was absorbed in his
chimerical dreams which ran constantly in the same circle. His fool's cap was put on wrong
side front, his garments were torn in the back; a wild lynx with glowing eyes sprang upon
him from behind a rock and buried her teeth in his flesh. He stumbled, nearly fell, but
continued to drag himself along, all the time holding on his shoulder a bag containing
useless things, which he, in his stupidity, carried wherever he went.
Before him a crevice crossed the road and a deep precipice awaited the foolish wanderer.
Then a huge crocodile with open mouth crawled out of the precipice. And I heard the voice
say:--"Look! This is the same man."
I felt my head whirl.
"What has he in the bag?" I inquired, not knowing why I asked. And after a long
silence the voice replied: "The four magic symbols, the sceptre, the cup, the sword
and the pentacle. The fool always carries them, although he has long since forgotten what
they mean. Nevertheless they belong to him, even though he does not know their use. The
symbols have not lost their power, they retain it in themselves.
When I lifted the first veil and entered the outer court of the Temple of Initiation, I
saw in half darkness the figure of a woman sitting on a high throne between two pillars of
the temple, one white, and one black. Mystery emanated from her and was about her. Sacred
symbols shone on her green dress; on her head was a golden tiara surmounted by a
two-horned moon; on her knees she held two crossed keys and an open book. Between the two
pillars behind the woman hung another veil all embroidered with green leaves and fruit of
And a voice said: "To enter the Temple one must lift the second veil and pass between
the two pillars. And to pass thus, one must obtain possession of the keys, read the book
and understand the symbols. Are you able to do this?"
"I would like to be able," I said.
Then the woman turned her face to me and looked into my eyes without speaking. And through
me passed a thrill, mysterious and penetrating like a golden wave; tones vibrated in my
brain, a flame was in my heart, and I understood that she spoke to me, saying without
"This is the Hall of Wisdom. No one can reveal it, no one can hide it. Like a flower
it must grow and bloom in thy soul. If thou wouldst plant the seed of this flower in thy
soul--learn to discern the real from the false. Listen only to the Voice that is
soundless... Look only on that which is invisible, and remember that in thee thyself, is
the Temple and the gate to it, and the mystery, and the initiation."
An unexpected vision appeared to me. A circle not unlike a wreath woven from rainbow and
lightning, whirled from heaven to earth with a stupendous, velocity, blinding me by its
brilliance. And amidst this light and fire I heard music and soft singing, thunderclaps
and the roar of a tempest, the rumble of falling mountains and earthquakes.
The circle whirled with a terrifying noise, touching the sun and the earth, and, in the
centre of it I saw the naked, dancing figure of a beautiful young woman, enveloped by a
light, transparent scarf, in her hand she held a magic wand.
Presently the four apocalyptical beasts began to appear on the edges of the circle; one
with the face of a lion, another with the face of a man, the third, of an eagle and the
fourth, of a bull.
The vision disappeared as suddenly as it appeared. A weird silence fell on me. "What
does it mean?" I asked in wonder.
"It is the image of the world," the voice said, "but it can be understood
only after the Temple has been entered. This is a vision of the world in the circle of
Time, amidst the four principles. But thou seest differently because thou seest the world
outside thyself. Learn to see it in thyself and thou wilt understand the infinite essence,
hidden in all illusory forms. Understand that the world which thou knowest is only one of
the aspects of the infinite world, and things and phenomena are merely hieroglyphics of
I felt the breath of the spring, and accompanying the fragrance of violets and
lilies-of-the-valley I heard the tender singing of elves. Rivulets murmured, the treetops
rustled, the grasses whispered, innumerable birds sang in choruses and bees hummed;
everywhere I felt the breathing of joyful, living Nature.
The sun shone tenderly and softly and a little white cloud hung over the woods.
In the midst of a green meadow where primroses bloomed, I saw the Empress seated on a
throne covered with ivy and lilacs. A green wreath adorned her golden hair and, above her
head, shone twelve stars. Behind her rose two snowy wings and in her hands she held a
sceptre. All around, beneath the sweet smile of the Empress, flowers and buds opened their
dewy, green leaves. Her whole dress was covered with them as though each newly opened
flower were reflected in it or had engraved itself thereon and thus become part of her
The sign of Venus, the goddess of love, was chiseled on her marble throne.
"Queen of life," I said, "why is it so bright and joyful all about you? Do
you not know of the grey, weary autumn, of the cold, white winter? Do you not know of
death and graveyards with black graves, damp and cold? How can you smile so joyfully on
the opening flowers, when everything is destined to death, even that which has not yet
For answer the Empress looked on me still smiling and, under the influence of that smile,
I suddenly felt a flower of some clear understanding open in my heart.
I saw an ice plain, and on the horizon, a chain of snowy mountains. A cloud appeared and
began to grow until it covered a quarter of the sky. Two fiery wings suddenly expanded in
the cloud, and I knew that I beheld the messenger of the Empress.
He raised a trumpet and blew through it vibrant, powerful tones. The plain quivered in
response to him and the mountains loudly rolled their echoes. One after another, graves
opened in the plain and out of them came men and women, old and young, and children. They
stretched out their arms toward the Messenger of the Empress and to catch the sounds of
And in its tones I felt the smile of the Empress and in the opening graves I saw the
opening flowers whose fragrance seemed to be wafted by the outstretched arms.
Then I understood the mystery of birth in death.
After I learned the first three numbers I was given to understand the Great Law of
Four--the alpha and omega of all.
I saw the Emperor on a lofty stone throne, ornamented by four rams' heads. On his forehead
shone a golden helmet. His white beard fell over a purple mantle. In one hand he held a
sphere, the symbol of his possession, and in the other, a sceptre in the form of an
Egyptian cross--the sign of his power over birth.
"I am The Great Law," the Emperor said. "I am the name of God. The four
letters of his name are in me and I am in all.
"I am in the four principles. I am in the four elements. I am in the four seasons. I
am in the four cardinal points. I am in the four signs of the Tarot.
"I am the beginning; I am action; I am completion; I am the result.
"For him who knows how to see me there are no mysteries on earth.
"I am the great Pentacle.
"As the earth encloses in itself fire, water and air; as the fourth letter of the
Name encloses in itself the first three and becomes itself the first, so my sceptre
encloses the complete triangle and bears in itself the seed of a new triangle.
"I am the Logos in the full aspect and the beginning of a new Logos."
And while the Emperor spoke, his helmet shone brighter and brighter, and his golden armor
gleamed beneath his mantle. I could not bear his glory and I lowered my eyes.
When I tried to lift them again a vivid light of radiant fire was before me, and I
prostrated myself and made obeisance to the Fiery Word.
As soon as I perceived the Sun, I understood that It, Itself, is the expression of the
Fiery Word and the sign of the Emperor.
The great luminary shone with an intense heat upon the large golden heads of sun-flowers.
And I saw a naked boy, whose head was wreathed with roses, galloping on a white horse and
waving a bright-red banner.
I shut my eyes for a moment and when I opened them again I saw that each ray of the Sun is
the sceptre of the Emperor and bears life. And I saw how under the concentration of these
rays the mystic flowers of the waters open and receive the rays into themselves and how
all Nature is constantly born from the union of two principles.
I saw a chariot drawn by two sphinxes, one white, the other black. Four pillars supported
a blue canopy, on which were scattered five-pointed stars. The Conqueror, clad in steel
armor, stood under this canopy guiding the sphinxes. He held a sceptre, on the end of
which were a globe, a triangle and a square. A golden pentagram sparkled in his crown. On
the front of the chariot there was represented a winged sphere and beneath that the symbol
of the mystical lingam, signifying the union of two principles.
"Everything in this picture has a significance. Look and try to understand",
said the voice. "This is Will armed with Knowledge. We see here, however, the wish to
achieve, rather than achievement itself. The man in the chariot thought himself a
conqueror before he had really conquered, and he believes that victory must come to the
conqueror. There are true possibilities in this beautiful conception, but also many false
ones. Illusory fires and numerous dangers are hidden here.
He controls the sphinxes by the power of a magic word, but the tension of his Will may
fail and then the magic word will lose its power and he may be devoured by the sphinxes.
This is indeed the Conqueror, but only for the moment; he has not yet conquered Time, and
the succeeding moment is unknown to him.
This is the Conqueror, not by love, but by fire and the sword,--a conqueror against whom
the conquered may arise. Do you see behind him the towers of the conquered city? Perhaps
the flame of uprising burns already there.
And he is unaware that the city vanquished by means of fire and the sword is the city
within his own consciousness, that the magic chariot is in himself and that the
blood-thirsty sphinxes, also a state of consciousness within, watch his every movement. He
has externalized all these phases of his mind and sees them only outside himself. This is
his fundamental error. He entered the outer court of the Temple of knowledge, but thinks
he has been in the Temple itself. He regarded the rituals of the first tests as
initiation, and he mistook for the goddess, the priestess who guarded the threshold.
Because of this misconception great perils await him.
Nevertheless it may be that even in his errors and perils the Great Conception lies
concealed. He seeks to know and, perhaps, in order to attain, mistakes, dangers and even
failures are necessary.
Understand that this is the same man whom you saw uniting Heaven and Earth, and again
walking across a hot desert to a precipice.
A desolate plain stretched before me. A full moon looked down as if in contemplative
hesitation. Under her wavering light the shadows lived their own peculiar life. On the
horizon I saw blue hills, and over them wound a path which stretched between two grey
towers far away into the distance. On either side the path a wolf and dog sat and howled
at the moon. I remembered that dogs believe in thieves and ghosts. A large black crab
crawled out of the rivulet into the sands. A heavy, cold dew was falling.
Dread fell upon me. I sensed the presence of a mysterious world, a world of hostile
spirits, of corpses rising from graves, of wailing ghosts. In this pale moonlight I seemed
to feel the presence of apparitions; someone watched me from behind the towers,--and I
knew it was dangerous to look back.
I saw a blooming garden in a green valley, surrounded by soft blue hills.
In the garden I saw a Man and a Woman naked and beautiful. They loved each other and their
Love was their service to the Great Conception, a prayer and a sacrifice; through It they
communed with God, through It they received the highest revelations; in Its light the
deepest truths came to them; the magic world opened its gate; elves, undines, sylphs and
gnomes came openly to them; the three kingdoms of nature, the mineral, plant and animal,
and the four elements--fire, water, air and earth-served them.
Through their Love they saw the mystery of the world's equilibrium, and that they
themselves were a symbol and expression of this balance. Two triangles united in them into
a six-pointed star. Two magnets melted into an ellipsis. They were two. The third was the
Unknown Future. The three made One.
I saw the woman looking out upon the world as though enraptured with its beauty. And from
the tree on which ripened golden fruit I saw a serpent creep. It whispered in the woman's
ear, and I saw her listening, smiling at first suspiciously, then with curiosity which
merged into joy. Then I saw her speak to the man. I noticed that he seemed to admire only
her and smiled with an expression of joy and sympathy at all she told him.
"This picture you see, is a picture of temptation and fall", said the voice.
"What constitutes the Fall? Do you understand its nature"?
"Life is so good", I said, "and the world so beautiful, and this man and
woman wanted to believe in the reality of the world and of themselves. They wanted to
forget service and take from the world what it can give. So they made a distinction
between themselves and the world. They said, 'We are here, the world is there'. And the
world separated from them and became hostile."
"Yes", said the Voice, this is true. "The everlasting mistake with men is
that they see the fall in love. But Love is not a fall, it is a soaring above an abyss.
And the higher the flight, the more beautiful and alluring appears the earth. But that
wisdom, which crawls on earth, advises belief in the earth and in the present. This is the
Temptation. And the man and woman yielded to it. They dropped from the eternal realms and
submitted to time and death. The balance was disturbed. The fairyland was closed upon
them. The elves, undines, sylphs and gnomes became invisible.
The Face of God ceased to reveal Itself to them, and all things appeared upside down.
"This Fall, this first 'sin of man', repeats itself perpetually, because man
continues to believe in his separateness and in the Present. And only by means of great
suffering can he liberate himself from the control of time and return to Eternity--leave
darkness and return to Light".
A strange emotion seized me. A fiery trembling ran in waves through all my body. My heart
quickened its beating, tumult agitated my mind.
I felt that I was surrounded by portentous mysteries. And presently shafts of Light
penetrated my being and illuminated many things before in darkness, whose existence even I
had never suspected. Veils vanished of which I had been before unaware. Voices spoke to
me. And suddenly all my former knowledge took a new and different meaning.
I discovered unexpected correlations in things which hitherto I had thought foreign to
each other. Objects distant and different from one another appeared near and similar. The
facts of the world arranged themselves before my eyes according to a new pattern.
In the sky there appeared an enormous star surrounded by seven smaller stars. Their rays
intermingled, filling space with immeasurable radiance and splendor. Then I knew I saw
that Heaven of which Plotinus speaks: "Where . . . all things are diaphanous; and
nothing is dark and resisting, but everything is apparent to every one internally and
throughout. For light everywhere meets with light, since everything contains all things in
itself, and again sees all things in another. So that all things are everywhere, and all
is all. Each thing likewise is everything. And the splendor there is infinite. For
everything there is great, since even that which is small is great.
"The sun too, which is there, is all the stars; and again each star is the sun and
all the stars. In each however, a different property predominates, but at the same time
all things are visible in each. Motion likewise there is pure; for motion is not
confounded by a mover different from it. Permanency also suffers no change of its nature,
because it is not mingled with the unstable. And the beautiful there is beautiful, because
it does not subsist in beauty. Each thing, too, is there established, not as in a foreign
land, but the seat of each thing is that which each thing is. . . . . Nor is the thing
itself different from the place in which it subsists. For the subject of it is intellect,
and it is itself intellect. . . . In this sensible region, therefore, one part is not
produced by another, but each part is alone a part. But there each part always proceeds
from the whole, and is at the same each time part and the whole. For it appears indeed as
a part; but by him whose sight is acute, it will be seen as a whole.
"Where . . . is likewise no weariness of the vision which Is there, not any plenitude
of perception which can bring intuition to an end.
"For neither was there any vacuity which when filled might cause the visible energy
to cease; nor is this one thing, but that another, so as to occasion a part of one thing
not to be amicable with that of another.
"Where . . . the life is wisdom; a wisdom not obtained by a reasoning process,
because the whole of it always was, and is not in any respect deficient, so as to be in
want of investigation. But it is the first wisdom, and is not derived from another".
I understood that all the radiance here is thought; and the changing colors are emotions.
And each ray, if we look into it, turns into images, symbols, voices and moods. And I saw
that there is nothing inanimate, but all is soul, all is life, all is emotion and
And beneath the radiant stars beside the blue river I saw a naked maiden, young and
beautiful. She stooped on one knee and poured water from two vessels, one of gold and one
of silver. A little bird in a near by bush lifted its wings and was poised ready to fly
For a moment I understood that I beheld the Soul of Nature.
"This is Nature's Imagination," said the voice gently. "Nature dreams,
improvises, creates worlds. Learn to unite your imagination with Her Imagination
and nothing will ever be impossible for you. Lose the external world and seek it in
yourself. Then you will find Light. "But remember, unless you have lost the Earth,
you will not find Heaven. It is impossible to see both wrongly and rightly at the same
I saw the great Master in the Temple. He was sitting on a golden throne set upon a purple
platform, and he wore the robe of a high priest with a golden tiara. He held a golden
eight-pointed cross, and lying at his feet were two crossed keys. Two initiates bowed
before him and to them he spoke:-- "Seek the Path, do not seek attainment, Seek for
the Path within yourself."
"Do not expect to hear the truth from others, nor to see it, or read it in books.
Look for the truth in yourself, not without yourself.
"Aspire only after the impossible and inaccessible. Expect only that which shall not
"Do not hope for Me,--do not look for Me,--do not believe--that I am outside
"Within your soul build a lefty tower by which you may ascend to Heaven. Do not
believe in external miracles, expect miracles only within you. Beware of believing in a
mystery of the earth, in a mystery guarded by men; for treasuries which must be guarded
are empty. Do not search for a mystery that can be hidden by men. Seek the Mystery within
"Above all, avoid those towers built in order to preserve the mysteries and to make
an ascent to Heaven by stone stairways. And remember that as soon as men build such a
tower they begin to dispute about the summit."
"The Path is in yourself, and Truth is in yourself and Mystery is in yourself."
I saw a lofty tower extending from earth to heaven; its golden crowned summit reached
beyond the clouds. All round it black night reigned and thunder rumbled.
Suddenly the heavens opened, a thunder-clap shook the whole earth, and lightning struck
the summit of the tower and felled the golden crown. A tongue of fire shot from heaven and
the whole tower became filled with fire and smoke. Then I beheld the builders of the tower
fall headlong to the ground.
And the voice said:--
"The building of the tower was begun by the disciples of the great Master in order to
have a constant reminder of the Master's teaching that the true tower must be built in
one's own soul, that in the tower built by hands there can be no mysteries that no one can
ascend to Heaven by treading stone steps.
"The tower should warn the people not to believe in it. It should serve as a reminder
of the inner Temple and as a protection against the outer; it should be as a lighthouse,
in a dangerous place where men have often been wrecked and where ships should not
"But by and by the disciples forgot the true covenant of the Master and what the
tower symbolized, and began to believe in the tower of stone, they had built, and to teach
others to so believe. They began to say that in this tower there is power, mystery and the
spirit of the Master, that the tower itself is holy and that it is built for the coming
Master according to His covenant and His will. And so they waited in the tower for the
Master. Others did not believe this, or interpreted it differently. Then began disputes
about the rights of the summit. Quarrels started, 'Our Master, your Master,' was said;
'our tower, your tower.' And the disciples ceased to understand each other. Their tongues
had become confused.
"You understand the meaning here? They had begun to think that this is the tower of
the Master, that He builds it through them, and that it must and, indeed, can be built
right up to Heaven.
"And you see how Heaven responded?"
In the midst of a green plain, surrounded by blue hills, I saw a woman with a lion.
Girdled with wreaths of roses, a symbol of infinity over her head, the woman calmly and
confidently covered the lion's mouth and the lion obediently licked her hand.
"This is a picture of power", said the voice. "It has different meanings.
First it shows the power of love. Love alone can conquer wrath. Hatred feeds hatred.
Remember what Zarathustra said: "Let man be freed from vengeance; this is a bridge
for me which leads to higher hope and a rainbow in heaven after long storms".
"Then it shows power of unity. These wreaths of roses suggest a magic chain. Unity of
desires, unity of aspirations creates such power that every wild, uncontrolled,
unconscious force is subdued. Even two desires, if united, are able to conquer almost the
"The picture also shows the power of infinity, that sphere of mysteries. For a
consciousness that perceives the symbol of infinity above it, knows no obstacles and
cannot be withstood".
Black, awful night enveloped the earth. An ominous, red flame burned in the distance. I
was approaching a fantastic figure which outlined itself before me as I came nearer to it.
High above the earth appeared the repulsive red face of the Devil, with large, hairy ears,
pointed beard and curved goats' horns. A pentagram, pointing downwards, shone in
phosphoric light between the horns on his forehead. Two large, grey, bat-like wings were
spread behind him. He held up one arm, spreading out his bare, fat hand. In the palm I saw
the sign of black magic. A burning torch held down-end in his other hand emitted black,
stifling smoke. He sat on a large, black cube, gripping it with the claws of his
beast-like, shaggy legs.
A man and woman were chained to the cube--the same Man and Woman I saw in the garden, but
now they had horns and tails tipped with flame. And they were evidently dissatisfied in
spirit, and were filled with protest and repulsion.
"This is a picture of weakness", said the voice, "a picture of falsehood
and evil. They are the same man and woman you saw in the garden, but their love ceasing to
be a sacrifice, became an illusion. This man and woman forgot that their love is a link in
the chain that unites them with eternity, that their love is a symbol of equilibrium and a
road to Infinity.
"They forgot that It is a key to the gate of the magic world, the torch which lights
the higher Path. They forgot that Love is real and immortal and they subjugated it to the
unreal and temporary. And they each made love a tool for submitting the other to
"Then love became dissension and fettered them with iron chains to the black cube of
matter, on which sits deceit".
And I heard the voice of the Devil: "I am Evil", he said, "at least so far
as Evil can exist in this best of worlds. In order to see me, one must be able to see
unfairly, incorrectly and narrowly. I close the triangle, the other two sides of which are
Death and Time. In order to quit this triangle it is necessary to see that it does not
"But how to do this is not for me to tell. For I am the Evil which men say is the
cause of all evil and which they invented as an excuse for all the evil that they
"They call me the Prince of Falsehood, and truly I am the prince of lies, because I
am the most monstrous production of human lies".
After long wanderings over a sandy, waterless desert where only serpents lived, I met the
He was wrapped in a long cloak, a hood thrown over his head. He held a long staff in one
hand and in the other a lighted lantern, though it was broad daylight and the sun was
"The lantern of Hermes Trismegistus", said the voice, "this is higher
knowledge, that inner knowledge which illuminates in a new way even what appears to be
already clearly known. This lantern lights up the past, the present and the future for the
Hermit, and opens the souls of people and the most intimate recesses. of their
"The cloak of Apollonius is the faculty of the wise man by which he isolates himself,
even amidst a noisy crowd; it is his skill in hiding his mysteries, even while expressing
them, his capacity for silence and his power to act in stillness.
"The staff of the patriarchs is his inner authority, his power, his
The lantern, the cloak and the staff are the three symbols of initiation. They are
needed to guide souls past the temptation of illusory fires by the roadside, so that they
may go straight to the higher goal. He who receives these three symbols or aspires to
obtain them, "strives to enrich himself with all he can acquire, not for himself,
but, like God, to delight in the joy of giving".
"The giving virtue is the basis of an initiate's life.
"His soul is transformed into 'a spoiler of all treasures' so said Zarathustra.
"Initiation unites the human mind with the higher mind by a chain of analogies. This
chain is the ladder leading to heaven, dreamed of by the patriarch".
An angel in a white robe, touching earth and heaven, appeared. His wings were flame and a
radiance of gold was about his head. On his breast he wore the sacred sign of the book of
the Tarot--a triangle within a square, a point within the triangle; on his forehead the
symbol of life and eternity, the circle.
In one hand was a cup of silver, in the other a cup of gold and there flowed between these
cups a constant, glistening stream of every color of the rainbow. But I could not tell
from which cup nor into which cup the stream flowed.
In great awe I understood that I was near the ultimate mysteries from which there is no
return. I looked upon the angel, upon his symbols, his cups, the rainbow stream between
the cups,--and my human heart trembled with fear and my human mind shrank with anguish and
lack of understanding.
"Yes", said the voice, "this is a mystery that is revealed at Initiation.
'Initiation' is simply the revealing of this mystery in the soul. The Hermit receives the
lantern, the cloak and the staff so that he can bear the light of this mystery.
"But you probably came here unprepared. Look then and listen and try to understand,
for now understanding is your only salvation. He who approaches the mystery without
complete comprehension will be lost.
"The name of the angel is Time. The circle on his forehead is the symbol of eternity
and life. Each life is a circle which returns to the same point where it began. Death is
the return to birth. And from one point to another on the circumference of a circle the
distance is always the same, and the further it is from one point, the nearer it will be
to the other.
"Eternity is a serpent, pursuing its tail, never catching it.
"One of the cups the angel holds is the past, the other is the future. The rainbow
stream between the cups is the present. You see that it flows both ways.
"This is Time in its most incomprehensible aspect.
"Men think that all flows constantly in one direction. They do not see that
everything perpetually meets and that Time is a multitude of turning circles. Understand
this mystery and learn to discern the contrary currents in the rainbow stream of the
"The symbol of the sacred book of the Tarot on the angel's breast is the symbol of
the correlation of God, Man and the Universe.
"The triangle is God, the world of spirit, the world of ideas. The point within the
triangle is the soul of man. The square is the visible world.
"The consciousness of man is the spark of divinity, a point within the triangle of
spirit. Therefore the whole square of the visible universe is equal to the point within
"The world of spirit is the triangle of the twenty-one signs of the Tarot. The square
represents fire, air, water and earth, and thus symbolizes the world.
"All this, in the form of the four symbols, is in the bag of the Fool, who himself is
a point in a triangle. Therefore a point without dimension contains an infinite
I walked along, absorbed in deep thought, trying to understand the vision of the Angel.
And suddenly, as I lifted my head, I saw midway in the sky a huge, revolving circle
covered with Kabalistic letters and symbols. The circle turned with terrible velocity, and
around it, falling down and flying up, symbolic figures of the serpent and the dog
revolved; above it sat an immovable sphinx.
In clouds, on the four quarters of heaven, I saw the four apocalyptical beings, one with
the face of a lion, another with the face of a bull, the third with a face of an eagle,
and the fourth with the face of a bull. And each of them read an open book.
And I heard the voices of Zarathustra's beasts:-- "All go, all return,"--the
wheel of life ever turns. All die, all flourish again,--the year of existence runs
"All perish, all live again, the same house of existence is ever building. All
separate, all meet again, the ring of existence is ever true to itself.
"Existence begins at every moment. Round each "here" rolls
"there". The middle is everywhere. The way of eternity is a curve".
Fatigued by the flashing of the Wheel of Life, I sank to earth and shut my eyes. But it
seemed to me that the Wheel kept turning before me and that the four creatures continued
sitting in the clouds and reading their books.
Suddenly, on opening my eyes, I saw a gigantic rider on a white horse, dressed in black
armor, with a black helmet and black plume. A skeleton's face looked out from under the
helmet. One bony hand held a large, black, slowly-waving banner, and the other held a
black bridle ornamented with skulls and bones.
And, wherever the white horse passed, night and death followed; flowers withered, leaves
drooped, the earth covered itself with a white shroud; graveyards appeared; towers,
castles and cities were destroyed.
Kings in the full splendor of their fame and their power; beautiful women loved and
loving; high priests invested by power from God; innocent children--when they saw the
white horse all fell on their knees before him, stretched out their hands in terror and
despair, and fell down to rise no more.
Afar, behind two towers, the sun sank.
A deadly cold enveloped me. The heavy hoofs of the horse seemed to step on my breast, and
I felt the world sink into an abyss.
But all at once something familiar, but faintly seen and heard, seemed to come from the
measured step of the horse. A moment more and I heard in his steps the movement of the
Wheel of Life!
An illumination entered me, and, looking at the receding rider and the descending sun, I
understood that the Path of Life consists of the steps of the horse of Death.
The sun sinks at one point and rises at another. Each moment of its motion is a descent at
one point and an ascent at another. I understood that it rises while sinking and sinks
while rising, and that life, in coming to birth, dies, and in dying, comes to birth.
"Yes," said the voice. The sun does not think of its going down and coming up.
What does it know of earth, of the going and coming observed by men? It goes its own way,
over its own orbit, round an unknown Centre. Life, death, rising and falling--do you not
know that all these things are thoughts and dreams and fears of the Fool"?
When I possessed the keys, read the book and understood the symbols, I was permitted to
lift the curtain of the Temple and enter. its inner sanctum. And there I beheld a Woman
with a crown of gold and a purple mantle. She held a sword in one hand and scales in the
other. I trembled with awe at her appearance, which was deep and mysterious, and drew me
like an abyss.
"You see Truth," said the voice. "On these scales everything is weighed.
This sword is always raised to guard justice, and nothing can escape it.
"But why do you avert your eyes from the scales and the sword? They will remove the
last illusions. How could you live on earth without these illusions?
"You wished to see Truth and now you behold it! But remember what happens to the
mortal who beholds a Goddess!"
And then I saw a man in terrible suffering, hung by one leg, head downward, to a high
tree. And I heard the voice:--
"Look! This is a man who saw Truth. Suffering awaits the man on earth, who finds the
way to eternity and to the understanding of the Endless.
"He is still a man, but he already knows much of what is inaccessible even to Gods.
And the incommensurableness of the small and the great in his soul constitutes his pain
and his golgotha.
"In his own soul appears the gallows on which he hangs in suffering, feeling that he
is indeed inverted.
"He chose this way himself.
"For this he went over a long road from trial to trial, from initiation to
initiation, through failures and falls.
"And now he has found Truth and knows himself.
"He knows that it is he who stands before an altar with magic symbols, and reaches
from earth to heaven; that he also walks on a dusty road under a scorching sun to a
precipice where a crocodile awaits him; that he dwells with his mate in paradise under the
shadow of a blessing genius; that he is chained to a black cube under the shadow of
deceit; that he stands as a victor for a moment in an illusionary chariot drawn by
sphinxes; and that with a lantern in bright sunshine, he seeks for Truth in a
"Now he has found Her".