Monday, October 24, 2011

Egyptian Origins of the Tarot

Hi Everyone, another sample from one of our books used here in our German studies

CHAPTER TWO – Symbols Out of Egypt

Egyptian Origins of the Tarot

Chapter One basically gave the reader a historical survey covering the transmission of Alexandrian wisdom from ancient to modern times. As I have said the emphasis lies not in historical events but rather in the spiritual forces flowering behind them. It is in this light that the Sage perceives the Mystical thread, streaming from ancient sources through invisible worlds to our present time. The Tarot is result of that light-streaming.
Anyone who has grown roses knows that the gardenbed needs tender loving care and cultivation. Every season offers a chance to extend the beauty of one’s garden. In this way the Tarot is a cultivation of Sages across the aeons. The Egyptians tenderly planted the seeds and during the Dark Ages we saw those seeds working hidden under the soil. The Renaissance Neo-Platonists are the caretakers of the budding new esoteric life and like a parent they are most excited at the prospects of the rose-bud. It is in our times that the Tarot or Book of Thoth has bloomed. We reap the benefit of the gentle attention paid to the esoteric flower bed by ‘lovers of the Lily of Sharon’ through the ages. If you grow roses you will know that they require prunning, watering, cultivation etc and this shows the evolution of the Alexandrian Wisdom evolving in human hands. The Egyptian sages, the Renaissance philosophers, the Rosicrucians and present masters of wisdom are all the same gardener, although different in name, age and body they are the same gardener in that they all hold in esteem the same vision of Alexandrian knowledge for future aspirants of the Mystical path.
In more ways than one the Tarot is Alexandrian, as for one thing the hallmark of the Alexandrian period was synthesis between symbols, gods and cultures. You can see the Tarot brings together images from different cultures, ages and civilisations, some are Egyptian, others Greek or perhaps Biblical. The Tarot is the manifestation of an Angel of Synthesis. Such synthesis comes about as a result of the vision of life and acceptance of the universal oneness. The Angel was probably itself a synthesis of two gods joined together which is why HUA also became the Angel of the Tarot according to Hermetic traditions.
But it perhaps is not enough to define the Tarot as ‘Alexandrian’ to everyone, because people in reading this terminology may not understand what it means. Alexandrian in this sense implies the ‘truly univeral’ as that was their approach in those ancient times. A study of the Egyptian Magical Papyrus teaches the student one thing. That the Gnostics, Pagans, Platonist, Zoroastrians, Egyptians etc were invoking for the first time their gods and other gods together in unison, side by side and that reflects the universal marriage taking place within the Alexandrian Tarot. Thus when European Alexandrian revivalist crowned the Tarot the Book of Thoth in the 18th century, they didnt just connect it to mythological legend, they revealed that its universal images are the embodiment of syncretic Alexandrian thinking, the all embracing way at the heart of our timeless Mystical community.
Because most people do not have the inner vision it will be hard to convey at times the reality of the forces at work behind the Tarot. These forces can only be measured by their outward events and few people have observed them as a streaming force working its influence in a meaningful way throughout history. It requires Adeptship in the Mystical path to perceive the entering of light and its transmission into life-activity within the Anima-Mundi, or lower Isis-Sophia, the governing consciousness of the earth plane.
What I mean by this is that most people observe point X and Y and Z in history and have not intuitively grasped the relationship between the three seemingly seperate events. They are nonetheless the workings of a Nous, or that is to say the plan of IAO-Nous, or it may be said the plan of the universe unfolding. This chapter should begin to piece together in your mind the definite connection between present Tarot and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
It is not enough for many just to say ‘the Tarot is Egyptian’ without having any knowledge of the facts. At the same time it is not enough to say the ‘Tarot was invented in Italy’ without having any insight into the inner worlds. Many people are just happy beleiving the Tarot is Egyptian without having any historical reference. But now its especially important to demonstrate the connections between the light-streams and the manifested plane seeing so many authorities are now claiming that its Egyptian origins amount to imaginary romaticism and fantasy. It is such a shame that people are so afraid to let their imagination run wild, for Paracelsus, Plato and all great Sages taught that the imagination is the gateway to knowledge and furthermore that imagination has the power to magicaly shape this world. In every respect the Tarot is the result of people’s imaginations. Somewhere at some point in time a person or esoteric painter has thought ‘this is a wonderful vision, I shall paint that.’ Using the artistic tools available to him the first Tarot cards were painted. Perhaps the first Italian cards did not match the intended vision because the vision was far more perfect in the conception of the mind. Certainly Plato taught that the world of ideal-forms existed in an imaginary reality whereby everything was conceived in a perfect state or image. In light of this, if the Tarot is a result of the imagination surely also hieroglyphs were also drawn at some ancient point in time with the same vision in mind and therefore they are both representations of the same pure vision from the invisible. A primative cave painter who painted the first rock-art or early hieroglyphic images saw in his or her mind perfect images but was somewhat limited in his ability to produce the same work of art. Thus in the world of ideas the Tarot was always in a perfect condition, that is the Book of Thoth.
Despite the workings of the human mind the Egyptian origins of the Tarot are considered mere fantasy or wishful thinking on the part of those who apparently wish for the Tarot to have more ‘fantastic origins.’ Any writter who says so clearly has not accounted for the way in which humans have worked, in the primative environment and our present time, to express the same vision of ideas either upon cave-walls or modern canvas. And so, it seems Tarot enthusiast are beleived to be utterly wrong in their Egyptian assumptions and a philosophical battle has been waged between sceptics and beleivers for the last twenty years.
One reason for this little delima is that Court de Gebelin made a serious mistake in 1781 when he published his Egyptian assumptions. He is generaly credited (wrongfully) by scholars for the Egyptian origins theory of the Tarot. His theory about the gypsies comming out of Egypt and bringing the Tarot with them has been proven untrue. The gypsies, although they read the cards for a shilling actually came from India and migrated to Europe. They had nothing to do with Egypt and obtained the Tarot only after arriving to Italy. And so the Egyptian origins theory seemingly falls apart with Gebelin.
Although Court de Gebelin has been proven to be incorrect people have ‘still gone on’ beleiving the Egyptian origins theory, it seems, say scholars, possibly because of an  Egyptomania. It is unfortunate he made such a mistake because it scholasticaly condemed the Egyptian origin theory altogether. That is to say, up to the writting of this book, there exist no quantifiable evidence to support the mass beleif that the Tarot is Egyptian. Undoubtedly certain people would always understand some level of connection because anyone with intuition who gains a rapport with the Tarot sees in the vision-world express Egyptian symbols and creatures behind its motifs. But our romanticist label has persisted thanks to those people who have gone ahead and created foolish stories to support the Egyptain theory in a desperate attempt to create more glamour around our tradition.
Imagination while a key to the mysteries can sometimes overstretch itself. It is a means to and end, not the end itself. This is perhaps one of the greatest dangers in esoteric work and why a real teacher is needed to guide the way for the student. There is vision and then there is delusion. I recently studied some of these more imagintive accounts claiming to reveal the Egyptian origins of the Tarot. One of them stated there was an ancient Egypto temple with Tarot illustrations etched on stone walls. I examined that Serapis temple in Italy and those illustrations were never there. But the matter gets worse when people start raving extraterrestrials gave the Tarot to humankind or some such fantastic claim. Others say that the Tarot secretly survived inside occult orders, who preserved it underground since Egyptian times which is also impossible considering the evidence of the next few chapters.
The Aspirant of the Mystical path is not a fool who just accepts anything. Scepticism is the sword of the Sage. Some things are taken on faith during Mystica Aeterna training but are proven true after a period of time through some sort of divine confirmation that occurs after the learning phase. When true knowledge is learned, when true spiritual work is being undertaken strange events will unfold, synchronisms occuring in one’s life that show the outward languge of the invisible Nous. These confirmations are one of the first step leading towards the miraculous life. In this respect real knowledge is guided at every step of the way, real learning setting a spark of light into action setting aflame one’s surroundings with spiritual life. In contrast the more fantastic stories have only served to discredit any possible  plausible evidence that might exist for the Egyptian origins of the Tarot. 
So it is ironic that we may agree with our opposing scholars about one thing - those stories are pretty far fetched or outright extravagant. Because of this some teachers, claiming to be leaders of spiritual paths have also been too afraid to be outspoken, to say what they feel or have limited themselves to agreeing with the published quota out of fear for being labelled a lunatic. Hermetic teachers have hid behind scholasm to better have the approval of their peers rather than reveal an integrated world where the hand of Nous ever designs. Perhaps in understanding this work you will be considered the fool, but the Fool of the Tarot is the most enlightened card of all. To onlookers he appears a madman, lost in crazy pursuits, wandering wildly towards foolish ends. He is in fact experiencing Gnosis, direct vision of god and is the only person who knows his purpose and has the most intoxicating joy from it.  
It is because of the mass amount of teachers who hide behind the security of scholastic surety, rather than trusting the gentle whispher of their higher soul, that much of the scholastic approach has been given here to help those students who feel so inclined to ‘think about every detail before they jump’, that is, into the portal of Spirit. Our way comparatively needs no ingredient other than the emotion of love. Because of this my original aim was simply to convey the pure philosophy of the Way of the Heart teaching which shines through the Tarot. Love has no history and cannot be defined through facts, it simply is a philosophy and so the Tarot is a living philosophy of the heart. But presenting the Tarot in this way would in itself exclude a majority of students who ‘need proof’ which is the common cry among the Hermetic schools. Consider here the legend of the prophet who is always rejected. Christ, who was an Egyptian magus, as Mark says he was taken to Memphis, demonstrates our predicament. Thankfully I dont need to show the holes in my hands to get the message through. There is more than enough historical evidence to prove the Egyptian origin of the Tarot theory and it seems the scholars missed the point. This being the case we may at once examine the facts alongside the warmer side of the Tarot.
The little-known fact is that Tarot is based on hieroglyphics. I dont want to jump ahead into revealing the detailed historical events just yet because there are a few things to consider. The following chapter shows exactly how Renaissance Neo-Platonists in 15th cenetruy Italy discovered an ancient papyrus and based the first Tarot cards seen in history upon it. They were the ones who studied the Greek and Hermetic writtings for the first time since Rome fell, bringing an end to the Dark Ages by revising their culture in light of Greek wsidom. They were also the ones who started to understand that symbols had hidden meanings – that an Egyptian hawk or bird-glyph was not ‘just an annoying bird’ but must have had many higher meanings pertaining to the realms of the gods. It was during this phase of work that these Italians awakened into their consciousness the same vision which had been envisioned by the authors of the hieroglyphs aeons ago. To them the hieroglyphs were a living message which transmitted the Book of Thoth through time, opening its pages to thier eyes.
Now, if I were to just show you the exact historical events now, as to how they based the first Tarot cards upon an ancient Egyptian discovery then the revelation would be without an essential foundation. Everyone hates that the best is kept for later. But this time its important because we need to see through their eyes, as they saw things before examining what they did with this awakened knowledge. The Renaissance Neo-Platonist became initiates and obtained Sophia. They didnt just say ‘oh look, Hieroglyphs, wow! Lets paint some Tarot cards.’ The fact remains that they studied hieroglyphs carefuly, for the first time in thousands of years. And they didnt just form their own ideas about hieroglyphs either. They had access to ancient Alexandrian writtings, which commented on the meaning and purpose of heiroglyphs as they were understood in ancient times. The ancient writters of the manuscripts they read were themselves initiates of the Egyptian mystery traditions, like Pythagorus and Plato. That is how Neo-Platonists initiates gained access to an initiated interpretation of the Tarot both in written form surviving thousands of years.
The spiritual student could also consider that the 15th century creators of the Tarot obtained a form of untuited help from the past. Here I refer to the ancestral spirits of the Egyptian tradition, those wise Sages long dead, buried under forgotten catacombs of Alexandria continued to guide their written treatises from the grave. Such an occurance is not without foundation to the Mystical Philosopher, considering that Alexandrian spirituality in itself includes not only the worship of the gods but also homage to the ancestor spirits. This practice has survived in Egypt to this present day amongst the Baladi people and for example amongst my own Maori people in New Zealand. Documents by Cagliostro and St Martin attest that former ‘Masters of the Past’ were also invoked during Masonic and Templar styled rituals. Today it is a natural occurance to see Mystica Aeterna initiates invoking the help of Plato, Hermes and Pythagoras for study.
Have you ever read a work from someone long dead and felt as if they were looking over your shoulder while you were quietly reading? A certain way of working with papers places the reader, when done correctly, in contact with the author of the work. Therefore from a more spiritual viewpoint we may consider that the ideas Renaissance Neo-Platonists had about hieroglyphs were not only learned from the writtings of Plato, Diodorus, Plutarch, Chairemon and Plotinus. We may discretely say they also learned from the spirits of these enlightened Sages themselves. Because of their experiences I stress the importance for the reader to imagine being in the positon of a Renaissance occultist to also understand the evolution of the Tarot, in their Renaissance mind as they created it.
With the remainder of this chapter we may place ourselves in their shoes, see through their eyes, contemplate first hand what they discovered by examining their sources. This shall serve to help you understand a person who might have created the Tarot in the first place and the process they might have employed to express that hieroglyphic knowledge.
That is why the rest of this chapter is simply dedicated to reading the first hand Greek and Egyptain materials that the Renaissance creators of the Tarot read themselves. You will study the same pieces from the ancient sources that they had access to, directly ‘from the horses mouth’ so to speak. This shall serve to form a scholastic foundation for the next chapter, which reveals why Neo-Platonic circles in Italy based Tarot on hieroglyphs and how they transitioned from Egyptian heiroglyphs into painted Tarot cards in 14th century Europe.


  1. No more wishful thinking, there is fairly irrefutable evidence the Tarot is of Greco-Egyptian origin.

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