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Commentary on Ms Montalban’s Article, Part 2

by Auntie Tarot     

To continue.

Ms Montalban now goes on to explain how anyone seriously interested in studying occultism can proceed in the direction of their goal. Her answer may surprise many readers; for we live in an age where the secrets of occultism are readily available to all in books penned by Manly P. Hall, Starhawk, John Michael Greer and numerous others. What is generally overlooked, however, is that these books contain information, raw data, and data means nothing in itself; it is the way in which the data is handled that is one of the great secrets of occultism. Ms M. was a firm believer in the truth of the proverb, “An ounce of experience is worth a pound of theory.” What she has to say encourages the reader to do something. This is her starting point: “Many ask me where to begin to study the occult. It is a difficult question to answer, since, in the beginning, one must start with oneself.” (Paragraph 7.)

For the majority of those who profess an interest in occultism, the idea that they should start by working on themselves is anathema. A great many ‘seekers’ are only looking for a way to change the world so that material conditions can be more agreeable to them; they want the world around them to change but aren’t looking to change themselves. However, for the sincere seeker, Ms M. has valuable tips to impart.

“All people interested in the occult wish to learn. Some have to grope around to find even a way to start,” she tells us in paragraph 4. For those groping their way in the dark, Ms M. has good news: it is possible to use the tarot as a guide. And so she continues: “This series of articles is designed to teach you how, through the Tarot, the Book of Wisdom itself, you can start on the path of knowledge.”

It is her assumption that the reader will have taken on board the advice imparted in her initial article and she goes on to build on that foundation.

“By having admitted you know nothing, but wish to learn, you have taken your first step along the path. You have thereby forsaken the path of the fool and are on your way to learning.” (Paragraph 5.) Then she starts to make demands of her reader:

“Now I am asking you to go a step further. To admit that things do not happen by chance, but are all part of a design. That design you cannot fully know, for in all our lives the pattern must be different. But the basic design for us all is the same. If we want to learn, the door to knowledge will open. The first step before the door swings wide, is that of self-knowledge.”

She doesn’t yet reveal what it is she will ask from the would-be student of occultism. She keeps that information in reserve while holding out a promise: “If we want to learn, the door to knowledge will open.” Followed by a broad hint as to what will be demanded of any student choosing to take this path. “The first step before the door swings wide, is that of self-knowledge.”

Her illustration aptly symbolizes the process she has in mind: “the soul (always depicted as a female figure) ascending the steps of learning, carrying a lighted candle to illuminate the way ahead. The steps depict a gradual ascent to knowledge, while the candle represents truth in all its forms.” (Paragraph 6.)

mm1a

It is at this point that she sets forth what is required of anybody electing to tread the path leading to occult knowledge of the practical kind. The instructions come in two parts. Firstly: “Many ask me where to begin to study the occult. It is a difficult question to answer, since, in the beginning, one must start with oneself. If you feel that there are laws and mysteries behind life and creation that you do not understand but would like to know, you have lit your candle.” (Paragraph 7.) Ms M. was a great believer is “making a start”. It was her opinion that, unless one makes a start, one has no hope of reaching the finish, and an admirably sound opinion it is. She is about to make her first demand on the would-be student.

“The first step upwards comes with renouncing folly. One of the bridges to the Land of Folly is believing that everything in your life is pre-ordained. The student in occultism must relinquish that point of view, since occultism holds that, to a very great extent, you ordain things for yourself.” This is a basic tenet of her philosophy. She held that all the trials life throws at us are challenges to our ingenuity and perseverance, and that we grow in stature, mentally and morally, by rising to those challenges. When we have done everything in our power on the physical plane to overcome an obstacle, there is a natural tendency to tell one’s self that, on this occasion, the opposition has been too great, the Fates don’t want us to have our dream job, the house that seemed just right for our needs, or whatever our goal is at just that moment. Ms M. maintained that the occultist has yet one more avenue to pursue – magic. Having done all she can, the occultist is permitted to ask the Higher Powers, as Ms M called them, for their help in manifesting the required result. Her method has a kind of failsafe in place. She taught her personal students how to ask for help from the Higher Powers but she also taught a way of knowing whether one’s petition would be granted – for we are not entitled to everything we believe we should have in our lives. This was a magical practice she called “Angelic Letters”. More can be found out about it by reading The Sacred Magic of the Angels by David Goddard. Fascinating as the method is, this is not the place to go further into it.

The first thing Ms M. wants the would-be occult student to do is get a clear picture in their minds of what their desires and ambitions are. If marriage, children, a three-bedroomed house and work that satisfies at the same time as bringing in a decent wage are what they want, then the higher aspects of occultism will hold no appeal for them. (Paragraph 8.) This is not because they lack sufficient intelligence to appreciate the upper reaches of esoteric teaching but because they don’t have the drive, the inner impulse to investigate this area of knowledge. In urging readers to work out what they want from life, what they really, really want, Ms M.’s objective, I would guess, is to sift the wheat from the chaff – the wheat being those individuals with a genuine vocation for occultism and the chaff being those who have a only glancing interest in the occult and would have a greater interest in it only if they thought they could amass all the material objectives that appeal to them by magical means but who have no real interest in their spiritual evolution, or as we might say today, in the expansion of consciousness.

Furthermore, as Ms M. goes on to point out at the end of paragraph 8, “so many of the things we ardently desire would not advance us one step on the soul’s path (which is the path of knowledge) if we got them.” She then proceeds to throw light on the often quoted but rarely understood tenet “Do what thou wilt.” (Paragraph 9.) It does not mean “Do as you like”; it means “Work out what you want – as opposed to what you imagine you want – and set about achieving your goal.” The catch is that nothing can be achieved or attained without sacrifice of some kind and most people aren’t willing to make sacrifices, to put in the effort, to set aside the time. It is at this point that they have to admit to themselves that they didn’t want the desired thing as much as they thought they did. (Paragraph 10.) “That is the time,” according to Ms M. “to abandon it [the false goal] and to seek within ourselves to know what we do want.”

I won’t comment on paragraph 11, I’ll merely repeat it: “Ambitions and attainments are not forbidden to the magical student, provided that you have within you the powers and ability to work towards them. No good, for instance, wanting or even willing, to become a famous writer (or anything else) if you haven’t the necessary talent, plus originality. Writing is not a matter of copying and re-hashing what other people have done, but originating something for yourself that is quite different.” A statement so true I couldn’t possibly improve on it.

She goes on to address directly the reader who believes they have a vocation for magic: “Ask yourself first if you believe that, single-handedly, alone, and helped only be the occult powers, you feel you can achieve your aim; being, at the same time, prepared to leave aside all other things to attain this one objective.”

“It is a matter for most serious consideration,” she informs us. “Once you will yourself to attain a certain objective, you set in motion certain hidden powers, both within and outside yourself, that move you forward. In doing which you may find yourself gradually shorn of all that is familiar; of all that you have become accustomed to and even, in some cases, find yourself moved, by a series of what seem coincidences, in a certain direction.”

This may sound as though Ms M. is spinning a yarn but many I know who in my estimation genuinely hold the grade of adept would attest to having passed through this experience themselves. They would agree that they are very different people today than who they were before they took up occultism and are living very different lives to boot as a result.

Returning to the metaphors of the fool and the adept with which she opened her article, Ms M. expands on the difference between the two from an esoteric point of view. “The fool plays with ideas until the force generated by ideas plus desire (as against will) draws him into a vortex of change. The wise person never plays with any idea that can be dangerous, lest the same thing happens.” This is a crucial point. As Ms M. explains “‘Wanting fervently’ is just as powerful as ‘willing fervently’. Wanting is based on emotional feelings and not enough thought of the possible consequences,” before ending the paragraph on a high note: “But to know your true will, or purpose, is to create the vortex that will draw you towards your objective.”

Ms M. warns the newcomer to the path of magical attainment never to think they have any situation fully under their control. This is particularly true where the student is doing something they know to be wrong. Ms M. makes it clear that, in that case, it is not the practitioner in control, it is the force they have generated. The human mind loves to personify, and so this force that now has some measure of control over the would-be magician’s life is generally given humanoid form. From incidents where the magician has fallen under the influence of the force he has invoked come those stories that crop up every so often of pacts with the devil or of demonic imps plaguing the practitioner. The force is perceived clairvoyantly as satanic or devilish in form.

Whether apprehended clairvoyantly or not, the force, once it has the upper hand, is capable of bringing havocs to the affairs of the practitioner of magic, both in their esoteric life and their mundane life.

To be in control of a situation, you need to be in control of yourself, and as Ms M. explains, the only time you can be certain of being in control of yourself is “when you know what you want and admit that anything else you have can be taken from you so that you may achieve your true purpose.” (Paragraph 16.) Not many of us are willing to risk having everything taken from us, family, home, source of income. That is the fate of Job in the bible. His wife and children die and he becomes destitute. At the end of the story, his fortune is restored and he has a new wife and new children but to reach that point he has made a great sacrifice, one that few would willingly sign up for.

In her final paragraph, Ms M. lays on the line what a weighty decision it is to follow the path of high magic. For those with a true vocation and the courage to stay the course, however, there are rewards, and Ms M. has something to say about them too. “This is where grave thought is needed. Take a lot of time to make your decision. If it is to follow the magical path, be sure you will never want to go back. It will change you and your whole life in a strange, but better, way.” (Paragraph 17.)

Commentary on 2nd Madeline Montalban Article, Part I

by Auntie Tarot      

Ms Montalban starts her second article with a recapitulation of what went before. In the preceding article she told us that anybody stepping onto the path to occult knowledge takes their first faltering steps as a fool. She opens the second article accordingly by reminding readers that “in this article we are still studying the various aspects of Trump Number 0, or 22, in the Tarot (for this card responds to both numbers)”.

A good deal has been written about the position to which The Fool card should be assigned. Some taromancers insist that it must bear the cypher zero; another line of thought maintains just as vigorously that it should be numbered 22. A third view is that it ought to remain unnumbered and yet another opinion switches its place with that of The World and numbers The Fool 21 and The World 22. From sixty years of experience in working with tarot numerology, I have to agree with Ms M. that The Fool can be numbered either 0 or 22, as it responds to both. Leaving it unnumbered simply links it with zero as anyone well-versed in Tarot numerology will attest.

mmTarot 21   mmTarot 22

My conclusion treads only on the toes of those who believe that The Fool should be numbered 21. (See illustrations above.) Ms M. herself suggested that students view the trumps as forming a circle, of which The Fool could represent either the beginning or the end. In her view, The Fool card can indicate either the fool or the adept in magick depending on how you read its position in the circular arrangement of trumps, and she refers to this dual interpretation in paragraph 2 of her article.

As well as the reference to The Fool made in the previous article, at the same time Ms M. paid great attention to Trump 1, The Magician. She reminds her readers of that too in the opening sentence of her follow-up piece.

She next reminds us that the term “magic” does not necessarily mean “black magic”. Rather, so she tells us, “it is a word that embraces the whole idea of understanding the laws of the universe, how they correspond to ourselves, and to everything on all planes, from the material upwards”. It was her belief that, due to human beings failing to recognize the existence of these universal laws or, if they did acknowledge that these laws existed, then of employing them without a thorough understanding of their properties, the world had been brought to the sorry state in which she found it in 1965 when the article was written (paragraph 3). It is a statement as applicable today as it was 25 years ago, if not more so.

Ms M. follows this up with a statement of vital importance to all those wishing to understand as well as to utilize occult principles in the running of their lives. “The study of true occultism offers not only a means to conduct our lives properly; it also helps us to understand the whys and wherefores of where they go wrong.”

“The laws of occultism” is not a misnomer. The metaphysical planes – that is, those planes composed of finer matter – are subject to laws in the same way that the natural world is. Just because humankind does not as rule operate on these planes does not mean that they are lawless places, akin to the Wild West at the time of the Gold Rush. The metaphysical planes are subject to their own laws and contravening those laws is as dangerous an activity as the violation of physical laws tends to be in the material world.

For those who do not believe in the higher worlds, what I have just said will sound like hokum. Yet, anyone desirous of following the occult path must either believe in the higher worlds or temporarily suspend disbelief and act “as if” they existed. Only by adopting that approach can one gain access to them.

I am now going to digress and enter into an exposition of the Higher Worlds, or the Otherworld as this realm is sometimes known. As already explained, to the esotericist, the Other Worlds are governed by specific and immutable laws in the same manner that the Physical World is.

Initial Propositions Regarding the Otherworld

1. There are two worlds: the material world and an invisible one sometimes called the Otherworld.

The two worlds are separate and as a rule the inhabitants of the material world have no direct interaction with those of the Otherworld and vice versa.

2. While the two worlds are distinct and for the most part discrete, the material world is subject to influences transmitted to it from the Otherworld.

3. While the two worlds are distinct and for the most part discrete, the Otherworld is subject to influences playing upon it from the material world. However, in the general way of things, the Otherworld is affected by the material world to a lesser extent than that to which the material world is affected by the Otherworld.

4. While the two worlds are distinct and for the most part discrete, it is possible, under specific circumstances, to position oneself between them, to have a foot in each, so to speak.

This rule applies to the inhabitants of both worlds.

5. While the two worlds are distinct and for the most part discrete, it is possible, under specific circumstances, to pass from one to the other.

This rule applies to the inhabitants of both worlds, with certain provisos.

Inhabitants of neither world can maintain a presence in the other for any substantial length of time without either suffering deleterious effects or being drawn back into their own world again. If human beings tarry overlong in the Otherworld, they are likely to become permanent residents there; in other words, connection with the physical body will be broken and they will be reduced to pure spirit. If a denizen of the Otherworld seeks to dwell in the material world, it must ‘espouse a body’. That body may be that of a living being, whether human, animal or vegetable, or it may be a physical object, such as a table, a book or a statue. Without a body, however, the Otherworldly being cannot operate on the material plane for long.

6. It is possible for the inhabitants of the material world to learn how to situate themselves between the two worlds.

7. It is possible for the inhabitants of the material world to learn how to pass into the Otherworld and to return again to the world of Matter.

8. Just as human beings have mapped the Earth and the heavens, so is it possible for the Otherworld to be mapped.

Mapping the Otherworld

Mapping of the Otherworld has been accomplished by the same means as was used to map the Earth in, for instance, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It has been effected partly by exploration and partly by the observation of conditions prevailing far off, distant but nonetheless perceptible.

Maps of the Otherworld have been fashioned by psychic explorers of the past. Prior to the twenty-first century, most cultures possessed maps of this kind. That used by the ancient Egyptians is laid out in meticulous detail in their Book of the Dead. The Kahunas of Hawaii possess a map of the Otherworld as do Jewish mystics and the Theosophists. Other maps exist, too, but that point has, I think, been sufficiently made.

When compared, one with another, these maps, may not appear to align. The discrepancy is analogous to the differences observable when leafing through the pages of an atlas. One double-page spread will show the Earth mainly in shades of blue and green plus a few brown and ochre areas. This is a representation of the geography and topography of the planet. The various shades of blue indicate the depth of the oceans, the darker the blue the deeper the ocean; the greens denote the height of the land masses, with the ochre parts indicating the desert areas. Turn the page and the land masses are colored according to another system. This second map may depict the nations of the world, country by country. Another double-page spread shaded to represent population-distribution across the globe will have little in common with the two previous maps apart from the contours of the continents.

The best analogy to explain differences between the way the Otherworld has been mapped by diverse cultures around the world would be a topographical one. Imagine a map of the Earth upon which contours have been drawn so as to depict the land masses rising in increments of one hundred meters and colored accordingly, from palest green for the land at sea-level to dark olive denoting the highest point in a mountain range. Now imagine a map of the Earth upon which contours a thousand meters apart have been imposed and colored accordingly. This map will look somewhat different from the first even though nothing on the physical plane will have changed. The two maps are simply alternative ways of viewing the same subject matter, and both are legitimate.

And so it is with maps of the Otherworld. The Invisible Realm remains the same from map to map, only human perception of it has changed. Some cultures divide the Otherworld into Seven zones while others divide it into Nine zones, or Ten or Twelve. These are merely alternative ways of describing the Unseen, in the same way that imperial and metric measurements (feet and inches as against centimetres and meters) measure the same thing but come up with apparently conflicting results.

Anyone setting out on the path to occult knowledge needs to recognize the validity of the Otherworld and to have some basic understanding of the laws operating there.

This is, I think, a good place to pause so as to allow readers for whom the concept of the Otherworld comes as a revelation some breathing space in which to contemplate the foregoing exposition. I will continue with my commentary on Ms M.’s article shortly.

Second Madeline Montalban Article

First Steps on the Magical Path

by Madeline Montalban     

1. In this article we are still studying the various aspects of Trump Number 0, or 22, in the Tarot (for this card responds to both numbers), and the mysteries of the Magician.

2. As previously explained, one can be either a Fool or an Adept, according to how one begins on the magical path. Remember, too, that the old word “magic” does not necessarily mean “black magic” as so many think. It is a word that embraces the whole idea of understanding the laws of the universe, how they correspond to ourselves, and to everything on all planes, from the material upwards.

3. It is by failing to understand these laws, or by not recognizing that they exist, that this world, and all of us in it, have got ourselves into such a hopeless mess. The study of true occultism offers not only a means to conduct our lives properly; it also helps us to understand the whys and wherefores of where they go wrong.

4. All people interested in the occult wish to learn. Some have to grope around to find even a way to start. This series of articles is designed to teach you how, through the Tarot, the Book of Wisdom itself, you can start on the path of knowledge.

5. By having admitted you know nothing, but wish to learn, you have taken your first step along the path. You have thereby forsaken the path of the fool and are on your way to learning. Now I am asking you to go a step further. To admit that things do not happen by chance, but are all part of a design. That design you cannot fully know, for in all our lives the pattern must be different. But the basic design for us all is the same. If we want to learn, the door to knowledge will open. The first step before the door swings wide, is that of self-knowledge.

The ascent to knowledge

6. To illustrate this point, I have chosen a picture from a very old book which represents the soul (always depicted as a female figure) ascending the steps of learning, carrying a lighted candle to illuminate the way ahead. The steps depict a gradual ascent to knowledge, while the candle represents truth in all its forms.

mm1a

7. Many ask me where to begin to study the occult. It is a difficult question to answer, since, in the beginning, one must start with oneself. If you feel that there are laws and mysteries behind life and creation that you do not understand but would like to know, you have lit your candle. The first step upwards comes with renouncing folly. One of the bridges to the Land of Folly is believing that everything in your life is pre-ordained. The student in occultism must relinquish that point of view, since occultism holds that, to a very great extent, you ordain things for yourself.

8. People tend to want things without fully analysing whether the things they want could bring them lasting happiness. So you start on the magical path by first defining what it is you want from life. If it is only mundane and material things, then higher occultism is not for you. The reason is that so many of the things we ardently desire would not advance us one step on the soul’s path (which is the path of knowledge) if we got them.

Know what you want

9. It seems cold comfort until you follow the first advice given. “Know your true will, and then do it.” Which does not mean that you should do what you like, but that you should first of all analyse what it is you want from life and then ask yourself what steps you will take to get it.

10. Quite often, in analysing what it would mean to us in the sacrifice of what we have for what we want, we realize that we don’t want the desired thing so much as we thought we did. That is the time to abandon it and to seek within ourselves to know what we do want. All attainment needs sacrifice of some kind.

11. Ambitions and attainments are not forbidden to the magical student, provided that you have within you the powers and ability to work towards them. No good, for instance, wanting or even willing, to become a famous writer (or anything else) if you haven’t the necessary talent, plus originality. Writing is not a matter of copying and re-hashing what other people have done, but originating something for yourself that is quite different.

Subtle change in life

12. So with many other “wants”. Ask yourself first if you believe that, single-handedly, alone, and helped only be the occult powers, you feel you can achieve your aim; being, at the same time, prepared to leave aside all other things to attain this one objective.

13. If you are prepared to do this, you are on your way. Once that decision is taken, and the bargain with your own soul and higher powers made, your life will begin to change subtly, so that you are impelled, imperceptibly, towards your goal.

14. It is a matter for most serious consideration. You cannot have your cake and eat it (though all of us tend to try). Once you will yourself to attain a certain objective, you set in motion certain hidden powers, both within and outside yourself, that move you forward. In doing which you may find yourself gradually shorn of all that is familiar; of all that you have become accustomed to and even, in some cases, find yourself moved, by a series of what seem coincidences, in a certain direction.

Vortex of attraction

15. The fool plays with ideas until the force generated by ideas plus desire (as against will) draws him into a vortex of change. The wise person never plays with any idea that can be dangerous, lest the same thing happens. “Wanting fervently” is just as powerful as “willing fervently”. Wanting is based on emotional feelings and not enough thought of the possible consequences. But to know your true will, or purpose, is to create the vortex that will draw you towards your objective.

16. The first lesson in magic is never to think you have a situation under control. If you are doing something that you know you should not, or playing with dangerous ideas, the force you generate has you under control. The only time you are in control of yourself is when you know what you want and admit that anything else you have can be taken from you so that you may achieve your true purpose.

17. This is where grave thought is needed. Take a lot of time to make your decision. If it is to follow the magical path, be sure you will never want to go back. It will change you and your whole life in a strange, but better, way.

[First published ‘Prediction’, November, 1965]

Commentary On Ms Montalban’s Article

by Auntie Tarot      

Ms Montalban’s article entitled ‘Knowledge is Magic’ is very much of its time. Let me start, therefore, by bringing it up to date. In paragraph 1, Ms Montalban identifies the tarot as the Book of Thoth. In the nineteen-sixties, most occultists believed that tarot cards did in fact date back to the time of the ancient Egyptians when it, allegedly, formed part of their “mysteries of Thoth”, god of intelligence, knowledge and magick. Scholarship of the last quarter of the twentieth and the early years of the present century have proved that idea to be a pipe-dream at best. Occultism finds it hard to relinquish the theory entirely for the very good reason that it is useful peg on which to hang a whole mass of other propositions.

As is clear from her writings, Ms Montalban accepted the concept without reservation. In this article and the one that follows it, she refers over and over to Thoth, sometimes in his forms of Hermes and Mercury, connecting him to magick and to the tarot in particular. Although nowadays an Egyptian origin to the tarot cards is judged impossible, it is nevertheless true that, when the tarot deck is employed for magical purposes, including using it for divination, it comes under rulership of Thoth-Hermes-Mercury as lord of all reserved or sacred knowledge.

For Ms Montalban, then, the tarot is the Book of Thoth and “hidden in the pictures and symbolism is all the accumulated arcane knowledge of the ages”. None of this is true. On the other hand the tarot’s symbolism does hold the key to a vast number of occult mysteries, that of the accurate prediction of events being but one of them. The tarot was not, however, created to act as a repository for those mysteries. It was adopted by occultists of the eighteenth- and nineteenth-centuries, and they superimposed esoteric ideas upon it. The tarot was supremely fitted for the role of embodying the metaphysical concepts of the Western Mystery Tradition on account of it having twenty-two trump cards, four suits, four courts and ten spot cards in each suit, the numbers twenty-two, ten and four having great significance in that tradition.

Although the concepts didn’t become associated with the cards in the way occultists of Ms. Montalban’s era believed, they are now firmly attached to them, and the symbolism of individual cards can yield much information to those who know how to interpret the signs correctly.

Fortune-telling by means of the tarot didn’t interest Ms Montalban much at all. As she rightly says in paragraph 2, “the method that uses an ordinary pack of playing cards is much simpler to learn”. She was happier focusing on the magical side of the tarot. Before going into the details of that, she recommends McGregor Mathers’ book The Tarot. It sold in the sixties for seven shillings and six pence; today it is on sale through Amazon for £8.99. The bookshop given a namecheck by Ms M. is still trading, its name and address slightly altered: Watkins Books, 19-21 Cecil Court, London, WC2N 4EZ. As Mathers’ book is out of copywrite it is also available free of charge online.

It is a good book for the absolute beginner in tarot, but anyone beyond beginner stage will likely be disappointed in it. For those whose interest is primarily in reading the tarot, either from a psychological or a predictive standpoint, a better buy, in my opinion, is Rachel Pollack’s Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom (Element Books), $16.00.

As I have already said, the tarot is not synonymous with the legendary Book of Thoth. Setting that idea aside, it is certainly true (paragraph 3) that “knowledge, when properly applied, is magic, inasmuch as it can work wonders.” That pronouncement made, Ms M. is ready to get down to business.

She implies (paragraph 4) that the first step on the path to occult knowledge is nothing more that “really wanting” to access the magick and mystery embodied in the tarot’s symbolism. She is speaking of an inward urge that is far more than desire. Many have a nebulous wish to know about the tarot’s magical side but in the majority of cases this amounts to no more than a heightened curiosity. Where a desire is potent enough, it affects the will, and once the will is engaged, something has got to give, as the saying goes.

The would-be student of tarot who experiences this inner urge has set foot on the path leading to the gates of occult knowledge. The situation is the equivalent of finding oneself outside a major train station in any great metropolis – New York’s Central Station, London’s King’s Cross Station, the Gare de Lyon in Paris. To make further progress one needs to purchase a ticket. That ticket, for Ms M., is the recognition that “the pictographs of the Tarot are manifold”. Her meaning is that the truth of the tarot is not wholly encompassed in any one pack of tarot cards; students who attempt to uncover that truth by examining the pictorial symbols of one deck only are doomed to fail in their objective from the outset.

The number of decks Ms M. had in mind were relatively few: any Tarot de Marseille-type decks, the Waite-Smith cards, Oswald Wirth’s representations of the twenty-two major arcana, the B.O.T.A. cards, the Egyptian tarot published by the Church of Light, the Golden Dawn tarot, Crowley’s Thoth deck, and the Thomson-Leng cards Ms M. herself employed. There is now such a profusion of tarot decks that today’s student needs to treat Ms M.’s injunction with great caution. That said, a good deal of dross can be easily cleared away because so many modern decks are little more than clones of those Ms M. approved of. The Aquarian Tarot is basically a reimagining of the Waite-Smith designs, Rolla Nordic’s deck is a redrawing of the Insight Institute cards, which themselves are essentially a Marseille-type tarot. On the principle that “the nearer to the source, the purer the stream”, I would advise those newly arrived on the path to the tarot’s occult secrets to center their attentions on the Waite-Smith deck rather than any of its derivatives. Purchase a pack or buy a book, such as Rachel Pollack’s Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom mentioned above, that has pictures of all the Waite-Smith cards in it. Whenever you run across a new deck, whether freshly published or simply new to you, compare the pictures with those of the Waite-Smith pack. Where the former are a redrawing of the latter, it is a fairly safe conclusion that this is a deck you do not need to take into consideration. At the start, the raw beginner would do well to limit themselves to the decks listed above.

I agree with Ms M. (paragraph 4) that a complete exposition of the magical tarot has never been written and never could be written; its uses are too various and multiform. Magick is an art just as painting is an art; new modes of expression are constantly being found in both areas due to the need to keep abreast of an ever-changing society imbued with ever-changing mores and viewpoints.

Ms M. next proceeds to put her astute observation about the picture symbols of the tarot into practice. (Paragraph 5.) She chooses to illustrate her article with a representation of Trump 1 from the Tarot de Marseille, known in French as Le Bateleur and in English as The Juggler. She speaks first of the card as the Juggler and later (paragraph 6) as the Magician, taking pains to emphasize the “juggling” aspect of the trump. She makes the point that the figure on the Marseilles card juggles with what he knows, or thinks he knows, as well as with perceptions and beliefs. The Juggler has not yet learnt about the hidden powers behind Nature, for he is only one of the early, low-numbered, tarot Trumps. When he has accumulated greater knowledge, he will become the Magician, or Adept, “the instructed, aware and magically-powerful student of the occult.”

In paragraph 6, Ms M. promises that “We shall wind up this series by dealing with the Magician-Adept side of Trump No. 1, when we have come full circle through the mysteries of the trumps.” It is a promise she fails to keep. The series changes track after the third article. Practical magick and the Lore of the Path fall by the wayside and the focus from then on concerns more general applications of individual Trump’s energies. Perhaps the initial articles had served their purpose and those truly possessed by the urge to study the magick of the tarot had by then made contact with Ms M., who ran a correspondence course in the subject, and had found a home within a competent and functioning school of the mysteries. The quota of students filled for the time being, maybe there was no longer a need to trail this aspect of the tarot in her Prediction articles.

She ends paragraph 6 by returning the reader to the Juggler aspect of Trump 1, as this is the facet of the card she wishes to explore in this article.

Paragraph 7 is brief but vital. As Niccolo Machiavelli said, “A sign of intelligence is an awareness of one’s own ignorance.” In Ms M.’s philosophy, the ordinary person who wishes to go looking for esoteric wisdom must first admit their own ignorance of the subject. If you don’t know how to write shorthand but desire to learn how to do so, you can sign up for a course. Alternatively, you can attempt to learn the subject from a book, though the self-teaching route is generally a more protracted one than the learning-in-class route as it is subject to diversions and delays. When a person tutoring themselves encounters a problem, some fact they don’t comprehend shall we say, they have to wait until the book containing the explanation they require comes into their hands, and that could take years. On the other hand, a student with a teacher can take their confusion to somebody wise in the ways of the subject they have chosen to study and receive from that person a reasonable explanation of whatever it was that was troubling them. Whichever way anyone reading Ms M.’s article decides to proceed, certain preparatory mental adjustments need to be made.

“The first step,” Ms M. tells us (paragraph 8), “is to acquire a balanced mind” about the journey one is about to undertake, continuing, “from the Tarot point of view it is mental balance and dexterity that is implied.”

In order to reach this stage, one must set aside all preconceived ideas one has about magick. Not all magick is black magick, she asserts. There is such a thing as black magick but its practitioners are almost as scarce as hen’s teeth. The greater proportion of magick performed in the world is a form of theurgy, the intention of which is to bring the worker of magick into a closer alignment with the gods.

Horror films and novels about Satanist groups are responsible for the mistaken beliefs lodged in the mind of the general public concerning the widespread prevalence of black magick in the world. On the other hand, where the public get the idea from that magical powers “can be obtained with no effort or study” is hard to imagine. It is probably part of the same mindset that believes that absolutely anyone can sing well enough to fill the Hollywood Bowl to capacity three nights in succession before embarking on a sold-out world tour. Singing is a natural capacity, so this form of reasoning goes, and therefore anyone can do it; all one needs are the breaks, a shot of tv exposure on America’s Got Talent and hey presto! one is the next Jay-Z or Beyoncé. The same logic applies in the field of magick, fed by a misunderstanding of tenets such as “magick is as much a part of you as your bloodstream.” In truth, becoming an adept takes as much study and effort, in the form of repetitive practice, as the acquirement of any other skill. Tennis players don’t just hit a ball with a high degree of accuracy; they bone up on the science of the game, how balls react on different playing surfaces, how the perfect top spin is produced and all the technical side of the sport. Bear in mind the connection between the words ‘technical’ and ‘technique’. Believe me, magical powers are only obtained through effort and study.

Another myth firmly rooted in some minds is that adepts are free of “the limitations and trials that life imposes on us all”. They are not, for the simple reason that life is a school; we are all here on Earth to learn, which is why Ms M. concludes the paragraph with the words: “Life is experience; from experience comes wisdom. Wisdom is magic, when you learn to use it.”

Having set one’s misconceptions aside by determining to study magick with an open mind, testing the teaching offered step by step, the next lesson the apprentice magician needs to absorb is that talking about one’s magical training with outsiders is a fruitless activity, generally speaking. As Ms M. says (paragraph 9), the more advanced initiates have their own magical assignments to work on and will have little inclination to discuss the topic with raw beginners. There are teachers available and it is not too difficult to discover who they are and what they have to offer. But not every adept chooses to teach, and where teaching is available it is frequently set at a fairly basic level. The magical beginner has two stark choices: tutor themselves or latch on to someone willing to instruct them in its fundamentals.

Outside of the esoteric community, there is usually little point discussing magick with those who either know nothing about it or have their heads stuffed full of the misapprehension that it is the work of the devil. Ms M.’s injunction notwithstanding, it is most often through bitter experience that the wise student learns to keep what they learn to themselves. (Paragraph 10.) This lesson is encapsulated in “the symbolism of the little seal on the right-hand side of the Juggler diagram,” a representation of “the Egyptian God of Silence, called Harpocrates, seated on the lotus of knowledge, with his finger to his lips.”

MM1

Putting aside for now Ms M.’s lurid claims of what happened in former times to those who broke their esoteric vows (paragraph 11), she certainly has something valid to say about knowledge and power. And about foolishness, too. Ms M had an old school attitude to the tarot Fool. To her the card was a symbol of folly plain and simple and that view permeates the latter part of the current article. Elsewhere she had written that we all start out as the tarot Fool. Some of us, coming in contact with the world of occultism, leave the path of folly and, by setting foot on the road to magical attainment, transition from The Fool, Trump 0, to The Magician, Trump 1.

In doing so, the person gains knowledge and with knowledge comes power. Those occult schools that are genuine repositories of magical wisdom put a good deal of energy into discouraging or deflecting fools from their portals. Ms M. gives the reason in splendid synopsis: “power . . . put into the hands of fools, can be very dangerous. Fools will not be taught, cannot learn, and will not be parted from their folly. Moreover, they are unscrupulous. Their own folly makes them so.”

As Ms M. says in paragraph 12, “Even today, any occult school that teaches things of worth asks for a pledge of secrecy from its students. They still follow the old system, because they have found it is good.”

And with that, Ms M. returns to her main theme, silence. “Nobody can teach you when to talk, but you can learn not to talk . . . until you have attained Adept degree, when, oddly enough, you won’t want to talk about it!”

Ms M. was an expert at interpreting symbolism. Everything I know of that subject, I learnt from her. She puts her skills to good use in paragraphs 13 and 14 when she dissects the image she has attached to her article. I recommend that you study the illustration and then read those paragraphs again, for by doing so you will learn an immense amount about how pictographs are to be interpreted.

Now into the final furlong, Ms M. notes (paragraph 15) that if the reader has made it this far into the article they are definitely attracted to the occult path and moreover feel the need to learn the lore and laws of magick. That being so, she reminds us (paragraph 16) that the most powerful weapon we possess is our minds, and “An instructed mind is a power-house that can sway events and forces.”

Lastly, harking back to the idea of Faustian pacts with the devil, she asserts that the only pact the magician makes is with her- or himself. “The pact is that you will learn, and not abuse what you learn.” This cannot be stressed strongly enough. Abuse of occult knowledge leads to the revocation of magical powers and a the unfolding of a situation in which the magician’s clairvoyance is clouded over and their ability to sway invisible forces is subtly sidelined by the Higher Powers until they are back on a par with the uninitiated and those ‘fools’ who aren’t even aware that another, invisible world even exists.

But for the student starting out for the first time on the path to occult knowledge, Ms M.’s uplifting message is: “If you stretch out your hand from the Pit of Ignorance, the God of Knowledge will grasp it.” And she promises (in paragraphs 18 and 19) to tell us more about this process in her next article.

The Magical Tarot

Two articles by Madeline Montalban with commentary

by Auntie Tarot      

While I am not in a position to stage a come-back just yet, I haven’t been idle. In moments I’ve had to myself, I’ve continued to delve deeper into the lore of the tarot. One gem of a discovery I made consisted of two articles by Madeline Montalban on the tarot, magic, and the approaches made by the tutelary deity of the tarot deck, the Egyptian god Thoth, to those would-be students of the occult uses of the cards. These articles start off a series that Ms Montalban wrote devoted to the Trumps. Unfortunately, after the second one, Ms M. shifts her focus onto the wisdom lying behind the cards and ceases to describe the specific steps of spiritual development to which each individual Trump corresponds. Nevertheless, because what she has written sheds light on the initiatory process, whether yoked to the tarot or not, and because information of this sort is not often given out, I thought it would be a service to tarot students interested in setting out upon the magical path to have the information available to them.

First I will post Ms Montalban’s preliminary article. For convenience of reference, I have numbered the paragraphs. In a day or so, I will post my own comments and explanations of the beliefs and concepts Ms M. presents in this article. I suggest you read the article and think about its contents before turning to my exposition. Later on I will post the second article followed by my commentary on that too.

After that, I will be returning to the back-seat again, leaving Tony Willis to continue his admirable curatorship of the blog.

Knowledge is Magic: Beginning of a new series on The Tarot
by Madeline Montalban    

1. With this article I am starting a new series on the Tarot; one which is designed to answer the hundreds of questions that have been put to me over the years I have writing on the subject. The new series will deal with the Tarot in its aspect as the Book of Thoth, for that is what it is. Hidden in the pictures and symbolism is all the accumulated arcane knowledge of the ages, for Thoth was the name of the ancient Egyptian Recorder, the preserver of all knowledge, both arcane and otherwise.

2. Because this is a mighty study we are all beginning together. I am not going to deal with the Tarot from the predictive point of view. It is, and always has been, for more than a mere fortune-telling device. For looking into the future, the method that uses an ordinary pack of playing cards is much simpler to learn than is the Tarot. Books and methods abound on reading the Tarot as a predictive medium. Those who just want to study it for this purpose are recommended to a booklet called The Tarot, written by McGregor Mathers, which can be supplied by John Watkins of 21 Cecil Court, London, E.C.2, price 7/6. This is one of the most comprehensive and cheapest books on the fortune-telling side of the Tarot and, having recommended it. I feel that for the purpose of this series of Tarot articles we can turn to the magic of the Tarot itself.

3. For the Book of Thoth is the book of knowledge, and knowledge, when properly applied, is magic, inasmuch as it can work wonders.

4. The person who really wants to understand the magic and mystery of the Tarot has taken the first step to gaining this wisdom and magical knowledge. The second step is to be aware that the pictographs of the Tarot are manifold; as is its wisdom. There is no such thing as a complete book on the magical side of the Tarot in existence. It could not be contained in one book, or a hundred; a whole library would be needed to give even any idea of its immensity.

You start as a fool

5. As a beginner wanting to understand the magic power of the Tarot; you are represented by Trump No. 1, or the Juggler. The name “juggler” is applied to the aspect of Trump 1 that represents an uninstructed person (sometimes called the Fool). He is trying to “juggle” with what he knows about life and the hidden powers within himself, some good, some evil, which can cause him to make mistakes, and through them come to wisdom.

6. The other name for Trump No. 1 is The Magician, or Adept, which represents the instructed, aware and magically-powerful student of the occult who has learned of the powers behind Nature, its laws and lore, and the Universe itself, and who has the wisdom to apply them. We shall wind up this series by dealing with the Magician-Adept side of Trump No. 1, when we have come full circle through the mysteries of the trumps. But we must begin at rock bottom, by dealing with the lesser side of the trump, known as The Juggler, and by finding out what he represents.

7. Briefly he stands for the curious and inquiring mind that is desirous of leaning the magic of the Tarot, but which admits that it knows nothing. This is the beginning of all magical learning. To admit you know nothing is the beginning of wisdom.

Not an escape from life

8. The first step is to acquire a balanced mind about it. All juggling implies balance and dexterity, and from the Tarot point of view it is mental balance and dexterity that is implied. So you must begin by laying aide all preconceived notions that magic is necessarily black magic, that powers can be obtained with no effort or study, or that even the knowledge of an Adept will free you from the limitations and trials that life imposes on us all. It will not. Life is experience; from experience comes wisdom. Wisdom is magic, when you learn to use it.

9. Again, as the beginner, the juggler with words, ideas, conceptions and symbols, you must avoid falling into a very obvious trap; that of wanting to talk about it when you stumble on a secret of importance. Conversational get-togethers on the subject of magic, when the student is in the initial stages, do far more harm than good. Nobody who knows a great deal more than you do will want to talk to you about it. Those who know less, or just the same amount, have nothing of value to contribute.

MM1

10. The wise student must learn to keep what he learns to himself. This is the symbolism of the little seal on the right-hand side of the Juggler diagram. It represents the Egyptian God of Silence, called Harpocrates, seated on the lotus of knowledge, with his finger to his lips.

Learn not to talk

11. In ancient days the student occultist was bound to silence by a series of most sacred and terrible vows, and his life was at stake if he revealed what he learned. And for a good reason. Knowledge and power, if put into the hands of fools, can be very dangerous. Fools will not be taught, cannot learn, and will not be parted from their folly. Moreover, they are unscrupulous. Their own folly makes them so.

12. Even today, any occult school that teaches things of worth asks for a pledge of secrecy from its students. They still follow the old system, because they have found it is good. Nobody can teach you when to talk, but you can learn not to talk . . . until you have attained Adept degree, when, oddly enough, you won’t want to talk about it!

13. The seal on the left-hand side of the Juggler represents Hermes, or Mercury, god of communications, intelligence and magic, whose name in ancient Egypt was Thoth. He bears in his hand the winged caduceus, representing mental, spiritual and physical expansion, and he is raising from the Pit of Ignorance the psyche, or soul, always represented as a female figure.

14. Taken together the whole pictograph means: “You, the beginner, the Juggler, are about to learn the mysteries and powers that lie within you, and which will emerge as the result of an instructed mind. To this end you are enjoined to silence. Reflect upon what you learn, but do not talk about it. Then the God of Wisdom and Magic will lift your soul from the pit of ignorance and materialism. With this promise to yourself, and the will to learn, you have embarked upon a path that winds ever upwards, and when you reach the summit you can understand the mysteries of the Gods.”

Your mind as power-house

15. It sounds a tall promise, but is no more than a fact. If you have read this far, you are already interested, which means that you feel the need for such lore and learning.

16. The most powerful weapon you have in your armoury is your mind. Again, this is represented by Hermes-Mercury-Thoth. An uninstructed mind is one without power to guide its owner through the labyrinth of life. An instructed mind is a power-house that can sway events and forces.

17. All magic, or occult force, works upon mental power allied to knowledge. It is not a matter of magic circles and diagrams, of mystic signs and strange pacts. Those are but the methods by which you learn. The only pact you make is with yourself and the creative power that brought you into being. The pact is that you will learn, and not abuse what you learn. That you will value knowledge and applied mind-force, and realize that by so doing you can improve not only your own lot, but that of others about you.

18. If you stretch out your hand from the Pit of Ignorance, the God of Knowledge will grasp it, and lead you by simple but enthralling ways to possession of powers you did not know existed.

19. In the next article, I will tell you of the subtle approaches that Thoth, Recorder and God of Knowledge, will make to you.

[First published in Prediction, Oct. 1965]

A Guest Appearance

by Tony Willis

In a day or two, Auntie Tarot will be returning to the blog for a short time only. She has dug out two articles by the redoubtable British tarot expert Madeline Montalban that explain how the path to magick opens up to those students of the Tarot who choose to delve deeper into the science of metaphysics via the medium of the cards. Auntie Tarot has written commentaries on Ms Montalban’s articles and they will be posted to the blog along with the original articles themselves.

Once these articles and Auntie Tarot’s commentaries upon them have been published, Auntie Tarot will be taking a back seat once again and I will be starting a new series of posts concentrating on divination, focusing mainly on the minor arcana.

alephtrt7Cups   alephtrtNinePence   swords 7 tdm

cups 10  rods 10  early9Rods

Boris Johnson in 2020

by Tony Willis

I live in the UK. At the end of January this year, the UK will leave the European Union, a momentous modification of the nation’s destiny. Over New Year I began to wonder what 2020 would bring for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He is a most unusual person to hold that office. He is known for his many affairs; a jibe frequently aimed at him by political commentators is: “We don’t know how many children he has.” He is widely held to be untruthful and many say he misrepresented Brexit to the British public in the 2016 referendum. And yet the Conservative party elected him as their leader and, at the December 2019 elections, the party won a stonking majority in the House of Commons. There are many who view that election as a second referendum. As well they might. Mr Johnson went into the election under the battel-flag “Let’s Get Brexit Done.” This earned him an 80-seat majority. The Liberal Democrats presented themselves as the party that would keep the UK in the EU. As a result, the LibDems’ share of the vote diminished by a couple of points and the party leader lost her seat in Parliament.

The Conservatives are now the most powerful party in British politics. But I have always felt that Mr Johnson was elected party leader on a stop-gap basis. It seemed to me that, once he had navigated the country out of the EU, the party would dump him at the first convenient moment. With that thought in mind, I decided to ask the tarot what the first three months of 2020 held for him.

                                          mmTarot 12

mmTarot 11mmTarot 14mmTarot 21

                                         mmTarot 05

The Hanged Man in the first position reveals that, at the start of the period under consideration, Mr Johnson will be concentrating mainly on duty. He will no doubt wish to see not only that his slogan “Get Brexit Done” is fulfilled but also that workable plans for a new trade agreement between the UK and the EU are drawn up, because Mr Johnson wants the details of the trade agreement settled by the end of the year. At that point, the UK would be “out” of the EU in every sense of the word, and that is the conclusion Mr Johnson wants.

That he is also conscious of the need for the deep rifts within the nation caused by the Brexit debate to be healed is signified by the presence of The Hierophant in second position. The Hierophant, insofar as he is a priest, represents priestly functions, one of which is the authority to perform a marriage service. In this case, the “union” Trump 5 represents is the making whole of the nation. Mr Johnson spoke of this on January 1st, after I had made my divination, and I have no reason to believe he was insincere when he expressed this sentiment.

In third place we find Strength, implying that Mr Johnson will keep to the program he has laid down for himself, since the card signifies both resolution and determination, and the ability to keep on keeping on. As The World lies in fourth position we can deduce that this strategy will yield outstanding results for him, though the end of the three month period sees him treading a middle way between extreme Conservative views on the one hand and on the other the fervent desire of the European Union not to appear to have dealt too leniently with the UK over “the divorce settlement”.

I must confess that I am no supporter of Mr Johnson. In my unregenerated state I continue to hope that the Conservative party will make use of him while ever it suits them do so and then drop him like the proverbial hot potato the second they feel certain they can manage well enough without him. The reading covering Mr Johnson’s first three months of 2020 doesn’t predict his fall from grace and that left me feeling chagrined. I, therefore, asked the tarot what the second three months of 2020 held for the UK’s Prime Minister.

                                          mmTarot 21

mmTarot 01mmTarot 19mmTarot 18

                                           mmTarot 05

The World in first place echoes its placement in the previous reading (where it occupies fourth position). Evidently, Mr Johnson remains Fortune’s darling at the commencement of the year’s second quarter. Moreover, Trump 5, The Hierophant, continues to occupy the second position in the spread. Those of a religious disposition may care to ponder the higher meaning of the Trump: it signifies the Will of God. Although I have an antipathy to Mr Johnson, being out of tune with his political stance as well as disinclined to believe a single word he says (based on his track record), I know enough of the way occult forces work to acknowledge that the instrument of Divine Will does not have to be the tee-total vegetarian. Winston Churchill (another man whose politics I disagree with) was neither tee-total nor a vegetarian but he brought the light of hope to Britain in its darkest hour and saw the nation through the horrors of the Second World War. I have come to believe that it is the UK’s destiny, for good or ill, to leave the EU. If I am right, then the Higher Powers will keep Mr Johnson in power until that divorce is complete down to the last detail. This may well be the message of Trump 5’s appearance in second place in both readings.

The Moon in third place predicts a period of relative quite between April and July. Trump 18 rules all that is hidden and so we may adduce that, while headway is being made behind the scenes, the general public will hear little of how negotiations are progressing between the UK and the EU. ‘Moon periods’ tend to be both complicated and demanding, and so we can expect talks to be hard fought and exhausting. The presence of The Sun in the next position, however, suggests that those talks will, all the while, be tending in the direction of agreement in such a way that both parties feel they have gained more than they have given away.

The beginning of July sees Mr Johnson in a commanding position in relation to domestic policy, still popular with his supporters, those who voted Conservative back in December in the hope that Mr Johnson would indeed “Get Brexit Done”. This is no great revelation, it is a prediction one would expect to see in the reading. Mr Johnson has such a huge majority, it would take a revolution to unseat him. But what The Magician in final place confirms to us is that Mr Johnson is a man of action, and not one to let the grass grow under his feet while he is in possession of such a commanding majority. He will be making reforms on the home front (rumblings about which are already audible) at the same time as negotiations are going on, slowly but surely, with the European Union.

I still don’t have the answer I wanted to see – Boris Johnson ousted as leader of the Conservative Party – but I was overoptimistic in expecting that result to occur in the first half of 2020. Mr Johnson wants the UK to fully extricated itself from the EU by December 31st this year. Rationally, no attempt to get rid of him is going to take place in 2020. I shall have to wait another year at least before I see my personal wishes for the political scene in the UK to come true. In the meantime, I shall just have to be patient.