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Restoring the Balance

August 7, 2017
by Tony Willis       

For tarot enthusiasts of the French Occult Revival (c. 1770-1900), the second septenary of Trumps began with the card Justice. Today, most people think of Strength as the eighth Trump but back then nobody considered that Justice in eighth place was odd or in any way untoward. The eighth numbered Trump in the Tarot de Marseilles was, and is, Justice; and 8 seemed an appropriate number for it, as 8 was widely associated with concepts such as:

Alternating cycles, the active administration of law, redressing of balance, poise, impartiality, exactitude and accuracy.

One interpretation of “alternating cycles” is that reflected in the template of crime and punishment. A crime is committed, the miscreant apprehended and brought to trial. In court, justice is done, a sentence is pronounced, and societal order restored. Unsurprisingly, then, we find words like “retribution”, “rectification”, “judgment”, “equity”, “compensation”, and “rewards and punishments” applied to the Justice card.

The occultist Cheiro (1866-1936), interpreting the number purely on the material plane, has it represent human justice. Cheiro’s contemporary, Sepharial (1864-1929), suggests “human justice” as one of the meanings for the equivalent Trump, Justice. Operating at a higher level, the card can signify either Divine Justice or its occult agents, the Lords of Karma. For most individuals, however, Justice in a tarot reading will refer to justice of the human kind, whether it be meted out in a court of law, or in a broader context, in the court of public opinion.

Cheiro, still speaking of the number, informs his readers: “The occult symbol of 8 has from time immemorial been represented by the figure of Justice with a Sword pointing upwards and a Balance or Scales in the left hand.” (Cheiro’s Numbers.) Paul Christian, a pupil of Eliphas Levi’s, names the Trump “The Scales and Blade”. Other tarot experts name it “Balance”, referring to the harmony that is restored to the world whenever justice is done, and everyone involved receives their just deserts.

As well as Balance, the Trump was at times known as Harmony, the two concepts being analogous. In Greek myth, the wife of Cadmus bore the name Harmony, and W. Wynn Westcott, in Numbers, their Occult Power and Mystic Virtues, explains: “The Greeks called [Eight] “Cademia,” because Harmony was looked upon as the wife of Cadmus . . .”

In his book Numbers: their meaning and significance, Kozminsky, follows Cheiro in giving 8 the meanings protection and justice. For when justice is done, the weak are protected against bullies, and the fortunate are protected from the envious.

David Allen Hulse, in The Truth About Numerology, gives 8 the significance “success in material endeavors”. This connects to one of the predictive meanings assigned the tarot Trump, namely “Success in business matters, [or] the winning of a lawsuit.” Should the card be reversed, the opposite was indicated – great disappointment in business or the loss of a lawsuit.

One meaning given to the card by tarotists with occult leanings is “reactionary balance”, which is an obscure way of indicating restorative justice, things brought back into balance by the enacting of human or divine justice. Broadly speaking the card can signify the restoration of balance, or equilibrium, to the inquirer’s world. All these ideas go back to Eliphas Levi, who give the Justice card the meaning “the equilibrium of attraction and repulsion”, an expression that points up the circularity of the formula “crime and punishment”, or of any set of circumstances where order becomes disordered and is then returned to order once again.

8 as 2 squares       ogdoade1

This “equilibrium of attraction and repulsion” is presented visually in one of the diagrams attached to the Justice card – two squares, one on top of the other. The diagram is mirrored, to some extent, in the Arabic numeral for Eight, which is essentially two circles set one atop the other. The idea behind the diagram finds common expression in such sayings as “What goes up must come down.” Those who believe in karma understand that any good deed will be rewarded, in the right time and under the right circumstances, and that bad deeds will be dealt with in the same manner, and that in the great scheme of things, nobody “gets away” with anything. Somehow, balance will always be restored.

Occultists who are also tarot masters at times assign the meaning of “good karma” to the upright card, and “bad karma” to the reversal. For the Trump can indicate that an event is the result of one or the other. Justice reversed falling in conjunction with The Tower, for instance, might show that an upcoming damaging event is the result of past karma catching up with the inquirer. However, it is only for the highly experienced tarot reader to make such pronouncements, as distinguishing between a karmic event and a non-karmic one is a task for a fully trained occultist.

The other geometric symbol associated with Justice as Trump 8 is one square within another. It is a reference to the even-handedness of divine justice or of human justice conscientiously performed. One square within another is a symbol of the Ogdoad. The Greek writer Macrobius said of the Ogdoad that it was “the type of Justice, because it consists of evenly even numbers, and on account of its equal divisions.” The inner square divides the lines of the outer square into eight equal parts. These eight could themselves be divided into sixteen equal parts and those sixteen into thirty-two; that is what Macrobius was getting at. The division is always equal, and where equality prevails there is neither favoritism nor special treatment. No one experiencing this kind of justice is likely to come away dissatisfied.

The reversed card gives warning of the exact opposite: Unfairness, sometimes coupled with unjust accusations and criticism.

  1. Good post. The association of 8 with the concept of justice supposedly goes back to Pythagoras, according to Agrippa, (Bk II), and is also mentioned as well by Macrobius in his Commentary on the Dream of Scipio.

    Closer to Tarot times, in the 17th century, John Heydon’s Holy Guide and one of Moliere’s plays make this connection without mentioning Tarot.

    In terms of geometry, the octagon forms the intermediary form between the square and the circle.

  2. Arul Francis permalink

    The square within square of the ogdoad is well explained.
    Thanks for the post

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