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The Tenth Principle

June 30, 2021

by Tony Willis      

The Wheel of Fortune tarot card exemplifies the principle of cyclical movement, the idea that everything in existence, whether in the visible or invisible world passes through cycles. One of its geometric symbols is the circle, indicative of rotation. This symbol is not placed above or beside the main illustration on occult tarots because it is embodied in the actual Wheel of Fortune itself. In the case of The Hermit, the circle represented the end of a cycle; specifically the cycle of single digits from 1 to 9. This meaning is to be applied esoterically, as denoting the growth or maturation of the soul up to the point where it is ready to receive its first initiation. The esoteric message of The Wheel of Fortune, on the other hand, is that life goes on; that the rhythm of life is continual; that the pattern of rise and fall is an inevitability; that good and bad luck interchange; that work, rest, and play are not just an advertising slogan but a potent formula for maintaining physical and mental health.


The words on the first card shown in this article translate as: The Kingdom of God, Order, and, literally, Fortune. Together they embody the key occult tenet: The universe is built and ordered under the rule of sacred law. In this instance, the ‘universe’ referred to is what we understand today by the term ‘cosmos’ – our solar system, the myriads of other solar systems that surround ours, stars, black holes and what have you; everything, in fact, that comprises all existence. But behind physical appearances, so occultism teaches, lies another force. Depending on a person’s stage of evolutionary growth, this force will be called God, Brahman, the First Cause or the Tao. We find the Chinese sage Lao Tzu saying of this First Cause, “The reason why the Tao is eternal is that it does not live for itself; it gives life to others as it transforms.” Like The Wheel of Fortune, the Tao is always in motion, making its stately way from Yin to Yang and back to Yin again.

Having passed through the initiation of visiting Despoina and receiving a blessing from her, and hopefully taking possession of the Key of Hecate, will the student of occultism immediately be granted even greater favors? Will they encounter the dread lord Despotes and receive a blessing from him too? And will he dispense to them some bauble from his wooden chest of esoteric knowledge, transforming them at a stroke from student to adept or even magus? No. Not immediately, at any rate. Before any of that can happen, the student must learn to cope with the ebb and flow of invisible forces; must learn when to swim with the tide and when to strike out against it. These lessons the study of The Wheel of Fortune card can teach us.

Governments across the world work to eliminate the cycle economic boom and bust. Even the Chinese government, which should know better having direct access to Taoist teachings, seeks to do this. In reality, governments ought to be preparing during periods of financial expansion for the leaner times that are to come. Every nation under the sun is subject to these cycles, of which there are many, the financial and the expansionary being but two. Anyone who can read the passage of these cycles through their growth, flowering, and decay phases is in possession of valuable information that can be applied with profit to the situation that person finds themselves in.

Example: In Europe, towards the end of the Hundred Years War, the English king, Henry V, who had conquered practically all of modern day France, died in his prime. He bequeathed his empire to an infant son. William Shakespeare, near the start of Henry VI, part I, has Joan of Arc declare, “With Henry’s death the English circle ends; Dispersed are the glories it included.” Joan has seen, with her prophetess’s eye, that the death of Henry V marks the end of England’s cycle of good luck. She knows, so Shakespeare suggests, that England’s fortunes have already started on a downward cycle, initiating a period of bad luck in the political arena. France, Joan informs the Dauphin and his retinue, must strike England right away if it is to take back all that Henry won from it.

The Wheel of Fortune signifies natural change, such as is to be found in the cycle of the seasons. In Europe and the USA four seasons are recognized; countries lying closer to the equate regularly have more. Hinduism has six. Either way, across the globe, one season merges into the next by smooth transition as opposed to the more dramatic changes denoted by the Death card. In a divination, Trump 10 represents the same thing – a gradual change, whether of ascent or descent, expansion or contraction. There are times, however, when the card marks the culmination of a cycle, either the zenith of good luck or its nadir having been reached, the latter being denoted when card is reversed.

One who wishes to gain a deep understanding of these natural cycles and predict coming trends as Shakespeare implies Joan of Arc was able to do must first observe the seasons. Having observed them, one must then practice working with them. Let us take agriculture as our model. I live in the UK. Here farmers sow spring wheat in March, reaping the crop in late summer. Failure to observe the seasons, and planting spring wheat in May, will result in a poor crop and bring financial ruin on the farmer. Yet spring does not always commence on March 21st in the UK, no matter what the almanacs say. Signs of an early spring, or a late one, can be picked up by those who know what to look for. That kind of knowledge can only be amassed by careful and incessant observation. As you may recall, care and observation are assets associated with The Hermit card. In the pattern formed by the numerical progression of the Trumps, what is being suggested is that the occult student should take up an observer stance (Trump 9) and apply it to the natural cycles that surround them (Trump 10).

After observing the cycles and working with them, the third step is to learn to blend with them. One of the tenets of higher magick is that no one can hope to manipulate the basic building blocks of the universe without becoming one with the cosmos. This is not an easy feat and few master the skill in its entirety. It must, however, be achieved to some extent or the student will fail to develop the opportunities offered them once they have passed their first astral initiation epitomized in tarot lore by The Hermit card.

Other tenets of higher magick concerning the same theme include this: The would-be adept must first possess the ability to transform evil into good inside themself before they can perform transformations in the world around them. That is why readers of this blog who have been traveling along the path to initiation I have set out for them to follow were asked to identify some of their faults and to work on overcoming, or at least reducing them. This is their first exercise in transforming evil into good within themselves and it is done in preparation for the more significant transformations they will be called upon to carry out should they ever attain the grade of adept. Make no mistake, becoming an adept means accepting a grave responsibility. As an adept, one’s primary goal is to live in unity with the forces of nature. To reach it, one must, to a degree, renounce the social and cultural bubbles within which most people live so as to develop into a force of nature oneself. Esoteric philosophy advocates living in unity with the forces of nature as the supreme achievement of the spiritually evolved adept.

Occult teaching goes on to state that the way of personal success and personal peace is one of the greatest ways by which to change the world. What the adept achieves within themself is universal; that is to say, it has universal consequences. How does the adept attain this condition? The answer is contained in the following quote: “The alchemical art and its allegories are the drama of our own souls – playing out the individuation process on the wheel of life.” Mention of the wheel of life returns our thoughts to Trump 10, The Wheel. The reference to alchemy brings to mind the three alchemical ‘elements’, Salt, Sulfur, and Mercury. In all tarots of any esoteric worth, three figures are pictured upon the Wheel of Fortune, each figure standing for one of the alchemical ‘elements’. They are depicted in a crude form on the Tarot de Marseille card but take on an altogether more coherent identity in the Waite-Smith representation of the Wheel of Fortune.

10t tdm     10 Wheel

In the tarot card at the head of this article three figures are attached to the circumference of the wheel. A green crocodile descends on the left, the figure of Hermanubis rises on the right, while a winged sphinx sits at the top. The first of these figures embodies the characteristics of Alchemical Salt, the second the characteristics of Alchemical Sulfur, and the third those of Alchemical Mercury.

Alchemical Salt, the Salt of the Wise, is not totally inert. From an Elemental point of view, it is composed of equal parts of Earth and Water. The Water aspect lends it movement, although such movement is inhibited by the presence of sluggish, immobile Earth in its composition. The crocodile is its symbol on account of that animal’s nature. It lies, inert as a log, in the rivers it inhabits, roused to activity only when prey swims nearby, to be snapped up with the least possible effort. In the illustration, the crocodile is colored green, mirroring the verdant Earth, a reminder of the innumerable greens of grasses, trees and bushes. The figure of Hermanubis, according to Wikipedia, is engaged in the investigation of truth; he is said to be a symbol of the Egyptian priesthood, whose main purpose in life was the examination of spiritual, psychological, and physical truths. In alchemical lore, Hermanubis is equated with the Sulfur of the Wise, the most active alchemical ‘element’; for the search for truth on the Earth plane is unending. Alchemical Sulfur is composed of Fire and Air, the two most energetic Elements.

The sphinx represents the Mercury of the Wise. It has the head of a woman, the wings of a bird, a lion’s paws, and the hindquarters of an ox; in one its forepaws it holds a sword. This combination is pre-eminently an image of the harmonious disposition of the Four Elements governed by the impulses of Æther, or Spirit. The Four Elements are denoted by the ox (Taurus, Earth), the lion (Leo, Fire), the eagle (the esoteric symbol for Scorpio, Water), and the human (who carries Aquarius’s waterpot, Air), with theAquarius mosaic sword of Justice symbolizing fair, or appropriate, division of labor directing all. The Mercury of the Wise is made up of equal parts of Air and Water, both of which Elements flow and, in nature, are constantly in motion. Air and Water is clearly the most appropriate Elemental combination one could apply to Alchemical Mercury since it is the most fluid and adaptable of the three alchemical ‘elements’. It is on account of its fluidity that, on the accompanying illustration, the Mercury of the Wise is given the designation ‘wet’.

alchemic elements

The permutations of the three Alchemical Elements with the four natural Elements create the potencies manifesting through the zodiac’s twelve signs.

All the various facets of the energy so ably delineated in the symbolism of The Wheel of Fortune card – cyclicity, the regular order of the seasons as represented by the passage of the sun through the signs of the zodiac, and the need for the adept to align themself with natural cycles and work with them and via them – none of this is newly revealed esoteric knowledge. The British occultist Madeline Montalban made an excellent summation of the matter in the late 1950s, before most of my readers were born. She began by referencing the Elements.

“The four elements that rule humanity are the same four that rule our planet, namely, earth, air, fire and water.”

After aligning these with the zodiac signs divided into four Triplicities, each corresponding to one of Elements, Ms Montalban continued: –

“We each have twelve houses in our horoscope. Some of us have planets distributed fairly evenly among all four triplicities. But most of us have an "unbalanced" horoscope, and therefore our lives are unbalanced. We suffer from a lack of one or more of the elemental "forces" which, if we had them in our very natures, would balance us, and enable us to adjust our lives.

“It therefore follows that if we could "adjust" our horoscopes we could adjust our natures, and gain control over the things that worry us, like poverty, sickness, unhappiness and frustration. Ancient Egyptian occult schools taught their students to do just that, and on the control and adjustment of the elemental forces were erected the whole arcana of their magic. Occultists must command the happenings of life, and not be subject to them. They must learn to overcome the difficulties presented to them by their natal horoscopes, for that is what man is put on earth to learn.”

The path of initiation offers the student of occultism the opportunity to adjust the horoscope they were born with. This is achieved when the student realigns their nature to such an extent that they symbolically experience a second birth. That is the goal of all occult initiations. At this second birth, a fresh horoscope can be drawn up for the student, though it will almost certainly contain the seeds of new trials and tribulations that will have to be faced before the next initiation comes their way. For, as a Taoist text of second century a.d. tells us: The path of initiation is long and confusing, but at the end of it the yang forces and the yin forces unite. This final destination is foreshadowed on The Wheel of Fortune card I have used to illustrate this article by the hexagram at the center of the wheel. A fuller explanation of that symbol will have to wait because now is the time for those readers who have been carrying out the exercises I have set them to engage with the cosmic forces lying behind the signs of the zodiac, that great wheel which, so far as humankind is concerned, turns forever around us, bounding us and at the same time describing us.

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