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The Eleventh Principle, Part I

August 30, 2021

by Tony Willis    

As a preface to what I am going to say concerning the Eleventh Occult Principle and the card Strength, I want to give readers some insight into my own tarot journey. It was back in 1958 that I first became aware of the tarot. I was thirteen. That is an age when, for reasons I cannot explore fully here, many find the veil between the Seen and Unseen worlds to have lifted, or to have become so thin that the young adolescent can, more easily than at any other time of life, without effort see through into the enchanting realm of symbol. When my maternal grandmother found out I was reading up on tarot cards, she undertook to teach me how to read with them. She taught me the predictive tarot. In the ’50s there was no other way of reading the tarot. Sixty-three years later – how things have changed!

There have been other changes, too, in addition to the current dominance of the psychological approach to tarot reading. All the tarot decks I saw in the early years of my study had the card Justice numbered 8 while Strength was number 11. This is the sequence of the Trumps in the Tarot de Marseille pack, designed around 1650, but based on an older tradition. It is the sequence of Trumps known to, and used by, the Great Names of the French Occult Revival – Eliphas Levi, Paul Christian, ‘Papus’, Oswald Wirth, etc. I was four, maybe five, years into my study of the cards before I set eyes on a Waite-Smith tarot deck. Therein I found Strength numbered 8 and Justice numbered 11. I was at first puzzled by the exchange but on learning that the meanings given to the cards remained unchanged, I put the conundrum out of my head.

In 1967, now aged twenty-one, I was fortunate enough to acquire a tarot teacher who understood the Golden Dawn approach to the subject from the inside out. He explained that the positions of the cards had been switched because, in the GD system of correspondences, Justice equated with the sign Libra and Strength with the sign of Leo; and since, in the natural order of the signs, Leo precedes Libra, Strength was therefore placed before Justice. But, my tutor explained, the exchange was more notional than actual. That is to say that, while initiates were taught the attribution used in the GD, the numbering of the cards in some places in the Order documents remained traditional. At a later date, when I had the opportunity to scrutinize the GD papers published by Israel Regardie between 1938 and 1940, I found this to be true. For example, in Section 5 of Book T, a document not received until student attained the grade of Zelator Adeptus Minor, Justice falls between the Chariot and the Hermit and is numbered 8. Accordingly Fortitude (as the Order calls the Strength card) appears between the Wheel of Fortune and the Hanged Man and is numbered 11.

For further elucidation, my tarot teacher directed me to Crowley’s Thoth tarot deck.

8T thoth    thoth Strength Lust

Crowley, as an initiate of the Golden Dawn system, accepted that Justice equated with Libra and Strength with Leo. Nevertheless he retains the traditional numbering for the cards in his Thoth deck. Moreover, despite believing that The Emperor corresponded to Aquarius and The Star to Aries (another exchange of attributions peculiar to Crowley’s magickal system), he retained the numeration of the Marseille Tarot for these cards, The Emperor being numbered 4 and The Star 17 in the Thoth pack. For Crowley, the Trump order was one thing and the numeration of the cards another. He appreciated that what might be called “the traditional numbering” of the Major Arcana had validity and was worth preserving, the alteration of the position of certain cards upon the Tree of Life notwithstanding.

In my examination of Numerology, I discovered that all the writers I consulted attributed to the number Eight a good many of the qualities generally ascribed to the tarot’s Justice card. I was making my investigations in the 1960s and consequently the authorities I turned to were, perforce, pre the Second World War, and sometimes Edwardian or Victorian. All the experts cited either long-standing occult tradition or the opinions of classical authors regarding the esoteric significance of numbers.

Count Louis Hamon, whose life spanned the end of the nineteenth- and the early part of the twentieth-century, was an occultist best known to the world as ‘Cheiro’, under which name he published several books. In Cheiro’s Book of Numbers, he makes these comments:

“The symbol of the number 8, I may also mention, from time immemorial in occult studies is called the ‘symbol of human justice’.”

“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.”

“From the earliest ages it has been associated with the symbol of an irrevocable Fate, both in connection and the lives of individuals or nations.”

“There are many very curious things in history as regards this number. The Greeks called it the number of Justice on account of its equal division of equally even numbers.”

By that last remark Cheiro means that 8 can be divided into two equal parts, 4 and 4, and that these parts can themselves be divided into two equal parts, 4 dividing equally into 2 and 2. Two can also be divided into equal parts since 2 is composed of 1 plus 1. After this point no further division entailing whole numbers can continue.

W. Wynn Westcott, one of the founding fathers of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, has many interesting things to say about the number Eight in his book on numerology.

“Camerarius, in his edition of the Arithmetic of Nicomachus, calls it [8] Universal Harmony, because musical ratios are distinguished by this number. . . .

“Hence the Ogdoad was also called “Cadmeia,” because Harmony was looked upon as the wife of Cadmus; and Cadmus meant the Sub-lunary World, as Olypiodorus says. Eight was called also the Mother, and Rhea, Cybele and Dindymene, from being the first cube, and a cube representing earth. . . .”

In speaking of the first cube, Westcott refers to the fact that 2x2x2 = 8. Dindymene is an alternative name for the goddess Cybele. Westcott continues:

“Macrobius says the Ogdoad was a type of Justice, because it consists of evenly even numbers, and on account of its equal divisions. . . .”

These ‘equal divisions’ of 8 into two 4s and of 4 into two 2s, has been explained above.

In addition, Westcott informs his readers:

“John Heydon tells us that 8 [unpleasant] Events befall the Damned, and that there are 8 rewards of the Blessed.”

The idea of Justice is, of course, implicit in that last remark.

In relation to the idea of Eight being associated with good or ill-reward, take note of what Isidore Kozminsky says of Eight in his Numbers: their meaning and significance:

“Attraction and repulsion, life, terrors, and all kinds of strife, separation, disruption, destruction, promise and menace.”

John Heydon’s unpleasant events and enjoyable rewards are here transmuted into “menace” and “promise”. These notions, along with “attraction and repulsion”, are derived from the number 8 being composed of two circles juxtaposed, one thought to indicate “good” and the other its opposite in some respect.

A.E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith were the first to publish a tarot deck that numbered Strength 8 and Justice 11. Paul Foster Case, like Aleister Crowley and A.E. Waite himself, received instruction in the Golden Dawn system of magick. In the tarot deck Case had designed for his own organization, The Builders of the Adytum, he follows Waite in the numbering of the Trumps. However, from what Case says of the number Eight on page 13 of The Tarot (Macoy Publishing Company, 1947) it is apparent that he recognizes the “attraction and repulsion” aspect of the number and the alternating cycles suggested by the two circles of which the figure 8 is composed, formed, when the figure is inscribed, by a descending ‘S’ followed by an ascending backward ‘S’ going in the opposite direction. The symbolism suggests balance; that attraction follows repulsion which gives way itself in time to attraction, like the flowing of a tide, in and out, back and forth eternally. This is part of what Case has to say regarding the number Eight:

“. . . the form of the figure suggests vibration by the shape of the lines and alternation by the two kinds of motion used in describing it. It is also the only figure except 0 which may be written over and over again without lifting pen from paper. Thus in mathematics the figure, written horizontally, is the sign of infinity. Among its occult meanings are:

“Rhythm, alternate cycles of involution and evolution, vibration, flux and reflux and the like. It represents the fact that opposite forms of expression (that is, all pairs of opposites) are effects of a single Cause. . . .

“Its Hebrew name is Splendor, and the aspect of consciousness to which it corresponds is called Perfect Intelligence. The Hebrew adjective translated “perfect” is ShLM [Shalom]. A noun spelt with the same letters mans “peace, security, health, wealth, satisfaction,” and thus refers to the perfect realization of the success represented by the number 7.”

All the attributes Case speaks of in the final paragraph – peace, security, health, wealth, satisfaction – are the social results we find manifested in a well-run, even-handed and just civil society, a state of affairs again suggestive of Justice.

As numerologists pay greater attention to the single digits One to Nine than to other numbers, they have less to say about the number Eleven. But what they do say is instructive. Of that number, Count Louis Hamon observes that its Mystical Symbol is “A Clenched Hand, A Lion Muzzled.” It is, he says, “an ominous number to occultists. It gives warning of hidden dangers, trial, and treachery from others. Symbolizes a person who will have great difficulties to contend against.”

Arcane-Arcana-11-force-strength      11t Egyptian Tarot

Isidore Kozminsky declares Eleven to be the signifier of “Violence, power, bravery, energy, success in fearless ventures, liberty, and the knowledge of how to ‘rule the stars’.” Compare Kozminsky’s verdict on the number Eleven with an overview of the significance of the Strength card written circa 1936: “Invincible strength and dauntless courage. It promises victory and attainment of the end in view to those who know how to direct their natural gifts and will-power into the right channels and who persevere in their efforts with unflagging energy.” Clearly Kozminsky and the person writing on the tarot are describing the same force, the potency known in tarot circles as Strength but ascribed by Kozminsky to the number Eleven and by the tarotist to the card Strength which he identifies as Trump 11.

In my twenties, I commenced a study of tarot numerology. As commonly understood, Numerology concerns itself mainly with the single digits One to Nine. All other numbers are reduced by addition, so that Ten becomes One (10 = 1+ 0 = 1), 24 becomes 6 (2+4 = 6), and 317 becomes 2 (3+1+7 = 11, 1+1 =2). In tarot numerology, the key number is Twenty-Two. All numbers greater that 22 are reduced in the same manner as just demonstrated. Thus Ten remains Ten, 24 reduces to 6, and 317 reduces to 11. These numbers relate to the tarot Trumps, with 22 denoting The Fool.

There is a method of numerically calculating which of the tarot Trumps exerts the strongest influence in each year of a person’s life. There are number 3 years where the overall tenor of the year is fruitful, and there are “15 years” in which obstacles and setbacks abound. Over my fifty years spent working with this system, I have found “8 years” to be those wherein some kind of judgment is made upon a person. It is generally the judgment of their peers or of the social milieu within which they move. Very occasionally, it refers to legal matters. The judgment is not necessarily negative; everything depends on the type of personality the number 8 is working upon.

I knew a man who had spent time in prison. His upcoming year number, I noted, was Eight. During the time that number held sway over his life, he was arrested, tried, and sentenced to a further term of imprisonment. At the other end of the scale, a woman of my acquaintance received a surprise inheritance during an “8 year”; a great uncle, to whom she had been helpful at a time when he was adjusting to the loss of his beloved wife many years previously, had remembered her in his will. Both examples are extreme. They do, however, demonstrate the wide variety of results to be expected from a Year Number.

08 II         11 II

I have found “11 years” to usher in tension and emotional distress. Yet, if the person under the influence of the number Eleven does not falter, they are able to handle the situation well enough and steer a course successfully through troubled waters. These are years when adversity offers hidden opportunities. At times, certain people find “11 years” to be among the most rewarding years of their lives.

These rules produce similar results on the global stage. In 2009 (an Eleven year), the world was shakily recovering from the financial crash of 2008. In the latter year, the Wheel of Fortune (2+0+0+8 = 10) had turned dramatically, throwing money markets across the globe into disarray. The following year, 2009, was stressful for many. But those who directed their natural gifts and will-power into the appropriate channels, and consistently applied their efforts with unflagging energy, were able to rescue their lives from the worst consequences of the slump.

I report the results of my investigations into Tarot Numerology using formulae I was taught in the 1960s. There are other methods of calculating a person’s Year Number. I have not experimented with them. Those who apply those methods pronounce themselves well satisfied with the results and I have no doubts that these investigators speak as they find. My only comment is that, in numerology books written since the 1960s, the occult significances of Eight and Eleven noted by Count Louis Hamon and Isidore Kozminsky, both adepts of some standing in the esoteric circles of their day, have been left out of assessments of these numbers. Eleven especially (along with Twenty-Two for those numerologists who have anything to say about numbers greater than Nine) has had its traits so thoroughly overhauled that today its character is markedly at odds with that given to it in former times. With that observation, I am ready to pass on to a consideration of Strength in relation to the Eleventh Occult Principle.

One Comment
  1. aplkont permalink

    Great Post! Thank you Tony!

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