by Bruce Johnson —
Bruce Johnson has over 30 years of study in the fields of Ancient Wisdom and occultism. He has taught classes on a wide range of topics, from Atlantis to mediums to Zoroaster. He is also a spiritualist minister, with a background in spiritual astrology. He lives in Colorado with his wife and their cat.
The theme of duality, and balanced opposition is intrinsic to many current Tarot decks, especially those decks rooted in the symbolism of the Egyptian Mystery Schools. The first duality separates the deck’s 78 cards into the Minor Arcana containing 56 cards, and the Major Arcana with 22 cards. The second duality is represented by dividing the Major Arcana into two complementary pairs of 11 cards each. All 22 cards of the Major Arcana in the Rider-Waite deck have artwork clearly indicating dualism. Egyptian temples had hallways with 11 mystery paintings positioned on one wall, plus another set of 11 pictures balancing them on the opposite wall.
The mystically oriented Egyptians, like the Occultist or Kabbalist, began with the infinite unmanifest reality or Ain-Soph, and proceeded downward through progressively denser levels of manifestation. The Ain-Soph corresponds to no- thing, or 0, making The Fool card the beginning point for the initial 11 cards. The initial group of 11 Major Arcana cards represent the solar Mysteries of Osiris, and are linked with the mental plane. The subsequent 11 cards designate the lunar Mysteries of Isis, and relate to the secrets of the astral plane.
The initial 11 cards in the left column depict the Greater Mysteries of Egypt, and the white pillar of Solomon’s Temple. The right column shows corresponding cards associated with the Lesser Mysteries, and the black pillar of Solomon’s Temple. Each combination of cards demonstrates an odd and even number, a balance of positive and negative polarities, as well as an interaction between two specific ruling planets.
|1. The Fool #0 [Ain-Soph] …. Negative aspect of the Sun||12. The World #21 [manifested universe] …. Neptune|
|2. The Magician #1 …. Positive aspect of Uranus||13. The Tower #16 …. Negative aspect of Uranus|
|3. The Emperor #4 …. Mars||14. The Empress #3 …. Venus|
|4. The Hierophant #5 …. Jupiter||15. The High Priestess #2 …. Moon|
|5. The Lovers #6 …. Mercury||16. The Devil #15 …. Pluto|
|6. The Chariot #7 …. Mars||17. Strength #8 …. Venus|
|7. Wheel of Fortune #10 …. Neutral aspect of the Sun||18. Death #13 …. Pluto|
|8. The Hanged Man #12 …. Neutral aspect of Uranus||19. The Star #17 …. Neptune|
|9. Temperance #14 …. Jupiter||20. Justice #11 …. Saturn|
|10. The Sun #19 …. Positive aspect of the Sun||21. The Moon #18 …. Moon|
|11. Judgement #20 …. Mercury||22. The Hermit #9 …. Saturn|
This writer believes that the traditional position of the black and white columns in The High Priestess card and the Sephirothic Tree is a reflection of their true location, which places the solar white column on the left side of the temple, and the lunar black column on the right side. Modern versions of the Major Arcana, although good, useful and beneficial, are a dim reflection of the Wisdom contained in the original Alphabet of Thoth.
The 22 cards of the Major Arcana show a non-identical correspondence to the 22 stages of the secret Alchemical Process used to achieve the creation of the Philosophers Stone. The 22 stages of this arcane procedure are arranged with the initial 11 stages followed by 11 reflected stages. All 22 steps are illustrated on exquisitely colored plates in the 1582 alchemical manuscript Splendor Solis, by Salomon Trismosin.