A STUDY OF THE
MAJOR ARCANA IN LIGHT OF MASONRY
By Brother P. D.
Tupelo Lodge No.
He who desires
to attain to the understanding of the Grand Word and the possession of the
Great Secret, ought carefully to read the Hermetic philosophers, and will
undoubtedly attain initiation, as others have done; but he must take, for the
key of their allegories, the single dogma of Hermes, contained in his tablet
of Emerald, and follow, to class his aquisitions of knowledge and direct the
operation, the order indicated in the Kabalistic alphabet of the Tarot. -
Albert Pike ('Morals & Dogma,' p. 777)
The Fool card
features a wanton youth who is skipping along a mountain ridge, daydreaming &
completely ignorant of the fact that before him is a cliff off of which he is
about to step. In Masonry, the Fool card correlates to the candidate for
initiation. The due & true preparation of the candidate is to signify that he
is symbolically bound by his own ignorance & blind to the true
workings of nature, & like the fool, he is about to take a great leap of faith
into the unknown. Culturally the fool is represented in the figure of Wagner's
'Parzifal' whose mother, so as to avoid his being considered for knighthood,
dressed him as the villiage idiot, not unlike the candidate for Masonic
initiation. Also, the word 'Parzifal' is a rearragement of the Arabic words 'Fal
Parsi' which mean 'Pure Fool.'
The Magician card
corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Beth' which means 'House.' Masonically the
Magician card is therefore suggestive of "that house not made with hands,
eternal in the heavens." On the card itself is depicted a young man before a
table on which is displayed the weapons of his trade, similar to the working
tools of a Mason. In his right hand is held aloft a wand with which he points
to the heavens, while with his left hand he points to the floor of the Temple,
as if to say that the plans for the building of the earthly Temple are to be
sought in the tracings of the heavenly bodies.
On the High
Priestess card is depicted a young woman seated on a throne between two
pillars. In the Rider-Waite deck the pillar to the left of the High Priestess
has inscribed upon it the letter 'J,' & to her right, 'B,' alluding to the
pillars which were set in the portico of King Solomon's Temple. One of the
Three Great Lights in Masonry, the Sacred Volume of the Law, rests open atop
her lap, & from it flows a bubbling stream which irrigates the rest of the
Major Arcana. The High Priestess card corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Gimel'
which means 'Rope,' Masonically suggestive of the rope or cable tow which
binds the candidate for initiation. Also, the Latin equivalent of the Hebrew
Gimel is the letter 'G,' indicative of the self-same letter which is suspended
over the head of the Worshipful Master in the east of the Lodge.
The Empress card
corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Daleth' which means 'Door.' Masonically the
Empress card is therefore suggestive of the door of the Lodge on which the
candidate must knock for admission. The Empress card itself is representative
of the archetypal mother, & in the world of symbolism there has always been an
explicit connection between the idea of a 'door' & the reproductive anatomy of
the female. As Ida Craddock points out on page 241 of her exhaustive 'Lunar
and Sex Worship,' "The usual and natural symbol of femininity is a doorway or
archway, suggestive of the vulva or external genitals."
The Emperor card
corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Heh' whose Yetziratic attribution is the
zodiacal sign Aries. Aries is the ram or lamb & signifies the childlike
innocence of the coming spring. In the Thoth deck there is even depicted a
lamb seated next to the Emperor in the lower left hand corner of the card in
commemoration of this fact. Masonically therefore the Emperor card is
suggestive of the lambskin or white leather apron which is worn over the
sacral region as an indication of the Mason's moral purity.
On the Hierophant
card is featured an adult male whose attire is indicative of a papal position.
Two or three monks kneel before him in reverence as he blesses them with the
sign of benediction. Masonically the Hierophant card correlates to the
Worshipful Master whose working task it is to initiate, pass & raise
candidates. The Hebrew letter which corresponds to the Hierophant card is 'Vau'
whose Yetziratic attribution is the zodiacal sign of Taurus, the sign of the
bull. Mythologically he is connected to the Egyptian Osiris, the 'solar bull,'
whose death & resurrection serves as the prototype for that of Masonic hero H.
A., whose mystery play is acted out by every candidate for the degree of
The Lovers card
corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Zayin' which means 'Sword.' Masonically the
Lovers card is therefore suggestive of the Tyler who, during the working or
business hours of the Lodge, can be found standing without the door of the
Temple with a drawn sword in his hand in order to ward off all whose intention
it is to intrude or evesdrop upon Lodge work or business. This is the same
function which the Lesser Bannishing Ritual of the Pentagram serves in the
Magical tradition where the magician performing the ritual, having armed
himself with a specially consecrated sword, 'bannishes' any intruding thoughts
or spirits from the Magick Circle or Temple.
implications of the Chariot card are not as easy to trace as have been the
preceding cards, but the connection is clear if one but approach the problem
from a slightly different angle. In most Qabalah-based Orders and Societies
the Rungs of the Ladder of Attainment are based upon the Sephiroth of the Tree
of Life, & the Paths which lead up to each Sephirah are the means by which an
initiate attains a given Rung. Each Path corresponds to a specific Hebrew
letter, & the Path which leads to the Rung which correlates to the Grade of
Magister Templi in the MSRICF is that of Cheth, the same letter which is
attributed Yetziratically to the Chariot card. The title 'Magister Templi'
appears to have been borrowed by the SRIA from the Freemasons, for not only is
'Magister Templi' Latin for 'Master of the Temple,' a possible reference to
the Masonic 'Master of the Lodge,' but the Grade of Magister Templi also
happens to be the entry point into the Rosicrucian Third Order, structurally
analogous to the S.'.S.'. or Holy of Holies of King Solomon's Temple in
Masonry. Masonically the Chariot card is therefore suggestive of the Master of
the Lodge as one of the Three Lesser Lights in Masonry. Also, on the Chariot
card is depicted a knight being drawn in a chariot by two sphinxes. The canopy
of the chariot is, like the ceiling of the Lodge, the starry vault of heaven
itself, & the sphinxes which pull the chariot are mix-matched in black &
white, reminiscent of the groud floor or checkered pavement of King Solomon's
Temple, indicating that creation is propelled by the interplay of opposing
Strength card is related to Fortitude, the same title by which the card was
known in the old decks. Fortitude is the Cardinal Virtue which corresponds to
the Perfect Point of Entrance located in the pectoral region. The Hebrew
letter which is attributed to the Strength card is 'Teth' whose Yetziratic
correspodence is the zodiacal sign Leo, the sign of the Lion, indicating that
the Sxxxxx Gxxx of the Lxxxx Pxx is also suggested by the Strength card.
Similarly, the Hermit card corresponds to Prudence, the Cardinal Virtue which
relates to the Perfect Point of Entrance located in the hands. The card itself
is connected to the idea of 'Silence,' & in the old decks the card was even
called 'Prudence,' keeping in step with the actual nature of the card.
The Wheel of
Fortune card corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Kaph' which means 'Gripping
Hand.' Masonically the Wheel of Fortune card is therefore suggestive of the
token or grip whereby one Mason may know another in the dark as well as in the
light. The Yetziratic correspondence of Kaph is the planet Jupiter which, as
Albert Pike tells us on page 202 of 'Morals & Dogma,' is "an emblem of the
ever-approaching dawn of perfection and Masonic light."
The Justice card is
related to the Cardinal Virtue of the same name which corresponds to the
Perfect Point of Entrance located in the feet. The Hebrew letter which is
attributed to the Justice card is 'Lamed' whose Yetziratic correspodence is
the zodiacal sign Libra, suggestive of the balance that comes structurally
from building on the square.
The Hanged Man card
corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Mem' which means 'Water.' In the magical
tradition each of the four elements is attributed to one of the four cardinal
directions, & the element which correlates to the occident is that of water.
Masonically the Hanged Man is therefore the Senior Warden seated in the west,
representative of the setting sun. Mythologically the setting sun is signified
by the Egyptian Osiris who was, like the figure depicted in the Hanged Man
card, bound and hung from a living tree.
The Death card is
indicative of the ritual which every candidate for the degree of Master Mason
must undergo in rememberance of the fallen architect of King Solomon's Temple,
H. A.. As stated above, the prototype of this mystery play is the death &
resurrection of Egyptian deity Osiris, & it is Osiris' murderer, the Saturnal
Typhon, who is depicted on the face of the Death card harvesting the souls of
the dead with a sickle, the astrological symbol for the planet Saturn. The
handle of the sickle forms a Greek Tau, the Hebrew equivalet of which
correponds Yetziratically, like the sickle itself, to Saturn.
Like the Strength,
Hermit, & Justice cards, Temperance corresponds Masonically to one of the four
Cardinal Virtues. It is attributed to the Perfect Point of Entrance located in
the gutteral region on accout of the fact that "TEMPERANCE [signifies] the
antipodes of Gluttony." ('Morals & Dogma,' p. 727) Robert Macoy, on page 682
of his 'A Dictionary of Freemasonry' tells us that it is "By temperace [that]
we are instructed to govern the passions, and check unruly desires."
The Devil card
corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Ayin' which means 'Eye.' In Masonry the
Devil card is thus suggestive of the All-Seeing Eye, a symbol which is used by
Masons to signify the ever-watchful eye of deity. On the card itself is
depicted a goat-headed beast which is seated atop a cubical stone. The beast
is highly reminiscent of Baphomet, the deific icon of the Templars, while the
cubical stone on which he is seated most readily brings to mind the idea of
the perfect ashlar in Masonry.
The Tower card
corresponds to the Hebrew letter 'Peh' which means 'Mouth,' indicating that
the words or names of the tokens which are imparted during the taking of the
degrees are Masonically implied by this card, while the Star card is
suggestive of the five-pointed blazing star which is depicted amidst the black
& white checkered pavemet in the floor of every Masonic Lodge, over which the
majority of the words are imparted.
Along with the
Chariot, the Moon & Sun cards correspond to the remaining of the Three Lesser
Lights in Masonry, completing the triad of Sun, Moon, & Master of the Lodge.
To quote again from Bro. Pike, "The Sun is the ancient symbol of the
life-giving and generative power of Deity...The Sun was His manifestation and
visible image...The Moon was the symbol of the passive capacity of nature to
produce, the female, of which the life-giving power and energy was the
male...The "Master of [the Lodge]" was the Supreme Deity, above both, and
manifested through both..." ('Morals & Dogma,' p. 13).
Similar to the
Hanged Man card, the Judgement card is suggestive Masonically of the second of
the two Wardens. The Hebrew letter which correlates to the Judgement card is
'Shin' whose Yetziratic attribution is the element of fire. Like the relation
of water & the west, the element of fire is related to the south, for when the
sun reaches the south it is generally the hottest portion of the day. The
Judgement card is therefore indicative of the Junior Warden in the south,
whose task it is to call the workers from labor to refreshment while the sun
is at its miridian height. On the card itself is depicted the angel Israfel
whose trumpet blast calls the dead from the refreshment of sleep to the labor
of the next life.
Finally, the World
card is suggestive of the central icon of Masonry: the combined square &
compasses. In the Qabalistic document 'Liber 777' we are told in so many words
that a correct design of the World card should contain a demonstration of the
"Quadrature of the Circle." The Alchemical concept of the squaring of the
circle is not an idea traditionally associated with Masonry, and yet the
square & circle are precisely the geometrical shapes in which the square
compasses are used to inscribe by operative masons. Thus the demonstration of
the quadrature of the circle contained in a proper depiction of the World card
is Masonically suggestive of the combined square & compasses which are placed
upon the open Volume of the Sacred Law atop the altar, thereby completing the
Three Great Lights in Masonry which, in the peculiar words of Gadicke, "are
immortal, and neither limited by time nor space..." (Quoted in Robert Macoy,
'A Dictionary of Freemasonry,' p. 528).
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