The papers below describe the Eleventh Path of Aleph that symbolises the infleunce between Kether and Chokmah. (More to follow)...
(Updated 13 November 2020)
By Desmond Creagh (1992)
The Path of the Fool is the first subjective Path on the Tree and joins Kether, the point of origin of all manifestation, with Chokmah, the first Sephirah of force. It is both the beginning and ending of all Paths, as it is from here that the lightning flash of manifestation commences its descent down the Tree, eventually to return to its source in Kether. It can therefore be considered to be the most important Path on the Tree.
The Fool is a major archetype in the collective unconscious of man and the significance of this figure is far more profound than that of merely a jester and entertainer. The attribution of the tarot Arcanum of the Fool reveals both the simplicity and paradoxes of this Path.
In medieval times, the function of the court jester was very complex. As well as simply providing entertainment, the Fool acted as a special kind of adviser and commentator on the affairs and intrigues of the court. Being immune from punishment and licensed to do and say what he liked, the Fool's humour carried under its guise many sharp truths, which, because of the rules of Court diplomacy and etiquette, could not normally be referred to. This would imply that the court jester was certainly no idiot, but usually very intelligent, witty and well-informed.
The essential paradox of the Fool is that he is both foolish and wise. The first Path on the Tree is the Path of the spirit entering the world of manifestation, naive and inexperienced in worldly matters but imbued with the wisdom of Kether.
The Fool is also known as the Lord of Misrule and traditionally certain days of the year were given over to his celebration. The need for expression of this archetype survived into Christian times, and surprisingly enough was tolerated by the church on the appropriate days.
Christmas Day was moved from its original date to coincide with one of these traditional days of anarchy and festivity. There are historical reports of blasphemy, mock ceremonies and vulgarity taking place in ecclesiastical establishments on such occasions.
Although we no longer set aside special days devoted to the Lord of Misrule there is still a need within us to acknowledge this archetype. Most of us respond to comedy whether at its most basic level of pure slapstick humour, to the cleverest forms of satire.
Perhaps the best comedy points to the absurdity of the human condition, often drawing a fine line between comedy and tragedy. The comic figure is usually an outsider who does not fit into normal society, but we can all identify with him because ultimately we are all outsiders, alone on our journey through life, even though we have the values and norms of the world into which we are born to hide behind and a niche to fall into in society.
We are conditioned to believe and trained to conform to the values and expectations of society and to take them very seriously, but the values we are taught to believe in, can restrict the freedom of the soul to gain experience during its physical incarnation. Very often it is necessary to play the part of the Fool in order to maintain freedom and control over our own destiny.
The Fool symbolises the autonomous self, free from rules and restrictions from outside and free to create his own destiny. But there is a quality of innocence and naivety about this figure, unperturbed as he strolls towards the precipice before him. Freedom can easily degenerate into wild abandon and total lack of responsibility if unchecked. The dog depicted on the Arcanum symbolises the world that can destroy the Fool if he is unguarded and unprepared for the harsh lessons of physical existence.
We are all Fools on our journey on the Paths of the Tree of Life, but the lesson of this Path is to learn to become the Wise Fool and not to be the Blind Fool. The Material Fool is blind, because he is only concerned with wealth, power and status and believes it is foolish to waste time pursuing spiritual goals. Like the court jester and the comedian, the Fool within us makes fun of worldly aims and ambitions, and forces us to see the absurdity, vanity and impermanence of these endeavours. Shakespeare's character Macbeth finally comes to this realisation towards the end of the play Macbeth:
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more; it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
All things come from nothing and return to nothing. The source of manifest existence is known as the ‘Ain’ in Kabbalistic cosmology and is usually described as a fertile nothingness. This is the significance of the number of the Arcanum of the Fool which is zero, because it is the Path that leads to and from the Great Unmanifest, the primordial chaos of negative existence.
The element Air is attributed to this Path, symbolising the free condition of spirit before or after it enters into manifestation. In the physical universe, air is the invisible sustainer of all life, permeating all things and is thus an appropriate model for spirit.
Some modern Kabbalists have attributed the planet Uranus to this Path. This planet, now generally agreed to be the ruler of Aquarius, represents sudden or unexpected changes, revolution, freedom and inventiveness. Its purpose is to overthrow outmoded structures, so that the new can replace the old, but this can cause in its wake chaos, disruption and anarchy.
The Yetziratic text names this path the 'Scintillating Intelligence'. Scintillate means to sparkle, be animated, witty and clever, all of which are qualities of the Fool and refer to the divine spark that is the essence of all things.
The Hebrew letter associated with this Path is Aleph, the symbol of which is the ox and is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, representing the beginning and ending of all things. The ox, which pulls the plough that tills the earth to make it fertile, is the principal symbol of Earth and physical existence. This attribution may appear to contradict the nature of this Path and its association with the element air, but it reminds us that the purpose of the Fool's journey on the downward Path is aimed at earthing spiritual force. The ox tilling the earth symbolises the power and life energy that is needed to transform matter and to improve earthly conditions. This is the objective of the soul's incarnation on Earth, to use the material world to the benefit of all, to provide the link between spirit and matter and to avoid the pitfalls of laziness, selfishness and greed. Until the Foolish Fool has learnt to become the Wise Fool, he is unready to begin his ascent back up the Tree to return to his divine origin.
By Vipin Prithipaul (1999)
The 11th path connecting Kether to Chokmah is the path of aleph and is arcanum number zero. Aleph means ox. The ox symbolises strength, the motive power or power at work. It also represents “creative energy, life, power, the vital principle of plants, animals and men, which comes to us in physical form as the light and heat of the sun” as described by P.F. Case.
This path is influenced by the element air which symbolises the spirit. Aleph bridging Kether to Chokmah may be considered as the most important of the 22 paths. It is the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega – in fact it is the beginning of involution and the end of evolution, or the downward path and the path of return. It represents the beginning and end journey of the spirit through time and space (various incarnations).
The arcanum assigned to the 11th path of aleph is the Fool. The Fool on the Tree of Life is a man of many parts. To me the Fool represents or symbolises man – a physical form, (the body) being a vehicle for his soul, spirit, Id, ego, etc… The Fool also represents man who plays many roles in his lifetime and even everyday, be he a man, a son, a father, a grandfather, a friend, a teacher, etc… to be brief man behaves differently depending on situations and his relationship to others. (By man I include man and woman). One can say that man wears different disguises depending on his surroundings or environment, be it familial, social, or other. The Fool depicts man in all his different aspects or roles and also reflects his innocence, ingenuity, foolishness and why not cruelty and benevolence.
Mr James Sturzaker in ‘Kabbalistic Aphorisms’ has classified the Fool into 4 categories, i.e.
a) The Court Jester who is full of humour, who can make others laugh or laugh at himself and at the world.
b) The Material Fool whose life is aimed at achieving worldly possessions and acquiring material things to boost his ego. The material Fool is in fact a prisoner of the material level. He believes only what is physically real.
c) The Blind Fool who has no aim in life as he exists because he exists, he lacks spirituality, he has no aspiration and leads his life in the sense that tomorrow is another day. He has no spiritual ambition and is a prisoner of his karma.
d) The Fool that Fools is the one who fools others and leads a life fooling others to get or achieve his own ends. (He is a predator.)
On the path of involution the Fools bag is filled with material necessities which are essential for him during his time (incarnation) spent in Malkuth. On the path of evolution the bag is emptied of the material and the mental bonds and filled with the spiritual. If the bag is not emptied in Malkuth then the material fool (man) is still dominated or is still a prisoner of the material and has to break the ties bonding him, so as to evolve or elevate himself, to enable him to tread the path of evolution.
Even though the fool breaks this or these material bonds his bag will still contain his karma and this is the measure of spirituality he has acquired or lost during his various incarnations.
The fool who walks towards a precipice without seeing it does not realise that it is the abyss in which he can fall into and descend to the qliphoth (hell). On the other hand if he lifts his eyes to the snow capped hills symbolising Chokmah and Binah, that is by striving to achieve a high state of purity and elevating himself he may acceded to wisdom and understanding and from there climb up to Kether. Either way, that is, going down the paths or going up the paths the fool is bound to come across the abyss. Separating the supernals and the remaining sephiroth. (Nobody knows what lies beyond the abyss as some say that those who have crossed the abyss on the return path have not come back to relate what lies there.)
Aleph bearing the numeral 1 symbolises a beginning, an initiation, which is the first in a series in other words it is the first initiation of a series of different paths to be conquered. It is the first path that the spark treads in its journey down the Tree. This path can lead to success or failure depending on the fools spiritual growth and the use he makes of the path which seems to be dualistic in nature as he can evolve or regress; thus this arcanum symbolises the law of compensation (cause and effect). Depending on the spiritual maturity achieved by the fool in his previous incarnations and in his present one, he will either progress or regress in his quest. This is why this path represents the obstacles to be overcome and also the latent spiritual maturity acquired in previous incarnations that can be unfolded and used on the path of return. If the fool falls into the abyss he will have in a future incarnation another chance to ready himself to cross the abyss.
The arcanum is 0 – zero symbolises the absolute, the never-ending, nothing yet infinite – the infinite from which all things proceed. It depicts pure spirit (the divine spark) awaiting the “experience of transmutation from unconscious to conscious perfection”, an urge to back to the divine from where it comes. It is also the Ain fulfilling its urge to manifest thus “it is perfection at a given point”. It is omnipresent as all things or rather manifestation is pervaded by the Ain but it is not omniscient as it is an emanation of the Ain – only the Ain is omniscient and may I venture to add omnipotent? Being an emanation of the Ain, this arcanum though omnipresent also contains the seed of imperfection and is the final phase of creation.
“The fool hath said in his heart there is no God, which fool?” – Well as the Ain is nothing, it is unknowable and cannot be conceived by us. We cannot even come close to understand its nature, so if there is no God in the fools heart then he is dominated by the material and is limited to Malkuth. But on the other hand if the fool says that in his heart resides God then he is also limited as the Ain cannot be conceived, either one forms an integral part of it or one is dissociated from it, there is no mid-point. If the fool believes that there is a God in his heart, he most probably is lost in “Maya” – illusion. Thus the fool is sense and nonsense, his head is in Kether and his feet anchored in Malkuth and his evolution or involution will depend on which one predominates.
Only the fool can help the fool as within him lies the power to evolve and progress or strive for conscious perfection. On this path the fool has the opportunity to place his first foot on Jacob’s ladder and to be able to ascend and descend through all the four worlds. On the path of evolution he will have to struggle and overcome obstacles such as extravagance, folly, vanity, material ambition -–to be short material and mental conflicts, in order to attain harmony with the divine spark within him. All along the path his conscious, subconscious and superconscious will be pulling at him in the shape of a dog. The dog can represent the fools basic, animalistic instinct which satisfies its materialistic needs in order to survive, and this is wild and dangerous. The dog also represents the tamed animal, becoming a friend, a companion or a protector in the sense that of an elevated conscience which helps the fool to protect himself on the path of evolution. The dog can thus represent the material world that can tear the fool to pieces. On the other hand Dog reversed is God, the divine heritage pulling at the fool, not to bite him but to warn and protect him, or rather to prevent him walking “head in the air towards the precipice”.
The staff is a support and protection along the fools journey (like the staff of the Fellow Craft of the 16th century Germans and French in their Tour).
I think that the path of Aleph is one of duality, a path made up of choices, where the materialistic inclination will, and tends to dominate. It is a path of scission, a soul tearing path, a path of conflict and struggle.
The Fool, Influenced by Chokmah and Kether
By Barbara M. Croucher (1976)
"Seest then a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope for a fool than for him . . . "
So says Proverbs 26. Presumably the man who has passed through the various aspects of Chokmah will be a man of wisdom. How is it possible then for him to have conceit, since he knows this will be a stumbling-block to the final journey?
As we read we are perhaps thinking: "That's all right. I'm not conceited. I'm just a fool on my way to the mountain tops of Kether with all the others". Is this not conceit? The self-satisfaction that ceases to re-examine the facts maybe wisdom, but only at a very low level.
Let us see how we stand in this road. Thinking of the Fool in Assiah, he knows that a certain amount of knowledge is necessary for his understanding to grow at a physical level; then at the emotional, intellectual and spiritual levels in that order. In his bag, therefore, he throws everything without discrimination. His mind and memory are stuffed with so-called facts, which he does not look at again - not like the Magician, who at least arranges his collection out on the table and tries to come to some conclusion about it.
The Fool at the Assiatic, Briatic and Yetziratic levels desires none of this. He has amassed his information - so much of it that it is a burden to be carried on his back, as the ass bears gold, "to groan and sweat under the business". Then, without reference to this precious treasure, the rose of understanding, he steps forth, regardless, towards the chasm which awaits him.
But, paradoxical as it would appear, he is doing more by this than the so-called man of wisdom. At least he is not sitting smugly in Chokmah. He is at least travelling, and though not yet appreciating the contents of his conscious bag, the time will certainly come when he will cease to amass, like a mere wind-bag, and become inspired by his sub-conscious wisdom, and maybe as a result of his fall, take another look at the messages it sends.
Three falls are perhaps necessary for this to occur, thinking of the four worlds. Also, thinking about Fools we think of asses - especially Balaam's. Here the ass or Fool was the first to see the Angel of God face to face, and only after the third time did the Angel allow him to utter. It takes time before the Fool will be able to utter words of wisdom. "The dumb ass (or fool) speaking with a man's voice forbade (contradicted) the prophet", his Master.
Think of the word "Balaam" with the three "alephs" the Fool's letter, each symbol issuing the renewed beginning and another heavy journey round thecycle again in search for Truth, the breath of life, which man is always taking in and giving out as he does with Truth.
So the really wise man, who has been a Fool at all levels will not be satisfied with reaching Chokmah, even though he may have crossed the Abyss. He will desire to move upward and onward, having seen his Guardian Angel. "Woe unto the foolish prophets that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing".
The Fool's symbol of the circle or ellipse is one of absolute freedom from any limitation - even the limitation of worldly wisdom. It is a figure, which like the 8, can be drawn again and again without lifting the pencil - again symbolising his constant recycling. So he always desires to fall from Kether in his world so that he may start off towards the next Malkuth - and so ad infinitum.
April 1st is a day of new birth in nature. No wonder it is all Fool's day. On the way from Chokmah at the final level he is just opening to the highest wisdom. With the numeral one of Kether and his own zero, vast numbers can be born, starting with the most significant 10 - the number of God. At the Atziluthic level in the Archetypal World the Fool becomes the many petalled lotus, continually opening to new Truth at the centre, while the discarded outer petals or ideas which no longer satisfy die away. He climbs higher and higher to the known unknowable.
Could his symbol of the circle also represent the single eye with which he fills Malkuth, the physical with light on the way down? He is now illumined from on high and eventually becomes one with Light itself on the way up. His nought is now a band of light. "I'll put a girdle round the earth in 40 minutes".
That stick which held his bag, that insignificant piece of wood, now shows itself as Aaron's rod, and the bag which he used to carry, his bundle of facts, now reveals itself to contain the highest wisdom and intelligence, and blossoms to bear a child of love and peace - another virgin birth where the ox (aleph) and the ass (himself) are present yet again.
We are told that the wise men came as well with their gifts, but it is more likely that they were wise Fools, recognising that new birth in wisdom is always taking place, and so they continually keep searching for more. Perhaps they are still doing it as we read this? They should be.
Tarot Reflections on the Fool
By John Hudson (1997)
The word ‘Fool’ derives from the Latin ‘Follis’, a windbag. Like the breath of the newborn.
Similar symbols are the legends of the Green Man and the April Fool - the first signs of spring, the start of a new cycle, also the Easter Egg. Parsival the young innocent of humble origin who becomes a knight of the Grail; Another version being the legend of King Arthur and the Round Table. In the 13th century version of Wolfram von Eschenbach not only was the tale told but there was an inner meaning, namely the Grail is the gradual, and graded means of initiation.
Kether is the first manifestation as One containing the potential of all that is to come. The Godname ‘Eheieh’ means ‘I Am’ or ‘I Shall Be’. One leads nowhere - so the only possible progression is to 2, and that must be in silence because the number 3, Binah - understanding, has not yet been reached.
Harpocrates pictured as babe upon a lotus is similar, but simpler than Parsival. He is the symbol of creation; of the dawn on the Nile - the act of awakening. Sometimes he is shown as standing upon the back of a Nile crocodile and here we have the symbolism of the crocodile god Sebek. The myth says that he was not provided with the means of perpetuating his species and thus became the symbol of maximum creative energy.
The Fool is also met with as the wandering prince of legend, and known as the fool of the family. In a matriarchal society succession was through the daughter of the king, who had to won by conquest thus ensuring a virile succession. So we could see king, queen, daughter and prince as perhaps the origin of the four court cards of the Tarot, and on a lower level the embodiment of the Tetragrammaton: In this set of relationships we can see the enactment of pantomime - Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella and Prince Charming, etc.
The Fool and Its Position on the Tree
By Robert Starke (1987)
In my opinion the Fool is one aspect of the Tree that is very fluidic by its nature. It seems tome that the Fool can really be placed on every part of the Tree, for the Tree is the Fool.
Even the Fool that returns to Kether is the perfected Fool, for no-one in their right mind would jump into incarnation, so as to be able to experience life with all its facets, if they really knew what it entailed. But, this is exactly what the Fool has done. For from within Kether lies the potentiality of perfection in every sense and the Fool bursts forth into manifestation from the essence we term Kether, thus he must have known that he was already perfect, for he is a spark, or part, of Ain, and as the Ain knows of such perfection it must already be perfect.
As for the positioning of the Fool on the descent from Kether down the Tree, it seems most appropriately positioned between Kether and Chokmah on the 11th Path. The concept of the Fool in Crowley's Tarot pack is a good pictorial representation of the soul, or inner spark, bursting forth out of Kether, or the archetypal world, into manifestation. The Atmic spark would, at this point, be like a new born baby completely pure and innocent, stretching out into manifestation, trying to experience all there is to experience.
The Fool is, in fact, represented in all the other Paths: all the Paths are the Fool in his many guises showing all the various experiences he will or has partaken in, whether descending or ascending the Tree, in all the different worlds. On the Path of Return up the Tree, the Fool could be placed between Malkuth and Yesod, the symbolism showing him with his bag full of possessions, or experience and Karma, which he has to unload as he progresses up the tree and in purity. He has experienced life in all its many physical facets and now starts the long haul towards the goal of purity and perfection, i.e. Kether.
Bringing the Fool down to Earth, I think he plays a big part in our everyday lives. Being a
great daydreamer I often find myself in stupid situations, you could even call them foolish, and often is, suits me to let people think I am a fool. But I normally find if friends have something on their minds, they normally come to me for advice. It puts me in mind of the King's jester who appears funny and stupid, but the jester and the King often consulted on important matters and both knew the jester was not as stupid as he made out.
Often I must admit it is normally the part of me one terms the ‘Blind Fool’ that works when I have the ability to see through situations but choose to ignore it. These aspects I am sure everyone will agree are present in our lives most of the time (but we are sometimes too blind to see them?). The Fool is probably one of the most important Paths on the Tree. It represents life in all its levels of consciousness from the "Blind Fool" thirsting for new experiences, to the "Wise Fool" who has learned everything and wears the cloak and holds the tools to control the nature of life in all its aspects; he then calls himself the "Magician".
The Path of the Fool
By Paul Elliott (1975)
Emanating from Kether to Chokmah is the most paradoxical of all the paths, the Path of the Fool. The Fool as he leaves Kether, the fount of creation, carries all the spiritual mental, emotional and physical equipment which he will need for his journey, but only learns the use of this equipment through direct experience.
At the beginning the Spark is pure spirit, having experience only of the Archetypal World of the sphere of Kether. Having no understanding of the actual or particular universe, the Spark fails to realise the implications of the Abyss before him, as symbolised by the Fool walking blindly with his gaze upturned to contemplate the sky. The crocodile, which awaits the Fool of the Marseilles Tarot, is only the first of his problems in the active universe.
Just as the crocodile and the Abyss happen to be in the Fool's way, so the lynx or dog is attempting to arrest the progress of the Fool towards the fate to which he is oblivious. The dog, representative of the sub-conscious mental levels, notably conscience, attempts to hold back the conscious but unsuspecting Fool.
But whether the crocodile and the dog represent warning or fore-meant, or both combined, the only path the Spark can take is onward. As the "Spirit of Aether" on a path which has the element of Air, the Fool completes his destination in Earth. "Aleph", the ox, is a symbol of Earth.
In material form the Fool has the chance to make use of the "magical implements" which he has carried on his back. His own judgement, now reinforced by direct experience, should enable him to make correct decisions. The spirit must not fall into the delusion that the material world represents the totality of the universe, but must learn spiritual lessons through the world of Assiah and then make good use of this knowledge in its evolutionary course.
The bag the Fool carries on his shoulder now begins to contain his karma. Now the spirit has an awareness of direction, of pitfalls, and can exercise judgement more fully. Now the spirit should be in accord with conscience and Divine Law.
Just as the Fool's path is representative of the first descent into the actual or particular universe, it is also representative of the return to the world of Kether, the Godhead, "That Which is not, yet Is".
Once again the Abyss must be crossed. As on the path of involution the Abyss could only be crossed by acceptance of form existence, so on the path of evolution the Abyss may only be crossed by a willing acceptance of manifest dissolution in order to be part of "That Which is not, yet is".
On the evolutionary path the spirit is the wise Fool, yet paradoxically the spirit must become as a child again before it may return to the Godhead.
But the lesson of the Path of the Fool is not one of a round journey with no meaning. The wise Fool at the end of his journey is not the blind Fool who walked unknowingly to the Abyss not fully knowing what lay beyond, nor is he the material Fool deluded by form existence. He now knows why and where he treads.
An analogy lies in physical birth, life and death. A man may be the blind Fool at birth, he does not know from where he comes nor where he is going. In life he may be the material Fool, deluded by form existence; and at death he may be the wise Fool, reasonably informed of where his spirit may travel.
Thus it can be seen that the Path of the Fool is indeed the Alpha and the Omega, beginning and end. The folly of the Fool lies as much in fear of manifest dissolution as in fear of manifest existence; such fear is unnecessary.
By Dorothy Horan (1983)
When the tarot deck is arranged as acircle, the Fool reigns at the top. Arcana 1 - the Magician or Juggler to the Fool's right, proceeding clockwise to Arcana XX, the World, or Universe, on its left. The Fool has been taken as a symbol of distraction, oblivion; on the contrary, he is the figure of a sublime and aloof consciousness, beyond the human state.
One man in his time plays many parts. This is the Fool on the Tree; a man of many parts. This Arcanum represents failure and success, the descent to Hell (Qliphoth) or the flight to Heaven (Kether).
The Universal Law of Compensation can be found in this Arcanum and here is portrayed the law of affinity.
The eleventh Path can be considered as the most important of the twenty two. This is the Alpha and Omega, the Path is Aleph and the Arcanum is 0, Aleph means 01. "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light". Zero - no-thing, evolving in spite of itself. Zero - a void through which one may pass out of the world of space and time into spacelessness and timelessness. The symbol-image truth of the Great Zero is eternal. The sun is the Solar Zero itself.
Oswald Wirth, a disciple of Levi, remarked that "all comes from Nothing, and returns to
Nothing. But the Nothing-Everything is the Great Mystery, the Arcana of Arcanas, before which reason confesses its impotence."
Later, Crowley said, "The really important feature of this card is that its number should be 0. It represents therefore the negative above the Tree of Life, the source of all things. It is the Qabbalistic Zero. It is the equation of the Universe, the initial and final balance of the opposites…"
Eliphas Levi said of the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet: "The first letter in the alphabet of the sacred language, Aleph, represents a man extending one hand towards heaven and the other to earth. It is an expression of the active principle in everything; it is the creation in heaven corresponding to the omnipotence of the world below. This letter is a pantacle in itself - that is, a character expressing the universal science. It is supplementary to the sacred signs of the macrocosm and microcosm; it explains the Masonic double triangle and five pointed blazing star; for the word is One and revelation is One."
Broadly speaking, the Ox is a symbol of the cosmic forces. In Egypt and in India a more specialised symbolism was evolved for the ox, contrasting it with the lion on the one hand and with the bull on the other. It became a symbol of sacrifice, suffering, patience and labour. In Greece and in Rome it was regarded as an attribute of agriculture and of foundation laying (and so, by extension, was the yoke). Roman generals who had been granted the honour of a triumph would sacrifice white oxen to Jupiter as part of the ceremony.
The yoke is a symbol of union and discipline; but by virtue of its association with the ox, it is also symbolic of sacrifice.
Here is the Ain in manifestation fulfilling his own evolutionary progress. The ever-evolving Ain, perfection at a given point, imperfection in transit.
The fool portrays innocence, ingenuity and foolishness. This is the Court Jester, the material fool, the blind fool and the Fool that fools. The Fool hath said in his heart there is no God, which fool?
It is influenced by the element of Air. Air is symbolic of spirit and this Arcanum portrays the spirit at the commencement and the termination of its journey through time and space.
On the downward path the Fool's bag is filled with the material and mental objects essential to his stay in Malkuth. On the path of return the bag is emptied of the material and mental, and filled with the spiritual. If the bag is not emptied in Malkuth, then he is the material fool. The bag also on the path of return contains the Fool’s Karma.
Head in the air, he walks towards the precipice without seeing it, this is the blind fool.
Conscience and subconscious are pulling at him in the shape of a dog. Dog reversed is God. Microcosm and Macrocosm. The dog also symbolises the world that can tear the Fool to pieces. The dog is an emblem of faithfulness, and it is in this sense that it appears so often at the feet of women in engravings; in the same way the lion, an attribute of the male symbolises valour. In Christian symbolism the dog has another sense, deriving from the function of the sheep dog, that of guarding and guiding the flocks, which at times becomes an allegory of the priest. In a more profound sense, though still related to the foregoing, the dog is - like the vulture - the companion of the dead, their 'night sea crossing’, which is associated with the symbolism of the mother and of resurrection. It has a similar significance when it appears in scenes depicting the Mithraic sacrifice of the bull. In alchemy it was used as a sign rather than as a symbol. A dog devoured by a wolf represents the purification of gold by means of antimony.
The Arcanum is Zero, the Path is the eleventh, but the first in the journey of the spark.
This is the EA Degree of Masonry, the commencement of a series of initiations. An urge to go forward, but to the point of Chokmah and just beyond, without direction. The essence of every Masonic lesson is presented in the symbolism of the First Degree. An Entered Apprentice is a Mason. The second and third and so-called higher degrees are elaborations. Moral science should give up the rags of his own righteousness and also all precious metals, symbolical of worldly wealth and distinction, and all baser metals, symbolical of offence and defence, in order that he may realise his dependence upon moral forces only. The apprentice in his search for light must start from the North with the Eastern Sun in the East, and travel by way of the South to the West, and back into darkness. He again comes out of the North in the East and passes through the same course again in his development.
This is the pure spirit and mind awaiting the experience of transmutation from unconscious to conscious perfection.
Having set your hand to the plough look not back, is well portrayed in this Arcanum.
The Fool has placed his foot on Jacob's ladder and he will ascend and descend through all the four worlds. According to the Zohar, the ladder which Jacob is said to have seen in his dreams had 72 rungs and its top disappeared into the clouds. The symbolism of steps embraces ascension, gradation and communication between different, vertical levels.
Eliade (for reasons of psychology as well) states that steps are a vivid image of 'breaking through’ the levels of existence in order to open up the way from one world to another, establishing a relationship between heaven, earth and hell (or between virtue, passivity and sin).
Illustrated in this Arcanum are the obstacles to be overcome. On the journey he must conquer folly, extravagance, negligence, apathy and vanity.
The Fool represents the spark within a man, a solar system or a galaxy. Here is the commencement of mental activity in the designation of the path. This Arcanum represents the final phase of creation.
The Fool is sense and nonsense, and eventually a realisation that only the Fool can help the Fool. The Fool, the Divine Alchemist, the Holy Ghost, Omnipresent, yes, Omniscient in part.
The head in Kether and the feet in Malkuth. This is the ultimate end that the Fool can reach. He can also reach the point of complete annihilation. Le Mot, dead to understanding or dead to the material things of life. "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills" - the hills are symbolic of Chokmah and Binah.
Here is the philosophy and doctrine of Pure Mind. As all is embodied in Kether so all is embodied in the Fool. All that is latent within can be drawn out and exploited in the journey through time and space.
Gods of the path are Jupiter, Zeus and the Valkyries.
Jupiter - Rome's most powerful and important God. His name's first element giving us "Jove” is related to the Greek Zeus, and to the Latin and Germanic words for 'day’. Its second element is simply 'father' bestowed on him and a few other Roman Gods, just as Zeus was often so addressed. The Romans transferred the many tales of Zeus to his Latin counterpart. Jupiter revered as Lord of Sky and Daylight. Thunder and lightning were sent by this God whom Romans majestically represented with the thunderbolt and eagle, which otherwise adorned every military standard. Rain and its consequences were owed to him.
The Valkyries, messengers of Odin, who conducted the dead to the other world. The Valkyries, the fierce battle-maids of the God who rode to do his will on the battlefield and conduct dead princes back to his realm, welcomed them there with horns of mead. (Odin's Valhalla).
Odin was associated with the spear, raven, wolf - because of his association with battle and the horse and eagle - because of his power to travel between the worlds and over the sky. And the 3 way knot because of his power to bind, no doubt associated also with the sinister knot which dispatched his victims; the maiden with a horn or cup in her hand to welcome the dead because of the joyous entry into Odin's realm - a link also with the mead of inspiration.
Zeus a Greek God associated with the Eagle, a sky god, the myth of Minotaur implies he was identified with the bull. A coin series tells vividly the story of the marriage of Zeus and Europa, with Zeus changing from a bull into an eagle. Animal sacrifices continued to be conspicuous in the rituals of Zeus, the victims normally being either rams or, as was most frequently the case, oxen. Both of the animals are associated with sky gods in general and with Zeus in particular.
Precious stones that correspond to this path are the topaz and chalcedony. Topaz - yellow - the stone of friendship, fidelity, love, joy, peace, it prevents bad dreams, expels fears, protects against sorcery and magic. The topaz magnetically affects the mind; at the higher level of understanding it creates an apprehension of the wisdom of divine love as well as wisdom in general. At the lower level of the mind it helps it to a condition of peace. Quells hysteria, anger and dispels fears of any kind.
Chalcedony - drives away fantastical illusions and preserves the wearer from melancholy. It maintains the vigour of the whole body, keeps the wearer healthy, curbs lust and protects from tempests and all forms of sinister events.
Both stones worn as talismans, keep the wearer healthy and give protection on journeys, especially seafaring journeys.
Aspen is the plant that vibrates in harmony with the Fool.
Magical power is divination and the magical weapons a dagger and a fan. The fan is related to air and wind.
The perfume is galbanum and the drug is peppermint. Animals of the Fool are the Eagle and Man.
Eagle is a symbol of height, of the spirit of the sun, and of the spiritual principle in general. In the Egyptian hieroglyphic system, the letter A is represented by the figure of an eagle, standing for the warmth of life, the Origin, the day. The eagle is a bird living in the full light of the sun and it is therefore considered to be luminous in its essence, and to share in the elements of Air and Fire. Since it is identified with the sun and with the idea of male activity which fertilises female nature, the eagle also symbolises the father. It has also been symbolic as being associated with the gods of power and war; important as a messenger from heaven; signifying the struggle between the spiritual and celestial principle and the lower world; symbolising sun worship; conducting souls to immortality; and has been identified (or, more exactly, the eagle's flight, because of its swiftness, rather than the bird itself) with prayer rising to the Lord, and grace descending upon mortal man. It was believed to fly higher than any other bird, and therefore was regarded as the most apt expression of divine majesty.
The ability to fly and fulminate, to rise so as to dominate and destroy baser forces, is doubtless the essential characteristic of all eagle symbolism. The eagle is also closely associated with thunder and fire. Associated with gods of power and war. Equivalent in Air to the lion on earth. The eagle's fundamental significance does not vary in alchemy, it merely acquires a new set of terms applicable to the alchemy mystiques it becomes the symbol of volatilisation. An eagle devouring a lion is the symbol of the volatilisation of the fixed by the volatile (i.e. wings = spirit; flight, imagination, or the victory of spiritualising and sublimating activity over involutive, materialising tendencies).
Like other animals, when in the sign of Gemini, the eagle undergoes total or partial
duplication. Therefore the 2-headed eagle arises (related to the Janus symbol), usually depicted in 2 colours of great mystical significance - red and white.
In many emblems, symbols and allegories, the eagle is depicted carrying a victim. This is always an allusion to the sacrifice of lower beings, forces, instincts and to the victory of the higher powers (i.e. father principles logos).
Dante calls the eagle the bird of God; Jung ignoring the multiple significance of its symbolism, defines it simply as "height” with all the consequences that flow from a specific location in space. On the other hand the constellation of the eagle is placed just above the man carrying the pitcher of Aquarius, who follows the bird's movements so closely that he seems to be drawn after it by unseen bonds.
From this it has been inferred that Aquarius is to be identified with Ganymede, and also with the fact that even the gods themselves need the water of the Uranian forces of life. (Among the Greeks the eagle acquired a particular meaning, more allegorical than properly symbolic in nature, in connection with the rape of Ganymede.)
Man - comes to see himself as a symbol in so far as he is conscious of his being. The bull or ox's head with a human form drawn between the horns is a very common motif. Since the bull is a symbol for the father; heaven, man comes to be seen as both his and the earth's son. Also, as a third possibility, the son of the sun and the moon. The implications of "Understand that you are another world in miniature and that in you are the sun, the moon and also the stars”, are to be found in all symbolic tradition. Man is the symbol of universal existence; however, in symbolic theory, man is not defined by function alone (that of appropriating the consciousness of the cosmos), but rather by analogy, whereby he is seen as an image of the universe. The flesh (and the bones) of man are derived from the earth, blood and water, his breath from air, and body heat from fire. Each part of the body relates to a corresponding part of the universe.
The path of the Fool responds to bright, pale yellow. Yellow - the colour of the far-seeing sun, which appears bringing light out of an inscrutable darkness only to disappear again into the darkness, for intuition, the function which grasps as in a flash of illumination the origins and tendencies of happenings. Yellow corresponds to the element air, an attribute to the sun God. Yellow - light of the sun, illumination, dissemination, comprehension, generalisation.
The Fool is to be found on the fringe of all orders and systems. This figure is dressed in a costume of many colours denoting the multiple or incoherent influences to which he is subject. The red colour tends to orange, indicating - and this is unequivocal - the colour of the essential fire within him. He carries a bag at the end of his staff, this being symbolic of the mind and its burden. A white lynx is shown in the act of biting his left calf (left being the unconscious side), signifying what remains of his lucidity - that is, his remorse. But this does not deter him, rather does it urge him onward towards the background where may be seen an overturned obelisk - a solar symbol and also symbolic of the Logos - and a crocodile about to devour what must be returned to chaos. There is nothing definite to suggest that the Fool cannot be saved; on the contrary, his predicament, as we have described it, is balanced by the presence of a small, purple coloured tulip (expressive of active spirituality) and a gold belt adorned with 12 plaques alluding to the Zodiac.
This Tarot enigma corresponds, in short, to the irrational - the active instinct capable of sublimation, but related at the same time to blind impulse and the unconscious.
For Schneider, the mythic and legendary Fool is closely related to the clown. In their medicinal ceremonies and rites, doctor and patient 'act mad’ and through frenzied dancing and 'extravagances', they try to invert the prevailing order. The logic of the process is clear enough. When the normal or conscious appears to become infirm or perverted, in order to regain health and goodness it becomes necessary to turn to the dangerous, the unconscious and the abnormal. Further, the Fool and clown, as Fraser has pointed out, play the part of 'scapegoats' in the ritual sacrifice of humans.
The lynx is a Chaldean symbol of universal being, reproduced as a living sphere or winged globe. The word means 'power of transmutation’. Levi describes the lynx as corresponding to the Hebrew Yod or to that unique letter from which all other letters were formed.
The crocodile - two basically different aspects of crocodile are blended in its symbolic meaning, representing the influence upon the animal of two of the four elements. In the first place because of its viciousness and destructive power, the crocodile comes to signify fury and evil in Egyptian hieroglyphs. In the second place, since it inhabits a realm intermediate between water and earth, and associated with mud and vegetation, it came to be thought of as an emblem of fecundity and power. In the opinion of Mertens Stienton there is a third aspect, deriving from its resemblance to the dragon and the serpent, as a symbol of knowledge. In Egypt, the dead used to be portrayed transformed into crocodiles of knowledge, an idea which is linked with that of the zodiacal sign of Capricorn. Blavatsky compares the crocodile with the Kumra of India.
The Abyss is also to be seen and crossed both on the downward path and on the return. The labyrinth and the void, the Creative media of water and air, the hallucinatory reality opposition of the occult self and the material self.
Schwenk describes water (which is the element of all creation) as ever yearning for the wholeness of the sphere. He speaks of a rhythmical balance between that yearning and the pull of gravity. As in nature, so in spirit, for the two are never apart. The Fool is that wholeness. He reigns between the Magician, where the creative urge begins - like a fertilised egg (again circular) complete but as yet unformed, and the World or Universe where the four elements are conjoined about a circle of consummation. (When the deck is arranged in a circle.)
The staff carries the power of the hermits, or of the God Wotan. The Caduceus, Aaron's rod, the wand of Moses, all are embodied in the Fool's Staff. Justice and order as symbolised by the two snakes of the caduceus. In the Roman signa showing eagles and wolves symbolically placed on cubes (the earth) and spheres (heaven, the universe) in order to express the triumphant power of the force of an instinct.
The logo is the light and the life, at once spiritual and material, which combats both death and night. It is the antithesis of disorder and chaos, of evil and darkness. It also cognates with the word and with thought.
The staff has a double symbolism as a support and as an instrument of punishment. It symbolises the correlation and interchangeability of the material and spiritual aspects of a given situation. The magic wand - its significance derives from the magic power attributed to it, which in turn derives from the concept of every stick or wand as a straight line, embodying implications of direction and intensity.
Caduceus - a wand with two serpents around it, surmounted by two small wings or a winged helmet. The rational and historical explanation is the supposed intervention of Mercury in a fight between two serpents, who thereupon curled themselves round his wand. For the Romans the caduceus served as a symbol of moral equilibrium and of good conduct.
The wand represents power; the two snakes wisdom; the wings diligence; and the helmet is an emblem of lofty thoughts.
As symbols of authority, the wand and the rod can be traced back to the staffs of the priest kings and magician healers of antiquity. The sceptre is an old symbol of kingship. A herald, the inviolable emissary of a king, carried a staff of office, and the Caduceus of the Greek God Hermes was his herald's wand.
The Caduceus was taken over to become the symbol of the medical profession. Hazel was one of the main plants to be used for wands, and also for royal sceptres. In Scandinavia it was sacred to Thor and a protection against lightning. St. Patrick's rod was said to be made of hazel. The divining rod had to be cut under very special conditions. It had to be made at night on holy days or on the first night of a new moon or on the previous night. The cutter had to face east, the rod had to be cut from the eastern side of the tree, and the freshly cut rod had then to be presented to the rays of the rising sun.
Today the Caduceus is the emblem of the Catholic Bishop in the Ukraine. It also symbolises the four elements, the wand corresponding to earth, wings to air, serpents to fire and water (by analogy with the undulating movement of waves and flames). The Mesopotamians considered the intertwining serpents as a symbol of the god who cures all illness. According to esoteric Buddhism, the wand of the caduceus corresponds to the axis of the world and the serpents refer to the force called Kundalini, which in tantrist teaching sleeps curled up at the base of the backbone - a symbol of the evolutive power of pure energy.
Wodan or Wotan, God who ruled the land of the dead and was also associated with inspiration and magic, was a god of cruel sacrifices, and his human and animal victims are said to have been suspended from trees. Since Wodan was a wandering, restless God, the leader of the spirits of the dead, who was associated with the horse and wolf, his name is probably connected with the Gothic Wut, which signifies fury or extreme mental excitement. The name Odin in old Norse appears to have had a similar basis, coming from the adjective applied to a violent storm or fire, but also used for poetic genius or furious rage.
Odin was the God of magic, inspiration, ecstasy and intoxication, and the Germanic Wodan, and Anglo-Saxon Woden may be assumed to have had the same general character. Odin, as the God of battle, was followed by his Valkyries, the battle spirits who went out to choose the slain, sometimes described as dignified women on horseback and sometimes as bloodthirsty creatures reveling in slaughter. The eagle was also a symbol of the God.
The precisely symmetrical and bilateral arrangement as in the balance of Libra, is always expressive of the same idea of active equilibrium of opposing forces balancing one another, in such a way as to create a higher, totic form. In the Caduceus, this balanced duality is stated twice: in the serpents and in the wings, emphasizing that supreme state of strength and self-control which can be achieved both on the lower plane of the instincts (symbolised by the serpent) and on the higher level of the spirit (symbolised by the wings).
Aaron, a Hebrew miracle worker, was used by Jehovah to perform many miracles, including the transformation of a rod into a flower. He was the first High Priest mentioned in the Old Testament, the brother of Moses and the spokesman of Moses in Egypt. He fashioned the Golden Calf and encouraged others to worship it. In Theosophy he is the Illuminated, the chief of the hierarchy of the initiated seers.
The essence of Kether as represented in the Fool finds the reflection of itself in Chokmah. The Fool is the path between Kether and Chokmah. The Fool is the Scintillating Intelligence (Chokmah - Illuminating Intelligence. Kether - the Admirable or Hidden Intelligence).
The Fool, if put at the head of the trumps can be related to the hidden godhead of Kabbalah, the ultimate source of all existence, the nothing from which everything proceeds; it is also man carried to the highest power, and the Fool's folly is divine madness.
In the Hermetic Tarot - The Foolish Man; the Spirit of Ether; Aleph; Ox; Pluto. The sun indicates a bright spring morning. The two part triangle in the upper right of the card represents Air.
The symbol of Pluto appears in the mist to the front of the man Z. The Foolish Man stands with his worldly belongings at the edge of a precipice, ignorant of the lashing waves and the crocodile with open jaws. The Foolish Man holds in his right hand the rose of joy, signifying perfect innocence, and he holds a fierce wolf in check by a leash (on his left). Behind him sprouts the flower of silence.
The higher significance of this card suggests that the Foolish Man's perfect innocence is holding the wolf, thus the danger of worldly wisdom is held in check by perfect innocence. Idea, Thoughts, Sensitivity, The Flesh, Eternal Life, Initiative, Spirituality, Folly, Foolishness, Its vices would be: Bad Decision, Indecision, Apathy or Hesitation.
A Meditative Pasper on Kether, the Fool and Chokmah
By Angela Davies (1994)
My journey begins in Netzach. As I looked at the Tree I decide to climb straight up the positive pillar to Chokmah, thence to the eleventh path to Kether.
I open the gate and enter the world of Netzach. I find myself in a woodland, with leaves hanging over me in an arch. The Sun shines through, reflecting all the greens. I have a feeling of rawness and earthly beauty. I look down to find I am dressed in emerald green satin and beside me is a Siamese cat. I walk along in shades of green mist and call upon the angel Haniel (Hanal). I see in the distance a glowing lantern. As I reach into the light there, standing before me is Haniel, dressed in all earthly colours, resembling a tree.
As he welcomes me he hands me a beautiful white rose. I look up to the branches where Haniel (Hanal) is pointing and I see white doves. I request Haniel’s permission to move on to Gedulah. Before I leave he hands me a green emerald and for a second I feel the qualities of Netzach, that of beauty, of love, of femininity, creativity and control.
I am walking with Haniel. He leads the way with his lantern. We seem to be climbing upward and the air seems thinner than in Netzach. As we climb I breathe into my heart. I look down at myself and realise that I am naked.
We have reached a beautiful blue lake. We look up and all shining energy is swirling around, gradually turning into little white angels who make a circle around my head. I sit for a while beside the lake and as I look up I see a rainbow floating across it.
I call out for Tzadkiel, the angel of Gedulah, and he appears from the blue lake. He is dressed in silver, like fish scales. In his right hand he holds a shepherd’s crook and in the other a cross. We sit all three, Haniel (Hanal), Tzadkiel and myself. He hands me the cross. As I hold the cross I see brilliant flashes of white edged with Amethyst. I feel we are touching Christ Consciousness, controlled compassion, love, wisdom and the blending of male and female into one.
We look to the other side of the lake and Tzadkiel points and there in the distance is a beautiful unicorn, the joining of male and female, the far seeing eye. As I sit the emotion bursts as does a poppy sack. As it bursts all the seeds of emotion fall down, down, down. Then the light is changing and there is a pale amethyst light over the lake and I feel it is time to move on with Haniel and Tzadkiel carrying his crook.
We’re climbing up a spiral staircase made of iron. At the top of the staircase is a grey mist. There to greet us is an old sage with a long grey beard down to his knees. He is dressed in red velvet and has a red velvet cap with a red tassel. Under his arm he has a book with the letters YHVH and beneath them the word wisdom.
As I walk along I notice that it is a plateau and as I look up there are wheels spinning with sparks of energy. I look into the old man’s face and see my own and for a second I see every other face that ever was and is to be. We are joined by a third angel, dressed in gold armour with a golden cloak. His name is Ratziel. We sit on the floor but Ratziel is standing up protecting us with his watchful eye. I have a feeling that I am going to be told some secret.
As we huddle over the books and the first page turns up it is an abstract (negative) no words - just swirls of gases and energy with right in the centre a tiny gold dot. As we look at it we get the feeling of nothingness - everything just as before an actual thought. As he turns the page there is a swirling as before, only directly across there is a reflection of the yellow gold dot - so now there are two.
For a moment I get a complete feeling of the beginning before the sperm hits the ovum - the thought behind that action and even before the thought. I feel a flash, maybe even the edge of wisdom. My mind is going now and I see the whole DNA structure. I have this strong (sensation) that Chokmah resembles the strong nothingness of the complete DNA structure of the universe.
He now turns the page for the third time. The swirls of gas and energy are as before but now there is only one point. The two have joined together.
We now all stand and embrace the wise man. Around my neck he puts a cross with a red ruby at its centre. I turn to my angels Haniel (Hanal), Tzadkiel and Ratziel. They are holding garments in their hands. These are gifts of clothing. Coloured hose, a white shirt and a tunic, a belt, a hat with a feather, a chain with the letter Aleph, shoes, and a staff with a leather wallet to hang on it. Finally Haniel hands me a rose. They all stand back and from behind us comes the sound of a dog barking. He’s black, wearing a collar of moonstones and rubies. He jumps up and I gently fall out and out and out.
I am flying out and out and out. The wind is whistling and blowing in my ears. There is a nebulous cloud of energy surrounding me. I gather speed and looking back realise I have left one galaxy and entered another. I feel formless. As I fly through the air, air is going through my body. In the distance a white light glows. It seems hole like, and at the end of the tunnel there is an archangel (angel) waiting. He is called Metatron (Meteron).
I can see all the plans of Astronomy, e.g. Orion’s Belt. As I move on there are a King and Queen seated on thrones. I move straight past them, as though they are only a memory from before.
Kether to me is everything and nothing. It is the tiniest molecule, if you like component, without form. It is the gelling agent of, say, a raindrop. It is the invisible force found in a leaf and yet by itself is nothing, but without it there is nothing.
I am now caught up in a spiral and I actually feel what the energy is. It’s the spin in the spiral.
As I fly now every thought and every element of thought goes right through me. Right down to the thought of an ant or the thought of vibration on rock.
Kether is the spark of Awakening! Chokmah is the receiver of that spark.
Metatron the archangel gives me his lamp. As I return on my journey I see the four sacred creatures which seem to be protecting me from “fork” waters.
I realise I am slowly falling down the Tree and notice that the sack on the end of my staff is full and heavy. It is up to me to distribute this knowledge through my life on Earth.
To be continued...