By Christine Payne-Towler
May 26, 2006
In the world-view of Europe in the early 1500's, the external world of planets and elements was believed to be a faithful mirror and representation of God's eternal Being, reflected in flesh. Just so, the interior universe of the magus was expected to match and mirror the external world in mind.
...A great deal of time and attention was spent by the magus to assemble and internalize the chains of correspondences that linked everything to everything, both intellectually and imaginally. Art of Memory and Ars notoria techniques were combined with philosophies that stemmed from the Courtly Love tradition and alchemical traditions, both of which were European responses to Holy Land cultural impulses. (Remember, although the roots of alchemy extend far back into ancient Greece and Egypt, the channel whereby alchemy came to Europe was through the influence that Islamic culture made on the crusaders returning from the Holy Land.)
The artists of the era were bringing forth a vast array of numinous
illustrations of magical ideas that can help us to translate what we
are looking at in the Tarot deck. The early Trumps demonstrate
immediate visual and thematic relationship to other popular
image-series of the times, for example the Mantegna emblem series, the
Lazzarelli emblem series, the Hypneratomachia illustrations, and the
multiple Dance of Death series. We can as well include the works of
artists like Durer's "Melancholia" and Graf's illustrations made for the works of historical and contemporary philosophers like Petrarch, Dante, and Bovillus ; and the astrological manuals of the day. Robert O'Neill's Introduction to the Iconology of the Trumps gives us further proofs of the rich and abundant magical imagery filling the world of the Renaissance magi.
We can also see from the bodies of Astro-alpha-numeric correspondences listed by such personages as Ficino, Agrippa, Francino Gaffurio , Francesco, and Thenaud that there was a fusion emerging between the Hermetic Cosmos carried forward by the early Christians via the Alexandrian Synthesis, and the parallel cosmos projected by the Hebrew Cabalists. I have written about this fusion in the past, but now we need to take a slightly different tack on the subject.
Looking at the great welter of esoteric symbolism available to the Renaissance magi can result in a feeling of overwhelm, but in truth, these related and overlapping threads are all part of a very coherent model put together over centuries. This model was appropriated and tweaked by the Renaissance magi to support the popular but marginalized Religion of The World. The scheme rests upon the Hermetic Cosmos carried forward by the early Church Fathers, thereby providing this worldview with grounding in orthodoxy. Further refinements added by subsequent ecclesiastical scholars allowed the Renaissance magus to stand squarely in the shadow of the Church, via the Lullian stream primarily. As Frances Yates tells it in The Art of Memory:
"Lullism had a vast diffusion which has only recently begun to be systematically studied. Owing to the core of Platonism, and of Scotist Neoplatonism, within it, it formed a current which, not acceptable to many in the ages dominated by scholasticism, found itself in a much more welcoming atmosphere at the Renaissance. A symptom of the popularity that it would gain in the full Renaissance is the interest accorded to it by Nicholas of Cusa. In the full Neoplatonic stream of the Renaissance, stemming from Ficino and Pico, Lullism took a place of honor. Renaissance Neoplatonists were able to recognize in it notions very congenial to them and reaching them from mediaeval sources which, unlike the humanists, they did not despise as barbarous.
"There is even, at the heart of Lullism, a kind of interpretation of astral influences which would have aroused interest in the age of Ficino and Pico. When the Art is done on the level coelum, it becomes a manipulation of the twelve signs of the zodiac and the seven planets, in combination with B to K, to form a kind of benevolent astral science, which can be worked as astral medicine, and which, as Lull points out in the preface to his Tractatus de astronomia, is a very different matter from ordinary judicial astrology.... Lullism thus establishes itself at the Renaissance as belonging with the fashionable philosophy, and becomes assimilated to various aspects of the Hermetic-Cabalist tradition. " (p. 187-8)
A little farther on in the same chapter, Yates also demonstrates the link between the Lullian Arts and Alchemy:
"From the early fourteenth century onwards a number of treatises on alchemy appear under the name of the great Raymundus Lullus. Written after his death, these works were certainly not by Lull himself. So far as is known, Lull never used the Art on the subject of alchemy, but he did use it on the cognate subject of astral medicine, and the Art, with its 'elemental' basis, did provide a method for working with elemental patterns of a similar kind to those which alchemy uses. The figures of Pseudo-Lullian alchemical works bear some resemblance to genuine Lullian figures. For example, in the diagram from a fifteenth-century Pseudo-Lullian alchemical treatise, illustrated in Sherwood Taylor's book [The Alchemists, London; 1951], we see what look like combinatory wheels marked with letters at the root of a Lullian type of tree diagram; at the top of the tree are wheels marked with the twelve signs and the seven planets....
"So we see the Renaissance Lull building up as a kind of Magus, versed in the Cabalist and Hermetic sciences cultivated in the occult tradition. And we find the mysterious language of Renaissance occultism and magic, speaking of a new light emerging from darkness and urging a Pythagorean silence, in yet another Pseudo-Lullian work in which Lullism is associated with yet another Renaissance interest, rhetoric [that's in Rhetoricen Isagoge, by Remigius Rufus, Paris; 1515]...." (p. 190)
A final link between Lullism and the pictorial Art of Memory practices, a connection made by the Psuedo-Lullian occultists of the Renaissance, is of especial interest to the scholar of Tarot. In the course of noting that the Renaissance magi "...would have found in Lullism the basing of memory on the 'celestial seven' which is the outstanding feature of Camillo's Theater...", Yates continues:
"The Renaissance had other authorities for a celestial basing of memory (Metrodorus of Scepsis, for example), but if... it believed that it could find Lullism a confirmation of that practice, it would not have found in Lullism the use of magic or talismanic images of the stars in memory. For Lull's avoidance of images and similitudes is as notable in his astrology, or rather his astral science, as it is in his attitude to artificial memory. Lull never uses the images of planets or of the signs, nor refers to all that array of animal and human images in the constellations of the astrological world picture. He does his astral science in a completely abstract and imageless way, with geometrical figures and letter notations....
"But the proliferation of imagery such as we see in Camillo's [Memory] Theatre belongs into a different line of country from Lullism. It belongs to artificial memory of the rhetoric tradition, with its images; developed into corporeal similitudes in the Middle Ages; and developed in the Renaissance Hermetic atmosphere into astralized and talismanic images. It belongs, in fact, to just that side of 'artificial memory' which Lull himself excluded.
"Nevertheless, it was to be a grand Renaissance aim to bring together Lullism and the classical art of memory by using magic images of the stars on the Lullian figures." (p. 196)
Here we have a great condensation of the streams that converged to fulfill the comprehensive Renaissance magical cosmic paradigm. This hologram of the Three Worlds, which I am here calling the Psychocosm of the Magi, is the inspiration for the grand synthesis that Tarot was created to encapsulate.
Meanwhile, let us take note, and not leave it as an aside, that all three original orderings of the Tarot trumps show a distinct 7x3 structure, which specialists have observed alike in all three variant sequences. Given the pervasiveness of Lullist astral magic to the times and the cultural context, it seems safe to say that Tarot should be studied as another outgrowth of the Pseudo-Lullian collective labor to bridge the images of the Memory Arts and the formulae of the Lullian combinatory arts onto a set of flash cards that everybody could use and enjoy.
But just how, again, did the Renaissance magic achieve its characteristic ends? We point to the superlative will power and highly developed phantasia of the individuals who stand out in the histories, but how could even those considerable skills be operative without being embedded in a matrix that is responsive to these kinds of stimulations?
A great summary on Paracelsus' explanation of how mental magic works can be found in Alexander Roob’s Alchemy & Mysticism (p. 19-20):
"Corresponding to the tripartate division of the small world of man (microcosmos) into body, soul, and spirit was a cosmic soul which dwelled in the realm of the stars. This cosmic soul reflected the ideas of the higher, transcendental sphere of the divine intellect, and through the influence of the stars these ideas imprinted their eternal "symbols" on the lower, physical transient sphere.
"Man thereby has the possibility of manipulating events in the earthly sphere, using magical practices such as the manufacture of talismans, spells and other such things to affect this middle sphere of the cosmic soul. Contact is established through the fine material of the "sidereal" or "astral body" that invisibly surrounds man. Before the Fall, according to the Gnostic-Cabalistic myths, the whole of heaven was a single human being of fine material, the giant, androgynous, primordial Adam, who is now in every human being, in the shrunken form of this invisible body, and who is waiting to be brought back to heaven. Man can communicate with the macrocosm through this sidereal medium, and thus receives premonitions and prophecies in dreams....
"Paracelsus likens the imagination to a magnet which, with its power of attraction, draws the things of the external world within man, to reshape them there. Its activity is thus captured in the image of the inner alchemist, the sculptor or the blacksmith. It is crucial to master them, for what man thinks 'is what he is, and a thing is as he thinks. If he thinks a fire, he is a fire'. (Paracelsus)."
The Arcana of Nature
We already know that the magus will employ symbol, image, word, number, speech, writing, music, scent, ritual, color, and material objects in the process of linking up the necessary chains of correspondences to build a field that can potentize the desired magical result. The sum total of all of these ingredients, set into motion by the will of the operator, produces, in effect, a hologram of transformation which rings out in all three "worlds" -- divine, astral, and material. That hologram or field, upon activation, becomes an arcanum (plural arcana). This is a Latin word meaning originally 'something hidden in a box or chest', according to Nevill Drury's Dictionary of the Esoteric. Long usage has broadened the meaning of "hidden" to include concepts secreted in a puzzling way within words, images, and symbols, a usage that only brings us closer to the Tarot trumps.
Let's take note of some situations where Trithemius evoked this concept of the arcana while calling for a veil of esoteric secrecy to be drawn over the techniques revealed in his book Polygraphia. Quoting Brann from his Trithemius and Magical Theology (p. 103), we read:
"Many of those directing their carping criticisms at his magic, claimed Trithemius, in fact were under the sway of the same demons they unjustly had assigned to himself. The polygrapher, on the other hand, by veiling his occult precepts from his vulgar accusers, also perforce veils them from the demons attracted into their company. As he put his call for recondite expression in his own characteristically recondite way:
'Lest the arcana of owls be revealed in any way to the demons, these mysteries are concealed under enigmas.'
... [Trithemius also said regarding another case of the inappropriate revelation of secrets by one of his students:] 'It is not the part of all men to understand the arcana of nature, and to bring to light something which lies hidden and beyond ordinary usage in familiar areas of concern.' " (Brann, p. 103)
Following up in Faivre & Needleman's Modern Esoteric Spirituality, we find a pertinent little section called "The Significance of the 'Arcane' in Paracelsus" (p. 161-2). This deals with the context in which the healer, the alchemist, or physician finds materials for the work (Paracelsus' own words are in the single quotes):
"It is the arcana which support our body... or secure the preservation of the body in health by driving out sickness... In investigating natural forces one comes to the arcana, 'and they are the mysteries from which the physician is to grow'... God has put these arcana in nature to help physicians to avert distress. However, the arcana do not display their natural powers spontaneously, but in communication through the ars spagyrica, that chemodynamic process which acts as the 'art of Vulcan,' as the 'archaeus' in the body [dividing out the good and evil from each other; distilling the cure from out of the sickness].
"For Paracelsus, too, the alchemical process, just as in the earlier tradition, simply means a modus praeparandi rerum naturalium, a specific process for the preparation of natural materials. Here Paracelsus already marks himself off very clearly from the contemporary manipulations of the alchemists: 'It is not the case as with those who want alchemy to produce gold, to produce silver. Here, rather, the request is: make arcana and direct these against sicknesses. One must start from that, that is the foundation.'... Thus the arcanum has 'the power to change, to mutate, to renew, to restore'... It is that specific power which the physician first brings into play with his art. 'The arcanum is a mighty heaven in the hand of the physician'..."
For perspective, let's include another comment on the same passage, this time translated by Weeks (p. 153):
"Just as nature acting through the stars and the season of summer brings fruit to ripeness, and just as the stomach transforms things into flesh and blood, so also medicine through alchemy serves to transform and to perfect, doing so in accordance with the hidden arcana, the forces or virtues in nature:
'Thus is alchemy the external stomach, which prepares for the stars what belongs to them. It is not to say, that alchemy makes gold, makes silver; here the project is: make arcana and direct them against the diseases; that is the end, that is the ground.... Thus nature and the human being are to be joined and brought together in health and in diseases.' "
There are Tarot researchers who continue to believe that this use of the concept of arcanum is unrelated to Tarot issues. However, after casting a glance at the 32 magical figures of Paracelsus, or upon examining The Magic Figures of Paracelsus by Franz Hartmann (a Kessinger reprint), one can see that the applicability is striking. This set of emblems is pictured in an art style strongly reminiscent of the Visconti-Sforza decks and the Mantegna series, containing images that all Tarot users are familiar with: a hand emerging from a frilled "cloud" holding a two-edged sword, a vista overlooking the city, a royal crown, a triple crown, a Bishop or Pope (though up to his waist in water with 13 lances pointed at him!), the Sun shining down on a bucolic landscape, the alchemical lion, an artisan at his workbench, a crowned eagle hovering over the King (who appears to be drowning in a river!), four swords at odds with a fifth one upright and dominating, children dancing in the sun aside a waist-high wall, and a man asleep under a tree with the Sun overhead. There are also a number of things in these emblems that we don't see in the Tarot, but can we really overlook these visual and symbolic links, knowing that they emerged in the same time-period and cultural climate wherein the Trumps were also developing?
Interestingly enough, Faivre and Needleman take the time to give us more insight into the direction the word arcana developed in the centuries following Paracelsus:
"Paracelsus thought out and planned his arcane theory of medicine for the future with great deliberation when he confessed: 'What is it that the medicus repents of? Nothing! For he has spent his days with the arcana and has lived in God and in nature as a powerful master of the earthly light'....
"But there can be no doubt that already among the immediate successors of Paracelsus this term arcanum was developed further, surpassed, and distorted. The concrete arcana turned into the mysterium magnum of the arcanum, which could be interpreted only in spiritual terms and finally became an arcanum sanctum. Paracelsus' basic concept in natural philosophy was highly stylized and became a means of metaphysical manipulation. The deutero-Paracelsian writings increasingly abandon their specific relationship to praxis and subsequently develop only purely speculative accents."
I find these remarks intriguing in the extreme! We can see in the Paracelsian emblems an imaginal landscape that closely matches with the art and spirit informing both the Trumps and the other emblem-sets we have inherited from the times. We also know that the alchemical emblems of the 1600's often look like wildly proliferated Tarot images and are still dealing with very similar topics. Historians are now becoming more certain that both the Rosicrucian "enlightenment" and the Masonic Lodge movement carried the Paracelsian world-view (and its proliferations) forward right to the brink of the 20th century, to which we find the primary proponents of esoteric Tarot belonging. How can we continue to keep our minds so compartmentalized as to not see the relationship? The original concept of arcana, and the associations it conjures up, can be seen to curve away from its earlier grounding in the concept of "remedy" or "formula for healing", but as that arc plays out, the concept gets closer and closer to the modern concept of the Arcana of the Tarot Trumps.
Tarot users and researchers need to prick up our ears when we hear the word "arcana" in the writings of the Renaissance magi. Most researchers think the word is being used in a loose way to represent a whole class of general beliefs and assumptions which the magi had recourse to in their studies. But the more we dig down via these studies into the operational principles upon which Renaissance magic rests, the more it seems that this concept of arcanum in magic converges into the concept guiding the form and meanings of the Trumps. (And this remains true even if we don't take into consideration the links between the Runes and the Paracelsian images, which is then reinforced by the presence of three runic symbols on the 6, 7, and 8 of coins in the Anonymous Parisian Tarot of 1500.)
One of my favorite modern commentators on the Hypnerotomachia, Peter Lamborn Wilson, has made a series of excellent comments on the magical image, comments which are so strikingly illustrative of processes we can assume were going on with the Tarot that they deserve to be quoted at some length. This is from Alexandria #5, (edited by David Fideler); Wilson's article Oneiriconographia, pp. 411-13:
"The Renaissance magi had a very definite theory about the persuasiveness of the text and the image. This theory emerged from their study of the Egyptian hieroglyphs.... they developed a Neoplatonic reading that viewed the pictographs as archetypal rather than 'alphabetic'. Each hieroglyph contained or 'was' the inner essence of the thing depicted, as well as being both an allegory of that thing, and a sign for its spoken name. Invented by Hermes, the hieroglyphs constituted a system of 'magical writing,' and to be able to read them would allow a kind of imaginal projective semiotics. The Hermeticists assumed that this projection would bypass the usual linguistic process, so that the archetypes would be able to impress themselves on the soul directly, so to speak, without the mediation of the discursive intellect. This 'action-at-a-distance’ defined the magic of hieroglyphs. The initiated reader of the hieroglyphs would receive not only this 'subconscious' effect, but also the semantic context of the text -- but everyone who saw the text would be influenced to some extent, whether they could 'read' it or not....
The simple descriptions in Horapollo could be expanded into emblems, that is, image/text complexes structured like hieroglyphs. The emblems were both allegorical and symbolic -- e.g., Hercules represented 'strength.' Eros 'desire,' etc. -- and the scenes in which they appeared could be 'translated' back into these words. But, Hercules was also Hercules, with all the mytho-magical symbolism associated with his tradition -- so, each pictorial element in the emblem also worked on a non-verbal level of emotions, associations, and even dreams or the unconscious. Meanwhile, the image was usually accompanied by a text... that offered a 'translation,' or at least an interpretation, of the image.... Books like the Hypnerotomachia are not only symbolic as well as allegorical, they are also initiatic texts. Concentration upon the images, meditation on the text and its relation to the images, and the "inner work" on the self in light of the revelations and inspirations thus obtained, all allow the book [or the Tarot], in a sense, to replace the 'laboratory work' of alchemy -- equating it, as it were -- with an inner transformative process of directed imagination. Because the emblem is not merely discursive or lineal or completely accessible to reason, because the emblem is occulted, obscured, it needs to be penetrated on all cognitive levels simultaneously -- inclusive of meta-rational levels of consciousness that lie beyond cognition in any ordinary sense. Precisely for these reasons, the emblem book becomes a process -- or even a performance -- in which the reader can achieve self-realization through the initiatory 'magic' of the text."
Ioan Couliano is an unparalleled source on the psychology of Ficino’s magic, and the method by which it was understood to work by the Renaissance magi who followed him, in his wonderful Eros and Magic in the Renaissance. To pick up right where Wilson left off:
"Hieroglyphics, symbols endowed with the dual preferential claim of having aroused the interest of Platonic diviners and also of being fashionable with Ficino's contemporaries, assume particular importance in his concepts.... Ficino, as Eugenio Garin tells us, conceived of philosophy as an initiation into mysteries, consisting of a gradual rise in intellectual loftiness receiving in response from the intelligential world a phantasmic revelation in the form of figurae. These figurae, characters of an inner phantasmagoria staged by the soul itself, represent the modality by means of which the vision of the soul opens before the oculus spiritalis, the organ that has taught the inner consciousness about existence, through diligent meditation. This experience, so well described by P. O Kristeller, has to do with the formation of an 'inner awareness,' interpretable as a phantasmic process, a visio spiritalis in the Augustinian sense. It is, in fact, a need to discover a means of communication between reason and intellect (the soul) and this means is provided by the spiritual eye, the mysterious organ that permits us to look upward toward the higher ontological levels.
"Andre Chastel believes that the term hieroglypha, as used by Ficino, does not refer to a form communicated by the soul to the faculty of reason through the intermediary of the pneuma. Rather, it is a symbol of meditation 'keeping the spirit in a state of tension propitious to a kind of meditation close to ecstasy, the talisman of the oculus mentis.'
"Pseudo-Egyptian hieroglyphics, emblems and impresae [as well as Tarot cards] were wonderfully suited to the playful spirit of Florentine Platonism, to the mysterious and 'mystifying' quality Ficino believed it had. ‘Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato had the habit of hiding all divine mysteries behind the veil of figurative language to protect their wisdom modestly from the Sophist's boastfulness, of joking seriously and playing assiduously.'... That famous turn of phrase of Ficino's -- translation of a remark by Xenophon concerning the Socratic method -- depicts, at bottom, the quintessence of every phantasmic process, whether it be Eros, the Art of Memory, magic, or alchemy -- the ludus puerorum, preeminently a game for children. What, indeed, are we doing in any of the above if not playing with phantasms, trying to keep up with their game, which the benevolent unconscious sets up for us? Now, it is not easy to play a game whose rules are not known ahead of time. We must apply ourselves seriously, assiduously, to try and understand and learn them so that the disclosures made to us may not remain unanswered by us." (p. 37-8)
Now we have come full-circle in this tour of the Psychocosm of the magi. We will have more to say about the operative techniques the Renaissance Christian Shaman uses to empower his or her own consciousness for the requisite ceremonies, but at least we have a better idea now about how the mage will arrange her or his own attitudes in preparation for any given task. I hope to have conveyed in many ways the sense of sacred duty that lay upon the shoulders of everybody who pursued this path. In truth, this ostensibly post-Catholic spiritual movement provided a kind of shadow Church that deified Love (or Eros) via the post-Lullian doctrine of astral correspondences and elemental sympathies. Within this operative model the leading magi of the times found both mystical inspiration and a healing art for their times.
Where Lull is seen to have opened a door for the later Renaissance magi, modern scholars increasingly name Paracelsus as the figurehead, and his accomplishments the apotheosis of this alternate spirituality. This is as much due to his announcement of a fourth Deity into the Trinity, (the Sophia of Nature, which he very forthrightly called 'the Goddess'), as for his challenge to the clergy's assumed (but largely ineffective) powers of healing. We should not be surprised to see how fully Christian theology and philosophy are mingled into the contemporary manuals explicating the hows and whys of magical practice. The magi were spiritually inspired at many levels to craft interior lives capable of reflecting the paradise archetypes, the arcana, into this material world of time/space, for the benefit of all humanity.
It is not far amiss to say that the Renaissance magi served as the "hidden clergy" of a Sophianic revival of Classical spirituality. These magi, Cabbalists, astrologers and alchemists, under the aegis of Lullism, viewed themselves as hierophants and healers for the fallen and degraded Creation that they found themselves occupying. To a large degree the magi of the era were partakers in the optimist Gnosis of this revival, supporting a philosophy of Eros and offering a defense of pleasure in an increasingly tense, polarized, and dangerous period. While undertaking the work of linking Heaven to Earth for purposes of cure and inspiration, the Renaissance magus also served as spouse and imaginal inseminator of Great Nature, both container for and subject of the Alchemical Marriage. If the work went well and the proper correspondences were activated, the magus participated in the very essences being contacted, right up to and including "rebirth" as and within the androgynous Christ/Sophia, exemplar of the Astral world linking the Divine and the Earthly realms. In this way the magus restores the original Edenic Nature of Earth while simultaneously awakening the seed of Adam Kadmon within her/his own body.
Let me close with another quote from Oneiriconographia by Peter Lamborn Wilson (cited earlier). These remarks lead us to envision where the momentum of the Renaissance Religion of the World ended up heading as the 16th century segued into the 17th. Wilson is quite adamant that the Hypnerotomachia is evidence "of a conspiracy, a neopagan cabal in revolt against Christianity. If such a conspiracy existed, this book could have been or must have been one of the sacred texts of its conventacles." (p. 405-6)
"...the Renaissance Hermeticists' positive evaluation of sensuality and the material world is clearly not derived only from classical sources, but rather it represents their own breakthrough into a world of 'magical materialism' -- a philosophy with political implications. The defense of the body against dualism and moralism constitutes the most radical plank in the platform of Renaissance neopaganism...they were pantheistic monists in revolt against the church and its 'slander of the body', and in extreme cases, this position led to a sort of crypto-apostasy, replete with magic and neopagan ritual.
"As Frances Yates never tired of pointing out, within the Reformation/Counter Reformation context, the Hermeticists represented a radical "third force" that is neither Catholic nor Protestant, neither humanist nor pietistic. A century after the Hypnerotomachia, the Rosicrucian manifestos articulated a political position inherent in Hermeticism from the very start: 'radical tolerance' for all religions (including the 'pagans, Jews and Turks"), and a 'universal religion' for an occult elite that was at once syncretistic, theurgic, mystical and self-liberatory. Pico was excommunicated for this very same heresy, and Bruno was martyred for it." (p. 408)
"Against the Church's monopoly of discourse they proposed a polysemy, a syncretism, an open circulation of cosmic imagery -- a way out of the enclosed reality of an orthodox dogma that was no longer a living faith. Like Protestants they rejected the mediation of hierarchy, claiming for themselves an 'inner light' -- but like Catholics they believed in the efficacy of image, ritual, and symbol. Whatever their political involvement (or non-involvement), they generated 'thought experiments' about Utopia, and proposals for its achievement, at least on the level of the individual imagination. But alchemical ideals could be applied, in a kind of 'Hermetic critique', to existing social conditions just as they were to spiritual ones. (Campanella and More did so explicitly, and the Rosicrcians envisioned distinct and radical reforms.) Hermeticism's real revolt was directed against the Church -- but the Church was inseparable from "worldly" government. Gradually and to varying degrees the Hermeticists were drawn toward revolution." (p. 409)
I leave it to my readers to follow the trail Wilson indicates and find his/her own place in the pantheon of Gnostic Magi who have emerged since the 1500's. Those who see a path of self-healing and self-initiation encoded into the Tarot arcana will already have their own basis for solidarity with the Renaissance Magi and their sacred astral imagery. As Couliano points out above, magi of every generation 'play' with the arcana, and the arcana 'play' with us, in a timeless ongoing intergenerational and intercultural evolutionary dialogue between the individual ego and the collective unconscious. This experiment has not yet ended, the goal of this 'play' is still running ahead of us, daring us to keep up with it and keep internalizing those links, those harmonies and concordances, which can mend the rift between the worlds and restore Eden within our own hearts and minds.
A magi's work is never done!
Research: Esoteric Tarot, Literature and Practice; Tarot.com
Publisher, The Tarot Arkletters
Bishop, Gnostic Church of St. Mary Magdalene
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Image Links for your convenience:
Ramon Lull, du Ascensu: http://www.gnosis.art.pl/
Ramon Lull, Ars Brevis: http://lullianarts.net/Ars-Magna/contents.html
Camillo's Memory Theater: http://kelty.rice.edu/375/lectures/camillo0212.html
Morphic Resonance: http://www.webheaven.co.yu/spiritart/morfic_fields.htm
Sophia's Body: http://creative-harmonics.com/art/rowena/posters/sophiaposter/sophiaposter.html
Utopia by Holbein: http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/h/holbein/ambrosiu/utopia.html
Transfiguration by Alex Gray: http://www.integrativespirituality.org/coppermine/displayimage.php?album=60&pos=8
Gaia by Alex Gray: http://www.integrativespirituality.org/coppermine/displayimage.php?album=random&cat=&pos=-423