Over the course of the discussion about esoteric correspondences to Tarot in the times previous to Eliphas Levi, there has been a tone of skepticism which takes the stance that Levi may well have imposed his own invention of Hebrew letter/Trump correspondences onto the Tarot. This kind of skepticism is so common in America that it even sounds logical, in a way that it never could to someone raised with Continental Tarot sensibilities. So I would like to put some points in perspective for the discerning TarotL subscriber.
As a researcher working to reveal the situation about Esoteric Tarot using only academic sources, I have been held to a standard of "proof" more suitable to scientists than philosophers. This is good for the field, and good for the certification of good solid historical theory, but challenging due to the way academics have ignored Tarot in their expositions about the Renaissance. However, I am happy to announce that Antoine Faivre's book, Theosophy, Imagination, Tradition; Studies in Western Esotericism, just released in English, has appeared to rectify this lapse. Faivre has taken the time to include the Tarot in this, his third volume. He does this first by declaring Tarot to be an integral part of the overall "esoteric corpus" he is reporting on, and second, by devoting a chapter to Valentin Tomberg's amazing Meditations On The Tarot. Since Tomberg and Sadhu are, between them, the representatives of a Russian lineage, offspring of Freemasonry, the Templars and the Martinists, it is great news that Faivre is clarifying the presence and impact of this seminal stream of European occultism.
Now that we have the academicians weighing in so much more specifically on the esotericism of Tarot, it might help us ameliorate our seeming 50-50 split between the "game theorists" and the "occultist theorists." We can all go see what is being said in the European Universities, and see where we are relative to the map being defined by modern scholarship on the subject. I hope other interested parties will waste no time in acquiring a copy, so we can assimilate the best of the ideas we find in Faivre and get that insight into our List discussions. Faivre's doctorate degree was in the Illuminist tradition, this is his area of specialty, so I think we can trust his data on this subject.
With that said, I can lapse back into my other identity, which is that of an Initiate into the Elus-Cohens, and into the Martinist Order. My library contains quite a bit of material that Martinez de Pasqually wrote for his direct students in the Order. I also have the elaborations which Louis Claude de Saint-Martin assembled for his Martinist students. So my research in this area is not limited to what can be found in the works of Faivre, Godwin, and Hanegraaff, although certain things you will have to take my word for, or develop your own sources to confirm.
I got to this point last Winter and was hooted off the stage for mentioning these memberships, as if they might be relevant to a discussion about Tarot. I hope my gaffe can be understood and forgiven now that we are going over this ground so much more thoroughly this time. I can tell you exactly what was being taught in those Lodges of the Elus-Cohens and the Martinists (the first flowering of that order, not Papus' revival). I have reproductions of the teaching materials.
Let me describe to you something of what the Elus-Cohen and Martinist agenda is:
Joachim Martinez de Pasqualis was born into the Lodge structure. When he founded the Elus-Coens, he presented not only his own ordination papers, signed by George William, King of Great Britain at the time, but also a certificate of permission issued by the Grand Master of the Stuart Lodge to his father on May 20, 1738. This certificate allowed Don Martinez Pascualis, Esquire, to transmit to his elder son Joachim Don Martinez Pasqualis, the authority to serve as Grand Master of the Temples Lodge "to the glory of the Grand Architect". (p. 6, Historical Review of Martinism, by Jean Bricaud) I include this detail because it suggests that Martinez de Pasqualis did not himself "make up" the Kabbalism that he was teaching through the Elus-Coens. I'm sure his pedigree helped him get a foothold as a newcomer in Paris, but he would have been shunned and brought shame upon his family if he was teaching as Tradition something that was incompatible with his roots and familial lineage.
On Page 11 of the same work, we hear again that there have been three different branchings of the Martinist stream -- the original Elus-Coens, the Willermoz strain which took the work into upper-level Freemasonry in Germany and France (held by a few within the Rectified Scottish Rite), and finally the followers of The Unknown Philosopher (Saint-Martin), who were spread through France, Germany, Denmark, and above all in Russia. It is the Russian strain that Papus was first introduced to, and from this inspiration he was moved to revive the Martinists as The Martinist Order. This goes to the question of whether this tradition was localized to southwestern Europe.
The Elus-Cohen aim at every level of grade-work is to learn the Number-letters which make up the Holy Names (in Hebrew); to cultivate contact with and materialization of the 72-Lettered Name of God, the Angels of the Elohim; and to obtain personal contact with the Holy Guardian Angel(s) along the upward path, envisioned according to Pasqually's unique take on the Kabbalah Tree. If you note the allusion in the name "Elus-Coens" (as spelled on my charter), you will not be surprised to find that this Lodge is specifically Kabbalistic in philosophy and in practice.
The works of Rene Cossey on Martinez' regime accurately reflect the focus of the gradework. Familiarity with Hebrew, both the language and the esotericism of the Zohar and the Sefir Yetzira, is required for the theurgical workings, which can involve complete recitations of certain Psalms, or sometimes the entire canon of Psalms together. We are warned, however, not to look for spiritual approval either among the Rabbis or the Christians for these practices, as they were developed by the converted Jews of Southern Spain, and represent a hybrid strain of mysticism unclaimed by either camp. All the source materials for the rituals, studies, and aspirations derive from the era of Agrippa's Three books of Occult Philosophy or even earlier. Judging from the writings I have by Martinez himself, his interest in Kabbalah and in Gnosticism were parallel, and dovetailed with a healthy respect for the number-mysticism of Hermeticism.
The Martinist Order introduces itself as the continuation of the work of Jacob Boehme (1573-1624) and the Illuminist Movement. Exemplars in the later 1700's include the Comte de St. Germain, Cagliostro, Swedenborg, Martinez de Pasquales, and Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin. In a quote from Dr. Lewis Keizer about the dispersion of the teachings of these exemplars, he says:
"All these were part of what was called the Masonic Enlightenment or the Illuminist Movement, which was based on the reforms and higher teachings of St. Germain and resulted in a rebirth of alchemical, Hermetic, and political philosophy. These were cultivated in Rosicrucian, Masonic, and Illuminati lodges in which the wisdom of India, Tibet, Persia, and Moslem Egypt were integrated through the Asiatic Brethren, the Fratres Lucis, the Illuminati, and other "L.V.X." brotherhoods."
The main difference between the Elus-Cohen approach and the Martinist approach was that Martinez de Pasqually taught an active theurgy which was magical and ceremonial and utilized ritual elements from outside the strict bounds of Christianity, whereas Saint-Martin left the ritualizing behind for a contemplative, "inward theurgy" of the imagination (the paganesque ritualizing of the Elus-Cohens made him uncomfortable). Both of them, however, took their understanding of the inner worlds from the Philosophers of Light who had preceded them. (Faivre makes note of the political contribution of the Illuiminists when he includes in his latest translation a chapter called "Theosophical Points of View on the Death Penalty," including a paper on the subject by Saint-Martin.)
In an article that I have on the Martinist current written by Papus, we are assured that "Today [late 1800's] L'Ordre Martiniste Des Elus-Cohen ... continues the Work of the Elus-Cohen of Martinez Pasquales, in the form and according to the practices originally established in 1758, possessing in its folds direct filiations called Martinism, Martinezism, and Willermozism, and the authentic Operative Rituals of the 18th century including those of the secret class of the Reaux-Croix."
So I think I can say with confidence that Martinism since its inception with the Elus-Coens(Cohens) has been invested in the number-letter mysticism of Hebrew, from which all of its defining operations and teachings are drawn. A major portion of a new Initiate's time is spent in study of the symbolism associated with the 22 Hebrew Letters, in preparation for the recitation of the alphabetic anagrams in Psalm 119, for one thing. When Levi says that "Martinez de Pasqually was aware of Tarot, as his book of 22 chapters shows," he is not saying anything surprising about Pasqually. However, I see no direct references to Tarot in the historical material I possess.
<<Question: What about the book by Ambelain?!>>
This is of course all different within twenty or thirty years, due to Martinez's student Saint-Martin, whose teachings spread under the title of The Unknown Philosopher. Tarot is intimately intertwined with the teachings of Saint-Martin, whose influence is felt across Northern Europe clear into Russia. It is the Russian strain of this Freemasonic-Martinist-Templar amalgam which reached Papus and turned him on so much that he revived the Martinist Order. This might be one explanation for the small difference between Levi's correspondences (via the Elus-Coens, whose last representative lived in Paris till the 1860's) and those of Papus (via the Saint-Martin strain from Russia).
With all this in mind we have to ask ourselves again, why does the OGD (Order of the Golden Dawn) create an Order that so very closely resembles the Elus-Cohens (emphasis on Christian Kabbalistic theurgy with the help of the 72 angels, the alphabet, the Holy Guardian angel, and the Tree) if they thought this was a spurious lineage? Why does Waite write a whole book about The Unknown Philosopher and never mention that Saint-Martin's lodge is the one that anchored for European Masons the Number-Letters on the Trumps? Why do Waite, Wescott, Mathers, and Crowley go to such absurd lengths to make it seem that "Levi knew the correct correspondences but did not put them correctly in his books?" (And for those who still can't quite conceive of these fellows doing something like this, please see my chapters, called The Continental Tarot and The English School, on the Tarot Magic site at Tarot.com.)
No doubt Waite knew the scoop! This is exactly why Waite's group was so jazzed when Levi came to England, and why K. MacKenzie made his later visits to France, to Levi's home. They really wanted what he had (the power to grant them entrance to the French upper orders), and he didn't choose to give it to them. This was not a case of "deciding that the English Correspondences were more correct than the French." This was a case of an English lodge taking everything they had learned from tradition and using it for their own purposes. They worked hard to make it sound like they had inherited a chaotic model and were trying to resolve a legitimate historical confusion, but in fact, they were rebelling against the current representatives of tradition, and substituting their own creation for the original Number/Letter prototype, which is, of course, the Sefir Yetzirah of the Jews.
Just notice how carefully Faivre has traced out the Illuminist Lineage as a seminal influence in Europe, how impactful the teachings of Boehme, Saint-Martin, and Levi (despite his eccentricities!) demonstrably were, not only within the Lodges but also upon their societies in general, see how Faivre treats them in the context of his reporting on Western Esotericism.... and then look for how often Waite, Crowley, and Wescott come up.
Barely at all. Why not?
If you close your mind and say "Well, that's the French for you," you have fallen victim to Waite's propaganda. The reason why the Universities of Europe are not including the English Tarot stream in their curriculum of Western Esoteric Traditions is because it does not belong there. The Continental Tarot tradition is an authentic and still-living channel for the Number/Letter mysticism which came into Christianity from the Hebrew converts of the early Renaissance. Not the only channel of course, but nevertheless a legitimate one. The various generations of Illuminist philosophers kept this type of mysticism alive even in the face of ever-present and virulent anti-Semitism. Boehme's assertion that he never studied Kabblah notwithstanding, (and there is strong speculation he did encounter it early in his studies and then "forgot"), the Illuminist stream is characterized by considerations so fitted to the Hebrew Mysteries that they stand out distinctly among the other intellectual and social trends of their times.
So for Waite to place himself like a boulder in the middle of this stream, deny that it existed or mischaracterize it as "a welter of contradictions" and "the workings of Levi's peculiarly French imagination" or whatever colorful language he was so fond of, is false at best and malicious more likely. In modern times, we call this type of person a historical revisionist, and very seldom are they seen as heroes.
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