Prolegomena to the Minor Arcana

The second part of Letter XXII on The World deals with the Minor Arcana. It describes a program to follow, both in terms of knowledge and inner work, in order to approach the Minor Arcana. This is an outline that highlights the main points of that program.

The Four Worlds

The Minor Arcana deals with the complete Cabbala of four complete trees, corresponding to four distinct, but interpenetrating, worlds.

Thus, the 10 Sephiroth of each world are represented by the pip cards of its corresponding suit.

Moreover, the four elements have a role in each world. The elements are represented by the four face cards of each suit.

The following diagram shows how the elements are represented in the Sephiroth, and the chart summarizes all these relationships.
4 worlds

Cabala World Philosophy Element Suit Figure
Azilut Emanation Pantheism Fire Wands King
Beriah Creation Theism Air Cups Queen
Yetzirah Formation Demiurgism Water Swords Knight
Assiyyah Action Naturalism Earth Pentacles Knave
World Sacred Name Method Cause Ascent Stage
Azilut Yod Mysticism Efficient Creative Activity Perfection or Mystical Union
Beriah He Gnosis Formal Spiritual Activity Illumination
Yetzirah Vau Magic Material Destruction of the imagery Purification
Assiyyah He Hermetic philosophy Final Intellectual and sensual imagery Preparation

The Tetragrammaton

The four suits are also related to the letters of the Sacred Name.

Each plane, or world, has its own methodology of knowledge, which needs to be appropriate to its object.

These methods are: Mysticism, Gnosis, Magic, and Hermetic philosophy.

Causation is understood in a specific way for each world. These are Efficient Cause, Formal Cause, Material Cause, Final Cause.

The Efficient Cause is the Will of God that starts the World Process. From that perspective, the world is an emanation of God.

The Formal Cause is the Essence of Beings, through which all things are made. This involves a separation from God, so Theism is its philosophy.

The Material Cause is the Substance of Beings, from which they are made. This is like the Demiurge that constructs the world from matter in conformity to the Ideas.

The Final Cause refers to the purpose of beings.

(Note: There is an apparent inconsistency in the text about these causes, since Levi’s system is a little different. However, this system seems to me to be more complete.)

Psychurgical Practice

The Major Arcana constitute a teaching program. Their purpose is to awaken consciousness to the laws and forces which are at work beneath the moral, intellectual, and phenomenological surface.

The Minor Arcana require psychurgical practice, i.e., the transformation of consciousness rising from plane to plane. Hence, they are much more than an intellectual puzzle. They require a change of consciousness, which is why we start at the lowest world.

The Minor Arcana require the analysis, synthesis, and elaboration of the Major Arcana as applied to the planes of consciousness. There are 22 paths between the Sephiroth, which correspond to the Major Arcana. Some systems try to work along those paths.

The Ascent of Consciousness

The World of Action is dominated by intellectual and sensual imagery. Although they are not fully illusory, they are also not fully images of reality.

Consciousness is surrounded by memories of experiences, intellectual schemes, and moral ideals.

Psychurgical practice is the ascent from this world to higher worlds. So the first step is to free the mind from is attachments to these mental constructions, which obscure any higher knowledge.

Further Considerations

There are three main points.

  • Practice the emptying of imagery, also called unknowing.
  • Learn to recognize the occult forces behind moral and intellectual movements in the world, and how they manifest.
  • Meditate of the manifestation of the Sephiroth in the world. E.g., what is the Kingdom in the world of Action, what is the Crown? What is considered Wisdom and Beauty in this world? And  so on.

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