Psychurgical Practice

Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. ~ Isaiah 43:7

While pondering the Minor Arcana, I took some time to investigate some more popular treatments of the Tarot. What they have in common is the emphasis on various “layouts” followed by the interpretation of the cards dealt out at random. The suits are arbitrarily assigned to various life areas. For example, one suit may refer to one’s “love life”, another to financial situations, and so on. Thus they are fundamentally limited to the psychological realm, to “improving” one’s life, or to gaining self-knowledge, not via one’s own powers, but rather through an intermediary.

The latter is the most important. There is passivity, in that the “cards” will “reveal” something to me. We will see that, instead, the ultimate goal is “pure creative activity”. That is, we must become the active force in our life, and revelation will come from above, not through chit chat around the cards.

The Kabbalistic Worlds

We are given a much different directive in the Meditations on the Tarot. There we learn that the Minor Arcana serve as an extension to the World Arcanum, and the world is best understood via the symbolism of the Kabbalah.

Hence, the pip cards correspond to the various sephiroth, with the Ace relating to the Kether up to the 10 at Malkuth. The four worlds and their relationship to the Minor Arcana can be summarized in this table:

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

The four worlds can be represented in the basic Tree of Life in the following diagram.
4 worlds
However, that does not explain the suits, since in that diagram a single suit would suffice. Therefore, there must be a Tree of Life for each of the worlds. In that case, each suit corresponds to the Tree for a world. Now, analogously to the diagram above, the four worlds are hierarchically arranged. They are not merely stacked, but they overlay and interpenetrate each other. Specifically, the Tiphareth of one world is the Kether of the world beneath it.

The single tree diagram explains the figure cards. Each world is reflected in the other worlds, through the system of triads in each world (except the Malkuth).


In the Letter on the World, we read that the purpose of the Minor Arcana is “psychurgical practice”. Here are two definitions of psychurgy, one from the Oxford English Dictionary and the other from the text itself.

OED definition: The ability to understand and enhance the structure, operation, and capabilities of the mind through thinking and self-analysis; the study of this considered as a science.

MoTT definition: The transformation of consciousness rising from plane to plane, i.e., from the plane of action to the plane of emanation.

Jacob’s Ladder

The Minor Arcana represent the way of ascent of consciousness from the phenomenal, physical world up to the world of emanation. These degrees can be summarized like this:

  • Action: The world of sensual and intellectual imagery.
  • Formation: The destruction of this imagery, i.e., the emptying of the mind
  • Creation: The Silence necessary to receive Revelation from above
  • Emanation: Pure creative activity

This is also known as Jacob’s Ladder.

Hence, a complete meditation on the Minor Arcana will start with the Malkuth of Action (the Ten of Pentacles) and end with the Kether of Emanation (the Ace of Wands). That does not include the figure cards.

I’ve made an attempt at a meditation in The Middle Pillar. Of course, it needs to be greatly expanded.

Esoteric Meaning of Action

In order to start with the world of action, we should be clear about its meaning. The world of formation (God formed Adam from clay) is the Garden of Eden. The Fall, then, is into the world of action. The exoteric teaching is that Adam disobeyed God, who then expelled Adam from the Garden. The esoteric teaching, as explained in the Zohar, is the contrary: it was Adam who expelled God from the Garden. Wishing to be like a god, he put himself in God’s place. This resulted in the world of action, godless, and in which the philosophy of naturalism makes sense.

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