The Fool

Let no one deceive himself.
If any one among you thinks that he is wise in this age,
let him become a fool
that he may become wise.
For the wisdom of this world
is folly before God.
(I Corinthians iii, 18-19)
Folly is a condition which prevents that which is true from being grasped.
(Plato, Définitions)
…consciousness succumbs all too easily to unconscious influences, and these are often truer and wiser than our conscious thinking…
Personality need not imply consciousness. It can just as easily be dormant or sleeping.
(C. G. Jung, Conscious, Unconscious and Individuation)
The Fool
from theTarot of Marseilles

School of Mebes

Dear Unknown Friend,

Originally the Fool was the last card of the Major Arcana, but as a spiritual exercise, its nature is not to summarise the whole preceding series of twenty-one meditations on the Marseilles Tarot. At St. Petersburg in Russia, around a hundred years ago, there was a group of esotericists who composed the flower of the capital’s “intelligentsia”.

Their head was the professor of special mathematics from Pages College, Professor Gregory Ottonovitch Mebes. The Bolshevik revolution put an end to the group, but in 1920 the author of this book, read books on the tarot by the engineer Schmakov, Oswald Wirth, Paul Marteau and P.D. Ouspensky. I, Valentin Tomberg, was struck to learn that the Study of the Cabbala, Magic, Astrology, Alchemy and Hermeticism was guided and inspired by the Tarot. I learnt that the esoteric name of the Arcanum “The Fool” is AMOR (Love).

The Card represents a man in baggy dress who is walking, leaning on a staff and carrying a hanging bag on another staff that he holds on his right shoulder. In walking, he is attacked from behind by a dog who is in the process of ripping his trousers. He has the clothing of a traditional mediaeval clown or fool.

His head is turned three-quarters to the right. So it is the Fool who has the tendency to the right…the Fool of good, not of evil, which is also evident from the fact that he does not defend himself against the dog—which he could easily chase away by means of the staff.

Don Quixote

The Fool of good evokes the pale and thin figure of Don Quixote de la Mancha — the knight-errant who made everyone laugh and who merits the epithet El Loco (“The Fool”) and who, after his death, merits that of El Bueno (“The Good”). O Don Quixote, you emerge from the pages of Miguel Cervantes’ novel as a literary figure, but you have taken on a singular life, much more intense and real ! You haunt the imagination from one generation to another, to the point of visionary experience. At evening time in an arid and rocky land, when the shadows are lengthening does one not see you silhouetted in distorted profile, of tall and stiff stature mounted on an emaciated nag?

One often meets you where hearts have become hardened and heads have become obstinate: 

  1. Your voice resounded more loudly than the beating of drums around the guillotine with a cry from the top of the scaffolding, “Long live the King!”—before your chopped off head rolled to the ground.
  2. It is you also who, in the presence of the jubilant revolutionary populace, tore down from the wall and ripped up a red placard announcing to the people of St. Petersburg the dawn of a New Era in Russia…and who was promptly run through by the bayonets of the red guards.
  3. It is you again who declared openly to the German military authorities of the invaded and occupied Netherlands in 1941 that Germany, by occupying the land, was infringing the Hague Conventions that Germany herself had signed thirty years previously…
Don Quixote and Sancho Panza
Long live the King
Don Miguel Cervantes

Don Quixote de la Manche acts. Cervantes did not invent him, but only described him such as he appeared to him in Castile in the time of the twilight of the knighthood. Don Quixote existed and acted long before Cervantes, just as he continues to exist and act long after him. For he lives the life of an archetype, by revealing himself during the course of the ages through lots of people in lots of ways. The anonymous image-makers of the Middle Ages present him to us as the Fool of the Tarot.  But as an idea, as an archetype, and as an Arcanum, what might his origin be? Greek? I should think so. Egyptian? I readily admit it. More ancient still? Why not?

Ideas, archetypes, arcana are ageless. It is only their representation, their imaged symbol, which can be attributed to a determined epoch. And this applies not only to “The Fool”, but also to “The Magician”, “The High Priestess”, “The Empress”, “The Emperor”, “The Pope”, “The Lover”, “The Chariot”, “Justice”, “The Hermit”, “The Wheel of Fortune”, “Force”, “The Hanged Man”…For the Arcana of the Tarot are more than symbols and even more than spiritual exercises: they are magical entities, active initiating archetypes.


Not only Don Quixote, but also Orpheus, the wandering Jew, Don Juan, Tijl Uelenspiegel, Hamlet and Faust haunt the imagination of the western world.

Orpheus—such was the suffering of separation from the soul of his deceased love that it became magic, magic surpassing the river of sleep, forgetfulness and death which separates the dead from the living. Orpheus is present always and everywhere where the love of a soul torn away by death is not content with pious and resigned commemoration, but aspires to find and meet the departed one beyond the threshold of death. Such was Orpheus’ love for Eurydice and such, also, was Gilgamesh’s love for his friend and brother Eabani. And who can say how many human hearts have beaten, beat today, and will beat in the future, in union with that of Orpheus and that of Gilgamesh, the Babylonian hero?


Orpheus and Eurydice

The Wandering Jew

The Wandering Jew by Gustav Dore
The wandering Jew, or Ahasverus, is the archetype of the “other immortality”—that of crystallisation, which was in question in the letter on the thirteenth Arcanum of the Tarot “Death”. He represents the principle and the soul of magic aspiring to the coagulation of the vital body (etheric body) to the point where it becomes “stone”—too hard for death’s scythe.

The formula underlying this magic is the reverse of that of life and grace; it is “You are not worthy to come under my roof’), i.e. the reverse of the formula “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only speak the word and my soul will be healed”).

This is the last secret and the “great arcanum” of those who sculpt themselves into stone and who want, with the resulting stones, to build the temple of humanity (cf. the meditation on the sixteenth Arcanum “The Tower of Destruction”). It goes without saying that it is only a handful amongst them who know this; the others, the majority, do not suspect it at all.

Don Juan

Don Juan is not purely and simply a blasphemous dissolute; he is rather a hierophant of this small god of great power known in antiquity under the name of Eros or Amor (Love). It is the magic of Eros that he represents, and it is the mysteries of Eros over which he presides in the capacity of a priest.

For if it were not thus so, if he were only a dissolute, pure and simple, how could he have exercised such power upon the imagination of poets such as Moliére, Thomas Corneille, Lord Byron, Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart (in music) and Alexis Tolstoy? It is above all the mystery poem of the latter which reveals the profound essence of Don Juan who, according to Alexis Tolstoy, was neither a blasphemous dissolute nor a false-hearted seducer, nor even a brutal adventurer, but rather an obedient and courageous servant of this childlike divinity who loves and commands élan, enthusiasm and ardour, and who detests and forbids the weighing, measuring and calculating of reason with its laws of utility and advantage, circumspection and respect for conventions and, lastly, its priority of a cold head over a warm heart. However, love has not only its right to exist, but also its transcendental metaphysics, philosophy and mysticism. For Alexis Tolstoy, Don Juan was more than a victim or dupe of love—this apparently capricious goddess. He embraced her philosophy and mysticism and was therefore her conscious collaborator, her hierophant initiated into her mysteries. And it is thus that he has become an archetype—the archetype of love for its own sake, the lover par excellence.

Don Juan
Don Juan lives through the energy of amorous influence for the energy of amorous influence—by nourishing it and maintaining it like a fire which should never be extinguished. This is because he is conscious of the value of this fire and of the mission that this fire has in the world. In the eternal conflict that there is between law—of right, of reason, and of the divine—and love, he takes the side of love, for which courage is necessary. And it is thus that Don Juan represents an idea, an archetype, an arcanum.

He represents the young man on the Card of the sixth Arcanum of the Tarot “The Lover”, who has chosen the fire of love as such and multiplicity instead of the unicity of the love of his eternal sister soul—since Babylon, the woman appointed to the mysteries of erotic magic, has convinced him.

Tijl Uegenspiegel

Tijl Uelenspiegel, the Flemish tramp from Damme, near Bruges—the hero of numerous popular accounts of mystification and farce, and also the tragic hero of the epic by Coster—is the archetype of revolutionary anarchism who, as a consequence of complete disenchantment in human authority, has neither faith nor law. His is the spirit of rebellion against all authority in the name of the freedom of the individual—the freedom of a vagabond who has nothing, who obeys no one, who is afraid of nothing, who expects no recompense and who fears no chastisement, beyond as well as here below…the mocking spirit who, at the same time, turns the temples and altars of humanity upside down, making them collapse by means of his magic wand: ridicule. This wand, in touching things, transforms them: the solemn into the pompous, the moving into the sentimental, the courageous into the presumptuous, tears into  snivelling, love into passing fancy…For this wand, also “has no other aim than to condense a great quantity of fluid emanated by the operator…and to direct the projection of this fluid onto a determined point”  And this “condensed fluid” of the operator is the operator’s condensed faith that everything is only a great farce.


Tijl Uelenspiegel is an archetype because he is at work with his wand always and everywhere whenever a mocking spirit thinks of himself as being “enlightening” by turning the things, ideas and ideals to which others hold into ridicule. Thus not only the poetic verses of the Russian Bolshevik militant atheist Demyane Bedny, but also the works of such a respectable writer and thinker as Voltaire, show the presence and influence of Tijl Uelenspiegel. However, Tijl Uelenspiegel—in so far as he is an archetype—is not only purely and simply a mocker. This is only one side of his being. There is another side to him—it is that of militant anarchism: the revolt of the humbler people against those who give the laws and prescribe what they should and should not do. The following act of a comparatively recent date is an example of this:

The sailors of a Russian Baltic fleet brought success to the Russian Bolshevik revolution in October 1917 by opening cannon fire from the cruiser “Aurora” upon the last nest of resistance of troops loyal to the democratic government (a battalion of women volunteers) at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg, and taking it by assault. Thus they were the incontestable and celebrated heroes of the October revolution. However, it is a no less incontestable fact—although never celebrated—that the same sailors of this Baltic fleet rose up in February 1921 against the regime that they had decisively helped to establish in 1917. They took possession of the naval fortress at Kronstadt and a regular war of siege ensued. After a month of siege Kronstadt was taken by assault from the élite of the red guards—cadets or coursants (students of the Bolshevik naval school).

The kronstadt Rebellion

This radical change of attitude of the sailors of this Baltic fleet due was due to the fact that the sailors were fighting in October 1917 for anarchic freedom—for the soviets (councils) of workers, peasants, soldiers and sailors, without generals and admirals, without ministers, i.e. without those placed above the soviets. What they desired was the reestablishment of the community of comrades which existed in the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries known under the name cossaks of the Ukraine—the ideal of the communist anarchist community. However, in 1921 they realized that they had been mistaken. It was not a community of brothers and comrades which arose from the October revolution, but rather state control with a new, strong, dictatorial, police-regulated state, governed by a clique who had the say of everything in the face of a mass who had the say of nothing. The sailors of Kronstadt, having well understood the deception, took recourse to arms. And it was again Tijl Uelenspiegel who was invisibly at their head.

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish religious thinker who initiated the philosophical and psychological current known as “existentialism”, said:

In modern philosophy there has been more than enough talk about speculation beginning with doubt, but on the other hand, as far as I have been able to concern myself occasionally with such reflections, I have sought in vain for illumination upon the point of difference between doubt and despair.

I will here attempt to throw light upon this distinction…Doubt is a despair of thought, despair is a doubt of the personality; hence it is why I hold so stoutly to the category of choice, which is my solution, the very nerve of my views on life…
Soren Kierkegaard



The existential differs from traditional speculative philosophy in that it is founded on despair, i.e. upon the doubt of the whole personality, whilst speculative philosophy is founded on doubt, i.e. on the despair of thought alone. Despair is summarized by Hamlet’s famous question: “To be or not to be?” Just as Kierkegaard is the author of modern existentialism, so is Hamlet the very archetype of existentialism, the despair of the personality. He is cut off both from Nature and the spiritual world.

Doubt is more than a psychological state of indecision; it is the soul’s sojourn in the intermediary sphere between the two fields of attraction— terrestrial and celestial—from which there is no other means of escape than a pure and simple act of faith. It is therefore a matter of an act of the free personality in the face of complete silence from heaven and earth. Now, Hamlet is the archetype of this trial, where the following is at stake: either an act of faith, or despair and madness.

Faustus and the Modern Faustian Trial

Doctor Faust is the synthesis  madness and wisdom of the six archetypes  mentioned above:

  1. Don Quixote is in pursuit of unparalleled exploits;
  2. Orpheus is searching for a return to the light from the darkness of death from centuries past of Helen of Troy, whom he loves passionately in spite of the centuries and the threshold of death which separate him from her;
  3. Don Juan he “sees Helen in every woman” and is searching for the “eternal feminine” 
  4. Ahasverus  rejuvenates himself by means of dark magic so as to begin another life and a new terrestrial biography without interruption through death,
  5. Tijl Uelenspiegel  does away with every allegiance and all religious, scientific and political authority, and in Mephistopheles’ company he mocks moral and other restraints impeding the freedom to dare and to will; 
  6. Hamlet has the trial of great existential doubt whether “to be or not to be” in the guise of the question “to live or not to live”.
The Devil and Faustus
Job illustration by Wiliam Blake
Faust also represents an eternal archetype, namely that of the one who is tried and tempted. Faust is Job at the dawn of the modern age.  But Faust’s trial and temptation differs from that of the Biblical Job in that it does not consist in the reverse of fortune and in ill luck, but rather in favourable results and success. Mephistopheles has full power, accorded to him from above, to satisfy all Faust’s desires. And the trial of which it is a matter here amounts to whether the relative and transitory world can for ever satisfy Faust—the man issuing from the modern age, the modern man…whether all pleasures here below, in detail and in general, can anaesthetise man’s aspiration to the absolute and eternal by rendering him wholly satisfied and happy.

Job demonstrated that the sorrow that the world can inflict is incapable of tearing the human soul away from God; Faust demonstrated that this is so also with the joy that the world can offer.

Oswald Spengler, the author of The Decline of the West, calls modern man “Faustian man”. Faust is indeed the dominant archetype of the epoch following the Middle Ages, which is characterised by the enormous growth of mankind’s power over Nature and of the facilities for satisfying his desires: flying through the air, seeing and hearing at a great distance, traveling without horses (e.g. by car), the evocation of living images and sounds of past events or events at a great distance, etc. It is just as if the prince of this world has obtained full power to satisfy, one after the other, all the desires of contemporary mankind, so as to demonstrate for himself that the power and enjoyment of the relative and transitory world here below can make man forget  God…and with respect to God, it is so as to demonstrate to the hierarchies of evil that man is of another calibre than the relative and the transitory, that whatever the power and enjoyment is here below it can never satisfy him. The trial of our epoch is that of Faust. It is the trial of the satisfaction of desires.

Oswald Spengler
The Prodigal Son

Writing about sixty years the author cited communist Russia as an example of a materialist state.

It aims to satisfy as completely as possible the desires of a large a number of people. Supposing it succeeds in Russia, everyone will have well-furnished accommodation with a telephone, a radio, a television set, a refrigerator, a washing machine…And what then? Yes, cinema, theatre, concerts, ballet, sport…And what then? Yes, science will furnish new occasions and directions for activity, for the imagination and for…desire. One will visit the moon, the planets… And what then? There will be unparalleled adventures to experience and to know about, which as yet we cannot imagine—as, for example, the discovery of the existence of other intelligent beings, other “mankinds” on the planets…And what then? No answer.

No, there is certainly an answer: it is given by the parable of the prodigal son. What is the value of materialism in comparison with the loving embrace of the Father?

The trial of our time is that of the satisfaction of desires. This applies not only to communists, capitalists and materialists, but also, and no less, to occultists and magicians. 

Louis Claude de Saint-Martin, for example, took part in the operations of ceremonial magic in the circle of Martinez de Pasqually’s disciples.  After having been convinced of the reality and efficacy of ceremonial magic he turned his back on these magical practices and embraced the mysticism of Jacob Boehme: the world of ineffable experiences, of relationships between the soul and God. Therefore he passed through the trial. Magical phenomena—the “passes”—did not succeed in arresting him on his path towards the absolute and the eternal, whilst his former companion and co-disciple, Jean Baptiste Willermoz, although spiritually orientated and sincerely believing, remained devoted to ceremonial magic and initiation ritualism until his death.


Jacob Bohme
Eliphas Levi

Eliphas Lévi, the author of Dogme et rituel de la haute magie, was  the pioneer of  the ceremonial magic of the nineteenth century.He had the courage to present magic real and  intelligible…and this after the vogue for the enlightenment and in the midst of the vogue for materialism!  However, Madame H. P. Blavatsky reproached him. She said that he had subsequently disavowed his own magical teaching and turned to Christian mysticism—for fear of the ecclesiastical authorities taking him amiss. The truth is, however, that Eliphas Lévi—this intrepid magician who evoked Apollonius of Tyana in London— having surpassed the bounds of ceremonial magic, concentrated on the mysticism and gnosis of Christian Hermeticism. He passed through the Faustian trial, just as Saint-Martin did. For this reason, what Saint-Martin wrote to Kirchberger, Baron of Liebisdorf, on the reasons for his conversion from ceremonial magic to mysticism is applicable also in Eliphas Lévi’s case:

…the initiations I passed through in my first school, and which I have long since left behind me, to attend to the only initiation which is truly after my own heart…I can assure you I have received by the inward way, truths and joys a thousand times higher than those I have received from without…there is no initiation, but that of God only, and his Eternal Word within us..

This applies also to Paul Sédir (Yvon de Loup), who was also devoted to practical magic and for two years used  a room that he rented on the ground floor of 4, rue de Savoie in Paris  He was a member  of at least twenty fraternities, more or less secret—for example, the Cabbalistic Order of the Rose Cross, the Order of Martinists, etc. But in January 1909 (his activity in this domain began in 1888) he retired from these fraternities, forsaking all the posts and titles that had been conferred on him. This surprised friends of his of long standing.

“But there was in his life, a solemn and decisive event, which made him grasp the emptiness of secret sciences and societies, and which placed him for ever upon the sole way of the Gospel”. (Dr. Philippe Encause, Le Maitre Philippe de Lyon

Paul Sedir
L’Echo du Merveilleux

This event was his meeting with Maitre Philip of Lyons. Sédir himself wrote in a letter to “L’Echo du Merveilleux” in May 1910 :

“I have done the rounds of all esotericisms and explored all crypts with the most vivid hope of success. But none of the certainties that I eventually grasped appeared to me to be the Certainty.

“Rabbis have communicated unknown manuscripts to me; alchemists have admitted me to their laboratories; Sufis, Buddhists and Taoists have lead me, during long late-night sessions, to the abodes of their gods; a Brahmin let me copy his tables of mantrams; a yogi gave the secrets of contemplation. But, one evening, after a certain meeting, all that these admirable men had taught me became for me like the soft haze which rises at dusk after an over-warm day.”

Cyprian the Mage

It is only after having passed through it, i.e. after having known arbitrary magic, that an occultist finds the divine magic, gnosis and mysticism of Christian Hermeticism. Then he will transform himself from a scholar into a sage, from a magician into a mage,

The Faustian trial and the human prototype of Faust are prefigured in antiquity by the personality—whether legendary or real is not important—of Cyprian the Mage, who became a Christian and who, subsequently, was bishop of Nicodemia and, lastly, was martyred under the emperor Diocletian. The following are some extracts from the Coptic version of his “Confession” (the legend of Cyprian comprises three works: Conversion, Confession and Martyrdom):

“This is the repentance of Cyprian the Mage who became a Christian thanks to the virgin Justina; who was, subsequently, bishop in the town of Nicodemia; and who, lastly, with Justina, obtained the crown of a martyr under the king Diocletian, in peace, AMEN…

Cyprian and Justina

I am Cyprian, he who was consecrated, from his adolescence, in the temple of Apollo, and who was instructed from childhood in the deceptions that the Dragon  accomplishes. For, having not yet attained seven years of age, I was already devoted to the Mysteries of Mithra…And when I was fifteen years old I served Demeter and I walked before her, bearing torches in the procession. With respect to her daughter, who is called the “virgin” I bore her mourning attire, clothed in brilliant clothing…I went to Olympus…that is called “the mountain of the gods”. I was initiated into the secrets of the Image, into her way of speaking, which consists of a succession of noises, which are produced regularly at the time of a manifestation of demons, when they reveal themselves…And I also saw the hearts of the demons —some singing, others, in contrast, setting traps, beguiling, and provoking trouble. And I saw arising before me the escort of each of the gods and goddesses. I passed 40 days and 40 nights in these places, nourishing myself solely from the sap of trees, after sunset…When I attained the age of fifteen, I was instructed by the priests, the seven prophets and the prophetess of the Devil with whom this latter they had mouth to mouth conversation. It is they, in fact, who procure work for each of the demons…The Devil taught me how the earth is firmly established on its foundations. He taught me the law of the Air and the Ether. I visited the Sea as far as Tartar. Lastly, I went to Argos; I celebrated the festival of Hera, and there I learnt how one separates women from their husbands and how one sows hate between brothers and friends. I learnt of the unity of the Air and the Ether, and of the way in which the Earth enters into combination with Water and, on the other hand, how Water does so with the Ether.

Late 4th-century Sasanian relief of Mithra
Archontes of Darkness
Greek Philosophers

And I left also for Thalis in  Lacedemon. I learnt the mysteries of Helios and Artemis, the law of light and darkness, of the stars and their orbits…Subsequently, I went to the  Phrygians. From them I learnt  divination…And I knew also of the members of the body which make sudden convulsive movements, of the nerves which retract, provoking itching; I knew the art of setting a trap with words. I created things with my words, and I established that they were real…I  went to Memphis and Heliopolis…I visited their hidden underground chambers where the demons of the air unite with the demons who dwell on the earth; I learnt how they lead men into temptation. And I learnt how many Archontes of darkness there are, and their relationships  with souls and bodies deprived of reason, down to and including the fish; and I knew what work is accomplished by them; the one acts on his intelligence so that the man gives himself up to him; another acts on his memory; another inspires terror in him; another proceeds by way of guileful ruses; another by surprise; another provokes forgetfulness; another acts upon the crowd so that they revolt…I saw the souls of giants imprisoned in darkness. I saw dragons enter into contact with demons and I felt the bitter venom coming out of their mouths, which the spirits of the Air use to cause  ills for human beings…I lived in these places: the spirit  of lying appearing in numerous aspects; the spirit of lewdness having a threefold face…; the spirit of anger which is like a hard stone…the spirit of trickery with a great number of sharpened tongues…the spirit of hate who is like a blind man, with eyes placed at the back of the head, all the time fleeing from the light…; the spirit of spitefulness who presents himself like a dried up bone…I saw also the appearance of the vainglory, virtue and sterile justice with which the demons deceived the Greek philosophers; they are, in fact, totally impotent and without force. Certain are like dust, whilst others are like shadows… The number of demons who acted as idols, leading the Greek philosophers into error, is 365. I could not tell you about all these  without writing a number of books; but I shall tell you of some which will make the intensity of my blasphemy apparent.

When I attained thirty, I left Egypt for Chaldea, in order to learn how the Ether is. The people there say it is established above the Fire; but their Sages  claim that it dwells above the Light…the 365 parts of the Ether were enumerated, each part of which possesses its own nature and enters into contact with the force of material substances which are our body…Certain of them, however, do not obey the Word of Light, and maintain an attitude contrary to it. Likewise I was taught how one persuades them to participate in the designs of material beings, how one makes them know the Will of the Light and how they obey it. And I saw also the Mediators  who are found amongst them. I was surprised by the number of spirits of darkness who are found in the air…I learnt to know the conventions that they elaborate amongst them and I was astonished to learn that they are obedient to them. In this place there exists a constitution, a good will , a commandment and a good sense allowing them to enjoy life in common…If you really want to believe me, I have seen him—the Devil—face to face. I made him appear before me through offerings. If you take my word to be the truth, I greeted him mouth to mouth. I spoke to him and he thought of me that I was one of the great ones before him. He called me “a gifted young man who is easy to instruct” and, also, “a little prince worthy of my society”…He said, “I will help you through them (all the powers) in your life ”, for I was highly thought of by him…As I was going to leave, he cried out my name, “O very zealous Cyprian, be a strong and persevering man in all that you do”…And his appearance was similar to a flower of joy, adorned with precious stones; on his head he had a crown studded with these very stones, whose gleam was diffused throughout the whole place. And his clothing  radiated so strongly that the place where he sat moved..

Satan in his Original Glory by William Blake
The Tempation of Justina

Following this narrative of repentance, the account of Cyprian’s conversion, properly said, begins. Well, here is one rich in experience and knowledge, for whom might be said (to use Paul Sédir’s words):

“…after a certain meeting (with the Christian virgin Justina), all that the sages of Greece, Phrygia, Egypt and Chaldea had taught him became like the soft haze which rises at dusk after an over-warm day.”

Furthermore, after having met face to face the master himself of the wisdom of this world, he renounced the wisdom of this world to give himself up to the wisdom of divine love—which is folly in the eyes of the sages of this world…

In other words Cyprian, the bishop and martyr—with the magical wand, cup, sword and pentacle of Cyprian the mage in a bag—took it on his shoulder and set off, without defence against the dogs who attacked him, and as a ridiculous clown in the eyes of the world, en route towards…the martyrdom which awaited him. His Greek, Phrygian, Egyptian and Chaldean co-initiates must have said: “There goes the Jester”. Educated people and those of common sense of the society of his time would have said: “There goes the Fool”. For in their eyes Cyprian had turned his back on the very principle of human culture and civilisation—the intellect…the intellect whose ruling genius himself he had met face to face and who had called him “a gifted young man who is easy to instruct”. For the spirit of “knowledge for its own sake” spoke to him mouth to mouth and exhorted him to be “a strong and persevering man in all that he does”.

Now, Cyprian proved to be stronger than the strength of arbitrary magic and more persevering than the perseverance required for “knowledge for its own sake”. He surpassed arbitrary will itself and devoted himself to a higher science — to the science of divine love. It is the Tarot Arcanum “The Fool” which is the decisive step that he made. Here lies its meaning and its magic.

Rider-Waite Tarot

Transformation of Personal into Cosmic Consciousness

Manas Buddhi

“The Fool” teaches the “know-how” of passing from intellectuality to the higher knowledge due to love. It is thus a matter of transition from the consciousness that theosophical literature calls “lesser manas” to the consciousness that it calls “greater manas” (= “manas-buddhi”)—which corresponds to the transition from ego consciousness to the consciousness of the spiritual self (= spirit-self) in anthroposophical literature. In other words, the Tarot Arcanum “The Fool” is related to the transformation of personal consciousness into cosmic consciousness, where the self (ego) is no longer the author of the act of consciousness but is its receiver—obedient to the law of poverty, obedience and chastity.

“The Fool” has a double meaning. It can be understood as a model and as a warning at the same time. For on the one hand it teaches the freedom of transcendental consciousness elevated above the things of this world, and on the other hand it clearly presents a very impressive warning of the peril that this elevation comprises—lack of concern, inadequacy, irresponsibility and ridicule…in a word, madness.

“The Fool” teaches transcendental consciousness and it warns of its peril. The intellect can be sacrificed in two different ways: it can be placed in the service of transcendental consciousness or it can be simply abandoned. Hermeticism chooses the first way, whilst many a mystic —Christian or otherwise—has chosen the second way. However, let these two different attitudes not be confused with mystical ecstacism. St. John of the Cross was ravished in many bouts of ecstasy, including levitation. The clarity, profundity and sobriety of his books on mysticism are hardly to be surpassed.

St. John of the Cross’ intellect was silent before the divine Presence in order to become more active than before—after which it comes out again from being immersed in the absolute light whose clarity dazzles the intellect and appears to plunge it into darkness. But  each ecstasy was an initiation and a choice between  replacing the intellect with the “breath from above” and placing the intellect in the active service of this “breath”. Thus, a whirling dervish who resorts to dance so as to exclude intelligence, or a Buddhist monk of the Zen sect who lives in a mindless state of “meditation”,  have decided not to pass beyond intellectual consciousness, but rather to dispense with it.

Saint John of the Cross

It is different for a Christian contemplative monk who meditates on  the Lord’s Passion—and who wants to understand, feel and deepen himself in it to the point of identification with it. He passes beyond the intellect and the imagination. But this is  only apparent; for just as a wheel turning with great speed appears to be immobile, so does the intellect and imagination of a soul in ecstasy appear to be immobile to ordinary consciousness.

To pass beyond the intellect is therefore to render it overactive, whilst to bypass the intellect is to reduce it to complete passivity. These are the two quite different ways of sacrificing the intellect .

Hermeticism professes to the active surpassing of the intellect. This is why it comprises not only mystical experiences but also gnosis, magic and esoteric science. If it were not thus so, it would consist only of exercises or practical methods aspiring to illumination due to the suppression of intellectuality. The entire history of Hermeticism through the course of the ages is that of continuous inspiration from century to century, on the one hand, and the active response of human intelligence from century to century, on the other hand.

Two Ways of Human and Divine Wisdom

The twenty-first Arcanum of the Tarot is therefore that of the Hermeticist’s method of sacrificing the intellect to spirituality in such a way that it grows and develops instead of becoming enfeebled and atrophied.

It is the Arcanum of the marriage of opposites —namely discursive intellectuality and illuminative spirituality; or, in other words, it is the alchemical work of the union of human wisdom, which is folly in the eyes of God, with divine wisdom, which is folly in the eyes of man, in such a way that the result is not a double folly but rather a single wisdom which understands both that which is above and that which is below.

Jews, Greek, Christians

To understand better let us look at the byways of the relationship between intellectuality and spirituality, between knowledge and revelation, on the historical plane. Thus St. Paul wrote:

The Celestial King

“… Jews demand signs  and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles—but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks: the power of God and the wisdom of God. “

 Because the aspirations of the best of the pagans—the “philosophers”—all converged on the “cosmic intelligence”, whilst Jewish spiritual leaders lived in expectation of a miracle transforming the world: the manifestation  of the Celestial King . The former wanted to understand the world, whilst the latter awaited its miraculous magical transformation. The preaching of Christ crucified clashed with the philosophers’ fundamental idea that the entire world is the incarnation of the Logos, as well as with the fundamental thesis of Jewish prophetism that the Celestial King is seated above the world and intervenes in worldly events only by emitting lightning-flashes of his power—through the prophets, through thaumaturgists, and through the Messiah—from his throne above the world.

Initially there is pure and simple opposition, such as St. Paul stated it:

“If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God.”

Subsequently this opposition becomes a kind of “peaceful coexistence” of the spiritual and intellectual domains. The Gospel statement: “The sons of this age are wiser in their own generation  than the sons of light” formulates admirably the fundamental idea underlying the parallelism of spirituality and intellectuality. This parallelism manifests itself historically in the admitted and tolerated duality of “philosophy” and “theology”.

Later, the parallelism was gradually replaced by cooperation between spirituality and intellectuality. The “wisdom of the Greeks”—above all the thoughts of Plato and those of Aristotle—which at the time of St. Paul saw only “folly in the preaching of Christ crucified” became an ally of revelation. First of all the Greek fathers (above all Clement of Alexandria and Origen), and also St. Augustine, did not hesitate to resort to the help of Platonic thought, and then it was St. Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas who opened the way for the entrance of Aristotelian thought, also, in the domain of revealed truths.
Clement of Alexandria

“Philosopher’s Stone”

The Alchymist, in Search of the Philosopher's Stone by Joseph Wright

It is above all the Dominicans to whom mankind’s spiritual history owes the crossing of the stage in the gradual bringing together of spirituality and intellectuality. Scholasticism signifies a great human endeavour, sustained through the course of centuries, aiming at an as complete as possible cooperation between spirituality and intellectuality.

Whilst endeavouring to  understand revelation through intelligence, scholasticism made use of the latter only as an instrument for backing up revelation by means of argumentative or philosophical thought. The fundamental thesis of scholasticism was that philosophy is the servant of theology. Intelligence certainly cooperated, but it played only a subordinate role. Thus, scholasticism did not succeed in achieving the alchemical work of the fusion of spirituality and intellectuality—the work of the “marriage of the sun and moon”—the result of which is a third principle called the “philosopher’s stone” in alchemy.

The “philosopher’s stone” of spiritual alchemy is described in the Emerald Table of Hermes Trismegistus as follows:

The father thereof is the sun, the mother the moon.
The wind carried it in its womb; the earth is the nurse thereof.
It is the father of all works of wonder throughout the whole world.
The power thereof is perfect, if it be cast on to earth.
It will separate the element of earth from that of fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with great sagacity.
It doth ascend from earth to heaven.
Again it doth descend to earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior.
(Tabula Smaragdina, 4-8)

This means to say that the process of induction (which “ascends from earth to heaven”) and that of deduction (which “descends to earth”), the process of prayer (which “ascends from earth to heaven”) and that of revelation (which “descends to earth”)—i.e. human endeavour and the action of grace from above—unite and become a complete circle. And this point is the “philosopher’s stone”—the principle of the identity of the human and divine, of humanism and prophetism, of intelligence and revelation, of intellectuality and spirituality. It is the solution of the problem posed by St. Paul, when he wrote of the Cross being folly to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews…..”
Tabula Smaragdina
Alastair Crowley founder of modern Thelema

The  mission of Hermeticism is to advance the progress of the alchemical work engaged in developing the “philosopher’s stone”. It is called to be the crest of the wave of  human effort aspiring to the fusion of spirituality and intellectuality. There are probably more people who are not avowed Hermeticists and who are engaged in the endeavour aiming at the fusion of spirituality and intellectuality than there are Hermeticists, properly said. Christian existentialism (Berdyaev), Christian gnosis (Soloviev), Christian evolutionism (Teilhard de Chardin), and depth psychology of revelation (Jung) are, in fact, as many inestimable contributions to the cause of the union of spirituality and intellectuality. Although they did not make Hermeticism their calling, they served its cause and were inspired from the same sources from which Hermeticism is inspired. Hermeticism has, therefore, more than a few allies and collaborators beyond the ranks of its adherents. The Spirit blows where it will, but the task of the Hermetic tradition is to maintain— without pretension to a monopoly, God forbid!—the ancient ideal of “the thelema of the whole world…which ascends from earth to heaven…descends to earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior”. Its task is that of guardian of the great spiritual work.

Climate of Expectation

To be a guardian signifies two things: firstly, the study and application of the heritage of the past, and secondly continuous creative effort aiming at the advancement of the work. Tradition lives only when it is deepened. Conservation alone does not suffice. It is only  mummified.

The great spiritual work stems from two contrasting sources: from continuous revelation and from human effort. In other words, it is the product of the collaboration of  Avatars and Buddhas—to say it in terms of the Indo-Tibetan spiritual tradition. This latter awaits both a new wave of revelation, the culminating point of which will be the Kalki Avatar, and the manifestation of a new Maitreya Buddha. At the same time esoteric Islam — Shi’ism and Sufism—awaits the coming (parousia) of the twelfth Imam “who, at the end of our era, will bring the full revelation of the esotericism of all divine revelations” (Henri Corbin, Histoire de la philosophie islamique).

Thus, there is a climate of expectation in the world — intensified through  centuries. Without being nourished  from above, this  expectation would have exhausted itself long ago. But it is not exhausted; it is growing. This is because it aspires to a reality and not an illusion. And this reality is the historical accomplishment of the great work of uniting spirituality and intellectuality, revelation and humanism, on the vast scale of the whole of mankind.

Seen on the level of the history of the whole of mankind, this work presents itself as follows:

Muhammad Al Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam

Saints and Righteous Men

Sri Aurobindo

Avatars and Imams represent personalities who are culminating points of the revelation from above, whilst Buddhas represent the culminating points of certain epochs of human history —not of revelation from above, but rather of the awakening of human consciousness. The word “Buddha” signifies “awakened”, whilst that of “Avatar” signifies “descent”—“a descent, the birth of God in humanity, the Godhead manifesting itself in the human form and nature, this is the eternal Avatar” (Sri Aurobindo Ghose, Essays on the Gita). Therefore, if Avatars are descents of the divine, Buddhas are ascents of the human—they are culminating points of stages of humanism in the process of evolution. The difference between the “revelatory ones” (Avatars and Imams) and the “awakened ones” (Buddhas) is analogous to that between “saints” and “righteous men” in the Judaeo-Christian world. Here “saints” correspond to Avatars in that they represent the revelation of divine grace through them and in them, and “righteous men” correspond to Buddhas in that they bring to evidence the fruits of human endeavour.

Job was not a saint, but a righteous man—one of those righteous men who “maintain the world” through their merits. Righteous men show how great the value is of human nature when its very essence is awakened and revealed. Righteous men are flowers of pure humanism. They bear witness to the fact that the essence of human nature is in the image and likeness of God. This was the witness borne by Job and it was also the witness borne by Socrates. The German philospher Immanuel Kant bore witness also, by declaring loudly that, however bereft the human soul might be of illuminating grace from above and revelation from above, it bears in itself the categorical imperative—immanent moral law (called dharma by the sages of India)—which makes it act and think as if it were eternal, immortal, and aspiring to infinite perfection. Thus Kant bore witness to the fundamental nobility of human nature—and this was his contribution to faith in man, whatever his limitations, and even errors, in the metaphysical domain may be. For just as there are two loves—love of God and love of neighbour—which are inseparable, so there are two faiths which are also inseparable—faith in God and faith in man. Saints and martyrs bear witness to God and righteous men bear witness to man, as being the image and likeness of God. The former restore and strengthen faith in God and the latter restore and strengthen faith in man. And it is faith in Jesus Christ, in the God-Man, which unites faith in God and that in man, just as love for Jesus Christ unites love of God and love of neighbour.

Job on Dunghill

In Jesus Christ we have the perfect union of divine revelation and the most pure humanism. Which means to say that not only all Avatars but also all Buddhas of the past and of the future are summarised in Jesus Christ— being the Logos made flesh, and his Humanity having realised the most complete awakening of all that which is of divine essence in human nature.

For Jesus Christ is the revelation that God is love, and he bears witness that the essence of human nature is love. And can one conceive of, can one imagine, anything more divine than love and anything more human than love? For this reason all Avatars (including all prophets and all Imams) and all Buddhas (including all sages, all initiates and all Boddhisattvas) were, are, and will be only degrees and aspects of the divine revelation and the human awakening realised in Jesus Christ.

This truth, evident for everyone whose head and heart are united in thought (i.e. for one who uses moral logic), is nevertheless very difficult for those making use of formal logic—in the domain of mankind’s history or in the domain of philosophy—to understand and accept.


Now, the following words of Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita relate to the doctrine of Avatars:

Many births of yours and mine, O Arjuna, have taken place… Though I am unborn, though I am imperishable, though I am master of the elements, yet out of my maya (power of illusion) I take birth, resting on  Nature. Whensoever, virtue languishes and sin predominates, I create myself . I take birth age after age, for the liberation of the good and the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of piety. (Bhagavad-Gita)

In commenting on this, Sri Aurobindo says:

“The Avatar comes in order that human nature may, by moulding its  thought, feeling, action, being on the lines of Christhood, Krishnahood, Buddhahood, transfigure itself into the divine. Each Avatar declares the oneness of his humanity with the divine being, declares that the Son  Man and the Father above from whom he has descended are one, that Krishna in the human body…and the supreme Lord and Friend of all creatures are but two revelations of the same divine Purushottama, revealed there in his own being, revealed here in the type of humanity. ‘

The Pantheon

Avatars are periodic incarnations of the Divine; they incarnate periodically, just like prophets, and they are, each time, doors and ways—Sons of God and Sons of Man who are one with their Father in heaven. Sri Aurobindo concludes:

“Nor does it matter in what aspect of the Divine the Avatar comes; for varying with their nature, men follow the path set them by the Divine which will in the end lead them to the aspect of him which suits their nature; in whatever way men accept, love and take joy in God, in that way God accepts, loves and takes joy in man.”

All this appears as the breath of pure reason. But is not this doctrine of Avatars in principle identical with the reasonability, ecumenism and tolerance manifested by the leaders of the Roman empire who conceived of the idea of a temple for all the gods?…the Pantheon a place of honour given to Jesus Christ alongside Jupiter, Osiris, Mithras and Dionysius? For all these gods have this in common, that they are immortal and superior to man. And is not Christ immortal, since he resurrected from the dead?…and is he not superior to man, as his miracles prove? Therefore he belongs to the category of gods and has the right to be admitted to their ranks at the Pantheon.

Theoretically there are ten Avatars of Vishnu in Hinduism (e.g. Matsyavatara, Varahavatara, Narasimhavatara, Vamanavatara), but Rama and Krishna are the most popular and most celebrated amongst them. With respect to the Avatar to come, Kalkin or Kalki, he is spoken of in the Kalki-Purana as the Avatar who will mark the end of the age of iron; he will be clothed in the form of a giant, with the head of a horse—a symbol which appeals to our faculty of meditative deepening. Sri Aurobindo mentions—and this on many occasions—only Christ, Krishna and Buddha.

Nevertheless Buddha (whom, it is true, Hinduism has included in its pantheon, just as Islam sees in Jesus Christ one of the prophets, the last of whom was Mohammed) does not in any way correspond to the fundamental characteristic of Avatars given by Sri Aurobindo, namely:

“…each Avatar holds before men his own example and declares of himself that he is the way and the gate; he declares too the oneness of his humanity with the divine being …that the Son of Man and the Father above from whom he has descended are one.

Sumedha, the wise man who became the Buddha

Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha, never declared himself to be one with the Father in heaven. The Dishanikaya, Buddha’s discourses in Pali, uses many arguments to persuade the reader that Buddha was the awakened man, completely conscious of ordinary human experience on earth—that of birth, sickness, old age and death—and drew from it practical conclusions, summarized in his eightfold path. The Dishanikaya shows that it is not the extraordinary experience of a mystic which made the prince of Kapilavastu a Buddha, but rather that he awoke to a new understanding of ordinary human experience. It was a man—and not a messenger from heaven—who awoke from transitory desires.

Buddha’s teaching is that of a human spirit who took account, in a state of complete lucidity, of the human condition in general and of its moral consequences. It is an analysis of the reality of human life by a human spirit five centuries before Jesus Christ, who was placed beyond the Jewish and Iranian prophetic tradition. The Buddha’s teaching is therefore humanism pure and simple, which has nothing to do with the revelation from above by prophets and Avatars.

It is necessary, therefore, to eliminate Buddha from the three Avatars mentioned by Sri Aurobindo—“Christ, Krishna and Buddha”.

Jesus Christ did not come solely “for the liberation of the good and the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of the throne of justice” (Bhagavad-Gita iv, 8), but above all to vanquish evil and death, for the establishment of the throne of love. Jesus Christ was not only a divine birth but also the divine death, i.e. resurrection, which is not the mission of any Avatar. The work of Jesus Christ differs from that of Avatars in that it signifies the expiatory sacrifice for completely fallen mankind. Mankind, who before Jesus Christ had only the choice between renunciation and affirmation of the world of birth and death, since the mystery of Calvary, of transforming life — the Christian ideal being “a new heaven and a new earth” . The mission of an Avatar, however, is “the liberation of the good” in this fallen world, without even attempting to transform it.  The work of Jesus Christ is the divine magical operation of love aiming at universal salvation through the transformation of mankind and of Nature.

As well as Buddha, therefore, it is necessary to eliminate Jesus Christ, also, from the abridged list of Avatars. Thus, only Krishna remains who is, in addition to Rama, the Avatar par excellence of Hinduism.

However we should do justice to this Indian sage: his idea of Jesus Christ is  nearer to the truth than that of the “liberal” Protestant school who regard Jesus Christ as a simple carpenter from Nazareth, who taught and lived the moral ideal of love of God and neighbour. Even every muezzin of Cairo or Baghdad has a notion of Jesus Christ that is more just than that of these theologians, since the former regard him as a prophet inspired by God. Sri Aurobindo regards Jesus Christ as a divine incarnation and makes it understood—by always placing Jesus Christ at the head of the other Avatars (“Christ, Krishna, Buddha”)—that he considers him as a light of the first magnitude in the heaven of divine Avatars!

Statue of Krishna at Sri Mariamman Temple, Singapore

Maitreya Bodhisattva

Maitreya Bodhisattva

But let us now return to the Arcanum of the alchemical work of the fusion of spirituality and intellectuality, as seen on the historical plane.

After Jesus Christ—the God-Man, who was the complete unity not only of spirituality and intellectuality, but also of divine will and human will, — the work of the fusion of spirituality and intellectuality can be nothing other than the germination of the Christ seed in human nature. It is a matter of the progress of the Christianisation of mankind, not only in the sense of a growing number of baptised people, but of a qualitative transformation of human nature. This will be spread out over a number of generations. This is why Buddhists await the coming of the Maitreya Buddha and Hindus that of the Kalki Avatar. They await him having in view a step forward in mankind’s spiritual evolution which will be crossed as a consequence of the manifestation of the new Buddha and the new Avatar. And this step forward will be nothing other than the fusion of spirituality and intellectuality.

This expectation is, moreover, not restricted to the Orient: theosophists made a considerable contribution to it by launching a movement of international scope aiming at preparing minds for the coming—supposedly at hand—of the new teacher. To this end they founded the Order of the Star of the East which numbered about 250,000 members, and which organised congresses, conferences and rallies all over the place, as well as publishing hundreds of books and brochures. Whilst spreading the idea of the imminent coming of a new teacher for mankind, the Order of the Star of the East was, alas, too fixed on a particular personality—chosen not by heaven, but rather by the leaders of the Theosophical Society—who was extolled in advance so as to build up his prestige, which in the last analysis displeased this person, who disbanded the Order.

It was more discreetly, and without putting a particular person in the limelight as candidate, that Dr. Rudolf Steiner, founder of the Anthroposophical Society, predicted the manifestation—again in the first half of the twentieth century—not of the new Maitreya Buddha or Kalki Avatar, but rather of the Bodhisattva, i.e. the individuality in the process of becoming the next Buddha, whose field of activity he hoped the Anthroposophical Society would serve. A new disappointment! This time the disappointment was due not to an error with regard to the awaited individuality, nor even with regard to the time of the beginning of his activity, but rather to an overestimation of the Anthroposophical Society on the part of its founder— thus nothing became of it.

Rudolph Steiner

 There is much confusion concerning the expectation of the coming of the new Buddha and new Avatar, above all among theosophists, but there are also those who see clearly here. Rudolf Steiner, for example.

In following the same track—that leading to the culminating point of the fusion of spirituality and intellectuality—we arrive at the following synopsis:

Since it is a question of the fusion of revelation and knowledge, it is a matter  of the fusion of the Avatar principle with the Buddha principle. In other words, the Kalki Avatar awaited by the Hindus and the Maitreya Buddha awaited by the Buddhists will manifest in a single personality. On the historical plane the Maitreya Buddha and the Kalki Avatar will be one.

The awaited Avatar “with the body of a giant and the head of a horse” and the Maitreya will be one and the same. The spiritual  human worlds will speak and act hand-in-hand. They will not simply explain the profound meaning of revelation, but he will bring human beings themselves to attain to the illuminating experience of revelation, of a kind that it will not be he who will win authority, but rather He who is “the true light that enlightens every man coming into the world” (John i, 9)—Jesus Christ. The mission of the Buddha-Avatar to come will not be the foundation of a new religion, but rather  bring human beings to first hand experience of the source itself of all revelation. It will not be novelty to which he will aspire, but rather the conscious certainty of eternal truth.

Fusion of Prayer and Meditation

Maitreya-Kalki, the Buddha-Avatar represent the fusion of prayer and meditation, these two forms of spiritual activity being the motivating forces of spiritual religion. The apparent incompatibility of  the master of meditation, Gautama Buddha, plunged in meditation in the asana posture, and that of St. Francis of Assisi receiving the stigmata whilst kneeling in prayer will be surmounted by the Buddha-Avatar to come. The fire of prayer will unite with the limpid water of the peace of meditation; the alchemical marriage of the sun and moon, of fire and water, will take place in him.

The union of the principles of prayer and meditation which the future Buddha-Avatar will represent will be the crowning of a long series of efforts aiming at this end through the course of the centuries. For not only was prayer introduced into the strictly meditative Indo-Tibetan Mahayana school of Buddhism—under the form of Lamaism—and into Hinduism under the form of Bhakti-yoga, but also meditation was introduced to the West in the guise of complementing and helping the life of prayer in the spiritual practice of the great religious orders.

St. Bonaventura, for example, introduced it into the Franciscan Order, St. Teresa and St. John of the Cross introduced it into the Carmelite Order, and St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit Order, was a master not only of prayer but also of meditation.
Saint Bonaventure

One could say that this latter to a large extent prefigured the fusion of spirituality and intellectuality, of prayer and meditation, which is the mission of the future Buddha-Avatar. The calm warmth of complete certainty, due to the cooperation of human effort and revelation from above, which St. Ignatius possessed and which his disciples (of his spiritual exercises) attained—where meditation and prayer are united—make an impressive prefiguring of the Buddha-Avatar to come.

Teilhard de Chardin

I am well aware that St. Ignatius does not enjoy unreserved admiration either among Protestants or Catholics. At best he has gained the cold respect of the more perceptive intellectuals of the two confessions. But it will not be popularity and general acclaim which will characterize the work of the Buddha-Avatar to come, but rather the fusion of spirituality and intellectuality, no matter whether this pleases or not. Without doubt there will be more opposition than appreciation, for neither the partisans of pure faith nor those of pure knowledge will hesitate to object that it is a matter of dangerously effacing the line of demarcation between faith and science. Look at the controversy of our time surrounding the work of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin!

 St. Ignatius began as a “fool in Spirit” and succeeded in attaining perfect equilibrium between mystical revelations and human tasks and actions. He learnt and openly lived the lesson of the twenty-first Arcanum of the Tarot.

Indeed, was it not as a “fool in Spirit” (acting in the spirit of the Fool of our Arcanum) when he “left on a bank (close to the place of embarkation at Barcelona) five or six pieces of silver obtained by begging in Barcelona, putting all his confidence, all his hope and all his assurance in God alone”— before embarking on board a ship destined for Italy? 

And compare the Ignatius of the time of his pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the Ignatius in Rome as the head of the Order, directing the very different activities at first of sixty, then of four hundred, and lastly of three thousand spiritual sons! And the step made by him—although contrary in direction to that made by Cyprian the mage—is again the putting into practice of “The Fool”. For this Arcanum is that of the “hygienic experience” of man placed as an intermediary between two worlds—the divine world and the human world. It is the Arcanum of crossing the threshold of these two worlds in two directions—from below above (which was the case with Cyprian) and to return (which was the case with St. Ignatius). It is therefore the Arcanum of the transformation of mental turmoil—the schizophrenia of two consciousnesses not in harmony with one another—into wisdom.

At Barcelona, Ignatius boards ship on his way to Italy
The Seated Buddha

The Buddha-Avatar to come will be the guide in the transformation of potential schizophrenic madness into the wisdom of the harmony of the two worlds.  For this reason he is represented as a Buddha in canonical Buddhist art not in a meditation posture with crossed legs, but rather seated as a European— this posture symbolizing the synthesis  of prayer meditation. For this reason he is imagined in Indian “mythology”  as a being with the human will of a giant and, at the same time, intellectuality placed completely in the service of revelation from above—the horse being the obedient servant of its rider. Thus, he represents in prodigious measure three activities of the human will: seeking, knocking and asking—conforming to the saying of the Master of all masters, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew vii, 7). At the same time, he will not put forward personal opinions or reasonable hypotheses; for his intellectuality—his “horse’s head”—-will be moved solely by revelation from above. Like the horse, it will be directed by the rider. 

This is the Arcanum at work on the historical plane.  The individual soul begins initially with the experience of the separation and opposition of the spiritual and intellectual elements within it, then advances to—or resigns itself to—parallelism, i.e. a kind of “peaceful coexistence” of these two elements within it. Subsequently it arrives at cooperation between spirituality and intellectuality which, proving to be fruitful, eventually becomes the complete fusion of these two elements in a third element—the “philosopher’s stone” of the spiritual alchemy of  Hermeticism. The beginning of this final stage is announced by the fact that logic becomes transformed from formal logic (i.e. general and abstract logic) —passing through the intermediary stage of “organic logic”—into moral logic (i.e. material and essential logic).

 “The part is less than the whole.” This is an axiom because “part” signifies  less than that of the whole. This is evident, when it is a matter of quantities. But this axiom is no longer absolutely valid with respect to the functions of a living organism. The heart, for example, is only a small part of the body, but remove it from the body and the whole organism will cease to exist. For organic functions it is therefore necessary to modify our axiom. But if we proceed to the moral world, we are obliged to modify the axiom still further. Here it should be said that “the part can be greater than the whole”, because Caiaphas’ reasoning that “it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, that the whole nation should not perish”  is right with regard to quantities, but is false with regard to moral values. For this “one man” that he proposed to sacrifice in order to save the people was the very reason for the existence of this people: the Messiah.

The Destruction of Jerusalem

Moreover, history has shown that the measure taken on Caiaphas’ counsel aiming at preventing military intervention by the Romans was in vain: the Romans came all the same in A.D. 70, destroying Jerusalem and the temple of Jerusalem after having massacred its inhabitants, which was exactly what Caiaphas wanted to avoid…

Moral logic, in contrast to formal logic and organic logic, operates with values instead of grammar, mathematics, or biological functions. Thus, if formal logic can go only so far towards the idea of God as to postulate the necessity of admitting a beginning in the chain of cause and effect and if organic logic, that of functions, cannot come further than postulating in the order existing in the world the existence of God as the ordering principle moral logic comes to the postulate that God is the “value of values”, that he is love.

Since hate and indifference are not creative, it is love which is the source of the creation of the world. One does not create what one detests nor does one create being moved by indifference. God is creative love, who gives being to created beings. He does not take back his gift—once given; beings created by the Father are therefore immortal. Immortality is thus a necessary conclusion of moral logic concerning the idea that God is love…and so on, until all the essential articles of faith are established. 

Because moral logic is the language of the spiritual world, and to make use of moral logic is to begin a dialogue with the spiritual world. For the latter does not remain mute and indifferent when addressed in its own language.

Moral logic, as we have stated, is the logic of the head and heart united. It is therefore that which unites meditation and prayer.
The Spiritual World

Mystical, Gnostic, Magical Prayer

The Latin Mass
Divine Liturgy by Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens

Prayer—which asks, thanks, worships and blesses—is the radiation, the breath and the warmth of the awakened heart: expressed in the articulated word, in the wordless inner sighing of the soul and, lastly, in the silence, both outward and inward, of the breathing of the soul. Prayer has, therefore, different aspects: a “magical” aspect, i.e. prayer in formulae; a “gnostic” aspect, when it becomes inexpressible inner sighing; and, lastly, a “mystical” aspect, when it becomes the silence of union with the Divine. Thus, it is never in vain and without effect. Even a prayer-formula pronounced rapidly in a detached and impersonal manner has a magical effect, because the sum-total of ardour put into this formula in the past—by believers, saints and Angels—is evoked solely through the fact of pronouncing the prayer-formula. The voices of all those who have ever prayed it are evoked. This applies above all to all the formulae of liturgical prayer. Each phrase of the Roman Catholic Mass or Greek Orthodox Liturgy, for example, is a formula of divine sacred magic. This is not surprising, since the Mass and the Liturgy consist only of the prayers of prophets, saints and Jesus Christ himself. But what is truly astonishing is that there are esotericists (such as Fabre d’Olivet) who improvise cults, new “mantrams”, etc., as if something is gained through novelty! Perhaps they believe that the formulae taken from Holy Scripture or given by the saints have lost their virtue.  For this reason it is also deplorable that certain Protestant churches have the custom of the minister  improvising prayers in their divine service—probably believing that it is the personal which is more effective and not the common and collective tradition.

One should know, dear Unknown Friend, that one never prays alone, i.e. that there are always others—above, or in the past on earth—who pray with you in the same sense, in the same spirit and even in the same words. In praying, you always represent a visible or invisible community together with you. If you pray for healing, you represent all the sick and all healers, and the community of sick people and healers then prays with you. For this reason the Lord’s prayer is not addressed to “my Father in heaven”, but rather to “our Father in heaven”, and asks the Father to “give us this day our daily bread”, that he “forgive us our trespasses”, that he “leads us not into temptation” and that he “delivers us from evil”. Thus, whatever the particular intention of the one who prays the Lord’s prayer may be, it is in the name of the whole of mankind that he prays.

With respect to the prayer which is an inner, inexpressible sighing, that we have named “gnostic”—in contrast to the “magical” prayer in formulae—it is a transformation of the psycho-physical breathing into prayer. Thus it can be made permanent—day and night, awake and asleep, without interruption, as long as respiration lasts. This type of prayer (which is practiced above all in the Christian Orient) has a virtue that is more than magical: it transforms man into a mirror of the spiritual and divine world. For this reason we have named it “gnostic”—gnostic experience being the reflection of mystical experience.

Concerning mystical prayer properly said, i.e. the state of the human soul united with the Divine, where it no longer has even its own breathing, but breathes in and through the breath of divine respiration alone, it is the profound silence of all soul faculties—intelligence, imagination, memory and will—which, for example, St. John of the Cross describes and explains in his works. It is the consummation of love between the soul and God.

Our not My Father

One should know, dear Unknown Friend, that one never prays alone, i.e. that there are always others—above, or in the past on earth—who pray with you in the same sense, in the same spirit and even in the same words. In praying, you always represent a visible or invisible community together with you. If you pray for healing, you represent all the sick and all healers, and the community of sick people and healers then prays with you. For this reason the Lord’s prayer is not addressed to “my Father in heaven”, but rather to “our Father in heaven”, and asks the Father to “give us this day our daily bread”, that he “forgive us our trespasses”, that he “leads us not into temptation” and that he “delivers us from evil”. Thus, whatever the particular intention of the one who prays the Lord’s prayer may be, it is in the name of the whole of mankind that he prays.

With respect to the prayer which is an inner, inexpressible sighing, that we have named “gnostic”—in contrast to the “magical” prayer in formulae—it is a transformation of the psycho-physical breathing into prayer. Thus it can be made permanent—day and night, awake and asleep, without interruption, as long as respiration lasts. This type of prayer (which is practiced above all in the Christian Orient) has a virtue that is more than magical: it transforms man into a mirror of the spiritual and divine world. For this reason we have named it “gnostic”—gnostic experience being the reflection of mystical experience.

Concerning mystical prayer properly said, i.e. the state of the human soul united with the Divine, where it no longer has even its own breathing, but breathes in and through the breath of divine respiration alone, it is the profound silence of all soul faculties—intelligence, imagination, memory and will—which, for example, St. John of the Cross describes and explains in his works. It is the consummation of love between the soul and God.

Our not My Father
Paul Sedir

Just as prayer leads to mystical union of the soul with the Divine, so does meditation lead to grasping a direct knowledge of eternal and immutable principles. René Guénon named this  union of the particular intellect with the universal Intellect (the nous of Plotinus and the Stoics) “metaphysical”. He summarized his ideas  in a conference on “oriental metaphysics” which he gave at the Sorbonne in 1925 — which one finds reproduced in Paul Sédir’s book Histoire et doctrine des rose-croix:

“Metaphysics is knowledge par excellence. It  has nothing to do with the scientific and rational domain. It is not a matter of operating with abstractions but of taking knowledge directly  from eternal and immutable principles.”

Metaphysics is not human knowledge. Thus, it is not in so far as he is man that man can attain it; it is the grasping in effective consciousness of supra-individual states. 

The most important means is concentration. Realisation consists initially in the unlimited development of all possibilities contained virtually in the individual, then in finally going beyond the world of forms to a degree of universality which is that of pure being.

True metaphysics cannot be determined in time; it is eternal. It is an order of knowledge reserved for an élite… [an élite, let us add with Sédir, which is composed of beings who are only intelligence]…and then, all existing manifestations of the Absolute are not there for the sake of being ignored; to abandon them because they encumber us, as the yogi (sic) or the arhat does, is not noble or Christian…(Paul Sédir, Histoire et doctrine des rose-croix)


Metaphysics as “direct knowledge of eternal and immutable principles” and as the realisation of “finally going beyond the world of forms to a degree of universality which is that of pure being” is only one of the applications of meditations.

Jewish esotericists—the Cabbalists—want to arrive at the worship and love of God that is most worthy of him.  The Zohar is an inexhaustible source of teaching concerning this school of meditation and its fruits.

Christian meditation, also, pursues : holy scripture and the creation, but it does so through awakening a more complete consciousness  of Jesus Christ’s work of redemption. For this reason it culminates in the contemplation of the seven stages of the Passion: the washing of the feet, the scourging, the crowning with the crown of thorns, the way of the cross, the crucifixion, the laying in the tomb, and the resurrection.

The meditation of Christian Hermeticism—whose aim is to understand and advance the work of the alchemical transformation of the spirit, the soul, and matter, from the state of primordial purity before the Fall, to the state after the Fall, and from the latter to that of the Reintegration (the fulfillment of salvation)—proceeds, for example, from the seven “days” of the creation according to Genesis to the seven stages of the Fall, then to the seven miracles of St. John’s Gospel, and then to the seven sayings of Jesus concerning himself (I am the resurrection and the life; I am the light of the world; I am the good shepherd; I am the bread of life; I am the door; I am the way, the truth and the life; I am the true vine), in order to conclude with the seven “words” of Jesus Christ crucified and the seven stages of the Passion indicated above.

The Seven Miracles of Saint John's Gospel

Meditation can thus serve as a means to attain diverse ends, but whatever its aim it is always the means to realisation of a more and more intense awakening of the whole consciousness (and not only of intelligence) with respect to particular facts, ideas, ideals and, lastly, the reality of the human terrestrial and spiritual condition in general. It is also the means of awakening consciousness with respect to revelations from above. To meditate is to deepen; it is to go to the heart of things.

Meditation goes beyond comprehension, by contemplation of things which surpass understanding: mysteries which—not being unknowable —allow of an infinite knowledge that one can understand and know ever more deeply, without end. Having attained this contemplation of things surpassing actual understanding, meditation becomes prayer—just as prayer which attains the state of contemplation without words becomes meditation.

And it is this “alchemical marriage” of prayer and meditation—of the sun and moon of the soul’s inner heaven—which takes place in the soul of the human being who is in the process of realising the Arcanum “The Fool”…the Arcanum of the union of revelation from above and human wisdom, whilst avoiding madness…the Arcanum of the formation of the “philosopher’s stone”, where the twofold certainty of revelation from above and human knowledge is concentrated.

The foregoing are some glimpses that arise in the soul of one who meditates on the “The Fool”, representing a man walking, in the clothes of a buffoon, holding a bag and supporting himself with a staff, which he does not use to chase away the dog attacking him. Other—and more profound—glimpses are kept in reserve for those who will deepen their meditation on this Arcanum further than is indicated here. I greet them and hope that they may be able to make new light issue forth from their meditation on the Arcanum whose esoteric name is LOVE!