On Numbers

Dear Unknown Friends,

At the encouragement of Natalia, I would like to describe step by step how we would come to the comprehensive spread of all 78 Arcana that is described in the notes to both the Eight and the Nine of Cups. First of all, we must become clear once again as to the nature of number from a numerological standpoint. Operating from the perspective of quality, there are only nine numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.

When we come to the number 10, we have once again attained to unity, but at another level or plane or dimension of expression: the most mundane way of expressing this is to say that 10 = 1 and 0, and 1+0 = 1. And so with the numbers 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 we once again are traveling through the nine essential numbers, but at another plane of expression. (Note that in Hebrew esotericism, the 10th through 18th letters of the Hebrew Alphabet have the values 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90.)

So one very valuable method of coming into contact with the living, tangible structure and texture of the organism of the Tarot is to consider the Arcana through this lens; i.e., to arrange all of the “One” Arcana: The Magician (1), Wheel of Fortune (10), The Sun (19), Six of Coins (28), Ace of Swords (37), Ten of Swords (46), Five of Cups (55), King of Cups (64), and Nine of Batons (73).

Now in a conventional counting of the Tarot of Marseilles, this is where we would stop, since there are 22 Major Arcana and 56 Minor Arcana which equals 78 Arcana total. However, there is another way of working with the Tarot of Marseilles, and that is to include the 22 Major Arcana both before and after the 56 Minor Arcana—with the consciousness that these 22 are different depending on whether they play the role of “a school of meditation aiming at awakening consciousness to the laws and forces—to the arcana—which are at work beneath the intellectual, moral and phenomenological surface”—which role they play when they precede the Minor Arcana, which then “constitute a systematised summary of experiences gained during meditation on the Major Arcana, in the guise of amplification—analysis and synthesis pushed to the extreme—on the Major Arcanum ‘The World’. They are, if you like, a detailed elaboration of the Major Arcanum ‘The World’—or, again, its application in the domain of the various planes of consciousness, rising from the plane of action to the plane of emanation.” If they only play this role of preparing one to enter into the amplification of the Minor Arcana, one is only dealing with 78 Arcana and has the feeling that one has only gone through half of the life-cycle of the Tarot. Something has gone through a process of evolution and unfolding, and is left in that analysed state by the end of the Minor Arcana. One feels the need to go through a process of involution, to synthesise and summarise all that one has passed through in the preceding 78 Arcana. This is because the Minor Arcana also play the role of “psychurgical practice…i.e. the transformation of consciousness rising from plane to plane” in which case the Major Arcana can come after this practice in order to “play the role of a general teaching programme for the traditional occult sciences, aiming at giving general knowledge concerning their nature and methods.” I.e., they come at the end as a reduction or distillation, in order to summarise and bring to conclusion (as a “lower school”) the experience of the Minor Arcana (as a “higher school”).

When we do this, we end up with a total of 100 Arcana, which is equal to One (1+0+0 = 1), rather than 78 Arcana, which is equal to Six (7+8 = 15 = 1+5 = 6). Note that when we work with the Major Arcana the first time through, the Magician is 1, while The World is 22. This is a journey from One to Four (2+2 = 4). In the work of Friedrich Weinreb, the One is the primal unity, and is brought into relation with the Tree of Life. On the other hand, Four is the principle of duality taken to its extremity (two times two). It represents the never-ending ramification and splintering of the material world that has fallen from God. Four is the Tree of Knowledge.

So when we only work with the Major Arcana as “preparation”, it leads us from original synthesis (One) to absolute analysis (Four), and we are more or less left in that state as we journey through the Minor Arcana. However, when we approach the Major Arcana “on the other side” of the Minors, the Magician is now the 79th Arcanum—he has a value of Seven rather than One (7+9 = 16 = 1+6 = 7). And The World is now the 100th Arcanum—she has become One, we have returned to Unity. And so we have Seven as a wholeness, a pleroma in the sense of the 7th Letter-Meditation—a fullness of a process unfolding in time—leading us back to the primal unity from which we departed at the start of the journey through the Tarot of Marseilles.

We might say that when we work this way, there is something of the stage of Mysticism in the first journey through the Major Arcana; then something of Gnosis and Sacred Magic as we travel through the Minor Arcana; and then the Majors return at the end as the grand summary, the stage of Hermeticism.

Now, if we are to approach the nine essential numbers using this grand scheme of the total Arcana, we come to the following spreads:

One—Magician (1), Wheel of Fortune (10), The Sun (19), Six of Coins (28), Ace of Swords (37), Ten of Swords (46), Five of Cups (55), King of Cups (64), Nine of Batons (73), Emperor (82), Death (91), The World (100)

Two—High Priestess (2), Force (11), The Judgement (20), Seven of Coins (29), Two of Swords (38), Knave of Swords (47), Six of Cups (56), Ace of Batons (65), Ten of Batons (74), Pope (83), Temperance (92)

Three—Empress (3), Hanged Man (12), The Fool (21), Eight of Coins (30), Three of Swords (39), Knight of Swords (48), Seven of Cups (57), Two of Batons (66), Knave of Batons (75), Lover (84), Devil (93)

Four—Emperor (4), Death (13), The World (22), Nine of Coins (31), Four of Swords (40), Queen of Swords (49), Eight of Cups (58), Three of Batons (67), Knight of Batons (76), Chariot (85), Tower of Destruction (94)

Five—Pope (5), Temperance (14), Ace of Coins (23), Ten of Coins (32), Five of Swords (41), King of Swords (50), Nine of Cups (59), Four of Batons (68), Queen of Batons (77), Justice (86), The Star (95)

Six—Lover (6), Devil (15), Two of Coins (24), Knave of Coins (33), Six of Swords (42), Ace of Cups (51), Ten of Cups (60), Five of Batons (69), King of Batons (78), The Hermit (87), The Moon (96)

Seven—The Chariot (7), Tower of Destruction (16), Three of Coins (25), Knight of Coins (34), Seven of Swords (43), Two of Cups (52), Knave of Cups (61), Six of Batons (70), Magician (79), Wheel of Fortune (88), The Sun (97)

Eight—Justice (8), The Star (17), Four of Coins (26), Queen of Coins (35), Eight of Swords (44), Three of Cups (53), Knight of Cups (62), Seven of Batons (71), High Priestess (80), Force (89), The Judgement (98)

Nine—The Hermit (9), The Moon (18), Five of Coins (27), King of Coins (36), Nine of Swords (45), Four of Cups (54), Queen of Cups (63), Eight of Batons (72), Empress (81), Hanged Man (90), The Fool (99)

Now, there are any number of qualities that we can take note of here. First of all, notice that One becomes Seven, and Four becomes One, and Seven becomes Four—these three numbers flow into one another, so to speak. Similarly, Two becomes Eight, Five becomes Two, and Eight becomes Five. These three also flow into one another. And finally, Three becomes Nine, Six becomes Three, and Nine becomes Six. We have seen this play out before, in our use of the Divine Name Yod-He-Shin-Vau-He in the Minor Arcana. In the “paths” or channels created by using this name, we find a path that runs from Ace to Four to Seven to Ten; from Two to Five to Eight to Knave; and from Three to Six to Nine to Knight.

We also saw this in our use of the Divine Name YHVH in the Major Arcana, which also created three “paths” or channels. The central path (the path of Mysticism and Hermeticism) contains all of the One, Four, and Seven Majors; the left hand path (the path of purity and Gnosis) contains all of the Two, Five, and Eight Majors; and the right hand path (the path of confronting evil and Sacred Magic) contains all of the Three, Six, and Nine Majors.

Now, when we work with the nine essential numbers within the Tarot of Marseilles, we can find the activity of the Divine Name YHVH once again. We can perceive that the first four iterations of the number One are another expression of the Divine Name: The Magician as Yod/Mysticism, Wheel of Fortune as Heh/Gnosis, The Sun as Vau/Sacred Magic, and the Six of Coins as Heh/Hermeticism. Out of this Divine Name is born the number Two as a result. We can perceive that the Six of Coins hovers above the first iteration of Two, the High Priestess, and in a sense “gives birth” to her.

Continuing, the number Two also spells out the Divine Name: High Priestess is Yod, Force is Heh, the Judgement is Vau, and the Seven of Coins is Heh. The Seven of Coins, as the “fullness” of Two, gives birth to the next quality-number, Three. We can perceive the Seven of Coins hovering above the Empress, the primary Three, giving birth to her, just as the Six of Coins gave birth to the High Priestess.

We can carry on this activity through all of the Arcana. When we do so, we discover that here we have a kind of “vertical” heredity operating hand-in-hand with the “horizontal” heredity by which One becomes Seven becomes Four becomes One. And similar to this horizontal heredity which loops back on itself, here too the vertical heredity operates as a loop: the Six of Coins (as One) gives birth to the High Priestess (as Two), who in turn (as Eight) gives birth to the Four of Cups (as Nine), which gives birth to the Six of Coins (as One)…

There are a number of ways we can represent this totality of Arcana. I have displayed two of them before. Natalia has played with both a circular arrangement, as well as one that becomes a kind of 13-pointed star.

Any of these forms can only become a stimulus to the imagination, as there is a property akin to projective geometry at work here, in which both the horizontal and vertical axis must be thought of as continuous loops. The only way that the form can properly be realised is by bringing it to life inwardly. Perhaps one ideal way of actually representing this in outward form would be to create a triangular ring, where each of the three rows (1-4-7, 2-5-8, 3-6-9) take up one side of the triangular ring.

We can see in its “block” form, that we have three rows of 26 Arcana each, and that each of these three rows represents three numbers: 1-4-7, 2-5-8, and 3-6-9.

The number 26 is significant, as the letters YHVH are equivalent in the Hebrew Alphabet to 10-5-6-5. 10+5+6+5 = 26. So in Hebrew esotericism, the number 26 always represents YHVH. (Friedrich Weinreb goes much further into the significance of the name YHVH in this regard in his Roots of the Bible). Therefore, in our Tarot-totality, we have 3×26: three different forms or iterations of YHVH. This threefold YHVH is therefore an expression of the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And although the totality appears to be 3×26 = 78 (which is Six, calling to mind the Luminous Holy Trinity), in reality this form can only appear when it is the 100 (the Unity) lying behind it. So hidden within the threefold YHVH, which is simultaneously a senary, is the triune unity (100 being the third “level” of unity after 1 and 10).

Natalia has taken up the task of re-reading some of the previous conversations in the order of their “number”—e.g. reading the notes on Justice, then The Star, then the Four of Coins, etc. In the process she has found some intriguing interconnections.

Now, Natalia has also noticed that the top row is 1+4+7 = 12 = 1+2 = 3; the middle row is 2+5+8 = 15 = 1+5 = 6; and the bottom row is 3+6+9 = 18 = 1+8 = 9. So again we have 3, 6, 9, which come to total 9. Again, there are any number of qualities one begins to notice working with this spread, which have a particular effect on one’s soul. Using this Tarot-totality, one can find all manner of interconnections amongst different Arcana, which then become ever more illuminated from new and diverse angles. One begins to enter further into the mysterious of letters and numbers as identical, due to their membership in one holistic, self-propagating, self-sustaining, and self-defining organism—the “One Thing” of the Emerald Tablet, the Tree of Life.

Enjoy, good luck, and please reach out if there are any questions or interesting discoveries…


Joel Matthew