Hermetic Qabalah and Mystical Philosophy of Crowley

Aleister Crowley's Mystical Philosophy and the Hermetic Qabalah

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The thoth tarot deck goes beyond divination into a mystical analysis of the universe. But, before we start analyzing universe, that one verse which is consciousness, remember, I would like to bring up some of the most powerful mystical sayings:


“Thou art that that”, one of the famous mahavakyas of the upanishads. 


 “Tathata”, from Zen Buddhism, meaning “suchness”. This is the idea of beholding pure being. 


Ehieh Asher Ehieh means “I am that I am/I will be what I will be”. This is what the burning bush answered when Moses asked “who are you?”. This declares pure being but also the universe becoming itself.


Lastly, “be present”,  a shared commandment of every damn self-help book ever written.


All these powerful statements declare that you’re already it, the truth, full and complete. This is the same message illustrated in the universe card of the tarot. It’s all happening right here, right now, in this moment. 


All the mysticism I have researched including the Thoth tarot has shared one similar idea: all reality is consciousness experiencing itself in divine play. This is an underlying philosophy in the Book of Thoth and a crucial overlap of the eastern mystical traditions and the Western magical traditions exemplified in the work of Aleister Crowley, creator of the thoth deck. Crowley’s discussion of the goddess Nuit and Babalon perfectly embody the concept of “divine play”.

0 = 2

This concept is further expressed in Crowley’s philosophy of “zero equals two”, one of the most profound ideologies embedded in the symbolism of the thoth tarot. Crowley proposes that the whole of the universe has the mathematical value of 0 if you cancel everything out with its opposite. The universe manifests itself out of perfect neutral 0 into disproportion by adding and subtracting, a plus one and a minus one. Above begets below. Hot begets cold. Light begets dark. These mutually arising binaries create all phenomena. This can be compared to the Hermetic principles presented in the Kybalion, a popular new-thought text which claims hermetic origin.


It is important to note that these are principles of the subjective experience of the mind. The words you are reading now represent the “plus one,” while the words out of your focus are the “minus one.” Your ability to focus on one word/idea at a time, distinguished from all other possible words and ideas, is the binary that creates your subjective world. What allows you to separate and discriminate reality between different things in consciousness is this underlying zero. This is the secret function of the Magus card: attention. When we give attention, we focus on one thing distinguishable from the rest. We carve it out of reality. This is the agency of pure mind and the method of magic and all creation.

No-thing ness in Mystical Philosophy

This philosophy of “nothingness” is present in all mystical traditions. It is called Ain Soph in Kabbalah and Sunyata in Zen. It is mentioned in the Tao Te Ching, from which springs the 10,000 things. The idea of something from nothing is crazy, yes, but that is the whole point. That is why card 0 is the Fool. For any idea to exist, it immediately creates its opposite, which confirms its existence. This idea is prevalent throughout the Tree of Life, which is built from thesis, antithesis, and synthesis (hello Hegel). All of the symbols in the thoth tarot deck are a play of this cosmic equation, as all the cards come out of the fool, 0.

1 and 3

This idea is elaborated into the numbers 1 and 3, which is the basic design of the Tree of Life. 1 divides into 3, and then 3 comes back into 1. Before the first Sephira on the Tree of Life, the oneness of all divides itself into “the observer” and “the observed,” which synthesizes in pure “observation,” which is itself a lower reflection of oneness. This is the process of creation from above, (origin) to below (the result, our experience).


The 3 veils of nothingness are the lights, camera, action of the universe. First there is nothingness, then limitless nothingness, and then limitless nothingness . . . with light, limitless light. These three veils of nothingness come together to create keter, which concentrates in the one point which is the  pythagorean monad, and also the infinite point of view. To experience itself and to know that it exists, this point of view, which is pure awareness, divides itself into the observer and the observed. These three aspects of awareness form the supernal triad, keter, chockmah, and binah. Chockmah is the active side and binah is the passive. These three come together again after they cross the abyss. The abyss is the separation between the above which is the “ideal” and the below which is the “actual”. they come together they manifest as the sephira chesed, and the three becomes one again.  Chesed splits up into the next triad of 3 sephira and the pattern continues. This numeric pattern is also expressed on the back of the thoth card.  


On the back of the thoth tarot cards, we see the hermetic rose cross. The cross has three arms of the same length, representing the three primordial elements: fire, air, and water. The fourth, bottom arm of the cross is longer, representing earth, which is a culmination of the other elements. 

The Sephiroth on the Tree of Life

Now let’s review the sephiroth:


Keter: the source, the monad, the crown and all the aces


Chockmah: the will and force,  wisdom, the masculine side of things, the expansion  


Binah: form, which is the feminine, binah comes in and shapes the energy of chockma


Chesed: the manifest universe,  the 3D world, mercy, loving-kindness, where everyone gets a trophy for eating too much ice cream 


Geburah: change and challenges in life to to strengthen us and break up the fixity of chesed


Tipareth: beauty, harmony, the heart of the tree of life, also our higher selves and the place of the “sacrificed god”


Netzach: individuation, effort, ambition, emotion, drive, feelings, desire


Hod: submission, thought and intellect, choice


Yesod: the subconscious, the autonomic nervous system, the astral plane, the place of dreams, and also the the culmination of the whole tree


Malcuth: the physical reality, the body

The Naples Arrangement

The Naples Arrangement is Crowley’s unique remix on the Tree of Life and can help us conceptualize the deeper philosophical scale of the thoth tarot deck. It begins with same three “veils of nothingness”. Out of these three veils of nothing come a point which is the idea of position. 


That position becomes a line in the sephira chokma. How can the position know it’s in a position without relativity? A line mutually arises with the point to render its position. In the same way that we need a line to render a position, we need a plane to render a line. 


A third perspective will tell us how long that line is. If I am a point looking at you right now, you’re the only thing that exists from my eyes, so for our relationship to exist, we need a third party, we need a third viewer, so we get the number three which creates the plane. Now we have a triangle: everything is built of triangles architecturally, and even in the chackras. The triangle is the shape of the first three sephira, called “the supernals” on the tree of life. 


The fourth point comes in, or rather, arises mutually to allow for the plane to exist. This creates a solid. Now we’re in 3-D. The fourth point is matter, substance, literal space as we experience it. 


5 is motion. Motion comes to matter to make stuff happen. This creates change which is the phenomena of time. 

When time (5) and space (4) come together, the point, which first appeared in keter, is now conscious of itself because it can move through space with a past, present, and future.  That’s what’s happening in the number six. Aleister Crowley explains how atoms go through countless combinations and separations, and although it gains nothing physically from its journey, it does maintain its memory, which makes it something more than it originally was. The idea here is like an atom: by going through the motions of time and space, it creates a history and though the atom can recombine and separate and still be the same atom, it withholds a memory and the total information of the universe increases.  


At this point,  Crowley talks about  vedantic philosophy to explaining the following three sephiroth: sat, chit and ananda. Ananda is this vedantic idea of bliss, the bliss of moving through the motions of reality which totally makes sense because we’re coming out of pure self-consciousness. This is the movement of the film of life. 


Chit is thought. It’s kind of opposite to ananda. Thought separates reality into different ideas and concepts, into schedules and moments and forms. If ananda is the movement of the filmd, chit is the frame-rate.  


These two come together in sat which is being. Being is made up of thought and bliss which come out of self-awareness. 


Now these three come together in physical manifestation which is the complement of the entire tree of life, the physical world, and this moment.

4 Parts of the Soul in the Tarot

In Aleister Crowley’s separation of the soul, so we have the yechida, the highest spiritual part of the soul. Then we have the chiah, connected to chockmah, which is like the spirit, the higher will. Then we have the neschamah, connected to binah, which is our intuition, our ability to receive, and this is what we’re doing when we’re connecting with our clients giving psychic readings. The hexad on the tree centered on tiferet is conneccted to the ruach, which is the mindm the intellect. Tiferet is like the nucleus of the ruach. Then we have the nephecsh down in malkuth, which is the body and the animal soul and the lower desires. In the thoth tarot deck, these 4 parts of the soul (minus yechida) are expressed in the 4 offices of the court cards:

The Sacred Tetragrammaton (YHVH) in the Thoth Tarot

It is important to know these connections with chockmah, binah, tiferet, and malkuth,  because that’s  how the court cards are organized, as well as the sacred name of God, YHVH. We have fire, water, air and earth which corresponds to the hebrew letters Yod, Heh, Vav, and Heh Final, of the sacred name.  The name itself is unpronounceable but it’s one of the sacred names of god and through kabbalistic analysis with tarot, we can gain some very existential and spiritual insight. This name describes the creative process of the tree of life and of the court cards and even elements.

You can learn more at www.tarotmysticismacademy.com where you will find free classes and resources.


I would highly recommend checking out the Thoth Tarot Mastery Course for a serious education in this profound spiritual technology. 

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