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Part 1 of 5: The Platonist, Vol. III, No. 7, July 1887

Considering the great number of books published within the last twelve years upon the various aspects of Theosophy and Occultism it is somewhat astonishing to find that not a single work bearing upon the TARO has appeared.

This fact is all the more remarkable when we consid­er that actual initiates who have been admitted within the sacred sanctuary of the Occult, and ‘read’ the mys­teries concealed behind the veil of the temple, know the priceless value of the arcane system and yet have not spoken. Why this profound silence? An impartial con­sideration of the greater portion of the mystical lit­erature furnished within the period above referred to must convince any unbiased student that it contains but little of those primary elements from which the Bread of spiritual life is produced. Probably the only works of real intrinsic value are the old books which have been translated into our native tongue and re-pub­lished. That these old works should so far exceed in value those of modern writers is also a matter of as­tonishment, and the true “reason why” can only be ex­plained upon the hypothesis that our old philosophers knew of that concerning which they wrote, while our modern authors know very little, and in all probability give but very distorted images of that little which they do understand.

We however possess one thing which our ancient and medieval brethren did not,—namely the satisfaction of seeing our literary idols appears before the world in their cloth and gold, “specially made paper” and bindings of “unique style.” But this affords but little satisfaction to the earnest seeker for truth, and we can only comfort ourselves by reflecting upon the wise words of Starry Solomon who said “there is nothing new under the sun.” This we all concede, making an exception only in fa­vor of a mass of word juggling literature, the special product of the latter portion of the nineteenth century, which may be made to mean anything, everything and consequently nothing.

With this brief digression from the subject of our article we resume.

The TARO, which really means ROTA or WHEEL OF DESTINY, and at the same time the circle of necessity, is an elaborate system of divination in one of its aspects, and a process of mental and spiritual evolution in another. Further, when considered as a means of evolving the latent deific attributes of the human soul in the west­ern race, it is as superior to the metaphysical formulas of Patanjali as the daylight is superior to darkness for the mundane requirements of embodied humanity.[1]

The honest reader will not estimate the Taro as an ingenious device for divination in the fortune telling sense; such an estimate would debase the Taro as well as the student.

The higher and more useful purpose of the Taro is, to correlate the fragmentary truths which are ever and anon floating before the interior sense like will-of-the-wisps in the evening twilight, and wed them into a true harmonious alliance with the inner self hood, and thus form a consistent whole.

The TARO when broadly considered is a perfected sci­ence of correspondences in the most absolute sense, and consequently is equally applicable to the three great planes of manifested being, namely, the Material, the Astral and the Spiritual, the action and inter-action of which comprise the all of visible and invisible creation, and in its practical application is either Kabbalistical, Astrological, or Universal, according to the plane of contemplation and inquiry,—therefore, it is impossible for any subject to arise upon which the Taro cannot be consulted with satisfaction and profit to the earnest student of nature’s hidden mysteries.

The ancient sages divided the perfect panoramic pic­ture of the Taro,[2] into a number of tablets solely as a means of convenience and practical utility in the presen­tation of truth upon either one of the three great planes above mentioned. They made the symbolical hiero­glyphics of each tablet or card correspond in its sym­bolicism to the esoteric significance and meaning of one page or leaf of the sacred book of Enoch, the per­fect man, who occupies the point of Equilibrium in the celestial sphere. The first set of tablets contains 56 cards, and the 22 keys, or 78 in all, and applies solely and purely to the first of the three great planes, viz. the material. It must be here noted that many other­wise profound students of the Taro make a very serious error in this respect, and teach that this exoteric set of cards can be used upon any plane,—only upholding the requirement of three separate sets by asserting that “three sets of the same cards should be used” keeping one set for each plane. This is absolutely erroneous, and is liable to lead many thoughtful people astray.

There are three separate sets of tablets, the Exoteric only of which is known to the public. The second is the Astral, and contains but 22 tablets. The third is the Spiritual, and contains exactly 8 symbols of which the eighth is but the octave repetition of the first. At this point we must digress because those readers who are unacquainted with our subject, or who at the best are but imperfectly acquainted therewith, may ask: what is this Taro, after all, of what does it consist, and where­in are the truths, the correspondences and sublime mysteries of which you speak? Have patience, reader, and in our next we will make you better acquainted with this sublime system of the ancients.

Part 2 of 5: The Platonist, Vol. III, No. 9, Sept., 1887


As stated in our introduction,[3] the science of the Taro in its practical application is divided by nature into three distinct sections, departments, planes and states. The most external and consequently the most easily comprehended, is that which in its interpretation is purely Kabbalistical.

It is to this section that we shall, for the present, con­fine our attention, our greatest object being to make the general laws and actual working principles perfectly clear to our readers. When we wish to learn some foreign language, we all know, that to be able to read it we must first make ourselves perfectly familiar with its alphabet, and learn the value, sound and symbol of each particular letter. The indulgent reader will not, there­fore, be surprised when he learns that he must follow out exactly the same process if he desires to become a successful scholar in his study of the esoteric language of the Taro. For this sublime philosophical system is in­deed a language, the alphabet of which consists of mys­tical hieroglyphics, whose values are expressed by numbers, whose sounds are the harmonies of nature, and whose characters are the symbols of the Kosmos.

With these explanatory remarks we will now briefly tabulate the first elementary facts to be remembered:

I.          This division of the Taro contains 78 tablets or cards having their own appropriate characters and sym­bols.

II.        These correspond as far as they go with the 52 contained in a pack of ordinary playing cards.

III.       There is, however, this difference, viz.: The Taro contains one extra card to each of the four suits, called the Chevalier or Knight, thus making the total num­ber of ordinary cards 56 instead of 52. In addition to these 56 tablets, there are 22 special cards or keys as they are termed. These keys constitute, with the four aces, the quintessence of the system; they are the alphabet from which the prophetic language is constructed.

IV. The four suits and their correspondence with the common cards are as follows:[4] CUPS (hearts), DENIERS (diamonds), SWORDS (spades), and CLUBS (clubs). Further, each suit consists of 14 cards, from the ace to the 10, and the four court cards, viz.: King, Queen, Chevalier, and Knave. This is also the order of their relation, power, and value.

The alphabet of this Kabbalistic system is exactly the same as the one used by the Hebrews, and consists of 22 letters. Each letter claims dominion over and is repre­sented by one of the 22 keys, above mentioned. The value or power, and their symbolic significance, are as follows.

THE FIRST KEY: the letter Aleph.

The first Key is represented by the Magician, the fig­ure of the Sage—the perfect man. The letter Aleph is the To be, the I am, the first matter, the producer of numbers. It comprises the Alpha of all things, and rep­resents the state from which emanates the infinitude of possibilities. It is wisdom, the first divine emanation of the En Soph, and signifies—in the intellectual world—the unity, principle and composition of numbers, the absolute will principle of all actions. In the physical world: the man, the most high place of relative beings, called upon to exalt himself by a perpetual expansion of the faculties in the concentric spheres of the absolute.

THE SECOND KEY: the letter Beth.

The second Key is represented by the Virgin, the Isis of the Egyptians, and symbolises the sanctuary, the Binary, the law, the Occult Hierarchy or church. It is the formative, reproductive possibilities of the To be. It is Love, the second divine emanation of the En Soph, and signifies—in the intellectual world—the Binary, reflec­tion of the unity of Science, perception of the visi­ble and invisible. In the physical world: the woman, matrix of the man, uniting herself with him in order to accomplish equal destiny.

THE THIRD KEY: the letter Ghimel.

The third Key is represented by the Empress. It is the emblem of the Ternary (trinity) and of Fecundity: it is the symbol of visible and corporeal nature, and of infancy. It is analogous to the woman clothed with the sun in the Revelations of St. John, and of Venus, the Aphro­dite of the Greeks. It also represents the supreme power balanced by the intuition; it is love as manifested in man, and signifies—in the intellectual world—the fecundity of universal being, and the processes of spontaneous gen­eration. In the physical world: Nature in its work, the germination of the acts which are formed to develop from the will

THE FOURTH KEY: the letter Daleth.

The fourth Key is represented by a Sovereign, the Emperor. It is the hieroglyphic of power, and of the quarternary of symbolism, of the law, of Philosophy, of the practical realization of the word. It is the emblem of initiation and of power; it is the T, tau or scepter of power among the Egyptians, and the Magic Wand of the Magician, and signifies—in the intellectual world—the realization of the subjective idea, the quadruple la­bour of the interior spirit. In the physical world: The realization of the acts directed by science and truth, the love of justice, the power of the will, and the work of all human organs and functions.

THE FIFTH KEY: the letter He.

The fifth Key is represented by a figure of the Hierophant. It is the general initiator of the adept, and is the emblem of demonstration in occult ceremonies and religious matters. It is the sign of omnipotence and of autocratic intellectual power: it is the Signata, the sign of the word made flesh. This key is the star of the Magi, the mountain of Light. It is the symbol of justice, good­ness, order, and lastly of the Microcosm, and in its in­terpretation, signifies—in the intellectual world—religion, intercourse with the absolute being and relative being, the Infinite with the Finite, the-at-one-ment. In the physical world: Inspirations communicated by the vibrations of the Astral light, the ordeal of man by the liberty of action in the immutable circle of universal law.

THE SIXTH KEY: the letter Vau.

The sixth Key is represented by a youth between two females, who represent respectively Vice and Virtue, and is known to the students of this art as the lover. It is the sign alike of toil and liberty, the emblem of the struggle, of combinations and equilibrium, of unity under two modes of action, and therefore of duality. It is also the symbol of antagonism, the denial and the affirma­tion of two equal forces, and signifies—in the intellectual world—the balance of liberty and bondage of Freedom, and the law of Inevitable necessity. In the physical world: the antagonism of the forces of nature, and consequent chain of effects with their causes. Briefly, it is the emblem of cause and effect.

THE SEVENTH KEY: the letter Dzain.

The seventh Key is represented by a War Chariot of square form surrounded by a starry canopy, containing the conqueror. It is the hieroglyphic of the sacred sep­tenary of Royalty, containing the secrets of “the divine right of kings to govern.” It is the sign of the higher Priesthood, of Triumph, and of true results obtained by struggle. It is the symbol of the supremacy of mind over matter, and of the subserviency of blind Force to intelligence. It signifies—in the intellectual world—the priesthood and scientists of the empire, the intellectual circles of mankind. In the physical world: the sub­mission of the elements, the mobile plastic nature of matter yielding to the mechanical skill and intelligence of man.

*The introductory paper to this subject appeared in the June and July Nos. of THE PLATONIST.

*Our common cards are but imperfect or degenerated sets, derived from the original Taro. Likewise, the Fortune-telling by cards, as practiced by many of the Gypsy tribes, is a relic of the more sublime system under consideration.

The original names for the cards were as follows: Cups, which symbol­ized the erotic element; the arrow or Javlin, which was an emblem of sor­row, strife, and death; the trefoil, which indicated labor and application— animal strength. It is also singular that the symbol for clubs on our common cards is a trefoil, and reminds the son of Erin of his beloved Shamrock; and, lastly, the Diamonds were symbolized by the Rose, a very significant emblem.  T.H.B.

Part 3 of 5: The Platonist, Vol. III, No. 11, Nov., 1887

THE EIGHTH KEY: the letter Cheth.

The eighth key is symbolized by a woman seated upon a throne. Her breasts are girdled by a string of pearls, the rosary, and upon her head she wears a crown of iron lances. She holds in the right hand a sword, the point elevated, and in her left a balance. This is the symbol of absolute justice and signifies justice in its equilibrium: it is the sign of realization and of that which comes by revelation. It is likewise the sidereal light or astral spirit of which Paracelsus speaks, and when viewed from its occult plane signifies—in the intellectual world—attraction and repulsion. In the physical world: relative justice, fallible and limited, which emanates from men.

THE NINTH KEY: the letter Teth.

The ninth key is symbolized by the Hermit. Broadly considered it is the symbol of Initiation, for herein, we behold the sage wrapped in an ample cloak, to shield him from the contaminating influences in the world of matter. It is the spiritual garment of the soul which protects the wearer from the power of the world and enables him to rest calmly in the midst of its follies, and he carries the staff, the magic wand, to guide his footsteps, in his right hand; and a lamp, the light of the soul, in his left, wherewith to light up the mysteries of the past, present, and future.[5] This symbol contains the absolute of the mysteries, and signifies—in the in­tellectual world—prudence, care, material wisdom, and the director of the will. In the physical world: circum­spection, reflection, thoughtful study, and the guide to actions.

THE TENTH KEY: the letter Jod.

The tenth key is the symbolical number of the Kab­balah, and is represented by the wheel of Fortune, upon the external rim of which are figured the fish, the rabbit, and the monkey. It is the symbol of the Phallus, and pertains unto all the rites and ceremonies which carry out the symbolism of the sexual idea. It is the Rota or Taro of Hermetic science, and the Chakra of Hindu philosophy. It is the Kosmic wheel of Ezekiel, and the key of universal kingdom and signifies—in the intellec­tual world—the authority of a ruler. In the physical world; Good and evil fortune—luck.

THE ELEVENTH KEY: the letter Kaph.

The eleventh key is represented by a young female who closes with her hand without any effort the jaws of a Lion. This key symbolizes the power of the Human over the animal planes, and shows the superiority of calm dignity and cultured intelligence over savage instinctive force. This emblem is feminine, and when considered, signifies—in the intellectual world—moral and cultured force. In the physical world: the organic forces of humanity.

THE TWELFTH KEY: the letter Lamed.

The twelfth key is symbolized by a man suspended or hung up by one leg from a tree. It is the emblem of punishment, of just retribution for treasonable crimes, of suffering the consequences of sin. In another aspect it is Prometheus bound and undergoing torment for his inglorious crime against the majesty of Divinity, and shows the justice meted out to all who reveal the sacred mysteries of nature imparted under the solemn oaths of initiation. Judas Iscariot, is here represented by reason of the betrayal of his master. This hiero­glyphic signifies—in the intellectual world—the precept of loyal duty. In the physical world: sacrifice and faithful obedience to the conscience.

THE THIRTEENTH KEY: the letter Mem.

The thirteenth key is represented by death in the form of a skeleton mowing down bodies with a scyth in a pasture, where men are growing like vegetation. This key is the symbol of necromancy, the black art, and death. For the initiate it is the sign of compensation: to the vulgar it is a terror, and a spectre of untold calamity. Here in this hieroglyphic life and death meet face to face: it is a glorious sign upon the higher planes as it means the transformation of the material into the immaterial, the visible body into the invisible soul, and signifies—in the intellectual world—the ascen­sion of the purified spirit to the divine spheres. In the physical world: natural death, and the grave, the final end of all mundane things.

THE FOURTEENTH KEY: the letter Nun.

The fourteenth key is represented by an angel with snow white wings, and the sign of the sun upon her forehead. Upon her bosom she bears the signs of the triangle and square. She is pouring out from one jug into another two essences, which when combined form the elixir of life. This key is the symbol of the two primal combinations positive and negative, male and female, which rule and dominate all the kingdoms of the world. It is the universal solvent which transmutes the base metals into shining gold and signifies—in the intellectual world—the combinations of ideas which form the moral life of man. In the physical world: the combination of the dual forces of nature.

THE FIFTEENTH KEY: the letter Samech.

The fifteenth key is represented by a figure of the Devil with hoofs, horns and tail complete. Upon each side of his Satanic majesty stands an imp ready to obey the infernal thought of his diabolical master. It is the hieroglyphic of black magic and indicates the infernal means wherewith the black magi deceive the people. It is the goat of Mendes and is the true emblem of false prophets and false teachers, and signifies—in the intellec­tual worldthe mysteries of magic, and the realm of the elementaries of nature. In the physical world: unforeseen fatalities, natural calamities and convulsions of nature; also occult phenomena upon the material plane.

THE SIXTEENTH KEY: the letter Gnain.

The sixteenth key is represented by men falling from a high tower in which there is an explosion transpiring. It is a sign of the fall which waits upon unbecoming pride and vanity. It is the hieroglyphic of weakness, instability and effeminateness and signifies—in the intellectual world—the exhaustion of the spirit which at­tempts to penetrate the mystery of God. In the physical world: the overthrow of fortunes, and the downfall of empires.

THE SEVENTEENTH KEY: the letter Phe.

The seventeenth key is represented by a flaming star having eight rays which enclose seven other stars hovering over a young nude maiden, who sheds upon the arid earth the fluids of universal life contained within two cups, one of Gold, the other of Silver. Near her is seen a butterfly basking upon a rose. It is the, symbol of Hope, and the hieroglyphic of eternal youth; it is the Heaven of the magi, and the home of the grand initia­tor of the mysteries of life and death, and signifies—in the intellectual world—the interior light which illumina­tes the soul. In the physical world: hope.

THE EIGHTEENTH KEY: the letter Tsade.

The eighteenth key is represented by a figure of the moon half obscured, brightens into a pale twilight; two winding paths loose themselves in the distant wilderness. In front of one of these paths cowers a wolf, and before the other a dog barking at the moon, and between these two is a crawfish or crab. It is the hieroglyphic of the moon and lunar influences; it is the symbol of Reflection and is the emblem of all negative forces and operations. This key shows enchantments by the means of natural magic and unveils the mysteries of all mag­netic substances. In the intellectual world it signifies the obscuration and darkness which enshrouds the soul when it submits itself to the empire of the passions. In the physical world, deception, and hidden forces.

THE NINETEENTH KEY: the letter Koph.

The nineteenth key is represented by a figure of the radiant sun, illuminating two little children, who are holding each other by the hand in the midst of a circle formed of beautiful flowers. This is the sign of the sun. It is the hieroglyphic of power and light: the emblem of innocence, and the symbol of that perfect happiness which only comes unto those who are both innocent and pure. It is the sign of the regeneration of man and signifies—in the intellectual world—sacred truth and purity. In the physical world: Peace and happi­ness.

THE TWENTIETH KEY: the letter Resch.­

The twentieth key is represented by the angel of saint John sounding the trumpet of doom, the last day, the resurrection of the dead. Below the angel are the graves of past generations opening and the occupiers thereof rising unto judgement. This is the hieroglyphic of change. It is the philosophic crucible of nature wherein all things are smelted and transformed: it is the emblem of the restless action of chemical forces, and signifies—in the intellectual world—both vegetation and eternal life. In the physical world: that which the pro­fane conceive to be miracles.

THE TWENTY-FIRST KEY: the letter Schin.

The twenty-first key is represented by the Kabbalis­tic crown, formed of golden roses. This crown is cir­cular, and upon the four points of the compass is the head of a man, a bull, a lion, and an eagle; within the center of the crown shines the chief jewel, the pearl of great price: it is the star of Bethlehem, the divine Ego which confers upon the human soul the attribute of immortality. It is the hieroglyphic of the at-one-ment, the sign of completion and victory. It is the omega of the soul’s initiation, and the king of the Kosmos. It is the emblem of the Hindu Nirvana, and therefore has no signification but triumph in the intellectual worlds, nor any thing but absolute victory upon the planes of matter.

THE TWENTY-SECOND KEY: the letter Tau.­

This is properly speaking an unnumbered key and is equivalent to the cypher. It is represented by the fool, and is shown by the figure of a blind man carrying a wallet upon his back leaning against a fallen pillar. The wallet shows the faults of mankind; the fallen pillar, the ephemeral nature of all material works. It is the symbol of man who is the slave of matter: it is the sign of ignorance and folly, of man ruled by the animal, and consequently has no signification at all in the realms of the intellect.

NOTE. Those readers who are at all familiar with the Taro wil1 notice that I have not conformed to the usual rule of numbering the two last keys. The crown of the magi given by me as No 21 is, by Eliphas Levi and others, given as No. 22. 1 can only say by way of explanation that the order adopted by me is the correct one. In the past there has been a greater desire to mislead than to instruct. The 21st key of the Taro is known by initiates to be the most important of all containing as it does all the rest within itself: as such it is the polar opposite of the 22nd key or the fool. T. H. B.


[1] We must strongly dissent from the opinion of our able contributor con­cerning the system of Pataujali. The “metaphysical formulas” of the great Hindu Occultist have been of vast benefit to many of the western race.—Ed. of the Platonist.

[2]This panoramic picture contained the Involution of spirit and the evolution of matter: Crystallization in its various processes, and the journey and tragedy of the soul around the Zodiac of God, or the Cycle of neces­sity.     T.H.B.


[3] *The introductory paper to this subject appeared in the June and July Nos. of THE PLATONIST.

[4] *Our common cards are but imperfect or degenerated sets, derived from the original Taro. Likewise, the Fortune-telling by cards, as practiced by many of the Gypsy tribes, is a relic of the more sublime system under consideration.

The original names for the cards were as follows: Cups, which symbol­ized the erotic element; the arrow or Javlin, which was an emblem of sor­row, strife, and death; the trefoil, which indicated labor and application—animal strength. It is also singular that the symbol for clubs on our common cards is a trefoil, and reminds the son of Erin of his beloved Shamrock; and, lastly, the Diamonds were symbolized by the Rose, a very significant emblem.  T.H.B.


[5] Special attention should be paid to this symbol, because it represents the highest unit we possess, viz. the number 9.  T. H. B.

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