Thread: The Star card
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Ross G Caldwell  Ross G Caldwell is offline
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Ross G Caldwell 

I don't know if the following will help, I hope so.

A chronology of passages with relevance to Crowley's Emperor-Star Heh-Tzaddi switch.

Because of recent discussions on another list, I was forced to go back and try to figure out the chronology and perhaps reasoning behind Crowley's decision to switch Heh with Tzaddi, not the position of the paths on the Tree of Life but the cards associated with each. I found that he had already come to make this switch by early 1918.

Crowley says on page 9 of the Book of Thoth (BoT) that "He tried for years to counterchange this card, "The Star", which is numbered XVII, with some other." (note he assumed a "counterchange" and not some other solution). He goes on - "He had no success. It was many years later that the solution came to him."

So when was that, exactly? And how was that, as well?

I think the answer to first question can be narrowed down to a matter of months; the answer to the second is thus probably within the events of those months, taking into account Crowley's general principle when solving Liber Legis puzzles that the solution "will be marked by the most sublime simplicity, and carry immediate conviction" ("New Comment" (1919-1920)), II:76).

Chronology -


There is no discussion of this problem in anything published or written (that I know of) during the years 1904-1912.

Crowley doesn't allude to it until 1912, in the "Old Comment" to the Book of the Law (BL), I:57, published in "The Equinox" I/7 (March 1912) p. 392 - "The last paragraph confirms the Tarot attributions as given in 777. With one secret exception."

However, it is clear that he didn't yet have an explanation for the exception, since the symbolism of the Chapters in the Book of Lies (1912-1913) still relies exclusively on the Tzaddi=Star and Heh=Emperor connection:

Chapter 5 (Heh=5) is "The Battle of the Ants." It is a meditation on war (Aries, Mars, Emperor).

Chapter 28 (Tzaddi is the 28th path on the Tree of Life by the GD system, and used in 777, which Crowley considered largely "confirmed" by the Book of the Law.) is called "The Pole-Star". (Tzaddi=Star)

Chapter 90 (Tzaddi is 90) is called "Starlight".

(Crowley's commentary on the Book of Lies is not contemporary with its composition, but does repeatedly insist that it was composed with such symbolism in mind.)

The next possible source for a discussion of this problem is the "Opus Lutetianum" or "Paris Working" (Dec. 31 1913-Feb. 12, 1914). Crowley used these workings sometimes to answer specific questions about Liber AL, but he does not mention it at all in this working.


Between 1914 and 1918, when Crowley was in North America (based in New York City), the only sources I have are his record of sex-magick workings "Rex de arte regia", his articles from "The International", the Amalantrah Working (Jan.-June, 1918), Liber Aleph, and his own and various biographers' notes about his activities. He doesn't allude to the "Tzaddi is not the Star" problem directly in any of these writings.

However, in one passage of the Amalantrah Working (April 20th, 1918), he does indicate more or less indirectly that he was searching for a *feminine* "counterchange" to the Tzaddi-Star attribution, with the Empress or the High Priestess:

"He-Tzaddi-Yod-Vau is the tetragrammaton of the magical officers. He(Hebrew) is the Emperor, and the Tzaddi the Empress, or High Priestess, vide secret attributions indicated in Liber CCXX."

This quote illustrates clearly that he was seeking a counterchange of the woman of the Star with another feminine figure in the tarot. He was still, as he said later in the BoT, *trying* to find a solution.

But the equivalence of Heh with the Star had already occurred to him in 1918, as we may infer from lines in Liber Aleph (written in New York city in the winter of 1917-1918).

In Chapter 87, he is discussing the formula of the word ABRAHADABRA. He says that of the 5 letters in the word (ABRHD), the Sun, Mercury and Venus are R, B, and D (Resh=Sun, Beth=Magician, D=Empress). He then remarks: "But the last of the Diverse Letters is H, which in the Tarot is The Star whose Eidolon is D."

This seems to indicate that he had considered the possibility that Heh, being the feminine part of the Tetragrammaton, was the most suitable substitution for the Star. It might even indicate that by early 1918, he had made the Emperor-Tzaddi substitution, but I know of no direct evidence for that. It is clear it should be, by his logic (counterchange), but I can't find it.

But that he had already decided in 1918 that the Star was Heh, is clear from Chapter 167 - "From the Crown descendeth the High Priestess in the Path of the Moon (Gimel)... Next, from the Father (Chokmah) floweth the Virtue of the Star in the Path of the Water-bearer (Heh=Aquarius)... Third, from the Mother (Binah) are the Lovers in the Path of the Twins (Gemini)... These three are from the Supernals."

These quotes show without any doubt whatsoever that Crowley felt comfortable placing the Star on the path of Heh. But Liber Aleph was finished in March of 1918, while the Amalantrah passage was made in April 1918! Why didn't he already make the Heh of the Amalantrah passage the Star, and the Tzaddi the Emperor?

I can only guess, but I think it's because Crowley wasn't sure of it yet because he hadn't worked out the "double loop" thing in the Zodiac attributions of the Trumps. It was exactly this "symmetry", which also accounted for both the change of the Aeons and the GD switch of Teth-Lamed=Strength-Justice in the Tarot, that finally convinced him.

This passage from Liber Aleph attributing the Star to the path of Heh, from Chokmah to Tiphereth on the Tree of Life, is the earliest I have found in Crowley's writings. Given his apparent ambivalence to the attribution just a month or so later, it seems he was not ready to consider the "counterchange" to be the fulfillment of a prophecy - he just liked the idea of a trinitarian feminine influence from the three supernal sephiroth on Tiphereth (as he also insisted later in the BoT, page 203 note 1). Also, it seems the idea must have been new to him, since the counterchange it implies is not worked out in any detail.

Note that it is symbolism, and not a system such as Atbash or numbering the Trumps from Aleph=World to Tau=Fool, that gets him to this point. The remarks in Amalantrah and Aleph indicate that he is just hammering away at the problem, seeing what will fit.

Before Crowley finished Liber Aleph, and while the Amalantrah Working was in progress, Charles Stansfeld Jones arrived in New York. Jones' personality and unique approach to Thelemic Qabalism must be considered as significant influences upon Crowley's own thinking during this period.

Jones' main contribution was to consider the Serpent of Wisdom as *climbing* up the Tree, and hence the paths he climbed by were numbered in exact reverse to the traditional scheme. Aleph=Tau. It is not clear how much Jones had worked out the scheme by the time he visited Crowley, but given the coincidence in time is seems likely that Crowley got the idea in some way from Jones.


Jones sent Crowley his "key" in September of 1919, and Crowley wrote back immediately exclaiming that it solved all the problems of the Book of the Law, and in fact that it had now "opened like a flower." (Jones' Liber XXXI, page 1). But given the earlier associations Crowley had made with the Star, it seems that little remained to be solved in the issue of the counterchange Crowley sought for Tzaddi.

It is important to remember that Crowley never bought Jones' complete system, and was solely devoted to the solution of individual puzzles. He always kept to the Aleph=Fool attributions, and only believed that *one pair* of attributions was wrong, because the Book of the Law I:57 said so (as he interpreted it).


Finally, when Crowley was in Cefalù, he makes the first assertion of Emperor=Tzaddi that I can find. On June 2nd, 1920, he writes (in the course of a much longer passage): "Of course Tzaddi the Emperor is of phallic shape..." (page 144 of the 1972 Symonds and Grant edition). His off-handedness, without explanation, indicates that he already took this for granted. I am therefore driven to the conclusion that he already made this counterchange in 1918, as intimated by the Liber Aleph passages.

To illustrate how he had *already* worked it out, this counterchange is mentioned on the 22nd June 1920 as well: "And this Word seed in Aquarius, Hé, Nuith, who is 'Isis Mourning'... Now LA is Libra. Not is at once XI and VIII counterchanged in Tarot's natural order, as Hé is XVII and Tz is IV, revolving round Pisces as the other around Virgo.... Nu is Trump XVII, Aquarius, Hé, 5, etc...." (pp. 189-190).

Pp. 195-196 show a table of the Hebrew alphabet with the 777/GD correspondences, except H (He) = The Star and Tz (Tzaddi) = Emperor.

On the 30th of June (page 197) he writes: "The 31-93 Key opens all doors. 418 Cancer balances Set in Capricorn. Nu in Aquarius balances AL in Leo, 419."

Page 198 - "Nuith, Hé, Aquarius, XVII".

Additionally, in 1920 Crowley finished the so-called "New Comment" to Liber Legis (entry of December 21 1920). He had been writing it for over a year, since the Comment for II:76 mentions that it was written before Crowley received Jones' communication about AL, which happened around September 5, 1919.

In the "New Comment" to I:57, Crowley explains: "I see no harm in revealing the mystery of Tzaddi to 'the wise'; others will hardly understand my explanations. Tzaddi is the letter of the Emperor, the Trump IV, and Heh is the Star, the Trump XVII. Aquarius and Aries are therefore counterchanged, revolving on the pivot of Pisces, just as in the Trumps VIII and XI, Leo and Libra, do about Virgo. This last revelation makes our Tarot attributions sublimely, perfectly, flawlessly symmetrical.

"The fact of its doing so is a most convincing proof of the superhuman wisdom of the author of this Book to those who have laboured for years, in vain, to elucidate the problems of the Tarot."

Jones had received a copy of this Comment by 1922, since he writes in "Q.B.L. or the Bride's Reception" (1922), page 71 of the Benjamin Rowe PDF version, that the second part of verse I:57 had been explained by the Prophet in his comment, by changing the positions of the Star and Emperor.
(Emperor now the Path between Yesod and Netzach) Note that Jones' reasoning and Crowley's are different in this matter. Jones started with Aleph at the bottom and numbered upward, coming to Heh and putting the Emperor on that Path; Crowley assigned the Emperor to Tzaddi, occupying its traditional place on that Path counting downward. The fact that they coincide is because of Atbash, where Heh=Tzaddi.

It is clear then that Crowley was completely convinced of this counterchange by the end of 1920, and quite possibly by the end of 1918.

However, it should be noted that he arbitrarily used the old attributions if it suited him, since he regarded the two cards to be "revolving". This is identical to the case of VIII and XI, which are Lamed and Teth, and are hence out of alphabetical order in the Thoth deck, as are Tzaddi and Heh.

The three systems - alphabetic, astrological, and tarot - are not able to be seamlessly combined. But they can be elegantly and symmetrically related, and this is what Crowley sought and why he found the Tzaddi-Heh, Emperor-Star, Aquarius-Aries switch convincing.

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