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A question about which books to read..

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After some basic introduction in modern Jewish Kabbalah, the best course would be to apply letters to trumps by bardic numeration, since all the other methods of applying them (that is, based on Greek-Hebrew numeration) post-date tarot. This yields the following scheme of letter-trump links, the trees being those after which medieval Irish tree-letters corresponding to the Hebrew were named.

I-A-alef-fir
II-E-heh-aspen
III-I-zayin-yew
IIII-O-ayin-furze
V-B-beyt-birch
VI-M-mem-vine
VII-P-peh-whitten
VIII-F-alder, but in Hebrew samekh
VIIII-K-kaf-hazel
X-G-gimel-ivy
XI-T-tav-holly
XII-D-dalet-oak
XIII-N-nun-ash
XIIII-L-lamedh-rowan
XV-R-reysh-elder
XVI-S-shin-willow
XVII-U-vav-heather
XVIII-Q-qof-apple
XVIIII-Y-yod-mistletoe
XX-St-tzaddi-blackthorn
XXI-AA-palm, teyt in Hebrew
Zero-H-cheyt-hawthorn

Then read the Sefer Yetzirah, for its division of the alef-bet into 3 mothers, 7 doubles, and 12 simples (which should then be reordered, starting in aries, as samekh-tzaddi-cheyt-vav-ayin-qof-teyt-heh-zayin-yod-lamedh-nun, whereupon you will note a much better correspondence of shape with part of body stood-for), plus it shows the structure of the Tree in the 2nd world (then later read the Bahir for the structure of that of the 1st), but meanwhile apply Hermetic path-structure letterwise to the common Tree (that of the 3rd world), and Hermetic planetary cycles to it in the 4th: stars-sun[precession]-Saturn-Jupiter-Mars-year-Venus-Mercury-month-day.

Gershom Scholem's Kabbalah is an authoritative overview of Jewish Kabbalah. The deeper teaching is amazing, but must be worked out (the only alternative being to take my word for things). Bardic numeration above is based on Graves's The White Goddess, save that XVII through XXI are my surmise (but solid nonetheless).

I post this so that you might be pointed in the most fruitful direction, but the choice is of course yours. May Luck attend it. (You are welcome to probe me for further clarification any time, as I haunt these parts.)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by venicebard
Sefer Yetzirah,
Gershom Scholem's Kabbalah is an authoritative overview of Jewish Kabbalah.
I agree with both of them...but which sources do you think essential to your bardic theory [neither of these, in and of themselves, support that theory].

Which, in support of your own bardic theories, would you recommend?

Kwaw
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try Kabbalistic Tarot from Inner Traditons
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kwaw
I agree with both of them...but which sources do you think essential to your bardic theory [neither of these, in and of themselves, support that theory].

Which, in support of your own bardic theories, would you recommend?

Kwaw
Sefer Yetzirah is perhaps more immediately crucial, as it shows the crossover of the two systems even before they met on the Continent: S and M are aries and libra, respectively, in the ogham-adjusted tree-calendar and SY both, while the tree-calendar groups all the double letters (stops B-P-D-T-G-K-R, R being rolled, a repeated stop) in the (satiric) waning half of the year. It was undoubtedly this immediate correspondence between the two ancient systems that alerted the sages of the 12th century that Jewish and insular Keltic systems were branches from the same original trunk. Filling each other's holes, in the Languedoc region where they met (at the time of the Troubadours), must have restored the original knowledge and given birth to Kabbalah (too much secrecy leading, then, to its loss).

And indeed if one's purpose is to grasp the pips with utmost clarity, certainly the book Bahir is indispensible (something Scholem, I suppose, is not), as it is the only easily accessible place where one finds the pips of Batons discussed with clarity in context (i.e. all ten of them). They are not called that, of course, since the Bahir predates tarot and probably Kabbalah as well (though it was first published somewhere in the second half of the 12th century). Yet it can clearly be seen that this book, whose title means 'bright clarity', describes the original Sefirot, as they manifest in their own world, the 1st (of the four), Atzilut, that of fire or light, the first element (by nature's order). For each is described according, strictly, to its place on the Great Wheel that constitutes the All: beginning in up (aries-the-head), 4th is straight out or ahead and therefore Lovingkindness (being towards other), 6th is the approach to straight down and therefore 'the Throne' (aspect of the divine associated with descent, that is, with the divine being seated in order to interact with the merely human), 7th or straight down itself is the 'Holy Palace', being the direction of the physical body, and so on. It characterizes the Sefirot before they get caught in time's maelstrom, so to speak, which causes the seven lower ones to be whirled along arcs to new positions in the 3rd world (the skipped 4th sign becoming the elusive Da'at), this determining the physical cycles of the 4th and how they relate to man.

Methinks to really grasp tarot or Kabbalah one must at least be open to the possibility of their providing a better map of the real world even than modern scientific theories, indeed a better explanation of what modern scientific investigation has uncovered. For example, fire's primacy in Kabbalah-slash-Hermetic-science refutes gravitational cosmology while confirming the more empirical plasma cosmology, in which it is a known electromagnetic property of plasma filaments operating on a grand scale that forms the various types of galaxy, all of which forms have been found (and filmed) occurring in the laboratory as predicted by equations that are indeed scalable to the very-large. And the primacy (paralleling that of the Anthropos in Gnosticism) of Adam Qadmon -- the eternal Form or archetype Upright Sentience -- not only solidifies the Platonic view (by uniting all Forms in a single Form all other forms seek) but explains why neither creationism nor neo-Darwinism is backed up by evidence (since upright sentient beings have always been).
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Out of curiosity, would these sages of the 12th century in the region later referred to as the Languedoc province be the Perfecti of the Cathars?
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TenOfSwords
Out of curiosity, would these sages of the 12th century in the region later referred to as the Languedoc province be the Perfecti of the Cathars?
It is my understanding that Catharism prevailed more amongst common folk than gentry, whereas the Troubadours were mostly of the gentry, amongst whom were the patrons. Yet these patrons have by some (de Rougemont, for example, in Love in the Western World) been linked to Catharism, and the strength of this heresy in the countryside certainly helped create the climate of free exchange of ideas which, anomalously for those times, prevailed in Languedoc and Provence.

Tarot is a Christian Gnostic document, if you ask me, but I trace this Gnosticism rather to the insular Keltic form of Christianity -- which preserved the old lore, or at least coexisted with it -- since that would have been (ostensibly) the religion of the bards who brought Arthur and Tristan to the Continent. The family of Eleanor (Alienor) of Aquitaine was an epicenter, and her grandfather was the first known Troubadour.

Hence the sages I refer to are those of the Jewish mystery schools that flourished there (because of the weakness of the Church in those parts) and those amongst the bards, for putting their heads together: amongst the former arose Kabbalah, while the latter's descendents designed the Tarot of Marseilles (which I take to be the original).
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This comes rather late in the thread, but I've begun reading Aryeh Kaplan's translation/commentary on the Sefer Yezirah and I wanted to mention that it is very accessible, much more than I had anticipated. Which is not to suggest it is shallow in any way; the commentary is quite extensive and gives you pointers for further research. I should note that I have the revised 1997 version, which comes with a lot of helpful charts and diagram. Not sure what the earlier version looks like.
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Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction by Joseph Dan


This book has just appeared in the UK; it's part of a series of introductory guides from the OUP which are usually commissioned from leading experts in their field. Joseph Dan, as some of you may know, is Gershom Scholem Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He gives a cautious, scholarly but highly readable account of the development of Kabbalah from the Middle Ages to modern times, with some thoughtful observations on Renaissance Christian Kabbalah and modern esoteric approaches. At a little over 100 pages of text you could read it in an afternoon, and it's small enough to carry around in your pocket ...

EDIT have now finished this book: it strikes me as a solid, authoritative and accessible presentation of the Jewish Kabbalah. Unlike many authors in this tradition he avoids disparaging the Christian and Hermetic variants, though he makes it clear that they have somewhat different preoccupations. Recommended.
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Just found AE Waite's elephantine The Holy Kabbalah in a 2nd hand shop - it's an amalgamation of two books that were originally published separately. More a book for dipping into rather than trying to read straight through, I suspect.
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