Traditional Tarot

Desultory Notes on the Tarot

Leave a comment

Daniel Giraud: Jean Carteret and the Architecture of the Tarot

Translator’s Introduction

In order to provide further insights into the arrangement of the Tarot proposed by Jean Carteret here and here, we present the translation of the following piece by his student, the astrologer-poet Daniel Giraud, one of whose articles on the Tarot has been published here. This piece forms the third chapter of Giraud’s monograph on Carteret and his work, Jean Carteret : Alchimiste du Verbe, Table d’Emeraude, 1990.

Most of the quotations from Carteret’s work refer back to the foregoing two articles already translated and published on this site, and the other references are taken from Le Tarot comme Langage. We have not seen fit to signal these each time, and have only included those notes which add to the text.


Jean Carteret in his Parisian home with the Kabbalist Adolphe Grad and Daniel Giraud. Photograph by Patrick Moulié.

The Tarot

Daniel Giraud

It would seem that the Tarot first appeared in central Europe towards the fifteenth century. It is composed of seventy-eight cards made up of twenty-two major arcana and fifty-six minor arcana. The first known Tarot set is that of Charles VI (1430) but some of its cards have not come down to us. The first complete Tarot deck is that of Visconti (1450), imbued with Christian symbolism, followed by the famous “Tarot of Marseilles” which contains many astro-alchemical symbols. Later on, we witness the decadence of this means of divination, with everyone wishing to create their own increasingly popularised Tarot.

Different authors have studied and proposed different particular structures of the twenty-two major arcana. From Gérard Van Rijnberk to Jean Carteret, I shall retain those of Jean Vassel, Aleister Crowley, and of Armand Barbault, but here, naturally, the only thing which concerns us is the vision of Jean Carteret.

For Carteret, the Tarot is a fairytale which bears witness to the arrangement of the Logos… “Every arrangement of the Word is a temple. To open the doors of the temple, to open the doors of the Tarot, is to open the doors of language.”

Jean notes this arrangement of the creation with respect to the creature thusly: “The Arcana of the Tarot form a panorama of the set of all possible formulas of the Word. It is a book of Creation.”

This revelation of the principles is a temple… The construction of a temple (value of state) is a structure, but the circulation within this qualifying space is a dialectic (dynamic value). Jean Carteret developed the values of the dialectic pairs of the cards of the Tarot of Marseilles.

The circle is the representation of the Word, the expression of the Principle. This “first figure of unity” is seen thusly: “The circle is a visible figure which is the transcendence of an invisible figure, which is to say that the circle as visible figure is the expression of a principle which itself is invisible. This is why we speak of the principle which is said to be the empty point which is transcended by the circle.” What, then is the meaning of this central point? The empty point is to the circle as that which abides is to that which changes. The empty point unfolds and expresses itself by the circle which is a perfect figure, regular and continuous.”

The circle as divided into 360 degrees by the Sumerians introduces the becoming into the beyond-time, and the 360 degrees of the circle determine the 22 arcana. The number of regular polygons (of whole degrees) which may be inscribed within a circle is 22…

“The triangle is the first polygon wherein the Word will articulate itself, it is the initiator of the series of the 21 others. The second will be the square, then the pentagon, then the hexagon, but, first rupture in the series: 360 is not divisible by 7, there is no regular polygon of seven sides… (This brings us back to a valorisation of the number 6, of the six days of creation: if there is no regular polygon of seven sides, it is because “God” rested on the seventh day… First break in the circle.) Then, we will have an 8-sided polygon, followed by 9, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 24, 30, 36, 40, 45, 60, 72, 90, 180, and 360-sided polygons.”

These 22 polygons are articulations representing the “alphabet of the apprenticeship of all the possibilities of the Word. The twenty-second non-numbered arcana, the Mate, embodies, as the zero, all the possibilities of the 22 regular polygons, zero being the “total non-conditioning.”

In his dialectics of the name and the number, Jean Carteret stated: “Crowned with the number and supported by the name, the card plays with the image represented and the idea that it expresses. The name is existence, it corresponds to what I think (to think is to name), whereas the number, the essence, indicates what thinks me (what constitutes me).” And, he adds, “In the image itself, the name dominates the number. In the idea, the number dominates the name. In the name, the image dominates the idea. In the number, the idea dominates the image. The name is sound and heat, the number is light. The sublimation of the name and of sound will be its ascent into the idea, and the incarnation of the number and of the light will be its descent into the image.”

In the observation of the “images” of the Tarot, it is also necessary to interpret the colours which are obviously not randomly chosen. Let us recall the value of colours according to traditional symbolism… White indicates the purity of the eternal, divine Light (light has no colour). Yellow expresses the revolution or the revealed Light (golden yellow: constancy; pale yellow: treachery). Red is of course the colour of love, fire, and sacrificial blood. Pink (flesh colour) indicates love (red) of the divine (white). Blue represents wisdom, nobility and truth. Green is a symbol of creation and of hope.

This is what Carteret had to say: “Yellow is the colour of tradition; pink is the colour of revolution. Red is the colour of activity, blue is the colour of passivity – but activity or passivity of the state, if it involves the trunk of the body for the state, capable of being active or passive, but activity or passivity of the action, if it involves the limbs of the body. Green is the colour of becoming, of being – what we call its first origin, or its end.”

In the astrological correspondence of the arcana of the Tarot, Jean Carteret saw Justice as being to the head of the Black Sun as the Hermit is to the tail of this Black Sun. Temperance is the head of the Dragon (ascending lunar Node) as “Death” is to the tail of this Dragon (descending lunar Node). Whereas the Devil is analogous to the set of this axis of lunar Nodes. The Mate represents the relation between the solar ecliptic and the circle of the celestial equator and corresponds astrologically to the sign of Gemini.

Before moving on to the particular symbolism of each arcanum, let us observe the arrangement of the 22 major arcana according to Carteret: “Thus, the first six arcana will express the six poles of the the state where the vertical dominates over the horizontal, the following six arcana (from VII to XII) will express the six poles of the action where the horizontal dominates over the vertical. Then, we will have a third group of six arcana (from XVI to XXI) which will express the global and simultaneous confrontation of the first two groups.”

Between the second and third senary, one must pass through “the triple threshold of Arcana XIIII, XIV, and XV, which express the double inversion the first two senaries must undergo before the establishment of the the last.” As to the 22nd arcanum, the Mate, who does not bear a number, it expresses “the degree zero of the as-yet unstructured sphere and its ultimate globality, below and beyond the weddings.”

Jean Carteret enables us to grasp that the Tarot is not a simple folkloric type of divination, but that it is “the architecture of a poem of the world” because “it was conceived of by people who were in contact with the world, and who, thus, had no need to explain it.”

One must first of all distinguish between the 56 minor arcana (from which the ordinary game of playing cards is derived) and the 22 major arcana: the principles dominate the major arcana and “the spirit dominates life”; whereas, on the contrary, it is life that dominates the spirit and the elements which prevail in the minor arcana.”

In Carteret’s metaphysical perspective, the spirit that comes from emptiness is to the immutable as life, which comes from fullness, is to the mobile. On the vertical plane, the spirit spreads in the three alchemical principles: Sulphur, Mercury and Salt, in analogy with the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost, whereas life dominates in the four elements (Fire; Water; Air; Earth) on the horizontal plane.

The major arcana are thus based on the trinity: three times six arcana. “The first six arcana represent the state and analogically the radical sulphur as well as the fixed mercury; for if the radical sulphur is in essence the fixed, and the radical mercury the volatile, in life everything is overcoming and the fixed must become volatile, and the volatile fixed.” [1]

The first six arcana are the places of formation (of a state which ends in a situation) and the next six arcana are the passage from formation to transformation. The first arcana (cards I to VI) form a “senary of state” where the three principles are fixated in the four elements. The second senary (cards VII to XII) is that “of action”: the four elements are volatilised by the three principles. In the third senary, (cards XVI to XXI) is situated the “work” of the “androgyny of the action and of the state.”

The twin transcendence of the senaries of the state and of action are indicated by the two passages of cards XIII (volatilisation of the fixed of the second senary) and XIV (fixation of the volatile of the first senary) and by the double passage of arcanum XV representing “the two thresholds in simultaneity.” Jean studied the symbolism of the Mate separately. In a vision referring to the Mysteries of Eleusis, he concluded: “The first twelve cards represent the Lesser Mystery: that of being; separated by the three cards of the threshold; then come arcana XVI to XXI, which represent the Greater Mystery: that of consciousness.”

In a radio programme, Jean Carteret opened by saying: “The Tarot is utterly useless,” and he continued, quoting an ancient Taoist expression: “Everyone knows the utility of what is useful, few know the utility of what is useless.” And the Tarot is indeed the usefulness of what is useless.

Let us examine the details of the structure of the Tarot according to carteret through various dialectic correspondences. The first card “opens all relations” and represents the articulation of the problem. The Juggler symbolises the values of the inside which exteriorises itself towards the outside with respect to the Lover (VI), which represents an engagement towards the inside. [2] “He is the passage of all which has preceded as origin to the end, and he will emphasise this end. He is indeed complementary to the Juggler, who, for his part, emphasises the origin. And while the Juggler is the passage from the private to the public, the Lover who is at the end will be the passage from the public to the private. So much so that the Juggler articulates the problem whereas the Lover engages it.

Between the cards II the Popess and V the Pope, on the one hand, and the cards III the Empress and IV the Emperor on the other, ”the dialectic is obvious.” … The Popess is an integrity in relation with the invisible, her book bears witness to sacred writing whereas the Pope speaks. Thus, the Popess symbolises the “introverted word” with respect to the Pope, “extroverted word.” The Popess is a metaphysical value without physical reality and the Pope is united to the metaphysical by his relation with the Popess, “he is, in sum, the incarnation of the metaphysical and of the physical, and he bears witness to this vertical relation through speech; whereas the Popess, who does not exist but who is, cannot speak. The Popess is thus the silence filled by writing, that is to say, a collective where the invisible contains the visible. Analogically, the Popess is the Church, whereas the speech of the Pope is the emphasis brought from becoming over being.” [3]

In the image of the third card, that of the Empress, is depicted an eagle gazing to the left, and thus introverted with respect to the arcanum of the Emperor where there is an extroverted eagle looking to the right. The eagle of the Emperor rises towards the light whereas the eagle of the Empress is kept in the heat (according to the terms used by Carteret) and his inclined sceptre corresponds to the “setting sun” with respect to the “rising sun” of the cross erected on the sceptre of the Empress.

Still in the “Lesser Mystery” of the twelve first arcana, let us develop the second senary, that of action. The seventh card, the Chariot represents the “accelerator” with respect to the Wheel of Fortune (X) which corresponds to the brake… The Chariot is providence which, by the “two horses of the principle” is situated in becoming. The Wheel of the Chariot is discontinuous whereas it is continuous in the Wheel of Fortune, inverted with respect to the Chariot.

With Justice (VIII) we see the “seated fatness” paired with the “standing thinness” of the Hermit. In Justice there is a plenitude by heat, whereas in the Hermit we find the quest by light, which is the reduction and intensification of Justice. “The true is to existence what the just is to life; now, what the Hermit seeks is the passage from life to existence. As the town is what exists and the country is what lives, the Hermit lives in the country to find the passage to the town, whereas arcanum VIII, as the Justice of the Peace, lives in the centre of the town: the Town Hall.”

We reach, at present, the “Greater Mystery” (cards XVI to XXI) of the last senary. The God-House (XVI) symbolises “the fall of heaven on earth,” it is the House of the decrowned principle, stricken by the storm (the revelation of the principle) which has just split the unity into two, whence the two falling characters.

If, in the God-House, the vertical wall of the Tower without a door (God has no need of a door) is demolished, we observe in the Sun (XIX) a rebuilt horizontal wall, and the two children fallen from the God-House find themselves standing upright and reunited. With the Sun, it is peace regained after the collapse represented by the sixteenth card.

We arrive at Arcanum XVII dear to André Breton and the Surrealists, the Star, who symbolises for Carteret “the deconditioning of the Earth and Heaven to the benefit of the natural influences” (Water element), whereas in the preceding card, there was a rupture (Fire element) in the relation between Heaven and Earth. The Star is indeed the incarnation of poetry, “the grace of the foregoing fall, or more accurately, the pleasure of the fall become Grace…”

If the God-House “was a descent towards the base, the collapse of Heaven on Earth, since Revelation is the fall, as the shattering shows, on the contrary, the Moon is the exaltation in the sense of an ascent towards the summit. Whereas the God-House is the passage from the invisible to the visible, the Moon is the passage from the visible to the invisible.

If, with Justice, “Heaven grasps the Earth,” it is with Force that the Earth grasps Heaven. Force (XI) is an “antecedent vertical” and is paired with the Hanged Man (XII), “consequential horizontal.” We do not see the hands of the Hanged Man, legs crossed, as we do not see the feet (the birth) of Force, hands crossed. “In arcanum XII, we may say that “all that falls, happens.” And the Hanged Man’s rope, which comes from Heaven, brings happiness.”

We now arrive at the three cards of the Threshold: “the work of Thrice-Greatest Hermes… The thirteenth card without a name which depicts a skeleton bearing a scythe is called “Death,” it is the door through which one leaves.” The severed right foot of the skeleton hinders the action of this passage from action to reaction. Thus, this arcanum symbolises “the action which tends towards the state by the brake” whereas the following card, Temperance, is “the passage of the state towards action by the accelerator.” If “Death” sees the past depart, Temperance is turned towards the future; it is also “the door through one enters.” On the alchemical plane, there is “fixation” with Death, and “volatilisation” with Temperance, where the fluidic waters, the impalpable wave, volatilises the fixed.

Finally, the third card of the Threshold, the Devil (XV), represents the synthesis of cards XIII and XIV: it is at the same time the door through which one enters as well as that through which one leaves, the door with two batwing doors, “the simultaneity of two movements.” The androgynous Devil is the “Dragon of Virtue,” guardian of the Threshold, “the capital value which allows the awakening of consciousness in existence.”

This lunar illumination sees the drops rise (the downwards-pointing tips of the droplets symbolise the Water element) towards a Capricornian summit (with respect to the crayfish of that card indicating the zodiacal sign of Cancer, opposite Capricorn). On the other hand, in the arcanum of the Sun, the tips of the droplets are turned upwards, thus symbolising the Fire element. [4]

The Judgment (XX) [5] represents the conclusion of the four preceding arcana. In this confrontation, “the movement occurs from the top to the bottom, and from the bottom to the top, so much so that the top judges the bottom, as the bottom judges the top.” The Judgment is analogous to the engagement, but not to the wedding represented by the World (XXI) for there is yet separation between the Top and the Bottom. We see in the arcanum the World “the belt of the life of the world,” laurel garland, and the poetry that surrounds the androgyne while the four evangelists correspond to the four “fixed” zodiacal signs (the middle of the seasons). [6]

There remains the Mate, card without number… [7] Carteret found that the exact position of this “nomad” was situated between the Judgment (XX) and the World (XXI). [8] He always discoursed at length on this “simple in spirit” who passes everywhere and whom “no rules stop.” Analogous to the Monkey-Pilgrim, he is also “at the same time permanent Revolution and the Golden Fleece.” It is liberty to the extent that this last, like Nirvana, is “the extinction of differences.” As “zero, the Mate is all passages, whereas as 22, he is the passage to the impossible.”

Jean ended his radio programme by observing that: “The Tarot is the coat of arms of the essences of creation within the creature, that is to say, within man.”

Let us conclude with another of his remarks: “All that is crossed must represent a potentiality.” [9]* Speaking of the Emperor, he used to say that only kings had the right to cross their legs. [10] Crossed legs represented “the power of the action” brought back to “the power of the state.” To have one’s legs crossed is to pass from the virtue of the action to the virtue of the state.

At the end of his life, Jean crossed and uncrossed his legs constantly…


1. In the alchemical Tradition, the “green Lion” volatilises the Fixed, and the “red Lion” fixates the Volatile. Note, moreover, that the third principle, the Salt, is a later notion developed following Paracelsus.

2. The Juggler and the Lover “are the two crossroads of the senary of state.”

3. Raymond Abellio notes that the Popess represents “the invisible Church of which the Pope is but the worldly emergence. In kabbalistic terms: the emanated light and the created light.”

4. Jean paired the God-House and the Sun, on the one hand, and the Star and the Moon on the other. These latter relations between cards XVII and XVIII seem less obvious and less developed to me. Raymond Abellio proposed a different and relevant pairing: horizontally, the Sun and the Moon, on the one hand, and the Star and the World on the other. Vertically, the God-House and the Judgment correspond to the dark face and the light face of the apocalypses.

5. “Judgment – in itself – is just and true. To judge is eventually to convert. Arcanum XX is alchemical. Arcanum XXI is the reinsertion into the original state of being and of non-being, but with the absolute consciousness of the relative consciousness and the global being.”

6. Saint Mark: the Lion [Leo]; Saint John: the Scorpion [Scorpio]; Saint Matthew: the Water-Bearer [Aquarius]; and Saint Luke: the Bull [Taurus].

7. The name (in relation with life) is to the number (in relation with the spirit) what the idea is to the image.

8. Personally, it would seem to me to be more appropriate to place the Mate before the Juggler (I) and after the World (XXI) since Jean used to say that he is at the same time the zero (the source) below the difference, and the twenty-two (the mouth) which goes beyond all differences. This position is it not obvious in a circular representation of the Tarot, where the Mate, between the first and the last cards, connects the initiatory circle?

9. He used to say this of certain figures of the Tarot.

10. Does “Carte-ret” not mean “the king of the cards”, as Arnold Waldstein remarked?

* The word puissance in French means both ‘potential’ as well as ‘power’. – Translator
Support this Site at

Leave a comment

Jean Carteret: Arcanum XVII: The Star

Portrait of Jean Carteret by Jean-François Bauret.


Translator’s Introduction

The following text by Jean Carteret forms part of the unpublished notes transcribed from Carteret’s notebooks by Philippe Pissier. The accompanying portrait of Carteret, a surprising and little-known one, was taken by the photographer Jean-François Bauret.

Arcanum XVII: The Star

Jean Carteret

We make a vow of chastity when we are present at the unique instant of a shooting star – which is the passage, from the faith abiding in the star, to the passing moment, unique and fleeting, of the shooting star.

Thus, the star is the place of the unique faith of all collectives and all uniques, which is the case for arcanum XVII of the Tarot, the arcanum of poetry.

Thus: poetry is the fruit of the enlightened and enlightening faith of the star. Whereas the constellations are yet the domain of non-poetry, in fact, the constellation may be the domain of poetry in essence only, and which passes to existence by each star.

The constellation being the domain of the singular poetry, the constellations are the domain of the universal poetry.

And the galaxy, our galaxy, and all possible and impossible galaxies, are the degree until Sublime Anarchy and its arrangement, poetry in the ultimate degree; our galaxy being the only unique to the degree of the excellence of the ultimate poetry, the other galaxies being each a unique among others, without attaining the degree of excellence of our own.

The Milky Way being a visible part and a path, a way of our galaxy, but other situations of constellations and stars, which I shall not list here, despite their varying degrees of excellence of dialectic and of maieutic in the Universe, which is apparently only cosmic, but which is also divine by nature and by super nature, and human only on our Earth, unique par excellence, by exception – and by miracle.

* * *

Read the original French here.

Support this Site at

Leave a comment

Jean Carteret: The Tarot, Architecture of a Poem of the World

Jean Carteret, 1906-1980.

Translator’s Introduction

It would be a thankless but worthwhile task to attempt to introduce the life, work and thought of Jean Carteret (1906-1980), a philosopher who wrote practically nothing, but one whose influence is as definitive as it is discrete, in varied and unexpected contexts. As Raymond Abellio said of him, he was “a genius unknown to the masses.” Any presentation of his ideas – complex and oddly compelling as they are – would necessarily be insufficient and unsatisfactory, unable to capture the richness and depth of his thinking, and especially, of his mode of expression. For Carteret was a philosopher of the Word, as opposed to a mere thinker or scribe, and the power of his words, by all accounts, had to be experienced rather than just read.

Although he published but little, some of his articles, notes and other writings have been compiled and published by his students, as well as transcripts of recordings of his lectures, talks or discussions. In consequence, it could be said that his written legacy is necessarily fragmentary and presents but an incomplete record of his work. Be that as it may, his contribution to a peculiar type of analogical thought, making extensive use of dialectics, might be best divided into three categories: dialectics, astrology, and the Tarot.

On the first, two collections have been published by L’Originel, Des Dialogues et du verbe, and Lorsque l’homme sera né.

On the subject of astrology, Carteret published a brief monograph in collaboration with André Barbault, Analogies de la Dialectique Uranus-Neptune. Leurs correspondances en Mythologie, Poésie, Psychologie, Sociologie, Art, Philosophie , etc. (Éditions Traditionnelles)

Finally, and more pertinently, Carteret published a number of articles on the Tarot, most of which were compiled in the volume Le Tarot comme Langage, also published by L’Originel, which contains, among other things, the lengthy piece Le Tarot une ordonnance du Verbe.

A comprehensive overview of these three fields appears in Daniel Giraud’s book, Jean Carteret, Alchimiste du Verbe. An outline of Carteret’s thought was presented in Dutch as Het poetische denken van Jean Carteret by his student the astrologer George Bode. A biblio-biography in French, from Politica Hermetica n°2 1988, is available here:

To initiate this series of excerpts from his œuvre, we present a translation of the 1977 radio interview Carteret gave to Emmanuel Driant of France Culture, Le Tarot architecture d’un poème du monde. Here, Carteret begins to outline his peculiar arrangement of the 22 cards of the Major Arcana into 3 groups of 6 plus one set of 3 – the Guardians of the Threshold. Although the names of the sets are not listed in full here, they are: Series of State: I-VI; Series of Action: VII-XII; Triple Threshold: XIII-XIIII-XV; Series of Confrontation (simultaneous and global of the first two groups): XVI-XXI. The Fool is considered to be both the degree zero and the ultimate globality, thus both below and beyond.

(Unfortunately it would appear that the transcript in question is truncated, and the discussion of the last senary is missing. Until such a time as the French radio archives digitise and upload the programme, this excerpt will have to serve as an example of Carteret’s thoughts on the Tarot for the time being.)

* * *

The Tarot, Architecture of a Poem of the World

Emmanuel Driant & Jean Carteret
France Culture

ED: The Tarot consists of 78 cards called arcana, divided into 2 categories. On the one hand, the first 22 arcana, called Major Arcana, and the 56 remaining ones called Minor Arcana. From these 56 cards are derived the 52 cards of the deck of ordinary playing cards, which have been in use now for 2 or 3 centuries. 56 and not 52 cards, because, in addition to the figures of Jack, Queen and King, there is a fourth figure, the Knight, which has since disappeared [from the ordinary playing cards]. 4 figures thus, plus 10 numerals per suit, as with the ordinary playing cards. Diamonds, clubs, hearts and spades are called staffs, coins, cups and swords in the Tarot.

JC: The Tarot is utterly useless.
Everyone knows the utility of what is useful, few know the utility of what is useless. The Tarot cards represent an awakening of consciousness, an ascesis. To speak of the Tarot is to make it speak. The Tarot is like the good wine of Creation put into bottles. What we call the arcana, the seventh day of the Lord, it’s crazy what a day of rest can have us do! Thus, we shall drink together, we shall open these arcana together, these bottles. To tell the truth, I was so thirsty that I often went down to the wine cellar these last few years.
To speak of the arcana separately would be a thankless task as all the arcana of the Tarot are in a dialectic between each other. It is a little as though you wished to explain the different pieces of a car engine. The first piece you take is in relation with the second which is also connected with the third, and the third has a function in relation with the fourth, and also with the first. But today I shall content myself with giving you a linear vision of the Major Arcana.
Each arcana bears a number, from 1 to 22 (21+ 0). But the arcana of the Tarot are engravings of fairy tales in an imaginary ballet which may not only resuscitate facts but also awaken within us new tales which we did not know how to know. Beforehand, let us discover the panorama of the Major Arcana.

ED: The first arcanum of the Tarot, arcanum I, is called the Juggler. It depicts a figure standing upright, face on, wearing a very colourful costume. In his left hand he holds a stick, his hand raised, and in his right hand, a small ball. In front of him, a table of which only three legs and three sides are pictured, and on this table a number of curious objects are depicted; small knives, dice, cups.

JC: There is a curious arrangement of colours on his costume. In effect, the top of the right sleeve is the colour blue, whereas the bottom of the same sleeve is coloured red. Whereas on the left sleeve, the upper part is red and the lower part blue. As to his feet, he also has one blue foot and one red foot. And where he has a blue foot, he has a red leg. In other words, the Juggler is built like an X. He is built like an X so much so that the ball seen in the centre, which the Juggler makes disappear and appear, is exactly in the centre of the card.
In poetry, we always say that things are what they become, and here in this arcanum built like an X, there is, so to say, a vertical value which is, in sum, spread out to the sides. And there is the contrary in arcanum VI, the Lover, the figure is depicted with a costume with longitudinal forms.

ED: Arcanum VI, the Lover, depicts a young man placed between two woman at the crossroads of two paths. One of these women is young, fair, attractive, smiling. The other woman is much older, has a stern look, we see her clearly in profile, and she looks quite austere. And on top of this group of three figures is a young cherub letting loose a white-coloured arrow in the direction of the young man. From him shine forth rays of light of different colours.

JC: The Lover in relation to the Juggler will represent an engagement towards the inside, whereas the Juggler will, on the contrary, represent the values of the inside spread out to the outside.

ED: So, you are here opposing, in the first dialectic pair, arcanum I, the Juggler, and arcanum VI, the Lover. That is, from the series of the first 22 cards, you are singling out a first group of 6 with which we can make an analogy, for example, the dice on which the side of the Ace is opposed to the side of the 6, the side of the 5 is opposed to the side of the 2, the side of the 4 is opposed to the side of the 3.

JC: So, a theme of game in the Juggler, a theme of engagement in the Lover. Moreover, you will also note that in the arcanum of the Lover there is precisely an arrow (sagitta) and that this arrow departs, so to say, from an angel, and behind this angel we may discern a sun. Well, look more closely, in reality, you will find a white skull, of which the angel’s bowstring represents the jawline, and the angel’s arrow is the angel’s forefinger.
This white skull represents, in a way, natural knowledge. White naturally being like the virgin, something which has never been taught. Then you have another pair which is the Pope and the Popess, arcanum II and arcanum V.

ED: Arcanum II, the Popess, depicts a woman slightly in profile, wearing a tiara. She holds a book between her hands. She is wearing a wide blue cloak which covers her red dress, and a sort of veil around her head. Arcanum V, the Pope, depicts a man face on, his hand raised towards 3 or 4 interlocutors, who we can guess from the backs of their necks. He is wearing a tiara. He has a four-leaf clover drawn on his left hand and we have the feeling he is about to speak.

JC: One striking difference we note immediately is that, in the Popess, there is the book, that is to say, writing, whereas on arcanum V, you see the Pope speaking. Here we have, in a way, the relation of an action and a state, of an expressed, extroverted spoken word, and an introverted word.

ED: The extroverted word is that of the Pope, and the introverted word is that of the Popess?

JC: That’s right. Then, you have the Emperor and the Empress.

ED: Arcanum IV, the Emperor, depicts a man in profile seated on a throne, legs crossed. In his right hand, he holds a sceptre topped with a spherical figure, which represents the Earth, and a cross. He wears a blue costume and a red cloak, and an eagle is pictured beneath his throne. Conversely, arcanum III, the Empress, depicts a woman sitting on a throne, face on. She holds a shield in her right arm up against her chest, a shield bearing the eagle we have seen beneath the throne of the Emperor, with the same depiction of the sphere and cross, but which are not arranged in the same manner. And the colour of her clothing is inverted with respect to that of the Emperor. She wears a long red dress on top of which is placed a blue coloured cloak.

JC: The first difference to be seen is that the Emperor is depicted in profile and the Empress is face on. The Emperor, who has a sceptre with a cross placed upright on the sceptre, as though the Emperor corresponded to the rising sun – this same sceptre is to be seen in the Empress, but this time, the cross, instead of being upright on the sceptre, appears to be descending behind the sphere of the earth. The Emperor is thus to the Empress what the rising sun is to the setting sun. Furthermore, beneath the throne of the Emperor there is an eagle, and it is placed in such a way that it could be thought to be coming out of the seat. This eagle is at the summit of a mountain. You can see it here grasping onto the peak with its claws, so to say, and its profile is turned to the right, so here the eagle is extroverted. Whereas with the Empress, analogous to the setting sun, this eagle has its head turned to the left, thus towards the return. And what is curious is that the wings of the eagle are this time not ascending but descending. That is why we could say that the eagle of the Emperor is rising towards the light, and that, on the contrary, with the Empress, it is returning towards her bosom, into its warmth.

Moreover, the Emperor has his leg crossed. This story of the crossed legs of kings is very curious because in statuary, it would appear that only kings had the right to cross their legs! Why? Well, for example, arcanum XIII depicts a figure which is missing the lower jaw from its face. In effect, in the face, there is a part of the jaw that does not move, the upper jaw, whereas the lower jaw is mobile. We could thus say that the lower jaw is to the upper jaw what the legs are to the arms. Now, you probably know that in the Aztec codex there is a figure with a severed leg, thus, a restrained step, as though halted, the action hindered, and who has his hand in front of his mouth, thus, whose speech is internal. There is no external emission of speech. Well, in the case of the Emperor, the crossed leg represents thus the power of action represented by the legs, brought back to the power of the state. And that is why, to have crossed legs, is to pass from the virtue of the action to the virtue of the state. And if the Emperor is also a chief of State – which is still true today, if you go to meet the president of the republic, the protocol will dictate you should not cross your legs in front of the president. It is curious, but you can see that the labels stick regardless of the symbolism that gives birth to them.
On the one hand, the lower jaw hidden by the hand, the mouth closed by the hand, or the missing lower jaw, or the crossed legs, or the skull and crossbones when we read “mortal danger.” (Mortal danger means that, at that moment, the action stops and you risk being transformed into a state because that state of death is like a recumbent statue, like a statue, it is a halt to the action.)
In the first senary, the Emperor commanding the Empress, the Emperor is a phallus, a positive value, the Empress a passive value. We can see the issue of the rising sun and the setting sun. We are in the mode of the visible. On the contrary, in the relations of the Pope and the Popess, the Pope is obedient with respect to the Popess, who is the Church and who is the ruler. You then have the relations of the extraversion of the Juggler and the introversion of the Lover.

ED: Series of Action:
VII the Chariot – VIII Justice
VIIII the Hermit – X the Wheel of Fortune
XI Force – XII the Hanged Man

ED: The Chariot depicts a figure who is face on on a sort of throne driven by a wheel, which we cannot see if it is two or one insofar as we see half a wheel to the left, and half a wheel to the right, with an unequal number of spokes. And two horses are harnessed (even though we not see the yoke, we see the harnesses) in front of the chariot, each going in opposite directions at right angles, but who both have their faces turned in the same direction. The figure in the centre holds a sceptre and wears a crown. He has two faces (like Sock and Buskin) on each of his shoulders.

JC: You see here the Chariot which I call “the two horses of the Principle.” There is something very curious here, it is that the horses are going at right angles to each other. What I am looking to do now, is more to show you something that might intrigue you in the arcana and which, instead of leaving you faced with a simple image (regardless of its technical quality), calls not to your eye but to your gaze.
So, I was saying that in the Chariot, the two horses are going at right angles, but they are both looking in the same direction, as though, despite their separation, they are going to reunite. You will see here, in the Chariot, that there is in fact but one wheel broken into two, both of whose sides are sticking out on either side of the chariot. You can see 4 spokes on the right side, and 2 others on the left side, whereas in the Wheel of Fortune, the 6 spokes are grouped because if the Chariot represents an accelerator, the Wheel of Fortune represents a brake.

ED: The tenth arcanum, the Wheel of Fortune, represents a sort of wooden contraption, with a wheel that goes round (a bit like a vertical merry-go-round) and there is animal attached to the left, an animal to the right, and an animal on top. How does the Wheel of Fortune represent a brake, on the contrary? Is it because it is the passage of the wheel that will turn on the ground on the horizontal plane to a vertical plane in the Wheel of Fortune that allows you to draw this analogy?

JC: Well, the Wheel is like the Juggler, an extroversion. And the Wheel of Fortune is like the Lover, an introversion.

ED: Or an intensification, perhaps.

JC: Intensification but introversion. Moreover, we have here another pair.

ED: Justice and the Hermit. The eight arcanum, Justice, depicts a fairly well-endowed woman, fairly hefty, sitting on a throne. She holds a sword in her right hand, and in her left hand, a pair of scales. The Hermit, as to him, is presented in profile, like someone walking. He holds a lantern in his right hand and his cloak is all curved lines.

JC: Justice in relation to the Hermit is the seated fatness in relation to the standing thinness. And it is a seated fatness that coincides everywhere, there is no need to look for it. On the contrary, the Hermit, as to him, he seeks with a lantern. Thus, in Justice who is seated fatness, we have plenitude by heat, and in the Hermit, on the contrary, we have the quest by light.
The Tarot is a maze. We might look at it for years and later discover something we had never seen before.

ED: Arcanum XI is called Force and depicts a woman holding in her hands, almost crossed over each other, the open maw of a lion, and we have a certain difficulty seeing the tip of her foot emerging from the bottom of her long dress.
Arcanum XII, as to him, is called the Hanged Man, and depicts a young man hung by his feet, by one single foot, and his hands are hidden behind his back. He has blue hair and we get the impression that the trees from which he is hung are they themselves inverted, since their roots look just like green leaves.

JC: Force is this woman opening the lion’s maw. Look well, her hands are in a cross and we do not see her feet. Conversely, the Hanged Man, whose feet are crossed but who has no hands. Don’t tell me they are behind his back, he hasn’t got any hands. This absence of feet in Force, the woman opening the lion’s maw, is in relation with the symbolic effect that in Spain, the queen is not supposed to have any feet. In passing, I will point out that it seems to me that there is a relation between the feet and birth. Don’t forget that at Christmas, we put out the stockings, up on the fireplace, and that Christmas, all the while being in the sign of Capricorn (which astrologers persist in seeing as being sad!) is all the same the day of a birth. Thus, the issue of the foot, the issue of the shoe, in some cases, is in relation to that of birth.
In the case of Justice, who is sitting on her throne, it is the Sky grasping the Earth, and in the case of the woman grasping the lion’s maw (dominating the lion), it is the Earth grasping the Sky.

ED: The lion has a celestial value.

JC: The lion is the celestial vault. In the Chariot of arcanum VII, we have the moment where the Sky grasps the Earth, that is, the Principle grasping the consequences, and the accomplishment of the Sky over the Earth you see it in Justice, and this Justice, it is not an intellectual justice, this justice, on condition of heat, has the value of the soul, whereas the Hermit, you see here, on the contrary, is the one who is on Earth, searching for the Sky. Whereas in Justice, the Sky covers the Earth. It is the action of the Sky on the Earth. In the Hermit, on the contrary, it is the passion of the Earth with respect to the Sky.
On the contrary, in the Wheel of Fortune, we will find, I would say, the awakening of consciousness of the Sky by the Earth, and at that moment, it is in arcanum XI, Force, who commands the Sky. The lion here is the starry vault, in the same way that the Hanged Man with the blue hair is the Sky hanging towards the Earth.
Between arcanum XII and arcanum XVI, there are three arcana, XIII-XIIII-XV, which are the groups of the passage, the groups of the preparation for the Wedding, where arcanum XIII symbolises the Action that tends towards the State by the brake, where arcanum XIIII symbolises the passage from the State to Action by the accelerator, and where arcanum XV symbolises the simultaneity of the two movements.

ED: Thus, the first six cards represent tradition, it’s static, it’s the State that dominates. Then, six cards where it’s the values of revolution, it’s dynamism that dominates.
Arcanum XIII, I dare not say is Death, since you say one should not say what one can’t see. It has no name, it only has a number. It depicts a skeletal figure, a skeleton armed with a scythe, and it looks like there are hands and heads growing from the earth, unless they have just fallen there.
This figure, as you highlighted earlier, is lacking something on the level of the face, the lower jaw (it is all in black, we cannot see it).
Arcanum XIII is a figure which effectively appears in contrast. It’s a young woman holding, at different levels, two jugs of different colours, between which a sort of fluid is flowing, which reminds us of the sign of Aquarius. This woman has two wings on her back, and the arcanum is called “Temperance.”

JC: Arcanum XIII, do not say that it is Death. It’s arcanum XIII. In arcanum XIII, there is a foot missing. Its right foot has been cut off. It is thus the separation from below, and lameness. Whereas with Temperance, on the contrary, we find an extra pair of wings. And in this case, we have a relation with above. And what you see of this liquid flowing between the red vase and the blue vase, it is not a liquid that flows downwards, it is a liquid or fluid that is rising. You see a lot of Tarot decks in which people reason rather than live, and they have the water flowing downwards. In that case, there would be no point in having Temperance have wings if it were not precisely a question of volatilising the fluid. And so this water is a fluid water, a wave, it rises from the red vase to the blue vase. So, arcanum XIII here represents fixation and arcanum XIIII volatilisation.

ED: So, I would draw a parallel between this arcanum XIII with its severed foot with what you were saying earlier about the brake represented by the Wheel of Fortune, arcanum X, whereas Temperance seems to express its contrary, that is, a sort of acceleration. She has an extra pair of wings, her limbs have been multiplied.

JC: In the Tarot, there is always a dialectic relation. As we can see an extroversion between the Juggler and an introversion in the Lover, so we have an extroversion in the Chariot and an introversion in the Wheel of Fortune, we have here an issue of extroversion and of introversion. It’s a dialectic game. It’s a balancing act.

ED: Arcanum XV is called the Devil. It depicts a sort of rather curious figure, perhaps an androgyne (at least, the main character). We see its feminine chest but also male sexual organs. It has a sort of pair of wings attached to its back as well, but which are more like the wings of a bat than those of an angel. He has a sword, one without a handle, in his left hand, and two little figures with strange feathers on the tops of their heads are tied to his feet by a rope, as though enchained. So, the arcanum the Devil seems to be at the same time the inversion of arcanum XIII and arcanum XIIII in one simultaneity.

JC: Yes, the arcanum the Devil, in reality, is the heat of the earth which has risen as a negative light above, and the two figures, which are two birds, are the light of the sky which has fallen as heat.

ED: How can you tell they are birds?

JC: Because they have feathers on their heads. What is on top has become the bottom, and the bottom has become the top. The devil is inverted. The figure of the Devil is made up of two characters. Above, the Dragon; below, the Beast. If you look closely, you will see that the Dragon, in reality, is both male and female, it has both male and female attributes, it is thus dual. Whereas the Beast, on the contrary, is undifferentiated, it is double. And the other position is that, in reality, the Dragon’s wings are hairy, whereas on the Beast’s head there are feathers.

ED: The hair has risen, and the feathers have gone down below.

JC: Yes, that’s right.

ED: This is what gives the appearance of bat’s wings to the wings of the main figure of the Devil?

JC: Exactly. This already indicates that the Dragon has come to rise from the bottom to the top, he is an inversion of the bottom towards the top, and the Beast is a conversion of the top into the bottom. And this double inversion conversion means that it is called the Devil, and that the Devil is not at all this silly thing understood as a terrible God; what is terrible, it is the threshold, that is, the passage. But this Devil has a capital value. If this Devil were not in our existence, there would be no awakening of consciousness.

[The transcript ends here…]

* * *

Read the original French here.

Support this Site at