Buying a Crystal Ball (and not getting ripped off)

March 29, 2009

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So I just got a new crystal ball, my fourth, and I thought I would give some advice on getting a crystal ball. Crystal balls are very useful things. They’re magickal tools with 101+ uses. Unfortunately most people think they can’t afford a crystal ball, or that they’re not worth the exorbitant prices some stores charge. Most people who sell crystal balls are scam artists using misinformation to sell items for more than they’re worth. If you’re looking into buying a crystal ball, and don’t already know much about them, please read this article and inform yourself. You may be paying $200 or more for something you could buy for $30 (I’m not exaggerating about the price difference either).

Not everything that gets called a crystal ball is actually a ‘crystal’ ball. Although I have four crystal balls, I only have one ‘crystal’ ball. Two of my balls are laser cut glass, and one is amethyst. There’s a big difference between these three types of balls, and they have very different prices.

Real crystal balls tend to be a bit pricey. One the size of your fist can easily go for $50-$100. Expect to pay at least $150 for a descent sized ball, and $250 or more wouldn’t be unreasonable. Large crystal balls can cost a lot more. Things that can raise the price of a ball include its size, flawlessness, age, and occult history. Magicians are usually the only people interested in these types of balls because there are cheaper options available for decorative pieces. Look around though. Sometimes you can get a good deal on a ball, especially a used one. Some of the older sentient balls are looking for the right owner, and they’ll drive away prospective buyers, and drive down their price, until the right owner comes along. Real crystal balls are worth spending the money on too. They’re powerful tools, and once you use one you’ll see how superior it is to the laser cut glass balls. If you can afford it, I highly recommend a real crystal ball.

If you can’t afford it, the laser cut glass balls are still useful. These really are a poor man’s crystal ball. It’s not as powerful as crystal is, but it can still do most of the things crystal can, just not as well. These balls work great for enchantments and divinations. They’re also always flawless. Although they’re not as good as crystal, with a little TLC laser cut glass balls can be powerful and invaluable magical tools. They can also be bought for about a tenth of the price of a real crystal ball.

The problem is most retailers sell laser cut glass at real crystal prices, because most people can’t tell the difference between the two, and many don’t even realize that there is a difference. Customers will usually compare the price of a laser cut glass to a real crystal ball and think they’re getting a deal on the price. It’s gotten to the point that almost every store I’ve been to or website I’ve looked at has had the higher price for real crystal, but most of the products being sold are laser cut glass.

With laser cut glass, a ball the size of your fist should cost less than $15. Expect to pay around $30 for a descent sized ball that’s about as big as a soda can, maybe a little more for one slightly bigger. One the size of your head should go for less than $70. The $120-$180 price range is really for gigantic sized balls.

You can usually tell laser cut glass because it’s flawless and perfect. Even the best crystal balls will have at least a few minor flaws if you look close enough. In fact, some practitioners actually prefer the flaws because they use them as a  divinatory aid. Also on a real tumbled crystal ball you can sometimes see the grooves from the tumbling on the outside. Finally anything with a glass stand included is almost always laser cut glass (and the stand should drive the price up from what I quoted above either).

Now there’s also another category of ball. These are made from precious stones, and the prices can vary widely. Some are far more valuable than crystal. Some aren’t. You have to consider the size, the cost of the stone used, the demand for the stone (low demand can actually drive up the price), it’s beauty, and how good the quality is. Generally speaking, if a stone is jewelry quality, expect to pay more. If a stone isn’t jewelry quality however, it’s often times worthless to anyone except practitioners who can still utilize it for its innate spiritual qualities. For example emerald is very expensive. You can get tumbled emerald for about a dollar a stone though. It’s because the emerald is such a low quality, and so small, it can’t be used for any type of jewelry. It’s worthless to miners, except to tumble and sell to occultists. The same is true of some of these crystal balls. Also keep in mind these things are treasured by New Agers, so they can get pricey. Depending on the price you can be looking at paying a premium over crystal.

If you’re looking for laser cut glass, check online stores and swap meets. These are the places where I’ve seen the best deals, but you have to look around, and be adamant about not paying too much. There’s no reason to spend what many retailers are asking, because you can get a real crystal ball at those prices.

For balls made of precious stone, try the new-age stores. A lot of them carry them. And if you’re interested in a stone that has a low demand, a lot of times they have one sitting on the shelf that gets discount after discount and can be gotten at a bargain.


Some Card Interpretations (Rider-Waite)

March 24, 2008

I originally posted these card interpretations in the comments section of the now defunct trolltopia blog, and they mostly refer to the Rider-Waite variation of the card. For a while the blog author did a one card reading every day and then gave an interpretation. These were my responses.

2 of Swords

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Ew! Card interpetations! Fun! Can I play!

Let’s see, two of swords. Element of air in the number two, which is the number of purity. It rests on the pillar of mercy because a true purity is completely itself and can never be changed or corrupted, causing stagnation (an attribute of mercy, not balance or severity).

And air is representative of the mental side of things, so we have a purity of knowledge, thought, reason, and even imagination.

The two of swords is both knowledge and reason in the abstract and how it applies to physical reality and practical use. It doesn’t bridge the gap between useless, though highly intellectual, information and ideas and useful though more mundane ideas, rather that gap never exists for the two of swords, and all information is at once completely useful and highly intellegent.

Looking at the lady, she’s blindfolded for the same reason that justice is blindfolded. She’s a purity of reason and knowledge, unswayed by any bias or emotion. As discussed earlier, a true purity can never be changed or corrupted.

The swords crossed against her chest are readied for both attack and defense. Her reason will go out and strike down anything illogical, and at the same time it protects her from any falls knowledge. Air is the lesser of the two aggressive elements, but still an aggressive element. Although air isn’t trying to completely consume everything into it like fire, it’s still going to attempt to strike down opposition.

If you were just doing a one card reading on yourself, I’d say the interpetation would be that you’re a great thinker and concerned with logic, but like any Vulcan perhaps you put too much emphasis on the logical and reasonable side of things and not enough on other aspects of life, such as pursuing your passions or giving into your emotional urges every so often.

3 of Swords

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Waite’s imagery of the swords was fairly negative in its nature, and unfortunately very few of his imitators ever really understood his deck to begin with (if they did, they wouldn’t of had to copy), and so the swords have ended up being viewed as a negative suit, when in reality they are no more negative than any other.

The three of swords is a good example. It is a the first taint on the mental aspect of things brought about by knowledge of itself.

The card itself typically has a negative imagery. It is a card of self-awareness, a card of knowledge, and the idea that ignorance, now lost, is bliss. It is a direct reference to the fall of man in Genesis. Man’s life was perfect, then he gained an awareness of self by eating from the tree of knowledge, and then everything turned to shit.

But that’s just one side of the card. By eating from the tree of knowledge man became as smart as god, as powerful as god. The three of swords is a card of enlightenment, of epiphanies, of creative inspiration, of self-revelation, of self-awareness, and it’s also the card of the brutal, harsh, cruel, and painful truths.

A law of the universe is there can never be a gain without a loss. This idea is more fully explored in the Hanged Man. In the three of swords, we learn that sometimes in order to gain enlightenment we have to give up something, we have to be hurt.

You will never know pain until you feel it. You’ll never know what it’s like to lose someone you love until it happens.

Someone who knows only of complete and perfect happiness will never be enlightened, because they know naught of everything else.

Someone who is enlightened will never again know complete and perfect happiness, having been exposed to everything else their perfect happiness will never be complete.

So it’s a choice between enlightenment and the bliss of ignorance, but once you eat of the fruit you can never again return to the garden.

I think Pleasentville made a good argument for the choice of enlightenment.

2 of Wands

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Ah, there’s a three of wands down there too. I’ll have to do that one next. They have a nice contrast in Waite’s deck. (BTW, you never did say if it was okay that I was doing this on your blog. I just think it’s fun, and I’m assuming it’s okay because you haven’t deleted my posts yet).

Like the two of swords, we once again have a purity, but this time it’s a purity of fire, not air, passion, not reason. And we see this with the flower plaque in the lower left hand corner, red and white flowers crossed (possibly roses, or a rose and a tulip maybe, the design makes it hard to make out the exact flowers). Nevertheless red flowers represent non-platonic love and lust, where as white represents purity.

And our character is a purity of his passions. He stands upon a castle, and literaly holds the world in his right hand, and yet even with all of this he still looks out over the horizen, his hand upon his staff ready for the next conquest. He is absolute desire, and he revels in the ecstasy of desire. On the surface this seems like a sad card, a man who will never be satisfied with what he has, who toils to gain something only to lose interest and move on to the next thing, forever stuck in this cycle.

But with a deeper understanding the card becomes much happier like the rest of the twos. The man is not simply dissatisfied with everything he has, rather he is ever evolving, and every growth he achieves as a person is to him only the stepping stone to the next stage, and he is forever consumed in his journey, never believing he’s grown enough and stopping.

At the same time though, and as opposed to the character of the following card, he truly understands the ecstasy of desire. He is completely content in a state of desire, and he knows that it isn’t the achievement itself but rather the achieving that is really important. It’s the journey, not the destination, that matters. He doesn’t ever need to achieve true completion to find true contentment, he is as content now as he can ever be in a frenzy of desire.

3 of Wands

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I’m going to have to disagree with the guy looking well to do. The guy in the two of staffs, he’s well to do, decked out in nice clothes and a cape. But this guy, the garment he’s wearing isn’t even a real garment, it’s at least three different garments sewn together, the yellow in the top left, the checkerboard stripe, and the rest as red. And none of it matches his sleeve, which may be an undergarment or another something sewn on. And to top it off the man has a band on his head, he can’t even afford a proper hat.

I’m going into this because I wanted to contrast this with the two. Both characters are looking out into the horizon, but this one is poorly dressed and standing atop a small empty mound, whereas the other fellow was well dressed and standing atop a castle. And yet both stare out into the horizon, waiting for their ships to come in as you put it.

Whereas the two represents I Am and the purity of being, the three represents I Know I Am and the corruption of purity, the first corruption occurring through a knowledge of the existence of self.

Translated into the idea of passion, when it realizes its existence it becomes want and desire. Here we have a poor man, a man who wants, looking at the horizon with a staff in hand, ready for conquest.

Where as the man in the two finds happiness in his conquests, the man in the three sees conquest as a means to his happiness. For him it is the destination, not the journey, that truly matters.

The card itself is fairly sad in its energy. The man will never really know happiness. He’s one of those types who thinks happiness is gained by finally achieving what he wants to achieve, and he spends his life in pursuit of that and typically dies sad and still trying to reach his completion.

Career paths are a good way to look at this idea. There are certain people who get into a certain profession, and take certain jobs, because they believe that it will eventually lead to them making a descent income and getting the things that they want (cars, houses, money for children, ect.). Then there are those people who enter into a profession because they have a natural calling towards it, they feel a certain drive and passion in doing the work. Every step in this path (raises, promotions, moving to a better company) isn’t a movement towards getting to that spot where they’ll finally be rewarded with the financial lifestyle they want, but rather it’s a step towards making them better at their chosen profession. And they aren’t putting in their time for that eventual reward, rather being able to make a living doing the work is the reward.

And now ask yourself, which is the better professional? Which would you rather have working under you? Which would you rather be in your own life?

As for these two professionals, the former is the man from the three of staffs, and the later is the man from the two of staffs.

Knight of Cups

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Let’s see, Knight of Cups, which corresponds to the airy part of the element of water.

Air is the mental element. It corresponds to thought, ideas, knowledge, logic, reason, and imagination. It’s also the lesser aggressive element.

Water meanwhile corresponds to emotion, love, relationships, sex, and is the greater passive element.

The knight of cups is actually at an advantage being the airy part of water. He is able to take the positive elements of water and control them, since he’s an active side of a passive element. And unlike the fiery side it’s a very reasoned and calculated control.

The Knight of Cups could, under the best of circumstances, be a zen master, completely in control of his emotions and able to will them to whatever he wants them to be.

In most cases though he’s probably just a guy who’s really good at keeping himself under control. He never flies off the handle and he never breaks down crying, and although he may laugh at times he’s never ROFLHFAO. Most people probably see him as a bit stoic and emotionless.

Then again, in a more negative sense, he could be like Mr Prufrock, over anylzing every emotion until, finally, measuring out his life in coffee spoons he never acts on his emotion and ultimatly fails to do anything of consequence.

As for a personal interpetation for you, I think, and with regards to yesterday’s card, the reading would be that you’re putting too much thought into things and not taking enough action. It’s good to be in control of your emotions and passions, but sometimes you have to act on them and make rash decisions, otherwise you’ll never get anywhere. Sometimes it’s best to just grab the girl, stick your tongue down her throat, and then lift her with one hand onto the bed before making mad passionate love to her. Sure, you’ll most likely get a hernia from this, but if you sit around contemplating that for two long she’s going to end up with that sleazy best friend of yours (we all know your life is basically an eighties sitcom, there’s no sense in trying to hide that now :).

Ace of Coins

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The aces are so simplified and abstract they’re the hardest card to put into words. But they are the seeds of what’s to come, and here with the pentacles we have the seeds of the element of Earth, or the material world (and as such material gain).

As with all of the aces, we have the object being presented by a hand in the clouds, the hand of God, because as per Christian beliefs all things begin with God creating them and placing them into the world.

More interesting in the symbolism is what lies below the hand. Here we have the Garden of Eden, the first material created on Earth, and we have a path running towards the gateway of Eden, and through it lies the mountains.

At the same time, looking at the ace of swords, the seeds of knowledge, we have the barren mountains instead of Eden, and knowledge being what exiled man from the garden and into the harsh and barren world outside.

At the same time, the ace of pentacles is the spiritual aspect of the element of earth. Spirit is the original and all encompassing element, the divine, a part of the all or the source.

If we look at Judeo-Christian philosophies, Eastern philosophies, and even the pagan philosophies they tend to side with the idea that the material aspect of things and wanting material gain is a bad thing, or at the very least not a good thing, and is at the exact opposite of spirituality. Passion can be spiritual (as with art for example), emotion can be spiritual (love, compassion, ect.), and reason can be spiritual (the idea of the enlightened master or the scribing monk), but material gain is never spiritual. You can’t take it with you into the next life. Temptation needs to be removed. The truly spiritual man is a poor man and has evolved beyond a need for money. The material plane is the antithesis to the spiritual plane.

And yet the ace of pentacles tells us that all of this is untrue, and that’s it’s secret. Spirit is all encompassing, it exists in everything, even at the material level. Your spiritual path in this lifetime may very well involve the aquisition and enjoyment of wealth, and there is nothing unspiritual about doing that.

More disturbing is the man who claims enlightenment and yet turns away from the material plane of being. He is a man who has completely dismissed one spiritual aspect of this lifetime, and at the same time one has to wonder why he is incarnate if his path does not involve being a part of physical being.


Reading the Tarot Pips – Part 5: About the Aces

May 28, 2007

The aces deserve just a bit more detail than the other pips, but just a bit. Most works on the tarot will spend more time on the four aces then any other individual set of pip cards, and some now take this to mean that the aces are more important than the other cards. And its this same thought process that leads to the conclusion that the trumps are inherently more important to the deck than the pip or court cards. In reality every card is equally important in the deck, and absent a single card, regardless of which card it is, the entire meaning and form of the deck crumbles. Trump only tarot decks, even though they can sometimes lend further insight into the trump cards, cannot function as a complete tarot deck should. It would be like tearing a random number of pages from a book, and then expecting the information therein to confer the same knowledge as if the book had been read cover to cover.The only reason why the aces need a bit more time than the other pips is because they operate a bit differently than the other pips. In the same way each trump needs a very in depth individual explanation because the trumps operate on a much more unique and individual basis than the pip or court cards.

In the next few sections I’m going to deal with how astrology relates to the tarot pips and Paul Christians deacon method. However the deacon method only covers cards two through ten. The aces are absent. As we will talk about later, in the lower cards a greater purity exists, and as such the deacons hold less power over the card meanings. The greatest purity exists in the ace, and here the purity is absolute, nullifying any deacon that may be assigned to it.

The ace also acts as the connection between the pip cards and the court cards within a suit. Modern card games have taught us to perceive the deck in a way in which the ten naturally leads to the princess. Within the tarot though the actual suit order is king, queen, prince, princess, A, 2,3…10. Whether you want to look at the king as the highest or the king as the lowest card is all a matter of perspective.

I don’t want to get into too much detail about how the court cards connect to the pip cards here, because it would involve a new set of articles detailing the meanings of the court cards in order to fully understand it. To put it simply, the element would begin in the highest realm being represented by the King. Herein it would take on its fiery aspect. It would then move down through the other court cards gaining another aspect of each. The lowest of the four cards, the princess, exists in the heavens above Earth. Each of the four princesses are assigned one of the four quadrants from the North Pole. The aces exist on the earth itself, encompassing the ground beneath the heaven of its princess. Where the princess of a suit ends, the ace begins, and in this way the ace is said to be the throne of its princess (And the princess is sometimes said to be the throne of its ace. Brownie points to anyone who can explain why both sayings are correct, the answer’s hidden in this blog post). And to return to our original idea, the element has moved through the four court cards, gained all four aspects of itself, and is now born into being, represented by the ace which, as we discussed earlier, would represent the absolute beginning of its creation.

And as when we look at the four court cards as being four different aspects of an element (fiery, watery, airy, and earthy), the fifth missing aspect is represented through the ace (spirity). As we discussed earlier, spirit is a combination of the four other elements. One who understands how to read court cards properly would understand that the king of swords is the fiery part of air. In the same way, the ace of swords is the spirity part of air. If you don’t yet understand what all this means, don’t worry. This section is really meant for those who already have an understanding of the court cards.

As discussed above, each princess/ace combination has dominion over one quarter of the Earth. As per Crowley’s rough estimates of the quadrants, the Princess/Ace of wands would have dominion over Asia, Cups over the Pacific ocean, Swords over the Americas, and Coins over Europe and Africa.

Some interpretations of the pips put much greater emphasis on the symbolic nature of what they create than we have yet discussed. For instance the ace of swords is sometimes seen as great power which may be yielded for good or for evil. This is because the ace of swords is literally the seeds of knowledge. In the same way sometimes the ace of coins is interpreted as illusion since it represents the seeds of physicality or the material world, and in some philosophies the material world is seen as illusionary.

This pretty much covers everything that is going to be said about the aces for the remainder of these articles. I spent a lot of time and gave very little information about actually interpreting the aces in the course of a reading, but I think I managed to include some useful information that will help some better understand the aces and study them. The next article is going to be a quick review of basic astrology.


On the origins of the Tarot

May 5, 2007

A lot of people feel the need to give the tarot a mystical beginning. That it came from lost Egyptian knowledge, that it was originally intertwined with Kabbalism, that it contains lost Hindi information, that it came to Europe via the gypsies, that it was invented to transmit occult or witchcraft information, ect.

However the real origins of the tarot have been well researched by archaeologists and historians who have studied the history of playing cards. It may not be known exactly where and when the tarot was created, but we do have a fairly accurate idea of it’s beginning.

In the fourteenth century it was becoming popular for artists to use cards as a medium for their artwork, and several art decks were created in Europe for various aristocrats. Games would soon be adapted to fit these decks. And as printing technology advanced decks of playing cards became accessible to the lower classes.

The first tarot decks appeared in Italy in the early fifteenth century. Although the first decks may have been intended as works of art, it wasn’t long before the cards started being used in a trick taking game similar to bridge. It’s unknown when exactly the cards were first used for divination. There’s no direct evidence of divination in the first few hundred years of the tarot’s life, although cards were a common divinatory device of the time, and speculatively the cards could have been used for divination within just a few years of their creation.

This is the real origin of the tarot. There is no evidence of any other origin, and there is no valid argument that can be made in dispute of this (although, admittedly, my facts weren’t properly checked and there may be a few minor errors here and there).

Many devotees of tarot discover this and instantly lose faith. Some stick their head in the sand and try to make believe that it isn’t true. And some critics use these facts to dispute any validity the tarot may have.

The best argument against this is the one made by Crowley. As a practical tool the tarot works. As a divinatory tool, as a meditative aid, as a means to transmit esoteric knowledge, we get verifiable results from the tarot when it is used properly. As for its origins, it really doesn’t matter where it came from, so long as it works.

But Crowley doesn’t get into how or why tarot works, just that it does and that should end any dispute. To begin with, age and origin isn’t very important when talking about truth. In Christianity, all things originate with God in the beginning, and so it’s common to view anything new as inherently wrong. Unfortunately many people who aren’t Christians, including many who call themselves Pagans, still can’t transcend a Christian perspective of things. Truth is. Age doesn’t make something more true, and youth doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be true.

Secondly, the tarot is just a medium, like a book. When we look at the origin of the tarot, we’re looking at the origin of the medium itself, not the origin of the occult tarot. Just like a book, anything can be put inside of the tarot. It can be meaningless, it can be a work of art, or it can be an enlightening spiritual work.

Taking this into account, there’s no longer anything that ties one tarot deck to another. At best, we can say that two decks are bound by both being spiritually true. But Crowley’s deck is no more like Waite’s deck than the Bhagavad Gita is like the book of Mormon. So with no common tie other than the medium, each deck has to stand on its own, with its own card meanings, and its own unique divinatory systems.

Yet we know this to be untrue. Different aspects of the truth can be seen in Crowley’s and Waite’s decks, yet the actual meanings of the cards remain the same. The Devil is still the Devil, the Two of Cups is still the Two of Cups, and Lust is the same as Strength. Meanwhile page 15 of the Bhagavad Gita is completely different than page 15 of the book of Mormon. So there has to be something more tying together every tarot deck, or at the very least every true occult tarot.

The common tie between the occult tarot decks is a single definitive deck. I use the term deck here very loosely and usually it is referred to as a book, but once again that term is very loose. This deck is what is sometimes referred to as the Book of Thoth. This is the complete, accurate, and unabridged tarot. Every portion of the deck contains infinite knowledge, but the deck itself cannot be completely transmitted into this world. The deck also transcends language and symbols, and so even if it’s known, it can’t even be properly communicated in this world, and it exists here only in translation.

All occult tarots transcend from this one definitive tarot. The tarots differ because it’s impossible to make a copy of the true Book of Thoth, so they end up as the author’s interpretation of the true Book of Thoth. Crowley interprets certain cards differently than Waite. Sometimes Crowley focuses more on one aspect of a card where as Waite will focus moreso on an entirely different aspect. Sometimes they’re trying to say the exact same thing, just in two completely different ways.

But regardless of whose deck you’re using, the Two of Cups is still the Two of Cups, and the meaning is exactly the same, because both cards are an allusion to the one true Two of Cups that exists inside of the one true deck. And the divantory meaning of the Two of Cups remains the same regardless of the deck when we divine from the source rather than the current interpretation.


Reading the Tarot Pips – Part 4: Putting It All Together

April 7, 2007

Yeah, I’ve been putting this off. This section ends the first half of this article, and by the end of this section, with a little practice, you should be able to read the tarot pips just fine. The second half of this article is going to deal entirely with the astrological associations of the pip cards. Since a basic primer on astrology is required to understand that section, it requires a bit more parts than what we’ve talked about so far. But the astrological side of the pips is a bit superfluous and is most useful when looked at as a compliment to the elemental-kabbalistic associations of the cards. The second half of the article will help you gain a better understanding of the pips, but the first half is all that is actually necessary.

Here we’re going to talk about putting together everything we’ve talked about so far, starting with the elements. The tarot suits each correspond to one of the elements:

Fire = Wands, Sticks, Staffs
Water = Cups, Chalices
Air = Swords
Earth = Coins, Discs, Pentacles

The associations of Water and Earth are almost never disputed. A cup is an object which holds water, and the element of Water is very much tied into the symbolism of the cup. Earth is associated with the material world and wealth, something symbolized by the coin.

There are, however, some disputes about the associations of Fire and Air, and some tarot decks have been designed to correct this supposed error in the older Fire=wands association.

To begin with, the element of Fire is associated with raw will. Within ritual magick, the will of the practitioner is represented by the wand. Likewise the sword, in ritual, can be used to cut through the air for a variety of purposes, thus giving it an associated. As a weapon, the sword is an elegant weapon that swiftly and through intelligent design slices through the opposition. The wand, used like a club here, is a simple weapon of pure brute force. Swiftly sticking a blade through a man’s chest is an airy attack. Pushing a blunt stick through his chest is a fiery attack. And lastly, a wand is a piece of wood which can easily be set on fire like a torch, thus giving it yet another associated with fire. Unless you’re a biblical angel, you aren’t going to be able to do this with a sword.

The counter argument to this associated consists almost entirely of the idea that fire burns, ergo fire must be signified by swords because they are a weapon.

Now that we got that out of the way, we can start to look at how we determine what a card means. We do this by crossing our associations. We look at the suit to determine what element is represented by the card (see part I), and we combine that with what is signified by the number on the card (see part III).

Each number and element is limited to only certain ideas, however the ideas contained within each number and element is infinite, and likewise the number of ideas contained within each card are both limited and infinite. In other words each card has a lot of meanings.

If our goal is to look at the card, to understand it, to meditate upon it than we can choose to look at it in both a very broad perspective that covers all of its various aspects or we can look at it in a more limited perspective and try to understand what it means in regards to single specific aspect contained within it, and everything in between these two extremes. If we’re using the tarot for divination, however, ideally we want to know exactly what the card means. On the metaphysical side of this we can utilize intuition, channel meanings, and read the energy on the cards. On the physical side we use the context of the reading to determine what is meant by the card. We look at what the question was, the other cards in the spread, the meaning of the card’s position in the spread, and what we already know about any of the parties involved in the question.

Determining the exact meaning of a card is the more difficult part, and something that can only be truly learned through practice. However the more a person understands the cards and their meanings and associations, the easier it is to find their meanings in the context of a reading. At the same time reading tarot forces the reader to focus so greatly on precise meanings of the cards, and allows them to do so inside of a context, that at times the reader will discover meanings that they otherwise would have missed, and a much greater of understanding of the complete card is obtained.

Now that everything’s been said the lesson is pretty much complete. Contained within these first four parts is everything a reader needs to know in order to begin understanding and reading the tarot pips. All that’s left to do are some examples of putting these meanings together. Most tarot books will give meanings to various cards and expect the practitioner to work backwards from there. Instead, with these examples, I’m going to take one of the more specific ideas associated with the element and show how it moves through the ten numbers. This isn’t meant to be a complete divinatory key for any suit, but rather a look at one very specific idea moving through the ten numbers.

To begin with we’ll take an easy idea, romantic love as represented by the cups. Please note that, dependent upon the question and spread, any of these cards can represent things of the past, present, or future. The verb tense contained herein is meaningless.

A – Here we have the foundation, the point from which everything else will spring forth. This can represent the beginnings of a romance, or the events that led into a romance. It can be something as simple as asking someone out on a date for the first time to a complex chain of fifty events that ended in two people meeting each other.

2 – This is love’s purest form. It’s love at first sight. Soulmates coming together. It exists without reason or thought. It simply is, and its strong and powerful. This is the emotion at its most base and uncompromised. This is the what the sappiest of music and poems tries to express, yet the fact that it has been thought about and communicated has tainted it beyond this purity.

3 – In number three it is realized that love exists, and so love becomes idealized. This is what is talked about in the sappy poems and songs. This is, ‘I’ll love you forever, I want to always be with you, I would die for you, ect. ect.’ It’s also in three that sacrifice becomes associated with, and often mistaken for, love. In its purity love simply is, it’s only after the existence of love is acknowledged that sacrifice can logically be equated with love. In truth this isn’t necessarily the case, it’s the act of believing it that makes it so.

4 – Love, as represented by the four, is childhood crushes and first loves and the like. It’s what we think of as love before we ever fall in love. It’s untested and it exists because we haven’t yet experienced actually falling in love. Yet because we have so little experience to go on and there isn’t an outside force acting against this ideal of love these crushes can be very strong and intense.

5 – And here we have five, which is our outside force. The five represents any force which could threaten to end a relationship between two people. Outside affairs, temptation for outside affairs, families not getting along, one person getting offered a job 300 miles away, ect. The five can represent the end of the relationship, or it can just represent a threat to a relationship.

6 – Six is love in its most balanced and perfect form. This isn’t the raw and overpowering love of 2, the overly idealized love of three, or the simple crush of four, and it has survived and proven itself stronger than the obstacles of five. It has taken on the strongest aspects of each of the previous numbers and cast aside the weaknesses. This is the calm and harmonious yet strong love that can last forever.

7 – Seven is the possible end result of the perfect love of six. It’s been without opposition, it has achieved the highest possible state that it ever will, and in the end it’s led to stagnation and boredom within the relationship.

8 – And eight is the opposition to seven. It’s massive change, either in a desperate attempt to save the relationship or end it. It can mean changes within the relationship, experimentation, trying to spice things up, counseling, whatever. It can also mean affairs with other people. Alternatively seven can be seen as the reaction of losing the perfect love of six. Here seven deals with depression and sloth, where as the opposition of eight is being jaded and closing oneself off from future emotional connections.

9 – The nine is about compromise, and here we have compromise of love. This isn’t soulmates coming together in two and this isn’t spending your life with your most perfect mate as in six. This is giving up on those things and instead settling for someone who you enjoy, who makes you happy, and who you think will give you a happy life. It’s a very positive form of love, a lesser form nonetheless.

10 – And here we have the collapse of love. Tens deal with endings, so obviously this deals with a love affair coming to an end. Where as the 5, 7, 8 can mean an ending, they can all also mean things which can be overcome. The ten is the ending itself. If it’s a future event, it can obviously be altered, but the meaning of the card itself holds. But there is an exception. In the ten the idea collapses on itself, and this leads directly into eleven, which is the seed of a new idea, which immediately becomes a one. In this way the ten, in addition to being a card of endings is a card of transition (note: if we look at trumps XII, XIII, and XIV in succession we see that ending and transition are deeply intertwined, but since this article doesn’t deal with the trumps, I’m not saying anymore about that). The ten can mean an evolution of love. Perhaps the intense love of two will burn out but form the calm and more sustainable love of six, or the crush of four will evolve into the love of nine or even six. When reading the cards like this though one has to be careful to read the cards as they lay, and not to try to put an optimistic maybe in there. That way lies to madness and the horrible misinterpretation that have been made of the Death card. Sometimes the Death card means someone is going to die. That is the most literal meaning of the card.

Looking at the ten as transition we see that love can evolve. We’d expect it, since the numbers represent an evolution of our idea from one to ten. A two can become a six or a nine. A four can become a six or a nine. A six can become a nine. But can it evolve backwards too? Can the compromised love of a nine ever achieve the perfect state of six? Can the perfect state of six ever achieve the raw and pure state of two?

These questions aren’t rhetorical, and I’m not about to answer them either. But they do have answers. And even if you never do figure out what the answer is, you’ll still get a prize for trying.

Okay, now let’s try another one dealing with cups, but we’ll try to go through it a little bit faster.

A – Once again we have a foundation. This is the seed that will eventually grow into getting laid. This is not the act itself, but something that brings it into being.

2 – Here we have pure sex. This is animalistic and instinctual. There is no thought or meaning behind it. Whatever’s having sex isn’t even aware of what it’s doing, it’s just doing it.

3 – And with the three we have a realization that sex is happening. We know there is such a thing as sex, that it is pleasurable, and we can anticipate it happening and long to bring it about to receive pleasure. We can also assign it things. We can associate it with love. Sex can now be viewed as a beautiful thing, or as a dirty thing. It can be something we’re proud of or ashamed of. The point is, we realize it’s happening and it can be assigned meaning.

4 – This can be looked at in a few different ways. This can be great sex, great only because the person hasn’t yet experienced better sex. For example if you only ever had sex for five minutes at a time in the missionary position, you could conceivably see it as the greatest thing in the world. On the other hand it could be subscribing to certain views of sex, for example the idea that sex isn’t meant to be pleasurable for women.

5 – And here we have the outside force. The obvious idea is anything that stands in the way of someone having sex, be it moral views, religion, society, or a father who owns a shotgun. This can also be something that shatters a previous view of sex. A realization of homosexuality, sexual experimentation, ect. And of course there’s the more simple meaning of impotence, abstinence, and castration.

6 – Wow! I think everyone has an idea of what this represents. If you think of the best sex you’ve ever had, it might’ve been a six, but it probably wasn’t.

7 – And with seven we have overindulgence. This can refer to things like kinks and orgies and multiple partners, or it can just refer to regular sex with the same person, but way too often. In any case Crowley named this card Debauchery, and this is why.

8 – And here we have the extreme opposite of seven. Where as seven is debauchery, eight represents sexual repression. Sex in all its forms are viewed as sinful, destructive, harmful, immoral, ect. Instead of overindulgence we have abstinence.

9 – And after everything we end up here, back at compromise. This is two people getting together to pleasure each other. It may not be the greatest sex ever, it may not be about love, but in the end everyone leaves a little happier than if they hadn’t.

10 – And here we have sex collapsing upon itself. This can refer to a very bad sexual experience like rape or molestation that traumatizes and forever changes, possibly kills, a person’s sex drive. It can also mean going into a state of abstinence, either intentionally or unintentionally. It can mean getting screwed over in an early sexual relationship and not wanting to have sex again.

Okay, let’s move into another element and look at knowledge as represented by the swords.

A – This is the foundation of knowledge, the seed. This is actually what is. Knowledge is an abstract. It takes something that is and it turns it into something that can be understood, pondered, and cataloged. The seed of knowledge is the thing that is before its made abstract. For example, a bear would be a seed, but when we call it a bear and catalog its shape as being a bear, it becomes knowledge and is no longer a 1.

2 – This is absolute truth. It’s knowledge which is pure and untainted, the most simplest form of knowledge.

3 – This is the state supposedly achieved by Adam and Eve right after eating the fruit, which according to that myth brought about sorrow, thus the card is sometimes named sorrow. In any case this is the knowledge that knowledge does in fact exist. And once you know it exists, it becomes tainted, and it’s no longer absolute truth. But it can now be pondered and thought of and given names. It also becomes more complex. And where all knowledge is attainable in two, once three is reached it will eventually lead to the realization that one will never know everything (another reason why the card represents sorrow).

4 – The four is ignorance. It’s having an absolute truth that is only an absolute truth because the idea has never been challenged.

5 – Five is opposition to an idea. It is the force which acts upon the paradigm and brings about the paradigm shift. At times it’s also a force that acts upon a paradigm and is destroyed by it. And sometimes it is the paradigm itself acting against an idea that exists outside of it. It deals with a loss of faith or having ones beliefs brought into question and possibly destroyed. It can be a very negative card in terms of having one’s entire world view taken away. But it can also be a positive card representing new ideas and inventions or enlightenment.

6 – Here knowledge has been formed, it has been challenged, and it has survived those challenges. Crowley calls this card science, and this is why. The card extends beyond the limits of just science though. And it is the closest one can get to finding absolute truth outside of two.

7 – Seven is knowledge becoming so overly abstract and complex that it becomes very difficult to ever obtain. At this point knowledge becomes useless, because it is too complicated to ever be understood, or if it can be understood it is too abstract to have any bearing on real life. We see an example of this in the field of modern physics. Not too long ago the field of physics became so complex that no one person could realistically master it. At this point the field of physics collapsed (that would be the ten), and from that spawned two separate fields, theoretical physics and experimental physics.

8 – This is the reaction to seven. Here we have an oversimplication of knowledge, a dumbing down of knowledge, or a pure revolution against or hatred towards learned individuals.

9 – And then we have the compromise of knowledge. Psuedointellectulism exists here. Truth is entirely lost, as is application, or at the very least these things no longer matter. What matters is people being smart, or giving the appearance of being smart. This is the place where people use big words. It is the place of contemplation sans reason. This is also where complex questions get easily understood and simple answers. Such as ‘Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people’ being answered with ‘The lord works in mysterious ways’, along with any other complicated question concerning God. In fact the knowledge of nine deals largely with everything having answers that can be looked up, and that these answers be obtainable by everybody. Public schools are usually built here :)

10 – And here knowledge collapses under its own weight. It becomes so complex it can no longer be understood, or so abstract it no longer matters, or so dumbed down it has become useless.

I was hoping to do at least two more of these, one for Fire and one for Earth, but I’ve spent a real long time on this already. Maybe I’ll get around to adding to this post in the next few days. If anyone wants to try to do one themselves, feel free to post it here. If we get good ones for Fire and Earth, then I won’t have to do them :) But feel free to use whatever idea you feel comfortable doing regardless of the element.

As for the second half, it’ll probably be some time until I get around to doing it. I really need to get a better outline on what I’m doing there and I need to put some ideas together. Honestly astrology has never been my strongest subject. These posts are also turning into a lot more work than I originally thought they’d be, and I kind of need a break. On the plus side though, about 95% of the information is in the first four articles, and you can read the pips just fine with the information you already have.


Reading the Tarot Pips – Part 3: Numerology 101

March 4, 2007

Okay, we’re going to talk about numerology, or what the numbers mean. As per our tarot pips, we’ll be looking at numbers 1-10. Each of these numbers corresponds to a Hebrew word and a sepiroth.

1 = Kether = The Crown
2 = Chokmah = Wisdom
3 = Binah = Knowledge
4 = Chesed = Mercy
5 = Geburah = Severity
6 = Tiphareth = Beauty
7 = Netzach = Victory
8 = Hod = Splendor
9 = Yesod = Foundation
10 = Malkuth = The Kingdom

The ten numbers are split into three triads and across three pillars. The first triad is Kether, Chokmah, and Binah, and these three come together to form Chesed. The second triad is Chesed, Geburah and Tiphareth, which come together to form Netzach. And the third triad is Netzach, Hod, and Yesod that come together to form Malkuth.

The three pillars are the pillars of Balance, Mercy, and Severity. Kether, Tiphareth, Yesod, and Malkuth exist on the pillar of balance. Chokmah, Chesed, and Netzach exist on the pillar of mercy. Binah, Geburah, and Hod exist on the pillar of Severity.

All of this is important, and it all has meaning if you study it long enough to understand it. But moving on, we’re going to look at how an idea passes through these ten points.

1. Kether – The first point is Kether. As stated before, this isn’t the true beginning, but where we’re starting with our idea. It also isn’t the start, but what came before it. Kether is represented by the statement of ‘I’. Kether is the seed, the first act through which all else comes into being. It is the foundation of the idea. Kether is where existence starts. Geometrically speaking, it is a single point existing by itself.

2. Chokmah – Chokmah is represented by the statement of ‘I Am’. After existence begins, the next step is being or existing. Here the idea is in its purest form. Chokmah is the purity of being, without any outside force hampering that being. Geometrically speaking, Chokmah is a line which can be drawn between two points.

3. Binah – Binah is represented by the statement of ‘I Know I Am’. In Binah the idea is taking the next step in existence and acknowledging that it does exist. It is the knowledge that one is something and that they exist. And through Binah we get the first impurity of the idea. It’s now effected by knowledge of itself. And this taint will manifest in various ways depending on what the idea is. Geometrically Binah provides three separate points, through which a shape can be made.

4. Chesed – Chesed is the completion of form. Once the idea acknowledges its own existence, it comes into the next step, the completion of its existence. In Chesed, the idea becomes complete for the first time. Although the idea is complete here, it is still alone and has yet to be put into the universe. Here the idea is strong and fortified, but that strength is only because the idea still exists outside of the universe, and so there are no other forces acting upon it, and no opposition to it. Geometrically Chesed provides a fourth point, allowing for a three dimensional object to form. Also, in order for a thing to be spatially defined, four points are necessary. An X,Y, and Z point, and a fourth point to observe it from. Within Chesed we have the true formation of being within space.

5. Geburah – And this leads to Geburah, in which outside forces act upon the idea.. In Geburah the idea is cast out into the cruel universe. Within Geburah we have opposition to the idea, we have attempts to both change and destroy the idea. And possibly we have the destruction of the idea.

6. Tiphareth – Tiphareth is the strongest and most balanced form the idea will take. Here the idea has been completed in Chesed, it has faced opposition in Geburah, and it has survived the opposition of Geburah and come out stronger for it. Tiphareth exists at the exact center of all things, being in the pillar of balance, being as close to Kether and Malkuth, and proving a direct connection to both. The idea has found its most perfect form (as opposed to its purest form in Chokmah).

7. Netzach – Within Netzach is the consequence and the end to the perfection found in Tiphareth. Within Tiphareth things were perfect and all opposition was destroyed. Without opposition, the idea becomes less than perfect. At this point we have stagnation, sloth, boredom, and over-indulgence. The idea starts moving towards destroying itself through the sloth of perfection.

8. Hod – Hod is the reaction to Netzach. In order for the idea not to be destroyed, in order for it to survive and thrive again it has to make some changes towards the opposite direction. However Hod isn’t the return to balance, but the exact opposite extreme of Netzach. Hod moves towards its own destruction to, and it is as bad a situation as Netzach, it’s just done in the exact opposite way.

9. Yesod – By joining the two extremes of Hod and Netzach together we come to Yesod, the return to balance. However Yesod differs from both Kether and Tiphareth. Kether’s balance comes from it existing alone. There is nothing else, so it is always at the exact center. Tiphareth’s balance is naturally occurring. Balance is the natural state of all things upon reaching Tiphareth. But the balance of Yesod is forced into being. It comes not as the natural state, but by taking two opposite extremes and forcing them together, coming to a compromise between them. We can look at the four stages of balance as being balance (Kether), perfect balance (Tiphareth), imperfect balance (Yesod), and natural balance (Malkuth). We can also look at the balance of oneself and one’s energies (see Lies a Kabbalist Told Me for some background information on this). In Malkuth we have the natural balance brought about by existing in the universe. The idea that all things within the universe are always perfect and balanced. In the next stage we have Yesod where balance is achieved by positioning two opposites with equal force and having them pull against each other. In Tiphareth, we have energy balanced and codified, where it acts as a single force. And finally in Kether we have balance achieved through a complete oneness with the entire universe, which as we said with Malkuth is already perfectly balanced.

10. Malkuth – Finally, born of Yesod we have Malkuth. In Malkuth the idea has finally completed its cycle. In Malkuth the idea has become so complex that it has collapses under its own weight and destroys itself. This will lead into our eleventh point.

11. Kether – From the ruins of Malkuth springs forth a seed. This seed will act as a new Kether, and the 11 becomes renumbered as 1, and the cycle begins again, with the idea building upon the complexity of the previous cycle in a new cycle. This act continues on and on with the idea becoming more complex every time it completes a cycle. Eventually we have the formation of the universe, the all of creation, and everything that has come into being up until now. And the cycle will continue on with the universe constantly growing and everything evolving into a more complex state.

I understand that everything I’ve written may seem very complicated, and that some people may be very lost at this stage. However I think everything will become a lot clearer once we take some examples of ideas and look at how they progress through the ten sepiroth. That will be the main purpose of the next section. We’ll also look at how everything fits together, and briefly we’ll look at how the pips correspond to the trumps. After the next section you should be able to read the pips just fine. The second half of this will look at astrology and the method used by Paul Christian and the Golden Dawn.


Reading the Tarot Pips – Part 2: Basic Kabbalah

February 18, 2007

The Kabbalah is a complicated subject. It basically discusses the creation of life, the universe, and everything. And as such it has to take abstract concepts that can’t fully be comprehended and bring them down to something resembling a human level. The end result is a system that can be studied for a lifetime, or even thousands of lifetimes, and still not be fully understood. And even if you did understand it, you could never really manage to impart that understanding to someone else.

This, on the other hand, is a short post dealing with the Kabbalah. The Kabbalah itself is intertwined into all aspects of the tarot, but for our part what we’re really concerned with is how the Kabbalah relates to the pip cards. So we’re going to keep this short and sweet and only cover what we absolutely need to in order to understand the next section. But a deeper study of the Kabbalah will certainly aid in understanding the tarot.

The Kabbalah itself is part of the Jewish religion. According to Kabbalistic beliefs, the Kabbalah was the spoken word of God, as passed down by Moses but originally given to Adam (the historical view on the subject places its origins at a much later date). There are many books written on Kabbalism, but the three major books are the Sepher Yetzirah, Sepher Bahir, and the Sepher Zohar.

The Sepher Yetzirah is almost mandatory reading when dealing with the tarot. The best English translation is the one by rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Be careful of the various occult translations (especially Mathers). Most were done by people who had very little understanding of the Hebrew language or Kabbalah, and the text is often mangled. Kaplan also made a translation of the Sepher Bahir. The Sepher Zohar is much longer than the other works and has never been fully translated into English (although I did hear about Oxford working on a very expensive full translation at one point).

Back to the history lesson. Many of the Jewish sects have since abandoned Kabbalah completely, or have lessened its important within the faith. However some sects still do practice Kabbalah and it is still taught by some rabbies. But Kabbalism has also expanded outside of Judaism. The Kabbalistic works were picked up in Europe, mostly by Christian mystics, and the concepts ingrained into occult theories. Rosicrucian beliefs are largely centered in Kabbalism, and the ideas have spread from there into almost all aspects of magick, including the modern neopagan religions.

And all of this leads up to a theory concerning tarot. At one point in time, due to lack of understanding both the history of European art and Egyption hieroglyphs, that the tarot originated in ancient Egypt. It was believed that the older Egyption society had a wealth of esoteric information that had become lost in modern times. And the tarot was supposedly a fragment of this information. And it was believed that the Kabbalah did in fact originate with Moses, except that it wasn’t given to him from God, but taken from the Egyptians and then preserved as another lost fragment of this information. And so a correspondence was created between the tarot and the Kabbalah that exists even today, long after the Egyptian origins of the tarot have been disproven.

Now there’s a thing called the tree of life. The tree of life is a diagram that was created to help visually explain some of the Kabbalistic concepts. The tree itself consists of ten points, known as sephiroth, and twenty-two paths connecting those points. These ten sephiroth, and twenty-six paths, represent the entirety of creation. By understanding how the tree of life works, we understand how the universe was created. But it isn’t just how the universe is created. It shows how everything is created, how it grows, and how it ends. Anything can be put into the tree of life.

Our ten points correspond to the first ten Hebrew numbers. The twenty-two paths correspond to the twenty-two Hebrew letters. The twenty-two paths deal with the tarot trumps, and that’s not what we’re concerned with here. So instead we’ll be looking at the ten points.

The first point is Kether, but Kether isn’t the beginning. Rather, Kether is where we start, because we need to start somewhere. But there is stuff that lies before Kether, and stuff that lies before that, and so on and so on. There is no true beginning, that we know of, to start at. And so we pick a point in the middle and go from there. That point is Kether.

Now the next nine points are created in succession after Kether, first the second point Chokmah, all the way down to the last point, Malkuth. And when Malkuth is reached, the universe is created. But, the universe was also created instantaneously. All points appeared at the same time. As soon as Kether appears, so does Malkuth, and all points in between. There is no delay Kether existing and Malkuth, yet at the same time the points come in succession and one point cannot come in existence without the preceding point.

To help explain this idea there is the lightning bolt diagram. Basically it compares the process to a lightning bolt. When a lightning bolt comes, it’s all at once. Its top appears as soon as its bottom. As soon as there’s the beginning, there’s the end. Yet we know logically that a lightning bolt begins in the sky, and moves downward eventually hitting the ground. This of course is just a metaphor. We know scientifically that a lightning bolt does not come all at once in any way, and the appearance that it does is an optical illusion brought about by the high speeds at which it moves. The points do come all at once, and they do it in succession.

As said there are ten points, and in order they are Kether, Chokmah, Binah, Chesed, Giburah, Tiphareth, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malkuth. Each of these points is infinite, and yet limited. That is to say that each point goes on for infinite and holds an infinite amount of things, and yet no point holds all things, each only holds certain things.

The idea is best described mathematically. There are an infinite amount of numbers between 1 and 2. 1.1, 1.23, 1.4566743, ect are all between 1 and 2. Yet 3.1 isn’t between 1 and 2. It’s between 3 and 4 (and there are also an infinite amount of numbers there). Infinite things, yet limited and not all encompassing.

And that’s all that needs to be known to get into the next section, Numerology 101, where we’ll discuss the meaning of the ten points and how creation moves through them. But I did say in the last section that I’d discuss the duality of the universe to a greater degree here. On greater reflection, it helps to understand the tarot in general, but isn’t a necessity to understand the pips. Still, I did say I would.

The universe exists as a duality. All things come in twos with everything having an opposite. Male/Female, Good/Evil, Life/Death, ect. Even the ten sephiroth have the ten qlippoth, and each is a necessity for the other two exist. That’s because in the beginning, out of the nothing came a something, and then there were two things, a nothing and a something. From these two things spawned everything else, and so all things exist in these pairs. Even the four elements are a take on this. It’s just that you have the original pair that start, Fire and Water, and the later pair that are spawned from them, Air and Earth.

But there are five elements. And the world isn’t so black and white. There’s not only gray, but there’s stuff that can’t even fall into the color spectrum. It’s because the universe doesn’t really exist as a duality. It sort of does, because, as said before, there was the something and the nothing. But there’s something else too.

The nothing wasn’t there first. It could only come into being when it’s opposite, the something, existed. The same goes for the something, it can only exist when the nothing also exists. This is the first duality, and so the universe turns on this principle. But as I said no one knows the true beginning of things, and the something and the nothing are not it. So what was before the something and the nothing? Something else entirely, and something that doesn’t turn on a duality. And the heritage of this something else is still intertwined into this universe, and it’s the third thing that creates the triplicity under which all things exist.