Tarot Key 0 The Fool
Hebrew Letter Aleph
The wisdom of God is foolishness unto men…
In Transformational Tarot and Alchemy The Fool begins and ends our journey of self realization
I like to think of Tarot as an alchemical vessel where all sorts of combinations and potentialities are made available to each of us; each card gives us a level of consciousness or a state of being in which we can connect to our essence, talk to our soul and rescue parts of our true Self.
What can we do with a fool and a zero? This card is assigned to the first letter in the Hebrew alphabet, Aleph, which is also the first of the three Mother letters (the other two are Mem and Shin, keys 12 and 20 of the Major Arcana). Aleph is also a word meaning “ox.” So, now we have a Mother letter, an ox, a zero and a fool. Let’s see what alchemical combination we come up with.
It is through the Mother letters that one enters the greater mysteries, since they are supposed to be the roots of the Tetragrammaton, the Yod He Vav He or divine name Jehovah that we see printed on the white garment around the neck of BOTA’s version of The Fool. In fact, by going back and forth between the numeral values of the Hebrew letter (1) and the Fool’s card (0), we end up with the monad and the no-thing, the one and the zero, the ten, the egg that encompasses creation, the ourobouros or snake biting its own tail (another key symbol in Alchemy). The Fool is the energy that lifts us back to no-thingness, the primal sound, the prima materia or “first matter” that the alchemist starts with and subjects to all sorts of operations and amalgamations.
In Qabalah and the Tree of Life tradition, the Fool is assigned to Air, to Ruach the Life Breath, guided by the Limitless Light as seen in the white sun behind the BOTA version. Here we have the 11th Path of the Scintillating Intelligence which connects us to the primal impulse of creation. This is Aleph the ox, the primal energy that launches us on our spiritual journey and which Lawrence Kushner describes as the most primal sound there is: “Aleph is the first letter. … It has no sound. Only the sound you make when you begin to make every sound.” For me Aleph is the primordial letter of creation at the mystical level. It is not only the letter beginning the first of God’s 70 mysterious names, Elohim, but also the sound we make at every AUM that we evoke in our prayers or meditation.
Of course, at a basic interpretive level, in a reading The Fool could signal foolish acts. But, then again, what is a foolish act? Sometimes the most foolish actions are the most meaningful because of the lessons learned and because their execution comes from hidden or neglected parts of ourselves. And besides, who are we to judge or measure foolishness in anyone’s actions? At some point in our life this might be the card that our soul calls for, when the image of a fool or a clown jumping into the unknown or abyss alludes to the magical transformation that we are searching: having no expectations, being open to the world, ready to take the full and inspiring plunge of being and becoming.
I don’t know how many of us associate the Major Arcana with their corresponding Hebrew letters or take the time to connect to their mystical tradition. For starters, the few decks that include the letters usually place them to the side, in a corner, like a footnote or an afterthought. Yet, the moment an ancient symbol like this is imprinted on a card and we consciously acknowledge it, the wisdom of the symbol as well as its mythical or symbolic message are made available to us. There is so much information to gather from one card, let alone from a spread, that we are often reluctant to spend more time giving the client another layer of symbolic meaning, fearing that we are becoming too esoteric in our interpretation. Yet, every time I connect consciously with the Hebrew letter assigned to an Arcanum while doing a reading, it signals the need to add this level of meaning. And, it never fails to open a world for the client. Somehow, this was the clue that was missing to round up the message from Spirit.
Recently, while re-reading a book by Carlos Castaneda, The Active Side of Infinity, I took out The Fool to meditate on the book and the symbol of the abyss. I found myself asking: "What is my stretch?” Am I willing to jump into the abyss, to acknowledge and consciously live on the active side of infinity? It is much safer to stay on the other side… But then, the other side is the side of non-action, non-daring. It is staying in limbo, allowing things to happen to us, keeping safe, away from scintillating intelligences that might trick us into doing the unthinkable.
Castaneda would remind us that growth happens when we are being pulled “out of our syntax,” out of our everyday reality and are forced to listen to the voice of Spirit. This is when we face the unknown fully, when we tap the higher consciousness in the simplest and most common actions of our lives. This is the kind of action that requires an act of sorcery; the conscious commitment to continuing our journey through the “dark sea of awareness.” In the I Ching this would be the act of entering the Ghost River and the willingness to undergo complete transformation. For, unless we do the foolish act of meeting the active side of infinity or of entering a ghost river with open arms and smiling, we are not really willing to accept our own divinity.
Copyright © 2005 - 2008 Yolanda M. Robinson, PhD
Carlos Castaneda, The Active Side of Infinity, New York, Harper Collins, 1998.
Aryeh Kaplan's Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation, is an excellent source to understand the mystical and magical aspects of the Hebrew letters. If we consciously apply these meanings to the twenty-two Majors, it significantly augments their alchemical qualities.
Lawrence Kuchner, Sefer Otiyot: The Book of Letters. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1990.