Rota Mundi Tarot author Daniel E. Loeb on Tarot, Judeo-Christianity, and alchemy.
The Arcanum Sapientiam Deum (Secret Wisdom of God,) has always been partially concealed, and as in alchemy, the holy is separated from the profane. The Apostle stated,
“We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages… (1 Corinthians 2:7).”
The Mysteries (Arcanum) of God are only made known to seekers (Deuteronomy 4:29), and the secret wisdom is hidden from others by parable (Matthew 13:11). The secret wisdom is revealed in dreams, visions, and riddles (Numbers 12:6-7), and even if published openly, minds clouded by parable are unable to see behind the veil (2 Corinthians 2:16-17, 4:3). The glory of God conceals a matter, and it is for the glory of kings to seek it out (Proverbs 25:2).
When Ezra recounted Moses being given the Torah (teachings) on Mount Sinai, he wrote, “these words you shall publish openly, and these you shall keep secret (2 Esdras 14:6).”
This refers to the written and oral versions of the Torah; the concepts and the additional information needed to comprehend them. Even the name of God is kept secret and treated as holy; so that those who do not put in the effort to seek God, will not know what they worship (John 4:22).
When Moses first spoke with God at the Bushing Bush, he was told, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me you’ this is my name forever (Exodus 3:15).”
Although this passage is usually translated using the word forever’ the Hebrew spelling of that word in Exodus 3:15 does not include the Hebrew letter Vav after the Ayin that would cause it to mean forever, but without the Vav it leaves the root of the word that means to hide or conceal. The verse could also be read as, ‘this is my name to be hidden/concealed.’
The 3rd Commandment given to Moses on Mount Sinai was not to treat the Holy Name with emptiness/worthlessness (Exodus 20:7). The name is to be treated as holy and is not to be profaned (Leviticus 22:32, Matthew 6:9). To conceal the Holy Name, anytime the Name of Four Letters (Tetragrammaton) is written in the Bible, it is replaced with the word LORD written in all capital letters. During prayer, The Name is replaced with the word, Adonai (Lord), and in common speech (profane situations) – or when written in a non-holy works – the Holy Name of God is replaced with the word HaShem, which in Hebrew means The Name.
Throughout history, those entrusted with these secrets have concealed the holy mysteries while enduring thousands of years of persecution. Alchemists concealed their secrets in symbolism and spoke in riddles. They proclaimed that the Philosopher’s Stone was everywhere and was in plain sight, but people could not see it because they did not recognize its true value.
Kabbalists likewise guarded the secrets they received (Kabbalah) through their mystical practices and contained their teachings to small groups of disciples who sought an understanding of HaShem beyond the dogmas of mainstream society and governmentally imposed religion.
The Occult (Secret/Concealed) included secret sciences practiced among several different cultures, who due to persecution, fear, superstition, and prejudice had to keep their practices secret/hidden (occult). All these cultures intermingled, and their theologies and philosophies mixed and blended together. As an alchemist separates the gold from the dross, the seeker of mysteries must extract the wisdom that is mixed in with the folly. Even among alchemists there was disagreement concerning the theologies associated within their symbolism.
The Rosicrucians were a secret society of Judeo-Christian Mystics who made their presence known in Germany at the beginning of the 17th century CE. They sought to inspire a spiritual reformation, while clarifying/separating what they believed to be the great spiritual truths contained within alchemy from those they considered to be the works of profane unholy gold-makers. The original Rosicrucians order released three Manifestos in 1614, 1615, and 1616 CE. The first was
- Fama Fraternitatis (Fame of the Fraternity) which described the travels of their mythical founder Christian Rosenkreutz and the creation of their order. The second publication was the
- Confessio Fraternitatis (Confession of the Fraternity) which describes their beliefs, and their third publication was the
- Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz, which provided a parabolic expression of their teachings and theosophies.
The Rosicrucians practiced alchemy and Kabbalah and professed to possess the secret wisdom obtained by Christian Rosenkreutz when he traveled to the hotbeds of those philosophies in order to gain firsthand knowledge from their sources. Christian Rosenkreutz is said to have traveled to Damascus where he learned the great wonders of nature at the same location where Muslim alchemist Khalid of Damascus (635-705 CE) practiced the techniques referenced in the Aurora Consurgens (1250 CE). From Damascus, he went by way of Sinus Arabicus (the Red Sea) to Egypt and from Egypt to Fez.
When Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, they crossed the Red Sea, and he received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.
Fez and Egypt are the locations where the famous codifier of the Oral Torah, Maimonides (1135-1204 CE) spent his early and later years; so, by traveling this route, Christian Rosenkreutz went through the areas were the Written and Oral Torah was received and codified. From Fez, Christian Rosenkreutz traveled to Spain, which was a hotspot of Kabbalah. It is where Azriel of Gerona (1160-1238 CE) defined the
- Ten Sefirot (Emanations of God),
- Jose ben Abraham Gikatilla (1248-1305 CE) authored the Sha’ari Orah (Gates of Light), and where
- Moses De Leon (1240-1305 CE) wrote the Sefer Zohar (Book of Splendor).
Egypt is also where Mary the Jewess invented devices and wrote some of the first alchemical texts sometime within the first and third centuries CE. By visiting these locations, Christian Rosenkruetz studied secret wisdom at their birth places and/or at key locations of their development.
The Zohar is a major work of Kabbalah, which was written near the end of the 13th century. It was first printed on August 4, 1558, but since Christian Rosenkruetz (1378-1484 CE)
is said to have traveled to the area, he would have been able to obtain firsthand knowledge of it. He brought the secret wisdom he acquired during his travels back with him to Germany, where it was buried with him in a vault with seven corners/sides (Proverbs 9:1). His crept was opened a century later by the Rosicrucians who released the three Manifestos to the world.
As handwritten scrolls gave way to printed books, occult knowledge became more accessible to the masses. Following the printing the Zohar in 1558, this form of Judeo-Christian mysticism was also studied by Christian mystics such as Heinrich Khumrath (1560-1605 CE), and the Zohar was a major influence in the development of Lurianic (1535-1572 CE) Kabbalah among the Jews of Safed Palestine.
In the field of alchemy, Paracelsus (1493-1541 CE), Doctor John Dee (1527-1609 CE), Basilius Valentinus, and other pseudonymous and/or anonymous authors each contributed obscure and misunderstood formulas and theologies to the field, which the Rosicrucians sought to correct and clarify.
In the Fama Fraternitatis, the Rosicrucians expressed the belief that if the previous philosophers had lived during their time, that they would have abandoned their erroneous doctrines and embraced the light of truth. At the same time, they also believed the world was flooded with misinformation regarding alchemy that was produced by frauds, charlatans, or those who were only concerned with gold making. The Fama Fraternitatis discusses their intent to launch a spiritual reformation. However, regardless of their willingness to illuminate the world, they continued the practice of teaching in parables, symbolism, and they kept their identities secret.
Although they were living in Germany following the Protestant Reformation, it was still a dangerous time to express the heretical ideals the Rosicrucians professed.
A key aspect of Rosicrucianism is their belief in the Divine Feminine, which was in accordance with the divine mysteries studied by the group.
The Aurora Consurgens (13th Century) was an anonymous alchemical text that portrayed the Woman Wisdom as the Holy Spirit. In the Fama Fraternitatis, she is the ROTA of the Rosicrucians, who came into existed when God spoke, Fiat (There shall be Light). In Kabbalah, the Divine Feminine is referred to as the Shekinah (Divine Presence) and is the helpmate and consort of HaShem (Proverbs 8:30).
The Orthodox Christian Church had been portraying the Holy Spirit as male entity ever since they translated the Septuagint into Latin. In Latin, Spiritus is grammatically male, while in Greek, Pneuma is neuter, and in Hebrew both the Ruach (Spirit) and Shekinah (indwelling presence) are female. In the Lurianic Kabbalah, the Divine Feminine concepts associated with the Shekinah in the Zohar were adapted into the practice of welcoming the Sabbath Bride (Kabbalat Shabbat), which made its way into all branches of Judaism.
The Divine Feminine (Proverbs 8:22) is referred to in all three of the Rosicrucian Manifestos, and she plays multiple key roles in the Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkruetz. The first two Rosicrucian Manifestos discuss the formation of the group and describe their beliefs, but their third and final Manifesto provides a parabolic expression of their teachings and theology.
The extent and influence the original Rosicrucian order had on the development Tarot Marsaselles (1709 CE) is unknown, because the Rosicrucians were a secret society whose influence was behind the scenes. However, regardless of their earlier influence or usage of the Tarot, in his Elements of the Kabbalah, Magician and Christian Deacon Eliphas Levi (1810-1875 CE) openly declared that the ROTA of the Rosicrucians was the Tarot and that they knew it well. Expanding upon that premise, later Rosicrucian orders such as the Kabbalistic Order of the Rose and Cross and the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn continued to refine the Occult Tarot.
The efforts of Rosicrucians such as
- Joseph Paul Oswald Wirth (1860-1943 CE),
- ‘Papus’ Gérard Anaclet Vincent Encausse (1865-1916 CE),
- Stanislas De Guaita (1861-1897 CE),
- Samuel Liddell Macgregor Mathers (1854-1918 CE), and
- Arthur Edward Waite (1857-1942 CE)
each contributed to the development of the Occult Tarot. They honed and embedded their esoteric philosophies into the symbolism of the Tarot, cumulating it into a complete system of mysticism through the efforts of A. E. Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith (1878-1951 CE).
The Rider-Waite tarot deck (1909 CE) embodies alchemical, Kabbalistic, and occult symbolism the likes of which Waite did not even disclose in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot (1911 CE). The Tarot was originally a card game that was referred to by different names such as Trionfi, Tarock, or Tarocchi, but when the Rosicrucians started developing it, they consistently referred to it as the Tarot – a name that was significant within their symbolism. The occult reasons for the continued Rosicrucian usage of the term Tarot also stems from a concept expressed by Eliphas Levi.
Levi connected the ROTA of the Rosicrucians with Guillaume Postel’s
Absconditorum a constitutione mundi clavis, qua mens humana tam in divinis (Secret of the World’s Key, the Human Mind is so Divine),
which had the letters TAROT written on an image within it. Levi incorporated that design into his Wheel of Ezekiel (1896), and Papus developed it further in his Absolute Key to Occult Science (1892). A. E. Waite incorporated the Tetragrammaton (HaShem) and the TARO/ROTA in his Wheel of Fortune card, which is shown on Path 21 of the Rota Mundi Tarot: the Rosicrucian Arcanum.
At the center of the Wheel of Fortune (Rota Mundi) are the Tetragrammaton (Four Letter Name of God) and the letters T A R O, which when read clockwise from the T spells Tarot, but when read clockwise starting from the R it spells ROTA (Wheel). When read counterclockwise (from right to left – as Hebrew is read) it spells TORA, which connects the teachings (Torah) given to Moses with The Name of God (HaShem) that is also written around the wheel when read in the same direction.
For the Judeo-Christian Mystic, the Tarot is the Wheel or Rota of HaShem. When the Torah is described in Hebrew it is written as ToRAT MoSHeH, which is translated as the Law/Teachings of Moses. If these English transliterated letters are read from right to left (as Hebrew is read), it would read Tarot HaShem. The Torah of Moses is the Tarot of HaShem. Eliphas Levi believed the Tarot was a modern replacement from the Urim and the Thummim (the ancient divination oracle of the Jews), and that the suits of the Tarot represented the items contained within the Ark of the Covenant. The Rosicrucians consulting their ROTA could be compared to the High Priest of the Tabernacle entering the Holy of Holies to seek guidance from the Shekinah.
The Rota Mundi Tarot: the Rosicrucian Arcanum, which is being released on July 27, 2021 by REDFeather, is a tribute to the efforts of the above Rosicrucians, Kabbalists, and alchemists of the past, whose combined efforts produced the Occult Tarot we use today. The Rota Mundi Tarot shows the alchemical and kabalistic connections within the Rider-Waite tarot, which otherwise could only be understood by studying Waite’s other works, and/or by comprehending the theosophies these Rosicrucians espoused. The first 32 cards in the Rota Mundi Tarot shows these connections, which are based on the 32 Paths of Wisdom of the Kabbalah.
- The Major Arcana and the pip cards in the Suit of Wands encompass the 32 Paths of Wisdom.
- The remaining cards in the deck examine the Arcanum Sapientiam Deum (Secret Wisdom of God,) by exploring historical images taken from original alchemical, Kabbalistic, and Rosicrucian texts, or Rosicrucian inspired images made by philosophers such as Robert Fludd (1574-1637).
- The Suit of Pentacles reveals geometric shapes concealed within the Tree of the Sefirot (Kabbalah), and
- Suit of Sword incorporates the pattern provided by Papus in his Absolute Key to Occult Science (1892 CE) for assigning divinatory meanings to cards (tarot or otherwise).
The field of mysticism and the Arcanum Sapientiam Deum is not limited to any religious sect. The Rosicrucians envisioned a worldwide spiritual reformation taking place among any worthy seeker. Mysticism describes a personal relationship and experience between the mystic and HaShem, which for the Rosicrucians begins with the Chymical Wedding; the union of the Red King (Soul of the alchemist) and the White Queen (Spirit of Wisdom). The Chymical Wedding was not invented by the Rosicrucians, it was the focus of the Aurora Consurgens, and its foundation goes back to fifth-century alchemist Olympiodoros who compared the alchemical procedures to the union of Adam and his wife. In the final Rosicrucian Manifesto, the Chymical Wedding and the teachings of the Rosicrucians were expressed in a parabolic tale where Christian Rosenkruetz recounts his own union with the Divine Feminine.
The secrets of God, the Occult, and the Tarot are not for everyone. Even within the translated scripture of Protestants and Catholics the name of God remains concealed. Most people within the mundane world are not even interested in these topics, and those who are must wade through piles of dross to extract a small amount of gold that is hidden within it. The intent of the Rosicrucians was to make the trustworthy elements of this hidden wisdom available to those who seek it. The Rota Mundi Tarot; the Rosicrucian Arcanum plays tribute to these mystics and presents the mysteries they embedding within the Tarot to a new generation of seekers.
About the Author
Daniel E. Loeb (D.W. Prudence) is a scholar, occult author, and spiritual mentor who wrote while working in public service. He retired after serving 20 years in the US Air Force and is now a full-time author and instructor on topics related to Kabbalah, alchemy, and the Tarot. In 2018, he authored the AlcheMystic Woodcut Tarot: The Secret Wisdom of the Ages. He believes in peace, justice, and freedom. Loeb is a Jewish family name of German descent; it means “lion” and is a reference to the Tribe of Judah. Kabbalah and Rosicrucianism are in his blood and have been the focus of his studies for many years. He is a husband and the father of four. His present goal is to aid others in understanding the mystical concepts he has a passion for, and to empower his readers in their own spiritual endeavors.