In the Thoth Tarot (1), the Fool has both feet planted unfirmly in the air – falling, or perhaps rather leaping, into manifestation. In conventional packs the Fool generally retains one foot on the earth, the other poised to take the fateful leap into the abyss. In this as in other respects, artist Frieda Harris and author Aleister Crowley took a different approach. According to Lon Milo DuQuette (2) Crowley thought of the Fool as “the Nothing we refer to when we say ‘Nothing created God. Nothing is beyond God. Nothing is greater than God … In essence, there are not really 22 trumps, there is only one – the Fool. All the other trumps live inside (and issue from) the Fool.” That’s why the Fool is 0 rather than 1. Crowley himself wrote (2) that “the Fool is the negative issuing into manifestation, its purpose accomplished, ready to return”.
I use Tarot images as contemplative tools and the Kabbalist schema as a valuable map. But it is not the territory and I treat the system as a suggestive and inspiring means of furthering my contemplative inquiry. Only timelessness is timeless, and whilst Kabbalah may point to the timeless, it is itself the product of a complex history, just like alchemy and the other ingredients of the Thoth Tarot.
What attracts me to this Fool is his world-enabling negative capability. As a cosmic creation myth, I like the idea of Emptiness finding a pathway to Wisdom (Hokhmah) as the first act of descent down the Tree of Life. In my universe both Hokhmah and Binah (Understanding) are aspects of Sophia, who is both our cosmic mother and the guiding archetype of human evolution, drawing us beyond the perils of mere knowledge.
Beyond the card itself I am left with a reflection on the relation between Wisdom and Emptiness. If we are climbing up the tree, then the Fool offers a path from Wisdom to Emptiness. The Goddess willingly points us even beyond herself, perhaps reminding us of a true nature in which we are both everything and nothing. Fools, one and all.
(1)Aleister Crowley & Frieda Harris (1983) Thoth Tarot Deck Stamford, CT, USA: U.S. Games Systems Inc.
(2) Lon Milo DuQuette (2003) Understanding Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot San Francisco, CA, USA: Red Wheel/Weiser LLC