Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 19, Vol. 2. Autumnal Equinox 2010
Two on the Tarot
Paul Foster Case, the founder of the Builders of the Adytum (BOTA) and a former initiate of the American Alpha et Omega (one of the offshoot orders of the Golden Dawn), was one of the most influential adepts in the occult field during the Twentieth Century. He continues to be influential during the Twenty-first Century as well through the numerous books that he published on various topics, but his real contribution was in the area of the Tarot.
Each of the books in this series, The Golden Dawn Tarot Series, is the instruction course offered by Paul Foster Cases’ School of Ageless Wisdom from the early 1930’s. The first volume in the Series, Wisdom of Tarot is the more basic of the two works - giving the student the overview and beginning levels of what Case taught in the School of Ageless Wisdom. The second volume is more advanced and detailed in its study of the tarot as revealed through the School of Ageless Wisdom’s course.
The material in these volumes pre-date Case’s tour de force, The Tarot, A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages by a nearly two decades, but through the material presented in this publication of his tarot course it is evident the direction that Case was moving. It also shows the basic structure of the way that Case was looking at the tarot and how to interpret the cards.
What the Rosicrucian Order of the Golden Dawn has done is to republish this material for the benefit of those students that wish to better learn the techniques that Paul Foster Case taught in his correspondence courses. These two volumes and the two volumes in The Golden Dawn Alchemy Series represent the complete correspondence course that Case gave out over many years to those members working through the course.
The material of the course is faithfully reproduced in a manner that is easy to read and study. Part of this is the writing style of Case, but part of it is that the publisher has gone to great care to clean up diagrams and material from the original course so that it is better able to be studied. Case, as he often did in his writings, gives a lot of in depth material, insight and key words or phrases in each of the lessons presented. This aids the student with comprehension and retention of the material presented.
Some of the ideas presented by Case are clearly influenced from Theosophy, but since Theosophy had a great impact on the esoteric community of that time (and previously), it is no wonder that Case utilizes some of their ideas. The students of the 1930’s certainly would have been more familiar with some of these concepts than today where Theosophy does not exert the same amount of influence it once did on esoteric studies. The language used in the volumes can be a little dated, but a modern reader must remember that these courses were written in the 1920’s and 1930’s, so to expect some of this.
The second volume of this series, Tarot Revelations, goes into a very detailed study and course of working with and learning the tarot. This volume goes into the Tableau of the Tarot and how it is applied in the course work. There are meditations given in the relation to daily work with the various Keys or Tarot Trumps throughout this more advanced course. Between the Tableau and the meditations, the overall key to studying the tarot as devised by Case is fully laid out here.
These books represent practical, let me repeat, practical, instruction into the study of the tarot. The two volumes should be utilized together to get the full benefit of the course as presented here. The first volume, Wisdom of Tarot should be worked through initially before moving on to the more advanced work presented in Tarot Revelations.
The question arises, are these books useful in today’s esoteric studies, especially in relation to the tarot which has so many books all ready? The answer is a resounding YES! These two volumes are representative of much of the foundational tarot material that has been published in the latter half of the 20th Century and early 21st Century. It certainly is foundational to the later work of Paul Foster Case and his BOTA, and his influence on esoteric studies. While the language may be a bit dated in places, it is still extremely useful and insightful as a means for studying the tarot.
I highly recommend that both these volumes be, not only on your bookshelf, but utilized, studied, and worked through to gain a better understanding and working knowledge of the tarot, especially the trumps. These are work books not just some book to read from cover to cover, but something to be actually worked through as a practical course of study. Here is the complete course as Case taught it in the 1930’s and it can only aid the modern student in their understanding, use, and practice of tarot.