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I have owned this book for quite some time and have referenced it often. It generally seemed to make sense in terms of understanding Tarot meanings and a basic foundation of learning Kabbalah. But recently, I find myself re-reading it in depth to access it better, but now find I do not agree with it as blindly as I once did.
I once thought Papus (Gerard Encausse) was a pupil of Eliphas Levi, however, researching more, I realize that was not the case, but rather he was heavily influenced by Levi, and you can see that in Papus' writings. Levi wrote romantically, while Papus attempted a more serious or even "scientific" approach to the Kabbalah.
This book was translated by A. E. Waite, and he does not scrutinize Papus in the way he did Levi, perhaps, because Papus wrote without any vagueness or utilize poetic devices to capture his meanings. In my opinion, Tarot of the Bohemians serves as a sloppy translation to 'Dogma and Ritual of High Magic' peppered with Theosophy and other ideas from his order of the Martinists. The result is, what I feel, one of the best laid out structures of learning the Tarot via the Kabbalah that I could find today.
Most Tarot books seem to just get to the meanings of the cards and assert no justification of where the meanings come from, and this probably irks me more than anything about Tarot books. Papus starts from the seed of all things based within the Hebrew letters, specifically starting with the YOD, the sperm of all that follows. After spelling out the Tetrgrammaton and explaining its attributions, he would apply numbers to them and the positions would have their meanings until we understood clearly how 1, 2, 3 and 4 all have their part with YHVH.
Then we get to what is called "Theosophic Reduction and Addition". This is simple math that any 4 year old should be able to do. 1+2=3. Yet, Papus attributes meanings to these to help develop the symbolism. So Theosophic Reduction is done simply, if you have a number, say, 10, then to reduce it is to simply add the 1+0=1. Easy enough. So a reduction is, to my understanding to reduce the value to less than 10 to have a single number, and furthermore, to reduce it to 4 or less as all numbers are made up from the 1 (even 4, which is 1+2+3+4=10=1+0=1). You might be wondering what I did. If you missed it, well, Papus sometimes meanders over points thoroughly from chapter to chapter, while other stuff he seems to skirt through fairly quickly. Theosophic Addition is to extrapolate the number from 1 to the number in question. So 4 becomes 1+2+3+4. The answer is not 10, but 1 because he reduces the 10. I am not sure why he does this, and he does not answer for large numbers like 26, which equals 340. So am I to reduce this? 3+4+0=7. Then do I add this? 1+2+3+4+5+6+7=28=2+8=10=1. Ok. It all seems to work. But when you play with numbers in this manner, it seems like you can get lost with no apparent rhyme or reason. It becomes busy work for the mind. If I decided to take 26 and just reduce it as 2+6=8, then add that as 1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8=36=3+6=9=?? If you take 9, add it, it gives you 45, so, now you are in a loop of 9's. If anyone understands this better and I missed something, please step forward and explain it to me. I feel I have understood it well enough to take it at face value and move on.
Ultimately, what you need to know is that 4 and 1 are the same, in that 4 becomes 1 both mathematically (as explained above) and symbolically, as 4 becomes a transcendant number that takes the place of 1. So, for instance, the card Ace, two, three, the fourth card is a mirror of the Ace, but in lesser form. So the card is a transition card from one plane or world to another. And when you have gone through the cards, it leaves with the 10 card, which is the transition card to the next suit. And final suit card (the 10 of coins), becomes the transition card to the Major Arcana.
Whether you agree that the Trumps come first or the Minors are, more or less, irrelevant, but rather the the system that Papus builds up is a logical one and can be followed well enough.
Papus is thorogh and goes over his points again and again, so by the time you are done with the Minor Arcana, you have a pretty solid understanding of what he is getting at. It can be confusing at times because it breaks down into multitudes of groups of 4's stemming from the original YHVH. So yes, it is a different approach from the modern traditional mapping onto the Tree of Life, the 10 sephira. Papus does not even attribute the four elements, which is surprising considering Eliphas Levi emphasized those well in his book.
When he gets into the Major Arcana, similar explanations come through, with the exception these are done with terniaries, or Triads rather than Quadrants. But the premise is the same, the fourth card is the transition card. So you would have Magus, Empress, High Priestess as your triad, and the Emperor becomes the transition card to the next realm.
His Tarot attributes leave a little to be desired in the way of his describing of symbolism. His organization at this stage does not come across as clean or as well developed as the previous part of the book. Following the Major cards, he explores more of the cards as a totality. Then some articles from Stanlislas de Guaita, and Ch. Barlet, along with applications of the Tarot and various other symbolism.
In sum, I find the book value in its basic principles of building up a symbolic foundation for the Minor cards specifically, and perhaps to draw some base ideas for the Trumps, but ultimately, the writing is never interesting or has a narrative that draws you in. Contradictory to the organization he placed on learning of the Kabbalistic Tarot, the book itself needs better organization.
Being as it is, the book has been an influential piece in the history of Tarot and Papus has made a major contributions in both occultism and Tarot that you cannot ignore it entirely.