The Book of Hermes according to Papus
Who was Papus?
Papus – real name Gérard Encausse – was one of the most important esotericists of the nineteenth century.
He was a doctor, a Freemason, and is still remembered today as one of the greatest occultists who ever lived.
Perhaps no other researcher dedicated his life more to the study of esotericism and occultism – with absolute self-sacrifice – or explored these aspects of the Tarot more thoroughly.
What is the Book of Hermes?
The Book of Hermes is a volume or series of volumes – of divine origin – that were apparently written and left on earth, containing the ultimate knowledge and the solution to all enigmas and mysteries. This knowledge, however, was apparently hidden in the libraries of ancient Egypt and was eventually lost.
The “Book of Hermes” is often considered the same thing as the “Book of Thoth” (ancient Egyptian deity, often associated with the god Hermes, that is, Hermes Trismegistus).
Why is all this important?
Because since the nineteenth century, there has been a belief that this highly sought-after book has finally been rediscovered: it is the Tarot!
Therefore, according to this belief, the Tarot is actually a picture book that encapsulates universal knowledge.
The personalities who contributed most to this identification of the Tarot were Antoine Court de Gébelin and Eliphas Lévi, but it was Papus who left us one of the most exhaustive treatises on the Book of Hermes and its meaning.
Meaning of the pages of the Book of Hermes
The Book of Hermes is deliberately cryptic and not easy to decipher. Here is a good starting point to begin seeing the Tarot from this perspective: the meaning of the “pages” of the Book of Hermes according to Papus.
- Arcanum 1 – The Magician. Man, as well as God, must always take action. He must aspire to the heights (to science), but must work to achieve success in the material world.
- Arcanum 2 – The Popess. The way of Truth shall be opened to the initiate who approaches the temple willingly. But pay attention to the path you will take, and let yourself be guided by the light of justice.
- Arcanum 3 – The Empress. If the Empress appears for you, you can hope in the success of your endeavors. Provided, however, that you can combine your fertile intellect with righteous actions.
- Arcanum 4 – The Emperor. Nothing can resist a firm will. Fighting for what is true and right is not so much a right as a duty.
- Arcanum 5 – The Pope. Evil and good are always with you. And their voices can be heard only by your conscience.
- Arcanum 6 – The Lovers. Vice will always attract you more than virtue, pay close attention to your decisions. But in any case, decide, because hesitating between two minds is always worse than a bad choice.
- Arcanum 7 – The Chariot. The Chariot represents work successfully completed, smashing through any obstacles you encounter. Take control of all the elements and face the future fearlessly.
- Arcanum 8 – Justice. The future is always balanced between good and evil. Don’t forget that every action you take will always involve a reaction. Therefore you must always anticipate and prepare to handle the backlash.
- Arcanum 9 – The Hermit. Caution is the armor of the wise man. Always use it, even for the smallest things.
- Arcanum 10 – Wheel of Fortune. Destiny is always ready to strike, depending on how its wheel turns. Remaining at the top of the wheel is not easy.
- Arcanum 11 – Strength. The emblem of strength that humans derive from self-confidence. To be able, you must believe that you can.
- Arcanum 12 – The Hanged Man. Sacrifice is the divine law, from which nobody is exempt. But do not expect any thanks for it in this world.
- Arcanum 13 – Death. Earthly things do not last very long, including life. It is only by becoming spiritualized that we can create a second man, the celestial man.
- Arcanum 14 – Temperance. Symbol of the perpetual movement of life, and its infinite natural combinations. It tests your strength, and like water, will wear down even the hardest rock, drop by drop.
- Arcanum 15 – The Devil. Symbol of fatality that suddenly strikes down. You cannot consider yourself wise if you have not understood and accepted the role of fatality.
- Arcanum 16 – The Tower. Rivalry often leads to ruin for everyone. Accept all the trials that misfortune places before you as a test that God has set for you.
- Arcanum 17 – The Star. Whatever happens in your life, you must never crush the flower of hope. Hope is the sister of Faith.
- Arcanum 18 – The Moon. Darkness envelops the spirit when one allows instincts to take over. Remember that hidden obstacles are far more terrifying than those clearly visible.
- Arcanum 19 – The Sun. Beware that the light of mysteries is quite terrifying: it enlightens those who know how to direct it, but it burns up those who ignore its power or abuse it.
- Arcanum 20 – Judgement. The ascent of your soul is the reward for the trials it has undergone. Be wary of prosperity, and hope in suffering.
- Arcanum 0 – The Fool. The man enslaved to the material world is destined to crash to earth. His bundle is full of his mistakes and his faults.
- Arcanum 21 – The World. The level of power that the initiate can reach is limited only by their intelligence and wisdom.