Biography of Pamela Colman Smith


The Symbolique of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz


A twentieth century alchemist and master of things esoteric was a Frenchman named René Adolphe Schwaller de Lubicz (1887-1961), who was also known by his hermetic name of "Aor" (light).  He devoted most of his early life to the study of European occult systems and also spent 15 years in Egypt studying the art and architecture of Pharaonic Egypt.  To de Lubicz, the words "symbolique" and "symbol" communicate two entirely different concepts. In his book entitled Sacred Science (at page 120), de Lubicz tells us the following:

The symbolique includes imaged writing as well as gestures and colors, all aimed at transcribing in a functional manner the esoteric significance of a teaching whose inner meaning remains inexpressible by any other form. “Symbolique” and “esoterism” are two words not often correctly understood. What can be said clearly and described objectively has no need of symbol. What is visible, tangible, or objective, however, can hold an irrational or an esoteric idea. This aspect of the object demands a symbol which can sometimes be replaced by parable.

Irrationality is not to be understood here in the mathematical sense, as for example, the “root of two,” or the number corresponding to the coefficient pi. These are numbers that never find their term, fulfilling only a geometric function: the diagonal of a square and the diameter of the circle; they are only mathematically indefinable. This is not esotericism, nor does it contain an inner meaning such as intuition alone can apprehend.

The situation is different when one speaks of the original “Trinity,” of the “divine Trinity”; Catholic dogma says “Three persons in One,” which is also irrational and unimaginable, an abstraction which the triangle can symbolize. Here there is symbolique. It pertains to an unobjectifiable fact and a creative function at the same time. Hermetic art often and in different forms evokes this original state, more especially by the word “chaos.” It can therefore be said that the symbolique is the means of evoking the intuition of a function which eludes rationalization; it therefore applies only to theogony, to theology, to sacred science, in fine, to knowledge of a world of causes.

In my opinion, the images on the cards of the Major Arcana of the Tarot were originally intended to constitute a symbolique progression describing the human soul's initiatory path to higher states of consciousness. The main purpose of the Waite-Smith Tarot was to modify the traditional tarot images so that this esoteric meaning would become clearer to a properly educated, modern seeker of higher consciousness.

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