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Springtime Folly

Updated: Dec 31, 2022

As Winter fades and Nature stirs, it seems an appropriate time to muse on the Fool, for “The Fool stirs within all of us at the return of Spring ...”1 When we look at the Fool card we see that much of its symbolism draws on concepts traditionally associated with Spring. He is clad in green, the colour of the fertile earth. Behind him is the gold of the Sun, depicting the solar energy that begets and sustains all earthly life. At the centre of the card we see his loins depicted as the Sun, emphasising his fertile, solar nature. He bears grapes, symbolic of Bacchanalia and divine ecstasy, and his hornéd head alludes to such creative nature gods as Apis, Amoun, Zagreus, and Pan. These symbols bring to mind many springtime ideas: rebirth, fecundity, ecstasy, youth, newness, lustiness, and the like. The whole feeling of the card is one of joy, happiness, virility and enthusiasm. Being the first card of the Tarot, the Fool is all about beginnings. More specifically, he is the inspiration that begets beginnings. And, like inspiration itself, his appearance is always sudden, mysterious and inscrutable. The element attributed to the card is Air. This alludes to such qualities as emptiness, space, nothingness. And the universe is, quintessentially, Nothing. The vast majority of space is empty space, and what matter it does contain is composed of atoms that are themselves almost entirely empty. Hence the Fool is omnipresent. He is the Naught that is everywhere; all around, all the time. Yet our nature is such that we are rarely aware of this nothingness; the less significant “things” are what tend to occupy our attention. But when these things become worn out and exhausted – and “newness” is required – it is then that we more readily perceive the Nothing that was always there, the Nothing which in turn begets another Something.

Such is the emergence of Spring. The original life-force is spent; there is a lull, a sleep. Then suddenly, from within that silence, a joyful fecundity stirs and life bursts forth anew. In the natural world this cycle is not only annual but diurnal, hence the Fool also symbolises Dawn. More than this: he occurs in every moment of time – the Fool is the impulse that initiates every breath, every heartbeat, every cellular reaction. He is there at the new turn of every wheel within Nature. And within Nature are wheels within wheels within wheels.

Just as the Fool is the Beginning, he is also the End, and everything in-between. When we look at the Fool card we see many symbols about him, and these symbols refer to the other 21 trumps. Wheeling about his torso is the Caduceus of the Magus, the Light descending upon his head is reminiscent of the Priestess, the Dove is a symbol of the Empress, and so on. In other words, as the Fool is the beginning of all things, so too does he contain all things. The idea of Nothing, as it pertains to him, is not that of a dry, sterile vacuum. It is the pregnant silence of all that is yet to be. The number of the Fool card is Zero, and the glyph of that number is O, a circle. Of all the symbols that surround the Fool, the circle is the most dominant. Symbolically, the Circle represents such ideas as wholeness, completion, and unity. These ideas, in turn, correspond to the number One. Therefore the Fool is, simultaneously, both Zero and One.

The circle surrounding the Fool is threefold. This refers not only to the three forms of Zero (i.e. the triple-negative of the Qabalists) but also to the triplicity of the letter Aleph, the Hebrew letter of the Fool. Aleph represents the number 1, and when it is spelt in full – Aleph-Lamed-Pé – its number becomes 111. This Triple-One illustrates the idea of the Unity expressed as a Trinity. In this way the Fool is a glyph of the Holy Three-in-One, or IAO. (Consider also that the letters Aleph and Lamed together represent Hadit and Nuit conjoined2, and Pé demonstrates “... the quintessential quality of the Lord of the Aeon.”3 Hence these three letters also symbolise the central Trinity of Thelema: Hadit, Nuit and Ra-Hoor-Khuit.) The number Three in turn implies Six, for 1 + 2 + 3 = 6. Six is the number of the Sun – hence the emphasis on solar symbolism within the Fool card. (The number 111 is itself solar, for each line, column and diagonal in a six-by-six magic square adds to 111.) As the return of the Sun to our hemisphere coincides with the dawn of Spring, the colouring of the Fool card is primarily gold (the Sun) and green (the Earth). This hints not just at the intimate identity between these two heavenly bodies, but at how both are vehicles through which the Fool may bestow his holy inspiration.

When Hebrew letters are spelt in full, deeper mystic readings are implied. In this way, Aleph-Lamed-Pé can be interpreted as “Folly's Doom is Ruin”.4 Aleph is Folly (the Fool); Lamed is Doom (Adjustment); Pé is Ruin (the Tower). “Folly's Doom is Ruin” may sound negative, and indeed implies a warning against thoughtlessly indulging every whim and fancy. But inasmuch as the word “Ruin” refers to the Tower card, it implies particularly the idea of Emancipation. In a New Aeon context, this card can be seen as the forces of freedom razing the restriction of the slave gods. (The Tower is also, on a higher level, the ego destruction required for enlightenment. Note the Opening of the Eye at the top of the card: it is the Eye of Shiva, on whose opening the entire Universe – in this case the Ruach – is destroyed. This too is emancipation, but from the constraints of ego rather than of society.)

The Fool; Adjustment; the Tower. This sequence could be described thus:

1. Pure Spirit – “nothing” – becomes manifest, begetting action. (Initiation.)

2. A corresponding reaction in the universe restores Equilibrium. (Karma.)

3. Destruction results from the equilibration. (Attainment.)

This triplicity corresponds to the three stages of Nature: Birth, Life and Death. One is born (Aleph), equilibrium is then sought between “self” and “not-self” (Lamed), until finally both entities are annihilated (Pé). We also find a correspondence, therefore, with the Man of Earth degrees of O.T.O., which relate specifically to these three stages of existence. Indeed, the effect of every individual degree upon the candidate follows a similar process. We are initated (Aleph), our inner changes are compensated by changes in our outer environment (Lamed), and, as a result, we subsequently annihilate false aspects of self (Pé). And thus we Attain, for it is our falsehoods that prevent our inner Light from shining freely upon the world. When we consider this series as a revolving cycle, we begin to sense that it is not only a wheel but an ascending spiral – indeed, it is the process of evolution. And just as the Fool is able to renew the cycle of Nature from a more evolved plane each Spring, so too does the initiate move to ever higher states of personal evolution from the process of Initiation, Karma and Attainment experienced through each degree.

The Wheel turns anew. As Spring takes its hold about us, keep an ear out for the Fool. Although he is always around, he is especially perceptible at this time of year. Allow the Silence to inspire you, and be ready to consider new goals, new adventures, new loves. And fear not to let yourself go! Truth, laughter, lust: Wine's Holy Fool! Veil rent, Lewd madness is sublime enlightenment.5

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