mutational alchemy tarot • lo shu spreads

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 The Lo Shu Diagram is the oldest known example of a “magical square” in the world, despite parallels to it in other places such as the Key of Saturn from ancient India and others. Briefly defined, a magical square is any squared arrangement of numbers that add to the same sum vertically, horizontally and diagonally. The Lo Shu Diagram dates back as far as 5600 years by some estimates and we apparently don’t really know who actually discovered it. It comes down to us in the form of a myth, following several prominent versions, depicting the mysterious appearance of a tortoise from the river Lo which carried upon its back a curious set of markings, which, upon inspection, revealed a numerical super-symmetry, thus deemed magical for its unexpected qualities. In some versions of this story the credit is given to Fu Hsi (also Fu Xi) for its discovery though we have no actual reason to assign it to him in fact. What we do know is that Fu Hsi was so impressed with this magical arrangement of numbers that China itself was subsequently structured around its underscoring principle, with the heart of the empire seated at center surrounded on eight sides by powerful Lords and Houses, each representative of one of the eight primary trigrams flanking the outermost edges of the Lo Shu Diagram itself.

lo shu river diagram
lo shu river diagram

Aside from making it possible for us to integrate the Lo Shu invocation into our card reading, even inexperienced readers very soon develop intuitive understandings of what the eight principal trigrams mean so that it can be useful to us to have access to this information while attempting to sort out an answer to our various inquiries.  The trigrams are very distinct with their own personalities, natures and so on. A card that lands in Chen (heaven) will have a very different meaning than if it had landed on K’an (the abysmal, water) for instance. Skillful readers make use of these kinds of distinctions. Another advantage of working with the Lo Shu is the readers ability to draw cards according to their proper positioning within the magickal square itself. This gives us a kind of insurance that our reading is a technical invocation complete with sigil or anything else that the Lo Shu has to offer us. 

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Trigrammal attributions taken from the Wilhem Baynes translation of the (King Wen) I Ching. This is a very partial, albeit impartial list of attributions. A more comprehensive list can best be obtained by studying the I Ching cover to cover to get a better working sense of how the trigrams interact with each other under a wide range of conditions.

(1) The Creative (Heaven): Kh’ien, father, cosmological yang, action principle, duration, time orientation, formlessness, energy rooted, conquest, overcoming obstacles, awareness

(2) The Penetrating (Wind): Sun, 1st daughter, atmospheric yin, air, wind, wood, sensitivity, responsiveness, intuition, assimilation, pervasiveness, growth, maturing, ripening, gentleness

(3) The Abysmal (Water): K’an, 2nd son, elemental yang, dark, formlessness, uncertainty, emotion, eros, lunar forces, cold, fluidity, painful exertion, deep, dangerous, hearing

(4) Keeping Still (Mountain): Kén, 3rd son, geological yang, steady, heaviness, stability, quietness, equanimity, concentration, solidity, resistance, inertia, perfection, completion

(5) Yin-Yang (Taichitu): similar in most respects to intelligence itself, the taichitu has no distinguishing characteristics but directs and coordinates all things both mind and matter.

(6) The Joyous (Lake): Tui, 3rd daughter, geological yin, reflecting, buoyant, lightness, gaiety, observation, intuitive vision, volatility, changeability, happiness, serenity, joy

(7) The Clinging (Fire): Li, 2nd daughter, elemental yin, clarity, clearness, discrimination, solar forces, elementary, visuality, cognition, clinging, dependence, visibility, eyes

(8) The Arousing (Thunder): Chen, 1st son, atmospheric yang, exciting, impetus, stimulation, impulse, vitality, mobility, fertilization, volition, exciting first movements, mobility

(9) The Receptive (Earth): K’un, Mother, cosmological yin, recessive principle, spatial orientation, surrender, material formation, devoted, serving, digestion

Other than the eight principal trigrams, there also exist the nine principal bigrams that form the core of the 729 ternary hexagrams. It isn’t necessary to have memorized the 729 ternaries in order to get a good Mutational Alchemy Tarot reading but having a copy of the Willhelm/Baynes I Ching on hand is definitely recommended. So is The Tai Hsuan Ching by Derek Walters (if you can find it!). Any other support materials that aid us in defining our basic layouts are equally recommended since divination is a projection skill at bottom such that the better grasp we have of our guidelines, the more accurate our readings will tend to be. Even a simple thing like deciding whether to emphasize trigrams or elements will impact the readings that we get. Neither choice is ever wrong but will mediate the type of information we get notwithstanding. So the key is to try to be as clear as possible right from the start how we will proceed and what system of symbols and key components we will employ at the level of interpretation. Whether we run with the Lo Shu, the Tetractys, The Sword and Shield or some other system not here discussed (astrological houses for instance) the choices we make right at the beginning will shape the answers we get. 

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(1) Fire: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yang of Heaven married to a Yang of Earth. Qabbalistic tradition assigns it to *Atziluth*, the first of the Four Elemental Realms emanating from Ain Soph (boundless nothingness) in the Tree of Life. It is an elder masculine force said to contain all of the four elements within itself. Its power is called *emanation* and typically corresponds to the faculty of *Will*.

(2) Sun: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yang of Heaven married to a Jen of Earth. It most closely parallels Fire but also contains abundant Air. In Vedic tradition it represents the Shiva principle in the relation of Macrocosm and correlates to the Vijnanamaya Kosha within the Five Koshas. Its power is called *discrimination* associated to the faculty of Intellect.

(3) Air: The Lo Shu defines this element as Yang of Heaven married to a Yin of Earth. It is a youthful masculine force with a strong ascending nature. Qabbalistic tradition assigns it to *Yetzirah*, the third of the Four Elemental Realms emanating from Ain Soph in the Tree of Life. Its power is called *formation* and it typically corresponds to the faculty of *conceptual abstraction*.

(4) Lingam: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yang of Earth married to a Jen of Heaven. It most closely parallels Air but also contains abundant Fire. In Vedic tradition it represents the Shiva principle in the relation of Microcosm and correlates to the Pranamaya Kosha within the Five Koshas. Its power is closely linked with alchemical *levity* (ascending life-force energy) and is associated with the property of *movement*.

(5) Akasha (Spirit): The Lo Shu defines this element as a Jen of Heaven married to a Jen of Earth. It is unique and sovereign within the 9-elemental system. All other elements emanate from it and collect back into it. It has no outstanding powers or faculties yet all powers and faculties are rooted in it. It binds, directs, coordinates and liberates both Mind and Matter. It is roughly equivalent to the qabbalistic *Mezla* (the influence of Kether) in the Tree of Life and corresponds to the Anandamaya Kosha within the Five Koshas, whose physical composition is defined as purest *Bliss*, or *Ecstasy*.

(6) Yoni: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yin of Earth married to a Jen of Heaven. It most closely parallels the element of Earth but also contains abundant Water. In Vedic tradition it represents the Shakti principle in the relation of Microcosm and correlates to the Annamaya Kosha within the Five Koshas. Its power is *physical sensation* associated to the 5 senses, linked to *primal mind* including both *instinct* and *intuition*.

(7) Earth: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yin of Heaven married to a Yang of Earth. It is a youthful feminine force with a strong descending nature. Qabbalistic tradition assigns it to *Assiah*, the fourth of the Four Elemental Realms emanating from Ain Soph in the Tree of Life. It is called the *world of making* where forms become physically *real*. Its properties are *stability* and *predictability*, allowing for reality to be a shared experience across all borders and boundaries.

(8) Moon: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yin of Heaven married to a Jen of Earth. It most closely parallels the element of Water but also contains abundant Earth. In Vedic tradition it represents the Shakti principle in the relation of Macrocosm and correlates to the Manomaya Kosha within the Five Koshas. Its power is called *separation* linked to the alchemical process of *distillation*. It links to Mind as a dispersive instrument making it possible for us to scrutinize differences.

(9) Water: The Lo Shu defines this element as a Yin of Earth married to a Yin of Heaven. It is an elder feminine force pervasive in all forms of life in this world. Qabbalistic tradition assigns it to *Briah*, the second of the Four Elemental Realms emanating from Ain Soph in the Tree of Life. Its power is called *creation* and it is often identified with Dualistic Mind on a universal scale.

These attributions are but a starting point in the greater defining of the 9-Elemental System of the Lo Shu Square, but should serve to set readers on a path of astonishing discovery that never abates once it has begun. We are witnessing the evolution of a legitimate physics of universal consciousness in all of this far in advance of anything makeshift religions could ever have produced.

m1thr0s

the mutational alchemy tarot: tetractys spread

PleiadesTetractys800px

The Shield & Sword spread (aka Celtic Cross) is generally best suited to examining outcomes where the Tree of Life spread is mostly geared to examining profiles. The Tetractys Spread is the one spread that is geared as liberally to either focus, yet is unfortunately the least understood and is almost never used by the vast majority of card readers. I would very much like to see this change because the Tetractys Spread is more than just a card spread. Coming to a fair degree of competence with this spread goes a long way towards establishing the so-called “Knowledge & Conversation” with one’s HGA (Holy Guardian Angel) or its exact equivalent. Magickal powers may come or go but the establishing of this working dialogue is something that never leaves you just when you might have needed it the most.

It’s best to begin by understanding the spread’s component parts: the monad (top row), the dyad (2nd row), the triad (third row) and the tetrad (final, fourth row). We can cast the spread in a variety of ways but these divisions always retain their unique identities. No one card can be identified as the “outcome card” in this spread but rather outcomes are assessed in lieu of all 10 cards acting together as one, the higher rows giving us additional feedback on the lower. This doesn’t mean we should avoid yes/no questions but rather expect that the tetractys speaks to us in its own way and it is up to us to learn that language well in order for our own accuracy to improve with practice. It has been said that it is impossible for the oracle to give us a false reading; rather our own limited interpretations get in our way. If we approach things this way we stand a much higher chance of coming away with a sense of satisfaction with the readings we embark upon. 

The Four Elements (mundane plane):
Aristotle defined the elements in the following way:

  • Fire is primarily hot and secondarily dry.
  • Air is primarily hot and secondarily wet (for air is like vapor, ἀτμὶς).
  • Water is primarily cold and secondarily wet.
  • Earth is primarily cold and secondarily dry.
    Though chiefly a memorization devise, his definitions have stood the test of time and are still used by modern card readers today. 

The following glyph demonstrates a qabbalistic slant on the four elements, flanked by the eight trigrams of ancient China:

PrintHere is a glyph that demonstrates personality types rooted in the four elements:

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One thing is apparent from this brief little discussion of elements thus far: there seems to be an unusually high degree of  disagreement over such a basic thing as the four elements! No serious student of the occult should let this stand in their way but rather press on until you reach a place of relative peace of mind with your own understandings. Despite the appearance of a certain amount of discord, this is all cosmetic and minor compared against the bigger picture which actually demonstrates a surprising degree of agreement on a grander scale. 

The Three Principles (planetary plane):
Salt (fixed, past), Quicksilver (mutable, present) and Sulphur (cardinal, future) constitute the three spiritual principles underscoring the four elements. Viewed as interactive forces, these amount to the Destroyer (salt), the Sustainer (quicksilver) and the Creator (sulphur) relating to our experience of time and change, of evolution and involution accordingly. 

The Two Seeds (ethereal plane):

The two seeds defined here as Luna and Sol are in all respects equivalent to Yin and Yang respectively. Together, with Unus Mundus we have the Three Gunas: Tamas (darkness, destructive, chaotic) on the Yin side; Rajas (passion, active confused) on the Yang side; together with Sattva (goodness, constructive, harmonious) uniting and completing them in the middle. 

The One Fruit (world soul plane):

Called Unus Mundus here we have what is called in the East Taijitu, or the balance of Yin and Yang together. We can also express this principle as the Tridosha or the balance of Yin, Yang and Jen properties balanced together as one. In any case we have an exemplification of purest meta-mind both preceding and completing all things. We have altogether left the realm of the mundane at this stage of no-thing-ness, yet all things remain intact held together in perfect love and will. 

Several noteworthy links on the tetractys spread:
https://web.eecs.utk.edu/~mclennan/BA/PT/D-tet.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetractys
http://www.telp.com/tarot/tetraktys.htm
http://www.tryskelion.com/tar_sprds_tetractys_spread.html

 m1thr0s