Hebrew Letter  Aleph
The wisdom of God is foolishness unto men…

In Transformational Tarot and Alchemy The Fool begins and ends our journey of self

I like to think of Tarot as an alchemical vessel where all sorts of combinations and potentialities
are made available to each of us; each card gives us a level of consciousness or a state of being in
which we can connect to our essence, talk to our soul and rescue parts of our true Self.  

What can we do with a fool and a zero?  This card is assigned to the first letter in the Hebrew
alphabet, Aleph, which is also the first of the three Mother letters (the other two are Mem and
Shin, keys 12 and 20 of the Major Arcana).   Aleph is also a word meaning “ox.”  So, now we
have a Mother letter, an ox, a zero and a fool.  Let’s see what alchemical combination we come
up with.

It is through the Mother letters that one enters the greater mysteries, since they are supposed to
be the roots of the Tetragrammaton,  the
Yod He Vav He or divine name Jehovah that we see
printed on the white garment around the neck of BOTA’s version of The Fool.  In fact, by going
back and forth between the numeral values of the Hebrew letter (1) and the  Fool’s card (0), we
end up with the monad and the no-thing, the one and the zero, the ten, the egg that
encompasses creation, the ourobouros or snake biting its own tail (another key symbol in
Alchemy).  The Fool is the energy that lifts us back to no-thingness, the primal sound, the
prima materia or “first matter” that the alchemist starts with and subjects to all sorts of
operations and amalgamations.

In Qabalah and the Tree of Life tradition, the Fool is assigned to Air, to Ruach the Life Breath,
guided by the Limitless Light as seen in the white sun behind the BOTA version.  Here we have
the 11th Path of the Scintillating Intelligence which connects us to the primal impulse of
creation.  This is Aleph the ox, the primal energy that launches us on our spiritual journey and
which Lawrence Kushner describes as the most primal sound there is:  “Aleph is the first letter.
…  It has no sound.  Only the sound you make when you begin to make every sound.”   For
me Aleph is the primordial letter of creation at the mystical level.  It is not only the letter
beginning the first of God’s 70 mysterious names, Elohim, but also the sound we make at every
AUM that we evoke in our prayers or meditation.  

Of course, at a basic interpretive level, in a reading The Fool could signal foolish acts.  But, then
again, what is a foolish act?  Sometimes the most foolish actions are the most meaningful
because of the lessons learned and because their execution comes from hidden or neglected parts
of ourselves.  And besides, who are we to judge or measure foolishness in anyone’s actions?  At
some point in our life this might be the card that our soul calls for, when the image of a fool or
a clown jumping into the unknown or abyss alludes to the magical transformation that we are
searching:  having no expectations, being open to the world, ready to take the full and inspiring
plunge of being and becoming.  

I don’t know how many of us associate the Major Arcana with their corresponding Hebrew
letters or take the time to connect to their mystical tradition.  For starters, the few decks that
include the letters usually place them to the side, in a corner, like a footnote or an afterthought.  
Yet, the moment an ancient symbol like this is imprinted on a card and we consciously
acknowledge it, the wisdom of the symbol as well as its mythical or symbolic message are made
available to us.  There is so much information to gather from one card, let alone from a spread,
that we are often reluctant to spend more time giving the client another layer of symbolic
meaning, fearing that we are becoming too esoteric in our interpretation.  Yet, every time I
connect consciously with the Hebrew letter assigned to an Arcanum while doing a reading, it
signals the need to add this level of meaning.  And, it never fails to open a world for the client.  
Somehow, this was the clue that was missing to round up the message from Spirit.

Recently, while re-reading a book by Carlos Castaneda,
The Active Side of Infinity, I took out The
Fool to meditate on the book and the symbol of the abyss.  I found myself asking:  "What is my
stretch?” Am I willing to jump into the abyss, to acknowledge and consciously live on the
active side of infinity?  It is much safer to stay on the other side… But then, the other side is the
side of non-action, non-daring.  It is staying in limbo, allowing things to happen to us, keeping
safe, away from scintillating intelligences that might trick us into doing the unthinkable.

Castaneda would remind us that growth happens when we are being pulled “out of our
syntax,” out of our everyday reality and are forced to listen to the voice of Spirit.  This is when
we face the unknown fully, when we tap the higher consciousness in the simplest and most
common actions of our lives.  This is the kind of action that requires an act of sorcery; the
conscious commitment to continuing  our journey through the “dark sea of awareness.” In the
I Ching this would be the act of entering the Ghost River and the willingness to undergo
complete transformation.  For, unless we do the foolish act of meeting the active side of infinity
or of entering a ghost river with open arms and smiling, we are not really willing to accept our
own divinity.                                   

Copyright © 2005 - 2008 Yolanda M. Robinson, PhD

Carlos Castaneda,
The Active Side of Infinity, New York, Harper
Collins, 1998.

Aryeh Kaplan's
Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation, is an excellent source
to understand the mystical and magical aspects of the Hebrew letters.  If
we consciously apply these meanings to the twenty-two Majors, it
significantly augments their alchemical qualities.

Lawrence Kuchner,
Sefer Otiyot: The Book of Letters.  Woodstock, VT:
Jewish Lights Publishing, 1990.