General Book of the Tarot, by A. E. Thierens, , at sacred-texts.com
The average stage of man in the present stage of Earth-evolution is 'human,' but not yet at the stage
of wisdom, consequently that of the 'unwise man.' To us, creatures living upon the Earth, this globe cannot be observed by us in toto, and the Fool is represented as a man walking without paying attention to himself. There is something of absolute Fate about this figure, which reminds us of the old saying of astrologers: "The wise man rules his stars, the fool obeys them." On the point of this fatality all authorities agree. For the rest the explanation does not seem very satisfying. To us there appears to be no doubt regarding the nature of this Fool, presented as a final 'principle,' if we may call it that, after those of the planets. A principle, however, without a number, a principle of nothing, nothingness.
The planets give us the symbols or ideas of organs of consciousness, the zodiacal signs denote modes of substance, from which consciousness is derived. So the zero-principle is the symbol of unconsciousness. In fact he who is unconscious, of himself or of Self, will obey every intimation from without and obeys 'his stars'--his senses, stupidly, blindly.
Of course this card has much to do with foolishness, spiritual dumbness, but it bears also the meaning of that which cannot be helped and which we do best to leave altogether aside; or that which will come right of itself and need not be heeded by us: that to which we are subject, as to the Earth course in its orbit. It does not need our personal assistance. Realising the latter fact this 'fool' might after all appear to be wiser than a good many other people, who in their human vanity imagine they are greatly needed for carrying out the intentions of their God, of Whom they claim a sort of personal knowledge.
[paragraph continues] A proverb says, that children and fools tell the truth. Taken as a whole, the card signifies that which will prove to contain more truth than appears; that which cannot be helped; those who are unconscious (of certain things, e.g.,) or unreasonable or foolish, disregarding logical propositions and actions. Also that part of our surroundings over which we have no control or which we do not master; that which we have to obey or which we ignore.
The Hebrew letter Shin is brought in relation with this card, and P. says it means "the Motion of relative duration," but his explanation does not throw any particular light on the card nor on the relationship. The picture seems to hint also that the fool "is hurried to his destruction unawares." (W.) And there may be a good deal in it. In divination it may hint at persons suffering under this tendency.
The question may be asked, why the planetary cards have been named in this order. When we agree that Mercury, Temperance, has been put in the place of Jupiter, which after all has been used in a higher octave, we see first named the three planets outside the place of the Earth, governing the building of the physical mould and having to do with the birth and death of it. Then follows the planet of cosmic electricity and of the birth of human spirit in the physical building, which it eventually destroys. Next come the three planetary principles functioning on the spiritual side, which have their meaning only after the birth of human spirit. The Moon takes the place of Mercury-Vulcan, and the order is that of reckoning from the Earth, consequently in a continuous line from the outside:
[paragraph continues] Venus--Moon (for Mercury-Vulcan)--Sun. They have to do with the growth of body and soul. Finally the principle of deliverance from the prison of the body: Jupiter, and that of the cosmic ocean to which the particles return, Universal solvent; ocean which constitutes the real ground for our practical unity in the world. The Fool as the denial of all sense, nonsense.
There may be other explanations of course. The one offered here seems to have the advantage that it is in the line of the suggestion, made before, viz. that the whole system of the Tarot is a sort of symbolism, expressly adapting cosmic principles to human life and to man's personal interests, not always even in the highest sense.
There exists a remarkable difference between the degree of clearness with which concrete particulars of the Lesser Arcana are given, and the diffuse teaching of the Greater Arcana, which appears to have been rather covered and veiled, than divulged. It was in the first place the Lesser Arcana, with which the diseurs de bonne aventure wanted to please their clients, so it naturally had their chief attention.
It is still more remarkable that all explanation about the 'why' of the Lesser Arcana fails. We ought perhaps to take into account a meagre effort made by Papus in his Tarot of the Bohemians, (p. 235-237), where he tries to assign each of the cards to one of the decanates of the zodiac; but he makes no further use of the hypothesis. For the rest I venture to say that it does not hold good at all and does not in the least correspond with the traditional significances given, as the authors tell us, in respect of the
[paragraph continues] Bohemians. Another equally unsuccessful effort at explanation has been made recently by a pupil of Eteilla, d’Odoucet and Papus, a Frenchman calling himself Ely Alta, in a book entitled Le Tarot Egyptien (1922), which bears a close resemblance to that of Papus or speaks of the very same source as the latter. In fact Alta reproduces a treatise of Eteilla's disciple and co-worker d’Odoucet and gives more than Papus in so far as he preludes every significance of a card in the Lesser Arcana with a sort of explanation in a would-be cosmogonical sense. The fact is, that these explanations all fall short of explaining the traditional significance. So they cannot be more than a sort of drapery of eloquence, hung over the tableaux by later commentators, perhaps by Eteilla himself. And the only thing they divulge without any doubt at all is that the key to these 'lesser' mysteries has been lost or has never been given out to those to whom this practice of divination has been presented "as a bible which would make their living at the same time," as Papus has said somewhere.
But the striking fact is, that these traditional significations cover almost exactly and in almost every card the theory expounded by us. So we may be fairly certain that this theory contains or is the very key. We shall verify it systematically and card for card,