The TAROT, in physical appearance, is a pack of cards. For many centuries, it has been in circulation throughout the countries of Europe. In Austria, Czechoslovakia, Italy, and Spain it is even now employed for games. Long ago the Gypsies began to tell fortunes with it, and their example has been followed by charlatans who have laid claim to the possession of occult insight into the mysteries of the future.
This strange pack of cards has no exoteric history prior to the fourteenth century. The oldest examples of TAROT designs preserved in museums were probably drawn about 1390. Occult tradition, however, places the date of its appearance at about the year 1200.
This may surprise some readers of these pages who may have heard that the TAROT is an ancient Egyptian book. To all such it may be said that the question of the Egyptian origin of the TAROT has been carefully criticized by Mr. A. E. Waite in his Pictorial Key to the Tarot. He points out that the whole notion is rooted in certain statements made by Court de Gebelin (who wrote concerning things Egyptian in 1782, when there was no science of Egyptology), by Etteilla, a hairdresser turned fortune-teller, and by others who simply elaborated the assertions of these two. Among the latter was Eliphas Levi. This famous occultist certainly knew better, but he perpetuated the myth to conceal his undoubted knowledge of the true history of the TAROT.
According to the occult tradition before mentioned, the TAROT was incorporated into the Ageless Wisdom teachings by a group of Adepts who were accustomed to meet at the city of Fez, in Morocco. After the destruction of the great library at Alexandria, Fez became an important center of learning. It had a university, which attracted students from every part of the world. To this ancient capital of culture came certain members of a Brotherhood of Enlightened Men. They held conferences where they exchanged views, compared their most recent discoveries, and discussed the philosophical conclusions indicated by those discoveries.
One of the most serious obstacles in the way of free interchange of ideas was the barrier of difference in language. It must be remembered that these Adepts came from all parts of the globe, and though they were handicapped by the variations in their philosophical terminology, they were thoroughly familiar with the visual archetypal pattern and occult use of imagery for the development of Cosmic states of Consciousness. So they decided upon the device of embodying the most important of their doctrines in a book of pictures that express the Spiritual Principles and Occult Powers of Consciousness. These pictorial images were arranged in combinations that depended upon the occult harmonies of numbers. (Perhaps it was a Chinese adept who suggested the idea, for the Chinese have a proverb, “One picture is worth ten thousand words,” and the Chinese writing is made up of conventionalized pictures. These pictures express ideas instead of words, so that Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans, if only they can write, communicate easily with each other, although they speak more than seven different languages.”)
As a skeleton for this additional aid to the spiritual evolution of humanity the Adepts chose the Western Mystery system of numbers and letters afforded by the QABALAH, or Secret Wisdom of Israel, which had already been the framework for Initiation and taught orally to properly prepared aspirants for untold numbers of centuries both B.C. and A.D. Therefore, in order to have a complete understanding of the TAROT and to make the greatest use of it, an understanding of the QABALAH is necessary. But such an understanding requires the more extended occult training available to sincere spiritual aspirants through the teachings of BUILDERS OF THE ADYTUM.
Proper use of the TAROT KEYS will lead true spiritual aspirants along the path of self-discovery that ends at last in wisdom, happiness, and Spiritual Enlightenment. Thus, he will be brought into touch with those who can test his fitness for further training, and guide him, if he qualifies, along that portion of the path that is hidden from our earthly eyes. This potential is now a possibility for you. Through this booklet and with the start of the extended teachings of BUILDERS OF THE ADYTUM, you have now been brought into contact with the present day custodians of the Ageless Wisdom.
Source: Highlights of Tarot, available at www.bota.org