Even and Odd Pips: Closed and Open Circuits

More useful insights from Paul Marteau’s Tarot de Marseille book. I’m over half-way through it now and I’m not entirely sure I like his writing style; while his observations are generally coherent if a bit clinical, they tend to wander all over the spiritual, mental/emotional and material landscape without much disciplined organizational rigor other than his strict use of color symbolism. The intellectual sense is there but the rational method of presentation lacks focus to some extent. (The translator freely admits that part of the blame for this may be laid at his doorstep.) However, Marteau occasionally nails an idea that I find perfectly lucid.

In discussing the 8 of Clubs (Wands), he mentions that its double quaternary represents a “closed circuit” of two sets of four staves in total equilibrium. This analogy is applicable to all of the even-numbered cards based on the binary root-number Two, which is considered balanced and harmonious but also passive to the point of inertia; there is little internal tension to motivate it. Marteau even called the Two of Coins “the beginning of dullness” since it doesn’t originate outward action on its own but instead merely facilitates the realization of the potential inherent in the Ace of Coins (in other words, it acts as a “conductor,” “transformer” or “condenser” but not as a “generator”). Doubling and redoubling the binary “root” simply compounds the entrenched passivity.

Introducing the “radical” unitary (One) at each juncture in the even-numbered sequence, thereby creating an alternating series of “odd” numbers, opens both a “way in” and a “way out” of the closed binary cell for communication between aspects of the “Inner” and the “Outer,” allowing a stimulating inflow of fresh inspiration (sometimes resisted by the entirely-too-comfortable recipient) and a creative outflow of sequestered self-awareness into practical expression. Ideally, the two will cooperate to pave the way for progress in a tranquil but static (and increasingly stagnant) situation. We might characterize this polarity in electrical terms: the even-numbered cards suggest “direct current” provided by an on-board battery that eventually runs down, while the odd-numbered cards convey the idea of “alternating current” delivered via external line voltage that refreshes the charge. (Disregard the engineering technicality that an “open” circuit breaker interrupts the flow of current while a “closed” circuit breaker permits current to pass; I don’t think Marteau was an electrical engineer.)

The Three energizes and expands the “closed loop” reflected in the “lemniscate” (figure 8) design of the traditional Two of Coins and similarly apparent in the circulating ebb-and-flow of current (Aleister Crowley’s “whirling energy”) in all of the Twos; the Five breaks out of the rigid shell of the Four; the Seven unsettles the finely-tuned but lazy symmetry of the Six; and the Nine “reels in” the dilatory excess of the Eight preparatory to final reconciliation and fulfillment in the Ten. In all cases the “odd-numbered” energy is transitional between one state of rest and the next, perfectly symbolized by my notion that they act as “can-openers” or “nut-crackers” that liberate the stifled yearning for change.

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