The Tarot is an instrument of self-observation and self-remembering.
Gurdjieff mentioned the Tarot, but never speak about it explicitly or mention it as a tool of the “Fourth Way”.
P.D. Ouspensky on the other hand, was very interested in this issue and he has written “The Symbolism of the Tarot”, his account on the Tarot and especially on the 22 cards of the so-called Major Arcane.
The 36 human archetypes represented by the 36 decans of the Zodiac can be classified in three distinctive categories by their basic nature. The three decans of each Zodiac sign are governed by three different planets which represent each, one of the three basic energies. One is active, one is reactive and the third is the neuter or reconciling.
Gurdjieff left us a very clear clue: “Every man is born number one, number two, or number three.”
Of course, these three basic characteristics have different manifestations in different signs, but the first three types of men Gurdjieff identified are to be found among the 36 Numerals of the Tarot deck.
We can find extensive explanations regarding the human typologies in Ouspensky’s seminal work “In Search of the Miraculous” – quoting his master, Gurdjieff.
Man number one, number two, and number three, are the people who constitute the mechanical humanity living their lives on the same level on which they were born.
Man number one means man in whom the center of gravity of his psychic life lies in the moving center. This is the man of the physical body, the man with whom the moving and the instinctive functions constantly outweigh the emotional and the thinking functions. It’s the man who lives in and for the body.
Interested in sports, in work out, in healthy diets and generally in how she or he looks, respectively judging themselves and others by their appearance. These men generally are driven by their instincts and not their emotions or thoughts.
Man number two means man in whom the center of gravity of his psychic life lies in the emotional center, that is, man with whom the emotional functions outweigh all others; the man of feeling, the emotional man. A man who is always excited or depressed, in a constant fluctuant motion up and down. It’s also the man of strong believes and attachments.
Man number three means man in whom the center of gravity of his psychic life lies in the intellectual center, that is, man with whom the thinking functions gain the upper hand over the moving, instinctive, and emotional functions; the man of reason, who goes into everything from theories, from mental considerations.
Generally, this type of men will neglect her or his physical body and disregard the emotional aspects as being irrelevant.
We must understand that the vast majority of men are developing only one, eventually two aspects of their lives, only exceptional few are capable to develop harmoniously all the three aspects: body, soul and spirit.
The Aces are the opportunities, the impulse coming from the outside which enables man to make his first step upward, to ‘awake’ and start evolving. The Aces for that matter never represent persons, but events and opportunities.
As a consequence, Man number four is not born ready-made. He is born one, two, or three, and becomes four only as a result of efforts of a definite character. Man number four is always the product of school work. She or he is helped from the outside to become man number four. The key feature of Man number four is that he is aware about the importance of the balance between the three centers and how important it is that those centers have to functioning adequately. Man number four already begins to know her or himself and know whether she or he is going.
Man number four already stands on a different level to man number one, two, and three. She or he has a permanent center of gravity which consists in his ideas, in his valuation of the work, and in his relation to the school of thoughts which lead her or him to this point.
Regarding the ‘school of thoughts’, Gurdjieff also speaks about three paths. The path of the fakir, the path of the monk and the path of the yogi. The fakir, as you may already suspect, achieve a higher level of consciousness by pushing the limits of her or his physical body. The monk chooses the path of believe and his faith and spiritual development relays on the strength of her/his soul; while the yogi develops her/his mental abilities to find enlightenment. For these considerations, Gurdjieff called his own method ‘The Fourth Way’.
But who are Man number four, five, six and seven in the Tarot deck?
Obviously, the Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings.
While the Knights, Queens and Kings are all nobilities, the Page comes from the lower level of the social hierarchy, she or he was chosen and raised to that position by a Knight, a Queen or a King, in other words, a mentor, a spiritual leader or teacher.
Although the Page arise from the lower level, she or he has already gained a different status.
Man number five, the Knight, has already been crystallized and she or he has reached unity. She or he has a permanent and not changeable ‘I’. (Unlike Man number one, two or three). Her or his ‘essence’ are growth stronger than her or his multiple and ever changing ‘personalities’.
Gurdjieff also noted that Man number five can be the result of right work and can be the result of wrong work. She or he can become number five from number four and she or he can become number five without having been four.
If a person became number five without having been number four, she or he will not be able to evolve, won’t be capable of further development.
Man number six, the Queen, stands very close to man number seven. She or he differs from man number seven only by the fact that some of her or his properties have not as yet become permanent.
Man number seven, the King, means a man who has reached the full development possible to man and who possesses everything a man can possess, that is, will, consciousness, permanent and unchangeable ‘I’, individuality, immortality, and many other properties which, we can’t understand at our current level of development.
According to Gurdjieff even the status of Man number five is an unattainable standard of man for most of the people.
He stated that there are many qualities which men attribute to themselves, which in reality can belong only to people of a higher degree of development and of a higher degree of evolution than man number one, number two, and number three. Individuality, a single and permanent ‘I,’ consciousness, will, the
ability to do things, a state of inner freedom, all these are qualities which ordinary man does not possess. Obtaining these qualities, gaining higher consciousness requires an extraordinary effort of which most people are not capable and they won’t give up their illusions and usual comfort.
In a similar way, we can find similar descriptions and additional explanations in several Kabbalistic texts.
“The essence of human nature is its perpetually evolving desire for pleasure. To realize this desire, we feel compelled to discover, invent, and improve our reality. The gradual intensification of the desire for pleasure has been the force behind human evolution throughout our history.
The desire for pleasure evolves through several stages. In the first stage, it manifests in the need for sustenance, such as food, reproduction, and family. In the second stage, the desire for wealth arises, and in the third, there is a craving for honor, power, and fame. Development of these three stages had lead to major changes in human society—it became a diversified, multiclass society.
The fourth stage signifies our yearning for learning, knowledge and wisdom.
This expresses itself in the development of science, educational systems, and culture. This stage has become associated with the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution, and is still predominant today. The desire for knowledge and erudition requires that we understand our surroundings.” (Dr. Michael Laitman from Kabbalah, Science and the Meaning of Life)
Excerpt from the book ‘The Unified Esoteric Tarot’ by Attila Blága. Full or partial use of this text for commercial or non-commercial distribution by any means whatsoever is strictly prohibited unless expressly authorised by the author.