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Observations placeholder

Wirth, Oswald – 22 The Fool



Type of Spiritual Experience


Wirth lived in a day an age when the mentally ill and perhaps somewhat simple, were treated abominably.  They were imprisoned, chained, abused  or left to look after themselves.  Wirth’s fool is the least valued of the pack and is placed at number 22.  He says

“The order of the arcanas of the ancient Tarots is marked in numerals from 1 to 21; then comes the last composition which is different from the others in that it has no numerical mark. Its rank is the twenty-second, but its symbolic value is equivalent to nought, for the Fool is the person who does not count because of his lack of intellectual and moral existence.
Insentient and irresponsible, he drags himself through life as a passive being who does not know where he is going and is led by irrational impulses. Not belonging to himself he is as a being possessed: he is alienated in the full sense of the word. His costume is many coloured to show the multiple and incoherent influences which he constantly undergoes.

And indeed a non thinking person without goals and purpose, curiosity or reason, or any form of intellectual ability, might still be classifiable as a 'fool'.  The so called 'recreational drug addicts' for example are fools.

But the times have changed and the lack of preoccupation with mental intellectual activity, this manic side, has been recognised as an extraordinary gift.  That inspiration, unusual functional ability, great revelation and truths beyond this physical realm are often only available from the so called Fool – the pure and simple hearted, and he has been promoted in more recent packs to 00
The key is the child like innocence needed , not the lack of reasoning power as such but the lack of erroneous beliefs and prejudices:

Matthew 18:2-4 New International Version (NIV)

2 Jesus called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.
3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The Fool of Wirth is uncouth and damaged, and not childlike at all. 

But the Fool that we now all recognise is the key to a greater understanding of ‘heaven’ is carefree and childlike as in the Rider Waite card [left].

He hovers on a precipice of mental illness, but his head is in the sun and his red feather is the path to the sun.  His dog moreover is a joyful companion and white - pure - not an attacker.  His sleeves are almost wings.

Thus the age of the pack here determines how the card is interpreted and Wirth’s card was based on early cards and a lack of understanding of the importance of insanity!  St John of Patmos was insane.  Beethoven was insane, even people like John Wesley were classified as insane, and so was George Fox…………………

George Fox – quoted in The Varieties of Religious Experience – William James and an accompanying article

“It was winter, but the word of the Lord was like fire in me.  So I put off my shoes, and left them with the shepherds; and the poor shepherds trembled and were astonished.  Then I walked on about a mile, and as soon as I was within the city, the word of the Lord came to me again, saying cry ‘Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield!’  So I went up and down the streets, crying with a loud voice Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield!  It being market day, I went into the market place and to and fro in the several parts of it, and made stands, crying as before Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield!  AND NO ONE LAID HANDS ON ME”

And of course, no one would, because this was Britain.  They probably ignored him or offered him a warm cup of tea to help him calm down.  They might have offered him a paintbrush as they did to Richard Dadd so that he could better express what he ‘saw’.  And some might also have listened and thought about what he was saying.  Even some of the old cards [see right] are a bit undecided about the role of the Fool with an attacking animal in some and a simple carefree chap with enormous trousers in others, a butterfly.

You cannot think out of the box if you are in it.  So those who have scrambled out, or never been in it, are actually very useful.  New perspectives offer new solutions, they challenge us to think about our beliefs.

George Fox became the founder of the Quaker movement, a movement that has been of great positive benefit within the UK.  But as William James says:

“from the point of view of his nervous constitution , Fox was a detraque [deranged person] of the deepest dye, his journal abounds in entries of this sort………… but no one can pretend for a moment that in point of spiritual sagacity and capacity, Fox’s mind was unsound… “


So in reading the following be aware that Wirth's fool was simply an idiot and not an idiot savant either. Notice the tulip - withered spirituality.

A description of the experience

The Tarot of the Magicians – Oswald Wirth English translation 1985 Samuel Weiser.

First published in Paris in 1927 under the original title: Le Tarot, des lmagiers du Moyen Age

The Fool's yellow stockings are slipping off and reveal what they should cover.  …... So let us be careful when following the fool, who, bitten on his left calf by a white lynx, must perforce walk continuously, for the course of the wanderer  has no aim or objective. It is pursued indefinitely and is a complete waste.

The lynx with piercing eyes, is pursuing the insentient Wanderer towards an upturned obelisque, behind which a crocodile lies in wait, ready to devour whatever is destined to return to chaos, that is to the primeval sustenance from which the ordered world was born.

As a symbol of conscious lucidity and of remorse for faults committed, the lynx would restrain a person capable of discretion; but far from stopping the fool, the bite hastens his course towards his inevitable destiny.

Keywords:  Passivity, impetuousness, giving way to blind instincts, to gross desires and passions.  Irresponsibility, alienation, madness. Lack of self direction; incapable of resisting outside influences. Agency, subject to domination, loss of free will. Slavery.

The toy of occult powers.  Unbalanced and easily influenced. A subject for hypnosis. Instrument of other people.  Lack of consciousness. Unable to be initiated.  Dragged blindly towards one's downfall. The foolish person prey to his own whims.  Insensitivity, indifference. Nonchalance. Incapable of recognizing one's wrong doings and feeling remorse for them.

But there is one exceptionally important additional explanation that Wirth added for his later card designs [which we have added here, that shows that in the end he probably understood both meanings of the Fool.

The Fool, however, is wearing a valuable gold belt which clashes with the poverty of the rest of his clothes. 

This belt is made up of plates, probably twelve of them, by analogy with the zodiac, for it encircles the body of a cosmogonic person of extreme importance. In fact the Fool represents all that is beyond the sphere of the intelligible, hence the Infinite outside the finite, the absolute enclosing the relative

The wise man could not be made the dupe of words; far from aiming simply at a verbal rejection of this being, he seeks the Fool within himself, ….. Let us learn that we are nothing and the Tarot will have instructed us in its deepest secret.

Keywords:  spiritual annihilation. Nirvahna

The source of the experience

Tarot, the

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