on 9 March 2002
I would say this book will appeal to those who are willing to look at the Tarot for what it is. The beginner or the more experienced reader will both feel the deep insights this book has to offer, if they read it with an open mind. I know there are some that think this book is complicated and difficult to understand, however I would disagree. My advice would be to read it through once in a relaxed way, without trying to remember anything or understand all the details, then read the sections that appeal to you in more depth as you feel necessary. That way you will get the most from this excellent book. If you consider the Tarot an important and revelant subject you will need to read this book. I also highly recommend buying the deck itself.
on 18 November 2011
Crowley wrote a lot and much of it is pretty inaccessible. This is because he not only makes reference to complex magic systems, both Western and Oriental, but had his own particular slant on things, namely his trance-received path of Thelema. In addition, he had a unique and not always pleasant personality and was a product of his time and class, namely a privileged, even spoilt Edwardian brat. All in all, you might do well reading up on his life before looking at this particular book.
In my experience though, it is one of his best works and surprisingly accessible, to the extent that one could just about forgive, or at least overlook, his shortcomings as a human being. I feel able to take what I want from it and leave the rest i.e. the personality and millennial beliefs of the author. The descriptions of the cards and their meanings are very clear (based as they are on the Kabalistic Tree of Life and Golden Dawn tradition.) I especially like the different 'personalities' he describes for the court cards which can be very perceptive (especially so when you realise you are reading about yourself|) The essays on the major trumps are of interest for their range of classical references but not crucial for practical use. Bear in mind too that the style is very much of it's place and time i.e. first half of the 20th century England with attendant proper grammar, clear thinking and erudition.
I would say this book can be used with any more or less standard pack, not necessarily his own design - I only use his cards occasionally. That said, the Thoth deck he created with Frieda Harris remains one of the most strikingly artistic packs ever devised, each card a work of art in it's own right. There are a few colour (and the rest black and white) illustrations of the cards. Overall, one of the best Tarot books for the serious student of occultism - experienced Tarot users will likely come back to it frequently as a reference and beginners will find it stimulating. It would also possibly serve as an introduction for the curious to Crowley's style and beliefs even if you are not necessarily a Tarot reader - was his poetry really as bad as some say?
on 3 April 1998
Absolutely amazing how many tarot methods are available which have nothing to do with the Qabala which the deck IS based upon. The Book of Thoth IS a deck based upon the Qabala. And, for the serious students of the Qabala and the Egyptian Tarot, this IS the one which should be studied before all others.
on 7 September 1999
Serious Thelemites and Occultists should certainly add this book to their libraries. Crowley's symbolism and insights are a wonder to behold! This book numbers among his greatest works.
on 9 April 2009
I came to Crowley many years ago in an odd way. I was on holiday, driving along the road in a seaside town when something in a bookshop window caught my eye - or rather registered subliminally - since I was going too fast to actually see anything clearly. I just had to go back and see what it was that had attracted me so curiously - it was Crowley's Theory And Practice and I just had to have it although at the time I was not especially interested in this stuff. Most of it was unintelligible butI found things in it that were uncannily pertinent to my life so I persevered and I am glad I did. When I got round to buying the Thoth deck and book I had a fair grounding in Crowlian thought - even so I found the cards to be amazingly pregnant with meaning and astoundingly accurate when consulted. It is hard enough for an artist to depict what is visible but to depict what is invisible in the way Crowley and Harris have done here is almost beyond belief. You will, at this point, gather that I am something of a fan. All you need to get the most out of Crowley is intelligence, sensitivity, imagination, humour and perseverance. There are some good books on the Tarot - Oswald Wirth is excellent, Ouspensky's little volume a gem - but this is THE book.
This is THE most useful book on tarot ever written for anyone who wants to get beyond the parlour game. end-of-pier Madam Zaza Sees ALL fortune-telling scam that to many is all that the cards will ever be about.
I'm not sure if Crowley's assertion that the cards are the condensed, lost wisdom of the ages holds as true in this universe as well as the one that he found himself inhabiting for much of his life but It's helpful to go with the flow and suspend all disbelief for the duration of the experience, much as one might do when watching a film or reading some piece of impossible fiction. The experience is remarkably self consistent and has all the signs of doors opening up on the inner reality behind the facade, and this is where many, including myself, can and have gone wrong. The underlying reality perceived by understanding the cards is not THE reality, merely A reality but it is surely seductive and operators flushed with success, or awe at their enhanced perception may take many, many years to regain their objectivity. Sorry, not meaning to sound like Dennis Wheatley there ... :-)
Crowley presents an interesting perspective on the history of the Tarot which may or may not be mundanely factual but it certainly works as a key to unlocking certain levels of mystery which experience will verify for any dedicated experimenter.
The mapping of the Major Arcana onto the 22 paths of the OtzChim and the Hebrew alephbet(sic) are widely accepted though some attributes are stretched a bit, conventionally. Crowley was bamboozled by part of the 1904 (Cairo? sorry, this is all purely from long memory) working when the condensed ego reflection masquerading as his Holy Guardian Angel presented him with a few baffling insights, one of which was the "Tzadi is not the star." This could be interpreted in several different ways. The most obvious one, the backward reading of the whole series was ridiculed by Crowley so vehemently and with such flawed logic that some students may well consider it worth further investigation, particularly as it shows astonishingly obvious correspondences that could not be mere coincidences. Maybe that was the "secret" he was trying to keep from the great unwashed? Maybe I've misinterpreted everything?
It's not my place to answer for anyone. Crowley, however did.
First of al he insisted that the Fool card, attributed Zero, should find its way to the head of the pack before card 1, the Magician/magus/juggler instead of being dropped in at the end of the pack with the Universe as so many commentators have, traditionally. Crowley's assertion is obvious and unquestionably correct, though some authorities, notably Mouni Sadhu, insist otherwise. Anyone with more than a rudimentary knowledge of these matters will easily perceive that Sadhu is quite spiritually aware but also patently lying through his teeth about qabalistic attribution and this is, prima facie, baffling. This may well be the result of some blood oath of secrecy preventing him from revealing the truth, instead writing everything out of order but then one is tempted to ask why bother to publish at all?
Whatever else Crowley might have said or done, he certainly got this one point absolutely correct. 0 comes, or goes, before 1.
Where it gets contentious is over his double twist in the ribboned layout of the 22 cards against the fixed circle of 22 Hebrew letters.
The Hebrew letters relationship with the paths of the OtzChim cannot be questioned, most say, but this relationship is based purely on the Sepher Yetzirah with no earlier provenance and this is quite late in Qabalistic canon and may itself be ciphered. I am not suggesting this one way or the other, only that the possibilities ought to be born in mind when researching the subject.
I could waffle on all night but I'll spare you that for now (this time.) You want to know whether to buy this book?
If you want to do fortune telling, get a Tarot app for your smartphone. Nothing to learn and it'll have all the "meanings" of the cards programmed in, ready to go.
If you are interested in Tarot, have more than one pack and have an interest in Qabalah (not that gormshite touchy-feely celebrity scam that the conical-bra'd one professes to be into) then this should be top of the list, definitely.
on 27 October 2000
Unless you already have an indepth knowledge of occult matters and esoteric doctorines, you may find this book intelligable.
It is obviously highly thought of by many students of Tarot and the occult, but for most, I believe it will only serve to confuse and bewilder.
For example, a short quotation, 'One important interpretation of Tarot is that it is a Notariqon of the Hebrew Torah, the Law; also of ThROA, the gate. Now, by the Yetziratic attributions...this word may be read The Universe-the new-born Sun-Zero.'.
If your interest is pureley Tarot based, I have found 'Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom' by Rachel Pollack to be an informative and enjoyable study of the traditional Tarot. And for total beginners 'Learning the Tarot' by Joan Bunning an excellent start.
on 13 May 2001
Most importantly small black and white pictures of the 'Thoth Tarot' are included as well as several full size colour prints. And, needless to say, the Tarot deck itself is required for a chance at full understanding. Readers should remember the book was written very late in Crowley's career and represents, in some senses, the culmination of his Magick. For those interested in the Qabalistic side of things, the 'Book of Thoth' can be supplemented beautifully by '777'. It is complex, even for Crowley. I am unsure if one could call it a reference manual or if '...perusal may be omitted with advantage.' as the introduction states. Of most of the people I meet, into Crowley, it seems to be the popular favourite.
The will to love is the law to live.
on 27 July 1997
The Thoth tarot deck is one of the most popular today; its lucid, interconnected, and rich depth of symbolism is rewarding and thought-provoking. The artwork is excellent, the symbolism behind it compelling. Crowley's "Book of Thoth" is an excellent book for both the beginner and more advanced students, serving as an introductory work pointing out multiple rewarding paths of study for the interested student to pursue, from astrology to Kabbalah to Thelema's philosophy. One of his most accessible works, the writing style is lucid and entertaining, mixing a well-presented wealth of information with dry and frequently perverse humor. One of the best Tarot books you will ever own, period.
on 23 January 2002
This is an excellent book for those interested in the works of Aleister Crowley although, as with most of his works, it is not for beginners. This Tarot system is one of the more complicated.
For those that can follow the terminoloy and the esoteric references it can provide a powerful divination system, for all his faults Aleister Crowley wa a powerful man.