ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
Irenaeus, the Bishop of Lyons of the second century C. E., who was determined to stamp it out. Then, in 1769, James Bruce, a Scottish tourist, bought a Coptic manuscript (Coptic is the language of the Christian Church of that name which still flourishes in Egypt, surviving from pre-Islamic times). The text was located at Luxor, the site of ancient Thebes in Upper Egypt. In 1777, a collector of antique books found an ancient text, also in Coptic, in a London bookshop. It contained a purported dialogue between Jesus and his disciples. In 1896, a German Egyptologist bought a manuscript which contained The Gospel of Mary [Magdalene], the Apocryphon (the allegedly secret Book of John) and three other ancient Gnostic manuscripts. The biggest find was in December of 1945, when an Egyptian peasant found a huge collection of Coptic Gnostic texts at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt. This library has since become the chief source of Gnostic Christianity, and consisted of thirteen leather-bound books that were then deposited in the Coptic musem in Cairo. They were translated and commented upon by the Dutch scholar, Gilles Quispel, historian of religion at the University of Utrecht. The collection included: The Gospel of Thomas (the supposed twin brother of Jesus), Gospel of Philip, Gospel of Truth, Gospel of the Egyptians, Secret Book of Jonas, Apocalypse of Paul, Letter of Peter to Philip, Apocalypse of Peter, and others. All have been dated to the second century C.E., or around 140 C.E., which is about the same time as that given for the New Testament Gospel According to John, which has many passages which lend themselves to Gnostic interpretation. Gnosticism was thus revived during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with the discovery, translation and publication of two Gnostic texts of which the Pistis Sophia was most important.
Gnosticism and the Tarot
As mentioned briefly earlier, Tarot were simply playing cards until a French Reformed minister, Court de Gebelin, became fascinated with the twenty-two cards in the original tarocchi, tarot, or tarock pack which were called triumfi or trumps. De Gebelin offered no occult interpretation of the cards, but wrote a limited-edition book suggesting that they just might be of Egyptian origin and were possibly brought to Europe by the “Gypsies” (Roma) who were so-named because of the widespread belief at the time that this was also their origin. Later, during the mid-nineteenth century, a Catholic seminarian by the name of Alphonse Constans read de Gebelin’s book, Gnostic texts, and learned something about the Jewish mystical tradition called Kabbala. Based on rather inaccurate knowledge, he worked out the Gnostic interpretation of tarot cards that was expanded upon later in the century. Gerard d’Encausse (Papus) labeled the twenty-two trump cards of the tarot deck the“Major Arcana,” laid them out in order, and thus supposedly revealed a hidden Gnostic philosophy. For instance, he identified the Fool Card (0) as God. In the pack designed by A. E. Waite, the most popular of packs, The Fool is depicted as a hapless, naïve youth with a dog yapping at his heels. He strolls heedlessly to the edge of a precipice gazing out and upward, and we know that in another moment he will fall. We can trace his descent through various stages downward to Card Number 22, which is the World. I repeat at this point that this so-called Gnostic interpretation of Papus