Belial 2: The Principle of Mentalism.

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Dr. LaVey can be called a lot of things, but he can't be called an anarchist: as much as he valued instability and chaos for their stimulating effect on complacent minds, he also valued order and authority for their necessary strength and structure. 

I don't have the privilege of having met Dr. LaVey in person and being able to intimately know his thoughts and intentions. Instead, I can only know Dr. LaVey through his writing. What I found in his writing is a person who values the interplay of chaos and order, and it's this tension between the two—what I believe Dr. LaVey might have called the fundamental truth—which informs a large part of my approach to fortune-telling through the use of Tarot cards.

As it concerns fortune-telling, let's start with the anatomy of a Tarot deck. In order for something to be called a Tarot deck, it must be 78 cards composed of 22 trumps in ascending order (one of which must be an unnumbered wild card), 16 face cards in ascending value divided equally among four suits, and 40 pips divided equally among four suits and numbered one through 10. The 40 pips and 16 face cards are called the minor arcana while the 22 trumps are called the greater arcana.

Naturally I think you should use the Tarot deck I’ve created specifically to accompany these lessons and which may be purchased through the means listed at the opening of this book, but if you lack a copy of the deck you may substitute any 78-card Tarot deck which fits this pattern. Please note that I've made a few cosmetic changes to the Satanic Tarot that are not represented elsewhere. 

First, some of the 22 trumps in the major arcana have been assigned non-traditional names and symbols, but their numbered sequence remains the same as what you would expect elsewhere. The reason for these changes will be made evident in the following chapters.

Second, I've changed the names of the face cards from the traditionally recognized Page, Knight, Queen, and King to my preferred Slave, Jack, Queen, and King. If you're curious to know, the change from Page to Slave is for no other reason than my nostalgia for the first Tarot deck I was ever gifted, the Egyptian Tarot by the Comte de Saint Germain, and the change from Knight, Queen, and King to Jack, Queen, and King is because of my preference for playing cards.

Third, I've traded the traditional Tarot pips of Swords, Wands, Cups, and Pentacles for the French playing-card pips of Spades, Clubs, Hearts, and Diamonds. These cosmetic changes are skin deep, and because I've left the quantity and sequence of the cards in the deck unchanged you're welcome to use any other standard Tarot deck so long as you're mindful of the differences.

Fourth, the Satanic Tarot was purposefully created as a starkly minimalist deck which is devoid of the intricate illustrations found in other decks. The reason for this decision is because the meaning of any card changes even within the same performance depending on which other cards it's paired with. This aesthetic decision was necessary because it's not possible for me to conceive one image for the three different expressions and four different modes contained in almost every card. If you're such a fortune-teller who is accustomed to using fully-illustrated cards, then this will probably be a challenge for you, but I encourage you to remember the aphorism that Satan demands study, not worship. If you apply yourself to the study of this system, you will surely adapt and overcome.

Let's start our discussion with the trumps, also called the the greater arcana. The trumps are called such not only because they originated as a separate deck of cards in the form of an Italian card-game called Tarocchi, but also because in fortune-telling they are used to describe broader messages than the pips which are more concerned with day to day affairs (they "trump" the other cards.) 

To give you an idea what I mean, let's do an exercise: Take the 22 trumps out of your deck, and set the Joker aside (it's a wild card and has no fixed meaning.) Now sort the remaining 21 trumps into three groups: I-VII, VIII-XIV, and XV-XXI. Lay trumps I-VII in a row of seven cards. Above that, lay trumps VIII-XIV. And above that, lay trumps XV-XXI. Laying your 21 numbered trumps in order, this is what you should see:

  • 1st row: Magician, Whore, Priestess, Priest, Pope, Lovers, Charioteer
  • 2nd row: Chaos, Hermit, Wheel, Inequality, Hanged Man, Death, Discipline
  • 3rd row: Devil, Tower, Star, Moon, Sun, Illuminati, World
Looking at this tableau of 21 cards, imagine that the Joker is a pendulum which swings left and right. On the left-hand path, we find chaos and fantasy. On the right-hand path, we find order and reality. The middle is the balance-point of shifting values and priorities. This configuration of 21 cards and the travelling Joker are called the grand tableau. Let's look at the grand tableau from bottom to top as three separate rows: 

The bottom row of trumps I-VII is our thesis. These are cards which show people, situations, or things which express their essential nature onto other people, situations, or things with waxing force. These are protagonists who reach out beyond themselves, and whatever they touch expands as a result of their influence. 

The top row of trumps XV-XXI is our antithesis which is the opposite of the thesis in the bottom row. These are cards which show people, situations, or things which have been acted upon by other people, situations, or things with waning force and are diminished, eroded, or scattered as a result.

The middle row of trumps VIII-XIV is our synthesis which combines the force of the thesis beneath it and the antithesis above it. These are cards which show people, situations, or things which express their essential nature onto themselves. These are actors who act upon themselves for their own reasons and are sustained according to their own desires and radiate their essential nature onto other cards paired with them.

This method of reading the grand tableau forms what’s known as a septenary, or a thing composed of seven parts, so this means we’ve got three septenaries (bottom, middle, and top row) which in turn create seven columns that are called triads (a thing composed of three parts.) I’d love to take credit for this novel approach to the trumps, but this method was introduced in “Tarot of the Bohemians“ by Papus, a book which is generally considered to be one of the two primary texts for modern Tarot (alongside “The Pictorial Key to the Tarot” by A.E. Waite.)

When you lay the 21 numbered trumps into their respective triads, this is what you see:

  • 1st column: Magician, Chaos, Devil 
  • 2nd column: Whore, Hermit, Tower 
  • 3rd column: Priestess, Wheel, Star
  • 4th column: Priest, Inequality, Moon 
  • 5th column: Pope, Hanged Man, Sun
  • 6th column: Lovers, Death, Illuminati
  • 7th column: Charioteer, Discipline, The World
So while the Devil is the neutral opposite to the Magician, the Magician’s complementary opposite is the Charioteer and its polar opposite is The World. This pattern of complementary, neutral, and polar opposition is repeated in almost every card. 

Isn't that fascinating? A simple exploration of opposition within the grand tableau of the 21 numbered trumps changes everything. And while it's fine to recognize complementary and polar opposite relationships in the cards, how can these relationships be practically applied? If polar opposition brings negation, complementary opposition brings support, and neutral opposition does nothing, then we can name and measure the degree of opposition between trumps in a reading. Consider the following arrangement:

The Whore of Babylon as habits is the anchor card and shows the subject in an extroverted state in which he or she is seeking to both influence and expand people and events around him or herself through the use of either greater magic and ritual or simply deceit, falsehood, and illusion. But what's the motivation?

Looking at Inequality as this actor's desires, we see that he or she wants to be successful in life according to his or her own rules yet is tempered by the Whore of Babylon showing that he or she wants to do so without investing any real effort. 

But we can also see from the actor's needs filled by The Star—an antithetical card with a waning influence—that he or she must understand sooner or later that his or her less savory choices have the consequence of encouraging other people and opportunities away from his or her waiting hands. Or said differently, he or she should remember that all choices have consequences and that for him or her the consequence is isolation and having to watch people choose to depart from his or her life.

The Whore of Babylon is our thesis. The Star is our antithesis. And while Inequality happens to be present as our synthesis, it doesn't connect the actor's needs and desires. How are the two reconciled? By forming a bridge: return to your map of the grand tableau and draw a straight line between The Whore of Babylon and The Star. Do you see it? The most natural synthesis is the Wheel of Fortune. Not only because the Wheel stands in proximity to Inequality (the actor's desire to live at his or her preferred level of stratification), but also because it moves the actor closer to the Star while while also further away from the fantastical, deceitful triad of the Whore of Babylon, the Hermit, and the Tower of Babylon.

Embracing the Wheel of Fortune, the actor is able to synthesize his or her habits and needs into a rediscovery of personal optimism. Even if the optimism is unfounded, he or she can decide for him or herself why he or she has reason to expect glad tidings and can voluntarily accept the necessary path forward instead of inflating the discussion with bullshit reasons that he or she isn't exactly who he or she is known to be.

That is how the fundamental reality of the grand tableau operates within the Tarot. For a greater understanding of this principle, let’s look at each triad individually.