Papus is the esoteric pseudonym of Gérard Encausse, born at Corunna (La Coruña) in Spain on July 13, 1865, of a Spanish mother and a French father, Louis Encausse, a chemist. His family moved to Paris when he was four years old, and he received his education there.
After studying on his own the Kabbalah, occult tarot, magic and alchemy, he joined, for a short period of time, The French Theosophical Society, recently founded by Madame Blavatsky. In 1888, he co-founded his own group, The Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Croix. He also founded the Librarie du Merveilleux and its monthly revue L’Initiation, which remained in publication until 1914.Gerard was also a member of The Hermetic Brotherhood of Light, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Temple in Paris, as well as Memphis-Misraim. In 1886, he and Augustin Chaboseau founded The Martinist Order. In parallel, he studied medicine, became Doctor of Medicine and opened a successful clinic in Paris, where he died in 1916.
His book, The Tarot of the Bohemians, appeared in Paris, in 1892 and, along with The Pictoral Key to the Tarot by A. E. Waite, is considered the core literature of 19th and early 20th century Tarotism. Belllow, we offer you, in one single place, a fragment for each Major Arcana, containing Papus’ essential interpretation:
THE FOOL: This is an image of the state to which unresisted passion will reduce a man. It is the symbol of the Flesh and of its gratification. From a moral point of view the following verses of Eliphas Levi well explain this symbol: “Souffrir c’est travailler, c’est accomplir sa tâche, Malheur au paresseux qui dort sur le chemin; La douleur, comme un chien, mord les talons du lâche, Qui, d’un seul jour perdu, surcharge un lendemain.” (Sorrow lessens in work, in fulfilling a task, Woe to the sluggard who sleeps on his way; Like a dog at his heels pain clings to him fast, If he leave for to-morrow the work of to-day).
THE MAGICIAN (THE JUGGLER): Man with one hand seeks for God in heaven, with the other he plunges below, to call up the demon to himself, and thus unites the divine and the diabolic in humanity. In this way the Tarot shows us the rôle of universal mediator accorded to the Adam-Kadmon
THE HIGH PRIESTESS: This is the picture of Isis, of Nature, whose veil must not be raised before the profane. The book indicates that the doctrines of Isis are bidden; but she divulges to the magi the secrets of the true Kabbalah, and of occult science. We must admire this profound symbol.
THE EMPRESS: The third card of the Tarot shows the result of the reciprocal action of the two first terms neutralizing each other in one principle. It is the Neuter Element of Wronski, the basis of every system of reality. The absolute creative force, or Osiris, and the absolute preservative force, or Isis, neutralize themselves in the equilibrist force, which contains in itself the two very different properties of the two first forms.
THE EMPEROR: This symbol should express in the active form all that the preceding card expressed in the passive. A man seated in profile. The man indicates the active; his position, however, shows that this activity is engendered by a superior term. The 1st arcanum, the Juggler, the active absolute, was represented standing, looking to the front; the 4th arcanum, active relative, is seated in profile.
THE HIEROPHANT (THE POPE): This symbol expresses the following ideas: (1st) Idea of Life, of animation, (2nd) Idea of Being, (3rd) Idea of Reunion.
THE LOVERS: In short, this hieroglyphic expresses the struggle between the passions and conscience, the antagonism of ideas. But this antagonism is also the most powerful natural producer that exists in the world, when it resolves itself into LOVE, which attracts the opponents and unites them for ever.
THE CHARIOT: The Conqueror, who occupies the centre of the four elements, is the man who has vanquished and directed the elementary forces: this victory is confirmed by the cubical p. 136 form of the chariot, and by the Pentagrams, which crown the Initiate.
STRENGTH: Only two ideas are expressed by this arcanum: 1.The idea of strength. 2.The idea of vitality.
THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE: Two principal ideas are expressed by this symbol: 1. The idea of Command, of Supremacy. 2. The idea of the duration, of the eternal action of time. The wheel of fortune suspended upon its axis. To the right Anubis, the genius of good ascending; to the left Typhon, the genius of evil descending, the Sphinx is balanced upon the centre of the wheel, holding a sword in its lion claws. The first idea is expressed by the ternary, Anubis or positive, Typhon or negative, the balanced Sphinx the ruler. The second idea is expressed by the wheel, a line without beginning or end, the symbol of eternity.
JUSTICE: The ideas expressed by this symbol are of Equilibrium in all its forms.
THE HANGED MAN: This Hanged Man serves for an example to the presumptuous, and his position indicates discipline, the absolute submission which the human owes to the Divine.
DEATH: The ideas expressed by this arcanum are those of destruction preceding or following regeneration.
TEMPERANCE: The following ideas are expressed by this symbol: 1. Combination of different fluids. 2. Individualization of existence.
THE DEVIL: The fifteenth card of the Tarot derives its signification from its own symbolism: 1. Destiny (chance). 2. Fatality, the result of the fall of Adam-Eve. 3. The astral fluid, which individualizes.
THE TOWER (THE LIGHTNING-STRUCK TOWER): The significations of this figure are all derived from this idea of fall, of the materialization of the spiritual letter (Vau). 1. Materialization of God the Holy Spirit. (See 3rd arcanum.) Entrance of the Holy Spirit into the visible World. The Holy Spirit acting like the God of matter. Divine destruction. 2. The materialization of the Adam-Eve, who have been spiritualized until now. Entrance of the Adam-Eve into the visible World? the fall. 3. Materialization of the Universe-principle: The visible world.
THE STAR: The ideas expressed by this symbol are those: 1. Of the expansion of fluids. 2. Of their eternal renewal.
THE MOON: 1. End of divine Materialization. Final point of involution: Chaos. 2. End of the Materialization of man: The material body and its passions. 3. End of physical Materialization: Matter.
THE SUN: 1. Awakening of the Spirit. Transition from the material world to the divine world. Nature accomplishing the functions of God: The elements. 2. The body of man is renewed: Nutrition. Digestion. 3. The material world commences its ascension towards God: The mineral kingdom.
THE JUDGEMENT: 1. Return to the divine World. The Spirit finally regains possession of itself: Original determined motion. 2. Life renews itself by its own motion: Vegetable life. Respiration. 3. The material world progresses one degree in its ascension towards God: The vegetable world.
THE WORLD: The four corners therefore reproduce the four great symbols of the Tarot. The centre represents the action of these symbols between themselves, represented by the ten numbers of the minor arcana, and the twenty-two letters of the major arcana. Lastly, the centre reproduces the septenary law of the major arcana themselves. As this septenary is in the centre of three circles, representing the three worlds, we see that the sense of the twenty-one arcana is once more determined (3 x 7 = 21).