Arcanum XI Justice


Esoteric Titles:
The Faithful Intelligence
Adjustment or Equilibrium
Administration of Justice
Karmic Retribution

True Justice is blind to superficial appearances and examines the facts of any legal case, and follows the letter of the Law with superior exactitude. It therefore weighs up the facts and pleas of either case and soberly delivers its verdict. Coincidentally the card makes a passing reference to the karmic laws governing human existence ie;

“As you sow so, shall you reap.”

Thereby confirming that the majority of human suffering is usually self-inflicted and the result of previous actions and indeed previous lifetimes. It may for instance be that karmic forces have entered our life situation and that we either have to face up to our inadequacies and fears. It may simply be a matter of putting some energy time and money into something that is in the final analysis will yield very few returns in this life but which, if one is inclined to think along the idea that both good and bad circumstances, will in the long term return to us in a form which at first is unrecognisable. If we take for example the idea of spiritual evolution – one must transcend limitations in order to achieve progress ie. build spiritual muscle in which case adversities (or weights in this analogy) are of considerable benefit to the aspiring pupil. If we were to extend this idea then there would be a correct amount of weight to use, a correct length of time, place, and technique etc for the exercise. The reverse of these conditions would of course not be conducive to good health or practice. In mythology it reflects the time in the natural calendar when the human souls were weighed against their previous actions. It both symbolises the harvest but also the grim reaper found in Arcanum XIII – Death. The relationship is metaphysical and astrological by association of the planets Saturn and Uranus to the rulership of the Scorpion and the planets’ exaltation in the sign of Libra. Since common laws often change to accommodate new developments by substitution Uranus, the planet of change and ruler of Aquarius is naturally exalted in the sign of Scorpio. When the Major Arcana cards are laid out on the relevant path attributions on the Tree of Life it was discovered probably by MacGregor Mathers (Order of the Golden Dawn) that card no. 8 – Justice fell upon the 19th. path which is attributed to Leo and trump numbered 8. Strength no. 11 on the 22nd. path, normally attributed to Libra. This seemed an obvious mistake when compared to the attributes employed in Judaic astrology and in need of some simple substitution, which A.E. Waite employed in his subsequent re-design of the pack. Aleister Crowley however made no change and retained the original positions with Justice being trump #8 and Strength as trump #11 in his own Thoth Tarot deck. The Hebrew letter Lamed means an Ox-Goad, which incidentally resembles the balance beam of the scales in the hand of the female figure. Teth, which means a Snake is a reference to the tail of the lion that resembles a serpent – it has arcane constellational and mythological significance that is perhaps too lengthy to delve into at this point but is covered in some depth in the discussion on trump 11. Strength which will be analysed in a future article.

A depiction of the Tarot card for Justice signifying the sign of Libra (The Scales or Balance)

A great number of people presume, quite wrongly, that the title of Shakespeare’s play is referring to Shylock the Jewish banker but in actual fact the merchant is Antonio. In Shakespeare’s time Arcanum Strength would have been named Fortitude and numbered #11 while Arcanum Justice would have been numbered #8. These attributions would have been associated with the secular Julian calendar which was updated every 8 years. That is why Justice has been renamed in some decks as Adjustment. It should be noted that trump #1 the Magician and trump #11 (Strength) both display the lemniscates ‘lazy eight’, the former above the head of a male figure and the latter above the head of a female figure. This was intended to make a subtle distinction between male physical strength and female emotional or intuitive strength. Furthermore, during the 15th and 16th centuries in England there was no such thing as Christmas Day and New Year began on the 25th March and was publicly celebrated on April 1st, “April Fool’s Day” (“poisson d’Avril”- See “The Elizabethan Festival Cycle”). The Shakespearean play that seems to echo or correspond most closely to Arcanum VIII, Justice seems to be “The Merchant of Venice” partly because of its location in Italy where a business and marriage contract takes place but where a merchant is sued for an unpaid loan by a Jewish banker named Shylock. Shakespeare’s imagery and vast literary references include the legal and social elements of the Inns of Court, geography, history, war and weaponry, sports and games, classical mythology, drama, the natural world, sea-faring, hunting and falconry, astrology, medicine, art and culture, fashion, gardening and animal husbandry, fencing and fighting, heraldry, the stage, religion, the occult/magic, paganism, folklore, metaphysics and oratory. Furthermore, to write so accurately about these subjects he would have had access to a library containing over 3,000 books and yet in the final last will and testament of the Stratford actor, William Shakspere there is no mention of any library, any books or any original manuscripts of his plays or poetry. No, not even a Bible. But the author’s knowledge of English law was consistent with that of a working professional barrister or lawyer in Elizabethan England. So how did William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon in his own lifetime get into so many personal legal difficulties, misdemeanours and transgressions of the law? If the Truth be known or at some future time be revealed to the world the Stratford Shakespeare did not in actual fact write the works of the pseudonymous “William Shakespeare”, he was merely a “shadow” for the man who did, that is Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Edward de Vere attended St. John’s College, Cambridge and recieved his M.A. in 1564 and an honorary M.A. at Oxford university two years later. He was an excellent musician, poet and playwright being tutored by the renowned Magus and Astrologer, Dr. John Dee as well as patronising other notable poets and playwrights in London. He was awarded an annuity of £1,000 to oversee the English Literary Renaissance by Queen Elizabeth 1st and probably financed the building of the Globe Theatre in London. He had his own acting troupe of adult and children’s actors and was for a while a favourite at court but fell out of favour due to his bellicose and excoriating nature. He died in penury and under mysterious circumstances, presumably of the plague in 1604. (See “The Mysterious Metamorphosis of William Shakespeare”)

Furthermore, it should be pointed out that the Earl of Oxford employed the title Earl of Oxenforde (the city of Oxford on the Thames derived its name because it was a safe place to cross the river with cattle).

A scene from the Venetian capital where transportation was largely by boat

Around the same time that John Shakspere (William’s father) was being threatened and obstructed by the ardent Protestant Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote (1532-1600) nearby who knew that he was illegally acquiring assets and property while carrying on with prohibited practices such as wool-brogging which was banned by Queen Elizabeth. Lucy strongly opposed Shakspere’s attempt to acquire a coat of arms on quite legitimate grounds, namely that the Shakspere’s family had no noble genealogy through the Arden line. Nevertheless, someone allowed his son William Shakspere to acquire a coat of arms simply by paying for it. This matter was lampooned by the playwright Ben Jonson in his play “Everyman Out Of His Humour”. (See “Shakespeare’s Coat Of Arms”)

1598, 4th February – List of Hoarders. Shakspere is named as having illegally held 10 quarters (80 bushels) of malt or corn during a shortage.

1598, 1st October – Tax record. In the King’s Remembrancer Subsidy Roll, Shakspere is listed as a tax defaulter who failed to pay an assessed 13s..4d

The attempt by the Masonic Fraternity (The Royal Society) to substantiate William Shakspere as a man of property and elevated status with his shares in the Blackfriar’s theatre and as a co-owner of the lease of the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse does not stand up to scrutiny. Both of these assets were not bequeathed or passed on to his family or even mentioned in his last will and testament and remain “red herrings” in a dubious attempt to support the great literary cover-up. (See “Shakespeare’s Signatures” and “Shakespeare’s Coat of Arms”)

Certain distinct phrases employed by the author of the 1623 Folio of plays were in fact used creatively as legal analogies that were in common use anyway even by the layman. While we know that Sir Francis Bacon was an Attorney at Law and had prosecuted among others Sir John Hollis and Sir John Wentworth for traducing justice. We know that Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford was also involved in state politics having sat on the bench during the trial of Mary Queen of Scots. (See “Mary Queen of Scots”)

When William Shakspere was on one occasion summoned as a character witness in the legal dispute between Mountjoy and Belott (1612-13) he failed to recollect accurately, the contract of marriage between Mountjoy’s daughter, Marie to Belott’s son, to determine the outcome and when the case was adjourned he failed to appear on the second hearing. This left his so-called “friend”, Christopher Mountjoy, who had treated him with all kindness and generosity, to the mercy of the court’s adjudication (he had to pay a £60 fine for breach of contract).

A late 19th century artist’s impression of the Jewish banker Shylock

1612, 11th May to 19th June – Court records. Public Record Office, Court of Requests Shakspere was called into court and asked to resolve a dispute regarding the amount offered by him as dowry when he helped negotiate a marriage in 1604 (Belott v. Mountjoy). “Only Shakespeare himself could resolve the question … but what the portion was, or when it was to be paid, Shakespeare could not say….The witness likewise professed ignorance of ‘what implementes and necessaries of stuff’ Mountjoy gave with Mary”.

From Shakespeare’s plays we derive the impression that the playwright had the working knowledge of a 16th century barrister or lawyer and was well acquainted with foreign law so how did he get himself into so many legal difficulties?

We can safely assume that William Shakspere did not have a good grasp of legal protocols and we know he did not study either at Gray’s Inn or the Middle Temple and never attended a university. It is not even confirmed whether he attended a grammar school since records did not exist during his early years in Stratford-upon-Avon. If he had known enough of his and other’s legal rights he would not have got himself and his family into so much trouble with the law:

For example, the 1596 Michaelmas Court records state: William Wayte “swore before the Judge of the Queen’s Bench that he stood in danger of death, or bodily hurt, from William Shakspere and three others. The magistrate then commanded the sheriff of the appropriate county to produce the accused … who had to post bond to keep the peace, on pain of forfeiting the security”.

Justice (The Merchant of Venice) Lamed – Of Blood & Justice

Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

There were many different courts of law in Elizabethan England, for example the Court of Common Pleas (equivalent to our Magistrate’s Court), the Courts of the Exchequer (Commercial Court), the Court of Leet (a type of Police or Bailiff’s Court), the Queen’s Bench, the quarter sessions of the Justice of the Peace and the notorious Star Chamber where regularly any representative counsel was refused and even torture was tolerated against those accused. The latter is mentioned briefly in the “Merry Wives of Windsor”, Act 1, scene 1:

“Sir Hugh persuade me not; I will make a Star Chamber matter of it; if he were twenty Sir John Falstaffs he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire.”

A reference to Clement’s Inn is made later:

“A’ must, then, to the Inns o’ Court shortly. I was once of Clement’s Inn; where I think they will talk of mad Shallow yet…..You had not four such swinge-bucklers in all the inns of court…The very same day did I fight with one Sampson Stockfish, a fruiterer, behind Gray’s Inn. Jesu! Jesu! The mad days I have spent.”

Hereditary rights were usually the concern of the Courts of the Exchequer and reference is made in “Richard II” (Act 2, scene 2):

Duke of York:
“If you…call in the letters patent that he hath
By his attorneys-general to sue his livery, and deny his offered homage
You pluck a thousand dangers on his head.”

The ludicrous idiosyncrasies of English law are challenged satirically in a scene from “Hamlet” (Act 5, scene 1):

First Clown:
“How can that be, unless she drowned herself in her own defence?”

Second Clown: “Why, ’tis found so.”

First Clown: “It must be ‘se offendendo;’ it cannot be else. For
here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly,
it argues an act: and an act hath three branches: it
is, to act, to do, to perform: argal, she drowned
herself wittingly.”

Second Clown:
“Nay, but hear you, goodman delver,–
First Clown: Give me leave. Here lies the water; good: here
stands the man; good; if the man go to this water,
and drown himself, it is, will he, nill he, he
goes,–mark you that; but if the water come to him
and drown him, he drowns not himself: argal, he
that is not guilty of his own death shortens not his own life.”

Second Clown:
“But is this law?”

First Clown:
“Ay, marry, is’t; crowner’s quest law.”

The play most quoted to suggest the author of Shakespeare’s canon had some comprehension of legal matters, historically in Italy in comparison with England’s laws is of course “The Merchant of Venice” (Act 3, scene 2):

“Besides, it should appear, that if he had
The present money to discharge the Jew,
He would not take it. Never did I know
A creature, that did bear the shape of man,
So keen and greedy to confound a man:
He plies the duke at morning and at night,
And doth impeach the freedom of the state,
If they deny him justice: twenty merchants,
The duke himself, and the magnificoes
Of greatest port, have all persuaded with him;
But none can drive him from the envious plea
Of forfeiture, of justice and his bond.”

And later Antonio tells Salerio:

“The duke cannot deny the course of law:
For the commodity that strangers have
With us in Venice, if it be denied,
Will much impeach the justice of his state;
Since that the trade and profit of the city
Consisteth of all nations. Therefore, go:
These griefs and losses have so bated me,
That I shall hardly spare a pound of flesh
To-morrow to my bloody creditor.
Well, gaoler, on. Pray God, Bassanio come
To see me pay his debt, and then I care not!”

An artist’s impression of the Jewish banker Shylock

Now, the majority of Jews in England had been deported by the late Middle Ages, as was the case in Spain, France and Scotland such was the bigotry and prejudice against them there but in Italy, a multi-cultural dominion the Jews remained, albeit with some innate prejudice and suspicion from the largely Christian population. Italy also tolerated the presence of Muslims since it was a safe haven for persecuted minorities. We know that William Shakspere had never travelled abroad and had no idea what the circumstances were there either from a legal, commercial or religious context. So, how could he have written a play imbued with authentic detail of the courts of Venice? Edward de Vere on the other hand had most definitely travelled to Italy, spoke Italian and had definitely been well-informed with its laws and customs. Furthermore, like Antonio he had been an aristocratic merchant adventurer and lost huge sums of investment, for example in the exploration of a Northwest passage and an Indies expedition that went awry. An understanding of Mosaic Law would also be necessary to write this play and a thorough reading of Deuteronomy and Leviticus where a great deal of importance is placed on justice and the “letter of the law”. Portia’s statement to Shylock has biblical overtones:

“Therefore, Jew, though justice be thy plea, consider this:
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.”

In retrospect this fairy tale play contains allegorical moral lessons on the value we place on money, and the value we should place on life. The cameo insert of the “Casket scene” is a stereotypical fairy tale motif that would have delighted a less sophisticated audience in Elizabethan London. Taken from an ancient eastern source the caskets are made of Lead (Saturn), Silver (Moon) and Gold (Sun) from the Alchemical tradition suggesting an understanding of Saturn in Libra as an exaltation of its values in personal relationships. In actual fact real people are placed in what can only be described as unreal situations and we are then placed in the uncomfortable position of deciding or adjudicating between mercy and severity (the 2 Pillars on the Tree of Life). Representatives of earthly and divine justice can be seen in the characters of Shylock and Portia and the audience are free to decide who is right from what is held precious or superfluous. More significantly the play strongly reflects Shakespeare’s own contemporary view that like money, love is a form of currency that can be spent, wasted or invested and is a higher form of currency in comparison to its material reflection. Shylock seems to represent the Jewish tradition which maintained that the principle of Justice was above that of Love and here Shakespeare illustrates that the principle of Mercy places Love above that of Justice. Moreover, the text suggests that Shakespeare has a very clear and in-depth understanding of the principles of law in relation to that of religion and vice versa. The characterisation of Shylock is nevertheless deeply suspicious and reliant on stereotypical views of Jewish values and attitudes. For example, after Jessica’s elopement Shylock is reported by Solanio as “running through the streets crying out:” “O, my ducats! O, my daughter! My ducats and my daughter!” This simply reinforces the idea that female offspring of Jewish fathers were mere chattels in Jewish traditions and marriage contracts. The term “The Jew” is used 22 times while his name, Shylock is only mentioned on six occasions. What is worse however is the idea that Shylock refuses to be paid off and will have his bond for a “pound of flesh” respected by the court. There is no doubt that several aspects of the play, particularly the character of the ruthless and merciless Shylock is clouded by ambiguity or simply open to a much broader interpretation given the anti-Semitic sentiments of Elizabethan contemporary culture (eg: Christopher Marlowe’s “Jew of Malta”). The whole matter is cleverly resolved when Portia reminds the court of a legal loophole that he can take his pound of flesh but without spilling any blood. Portia points citing the actual laws regulating forfeiture of bonds in Venice:

Shylock expressing his frustration and annoyance in the Venetian court when Portia points out the letter of the law

“Tarry a little; there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are ‘a pound of flesh:’
Take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh;
But, in the cutting it, if thou dost shed
One drop of Christian blood, thy lands and goods
Are, by the laws of Venice, confiscate
Unto the state of Venice.”

Furthermore, it seems that according to those Venetian laws, any alien seeking to injure or kill any citizen would have all his lands and goods seized:

“The law hath yet another hold on you.
It is enacted in the laws of Venice,
If it be proved against an alien
That by direct or indirect attempts
He seek the life of any citizen,
The party ‘gainst the which he doth contrive
Shall seize one half his goods; the other half
Comes to the privy coffer of the state;
And the offender’s life lies in the mercy
Of the duke only, ‘gainst all other voice.
In which predicament, I say, thou stand’st;
For it appears, by manifest proceeding,
That indirectly and directly too
Thou hast contrived against the very life
Of the defendant; and thou hast incurr’d
The danger formerly by me rehearsed.
Down therefore and beg mercy of the duke.”

At one instance the playwright and poet Ben Jonson killed a man in a duel and when prosecuted for the crime he decided to plea “benefit of clergy” to escape the legal consequences. In Henry VIth Part Two, in Act 4, scene 2 an allusion to benefit of clergy is made by the rebel Jack Cade:

“Thou hast most traitorously
corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a
grammar school; and whereas, before, our forefathers
had no other books but the score and the tally, thou
hast caused printing to be used, and, contrary to
the king, his crown and dignity, thou hast built a
paper-mill. It will be proved to thy face that thou
hast men about thee that usually talk of a noun and
a verb, and such abominable words as no Christian
ear can endure to hear. Thou hast appointed
justices of peace, to call poor men before them
about matters they were not able to answer.
Moreover, thou hast put them in prison; and because
they could not read, thou hast hanged them; when,
indeed, only for that cause they have been most
worthy to live.”

Divinatory Meaning of this Card:
Positive: Fair play in legal matters and partnerships, without prejudice in search for justice, Marriage, agreements and arbitration.

Negative: Litigation, disputes prejudicial view of truth or karmic retribution, separation inequality and bias.

SPHERE 11 Daath (Knowledge) The Faithful Intelligence Lamed – An Ox Goad
Astrological: Scorpio or the 8th House.
Constellation: Pavo – The Peacock
Sacred Gemstone: Garnet or Herkimer Diamond

The next Arcanum in this series can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

“Arcanum XII, The Hanged Man”

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The links to my publications 
“Shakespeare’s Qaballah”,
a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry,