0 – The Fool, la Mat
Represented by Uranus Represents the Pure Element of Air Keywords: transcendental, beginnings, naive, beginner’s mind, androgyny, journey, wandering, detachment, potential, divinity, freedom
The Fool in the Rider-Waite-Smith
The Fool is a Complement of XXI, the World (Universe)
The fool is a young androgynous person walking along a cliff towards the edge without a care in the world, not even paying attention to where they’re going. They have a colorful tunic on and a red feather in their hair. They have a pole and knapsack.
They’re holding a blooming white flower, indicating both growth and innocence. They have a white dog companion happily following them, seemingly playful and/or trying to warn them to watch where they’re going. There are snow-tipped mountains in the background and a radiant white sun is shining against a bright yellow sky.
The Fool represents the Pagan Green Man, who gives birth to the greenery of the Spring in combination with the energy of the Sun, emerging from the darkness and fertile potential of the Winter. This is why we see the combination of green and yellow in the Fool: they are the Spring personified – the latent potential of the universe giving birth to life and form.
The Fool represents the beginning of the journey of life, represented by the Major Arcana of the Tarot. They are the 0th card, meaning although they are at the beginning of the journey they can really enter the Major Arcana sequence at any point.
They represent both the beginning of the journey and the entire journey itself. They have an air of tranquility. They transcend the mundane reality of stress and work and encourage us to see the world with what the Zen masters call Beginner’s Mind.
In modern playing cards, the Fool is represented by the unassuming Joker.
Are they really going to walk off the cliff? Maybe. Maybe not. Are they really that foolish? After all, Jesus said “think not for the ‘morrow,” meaning: live in the moment. Don’t concern yourself with planning the future.
The Fool in the Thoth Tarot
“The world is always looking for a savior, and the doctrine in question is philosophically more than than a doctrine; it is a plain fact. Salvation, whatever salvation may mean, is not to be obtained on any reasonable terms. Reason is an impasse, reason is damnation; only madness, divine madness, offers an issue.” (Book of Thoth, p. 57)
One of the most important aspects of the Fool Crowley emphasizes is the “True Hermaphroditic nature of the symbol” (Book of Thoth, p. 64). He says,
“It is necessary to acclimatise oneself to this, at first sight strange, idea. As soon as one has made up one’s mind to consider the feminine aspect of things, the masculine element should immediately appear in the same flash of thought to counterbalance it. This identification is complete in itself, philosophically speaking; it is only that one must consider the question of the result of formulating Zero as “plus I plus minus I”. The result of so doing is to formulate the idea of Tetragrammaton.” (Book of Thoth, p. 54).
Thus, The Fool represents Silence counterpoised with Manifestation of the Universe (XXI, The World). Between them lies everything and beyond them is Nothing.
The Double Articulation of the Fool
This idea of 1 + -1 = 0 corresponds to Deleuze and Guattari’s concept of the double articulation between content and expression:
“Every stratum is a judgment of God; not only do plants and animals, orchids and wasps, sing or express themselves, but so do rocks and even rivers, every stratified thing on earth. The first articulation concerns content, the second expression. The distinction between the two articulations is not betweens and substances but between content and expression, expression having just as much substance as content and content just as much form as expression….there exist intermediate states between content and expression, expression and content: the levels, equilibriums, and exchanges through which a stratified system passes.” (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 44)
The strata are “Layers, Belts. They consist of giving form to matters of imprisoning intensities or locking singularities into systems of resonance and redundancy, of producing upon the body of the earth molecules large and small and organizing them into molar aggregates…They operate by coding and territorialization.” (Thousand Plateaus, p. 40)
In Deleuzian metaphysics the stratum here corresponds to the World, the manifested reality. Each stratum or manifestation (“judgment of God”) is composed of two articulations: that of content and that of expression.
God is a Lobster
This is the double-claw of the Lobster when they say,
“God is a Lobster, or a double pincer, a double-bind…The first articulation chooses or deducts, from unstable particle-flows, metastable molecular or quasi-molecular units (substances) upon which it imposes a statistical order of connections and successions (forms). The second articulation establishes functional, compact, stable structures (forms), and constructs the molar compounds in which these structures are simultaneously actualized (substances). (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 40-41)
In terms of the Tarot, the nonbinary or androgynous Fool represents a variable content that gets expressed or “manifested” into various inceptions of reality. From the fertile potential in a feminine-masculine hybrid, variable itself, is born the entire Universe.
From the Fool (0) is born the rest of Trumps, culminating in the end of the Fool’s Journey, the Universe itself, ready to derritorialize back into the potentiality of the Fool (0). The radiates in both directions, negative and positive, push and pull, feminine and masculine, active and passive, ending in the Thoth Egg, the 0 that equals -1 plus 1.
This Egg might be thought of what Deleuze and Guattari call the Body Without Organs.
“Content and expression are two variables of a function of stratification.” (A Thousand Plateaus, p. 44)
The Fool and the Universe
Standing at the end of the stratification, Crowley says
“The [Universe]…she is represented as a dancing figure. In her hands the manipulates the radiant spiral force, the active and passive, each possessing its dual polarity.” (Book of Thoth, p. 118)
Here we can see the pattern:
The Fool (0) : active/passive :: Lobster-God : double-articulation
The Fool (0) : 1-20 : The Universe (21) : : Lobster-God : territorialization/deterritorialization : Strata
In Tarot terms, the Lobster-God is what Crowley called “hermaphroditic” – or what we would probably call in modern terms nonbinary or agender.
The shuffling of the Tarot deck itself and the Customary Cut of the Deck offer a ready metaphor for understanding the double-articulation of the Fool. From the molecular possibilities of the 78 cards an intuitive decision is made, with full intention and receptivity, to split the deck in two parts and thus necessitate the exactness of molar stratification as the cards spiral into the pattern laid out. From this shuffling process of articulation, occasional cards usually jump out, what Deleuze and Guattari would call “lines of flight,” which can themselves lead to their own sequence of territorialization/deterritorialization.