Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
It's not a translation of the passage (which should be clear, people are familiar enough with the passage), it's a comment on the cosmograph in the book. At the end of the universe is the "Tohu Bohu", which returns to the formless state of the beginning.
In some respects it was considered a type of element alongside air, earth, fire, water*, and of itself created by God too, the primal matter/element through which the others are formed - it seems as such to me in this cosmograph that the outermost sphere (at the 'end' or uppermost limits of the universe) most likely represents that fifth, primal formless element/matter from which the rest are formed, Hyle or Chaos (or emptiness, the void). It is represented as part or as an element of the universe, not as a return to it. I would think the return in Christian terms is a return or restoration of paradise, not a return to primal matter/chaos, void or emptiness? At least, there doesn't seem much to impart 'hope' in that idea...
According to some it is not a fifth element but rather an appelation for water, which was considered the primal element, here differentiating between the water above (tohu/bohu) and water below (aqua).
I want to go back to these thoughts from both of you, which are in quite an interesting direction.
Here is Ch. 1, Sect. 1 of ps.-Dionysius, Celestial Hierarchy
(http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/areop ... chy.htm#c1
"Every good gift (2) and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights." Further also, every procession of illuminating light, proceeding from the Father, whilst visiting us as a gift of goodness, restores us again gradually as an unifying power, and turns us to the oneness of our conducting Father, and to a deifying simplicity. For (3) all things are from Him, and to Him, as said the Sacred Word.
2. James i. 17.
3. Rom. xi. 36.
Ps.-Dionysius's version of Romans xi. 36 is not like anyone else's. His is a Neoplatonist reworking of his text, unless the one we know is a de-Platonization of some previously existing line of a Platonist hymn. The Vulgate has "quoniam ex ipso et per ipsum et in ipso omnia ipsi gloria in saecula amen" (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?se ... on=VULGATE
Regardless, what ps.-Dionysius is saying is something similar, I think, to what Ross is articulating, a return to the source. Applied to the cosmograph, the source is the tohu/bohu of Genesis at the top of the spheres, which I take to be the formlessness at the beginning, but the Empyrean as well, perhaps enformed when souls return, but in a way that negates all our earth-bound concepts (thus "formless" from an embodied perspective), while emerging from and returning to timelessness. It is perhaps related to what ps.-Dionysius says about the immersion into water of the rite of baptism, according to the 1987 translation (Pseudo-Dionysius: the Complete Writings
, p. 207f):
To us death is not, as others imagine, a complete dissolution of being. It is rather the separation of two parts which had been linked together. It brings the soul into what for us is an invisible realm where it, in the loss of the body, becomes formless.
However an older translation (http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/areop ... y.htm#c2.3
For since death is with us not an annihilation of being, as others surmise, but the separating of things united, leading to that which is invisible to us, the soul indeed becoming invisible through deprivation of the body...
and nothing about "formless". I do not know the original Greek, or Traversari's translation.
It seems significant that the tohu/bohu is what is in the illustration, implying the beginning. If the last six to eight trumps (depending on how far the metaphor is taken) are about an allegorical ascent to God, then, on a cosmographic interpretation (I am talking about a rationalization of the sequence, not what is in them naturally or conventionally, which I think isn't much), some people might, in reflection, have seen the first six to ten trumps (counting the Matto as one of them) as a descent from God (Matto as tohu/bohu), a coming to earth of spirit, either God's or the soul's, and receiving God's Wisdom bodily so as to act upon it in the world and then ascend.
What ps.-Dionysius says at first is that the light proceeds downward from the Father, and "turns us" toward Him. Such a downward motion of the Light fits my interpretation of the Fool as the Father, the Bagat as the Logos, and the Popess as the Holy Spirit, or perhaps Wisdom, this last, with either name, being closest to us now.
But the quote/misquote from St. Paul, seems to go further, because "all things" coming from God include souls. And so the Empress as mother, physical but with the aspect of divine bestower of Life, the Emperor as father, similar but perhaps with Goodness, and the Pope as viceroy of the Word. Then the descent of divine Love, of Reason (the Phaedran charioteer), working through divine-allegorical and human justice, fortitude, fortune, temperance, and time (in whatever order). Or something like that. I may not have gotten it just right.
This descent which prepares for ascent is, to be sure, harder to see than the ascent that follows. But I have not studied ps.-Dionysius as much as they would have in the 15th century, or in the context of other Christian Neoplatonist writings they would have read. I am not in a position to see him in the eyes of 1436 Florence, when Traversari finished his translation.
But according to the footnotes in the 20th century translation (mostly not online), Divine Names
is about God's descent, the "affirmative way" in contrast to the "negative way" of the ascent. Looking there, I see discussion of Wisdom, Life, Goodness, Love, and Soul (ch. 4, 6, 7) descending from God, and justice, temperance (IV, 717A), and reason (725B-C) as from God to aid humanity's struggle against evil (non-being) and toward God (being); Time is another of God's names (IX, 937A, with "Ancient of Days") and the cause of time (940A). (These are also in the online version, http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/areop ... _names.htm
. See also Divine Justice.) That is not far from the tarot. Fortitude is an easy addition (mentioned in Ch. 8 sect. 8 and Ecclesiastical Hierarchy
401C). I don't see Fortune mentioned, only Providence (1109C and elsewhere). As in Boethius, probably Fortune is an illusion. Perhaps that is why her personification gets removed from the card, leaving only the more ambiguous Wheel (turned by Providence?). That is as far as I can get. I do not see Betrayal. Death is mentioned only briefly, as quoted above. There is also a negative version of the Bagatto, the magician Elymas of Acts 13 (Ch. 8, sect. 6), against whom Paul's magic is stronger, turning Elymas blind.
The sefirotic Tree of the Kabbalah is another version of the cosmograph, with six of the spheres in pairs and an eleventh outside the Tree (some cosmographs had eleven or twelve spheres). But as Pico says in the Oration
(http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crs ... Mirandola/
), reading Cabala one finds the same thing there as in Paul, Dionysius, Jerome, and Augustine. Again, it is a matter of descent and ascent. Pico's assignment of planets to sefirot is at 900 Theses
11>48, with three levels above them; the descent of the soul through the sefirot is at 11>66.