It’s no secret that I’m one of Christine Payne-Towler’s biggest fans and the Tarot of the Holy Light (THL) is my personal reading deck. While I may not reach for the THL for readings I do for others (though those who’ve gotten readings from me know that from time to time, I do), it’s almost always the first deck I reach for when reading for myself. So naturally, I eagerly awaited both Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the companion texts that go along with the THL.
I reviewed the THL deck here (first edition of it) and Volume I of the companion text, Tarot of the Holy Light: A Continental Esoteric Tarot here. This will be my review and overview of Volume II, Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions, pictured above alongside the newest version of the THL deck, which I also have. Wherever you all seem to think my smartness is, multiply that by one thousand and that’s Christine Payne-Towler.
Foundations begins by explaining why the THL focus is on Jacob Boehme, a seventeenth century occultist. Boehme’s works are said to have heavily influenced later Rosicrucians, Freemasons, and Martinists, and then the early esoteric tarot deck by Etteilla. While Volume I was a study of each individual card from the THL, Volume II takes us back to the source theoretical principles behind the THL. What was the purpose behind conception of the THL deck? What are the foundational gnostic premises that the deck is built upon? In fact, what are the foundational gnostic premises that all esoteric tarot decks to come are built upon? These are the questions Volume II explore.
Volume II provides interdisciplinary instruction on various esoteric theoretical models from Western mystery traditions and ultimately synthesizes it with the continental tarot deck. This is the kind of book you sit at a desk to read, because you have pen and paper ready for notetaking.
Since I am not well-learned in Western mystery traditions or the Kabbalah, this was slow reading for me, but wholly enjoyable slow reading. I loved how Payne-Towler compels me to explore the Kabbalah further. Alchemy and esoteric astrology are also explored in detail and depth.
If you work with the THL deck, then you must have this book. If you don’t work with the THL deck but possess an active interest in Western esotericism, then get this book with or without the deck, because there’s so much in here that will enrich your own metaphysical studies.
Payne-Towler does enter with a distinct religious point of view and I don’t think the THL books are intended to be strict, objective scholarly research. There’s a great deal of scholarly research in here, but pulled in such a way to support a very clear religious thesis. For me, I don’t mind that at all, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.
Anyone with occult leanings who want to study the Western mystery traditions should have a copy of this book in their personal library. This is just one of those incredible, rich texts that I cherish having access to.
Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions is 260 pages of Western theosophic exploration keyed to the incredible THL tarot deck, though it’s not an operation manual the way Volume I was. Here, Volume II is a treatise that explores the roots, foundation, and backstory of the mystery traditions that the deck and, beyond the THL deck, esoteric tarot in general is founded upon. Foundations will deepen your pool of knowledge. In many ways, this book is about teaching you how to think, and how to process information found on a tarot deck through the filters of Western occult history.
Volume I and Volume II are both self-published and can be ordered at Christine Payne-Towler’s site, Tarot University. Also be sure to check out the new version of the THL deck. I have both. To be honest I prefer the earlier version, but the new version is more functional. It’s easier to shuffle, easier to transport around with you, and all around more practical as a user-friendly deck. The earlier deck is more of a collector’s item and for someone with my size hands, forces slow shuffle and meditation. With the new deck, I can shuffle faster. Anyway, go check out Tarot University.