(THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MEDIUM APRIL 12TH 2019)
I received the first prototypes of the AEON cards a couple of weeks ago. Today at TED conference I did a couple of readings for Debby and Lydia. Both readings were amazing and I thought it was time finally time to share the story of them.
I’ve been planning a variant of the Nockwood cards that can be used for personal readings for some time. Whenever I tried to find language for personal readings, I always found myself falling into nasty ‘self-help’ and ‘personal development’ bullshit words that came with all sorts of baggage.
I needed something new, untainted but the idea of creating a whole new lexicon was not only daunting, but felt somewhat pretentious and risky.
I discovered the solution in some early Gnostic texts, primarily the Book of Jeu and the Pistis Sophia and a couple of other forgotten gospels. These early Gnostic texts described the origins of the universe and the creation of our material world as a series of ‘AEONS’, emanations of God. Amazingly, this story, not only mirrored and matched the six suits of Nockwood but also described a well considered and comprehensive articulation of the many things that motivate and drive of human behavior. What I loved about these texts was that this articulation of the origin of the universe was in fact a deep, and existential framing of who we were, why we do the things we do and why we are here in the first place.
As a first step I want to share with you the story of the origin of the Universe according to the early Gnostic Gospels (if you want to know more about these gospels, please check out the book of my dear friend, Elaine Pagel: https://www.amazon.com/Gnostic-Gospels-Elaine-Pagels/dp/0679724532).
This is described in many documents, but the best summary comes from Valentinus:. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentinianism I will share some of the texts that led to the structure and design of the cards.
The AEONS described.
MONAD In the beginning there was an ineffable ‘father’, the MONAD is described as “uncontained, incomprehensible and cannot be seen or heard” (Against Heresies 1:2:5).
According to Valentinius the MONAD was: “…the Root of the All, the Ineffable One who dwells in the Monad. He dwells alone in silence, and silence is tranquility since, after all, he was a Monad and no one was before him.” (A Valentinian Exposition. Nag Hammadi library, translated by John D Turner).
This empty void, the silence and tranquility around him was called Sig, ‘silence’. As luck would have it, Sig, ‘silence’, is female. A female noun. And so, the start of the universe was a linguistic serendipity. A male being, the father of all was, without doing anything, able to form a union with ‘nothingness’. An isolated being, existing in a void was able to find love, a pairing, a union of opposites. Something and nothing, together as one.
“He dwells alone in silence, and silence is tranquility since, after all, he was a Monad and no one was before him. He dwells in the Dyad and in the Pair, and his Pair is Silence.” (A Valentinian Exposition. Nag Hammadi library, transl. by John D Turner).
Since he is everything, both male and female, it is only when this passive male is moved to action by his feminine thought of nothingness and silence (Sig), that the universe starts to form. (cf. Epiphanius Panarion 5:3).
NOUS and ALETHEIA Valentinus goes on to describe the birth of NOUS (Mind) and ALETHEIA (Truth):
“God came forth: the Son, Mind of the All, that is, it is from the Root of the All that even his Thought stems, since he had this one (the Son) in Mind. For on behalf of the All, he received an alien Thought since there were nothing before him.” (‘A Valentinian Exposition’. Nag Hammadi library, transl. by John D Turner).
The mere act of ‘Thought’, the mere act of conception of self, of being, was the birth of the ‘Son’ who was the “mind of all”. In Greek, the language of these texts, the word for mind is ‘NOUS’. In Greek, this word mean much more than just rational thought, more than consciousness, it means everything we can know, intuitive, creative, unconscious and spiritual self — “the mind of the spirit”.
Theodotus describes this process in the following words, “Through his own Thought as the one who knew himself, he (the Father) brought forth the spirit of knowledge, which is in knowledge, the Only-Begotten (Son)” (Excerpts of Theodotus 7:1).
The text goes on to say that with the arrival of the mind, also came the desire for the all. The ability to think, to conceive, brings with it a desire to know more, to seek an understanding of everything. Velentinus describes it thus:
“When he willed, the First Father revealed himself in him. Since, after all, because of him the revelation is available to the All, I for my part call the All ‘the desire of the All’. And he took such a thought concerning the All — I for my part call the thought ‘Monogenes’. For now God has brought Truth, the one who glorifies the Root of the All”.
(‘A Valentinian Exposition’. Nag Hammadi library, transl. by John D Turner).
This ‘desire for the all’, this desire to know everything, that followed the ability to conceive, is what gives birth to ‘ALETHEIA’ the Greek word for truth. The word ‘ALETHEIA’ literally means that which is to be revealed, the truths that we know and the truths that we don’t. Every truth. All truths that can be discovered. Again, by linguistic gendering, these two children were one male (NOUS) and one female (ALETHEIA).
NOUS is the ‘Father of All’, while his feminine aspect is called ALETHEIA, ‘Mother of All’. They represent how truth can only be comprehended by the truly conscious mind. These four elements are sometimes called ‘the original four’ since they both can be understood as dyads (i.e. Monad and Silence; Mind and Truth).
PHRONESIS, a union of LOGOS (Word) and ZOE (life).
“Now the Uncreated One projected word (‘logos’)and Life (‘zoe’). Word is for the glory of the Ineffable One while Life is for the glory of Silence, and Man is for his own glory, while Church is for the glory of Truth. This, then, is the Tetrad begotten according to the likeness of the Uncreated (Tetrad).” (‘A Valentinian Exposition’. Nag Hammadi library, transl. by John D Turner).
Once again these two beings of NOUS and ALETHEIA formed a union, a copulation, and gave birth to Zoe which means ‘life’ and Logos, ‘word’. In these early times, the word ‘word’ was less associated with written word, but rather meant commitment and intention, as in ‘keeping your word’. These two elements together are everything practical and material. Everything derived from learning and evidence of practical things. For this reason, I’ve called the combination ‘Phronesis’, in alignment of the Nockwood suit of spades.
ANTHROPOS AND ECCLESIA
The quote above shows how ‘Logos’ (word) and ‘Zoe’ (life), again male and female nouns, give birth to ANTHROPOS (‘mankind’) ‘for his own glory’ and ECCLESIA (‘church’) ‘for the glory of truth’. It should be noted that even though ECCLESIA is strongly associated with ‘church’ in the religious sense, the real meaning of the word is one of ‘gathering’, coming together. So the final two AEONs of creation really represent our individuality and our interdependence born of our tendency to form groups, to gather, to align and to come together.
Valentinus goes on to call this the TETRAD:
“This, then, is the Tetrad begotten according to the likeness of the Uncreated. And the Tetrad is begotten [… ] the Decad from Word and Life, and the Dodecad from Man, and Church became a Triacontad.” (‘A Valentinian Exposition’. Nag Hammadi library, transl. by John D Turner).
So in summary, the ineffable Father, who is both male and female (the MONAD and silence) gives birth to a Son (also both male and female, NOUS and ALETHEIA). These are the divine, father and son, and their feminine counterparts. What Carl Jung might call their Anima and Animus.
These gendered pairs, lead to the creation of four Aeons. The first pair consisted of Word (male) and Life (female) and represents true life (PHRONESIS) which originates from the divine utterance. The second pair ANTHROPOS (male) and ECCLESIA (female) were created in the gendered image of Mind and Truth (Valentinian Exposition 29:25–37) and represent the natural state of humanity connected on the earthly plane.
If you are still with me, I hope you can see the parallels with six suits of Nockwood. The MONAD is the power that drives everything. This is the suit of Suns (also known as ‘Coins’) and represents all power and energy in the universe. The suit of Hearts, everything that is within you, aligns with consciousness, NOUS, the mind is the Ace of Hearts. The suit of diamonds, everything outside of you, aligns with ALETHEIA, truth. PHRONESIS, the practical knowledge and wisdom that aligns with Spades. The suit of Shields aligns with the intentionality and pursuits of mankind, ANTHROPOS and the suit of Flags, which is all about groups and social, aligns with the idea of ECCLESIA the ‘gathering’. These six primary AEONS are the same as the six suits of Nockwood.
The DECAD and DODECAD
According to the Gnostic Society Library:
“Subsequently, eighteen less important Aeons were brought forth, ten from Word and Life and twelve from Humanity and Church. They represent a further unfolding and manifestation of characteristics immanent within the Son.”
These ‘lesser aeons’ were depicted in the following diagram and description from Valentinus:
“ The Decad from Word and Life, and the Dodecad from Man, and Church became a Triacontad. Moreover, it is the one from the Triacontad of the Aeons who bear fruit from the Triacontrad. They enter jointly, but they come forth singly, fleeing from the Aeons and the Uncontainable Ones.” (‘A Valentinian Exposition’. Nag Hammadi library, transl. by John D Turner).
The AEON deck has cards for all of these AEONS represented.
In the center of each card is a Nockwood symbol that shows the combination of the primary suits that make up the cards. Each card also has the male/female pairs identified with a ‘I’ (male) or ‘0' (female). Every AEON pairing (below) also matches the pairing of the Nockwood suits. (e.g. Bythos is Suns primary and Spades secondary; Mixis is Spades primary and suns secondary).
The Treasury of Light
‘The Treasury of Light’ is the name given to the cards that are the combination of Divine suit with another Divine suit. There are only 6 cards in the ‘Treasury of Light’. These are the most positive and spiritual cards of the deck.
The Realm of Darkness
‘The realm of darkness’ is the name given to the cards that are the combination of Earthly suits with other Earthly suits. There are only 5 cards in the ‘Realm of Darkness’. These are the most material and grounded cards of the deck.
AEONS OF THE DECAD (M:F):
BYTHOS (depth) — MIXIS (stir-up)
AGERATOS (eternal) — HENOSIS (union)
AUTOPHYES (self-made) — HEDONE (pleasure)
ACINTOS (immovable) — SYNCRASIS (intercourse)
MONOGENES (originality — MACARIA (happiness)
The Decad are the first 5 aeons and their female pairs are born of the primary AEONs that make up PHRONESIS and these therefore describe the principles of spiritual life. The balances that must be maintained.
AEONS OF THE DODECAD (M:F):
PARACLETOS (helper) — PISTIS (faith)
PATRICOS (father) — ELPIS (hope)
METRICOS (mother) — AGAPE (love)
AINOS (praise) — SYNESIS (understanding)
ECCLESIASTICUS (son of the church)— MACARIOTES (utopia)
THELETUS (perfect) — SOPHIA (wisdom)
The Dodecad are the six pairs that are generated from ANTHROPOS and ECCLESIA. These represent the potential of all matter. A perfected humanity that we should aspire to produce.
“All the emanations from the Father, therefore, are Pleromas, and all his emanations have their roots in the one who caused them all to grow from himself…They, then, became manifest individually in order that they might be in their own thought, for that place to which they extend their thoughts is their root, which lifts them upward through all heights to the Father. ..But, they, indeed, are the truth, and the Father is in them, and they are in the Father, since they are perfect, inseparable from him who is truly good. They lack nothing in any way, but they are given rest and are refreshed by the Spirit… And they listen to their root; they have leisure for themselves, they in whom he will find his root, and he will suffer no loss to his soul.”
The Gospel of truth, Nag Hammadi Library