Monday, July 9, 2012

Etteilla's Angelology

(Note: this material originally appeared July 7, 2012, on Aeclectic Tarot Forum at

Also, here are links to other blog-essays of mine related to Etteilla:, in which I transcribe and translate Etteilla's comments on the trump cards of his deck, in his 2nd Cahier. has the original French and my translation of Etteilla's 3rd  Cahier, pus its supplements. These discuss the keywords on the cards and how to do readings. discusses Etteilla's followers' word-lists for the numeral cards and connects them, by means of Neopythagorean writings, with the corresponding images of the Sola-Busca deck of c. 1491 and the Waite-Smith deck of 1910. discusses a diagram that is the frontispiece to Etteilla's Leçons Théoreque et Pratique du Livre de Thot in terms of an essay by his follower Hugand, of which I translate the relevant portion.)

Who began the application of the "72 names of God", or the "72 angels around the Throne" to the tarot? It is said that Eliphas Levi did so (, but Etteilla, in his 1785 book Philosophie des Hautes Sciences, also talked about the 72, whom he called Génies, Geniuses or Spirits. Did he, before Levi, talk about them in the context of the tarot that he expounded?

Let us look at the text, which to my knowledge has rarely been discussed. I am grateful to Kwaw (Steve Mangan) on Aeclectic Tarot Forum for calling attention to this reference, after which I managed to secure a copy.

It starts on p. 63, for which I have put a scan of the French original at (and is also transcribed at the end of this blog):
Table of Geniuses [Génies] following the Philosopher Palingene (1), what they like, what displeases them, their elementary quality, and the beam or extension that is given to them in guarding this low Universe.
The Cabalists, speaking humanly, established a Throne for the Lord and the Creator of all things.
This Throne was received by all the People and in all the Religions and Sects of Religion as a respectable figure, because in fact and in truth, God in himself is in his Throne.
The Cabalists thus range around the Throne of the Lord seventy-two Spirits.
Their names and the spirit of their Element, which indicates their Being, having a finity, that is, having a body of the purest substance of the Element, the Element always dominating them.
(1) This excellent Philosopher was dug up as a Magician, three years after his death. What a scandal for Men over the follies of humanity! But that was in Italy.
My comments: The first interesting thing (p. 63, first line) is the reference to Palingenie. Marzello Palingenio Stellato (a pseudonym) wrote the [i]Zodiacus Vita[/i], a long philosophical poem in Latin published in Venice in 1535. A French translation was published in 1731-1733, as La Zodiaque de la Vie: ou Précepts pour diriger la Conduite & les Moeurs des Hommes (The Zodiac of Life, or Precepts for directing the Conduct and Morals of Men), which is online at

Actually, there is not much relationship between what Etteilla is presenting and the contents of this book, as far as I can tell from the perusing its last two chapters. The only point of contact is that the author does, in his last chapter, talk about there being innumerable Geniuses, or Spirits, surrounding the Throne of God (p. 503) beyond the heavens, spirits which only a few people are privileged to experience; these spirits are immaterial, as opposed to having bodies made of one of the four elements. However, there are also spirits somehow related to the elements, from the Earth, the Sea, and the Ether, lesser lights lit by the Creator. Geniuses in the entrails of the earth, Palingene says, are hideously malformed but, since they are dense, easily seen, and give rise to the idea of hell. So Palingene does not believe in hell; it is quite possible that Etteilla didn’t either.

One reason Etteilla brings in Palingenio is that his body was dug up and burned as that of a Magician, on order of the Inquisition. This account is from the 1731-33 translator’s introduction. Not only was he considered a heretic, but he pretended to be a Magician, according to a report in the “Journal des Savans” quoted by the translator (p. xxvii). So for Etteilla he is an example of the Inquisition’s real threat to genuine Savants. However he assures the reader that “It happened in Italy.” France presumably is governed more by reason and less by superstition. (Well, Reason could be just as terrible as superstition, as Etteilla might have learned if he’d lived a couple of years longer.)

Etteilla’s list of 72 geniuses (pp. 64-65, is similar to that given in Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy. The names are the same but the order is different. Etteilla’s 25th corresponds to Agrippa’s 2nd, and so on. It is possible that Agrippa’s list, like Etteilla’s, had correspondences to the four elements, because Agrippa groups them in four columns. Agrippa also has an account of elementals, but I don’t think Agrippa was Etteilla’s immediate source, because it is different from what Etteilla presents. Etteilla’s is similar to that which Wikipedia attributes to Paracelsus (, which even today is the standard view.

I continue with my translation, p. 66. (
The revolution of Geniuses over the years, over the months, over the weeks, over the days and over the hours, is made in 72, since the creation; but that interests only in the operations on the supernaturals.

A very essential observation, is of recognizing their Element; they are in this kind: 1, 26, 51, 4: 25, 50, 3, 28: 49, 2, 27, 52, which makes six legions or divisions of Geniuses, twelve to twelve, which form twelve among them, a spiral line that is divided into 360, as also 360 x 6 = 2160. 72 comes 60 x 6 = 360, Physical appearance. N.B. That I fix 2160.

Second remark. When the Querent is inclined to a defect, recognized in the work that we do for him, we put him under the protection of the Genius which loathes this defect or this vice.
My comments: The first paragraph simply says that the 72 Geniuses revolve around the Throne in cycles of 72, over and over again, through the hours, days, weeks and months since creation. It is not clear how long it takes them to revolve.

In the next paragraph of Etteilla’s p. 66, the series of numbers that he gives are three examples of groups of 4 Geniuses from each of the four elements. What the rest of the paragraph, regarding the six legions and 2160, is about I am not sure. It is perhaps connected to something he says later, that each of the 72 is merely the chief of multitudes of Geniuses below him. Here is the later paragraph:
 p. 69
To understand Geniuses without error, or as the Wise men called them, the seventy-two Bearers of the Throne of HOCMA or divine Wisdom, it is necessary to conceive, as Hermes said, that what is above is as what is below; that is, that what is below is the copy of the order which is above. So, a Sovereign having seventy-two regiments, each regiment composed of eighteen hundred Men, every Soldier takes the name of his regiment for recognition; thus Artois, the Colonel’s name, becomes a proper noun for the eighteen hundred Soldiers who glory in it.
Thus the Genius that governs me and takes the name of one of seventy-two Bearers of the Throne of JEHOVAH, can have under him some millions of Geniuses, etc. Here the “Hermes” that Etteilla is citing is the author of the so-called Emerald Tablet. It is its second maxim (

To return to p. 66: The “second remark” seems important. If you want to rid yourself of a character defect, attract a Genius that will work with you against it. Later (p. 64) he mentions Talismans in this connection, as a means of attracting a Genius.

I go on to Etteilla’s p. 67, which is scanned on the same link that I gave for p. 66. I start with the paragraph beginning on the bottom of p. 66:
Third remark. Nothing is easier for a Savant than drawing from the good Genius the secret of the name of the evil Genius; but the Philosophers do not say it, because of the perversity and ignorance of Men.

The Beam that our Geniuses govern is what pleases and displeases them.

In order to have a notion of the beams that Geniuses govern, I do not see a more sensible demonstration than that which offers itself to my eyes in the Treatise of methodical, very-elementary Cosmography, of Buy de Mornas, in 80, Lacombe Publications, 1770, page and figure 196.

Let us see what every Genius likes and hates, in the manner that by following the one and avoiding the other, I maintain that it is impossible not to be happy in the passage of this life.

Beforehand, it is good to warn that every person has a good and an evil genius; I am so certain of what I advance, that I offer to convince the most stubborn of it.

If Man were not pushed to good or to evil, he would at all times be master of himself; [p. 68] moreover, as there is no effect without a cause, it is necessary to grant that Geniuses or other Spirits dominate us, to which we give the name of Genius.
My comments. Presumably Etteilla will not give the names of the evil geniuses because people will want to conjure them up to do evil deeds for them. In what follows, Etteilla seems to be assuming that his reader will have the 1770 book by de Mornas at hand. Fortunately, it is online, and the figure opposite p. 196 is at;size=100;id=mdp.39015078030569;page=root;seq=239;num=196. The picture is of a globe on which the author has drawn 18 longitude lines with the equator and four other latitude lines cutting them, 2 north of the equator and 2 south.

Etteilla does not explain how this globe and its lines correspond to his doctrine of Geniuses. Perhaps the good Geniuses are meant to be like the longitude lines north of the equator, and the bad ones those to the south. In modern discussions of the 72 angels, authors make use of a circle on which there is an angel every 5 degrees (72x5 = 360 degrees, the total for the whole circle; see it e.g. at, the circle with the 12 signs of the zodiac pictured around it, and below it two of these signs divided into 6 parts each, i.e. 5 degrees apart). That comes to very much the same thing as de Mornas’s globe, if we imagine the circle as the equator and the longitude lines as drawn every 5 degrees instead of de Mornas’s 10.

If the good angels range around the Throne of Wisdom, what do the bad angels range around? And are they, too, emanations of the Most High? These questions, pertaining to the origin of cosmic evil (apart from evil chosen as the result of free will). Etteilla does not examine--perhaps wisely, considering the Inquisition.

Later in the book Etteilla lists what sphere of influence each genius, good or bad, has. Here are the first seven examples (pp. 75-76):
 1, that is, the Genius having custody of the beam of the East, dominates moral and physical cleanliness; thus the evil genius contrary to it likes moral and physical filth.

2, It dominates marriages, population; thus the Genius which is contrary to it likes to divide couples and weaken the population. This good Genius governs the second beam, going from the east to the Septentrion [the stars known in English as the Big Dipper], and thus following from it.

3, over real and constant friendship; the contrary, over false or poor friendship.

4, over useful, instructive journeys; the contrary, over the Spirit of wandering as a tramp, fortuneless and stateless.

5, the High Sciences, which are three; the first, Religion, having only one branch; the second, occult Philosophy, having seven branches; and the third, having thousands of branches, all Sciences, liberal Arts and Mechanical Arts. This fifth genius hates Men who speak ill of one of these three stalks.

6, modesty; the contrary, lasciviousness.

7, intelligence formed by study; the contrary, the spirit limited by laziness.
And so on through number 72. So there are 72 good Geniuses, and 72 evil ones. I don’t know where he gets these descriptions, but they are of a similar sort to what I find on the Internet even today.

It would be easy enough to assign these 72 to 72 corresponding tarot cards, as Levi is said to have done, and also and also Papus ( , although I cannot find it in the source cited, Tarot of the Bohemians). But as far as I can tell, Etteilla did not do that.

While Etteilla does not make any correlations between Geniuses and particular cards, he does say (pp. 111-112) that it is possible to calculate what number (from 1 to 72) a person’s Genius is, and from that look up its name in Etteilla’s chart. To get the number, all you need to know are the initials of the person’s first and last name (and possibly also their favorite number, but I don't see how that enters into the calculations.) Then there is a way of converting the initials to numbers, which he credits to his disciple Hisler. As presented earlier in the book (p. 43), the correspondences are as follows,
1.   3.   4.   7.   9.   2.   4.   6.   8.  10.  11.  12.   33.   44.   55.   66.   77.   88.
A.  E.   I.   O.  U.   B.   D.  C.   F.   G.   H.   J.    K.     L.    M.    N.     P.    Q.

90.   20.   30.   40.   50.   60.   70.   80.
R.     S.    T.     V.    X..    Y.    Z.    &.
That there is nothing for U is probably because it is a recent addition to the alphabet, not one of the Egyptians' letters. The same would be true for W.  Why the Egyptians had the recently added I as well as a J, I don't know, nor why they would have considered the Ampersand, the symbol for "and," a letter.

In Etteilla's example, the person's name is Ismael Ozias, which he says converted to the initials J. O. (Why they are not I. O. perhaps has something to do with French spelling, I don't know; the letter I had only recently been introduced.). Converted to numbers they are 12 and 7. We then add the number 36 to that sum. I am not sure why 36 is chosen; it may be something one does no matter what the example, or it might be what you get by adding 10 to the person's favorite number. The result in this example is 55. Then you add  to that sum of the two numbers corresponding to the planets and signs of Leo and the Part of Fortune in the 11th house , from a table Etteilla provides. The reason for the 11th house is that it is the house of good genies, as he has said in the 4th Cahier. I don't see why Leo and the Part of Fortune are chosen--the person was born on March 10 or 11--or how one knows what numbers to choose among the seven (only) he gives for the 11th house. In our example, we have 55 + 71+ 70 = 196. We then divide that number by 72 (the total number of genies). The remainder is the number of the person’s Genius, in this case 52 = Harabel.

It would seem to me easier just to draw a card from the deck; but that might not require the services of an expert “Cartonomancier” like Etteilla.

So the answer to the question I started out with is this: Etteilla does not connect the 72 Geniuses, or Angels, to the tarot. He could have easily enough. But he sees the 72 as related to a person not by way of cards but by way of his osn name, preferred number, and the astrological lore about geniuses, in which Good Geniuses are related to the 11th House and bad ones to the 12th. 

 I hope this exposition has been helpful to someone.

Here is my transcription of Etteilla’s French original for what I have translated, all from Philosophie des Hautes Sciences, Amsterdam 1785:
 p. 63
Table des Génies suivant le Philosophe Palingene (1), ce qu'ils aiment, ce qui leur deplait, leur qualité élémentaire, & le rayon ou étendue qui leur est donné en garde dans ce bas Universe.

Les Cabalistes, parlant humainement, ont établi un Trône au Seigneur & Créateur de toutes choses.

Ce Trône a été reÇu par tous les Hommes & dans toutes les Religions & Sectes de Religion comme une figure respectable, parce qu'au fond & dans la vérité, Dieu en lui est dans son Trône.

Les Cabalistes rangerent donc à l'entour du Trône du Seigneur soixante-douze Esprits.

Leurs noms & l'esprit de leur Element, qui les indique des Êtres, ayant un fini, c'est-à-dire, ayant corps de la plus pure substance des Elémens, leur Elément les dominant toujours.

(1) Cet excellent Philosophe fut exhumé comme Magicien, trois ans après sa mort. Quel scandale pour les Hommes au-dessus des folies humaines! mais cele fut en Italie.

p. 66
La révolution des Génies sur les ans, sur les mois, sur les semaines, sur les jours & sur les heures, s fait en 72, depuis la création; mais cela n'intéresse que dans les opérations sur merveilleuses.

Une observation bien essentielle, est de reconnoître leur Elément; ils sont en cette sorte: 1, 26, 51, 4: 25, 50, 3, 28: 49, 2, 27, 52, ce qui fait six légions ou divisions de douze en douze Génies, que forment entre eux douze, une ligne aspirale, que l'on divise en 360, comme aussi 360 x 6 = 2160. 72 vient 60 x 6 = 360, Physique. N. B. Que je fixe 2160.

Seconde remarque. Lorsque le Questionnant est enclin à un défaut, reconnu par le travail qu'on fait pour lui, on le met sous la protection du Génie qui a en horreur ce défaut ou ce vice.

Troisieme remarque. Rien n'est plus facile à un Savant de tirer du bon Génie le secret du nom du mauvais Génie;
p. 67
mais les Philosophes ne le disent pas, à cause de la perversité & l'ignorance des Hommes.

Ce qui plaît & deplaît à nos Génies, est le rayon qu'ils governent.

Pour avoir une notion des rayons que les Génies governent, je ne vois pas de démonstration plus sensible que celle qui s'offre sous mes yeux dans le Traité de Cosmographie méthodique, très-élémentaire, de Buy de Mornas, in 80, Lacombe, Librarie, 1770, page & figure 196.

Voyons ce que chaque Génie aime & hait, de manière qu'en suivant l'un & fuyant l'autre, je maintiens qu'il est impossible de ne pas être heureux dans le passage de cette vie.

Avant, il est bon de prévenir que tous les Hommes ont un bon & un mauvais Génie; je suis si certain de ce que j'avance; que je m'offre d'en convaincre les plus obstinés.

Si l'Homme n'étoit pas poussé au
p. 68
bien ou au mal, il seroit en tout temps maître de lui; d'ailleus, comme il n'y a pas d'effet sans cause, il faut accordet que des Génies ou autres Esprits dominent sur nous, auxquels nous donnons le nom de Génie.

p. 69
Pour entendre sans erreur les Génies, ou comme les Sages les ont nommés, les soixante-douze Porteurs du Trône d'HOCMA ou de la divine Sagesse, il faut concevoir, comme a dit Hermès, que ce qui est en haut est comme ce qui est en bas; c'est-à-dire, qu'en bas est la copie de l'ordre qui est en haut. Ainsi, un Souverain ayant soixante-douze régiments, chaque régiment composé de dix-huit cents Hommes, chaque Soldat prend le nom de son régiment pour se faire reconnoître; donc d'Artois, nom du Colonel, devient un nom propre aux -dix-huit cents Soldats qui s'en glorifient.

Donc le Génie qui me gouverne & prend le nom d'un des soixante-douze Porteurs du Trône de JEHOVAH, peur avoir sous lui quelques millions de Génies, &c.

p. 75:
1, c'est-à-dire, le Génie, ayant la garde du rayon de l'Orient, domine sur la propreté morale & physique; donc le mauvais Génie qui lui est contraire se plaît dans l'ordure morale & physique.

2, Il domine sur les mariages, la population; ainsi le Génie qui lui est
p. 76
contraire se plaît à désunir les époux, à infirmer la population. Ce bon Génie a gouverne le second rayon en allant de l'orient au Septention, & ainsi en suivant.

3, sur la vraie & constante amitié; au contre, sur la fausse ou foible amitié.

4, sur les voyages utiles, instructifs; au contre, sur l'Esprit d'errer comme vagabond, sans fortune & sans ètat.

5, les Hautes Sciences au nombre de trois; la premiere, la Religion, n'ayant qu'une branche; la seconde, la Philosophie occulte, ayant sept branches; & la troisieme, ayant des milliers de branches, toutes les Sciences, les Arts libéraux & les Méchanismes. Ce cinquieme Génie hait les Hommes qui médisent de l'une de ces trois tiges.

6, la pudicité; au contre, la lassiveré

7, l’intelligence, formée par l’étude; au contre, l’esprit burné par la paresse.