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Paul Foster Case's Biography (Books) (Photos)

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Paul Foster Case
Paul Foster Case (October 3, 1884 - March 2, 1954) was an American occultist of the early 20th century and author of numerous books on tarot and Qabalah. Perhaps his greatest contributions to the field of occultism were the lessons he wrote for associate members of Builders of the Adytum. The Knowledge Lectures given to initiated members of the Chapters of the B.O.T.A. were equally profound, although the limited distribution has made them less well known.

Early life

A modern scholar of the Tarot and Qabalah, Paul Foster Case was born at 5:28 p.m.[citation needed], October 3, 1884 in Fairport, New York.

His father was the town librarian and a Deacon at the local Congregational church. When he was five years old, his mother began teaching him to play the piano and organ, and later in his youth, Case performed as organist in his family's church. A talented musician, he embarked on a successful career as a violinist, and orchestra conductor.

Case was early on attracted to the occult. While still a child he reported experiences that today are called lucid dreaming. He corresponded about these experiences with Rudyard Kipling who encouraged him as to the validity of his paranormal pursuits.

In the year 1900, Case met the occultist Claude Bragdon while both were performing at a charity performance. Bragdon asked Case what he thought the origin of playing cards was. After pursuing the question in his father's library, Case discovered a link to Tarot, called 'The Game of Man,' thus began what would become Case's lifelong study of the tarot, and leading to the creation of the B.O.T.A. tarot deck, a "corrected" version of the Rider-Waite cards.

Between 1905 and 1908 (aged 20-24), Case began practicing yoga, and in particular pranayama, from what published sources were available. His early experiences appear to have caused him some mental and emotional difficulties and left him with a lifelong concern that so called "occult" practice be done with proper guidance and training.

In the summer of 1907, Case read The Secret of Mental Magic, by William W. Atkinson (aka Ramacharaka) which led him to correspond with the then popular new thought author. Many people have speculated that Case and Atkinson were two of the three anonymous authors of The Kybalion, an influential philosophical text.

Dilemma: music or the mysteries

Case reported a meeting on the streets of Chicago, in 1909 or 1910, that was to change the course of his life. A "Dr. Fludd," a prominent Chicago physician approached the young Case and greeting him by name, claimed to have a message from a "Master of Wisdom" who, the Doctor said, "is my teacher as well as yours."

The stranger said that Case was being offered a choice. He could continue with his successful musical career and live comfortably, or he could dedicate himself to "serve humanity" and thereby play a role in the coming age.

From that time on, Case began to study and formulate the lessons that served as the core curricula of the Builders of the Adytum, the school of Tarot and Qabalah that Case founded and that continues in operation.

In 1916 Case published a groundbreaking series of articles on the Tarot Keys, titled "The Secret Doctrine of the Tarot," in the popular occult magazine The Word. The articles attracted wide notice in the occult community as organizing and clarifying what had been confusing and scattered threads of occult knowledge as illustrated and illuminated by the Tarot.
Whitty and Alpha et Omega

In 1918, Case met Michael Whitty, who was the editor of the magazine Azoth (and would become a close friend). Whitty was serving as the Cancellarius (Treasurer/Office Manager) for the Thoth-Hermes Lodge of the Alpha et Omega. Alpha et Omega was S. L. MacGregor Mathers' group that formed in 1906 after the demise of the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in 1903. Whitty invited Case to join Thoth-Hermes, which was the direct American lodge under the A.O. mother lodge in Paris. Case did and quickly moved up initiations in the Rosicrucian Grades (True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order). Case's aspiration name in A.'.O.'. was Perserverantia ( Perseverance, or I Persevere).

Whitty republished Case's attribution of the Tarot keys (with corrections) in Azoth. That same year, Case became Sub-Praemonstrator (Assistant Chief-Instructor) at the Thoth-Hermes Lodge. Also during that year he finished a set of articles on the Mystical Rosicrucian Origins of Faust & published by Whitty. The following year, he began to correspond with Dr. John William Brodie-Innes (Fr. Sub Spe).

Between 1919 and 1920, Case and Michael Whitty collaborated in the development of the text which would later be published as The Book of Tokens. This book was written as a received text, whether through meditation, automatic writing, or some other means. It later surfaced that Master R. was the source. On May 16, 1920 Case was initiated into Alpha et Omega's Second Order. Three weeks later, according to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn's bio-page on Case, he was named Third Adept.

In December 1920, Michael Whitty died. Case believed Whitty's health problems were attributable to the dangers that arise or may arise in the practice of Enochian magic. He later corresponded with Israel Regardie about those concerns.

Views on Enochian

In the "Wheel of Life" Magazine, in March 1937, Case described B.O.T.A.'s relationship to the Golden Dawn, and his views on the Golden Dawn's use of Enochian material.

"B.O.T.A. is a direct off-shoot of the Golden Dawn, but its work has been purged of all the dangerous and dubious magic incorporated into the Golden Dawn's curriculum by the late S.L. MacGregor Mathers, who was responsible for the inclusion of the ceremonials based on the skrying of Sir Edward Kelly.

"There is much in these Golden Dawn rituals and ceremonies that is of the greatest value; but from the first grade to the last it is all vitiated by these dangerous elements taken from Dee and Kelly. Furthermore, in many places, the practical working is not provided with adequate safeguards, so that, to the present writer's personal knowledge, an operator working with the Golden Dawn [Enochian] rituals runs very grave risks of breaking down his physical organism, or of obsession by evil entities."

Case died while vacationing in Mexico with his second wife, Harriet. His ashes lie in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.


Case left behind extensive published writings on Tarot and Qabalah and even more unpublished writings that are circulated today through the Mystery School he founded.

Some of the wording from "The Book of Tokens" was used in the Tarot-inspired musical episode of Xena: Warrior Princess entitled The Bitter Suite. In the show, a character representing The Fool speaks the quote, "ALEPH am I. From mine unfathomable Will, the universe hath its beginning. In my boundless Wisdom are the types and patterns of all things."


1. Article on Tarot in "The Word" (1916)
2. Article on Tarot (revised) in "Azoth Magazine" (1918)


1. The Kybalion (1912) [with William A. Atkinson]
2. An Introduction to the Study of the Tarot (1920)
3. A Brief Analysis of the Tarot (1927)
4. The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order (1927)
5. Correlations of Sound & Color (1931)
6. The Highlights of Tarot (1931)
7. The Book of Tokens (1934)
8. The Great Seal of the United States (1935)
9. Progressive Rotascope (1936)
10. Tarot Fundamentals 4 volumes (1936)
11. Tarot Interpretations 4 volumes (1936)
12. The Open Door (1938)
13. The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages (1947)
14. Daniel, Master of Magicians
15. The Masonic Letter G
16. The Name of Names

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