THE OUTER LAYERS
WHAT IS TAROT?
Youve heard about tarot cards, youve heard about what they can do, and one day you decide to see for yourself. So you walk into that strange looking book store in the old part of town, to inquire about having the cards read for you. After some negotiations, you are escorted to a room behind a beaded curtain, by a woman draped in beads and earth-tone garments of varying lengths and design. She lights a candle near the table and places a deck of cards in front of her. You hardly have time to absorb the vision of mystical signs and posters before you are asked to shuffle the deck. You then sit back and listen to a total stranger tell you all about your life, past present and future.
As you exit the store, your head spins with thoughts of what it all means. How is it possible? Will I remember what was said when it happens - if it happens. WILL it happen? As you leave the store, the sounds and smells of the city street wash away the serenity of the candlelit table and that unforgettable voice.
Or. . . . maybe youre at a party with a lot of people you dont know. All the friends you came with have left and you are sitting in the corner talking to this guy with crew cut hair, torn jeans and old sneakers. He mentions a unique talent he has involving a deck of cards. You ask him to read them for you. After securing yourselves from any interruptions, he asks you to shuffle the cards. You then sit back and listen to a total stranger tell you all about your life, past present and future! As you drive home, your head spins with thoughts of what it all means.
Encounters with tarot cards take many forms. Some people simply laugh at the very idea of cards telling their future. Other people think tarot cards are the work of the devil. Still others let their head spin so far they never recover from their superstitious fears and apprehensions. I myself had several strange encounters before engaging in the process that lead me here. However in my tarot encounters, I would always take a middle ground. I was always open minded enough to be intrigued, but at the same time, refused to buy into the mystical explanations that seemed to lack substance. To me, mystical explanations were like Chinese food! I needed more.
A PERSONAL TAROT QUANDARY
As it is, too many people who pick up a book on tarot have only a passive interest in the subject. Because of this, many books on tarot only give a brief description of its parts before launching into what they believe it all means. Many of them begin by giving you the fragmented history of the cards, while others will move on to indulge you further in the mystical rhetoric surrounding its occult influences. After the glossed over approach, most books go directly to a card by card description and a few words on how to lay out and read a spread. In the card by card descriptions, the reader is usually bombarded with a huge paragraph of synonyms and synonymous phrases intended to communicate the essential meaning of each card. The reader is then left to sort out all unanswered questions alone.
Aside from the unfortunate brevity and somewhat superficial nature of these kinds of books, there is also the question of agreement between authors. Too many authors inundate you with interpretations rooted in personal opinion and personal experience. After reading more than one of these books, you find yourself faced with conflicting opinions, and no tools of knowledge available to adjudicate a settlement. This is the problem I found myself in after the encounter I had with my superstitious friend. Of course there are tools of decipherment out there. But even within the world of occult mysteries, you find that there is incomplete agreement surrounding the design of these decipherment tools. This creates confusion.
In my opinion, the question of what tarot cards are and what tarot cards have come to be are two different things. Many people have attempted to answer the question of what tarot cards are by probing historical references and collecting artifacts of evidence. Other people just invent ideas of their own, to suit their imagination, or the needs of their occult lodge. What follows in this study is an idea that I have invented to suit my own imagination. It has no foundation in human history. It has no roots in occult mystery.
Lots of people insist on history. Lots of people live for mystery. Many prefer mystery with history. This study adheres to neither. If you can deal with a study of tarot that is not rooded in history or mystery, then read on. I think you will see that it is not really necessary to know tarot's imagined or actual history, in order to appreciate the conclusions that I have come to, in this study. The known history of playing cards and tarot decks is interesting, I would recommend reading and knowing as much about tarot's history as possible. But in the end, the history of tarot - actual and occult - is severely limited in its applications to a logical pursuit of patterns in nature, which is the stated goal of this study. Which is why, one of the first steps in exploring the wisdom system being offered here will involve an immediate departure from all currently held beliefs, both historical, occult and newage. Feel free to consult other sources for this information, if that is a way that you prefer to go with your study of tarot and archetypal wisdom systems.
Before turning my sights on a patterns-in-nature approach, I spent a lot of time trying to reconcile the many existing decks with each other, in an effort to consolidate them into one single cohesive form, but the level of disagreement between authors proved to be too much for me. As I went over and over each authors descriptions, synonyms, and catch phrases, I found many cards where a reasonable level of agreement could be deduced. But it seemed as though there were just as many where little or no agreement could be found. In order to get a handle on what I was up against, I decided to do an informal survey of a selected group of authors
This survey involves interpretations of minor arcana cards (the pip and royalty portion of the deck that resembles our playing cards of today). Both upright and reversed interpretations are plotted for four published experts offering their notion of what each card means. In this diagram, a white square in the upright column means a good interpretation. A white square in the reversed column means an improved interpretation, either from an already good or a previously bad review. Likewise, black squares mean a bad or worsened interpretation.
The results of this survey are pretty much self-explanatory, the degree of disagreement and conflict is visually obvious. Some interesting statistics to point out would be the number of cards where all four authors agree - less than half. The suit of Wands seems to offer the most agreement, while the emotionally charged suit of swords offers the most conflict. And what is the problem with the five of swords? No one has anything good to say about that card!
When I finished my survey, I was surprised. I knew I was having trouble finding agreement among authors, but less than half!? I had acquired a sense that upright cards would be good and reversed cards would be bad, but I kept stumbling upon these contradictions. Of course, in the beginning, I was reading the aforementioned superficial books that just throw lots of words at you, without much explanation. This muddled atmosphere of personal opinion, is what eventually lead me to abandon all efforts to consolidate these decks, and instead pursue a patterns-in-nature approach. I was getting fed up with interpretations rooted in transitory emotions and occult devices rooted in mystery, and felt a need to invent a deck of my own rooted in obvious, unequivocal patterns.
So, after retreating from this dead-end of conflicting opinions, I decided to change course and continue with an examination of the apparently precedent numerology, discussed earlier, to see if such governing patterns might be found within its structure. At this point, numerology was feeling more pure and of greater potential for revealing definitive patterns.
SO WHAT IS NUMEROLOGY!?
Like tarot, numerology is often used as a tool of divination. In a purer sense though, numerology is simply the study of how numbers can effect our perception and place in the universe. Numerology is a tool of divination, but unlike tarot, numerology does not require any physical apparatus to document its form. Numbers appear to exist in spite of man and all his symbolic descriptions.
However, in as much as the nature of numbers must also be explained before they can be applied to tarot, one must also conclude the existence of a form beneath numerology that gives each number its meaning. Eventually we will theorize that these patterns are in fact what we see being illustrated in the tarot cards. But for now, suffice it to say that our study of tarot cards is really a study of numerology, and that numerology is actually the product of yet another system of thought. Identifying the system beneath numerology is the major goal of this study, describing these fundamental characteristics with the use of a model, labeling the parts of the model numerically and then, finally, illustrating these concepts on a deck of cards.
If you chose to continue with this study, we will begin our examination of numerology. We will do this by constructing a theoretical model of patterns, that is rooted in simple logic and observable laws. As we construct this model, it will be shown to have an intimate connection to ideas about cosmology and a theoretical universe of our own design. Finally, we will end with a tangible vision of this theoretical form that will allow the intangible concepts of tarot to be seen.