Elsewhere on this site, we created a matrix of number lines that we declared to be the underlying organizational structure for The Numerical Tarot. By dividing a number line into multiple subdivisions of yin and yang this matrix revealed an interdependence of form that would be helpful in determining the predisposition of a cards character, before examining its archetypal influence. By superimposing The Accordionistic Dovetail Joint over this matrix we then revealed a link between like numbers of different suits.
The matrix design of The Numerical Tarot stands as a device for sorting out the combined influence of multiple yins and yangs, and determining individual characteristics for any card in our tarot deck. But alas, even with all this organization, we still have to face the fact that this device only helps to sort out differences and similarities between various numbers, it does not create the actual characteristics of each card themselves. The individual characteristics of each card still have to come from our understanding of the fundamental stages of our theoretical model. And there is where we encounter a point of vulnerability that must be reckoned with.
Interpretation of meaning is infinitely subjective. Traversing the threshold between our relatively objective patterns and our totally subjective interpretations is tricky business. To help us accomplish this goal with some facility, we will use an additional system of analysis I call Numerical Etymology. Etymology, as my American Heritage Dictionary puts it, refers to the origin and historical development of a word as evidenced by the study of its basic elements, earliest known usage, and evolutionary changes in form and meaning. In a similar fashion, Numerical Etymology, refers to the tracing of a words origins to a particular stage of the theoretical model of existence being put forth on this site, by showing how each word's use is the embodiment, or expression of basic, fundamental, primordial and archetypal patterns. All things are patterns. Every utterance can be traced to a part of our theoretical model.
As an external layer of paint, being poured over our "Invisible Man" of definitive patterns, the Tower of Babble that we call language, is itself open to interpretation and emotional bias. For those who only want to interpret images and words for their own private, personal meaning, this kind of malleability is welcome. However, when we attempt to communicate with each other about our thoughts and feelings, words can often get in the way, as linguistic malleability all too often becomes linguistic ambiguity. While I maintain total agreement on the need for symbolic and linguistic malleability and the use of intuition when interpreting for the self, Numerical Etymology has also shown me how ambiguity in public communication can be reduced and rhetoric clarified by organizing fluid emotions into categories of numerical essence. This is the purpose of numerical etymology.
Before we begin with Numerical Etymology though, it should be pointed out that in order to use this system and learn Numerical Etymology, it is extremely important for the reader to have a good working knowledge of the Universal Blueprint being used... that of our theoretical model of existence, and how its fundamental, archetypal patterns permeate all of human life. To be successful at using Numerical Etymology, you must develop an intuitive ability to distill the essential meaning of a word in language, and see that essence as an expression our model's universal form. For this process to work, we must detach ourselves from all our emotional bias toward seeing words as expressions of ourself, and observe how they can also express the fundamental parameters of existence being put forth on this site. For many, this will be a level of detachment and objectivity that they will not be willing, interested or in some cases capable of embracing.
I myself have a slight preference toward satisfying my curiosity for knowing what other people think... which means... I am not quite as interested in tarot for myself as I am in tarot for everyone. In expressing a desire for tarot to be for everyone, I see the establishment of clear lines of communication as important to the idea of sharing. For those who grope to understand what tarot tells them about themselves, communicating clearly might seem threatening. For those who prefer ambiguity, and don't want to see things defined in any way shape or form, as a devotion to the multivalence of symbols that allows for Flexible Associations, being clear might be seen as misguided. For those who prefer to just declare that they "know" what they know, the idea of communication, as it pertains to the explanation of their "knowing" may seem unenlightened. If you are able to work past these obstacles to sharing, and see value in the idea of clear communication, then the ideas presented here, about navigating the pathways between archetypal influence and symbolic multivalence might make sense.
If you are interested in the possibilities of this system, let's continue.
The Etymological Traverse
Just as our matrix and dovetail joint diagram describe both the equidistant reciprocity of individual numbers along a single line, as well as vertical reciprocity between complete number lines, Numerical Etymology also takes two distinct forms. Put simply, the two different types of etymology that we need to study cross vertically and horizontally in much the same way as The Accordionistic Dovetail Joint.
One Sphere - Multiple Ideas = Focused Imagination
In one aspect of Numerical Etymology we take a single sphere of the model, or its numerical equivalent on the number line, and associate all relatable words to its essential meaning. This is referred to as: one sphere, multiple ideas and is equivalent to an analysis of one number, through as many layers of etymology as we can build. Using this system, we build upon words whose connection to the model is clear, and then use these words to relate to ideas of the same sphere which might not be as easy to explain without the help of an established vocabulary. In other words, by building out, or up, from a base of fundamental language, we connect our rock of patterns to the cloud of linguistic malleability that surrounds it.
For example: lets pick a number, or sphere of the model, with a concept easy to relate to - the mass or cluster. In our number line examples (seen in various locations throughout this site), the mass has already been clearly described as a combination of opposing sides as they come together and cross over at the midpoint of any line. The marriage and fusing of these opposites creates the mass, and communicates the idea of reciprocity. A traditional wedding ceremony might be a good example of this type of marriage and exchange. But indeed there are a lot more types of exchanges in the world besides marriage. For example, there is the exchange of commerce and trade. With the idea of commerce we can move directly to the idea of negotiable materials, or money. The idea of money is then equatable to the possessions it turns into. The idea of accumulating possessions or money, can again be related to the aggregate nature of the mass, while the accumulation of possessions can also lead to the idea of possessive people. Possessive people are often greedy, greed again relates to an aggregate mass.
Of course this kind of Focused Imagination can go on forever - the point it has to our analysis is to suggest that concepts like commerce, money, possessions, and greed are all ideas that can be seen as true to the essence of the 4/6 sphere of our model, or the 4 or 6 on our number line of numerology. Thus, from the point of view of our system, it would be considered less than true to find these ideas expressed in a tarot card not associated with the numbers 4 or 6.
NOTE: Flexible Association and Focused Imagination are two terms being invented on this site as a substitute for the more familiar psychological terms of Free Association or Active Imagination that people sometimes associate with tarot interpretation techniques. Tarot can be used with these psychological techniques, but I have chosen to invent terminology that is not intended to be specifically related to either one. Flexible Association means imaginitively wandering away from a given image, and freely associating related, or seemingly unrelated, things to find private, personal meaning. Focused Imagination means imaginitively focusing in on a given image to explore its archetypal roots in ways that are relevant to a given context, whether chosen or unchosen.
The example given above can also be run in reverse, to suggest an archetypal source for any and all ideas that anyone might throw out there. For example: start with greed, and see how it relates to possessive people, and how that relates to money, and how that relates to commerce, and how that relates to trade, and how trade relates to the reciprocity of the 4 and 6 about the central 5, as seen in fundamental patterns of nature described all over this site.
Seeing how these ideas relate is not hard. Understanding why each is associated to the numbers 4 and 6, without the aid of the model, its patterns, and a series of etymological language layers, would be difficult. If someone has a preference for folklore and the occult, then this type of guided word association and matrix organization may seem too sterile and decidedly unromantic. However, if they choose to believe the model is a ruling force in nature, then observing related ideas like these, and associating them to the cards through this system will be helpful to understanding tarot - as well as life itself.
For a much more elaborate explanation of how ideas thrown out there can be reduced to archetypal essence, consult the essay entitled Shake the Trees! elsewhere on this site.
One idea - Multiple Spheres = Symbolic Multivalence
The other type of Numerical Etymology takes a series of meanings for a single word or symbol, and tries to organize them numerically, according to the subtle differences each one is expressing, toward the same idea. This is referred to as: one idea, multiple spheres and is equivalent to a horizontal analysis along a single number line.
For example; in a conversation about the many possible meanings for something like the Sun, various people will offer various opinions. One person might identify the Sun as symbolic of fire and heat as it is a big ball of fire. In such a case we would suggest that they are tuning into the essence of the number 4 because of the friction and combustion of the compressed mass during its consumption of cosmic fuel (see The Cosmic Engine elsewhere on this site). Someone else, however, might see the Sun as a symbol of radiating energy, in which case we would suggest that they are tuning into the number 8 because of the radiation of energy into the area surrounding the mass during its orgasmic explosion (see A Significant Signature of Nature elsewhere on this site). If someone saw the Sun as a symbol of light, we would suggest that they are tuning into the number 1 because it is the final product of energy. By organizing the multivalence of symbolism this way, we attempt to differentiate between the source of the energy (4), the energy itself (8), and the resulting light (1), by connecting each idea with a specific sphere of the model, or number along a line.
People like the multivalence of symbols, and they will tend to use that multivalence without ever questioning its nature, especially when interpreting meaning in private, personal ways where no explanations are required or desired. But by questioning the nature of symbolic multivalence we can learn more about what each variation in meaning says about our connection to these fundamental, primordial, archetypal patterns. This is how numerical etymology organizes speech and reduces ambiguity during public exchanges of meaning, while at the same time allowing plenty of room for fluid manipulation of symbols for private, personal meaning. With this kind of system, you not only reduce the amount of confusion in discussions of this type, but because your answers will be coming from an understanding of the differences, as they pertain to the universal forces of a theoretical model of existence, you will be able to provide an etymological and archetypal reason for all conclusions and choices of vocabulary - visual or verbal.
Numerical Etymology is a two way street of analysis, consisting of both etymological traverse from words to a source, as well as evolutionary connecting from sources to words. Etymology equals an inward journey that tracks a word from its usage, on the outside to an archetypal source on the inside. While numerical evolution equals an outward process of word association that leads us from an archetypal source on the inside, to a common language equivalent on the outside. By combining these etymological techniques with the many language models we have, as well as the many other analogies of model and non-model forces, the archetypal characteristics of each stage of our number line should become apparent to the intuitive mind of a serious reader.
System to Symbols
The layers of etymology and evolution, just described, are used to connect common English language to archetypal patterns. However, in order to use these layers as a link to tarot symbols we must embrace the idea of multivalence and Focused Imagination - which this approach to tarot does... fully. By using etymological techniques to brainstorm possible meanings for each card, the essence of each card begins to develop in the mind, as the cloud of common English vocabulary and multivalent symbols becomes linked to the rock of patterns that we have established everywhere on this site. Thus by creating and maintaining believable associations to an archetypal source, all brainstormed meanings, symbols and phrases support each other when one is queried as to how such connections could be conceived.
Many of the language and visual models seen on this site have been designed with horizontal etymology in mind (i.e. differences between numbers along a single number line). They have been created to show how the four fundamental parameters of our model can be translated into real life, to reveal subtle differences about any one entity or event. So far, only one progression of ideas has centered around the vertical etymology of one sphere, multiple ideas. I am of course referring to the path we just followed from the models mass to that of money and greed. For some, a connection like this may never be seen as real. But for those who are able to follow a "guided" path of Flexible Association - or Focused Imagination - the vertical one sphere, multiple ideas type of etymology can provide a powerful tool of archetypal decipherment.
The trick to using the vertical type of etymology is to start with the archetypal descriptions given so far, for any one number, and Flexibly Associate" from there, guided by a working knowledge of what each sphere (or number) means. By maintaining a vision of our three dimensional model, and the steps that created it, these layers of etymological traverse become neutral language equivalents to the model itself. In other words they become the language equivalent of a skeletal structure upon which you can now organize and build, a vocabulary of synonomous and related words with a specific purpose. There are Keyword Charts all over this site that have started this process for you, look them over.
In using the technique of guided Flexible Association - or Focused Imagination - there remains one vulnerable aspect of its form that cannot be avoided. This becomes evident when we consider the possibility of misinterpreting ones working knowledge of what each sphere or number really means. The main purpose of numerical etymology, is to organize vocabulary - both for tarot and everyday speech. As this purpose becomes a foundation for building a new deck, we will eventually come to view the tarot as a kind of dictionary or thesaurus of sorts, in which you look up each word or symbol according to the sphere of influence it represents, rather than the letter of the alphabet it falls under! Because of this, we find that the ability to discriminate between ambiguous words, and extract essential meaning, becomes a skill to be reckoned with. Only by developing such a skill can this system of numerical etymology and numerical evolution ever be expected to perform to its highest potential as a tool of archetypal decipherment.
To many, the idea of guided Flexible Association - or Focused Imagination - will sound ridiculous. They will argue that Flexible Association techniches should be entirely free. And I would agree... IF that process is being performed in the service of satisfying no one but the self, while in pursuit of the Self, where explanations of meaning are never explained to anyone but the self. But, in order to prevent public explanations of meaning from sounding like boring, self-indulgent, meandering dreams that mean nothing to anyone but the person bending our ear, I suggest the idea of linking the subjective interpretations of meaning that people put out there, to these pathways of etymology. Like a math teacher who demands that you "show your work" rather than just answering, Numerical Etymology asks that public presentations of meaning be accompanied with links to archetypal patterns, as a way of "showing your work."
In the essay A Daisy Chain of Meaning we are reminded of the importance of context, and how some forms of Flexible Association can diverge more radically from an original context than others. In the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon analogy, we noted various restrictions to that game... like staying within the larger context of actors in movies. In this way, even though the ultimate connection from the start to the finish might produce a path of questionable significance to Kevin Bacon, the idea that we stay focused, within the context of actors and movies becomes analogous to the idea of guided Flexible Association - or Focused Imagination. Focused Imagination asks that you "keep it real" so to speak, by not jumping too wildly from unrelated context to unrelated context.
Thus, by analogy, each number along our number line is like a tree in a forest. Each tree branches out from an archetypal source to leafy symbolic multivalence. An imagination can begin with this archetypal source and branch out in many directions, while never leaving the archetypal confines of the tree itself i.e. its numerical essence. This is what Numerical Etymology asks... that we not jump from tree to tree, and erroneously associate meanings from one source with another... in other words... don't hold up an oak leaf and tell me that it came from a maple tree! Instead, hold up an oak leaf and take me backwards, down an oak tree, to oak roots, as an explanation of that particular cards meaning. If you want me to see how the Sun can stand as a symbol for light, take me down a tree of light to an archetypal source of light. If you want me to see how the Sun can stand as a symbol for energy, take me down a tree of energy to an archetypal source of energy. If you want me to see how the Sun can stand as a symbol for fire, take me down a tree of fire to and archetypal source of fire.
I don't care how you arrive at the "meaning" you get from signs, symbols, words, notes, icons or types, no matter what that meaning is, it can be traced to an archetypal source.
If the only interest a person has is Flexible Association, without restraint of any kind, feel free to abandon all this. But, I think that even unrestrained forms of Flexible Association can benefit from associations to the theoretical model of existence being put forth on this site. In unrestrained Flexible Association, the end may indeed justify the means and be entirely personal, but I would encourage people to take that end result - whatever it might be, and however it might have been acquired - and ask which 'tree' in the numberline 'forest' that 'leafy result' of highly personal meaning came from? The images of tarot are romantically mystical images. Archetypal patterns might seem sterile by comparison, but with a complete understanding of the theoretical model of existence being put forth on this site, connections to a Universal Blueprint of Transcendental Essence can be just as exciting, and even more revealing of the Self than many might imagine! Is it worth a try?
To imagine further, this idea of a forest of trees that connect the leaves of meaning, down through branch and trunk to roots of archetypal sources... read the essay entitled The Forest Is the Trees elsewhere on this site.