jmd wrote:In terms of this specific reference, and speaking for myself only, it remains a pretty 'obvious' connection for anyone having a background in the History of Philosophy.
You appear to have missed my point entirely. Yes, it has been mentioned by many, but it has been understood and explained by no one, AFAIK. My point is that in terms of understanding the trumps as a meaningful allegorical cycle, such isolated and far-fetched references are very nearly worthless. It doesn't matter who makes them -- if they can't use
them to explain the design of a particular Tarot deck, they are unhelpful. By themselves they are unhelpful, and the vast number of such "explorations", over many decades, with approximately zero critical analysis, obscures what should be the historical researcher's central subject matter -- the trumps and their arrangement into a unified composition. The old adage, you can't see the forest for the trees
, seems appropriately descriptive here.
jmd wrote:In fact, when I read Boethius in the 1980s (pre-internet days), it was the ONE association that seemed to me fundamentally clear and seemingly and unexplicably missed by others.
What about it was missed by others? Moakley, of course, is the primary source for Tarot iconography just as Dummett is the primary source for Tarot history. Here is her discussion of Tarot's Fortune card, specifically the Visconti-Sforza rendition, from pages 86-87. As Robert has asked for more of her book to be posted, I'll quote the entire section.
X La Ruota (The Wheel of Fortune)
Fortune is shown here in her most common form, with the revolving wheel and four human figures. According to a medieval epigram, the one on the way up is growing a pair of ass ears, and is saying "Regnabo" (I shall reign). The one on top has full-grown ass ears, holds the rod of a ruler, and is saying, "Regno" (I reign). The figure on the way down has lost his ass ears, but acquired a tail. He is saying "Regnavi" (I reigned). The lowliest of the group, the man at the bottom, is the only fully human figure of the four. His words are "Sum sine regno" (I am without reign). Fortune herself has a pair of golden wings, and that expression of blissful unawareness of which Dante writes in his description of her:
But she is blissful and she does not hear;
She, with the other primal creatures, gay
Tastes her own blessedness, and turns her sphere.
Between the triumphs of Love and Death, Fortune turns her wheel and dispenses both joy and sorrow. The more sophisticated Italians of the Renaissance would find a deeper meaning in the idea that Fortune points to the equivalence of the two seemingly opposite triumphs: to Eros as the god of both love and of death. The beautiful story Psyche and Eros, well-known at that time, was related to the idea of Hypneros, the Funerary Eros pictures with legs crossed and torch held downwards. Lorenzo de' Medici referred to "that death in the sense in which lovers are said to dies, when they are entirely transformed into the object of their love."
Notes: La Ruota
Dante's Inferno, Canto VII, lines 94-96, is quoted from Dorothy Sayers's translation, by permission of the publisher, Penguin Books.
For Fortune see Patch (Goddess).
The medieval idea of Fortune's wheel is drawn from Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy, book II, in which Fortune has a long talk with the author. She says: "Rotam volubili orbe versamus infima summis, summa infimis mutare guademus. Ascende, si placet, sed ea lege, uti ne, cum ludicri mei ratio poscet, descendere injuriam putes." The idea is strikingly like the Buddhist idea of the wheel of birth and death to which men cling, thereby creating their own sorrow and pain, and may ultimately have sprung from it. There was a corresponding idea that the practice of virtue made Fortune more friendly. "Duce virtute comite Fortuna" is the motto on a medal in Litta (Famiglie) II pt 1, fasc XVII, tav XXI fig 6. On a piece of faience of the Renaissance period Fortune is shown surrounded by Justice, Fortitude, and Prudence, with the Greek motto: "He Tyche akolouthos esti tes aretes" (Fortune is the follower of virtue). (Alexander Speltz, The Coloured Ornament of all Historical Styles, Leipzig, K.F. Koehlers Antiquarium 1914-15, III pl 24 fig 3). In the strife between Fortune and Poverty in Boccaccio's De Casibus (bk III, ch I), Poverty winds and makes Fortune bind Misery to a pillar. In Gentilshommes campagnards de l'ancienne France, by Pierre de Vaissiere (Paris 1925, p 35), we read of a man who had engraved over an entrance door "Inveni portum; spes et fortuna valete" (I have found harbor; hope and fortune, farewell).
In Dante's time it was said that Fortune's wheel has eight parts: umilta, pazienza, pace, ricchezza, superbia, impazienzaq, guerra, poverta, in which each state of life is across the wheel from its opposite. (Ancona, Uomo, p 12.)
Pope Pius II said of Francesco Sforza that he was the only man of his time whom Fortune Loved. (Memoirs of a Renaissance Pope, tr by Florence A. Gragg, New York, Putnam 1959, p 129).
An epigram known about Fortune in the Middle Ages is quoted in Ancona (Uomo) p 13: "Cursus Fortune variatur in more lune: / Crescit, decrescit et eodem sistere nescit. / Elevor in primis, regno tuo utor, in imis / aufero ecce nimis: raro distant ultima primis: / regnabo, regno, regnavi, sum sine regno."
Besides the wheel, Fortune is sometimes shown standing on a ball and carrying a sail. She appears thus in some of the illustrations for Petrarch's Triumph of Chastity. Here the allusion is to the wind, for in Italian various degrees of storm at sea are known as fortuna, fortuna di vento, fortunale, fortunalone. (Niccolo Tommaseo, Nuovo dizionario de' sinonimi della linguia italiana, Napoli 1935, p 1093; in a footnote he reminds us that for Horace Fortune was "domina aequorum.")
The equivalence of love and death was an idea which came to the Renaissance by way of the classical mysteries (Wind, Pagan, p 93). It is the theme of Colonna's famous Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. The thought may be related to the loss of the illusory ego in sexual union, as in death, which is so well described in Watts (Nature), ch 8: "Consummation." Van Eyck's painting, "The Marriage of the Arnolfini, " contemporary with the Sforza, seems to me a portrait of a man acquainted with this notion.
Wind (Pagan, p 133ff) tells us that Hypneros, the funerary Eros pictured with legs crossed and torch held downward, is related to the beautiful story of Eros and Psyche in the Golden Ass of Apuleius, which was well known in medieval and Renaissance times (Haight, Apuleius, p 111ff). He quotes Lorenzo de' Medici: "Nqatura insegna a noi temer la morte, ma / Amor poi mirabilmente face / suave a' suoi quel ch'e ad ogni altro amaro," and more plainly: "... intendendo questa morte nella forma che abbiamo detto moire li amanti, quando tutti nella cosa amata si transformono."
When Moakley wrote, "Between the triumphs of Love and Death, Fortune turns her wheel and dispenses both joy and sorrow", she came very close to identifying a crucial design element of the trumps. However, she failed to take the sequential arrangement seriously. Love and the Triumphal Chariot are on one side of Time and Fortune's Wheel, while Betrayal and Death are on the other. The hierarchy of the trumps is precisely the turn of Fortune's wheel, which is the foundational insight for explaining both the choice and arrangement of subjects in the middle section. The lowest trumps represent Mankind, the protagonist of Tarot's allegory; the highest trumps represent eschatological triumphs over the Devil and Death, the culmination of history. Between is the allegory proper, which is a Triumph of Fortune
culminating in Death. Instead of seeing this as a detailed narrative arc explaining the trump cycle, Moakley merely noted the presence of related subjects as an interesting aside in her parody-of-Petrarch interpretation of the trumps.
jmd wrote:Same with Plato's three parts of the Soul and the Chariot. What you are presenting here, Michael, is and answer to a question that, however, is something that is far more difficult...
and correspondingly more worthwhile...
jmd wrote:...and to which we may not all reach the same conclusion, for the simple reason that the evidence itself can point in multiple directions: what of the sequence as a whole?
Again, you have misunderstood me completely
It has nothing whatsoever to do with coming to the same conclusion. NOTHING
. It has to do with actually making a case about the significance of the trumps, precisely "the sequence as a whole". Rather than arguing against some interpretation of the trumps, I'm arguing against the endless evasion of interpretation. Vague hand-waving in the general direction of distant analogies, taken out of their sequential context, do not move the project forward. Year after year they fail to show progress. Decade after decade they fail to show progress.
How many decades of brainstorming and "exploration" are needed before we try our hand at actually interpreting the series as something other than a random assortment of images? Dummett took the most conservative approach to presenting the grab-bag hypothesis back in 1980, and O'Neill took the most profligate, showing how endlessly the kitchen-sink eclecticism can be expanded. That approach can't really be taken any further than he did, as he included everything!
If Tarot was just a hodge-podge, fine. If it was a hodge-podge intended as a collection of targets for psychological projection, again, fine. We've got that. It's been done to death for decades and is conventional wisdom.
My point is that there is another possibility. Maybe it had a coherent meaning.
jmd wrote:It is in such determinations that what may at first be rather 'small' historical details may, over time, build to a different overall understanding, and in that light that even SteveM's showing of the crowning of the two allegorical branches of the church may become more significant with time.
This is still quite within the realm, I would have thought, of this area of the boards... though also bordering, depending on how discussion follows, on the activities in the Unicorn Lounge.
First, blind accumulation does not seem like a productive method. As evidence, I would offer the great quantity of accumulated information re Tarot, in books and online, which contrasts with only a few actual attempts to explain the choice of subjects and their arrangement.
Second, as noted above, it's not about being right or wrong: it's about a worthless method of accretion and bullshit (as defined by Harry Frankfurt, assertions made without concern for their truth-value) posing as scholarship versus real research. Let me offer a specific example. Since the 19th century it has been an occultist commonplace to refer to the Love card as The Two Paths, in reference to the Tarot de Marseille iconography and Prodicus' allegory of Hercules at the Crossroads. This was basically bullshit, again, using that as a technical term. Like all the other occultist interpretations, there was no particular concern with the truth-value of the claim, and although many repeated the identification, few if any (none that I recall) bothered to find any historical cognates for the image to justify the claim. The intended subject matter of the Tarot de Marseille image is unclear. Given the numerous contradictory examples from other Tarot decks the claim seemed unlikely, and in the absence of any substantiation it was just another of the hundreds of unfounded claims.
This is the method you are advocating, as it functions in practice: the collection of ideas that may or may not have a connection with any particular Tarot deck.
This does not mean that all of the many hundreds of occultist claims, bullshit though they are, are false. To reiterate, it means that they were developed without concern for their truth-value. Some may in fact turn out to be correct, as it is difficult for anyone to be wrong 100% of the time. In this case there may be evidence that supports the occultist reading. Although the Tarot de Marseille Love card is not a very clear representation of this allegory, a 1580 painting by Paolo (Cagliari) Veronese does have elements reminiscent of the common Chosson/Conver style card. (There may even have been an iconographic tradition along these lines.) Vice is shown with a throne supported by a feminine sphinx, another motif familiar to occult Tarot. The moral lesson of the picture is indicated by the engraved legend in the upper-left corner: Honor and Virtue Flourish after Death.
[HO]NOR ET VIRTUS
[P]OST MORTE FLORET
Admittedly, that motto is more consistent with my own view of Tarot's moral allegory, both in terms of virtue and death, than with the occultist's systems of correspondence, but the point is the pictorial cognate. Paolo's hot curvy blond with the bare back and harlot-scarlet dress has apparently ripped the fellow's stocking, and he seeks refuge with the plain brunette, in her virtuous-green and royal-purple dress and wearing Minerva's laurel wreath. In the Tarot card the figures of Virtue and Vice are reversed L-R from the painting, so I've flipped it in the image below. The key elements of the comparison are the attractiveness and stylish hair of Vice/Venus, the wreath of Virtue/Minerva, and the gestures made by the three figures. The gestures are different, but seemingly related and understandable via the same allegorical subjects. The central figure's body is turned slightly toward Vice/Venus while his head is turned toward Virtue/Minerva, a perfect reflection of Man's ambivalence. Cupid, naturally enough, is aiming his arrow to the side of his patron, Vice/Venus.
Once again, the point is not whether this reading is right or wrong, and it is not about who first pointed out the cognate, although in this case the earliest mention of I can find is from you, about six years ago.
http://www.tarotforum.net/showpost.php? ... stcount=16
The point is about actually presenting evidence and making a case. In a circumstance like the Wheel of Fortune, where the subject matter is clear to all but die-hard occultists, mentioning Boethius is the norm but dwelling on Boethius is a digression, a distraction, unless you have some particulars that explain something not already obvious.
As for your suggestion that I am copying you without attribution, if that is true I sincerely apologize. If you explained the symbolism on the Tarot de Marseille Wheel by reference to specific passages in the Consolatione
before I did, I'd love to see it so that I might cite you for it. I did not mean to slight you, but I simply don't recall having seen it. If you explained that the trumps above the Pope and below the Devil are a distinct section of the overall cycle and explained that the hierarchy of that section shows the turn of Fortune's Wheel before I did, I'd love to see that so that I can credit you for the discovery. If you pointed out that the lowest two subjects of that section are successes, the middle two reversals, and the final two illustrate downfall, in a Boethian, Wheel of Fortune, Fall of Princes
narrative arc, I will be thrilled to quote what you wrote and give you credit for explaining the central role of the Wheel in the overall cycle. If you explained the position of the three virtues in Tarot de Marseille as being directly connected with those successes, reversals, and catastrophes in the manner of Petrarch's Remedies
, again please let me quote your posts on the subject. I do not mean to ignore anyone who "got there first", and I would very much like to quote you and cite you for these discoveries, despite the fact that I don't recall having seen them.
The suggestion of plagiarism or unacknowledged borrowing is naturally disturbing, and I will correct any oversights I've made IMMEDIATELY. I assure you that I was not aware of any of these things being presented by you.
Of course, if that was not your interpretation but instead you provided some other detailed analysis of the trumps and Fortune, I would very much like to see that too. Reiterating yet again, in the hope that you understand it, the point is not one particular interpretation. I would love to see any detailed reading of the trump cycle as a whole. There have been very very few sober attempts that I am aware of, while there have been hundreds of collections of vacuous parallels of the type you seem to be promoting here.
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.