I keep thinking about the content of this thread, so I decided to try and sort out my reflections.
I have read Douthat's article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/21/opini ... .html?_r=2
I think it is terrible. For those that are familiar with the Blues Brothers, this guy sounds like an Illinois Nazi ;)
He seems to think that the root of all evil is “the American belief in the essential unity of all mankind”.
He writes that “The question is whether Nature actually deserves a religious response”. His short answer is “no”.
I wonder if he read the Genesis (9,8-16):
And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
“And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your
seed after you;
And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl,
of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from
all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all
flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither
shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said, “This is the token of the covenant which I make
between me and you and every living creature that is with you,
for perpetual generations:
I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a
covenant between me and the earth.
And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth,
that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you
and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall
no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it,
that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and
every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.”
God looks at the rainbow, and sees the token of his everlasting covenant with man and with every living creature
. Mr. Douthat does not see the rainbow. And, if he does, he sees light being diffracted by tiny drops of water suspended in the atmosphere.
Another passage that expresses the feelings towards nature of a true believer is a letter that Saint Bernard de Clairvaux wrote to one of his friends, inviting him to spend some days at his monastery.
Experto crede: aliquid amplius invenies in silvis, quam in libris. Ligna et lapides docebunt te, quod a magistris audire non possis. / Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.
For what is worth, the closest I have gone to a religious experience has been walking alone in a wood.
But of course the Avatar review only is the starting point of this thread, which is immensely more worthy than Mr. Douthat's article
I think this note by Ross (my bold) is important:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:
So, I'm not even sure all of us could agree that there is a "redemptive" story in the historic decks (although I certainly think there is with cards like the virtues, Devil, Death and Judgement as prime examples), and I'm not sure we could agree when it turned from that into something else? Late 18th century? Early 20th century? Late 20th century?
If by "change" you mean from external, Christian redemption to internal, spiritual enlightenment (which may not be so far apart after all)
, it is for sure an esoteric development, maybe Levi, maybe the Golden Dawn. I haven't really researched the question.
Jung was the son of a Christian pastor and his philosophy is a derivation of the Christian redemptive point of view. I agree that there are two main points of view. Enrique has summarized them in the following way:
EnriqueEnriquez wrote:We are of course talking about to different fictions, one that says “reality shouldn’t matter. Transcend it” and another one that says “reality matters. Cope with it”.
In my opinion, Christianity, Jung and Science all propose myths that fall in the second category. They are founded on the basis that there must be a redemption / personal evolution / progress. The future will be better than the past. The Wheel of Fortune, the Circle of Vicissitudes, will be transcended by Death. This myth was at the basis of the original message of Tarot, and I think it still is at the basis of most modern interpretations of Tarot (e.g. “Tarot for Yourself, a workbook of personal transformation”). The original message has been forgotten, but it has not been betrayed, since both Western culture and Tarot have smoothly moved from redemption to evolution, without giving up the myth of progress.
The other alternative is the Eastern view that also belonged to ancient Greece: time is cyclical, progress is impossible because the world is perfect (i.e. its structure is necessary). All Hindu gods cyclically die and are re-born.
My impression is that the myth of progress is now facing a difficult challenge, since many have the feeling that capitalism is not really making the world much better. So the myth of “the perfection of the world as originally created by God” and the feeling that my progress is only gained through the exploitation of someone or something else are now appearing in mainstream culture, as exemplified by Avatar.
EnriqueEnriquez wrote:The general approach one perceives in all these books is to find an aesthetically appealing point of view (These days I suspect that in democratic, ‘evolved’, societies, in which adult individuals can at last attempt to overcome their parental priming, religion and politics are aesthetic choices), and then re-write the tarot history so the point of view matches one of the fundamental tenants of the New Age Market: knowledge has to come from an ‘ancient’ source.
I think that aesthetics have always been, and will always be, an essential component of true religious search. Faith and Beauty must go together (and the world is full of churches and temples that testify this). Something similar holds for the need of an ancient source, at least now. Since people need an alternative to the myth of scientific progress, where being “new” means being “good”, it is an obvious consequence that they expect it to come from an ancient past.
EnriqueEnriquez wrote:As interested as I am on “looking at the cards and say what I see”, I do so because I work under the assumption of the tarot being late medieval artifact, and therefore, susceptible of being read as any medieval work. ... But I do so while persuaded that I am taking a poetic leap based on the fact that no one left anything written down in terms of how to use these historic decks for readings. (More importantly, while suspecting that tarot readings are a misreading of that late-medieval artifact). In other words, I do so without claiming that I got it right, nor that it was ‘revealed’ to me.
This comment is also very interesting. The approach proposed by Enrique is strictly pragmatic and “scientific”. Something like “I do this because it works and I have no data proving it is historically wrong”. It is not “revealed”.
Actually, what I find more despairing in current times, is the impossibility of a revelation. I cannot believe that the New Age industry offers the possibility of a revelation, likely because I find it “ugly” and, by definition, “new”. But if I turn to ancient religion, Tarot, Latin, the Bible, Saint Bernard, everything seems beautiful, but I do not feel any Faith in such Truths. Possibly because I am a son of the myth of Science, and I see that after two millenia of Christianity the World is not well off. The myth of redemption does not seem to me to work so well.