Re: On Narrative Structures...

#11
robert wrote: I guess I don't really care about Waite or Crowley's systems, which seem to me like just additional adaptations of the systems of people before them in what is a long tradition within the occult tarot of reinventing the systems. What would Etteilla have thought!!?? How dare they! :(|)
True - that the structure is flexible, and you can overlay any subject matter you want. But that's not my point.

It's not whether Crowley or Waite are worth learning or not, it's that if you think they are worth learning there is a right way to do it, if you are really trying to learn them - there is a system, a right and wrong (and sure there are ambiguities and room for interpretation, but that is AFTER mastery of the basic system) - hence the hieroglyphs analogy. You can invent your own Tarot-system if you like, you can create something completely new, but if you are going to pretend to explain Crowley or Waite, just as if you are going to pretend to know what a hieroglyphic text says, you'd better know what they said, as well as what the cards look like, or you'll be justifiably heckled and hopefully laughed out of the room. Why not just stick to a Tarot that really says what you want it to say?

But that's not the case - Thoth and Waite-Smith are pictures, so they can be interpreted any way anybody wants, even if the designer said something different. That's because card readers want it that way, so they are not "stuck" with some Patriarchal opinion, rigid lines, text, authority...

It's just the difference between occultists - dogmatic as they are - and intuitive card readers, who can divine from any sign.
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?
It looks like you almost had a story there... but you are one of those agnostics on whether there is a narrative at all that I was referring to.

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. The "Fool's Journey" is Eden Gray's invention, I think - but I don't know BOTA's teaching.
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Re: On Narrative Structures...

#12
Hello All,

Well, many thanks for your replies.

Robert:
robert wrote:"I'm not even sure I understand "redemption". It seems such an obscure concept to me. I never really understood the "lamb of god dying for the sins of the world" redemption angle. It took me a long time to figure out that that is what so many people were on about. I always focused on the words of Jesus, the teachings, and sort of thought that at the end of the story he got busted for being a political rebel. Well, I'm not even sure I understood that when I was young, but the idea of redemption was never one that really resonated with me. So I've read through this thread several times trying to make some sense of the point.
I am looking at redemption as a narrative structure, applicable from a secular point of view. In the Western world, the Christian idea of a life of suffering than is then compensated by the eternal life has evolved into a structural belief in the power we have to overcome failure by means of a second chance. "Why do we fall? So we can pick ourselves back up again." says Alfred to Bruce Wayne in ‘Batman Begins’, echoing an idea we see repeated in all levels and instances in our culture. We believe in that second chance even if we aren’t christian and we don’t believe in an afterlife. My mention of Avatar was simply a way of showing how popular media and the entertainment system follows that narrative of redemption, even if their specific plots don’t explore a religious theme; and the general public miss that narrative when it is not there.

Note that I am not saying that this narrative is ‘true’. I am just saying that is the one the Western world finds useful.

Perhaps the point I was trying to make is this: instead of ignoring that narrative of ‘redemption’ because we think of it as christian (I understand we may feel some antipathy for the term, so, perhaps there would be a better one), we could acknowledge it because it is fundamentally Western. I suspect this could a valid train of thoughts, as an alternative to imposing a non-Western or a-historical narrative structure to the tarot, just because we find them aesthetically more pleasing. That is what I think happened in the contemporary tarot, as you beautifully put it here:
robert wrote:I do believe there is an anti-Christian element to popular tarot, which as you say, shouldn't be surprising considering that it's commonly used as part of a world-view that seeks an alternate spiritual perspective than the mainstream. It's also easy enough to sense an underlying misanthropy to the way some of the subjects are approached. How many threads are there on AT complaining "I just don't understand the energy of the High Priest card" or describing him as "Dogma" or "Traditional Religion" (meaning not the cool spiritual alternative being practised). Same for the Emperor with his "Authoritarian" and "Dominating" behaviour, yet their female counterparts get to be fonts of wisdom and fertility. If you did a survey on AT of least favourite cards, the Pope and Emperor would top the list, even above the Tower, Death and Devil, I suspect.
I make this point because of something Ross pointed out:
Ross G. R. Caldwell wrote:Since most people who come to occult Tarot these days, at least in English, begin by reading an "easy" book on Tarot, or a Tarot influenced by the "cartofeminist" and neo-pagan cultures, and not Waite's or Crowley's own works - which most people hardly ever "graduate" to - then it is rightfully called a "take-over."
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. (This not only happens in English, BTW). I am often amazed at the extent of those misreadings when it comes to historical tarot, but an even more puzzling situation happens precisely with Waite, for example. Waite may very well me the most misquoted author in the tarot world, whose work is followed by thousands of people who neither read nor understand him. 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. This way, a literal reading of the work is one of the four levels of lecture, along with one that acknowledges the true iconographic intention of the images, another level that acknowledges the moral intention of the images, and a fourth one in which the ‘moment’ of the reading could prompt a sense of revelation. 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.

The thing with people using the RWS is that such ‘go by what you see’ makes no sense, as Waite left a very precise symbolic system written down. I couldn’t care less about Waite been misread, as I have no interest in his ideas, but talking again in terms of structures and not in terms of symbols, the overall point keeps being the same: the history of the tarot as a divination tool reads as a succession of lobotomies, in which each author attempts to erase a little bit of the tarot’s memory, implanting his own memories instead.

What I often suspect is if those doing the surgery really ‘get’ what they are extirpating, or why. (Incidentally, I found extremely thought-provoking Jean-Claude’s assertion of American tarot being ‘emotional’, as I do believe that the main strategy to approach the tarot here is: ‘whatever you don’t like, change it and say you found it like that’).


Marco:
marco wrote:Here I got lost: immanence-redemption, the Christian point of view, is not circular. Immanence-redemption-immanence would be circular, but that implies reincarnation and is not Christian.
I would say that the fact that immanence-redemption is iconographically verifiable in (ancient) tarot derives from this Christian view being historically more correct.
You are right. As I was rambling (while juggling with three kids), I jumped here from the tarot the the Circulus Vicissitudinis Rerum Humanarum, which shows a circular narrative that I can map into the Wheel of Fortune. In Circulus, life is a cycle from wealth to poverty, one being consequence of the other one. In a sense , it is a cautionary tale, as I suspect the Wheel in itself is.
marco wrote:I would say that the fact that immanence-redemption is iconographically verifiable in (ancient) tarot derives from this Christian view being historically more correct.
Yes. That is what I was trying to say.


Thanks all of you again for your interesting thoughts,

All my Best,


EE
What’s honeymoon salad? Lettuce alone
Don’t look now, mayonnaise is dressing!

Re: On Narrative Structures...

#13
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:
robert 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.

Marco

Re: On Narrative Structures...

#15
marco wrote: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.
That is a brilliant insight, Marco.

We speaking of the Theory of Evolution, I often try to convey to people that evolution is not teleological, in the sense that it aims at some perfect, higher form. Evolution does not happen in a vacuum - it happens in response to environmental changes. In other words, evolution is adaptation. Species are not more "highly evolved" or "less highly evolved" - every species is perfectly adapted to certain conditions, and will change - or not - as the conditions change.

Part of the reason for the belief in "teleologic" evolution - "progress" - is the time that Darwin wrote and the theory was popularized. At that time, the science of geology was hardly beginning, and people had no idea how old the Earth was, nor that it went through very violent changes in the course of its history. The standard theory was that the Earth was cooling at a regular rate, and that life evolved in stable conditions and therefore changed by random mutation that made them better - better in standard and unchanging, if steadily cooling, conditions.

This is how you get the popular idea that man is the "most highly evolved species", at the end of a chain of lesser evolved beings. Geology has changed, all of Earth science has, and biology along with it, but the popular notion that Evolution=Progress still remains.

Douthat might accept evolution, but he still thinks Man is special, half natural, half supernatural - i.e. he has a soul. This is why pantheism, or natural religion, bothers him. It reduces man to fully natural, not the tragic condition of inbetweenness he thinks religion provides an answer to - the "higher calling."

For myself, I'm in the cyclic camp, fully pantheist. As far as I can see, and it has been my life's work to figure out, pantheism - or more precisely "monism" - is the only fully consistent perspective. It does indeed entail, as Douthat notes, the loss of the individual self, the ego, the special isolation of Man. It is a threshold that few wish to cross, since it demands that nature is consciousness - few scientists wish to sound like mystics.

Instead you can find new terms being invented, like "matter is information", etc. But information is intelligible, so who or what is the information intelligible to? Sooner or later, the natural religion that emerges is pantheist, or panpsychist (everything is mind). It is not a ghost in a machine, or mind and matter - mind IS matter, and vice versa.
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The forehead of MYSTERY

#16
XXI / VIII ≈ Φ ²

There is an allegory implicit in the ranking of virtues should One choose to recognize the iconography of Justice & Strength as indicative of the zodiacal houses Libra & Leo. To the alchemists of the day these associations would not have been too obscure to consider, nor their relationship with Lead (Saturn) & Gold (Sun) insofar as Saturn finds its exaltation in Libra and Leo is the Realm of the Sun. Being switched in their zodiacal order, the Ruler of Gold has replaced Justice - the only point (11) where her scales balance the major arcana: 10 on one side, 10 on the other, and Zero - but he is a Fool of no account.

The deck is thereby flawed in the same way as Humanity, where our medium of material exchange takes precedence to the balance of a Just society: Strength making might right when Lead is exalted in the Realm of the Sun. A state of affairs some call Babylon.
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Yet we have the capacity to rectify injustice and restore Balance to this cycle - a path revealed once that flaw is acknowledged. Only then may Strength & Justice be put in their proper place and Humanity find redemption through Temperance.

XXI / XIV = .666...
Tempore patet occulta veritas...

Re: On Narrative Structures...

#17
Its a complicated for me said my opinion with my English prehistoric, but I will try.

a) The library of Visconti included works by Joachim di Fiore, who said that history had a teleological order (like Marxism). Millenarian beliefs the story must necessarily conclude in thousand years of happiness utopian before the Finally Judge. There is not a circular view of history, but linear. And not changing for better. Always going to worse until, suddenly, comes the reign of Christ.

b) I learn with the tarot how thinking the people in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries ... nothing more, nothing less. But I cant learn more... I am a skeptic, agnostic and materialist historian :-s
When a man has a theory // Can’t keep his mind on nothing else (By Ross)

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