Lorredan wrote:Anyway, what I want to know is how would someone go about proving there was no secret meaning/ hidden secret in Tarot? I can understand the search for it, but not the dismissing of it.
AFAIK, no one has attempted the impossible task of "proving" a negative, no one is likely to try (or even want to if it were possible), and no one simply dismisses the possibility of meaning hidden in the trump cycle. Some, like Dummett, have not pursued that question but even he was very
explicit about the possibility being real. Others, like myself, continue working on just such a profound and coherent meaning in Tarot and even claim to have found it. As Enrique pointed out, some interpretations (mainstream Christian ones) tend to be discounted and shrugged aside by most Tarotists, unless they coincide with biases of the esoteric mainstream, such as astrology or Cabala or neo-Jungian generalities, etc. But any
coherent meaning that is discovered in the Tarot trump cycle will qualify as having been a secret from every Tarot enthusiast for the last few centuries.
Second, the idea that there is no coherent or systematic meaning in early Tarot is not an attitude or assumption, although it may be a conclusion. However much I dispute it personally, it remains a perfectly reasonable conclusion based upon the utter failure of ________ [fill in your own estimate of the number, but it's very large] Tarot "experts", working separately and together for 227 years, to provide any alternative. In A Wicked Pack of Cards, Decker, Depaulis, and Dummett put it this way: “The test of whether a coded text has been correctly deciphered is that it allows a coherent message to be read.” Tarot experts have thus far failed that simple test: no one has created a persuasive interpretation of the trump cycle.
In the 1986 book you cite, Bob O'Neill examined all
of the esoteric and exoteric systems that had gone before, which is to say, virtually all systems, and pronounced all of them failures. Every one. O'Neill's book provided a great service in examining, from a deeply sympathetic point of view, the traditional occult interpretations, and he found that they all failed even as rational systems of correspondence, while none came close to providing an explanatory basis for the selection and ordering of the subjects. That's rather persuasive, given his personal commitment to occult Tarot and decades-long use of Tarot for meditation, his extensive reading and his creation of numerous decks, etc.
Moreover, he could find/create no such coherent system of his own. According to O'Neill, some images were taken from astrology, some from alchemy, and so on, creating a sampler of esoteric subjects with a vaguely unified overall design. O'Neill clarified this rag-bag assessment in a 5/30/00 post to TarotL. "I don't see it as a grand synthesis. I see it more like a sermon. There is a basic Neoplatonic mystical story and illustrations/examples inserted—from Petrarch, Catholicism, Catharism (?), Alchemy, Astrology, Neopythagoreanism, Hermeticism, QBLH(?), etc. -- attempting to assert that there is only one truth and all paths are the same. So it is a hodgepodge.... So the Tarot is not a great masterpiece? I agree. But I still see Tarot as explicable under the same hypothesis -- an attempt at a syncretistic synthesis.... Imagine you have taken a long journey and didn't keep a diary, but took snapshots. Afterwards, you select 21 images to represent the most significant experience you had at each of the 21 locations -- hoping that each image would elicit the same kind of 'feelings' you had at that place. That is the kind of hodgepodge/synthesis I see in the Tarot."
At this point, given the inability of two centuries of self-proclaimed experts on symbolism and esoterica to come up with anything even they can agree on or that a sympathetic critic like O'Neill could endorse, there would appear to be a very solid basis for concluding that either 1) esotericism attracts a particularly inadequate sort of intellectual hack, mere poseurs who can't understand even the very thing they claim to be most expert in, or else there may be no systematic design to the trump cycle. Unless the occultists are all morons, it's a very viable conclusion that the trump cycle contains no systematic meaning.
We are either dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants, or we are just dwarfs.