Psykees wrote:Ross, I see that you mentioned my book Origins in the context of off-handedly dismissing Neoplatonic influence on the Tarot names, hierarchy and meanings.
It may seem off-handed but my dismissal is based on many years of study, as well as reading all your chapter excerpts, word clouds, and bibliography. Only four books about Tarot (and no articles) out of hundreds on the other subjects.
Tarot is as much related to neo-Platonism as the Sistine Chapel (probably even less, depending on how you draw the genealogy of indirect influence).
At the same time, you note that only a small part of my book addresses the earliest decks and possible places of origin. My first two chapters examine the earliest card order that we have documentation for and the Venetian/Eastern Christian/Islamic history that this hierarchy is tied to.
The Steele Sermon cannot be precisely dated. The paper is from around 1500 (Decker's conclusion from the watermarks). Most people believe it is a copy of an older text. Thierry Depaulis discovered a sermon by St. James of the Marches, written around 1460, which seems to be the basis for the Steele Sermon - but there is no mention of Triumphs in it (see Depaulis, "Early Italian Lists of Tarot Trumps", The Playing Card
vol. 36 no. 1 (July-Sept. 2007) pp. 39-50. Depaulis accepts a dating between 1480-1500, but is no doubt willing to go earlier.
In any case, it is indeed the earliest list
of trumps, but it is not necessarily the earliest indication of an order. The numbers on the "Charles VI" and Catania (or Castello Ursino) cards show the Florentine order, which puts the Chariot after the Wheel of Fortune, and groups the Virtues together. These numbers could easily have been added before the Steele Sermon was written. The Southern and Eastern orders are, by historical standards, attested equally early.
The trump hierarchy is not "tied to" anything Venetian, Eastern Christian, or Islamic. This assertion is progressively more preposterous.
It would seem that a cabal of tarot history experts has deemed that the Venetian order (a.k.a Eastern order) of the triumphs can't possibly be the right and original order simply because it doesn't match the experts' presumptions of an exoteric/moral system they have projected upon the images and their hierarchy.
That's a mouthful. There is no cabal, to begin with. I know a lot of the experts in this field, and some even consider me one, and I can say with utter certainty that there is no secret group with a common agenda.
Calling the eastern order "Venetian" is out-of-date, btw - Venice has little place in the early history of Tarot. The form of the Trappola cards is what made some early commentators think that tarot came from there.
The Eastern Order can be "right and original" if it wants - that remains to be shown. What CAN be said is that a conventional depiction of Justice is shown in the Met. Museum and Budapest sheets. Going beyond that observation (iconography) to interpreting it (iconology, in Panofsky's usage), is where arguments begin. Since Justice holds scales, and a sword, she resembles the Archangel Michael. He looks like this when weighing souls in the Judgment (see some examples in the recent thread devoted to guessing the meaning of images). Given that Justice occurs in the place in the series between the Resurrection and World (whose interpretation will then follow as the "New heaven and new earth"), a good interpretation of Justice in this place is therefore as a substitute for the more common angel of the Last Judgment, Michael. Since conventional Virtues are not commonly (ever?) seen as actors in depictions of the Last Judgment, the usage of a Cardinal Virtue in this place in the narrative sequence - interpreted as such - appears secondary
This is my opinion - no cabal. I don't know what other experts or commentators think about it, but I believe Michael Hurst agrees with me at least.
Experts have not "projected" an "exoteric, moral system" on the images - the exoteric, moral meanings are there IN PLAIN SIGHT. In fact it takes a great deal of ingenuity and ducking the obvious to project an esoteric, mystical system on the trumps, as you (and countless others, even up to this very moment) have done.
It seems that the position of Justice is primary to the circular argument that the Eastern order was not original because the Venetian, Greek Christian and Sufi placement of that archetype is obviously 'wrong', i.e. does not agree with the presumed and projected worldview of this forum's experts.
Where do Venetians, Orthodox Christians or Sufis (for heaven's sake) place the card Justice? Even granting that surviving sheets of the B order come from Venice (not proven), where is there any evidence - any AT ALL - that Eastern Christians or Sufis knew of the Tarot?
It is not a "circular argument" to hold that Justice is in a secondary usage in the Eastern order. I have shown my own reasoning above. If I found examples where Cardinal Virtues - or even just Justice - in absolutely conventional portrayals were shown in such positions in other contexts - say prayerbooks or churches - then I'd say my argument is weakened. But it isn't - I haven't seen them, although I admit I haven't done a profound search.
As for the Ibn Arabi correspondences you provide - I don't find them convincing. They are at any rate no more convincing than lining up the trumps with the chapters of the Apocalypse, or the Hebrew alphabet, or the alphabetic list of 21 sins in Antonino of Florence and Gabriel Bareletta's sermons. A few hits, but mostly absolute misses - no correspondence whatever. And is this really Ibn Arabi's list, or have you picked out 22 of a longer list?
Obviously, it is quite possible that the exoteric, 'Milan' worldview was simply not the one in play during 13-15th century Venice, Constantinople and Alexandria. Origins clearly presents facts regarding all of this that do not deserve to be offhandedly ignored by a scholar of history.
Why dismiss Milan as "exoteric"? Why is the republic under the Doge any more mystical than the state under the Duke?
Constantinople and Alexandria have nothing to do with the trumps.
If there are facts I need to know - relevant to Tarot of course (clear reference to Tarot in an Arabic source, evidence of the game in Alexandria or Constantiople, etc.) - then tell me. Usally facts are easy to transmit in a few words, with references.
As I say in my signature - nothing personal. This is a game of knowledge, that's all (and nobody knows everything).