Tuesday, December 04, 2007

In Which I Finish a Book on Tarot
I suppose that I don’t take tarot as seriously as some. If I needed proof of this, P D Ouspensky’s The Symbolism of the Tarot: Philosophy of Occultism in Pictures and Numbers would be all the evidence I need. A slender book, the author explores the esoteric symbolism of each of the major arcana, pairing them up according to some symbolic significance of an Egyptian temple. So that The Magician is paired with The Fool (I/0) and The High Priestess with The World (II/XXI) etc. Each card has a meditation in which the author describes first what is seen in the card, interpreting the symbolism, and occasionally explaining what a voice (the voice of God presumably) says about the meaning of the card. I found most of Ouspensky’s interpretations to disagree with my own understanding of what I see and perhaps that made it difficult for me to appreciate what I was reading. For example, when describing the dog on The Fool, Ouspensky writes “a wild lynx with glowing eyes sprang upon him from behind a rock and buried her teeth in his flesh” (28). This is so far removed from what I see that I can’t even fully address it. Where I see a playful dog happily following its master, tail and ears up, leaping joyously, the author sees a fearsome animal attacking. And that is how the entire book went for me. There were few interpretations with which I agreed and usually the symbolism was either conservative or so far removed from the visual that I learned nothing of interest. I’m only glad I bought this on a bargain table and can now freely remove it from my book collection.

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