|HISTORY OF THE TAROT||
"The flame of life."
SOME GNOSTIC SPECULATIONS ON THE TAROT
To amplify this point, I wish to use two imaginal examples, for which I will have to pay the price for skating on thin, non-empirical ice.
But before doing so, a few words in defense of this approach. In Arcanum 15, various systems, we see two figures chained to a block, an anvil and so forth. These are the people who have made the Faustian bargain, and sold their souls to the so-called devil. Satan, is not the right word either, Saturn is getting us closer to the Truth. For it is materialism that they have embraced as their religion, they have sold their Divine Heritage for a mess of pottage. These individuals will deny the reality of the Inner Life, and do everything in their power to obstruct or deflect its expression. They are the agents of homo economicus, of privatization of all civic agencies, of inversion and misinformation in the media, currently in such positions of power in the United States, and other ideological and theological systems, which though they pretend to be enemies, are after all, in an incestuous equilibrium.
Many of these ideas of course, belong to classical Buddhist speculation on the Nature of Suffering and the Causes of Ignorance, for after all, evil as such, pe se, does not exist, merely ignorance, anti-gnosis, and as Jesus said, hanging on his Piscean Cross, ‘Father Forgive Them for they Know Not What They Do.’
And Not Knowing what they do, they certainly cause a lot of damage to various physical [ecological and environment, for example] and metaphysical landscapes. [God is Dead, psychic numbness of the masses etc.]
So, as a Buddhist, I would say that the transmission of the gnosis, as manifested in its variety of forms, of which the Tarot is but one, must bear fruit in some kind of Enlightenment, whether this be individual, or eventually, as we hope, take on social forms as well.
When one of my Teachers was once asked what Buddhism would look like in a few hundred years from now, he said something to the effect, that perhaps it would not even be called Buddhism. It is neither here not there what we call our religions, as long as they continue to transmit the dharma . . .
And here my imaginal examples must come into the picture, the Inner Reality.
I would like to start these speculations with a dream by J.B. Priestly:
"The flame of life."
"I dreamt that I was standing at the top of a very high tower, alone, looking down on myriads of birds all flying in one direction; every kind of bird was there, all the birds in the world. It was a noble sight, this vast aerial river of birds. But now in some mysterious fashion the gear was changed, and time speeded up, so that I saw generations of birds, watched them break their shells, flutter into life, mate, weaken, falter, and die. Wings grew only to crumble; bodies were sleek and then, in a flash, bled and shriveled; and death struck everywhere at every second. What was the use of all this blind struggle towards life, this eager trying of wings, this hurried mating, this flight and surge, all this gigantic meaningless biological effort? As I stared down, seeming to see every creature’s ignoble little history almost at a glance, I felt sick at heart. It would be better if not one of them, if not one of us all, had been born, if the struggle ceased forever. I stood on my tower, still alone, desperately unhappy. But now the gear was changed again, and time went faster still, and it was rushing by a such a rate, that the birds could not show any movement, but were like an enormous plain sown with feathers. But along this plain, flickering through the bodies themselves, there now passed a sort of white flame, trembling, dancing, then hurrying on; and as soon as I saw it I knew that this white flame was life itself, the very quintessence of being; and then it came to me in a rocket-burst of ecstasy, that nothing mattered, nothing could ever matter, because nothing else was real, but this quivering and hurrying lambency of being. Birds, men or creatures not yet shaped and coloured, all were of no account except so far as this flame of life traveled through them. It left nothing to mourn over behind it; what I had thought was tragedy was mere emptiness or a shadow show; for now all real feeling was caught and purified and danced on ecstatically with the white flame of life."
J.B.PRIESTLY, Man and Time.
Quoted in Adler, Studies in Analytical Psychology, p. 143; Edward Edinger, Anatomy of the Psyche, Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy, Open Court, La Salle, Illinois, 1985, p.129-30; and Marie-Louise von Franz, On Dreams and Death, p. 113-14.
Lama Anagarika Govinda
"It is not for myself,’ the Spirit continued, ‘that I pray for help. I know that all the Forms which we inhabit have to perish - as even the priceless words of the Tathagata, stored up in these dust-covered manuscripts. But what I pray for is: let them not perish before they have fulfilled the purpose for which they were created; let them not perish before we have delivered the great message which is embedded in them."
Govinda, Lama Anagarika, The Way of the White Clouds, Rider, London, 1966, p. 4.
THEME: Let not the Old Forms perish before the message embodied in them is released.
The theme here is perishablity, or impermanence. We cannot deny the existence of Impermanence as the basis of Existence - but here the emphasis is "...the great message which is embedded.." in "...all the Forms.."
QUESTION: What are "..the Forms...?"
Well, these forms must be understood, in this context in the sense of kaya, - a ‘Body’ a ‘vehicle’. Tibetan Buddhism, uses the terms: Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya, descending in meta-value, rather similar to the way we should understand the Sefir Yetsirah, and the Ten Emanations from Kether to Malchuth. From Plato to Plotinus, and through to Nicolas of Cusa, Bessarion, and on to Bruno, and even Newton, this Teaching on Emanations, which Manifest through a variety of forms, is commonplace to many religious systems, as we well know. Not all of these forms are representational, so to speak, or exoteric, but may also be abstract, or esoteric. Therefore, some of these Streams of Transmission, operate without an Outer Form, as is indicated by the idea of the Rosicrucian Brotherhood being Invisible, and the abdals, of Shi'ite Emanationism, the Hidden Mahdi, and so forth.
To return to the Lama Govinda quote, if Great Messages are Embedded in ‘The Forms’ - what is this Message?
Again, what is the modus operandi of the embedding?
In other words, Who embeds What in The Forms? And various other permutations of this statement, such as:
The Forms, we are told, we Created for a Purpose? Who Created Them? Or, What Created Them?
I think we can say that if The Forms contain a Great Message, this Message is Contained within The Form - therefore it is:
The Forms will, in the Absolute Flow of Existence - perish, they are perishable, impermanence is built into Them - but the Prayer is that the Information Contained in The Forms will be released before they perish.
Therefore, Forms are Impermanent Containers - Embedded with Information.
This Information is released, or should be released before the expiry date of The Form is reached. In most cases this does not happen. The Forms remain ignorant of the Message embedded within them.
Now, as far as I am concerned, one such Form, is the Sacred Tarot. It has been brewing, or gestating, for the past 500 years, and the form that it has evolved into, of which the Attributions are Archetypal, and can unlock the Doors to all Mystery Systems, is the very system that we are externalizing through our group researches at the moment. This is important as it allows a spaciousness of conscious, and not a narrow, definition. Archetypes, as I have said on my Yantra sites, are like great breasts, they constantly nourish and never dry up. The Tarot remains a source of nourishment, and the messages it contains, when released, may mean that it too, as a form, will perish.
From the perspective of the Sacred Tarot, an exhaustive, but not exhausting, exploration of the 22 Major Arcana/Archetypes, is a constant process of refreshing revelations, again a: "...quivering and hurrying lambency of being."
Buddhism [H.V. Guenther] says that concepts are stable structures at the end of a process. We are not interested in moving the furniture around, the Tarot is not a system of calcified, conceptual shells, but a living process. And as a purely analogical, As Above, So Below, Hermetic system, it points, as Frances A. Yates says, to:
" the potency of the Hermetic impulses toward a new vision of the world..."
From: Frances A. Yates, The Hermetic Tradition in Renaissance Science, in: Singleton, C.S. ed., Art, Science and History in the Renaissance, Baltimore, 1968, pp.260 - p.261.
As we know, Ficino translated and
commented on the De mysteriis Aegyptiorum, of Iamblichus. C.C.
Zain in his Hermetic/Egyptian Tarot credits Iamblichus with the source of the 22
Arcana. Keeping this subject on topic, we would wonder if light could be thrown
on the influence the De mysteriis Aegyptiorum on the gestation of the Tarot in 15th century
Northern Italy. Theurgia or On the Mysteries of Egypt is available online at Twilight Grotto.
As we know, Ficino translated and commented on the De mysteriis Aegyptiorum, of Iamblichus. C.C. Zain in his Hermetic/Egyptian Tarot credits Iamblichus with the source of the 22 Arcana. Keeping this subject on topic, we would wonder if light could be thrown on the influence the De mysteriis Aegyptiorum on the gestation of the Tarot in 15th century Northern Italy. Theurgia or On the Mysteries of Egypt is available online at Twilight Grotto.
Tamara Green gives us a very crisp and precise paragraph, which to me seems again to point towards the Tarot:
The first person whom we know to have called himself a theugist was the second century C.E. Julianus, called by Suidas the son of a Chaldaean philosopher," and the putative author of a collection of magical formulae for the evocation of the gods called the Chaldaean Oracles. Like Hermetic magic in general, theurgy was based on the principle of cosmic sympatheia, a term which drew its meaning from Stoic teachings. Every celestial being, including the planetary deities, was said to have its symbolon, or natural representation in the animal, vegetable, and mineral world; and by placing the particular symbolon within an image of the deity and by its invocation through prescribed spells, the practioner could animate the icon and compel it to reveal every kind of hidden knowledge.
Green, Tamara M. The City of the Moon God ; Religious Traditions of Harran, Religions in theGraeco-Roman World [formerly EPRO] Vol. 114 (NY, Leiden, Koeln: E. J. Brill, 1992, p. 87.
See: NEOPLATONISM AND THE TAROT, by DR. ROBERT O'NEILL
See: NEOPLATONISM AND THE TAROT, by DR. ROBERT O'NEILL
THE NATURE OF TRANSMISSION
Lama Govinda - let the forms not perish,
Ordinary knowledge in this sense:
After all, the Tarot is a manifestation
of an ongoing, esoteric stream of wisdom, or gnosis, or Dharma, to use a
This journey, "...this quivering and hurrying lambency of being." as J.B Priestly puts it, describes the transmission, he flame continues.
But we must pay attention to the ancient Masonic injunction: "Alter Not the Ancient Landmarks."
There must be an etymological connection between the words card, and cartography. Blakely even suggests that the words naipes and maps are connected. That would suit my approach perfectly, but I go one step further, and suggest that it is not cartography that we are dealing with, but meta-cartography. As Eliphas Levi said, or words to the effect, the Tarot is the Key to the Universe. But which Universe?
And as C. C Zain said, if the Tarot is the Silver Key, what about the Golden Key, Astrology.
Both the Tarot and Astrology, are essentially Hermetic, in that they operate through the Law of Correspondences, analogical thinking, infinite semiosis and so on. This amplification of the material, is at the basic level, what the archetypes are, as conceived in a Jungian setting. Which we must not forget, is a therapeutic system, working from fragmentation, to wholeness and healing, the former and the latter word, both traceable to a common root. To heal is to make whole.
The healing aspect of the Tarot should also be seen in this light of responsibility and motivational clarity whenever the divinatory skills are brought into function by the reader. After all, there is enormous karmic reasonability involved in giving readings to people who are psychologically vulnerable. That is why I believe we are on safer ground when using an archetypal Tarot system, i.e. one that has a tradition of thousands of years of human endeavor behind it.
But we may say, that Tarot does not
have a tradition of thousands of years behind it, as it only manifested in the
16th century, give or take a few decades either way.
But we may say, that Tarot does not have a tradition of thousands of years behind it, as it only manifested in the 16th century, give or take a few decades either way.
Yes, and no. The Tarot contains symbolic content, which no one, except the foolish, can deny have a venerable tradition behind them. I mention for example the Uroboros, the Caduceus, the Dog, Pillars or Towers, the Veil, etc. All of which have a vast potential for amplification.
Astrology, as a system, does have a venerable history, and can be traced back thousands of years, to amongst others, the seminal cultures of Egypt, and Mesopotamia. Therefore, we should welcome this vast body of material into our Tarot researches as well. We should embrace the magisterial volumes on Zeus, by Arthur Bernard Cook, when considering the implications of the Hierophant, High Priest, He, Arcanum 5.
And so on.... the archetypal, classical traditional, as represented by the Mysteries, Mythology, and Folklore, is not fabricated out of nowhere - but represents, nay embodies, a transmission as well. Naturally, some of these Transmission nodes have seemingly closed down on the Outer, exoteric level, for example, Samothrace and Eleusis, but who is to say in what subterranean form they managed to survive. Which brings us to our next topic of speculation,
THE WATERS OF TRANSMISSION.