Sunday, October 9, 2016

Magic and The Magician in Tarot

     The Magician

The Magician in
Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness
Let’s get to the core of this discussion right away. The first thing we need to consider is that the power of human imagination is capable of imagining anything. The next thing to consider is the power of belief. We are capable of believing just about anything. The best part of this is acting on our beliefs, and that’s where the Tarot comes in.

Today, people use the Tarot card symbols for stimulating and inspiring our creative imagination. Each card with its specific meaning can help us understand our subjective experiences. In our modern society, very few people actually practice magic because we think we must be rational about everything. At least some of us would like to believe that. Richard Tarnas in his book “The Passion of the Western Mind,” discusses the foundations of the modern world view since the 17th century:

“…the order of the modern cosmos was now comprehensible in principle by man’s rational and
empirical faculties alone, while other aspects of human nature emotional, aesthetic, ethical, volitional, relational, imaginative, epiphanic were generally regarded as irrelevant or distortional for an objective understanding of the world.” P. 287

He regarded this as, “…mechanistic principles having no special relation to either human existence per se, or to any divine reality.”  (My note: This view dismisses and discounts any other view, so there! they say!)

In the ancient past, early peoples believed in mythological, supernatural, or as we might think of, imaginary beings with magical powers.

Who or what is The Magician card and what is magic?
In ancient times, magicians, or shamans, medicine men/women, conducted ceremonies and rituals hoping to bring forth other worldly beings with superhuman powers, and in some cases, demonic powers, to solve all our problems. According to Sir James Frazer, author of “The Golden Bough,” early peoples practiced magic in Mesopotamia, Persia, Egypt, Asia, Greece, Rome, and other European countries, and his entire book discusses what they did. We are astounded by the range of practices performed by the Holy Man or Holy Woman.  Most magicians were trying to influence these illusive intermediaries through rituals and spells. In earth magic, nature worshipping pagans were conjuring the deities of rocks, trees, plants, water, and animals, to act on their behalf to help them and grant their wishes: ethereal tree spirits, plant devas, and fairy-folk.  Giant stone circles were constructed in sacred places where seasonal rituals and ceremonies probably took place. Native Americans invoked weather-related spirits of wind, rain, lightning, and animals and plants, where they danced in kivas wearing masks that represented certain spirit beings. Their art reflects this in totems and kachina dolls. All this was to bring about different states of mind and a transformation of consciousness in order to exert power over the environment, over other people, and unknown forces. They also included dream and vision interpretation in their magical practices.
  Later, in Medieval European magic (before the 17th C) and in some kinds of hermetic magic, special incantations were used to create or bring forth supernatural effects using charms, amulets, talismans, and spells.  In an opposite context, a more sinister shadowy world of malefic concoctions was created in “Black Magic,” with spells invoking “unclean” spirits to inflict pain and bring misfortune upon others. And then there were the charlatans, soothsayers, and street magicians who performed seemingly magic tricks for a coin or two by slight of hand.
In modern thought, for most of us, it is almost impossible to go back to the methods of the ancient past and actually participate in ritualistic magic. We just don’t believe in it as our ancestors did. Why? Because they really believed in what they practiced.

On another note, concerning empiricist thinking, Rene Eisler in her book “The Chalice and the Blade,” discusses The Failure of Reason:

“Finally, after Auschwitz and Hiroshima, the promise of reason began to be questioned… How could one explain the carefully reasoned military experiments of the effects of the atomic bomb and radiation on living and totally helpless human beings? Could all this superefficient mass destruction be called an advance for humanity? 

Where does the Tarot fit into all this? Tarot practitioners feel there is more to life that just what goes on in our everyday materialistic working world. Some want the adventure of the mind, and sense the importance of human imagination that transcends human knowledge. Some like to find meaning in the magic of mystery, randomness, and creative thinking. Others just want to overcome the boredom of deterministic thought.  
The meaning of The Magician in “Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness” is about the work one does to discern the difference between reality and unreality, the truth and a lie. One can become more open to “the heavens above,” so to speak, and can be a conduit for Cosmic Energy. Here one focuses on self-transformation by using the “tools” of Tarot: Wands- establishing one’s true identity; Cups-finding an inner life; Swords-having creative ideas; and Coins or Pentacles-putting your best foot forward in the physical manifestation of your own persona.
My teacher, Gail Fairfield, discusses The Magician in terms of psychological insights in her book “Choice-Centered Relating and the Tarot.” The key is discernment. [It represents] “People: Who are analytical, problem solving, discriminating, discerning. [They use] Information: That is factual, that dispels illusions, that gives answers.” Any magic in that is found in how you interpret the insights and real facts about your situation and experiences. The choice of solutions is up to you.  The best part is that you take responsibility to work it out for yourself without other worldly beings stepping in on your behalf. It’s really up to you.

Now I will go out and check on the gnomes guarding my garden, just in case.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness cards

How Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness Cards were created

The Fool – Zero

Someone asked what my inspiration was for the design and colors of Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness cards. So to begin, in looking back, I first discovered Tarot cards in an occult bookshop in 1973. Then the Rider-Waite deck became the impetus to find out how and why the older decks were designed the way they were. What inspired the artists of early decks in choosing subject matter, colors, and arrangements? What was the original meaning of each card? I was especially interested in seeing how the art was somehow related to Renaissance Art and Medieval Art that I had learned about in art history classes. Some cards resembled the paintings of Durer, Mantegna, Hieronymus Bosch, and other religious artists’ work of that period.  Therefore, I began collecting Tarot decks and reading a lot about their meaning.

Much of the art for Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness cards started in my sketchbooks and progressed from there. It was always an “aha” experience: “Yes, that sketch would make a good start for a Universe card,” and so on. Since there were already so many Tarot decks depicting people, I decided to just get to the core of meaning through symbols of geometry and color, so my cards appear more abstract. But in the accompanying book for Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness, I have followed the general interpretation based on the earlier decks. In this blog, I will start by describing my art choices for The Fool and continue the discussion about the rest of the cards in future blogs.

The Fool: In Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness, The Fool is depicted with a zero. Why? In most decks, it’s usually found at the beginning of the 22 Major Arcana cards: a vagabond or adventurer who starts with nothing.

Why is The Fool placed at the beginning of the Major Arcana but also, sometimes at the end? It’s place value is zero. In the frontispiece of the Paul Foster Case book, The Tarot: The wisdom of the Ages, is a diagram showing how a zero figure can evolve into the numbers 1-10, (I have drawn this in detail in the Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness book). The meaning of the term zero is described as the absence of quantity or mass. In Sanskrit, it means an empty place, naught. It is also a mathematical value that is neither positive or negative. The essence of The Fool card is simplicity. In a reading, it can represent someone or something starting out with nothing, no-thingyet is full of possibilities. It is not just a dark blank emptiness. The Fool presents us with a reality check in getting back to “Who am I, where am I, and what is this place; where am I going”? It is the unknown underlying every card of the deck.

 Upon contemplating The Fool card, we can peel back several layers of questions and answers about oneself. First, think about the birth of a newborn. That baby is a tiny soul who literally starts out in an instant with nothing. It has no awareness of self, knows nothing, has no name, no ego. It is a simple beginning. But then, immediately, everything starts to impress and influence this little person. Right away, this new person starts accumulating “something:” food, warmth, love.  A sense of surroundings begins; a personality begins to form. A sense of self begins to correlate a relationship with the material world. What is self-awareness? What else is there? As we begin to mature, we may seek to know something more and pursue a path to a spiritual self by digging into a deeper layer of ourselves. Then later in life, in seeing how life always changes, we may want to work on transcending material worldly goings on. We wonder what lies beyond this earthly life, if anything? Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness helps point you in the right direction through meditation on its symbols.

In meditative practice, people start by contemplating nothingness, emptiness, and work on the elimination of wants and desires, especially those desires that lead to suffering as revealed in Zen Buddhism practice, and in some Christian retreats. What is the difference between nothingness and emptiness?  True emptiness is Wondrous Being,” says Keiji Nishitani in Religion and Nothingness (University of California Press, 1982).

Bernadette Roberts, in her book The Experience of No-self, (Shambhala, 1984) writes: “So this is what I discovered: that self is the entire affective emotional network of feelings, from the most subtle unconscious stirrings of energy to the obvious extremes of passionate outbursts” (p. 170). As we progress on our journey through this life, we soon wonder about spiritual selfhood and the impermanence of a material sense of self. “Here today, gone tomorrow. Is this all there is?” For some, it is the transcendence of ego, a spiritual awakening. For others, it is the transformation of ego by finding the true spiritual self in union with God, or the One Being, or the Cosmic Mind of the universe. It’s the essence of something bigger then oneself. That may be why The World card or Universe card is at the end of the Major Arcana. “What goes around comes around,” and we are back to The Fool again.

This is what I was thinking about in creating The Fool card. It’s meaning can be a step into an infinity of possibilities for oneself throughout a lifetime. They say “tomorrow is a new day,” so when you get up in the morning to face that new day, it’s good to start out as the innocent fool who knows nothing and let the day unfold as it should.

“Are we ever alone?” Or are we carrying with us all the burdens of yesterday?

Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known (HarperCollins, 1969)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Tarot - Fortune Telling and something more

“For long eons we have struggled with ourselves and the world, weaving veils to engender our separateness, constructing belief systems to hide our ignorance, creating enemies to disguise our inner conflicts, chasing from one experience to another to fill our emptiness, unaware that the same masks that hide our deepest pain hide our greatest potential.”
Kiara Windrider, Year Zero (Divine Arts Media, 2011)

The Fortune Teller Lucas van Leyden (16th C)

Fortune telling - random chance (The Magician)
There has been a nagging question concerning using Tarot cards to “do a reading,” and make predictions, or foretelling the future in someone’s life. The fortune teller lays out the cards in a certain pattern and tries to ascertain the meaning suggested by the symbols and significance of the card: “you may take a trip by boat somewhere; you are at odds with your co-worker or significant other,” and so on. Some Tarot readers receive payment from their grateful clients. Randomness and chance provide an enormous number of possibilities and combinations that appeal to the querent who is seeking to know their unknown destiny. Tarot cards are often used as an oracleportals to explore areas of probability in times of uncertainty, crises, situations of powerlessness and fear, or to find out if the person you just met will be the right one. Cynthia Giles mentions that Tarot was also a card game in the 15th century and it was called “Trionfi” in Italy and “Trumps” in English. It was played in a manner similar to Bridge (Giles, Tarot, History, Mystery and Lore, 1994). Of course we see ordinary playing cards used in gambling, and bets placed on the outcome provide a sense of risk, fun and adventure for some, disaster for others.

“Tradition gives one the feeling that life is predictable.”
Susan Griffin, A Chorus of Stones (2007, p. 193)
Gambling – a gambler’s risks (The Fool)
The gambling Fool takes a chance, a risk, in a kind of ignorant frenzy hoping to win a little money on the bet. We all like to win something, but for some it can become an addiction in trying to win over and over again. Some risk it all. Some win, some lose.  I have been watching the current Korean drama “Jackpot” about the young Prince soon to become King Yongjo (a real life Korean King 1724-1776). There is lots of gaming and people placing bets on the outcome, including the slight of hand corruption of the merchants and officials involved, ending in a plot for a coup against the King, where, as usual, the peasants suffer most at the hands of their deceitful masters.

“Divination is primarily a non-scientific method of acquiring knowledge unavailable by other means. The underlying principle of divination is one which transcends or bypasses the material picture of the world which is the prevailing view today”
Nigel Pennick, Secret Games of the Gods” (Weiser, 1997)

Mysteries of life – (The Hermit – The Fool transformed, contemplation)
Hieronymus Bosch The Conjurer (15th C)
On the other hand, in “Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness” we take a different approach: the path to self-knowledge and spiritual consciousness by examining creative processes and universal awareness suggested by the cards. We see Tarot cards, especially the Major Arcana, as positive steps of initiation into the sacred mysteries of life. For some, it is a key to esoteric, hermetic and alchemical knowledge.  My teacher, Gail Fairfield, thinks of Tarot cards as mnemonic devices or psychic tools designed to trigger our memories, to stimulate our thinking and find meaning in our lives. What are we trying to remember when we contemplate the Judgment card or The Tower?  When have you acted like the Fool?  Are you being fooled by someone or something? When did a situation seem almost magical to you? Perhaps The Magician can represent someone who is a channel for radiant Cosmic Being and can bring a deeper dimension to your experiences.

“Like a hot air balloon your psychic tool can lift you out
of your everyday reality and give you a new point of view on things.”
Gail Fairfield, Choice Centered Tarot (Red-Wheel-Weiser, 1984)

System underlying Tarot - relates to ancient ritual systems of metaphysical thought
Early peoples established ritual systems that intended to bring one in line with the structure of the cosmos and help one identify with the processes of nature. In their time, the ancients used stones and trees, and positions of the sun and moon, to to stimulate their imagination. Today, it seems the painted paper Tarot cards accomplish the same thing in providing a symbolic and allegorical method for discovering a more comprehensive understanding of one’s life journey.
The Minor Arcana consists of 4 suits of cards numbered 1-10:
Wands (Magic); Cups (Elixir of Life); Swords (Truth); Pentacles or Coins (Talismans)
There are 4 court cards for each suit: King, Queen, Prince, Princess, or Knight and Page.
56 cards altogether

Then there are 22 Major Arcana cards: Fool, Magician, High Priestess, Empress, Emperor, Hierophant, Lovers, Chariot, Strength, Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Hanged Man, Justice, Death, Temperance, Devil, Tower, Star, Moon, Sun, Judgment, World.
78 cards altogether - Why are they arranged in such a way in 4 suits and a sequence of numbers?

Number 4
4 suits relate to ancient elements, the 4 states of matter: Wands, Fire, (creativity); Cups, Water, (emotions); Swords, Air (intellect); Coins, Pentacles, Earth (concrete material manifestation)
4 seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter and nature’s processes
4 cardinal directions: point to infinite possibilities
4 square: boxed in, confinement

Numbers 1-10 in relation to Tarot cards especially the Minor Arcana
0 – zero –No thing, empty, void, the un-manifest
1 – (first) beginning, origin, the One Being
2 – (second) reflection of the One, or an opposite, duality
3 – (third) unfoldment, multiplication, synthesis
Princess of Cups TOCC
4 – (fourth) order, measurement, classification
5 – (fifth) individuation, process of creation, nature’s designs
6 – (sixth) perfection, balance, symmetry, harmony
7 – (seventh) integrated being, rest, security
8 – (eighth) fulfillment, completion, cycling to a new level
9 – (ninth) assimilation, attainment of goals, finality
10 – (tenth) beginning again on a higher level

The 4 court cards: King, Queen, Knight (Prince), Page (Princess) – are symbolic of more advanced states of growth and maturity, which can be applied to anyone, rather than monarchal powers.
Monarchies have been in existence for eons (think of Egyptian Pharaohs, Biblical Kings, medieval feudalism). Since WWI and WWII, monarchies have faded, disappeared, or have become more ceremonial with only a few left such as the Arab Kingdom, and the British Kingdom where the Queen is a constitutional monarch.

Studying the Tarot cards can take you on an inner spiritual journey of self-transformation. By expanding your consciousness and meditating on the Tarot “pictures,” this can be a powerful tool in finding your spiritual selfhood. Here you are on the path to discovery of your spiritual being or cosmic soul.