Saturday, August 20, 2016
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-thing, yet 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)