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Tarot cards as Tools for Initiation

Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 13 Mar 2002, and now archived in the Forum Library.

Ophiel  13 Mar 2002 
Does anybody have information about how Tarot cards were used in initiation, prior to the Dawn of the Golden Age, around the turn of the 20th Century? I'm talking Pre-Golden Dawn.

Much has been written about the use of the cards for higher knowledge. The 20th century alchemist Fulcanelli indicated in his book, "The Mystery of the Cathedrals" that the bas-relief art, depicted important steps in the alchemical process, were used in some way as inititiation tools, or were used in some way to gain higher wisdom. These images were almost like Tarot cards!

What exactly is the procedure for procuring the wisdom of the Sun? Was it a similar process to pathworking? Were the cards taken in, in deep meditative state perhaps, and was the energy of that card's deeper esoteric meaning then approachable and was the meditator able to contact and work with that energy?

Are there any historical accounts of whatever that process is? I understand that the Mystery Schools of antiquity had a method that could be quite danger, but necessary, where the candidate was sometimes literally buried for three days, died in a certain way, and when removed from his/her 'coffin,' came face to face with energies of the gods, and was transformed for his/her lifetime.

But that was before the Waite-Rider-Smith deck.

If anybody has information, or reference materials, please post. I am mostly interested in the older system use of Tarot cards, not the 20th century stuff. There is a great deal of information available on that.


jmd  25 Apr 2002 
In some of the works you are already familiar with, there is reference to the difference between, for example, the ancient temples of Greece, in which the Gods were to actually (at least partially) abide, and the mediaeval cathedrals in which it is the spiritual activities of the congregation which opens out the 'grail' for the descent of grace.

Apart from Steiner and Fulcanelli, which you have already mentioned, I do not know of anyone having direct relevance to the deep question you pose. Another relevant author may be Gettings, but only indirectly.

Continuing my earlier paragraph, a question which may be opened if my statements are somewhat accepted, is whether this leads to a different form for initiation.

I find it quite fascinating that those Cathedrals were built towards the end of a particular kind of consciousness... in preparation for the future?

Also, is it merely 'coincidence' that Tarot arose around the same time (I know, a few centuries later according to strict historical reckoning!).

Does the form initiation takes in these latter times involve far greater study and awakefulness to true moral understanding, than was even possible in earlier times? Does this study partly take the form of imaginative representations... in which the Tarot, and some of the carvings on the Cathedrals, became important meditative and teaching/discussion tools which lead towards progressive metamorphosis of the individual?

For the seeker, such sure, gradual and profound transformation would certainly lead to the threshold of the Guardian, at which s/he would have sufficient inner, and free, Strength to meet and pass on towards the Higher Guardian.

Isn't one of the tasks of the modern aspirant to become familiar with the spiritual guidance of previous strivings? If that is the case, then, for myself, I must admit that this must include the representations made on the tarot... such inner work must, if carried with the reverence required for the path, lead, at some stage, to the initiation of the aspirant.

All this, of course, is written without the desired historical requests made... but it maintains the thread, with its important aspects, alive for further explorations. 

The Tarot cards as Tools for Initiation thread was originally posted on 13 Mar 2002 in the Talking Tarot board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the threads in Talking Tarot, or read more archived threads.

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