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Itinerant Philosopher
 
Join Date: 18 Aug 2016
Location: New York--The Vampire State
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Papa Tango 
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Interesting thread, and a striking number of similarities in the promulgation of early alchemy and the later 'secret society' development of Tarot lore.

Of the alchemy part--the 12th century saw a tremendous effort to stitch together a wide ranging and fantastical array of practice, dogma, and sheer claptrap shrouded in symbols and secrecy. Much of this only existed in fragmentary form. Until the 18th century and the emergence of modern chemistry as a distinct science far separated from its earlier roots--many lines of thought emerged and were studiously adhered to. There was a great effort to portray one as superior or holding "truths" not evident or present in another philosophical school of thought. Beginning to see a correlation?

A great deal of literature in alchemy appeared to later observers to be of a profoundly metaphysical and spiritual nature. Most modern scholars have discarded this notion--which was not really introduced until the 19th century by metaphysical pundits. If one is interested in the genesis of both lines of history--the place of alchemy & astrology in medieval society--and the rather shady transmogrification to the occult/metaphysical/esoteric in the 1800s--a great read is William Newman & Anthony Grafton "Secrets of Nature: Astrology and Alchemy in early Modern Europe" (2001: MIT Press).

Similarly, most serious and academic scholars note that none of the metaphysical accoutrements to Tarot appeared in much substance until cobbled into it by such as personages as Jean-Baptiste Alliette in the late 18th century--and Eliphas Levi in the latter 19th. As this group of conversants here likely knows--it was at these junctures respectively that the "Egyptian Connection" and "Kabbalah Crash" were forcibly inserted into the world of Tarot.

Prior to Case, and preceding Levi--there was no allusion to Judaic esotricism or syncretic adaptions. Rather from the humble beginnings seen in early decks such as the cobbled-together Visconti-Sforza--images were socially understanable and readily observable medieval archetypal figures and motifs. They certainly had absolutely nothing to do with divination or esotricism--it was a card game for the wealthy. Why these images which interestingly correlate to a Jungian social construct system were chosen in the earliest days we will likely never know.

The important consideration is the underlying symbological meaning of the archetypal displays--or 'archetypes-as-such', for the elemental reason that these images lend to deciphering ones own thinking and beliefs about their path and progress.

To further draw out the corollary made in the opening paragraph of this long and boring screed--it was the same sorts and societies in the 19th century that also applied all of the kludged esoteric claptrap to alchemy as they were foisting upon the symbology of the Tarot. Some were merely serving as apologists for the thoroughly bogus "four element" nonsense of pre-chemistry--others were seriously more sinister in resurrecting a failed line of early physical inquiry as some sort of metaphysical science--to serve their own self-interests in the creation and sustenance of 'secret societies.'

I have quite a few ideas of my own to gather 'lost sheep' followers, but my wife is adamant that I keep the whole secret cult thing to myself and forget about it...
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