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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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Last edited by Papa Tango; 2 Weeks Ago at 15:42.
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Ruby Jewel 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Papa Tango View Post
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...
Although I had to get a good nights sleep and pull out the Webster's New World Dictionary the next morning in order to tackle this very contrite and erudite synopsis of the lineage and evolution of the tarots descent into an impenetrable cloud of confusing theories, it proves to be a worthwhile and enlightening endeavor on my part. I'm enticed by the thought that the originator of the tarot had knowledge of the unconscious as well as the archetypes long before Jung came along and provided the nomenclature. Symbols and myths penetrate the mists and veils of history and written languages to provide mankind an enduring thread of wisdom that runs through eons of time as well as our DNA. The tarot is a wonderful example of those symbols and myths as it deftly wields the sword of truth in defiance of intellectual paradigms and the attempts to adapt and conform it to specific ideologies. Your contribution to this thread is a breath of fresh air. Thanks.

Last edited by Ruby Jewel; 2 Weeks Ago at 06:31.
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Papa Tango 
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Ruby, glad I was able to expand your vocabulary!

Often I find that I spent way too many years in the university, and suspect at times that I allowed them to educate and condition me beyond my native intelligence. One learns to write certain ways on the path to faculty and tenure. Luckily I escaped before I was unable to tie my own shoes....

The history and process of Tarot is well established, based upon surviving examples and supportive archival documents. Two really nice sites that do a yeoman's job of presenting this progress are:

https://tarot-heritage.com/

http://tarotwheel.net/

It comes as a surprise to many just how our avocation made the transition from a social event masquerading as a card game to what it has become today. Often too, the historical realities crash headlong into what we have come to believe. That though is another thread for another time!

Sherryl Smith once wrote this eloquent summary:

Quote:
"Tarot images are a collective dream of the European psyche that re-emerges in new clothing century after century. By immersing ourselves in the Northern Italian late Gothic environment where these images first took form, our psyches become infused with a deeper understanding of their archetypal message."
You are indeed correct about Carl Jung in the 'chronology of things.' Jung however did not pull the concept of archetypes and a classification of them out of nothing--rather he sought to distill a broad range of social roles and social behavioral expectations into a greater framework of essential 'human being.' These emerged from the formalized study of anthropology, sociology, psychology, biology, philosophy, history, and religion. Together, these help us to understand who and what we are in the social world--and illuminate whatever we might happen to be doing with our cards. The heritage of this is not new--from the dawn of human times we have conveyed these ideals and behaviors in the form of myths, gods, and symbols.

One can see much of the formative basis for Jung's encompassing "collective unconscious" beginning with Plato's Theory of Forms--onward through Locke, Kant, and Jung. Spinning off from this came much of our modern understandings of semiotics, which is the study of meaning-making--dominantly through signs, symbols, and language. And is it not the interpretation of these signs, symbols, and the expressive social language about them that is the foundation of Tarot?

The one consistent thing in the development of Tarot from the earliest known examples (as evidenced by the V-S deck collection) until the mid-20th century was the main symbolic content of the Trump suite cards. I wish that tarotwheel.net had gotten to Temperance, but the deck leading to this is illustrated chronologically from earliest to late examples. As an example of this genesis and growth, take a look at the path of the Fool.

http://tarotwheel.net/history/the%20...he%20fool.html

With minor exception, the images relate to very definable archetypal ideals and modes of human experience and behavior. The varied extant systems of 'interpretation' have been woven around those pictorial representations--and all of the metaphysical baggage of the past two centuries that has been appended in one way or another into them.

This is where I have a problem. If we subtract all of the 'stuff' of esotricism recently attached--such as the Kabbalah, we are left with universal symbols that at some level equate to some role, ideal or expected normal outcome that is within the tangible realm of our social and psychological experience. From that, we may intuit and/or apply what those mean to our own (and that of others) behavior, choices, and range of normal outcomes--based upon our decisions and abilities as social actors.

To paraphrase what a writer (whose name is now lost to me) wrote to the effect, "Tarot has held a traditional form and appearance throughout its history in its images. Today, the Taroist is only limited in choosing or creating decks by their own imagination, artistic abilities, and fantasy."

What then if I am confronted with a deck that represents The Fool or The Hierophant as illustrated respectively below (Chaos Tarot, 2001; Victoria Francis Tarot, 2011):





The first to me is a wonderful work of PoMo deconstructionist art, that would look great on a wall. The second reminds me in unfortunate ways of my first wife... Both discard the universal archetypal symbolism associated with the systems discussed previously. How to interpret? Do I abstractly apply whatever thoughts I conjure up in the moment? Do I project, paste and parrot conventional MacGregor-Mathers/Waite upon them?

And if I do the latter--precisely how does the symbolism relate to any expectational patterns or outcomes based upon the arbitrary imagery? NONE OF THAT was ever within the thinking or practices of the many "originator(s) of the (metaphysical) tarot." [parenthetical additions mine].

And that leaves us with the thought of whether the elemental (or sui generis) strength of the Tarot lies within the universally recognized semiotic narratives of the images as roles and behaviors; the varied overlays of later commentators and pundits upon them; or some arbitrary visual imagery and interpretation detached from the original archetypes--conjured up in the moment and surrounding atmosphere....



__________________
PT

"I had a wonderful childhood. Just me, my mother, and the voices..."

Last edited by Papa Tango; 2 Weeks Ago at 10:12.
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Old 2 Weeks Ago Limited time only: Chat live with a Tarot reader now and get 50% off!     Top   #13
Ruby Jewel 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Papa Tango View Post
Ruby, glad I was able to expand your vocabulary!

Often I find that I spent way too many years in the university, and suspect at times that I allowed them to educate and condition me beyond my native intelligence. One learns to write certain ways on the path to faculty and tenure. Luckily I escaped before I was unable to tie my own shoes....

The history and process of Tarot is well established, based upon surviving examples and supportive archival documents. Two really nice sites that do a yeoman's job of presenting this progress are:

https://tarot-heritage.com/

http://tarotwheel.net/

It comes as a surprise to many just how our avocation made the transition from a social event masquerading as a card game to what it has become today. Often too, the historical realities crash headlong into what we have come to believe. That though is another thread for another time!

Sherryl Smith once wrote this eloquent summary:

You are indeed correct about Carl Jung in the 'chronology of things.' Jung however did not pull the concept of archetypes and a classification of them out of nothing--rather he sought to distill a broad range of social roles and social behavioral expectations into a greater framework of essential 'human being.' These emerged from the formalized study of anthropology, sociology, psychology, biology, philosophy, history, and religion. Together, these help us to understand who and what we are in the social world--and illuminate whatever we might happen to be doing with our cards. The heritage of this is not new--from the dawn of human times we have conveyed these ideals and behaviors in the form of myths, gods, and symbols.

One can see much of the formative basis for Jung's encompassing "collective unconscious" beginning with Plato's Theory of Forms--onward through Locke, Kant, and Jung. Spinning off from this came much of our modern understandings of semiotics, which is the study of meaning-making--dominantly through signs, symbols, and language. And is it not the interpretation of these signs, symbols, and the expressive social language about them that is the foundation of Tarot?

The one consistent thing in the development of Tarot from the earliest known examples (as evidenced by the V-S deck collection) until the mid-20th century was the main symbolic content of the Trump suite cards. I wish that tarotwheel.net had gotten to Temperance, but the deck leading to this is illustrated chronologically from earliest to late examples. As an example of this genesis and growth, take a look at the path of the Fool.

http://tarotwheel.net/history/the%20...he%20fool.html

With minor exception, the images relate to very definable archetypal ideals and modes of human experience and behavior. The varied extant systems of 'interpretation' have been woven around those pictorial representations--and all of the metaphysical baggage of the past two centuries that has been appended in one way or another into them.

This is where I have a problem. If we subtract all of the 'stuff' of esotricism recently attached--such as the Kabbalah, we are left with universal symbols that at some level equate to some role, ideal or expected normal outcome that is within the tangible realm of our social and psychological experience. From that, we may intuit and/or apply what those mean to our own (and that of others) behavior, choices, and range of normal outcomes--based upon our decisions and abilities as social actors.

To paraphrase what a writer (whose name is now lost to me) wrote to the effect, "Tarot has held a traditional form and appearance throughout its history in its images. Today, the Taroist is only limited in choosing or creating decks by their own imagination, artistic abilities, and fantasy."

What then if I am confronted with a deck that represents The Fool or The Hierophant as illustrated respectively below (Chaos Tarot, 2001; Victoria Francis Tarot, 2011):





The first to me is a wonderful work of PoMo deconstructionist art, that would look great on a wall. The second reminds me in unfortunate ways of my first wife... Both discard the universal archetypal symbolism associated with the systems discussed previously. How to interpret? Do I abstractly apply whatever thoughts I conjure up in the moment? Do I project, paste and parrot conventional MacGregor-Mathers/Waite upon them?

And if I do the latter--precisely how does the symbolism relate to any expectational patterns or outcomes based upon the arbitrary imagery? NONE OF THAT was ever within the thinking or practices of the many "originator(s) of the (metaphysical) tarot." [parenthetical additions mine].

And that leaves us with the thought of whether the elemental (or sui generis) strength of the Tarot lies within the universally recognized semiotic narratives of the images as roles and behaviors; the varied overlays of later commentators and pundits upon them; or some arbitrary visual imagery and interpretation detached from the original archetypes--conjured up in the moment and surrounding atmosphere....
Escape from the university life is not a possibility for those who are faint of heart. Congrats. I, too, once had campus fever....art, literature and philosophy were my areas of study, and I went to New York City to try my luck at Columbia in philosophy, but wound up becoming a starving artist in the basement of an old seaman's hotel on the Hudson....as my degree was an MFA, and my true calling was painting. NYC has a way of refining and refocusing those of us whose dreams begin to dream us....so it goes.

Is there anything under the sun that did not evolve from Plato's theory of transcendent forms? The so-called 'truth and beauty' inherent in his simple forms changed my idea of what "intellectual" really means: a stripping away of superfluous 'barnacles' in order that the pieces of the puzzle might come together...often at an unconscious level, intuitively. Simplification became my weltanschauung and the modus operandi for both my art and the tarot that has endured for 30 years. Hence, subtracting all the "stuff of esotericism recently attached such as the Kabbalah" which, as you point out, leaves us with universal symbols and 'ideas' (as opposed to ideals) is really just the tarot in its most simple platonic form, which I find to be its beauty and its truth: true to its form and its function. As you say, it is the signs and symbols that are the language of the tarot; however, as Susan Langer points out there is a world of difference between a "sign" and a "symbol"; a sign being a "guidepost" and a symbol being the archetypal language of the unconscious. Too many 'guideposts' have masqueraded as the language of the symbol...which I think has been the source of much confusion in the form of entrenched ideologies that are subsequent and, therefore, inherently foreign to the tarot.....or, if you will, barnacles....such as the Kabbalah, and perhaps even astrology. As you point out, this is the "stuff" that is conjured up in the moment in the throes of an overly exhuberant enthusiasm that takes the form of an intellectual sparring and an inevitable descent into oblivion. Truth is a delicate strand like that of a spider's silken thread...strong and enduring. The truth of the tarot will continue underground, as it has in the past, despite the diffusion it is presently undergoing in the current atmosphere.

Last edited by Ruby Jewel; 2 Weeks Ago at 12:03.
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Papa Tango 
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Ruby, my touchstone to the physical world is through the perception of the visible--it is why I have chased the image through fine art photography for over 50 years. The capture of a small but emblematic element of a larger scene--taking a slice of four dimensional reality and crystallizing it in two dimensions is magical. Hence, my core appreciation for the imagery of the Tarot...

From the Platonic line, I very much think that the Allegory of the Cave applies wholly to the archetypes and motifs of the cards. Through them, we have an opportunity to "think" or see beyond the shadows cast in our minds. A chance to reckon outside of things obscured by bias--and to see truths and possibilities for what they are--instead of what we wish them to be.

As an aside, it was not bravery that made good my escape from academia--it was my disgust for the multiple levels of politics--departmental, university, and public engagement. It was with the naivety of The Fool that I decamped. Be careful of what one asks for. Instead of relief, my 'reward' was 15 years deciphering and administrating various bureaucracies...

The cards DID NOT see that coming!



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"I had a wonderful childhood. Just me, my mother, and the voices..."

Last edited by Papa Tango; 2 Weeks Ago at 14:05.
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Ruby Jewel 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Papa Tango View Post
Ruby, my touchstone to the physical world is through the perception of the visible--it is why I have chased the image through fine art photography for over 50 years. The capture of a small but emblematic element of a larger scene--taking a slice of four dimensional reality and crystallizing it in two dimensions is magical. Hence, my core appreciation for the imagery of the Tarot...

From the Platonic line, I very much think that the Allegory of the Cave applies wholly to the archetypes and motifs of the cards. Through them, we have an opportunity to "think" or see beyond the shadows cast in our minds. A chance to reckon outside of things obscured by bias--and to see truths and possibilities for what they are--instead of what we wish them to be.

As an aside, it was not bravery that made good my escape from academia--it was my disgust for the multiple levels of politics--departmental, university, and public engagement. It was with the naivety of The Fool that I decamped. Be careful of what one asks for. Instead of relief, my 'reward' was 15 years deciphering and administrating various bureaucracies...

The cards DID NOT see that coming!
I tend, rather than Plato's cave, to relate to Nietzsche's theory of "the camel, the lion and the child" wherein one must be a lion and and pick fights, become a camel and go alone into the desert, and ultimately forgive like a child. Is not this theory of Nietzsche's the way of the tarot reader of the past as well as the future who has always had to contend with being accused of dealing in esoteric "shadows" in contrast to empirical truths. An attempt to define knowledge in spiritual or esoteric terms is reminiscent of the "shadows" on the wall of the cave. Thus, although Plato's transcendent forms are intuited, there is little, if any, hope of convincing a pragmatic empiricist that intuitive philosophical theories are superior to empirical facts. Education has, in my opinion, now lacking a philosophical basis, gone underground leaving the Emperor's throne vacant. Who will fill that vacancy? Computers perhaps...or even robots. Those of us who define reality in transcendent, esoteric and spiritual terms are the camel/lion/child of the future.....when the day arrives that the robot inevitably outsmarts the human. Placating ignorance is, I feel, a fatal error.
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Zephyros 
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Hi all,

While this is all very fascinating, please keep in mind that this thread is about the Rider-Waite Temperance, specifically from the angle of the texts quoted in the first post. Discussion of the general esoteric ideas connected with Tarot are better served in their own threads and in Talking Tarot.

Thanks for your cooperation,

Zephyros



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Papa Tango 
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I'm sorry and will stop! Please don't make me eat the broccoli and go to bed early...



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Abrac 
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Or you could share your ideas on the Waite-Smith Temperance card. Any thoughts on the symbolism?
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Temperance


It is interesting that references to Temperance go far back in time to Plato and Plotinus, as well as to the Hermetic tradition. It early on represented moderation more than admixing of water and fire or the Art of combination. In other words, the archetype is dynamic and not fixated--it might even evolve over time, all the way to Waite's image that includes transformation from soul to spirit-- to the top of the mountain.



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