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Critical Review of Waite's PKT

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.tarot,alt.magick,alt.divination,alt.pagan.magick
From: nagasiva 
Subject: Critical Review of Waite's PKT
Date: Sun, 04 Jan 2004 06:55:00 GMT

50031121 vii om

questions about the general text of Waite (in his "The Pictorial
Key to the Tarot") and some speculation as to answers to these 
questions beyond Waite's own.

# ==================================================================
# ---------------
# Secret Doctrine
# ---------------
#  -----------------------------------------------------------------
#                                 I.
#             THE               VEIL & 
#            READER          ITS SYMBOLS          MEANING
#  -----------------------------------------------------------------
#                                |H 
#                                 i|
#             III.               |s                 II.
#        Outer  Method            t|             (Secret)
#             of                 |o              Doctrine
#           Oracles               r|
#                                |i           Behind the Veil 
#        (divinatory              c|
#          meanings)             |             (trumps and 
#                                 c|             meaning)
#                                |a 
#                                 r|
#                                |d 
#                                 s|
#  -----------------------------------------------------------------
#  Illustration 1. -- The Picture Waite Portrays in His Key Book
#  -----------------------------------------------------------------
# by virtue of Waite's Preface and the content of this book in
# its portions, it is easily possible to derive greater meaning
# from its particulars in the construction of Illustration 1
# above, implying the means by which the Secret Doctrine might 
# be obtained, and how the Tarot itself constitutes a Key to an 
# encounter with this Doctrine Behind the Veil. 

issues which immediately become apparent:

* Is the meaning described above projected or inherent?

	 for example, Waite might be projecting it there, with or
	 without reference to previous meanings or expressions,
	 and perhaps presenting it as inherent to the symbols.

	 contrariwise, the Book of Thoth may be identified as
	 that which *attains* to the proper Secret Doctrine's
	 meaning, so described and/or pointed to by Waite. or,
	 it may be only derived via *abstraction* from cross-
	 cultural comparisons in mystical disciplines.

* Does this meaning change over time, regardless?

	 if projected, it is pretty easy to see why the meaning
	 might change over time, or from one individual to
	 another (and therefore account for variation in its	
	 identification by those expressing things about it).

	 if inherent, then variation of identification as to
	 its nature might be as a result of relation to the
	 real, clarity of perception, and the means one uses
	 to interpret the symbols of the Veil.

* Is there a Foolproof (pun!) means to interpret it?

	 Waite seems to imply there are techniques for this,
	 and many mystics give the impression that they are
	 confident that the way that *they* are interpreting
	 the symbol-set yields something less than arbitrary.

* Are there repercussions of comprehending the meaning,
  or of engaging the means to interpret it?

	 either the means or the active comprehension are at
	 times ascribed transformative effects upon the reader
	 or mystic who encounters the magical device. these
	 tend to be associated with wisdom, spiritual 
	 maturity, or insight into the real (whatever 
	 the real is presumed to be by the interpreter).

# within Part II, therefore, we may find the explanation as to
# what the Secret Doctrine consists and how it relates to the
# rest of the cosmos. Waite describes therein qualities which
# may be attributed to the Secret Doctrine, in that it:
# 	* is universal

how can we tell what is and what is not universal?
what, exactly, can we examine to determine universality?

	symbols? Waite says that the symbols are multicultural,
	but doesn't explain how differences of culture are in
	some way reconciled when they are apparently at odds.

	meaning? Waite doesn't explain how to rank meanings
	as described by individual interpreters such that
	their differentiation of their expression can be
	adequately explained (i.e. all those who agree with
	a particular perspective are correct, perhaps based 
        on some unknown standard, while those who disagree 
	are mistaken).

# 	* has always existed

what gives ground for considering the reality of the doctrine 
behind the Veil? isn't this identical to presuming "meaning 
has existence regardless of whether there are symbols to 
represent it"? why is this presumption, if so, self-evident 
or compelling? what might we examine that will demonstrate or 
exemplify its inherent rather than its figmentary existence?

	one answer to these questions may be found in a comment
	by Waite included below: *experience or practice behind 
	the Secret Doctrine* justifies it somehow (how?), and
	those who attain to that experience can discern the
	truth (match) amongst cross-cultural mystical symbols.
	one might compare this with Huxley's 'Perennial
	Philosophy' (which also has its difficulties/virtues).

# 	* was perpetually secret

isn't this an explanation for why it is unrecognized or 
unimagined, rather than somehow demonstrated? is this 
another way of saying that "experiences are essentially 
ineffable"? if so, is 'secret' a very clear way of saying 
this? or is 'inexpressible' an improvement?

	secret -- this seems to imply that it *could* be
	expressed but it is not; secrecy often includes 
	intentionality, whereas ineffability restrains 
	regardless of intent or interest.

	ineffable -- inabililies or impossibilities are so
	difficult to ascertain; it might be valuable to 
	presume that something is impossible or ineffable 
	rather than that some elite can do what we cannot.

# 	* was recorded in secret literatures (particularly:
# 		a) Alchemy (esp. its emblematic pictures);

does this obtain regardless of cultural context? i.e. is Waite's
expression only applicable to European alchemy here, or are 
there REALLY cross-over truths which extend amongst types of 
alchemy (Persian, Chinese, and European, the latter of which 
is derivative, as far as I know)?

# 		b) Kabalism [sic];

same question as regards varying QBLs. are there truths that
extend throughout Jewish Kabbalah, Christian Cabala, and
hermetic Qabalah? are these represented by the same symbols?
does it matter that experts on Kabbalah (e.g. Scholem) 
say that Waite's motives and method were good (scholarly 
but that his knowledge of Kabbalah was miniscule?

#                 c) Rosicrucian Mysteries; and
#                 d) Craft Masonry).

these seem to be resident to European culture. does that 
mean that Waite and those like him *unable* to expand 
their perceptions and comprehensions beyond their own 
cultural context, or is this all he knew about, and so
we should try to extend his assertions and draw 
parallels ourselves? can it be achieved, realistically?

# he states further:
# 	Behind the Secret Doctrine it is held that there is
# 	an experience or practice by which the Doctrine is
# 	justified.

what experience or practice is Waite talking about here? 
is it something we can identify so as to more completely
understand what the Secret Doctrine includes?

	my impression is that the experience or practice 
	which Waite is talking about here is mysticism, 
	the practice or experiential fruits thereof. i.e. 
	he's talking about ecstasy, awe, profound insight
	and reflective intuition, wisdom, etc., which are
	often associated with the results of mysticism. 

# and
# is the presentation of universal ideas [of which 
# 	Tarot is a particular emblematic presentation] by 
# 	means of universal types [of presentation, exemplified
# 	by Alchemy, Kabalism, Astrology, or Ceremonial Magic]
# 	and it is in the combination of these types -- if 
# 	anywhere -- that it presents Secret Doctrine. 
#        --------------------------------------------------------
# 	"The Pictorial Key to the Tarot", A.E. Waite, 
# 	 U.S. Games, Inc., 1971; pages 60, 62.
# ==================================================================

what is so necessary about the combination of types here?
i.e. is a comparison across disciplines important to the 
study and/or comprehension of the Secret Doctrine? does
it matter that some who profess this Doctrine have drawn
bad conclusions from their cross-cultural comparisons?

	e.g. the Egyptomania which inspires the presumption
	of ancient pedigree for the occult device we call
	'Tarot' (variously TARO, or The Book of Thoth, etc.)
	appears to have given impetus to romantic conclusions
	without the benefit of evidence to support it.

	like other invisible, not-apparent-to-senses-or-
	measurement devices, the variability across cultures 
	in reflection of what is being described would seem
	to support the supposition that it is a subjective 
	projection, rather than that we are talking about a 
	clear perception of that which can be ascertained 
	without cultural conditioning. 	

# -----------------------
# Expanded Contents Table
# -----------------------

# 	A. The Cards in Their History.

# 	     6. Sources.

Waite comes down very hard on fortune-telling and, to a
very limited extent, divination, within this text. at the
same time he makes reference to a "Manual of Cartomancy"
which he does little more than source to 'Grand Orient'
and derive some ideas. he does not list this title in
his Bibliography, despite listing other works on fortune-
telling/divination. within the Manual (according to Decker 
and Dummett), Grand Orient refers to the Tarot as the 
*Book of Thoth*. within PKT he so refers to Tarot in 
this way, while proclaiming that it is only one of a 
number of emblematic occult devices (comparing Mutus
Liber -- an alchemical emblem text).

why does he put forward this charade? doesn't this give
anyone concern about his reliability otherwise, when he
is willing to deceive the reader about not being the
author of the book? 

	his words clearly indicate that he doesn't know 
	the interests or knowledge of 'Grand Orient', 
	so we are left with explanations about this such
	as multiple-personality disorder or some serious 
	duplicity and deception on his behalf.

Grand Orient *is* Arthur Edward Waite.

is this any better than what he says about Eliphas Levi
and his alleged charlatanry? how much can we attribute
of this to his feelings of obligation to oaths of 
secrecy and how much to a willingness to avoid 
criticism and condemnation by his contemporaries?

# 	B. The Speculative Aspects.
# 	     1. Court de Gebelin.
# 	     2. Alliette.
# 	     3. Eliphas Levi.
# 	     4. Conclusion.

his sections here do not include an analysis of Papus
(Gerard Encausse), only the Bibliography. this is 
presumably because, as Waite makes plain in this text, 
this work is a kind of extension or elaboration upon 
his presentation of Papus' "Tarot of the Bohemians 
(/Gypsies)", which was in print and recently 
published as of his publication of PKT.

# 	The symbolism according to its higher
# 	aspects and introduction to the complete
# 	and rectified Tarot.

Waite did not, anywhere that I saw, indicate a means
by which to measure this 'rectification'. he seems to
want to merely be believed as to its proper adjustment,
though he at times qualifies his expression as akin to
de Gebelin as expressions without justification. these
unjustified assertions are not always pointed out 
or clearly qualified by Waite. like his predecessors, 
he seems content to point out the ill-foundation of 
past expressions while providing some of his own.

is this one of the important aspects of Tarot writing?
so many within Tarotic tradition seek to be seen as
skeptical, rational, and incisively critical of their
predecessors and/or competitors. is this a kind of
magician's trick to get us convinced of their critical
character so that when they make outrageous claims
that only they seem able to confirm we will accept
them without question?

#      7 -- An Ancient Celtic Method of Divination.

is there any precedent for this "Celtic" method?
why does Waite call it 'ancient' and what does he
mean by this? how much does this translate into the
Scotto-Brito-Irishomania to which Mathers fell prey?
# ==================================================================
# Index For Non-Divinatory Concepts and Card Cross-Reference
# ----------------------------------------------------------

# 	Mangetus 60.

who was this?

# 	Sons of the Doctrine 5.

is this some comparable to 'Children of God'?

# ==================================================================
# Major Errors in The Pictorial Key to the Tarot
# -----------------------------------------------
# 	page 32
# 		the historical suit correlates
# 		are incorrect; they should be:
# 			Wands     => Clubs
# 			Cups      => Hearts
# 			Swords    => Spades
# 			Pentacles => Diamonds

was he reflecting some derivation of his time period here,
which has, through the course of research, become more
clearly known to us? or was this an oversight on his part?


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