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Emblems/Symbols, Meditation/Reading and Case-workers

To: alt.tarot,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick
From: (R Brzustowicz)
Subject: Re: Emblems/Symbols, Meditation/Reading and Case-workers (was Re: Plotinus, evil, ....)
Date: 21 May 1997 21:20:24 GMT

In article , Az0th  wrote:

>Thanks for your clarifications. I was less concerned with attribution
>than the interesting implications of points being made.

Aha.  And I was trying to be clear about what *I* had meant.  All that out
of the way, I'll now say something about what *you* were saying.

>So I am aware. That what we consider 'occult' tarot should be seen as
>a type of emblem book, in substance if not in form, is my conclusion
>from your and Tyagi's discussion regarding the nature of tarot and
>the possible relevance of 'emblem book' forms. 
. . . .
>Of course. It is what *I'm* talking about, that the construction of a text
>plus image composite in the 'emblem book' manner embodies meaning in a
>qualitatively different fashion than obtains in either image or text
>considered separately, and that this text plus image composite is exactly
>what is usually discussed as 'occult' tarot, without however delineating
>the structural distinction between the text and its correlated imagery.

I see what you mean here, and don't exactly disagree -- but since (as JK
pointed out) "emblem book" itself refers to a very spcific genre, I think
it might be worthwhile recasting your remark a bit to avoid getting
tangled up in arguments about words & names.

How about this:  there has come to be a genre, with conventions not quite
as formalized perhaps as those of the emblem-book genre, which might be
called Tarot Book.  This genre consists of (a) a set of emblematic images
[subject to various qualifications] and (b) a commentary that ties a
(usually large) body of lore to those images and to their arrangement as a

One continuum on which examples of this genre can be arranged stretches
between the use of a "traditional" set of images and the use of a
completely new, "oroginal" set of images, with most examples taking an
existing set as something of a model and "rectifying" it in one way or

There is a double process at work in much of this genre:  on the one hand,
the existence of the emblem set is taken as a sort of foundation or
support for the system of ideas -- which, on the other hand, are taken as
a warrant for changing ("correcting" or "rectifying") various aspects of
the emblem set.

>For virtually every 'occult' tarot pack, there is a corresponding text
>which explains it. This conspicuous and *recent* pairing of explicative
>text and tarot imagery provides a different problem of interpretation
>than the historically typical uncommented simple imagery *also* called
>tarot. Your comments suggesting the relevance of emblem traditions to
>tarot interpretation, and Tyagi's comments making the distinction between
>commented and uncommented tarot imagery, together brought this oversight
>into sharp focus.

Yes -- though it *might* be that the modern written text is the functional
equivalent of an earlier oral tradition, or, perhaps, set of background
conventions.  But what actually exists (or what is actually available to
be seen) is the various sets of emblems.  And the larger traditions (eg,
conventional planetary images, religious iconography, etc, etc) with which
they seem in various ways to be connected.

>Of course. I may perhaps be forgiven for taking your observation a step
>further, however. The combination of text and image which we have WRT
>our 'occult' tarot creates something *new*, something historically and
>in fact different from the simple imagery which existed previously. The
>result is similar to the image+text pairing in the emblem book tradition.
>When we interpret 'occult' tarot meaning, we can *only* do so by considering
>not only the imagery proper, but also the explicative text, much as we
>would the text accompanying the imagery in the actual emblem books of
>Maier, say, or Khunrath. We are not obviously so bound when interpreting
>uncommented or pre-commentary imagery, such as the _Mutus Liber_ or a
>Lombard tarot. 

The _Mutus Liber_ is an interesting case because it appears when the
emblem-book genre is already well established, but it has almost nothing
but images. Still, the ML *does* have a context -- other alchemical texts
and images, bblical allusions, and so on -- that shouldn't be ignored.

>The idea that occult commentary applies automatically to all earlier similar
>imagery has never been adequately justified.

Nor is it an idea that I was proposing or supporting.

>: Gertrude Moakley's study of the Tarot is one of the few I'm aware of that
>: actually pays attention to this aspect of the images.
>I would very much like to hear of others.
So would I.  This was one of the (much-discussed) disappointments of WPC.

There is a rumor of the availability on the web of some brief studies of
individual cards -- the Chariot and the World, I gather.

R Brzustowicz (

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