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Emblems/Symbols, Meditation/Reading and Case-workers

To: alt.tarot,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick
From: (Az0th)
Subject: Re: Emblems/Symbols, Meditation/Reading and Case-workers (was Re: Plotinus, evil, ....)
Date: Thu, 22 May 1997 01:44:30 GMT

I heard R Brzustowicz ( say:

: >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
: >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.

Agreed. Other than a structural parallel and the interpretive stance
depending therefrom, I posit no connection between tarot and emblem books.
In my own notes I represent the entities schematically as {tarot+text}
and its particles.

: 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
: set.

I would like to further qualify this genre as maintaining in its instances
a substantially single source relationship between specific images and text,
ignoring for taxonomic purposes the typical division of labor between creator
and implementor, and specifically excluding secondary commentary material by
person(s) other than the creator/author, again purely for taxonomic purposes.

See a further note below...

: 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
: another.

I don't offhand recall an 'occult' commentary on purely traditional tarot,
but see rather a necessary discontinuity between the traditional images
and those provided with occult commentary text, even based as they usually
are on earlier forms. Typical, one is tempted to say primary, commentary
texts of this genre consist in large part of explanations of the 'rectified'
imagery, the iconic delta, as it were, from the chosen traditional baseline.

I believe that this can be accurately stated for the {tarot+text} tuples
of Mathers, Waite, Crowley, Case and quite probably Wirth, although the
delta in the Wirth artwork is sufficiently slight to almost warrant that
it be dealt with as a traditional example. Even de Gebelin was unable to
resist the urge to tamper with the images at hand, if only theoretically.

: 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.

I wonder. As my initial (perhaps over-ironic) comments to Tyagi indicated,
I suspect that the system(s) of ideas which have been related in this genre
to tarot-based imagery can stand well enough on their own merits, traditions,
and textual formulations as to remove any direct necessity for the relation.

I would agree, however, that any perceived similarity in significance between
traditional imagery and any given body of lore, be it Grail, Kabbalah, Magic,
Alchemy, Gnosis or whatever, has been taken as just the warrant you say to
bring the imagery more closely into conformance with the lore. I'm unaware
of documentary evidence that the process has ever worked in the reverse,
except, just possibly, on a personal level. 

: 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.

Exactly so. And, I'm compelled to add, gaming and the society which enjoyed
the practice. ;)

: 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 cultural surround which informed the emblem books is I believe on the
whole rather better documented, if not understood, than that which produced
the tarot. ML and the others are an obvious, well connected part of a tracable
mystical/alchemical culture. As Dummett has made very clear to me, the tarot
is, in its earliest years, only connectible to gaming. 

: >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.

I didn't mean to imply such a thing, but I felt it was a point that needed
to be made, since just that assumption has provoked more senseless argument
than it deserves.

: >: 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.

Those are on jk's page, and are interesting work. The presence and evolution
of overtly Christian symbolism in the tarot is one which most pagans would
be happier to overlook, and his treatment of the World in particular is very


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