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Tarot's Application to ... Itself?

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.magick,alt.pagan.magick
From: nagasiva 
Subject: Tarot's Application to ... Itself?
Date: Sun, 04 Jan 2004 07:02:58 GMT

# To what extent is the Tarot itself, via divination, 
# capable of shedding light on its own origin?

I appreciate the question for its complexity/challenge. part 
of the premise is that "Tarot" is an "it", rather than an event, 
or a variable set of objects. not everyone agrees on that. i.e. 
your question came with an embedded premise. like people who 
talk about transcendental Oracles of other kinds such as Yijing 
(the famed "Change Classic"), it is presumed that one may ask 
questions of it (the Oracle), or it can without fail be consulted.
inevitably some kind of 'Answer Cloudy Try Again Later' creeps in.

the elements of divinatory consultation of this type appear 
to be analyzable to (at least): 

		B) THE CARDS (physical objects) 
		C) THE ORACLE (i.e. 'The Tarot')

as such, whether 'The Tarot' can do anything is subject 
to some dispute. whether people, using cards, can 
discover things about the past is pretty different than
asking, comparably, whether some skilled Adept of the
Mysteries, attaining to some exalted state of consciousness
and thereby indwelling to the Cosmic Cause, can glean the
truth about the past, present, *or* future. does the tool
function the same way in the hands of just anyone? or is
there some kind of skill involved? how reliable is the
information given to the skilled? will they bet on it? :>

many seem to presume a 'fair question set' from which one
may select for consultation with the Oracle, for example.
# [the question] strikes at the heart of what we really 
# believe about the kind of information Tarot reading 
# can provide

the premise here is that Tarot provides. I'm not arguing
one way or the other here, only pointing out that there
is probably no consensus as to the premise that Tarot 
*does* provide things, as compared to whether seers,
diviners, oracles, or in short, specialists, provide 
it, using the cards, some combination of the two, 
or a third, or even a fourth possibility applies.
# ... and our degree of confidence in the veracity and 
# verifiability of that information.

I've heard of people asking Yijing about Yijing, but
some frown on this kind of recursive consultation. in
some cases the disapproval comes from a presupposition
about what the Oracle should be used for, and the goal
of the Question may influence the response in a manner
not unlike the irritable reference librarian who is
being asked something which abuses hir specialization.
she may be interpreted as responding facetiously, for
example, or offhandedly, engaging commentary about
the process (equivalent to "Foolish question!").

# So again: as we seem to lack documented evidence as to:
# - the originator of the Trump images
# - the exact date when these images were first produced

there's pretty good evidence where these people are to
be found, from what I'd gathered in Kaplan, Dummett,
and even Waite. exact identities are being revised for
particular decks (the move from Bembos to Zavattaris,
for example, as relates to the decks they are supposed
to have painted). 

the time (generally) and place of the composition of
Tarot appears fairly well-known (northern Italy, 1400s, 
within a few different locales). historians of games 
have it pretty well nailed down at this point, as I'd
understood it. corrections welcomed.

# - the originator's intention in selecting those images

that's very tough, though James and others are making
sustainable assertions about this with conformance to
what is known of the facts.

# - the extent to which these images purposefully 
# incorporated esoteric or occult content, 

no evidence of this appears to be produceable at this
time. most of what I've seen asserted here and in the
literature of occultists as regards this adheres to a
method which is insufficiently rigorous to rely upon.

# or the extent to which these images were meant to 
# preserve or transmit such content

this amounts to the same thing as the originator's
intention in selecting the images, it just has a
particular set of motivations selected.
# ... how suitable *is* Tarot as a tool for exploring 
# these questions? 

a wonderful question, as I said.
# Do we believe that Tarot is better suited for 
# reflection than as a tool for this kind of 
# research? If so, why? If not, why not?

this is how I tend to think of the Book of Thoth.
this is why I have called such occult devices,
as a group, transcendentally, 'The Invisible Mirror'.
as with the conventional objects, mirrors don't 
tell us about the past, only about the present,
and that with certain twists (reversed right-to-left,
for example, because of our visual apparatus (binary
to the horizontal)). 

maybe certain individuals, when using a (particular?) 
Tarot deck, are able to have them function as a 'magical 
mirror', extending beyond their local time and place:
(e.g. "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest 
one of all?"). however, I've seen no evidence of this 
latter ability. predictions about what will be discovered 
concerning the history of a thing *are* presentable. 
psychics sometimes provide us with these predictions, 
with, what I am able to see, variable results.
# Do we believe it's possible to explore issues like 
# those listed above -- and generate specific, 
# testable, concrete answers with a Tarot deck? 
# If so, why? If not, why not?

there's no reason that someone could not infer such
evaluations of the past. the immediate question one
might ask about this is: does it take a particular
level of skill to get good results? how might one
measure this skill or adeptship?

# Might we discover that the cards could somehow 
# generate a description, a number, a place name, 
# or some other lead that scholars could use to link
# Tarot's appearance to a specific date or individual?

the cards alone can only generate configurations of
their layout; sequences of their precedence, in deck
composition after shuffling, presentation in layout,
or in revelation. after that, they must be interpreted.
in other words, a deck without a reader is speechless
within this type of consultation. the quality or skill 
of a reader thereupon becomes important.
# Might we engage in an experiment in which twenty-five 
# people with widely acknowledged skill with or 
# knowledge of Tarot attempted to generate answers
# ... and compare their results, looking for a common 
# thread that might point to empirically verifiable facts?

such experiments for magic have also been suggested.
the problem with using them to determine the history 
of Tarot is that there may well be no verification
possible. we might not ever be able to pin it down
past a certain locale and general time period, based on
the absence of evidence which remains. testing of the
kind you are suggesting IS possible nonetheless (with
artificial delimiters about what is being inquired).
# Or are we forced to admit that, if fifty different 
# people tried to generate answers to these questions 
# with their tarot decks, that they would receive
# fifty different, conflicting (or vague and 
# "touchy-feely") responses?

I see no reason why the results would have to be vague.
like psychic reading or any other kind of divination or
fortune-telling, the specificity of the result appears
to be dependent upon the confidence of the reader. one
might use any number of divinatory tools to discern a
specific culprit for a crime, for example. whatever is
capable of being described by a psychic is, rationally,
a potential result of an individual consulting Tarot.
as such, studies such as have supposedly been conducted
as relates to psychic phenomena could be reproduced.

I don't think that at present we are forced to admit
your suggested outcome, no.
# In the end, might we conclude that Tarot, as a tool, 
# is better suited for answering questions like "How 
# can I find true love?" than "Who was the originator 
# of Tarot?" 

it is widely-known that some Oracle devices have
predispositions to certain types of questions, and
the request for specific information (such as who
did what) rather than offering a choice amongst a
throng or set of options, might be prohibitive.

# If so, what would that conclusion suggest?

concluding that tools are more easily used for certain
kinds of applications only tells us about the facility
with which the tool may be applied. we have to generalize
*beyond* the options available and try to understand how
it is that "How can I find true love?" questions differ,
in content, form, or quality, from those like "Who was
the originator of the Tarot?"  

specificity toward certain responses (e.g. positive/negative: 
"Were the originator(s) of Tarot located in Italy during 
the 1400s?" or "Of the following list, were there some who 
were more involved with the origins of Tarot than the rest?" 
etc.) might be amenable to productive results, as may the 
*reader*'s familiarity with the subject matter about which
is being asked (so as to make more plain to hir what the 
cards may mean in response).


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