This website is not devoted specifically to the Tarot and other occult practices, therefore I will not delve too deeply into the origins and development of the Tarot in these pages. My intentions, in including a section on the Tarot, are to comment briefly on the correlation between the Tarot and art / alchemy; and to give explanation for my particular interpretations of the Tarot which follow.
The Tarot is a collection of cards the origin of which is unknown to modern man. Certain sources claim that the cards emerged from the Middle East, particularly Egypt, and were introduced to Europe. Other sources claim that the cards were produced by the Cabalists in Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries who merely drew upon Egyptian antecedents. Then there are other sources who find kinship for the Tarot in the I Ching, claiming that the Tarot is only a bastardized form of that discipline. Regardless of the exact origin, the Tarot is an extremely archaic system which borrows tenets from these various claimed sources of origin while also exhibiting influences from Gnosticism and various other theologies.
The Tarot consists of two parts: the Minor Arcana, a collection of 56 cards, and the Major Arcana, a collection of 22 cards.
The Minor Arcana deals with the temporal realm of man. It consists of four suits of fourteen cards, each corresponding to particular aspects of daily concern; Swords ~ aggression, ambition, force; Pentacles ~ money, property, business, status, industry; Wands ~ enterprise, growth, intellect; Cups ~ love, pleasure, happiness. The Minor Arcana is utilized primarily in fortune telling. It functioned as the precursor of the modern playing card deck, a result of fortune telling falling into disrespect.
The Major Arcana, of which I have included illustrations from my own deck in this book, deals with the spiritual realm of man. It is the most ancient of the two arcana of the Tarot and the most symbolically mystical of the two. The 22 cards comprising the Major Arcane do not fall in suits, as is the case with the Minor Arcana, rather, they follow a progressive schematic of spiritual events.
My Tarot deck derives its schematic format from a narrative by lamblicus dating from 4 A.D. This narrative, which is attributed to the philosopher Iamblicus details the initiation of a postulant into the sect of the Magi of Egypt .(from which the Freemasonry and Rosicrucian Orders derive their tenets).
I chose this narrative to work from, primarily because of the narratives I have studied, it presents the progression from desire to reward in a very simple and straightforward manner. The history of the Tarot is extremely rich in varied interpretations. There is so much symbolism embodied in the Tarot that any single interpreter is hard pressed to reach an universally accepted interpretation. This is at the same time a blessing and a curse to the interpreter. The basic import of the Tarot is that it is a collection of imagery to be contemplated and intuitively understood. Should there be any one set of explanations for the cards, the objective for the attainment of knowledge would be thwarted.
The account attributed to Iamblicus merely provides links between the individual cards without subjecting them to definitive analysis. For this reason I chose this account upon which to base my own schematic.
By stripping away the exterior qualities of the Tarot (the utilization of the cards for fortune telling purposes) and those of alchemy (the production of gold from base metal), it is found that both systems offer a very similar theology. This theology is the education of the ignorant mind toward enlightenment. Both means, the Tarot and alchemy, lead toward the same end ~ attainment of spiritual knowledge.
The only overt difference between the two disciplines is the course of the pathway. The course which alchemy takes is that of concentration and discipline. Concentration on detail is a requisite in alchemy. This has already been discussed to some extent. Concurrent with attention to detail is the mental discipline which the adept must possess to undertake the arduous course of the alchemical processes. One small error in either the physical act or the mental process will result in disaster.
The Tarot, on the other hand, takes a course of contemplation and intuition. While there does exist an overall sequence to the cards, it is not necessary to consider them in a strict adherence to a set order as alchemy exhibits. Each card contains a particular facet of knowledge and can be dealt with individually. Although the cards as a whole influence and affect each other, the adept will receive a wealth of knowledge from any single card. It is more to the advantage of the adept to have this facility when studying the Tarot because the symbolism can be intuited more easily through relaxed contemplation.
In 1977 I became motivated to produce my own deck of the Tarot. The available decks were all designed according to traditional symbolism and imagery. These designs derive from the most ancient examples of the deck still extant. They feature imagery culled from the Mediaeval Ages, a period which placed much emphasis upon symbolism.
Although I have no argument toward the use of symbolism and allegory in the traditional decks, I desired to attempt to produce a deck which would derive its design from an artistic standpoint. I was confronted with a problem ~ how could I dispense with the Mediaeval symbolism and imagery and still maintain the essence of the Tarot? I found the solution in the employment of the essential elements of art according to their inherent properties. One example of what I am speaking of here is a diagonal line. Because of the inherent nature of human perception to perceive a diagonal line as unstationary and an agent of potential movement (because of the force of gravity) I chose to utilize diagonal lines in whatever situation called for such imbalance and potential movement.
For each individual cardís representation I chose only the purest form of the basic elements which would facilitate the prescribed action while not hindering any of the other actions. By following this course I devised the illustrations for the cards of both Arcanum. I made one notable exception between the Major and the Minor Arcana though. Whereas the Minor Arcana deals primarily with situations in the physical realm, I utilized imagery which would differentiate one suit from another. I utilized the imagery of the chalice for the suit of Cups, the sword for the suit of Swords, a leaf sprouting branch for the suit of Wands and a circular coin imagery for the suit of Pentacles. In the Minor Arcana I also included representations of the human body where they were necessary. I dealt with each card on an individual basis, illustrating it in accordance to its particular inclination.
For the Major Arcana I chose to include no imagery of a physical nature in any of the cards with the exception of the card for Expiation. My rationale for this move lay in the fact that the Major Arcana deals with the spiritual realm and therefore is separate from the physical, with the exception of Expiation which denotes a return to the physical realm.
In regards to the mechanics of my method of representation of the Major Arcana, I will elucidate. Drawing upon the account previously mentioned, I first set up a schematic in which the total Arcanum was laid out in a straight line. I proceeded to represent each particular event of the total scheme as a continuation of the previous event. For example, the first event of human Will signifies a convergence of vague and random desires into a steadfast and unerring moving force. I represented this as a convergence of tonal areas to form a straight, solid line. The line is a horizontal one because of the fact that a horizontal line is perceived as a balanced element. The second event, Knowledge, signifies the influence of gnosis, or the ultimate knowledge of god, upon human Will. To represent this event I continued the horizontal line from the first event into the second while having it intercepted by a vertical line. This particular vertical line exists as an actual line extension of an implied line formed by the interface of two shape-influenced lines of opposing tonal quality. The horizontal line of Will continues into the third event of Action where it is transformed into a diagonal line. The converged line proceeds from one event to the next in a-similar fashion, being influenced by, or influencing, each successive event as necessary to maintain the schematic format.
Upon completion of the overall scheme. I dissected the total into segments corresponding with the individual events and from these segments I was able to obtain the individual cards of the Arcana.
I have decided not to include the divinitory meanings of the individual cards in this book. There are quite a number of books on the market dealing with the Tarot, therefore it is not necessary here. This is only one reason for the absence of individual explanations of the cards. The primary reason for the motivation not to detail the inherent meanings of the Tarot deck is that the Tarot is designed to be intuitively interpreted. To present the reader with words which characterize the meanings of the cards would be to trespass upon the readerís intuition. Should the reader wish to have a basic guide into the cards' purport, I have included an overall translation in schematic form which I derived from the narration of Iamblicus.