Slogans Versus Reality

August 9, 2015 UPDATE: So you may ask what the hell is all this about? And what it is about is that as Bush's horror wars dragged on and on, and all the true believing in the world couldn't put Bush's stupid lies (endlessly channeled into the dumbest pro-war slogans) into a story that could ever be true, I realized (really from before 9/11 but certainly since then) that the macrocosmic story of how stupidity rules the human roost, is just as true in microcosmic tales—like Tarot and its commercial subcultures for example. In Tarot, dumb sloganizing, as opposed to teaching relevant insights into the cards, is the mainstay of Tarot's marketing postures as well. So, no, I'm not saying Cartofeminism is just as bad as petro-fascism. Not quite. But I am saying that the same sort of mental deficiency (laziness, idiocy, basic lack of taste and interest) on the part of political consumers that has doomed the USA to being an oligarchic sham democracy, is seen as well in the wretched consumer narcissism that fuels popular Tarot. In addition, there are some specific Tarot-related things to learn in the article—for example, if you want to know the origin of The Fool's Journey, keep reading.

From 2007:

Recently, the creature that occupies the White House, George W. Bush, never having anything to offer the United States but more blood and slogans, came up with another of the latter to replace yet another mantra that hadn't properly defined the ever-collapsing reality of his criminal war. The new slogan is "Return On Success" (see how many lies you can spot in that piece of shameless propaganda), whereas the reality suggests the better slogan should be "Return Is Success", or at least as much success as any American is going to get out of the utter failure of the Iraq war. As of today, 3,801 Americans have returned—on failure—i.e., dead.*

*NOTE, August 9, 2015, the final death count for US troops (so far anyway) was just short of 4, 500 KIA, and many more thousands horribly maimed, in the body and in the mind. None of these Americans needed to die, especially not for George W. Bush's ghastly stupidity and arrogance.

Today, a new transcript surfaced, illustrating Bush's pre-Iraq-war confidence. Was he concerned about Americans dying in his war, or maybe that it might turn out to be the wrong thing to do to invade Iraq? Hell no! When he was asked, about a month before the start of the Iraq war, by the prime minister of Spain why he was so confident, Bush replied "I'm optimistic because I believe I'm right." Of course, he turned out to be dead wrong. And hundreds of thousands of people have died for his stupid optimism. But at least he felt affirmed, right?

Now, in Tarot of course, there are all kinds of slogans which have nothing to do with reality, that being a condition not generally favored any more by Tarotmaniacs than by George W. Bush, and Tarot warriors seek to escape the dreadful threat via various means promoted in the anti-reality slogans. 

For example:

1. Tarot for Self-Transformation—This is the basic substitute Tarot peddlers use today to eliminate the idea Tarot has anything to do with fortunetelling and (generally despised) Gypsies. Except by the time the Tarot peddlers get through with the CGI-like filtering out of the shocking bits of the picture, the only Self a person sees in his mirror (see #3 below) is one he figures ought to be affirmed, not transformed.* In fact, if there is one transformation people using Tarot seek, it is how to be even more vain than they already are. Vain, you ask? How could someone seeking to transform himself be vain? Well, I would simply say go to the source for your answer, in this case to one of the first postmodern books to promote the idea of Tarot being an instrument for self-transformation, Janina Renée's 1990 book, Tarot Spells. In this book, Reneé simplified things to vulgar basics, setting a standard for Tarot Vanitas (or masturbatory tarotica) that poor Mary Greer could only dream of achieving with her thick, painfully pretentious, workbooks.

The spells in Spells are mostly black-magical exercises aimed at obtaining physical benefits that the practitioner seems unwilling or unable to achieve the old-fashioned way (you know like growing up, getting over it, getting a grip).

*—August 9, 2015, I count this as a prophecy concerning this modern phenomenon or curse.


Spell #17: "To help reverse the aging process and recapture lost beauty."

Now, it is understandable that this spell's target audience, "mature persons who want to repair some of the damage that aging does to the body's cells and systems",* are badly in need of some transformation, but look at the tarotic method they apply to the problem. It is so telling that in this spell the spellers are told to escape the Hermit, whose only meaning here is decrepitude. Forget the lantern showing the way to high places—in other words, the wisdom of a long life well lived—in the beauty-parlor philosophy that distinguishes so much cartofeminized drivel, the old man is just an infirm wretch with a limp stick and a dying light.
*—i.e., old crones who would be willing to drink the blood of babies, anything, to recapture what is spent, done, and gone forever.

Like a phoenix, the worthless Hermit is tossed upon Judgement's pyre to be ashed and reborn as the sprightly young dancer babe in The World.

Is that a post-menopausal wet dream or what? Or is that what most people in Tarotmania mean when they blather about self-transformation?

Stretching out the Hermit in Brazil.
And with every breath I take, 
I become more energetic, 
I become younger, 
I become more beautiful!
—truth-stretching affirmation 
for Tarot Spell#17

2. Tarot is a Fool's Journey—Except there is a difference between that and what most people actually do with Tarot, which is more like a fool's itinerary. The former idea was something A. E. Waite tossed off as a metaphor in Pictorial Key to the Tarot—"[The Fool] signifies the journey outward, the state of first emanation, the graces and passivity of the spirit." In other words, the Fool comes to be impressed by the world, but to make very little impression of his own. He is not on a mission that requires him to aggressively and discriminately chart a particular course (e.g., from one trump to the next); the living of life and absorption of any and all impressions are his raison d'être. But any and all may be very different from one Fool to another.

Figuring this Waitean idea (and prose) was way too histy-misty for most people to understand, the postmodern Tarot revealers turned it into a vacation where you try to make it through all of Tarotland's alleged "E-ticket" rides (which seem more like A-ticket ones), and in sequential order. See, people like to be relaxed and a little foolish on vacation, so the Fool makes the perfect icon for that banal attitude of self-discovery and transformation as theme-park attractions. Of course, one might object that this banal sequential journey is a superficial mimicking of the allegedly more profound one promoted by the Golden Dawn in its initiatory scheme. That would be a worthwhile observation, if what one means by it is that pop Tarot apes the forms and surfaces of the occult monoliths it has no interest or ability to understand.

The person who started the diminution of Waite's journey metaphor was Eden Gray. In her first book on Tarot, The Tarot Revealed (1960), Gray interpreted Waite to mean that the Fool had to "pass through the experiences suggested in the remaining 21 cards, to reach in card 21 the climax of cosmic consciousness or Divine Wisdom." Gray does not use the term Fool's Journey, but she says:
"Every man must journey forward and choose between good and evil. If he has no philosophy, he is the Fool."
Of course, if one has a Qabalistic understanding, he knows that the Fool is naturally good, since his job is to indiscriminately sample life. He is no judge and jury, and indeed is likely to be irritatingly merciful in his perceptions. Perhaps Gray means to say that sans a philosophy or belief system, which implies the evils of rules and justice, the Fool is naturally his good self. But she does not explain herself usually, opting to write in dumbed-down occultese that implies there is much more to her words than she seems able to clearly convey.

Ten years later, in A Complete Guide to the Tarot (1970), Gray expanded upon her interpretation of Waite's metaphor, calling the passing of the Fool through the trumps the Fool's Journey. In the Complete Guide, Gray gives a capsule description of each stop along the way of the fool's itinerary. Her facile summary does really sound like a cheap travel brochure's description of the chief allure of each stop along the way of a discount holiday:

Emperor—learn the "role of the ruler"!
Chariot—master your passions!
Hermit—meet your guide to the "spiritual path"!
Justice—get a "balanced personality"!
Devil—get tempted!

It's all pretty silly, but it was very influential.

For example, by the time Joan Bunning published her online notes into the popular Learning the Tarot (1998), she didn't even feel like she had to mention Eden Gray's name, so widespread was the Fool's Journey as an interpretive scheme in postmodern Tarot. 

Nevertheless, when Bunning writes: 

The Fool's Journey is a metaphor for the journey though life. Each major arcana card stands for a stage on that journey—an experience that a person must incorporate to realize his wholeness.

—she is simply paraphrasing Gray's earlier comment in The Tarot Revealed

[The Fool] must pass through the experiences suggested in the remaining 21 cards, to reach in card 21 the climax of cosmic consciousness or Divine Wisdom.

As you may see, there is repeated in these explanations the idea of obligation and restriction, the Fool must pass through the experiences, a condition of material manifestation, but something that seems alien to the idea of the Fool. Waite points out in fact that the Fool seems immune from the restraint of "earth and its trammels". And Waite's Fool, unlike the pomo residue of it, is not obliged to experience, but has come for the delights of doing so. 

It is odd to most of us to think of the immortal and changeless finding delight in the experience of being mortal and subject to terminal change, but we are repeatedly told in our myths and religions of the gods seeking out experience in the realm of mortals. And Jesus himself, who Waite suggests is the real embodiment of his Fool, is God taking human form to to do the Great Work of mending the Cosmos. That is, interestingly, the reason Kabbalists give for the purpose of human existence, to help mend the broken Cosmos (or the shattered Cups of its first attempted Creation) though righteous living.

The thing is, and this is perhaps one reason Waite refused to commit himself concerning the real place of the Fool in the sequence of the trumps, but in terms of initiation, the Fool is actually the highest, not the lowest, point to which one can aspire. This is because the lesson of the Tarot is mainly one of spiritual refinement, which means a material disengagement. 

Humans have to learn that idea, which is actually quite unnatural to them, since they are after all corporeal animals. If the Fool comes into the world already fully spiritualized, identical to the state his animal manifestation is obliged to obtain, we could only count his birth into the world as a great tragedy, and a rather silly idea, since if he is aspiring to return to a state he had before materializing, why did he materialize?

We are told by Waite he does this to obtain experience. For what purpose is this experience obtained? What good does it do the spirit? Waite implies the answer is much the same that Aleister Crowley later came up with, that the spirit (Crowley actually says it is the particles that make up all material things) is in search of the one thing it can keep and not lose in the Cosmos of endless change—memory.

Anyway, these are in fact interesting and worthwhile ideas, but the path to an enlightened understanding of them and their possible relevance is not made better by reducing them to a marketing slogan, which is all the Fool's Journey has become. It is a way of making esoteric concepts accessible (because the Fool is the least intimidating of the cards—on the surface anyway) to people barely literate in many cases. Their dumbed-down access is to a silly veil covering a sanctum they cannot see or know on account of their insufficiencies.

Of course, being insufficient to understand Tarot really isn't that big a deal, is it? And you'd probably rather take a vacation anyway.

For my money (or that is your money), you can't go wrong, if you need to go so wrong as to take the fool's itinerary, in at least allowing the foolishness to sound sonorously impressive—so let Christopher Lee be your guide, but you should not be surprised if you end up no better than Saruman (while attaining like Wormtongue) for your trouble.

3. Tarot is a (Magic) Mirror—I suppose if people were inclined towards the truth, this slogan might offer some promise of Tarot being useful as a guide to self knowledge and even improvement. But, let's face it, most people who use Tarot have about as much interest in being told the truth as the evil queen in Snow White. After all, what obese fool wants to be told the truth—"You fair, Miss Piggy!? Pleez! That young hot animated Snow White on the other hand melts my glass with her totally fine ass!" Yep, that kind of affirmation will get a Mirror sent to Bad Will in a fat-clogged heartbeart.

So, the Tarot Magic Mirror must be gauntly slimming, endlessly solicitous, i.e. constantly spewing dishonest affirmations of its mistress' vanities.

Speaking of which, let's go to the Tarot Mirrors (1988) queen herself, Mary K. Greer, for an example of how this slogan works to the detriment of any true understanding of Tarot, or any true estimate of oneself.

Now, to be fair to Mary, she is a consistently bad researcher. I think if her school of research were classified, it would be a Cliff's Notes version of what Ken Burns calls "emotional archaeology". She speaks disparagingly of history and science, as if they were the abusive arts of patriarchs, while preaching the sanctity of feeling (especially wimmin feeling worthy). So, again to be fair, we should not expect much from her in the way of informed, rational insight about Tarot.

For example, when Mary wishes to bolster her mirror metaphor by making it seem ancient Egyptian, she does not seek out help from Egyptologists, people who might actually know something about the ideas of ancient Egyptians; instead she employs Lucie Lamy, whose stepfather, R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, invented the Symbolist interpretation of ancient Egyptian civilization. Symbolists eschew Egyptological explanations, viewing these as hopelessly mired in the darkness of scientific thinking. Their approach is instead traditionally Egyptomanical—i.e., occultist.

However, on the surface, and who does actually read the notes in tarotbooks, it seems as if Mary is always basing her ideas in something reliable—well in somebody else's claims anyway. For those readers who want to believe her, there is little reason to skeptically seek out and question the bases of her claims. And for those readers, the difference between Egyptology and Egyptomania is negligible. After all, isn't Indiana Jones an archaeologist?

In the same way, they would not recognize nor care about the fact that newage writers' appeals to scientific ideas, such as quantum physical theories, always misstate the science in service to appearing to validate whatever unscientific premise they are promoting. Mary repeatedly does this, confusing for example quantum field theory with psychological field theory—hey, it's all in left field, right?

Mary is in fact obsessed with one thing—power. In Tarot Mirrors, Mary plainly says that the most important thing her Tarot work can achieve is Taking Power. She views the mass of Tarotmania, certainly the YAMland portion of it, as throngs of the pitiful powerless, wandering from one Tarot reader to the next, seeking power through affirmation—in other words seeking the Stuart Smalley enlightenment: I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!

Problem is, Mary likes having power over others, but she seems acutely sensitive about anybody in any way having any power over her. For example, she describes an episode, apparently formative in her experience as a Tarot counselor, with a fortune-teller she calls Madame Rosa. Mary says she had just suffered a "short-lived, emotionally disastrous marriage" and went looking for "serious input" as well as professional insight, as Mary was looking into going pro with Tarot reading. It seems Mary expected quite a lot from a fortune-teller she describes as operating from "a small wooden house on a major highway at the outskirts of town". 

Unfortunately, Madame Rosa was only it seems interested in efficiently processing her client, which we all know can be a pretty dreary affair, given that hearing about "short-lived, emotionally disastrous" relationships is hardly a novel or unusual problem. Indeed, desperate queries about the fate of one's affectional future are in the great pantheon of most-asked questions to fortune-tellers (and anybody else who gets paid to listen to people's problems).

In Mary's case, Madame Rosa looked over the situation, assessed Mary as suffering an eternal lovelorn curse, and generously offered to remove it, for a fee of course. Nothing odd about that professional transaction at all. After all, what should you expect when you bring an important life problem to the fortune-teller in the small house at the edge of town?

But Mary's abuse radar, always hyperactive it seems, kicked in to save her from being overpowered by Madame Rosa. Of course, it wasn't the notion that Madame Rosa was utterly fraudulent that got Mary's hackles up, but the exact opposite—that Madame Rosa actually had so much power to affect Mary's future, she was attempting, in Mary's words, to steal her soul! Mary realized that she looked "personally powerless" (hey, Madame Rosa didn't force you into her house with a gun, Mary), and so decided to take back her personal power and spend the rest of her life "transforming [her] love potential for [herself]."

Anyway, that view of things, the fortune-teller offering to fix an allegedly innate problem for a fee, struck Mary as being everything "that can be destructive and grotesque in a tarot reading." Wow, I hope Mary found the time to go back and thank Madame Rosa for that truly fundamental lesson. But I rather doubt it.

So, I relate this story, because I find it ironic that when it came time for Mary to start helping clients, the main thing she did not like about it was "the power given [to her] by individuals seeking advice". Why? Was it because she might abuse that power? No, she wasn't concerned about that. It was because she didn't like the karmic responsibility for what the clients might do in reaction to her words, which is another way of saying she viewed taking responsibility for people coming to her for advice as their having power over her

In Mary's view, her job is to give people "opportunities to gain new or clearer perspectives". Unfortunately, what most people really want is a spell to take off the eternal lovelorn curse. So, if instead you blather about "opportunities", it all sounds pretty vague and hey, they already know that things might work out if they choose this way instead of that way. What they want is for the reader to tell them which choice is the right one. But, if you do that, you'll be liable (maybe legally too) for what happens if they actually do what you say. 

Mary, who clearly views herself as morally superior to a fortune-teller in the small house at the edge of town, was not about to surrender that much power to mere paying clients! In response to this dilemma, Mary concluded that "what is badly needed by tarot readers" (who cares about what the clients need), is a way to make the clients feel they have empowered themselves, while of course letting the readers off the hook for anything that's done in light of the reading. You might think this just boils down to Mary selling the client a copy of "Tarot For Your [Powerful] Self", but she's got a better idea than that, a thing with a slogan all its own—the "Breakthrough Process". 

Of course, everybody loves a breakthrough, but it does raise the question of who or what is the obstacle. And that's just the point. It is the client who is the obstacle to the reader (or Mary) remaining free from being overpowered by the karmic demands of the client's needs. How to process them and get them the hell out so they will feel like they are in charge and won't blame Mary for the outcome of this breakthrough?

Simple, she has them read their own cards. Now, that's a breakthrough.

Of course, there's more to it than that, and Mary's version of a curse-breaker spell, complete with her little charts of course, seems more clinical than Madame Rosa's love charm, but at least Madame Rosa's remedy was traditional and unpretentious, and I suspect even more effective in aiding most clients. People after all come for the magick, not to fill out forms.

The subtitle to Mary's book is "reflections of personal meaning". I think "projections of personal meaning" would be more apt, given how much Mary seems to do that when she's analyzing people and situations and Tarot cards. For a book about the advantages of staring into one's reflection, it is odd that Mary barely mentions the most famous reflector of them all—Narcissus.

In Mary's version of the myth, again recalling she is promoting the alleged advantages of treating Tarot like a mirror in which to affirm one's reflection, she tells us that Narcissus' mistake was "not in loving [his] reflection, but in mistaking the reflection for the Self." However, this contradicts the narrative and the point of the myth, which is that knowing oneself cannot truly be achieved until we see ourselves and more importantly suffer ourselves as others do, and so therefore as an other. Generally, this is very difficult, for one has to endure a brutal kind of self honesty to achieve it. 

The myth tell us this level of insight into our true natures can be fatal, for we may find what we see to be unbearable, and yet how can we turn away from ourselves? In the case of Narcissus, it was not his beauty that was his downfall, but his imperfect cruelty. Imperfect, because he was heartless to everyone he met—except himself. And it was in that, his love and ultimately his pity for himself that killed him. This is of course intended to be tragic—but also amusing if you go for heartless twists of fate.

As noted at the start of this section, one might use Tarot as a device for honest reflection and even improving oneself in light of this, and a gifted reader may be able to help others do this, but pleasing and empowering affirmations of one's narcissistic tendencies, while possibly making a provider of these benefits popular and richer, are not likely to bring the affirmed closer to any enlightened understanding of his true self.

Finally, just to show you I am not merely picking on pop, YAMhead, Tarot, the occult masters are happy to swindle you with a slogan too. Take this utter inanity from Aleister Crowley:

4. The Method of Science, The Aim of Religion—wow, that sounds impressive, huh? I mean, if you're using scientific methods, that must mean your religion is scientific, right?


What Crowley meant by "method of science" was scribbling endlessly in magick notebooks (not science notebooks) about his "experiments", which were often nothing more than drug-fueled sex orgies wherein the parties would imagine they saw and conversed with spirits. What notes result from these exercises read more like robot pornography (very dull, binary luridness) than a book of scientific notes. 

Any real scientist, being told they contained evidence of the scientific basis of Crowley's religion, ought to toss them in the comic-book pile and spend his valuable time doing something useful. I say ought to, since a few scientists, or people with scientific training, have examined these things and the ideas backing them, and decided to take them seriously. But then some alleged scientists also claim the theory of evolution is Satanic propaganda.

For his own part, Crowley was far more interested in pursuing the aim of religion—particularly a material aim of shattering the old world order and establishing a new one with himself in charge as global Emperor-Hierophant—than he was in using any real scientific methods. Crowley (or Aiwass) wrote "Success is thy proof". Very scientific. In other words, look for validation through real-life testing of one's assumptions. In any fair measure of Crowley's life according to that test, he was a remarkably consistent failure, which even he himself admitted. "Success", as he scripted the idea for it, was never his. Yet, he remained optimistic right to the very end that his life had not been merely a joke, and that he had been right.

At least he did not kill hundreds of thousands of people with his righteous method and aim. Of course, he would have proudly taken credit for it if he had, and indeed claimed that World War I itself was a giant blood sacrifice done to bring on the change of Aeons to that of Horus.

Whether in the real world of our blundering, bludgeoningly stupid leaders, and their bloody wars, or in the utterly frivolous world of people who believe in the magic powers of a pack of playing cards, we see that crafting just the right slogan, one that captures people's craving for what is unlikely or impossible, is far more important to one's success than telling the truth.