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The Tarot


So I haven't participated much on the board since the cancer year of '12. Not sure why. Before, going back to '08, and even during treatment I could be a chatty kathy. So much so one former member I think was put off by my garulousness. She called our board my "blog". It may be that my lack of participation is the result of the cancer. Not so much the disease itself but the treatment. 3 surgeries in 11 months pretty much brutalized the body. The chemo's brain effect took from me a rather marked degree of self-confidence. Forever second-guessing what I say. On that same cusp of time there was a woman, a lover from the past, who swooped down into my life, kind of overwhelmed me, then abruptly absconded, I guess not finding me as desirable as she remembered. Possibly,I have felt demoralized. But there is another, equally as plausible explanation for my silence. As the old song line goes, "I've had nothing new to show to you." For the first time in 40 years, since my late 20s, my brain has been silent. No poetry, no thoughts. I've always had to keep index cards on my desk, travelling with a field book for note taking, to jot down idea-germs I can develop. Not lately. Whatever the case I finally have an idea that might be worth the expenditure of electrons transmission requires.

My subject heading is a bit of a false lead, not exactly what I'm looking to chase down, Riker mount with a pin. But it tickles me. A couple of weeks or so ago I threw the Tarot cards. Not something I do much anymore, but something I once did regularly, some years daily, for about 2 decades. I developed my own system of interpretions. I rarely threw the cards for other people, there being something disengenuous about that, since, no matter how empathetic one might be you still can't fully know another person's fortunes and the fortune telling gypsy can always deflect vectors. And only once did I use the cards to seduce a woman. Speaking of seductions, mentioned as a throw away, Giacomo, that Venetian lover of women, might have spent as much time studying the Tarot as he did chasing skirt. It was one reason why the Holy Office of the Inquisition wanted him incarcerated. Early on he famously escaped a Doge's as famous prison in Venice. And I think I remember he once had to flee Spain's inquisitors. So for me the cards have been more a matter of self-reflectioning. It's the visual aid that enables one to project parts of yourself, strengths, weaknesses, areas in need of development, fears, even fears needing to be overcome, hopes, desires even when not in one's best interest. The cards also, I think, enable one to visualize connections between self and other, self and the world. It is fair to say that the Tarot amounts to a vestige of what was once a vital, mystical tradition in the Western world, a tradition mostly lost to the beginnings of the scientific method. As best as I can tell, witches are the main group keeping this peculiarly Western tradition alive, a tradition dating back to at least the 15th and possibly 13th Century. They certainly rely heavily on the cards. Mentioned briefly, it was my daughter's birth in 1976 that brought me to the cards. Born 2 months premature, weighing all of 3 pounds, I was terrified for her survival. Moment was extreme. A close friend, a poet and a mystic now dead, introduced me to the cards as a means of managing my terror.

But my post is not about the Tarot cards. It aims for something that occurred to me this last time throwing them, spreading them using the celtic cross pattern. The spread felt good, felt right, felt accurate, reflecting where I stand right now in the flux. Then I involuntarily thought, 'we've become so small.' In that quick, slight moment I "saw" my friends, most of whom these days are scientists, visualized them. I thought, I can't talk with them about the cards, what they show me. Then the next thought was, hell, I can't even talk to them about poetry, or about the nature mystic's religious sense. I can enter their world but they can't enter mine. I have their language down, got the scientific method down. But my world, in fact, would scare the !@#$ out of them. I remember once a dinner party. I was talking with an old man, a Nobel prize winning mathematician. For the sake of conversation I brought up Heisenberg and what fun his Uncertainty Principle, how it put a mickey in the scientific drink. He paused, said, 'You can talk science but I can't talk poetry, which makes me kind of sad.' Anyway, having realized I could not talk to my friends about the soft tissue stuff neither science or analysis can ever pin down, I got the big thing: such has not always been the case.

There are so many examples of what I mean when saying such has not always been the case. Francis Bacon, who made programmatic the scientific method involving hypothesis and demonstration, also a mystic and a lover of beauty who said: "There is not some exquisite example of beauty that doth not have some strangeness in proportion". Isaac Newton, whose math on gravity got us to the moon and back, and whose physics accurately described the workings of things at the mechanical level, was an alchemist who could write in the so-called Hermetic style, named after the Greek Hermes Trismegistos legend, and figured his alchemical findings were superior to his physics. Da Vinci was painter, inventor, and mystic. Goethe, still the supreme example, was poet, mystic, and who independently discovered a little cheek bone in a human cadaver proving the family relationship between humans and other primates, who was also a hydraulogist and mineralogist. The list goes on but I think these few examples illustrate the point. In the 20th Century one of the 2 founders of psychoanalysis, Carl Jung, has been criticized as "too mystical," this being enough to discredit him in the eyes of many scientists. My sense of the situation is this. When a scientist can only be a scientist, a poet only a poet, a rationalist only a rationalist, a mystic only a mystic, etc., there is a shortening in the full range of human experience. There is no integration, no centroversion of the whole human being. The diminution results in a smallness, a loss of capacity for taking in the whole of experience, of sensual experience.

I don't claim to having an original thought here. A Jewish intellectual by the name of Morris Berman got me thinking about these things almost 30 years ago. As antidote he called for a certain reenchantment, an engagement of the senses in how we think, something he called somatic knowing, knowing with the whole body, to get us out of this dead end trifurcation, this split of body and mind and soul.

But I'm going to shut down on these thoughts. Mostly I find the prospects of this smallnes, this diminution, depressing. And I think Berman is wrong on one thing. In the West there is no antidote for the disenchantment of the senses both science and religion have brought about. Scientists will never again have access to, allow for, pre-conscious intuition. Rationalists will not allow that unreason is, in fact, the mother of invention. As for poets? Their heads are too far up their asses to take on the sciences. That said, I'll let out a little secret all mystics know and with their whole sweaty, smelly, stinky, porous bodies. It is through the senses, sensually, that you arrive at, comprehend, Gnosis. The ancient Hebrews knew it in their Song of Solomon. So did St. Theresa in her orgasmic ecstacy. So did Keats in his compehensions of Beauty. So did Whitman in his celebration of the body electric.

Tere

Last edited by Terreson, Feb/22/2014, 9:57 pm
Feb/22/2014, 6:43 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 
Katlin Profile
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Re: The Tarot


Hey Tere,

I love the fact that you found an idea worthy of expending the “electrons transmission requires” and I love the idea itself. I agree with you about the smallness of the lives we live, a smallness conscribed by science and religion and, I would add, commerce. I hope you’re wrong in your disagreement with Berman. Not sure that you are, but I hope. The poet David Whyte, who gives lectures on “Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America” came to mind. I just discovered that Whyte has a degree in Marine Biology, not that that makes him a scientist per se:

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Whyte is just one example. Given time, I might come up with a few more. Don’t get me wrong. I get what you are saying. The wasteland is still with us, and maybe even more so than in Eliot's time. That said, I wouldn’t bet against the Goddess. Not forever. Not in the long, long haul.

I will come back to this thread. Much food for thought here. Just wanted to get down a few first thoughts.
Feb/24/2014, 12:44 pm Link to this post Send Email to Katlin   Send PM to Katlin
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: The Tarot


Thanks for your first thoughts, Kat. Glad if you found what I said worth reading. I guess what my string of thoughts is after here is a kind of cultural criticism, right? Funny to think on. Post Modernists were after a critique of cultural usages, the deconstructionist thing. And they did deconstruct all right. They killed off the author, they reduced language to an arbitary system of culturally biased signs. ( I guess the right word these days is memes.) And they pretty much striped away what Yeats called the artist's "old nonchalance of the hand". Hyper intellectual they proved to be, a demonstration of what happens when brain matter feeds on itself, eats away at itself.

Maybe you're right. Maybe the jig is not up yet and I'm in a bad mood generally. But so much fragmentation brought about by position, occupation, discipline. You know? I just remembered another example of the personality integrated. The 5th C Greek playwright, Sophocles, arguably the best of the Greek tragic poets. A maker of plays, a priest in the Dionysian Mysteries, and a general in the Athenian army during the Persian Wars. That's kind of what I have in mind here.

Tere
Feb/27/2014, 9:52 pm Link to this post Send Email to Terreson   Send PM to Terreson
 


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