Friday, November 9, 2007

Book Review: Tarot Awareness

The commonly accepted purpose of Tarot cards is divination, also known as fortune-telling. The cards are shuffled, and dealt in one of a number of layouts. The reader then looks at the cards and their positions for answers to the question at hand. The Golden Dawn literature suggests that this is also useful as an exercise for the imagination and intuition.

There are two other uses for Tarot cards that I know of. The first is as a repository for ancient knowledge. The story goes that just before the Romans took over Christianity and burned the library at Alexandria, a group of sages saw it coming and decided that they would preserve their knowledge in a disguised form. The idea was that no one would suspect a card game of containing secret wisdom. Also, there is a precedent for this. Dante's Divine Comedy hints at having a secret meaning, which I will discuss in a later post. What counts against that theory is that no Tarot deck is known to pre-date the middle ages. In fact, the most popular deck (the Rider-Waite) only dates back to the early 20th century. Also, no one agrees on the correct design of the deck or the proper order of the major arcana cards (the 22 cards with Roman numerals and descriptive names).

The third use is as a self-contained symbol system. That's where Tarot Awareness, by Stephen Walter Sterling comes in. The book provides an excellent introduction to the major arcana cards as interpreted by B.O.T.A. There is an interpretation of each card, along with a guided visualization illustrating the principles given in the interpretation. As such, it could serve as a useful supplement to B.O.T.A. work. The minor arcana is also covered, although not in as much detail, and instructions for doing a reading are also included.

A brief quote from the introduction will explain why the word "Awareness" is in the title:

The intent of Tarot Awareness is to help the seeker remember that Consciousness, the Energy that knows Itself, permeates the subtleties and activities of all (emphasis in original) our life. When the seeker knows that we "live and move and have our being" within Spirit, Consciousness -- God, the view of the Landscape becomes luminously clear, and then we apprehend the world from a non-egoistic perspective.

Well, that's what it's all about isn't it?

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