Saturday, August 30, 2008

Book Review: Meditations on the Tarot

The three religious vows are poverty, chastity and obedience. These vows are taken by people who wish to devote themselves to the religious life. A book on the Tarot is the last place you would expect to see them featured. Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism (anonymous, published posthumously, is that book.

The book covers the Major Arcana tarot cards using the Marseilles Tarot. The cards are covered in the medieval order: the Fool is just before the World, and Justice and Strength are reversed, with the standard weak explanation of why the Fool isn't first where it belongs. But that's O.K., because the Tarot isn't the kind of book that's written in stone. It's the kind of book that's rewritten each time it's read.

So what exactly is Christian hermeticism? Hermeticism uses symbolism to balance the different components of the personality with an ultimate aim of realization of union with the universe. Substitute God for the universe, and you have Christian hermeticism.

Themes addressed in the book include: personal magic vs. sacred magic, building vs. growth, reincarnation vs. purgatory and heaven. The last theme is interesting because it includes an explanation of why the idea of reincarnation was suppressed by the church, despite an obvious Bible reference. The reason given is that people would not strive to lead lives sufficient to reach heaven through purgatory if they knew that they could keep coming back.

If you come from a Catholic background like I do, this book should be right up your alley.

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