Monday, January 26, 2009

Tarot and Evil Spirits

I've heard from a couple of people that using Tarot cards makes people susceptible to influence from evil spirits. A google search on "Tarot evil spirits" will turn up others who believe the same thing. Without exception, these people come from a Christian background, and that's O.K., because I do as well, but what bothers me is that, for the most part, these people have at best a very superficial understanding of what Tarot is, where it comes from, and what it should be used for.

Let's talk first about what Tarot is. It's a deck of cards with pictures. It's ink on cardboard. It's not a portal to the "Dungeon Dimensions" or a way to contact the Devil. If drawing a few pictures on cardboard could really contact the devil, don't you think a lot more people would be doing it? Tarot is in fact a symbol system. The symbols for the most part refer to concepts that come from Qabalah, which comes from Kabbalah, the Jewish version of mysticism.

Now let's talk about what Tarot should be used for. Some people do use it for fortune-telling, but I disagree with that use, and the group I'm with disagrees with that use very strongly. In fact, I've been asked to give a definite answer as to what was going to happen, and I told the person who asked: "You should be deciding that for yourself." The most important application is to use the cards and the symbols to help balance out the different parts of your personality and mind, and remove everything that gets in the way of your experiencing Unity Consciousness. And if you're doing a reading for someone, the cards represent principles and qualities that the person you're doing the reading for can use to improve their situation.

So if you use Tarot cards, don't feel guilty about it. And if you're a Christian who is against using them, maybe you should learn a bit more about them before passing judgment.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

What is a Mystery School?

In an earlier post, I said that a mystery school was a support group for recovering materialists. While true, that description is not precise enough. Mystery schools are strictly for the hermetic path of recovery, that path that emphasizes balancing the different components of the personality using symbol systems with an eventual goal of realization of Unity Consciousness. There are support groups for people on the mystic path, but they go by different names: churches, ashrams and the like.

That said, there are many mystery schools, but this is my favorite. So what can you expect from a mystery school? A good mystery school will provide the following:

  1. lessons explaining the group's doctrine

  2. a knowledge base or reading list

  3. the opportunity for group work

Do you need a mystery school? Strictly speaking, no. You can learn everything you need to on your own with a suitable reading list and sufficient dedication. Also, mystery school or not, there's a lot of work that you'll have to do by yourself. However, a mystery school is helpful in that they can point you in the right direction, and provide support from the other members. So here's how to decide: if you know, or can determine, which books are worth reading, and have enough time and energy to devote yourself to the study of those books and the exercises therein, you don't need a mystery school. Otherwise, give it a try, at least for a little while.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Thoughts on the Celtic Cross

Having read a few books on Tarot, I've been thinking about the Celtic Cross spread and have come up with some of my own ideas on it, and my own approach to interpretation. At first I thought the spread was about what factors have an influence on the question at hand. Now my opinion is that the spread is about what lessons need to be learned.

The spread is composed of ten cards, arranged as follows (card 2 is placed horizontally on top of and across card 1):

4 1 2 6

Now, if you have a deck, please shuffle the cards and try it. You'll notice that the first two cards form a small cross. Including the next four cards forms a larger cross, and the four create a circle around the first two. The final four cards form a staff to the right of the circle cross.

Let's talk about the cross first. The esoteric meaning of the cross is the intersection of time and space. In this spread, time is the horizontal axis, and space the vertical axis. But I don't mean the entirety of space, just the vertical axis, as it applies to your mind. That will be clearer as we go examine the focus of each position. Let's begin:

  1. This card is your immediate situation.

  2. This card is like a large stick held up by a couple of posts in front of you. It appears to block your way, but on closer examination you see that it's not attached to the posts, but simply held up by them. In fact, you can take the stick with you and use it.

  3. Now we get into the parameters of your surrounding situation. This card is what's under the surface of your mind. It can also indicate the root cause of the problem if there is one.

  4. This card indicates a lesson that needs to be learned for the purpose of letting it go, or an influence that is on the way out.

  5. This card indicates a lesson that is here now, or on the way.

  6. This card indicates an influence or lesson that is coming in the future.

  7. The next four cards indicate a course of evolution, starting from this card, which is the lesson of the physical situation.

  8. This card represents thoughts about the situation and environment.

  9. This card represents the lesson given about your emotions.

  10. This card is the final piece of the puzzle: inspiration, will, intuitiveness.

So the first six cards are about your immediate situation and its parameters, and the next four are a path to evolve out of it. I'll be trying out this interpretation over the next couple of weeks, and I'll let you know how it works out.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Book Review: Kabbalistic Cycles

Joseph C. Lisiewski, Ph.D. has three books that together make a valuable addition to the bookshelf of anyone interested in the hermetic path. In this post I will talk about Kabbalistic Cycles & the Mastery of Life. This book describes the planetary hours and how to use them in your daily life. I should warn you up front that this book is not only not for beginners, but that it also needs to be studied in depth to be of any practical use.

The basic premise of the book is that there are cycles that affect everything that goes on. The cycles used in the book are daily and hourly, and correspond to the seven "planets" as known to the ancients: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, the Sun, Venus, Mercury and the Moon. Each planet is given a day, and the 24 hours in each day are divided among the planets. The influence of each planet favors certain endeavors, and makes others more difficult. Some of the combinations of the planets governing each hour and day have attributions to the Major Arcana cards of the Tarot, and these attributions are more powerful than the hourly and daily influences. The idea is that if you schedule your activities to an appropriate day and hour, your chances for success are greatly improved.

Does it work? I honestly don't know yet. I'm still learning the attributions, but I have noticed some positive correlation. If you want to try it, there's a program that will help you calculate the hours. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the Tarot attributions, which, according to the book, are the most important factor. I'll post again about this topic when I have more data.

New Blog: The Recovering Materialist

I've started a new blog (The Recovering Materialist) as a place to offload rants about politics, the economy, and computer science. This will allow me to focus this blog (and the resulting postings to the Materialists Anonymous Google group) on theory and resources for recovering from materialism.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

On Redistribution and Scarcity

You may have seen an email about Nancy Pelosi proposing a tax on windfall profits that would also affect retirement accounts. According to the account, Ms. Pelosi didn't propose the tax, but billionaire Warren Buffet did, which is even worse because he rarely sells stock and therefore wouldn't be affected by the tax. The Democrats, however, are talking about merging 401K accounts into the Social Security system. Here's a quote from that article:
Should Sen. Barack Obama win the presidency, congressional Democrats might have stronger support for their “spreading the wealth” agenda. On Oct. 27, the American Thinker posted a video of an interview with Obama on public radio station WBEZ-FM from 2001.

In the interview, Obama said, “The Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society.” The Constitution says only what “the states can’t do to you. Says what the Federal government can’t do to you,” and Obama added that the Warren Court wasn’t that radical.
Now the idea of redistribution implies scarcity. There's only a limited amount of resources, so if some have more than they need, others won't have enough. Interestingly enough, the idea of redistribution is also implied by protectionism. We need to keep out imports because there's only so many jobs. Scarcity, in fact, is at the core of the science of economics.

Given how central the concept of scarcity has become, it seems to me that we should be asking two questions about it: 1) Is it helpful? and more importantly, 2) is it true?

Let's talk first about whether the belief in scarcity is helpful. If there's just enough to go around, or not enough to go around, it becomes very easy to have the attitude: I'm going to get mine, and... you already know how the sentence ends. This attitude lurks under the surface of protectionism: let's keep our jobs here (don't people in other places deserve jobs too?). It's also behind redistributionism and socialism: they have more than their fair share (even if they have it because they've saved it?). I suggest to you that it's this attitude, and not any lack of government oversight, that turns economies into "dog eat dog" and "law of the jungle."

Next, is it true? It's well known that we grow enough food here in America to feed the world, and we even grow enough corn that some of it can be used as fuel. But that's not what I'm getting at here. What determines the amount of available resources more than anything is what counts as a resource. 200 years ago, petroleum wasn't a resource because we didn't know what to do with it. 100 years ago, coal tar wasn't a resource for the same reason. So it's really what we know that is the primary factor in the amount of resources. Well, what we know has no upper limit. Think about it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Book Review: Astrology for the Light Side of the Brain

I recently reviewed Astrology: A Cosmic Science by Isabel Hickey and said that it was the book to buy about astrology if you could only buy one. Astrology for the Light Side of the Brain by Kim Rogers-Gallagher is the book to buy if you can buy two. It's not only comprehensive, but very well suited for beginners. It starts at a basic level, but covers everything from the signs, houses and planets, to advanced topics like transits, composite charts and even asteroids.

The reason I recommend this book for beginners is that it not only starts from the basics, but the underlying principles are given instead of a laundry list of combinations of planets and signs/houses. The author also stops occasionally to review concepts already given.

Ms. Rogers-Gallagher says that the Sun sign "shows your Basic Motivation - your life's quest." Not your personality, which is in my current understanding determined mainly by your Moon and Ascendant. You can even use this as a litmus test. If you meet someone who claims to know about astrology, tell them your sun sign and say "I guess that's why I'm so stubborn" if you're a Taurus, for example. If you don't see at least a little cringe on the other person's face, you have your answer.

If you want a solid grounding in astrology, a good start would be to study this book, followed by Ms. Hickey's work.