“I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the Stern Fact, the Sad Self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self Reliance
The garbage truck beeps as it backs up
And I start my day thinking about
What I’ve thrown away…
Forgive my indecision
I am only a man
Then again, you’re always first when
No one’s on your side
Then again, the day will come when
I want off that ride.”
~Incubus, 11 AM
When we are emotionally bankrupted, sometimes extra efforts are required. Something needs to jog the system—restart the entire thing. Sometimes, the only way to see the goodness in things is by realizing just how much of life is being wasted while wrestling with the bad. Ancient peoples referred to this “restart” or re-orientation of the self as divination. The Divination Arts are psychological sciences of the inner psyche, and the planets, playing cards, and numbers are all representations of phenomena that escape traditional phraseology. In other words, these are symbols that represent aspects of the human archetypal consciousness and can be considered as a way to highlight the memetic metadata of the individual psyche. Granted, the term “divination” is traditionally used to describe fortune-telling, clairvoyance, and generally being able to peek into the future of the questioner, but divination is overall the study of the archetypal relationship between the self and the world around it. Divination does not necessarily have to be astrology, tarot, or numerology, et cetera—ultimately, the word describes an active and practical use of the archetypes in the conscious life. Jung’s popular theory of synchronicities goes hand-in-hand with the premise of divination. Through symbols, we are seeking underlying patterns of effect, and attempting to further categorize the causes of scenarios within us and around us.
Thus, this chapter is meant to encapsulate the basic tenants and history of the Divination Arts. For any exact expertise or lengthy analysis, I recommend some of the scholars referenced within this chapter to come. This is meant to provide a basic working outline for the reader to conduct further research with, and I do not claim to behold every ancient secret that the arts have to offer—I don’t claim that by a long shot. I simply understand the basic history and have a firm knowledge of the archetypal symbolic proponents.
Math is a figment of the imagination, literally. Without the imagination, mathematics would be incomprehensible as we know it today—yet people hardly give mathematics its philosophical credit anymore. Babylon began developing the esoteric symbolism that became modern mathematics (some word argue the knowledge is even older than this), which was then fostered in Egypt and developed to a large extent. Historical record shows that Pythagoras was the one to bring levels of advanced mathematics to the ancient western world and was also the man to push the boundaries and development of mathematics in a way that had never been done.
Math and numerology are hardly separate—numerology just also implies the philosophy of math. This, of course, is a concept that is entirely lost upon today’s scientific method, and wrongfully so. The overall idea of ancient Pythagorean numerology was based around the archetypal concept known as the Musica Inversalis or the Harmony of the Spheres. This is the philosophical supposition that numbers were the most organic symbols on the planet. Numbers were ultimately meant to symbolize the internal patterns of growth and destruction through dynamic exchange in any and all categories. Numbers are a method of quantifying an effect in order to deduce a cause, and before the conception of numbers, this method of cause-and-effect relationship seems like it would have been difficult to grasp overall. In a sense, numbers were quantifying the effect of the natural, primordial preconditions of life on earth, which the ancients believed to be predominated by the sun’s energy.
To Pythagoras and his followers, numbers were nothing less than magickal sigils personifying the paths of least resistance in nature’s chaos theory of coalescence. Considering the earth as a physical concept, numbers thus became the shadow of the earth, cast by the sun.
Of course, we wouldn’t have music without mathematics. The priests of the Mysteries in both the ancient east and west considered each song to be something similar to a big-bang theory event, except the music was on a microcosmic level instead of the macrocosmic. It was man learning to speak the language of the gods. Unlike music today, where it is all about “expressing myself”, the musician of old was a person who sought the ability to personify and utilize the fractal language of the cosmos in a way that could captivate listeners as if the music were the words of the divine.
For some brief insight on the nature of the Pythagorean philosophy, let us consider one of its greatest critics, the great Aristotle. Since Aristotle sought to disprove ideologies like Platonism and Pythagoreanism, he naturally did quite well summarizing their most fundamental concepts. “…the Pythagoreans identify the infinite with the even. For this, they say, when it is cut off and shut in by the odd, provides things with the element of infinity. An indication of this is what happens with numbers If the gnomons [shades of the sundial] are placed round the one and without the one, in the one construction the figure that results is always different, in the other it is always the same.” [p.33 (Meta)Physics] “The Pythagoreans, too, held that void exists and that it enters the heaven itself, which as it were inhales it, from the infinite air. Further it is the void which distinguishes the nature of things as if it were like what separates and distinguishes the terms of a series. This holds primarily in the numbers, for the void distinguishes their nature.” [p.53 (Meta)Physics] This last quote is undeniably stemming from the same philosophical axioms that the Tree of Life’s sephiroth pose.
Truly, the mysticism of mathematics lies in chaos theory and the Pythagoreans knew this with their concept of the void and the infinite. Let us next consider the theory’s old adage, a tribute to mathematician, Edward Lorenz’s “butterfly effect”: It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world. Mathematics is our typhoon, and it is only poetic that chaos theory should bring about the ultimate discovery of itself as a mathematic model.
Make no mistake: chaos theory does not imply that the natural world itself is chaotic—it implies the contrary. Herein lies the fundamental philosophical axiom that must be ascertained to continue this line of thought: the idea is that order is the natural state, and chaos is the interplay of something-else with this natural state. In other words, order is the canvas, and chaos is the paint. Together, they make a picture that conveys beauty, and it is in this way that Pythagoreanism embodied chaos theory.
Let us also not forget that the Fibonacci sequence is a classic example of fractal mathematics, which is a mode of chaos theory. The Greek Golden Ratio of Beauty is fractal geometry, as popularized by Benoit Mandelbrot, on a macrocosmic, planetary scale that can be seen all throughout nature. Essentially, a fractal is a complex, even infinitely layered pattern, where each part of the pattern is statistically identical to the whole unit being measured. It is a self-similar, self-mimicking geometric concept that, by its very definition, has no discernable beginning or end. Modern science has really run with fractal mathematics, and today it is commonly known that fractals provide accurate models for many natural phenomena, such as: formation of crystals, tree growth, DNA, coastlines and ocean waves, and even galaxy formations, among a whole host of other large topics. When considering mathematics in this way, it appears that numbers and ratios even play crucial roles in not only sexual attraction, but human emotion and communication overall.
Modal vibrational phenomena like Hans Jenny’s cymatics even demonstrate how soundwaves will vibrate a surface, causing a pile of sand, et cetera, to move into geometric patterns through these vibrations alone—which hardly can be interpreted as anything other than the phenomenon of sacred geometry in action.
Classical scholars like W. Wynn Wescott detailed the stories and philosophies told of Pythagoras. The vast majority of this primary historical information either comes from the followers of Pythagoras, or from his critics, like Aristotle. Legend has it that once Pythagoras had finally reached manhood, he grew tired of feeling like a big fish in a small pond—so he decided to travel. The young Pythagoras is said to have travelled to Egypt, India, Persia, Crete, and Palestine (perhaps elsewhere as well) and found counsel with the spiritual sages of these cultures through dedication and oftentimes initiation into their indigenous rites.
Of course, there is the possibility that some places Pythagoras visited are merely part of the legend, and it is accepted that Pythagoras did not originate all the teachings that he taught—the teachings were simply too vast and are historically found in too many different cultures for it to be mere chance. People like Pythagoras traveled and studied and shared their knowledge when they returned home—of this, there is little question. Scholar, Ernest G. McClain’s intimidatingly thorough research novel, The Myth of Invariance: The Origin of the Gods, Mathematics, and Music from the Ṛg Veda to Plato, is perhaps the best-standing modern investigation into both the esoteric symbolism and the complex mathematics that were distributed throughout ancient Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, Hebrew, and Vedic spiritual cultures, et cetera. British mathematician, Professor Ian Stewart has also provided a great deal of useful research on the ancient philosophies of numbers, like with his novel, Nature’s Numbers: The Unreal Reality of Mathematics.
Here is a very brief table explaining the basic symbolism of Pythagorean numerology, shorthanded from Manly P. Hall’s Secret Teachings of All Ages for its conciseness and poignancy.
1 – (Kether) the monad is the sum of any combination of numbers considered as a whole. Thus, the universe is considered as a monad, but the individual parts of the universe (such as the planets and elements) are monads in relation to the parts of which they themselves are composed.
2 – (Chokmah) the duad has been divided and is two rather than one; and when there are two, each is opposed to the other.
3 – (Binah) This number is symbolized by wisdom, because men organize the present, foresee the future, and benefit by the experiences of the past.
4 – (Chesed) The tetrad was esteemed by the Pythagoreans as the root of all things, the fountain of Nature and the most perfect number.
5 – (Geburah) The pentad is the union of an odd and an even number (3 and 2). Among the Greeks, the pentagram was a sacred symbol of light, health, and vitality.
6 – (Tiphareth) the hexad represents the creation of the world. It was called the form of forms, the articulation of the universe, and the maker of the soul.
7 – (Netzach) the heptad was called “worthy of veneration.” It was held to be the number of religion, because man is controlled by seven celestial spirits to whom it is proper for him to make offerings.
8 – (Hod) The ogdoad was called the little holy number. It derived its form partly from the twisted snakes on the Caduceus of Hermes and partly from the serpentine motion of the celestial bodies.
9 – (Yesod) The ennead was associated with failure and shortcoming because it fell short of the perfect number 10 by one. It was called the called the number of man, because of the nine months of his embryonic life. Among its keywords are ocean and horizon.
10 – (Malkuth) The decad is the greatest of numbers, not only because it is the tetractys (the 10 dots) but because it comprehends all arithmetic and harmonic proportions. Pythagoras said that 10 is the nature of number, because all nations reckon to it and when they arrive at it they return to the monad.
This is all the first side of numerology: the divine mimic—meaning the use of numbers to statistically organize or quantify aspects of existence that would be otherwise unattainable without numbers.
The second use of numerology is its ability to cypher knowledge through symbolism. Both the Greeks and the Hebrew developed an alpha-numeric language, meaning that each letter of the alphabet had a numerical equivalent.
Through these methods, books like the Old Testament are veiled all throughout with complex cyphers which constitute the numbering of the verses as well as the symbolism used in the words. Not only do the numbered verses have alphabetical significance, but the literary symbolism also has numerical significance—nearly all of which is lost by the average reader’s eyes. The numerical connotations throughout the entire Bible were irrefutably created with the use of gematria, temurah, and notarikon, which constitute the three modes of numerology. These modes are essentially ancient data encryption.
Gematria, which is one of the numerological methods that the ancient Hebrew used to write the Old Testament, is extremely similar to Pythagorean mathematics. While gematria is fairly straightforward, the encryption methods involved with temurah and notarikon are actually quite complex, and so it will not be analyzed in detail here. Useful as these things are to understanding aspects of symbolism, they do not bear a great deal of significance in a discussion of psychotherapy. Suffice it to say that the subjects are worth research.
A common idea upheld in today’s New-Age numerology is that by ascribing the nine numbers to columns of the English alphabet, we may deduce hidden significance in our birth name and date. It is supposed that the name and date are almost like natural “barcodes” to glean information about the soul from. It sounds neat, but it is not empirical whatsoever. The fact that the digits one through ten operate on an archetypal level is undoubtable, but whether or not we can correspond these digits to our modern English alphabet and get any real use out of it is highly debatable.
In the long run, mathematics has always provided a wide-open door into the realm of mysticism, and still do.
Astrology is not a New-Age religion based on planetary energies—it was a body of ancient mathematical-archetypal systems used to investigate and document the time-space. It was never perfect, but it was the beginning of a great many useful things. Time has a direct, energetic effect on a human’s quality of life, and truly, astrology is a measurement of time and its effects on all life.
That humans derived spirituality one-part from sexuality, and another part from observations of the sky is merely a matter of anthropological record. From these two gateways, culture as it is known began to humbly manifest. The ancient zodiacal symbols all had mathematical-numerological significance, and overall, astrology is nothing more than the philosophical implications of astronomy, like numerology to math. As we shall see, there is plenty of philosophical conjecture to be considered through astronomy and its earthly implications.
Varying degrees of ancient astrology can be found in the cultures of China, India, Babylon and Mesopotamia, Greece, Persia, Egypt, and more. The symbols themselves change, but the control methods remain the same. As shall soon be illustrated, the people who consider astrology to be generic descriptions of any given person are severely misguided. They are only referencing today’s tabloid horoscopes and New-Age books. They clearly have never studied the historical uses of these symbols and their classical interpretations, for if they had, they would realize that these zodiacal symbols are highly specific and multi-faceted.
Inklings of today’s modern astrology can be first seen in the work of the ancient Alexandrian scholar, Claudius Ptolemy, known for both Ptolemaic astrology and astronomy, which was a geocentric model of the solar system. While Ptolemaic astronomy is clearly outdated by a large measure, Ptolemaic astrology still holds useful historical context for ancient humanity’s classifications of psychological principles. In a bit of a general sense, today’s modern astrology is essentially the progeny of Ptolemaic astrology. Essentially, astrological symbolism of the hierarchy of Gods stems from the archetypal symbols represented by the sephiroth on the Tree of Life. In today’s updated astrology, the seven planets, the sun and the moon, and Pluto represent the ten equivalent links between the Zodiac and the sephiroth on the Tree of Life. Today’s astrological symbolism has obviously been updated over time, including planets like Uranus and Neptune, and dwarf-planets like Pluto and Ceres that were not originally a part of the ancient symbolism. Nowadays, the symbolism relating to the Tree of Life has been updated to include all but Ceres, which is Virgo’s correlate. But in any case, all the zodiacal signs have relationship to a classical planetary correlate of the sephiroth. So, I firstly state the utmost interpretation of the zodiacal signs stems from the Tree of Life, and the zodiacal signs provide their own additional context to each sephirot they relate to.
These are the astrological houses, followed by their modern planetary correlates and their ancient planetary correlates if they have been changed throughout history. Next is the archetypal, constellational representation.
1) Aries – Mars – the Ram
2) Taurus – Earth [originally Venus] – the Bull
3) Gemini – Mercury – the Twins
4) Cancer – Moon – the Crab
5) Leo – Sun – the Lion
6) Virgo – Ceres [originally Mercury] – the Virgin
7) Libra – Venus – the Balance
8) Scorpio – Pluto [originally Mars] – the Scorpion
9) Sagittarius – Jupiter – the Centaur
10) Capricorn -Saturn – the Sea-Goat
11) Aquarius – Uranus [originally Saturn] – the Water-bearer
12) Pisces – Neptune [originally Jupiter] – the Fish
A critique that is often laid against astrology is the dubious nature of the symbols throughout history. Whichever way one slices this pie, astrology is indeed inconclusive overall in its study. However, most people with this opinion of astrology take its inconclusiveness as pseudo-scientific, and this is just an improper view of the material. Astrology is just as much pseudo-science as any philosophy is—they are both not quite entirely scientific, they are existential, but this doesn’t mean that there is nothing to gain from the study of either astrology or general philosophy.
Astrology is a deterministic, environmental-based psychoanalytic analysis that has become heavily obfuscated over time, whether it has received any literal obfuscation or not. Our society has lost so much symbolic, religious, philosophical, and even scientific data over the millennia that the entire process of culture itself has been said by some scholars to be like an amnesiac trying to remember their earlier times in life. What I am analyzing here is the survival of the methods of astrology; even if they are missing some symbols or calculations or whatever be the case. Astrology is not the invention of one person—it is a memetic cultural adaptation, the creation of a collective sociocultural network that has spanned through millennia and is a body of knowledge that is constantly growing and adapting in interpretation. However, allow me to emphasize that I am not here to prove astrology as a strict science—this it most assuredly is not—rather, I am here to discuss its history, its growth into astronomy, and to prove the relevance of its philosophical conjecture.
Astrology postulates that there are specified mathematic tendencies that can be found in the earth’s relationship with the sun that can be observed and quantified through chaos theory, which in and of itself is a very Pythagorean notion. Symbolism is thus applied to the mathematic calculations derived through calculating these celestial distances and trajectories. By using the Tree of Life’s memetic matrix filing system as the template of analysis, we may hypothesize through deduction that the symbolic interpretations of astrology’s math will show certain implied tendencies in psychological output. These tendencies can be interpreted as (a) physical, through a seasonal effect (either of the mind or the earth), or (b) that the sun’s position at our birth creates a template of certain energetic tendencies for our unconscious mind. Usually, both (a) and (b) go hand-in-hand as far as the astrologer is concerned.
Modern psychiatry has already begun demonstrating the implications that the seasons have on the human mind with seasonal affective disorder and vitamin D3 deficiency, this vitamin being found in sunlight, of course. There is even a growing body of medical literature discussing how seasonal affective disorder can contribute to and exasperate bipolar disorder. Studies have shown that vitamin D3 deficiencies can lead to chronic pain, greater risks of cancer, and asthma, among other conditions. One scientific study even concluded, “Seasonal affective disorder is an umbrella term for mood disorders that follow a seasonal pattern of recurrence.” (K Roecklein, K Rohan, and T Postolache, 2010) This quote encapsulates the drastic effects that that the scientific and medical community have noticed: the transition from summer into winter has major effects on human psychology.
The sun regulates human life and consciousness by tinkering with the body’s circadian rhythms, hormonal processes, and even nutrient absorption. As the sun and the earth’s rotation affect the physical seasons of the natural environment, so too are these effects seen in human psychology and sociology, like seasons of the mind. Beyond this, human society has many different terms for varying seasonal conditions that are experienced, whether it be the flu-season or other sicknesses, the beach-season, spring-cleaning, et cetera. The human imagination has always noted its relationship to the seasons and the scales of time. In this sense, we may consider the zodiacal signs as the seasons of the mind, created by deterministic conditions in the environment.
In terms of actual astronomical calculation, astrology as we know it today began with what is called the Procession of the Equinoxes, which is known today as Axial Procession in modern astronomy. This gauges the axial tilt of the earth in relation to the sun. Manly Hall touched on this planetary procession in his work, The Secret Teachings of All Ages, writing: “Each sign of the zodiac consists of thirty degrees and as the sun loses about one degree every seventy-two years, it regresses through one entire zodiac in about 25,920 years… This means that in the course of about 25,950 years, which constitute one Great Solar or Platonic Year, each one of the twelve constellations occupy a position at the vernal equinox for nearly 2,160 years, then gives place to the previous sign. Among the ancients the sun was always symbolized by the figure and nature of the constellation through which it passed at the vernal equinox.” [p.53-54] Modern science marks the length of the Procession to be approximately 25,772 years.
The Precession of the Equinoxes is an ancient mathematic astronomical codex that paid homage to the Sun as the giver of all life, and the planetary “houses” of astrology are not indicating that the distant planets literally affect you, but that the earth’s mathematic distance from the sun affected you at your birth and always will affect you, just like it affects everything else. The astrological houses symbolize the sun’s relationship to the earth over time—thus making the metaphor of a protractor by using the other surrounding planets as place-markers of sorts. Let us recall at this moment the Pythorgean Harmony of the Spheres—the sacred, mathematical music of the cosmos—and today’s scientific acknowledgement of what is called orbital resonance, which are periodical patterns/relationships of gravitational influence that celestial bodies can and do have on one another.
Ancient astrology as well as modern astrology requires a whole host of mathematic, astronomic calculations that are comprehensive and somewhat difficult at times. These calculations are based on and updated alongside modern astronomy. Then, through archetypal symbolic analysis, the modern astrologer combines mathematic computation and draws a conclusion from the two together. The latitude, longitude, and even time and day of birth are useful because they pinpoint the sun’s mathematic distance to the earth at the subject’s point of birth. Some of these calculations, like time of day, may or may not be necessary in the grand scientific scheme—but the premise of the sun’s position in relation to a human’s point on earth at the time of birth holds quite a bit of philosophical conjecture that goes hand in hand with scientific empiricism.
In his book, Astrotherapy: Astrology and the Realization of the Self, Jungian psychotherapist and astrologer Gregory Szanto goes into extensive detail describing the psychodynamic properties of the twelve zodiacal houses, and how they can be empirically demonstrated to have profound results in psychotherapy through archetypal symbolism.
This in mind, there are two basic kinds of modern astrology. He describes the two classical forms of astrology as such: “The first progresses the planets in the Birth Chart in a symbolic way, for example on the basis that one day is equivalent to one year. So the planetary positions in the thirtieth year after birth can be seen by looking at the positions of the planets thirty days after birth. As it is only the faster planets that can move far on this basis, the emphasis here is on the Sun, Mercy, Venus, and Mars. The second method is to look at the planets as they are placed in the sky at the actual time under consideration and then seeing what contacts are made by those planets to the Birth Chart. With this system, the emphasis is more on the outer planets, as the inner planets move so quickly that their effect is ephemeral.” [p.131]
In any case with astrology, it is important to remember that the entire astrological chart is meant to be perceived, in theory, like an ancient brain-scan. The zodiacal wheel of a person’s individual natal chart represents one whole psyche—a fractal itself of the Great Platonic Year that the Precession of the Equinoxes calculates. This chart of the psyche can be, in more literal terms, equated with Jung’s persona archetype.
Szanto as well gives great detail describing the mathematic significance of the basic astrological symbols: “The Sun, the Moon, and the planets all move in their cycles which describe their separate tides and seasons, and we can see the general qualities of the times by looking at the progress of cycles through the ecliptic and in the way the planets interrelate through their synodic cycles. The Signs describe the cycles of the planets as they appear to move around the ecliptic, the Houses the planetary movement in accordance with the movement of the Earth, and the aspects the relationship of the planets to each other which are thrown up in the never ceasing patterns that are created by their motion… The Signs, then, symbolize the natural expression of the planets through their cycles. They describe the archetypal situations we experience through the various parts of the psyche… the Houses indicate the way in which the individual responds to those influences, or what the individual does about the influences that have moulded his character.” [p. 104, 105, 106]
Thus, when we consider the astrological chart as a deterministic map of the varied archetypal complexes within the psyche, a great many curious and note-worthy suppositions unfold themselves for postulation. I cannot claim any sort of scientific or psychological relevance beyond what I have already posed here in summary, but suffice it to say that—theoretical as it may be—I find astrology to be a potentially very insightful use of material, but only when the extent of the symbolism is fully understood and digested properly.
Another crucial aspect of astrology, more theoretical as far as empirical scientism is concerned, is the premise of reincarnation. By using your name, your birthday, the longitude and latitude of your birthplace, the time you were born, and even the climate and geography of the land you were born in, it is asserted that a person can learn about karma from their past lives and about their tasked karma in this current life, even lives to come. As I previously stated, one does not need to fully accept these spiritual notions to understand the scientific relevance of astrology, although it certainly broadens the scope of symbolic analysis when reincarnation is included. That the energetic exchange of the sun and the earth should affect the preconditions of our psychological state for the rest of our lives is not fate, it is chaos theory. These theoretical preconditions are neither unbreakable laws nor loose generalizations, they are subtle tendencies that can be deduced and observed through investigation and analysis.
In the long run, astrology is the postulation that time and its implications within the solar system will naturally bear results here on earth, since the entire solar system is interrelated and bound within a cause-effect relationship. The idea of the natal chart without reincarnation is theoretically tenable. But this is not the overall point of astrology. The point overall is to emphasize the psychology of physics and the relationship that physics has with time. These principles undoubtedly have psychological effects, despite the classifications of these effects varying within certain cultures.
I assert here that the more the scientific community would care to research these seasonal effects on the mind, the less society would be able to dismiss the implications of astrology—thus, the more of a science astrology would inevitably become. This is still, of course, quite theoretical as far as modern science is concerned, but is a working, empirical hypothesis that deems further investigation. Astrology holds psychodynamic relevance, but the origin of any given astrological method is key—a person must know where their information is coming from, and how to use it the way it was intended.
In many ways, tarot needs less description than any of the other ideas here. Tarot, in effect, is the icing on the cake. It is also a bit of a mind-fuck in terms of the theoretical complexity of memetic evolution it likely implies to all the other Divination Arts. Tarot compiles all the symbolism discussed thus far and provides another method of investigation into them all. Tarot archetypally highlights neurophenomenological events. It is the “magnifying glass for the symbol” with which the other Divination Arts can be most easily observed, and its mode of operation is one-part memetics, one-part chaos theory. By randomly shuffling the deck, the mind of the individual is the thesis, the narrative of the drawn cards is the anti-thesis, and the psychodynamic interpretation becomes the synthesis of the card-reading. Interpretation is reliant on the Tree of Life and their sephiroth, which also naturally belies numerological and astrological symbolism.
Like all the other Divination Arts, tarot would take a book in and of itself to describe. Each card is highly detailed and nuanced, and scholars have already heavily philosophized the symbolism and researched the history. The psychodynamic implications of the tarot deck are astounding, and the historical evidences of the evolution of the symbolism provide sound logic. Tarot works with the mind by randomly creating a symbolic sentence of pictures instead of letters, creating a puzzle for the conscious mind to interpret in a way that makes linear archetypal sense. In this way, it very much mimics the dreaming process in a crude but quite functional way. If hypnosis is like deep sea diving, tarot is like attaching a waterproof camera to a fishing line and casting out into deep waters. Here, we cast the reel as deep as we can into the waters and wait to see what bites. When something does bite, we reel it in and assess the situation as soon as possible—no dive sickness involved.
When considering the history of the tarot, let us first consider the most popular of theories regarding it—that of its origins within the ancient Egyptian Mysteries, passed down to the migrating group of Egyptians known as gypsies.
19th century socialite and author, Mrs. John King Van Rensselaer, published her research novel, The Devil’s Picture Books in 1890, detailing the tarot cards throughout history. In it, she wrote, “That cards were brought by the home-returning warriors, who imported many of the newly acquired customs and habits of the Orient to their own countries, seems to be a well-established fact; and it does not contradict the statement made by some writers who declared that the gypsies–who about that time began to wander over Europe–brought with them and introduced cards, which they used, as they do at the present day, for divining the future.”[p, 11-12] Although it is certainly not impossible (and perhaps it is even likely) that other cultures eventually developed the playing card separate from the European advancement, the true history of tarot seems to lie within the rich heritage of occultism in France.
Furthermore, while it seems fair to say that Egyptians can now be considered gypsies since they have been equated for so long, Helen Farley details in her research novel, A Cultural History of Tarot: From Entertainment to Esotericism, that the initial race of migrant people known as the gypsies originally stemmed from India. Published in 2014, Helen Farley’s research into the history of the tarot may be the most extensive analysis to date on the subject. It is brilliant. Perhaps most interestingly, Farley demonstrates that the first official record of the tarot system as we now know it rests in 15th century Italy.
She writes, “Tarot itself evolved from the playing cards introduced into Europe from the Mamlūk Empire of the Middle East [rulers of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine from 1250 until 1517]. Some fifty years after the deck’s first Continental appearance, a young Duke Filippo Maria Visconti of the northern Italian city of Milan augmented it with the addition of a number of picture cards, ‘sixteen celestial princes and barons’. Later, under the Duke’s direction, the deck changed again though retained the basic structure of four suits with the addition of a number of picture cards… It was created as a game; a potent allegory of Visconti life with its mixture of skill, cunning and chance, all souls being equal in the eyes of God. In eighteenth-century France, tarot underwent its first major transformation, evolving into an esoteric device of divination. With tarot removed from its original environment, its symbolism lost its previous relevance and context, rendering its imagery mysterious. Hence, tarot’s shift in function coincided with an altered view of the content of its symbolism, believed to be an expression of esoteric lore. The Visconti di Modrone and Brambilla decks preceded the Visconti-Sforza deck which was to serve as the template for most subsequent tarots. A close investigation of its symbolism revealed that it reflected many of the concerns of the Italian Renaissance… More specifically, the tarot symbolism portrayed the lives and history of the Viscontis with their famous relative Sister Maifreda posing as the Popess and Francesco Sforza cast as Hercules killing the Nemean lion or Venice in another guise.” [p. 173-174]
In more recent esoteric tradition, the tarot was explained, further developed, and cultivated by minds like A.E. Waite and Pamela Colman, who developed the classical Rider-Waite deck together in 1910. Not long after this, it was developed even further by Aleister Crowley, Thelema, and the New Order of the Golden Dawn. Farley writes, “…Éliphas Lévi forged connections between the tarot trumps and astrology, kabbalah and other such systems. Tarot symbolism was frequently Egyptianised, the hieroglyphics still fascinating in pre-Rosetta France, but there was also the addition of Indian motifs, Hebrew letters and astrological sigils. Tarot was assigned a role in ritual magic, its symbolism the microcosm that could affect change in the macrocosm but also as a divinatory device, the macrocosm reflected in its symbolism. The Fool was incorporated into the trump sequence, losing its status as a ‘wildcard’ and rendering the rectified packs unsuitable for use in game playing. Across the Channel in England, the Occult Revival was already well underway. Initially, tarot played no part, but it soon became central under the influence of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Founded in 1888, with rituals outlined in the mysterious Cipher Manuscript, it was the crowning glory of the Occult Revival in England. It was the Golden Dawn’s assignation of pathways of the Tree of Life to the tarot trumps that would form the basis of most modern forms of divinatory interpretation.” [p.174]
Tarot was, essentially, developed as a large deck of cards with pieces of a story that could be shuffled around to tell a different story each time. The initial Tarot deck that circulated throughout France (which is assessed in some depth by Farley in her novel), made use of classical mythological symbols for, apparently, the purposes of creating a highly westernized card deck with classical motifs that could tell a near endless array of outcomes. While original symbolism from these cards exists in some records, the way that this game was played, and the specific intentions behind why these cards were developed remains uncertain overall. As time progressed and the cards slowly circulated around France and beyond, scholars, magicians, and philosophers began researching the archetypal similarities between classical symbolism and began developing it within the body of divination and occultism. Because of this, many were left under the false pretenses that these cards were a survival of knowledge from the Egyptian priests or other sagely hands. This is certainly not the case, but that the tarot was developed with recognition of the archetypes seems to be a fair assessment.
In a round-about and elaborate way, tarot has manifested itself as a functional mechanism of occultism through what can hardly be taken as anything other than mechanisms of chaos theory. From a linear standpoint, people like Levi and Waite’s specific assumptions of the data’s origins were incorrect, but from a technical standpoint, these occultists were merely coalescing their craft, evolving it. They had a body of knowledge as a thesis—the occult—and a significantly useful and mysterious piece of its history that was almost entirely shrouded in mystery: the tarot as the anti-thesis. Through the synthesis between the two, comparing the classically inspired symbolism of the original tarot to their knowledge of the origins of esoteric symbolism, they instantly began finding many parallels, and once initial preconditions were set, the floodgates were let open—the only steps left were aggregating all the data, which was done in large quantities by minds like Waite and Crowley.
However, this is not where the history of tarot ends, and in today’s world, a history of the deck would not be sufficient without identifying Carl Jung and analytic psychology’s essential hand in the cultural evolution of tarot. Occultists developed it to create a memetic catalogue of symbols that embody the dynamics of communication between the Microcosm (the human) and the Macrocosm (the cosmos), as well as the dynamics of communication between the conscious and unconscious. However, the psychological properties often took a backseat to the abilities for divining and attempts at prophecy, et cetera. While clairvoyance and fortune-telling are not a mathematical impossibility here, they are certainly only theoretical for the time being, and with the birth of analytic psychology, the use of tarot’s symbolism was flipped on its head.
The purposes like that of fortune-telling were almost entirely thrown out the window as more and more psychoanalysts, inspired by Jung’s subject matter, became fascinated with the archetypal data that tarot embodied. As the psychology of archetypes evolved, so did tarot’s relevance as a modernized advent of folklore and mythological symbolism. Thus, in quite a complex way, tarot is its own self-fulfilling prophecy, and perhaps the best example of the human intuitive imagination as a continuously adapting mechanism—what Jung called the collective consciousness.
In today’s culture of New Age pseudo-philosophy, it is important to research the origins of any given deck that is being considered by an individual. As a rule of thumb, unless someone is looking for a traditional deck with widespread use for easier comprehension (such as the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, which is considered a classic), it is beneficial for an individual to acquire a tarot deck that is based on symbolism that they feel naturally inclined to. Tarot symbolism can be recognized in all occult philosophy whether history shows the literal cards in the culture or not, and as a result, tarot has been developed for essentially all surviving schools of genuine occult philosophy, whether they be Egyptian, Norse, or Tibetan, et cetera. The only thing needed for a logical creation of a new tarot deck that represents the classical methods would be: equivalencies between the new symbolism and the classical symbolism. Beyond this, nothing is theoretically stopping a tarot deck from being “compatible”.
Tarot has a Major Arcana of 22 cards, and a Minor Arcana of 56, making a total of 78 in the deck. The Major Arcana symbolizes the Macrocosm, the deterministic nature that the environment has on an individual. The Minor Arcana symbolizes the inner psychological archetypes of the mind and the inner response to the Major Arcana.
Here is the list of the Major Arcana for archetypal consideration:
1) The Fool
2) The Magician
3) The High Priestess
4) The Empress
5) The Emperor
6) The Hierophant
7) The Lovers
8) The Chariot
10) The Hermit
11) The Wheel of Fortune
13) The Hanged Man
16) The Devil
17) The Tower
18) The Star
19) The Moon
20) The Sun
22) The World
By using the validated psychodynamic symbolism of numerology, astrology, and the Tree of Life as a template for the context and syntax of the cards’ interpretations, the psychoanalytic possibilities are limitless. Classical tarot decks have developed symbolic interpretation for each card, and naturally, there are ten drawn cards in an average reading. These ten cards symbolize the ten sephiroth, the Pythagorean digits, and thus are the ten components of the body of the answer. The “narrative” of the ten-card answer is interpreted through the sephiroth. This first card begins with the tenth sephirot, Malkuth, for Malkuth symbolizes the earthly realm and thus the entry into heaven. As the cards are drawn, we are psychodynamically drawn through the sephiroth of the Tree of Life until we reach the transcendent point, Kether, the point towards transpersonality. To use an allegory, we are ascending Jacob’s Ladder in a very small way. This does not mean that a person is guaranteed a mystical experience through tarot, but that one is capable when enacted properly.
1st card: The premise/situation of the question – Malkuth
2nd card: Unconscious thoughts on the matter-Yesod
3rd card: Current mental influences – Hod
4th card: Current environmental influences – Netzach
5th card: Conscious thoughts on the matter – Tiphareth
6th card: Determinant aspects of your future – Geburah
7th card: Your persona in the reading – Chesed
8th card: Your environment; friends and family – Binah
9th card: Your hopes, fears, and ideals – Chokmah
10th card: Final outcome—overall answer to question – Kether
This chapter marks the end of Part 1 of this book. The book is essentially halved for one specific reason: the first part is primarily empirical analysis, and the second part is primarily prosaic. Elements of both analysis and prose are heavily interwoven through this book’s entirety, but here we may find the distinguishing line. In essence, Part 1 symbolizes the Macrocosm, and Part 2, the Microcosm.
As I discussed in the prologue, I was born into an anxious family and grew up an anxious child—this led to depression. Early into high school, I self-medicated with cannabis on a rare occasion, and sometimes whatever uppers and downers I could get from friends. My parents didn’t like this—when they found stashes, they wanted me to find therapy by legal and doctor-approved means. For well over two years throughout high school I was put on an anti-psychotic, anti-depressant, an anti-anxiety medication, and blood pressure medication to balance out all the other medication I was taking. Eventually, I was sent against my wishes to military school, where I would earn my high school diploma. After military school, I moved out on my own and decided to quit taking these pills. I did this with a quick weaning process that was more of an incremental cold-turkey than an extended weaning. Cannabis was my primary medication throughout this detox process, and subsequently remained so throughout the following years.
When I began taking the pharmaceutical medication, my state of anxiety and depression began morphing into a state of depersonalization. But none of this first manifested because I read a book or ate a mushroom or said a prayer—it was all because I met the graceful Ramona three months after I had dreamt of her, and I met her in the exact way I had dreamt of. When my first love, Ramona, (mentioned in the prologue and to be a recurring character in Part 2), it was like watching a magic trick unfold, or like seeing a flower bloom in an instant. It was euphoric and fascinating and felt tangible—it was awe-inspiring. But through meeting her and eventually growing apart, the dissonance became greater when I still felt emotions far larger than I was ready for or looking for.
On top of this, the dream recurred in varying degrees, always including Ramona, for the next four years of my life. Despite us having seen other people, the dreams persisted, and I felt trapped by some foreign piece of my mind that was desperately screaming something at me from across an ocean. Every time I dreamt of her, I found myself back in my internal fight-in-a-phonebooth, being slugged by my shadow. The dream was gripping, unavoidable, inescapable, and as the dream felt more and more like a riddle that I needed to solve, the further I tended to depersonalize myself as everything else I was certain of in life suddenly became questionable. Until I knew what this dream meant, I wasn’t sure if I could trust myself entirely. How could I make informed decisions when I was missing such apparently-crucial information? It tormented me.
In light of all this, I needed a way to reconcile with myself—I had to find a way out of this fucked-up Groundhog Day scenario that my life had become. I felt like Bill Murray mid-way through the movie, where he decides to learn piano since the time-loop has given him infinite time to waste. So, I began extensive research and experimentation with the Divination Arts of numerology, tarot, astrology, and dream-interpretation.
When I quit taking the medication and began smoking cannabis, I slowly was forced to face everything that I had been dealing with before the medication and been running away from ever since. Through medicating my problems instead of facing them, these pharmaceuticals subsequently put me into a slight veer towards a confrontation with my shadow at a young age and continued its snow-ball-effect from there.
Cannabis in a sense prolonged my state of depersonalization, but in no sense was responsible for it. The plant actually helped me learn to relax enough to begin meditating and working with hypnosis, which I eventually learned to do in sobriety. It ultimately helped me feel comfortable enough in the strange echo-chamber of my mind and feel confident enough to begin to come to terms with the rejected and unknown aspects of myself. As for my psychedelic use, it is undeniable that it contributed to my sense of depersonalization—but I needed it. The mental projections from the psychedelics allowed me to understand these depersonalized aspects of myself, and if not for this, I may have never found the determination and urgency needed to change these parts of myself for the better. It is not necessary that everyone do this in order to motivate themselves to change—not at all—but for me, already with so much stacked against me in my mind, it proved invaluable. If I had not ceased the psychedelic use when I did, however, things might not have turned out for the better. Moderation is always best.
As I began experimenting with psychedelics, my dreams naturally increased in frequency. After my psychedelic experimentation, the dreams once again dipped down in frequency but maintained a strong consistency. Alas, this is a topic for the upcoming chapters, but for now I bring these details to light to illustrate the guiding arrow on my quest into the Divination Arts. I needed to understand what this dream meant, and not just understand it, but start working with it—and the Divination Arts provided an eloquent means of probing the archetypal data. Of course, realms of lucid dreaming or perhaps just nightly dreams would’ve been the easiest route for working with my dreams—but because of my cannabis use, my REM sleep was sometimes short-lived and hard to remember. And since I used it for a handful of mental and physical remedies, I wasn’t willing to give it up just get. In fact, at this point of time in my life, I was entirely unable to forego cannabis.
Precisely speaking, my interest in divination was piqued by the psychedelic experience, and I initially experimented with both at the same time. I performed tarot after drinking mushroom tea with my friends at the Beaujolais Lodge many times and found the most peculiar results. After consumption, I also read friends astrological natal charts not as literal fact, but as experimental food-for-thought. This also bore interesting results, although they were less sensational than that of the tarot deck. Even numerology helped us describe the effects of our experiences. But I couldn’t just rely on the archetypal supposition of ancient cultures—I had to rely on psychology and the scientific method overall. I sought to find what use, if any, I could find within these arts. Surprisingly, I found far more than I would ever anticipate.
Looking to the Divination Arts to help me resolve my inner conflict, I studied and waited patiently to see what would come down the pipe through my dreams. All I wanted was Ramona, and yet something inside me prayed that one day I would wake up and forget her. It wasn’t that I hated her, nor was I becoming obsessed with an ex-girlfriend—it was that a piece of my mind was running rampant and I needed it to stop somehow. I didn’t have a goal of spending the rest of my life with her, nor did I have a goal of ignoring her for the rest of my life. I simply was willing to let come what may, as long as it brought resolution. If I was making any progress towards my goals, my dreams would surely show me, and they eventually did exactly that. This plan of action I enacted actually proved far more insightful than I had ever expected, and what I would eventually find in my dreams through my divinations would ultimately lead to the end of my initiation and the beginning of my return home—the contents of Part 2.
For some reason, Ramona was embodying my shadow. This autonomous archetype within my psyche had adopted Ramona’s persona, and now I was beginning to see the shape of the phantom in my brain.
Chapter Six Coming Soon…
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