“There are two lines along which man’s development proceeds, the line of knowledge and the line of being. In right evolution the line of knowledge and the line of being develop simultaneously, in parallel, and helping one another. People understand what ‘knowledge’ means. And they understand the possibility of different levels of knowledge. Though they do not understand this in relation to ‘being.’ ‘Being,’ for many, simply means ‘existence’ to which the opposite is ‘non-existence’. They do not understand that being or existence may be of very different kinds levels and categories. And they do not understand that knowledge depends on being. If knowledge gets far ahead of being, it becomes theoretical and abstract and inapplicable to life, or actually harmful, instead of serving life and helping people for the better to struggle with the difficulties they meet, it begins to complicate man’s life, bringing a new level of difficulty into it, new troubles and calamities which were not there before.” (Gurdjieff, excerpt from “In Search of the Miraculous” by P. D. Ouspensky, Chapter IV)
According to Eliphas Levi the dogma represents the theory while the ritual represents the practice. Only a theory with direct and immediate practical application is worth to be considered a working and confirmed theory.
Dogma means knowledge and ritual means practice. Can’t have one without the other. You can’t learn and develop without accumulating practical experience, but also you can’t practice without have a solid theoretical foundation of what you’re doing. May sound like a vicious circle, but it isn’t.
As Gurdjieff noticed, you should develop harmoniously, learning and practicing simultaneously. Most of the Tarot readers start practicing without any knowledge at all about the Tarot and, unfortunately, many never bother to learn and understand the theoretical and philosophical foundation of the Tarot. A vast majority consider it a form of ‘art’ and they based their readings predominantly on their personal experience, interpretation and intuition, failing to understand that there is a system at the foundation of all the esoteric sciences which bounds them all together.
But the Tarot is a science. Intuition and inspiration may play some role in it, but these should stay within the strict framework of Tarot’s own philosophical and structural foundation.
When each Tarot card may be freely interpreted in a different manner by every reader, even more, some readers reinterpret the meaning of the card in different circumstances according to their momentary inspiration, there is something definitively not right.
The theoretical aspects are like the anatomy for a surgeon. Would you submit to a surgical intervention by someone who never studied anatomy?
Learning the theoretical aspects is like learning an alphabet. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the Tarot readers don’t know the alphabet, don’t understand the semantics of the Tarot and consider that a ‘good book read itself’. If so, why not read books in Arabic, Chinese and Russian?
The question is would you like to have a (Tarot) reading by someone who doesn’t know the alphabet? Would you trust her or him that she or he can ‘see the future’ and are well prepared to give you advice on critical life matters?
Honestly, I wouldn’t.
So far, controlled studies demonstrated that predictions were no better than chance. Most astrologers, numerologists, cartomancers are paid to predict the future or describe a person’s personality and life, but most of the predictions only make vague statements that can generally apply to almost anyone.
This, in my opinion, occurs because the vast majority of these astrologers, numerologists, cartomancers, so-called ‘specialists’ and ‘experts’ are very poorly prepared and have no theoretical expertise, they don’t know and don’t understand the system. For them everything is relative, changeable and… inconsistent.
Yoav Ben-Dov, author of the book “The Marseille Tarot Revealed”, recounts he once asked his mentor, Alejandro Jodorowsky, author of “The Way of the Tarot”, what a certain card meant. Jodorowsky replyed: “I could tell you what it means today, but tomorrow if you ask me the same question, I could have a totally different answer.” I think this answer is very dangerous because someone not very familiar with the Tarot and Esoterism generally speaking, may jump to the conclusion that Tarot is a kind of ‘guessing game’ based exclusively on intuition and not on study, learning and understanding. This ‘liberal’ approach to Esoterism and Tarot it’s very dangerous and misleading.
Each Tarot card represents a specific astrological aspect which doesn’t change.
The Tarot is a miniature representation of the universe, of our solar system and just like each planet, respectively each planet in a specific constellation has its meaning, each Tarot card has its own and permanent meaning. Interpretation may differ in details and regarding different positions of the cards in different spreads, but basically the general meaning of the card is the same.
However it’s not enough to know that Moon rules the Cancer, you have to understand why it rules the Cancer and not the Aquarius. You have to know why The Emperor represents one particular zodiac sign and not another. You have to know why the Sun is associated to number 1 and not to any other number. To know and understand all of these aspects, you need a system, a clear and reliable theoretical and practical structure. Understanding the ‘why’ is fundamental to know the ‘what’.
There is also another important aspect to understand and consider.
The Tarot is a complex and sophisticated tool, a synthesis of different other sciences such as Astrology and Numerology. Each Tarot card represents a specific astrological aspect and it’s connected to a number, and so you must know and understand these aspects first in order to understand the Tarot. Learning Astrology and Numerology means learning the basic alphabet of the Tarot. To decrypt the Tarot’s complex symbology without learning and understanding the basic languages of its components first, it’s impossible. If you don’t know the ‘alphabet’, you simply can’t ‘read’.
Many Tarot scholars and readers tried to tie the Tarot to the Kabbalah or some to the Alchemy. I will not discuss the matter of these connections, but before you try to connect the dots you should first fully understand the parts you try to connect. Just like the Tarot, Kabbalah and Alchemy are also incorporating elements of Astrology and Numerology as synthesis. You can’t seriously understand and study them without having some basic Astrological and Numerological training.
Dogma means knowledge and ritual means being – a man with knowledge, experience and consciousness. In order to being, first someone have to “come into being”.
The notion of “come into being” can be trace back to ancient Egypt. In the Egyptian language verb ‘kheper’, means “develop” or “come into being”.
Khepri (also spelled Khepera, Kheper, Khepra, Chepri) was a solar deity in the ancient Egyptian religion. Khepri – “he who is coming into being”. Khepri was connected with the scarab beetle (kheprer).
According to the Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses, Egyptians would have noticed the scarabs busily rolling balls of dirt across the ground and translated this method of propulsion into an explanation of the sun’s circuit. Observing that out of the ball emerged a scarab, apparently spontaneously, it was logical to see the insect as Khepri – ‘he who is coming into being’, i.e. self-created of his own accord without undergoing the natural cycle of reproduction. Therefore, Khepri also represented creation and rebirth, and he was specifically connected with the rising sun and the mythical creation of the world.
There is no known cult devoted to Khepri, and far as we know he was generally subordinate to the greater sun god Ra. Often, Khepri and another solar deity, Atum, were seen as aspects of Ra: Khepri was the morning sun, respectively the sun-god at dawn on the eastern horizon, Ra was the midday sun, and Atum was the sun in the evening, respectively the sun-god at sun set on the western horizon.
In the modern terminology “come into being” represents the concept of “awareness”, discovering and manifesting the true ones’s self.
It also may be tied to the Theravada Buddhist belief that enlightenment is achieved through self-effort. Gurdjieff has called this effort ‘super-effort’. Someone must push his own limits over and over his own possibilities in order to develop. He said, “Super-effort means an effort beyond the effort that is necessary to achieve a given purpose.”
Gurdjieff also gives a very good example of super-effort. “Imagine that I have been walking all day and am very tired. The weather is bad, it is raining and cold. In the evening I arrive home. I have walked, perhaps, twenty-five miles. In the house there is supper; it is warm and pleasant. But, instead of sitting down to supper, I go out into the rain again and decide to walk another two miles along the road and then return home. This would be a super-effort.” (Gurdjieff, excerpt from “In Search of the Miraculous” by P. D. Ouspensky, Chapter XVII)
This is also an important aspect to understand.
Tarot is an instrument of development and self-development, of discovering and pushing your own boundaries over the edge.
A man, as a three-storied factory, should develop her or his body, soul and spirit (mind) in perfect harmony just as a Tarot reader should develop her or his theoretical and practical knowledge and capabilities in conscious correlation.
As Beryl Pogson, author of “The Work Life” and pupil of Dr. Maurice Nicoll, has pointed out: “the only real poverty is lack of self-knowledge.”
The process of learning and practicing are complementary parts of the super-effort which is understanding. Someone can’t be exclusively a theoretician, just as someone can’t practice without developing a solid theoretical foundation.
I said that Tarot doesn’t require ‘special’ psychic abilities, respectively extrasensory perceptions such as divination, clairvoyance, intuition, mediumship, precognition or premonition, psychometry, and so on. It doesn’t, but it contributes to develop those abilities which otherwise would stay locked and latent.
Reading the Tarot professionally require a certain level of self-awareness and spiritual development. Someone must be her or his own master before they would start delivering guidance to others.
Ignorance and self-sufficiency lead to stagnation, disappointment and ultimately to failure. There is one certitude I understood all these years I studied and practiced: each and every day there is something new to discover, learn and understand.
A brief history of the Tarot
Jacob’s Ladder or the Mystical Stairway to Heaven
The 72 Angels and 72 Demons assigned to the 36 numbered Tarot cards
What’s your Tarot card?
A Timeline of Tarot from 1750 to 1980 (by Mary K. Greer)
No such thing as luck
Tarot: what is it and what is it not
The 78 Tarot cards and what they represent
Jacob’s Ladder or the Mystical Stairway to Heaven
The numbering of the small cards and their associations
Professional vs. non-professional