Long ago, but not too long ago, when I was a young and brazen Memphis fox (or so I thought) an unusually, common and decisive event crept on the sly into my life, set up a chain of inner explosions, and left me riding a wave of progressively intense change that has, by now, deposited me on the hot shores of perpetual indecision. In the space of the four years following this small event, my consciousness has been assaulting itself with pointed questions who’ve led me into vast, unknown, and sometimes positively obliterating stretches of mind. If it’s true what they say re. ‘God’ who reportedly moves in strange ways, then I’ll indulge my ongoing melodrama of mind as part of the show. For the sake of art, Sy, and the pressure of passing phenomena, I’ll venture on into a few more words about this bizarre safari to the insides of life I find myself taking.
Ah yes, it was a balmy night, full-moon-in-may, in my scattered Memphis days, when an acquaintance crept from out the shadows of a gabled attic apartment, and without forewarning, a prescient wink or wince, gently handed over a large, hardbound book. Its dark blue cover was imprinted with a triangle contained in a square. “Here, I think you might like it,” he says, like he knows nothing, absolutely innocent. It was a book entitled The Tarot.
There intervened a space of about three seconds between the end of his sentence and the soldering of my relationship with the occult, which link made its formal debut the moment I opened the book. And up to this day my affair with things unseen has only become more intense. In my stray hours I occasionally wonder about the demonology of innocence on my friend’s part, while on the other hand I fancy I’m certain that an unnamed strength moved through that gift. It represented a wave of power which has taken me for all I’m worth. Relative to the degree of fear distortion maiming the view, I’m possessed, obsessed, or in the throes of transmutation.
Upon my first exposure to Tarot I was (and still am) one of those barometer people who rise and fall with unseen and unknown influences. I get jumpy walking between two people in deep telepathy, whether they know themselves to be or not. I pick up on vibrations, which in most places and many conditions can be quite a hazard to sanity. Especially when part of oneself is asleep and part is awake, a chaotic inner communication between the two parts causes anticipation, suspicion, and general jumpiness. I spent a lot of mindtime this way, putting myself through frenzies of “knowing something was happening.” No doubt there was as there always is. It’s just that my dust-caked antennae were becoming cleared. Not only were the signals coming in of a turbulent sort, but my tendency of mind was to agitate, and tug and pull at every passing thought.
It was soon after beginning to read The Tarot that I purchased a deck of Tarot cards and began to experiment with their process. I did not know then what an auspicious tool I’d stumbled across, for it was working with the cards continuously, day by day, that led me into a method of self-observation which was meditation. With the aid of the cards as objective symbols for the inner realities of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of situations, the possibility of penetrating into the stormy psychic layer of life became a practical gesture. What a relief it was to realize perspective was available.
Unexpectedly appeared the tricks of the conditioned mind as I ventured farther and farther into the nature of things with Tarot. I was becoming certain I constructed my own environment. I saw how I created hostility and alienation around me by letting it grow within me. My difficulties were of my own making. At this point I was close to the attitude I’d been searching for for a long time — that it’s possible to alter life quality by changing from within. A simple thing, this knowledge, but a craved treasure if you don’t have it.
The realization of responsibility for my own energy and its consequences for that of others followed quickly. It was a set-up. I was beating a hot path to Aquarian consciousness (as they say). Yoga and meditation lurked around the next corner. The day of the fox came to close, the night of a wolf beckoned ahead.
During the long haul from those first few days with Tarot up to now, I’ve lived with the community of symbols inhabiting my box of Tarot cards. I’ve learned the seventy-eight once strange images as symbols for types of energies, generally of a non-visible sort, who can cull out and portray currents of thought and feeling (often unacknowledged) going on deep within oneself, movements of energy between people, influences from unseen realms of Karma, and transmission from levels of being/energy which pertain to transpersonal motivation, or ‘spiritual guidance’ if you like. Tarot inevitably points up just what is happening within a person’s energy field in the present moment, and in that mirroring, a clarity arises that is guidance and help in itself.
So, what or who is Tarot? I find myself speaking of it, thinking of it in terms of an animate force which communicates with me (or anyone else) through the language of the cards, and even more mysteriously, through the subtle feelings and insights experienced while doing a reading. At times I know this is none other than the totality of myself to whom I have recourse in times of confusion.
J. Krishnamurti, in a collection of his talks entitled Life Ahead reminds that there is no authority other than oneself. I agree, but have moods in which it seems an unknown intelligence wiser than the me I know puts vibes into my awareness, vibes that make me straighten up and fly right, so to speak!
But what of the night of a wolf, of which I spoke earlier? A wolf is a nocturnal creature, often as not alone, and one does not know whether he is dangerous or merely self-protective by his mien. It is like that with the hidden forces of the world, who charge up at travelers into Totality. These are powers not so easily discussed through the everyday warp and woof of words. There is a wind which shapes itself into happenings. The brave ones of the Edge have known this of old, and left us warnings and difficult traditions to steep us in strength for meeting with the fierce guardians of the beyond. Tarot has been a great part of my coming to this, although I’ve shoved this truth far away at times, liking like anybody to hold to the known. But when I gaze deeply into the present, and the legion possibilities of existenceforce realitymind flare up in my consciousness, I’m dizzied and existentially nausée from leaning into the chasm of infinity. Here begins the night of this wolf.
As for the answer to who or what is Tarot, one must ask those who have let it touch them. I am such a one, and I . . . I simply do not know.