The Daily Note (10.19)
Captured in a cartoon . . .
First, a few notes for newcomers to EP.
I’m planning to continue these short Daily Notes (except on Saturdays) through the end of October, and in November, return to longer newsletters, once or twice weekly.
This week’s Monday Note offered a guide to some themes and topics in existing EP content—so if you missed it, hope you’ll have a look.
The current round of Daily Notes started last Thursday, and continued on Friday and Sunday with a discussion/comparison of contrasting approaches to Tarot that I’ve nicknamed “lifestyle Tarot” and “extreme Tarot.” Today’s Note might be more interesting if you want to skim those posts beforehand—but feel free to jump right in!
I didn’t plan to make the first week of Daily Notes a serial—but what with one thing and another, it’s turned out that way. I’ve been revisiting a chapter from my second book, which now strikes me as a prologue to the idea of “extreme” Tarot.
I want to publish more from that text, but first have to sort through it to decide what still seems meaningful. Hard to believe (!) but Methods, Mastery, and More was written thirty years ago. And reading it now makes me very conscious of how much has changed. Not only in the world at large, but in the world of Tarot.
When I was working on that book, “extreme”—experimental, intellectually ambitious—approaches to Tarot seemed to be at the center, not on the fringes. But looking back, I can see that society was already settling into a rather ordinary state, moving further and further away from the energies of counter-culture and “New Age” ideas. So it’s not really surprising that Tarot headed in the same direction.
Let me say loudly that there were still people pouring creative energy into Tarot, as writers, artists, and practitioners. It’s just that they were swimming against the tide.
This cartoon, from an issue of Tarot Network News published sometime in the 1980s, captures perfectly the sense of adventure (and the sense of humor) infusing Tarot exploration at the time. But its Don Quixote theme reflects a rueful awareness of the odds against changing people’s fundamental interpretation of reality.
I think it didn’t help that so much mystique was built up around the “new millennium,” with expectations that something exceptional would happen. When nothing obviously changed, whatever public energy there might have been around esoteric ideas just withered away. And a similar cycle took place around 2012.
But now it’s now—and I’ll postpone further historical analysis for future posts. The point I’d set out to make today is that things naturally tend to become less focused, less interesting, less effective as time passes. To counteract that tendency, you have to add a lot of energy (effort).
So taking Tarot to its further reaches is, candidly, a lot more trouble than following a well-worn path. But unless some people are willing to push the boundaries, Tarot will inevitably dwindle into a picturesque hobby.
When it comes to extreme Tarot, Timothy Leary was certainly a major figure—and I’ve offered a little more about his approach in the “Antero Alli Time Capsule,” from a recent newsletter. But there’s a less famous, yet equally intriguing extremist pictured in the cartoon above . . . .
I’ll share some insights from Gary Ross in Thursday’s Daily Note.
FYI—there’s more about this remarkable period in Transforming Tarot: “A New Revolution.”
Thanks for reading! C