The Daily Note (10.20)
A darker story . . .
As continuing readers know—I think it’s important to take Tarot seriously. There’s a lighter side, of course, filled with creativity and playfulness. But there’s also a darker side, and that has to be given equal scrutiny.
I think of Tarot as a powerful tool, not a toy. So how people use it makes a difference.
I wrote previously about someone using Tarot “predictions” to reinforce conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election. I’ve also raised the fact that Tarot (along with yoga, astrology, and similar topics) has been used by QAnon promoters to attract potential converts.
Today’s story is different, but equally troubling. And as so often happens, I came across it by accident, while looking for something completely innocuous.
Briefly: I meant to grab a quick quote or link related to Tarot + alchemy. Amazon presented me with a book I’d never heard of, which has both those words in the title. So I used the “Look Inside” feature to skim the contents—and I was really interested. The author presents Tarot in a way that is different from most introduction/overview books. Equally important at the time, I could see that the author has an approach in some ways like my own.
The book was self-published several years ago, and I’d never heard of the author. But since I’m admittedly behind on the large number of Tarot books published in the last decade, my personal lack of knowledge doesn’t mean much.
So I went in search of more information about this person—and here’s where the problem begins.
I have some non-Tarot writing projects that involve a lot of research on people’s lives, so I’m pretty good at this. It wasn’t hard, though, in this case. The person in question has a distinctive name, and was in the news for a short period of time.
That’s the discovery, of course. This person was arrested for child sex abuse in Nepal. And not as an isolated instance—he had (allegedly) an extensive practice of trafficking young Nepalese boys.
As far as I can find out, he is now serving a nine-year prison sentence in Nepal.
Initially, I hoped this was a confusion of names. Because he was an American arrested in a foreign country, reports of the arrest were published by international sources like Reuters and AP. But they were very brief, and contained no information that would tie the arrested person to the Tarot author.
It didn’t take long, though, to find regional news sources that went into more detail, describing the arrested person as a frequent visitor to Nepal, where he was a popular Tarot reader. He was also identified as the author of two books on Tarot.
His reported education matched that given by the author in his introduction to the book I’d seen. So no mistake.
This is all very disturbing on a human level, obviously. Pedophilia is recognized as a type of mental illness, so that’s one level of the story. But this case also involved calculated, unscrupulous, and ongoing criminal behavior. It appears from reports that this person had set up a scheme which involved accomplices, and preyed on the poverty-stricken villages around Katmandu. (He may also have had several previous complaints and arrests in the U.S., dating back to the late 1990s—but I couldn’t verify that information.)
And yet, a year before he was arrested in Nepal, he was writing an intelligent and interesting book on the Tarot. True, he might just as well have been writing about aeronautical engineering or Italian cuisine—but he wasn’t.
Now for the dilemmas. Plenty of famous writers were unpleasant human beings, and some were destructive to others. In the context of Tarot, poet Ted Hughes comes to mind as someone who was brilliantly talented (and seriously interested in esoteric ideas), but behaved very, very badly.
Rightly or not, we have collectively decided to separate the value of an author’s work from his or her personal life. Is there a difference in this respect between works of literature and works of opinion/instruction? Perhaps, but I’m not sure . . .
Another troubling fact is that the person in question once worked as a telephone “psychic,” for a then well-known company, and also had a website advertising his services as a Tarot reader. We can suppose that his personal practices were kept completely apart from his professional practices—but is there really a situational off/on switch for character?
I have no answers to any of the questions raised by this story. I do have an observation, though . . . .
Claiming the title “Tarot reader” may seem like a harmless form of self-description or self-promotion, but perhaps it’s not. There’s an implication, at least, that such a person has special knowledge or special gifts, which they will use to the benefit of others. And beyond the assumptions that people might make, it’s really true that a good reader, or even a skillful fake, can create a bond of attraction with the querent— and there are a lot of ways that bond can be used. For good purposes, or otherwise.
This Note is a little longer than my three-minute target, but it’s a complicated story, and I wanted to provide the whole context. Though I chose not to make the person’s name searchable in this text, anyone could follow my path, find both the person and the book, and draw their own conclusions.
Tomorrow—back to the bright side. C