The Daily Note (10.21)
Here comes the cosmos . . .
Tuesday’s Note left off by promising more about Gary Ross—one of the provocative thinkers who shaped my perspective on “extreme Tarot.” He never wrote a book, but shared a lot of his ideas in the Tarot Network News, as both editor and contributor. There’s more about the TNN in a previous newsletter.
Of all the energy and innovation that bubbled up in California’s Tarot community in the last quarter of the 20th century, what’s best known today is the emergence of a new approach to reading. Generally speaking, it was a freer, more personal way of working with the cards, epitomized in Mary K. Greer’s Tarot for Your Self.
Less remembered, but equally important, was the development of a theoretical construct I’ve described as “cosmic Tarot”—in the sense of relating Tarot not just to human ideas, interests, and needs, but to the entire cosmos, meaning literally everything.
Gary Ross put it this way:.
Tarot is an ideal tool for the study of both the human psyche and the larger reality that the psyche inhabits. Each tarot image mirrors some facet of the mental and emotional landscape within, and illustrates the cosmic laws and processes that create this landscape—the ‘ground of being’ on which the psyche walks and rests.
Just as the mythic and religious archetypes of the major arcana define the human psyche, and allow us glimpses of our higher selves, so do the elemental archetypes of the court cards reveal to us our natural selves—the parts of us that partake of the powers of the elements and are rooted in the prehistoric harmonies of primitive life.
I don’t think I really understood that last line until very recently, when I saw The Cave of Forgotten Dreams—director Werner Herzog’s intimate exploration of Ice Age art. (There’s more about the film, and a reflection on “proto-Tarots” in a previous Note.)
But I did appreciate Ross’s carefully crafted way of connecting Tarot with the natural world. It’s hard to explain in a summary way, but you can get a sense of his approach from these examples . . . .
The Empress: The natural world as source, surrounding, inspiration, landscape.
The Emperor: The natural world as property, realm, dominion.
The Lovers: Adam and Eve in their original, harmonious relationship with the natural world.
The Chariot: Technical man, overcoming the wilderness and exploiting nature as resource.
The Tower: The vulnerability of the human world to the power of nature: fire, flood, quake.
Judgement: The interdependent evolutions of human and planetary destinies.
I’ll put the rest of Ross’s commentary on the trumps in a standalone post when there’s time, along with his novel scheme for interpreting the court cards, and as a bonus, his summary of Timothy Leary’s 8-circuit Tarot.
For tomorrow’s Note, I’ll continue the nature theme with a look at Tarot, the Gaia hypothesis, and deep ecology. To be followed on Sunday by a Tarot-focused inquiry into synchronicity, serendipity, and baseball.
As always—thanks for reading! C