Tuesday, August 25, 2009

so a little more on I Ching and Tarot

So let's consider the Major Arcana. C. G. Jung wrote a preface to the Wilhelm translation of the I Ching wherein he considers the use and meaning of the oracle. He also advanced the notion of archetypes, and "suggested the existence of universal contentless forms that channel experiences and emotions, resulting in recognisable and typical patterns of behaviour with certain probable outcomes."[ref.]

That notion lends itself to a hypothesis for explaining a mechanism for the operation of the Tarot: by providing a framework for the arrangement of archetypical images, we employ their 'essences' in divination.

The Major Arcana are these [ref.] In the context of a comparison with the I Ching, it is interesting to note that many "yang" male archetypes have corresponding "yin" female counterparts. Others aren't necessarily paired, but exhibit one or the other characteristic (or both). The application of the labels is intuitive, and that is the way a lot of this works.

None (0 or 22) The Fool (yang)
1 The Magician / The Juggler (yang)
2 The High Priestess / The Popess (yin)
3 The Empress (yin)
4 The Emperor (yang)
5 The Hierophant / The Pope (yang)
6 The Lovers (both/either)
7 The Chariot (yang)
8 or 11 Justice (yin)
9 The Hermit (yang)
10 Wheel of Fortune (both/either)
11 or 8 Strength / Fortitude (yin)
12 The Hanged Man / The Traitor (yang)
13 Death (yang)
14 Temperance (yin)
15 The Devil (yang)
16 The Tower / Fire (yang)
17 The Star (yin)
18 The Moon (yin)
19 The Sun (yang)
20 Judgment / The Angel (yang)
21 The World (yin)

There are definitely clear points of intersection with the symbols from the I Ching. One reason this is interesting is because the notion of "pre-civilized/pre-dream" pre-history mentioned in the I Ching indicates less of a clear separation between subconscious and conscious. Taking the commentary "at its word" regarding the I Ching, the symbols were recorded at a time when this separation was taking place in the human consciousness.

Some of the assignations are more arbitrary. You could argue 'The Hanged Man' although a man is not capable of much action, being the recipient of a punishment and as such more 'yin' like, and to be really serious about this the precise assignation should be a keen debate among people more versed in the nuances of these essences. But what is apparent is that there is definitely correlation in that sense.

So the more obvious points of general intersection are hexagrams referring to powerful officials and priests, hexagrams referring to hermit-like wise men, hexagrams referring to Heaven, and hexagrams referring to tribulation (imprisonment, strife, chaos).

There are direct, specific intersections as well. This is very interesting, and I do not know what it means. "Enveloping/Youthful Folly" is a direct analog of "The Fool". There are some that are maybe slight stretches but seem very plausible "The World" and "The Receptive/Earth", "The Creative" and "The Sun".

Now there are 64 hexagrams and only 23 major arcana. However, the cards have different interpretations if they are inverted, so there are 46 possible interpretations.

In the I Ching, there are three dimensions: hexagrams, lines, and the interpretation. In the tarot, there are three dimensions, the card itself, the orientation of the card in the spread, and the interpretation.

In both, there is another dimension, and that is the temporal dimension inhabited by the querent (the querent is a "3D being" also of course but the dimension in question is "what time has in store" in the context of divinatory systems-- the querent has ready means to discern the tangible dimensions).

So in each case the system operates in four dimensions. Part of the exercise is to get some understanding of why these things should work, anyway. That is, what is it about them that seems intuitively to make sense?

What these divinatory systems comprise is a means for "triangulating" in time, and the mechanism that performs this is a combination of the querent's understanding of their current situation and the interpreter's 'reveal' of the meaning of the symbols that is synthesized in the querent's mind.

In the case of the I Ching, the 'interpreter' is the text describing the hexagram and lines. In the case of the Tarot, classically the interpreter may be a mystic, but may also be a text being used by the querent.

Now, the 'loosey goosey woo woo' part is how the connection is made from reading/hearing the interpretation and the application to one's situation in a way that renders the consultation meaningful to the querent. This is where the 'mystic' can play tricks, and draw out information that helps lend credibility to what their interpretation means. "The King of Pentacles refers to a dark haired man of material wealth or influence-- is there such a person in your life?" "Why yes, my Uncle Ed..." and so on.

So the readings/consultations that are meaningful are the ones that you do yourself, using texts as references to the meanings of the various symbols.

Now, this all seems like a lot of mumbo jumbo and may well be... but it is interesting to note that many famous people made significant decisions, some even that selected the course of history, based on these types of consultations. It's also interesting to note that the I Ching is ancient, but the use of Tarot cards as a means of divination and its popular perception as being that is much more recent, 18th and 19th centuries: the tarot deck was first conceived as a game.

In terms of actual use in history, and because of that some value of actual "ascribed validity", the I Ching has been more relied upon. You can think of it at the very least as a way to generate random quotes and 'scenes' to meditate on that may bring some insight. At the very best, it is advice that resonates with some inner awareness that we all have that 'knows' what is going to happen, and allows us to get a glimpse of that knowledge.

But that still doesn't explain how the interaction between the querent and the divinatory system 'works'. The cards are shuffled, the order is randomized and the cards are laid out. The coins are tossed, there is some chance that each one will come up one thing or the other and provide a number that corresponds to a line.

The 'new age' thinking is that some force emanates from the querent when the handle the cards or coins, and this 'reaches out' to the forces surrounding the divinatory system and causes it to resonate with the querent. Yeh right.

But there is something, maybe, to be said for the 'alignment' that takes place in the event of the divinatory procedure occurring in the same continuum as the querent. The divinatory system is at rest, inert, until acted upon by the querent. If the system is set to completely random values at the outset, and then manipulated into another state of 'randomness', something has happened that the querent has caused. So the outcome of the procedure is influenced by the querent. That the outcome is 'for' the querent is in the acceptance of the interpretation.

The interpretation is also multidimensional, like a 'mini dream'. This is key, because we know dreams can fortell the future based on reports of dreams doing just this. I didn't mention this previously, but it is a key portion of the exercise of understanding going on here, that dreams and the interpretations of divinatory systems are similar. But the interpretation has at least two primary parts: what the symbols classical mean, and what they mean to the querent.

Here is something crucial: we know that what we see in dreams are manifest internally-- all the pieces come from within us. Therefore, based again on reports of dreams being able to depict the future, we have that capability.

How the divinatory systems work, then, is by presenting symbols to us that activate that potential: they bridge the conscious and subconscious by presenting the 'pieces of a dream' to the dream-making machinery, which resonates with those symbols and gives us the feeling of meaningfulness, which in turn helps us make the connections.

As an aside, a fallacy that I think is important to mention: in tarot, the importance of a card does not depend only on whether a card is major or minor arcana. What also matters is where they fall in the spread, and which aspects of the meaning of the card resonate most given that position.

Also, in both these things, sometimes they seem to be very clear in the message, and sometimes not. When they are very clear and the message is bad, it can be disturbing: you can get flashes of exactly what they mean that you will reflexively repress.

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