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Join Date: 24 Jul 2003
Location: California, U.S.A.
Posts: 316
The Secret of the Tarot

To recap the previous post, we are now entering the fourth decade since The Game of Tarot was published. So far, it seems that I am the only person who has taken Dummett's findings, and earlier steps in that same direction, as a basis for further development. However, some people are now beginning to acknowledge the design I've outlined as plausible. The point here, however, is that none of the 22 trump subjects are particularly mysterious anymore. At least, not to anyone who actually cares enough about the subject to read the tiny shelf of serious books on the subject. They are not UFOs. We know the general outline of the trump cycle, and that tells us the context in which details must be understood. The general outline constrains the particulars.

Originally Posted by Swiryn
I think one of the biggest problems for the forum was found in the wording I had used in the subtitle of the book, and also on the back cover. The wording was apparently taken to mean that I was offering proof of a way of looking at the cards. For this, I accept responsibility. I got that, and as I explained to Michael, I changed the statement on the back cover from "how the Cathars ... managed to preserve their history and spritiual messages in the TdM" to how they "MAY HAVE managed..." I don't know if this was enough to lower the assumption of my claims.
You wrote a book of fantasy, historical fiction, and you presented it as history. That is the source of the problems. It has nothing to do with whether or not you removed some blunders or added some weasel words. The bottom line is that it is an exercise in creative writing, imaginative and dramatically contra-factual rather than fact-based. Cathars are perhaps the worst possible candidates for Tarot designers, re-designers, or whatever you want to call them.

Originally Posted by Swiryn
Getting back to Huck's concerns for the future of your history section, I might suggest that you all take a less "agressive" approach to your feedback. You obviously have some valuable information to share. As the experts in this field, you should probably look at your position as less of feeling attacked and having to fight back, and more of how you would normally act if you had a friend over for dinner and entered into a discussion about some tarot theory which they need to bounce off you. If you were conducting a class in tarot history, for example, you should realize that your students are not always there to challenge you, but are also looking for encouragement and perhaps support to corrrect their errors and move forward with their ideas.

People don't want to hang out anywhere they don't feel welcome. If you insist on squashing the dreams of those who come into your forum and don't match your level of academia, you may find yourselves "taking your ball and going home," with only yourselves to play with. Fortunately for me, I am both thick-skinned and have another career.
Holy crap!

So, your position is that "historical research" is hanging out with friends and cuddling each others' dreams? Really?! And those who ask rude questions should stop? And your repeated whining about how mean people are is an indication of how thick-skinned you are? Here is a sad fact for you to deal with: I've been asking Tarot questions online since 1998, and giving answers when I can since 2000. I'm not taking my ball and going home just yet.

Maybe an analogy would help. Creationists feel that their beliefs are not respected. They feel put upon by nasty old scientists. But the fact is that the scientists do NOT attempt to impose their views in churches. Just the opposite, the Creationists attempt to impose their views, recycled folklore just like yours, in science classrooms. That's where the conflict begins.

You are perfectly entitled to your fantasy world, just like the hundreds of millions of others who have some sort of comforting, security-blanket beliefs that they cling to while sucking their thumbs. (Cf. Charles Shultz.) Whether it is 3,000 year-old Jewish mythology or the latest 2012 crystal-skulls Mayan apocalypse, have at it. But if that feel-good folklore is presented as history, it is likely to be questioned in terms of evidence.

You don't seem to remember, so I will remind you once again: You wrote a book! That makes you the expert, the auctor. ("Related to the notion of legitimacy on the basis of publication.") It is a history book. It concerns the history of Cathars and the history of Tarot. You chose to present it on the Historical Research section of a Tarot site. You didn't come to this forum as a newbie asking questions, but as an authority with a book to promote. It does not seem unduly "aggressive" to thoroughly trash such a book if it completely fails to offer sound history regarding Tarot.

You had only one basis for your entire book but, if true, it was an astonishing finding. It would have revolutionized several areas of study. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a howling blunder and you apparently didn't even realize its importance in the first place. Your one "fact" vanished, so you were left with none. Yet whenever you are asked about the factual shortcomings of your book, about the complete absence of anything connecting Tarot with Cathars, you take umbrage. You imply that those who are questioning you must have some odd conception of "history", or they must be defensive about something. The truth is much simpler than that: your book is a sham, a fraud. It claims to reveal "The Secret of the Tarot" and to connect Tarot with the Cathars. It does neither of those things. It is just a badly written fictional account.

In that regard, let me close with a few more comments about your book, so that others might know what to expect. For the first 1/3rd of the book you ramble on about the history of the Cathars, including some rather suspect stuff. Anyone actually interested in that history should look elsewhere. In offering interpretations of the cards, you seem to be a typical 21st-century New Age enthusiast who hasn't even tried to envision an overall design, much less a period-appropriate one. You seem to be just tossing out a list of names/ideas vaguely associated with Cathar history or modern views of Cathar beliefs. Much of this comes from popular accounts written for the HBHG market, jumbled up with some numerological noise, Buddhism, and anything else that caught your attention.

It's an impressionistic shotgun approach in which you don't even bother picking a "best guess" interpretation and defend it. You repeatedly claim that every detail, (even the colors in a TdM deck), has intended symbolism, and yet you only address such details sporadically. The whole book is haphazard, consistent with what you've presented online. It seems like the work of a magpie, stealing bright things and collecting them into 22 piles, with no real plan or purpose.

Like other books tailored for that market, (and going back to the Freemasons who founded occult Tarot), your book assumes an anti-Catholic stance and adopts a lot of bigotry and bullshit from Protestant propaganda. While I dislike the Church as much as anybody, that doesn't make a perfectly respectful depiction of the Pope into an anti-Catholic satire. If you are interested in history rather than fantasy, then you have to accept the facts as you find them. I noticed that you felt obliged to make at least one disclaimer about being anti-Catholic, which indicates that even you are aware of how anti-Catholic you positions are. You assume, and occasionally express the view -- as do many writers -- that the early Gnostics were the true Christians, and also that they remained a secret, underground Christian movement.

The extent of your anti-Catholic orientation is emphasized by the "Epilogue" you include after the final chapter. It is an extended passage from Chapter VI, "The Wearing Out", of War with the Saints, (by a famous 19th-century anti-Catholic writer, Charlotte Elizabeth). In a sense it may be the best part of the book. It is reminiscent of Moakley's scene-setting "Undocumented Prelude", presenting a fictional narrative in which the interpretation comes to life. You didn't include the illustration from that chapter, but you should have -- it's a good one, and the saintly old "toil-worn traveller" could easily be imagined to have playing cards in his box of "humble wares". He could just as easily be imagined as a pervert offering the little girls a cheap trinket... I'll let you finish the narrative. We can always write a new story for an image, but the historical question concerns intended meaning. We get that from the context, in this guy's case, the text which he illustrated. I'll close with that picture. (BTW, the dark, disembodied face in the background is a spy of the Evil Church.) However, when the speculative set dressing "what if" portion, written by someone else, is the best part of a history book, the final conclusion must be that it's a terribly weak book.

You wrote a history book. If that was not your intent, then a lot more than the title needed to be changed. If it was your intent, then you needed to learn the history before you presumed to teach it.

Best regards,

Sapientis est ordinare. (Aquinas)
Qui bene distinguit, bene docet. (Horace)
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Old 12-01-2011     Top   #238