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Originally Posted by Lee View Post
I want to post some thoughts on this book as I have a bit of a different perspective than some of the previous posts in this thread.
I think you've made a very fair assessment, Lee, including several things I found problematic when asked to endorse this book. Much of the book involves very good step-by-step processes with lots of example readings that I truly appreciate. Wen's approach is quite sensible.

She is so authoritative that it makes problems with factual material doubly disturbing.

In the Tarot history section and later historical references, Wen says not much is known about Tarot history, focusing instead on fringe theories that have no evidentiary support. What is most confusing is use of the phrase "there is speculation that" or "some speculate," without telling us who did the speculating (much of which I'd never heard before!). The true, rich historical background that is known and readily available is ignored.

Golden Dawn associations are modified in ways that make little sense. For instance, why change only the Magician to associate it with Earth instead of the Air? There are other places that talk about Golden Dawn tarot (like the Opening of the Key spread) but then present material that has little to do with the GD method without making this clear to the reader. I'd hate to think someone would believe they were learning GD tarot from this book.

I, too, found the put-down of divination to be gratuitous.

For the educated Tarotist these may only be annoying factors in an otherwise good book. But, for a newbie who uses this as their introduction to Tarot, it may make it difficult later to accept the true facts.
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My assessment of the book lines up with both of yours, Lee and Teheuti - almost point-for-point. Having now read the whole book, it's a very mixed bag for me. While I might occasionally refer to it as a point of reference, it won't be among my go-to resources. It's a very earnest work, and I commend the author on her effort to produce a comprehensive text - but my particular interests (tarot history and systems of divination) are better covered elsewhere. To be fair, I think Ms. Bell would agree with me on that score.
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Regarding her take on "fortune-telling":

As I understood from reading the book, she isn't at all opposed to predictive readings, nor does she ever claim to be. As you noted, she uses the term "fortune-telling" to denote readings that say "X will happen and there's nothing you can do to change that"; she eschews this form of reading and tries to distance herself from it as much as possible.

However, she does use the term "divination" to describe her own reading style, which she distinguishes from fortune-telling with the argument that it only shows a most likely outcome rather than something fixed in time. I don't think that she claims at any point to be against predictive readings altogether; rather, she works within the framework of this rather subtle dichotomy, which might be a bit confusing since she doesn't explain the nature of that dichotomy up-front.

I agree that the line between tradition and her own personal interpretations of the cards (e.g. the different take on the Magician or the association of the suits and seasons) is not always clearly marked, which might be troublesome for a new reader. However, the book is presented as a blend of traditional study and her own personal attunement to the cards, and I think it's probably meant to be read in tandem with other, older Tarot resources. In some sections, like her discussion of the five components of circumstance, she makes it very clear that the system she's presenting is a personal one. Going from there, I think it's fair to point out the places where she fails to make that clear, but I also think that it's not her intention to portray personal changes as dogmatic truth.

Just for what it's worth.
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Thanks for the timely de-enabling, folks. I'm almost ready for a new book and was hoping this one would be authoritative. I don't really need a "how-to" book at this point; I was looking for something more intellectually wide-ranging in terms of the philosophy and, to a lesser extent, the psychology of the reader's art.
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Thanks for your thoughts, Lee & Teheuti.

With regard to her fortune-telling statements, I had written up something very similar to JackofWands, but he beat me to it and said it better anyhow.

I had read either on her blog or in an interview some clarifications about her definition of fortune-telling vs. divination. I agree that she doesn't explain herself well enough on that point.

You know, I think it's pretty common for some of us to be guilty of emphasizing our rationality in today's philosophical climate. I know I sometimes overemphasize how scientific or logical I am, and how psychological tarot is when I'm speaking to a non-tarot or non-divination person.

I'm sure a lot of it comes from Benebell wanting to bring tarot to the modern populace, to make herself and other tarot readers seem perfectly reasonable, like we're contemporary people who don't believe in goofy supernatural things or rigid, fated fortune-telling pronouncements. People to take seriously. To make tarot relevant to a rational person. But it sounds like she went a little overboard, and like she could have communicated her beliefs better and more accurately.

I still plan to read the book, though! It sounds like there are many reading examples, and I like to see how others approach readings and compare my own reactions. I find it useful and educational.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JackofWands View Post
However, she does use the term "divination" to describe her own reading style, which she distinguishes from fortune-telling with the argument that it only shows a most likely outcome rather than something fixed in time.
"fortune-telling and divination are far from the objectives of this book."

"Though the majority may still consider tarot to be a form of divination or fortune-telling . . . [she counters with "more rational-based applications"]."

She later clarifies that it depends on whether you use her definition of divination or that of others.

"Although some do use tarot as a divination tool, this book will present it as a diagnostics tool."

I find that, at times, she seems to have crossed the line herself in her examples. Personally, I don't think there is a hard-and-fast line. Her condemnation of divination as fortune-telling (according to her own particular definition of these) is lacking in understanding.

However, I don't want to make a big deal of this or belabor the point as I get what she is trying to say, even if I find her way of saying it inadequate and annoying.

Personally I've struggled with the side of divination that acts as if it has all the answers and a perfect view of future events. But it is a much more complex issue than is presented in this book.
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My Kindle copy is filled with annotations where I differ - I'm no great authority like others who have spoken up but even I noticed things I didn't agree with.

There are actually a number of places where I added the remark "fortune telling" because yes, she predicts although she claims that she doesn't, you're right. "Multiple court cards" is an example - the diagram she gives is filled with predictive sentences in future tense.

3 pages in a spread: Seeker will find help from the young in the matter at hand.

Wen, Benebell (2015-01-20). Holistic Tarot: An Integrative Approach to Using Tarot for Personal Growth (Kindle Location 3909). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.

This is of course only one example; there are many more.

I still like the book because Wen gives me room and opportunity to establish my own opinion and way of doing things.

You, the practitioner, should consider all variations and adopt the one that feels intuitive to you.

Wen, Benebell (2015-01-20). Holistic Tarot: An Integrative Approach to Using Tarot for Personal Growth (Kindle Locations 4844-4845). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.

For kabbalah and alchemy, for the history of the Golden Dawn, there are other books available, and I wouldn't rely on one book alone anyway but read critically. Wen gives the East Asian background which is hard to find and for me as European fascinating.

My biggest disagreements were actually in her readings, I would have read some cases she gave completely different. But who can say whether I'm right?
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If you really want to avoid prediction, Llewellyn published a book several years ago (unfortunately I can't remember the title) which laid out a method whereby the reader doesn't interpret the cards at all but rather facilitates the querent to interpret their own cards.
I finally figured out a way to track this book down: http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Tarot-In...Heart+of+tarot

Not saying I particularly like that book's approach, but at least it follows its rationalistic premise to a logical conclusion.
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Originally Posted by Lee View Post
I finally figured out a way to track this book down: http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Tarot-In...Heart+of+tarot

Not saying I particularly like that book's approach, but at least it follows its rationalistic premise to a logical conclusion.
This book is loosely based on a Gestalt approach ala Fritz Perls. It's not technically Gestalt but a simple direct version which centers on what the querent perceives with the reader acting as guide to their own process - somewhat similar to my own preferred approach.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kalliope View Post
I'm sure a lot of it comes from Benebell wanting to bring tarot to the modern populace, to make herself and other tarot readers seem perfectly reasonable, like we're contemporary people who don't believe in goofy supernatural things or rigid, fated fortune-telling pronouncements. People to take seriously. To make tarot relevant to a rational person. But it sounds like she went a little overboard, and like she could have communicated her beliefs better and more accurately.
In one way, I agree with you here, that she does try a tad bit too hard to come off as a "smart, intellectual, normal person" with those statements she makes. But on the other hand, I also really like that about her! Because I'm also working very hard to show people that tarot doesn't have to be only for the gypsy wannabes in horrible tie-dye dresses that talk about curses and want to come off all "mysterious and unique".

I'm kind of sick of those people claiming tarot is all about magic and mystery, and quite frankly those readers come off as very poorly educated and backwards, and I feel like they have hurt tarot readers' reputations enough already. I find it refreshing with a tarot reader showing the world something else.

I must say I was kind of surprised seeing the part about that she uses a silk cloth for her personal deck, and that she uses crystals, since I find those things a little bit old school superstitious, but... Who's perfect? LOL.
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