Saturday, November 3, 2007

Occultist Apologetics

Levi's Baphomet, supposed idol of the Knights Templar

Today's more sophisticated Tarot authors have embroidered their tales and interpretations with assorted facts developed by playing-card historians, and moved the esoteric origins of Tarot from ancient Egypt to Renaissance Italy. (The actual origin of occult Tarot was in eighteenth-century France, so they are getting closer.) However, their reconstructions of Tarot's meaning and history are still based on all the wrong historical subjects, and on distortions of incidentals instead of an acceptance of essentials. Rather than beginning with the known facts and building from that basis, they begin with esoteric preconceptions and then impose speculative scenarios into gaps in the factual record. Having taken for granted that the earlier occultists were on the right track, the neo-occultists focus on magic, mysticism, Gnostic heresy, esoteric philosophy, astrology, numerology, and so on. Superficial details of various Tarot images are given arbitrary interpretations to support the esoteric preconceptions. Although not as obsessed with Egyptomania, Cabala, and the legends of Freemasonry as were the Frenchmen who invented occult Tarot, these neo-occultists have their own historical and esoteric filters. These can be summarized with three terms: Aldous Huxley's Perennial Philosphy, Joseph Campbell's Universal Monomyth, and Carl Gustav Jung's Archetypes of Transformation. Of course, some writers are still captivated by the blunders of earlier impositions, such as Grail lore and even Court de Gébelin's geographical fantasy. Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code embodies some of the worst examples of this, taken from the writings of Margaret Starbird.

In one form or another, such modern folklore is believed to be factual history by most people who have any interest in the subject of Tarot. These deeply entrenched narratives will always be more entertaining and seductive than documented history and sober iconography, but they are merely folklore. Although we usually think of folklore as something from earlier times and faraway places, we are immersed in it today. Folklore is defined as a body of widely held but false or unsubstantiated beliefs. (Webster's.) From alien abductions, afrocentrism, and Atlanteans building the pyramids to Holocaust denial, the elaborate conspiracy theories about JFK’s assassination, and the Creationist account of biological history, these things are pop culture conventional wisdom among a significant part of the population. pre-Gébelin will generally ignore this conventional wisdom, most of it having been thoroughly debunked elsewhere.

No comments:

Post a Comment