Read The Symbolism of the Tarot: Philosophy of Occultism in Pictures and Numbers by P.D. Ouspensky Free Online
Book Title: The Symbolism of the Tarot: Philosophy of Occultism in Pictures and Numbers|
The author of the book: P.D. Ouspensky
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 5.24 MB
Edition: Dover Publications
Date of issue: June 1st 1976
ISBN 13: 9780486232911
Read full description of the books The Symbolism of the Tarot: Philosophy of Occultism in Pictures and Numbers:This is an interesting but problematic little tarot guide written by Ouspensky, prior to his involvement with Gurdjieff (if I understand correctly).
On the broadest, most basic level, I am not sure I can recommend this as a guide for beginners or those in need of a resource for card meanings. Ouspensky only covers the Major Arcana in any detail, and his basic breakdown of the card meanings is too general and in some cases questionable. His brief breakdown of the Minor Arcana elements is also problematic, and he doesn't really touch on the implied meanings of numbers and royals. The more extended meanings of the cards are treated in a narrative fashion, which is a wonderful technique in terms of reading and interacting with the cards, but isn't going to detail the specific symbolism used. Ouspensky undoubtedly refers to the Rider-Waite tarot, which consciously borrows elements from several traditions and is quite specific in terms of meaning. While I support more intuitive approaches to the tarot and have found that approach personally quite liberating, decks like the Rider-Waite or Thoth are constructed in such an intentional way that it is useful to understand the reference points and grounding system. According to editor Donald Tyson in his notes, Ouspensky might also be making reference to Wirth's tarot, which is essentially just a modernized form of the early Renaissance tarot decks like the well-known Marseilles tarot. These very probably aren't making the same references, or are at least not grounded in modern magick/occult systems.
But then this bring us to the next issue with the book, which is that the text is rife with misinformation about tarot that is still getting repeated nearly 100 years later. Most notably, the idea started in the 18th century by Antoine Court that the tarot originally came from Egypt, along with the idea that tarot was brought to Europe by Gypsies. None of this is supported by factual evidence, and it is more likely that tarot began as a card game influenced by similar games going further back in China and India. This, of course, doesn't mean that there isn't inherent symbolism in the cards, it's just not some hidden knowledge from occult societies in Ancient Egypt and any current occult implications have been pasted on by folks since. I'm not going to detail the rest of the information, as editor Donald Tyson in my edition does a great job qualifying Ouspensky's statements in his notes. If you can find this particular edition, I recommend it.
Returning to my point regarding the narrative approach used by Ouspensky, I will say that this is the greatest point of interest in the book. As I said before, he doesn't really delve into all the symbols, and many readers will find the out-of-order sequence difficult to work with as a resource. However, those unfamiliar with this technique will find it very interesting and hopefully be able to apply the idea to their study of the cards. Mary K. Greer uses some similar exercises in her Tarot for Your Self, directing you through the process, which Ouspensky sadly does not do. But the thoughtful reader with a deep interest in using tarot for self-work will no doubt find the demonstration of this method quite useful. The connections he is able to make from card to card to create a continuous narrative might even help those applying tarot to the writing of fiction. The numbering system he lays out is quite interesting and worth exploring, though I wish he'd used it to organize the demonstration. Nonetheless, I plan on playing around with the system he proposes and see what I can glean from it.
In conclusion, while I have some pretty strong criticisms of the content here, I did find much of it interesting and worth the read. It didn't introduce me to much I was not already aware of, and I don't recommend it to beginners or anyone looking for another tarot guide that will break the meaning and symbolism down in a clear manner. With the Rider-Waite specifically, you're probably better off picking up Alan Oken's Pocket Guide... or reading Waite's own Pictorial Key (if you can stand the Victorian verbiage). Mary K. Greer is another writer on tarot I highly recommend, and she covers more or less the same method Ouspensky uses in this text, with a more no-nonsense approach.
Read information about the authorPyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii (known in English as Peter D. Ouspensky, Пётр Демья́нович Успе́нский; was a Russian mathematician and esotericist known for his expositions of the early work of the Greek-Armenian teacher of esoteric doctrine George Gurdjieff, whom he met in Moscow in 1915. He was associated with the ideas and practices originating with Gurdjieff from then on. He shared the (Gurdjieff) "system" for 25 years in England and the United States, having separated from Gurdjieff in 1924 personally, for reasons he explains in the last chapter of his book In Search of the Miraculous.
All in all, Ouspensky studied the Gurdjieff system directly under Gurdjieff's own supervision for a period of ten years, from 1915 to 1924. His book In Search of the Miraculous is a recounting of what he learned from Gurdjieff during those years. While lecturing in London in 1924, he announced that he would continue independently the way he had begun in 1921. Some, including his close pupil Rodney Collin, say that he finally gave up the system in 1947, just before his death, but his own recorded words on the subject ("A Record of Meetings", published posthumously) do not clearly endorse this judgement, nor does Ouspensky's emphasis on "you must make a new beginning" after confessing "I've left the system".
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