Uncle Al on Tarot

Lately I’ve been reading biographies of Aleister Crowley in an attempt to better understand the man who had a great influence on both the modern Western Mystery Tradition and on Tarot.  Of the three books I read, the last, Do What Thou Wilt: A Life of Aleister Crowley by Lawrence Sutin, was really the only one that dug into his magic(k)al work.

In that book, I came across a really interesting quote from Crowley about Tarot.  (I believe it actually originates from The Book of Thoth, but I have yet to work my way through that tome.)  He says:

The origin of the Tarot is quite irrelevant, even if were certain.  It must stand or fall as a system on its own merits.

Interesting, especially coming from a man who claimed so many magical past lives.  Putting that aside, I agree with his statement.  While it is sometimes important to have a history behind a system, it is also important that the system hangs together and works on its own.  Doing or using something just because it is old or because that is the way it has always been done isn’t necessarily a great idea.

Tarot doesn’t work because it came to us from the Ancient Egyptians (which it didn’t, but I don’t know how many times I’ve read that is has).  It works because the pictures on the cards stimulate something in our subconscious.  It makes us think about our situation in a different way.

The correspondences that have be attached to Tarot sometimes work and sometimes don’t.  This is partly because some systems have just been shoehorned onto the Tarot, most likely with the thought that metaphysical systems should work together.  They don’t always.  Becuase of this, I don’t feel bad that I don’t take advantage of some of these systems when working with Tarot, even if other people swear by them.