General Book of the Tarot, by A. E. Thierens, , at sacred-texts.com
In the same way as the Chinese Book I-Ging originally was edited or taught as a book of wisdom and insight into universal principles and stages of being and becoming, happenings in the eternal process of evolution in the nature of the world and of men, so the beautiful pictures of the Tarot system
are a teaching of wisdom and insight into the process of world-creation. Divination is a practice or practical use of the universal system in a particular instance. And so the universal may elucidate the particular and throw light down in the world of phenomena, darkly veiled by the maya of matter. How divination works will remain for ever a mystery to the profane. But it does. And though the unseen intermediary belongs most certainly to the angelic order, the system will work even where the visible professor or medium of divination is anything but an angel. Only . . . the interpretation given by the latter is what makes the literal divination. And this may be more or less esoteric or exoteric.
There are many different methods of laying out the cards for the purpose of divination. The aim is always to get the cards to show, by means of their universal symbolism, what the actual circumstances and other actualities in the consultant's case are. To reach this aim, the consultant is made to shuffle the cards so that they are mixed by his hands, and the way they mix will naturally condition the laying out. In doing this, the consultant himself is denoted by some or other card, and the surrounding cards, which are laid according to some accepted scheme, will give his relations to facts and persons in his surroundings. So it is said. And many systems work well, according to their adherents.
Now when we dispose of a system so complete and logical as that of the horoscope, how could we indicate better the relations of a given personality to his surroundings than by means of the twelve houses, which show every relation possible? Then why not use this scheme, ready for action? This
was the present author's starting point. The system he worked out upon this horoscopic basis (and it works with astonishing accuracy) runs as follows:
The Greater Arcana, constituting the macrocosmic principles, must be always used entirely. The Lesser Arcana will appear only partially in every particular instance, as only twice thirteen cards are used out of fifty-six.
Divide the cards of the former into two packs: the twelve zodiacal and the ten other cards, planets and Fool.
Take the pack of zodiacal cards of the Greater Arcana and let the consultant shuffle it well and at his ease. When he has got the impression that it will do, lay them out in a circle as the twelve houses of the horoscope, starting from I by II, III . . . etc. This circle is the base for all later judgment of the figure obtained, because it contains the principal lines of the whole; the consultant's radical essentials as well as his present individual conditions. The latter predominate more or less, but when you have a consultant for the first time, you will not have to ask him for his birth date even to be able to say much about his character, temperament, etc., and about his present state of mind. These twelve houses of the Greater Arcana give you pretty well a direct impression of the nativity combined with the principal progressive features, up to date. It may be stated here, that the Intelligences, working through cards and other methods of divination, are also indicated by the suit of wands.
After having laid out the twelve houses with the cards of the Greater Arcana, let him take the pack of the Lesser Arcana and shuffle it well, taking his
time over it easily, in order to impose his own will (or magnetism, as some prefer to put it) on the cards. When he gets the impression that it is enough, he may still cut them twice or thrice, as he likes. Then lay them out: beginning to take the cards from the top and following the houses as before: I, II, III, etc. . . . After the first circle is thus laid, put the thirteenth card on the centre. Then lay a second circle in the same way and again the thirteenth card on the centre. The rest of the pack is laid aside and remains out of the figure. But do not change their order, because in some cases there may he use for one or two more cards.
The second circle now indicates the forces or activities working in the consultant himself in connection with his surroundings and vice versa. The accent lies here on the Self and the side of his own decision. In the third circle we find rather the forces and activities working in the surroundings in connection with the consultant himself, and the accent of this circle lies rather on the Not-self and on destiny. The cards in the third circle must be read generally in the way that is called 'reversed' in card divination.
It is difficult, however, to tell exactly how each case will work out and in what way it must be read. Divination is an art, and to become an artist in it one must be born an artist first and practise well to develop one's spiritual inheritance. One cannot learn everything by reading books, nor can an author explain everything he has found by his own experience.
Cards may indicate persons in particular or certain categories of persons, they may relate to Intelligences and elementary forces, working in the karma
of the consultant. As a matter of fact the cards laid out for divination have always the meaning of a picture of the effects of karma, detailed and recorded up to the actual moment, but containing at the same time much of the past and certain prognosis on the other hand. It takes a long time and serious application to draw out everything contained in a card figure.
The cards may stand for things and objects and facts, and indicate time, duration, circumstances. The less dogmatic one is with regard to the process of divination and its interpretation, the greater the chance of being truly 'illuminated' by insight or vision. These cards have to be taken as 'signs of the Heavens,' and in order to understand what Heaven has to communicate, man has to eliminate, wholly and without consideration, his own as well as other people's prejudices and preferences, bigotry and illusions. Pessimism and optimism are both false and of no use in facing the natural facts, though we shall do wisely not to disregard the free-choice (wrongly called: free-will), as in the horoscope and its interpretation. This spiritual libre arbitre, however, must equally be indicated by the cards, and will moreover always have to work with the conditions given and indicated by the rest of the cards.
When the three circles have been laid, the consultant should take and shuffle the remaining planetary cards of the Greater Arcana, including the Fool, and may now himself choose in which houses to place them. Of course it is essential that these should remain covered till all are disposed of. You may place more than one card in a house, just as
there may be more than one planet in one house of the horoscope. So, if a matter appears to you to be of extraordinary importance, place two or three cards upon the house ruling the matter. If the consultant thinks it difficult and cannot make his choice as to the places of the planetary cards, let his hand hover over the figure and place the cards at hazard. Then generally this 'hazard' will prove remarkably accurate and well informed. For the rest, personal thinking must be as little to the fore as possible in these proceedings, as it is not so 'divine' as to help much in the act of divination proper. Everybody can learn in a few moments the way of laying out the cards whatever the system may be. But very few people succeed in the right interpretation, even with the use and profit of the formulated rendering of different authors--Papus, Waite, Mathers, etc.
The purely astrological method presented in this essay, working with the original Tarot system, offers--we dare to say--the best opportunity of reading every detail, as well as the cardinal points in the consultant's karma at the moment of judging.
If after the judgment there remain definite questions unanswered or vague, and the consultant ardently desires a 'yes' or a 'no,' he may take the remaining pack of cards of the Lesser Arcana, turn the card on top of it, lay it on the house relating to the question and consider this as the most definite answer possible for the moment.
One must not expect to have all questions answered positively at every moment. It is absolutely certain, that one does not get everything answered. There never was an oracle that answered all questions. This may be contrary to the spirit of Western scientific
thought, but the fact is as I have stated. And after all why should it be contrary to real scientific thought at all, if we consider the Intelligences referred to as beings, as conscious of their duty and responsibility as, let us say, the best of us men.
The two cards on the middle represent some sort of a synthesis of karmic conditions and events at the actual moment, or something predominating.
Practising this system we have had opportunity of observing that facts that are certain and of such importance as to dominate the conditions of the consultant in some way, are always indicated more than once. Sometimes even as often as three or four times in the same figure. This after all is not strange, because in an astrological figure the houses are closely related and important things always affect more than one factor in a man's conditions. So some strong feature must necessarily appear more than once in a figure of such a familiar interdependence.
To read a card-figure laid on this scheme some elementary knowledge of astrology is desirable. We cannot enter here into any further astrological explanation specifically, and would refer our readers to the literature on the point.
In the next part, however, we hope to explain the significance of the cards sufficiently for the use of divination.