The Way of the Tarot, by Alejandro Jodorowsky; The Anatomy of the Tarot Prt 1

Part of the overall theme for this blog was an intent to write about my ongoing spiritual journey. So far this has led me to look into various paths, most notably Sufism, Gnosticism and Hermeticism. At the moment I am unprepared to make any claims towards one religion, but I believe that it is safe to say I am leaning towards a Christianity leaning towards socially aware Anabaptism. That said, I’m being very syncretic about my religious path and am looking into practically everything.

Which leads me to the subject of one of many recurring posts concerning Alejandro Jodorowsky’s book, The Way of the Tarot. Alejandro Jodorowsky, for those of you who aren’t art school hipsters like myself, is a Chilean-born surrealist known mostly for his heavily symbolic films, such as El Topo and The Holy Mountain. He got his start in puppeteering and mine (he worked closely with Marcel Marceau). He also does rather odd space opera comics with very odd and awkward dialouge; I think it’s due to a combination of translation and Jodorowsky being a mime. I’m going to go out and admit that I’m reading this partially because I think his movies are cool, but he is also a leading expert on the Tarot and worked on the recreation of the oldest known Tarot deck.

Before we go much further I have to say that there has always had some suspicion about Jodorowsky. Of all my obscure little interests, Jodorowsky always seems to be the most obscure. He’s also obscure in the best possible way, because he would make a very interesting name dropper (He’s worked with Marcel Marceau, John Lennon was a big fan, Marilyn Manson will be in his next movie, etc). There is the problem that Jodorowsky is fundamentally outside the English cannon. I have the suspicion that he is much, much bigger in Latin America and France, or at least more well-known. For most of my high school years, I was basically the only person who had ever heard of Jodorowsky. There are all kinds of stories I could tell you about how I tried to find other Jodorowsky fans, or how I’d try to foist his work on others.

There is also the Jodorowsky that will be most of use in this, the Jodorowsky who is an expert on the Tarot and a psychotherapist. While I find some of his ideas to make some kind of sense such as that we are affected by the lives of the people who came before us, there is always some bit of doubt in my mind. Is this guy on the level? Is he just in it for the money? I think at the end of the day Jodorowsky is an honest man, which is to say he believes in what he’s doing. He’s a bit crazy, but in a way that makes him endearing to me.

Which brings us back to the book I was able to pick up on it. Since it’s buy one of my favorite film makers, and I do fine the intricasies to be found in the Tarot’s symbolism interesting, I bought this book and have been reading through it. So far I have learned the following things about the Tarot.

First, the Tarot should be looked at as a complete entity. This is nothing new, I knew that Jodoroswky believes that the Tarot is a whole entity, but it is worth stating. Jodorowsky’s view on the Tarot is basically that of scripture. It is a living entity that exists in the pictures and characters of the deck. That Jodorowsky says the Tarot is alive isn’t very surprising, scripture in all it’s forms is treated as an important entity in all religions. Jodorowsky goes deeper into this by stating that the Tarot can be made into a mandala, which is a Buddhist idea that involves a picture of the entire spiritual and/or physical universe.

After this, Jodorowsky goes into what he sees as proofs for the symbolic nature of the Tarot. I won’t go to much into detail about that, as it’s very late for me and I want to get this over with pretty soon. I did not really find most of his arguments entirely convincing. There was a lot of time when reading this when I thought, okay this could just be a coincidence. While I can believe that the Tarot represents the human soul, I have a difficult time believing that it was the original intention. The arguments I have heard for this have made sense to me, but I believe that this is because we are applying already existing symbols to aspects and characteristics of the human soul. This is a concept that I will explore in later posts.

Anyways, it’s late and I’m getting tired. As I’m writing this it’s 12:30 at night, and this is not yet ready for publication as for some reason the tags and categories aren’t working. I will have this posted tomorrow were I can edit it up a bit more. I will go more into my beliefs on belief, and Jodorowsky’s belief in the Tarot’s Anatomy in a later post.

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