Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rachel Pollack's Tarot presentation notes

Our seminar is currently addressing Rachel Pollack's Guide to Tarot, a basic understanding of the history, the complexities and evolution of the art/game of Tarot.  As Pollack remarks, “Tarot works with the symbols which describe deeper truths that give meaning to our lives” (8).  To understand the Tarot symbolism, as well as the images and imagery, allows us to "continue to draw us ever deeper into fresh discoveries and wonders because the individual pictures form the surface of a living world.  This is the world of structure and symbolism, a world where ideas and images move in and out of each other, giving birth to deeper awareness" (41).  

The cards each have, arguably, "universal" meanings. For example, the Wheel of Fortune card: "represents outward shift, the way life reaches a high point and then begins to move downward"; the Hanged Man card: "symbolizes the internal change as the person reverses consciousness from outward conquest to inward acceptance"; the World card enables us to understand fully our connection to all existence” (93).

Now, each card, as Pollack continues, has a special character, but they all form a story, the journey of an innocent called the Fool (42). My bandmate Dhana talks more about the Fool here.

The symbolic structures "inspire us to marvel at the hidden beauties of the world. Tarot reading of the structures: make a meaningful statement about our lives" (41).  These hidden beauties connect to Robert Smithson’s "blind spots." As Ann Reynolds remarks, “Enantiomorphic construction literally, and by extension, metaphorically, allows Smithson to reveal the blind spots or enantiomorphic situations embedded within a number of historically contemporary models of perception.  These models are usually binary in structure, but their oppositional terms are really just mirror images of one another―enantiomorphs―with a shared blind spot, a set of hidden assumptions” (xvii). Tarot and Smithson's hidden beauties/blind spots can be identified with Wim Wenders articulation of Einstellung, which, as we (have) use(ed), enables us to capture moments and/or images that communicate new insights and different gazes. In addition, because Tarot cards function in their relationship to each other, Tarot readings resemble an approach Smithson used with post cards (and something I tried to do with my blog posts from five days ago). Smithson sends “a sequence of postcards spaced out over the course of months. Each card contained an isolated phrase, word, or image that made little sense on its own. But when the cards are arranged according to the order in which they were received, the sequence produces a complete sentence or coherent message” (163). Both Tarot and Smithson are interested in the combination of images (the collection of signifiers) that articulate meanings, which will aid in better understanding and, particularly for our purposes, decision making.

Symbols tap into our uncanny, which plays an important role in Tarot, as well as in our blog and heuretics. Furthermore, archetypes also connect to our uncanny. By identifying archetypes and our uncanny attraction(-repulsion), we might be able to develop flash reason and/or a universal. Thus, although reading is subjective, and culturally specific, we all might arrive at the same patterns, which could foster prudence on behalf of well-being.

An interesting note I want to point out is the numbering system in Tarot as it relates to what Ulmer suggested for a spread. Ulmer recommended that we do a five-card spread. Numbering systems, as Pollack mentions, are based on reality. Number system based on 10: first five suggest aspects of the body and the world around us (49).  One head, two arms, two legs (five points).  “The five-pointed star links the human body to the heavens [what I would say is the macrocosm]” (49).  Also, “Five introduces time, with all its limitations, including sickness and death.  We might say that, as the symbol of the body, Five brings us into physical reality, and so opens us to all the problems life can bring us” (50). Thus, is there a connection between the reading we're supposed to do and the sensory experience/embodiment we acknowledge and articulate?

Ultimately, we should first be looking for patterns in our blogs. Also, we should consider the relationship of our blog images to each other. As Pollack notes, “Tarot card readings show patterns and likelihoods. . . . The modern Tarot revival has always sought to empower people, to give them the tools to change themselves and their lives” (130). Here is where we see how Tarot and konsulting connect: putting people back in/with agency. Tarot/Konsult rejuvenates agency (eradicates the loss of agency).

And so a possible instruction from Pollack's Guide to Tarot: Identify patterns (maybe 2 or 3) in your blog.  As you do so, consider if there’s an uncanny attraction-repulsion and/or that connects to Cabot-Koppers Superfund site. This pattern(s) may be a way to select images for your prezi.

[included below are notes from yesterday's seminar meeting]

For our Tarot reading, we should ask similar questions from pages 174-175 in Guide to Tarot. I originally had the following five questions:

1. What does Part 1 of my blog mean? (Reflection/microcosm)
2. What does it mean for me to be part of the Gainesville community? (micro-marcocosm connection)
3. How should we approach/address Cabot-Koppers Superfund site? (Invention)
4. What might Part 2 of my blog reveal? (Direction)
5. What should I do with my Einstellung? (Invention)

Thus, a possible instruction: Do a Tarot reading with one or several of these questions. Write down or identify an immediate thought about each card.  (Like Derrida’s haecceity, during the chaos, something pops out and we immediately identify it. We are trying to see what the cards say to/about our uncanny. The uncanny taps into archetypes, which will be the Target in our CATTt.).

For example, I asked “what does Part 1 of my blog mean?” here.
- Current Influences/Significator: Death card: “Transformation, great, and perhaps terrible, is near at hand. You will find ideas and relationships you have long depended on challenged.” In other words, I read this card as how my recent reconsiderations about activism have manifested. What does it mean to be an activist? What are the ways to be an activist? What is activism? My previous thoughts about activism have been challenged by this seminar, which has opened possibilities for thinking about how people engage with community, with social and political issues, with digital technology, and with making decisions.  Furthermore, this card speaks to my allegory of prudence: why I came to graduate school and what I want(ed) to do. A decision is going to be made, in fact, in the next 24 hours about where I will go for a PhD program....and MSU has more connections to community literacy studies and cultural rhetorics.

And so we are left with an important question for our class:  How do we update the Tarot content (similar to how the Tarot has been updated for centuries)? Where/How does electracy play in Tarot?

Pollack, Rachel. Guide to Tarot. New York: Gramercy Books, 1999. Print.

Reynolds, Ann. Robert Smithson: Learning from New Jersey and Elsewhere. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2003. Print. 

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