Photo by Marc Zimmer on Unsplash

Working my way through stacks of saved magazines and newspaper clippings, I reached a 1997 copy of Yoga Journal. It fell open to a centerfold that seemed for a moment like the very essence of serenity.

I had never heard of Charles Belyea, and despite the fact that I know quite a bit about Asian philosophical and religious traditions in general, my knowledge of Taoism was superficial at best.

But my interest was captured when I flipped to the next pair of pages. For whatever reason, my eyes fell on the lower right-hand corner, and this passage immediately stood out:


Esoteric emblems: C.C. Zain’s Church of Light (l) and Paul Foster Case’s BOTA (r)

Tracing the history of Tarot so far, we have looked at three stages: the “Historical Tarot,” from around 1450 to 1750, the “Esoteric Tarot,” from 1750 to 1880, and “The Makers of Modern Tarot,” 1880 to 1925.

A Quick Recap

During the Historical period, the Tarot trumps appeared mysteriously in Italy and were memorialized in sets of small paintings and on printed paper cards. Somewhere along the way, the twenty-two trumps had been combined with a four-suited playing-card deck, and the resulting Tarot was used in various games, played throughout Europe.

During the Esoteric period, gentleman scholars proposed interpretations of the otherwise unexplained…


Graphics created by the author

What is “Self-Synchrony”?

Briefly — that feeling you have when:

  • Decisions seem obvious
  • Actions seem natural
  • Life seems to flow rather than flounder

I can’t tell you how to get there — everyone has their own path. But I can offer a visual aid that I thought of one day, and have sometimes gone back to when feeling disconnected from myself.

The picture above seems to speak for itself, but just in case not . . . I’ve provided a few words:


The toy typewriter pictured above resembles one I played with probably in first grade. You turn the dial to a desired letter and press down to print it (the keys don’t actually work).

Before that unit, I had a rubber-stamp alphabet that could be used to put words on paper. When I was about nine (I think), my mom got me a real Smith-Corona. And one way or another, I haven’t stopped typing since.

I never had a plan — just kept doing things as they came along. Not sure how I feel about that now!

But here’s what it…


Hexen 2.0 Tarot, in a public reading about global futures.

I’m still trying to fathom the extent (and intent) of Suzanne Treister’s Hexen 2.0 project, but I’ll tell you what I’ve figured out so far. Beginning with — these comments from a 2013 New York Times review of the Hexen installation, then showing at a New York gallery:

The British artist Suzanne Treister has a unifying theory about everything that would concern anyone worried about the current state of global affairs.

[Her] main theme is control — social, mental, technological and otherwise — exerted most powerfully and pervasively by means of feedback mechanisms. …


The Fantasy Satires

New Trump Project Restores True Meaning of “Great Books”

Photo by Naomi Hutchinson on Unsplash

It’s often overlooked that Donald Trump — though not a “humanitarian” in any usual sense of that word — is indisputably a “humanist,” cut from the Renaissance mold. Like Petrarch and Rabelais, he is dedicated to recovering the many ideas and works that have been corrupted or obscured for centuries by the liberal elite establishment.

Now that he has completed his restoration of the Shakespeare canon, Trump has applied his genius to the entire span of Western literature.

His approach will be to replace the dowdy packaging and distorted content of…


So far in “Makers of Modern Tarot” . . .

The Golden Dawn arose as the most influential secret society of the late 19th century, then fragmented in the early 20th century — undone to a great extent by the opposing personalities and theories of two men. (Catch up in Complicated Beginnings and Seeds and Splinters.)

The men were, of course, Arthur Edward Waite and Aleister Crowley. So we pick up first with a closer look at their respective Tarot decks. …


The Jack Spicer Tarot deck, created by artist Robert FitzGerald in 1969 (Granary Books)

Briefly: The Beat movement flourished during the 1950s, beginning in New York and spreading to California, where it converged with what’s now known as the San Francisco Renaissance. There was a great deal of diversity among Beat writers, but to the extent that common themes can be identified, they would be the rejection of social norms and the search for spiritual experience.

Although Spicer was part of the “Beat era,” he did not consider himself part of the “Beat movement.” A complicated distinction, but here’s a very good explanation:

Unlike his Beat peers, Spicer did not believe that poetry should…


From Vogue: Runway, May 12, 2017

To be honest — I did not see this coming.

And that’s because I failed to notice when the Dior/Tarot convergence got started in 2016. And as turns out, much has happened since.

But let’s start with a genuine milestone in Tarot history: the 2018 resort collection, in which Dior’s Maria Grazia Chiuri collaborated with Tarot legend Vicki Noble, co-creator of the pathbreaking Motherpeace Tarot.

Here’s how the New York Times led off the story on October 26, 2017:

Vicki Noble, who with Karen Vogel created the Motherpeace Tarot Deck in the late 1970s, hasn’t really kept up with the…


Pamela Colman Smith’s illustration, the Waite deck (l); Lady Frieda Harris’s illustration, the Crowley deck (r)

From its beginning in 1888, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn had grown steadily. And its diverse creative personalities had maintained an uneasy truce. (Catch up here.)

But like most secret societies, the group was always full of intrigue — and rife with disagreements over matters of interpretation and emphasis. By 1900, several strong factions had developed, and relations were strained to the breaking point.

Though the details of these disagreements would be impossible to summarize, the culminating events can be easily recounted. By the late 1809s, MacGregor Mathers had moved to Paris with his wife Moina (the sister…

Cynthia Giles

Writer at large, Ph.D. in interdisciplinary humanities. Persistently curious! Creator: “The Constance Project,” and Dreamfish Press. cynthiagiles.com

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