November  2008
By Art Rosengarten, Ph.D.
The intuitive and spiritual vision gained from tarot divination, I Ching, numerology, and other such methods remains, even to this day, outright suspect to the spiritual establishment. Established religion asks: Why is there need for these methods when we have already spelled out everything so clearly? Who can be sure that people channeling their own spiritual insight won’t go their own way? As Brother David Steindl-Rast, author, Ph.D., and monk of the Mount Savior Monastery observes:
One way or the other, the same plot is acted out repeatedly on the stage of history: every religion seems to begin with mysticism and end up in politics… Fortunately, I have not yet come across a religion where the system didn’t work at all. Unfortunately, however, deterioration begins on the day the system is installed…. Our social structures have a tendency to perpetuate themselves. Religious institutions are less likely than seed pods to yield to the new life stirring within. And although life (over and over again) creates structures, structures do not create life. (The Mystical Core of Organized Religion, p. 2, 1989)
While the merits of extending good will and warm regard for individuals of differing faiths have evolved to a “hopeful dialogue” at this juncture of planetary change, such progress in the religious and spiritual sectors is usually constrained and offset by the perennially insular practical needs that a particular organization carries for its own survival.
Spreading (or at least keeping) its own faith is a simple matter of endurance, though often and unfortunately it bleeds away energies which might otherwise enliven the creative furthering of an organization’s own vision. Yes charity begins at home, and sure adherence to one’s tradition bears an important function, but a tradition needs to continually renew and develop if it wishes to remain fully alive. The same self-cherishing tendencies, of course, apply to most psychological movements and consciousness-raising programs as well. For all their intelligence and good works, they too tend to calcify within the business of their businesses, and the doctrine of their doctrines. One should not be surprised, therefore, by an almost universal undercurrent of stodgy, “ear wax” sermonettes all in the service of self-preservation and tradition.
Truth be told, most spiritual entities and wisdom enterprises entertain unspoken desires for dominance (hush!) – that is, for becoming the preferred “superbridge” to the world’s great spiritual superhighway – it thus follows, quite logically, that each group in practice would be at best “hesitant,” if not a tad snarly, in its support of the hypothetical “top honor” were it given to any rival group (“OK boys and girls, pack your things — Quakerism is now the universal world practice”), especially if in so doing it meant cementing the quick and painful surcease of their own orders, schools, and doctrines. (Someone has to pay the bills, no?). Human nature being what it is, the politics of organized spirituality as seen on the “world stage” during the 21st century “transition” decade of the 90s was indeed a curious display to behold. The “dirty little secrets” (then and Now) behind ‘The Secret’, I sometimes call it.
The Penultimate Lovefest
As case in point, a number of years ago I had the good fortune to travel to Chicago, Illinois, to attend the auspicious five-day Parliament of World Religions. This by all measures was to be an extraordinary spiritual bonanza, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the great Indian saint, Swami Vivekananda, and his epic journey to America in August of 1893 for the express purpose of initiating the first major “interfaith conference” in recorded history.
The centennial celebration was truly a marvelous event to behold, with every emanation of guru, spiritual ambassador, captain of consciousness, priest and priestess imaginable. The colorful opening ceremony was a procession of Hindus, Buddhists, Native Americans, Sikhs, Jains, Moslems, Rastafarians, B’hais, Yorubans, and Zoroastrians, with women participating on a par with men, and, all in all, creating a truly overwhelming joyous feeling of global spiritual diversity and community.
With more than five thousand attendees filling the luxurious ballrooms of the Palmer Hotel in downtown Chicago, we all were free to pick and choose various talks and instructions given by a virtual smorgasbord of “spiritual bridgemakers” at any given hour (it was worth surrendering your lunch ticket). At this crest of the Clinton Administration, the senior icons of higher spirit and consciousness, many avowed heroes and “rock stars” of the 1960’s Human Potentials Movement, now gathered for the triumphal occasion.
Sublime vision was offered up from the renowned Korean Zen taskmaster Seung Sahn to the gentle Vietnamese Zen poet Thich Nat Hanh. Moral high ground was transmitted from the elegant leader of European Jewry in Sir Sigmund Sternberg to the feisty and controversial leader of African-American Muslims– Reverend Louis Farrakhan (replete with his small army of bodyguards). There were outstanding Christian monks, mystics, and clergy, as well as delegations from three of the largest Pagan organizations in North America. The Joseph Campbell Society was represented, Dr. Jean Houston was there, Arlo Guthrie (and his Brooklyn-born guru) were there, and Harvard professor John Mack, M.D. gave a chilling discussion of his UFO abduction research and theories regarding the interdependence of all beings, earthborn or otherwise.
Yet for so impressive a mandala of spiritual diversity, I don’t believe any speaker throughout the entire affair once mentioned (with the possible exception of the Joseph Campbell group) the incomparable deck of human spiritual possibility itself, that is, the Tarot. As a practical map and instrument of The Great Work itself, I believe there is an important reason for its notable absence in this body: Tarot is not a religion, but a sacred tool. Nor is the Tarot a spiritual movement or a school of consciousness, but a catalyst of imagination and a creator (some may prefer inventor) of consciousness. As such, unfortunately, it carries no traction in the official (outer) world dialogue of spirit or consciousness.
A Metaphysical Thermometer
Perhaps some “infusion medicine” might have re-vitalized the competing enterprises of wisdom here? The Tarot, to this end, would be utilized as a gauge of vitality, a transpersonal thermometer of sorts. With its insertion into one of several small physical openings, the traditional thermometer, as we all know, is a diagnostic instrument designed to measure body temperature. Its feedback alerts one to a preliminary and non-specific assessment of multiple, simultaneous, and interrelated systems operating within the physical organism either in health or in sickness.
Curiously, the thermometer’s scientific precursors, technical mechanics, components, internal structure, place of manufacture etc. are entirely secondary (if not irrelevant) to its function. Such technicalities are left to the physicians, producers, and distributors of the product. We just stick it in, pull it out, read it, and wash it (What? You didn’t know that?)– WITHOUT concern for these other irrelevancies. The thermometer’s utility nonetheless remains unrivalled in common medical practice.
So too, we might say, is the Tarot. Its insertion too is placed in one of several small (meta) physical openings—say, a context of exhausted rationality, or perhaps the invocation of a higher power, or a moment of compelling uncertainty that calls out for deeper guidance. Similar to the thermometer, tarot’s feedback alerts one to a non-specific, generalized assessment of structures operating within the whole personality; and interestingly, unlike the thermometer, the Tarot can also be directed to specific systems and subsystems throughout multiple levels of experience, and is comparatively-speaking vastly more versatile.
In terms of “spiritual” matters and organizations, a user my seek to determine, for instance, “Why am I not making spiritual progress after so many years of meditation?” Or perhaps “How can our tradition evolve within the emerging issues and insights of the day?” Or “How can this religion become more experiential and relevant to bright individuals?” Invariably, the cards will point to a unique, multi-layered, set of inter-relationships supplying a complex web of fresh information, ideas, new combinations etc. for introspection as well as corrective action.
As a scion of symbolism, Tarot operates multi-dimensionally from a purely non-affiliated platform in the truest sense. This means anyone can join it, and return to where they are otherwise more traditionally comfortable, yet I believe “improved” by the experience. Tarot is ‘foundationless’ with respect to adherence and fealty to the embedded beliefs of any particular tradition. In the political debates of religion, for instance, liberals and conservatives alike may claim its arcane workings put to the service of their own partisan agendas, but Tarot’s own “vote” always remains within the structure of its apolitical governance. As simply an instrument, or as I prefer, a sacred tool, the Tarot functions as a spiritual thermometer—a measuring stick of psychospiritual health and an early alert signal to The Great Work itself.
Tools Of Imagination
I daresay, once past the psychotheocratic resistance (if such were possible) known to tatter the woven seams of many religious and psycho-spiritual mantles, that Tarot’s tremendous versatility and universality would serve as a natural and creative aid to each and every established school of spirituality, psychology, and consciousness.
Are tools of imagination and barometers of the perennial philosophy no longer needed by such groups? I certainly hope not. Unless any spiritual, religious, or psychological school grows irreparably stale or stultified within its own dogma and tradition, it, like all organisms, must continue to adapt and evolve to the changing demands of each age. As a simple matter of common sense, the closer an organization is to the lived heartbeat of its constituents, the more likely its survival. And neither should this fact be lost on Tarot itself; to the contrary, Tarot must continue to creatively use its own wisdom and method upon itself in order to accommodate to the changing demands of this age and the next.
Unlike the movements represented at the Parliament of World Religions, Tarot’s potential utility is equally relevant to the corporate manager, the research scientist, the professional athlete, the abstract artist, the elementary school teacher, the single mother, the politician, and the mental health worker, to name a few. This is because Tarot is an ingenious instrument in many ways like a thermometer: it points us to a direction of inner vision, a hidden side of events, a timeless wisdom. Extremely handy things, I should think, for all and any who wish to expand and deepen perspective and awareness.
Specific applications are secondary in Tarot, though, personally, I would find no difficulty envisioning at the Parliament’s 200 Year Anniversary (come 2093) a assemblage of 21st century transformational healers and teachers where the praises of Tarot, and other sacred tools like it, are acknowledged for their creative catalyzing effects which have served their own organization’s development immeasurably.
Dr. Art Rosengarten is the author of TAROT AND PSYCHOLOGY: SPECTRUMS OF POSSIBILITY and owner moderator of the Yahoo discussion group: taropsych He is a featured expert/author in the just released metaphysical documentary, THE GREAT WORK produced by Chance Gardner and Vanese McNeill.
July  2008
Potent Quotes Department
This is adapted from the marvelous essay: “Coming To Meet: Advice From The I Ching,” by Carol Anthony, [included in the anthology, Challenge Of The Heart, John Welwood, Shambhala) . Those seeking my advice for relationships are encouraged to read this enlightened philosophy. It will greatly enhance the process : ) Art
Excerpted from the classic Chinese Book Of Changes (I Ching)
On “MEETING HALFWAY”
“Coming to meet halfway is possible only between people who are mutually honest and sincere in their way of life.” I Ching
This hexagram describes a “correct” relationship as one in which two people come to meet each other halfway. Halfway means that both are open and receptive to each other. It must be mutually voluntary.
We must maintain reserve in our relationships until the coming to meet is mutual. Maintaining “reserve” is the correct action (or nonaction) during turbulence and communication breakdown
Coming to meet halfway is possible only between people who are mutually honest and sincere in their way of life. It is the great joy of such relationships that they are full of mutual trust and sensitivity
“Coming to meet” is best understood as a contract made between two people. If one is indolent in performing his part, or has mental reservations about what he is willing to do, the contract may fail. Although such a person may have entered the contract without any immediate objections, his attitude may contain objections which arise only at the time his obligations are to be performed. Such a person may secretly feel that contracts are not to be taken seriously, or, on seeing how difficult it is to fulfill his part, he may hedge on doing it because of some idea that all contracts are subject to fitting into his concept of what is “reasonable.”
It is impossible to come to meet such a person halfway and it is better for us to go on our way alone and to wait until the fundamentals of unity are firmly established before we commit ourselves to other people.
When we cater to another person’s ego because it is uncomfortable to go on our way alone, we choose the high road of comfort rather the low road of modesty and loneliness. Withdrawal from the high road is the action often counseled by the I Ching (The Classic Chinese Book of Changes).
If a person is treating us presumptuously, and if we remind him (or her) of this, he may correct his habits for a few days, but gradually revert to the same pattern of neglect. This he does from egotistical indolence (apathy), something in his point of view makes him feel he has the right to be indifferent.
Likewise, we must withdraw from the indolent person, “cutting our inner strings” of attachment to him, and no longer look at his wrongdoings with our inner eye (preoccupations, self talk, ideations etc.).
This enables the person to see what he is doing in the mirror created by the void. By dispersing any alienation we may feel, we also lend strength to his superior self. Momentarily, his ego is overcome. We need to realize that his change is short-lived, but it is an essential beginning. The change does not last because it is only founded on his response to feeling the void. It becomes permanent change when he sees clearly that unity with others depends upon his devoting himself to correcting his mistakes. Only then can we abandon a more formal way of relating to him.
The sense of loss, loneliness, or poverty of self a person feels on our withdrawing from him is called “punishment” (in the I Ching), but I prefer the term “mindful disengagement.” Mindful disengagement works only if it is applied in the way described—we must consistently and immediately withdraw, neither contending with him nor trying to force progress by leverage. We withdraw accepting his state of mind, letting him go. We must take care not to withdraw with any other attitude than that required to maintain inner serenity, and to keep from “giving up on” him (or her).
If on the other hand we withdraw with feelings of alienation, or of self-righteousness, our ego is involved as the punisher. The ego lacks “the power and authority” to punish. The culprits not only do not submit, but “by taking up the problem the punisher arouses poisonous hatred against himself.” One person’s ego may not punish another person’s ego.
When a person returns to the path of “responding correctly” (being open and receptive) we likewise go to meet him (or her) halfway, rather than tell him he is doing things correctly. In this way he comes to relating correctly from his own need to relate correctly and we do not force it on him. Our consistence and discipline in feeling out each moment and responding to it does the work.
It is unnecessary to watch a person’s behavior to see if he is becoming worse or better; we need only be in tune with ourselves. Our inner voice warns us precisely when to withdraw and when to relate. We need only listen within.
It is important to work with a situation only so long as the other person is receptive and open, and to retreat the instant this receptivity wanes. When we understand that this represents a natural circle of influence, we learn to “let go” when the moment of influence passes, and not to press our views. This gives other people the space they need to move away from us and return of their own accord.
We must avoid egotistical enthusiasm when we think we are making progress, or discouragement when the dark period ensues. Throughout the cycle we learn to remain detached. Holding steadily to the light within us and within others. The instant we strive to influence, we “push upward blindly.” If we insist on accomplishing the goal at all costs, our inner light is darkened and our will to see things through is damaged.
The strength of a person’s ego corresponds to the amount of attention it can attract. On the most simple level this recognition is by eye-to-eye contact; on the more basic inner level we strengthen other people’s egos by watching them with our inner eye. Only when we withdraw both our eye-to-eye contact and our inner gaze do we deprive his ego of its power—“We cannot lead those whom we follow.”
Inner withdrawal is an action of perseverance that has its own reward, but only when it is modest perseverance, not an attempt to impress others by getting them to notice our withdrawal. In many situations the problem is resolved, not through any external action that arises spontaneously on our part, but by simply “letting it happen,” through letting go of the problem. Our “action” is to “let go.
This is adapted from the marvelous essay: “Coming To Meet: Advice From The I Ching,” by Carol Anthony, [included in the anthology, Challenge Of The Heart, John Welwood, Shambhala) . Those seeking my guidance for relationship are encouraged to read this basic philosophy. It will greatly enhance my ability to counsel you : ) Art
July  2008
BY ART ROSENGARTEN
“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order” wrote the Swiss founder of Analytical Psychology, C.G. Jung. Nowhere is this irony more evident than in the everyday lives of ordinary people. No matter how skilled we’ve grown in plugging the holes, the illusion of control jumps back like a yapping Schnauzer and bites us in the tightened buttocks of “business as usual.” The world of conventional reality is a manufactured cosmos of deluded chaos; it scratches its dense skull in search of the only remedy it knows: the pursuit of perfection.
That slow leaking tire, running nylon, or bad-hair day, the ‘B’ you thought was an ‘A’, the surcharge and fine print, ALL conspire to dissolve the joy you’ve envisioned for a flawless day. The state of perfection is outright libel, though no laws protect us from its rampages. The impeccable is “oh so peccable,” the impeachable so easily impeached!
Flawlessness is itself a flawed vision (of perfection). To the contrary, “flawfulness” is perfection’s secret virtue—rendering the current strange construction of “the perfect” virtually null and void. The odd is, in effect, the beautiful. The anomaly that generates brilliance in a quartz crystal–that which is most different, most natural, most striking and unique, most “FLAWED” (if by that we mean “least commonplace”)–makes for a thing’s true beauty and character, its atypicality. And naturally, this is not an indistinct, uniform, degree of “flawlfullness” which might then be “reproduced to perfection.” (The Pet Rock only works once!); one must never attempt to redo the undone. Certainly this brought the death knell to rock n’ roll in the seventies.
Even the gods and goddesses sprout an occasional blemish, and the real deal is closer to the trashed “Out-Takes” in the film editor’s dustbin than the perfect teeth made from plaster of Paris implants in the Hollywood state of the mind. Sacred mistakes (because nature made them as they are) capture the trouble we’d rather not know we have. Here we “make” the boat we’d actually be better off “missing.” The aftermath isn’t pretty or inspiring. Culture dies another vital strand each repeat performance for which the great monolith is reflexively imitated. The perfect game every day. Desperately, though blindly, we recalibrate our slipping ‘predictometers’ hoping to lock-on to the emerging assets of the best case scenarios of our castles-in-the-sand reality.
Dying modernists that we are, we sorely regret the inconvenience, dissolution, the shifting of gears. IT was our mother, and we remain attached to the predictable outcome like goat cheese on gourmet pizza. When (mis)constructions of the “perfect picture” are not matched in actuality, when life takes on that “almost but not quite” taste, we filter away to masturbatory memories (of perfection) before the dreaded real reality returns. We want the Hollywood moment-–the perfect teeth and triumphant skies. “Jesus, it’s good.”
The cosmos thus appears contained in our small-mindedness. Briefly life feels unwrinkled and cooperative. Uncle Gino receives a hopeful second opinion. And a secret order may be plucked out from one’s vortex of disturbance. Good news. It bears no abeyance whatsoever to the clocks and cashiers of the conventional order. We must respond now as artists, not the usual escape artists. We can now use our natural materials with no mention of perfection.
This strategy goes to the heart of what I fondly call “the problem with trouble.” Rebounding too quickly from trouble denies us a rare opportunity— the wisdom of natural chaos. As the commentary to the third line of “Difficulty at the Beginning” (in the Chinese Book of Changes) states:
If a man tries to hunt in a strange forest and has no guide, he loses his way. When he finds himself in difficulties he must not try to steal out of them unthinkingly and without guidance.
The hexagram further tells us:
“Fate cannot be duped; premature effort, without the necessary guidance, ends in failure and disgrace.”
The problem with trouble is that we are a mad, trouble-fixing, people. We fix to fix (and function to function), and typically miss entirely the secret order that an honest barrel of trouble provides us. The sages called this ‘Fate”:
It is only a matter of time before we meet it. Fate is not antagonistic or vindictive; it is there to teach us, in an impersonal way, that the goal may not be gained through false means. (Carol K. Anthony)
Fate is not the way out of trouble but, paradoxically, the way into it. Thankfully, fate-born-of-trouble stymies our misguided pursuit of perfection—and returns us to what matters, ourselves.
Read what I regard as The Keys To Relationship (From The Chinese Book Of Changes, or I Ching) in Potent Quotes: “THE ART OF MEETING HALFWAY” (IDEAS)