Mining for Nous Gold
We eliminate the warm-up act, and join the post in mid-thought:
It will require a good couple of months to fully unwind MotT, but even then, riffing on one card every day or two does a disservice to us all -- you, me, and our Unknown Friend -- since it should be more of an organic and interior-directed process that proceeds at its own supernatural pace.
That is to say, one needs to "dwell" "in" (emphasis on both words) the book in order to actualize its pneumacatalytic powers. You must get into it in order for it to get into you, very much like the old onetwo of (↓↑). To paraphrase UF, the tarot images are like "enzymes" that facilitate growth when sprinkled over the sincere and open soul. You know, like the yeast in the bread.
I suppose I've read the book cover to cover maybe four or five times. I know this because I have two copies, each with different colored highlighting. And yet, each time I read it, I get something new out of it. I know this because new passages are highlighted on subsequent grow-rounds.
Also, as mentioned in a comment the other day, the first time I tried to tackle it, I got nowhere. It was just too difficult; turns out we were both too dense. And when I say "dense," I mean this in a kind of literal way, in that its light could not penetrate me. It was there, of course, but without a receptive agent to transmute it, it was just another brick in my wall of mostly ordinary books.
But by the time of my second attempt a year or two later, a transwarmation of some sort had taken place that allowed me to understand it -- or rather, melted whatever it was that was obscuring the light.
Indeed, it was like entering a vast cathedral, only this time with the lights on. In other worlds, without the Light, an infinite space will appear as a black wall, which is essentially the predicament in which the atheist finds himself. He imagines he's telling us about an objective barrier, when he's really just describing the back of his manmode I-lid. It's difficult to imagine a worldview more banal and lacking in elementary curiosity.
There is a reason that all spiritual traditions speak of "illumination." The visible light we see with our eyes is an analogue and symbol of the light we perceive with the intellect (and of which the intellect is composed, for light comes from Light).
In other words, the intelligibility of the world is and must be prior to its materiality. To be sure, the spiritual world is an intelligible world, but in order to perceive it, you will need to partake of the uncreated light of the awakened intellect, the nous (or, to paraphrase Joyce, the part so ptee that does duty for the holos).
Without activating the latter, you will again be staring at a blank wall (or you'll just have to take someone else's word for it). Jesus will just be a community organizer, if he existed at all. Miracles will merely be statistically rare events instead of edifying vertical ingressions. The Bible will be a collection of myths instead of simultaneously urgent and timeless memos of infinite depth from Soph to self, O --> (¶).
A couple of important points before we begin. The book is not about Tarot reading, nor does it have anything to do with the occult or new age. We're not just deepaking the chopra here.
Rather, the author, who is Catholic -- indeed, the afterword is by none other than Balthasar, and I've seen him name-checked by Ratzinger -- merely uses the twenty two major arcana of the Tarot as a basis for what we call spontaneous verticalisthenics, or theodidactic soul-jazz. It's almost as if he free associates and uses the cards as fixed forms, or unsaturated archetypes, to explore his own incredibly fertile spiritual imagination.
But his ideas are for the most part completely orthodox and intelligible to others, unlike, say, occultists, who may or may not speak truth, but clothe it in idiosyncratic and obscure ways that can be extremely difficult to decode, verify, or replicate. Our unknown friend always appeals to the universal intellect.
While earlier in life the author (who was born in 1900 and died in 1973) was a follower of Rudolf Steiner, he broke with that group and converted to Catholicism at the age of 44. In fact, he was booted from Steiner's Anthroposophical Society for being too independent of Steiner (who died in 1925).
As always, there is no doctrine more radical than Christianity, so it will always make ideologues, pneumalogues, and newage do-it-yoursophers uncomfortable. Anthroposophy is yet another instance of a spiritually gifted but erratic occultist whose fluid ideas are reified by his generally mediocre followers into an orthodoxy: the master ruins the disciples and vice versa.
Importantly, this is a dynamic that afflicts virtually all groups, as Bion recognized in some of his early papers. Indeed, it is precisely what had happened to Bion's own field of psychoanalysis, as Freud the explorer became Freud the inerrant prophet of a pseudo-religious infra-mystical order.
In relation to orthodoxy, Bion himself was analogous to the "messiah" (a term of art) or mystic who brings new life to the deadened forms, but only in order to return it to first principles. Similarly, Tea Partiers are aptly named, since they are simply re-animating the timeless principles of the Founders, principles that have been systematically undermined by the left.
Truth that isn't regularly rediscovered and lived is subject to entropy, just like everything else. To be perfectly accurate, it is not truth that dissipates, only the person who falls away from it. You might say that the space of the spiritual world, like the natural world, is curved, so without the rocket booster of effort, you'll merely go around in circles.
The author worked on MOTT in his 60s, and it was originally published posthumously in 1984 (in English in 1985). Although the identity of the author is known, he wished to remain anonymous, so we will respect his wishes and refer to him as Unknown Friend (UF), which is what he calls himself.
UF truly is our friend, and a precious one at that -- a trusty guidekick for any serious spiritual seeker from now until the end of time. And it is very much a "brotherly" relationship, despite his obvious spiritual eminence.
With regard to my post the other day about the person who was asking for spiritual guidance, UF is a fine example of how one may form a living relationship with a saint, sage, mystic or mentor, despite the person no longer being an active biological concern. The fact is, these persons are very much alive, but they will only come to life in the dynamic transitional space between you and them (or "I and I," as the ganjafarians say). But how is this different from any other deep friendship? Or just getting stoned?
It's about the living space. For example, we naturally love our family, but we also love the space it simultaneously creates and exists in. This can go unappreciated, but it is the background context of our whole life. It is the space in which we live and breathe. I suspect we'd feel rather hemmed in and oppressed without the yoke of this sphere & chain. Not all freedom is liberating, to put it mildly.
One thing we like about MOTT is its jazz sensibility, of which Bob has written in the past. To improvise means to stand up and play "over" the group. But to produce great jazz, one must simultaneously be a part of the group even while transcending it. This complementarity is the key, and I think it embodies a general lesson, almost a koan. That is, Man is the group animal whose very groupishness is the matrix out of which his individuality emerges.
To be an individual is to live on the surface of the group, so to speak, but with roots deep within it. A narcissist fails to appreciate the importance of the group in making the individual possible, as if he could exist without it. And yet, the collective could never be the "end" of our existence, as leftists believe. Which is why the left is such a graveyard of true individuality, an anonymous (in the negative, pre-personal sense) pack of dogmatic barketypes.
Yes, this is one of the first principles of our politics, since a libertarian overvalues the individual while the leftist insect naturally overvalues the hive. The cosmically correct position is to appreciate the family as the unit of civilization. Or, as in the Bible, maleandfemale he created them. When God says "let us create man in our image," this is what we's talking about: the unity within the plurality, and vice versa (and of course, baby makes threeness, and vice versa too).
I suppose it's somewhat analogous to the body/mind relationship. One cannot have a mind without a body, but to reduce the mind to the body is to do away with the person and our very reason for existence. Or again, one could say that this reflects the exoteric/esoteric, or inner/outer, complementarity of religion.
Anyway, we're just going to riff on UF's riffing, and see where it takes us.
But this is starting to get overly long, isn't it? Plus I'm late for work.