Mind Games

Gareth Knight. The Treasure House of Images. Thorsons, 1986

There is something about the tarot that makes it attractive to several paranormalists who otherwise adopt a highly sceptical approach to such topics as divination and precognition. Perhaps this is because its rich and strange imagery acts as a stimulus to intuitive and lateral thought, producing a state of mind in which potentially fruitful hunches and guesswork surface into the consciousness. Rather than having some intrinsic 'paranormal' quality of their own, the tarot images may strike archetypal resonances in the sensitive 'reader' - this was certainly Jung's attitude to the tarot. If, as writers such as Michael Dummett and Stuart Kaplan suggest, the origin of the tarot designs may be traced back to the Renaissance memory aids described by Francis Yates, then they may be said to be designed to such an end.
This possibility is often obscured by writers who propose an impossibly archaic and arcane origin for these cards, bringing in ancient Egyptian, gypsy, or even Atlantis predecessors. Fortunately the book under consideration here avoids these extremes, and the first part of Gareth Knight's contribution presents a brief but accurate account of the history of the tarot cards, both in their original role as the major element in a range of popular card-games, and their later evolution (from the eighteenth century) as a means of divination and a repository of occult belief.
Of particular interest is his outline of the growth of the occult tarot in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, and his description of the development of the card designs through the major regional and chronological variations. The second part of Knight's book is the description of a series of meditation exercises using tarot cards. These follow the usual path of ascribing a variety of meanings to individual cards, and reflect the various cabalistic interpretations that have been offered. As with most exercises of this nature, the only fair thing to say about them is that they must be practiced to assess their effectiveness. -- John Rimmer, Magonia 24, November 1986.

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