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Category Archives: Philosophical Musings

A Brief Reflection on My Writing Thus Far

As I am preparing for the release of The Libel of Blood in the near future, I have been thinking about how my writing has evolved over time to get me to the point I am at now. I believe that I have improved quite a bit since setting out on my journey.

I started out writing Fan Fiction in the Warhammer universe, and while on the forums I frequented it was lauded as good, it was contrived, formulaic, and serial, lacking any real substance and very limited continuity. However, the writing itself got better and better, until I think the year before I went to university it got rather good.

Then university came, and I decided to start writing in my own universes. I began with the first few chapters of Final Judgment, a book that will not be released for a long time. This book stars the shivvos, and marks the end of the Juxian Mythos universe. I shelved this project when I learned of NaNoWriMo, and decided to instead write a novel in a month.

And thus was born The Loneliness of Stars. It was written in a month, with another month of editing, and a second edition released a while after that. It was originally filled with typos (most of which – but not all of which – were cleared out in the second edition), and had very contrived plot sequences and caricatured characters. I went out of my way to create plot twists, and as my editor commented, you could practically hear me saying “and then suddenly surprise!” in my head. Many twists and turns seem contrived – at least to me – and most of the characters lack depth (main character aside). Many of the characters, despite being on a ship, don’t wear uniforms and instead wear ridiculous outfits reflecting their caricature. What was I thinking (fortunately, in subsequent books uniforms are more prevalent.)? It was also my first ever foray into the first-person, and I did it for an entire novel. It was an interesting experiment.

Still, despite these things – and the semi-directionless plot of the novel – the mechanics of the writing were good and I have been told it was an enjoyable read. Not bad for a first novel.

I originally had intended The Loneliness of Stars to be a one-off book, set in its own universe. Unfortunately, I found myself unable to tie up the plot-line effectively in one novel, and so in the middle of writing it decided not only to make it part of the universe of Final Judgment, but to extend it into multiple books. A trilogy, no less.

And so The Light of Civilization was born. This book was written over many months, and you can actually watch my writing improve as the book goes on. It picks up immediately where the first book leaves off, and serves as a grand introduction to the Juxian Mythos; it’s essentially a guided tour of the universe. It has a lot of infodumps in it, but the plot twists no longer seem contrived, the characters are much deeper, and the world much more developed. The Light of Civilization is much more well-written and executed, and I have heard it is more enjoyable than the first. I planned out more of the arc of The Light of Civilization than I had for The Loneliness of Stars, and I think it showed.

My horror short-story writing began while I was writing my second novel, and I believe that the writing skills I learned while writing these (characters, suspense, sentence structure awesomeness, and how to evoke feelings of horror) manifested themselves in The Light of Civilization (particularly in the scene with the Cult of the Final Apocalypse). I also was able to create a more effective monster in the form of Psy. The horror stories I also think are my best work; “The Winds of Madness” is my personal favorite of everything I’ve ever written.

The Libel of Blood is even better than the first two. It’s paced like a horror novel and is very back-heavy, but at this point I think I have managed to master the plot twist, so that it can come across without seeming contrived, and at the same time my character development skills have grown even greater (Roland van der Tyke, the villain of this book, is an example of a character who benefited from this improvement). I was able to find ways to avoid the infodumps in The Light of Civilization, and created an intricate and detailed world in this book. The pacing may seem a bit odd, and it is very back-heavy, but the structure is able to keep you reading until the huge climax at the end. This story was greatly influenced by my horror.

So, the point of this? I’ve gotten better. A lot better. If you read my three current novels, you will see the difference – and I hope you do consider picking them up and reading them.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Philosophical Musings, Writing

 

The Kraken and Cthulhu?

I know the comparison between the mythical Kraken and the insanity-inducing Cthulhu is an obvious one, but in the course of some casual research on Krakens (yes, when I am procrastinating I read up on my mythical beasts. At least I’ll be prepared when they come for me!), I came across the following poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson:

Below the thunders of the upper deep;
Far far beneath in the abysmal sea,
His ancient, dreamless, uninvaded sleep
The Kraken sleepeth: faintest sunlights flee
About his shadowy sides; above him swell
Huge sponges of millennial growth and height;
And far away into the sickly light,
From many a wondrous grot and secret cell
Unnumber’d and enormous polypi
Winnow with giant arms the slumbering green.
There hath he lain for ages, and will lie
Battening upon huge seaworms in his sleep,
Until the latter fire shall heat the deep;
Then once by man and angels to be seen,
In roaring he shall rise and on the surface die.

Of course, being a fan of H. P. Lovecraft, the similarities between Tennyson’s portrayal of the Kraken and Cthulhu immediately became apparent. He sleeps beneath the sea, waiting for ages to sleep until the time is right (in Lovecraft’s case, the stars, in Tennyson’s, the heat), and then he will rise up to the surface – and then die? For this, I shall just point you to Lovecraft’s quote from the Necronomicon: “And with strange aeons even death may die.” The poem even managed to get Polyps – though of the flying variety – in there.

Quite the coincidence, don’t you think? Perhaps Lovecraft read this poem, had a nightmare about it, and so Cthulhu was spawned. Or maybe, as a friend of mine suggested, Lovecraft used a time machine.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2012 in Philosophical Musings, Readings

 

Who Are You Writing For?

When writing, this question is always important to keep in mind. Who are you writing for? Who is your audience? What are you trying to do?

Your audience can determine how you write, affecting tone, word choice, pacing, and sentence structure. This is most readily visible in nonfiction writing. Technical writing is very different compared to academic writing. Blog writing will be very different from the previous two, e-mail writing is different, and texting is very different. These differences are not just the result of the medium, but also who you’re writing for. An email written to a professor will be very different from one to a parent, or one to a friend.

Not only will the writing style change depending on your audience, but the content of what you write will change. For non-fiction, this is generally easily visible, as you are not always in full control of what you write, limited by deadlines and reality. In fiction, however, you have far greater control over what happens, not limited by reality as much. Yet, even so, your audience still has a large effect on the content and other aspects of your writing, by changing what you, the author, find most important.

If you are writing for young adult audiences, for example, the language and sentence structure will be simpler, of course, but the content will also be less “adult” and the character arcs and plotlines will generally be less complex (I say “generally” because there are exceptions). If you are writing for sex-driven audiences, your content will generally have lots of innuendos and outright explicit sexual acts. In science fiction, consistency might be most important. In fantasy, your plot and quest arcs might be most important. Your audience plays a large role in determining your genre, and vice-versa.

But all of this assumes that the main reason for your writing is so that other people can read it and enjoy it. This is all well and good, but generally authors are also writing for an audience that I think many often overlook – themselves.

I am my own primary audience. I write books not for the express purpose of selling them and having others read them (though I do enjoy that greatly), but rather to get the stories out of my head and into an organized, tangible form. When I do that, I can relieve the pressure of bouncing ideas and move on. I write in order to express my ideas primarily to myself, and secondarily to the world. I would write even if I had no audience, just for the joy of the art and the magical act of turning ideas into a coherent narrative.

This is the reason that I write the way I do. I am not apologizing or making excuses here, I’m just telling it how it is. My editing process is scant for two reasons, both affected by the fact that I am my own primary audience: first, I want to be able to move on to new, hopefully better ideas (especially as I write primarily in one imagined universe that I try to develop ideas for by writing stories), and second because I am a strong believer in stream-of-thought and afflatus divine. Too much editing, I believe, can stifle the original message or idea.

Editing is definitely necessary, I don’t deny that, but I generally think that between one and three rounds of editing is sufficient. When I edit, I also don’t change plot, characters, or ideas extensively. Mostly I just look for clarity and accuracy, in order to maintain the original idea as it was in my head. I enjoy reading raw ideas from other authors, as well. The ideas and world creation make a story for me. When I write, then, it’s the ideas and the world that I emphasize above all else, because I am primarily writing for myself.

Every other author also writes for themselves, and I would argue that many of them also write for themselves first. Why else would they write? Writing isn’t exactly the most lucrative of careers, so those who get into it seriously tend to also enjoy it, and write not only for others, but for themselves as well. If you don’t write for yourself at all, I think you’re in the wrong field. So, even though you are writing to an audience of readers, always remember the real reason that you’re writing: because you enjoy it. Because it means something to you. The next time you are writing something and someone tells you to change something, stop for a moment and think. Does the change they suggest reflect heir story better, or yours? In the end, the story should be your story, not your audience’s. You write for yourself. Don’t sell yourself out by trying to write for someone else.

You are your own audience.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Philosophical Musings

 

Personality Tarot Spread

Over the past couple of weeks, during classes, I have been thinking and developing a spread. This spread is designed to allow you to look into the personality of someone, and the various parts that make it up.

This spread is divided into two dichotomies (much like the Tarot itself). The first dichotomy is that of the public and conscious aspects of your personality – the parts of you that others see and that you are aware of, that you allow to escape and be seen by the outside world – and the unconscious and hidden aspects of your personality – those things about yourself that you hide or don’t know yourself. This dichotomy is represented by the division between upper and lower cards; the upper three cards are all aspects of your public and conscious personality, and the lower three are all aspects of your private and unconscious personality.

The second dichotomy looks at what I think are two important aspects of your personality, as embodied by the two questions the Vorlons and the Shadows ask in Babylon 5 – “Who are you?” and “What do you want?” As such, the left three cards all deal with identity, and how you are perceived by others, yourself, as well as how your past has influenced this identity. The right three cards represent your desire and your fears (for what is a fear but the desire that something won’t happen?) – what you say you want, what you really want, and what you hope will happen in the future; your goals.

The center cards are just the defining aspect of your personality, and like many Tarot spreads, are the most important aspects of your character and personality. The central cards also serve as the center of a Celtic Cross-based design; with the topmost and bottom-most cards representing what they do in the Celtic Cross, the left and right cards representing past and future like in the Celtic Cross spread, and the central cards also serving the same purpose.

The ten cards in this spread serve to help one look into what forms the personality of a particular person – their thoughts and concerns, their hopes and fears, their own and others’ sense of their identity, and qualities that describe them. It looks at the goals of the person, and the influences that the past has had on them. The layout of the spread is a circle, signifying the idea of completion, and also resembles a wheel, representing the idea that one’s personality is always changing and moving forward (as such, it is important to remember that this spread only helps on understand one’s personality at the present moment; personalities can and do change). The circular form also resembles a face, with each section of the face revealing a different aspect of their personality.

Below is an image of the spread, and below a brief explanation of the meaning of each card:

Personality Tarot Spread Layout
1. Central Characteristic: This card represents the most important part of someone’s personality; it is the card that best describes and sums up the the personality of the entire person. It is both the primary factor and the summary of the rest of the spread.

2. Influencing Characterstic: This card is the second most important aspect of someone’s personality, and influences, mitigates, or complements the Central Characteristic; in many ways it also the secondary characteristic of a person, and provides a second dimension to one’s personality, adding depth to it.

3. Influence of Past: This card sums up the influences that past events have had on one’s personality; memory is an important part of our personality, our desires, and our own identity. This card represents and shows the influence that this memory has had on a personality.

4. Goals of the Future: This card represents what one are striving to accomplish; another aspect of one’s personality is their drive, and what makes them motivated: that motivation and drive is represented by this card, which shows the thing that the person is striving to achieve, and their most important desire for the future.

5. Unconscious Thoughts and Motives: This card represents the unconscious thoughts and concerns of a person, and also represents this person’s motives. It answers the questions of “why do they do this?” as well as those of “what are they really thinking?”  This is their unconscious drive (rather than the conscious drive of Card 4), and represents the deepest aspects of their personality, hidden from themselves. This card also serves as the synthesis of cards 8 and 10.

6. Conscious Thoughts and Concerns: This card represents the person’s conscious thought. It helps one examine what the most important things are to this person, and represents their most pressing concerns, and what is most important to them at this time. This card also serves as the synthesis of cards 7 and 9.

7. Public Face: This card is the public aspect of one’s identity; this is how others perceive this person, and how their environment (including other people) affects them and notices them. This card is similar to Card 8 (second from the bottom of the Staff) on the Celtic Cross. This card represents how they want others to see them as well.

8. Private Face: This card represents the concept of self-identity and self-image, and shows how a person really thinks of themselves. This might line up with one’s public face, but often is at least slightly different. This card is similar to Card 7 (bottom of the Staff) of the Celtic Cross spread. This card shows how this person really feels about himself, and what they think their own identity is.

9. Public Desire: This card represents what one says they want; it is the stated hopes and fears of a person. This is what the person wants others to think they want and what they want others to think they are afraid of; this card represents those desires made public.

10. Private Desire: This card represents one’s true hopes and fears; their heart’s desire or their deepest, secret fear. These are the desires that people keep repressed and hidden – sometimes even from themselves – for various reasons. These are the inner passions and repressed terrors that often motivate people’s actions unconsciously.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2011 in Philosophical Musings

 

Alienated From Our Food?

I just came out of my class on Social Class and Inequality, and so was naturally thinking about Marx and his argument that capitalism alienates the worker from their labor. I am, in case you hadn’t guessed, a Marxist in many respects, and I agree with his argument; the mass production of goods creates a disconnect between the worker and his product, as he doesn’t see the whole thing from start to finish, and also then in a society defined by one’s work, is then alienated from oneself.

I then, after my class, went to go get some food – and so started thinking about alienation. And food. Then realized that the chicken and bacon I was eating came from an animal – but we don’t see that. Most people (not all – kudos to vegans and vegetarians who do) don’t really think about where their food comes from, blinding themselves to the fact that their chicken finger was once (part of) a living thing. Or that their steak came from a cow. And most people, I believe, would be uncomfortable walking into a butcher’s shop and directly choosing what part of the animal they want to eat not only because it makes them queasy, but reminds them of where their food comes from.

So, next time you sit down to a meal of meat (and yes, fish is meat, I don’t care what anyone else says), take a moment and remember where it came from. Remember the animal that gave its life so you could eat it – and please try to finish it so that it’s life isn’t wasted.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2011 in Philosophical Musings

 

The Emperor and the Star

As I have been thinking about Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth and his thoughts on the relation of the Tarot to the Tree of Life, I found I disagreed with him on one point – he put the Emperor (IV) as the connection between Netzach (Bliss) and Yesod (Essence of Being), and The Star (XVII) as the connection between Chokmah (Original Harmony) and Tiphareth (Experience). Now, his argument is based on linguistic and numerological arguments that go way over my head, but I am looking at this purely through my own philosophical standpoint.

To me, just thinking on the surface(ish) side of things, the connection between the Sefirot of Chokmah and Tiphareth should be representative of the active and powerful emanation of Chokmah – commonly associated with the male (as opposed to Binah, the passive, receptive female where creation occurs after receiving Chokmah’s seed – note that these terms are not representing what I think of men and women, but is representing symbolism primarily drawn from the Tanakh – or for those less knowledgeable of Judaism, the rough equivalent of the Bible‘s Old Testament) – exerting its will on the consciousness that is attained through experience (Tiphareth). This will to me would be better represented by the Emperor, not the Star – the Emperor as the “father” figure, the single stern authority who provides order from above. Additionally, putting the Emperor here would put him opposite The Lovers (VI) – which represents duality and intimacy, and in a way reflects the spirit of Binah, as the connection where Crowley places The Star should represent Chokmah.

One could argue that the Star provides light from above as a form of symbolism, but I see that as more of the symbolism of the Sun’s (XIX) role – and the Sun in its current placement is opposite the Emperor; would it not be better for the Star, which can be argued to have a similar function, to be opposite its closest example? The best placement for divine light from above, however, is the connection from Kether (The Spiritual Seed/Emanation) to Tiphareth, which is represented by the Priestess (II). This is fitting, as the Priestess serves not only as a passive figure, but also as the mysterious secrecy that lies behind the veil; she herself as a figure can be seen as Kether, the veil the abyss (in which dwells Daath and separates the supernal triangle from Tiphareth), and the viewer as the consciousness of Tiphareth. She, as a priestess, is herself “divine” in a sense, and also at the same time by her human nature more earthy and conscious in that sense; she then very well represents the bridge from the spirit to the “center” of the Tree of Life.

The Star, on the other hand, currently occupies the Emperor’s positions in Crowley’s layout, between Chokmah and Tiphareth, as mentioned earlier. The Star would better fit between Netzach and Yesod – Bliss and Essence of Being. Why? The star represents a calm serenity and a sort of dreaminess – that which is associated with bliss – and also with a sort of bringing down from above (just look at the image on the Thoth cards of Nuit, bridging the gap between high and low) and a sort of guidance, but in a different way than the Emperor’s stern imposing of order. More of a nudging or actual guide than a bring of order, which the power of Chokmah seems to say to me. The more gentle “Bliss” aspect of Netzach, coming down to guide Yesod (Crystallization and Essence of Being), and providing the best possible help for what can be argued (except in the case of Swords) is the best of the Sefirot. The additional hunt that Nuit as a Goddess is doing the guiding also seems more fit for this happier, “better” connection.

At least to me. Crowley had his points, and from my more limited view, I disagree – plus this puts the Roman numerals back in order. I have adopted this variant form to use in my tarot readings now.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2011 in Philosophical Musings

 

Why We Are Doomed

After a recent conversation with a fellow doomsayer (I myself am an optimistic pessimist), I began thinking about the many myriad ways in which humanity is doomed, helped along by my fellow doomsayer:

-Wealth inequality is growing, leading a polarization of society and mass oppression. Not fun.

-Corporations are gaining more power, and those not at the top are working more for less, becoming little more than machines – even ignoring the humanitarian implications, this also means that the arts will die as fewer will appreciate them.

-Asteroids could hit us at any moment.

-Supervolcanoes.

-Climate change! This is real; it’s hard to argue with the evidence. More severe weather comes along with this; and natural disasters. Not to mention global warming will likely kill us if we keep going at this rate.

-The people in charge of the world shouldn’t be. They are selfish and completely invested in the status quo of the system. The people able to initiate real change won’t do it because it isn’t in their best interests. Also these people tend to be older, and so care less about the future that they won’t be in.

-People on the whole are rather dim and thick-witted. And easily led and manipulated.

-Viruses and other diseases are growing in resistance and becoming pretty scary and unstoppable – mostly our fault, too.

-Aliens could arrive at any time.

-We are dependent upon very fragile devices (electronics) that could in theory we wiped out by a single exceedingly strong electromagnetic disturbance (read: sun).

-We are completely and utterly dependent on finite natural resources that are already ridiculously hard to obtain and harm the environment, yet our great and wise leadership doesn’t even begin to really consider alternatives because it will hurt the wealthy rich people in charge.

-Overpopulation.

-The “greatest superpowers” in their own ways are heartless corporate systems with no real concern for human rights.

-We kill each other all the time. If nature doesn’t do it, we will – just look at nuclear arsenals! Why do we have these again?

So, what do we do? I’m not sure we can do anything, but our best bet is to deal with the energy crisis first – that’ll cut out our dependence on finite resources, help cut down climate change, and give us time to fix the rest of it. It also would weaken the oil and coal companies’ hold on the world. Of course, in order for this to even semi-realistically happen, we need “good” leaders actually looking to the far future and beyond their own self-interests…

Have a wokling to make you feel better.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2011 in Philosophical Musings

 

Mind Over Medium: How Many Words is a Movie Worth?

I recently watched Percy Jackson and the Olypmians: The Lightning Thief (I had read Rick Riordan’s books well before – go read them if you have the time, they’re a very good read), and was noticing how little of the book’s nuances the movie captured. I then thought about the differences between the two mediums (book and movie), and now have a greater appreciation for those involved in movie production and actually do good work – like the Lord of the Rings movie team as a prime example.

The primary limiting factor of the movie medium is, I believe, the timespan in real-time. Books are not (usually) meant to be sat down and read all at once; movies (generally) are. This gives books a considerably greater amount of freedom in terms of the length of what they are expressing than films do. They can include more scenes, better looks into the actors’ thoughts, and generally develop characters better than most movies, limited as they are to usually about two to two and a half hours. Those that can pull off plot and character development in a movie on par with that of books deserve to be commended. Of course, this is easier with longer movies and especially with series (Lord of the Rings, anyone?), but some shorter films do a good job.

Of course, then, one can’t really effectively compare the book with the movie, simply because unless we wanted a ten hour movie (which most don’t – though I would!), there will be serious cuts that will hurt the final product. Movies that are not based heavily off of books tend to be better, I have noticed, largely because (I think) A) They aren’t being compared to a book, which will be better, and B) They aren’t trying to cram what was meant to be a ten-hour plot into two hours. This certainly was apparent with Percy and the Olympians.

Further thought on this matter led me to consider the adage “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Of course, this then leads to the question “How many words is a movie worth?” The simple answer, of course, would be:

WordWorth = (Frames in Movie) x 1000 Words/Frame

or

W=1000F

Now, considering a fairly standard number for frames per second is 24 (source), this means that:

F=24l (l=length of movie in minutes)

Which, then, means that:

W=1000 x 24l=2400l

Therefore, the amount of words a movie is worth is equal to approximately 2400 times the length of the movie in minutes – but this does not take into account the motions or sounds! Motions could be argued to have been accounted for in the frames, but I disagree – swiftness and speed of motion certainly counts for something more. Therefore, we add in the motion variable.

W=2400l + m

The motion variable, I have decided, will be equal to a number from 1 to 10, judged by the viewer: a ’10’ being a fast-paced action movie, a ‘5’ being a moderately paced movie, and a ‘1’ being a still picture (this assumes that more movement = more value in words). However, this tiny value should add more – therefore, I propose that we multiply this value by 1000 – which also gives us the effect of, for a single picture (with a length of zero minutes and a motion variable of one) have the worth in words equal one thousand, which is necessary if we are to justify the formula, as this is the assumption that it is based on. So we have, then:

W=2400l + 1000m

And now for sound. There are two types – spoken words and other sounds. Spoken words, counting emphasis and the like, I suggest be equal to a speaking value of s. This value will be equal to the number of words spoken. The rest will be represented by the noise factor (d), which will be equal to the average decibel volume of the noise when the television volume is at 25, multiplied by a number from 1 to 5, representing variation in the sound. In this case, zero will be equal to silence, and 5 to lots of variation, and 1 equal to no variation – let this be called the noise variable (n). Leading us to…

W=2400l + 1000m + s + dn

And lastly, we must account for any words written on screen – not counting subtitles. This is merely equal to the number of words that appear (this can be justified with the assumed adage, as a picture with words on it is worth more than one with none), and shall be w (lowercase). So we have:

W=2400l + 1000m sdn + w

Unfortunately, this formula is based on what I believe is a flawed assumption: that a picture is worth a thousand words. There are things in a picture – and therefore also in a movie without narration, which tend to be awkward, that the written word can convey but the images can’t. Inflection, noise, environment, and inner thoughts and feelings can be conveyed by both, and in some cases (inner thoughts/emotions mostly) be conveyed better by print. Then books can also, through word choice in descriptives, convey implications and symbolism in word better than the film – which makes it superior.

Books also, by virtue of having to interpret words, are an active process, while watching a movie is a passive one – as such, books stimulate more thought and hone one’s mind more. It is also usually easier to read a book in a better environment – which leads me to conclude that the formula is erroneous, and as symbolism can show, a word is worth a thousand pictures.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2011 in Philosophical Musings

 

Book of Thoth and Book Releases

I finished the first read-through of Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth, and was both impressed and annoyed. The book is an examination of the tarot, mostly with regard to the Sefirot and the Tree of Life, and an explanation of Crowley’s and Harris’ Thoth deck, which I hope to start using soon. The theories behind everywhere were, of course, fascinating – especially the relation of the Naples Arrangement and the development of – well, everything – to the Ten Sefirot of the Tree of Life to astrology to alchemy to numerology to the tarot. It was all very fascinating, but also slightly inaccessible – Crowley’s prose was often dense and hard to understand, and he repeatedly interspersed “the full meaning of [X] is only available [X]-degree members of the [XXX]. It became irritating rather quickly.

But looking at the tarot through the lens of the Sefirot and Naples arrangement has really helped me better understand the character of the cards, and now that I’ve started using the Thoth deck, I find that I much prefer it to the Rider-Waite deck. The Book of Thoth has piqued my interest in astrology, numerology, and alchemy, so possibly expect me to start dabbling in those as well!

Still, I now feel that I understand the Tarot a lot better now, and even made a poster of the Sefirot, placing all of the cards in their proper places and writing down their attributes. It was a very helpful experience. Now that I have finished with that book, I am moving on to Bujold’s Cryoburn.

Tarot Tree of Life!
My chart!

Thoth cards laid out in accordance with the tree of life!
Thoth cards laid out according to the chart!

Lastly, The Loneliness of Stars is now available on the Amazon Kindle (see the Books page for the link)! Additionally, The Light of Civilization is available on all mediums now, including Nookbook, Amazon, and the Kindle. Go out and buy it!

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2011 in Philosophical Musings, Readings, Writing

 

Tarot

I have, as of a week or so ago, picked up a new hobby, as I have mentioned if you’ve followed my Twitterings at all – Tarot. Yes, finding the meaning of life in a deck of cards. I was semi-skeptical when I began, but no more! I now can see their usefulness (thanks in part to the help of my tarot-sensei), but primarily through meditative purposes – not through divinatory ones.

Most of what I thought I knew about the cards has been thrown out the window – I thought it was a load of rubbish, cards used purely to predict the future. After doing research and a few readings, I saw that this was not what they were about at all; rather, their greatest purpose was in allowing me to see and think about the world – and through readings, I could apply these new thoughts to specific situations. Of course, it’s still neat to use them for divination – but that is not their primary purpose, contrary as to how they are usually portrayed.

I used Joan Bunning’s Learning the Tarot book and website to teach myself initially, using the popular Ride-Waite deck, but am now reading Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth and have obtained a Thoth tarot deck, designed by the man himself. The Thoth deck is constructed on more Kabbalistic principles (the flow of divine energy and metaphysics) than the Rider-Waite one, while the Rider-Waite (it’s a shame that Pamela Coleman Smith, the illustrator, doesn’t get recognition in the deck’s name) is more based on aspects of life and the life-course. I have not yet tried reading with the Thoth deck, as I want to finish Crowley’s book first so I can understand his thoughts behind them. I do very much like Lady Frieda Harris’ artwork on most of them though – interesting that the Rider-Waite deck chose to use people on most of the cards that the Thoth deck doesn’t – perhaps making it easier for “laymen” to interpret? Who knows – but at least looking over the images, the symbolism of the Thoth deck seems to me to be more potent, even if the cards I have themselves are smaller, which I do not like.

Currently, my only used spreads consist of the one-card philosophical one (take a card and ponder its applications for that day), the three-card diviniative/contemplative/simplified one (lay out three cards: past->present->future), and my own version of the Celtic Cross:  the central cross (the “circle”) is the same as normally interpreted, then the vertical parts representing levels of consciousness (the top is conscious thought or present concerns, while the bottom is unconscious thought or the cause of the central condition), while the horizontal cross represents the receding (left) influences and the incoming (right) influences in your life. In both cases, the central circle provides a link between the two sides; horizontally, it represents the two large aspects of the present, and vertically it represents how we we feel about the situation to some extent. The bottom of the staff I see as how you see yourself or the situation, the next card as how others see it/you, the third card represents a possible solution/thing to think about with regards to the situation, and the top of the staff is the prophetic card: what will most likely happen.

Of course, I don’t lend the cards prophetic abilities, but rather see them as giving a sort of advice: not a “this will happen,” but a “think about these thingsif this does happen.” It certainly has made me think! Following my “mastery” of the Thoth deck, I plan on moving onto different spreads, such as Bumming’s suggested Yin-Yang conflict resolution spread (seems useful) and then some of Raven’s spreads. Then, after that, I’ll work on spreads of my own!

I also recently, at the suggestion of my mother, decided to throw a spread to look at political problems. Now, you’ll have to forgive my interpretations’ possible lack of accuracy in terms of factual events (also note that my political beliefs are not expressed in these cards), but using a ten-card Celtic Cross spread asking about the current uprisings in Egypt, I achieved the following (using Rider-Waite[-Smith]):

Root CauseTemperance [reversed] – Indicating to me that the problem was an inability to calmly go about affairs – possibly overreacting protestors or a government failing to use moderation to govern the country, being too hard upon its people.

Contributing FactorNine of Pentacles [reversed] – The presence of two blocked cards at the heart of the matter seems to be to suggest frustrations and unrealized potential on both sides. This card seems to me to suggest that people may be working hard, but aren’t getting the rewards they wanted (the Nine of Pentacles, to me, indicates the process of hard work leading to a reward and a time of rest and contemplation). Perhaps frustration that the government won’t step down after the hard rioting of the protesters (or perhaps that the government has been taking the earned rewards of the people), or frustration that the rioters won’t  give up on the part of the government? Combined with the reversed Temperance, perhaps this is what is causing the lack of moderation to be present?

Receding InfluenceSeven of Swords – Depicting a man fleeing with what appear to be stolen swords, this card to me indicates that the time of flight and theft is over – the time of the government taking from the people is over, the time of hidden atrocities and dinhonours is over, and the time of the people fleeing from these problems is over.

Approaching InfluenceThe Hierophant – The second Major Arcana to appear (Temperance being the other) – after the events of this riot are over, perhaps Egypt will be inducted into some formal new society, or will have learned a valuable lesson? If the government wins, a lesson might be learned about the power and will of the people, and if the rioters win, perhaps this indicates that the new government will be accepted into the global community.

Conscious InfluenceSeven of Cups – Choices. Some degree of confusion. Fantasy. Perhaps indicating, in this position’s role of what is superficial, that the government is either clinging to a fantasy of being able to hold power, or that the rioters are holding on to a fantasy of overthrowing the government. My own thoughts on the matter cause my opinion to lean more towards the former than the latter. Perhaps this also indicates that the situation is not as clear-cut as everyone in the West makes it out to be: the government either falls or doesn’t. Perhaps the government has realized this, as can be seen by their efforts at talks. There may be other choices available to end the conflict; governmental integration, concessions made by both sides, and doubtless other things I have not thought of. Confusion might come from the thoughts of the Western powers – Egypt is an ally, and while Mubarak’s regime was brutal and a democracy fits in better with their ideals, they are afraid of losing an ally and the possibility of a radical Islamic government.

Unconscious InfluenceJudgement – The third major Arcana to appear in the cross – indicating that this uprising might have large consequences, such as we have seen hinted at in Yemen, Syria, and Jordan. Beneath the surface, some form of rebirth is at hand/is ongoing – Egypt will not emerge unchanged from this struggle. Issues of identity torment the nation, and perhaps on a deeper level, the nation is attempting cleanse itself of the oppression of the Mubarak regime and be reborn “free of sin.” Perhaps this need to remake the nation and start again also lies at the heart of this unrest.

For the next two cards, I have modified the bottom two cards of the Staff slightly – the bottom card now represents the government’s view (being at the “base” of the country), and the the one above the protesters’.

Government ViewThree of Pentacles [reversed] – Normally this card represents teamwork; working together to meet some goal. Blocked, this seems to mean that this is not longer working – perhaps the government feels its allies are forsaking them (such as the Western governments), or that some unwritten agreement with the people to keep the country running is floundering.

Protesters’ ViewSix of Pentacles [reversed] – Again, the earthy, practical nature of the Pentacles surfaces with regards to the viewpoints of the opposing sides. This struggle perhaps isn’t about abstract ideals; it’s a practical matter for both sides: the government wants to keep its power, and the people want to have better lives. The second reversed card also implies lots of frustration. But looking at the actual six itself, this seems to me that the protesters view this struggle as the government failing to balance the haves and have-nots; the Six of Pentacles for me has always been a problematic card, especially reversed. To me, this card normally represents the inequality in the world, but in the Ride-Waite deck, the presence of the man distributing some of his wealth to the less well-off can also indicate some sense of balancing the inequalities – perhaps the people feel that the government has failed to this (the reversal), and so want to do this form themselves.

Possible Solution: Three of Wands – To me, this card represents striking out into new territory, thinking ahead, and the qualities of leadership. Something to keep in mind for both sides, then, is that strong leadership will be needed – and looking at Mubarak’s current precarious position, it may very well not be him. In terms of exploration, perhaps a new, untested agreement will have to be put in place to resolve the conflict. The thinking ahead bit speaks for itself, really – if this is uprising is going to end well for everyone, everyone will have to be thinking ahead. Mubarak, very aged at 82, might not be thinking this way – perhaps this card indicates that he should, and begin thinking about Egypt after his death/resignation. In the same vein, the protesters should think about the long-term effects of their actions and make sure that they know what they’re doing – and should come up with a plan for what to do after Mubarak resigns; something I have not heard much talk about.

Likely Outcome: Justice – The fourth major Arcana to appear. Momentous events indeed. This card indicates, to me, that weighty decisions will be made, karma will come into effect, and order will be restored. This could quickly be seen as Mubarak will get what he had coming for his oppression and will fall – but The Tower would indicate this to me more than Justice. After all, despite oppression, Mubarak did hold the country together and was a “bastion of peace” in the Middle East, and a representative of moderate values (look back to the reversed Temperance here – maybe these values were no longer holding up?). To me, this just indicates that the situation will turn out well and everyone will get what it is they deserve – what exactly that is, I cannot say.

Though all four suits (Wands, Cups, Swords, and Pentacles) were present, the Pentacle dominated. In the end, the unrest in Egypt might not be so much about ideologies and grand ideas, but rather about simple and down-to-earth needs and desires: the conflict of power and satisfaction, of oppressor and oppressed.

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2011 in Philosophical Musings