Robert Wang - The Qabalistic Tarot (copyrighted book, review only)
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The purpose of this book is to demonstrate the relationship between the Qabalah, a time-honored mystical system, and the Tarot. To do so is to pointedly disagree with some very great Jewish scholars, who state that no such relationship exists. What I have attempted to do in this work is to integrate some of the very complex threads of Qabalistic symbolism and interpretation, emphasizing the relationship of the Tree of Life (primary symbol of the Qabalah) and the Tarotas taught in the tradition of the Hermetic Qabalah. I must... More >>>
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The purpose of this book is to demonstrate the relationship between the Qabalah, a time-honored mystical system, and the Tarot. To do so is to pointedly disagree with some very great Jewish scholars, who state that no such relationship exists. What I have attempted to do in this work is to integrate some of the very complex threads of Qabalistic symbolism and interpretation, emphasizing the relationship of the Tree of Life (primary symbol of the Qabalah) and the Tarot
as taught in the tradition of the Hermetic Qabalah. I must emphasize that I am not writing on the Hebrew Qabalah, but on a separate and distinct system also based on Hebrew texts. In my opinion, the Hebrew scholars have been mistaken
in their perception of late nineteenth century occult developments as merely a romantic and misunderstood pastiche of mystical Hebrew lore.
This book has been extremely difficult to write, and I doubt that it will be much easier to read, although I have done my best to simplify abstract concepts wherever possible. The irony is that the baroque and convoluted system of ideas called Qabalah, that impossibly complicated intellectual exercise which is the topic of this book, leads to an inner reality of such beauty and simplicity that it could be explained to a child. Yet it is the very complexity of this exercise of approach that makes the inner simplicity meaningful and comprehensible. Robert Wang Columbia, Maryland 1982
Robert Wang is an artist of no small renown, known for -- among other things -- his "Jungian Tarot" deck. At his website, you can find a nice array of his art as well as his autobiography which includes a chapter about his involvement with occultism:
From the age of seventeen I had been deeply attracted to the occult and, especially to tarot, an interest which became a passion in graduate school. My connection to tarot had begun long before tarot became popular, and there were only two or three decks on the market, including the Marseilles deck, the Crowley deck, the incredibly popular Waite deck and the wonderful Case/Waite variation which had to be hand-painted.
My assumption was that the meaning of life was to be found in books, so I had several shelves of books which I had read indiscriminately assuming assumed that all of these authors were "initiates" who would lead me down a path of insights. This turned out not to be the case and I began to appreciate that most books espousing mystical and occult belief systems are little more than the blind leading the blind and that the authors may be some very arrogant and ignorant people. To me the first ray of light came from Dion Fortune, for whose books I still have great respect, and at the same time I felt an odd and intangible attraction to the nineteenth century Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn to which she belonged.
I also discovered works by Israel Regardie, a former secretary to Aleister Crowley, who had shocked many by breaking his initiatory vows and publishing in four volumes, The Golden Dawn, in which he revealed the most intimate secrets of the order's practices. The books were expensive. So I frequently found myself ordering them in the Library of Congress reading room. Who would have thought that years later Regardie would himself give me an autographed set of these books. During an intense period when I was pursuing the Golden Dawn methods of meditation and personal ritual I read in one of Regardie's books that he would like, some day, to publish the tarot deck which was hand-copied by members of the Golden Dawn fraternity and which few had ever seen. I wrote to him offering my services as an artist and was astonished when he replied that he would like to talk to me about the possibility. Months and continuing correspondence with Regardie went by before I flew from Washington to Los Angeles where we met and agreed that together we would recreate the Golden Dawn Tarot. For me this was a period of tremendous hope and excitement. I felt very honored to be the person with whom this noted figure in the occult world chose to work.
And I genuinely liked Regardie, who was one of the funniest people I have ever met, although I was terrified to get into a car with him. He was a funny person but an awful driver. For more than a year I sent slides of my water color paintings to California and Regardie sent back suggestions and comments. One day the paintings were finished, and I made a final trip to California for approval of the illustration before publishing. Much later the cards appeared and, at the suggestion of Donald Weiser, a key publisher of occult books in America, I wrote a small book to accompany them. This was followed by a five year project, The Qabalistic Tarot, which received extremely kind 20 reviews. I shall always be appreciative of Donald Weiser's generosity and encouragement as I produced this book. Oddly enough, Regardie never commented on The Qabalistic Tarot, and at first I assumed that he had reservations about what I had written, although I never asked.
I felt that my association with Regardie was ended and that I would now go my way as a writer and he would continue to help many people with his very wise and insightful counseling practice As Regardie explained it to me, he maintained his credentials as a chiropractor because in the State of California it allowed him to counsel clients and to pursue his interests as a Reichian therapist. His wife, Rev. Dr. Alice, was also a "ministerial counselor," legal in California after she purchased a doctorate from some fly-by-night company specializing in selling religion-based diplomas.
She was a wonderful and sympathetic person to whom I last spoke by telephone some years after she had left Regardie. She called to say goodby and to tell me that she was soon to be picked up by aliens with a space ship, atop some mountain. Both Alice and Regardie had been positive influences in my life and it took me quite some time to realize that the real reason for my rift with Regardie was that I had done a terrible job of painting the Golden Dawn Tarot cards. I did my best at the time, but whenever I look at these badly drawn, strange little wooden figures I cringe in embarrassment. It's no wonder that Regardie didn't want to talk to me after the cards were published.