Symbolic inclusiveness: The idea that all symbols are interchangeable and can mean anything one wants them to mean; personal perception “in the moment” trumps the accumulated wisdom of the ages, so there is no need to learn the symbolic language of any particular system of thought in order to practice it. Throw enough symbols at the wall and some are bound to stick.
The main problem I have with symbolic inclusiveness in tarot interpretation – at least if it’s codified in a book and served up to an unwary public as gospel – is that it promotes dilution of meaning, until any card can mean anything (which in some instances may not be entirely untrue, but that’s a different debate). My main litmus test for such things is “Does it deepen the existing body of knowledge?” and if it doesn’t, does it offer compelling insights that broaden the boundaries of that knowledge in useful ways? Knowledge and practice (and more practice) are the twin anvils on which our skills are forged, and ore that has insoluble impurities is poor raw material for fashioning our tools. Innovation for its own sake is often rife with such flaws; it’s why we have the Scientific Method.
The comparative differences between Aleister Crowley’s Thoth deck and its Waite-Smith counterpart create a stark contrast. To the average student of these subjects, the RWS deck is approachable right out of the box due to the prosaic familiarity of its minor-card images. On the other hand, in light of its creator’s stated singularity of purpose (“to reproduce the whole of his Magical Mind pictorially on the skeleton of the ancient Qabalistic tradition”), the Thoth can be all but impenetrable and certainly indigestible for the neophyte. So maybe if we just blur the hard edges a bit, dress it up in generally accepted usage (most of it RWS-based or perhaps Jungian), it will be easier to swallow. The Thoth is a tempting target for revisionists who want to leave their personal mark on the tarot landscape; it begs for deconstruction into more comprehensible intellectual “bites.”
When I started with the tarot, I jumped right off the cliff with the Book of Thoth and have been in blissful free-fall ever since. As long as we recognize a parachute for what it is, it can be a useful adjunct to learning. But we should pack the ‘chute ourselves. Relying on the debatable expertise of self-styled “envelope-pushers” to ensure a soft landing is unwise unless we scrutinize their offerings with a judicious eye for dubious assertions. At one point, the Amazon review process was a fairly reliable compass by which to judge the utility of new books aimed at augmenting old standbys, but the proliferation of “false positive” reviews to inflate sales has pretty much degraded that option. Short of simply buying everything in sight, on-line “word-of-mouth” recommendations from forum and Facebook participants whose integrity we at least have a shot at verifying is probably our best bet for steering a course through the bewildering maze of new titles.
I’m an interpreter, not an innovator. (I will ramify before I reinvent, and I firmly believe “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”) I put my personal stamp or “spin” on the cards through the use of metaphor and analogy. It serves my acute sense of non-Dickensian literary economy, saving me 90 out of every 100 words I might otherwise use to get my points across. (To clarify, I often say that Dickens – at least when writing for periodical publications that paid by the word – seldom missed an opportunity to use 100 words when 10 words would do.)