A Question of Value

Value can be a slippery thing; it’s not the same for all people and its presence is often apparent only in “the eye of the beholder.” In manufacturing, adding value to something is defined as “the amount by which the value of an article is increased at each stage of its production, exclusive of initial costs.” In commerce, it’s less abstract: “having features added to a basic line or model for which the buyer is prepared to pay extra.” Planned obsolescence – the intentional retirement of items or features as a goad to get customers to spring for the “latest-and-greatest” – fits in there somewhere too, but it’s beyond the scope of this essay. Someone else can tackle the high-tech industry on that one.

In personal terms. the southern rock band Molly Hatchet put it much more succinctly:

“One man’s loss is another man’s gain.
One man’s pleasure is another man’s pain”

While my purpose here isn’t nearly that visceral, having more to do with needless embellishments of the “bells and whistles” variety (the piling on of features or trimmings to make something more attractive), I admit to occasionally reaching my pain threshold over questionable attempts to reinvent the tarot. I’ve posted on the subject more than once before, but this time I want to bring it down to the level of my intent with this blog.

I’ve been a dedicated student of metaphysics for most of my adult life (since 1971), and I find it more rewarding than any other form of intellectual/spiritual pursuit. But when it comes to the practice of divination, I try to leave esoterica alone unless pushed into it in the interest of completeness (note that I didn’t say clarity; “clearly esoteric” is an oxymoron). When I do fall back on it, I stick mainly with the correspondences that arose from the late-19th-Century Occult Revival in England. For me, there is just no value in trying to turn Swords into Fire and Wands into Air (or into Earth, as some systems have it), when the old associations work just fine for my limited purpose. As skeptical as I am of their deck overall, Waite and Smith were onto something by showing the staves sprouting leaves as a symbol of the fiery life-force.

In a world that is increasingly suspicious of the time-tested and the intricate, people will flock to the standard of those who claim to have a fresher (or even just a simpler) idea. But innovation for its own sake, or even for the sake of selling books, is just so much pointless grandstanding when there is no real or perceived need for change. I have greater respect for those who work from within a paradigm to further its understanding and application than for those who would tear it down and remake it to their own liking, unless the aim of their initiative is entirely without historical precedent. I may have ideas of my own regarding the validity of the occult trappings that have grown up around the tarot, and I might even post some of my misgivings here, but I have no intention of trying to convince anyone that I’m right. If I can stimulate thought on these matters, I’ve met my objective.

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