Thursday, August 29, 2013

Signification, imagination, play

Continuing the IPS discussion on semiotics, in response to Joseph's last reply, I said:

I’m with you on tarot imagery and activating the subconscious but  a couple of caveats. Virtually all modern tarot decks were created by members of the Golden Dawn, including the deck you use. And they are operating within a very particular western metaphysical tradition so the tarot images are designed to convey very specific meanings within that tradition. Meanings that are by definition metaphysical. So using those images as is makes the task of postmetaphysically recontextualizing those meanings challenging to say the least. Hence we find some contemporary tarot decks modifying the images somewhat to add, subtract or completely change some of the traditional meanings. However I’ve yet to find any deck that makes modifications to the images themselves based on postmetaphysical enactment. You are working on modifying some of the signified meanings, but not the signifier image containers themselves.

And while I agree on activating the subconscious via imagery for a host of healthy reasons, from bringing to light some of our destructive unconscious processes to more fully integrating pre-rational aspects (and more), the “cognitive unconscious” as L&J call it is not accessible at all. It is akin to the onticological withdrawn or the Derridean excess. Through other methods we can learn a lot about it but we still cannot access it, even subconsciously. So incorporating that knowledge into our models allows for a surprise from beyond our constructions. Constructions that while useful if too rigidly held block novel emergence. In a way it’s like the Fool who can be any card in the deck, whose own very meaning is this openness to change and the unexpected, whose number is 0 which can be anything and nothing.

And finally a word about tarot free association and free imaginal play. That’s why I often prefer to just pick a card at random and get freely associate with it, whatever comes up from my subconscious. Often what comes up has nothing to do with the traditional meaning of the card, other times some relevance, other times quite relevant to those meanings. However in the latter case I ascribe that to years of inculcation in those traditional meanings. The other method is a variation on pathworking. The latter is to go inside the cards and interact with the images and characters in a visualization exercise. Most pathworkings though are guided to fit precisely the traditional meanings of the cards and its placement on the Tree of Life, so that you’re guided to see the appropriate symbols and figures. But now I prefer to allow this process to go where it wants. And again, I often interact with the images and characters in the most unexpected ways, much more like dreams. It of course helps to record them and reflect on possible personal and even collective meanings afterward, but the actual meditation is less guided by traditional expectations.

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