Belial 11: Working with the Grand Tableau.

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Taken in their entirety, the 22 trumps represent an infinitely repeating cycle of order, tension, and chaos. And lest you think otherwise, I'm not discussing reincarnation—I'm convinced neither that reincarnation is real nor that it's a productive belief. For as much as I think it’s possible to know, death is THE END. No, this isn't a discussion about infinite second chances, merely a statement that the only constant in life is change. Nothing stays the same, and what does stay the same puts itself at risk of being unable to adapt when confronted by otherwise unchangeable circumstances.

Learn, memorize, and study the grand tableau. If you want to employ Tarot as your own personal occult labyrinth, then you must look beyond the the trumps as single cards. Returning to the grand tableau of all 21 numbered trumps laid in order of three rows and seven columns, there are other secrets to be revealed. Don't believe me? Let me show you.

We already discussed how the Magician's neutral opposite is the Devil, polar opposite is the Way of the World, and complementary opposite is the Charioteer, but we need not be locked into that singular pattern. Indeed, differing degrees of neutrality, complementary opposition, and polar opposition can be defined by merely drawing a line between two cards.

Draw a line between the Magician and the Charioteer. In this example, the thesis is the Magician, the antithesis is the Charioteer, and the synthesis becomes the High Priest. This is an exercise in semantics and helps you to identify differences and how they're reconciled: the Magician wants to move things along by knocking down walls and making a mess, but the Charioteer wants to accomplish the same by taking charge and forcing people, situations, and things into order. How do we reconcile their differences? With the High Priest standing between them, it's revealed that both can achieve their goals if they merely agree to shift priorities and force others to reconsider the value of their decisions. Et voila, problem solved. Apply this pattern to any other combination of two cards in order to find a creative answer in the third.

Additionally, how do you measure the degree of friendship, neutrality, or enmity between two cards? The answer is found in proximity: cards which stand closer to each other are friendly, and cards which stand further apart are unfriendly. Cards in the same column are quite friendly with each other, and cards in the same row—depending on their distance apart—are either more or less cooperative. This isn't complicated: how much distance exists between two cards? If there's a lot of distance—and especially if they're separated by the center-line of the High Priest, Inequality, and the Moon—then there's a larger degree of opposition. Once you learn how the trumps work with each other, you'll have taken the first step to creating your own occult labyrinth.

For reasons that will be discussed in greater detail in the next chapter, a single card means very little on its own. To see the full depth and meaning of a card, you must pair it with any other card laid on the table so that you can see them at play: Who acts? Who's acted upon? Who stands apart? Who suffers the consequences, and who created them? Use the following rules to help you understand the coming diagrams:
  • Arrows show direction of movement
  • Plus sign shows support
  • Minus sign shows antagonism
  • Equal sign shows fixity
  • T/T = Thetical Trumps I-VII
  • T/S = Synthetic Trumps VIII-XIV
  • T/A = Antithetical Trumps XV-XXI
Thetical trumps
  • T/T +> <+ T/T
  • T/T +> = T/S
  • T/T +> -> T/A
Synthetic trumps
  • T/S = <+ T/T
  • T/S = = T/S
  • T/S = -> T/A
Antithetical trumps
  • T/A <- <+ T/T
  • T/A <- = T/S
  • T/A <- -> T/A
A good way to understand these patterns is to open your deck and remove the 21 numbered trumps. Lay them all face up in three rows of seven columns as previously shown. Now, pick any card from the 21 trumps and pretend that it's you. What do you see when you look out from yourself toward other trumps? 

Suppose you're the Magician: any of the thetical trumps from II-VII might disagree over the particulars, but generally are willing to cooperate so long as neither of you stand in the other’s way. All of the synthetic trumps from VIII-XIV stubbornly resist what you want: they’ve got their own ideas about how things should work, and while they might thank you for you lending a hand, most of them will be resentful of your involvement. Meanwhile, any of the antithetical trumps from XV-XXI are already the target of another person’s, subject’s, or thing’s influence. Attempt to impose your will upon them if you like, but unless they’re predisposed to your influence then they’re only sand running through your fingers.

There are fortune-tellers who only use the 22 trumps, and you're welcome to be one of them. If you care to make a parallel investigation, you can follow readers who use the Lenormand deck and lay out all 36 or 54 cards for a grand tableau of their own. A labyrinth composed of only 22 trump cards can still accomplish much, but if you want the full experience then you've got remember that 22 trumps alone do not a Tarot deck make. When you bring the remaining 56 pip cards into play, you get a much deeper experience.