Gone with the wind of Tarot: John Starr Cooke and the esoteric tradition in the West

Camelia Elias (Foredragsholder)

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    Beskrivelse

    Many angry folks of the 60s counterculture tried to escape the oppression and insanity of a disintegrating American dream by replacing social insanity with spiritual insanity. As American history has shown, such replacements of systems of thoughts and beliefs often occurred with a transversal movement. For example, the growing interest on the East coast in theosophical issues around the late 60s and early 70s, steadily on the rise since the 19th century American Renaissance and Transcendentalism, developed in the West as a visual form. Sacred or secret texts are either produced or circulated as visual texts rather than written texts. From coast to coast the word of God itself is thus disseminated differently. In the East the word is heard and then penned down. In the West the word is seen, and then communicated directly through image. This practice seems to indicate that social and cultural issues can disclose different manifestations that ultimately say something significant about the geography of the mindset of people hearing and seeing things. My paper will take a closer look at one of the central figures in American spiritualism, John Starr Cooke, who designed 3 original Tarot decks (incidentally, Cooke was friends with Timothy Leary and the Beats). According to historian and influential collector K. Frank Jensen, Cooke’s “The Word of One Tarot” is one of the very few modern tarots that can be called “genuinely esoteric,” and which can be placed “in the tradition as a deck next to Crowley's Book of Thoth.” The aim of my paper is to propose that not only does the landscape of the West but also the mentality of the West contribute to the visual formulation of a universal voice, and which Cooke has envisaged as a way of “Communifying,” of reaching into deeper layers of the consciousness that rises beyond rational pragmatism. ‘Going West’ once more becomes a gold rush, but this time the gold is magical and the rush is spiritual.
    Periode8 maj 201212 maj 2012
    BegivenhedstitelThe 14th Maple Leaf and Eagle conference in American Studies
    BegivenhedstypeKonference
    PlaceringHelsinki, Finland