This is one of the most interesting books on Tarot I have read in a long time. It is not a comprehensive ‘fit-all-in-one-volume’ tome, being only 100 pages long. Nor does it attempt to give (or inflict upon) the reader a new or different or ‘rectified’ version of the Tarot; Strong uses the traditional Smith-Waite images. And neither does it attempt to instruct the reader in the arcane arts of cartomancy or even magical Tarot rituals.
Yet, as I put the book down I had the familiar sense of being stretched in mind and spirit a good esoteric book produces. Now, Gordon Strong is no stranger to writing such books; he has several under his belt and perhaps this is what allowed him to, almost underhandedly, impart a bevy of new and potent esoteric seeds through an easy to read text.
The book is ideal for both the newcomer to Tarot and the veteran Tarot worker. For the beginner it will provide a solid foundation of wisdom and a scattering of esoteric seed-thoughts that will sprout in the years of Tarot interaction ahead. This foundation is not simply another good ‘Tarot-study’ but rather takes the form of comprehensively linking to the spiritual principles that the Tarot itself is built on. By focusing on these principles, and how they interact throughout the entire Tarot arcana, Strong also provides rich meat for the experienced Tarot worker.
The Five Tarots is clear in its simplicity:
The intention of the present work is to demonstrate that most of the wisdom of the Tarot is contained in the first five cards of the Major Arcana… As a simple template, I regard The Magician and The High Priestess as a ‘heavenly’ pair, The Emperor and The Empress as a complementary ‘earthly’ coupling. Above this Quartet is The Fool. Visually, one could create a pentacle, or a pyramid with these five individual elements.
While this is not a new idea, Strong’s approach to the concept is deep is yet opaque. By studying the Tarot and spiritual principles behind these cards and their inter-dynamics, and those of the corresponding cards according to placement or astrological quality, Strong effectively studies the essential nature and principles of the entire deck. If read with care these few short chapters will give us a deep inner awareness of the nature of the Tarot, its inner and outer functions and how we may relate more deeply through it and to it. It is an extraordinary feat for such a short work.
Much wisdom is condensed in Strong’s simple words. Take for example:
Having at one time been a teacher of the Tarot, with the task of making its ways comprehensible, I was perfectly aware I could not teach a student to be a Tarot Reader.
With a simple sentence Strong swipes away the usefulness of hundreds of books that try to do just that, knowing from deep magical experience such a thing is not possible. Nor does this book come about this process in another fashion, but concentrates squarely on the two essentials for any proposed Tarot reader to come to grips with from the start:
Equally, I would make it plain to anyone who intends to read professionally that they are absolutely certain of what they are doing. Even more important is why they are doing it – motive is all. I would make exactly the same strictures with regard to those who would practice magic.
It is now that the student’s meditative studies will reap dividends for he will soon gain confidence and speaks with the inner voice.
Motive and meditation, the two keys to successful Tarot work are indicated here, simply and in an almost casual way. This I think is one of the strengths of the work: Strong does not labour any point, giving example upon example. Nor does he staccato-pontificate the Tarot principles he seeks to convey. He briefly explores them in an easy style, creates a seed in the reader’s mind and moves on. The entire book is like that, and is one reason why it felt like a huge read, even though only 100 pages.
Overall, this is an excellent and wonderful book on the Tarot, concentrated in its wisdom and accessible to folk at all levels of experience. It is highly recommended.
The Five Tarots by Gordon Strong. Kerubim Press, 2012.