Okay, everyone calm down. I'm forever arguing with my husband about astrology and related divination systems because he's like, "Bah. 'Tis a lot of snake oil and hokum." And I'm all like, "You would say that because you're a Scorpio." And then his head explodes. Man, the rational are just too easy.
Here's the thing: of course I do not believe that the placement of the stars in the heavens or the coded numerological data of my name has anything to do with my personality. But I do believe that personal divination systems provide a system of archetypes - we can argue later about the Jungian archetype in general - against which we can read ourselves. These are complex systems, developed over the span of millennia, and in most cases, they are internally consistent and extremely nuanced. (And, actually these astrologies are hella more nuanced than more "scientific" identifiers like the IQ test. The IQ test takes the complexity and majesty of human intelligence and reduces it to a single number
, which is pretty much the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Most astrologies view the self as complex, with overlapping and conflicting drives and desires, which I can get behind. My boy Freud would agree.) I've never really liked baseball, but I see the same kind of complex system at play for most baseball fans - the RBIs and RPIs reify experience and attempt to turn it into prophesy. Character is destiny, no?
Well, okay, maybe not. But it's still a whole ball of fun. My Dad got into these systems in the 70s, natch, and I learned the ways of Numerology at his knee. He gave me this book for my 13th birthday - I can tell from the inscription - along with hand-lettered notebook with the names and numbers of many of my friends and family. You need people to trust you with their birthdays, with their middle names, and there are all kinds of cases where people would have longstanding things with my Dad about giving up a name or a birth year. The word occult means hidden, and even something incredibly public, like a name - the word other people use to mean you, or not-me - needs to be guarded and hidden. (This has become incredibly tricky in the extreme searchability era - out here in the GR aether, I go back and forth like crazy about how much information I want to lead back to my actual, physical person.) I've also noticed the Numerology functions as a kind of mnemonic device for my Dad - he remembers everyone's birthdays, their maiden names, these long complicated relationships between one person and the next. The Numerology is an architecture on which he can arrange the even more complex interpersonal, societal relationships that characterize a life. It's totally heavy, man.
Part of Numerology is based in Kabbalism - back before it was trendy - and part on Pythagoras, that great toga-whackadoo of the first order. Pythagoras: He's not just for determining the hypotenuse of a triangle anymore. I'm totally simplifying and distorting here, but the influence of Kabbalism is in the notion of how the divine became translated from word to writing, and then back again, and the almost obsessive detailing of the transmission errors. Pythagoras, when he wasn't firing sub-machine guns into the desert sky and looking around wildly and suspiciously, threw in the concept of self as oracle, a much more personal take on the whole Greek fate business.
Anyway, this book pretty much rules, because it combines Tarot, Numerology and Greek Astrology in this incredibly anal retentive way, just to mix my psychological metaphors. The trouble with mysticism, for the most part, is that it's mystical
, and who doesn't grow incredibly tired of blissed out semi-coherent recollections of revealed understanding? Well, I do anyway. This book is not an uninvited dinner guest raving about alien abductions, but the quiet abductee who reads a lot of Sagan and watches the NASA channel obsessively. I've given this book several times to friends who were writing various fictions that touched on the occult - it has the best exegesis of the Rider-Waite Tarot I've ever seen, partially because there is so little hand-wringing and shifty glances. Of course, the writers are totally credulous in a way I'm not, exactly, but they're not interested in conversion, they're interested how this crazy thing works. I can totally dig that.