Seeing the World –
Tarot Signposts on the Path to Perception
Author: Jean-Claude Flornoy
Translated and Annotated by: David Vine
“Seeing the World – Tarot Signposts on the Path to Perception” is the English translation of Jean-Claude Flornoy’s “Le pelerinage des bateleurs” (2007). A 332 page book, it is one of two iconic Tarot books that have recently come out (the other book being “Pamela Coleman Smith: The Untold Story”, by Stuart Kaplan, Mary K. Greer, Elizabeth Foley O’Connor, and Melinda Boyd Parsons).
This translation came into being in a very magical way, when translator David Vine began a correspondence with Jean-Claude Flornoy, which lead to them becoming friends. At one point Mr. Flornoy mentioned to Mr. Vine that he was terminally ill – his oncologist had given him two months to live. (I remember this time period, as there was a significant Tarot seminar being held in France that Mr. Flornoy was to be a presenter at. The Tarot world was excitedly looking forward to this – unfortunately, Mr. Flornoy died before the seminar. If I remember correctly, his wife, Roxanne, made the presentation.) Mr. Vine offered to translate the entire book (he had already translated one chapter) into English, and see that it was published. Mr. Flornoy gratefully accepted his offer. The world was gifted with incredible wisdom as a result of these two small acts.
Before going any further, you need to realize that I not only highly respect French Tarot historian Jean-Claude Flornoy, and his work, but I hold him in awe. He has done amazing work on restoring early Marseille decks (the Tarot of Nicholas Conver, the Tarot of Jacques Vieville, the Tarot of Jean Noblet, and the Tarot of Jean Dodal), as well as addressing divination itself, Tarot symbolism, and viewing the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot as a “coded description” of the journey through life. Flornoy sees the Arcanum as the teaching which the Ancients, master builders of the Medieval cathedrals, chose to entrust to a game of cards.
Flornoy studied philosophy, worked as a potter-ceramicist, and was involved in the construction of several hydraulic power stations in France, as well as studying the Tarot for twenty years. Several years ago I queried Mr. Flornoy about interviewing him. His wife, Roxanne, responded, as Mr. Flornoy did not speak English. The result was an amazing interview with both Roxanne and Jean-Claude! You can see it here: http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/learn/interview_flornoy.shtml. I am also going to include a link to an interview by Tarotist Enrique Enriquez, a gentleman that I totally admire! http://www.tarot-history.com/Enrique-Enriquez/pages/itw-EE-15-02-2010-eng.html.
This book represents Jean-Claude Flornoy’s view of Tarot from a psychological view, as well as that of spiritual development. Flornoy’s basic precept is that the journey that Tarot depicts is a psychological journey, rather than a spiritual one. The book is broken down into seven parts – Part One: History and Legend of the Tarot; Part Two: Tarot, Kabbalah and Sufism; Part Three: Jean Noblet, Master Card Maker of Paris, c. 1650; Part Four: The Pilgrimage of the Bateleurs, a Commentary on the 22 Major Arcana; Part Five: How To Use the Marseilles Tarot; Part Six: The Minor Arcana; Part Seven: Appendices (Rules of the Game of Tarots, 1637; Text by Thierry Dupaulis: Jean Noblet, Paris, Mid-Seventeenth Century; Bibliography).
The section on Tarot history speaks for itself. Concerning the Knights Templar we read: “The light of the sacred was all but extinguished on Friday, October 13th in the year of 1307 with the arrest of the leading authorities of the Knights Templar and then, definitively so, after Black Tuesday, March 19th, 1314. That day was marked by the burning of the chief Templars at the stake in the middle of the river Seine in Paris on the Ile aux Juifs, that is, the Isle of the Jews (though some of the men were executed elsewhere).”
In relation to the construction sites at that time, we read: “On the construction sites of the churches and cathedrals, it was not only the art of the building and of working materials that was handed down, but also, through the work in stone, wood and glass, an entire consciousness was assimilated experientially. Transmitted orally, from master to journeyman and from journeyman to apprentice, the tradition was lived in the stone, through the stone. Now, with the “strike of the cathedrals”, suddenly that system was in collapse. No one could guarantee the payment of salaries on the sites. The journeymen and the masters were being hunted by the Inquisition. In the end, therefore, they emigrated.” (This is important, because Flornoy basis his work on the late medieval apprentice-compagnon-master school of the great cathedral builders.)
The introduction to the section on Jean Noblet notes that he came from an age when the tradition was still being transmitted from master engraver to craftsman engraver at an introductory level. This puts Noblet “nearer the source” than those who came after him. His work is unique in the smallness of the card size, and in its age (it is considered to be the oldest deck in the Marseilles tradition). Another part of this section that I found intriguing was Flornoy’s descriptions of what the different colors used in the cards stood for. (An example would be the color red, in connection to the pouring out of blood.)
Flornoy sees the journey of the Tarot (and of life) in the following sequence: First Series – Trump I (incarnation) through Trump V – childhood; Second Series – Trump VI (first passion, the opening of the heart) through Trump X – apprenticeship of the building of the mental body, of the ego; Third Series – Trump XI (the self-made individual, reconstruction within and through the world of matter and the heart) through Trump XV (the period of COMPAGNONNAGE, of the building of the emotional body accompanied by the return of tears, emotional catharsis, the way of the heart and the ascent of vital energy); Fourth Series – Trump XVI (to die before dying, journeying while alive to the other side … of reality); Remaining Arcana XVII through XX (This is the period of MASTERY, of the building of the energy body, of one’s masterpiece, the end of fear, the period of being “all heart”, and of the beginning of true education.); Trump XXI (This is the period of WISDOM, of the building of the sublime body, of the participation of individual consciousness in the World Soul. It is the period proper to the Master of the Age.); Unnumbered Trump – LE FOU (LE MAT) (LE FOU excuses himself and takes his leave. He sits astride the moment, extricates himself from the world and from life in the here and now. Past and future have both disappeared from his everyday experience. He has become the Holy Fool, the Idiot Buddha, the Divine Anarchist.)”
In presenting each Arcanum (Trump), Flornoy shows a full page black and white scan, the Key to the Arcanum, the Gateway, a discussion of the card, and the images in the card. For example: Le Bateleur (The Juggler) is the Gateway to Childhood. The Key to the Arcanum is Incarnation. The discussion includes the concept of rebirth, of being one of the cards in the Tarot where the central figure strikes a pose, along with a discussion of the tools shown in the card.
There is a short preface that I loved in “How To Use The Marseilles Tarot”– it is entitled “How Not To Use The Marseilles Tarot”. There is a reason – you will have to purchase the book to find out why!
I am totally impressed with this work! Many thanks to David Vine for the care with which he did the interpretation of Jean-Claude Flornoy’s work. Two master craftsman, resulting in an incredible, iconic work!
“Seeing the World – Tarot Signposts on the Path to Perception” can be ordered here – http://www.tarot-history.com/boutique/.
© August 2018 Bonnie Cehovet
Reproduction prohibited without written permission of the author.