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October 2011

Tarot Monopoly, Tarot Tyrant and Restoring Spiritual Dignity

As some of my readers know, especially my fellow Tarot travelers, I lashed out at the Tarot community a few months back in the form of a short story. It was meant to not only flex my fictional muscles, but productively channel my frustration and disdain for some tactics in the online Tarot community. Because my short story had to be bought, from my Amazon page, I didn’t feel it was any sort of “attack”…as perhaps a blog post or social media message would be.

Despite my apology, coming mere days later, people like Donnaleigh De LaRose mocked my since efforts, calling it a "fauxpology". 

My disillusionment went so deep, I almost walked away from writing Tarot books, Tarot blogging and even Tarot reading.

TarosophyI’ve (attempted) to make amends with those caught in the crossfire, especially those that assumed (erroneously) that I intended to paint the online Tarot community with broad strokes. However, when you have experienced the organized, concerted effort of Tarot Professionals, Marcus Katz and his minions…well, it can be easy to think “everyone is against you”.

Anytime I’ve made a misstep the last two years, real or perceived, Katz was right there to email, call and threaten a boycott to U.S. Games Systems, Inc. (when I launched their social media presence) or Schiffer Publishing (less than 12 HOURS after my short story went live…the day before Thanksgiving!).

All because of me…one person.

He threatened lawsuits when I was a part of the Tarot Guild, too, over “World Tarot Day”. It’s my understanding he did the same with TABI. The day Tarot Town opened, I joined...and was summarily kicked out the next day (without even making a post).

The private and public persecution I’ve experienced at his hands, especially the last year, would amaze you. And the ones that Katz confers “special awards” upon? Bolstered by his turgid, “Western Magic” Emperor appointments, his minions become emboldened to start “Boycott Janet Boyer” blog posts—hoping like Chester fawning over Spike that he’ll earn approval from The Boss (see posts by Den Elder, Angelo Nasios, James Battersby and Ginny Hunt...even the current president of the ATA, Matt). Others, who blogged in "protest" of me without personal knowledge of what went down--or even knowing me personally--saw the light and publicly apologized, like Lisa Frideborg here.

Chester spikeAny time I tried to say anything about Katz or his ilk, I got shouted down as a “bully”. A few loudmouths parroted this perjorative so often, it stuck for many. But was it true? Of course not. I never tried to control anyone. Never hounded or harassed anyone. Pretty much kept on my own turf (my site, blogs and social media presences).

And because I’m re-entering the online Tarot community which I missed so much (and which many are realizing that not only didn’t I mean harm, but that there were some serious kernels of truth at the core of my actions), I’m almost loathe to “start shit” again (as some will probably see this).

But honestly, it’s not my intent.

You see, I just bought the book Tarosophy by Marcus Katz (second-hand, thankfully), and began reading it. I wasn’t surprised to see people gushing over it, especially since most online reviews were from those under the Emperor’s aegis. However, curiosity got the best of me…and I bought the book. (Fortunately, though, I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid).  I began to read, and on the very first page of the actual text…page 4…I was floored to read this:

"We we will not repeat the endless series of works providing permutations of meanings, catalogues of keywords or ill-considered exercises in which you learn psychotic behaviors such as 'What film stars can you see in your tarot cards'? or limiting beliefs such as 'Which tarot card are you...?' As one of my esoteric teachers once said, these behaviours and beliefs are just different flavours of the same ice cream, keeping you busy until you become worm food."

Yikes.

Man 300Anyone who has interacted with Katz (surely) knows of his sneering arrogance…but to think he actually stated his sense of esoteric snobbery blows me away. But even more perplexing, and troubling, is his assertions that he, and his organization/empire Tarosophy, are “finally restoring the spiritual dignity of Tarot”.

What in the hell does that mean?

Seriously. I’ve been chewing on his statements—indeed, the very foundation of his creed—wondering…why? Why does Tarot need “rescued” from anything? What does it need to be “restored” from? Why is he the one to do it? Why does he assume that others cannot, have not or will not?

Must we wear special underwear, making magical symbols in the sand, call on 12 ½ angels to dance on the head of a pin and do the hokey pokey between the pillars of the Tree of Life in order to be “dignified”?

If “spiritual dignity of Tarot” means that I must adopt a faux aristocratic British sneer, hide behind a PC (and others) to do my dirty work in secret, achieve a status of 93 degree Bombast, attempt to trademark Tarot “days” or “weeks” or exclude/persecute others because I feel threatened…well, then, count me out.

One of the reasons the Catholic church got so pissed when the mass and texts were delivered in English was because the “everyday” people could then read, contemplate and understand scripture for themselves. To try to throw Tarot back into the dusty halls of esoterica and “big words” bullshit isn’t restoring any “spiritual dignity” at all…but, instead, attempting to keep the cards out of the hands of the people lest they think, act and grow all on their own (and without paying one penny).

Edit: TWO years after this post, and Katz is still fixated on me. See my post Unsavory Tarot Professional Unmasked for more information here. (You'll be shocked). 

-- Janet


Book Gems #12 Learning to Breathe by Priscilla Warner

For my latest book gem, I am thrilled to bring you Chapter 1 of the brand new (and already bestselling!) book Learning to Breathe by Priscilla Warner. Along with the author, I am among the millions of people who suffer from an anxiety disorder (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, panic attacks, PTSD, etc.).  In Learning to Breathe, Priscilla shares how anxiety ate at her life, but then triumphantly shows us how consciously pursuing "monkness" (and having the support of a wonderful husband) helped bring her calm and stability.

Breathe cover Slumped in my airplane seat, I could barely see enough of Tulsa, Oklahoma, to say goodbye to it in the early morning darkness. The plane took off and I was headed home to New York on the last leg of an intense three-year lecture tour. I opened a magazine… and there were the monks—yet again.

Dressed in crimson robes, their heads shaved, serene Tibetan men stared out at me from a photograph. These same men had been inadvertently haunting me for years, because they had found an inner peace that had eluded me for so long. While I’d been experiencing debilitating panic attacks and anxiety for decades, they had been meditating so effectively that their pre-frontal brain lobes lit up on MRI scans, plumped up like perfectly ripe peaches.

That’s not precisely the way the monks’ brains were described in the medical studies I’d read about, but that’s how I imagined them – happily pregnant with positive energy. Unlike my brain, which felt battered and bruised, swollen with anxiety, adrenaline, heartache and hormones.

“I want the brain of a monk!” I decided right then and there.

I also wanted everything that went along with that brain — peace and tranquility, compassion and kindness, wisdom and patience. Was that too much to ask for?

And so my mission was born.

I became determined to get my pre-frontal lobe to light up like the monks’ lobes, to develop a brain that would run quietly and smoothly, instead of bouncing around in my skull like a Mexican jumping bean. Some people set up meth labs in their basements, but I wanted a Klonopin lab in my head, producing a natural version of the drug my therapist had prescribed for me several years earlier, to help me cope with chronic anxiety and panic.

Gassho I had already been searching for serenity on and off for forty years, during which I’d traveled to Turkey and toured the ancient caves of early Christian mystics, read Rumi’s exquisite Sufi poetry, and learned about the mysteries of Kabbalah. I regularly drank herbal tea and lit incense in my bedroom. And I’d gotten my meridiens massaged while my chakras were tended to by soft-spoken attendants at occasional spa splurges.

I would have loved to travel to Nepal to find inner peace, sitting at the feet of a monk on a mountaintop, but I panic at high altitudes. I didn’t want to move to a monastery, but I figured there were dozens of things I could do in my own back yard that could make me positively monk-like. So I decided to try behaving like a monk while still shopping for dinner at my local suburban strip mall. And I decided to chronicle my adventures.

This full-scale brain renovation would take some time, planning, improvisation, and hard work. Still, if I exercised my tired gray cells properly, on a sustained, regular basis, and fed my brain all sorts of good things like meditation, guided imagery, yoga, macrobiotic stuff and Buddhist teachings, I hoped it would change physically. I’d heard “neuroplasticity” thrown around in scientific reports, a term that means that the brain is supposedly able to transform itself at any age. Maybe mine would be like Silly Putty – bendable and pliable and lots of fun to work with.

What did I have to lose? I shifted in my airplane seat, the monks still gazing up at me from the photograph.

Tree Sky 2 On the outside, I was functioning just fine – I was a happily married mother of two terrific sons. I’d traveled to more than 60 cities around the country to promote a bestselling book I’d co-authored, called The Faith Club. But inside, the anxiety disorder I’d battled all my life had left me exhausted, out of shape, and devouring chocolate to boost my spirits and busted adrenal glands. My body and heart ached for my children who had left the nest and my mother who was in her ninth year of Alzheimer’s Disease, confined to the advanced care unit of her nursing home. Twenty years earlier, my father had died from cancer; but he’d been just about my age when the tumor had started its deadly journey through his colon.

Clearly, I was facing my own mortality. Although I wanted to run like hell away from it.

In another rite of passage, a wonderful therapist I had seen for many years had died recently, and I’d attended her memorial service. When I’d arrived at the Jewish funeral home, a woman with a shaved head, dressed in a simple dark outfit had greeted me. Although her smile was kind, her presence initially threw me off. Was she Buddhist? Was she a nun? Did her brain light up on an MRI scan too?

After greeting people at the entrance to the chapel with a calm that put everyone at ease, she conducted the proceedings with warmth, wit, and sensitivity, urging people to speak about our deceased friend. I took her appearance to be a message from my late shrink.

“Go for it,” I imagined her saying. “Go find your inner monk.”

Peaceful I didn’t know the difference between my dharma and my karma, but I was willing to learn. Perhaps I’d define other terms for myself, like mindfulness, loving kindness, and maybe even true happiness. I’d try whatever techniques, treatments and teachings I thought might move me on the road from panic to peace.

His Holiness, The Dalai Lama, believes human beings can change the negative emotions in their brains into positive ones.

And who was I to doubt the Dalai Lama?

Maybe my journey would resemble something like Siddhartha meets The Diary of a Mad Jewish Housewife.

Forget “Physician Heal Thyself,” I decided as my plane landed in New York and my daydreaming turned into a reality.

My new mantra would be “Neurotic, Heal Thyself (and Please Stop Complaining.)”

Click here to get your copy of  Learning to Breathe from Amazon. Click here to get the Kindle version. To visit Priscilla Warner's blog, click here. To follow the author on Twitter, click here.

-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Top/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)