It is often said that learning Tarot is like learning to play chess. You can pick up the basics in a weekend but it takes a lifetime to master.
Where the Tarot differs from chess though is that, whilst it is primarily a system of divination, working with the cards forms an integral part of a process of self-initiation and inner insight. This means that the more you learn about the Tarot, the more you learn about yourself.
Therefore, if you are new to the Tarot, or have only devoted those first couple of days to learning it, you are about to enter a world of mystery, wonder and a developmental process that will enrich your understanding of the metaphysical worlds and how they impact upon us.
As with all magickal systems, exploring the mysteries of these inner worlds requires a map: a blueprint of the journey you are about to undertake. Most books on the Tarot take a neophyte up to the border and leave them to take on the rest of the journey alone.
Occasionally though, a publication comes along that offers its reader a glimpse into the world beyond the limited horizons of standard Tarot teachings.
As its title suggests, Tarot Beyond the Basics is specifically written to bridge the gap in a tarot readers skills between being a merely competent reader and someone who has advanced Tarot card reading skills.
The book opens with an interesting reflection on the Celtic Cross spread—which, as most readers know, is probably the most popular and effectual of the common Tarot spreads. This spread features throughout the book in several different contexts.
It then explores the basics of astrology and the advantages of using elements of a client’s personal birth chart in Tarot readings. Although it gives no advice on how to create a birth chart, its main features are explained in a way that non-astrologers can understand.
There then follows a whole chapter dedicated to reversed card meanings. Whether to consider them in a spread and so reversing them during a shuffle has always been a thorny issue with Tarot readers. This section of the book offers arguments for both sides with several Tarot sources suggesting that reversed cards are irrelevant and others encouraging their use.
As Anthony Louis states, at the end of the day, it is your choice (personally speaking, I think that reversed cards add significantly to a spread).
Later chapters explore the elemental associations of the minor arcana suits and the physical characteristics of the court card personalities.
The book draws to a close with an extensive catalog of keyword associations for the minor arcana and court cards. They indicate the slight variances that different Tarot authorities have taken over the years regarding card meanings.
Throughout Tarot Beyond the Basics, the text is full of additional Tarot insights and commentaries from many early 20th-century exponents of the divination system. This adds some important historical background to our modern understanding of Tarot. This critical part of Tarot study is often over-looked by contemporary themed decks.
This 380+ page book is also illustrated with Tarot cards, extra charts and diagrams.
It closes with a useful reference section.
While Tarot Beyond the Basics is not a totally comprehensive manual on advanced Tarot skills, it offers a solid understanding of Tarot philosophy based around the Western Mystery Tradition.
Louis references the teachings of such early developers of Tarot theory as the occultist Aleister Crowley, the secret society Order of the Golden Dawn, Israel Regardie and the grandfather of 19th century magick Eliphas Levi—without whom there would be no Tarot.
Prospective purchasers of this book should be aware that the Western Mystery Tradition, as developed by these people, was primarily ritualistic and ceremonial. This means that their use of the Tarot relied heavily upon a wide range of associations and correspondences to expand upon a grander system of occultism. This is what the advanced skills outlined in this book are based on and they might not be the approach that every Tarot reader wants to take.
Is this rather ponderous approach to the Tarot likely to put off a reader?
No. I don’t think so. To avoid borring his readers, Louis includes his experiences as a Tarot consultant. These are always interesting to a Tarot reader as they offer insights into how others use the cards in their daily lives.
Equally enjoyable are the occasional snippets of Tarot teachings, insights and commentaries by other Tarot researchers which flow through the book, adding color to an otherwise dry and technical appraisal of advanced Tarot theory.
Another welcome approach is the recognition of the part that astrology—particularly the Golden Dawn system of Decans—plays in Tarot philosophy. I have integrated the two disciplines in my Tarot readings for many years. Even the most basic understanding of astrology can add significantly to the power of a consultation.
Tarot Beyond the Basics offers a great deal to anyone wishing to move beyond the limitations of simple fortune-telling. As a commentary on the Tarot cards, their power and influence, this is an impressive exposé of the arcane depths a committed Tarot student can progress to.