Spiritual Architecture: The Tarot as a Tool for Spiritual Self-Construction
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2002-10

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumoured by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.

The doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines.
Frank Lloyd Wright (1869-1959)

Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.
Napoleon (1769-1821)

"It is the nature of art to rejoice the soul, but not every art possesses a spiritual dimension."
Titus Buckhardt

    Tarot is often referred to as a book with no cover that contains the Wisdom of the Ages. One could liken it to scripture in the form of art, symbols, numbers, universal language, colours, inspiration and there is no shortage of writing, both good and bad, on the subject. While not all art is Divine, the creative inspiration, insight and vision behind the artistic or spiritual experience certainly is. According to 2Timothy 3:16,17 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." The three basic concepts of religion or spiritual practice are the sacrifice that follows an act of selfless free will, the conflict between good and evil and understanding the difference between time and eternity in particular as it relates to life and death. Life is the navigation of time (becoming) and death is the navigation of eternity (being). Plato tells us that this world of becoming arises from the timelessness of being. The In-Between of Being and Becoming is the Silence of Presence.

    Studying, seeking and learning about spirituality will not necessarily make you a spiritual person. Analyzing, interpreting and speculation in the extreme, prevent us from making any type of committment. Fifty percent of marriages end in divorce, the family has eroded over the course of two generations and we now practice serial monogamy as opposed to making lifetime committments. Committment is a vision you must be able to embrace from the inside and make a conscious decision to walk it in the day to dayness of your own life. Most people don't even know what committment means to them until they look up one day over the sea of laundry, bills, sleep deprivation and unsatisfied emotional cravings and wonder how they ended up here. Surprise, surprise - it was your choice.

    Not only has the structure of family and relationships changed, but also the significance of church and religion. Religion is often said to be the true obstacle to religious experience and that having too strong a concept of God interferes with us experiencing God. It is not the religious experience itself that is conflicted it is the differing doctrines of religions that are in conflict. We mistake our religious identity - I still say I am an Anglican even though I no longer participate in the Anglican community - with our spiritual practice. The new Holy Communion is coffee and a doughnut at the Church of Tim Horton's.

    Spirituality plays a major role in architecture. The use of a simple structures, skilled use of available light, setting and harmony with nature are intrinsic. It is the creation of sacred spaces which allow a transitional entry in order to us prepare emotionally and psychologically for the actual entry into the spiritual place. Sacred spaces are contemplative but are both private and communal and have a beauty that we discover. Beauty is one of the three Graces, pleasure and restraint being the other two. Tertullian tells us that Grace rides to us on the back of the Holy Spirit.

    While the creative interpretation and the design are significant, responsibility to the earth is also sacred. There are many choices and decisions to be made during the process of designing and building the structure. Are we going to build something completely new and fresh or are we going to restore, renew and refresh something old? We need to consider when and where to build, lot levies, building permits, site plans, site preparation, grading, filling, levelling, a source of good water, proper drainage, natural surroundings, affordability and a solid stable foundation. Proper materials and tools will be required, they need to be chosen, ordered, delivered and could be subject to delay or damage.

    A design which suits our functional and aesthetic needs someone who can translate the plans and blueprints through their hands into a structure of quality, practicality and durability in a timely manner. Wisdom and experience build the form. Harmonious forms make us feel content, aesthetics make us feel healthy and beauty is always an experience in love. The primary focus should not be decided by some strict sense of by-laws that require everything to be homogenized beige but on the deeper connection to what we truly need in our home - our sacred space.

    Tarot is viewed as a pathway for personal growth, greater understanding, psychic integration and spiritual enlightenment. If is nothing more than a philosophy on how to live your life a little bit better, it still has merits. Tarot can help us tune into archetypes, imagination, energy, growth, resonance, unity, harmony, identity, beauty, reflection, potential, polarities, alignments, culture, environment, faith, fellowship, symbols, colours, order, chaos, truth, stability, solitude, boundaries, tension, compression, separations, integration, expansion, perspective, deprivation, entrance, dimension, numbers, angles, foundation, load bearing, pressure, nature, natural laws, nurturance, empathy, vibration, symmetry and balance.

    Quite a list, and all of these are strong aspects of both architecture and conventional religion. Mainstream old religions stress order, stability and the rules of doctrine (foundation) but the current fundamentalist religions focus on religious identity, emotionalism and fervour. They end up with a face of intolerance and isolation. People have a stronger response to structure and repetition than to the truth. They tend to confuse their personal power - what you think you deserve - with their sense of entitlement - what you think you are owed.

    The Dalai Lama tells us that we should get to a place where if we were offered a table laden with wonderful food and drink or a table laden with excrement and urine, we would have no preference. Good or bad it is all spiritual food. You neither love nor hate who or what you are fighting for or against. George Orwell expressed some sentiments on why Socialism didn't work over the long term, he felt that socialists didn't really like the poor, they just hated the rich. This could be easily applied to many religions and spiritual practices.

    Tarot, architecture and religion have other things in common. All three are responsive and reactive to sensations and experiences of the mysterious Divine and have a purpose in life and values. They all have aesthetic elements as expressed through art, sculpture, essence, light and resonance. They originate at the centre of the self and create a meaningful context for our lives. They can all also create a sense of harmony and unity through ritual and ceremony. All draw on sacred texts and have a focus on community and moral obligations.

    All new structures have an Grand Opening or a house warming party with ribbon cutting and gifts for the hostess all part of the rituals. Religion has its doctrine, liturgy, rites of passage and ministries. In Tarot we have ritual in the shuffling of the cards, the cut, the layout, the creation of the sacred space, the lighting, the natural flow coming through our hands, the beauty of the imagery and a sense of the private, the intimate and the communal. Perhaps if you are fortunate your reading will come with a coffee and a doughnut from the Church of Tim Horton's and it all becomes spiritual food.

    Divinatory practice and the study of Tarot could easily fit the quote from 2 Timothy as being "given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." After all, some sacred spaces do need furnishing.

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