The Path, by Whitley Strieber
reviewed by Gregory Ellison
Whitley Strieber, the bestselling author of Communion and several other popular books about his personal encounters with UFO visitors, has surprisingly written the best Tarot book Ive read in many years!
The Path is not a divination book, so you wont find interpretations for each card or suggested layouts for readings. Rather, The Path presents the ancient Marseilles Tarot as a tool for spiritual growth. Most Tarot scholars agree that the original purpose of the Tarot was to hide spiritual wisdom at a time when the possession of any spiritual or metaphysical materials not approved by the religious authorities was enough to get a user tortured and burned to death. Therefore the secret societies who guarded this ancient wisdom committed their teaching to a form that would almost certainly guarantee their perpetuation: a deck of playing cards that would be popularly used for gaming and gambling. As this repression eased over the centuries, the cards became popular for fortune-telling because of their rich imagery and deep symbolism, but their original purpose as a spiritual textbook has remained largely unrecognized even in modern times.
Strieber takes a large step toward remedying this deficiency in The Path. The slim volume (154 pages) presents a meditation/study method that he received from an initiate of the teachings of Russian mystic G. I. Gudjieff some 25 years ago, and that he has personally followed in the interim. The method consists of a carefully defined layout of the cards in the shape of a cross, with specific cards of the Major Arcana (the 22 major trumps of the tarot) assigned to each position in the layout. He outlines a meditation/study procedure that combines breathing and centering techniques with a step-by-step contemplation of the cards as they appear in the pattern.
The major portion of the book is devoted to insights that Strieber has gained through using this method for a quarter of a century, relating each card to its balancing counterpart in a way that gradually reveals a profound understanding of the nature of the spiritual and material worlds. The ultimate goal of the exercise is to attain a balanced spiritual perspective that allows the practitioner to live in the physical world without becoming entrapped in it, thereby avoiding the necessity of returning to the physical plane in repeated incarnations in order to work through accumulated karma. In short, it is a course in transcendence, teaching one how to break the cycle of death and rebirth that keeps souls chained to the Earth!
I will admit to being a bit skeptical when I first encountered The Path ... after all, Whitley has gained an enormous amount of media attention from his UFO books and lectures, and it wouldnt be the first time that a celebrity tried to use his public recognition to make him an instant authority in unrelated fields. A quick first reading, however, soon quelled any concerns I had in that direction: this is not a superficial, popular book, but the work of a master who genuinely understands and is able to communicate the profound depths of wisdom hidden within the symbols of the Tarot. Again, it is a spiritual study guide and NOT a book that will help you to do Tarot readings (at least not directly, although a deeper understanding of the symbols will ultimately help in this direction too) ... but if that is your interest, then I recommend the book without reservation.
The Path, by Whitley Strieber
Published by Walker & Collier, Inc., San Antonio, Texas, 2002
Available from Whitley Stribers website: