bol2.jpg (11811 bytes)The Brotherhood of Light Authentic Egyptian Tarot Cards, by CC Zain (Elbert Benjamine), isbn 0-88079-092-X Sacred Tarot, CC Zain, isbn 0-87887-376-7

Review by George Leake

Unless the stories one reads are apocryphal, Zain is from pre-war Los Angeles, and that combined with the tone of his writings makes one think this guy is the Ed Wood of Tarot.
Aesthetically speaking, I do not like black and white decks, even if they allow for one to color them in. As far as B&W decks go, this one I find unremarkable, definitely not up to the standard set by the Hermetic Tarot. And let's be honest, this is really gray on white.
The announcement of "authenticity" gives this deck a bit of a science fiction air to it. Notwithstanding the advantage of over half a century of Egyptology research on our side, this is obviously yet another re-thinking involving tarot and ancient Egypt, recast to fit Zain's modern western kabalistic model.
The deck is mysterious to the uninformed. The images are somewhat compelling, somewhat campy, and one really needs Sacred Tarot to understand how this deck works. On the one hand, Sacred Tarot comes across as fantasy or even Scientology with its foreboding references to the civilizations of Atlantis and Mu, the pre-Great Flood cultural forerunners of Egypt, China, Peru, Mexico, India, Israel, and so on. This is Zain's style--a matter of fact telling of what the tarot tradition (and all its sister occult sciences) is without, for the most part, citation or supporting evidence. Let's look at specific passages.
It opens with the "Doctrine of Kabalism", page one, thus: The word kabala signifies traditional knowledge. It thus refers to the Oral Law, as handed down from antiquity; and embraces the occult tradition of all lands and all peoples. Often it is used merely as referring to the esoteric doctrines of the Jews; but in its broader sense it includes also the secret doctrine of other races.
The critical reader is at once taken aback by Zain's opening salvo. Kabala is specific traditional knowledge, and the word refers to a few separate but related traditions. To link it to every civilization on earth is arbitrary and disingenuous. And just saying so hardly makes it so.
Secondly, there is no single Oral Law. Such declarations represent the wishful thinking of the orthodox-minded, from bearded patriarchs of Judea and bald-pated cardinals of Rome, to our present day adherents of the philosophies of Gareth Knight.
Perhaps a better term for 'kabala' might be substituted? How about 'analogy'? Or 'parable', 'allegory', 'metaphor', 'myth', or 'symbolism'? With such terms, one might make a stronger case. One could even say that such techniques are common to orally-transmitted teachings.
That said, much of Zain's presentation mixes in accurate accounts with ones that are founded on dubious ground. To be fair, most of his account of traditional Jewish kabala hits the mark, at least it is consistent with what little I know about the subject.
Even though one is continually taken aback by his unsupported statements, one must admit he has done much research and thought up many an imaginative correspondence in the system he presents. There are echoes here of other 20th century occult systems, but with some striking differences. Zain declares that too often the true secrets and mysteries are jealously guarded, but his goal is to reveal all. And what a lot of detail we have here!
Zain ascribes ten models of study to each major arcana card, with fairly detailed (if at times unsupported) attributions consistent with each aspect. The are number (numerology), astrology, human function, alchemy (many of these differ from what I've seen others do), Bible, Masonry (Zain's interpretations are at odds with the few I understand from Waite), Magic (these I found rather arbitrary if intriguing), initiation (a sort of neo-shamanic journey of the soul), Occult Science ( a bit of an odd designation given the rest of these), and finally the relation to Court and minor arcana cards.
Two aspects to Zain's theory worth further study are its many suggested spreads and theory of vibrations.

    

Copyright 1996, George Leake All rights reserved
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Copyright 1996/97 Michele Jackson