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Robert P. Drake's Tarot Reading c. 1928

or, "The Great and Glorious Picture"


"You have the talent," Drake said coldly, "but you are still basically a fraud, like everyone in this business. Your worst victim, madam, is yourself. You deceive yourself with the lies that you have so often told others. It's the occupational disease of mystics. The truth is that it doesn't matter whether I destroy myself alone or destroy this planet -- or turn around and try to find my way to the right-hand path in some dreary monastery. The universe will roll blindly along, not caring, not even knowing. There's no Granddaddy in the clouds to pass a last judgement -- there's only a few airplanes up there, learning more and more about how to carry bombs. They court-martialed General Mitchell for saying it, but it's the truth. The next time around they'll really bomb the hell out of civilian populations. And the universe won't know or care about that either. Don't tell me that my flight from Death leads back to Death; I'm not a child, and I know that all paths lead back to Death eventually. The only question is: Do you cower before him all your life, or do you spit in his eye?"


"You can transcend abject fear and rebellious hatred both. You can see that he is only a part of the Great Wheel and, like all other parts, necessary to the whole. Then you can accept him."


"Next you'll be telling me to love him."


"That too."


"Yes, and I can learn to see the great and glorious Whole Picture. I can see all the men defecating and urinating in their trousers before they died at Château-Thierry, watching their own guts fall out into their laps and screaming out of a hole that isn't even a mouth anymore, as manifestations of that sublime harmony and balance which is ineffable and holy and beyond all speech and reason. Sure, I can see that, if I knock half my brain out of commission and hypnotize myself into thinking that the view from that weird perspective is deeper and wider and more truly true than the view from an unclouded mind. Go to the quadruple-amputee ward and try to tell them that. You speak of death as a personified being. Very well: Then I must regard him as any other entity that gets in my way. Love is a myth invented by poets and other people who couldn't face the world and crept off into corners to create fantasies to console themselves. The fact is that when you meet another entity, either it makes way for you or you make way for it. Either it dominates and you submit, or you dominate and it submits.Take me into any club in Boston and I'll tell you which millionaire has the most millions, by the way the others treat him. Take me into any workingman's bar and I'll tell you who has the best punch in a fistfight, by the way the others treat him. Take me into any house and I'll tell you in a minute whether the husband or the wife is dominant. Love? Equality? Reconciliation? Acceptance? Those are the excuses of the losers, to persuade themselves that they chose their condition and weren't beaten down into it. Find a dutiful wife, one who truly loves her husband. I'll have her in my bed in three days, maximum. Because I'm so damned attractive? No, because I understand men and women. I'll make her understand, without saying it aloud and shocking her, that the adultery will, one way or another, hurt her husband, whether he knows about it or not. Show me the most servile colored waiter in the best restaurant in town, and after he's through explaining Christianity and humility and all the rest of it, count how many times he steps into the kitchen to spit in his handkerchief. The other employees will tell you he has a 'chest condition.' The condition he has is chronic rage. The mother and the child? An endless power struggle. Listen to the infant's cry change in pitch when Mother doesn't come at once. Is that fear you hear? It's rage. Insane fury at not having total dominance. As for the mother herself, I'd wager that ninety percent of the married women in the psychiatrists' care are there because they can't admit to themselves, can't escape the lie of love long enough to admit to themselves, how often they want to strangle that monster in the nursery.Love of country? Another lie; the truth is fear of cops and prisons. Love of art? Another lie; the truth is fear of the naked truth without ornaments and false faces on it. Love of truth itself? The biggest lie of all: fear of the unknown. People learn acceptance of all this and achieve wisdom? The surrender to superior force and call their cowardice maturity. It still comes down to one question: Are you kneeling at the altar, or are you on the altar watching the others kneel to you?"


"The wheel of the Tarot is the wheel of Dharma," Mama Sutra said softly when he had concluded. "It is also the wheel of the galaxy, which you see as a blind machine. It rolls on, as you say, no matter what we think or do. Knowing that, I can accept Death as another part of the wheel, and I can accept your non-acceptance as another part. I can control neither. I can only repeat my warning, which is not a lie but a fact about the structure of the Wheel: By denying death, you guarantee that you will meet him finally in his most hideous form."

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