I rove around the city buying books in a desperate last bid for gnosis as my SIM card kicks out and my time here in London nears its end. I thought I’d have my tarot read, but no one spoke to me, the moment never seemed right. I did have a lovely chat, though, with a wise old gentleman from the Swedenborg Society. He intuited some of the features of my condition, and hastened to furnish the knowledge I sought, while also gently warning about pursuit of such knowledge, providing me with a timely gloss on Swedenborg’s interpretation of the Eden narrative in the philosopher’s eight-volume magnum opus Arcana Caelestia. Where shall I go and what shall I do upon my return to the United States?
To celebrate J.’s birthday, the three of us board the tube to Kew Gardens. Due to an unexpected station closure at our place of transfer, however, we’re diverted onto an overpacked bus, an old man in the seat by the door loudly berating the driver in Jamaican Patois. “Dis be terrorism,” he complains, pleading with the driver to deny access to further passengers. “Please no let no more people on dis bus.” Upon our arrival at Kew, we promptly run into J.’s friend, the writer Bhanu Kapil — a remarkable synchronicity, we all acknowledge, given that we also crossed paths with Bhanu yesterday at the ICA. In both cases, we had no foreknowledge of each others’ plans. “What does it mean?” we wonder, particularly since Bhanu is here in town to hold a seance a few days from now wherein she’ll be using the Shining Tribe Tarot, an art deck given to her by Rachel Pollack. Bidding leave of her until next time, my companions and I journey out amid Crystal Palace greenhouses, a treetop walkway, a Victorian herbarium, a Japanese pagoda, a pseudo-Roman “folly.” These gardens form a kind of totalizing floral architecture, I think to myself. A literalization of the fruits of empire.
How about groaning laundry rooms and animated films that scare little kids? How about blue mermaids with turquoise chains? By following a few simple rules, we can feel at home amid the alchemical symbolism of Arthur Machen’s “The White People.” A librarian from my childhood confides over my shoulder about the limits of her compassion. She refuses to care, she says, for those who come back sunburned after a day at the beach, likening these latter to hungry ones who refuse to eat. I smile and pretend not to differ, even as I ruminate about what it would mean to approach the Tarot as a book, or the fragments of one.