The Risk of Deciding
"Dune" was to be his most ambitious film production: a personal adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel of the same title, published in 1965. The science-fiction saga was ideally suited to the choreography of transgressive visual and narrative genres of the sort in which the method of Alejandro Jodorowsky partakes, and as it had been manifested in his films "El Topo" (1970) and "The Holy Mountain" (1973). Such an important project merited its own blank book. Hence, the word "DUNE" written in Art Deco-style typography is on the cover of a thick yellow notebook from 1974. Inside, however, there is not a single reference to the film (a premonition, perhaps, of the fact that it was never to be realized under Jodorowsky’s direction). The notebook, reproduced here in a selection of pages, was used for something else entirely, an investigation into one of the topics that concerns this director, cartoonist, composer, and visual artist: the history and use of the Tarot de Marseille.
Jodorowsky has dedicated much of his life to exploring what he calls psychomagic, a divinatory, therapeutic practice and a kind of artistic research. Art is not art if it is incapable of healing. The power of the word along with an image from the tarot deck can bring out the individual subject’s unconscious desires, allow them to flourish, and help reach his or her most intimate facets. The cards—the images they place before our eyes and the words that rest on their surface—help to establish a poetic, performative, and interpretive dialogue between Jodorowsky and the “patient” who consults the deck. This dialogue is geared toward grasping fears, stimulating spiritual grace, and breaking out of vicious cycles. In psychomagic, cognition and behavior come together in a method whose basic premise is belief: healing is not possible in the face of indifference, nor can it be reduced to the language and schema of scientific reason. Hence, once heard and believed, the symbolic charge of these words will set off a process of psychic and somatic transformation that will free agency.
For more than three years, Jodorowsky’s interest in the Tarot de Marseille led him to a series of encounters and studies that are put forth in this notebook, a register of teachings alongside an analysis of the deck and its complex laws of combination. This tarot deck is one of the oldest known and is generally considered to have been brought to Europe by Romani. It is characterized by “whole”, rather than split, characters. The number appears in Roman numerals on the upper portion of each card, and the name of the card is in French at the bottom. The Major Arcana contains twenty-two cards, and the Minor Arcana fifty-six. The cards in the Major Arcana are more important; they hold the key to deeper questions. The cards in the Minor Arcana, on the other hand, address more mundane concerns.
Jodorowsky the “psicomago” delves into the relationship between image, word, interpretation, and behavior. Through chance and the principle of indeterminacy, word and deed establish a tight and necessary relationship in his magically surreal practice that directly addresses the chaotic totality of the unconscious.