The Power of Yes and No

I continue to draw valuable insights from The Tao of Thoth. Most recently, the author described “negation” as often being a more appropriate response to circumstances than “affirmation.” The observation seems to be rooted in the martial-arts principle that negating (refusing) an opponent’s aggressive opening can be a more productive counter-move than directly exerting the force of one’s offensive reaction. It rebuts the military adage “The best defense is a good offense” since a wily adversary can turn your own momentum against you. This was boiled down to the following pithy statement:

“Learn the power of yes and no, of the positive and negative as the appropriate, or as the refined, or the correct response.”

I’m certain this premise is founded on the basic tenets of Yin and Yang, in which the receptive Yin (as the “mother” or origin of all things) offers a more broadly-applicable “refusal” posture and mode of recovery than the assertive but single-pointed Yang. I was immediately impressed by how emphatically this premise refutes one of the pillars of modern tarot thinking: “There are no negative cards.” In the Tajii (“Yin/Yang” symbol) the light can’t exist without the dark, and one draws its form and meaning from the other. There are definitely “Yin” cards within the tarot, a fact that modern students are being schooled to ignore in their interpretation. For example, Death can certainly promise a new beginning in the form of major change but it must first deliver a terminal blow to behaviors or attitudes on which we may have grown harmfully dependent; the same can be said of a card like the 10 of Swords, which I envision as the “slash-and-burn” strategy that prepares raw ground for planting in the Ace of Pentacles. In reading these cards I believe it’s prudent to apply what The Tao of Thoth defines as the “Eighth Tenet” of caring patience. We don’t immediately hit seekers over the head with alarming pronouncements; instead we delicately insinuate them into a more constructive (and ideally hopeful) narrative that prompts them to draw their own conclusions about the best course of action.

I decided to create an evolved “yes-or-no” dual-path spread based on these assumptions, and also included my stab at “binning” the cards of the Thoth deck according to their predominantly “Yang” or “Yin” nature; it wasn’t as simple as separating masculine/feminine, positive/negative or active/passive. I had to split a few hairs, and it turned out that “favorable/unfavorable” and “assertive/receptive” were the most useful determinants. (I realize that, despite its polarized appearance, the Tajii is not a symbolic illustration of “good” and “bad” but a complementary whole displaying contrasting energies, whereas the tarot requires much sifting and weighing of apparent opposites to approach the same level of elegant integration.) The “affirmation” side of the spread shows how positive influences can impel us toward an encouraging outcome, and ways we might leverage that advantage, while the “negation” side provides insights on the kind of resistance or “friction” we may encounter on the path, and advice on how we might “make the best of a bad situation.”

My only concern with any of this is that the adoption of a “negating” posture might promote a passive-aggressive or “avoidance” approach to confronting resistance. I don’t think that’s the intent of the philosophy but in Western culture it’s always a psychological risk.

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