Shortly after I had explored Paul Foster Case's book, The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, I came across a little book written by the art historian Robert Wang. I found Wang's description of the Tarot fascinating on several levels, however, it was his claim that the Tarot represented "a system of enlightenment" that intrigued me the most.
After reading Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, I had become transfixed by the idea that a Western approach to enlightenment might be hiding in plain sight, preserved within the language of symbolism and myth. Wang's book proved pivotal for me in this exploration, for not only did it shift my perspective on the Tarot, but also enhanced my understanding of symbols as well.
From Wang's perspective, the most important aspect of a symbol isn't its physical form, but the ideas that it encapsulates and points one towards:
And here, what must be appreciated is that it is not the pictures of the Tarot which have been kept secret, but the concepts which those pictures symbolize.
Wang's perspective was consistent with the lessons that I had gleaned from both of Campbell's works that I had read, The Hero with a Thousand Faces and Pathways to Bliss. The assertion that symbols were designed to catalyze a cascade of ideas was also consistent with the ideas expounded upon by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz in his book, The Symbol & the Symbolique.
Before Wang's statement, however, it had never occurred to me that different depictions (what appeared to be different symbols on the surface) might actually serve as pointers to a similar set of ideas. Such an approach would allow depictions to shift according to different cultures and context all the while allowing the original ideas to be preserved.
Although it might sound incredible, such an approach would also allow ideas to be preserved throughout a variety of mediums. From this perspective, the idea that fragments of the same system of enlightenment might be found within the symbolism of myths, the Tarot, and even the carvings of the gothic cathedrals began to seem more possible (perhaps even probable) and less farfetched.