Tarot for Life
Reading the Cards for Everyday Guidance and Growth
By Paul Quinn
Theosophical Publishing House Copyright © 2009 Paul Quinn
All rights reserved.
Tarot beyond Fortune-Telling
Why stay we on the earth unless to grow? —Robert Browning
If a national poll were conducted about attitudes toward the Tarot, I could predict the outcome. The majority of people would view it as frivolous—an amusing diversion at carnivals and costume parties. Coming at a close second would be those who see it as a scam luring the flaky and gullible. A slightly smaller number would shiver at the mention, having seen the cards demonized in horror movies or heard them denounced from church pulpits. A handful would express admiration for the Tarot as a fortune-telling tool, and at least one smart aleck would quip, "Turow? He's my favorite author!"
But the Tarot that I know—and can't wait to tell you about—is virtually unknown to the public, unknown even to those who have had their "fortunes told." The Tarot I want to share with you is a treasure box, within which you have the pleasure to discover:
a lifelong key to unlock your Inner Wisdom
a catalyst for your creativity and inspiration
a flashcards for your intuitive development
a set of visual affirmations
a meditation focuser
a decision-making aid
a dream interpreter
a perspective enhancer
an emotional compass
a metaphysics teacher
a spiritual advisor
a tool for self-understanding
Go even deeper into the Tarot and you'll find a philosophy—one founded on ancient-turned-modern ideas of spiritual evolution. For those on a conscious path of self-realization, this is the Tarot that gives rise to a deeper conversation with the voices of Self and Universe, that enhances the potential for psychological as well as cosmic insights, and that offers a timeless template for transformation.
I should mention that not every Tarot deck illustrates this intent, nor tries to. The Hello Kitty Tarot, to no one's surprise, is among many novelty decks absent metaphysical heft. And there are many Tarot decks in my own collection that are beautiful to look at yet short on ideas. But as originally published by Rider in Great Britain, the deck featured in this book has remained the best-selling Tarot in the world for good reason: It's a cryptogram. Arthur Edward Waite and artist/coconspirator Pamela Coleman Smith embedded their iteration of the Tarot with symbols designed to draw us out of the drama and into the recognition that we are spiritual players on a worldly stage. Our task is to choose how we will play our parts.
Six Principles Underlying the Tarot
Natural Law includes paradox, which Logical Law cannot. —Ram Dass
Below, I've outlined six key metaphysical concepts at the heart of the esoteric Tarot. Could you skip this next section and start reading about the cards? Yes, but many of the card descriptions refer back to these core concepts, and you'd feel horribly left out. Could you interpret the cards without understanding their metaphysical dimensions? You could take a shot at it, but your interpretations would only scrape the surface, and you'd bore yourself to death. The Tarot is an intuitive tool with an intellectual foundation. Like the Magician and High Priestess, one complements the other, completing the package.
The first three concepts—As Above, So Below; the Law of Attraction; and Synchronicity—are part of the Law of Correspondence, which holds that all of life is interconnected. The last three tenets—the Self and Individuation, Integration of Opposites, and Masculine and Feminine—relate to the structure of the psyche and to challenges for personal growth. Together, the six principles sum up the transformative ideas at the heart of the Tarot. Throughout the book you'll discover the many subtle and brilliant ways these concepts are encoded in the card images—and are at work in you.
1. As Above, So Below. The terms above and below signify metaphysical, not physical directions. They point to the presence of the Divine (above) in each of us (below) and to the spirit of the Divine everywhere in matter. This concept is most vividly symbolized in the upward- and downward-pointing hands of the Tarot's Magician. In Western and Eastern mysticism, there is no separation between the Creator and creation; no notion of inherent unworthiness or spiritual limitation. The divine Intelligence is as much a part of us as we are of it. The call to claim our spiritual wholeness, thus linking above and below, is symbolized in the journey of the Tarot's Major Arcana (cards 0–21). Above and below also correlate with the relationship between mind and body—namely, the effect our thoughts have on the state of our physical health.
2. The Law of Attraction. Also known as As Within, So Without, the Law of Attraction says that everything we experience, all our life conditions and experiences, are created by our thoughts and the emotions stirred by them. Like attracts like. Every thought has its own particular vibrational frequency that pulls in people or situations which match that frequency. Unfortunately, most of us are not conscious of the thoughts we're projecting, let alone the power of those thoughts to manifest tangibly in our experience. But the Tarot offers a tool for noticing where we're placing our attention in any area of our lives and therefore what we're pulling toward us. Where attention goes, energy ?ows.
3. Synchronicity. The term was coined by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung, who de?ned it as the "meaningful coincidences" that so often leave us marveling at life's uncanny timing and choreography. For events to be synchronistic they must be randomly occurring, such as the haphazard "throwing" of Tarot cards that somehow wind up coinciding with the particulars of our question in that moment. Like wondering what ever happened to your third-grade math teacher and then bumping into him moments later at your hotel in Calcutta, synchronicities defy the odds and challenge causal explanations.
4. The Self and Individuation. Here are two more concepts Jung introduced. He described the Self as an archetype of one's core essence or wholeness (as opposed to the more ego-led, lower-case self). He called the unending process of getting to this core individuation. Only by individuating, Jung believed, do we have a truly honest, authentic relationship with ourselves and, by extension, with the world. Individuation involves the conscious integration of all strands of the psyche, including unconscious aspects that we have fearfully repressed and those that we have not yet had the pleasure to meet. Becoming the Self is a lifelong process we can never actually complete. Mindful Tarot exploration, however, can help bring more of who we are to the light of our conscious awareness.
5. Integration of Opposites. There's a hero and a hellion in each of us, and each has a role in our development. To recognize and integrate these and other contradictory parts of ourselves is the major task of individuation. Left on their own, our inner opposites "stand off" against each other. They create psychic tension that usually ends with one of the aspects vilified or banished to the unconscious, resulting in the creation of what Jung called the shadow. But evolving toward the Self involves a synthesis of light and dark, conscious and unconscious, inner and outer. In bringing our dualities together, we in essence resolve them, awakening the greater power and potentialities of the Self. The interplay of the opposites is depicted in every card of the Major Arcana.
6. Masculine and Feminine. Although the concepts of masculine and feminine belong to the integration of opposites, they deserve their own delineation. It is tempting to correlate "masculine" and "feminine" to the attributes stereotypically associated with gender—men ruling the outer world of Doing, women the passive inner realm of Being. But in the mystical and Jungian traditions, gender is not in the genitals. The process of individuation, of becoming fully human, fully ourselves, leads us to integrate these so-called masculine and feminine aspects.
These terms may be limiting at best, misleading at worst, yet they provide a useful way to understand the dynamic polarities of being. In this way the Magician can represent a woman's "masculine" willpower, the High Priestess a man's "feminine" intuition.
In the dimension of spirit, there are no such distinctions. We simply are. The purpose of the Tarot path and of individuation is to become like the figure in the World card, the composite of masculine and feminine, fully integrated and empowered, at peace with all pairs of opposites.
Here are just a few examples of the dualities classically associated with the masculine and feminine principles explored in this book:
Left brain Right brain
Right side Left side
What Makes the Tarot Work?
May not such events raise the suggestion that they are not undesigned? —Daniel Webster
The principle most active when you do a Tarot reading is synchronicity. It's a big part of what makes working with the Tarot awe-inspiring and fun. When seemingly disconnected events converge in related ways, we rightly sense the workings of cosmic forces. Synchronicities, in whatever form they appear, have the power to evoke our humor, wonder, and humility, qualities nourishing to the soul.
My friend Pat will never forget a synchronistic moment that occurred shortly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. "I was at home watching television," she recalls, "and at one point I just asked the universe, 'Will I be all right?' I really didn't know. I surrendered. And with that, on TV was a doctor telling this woman with breast cancer, 'You have clean margins; none of it went into your lymph nodes. You'll have the radiation, and you'll be fine.'
"I knew I had just gotten my answer," Pat concludes.
A week later, her oncologist gave her a prognosis identical to the one announced by the TV physician. She lives today free of cancer.
"Synchronicity" does not answer the question, "Who or what is determining where the cards fall?" But if we accept that ultimate reality is as above, so below and as within, so without, then trying to precisely pinpoint the source of the oracle's animating intelligence is as fruitless as the dog chasing its tail. Consciousness is beyond space and time, beyond "you and me." Tapping into the transpersonal dimension through the Tarot teaches us to relax in the absence of hard boundaries. When we set aside the need to control and let the cards fall as they may, we allow divine mystery to come into play, which may become, with attention, a divine message.
The Structure of the Tarot
Everything is only a metaphor; there is only poetry. —Norman O. Brown
The Tarot is a deck of seventy-eight cards composed of twenty-two cards known as the Major Arcana and ?fty-six called the Minor Arcana. The word arcana is derived from the Latin arcanum, meaning "secret" or "key". The name was given to the cards by the nineteenth-century occultist Paul Christian, for whom the Tarot represented the keys to the secrets of life.
The Major Arcana: Universal Costume Party
Whenever we recognize ourselves in a myth, it is empowering. —Jean Shinoda Bolen
The cards of the Major Arcana, also known as Trumps, are numbered 0 through 21 and bear titles such as the Fool, the Wheel of Fortune, and the Sun. The Major Arcana are universal archetypes—the familiar characters and themes of our shared existence that transcend race, culture, gender, and time.
Take the example of the Hermit. This archetype is expressed equally in a man living alone in a Mongolian forest, a scholar sequestered by studies in Milan, and a Manhattan teenager trying to discover herself in the jottings of her journal. Anyone on the planet—now or at any time in history—who has pondered life's meaning or simply felt alone has at such moments embodied the Hermit archetype. Each in its own way, the twenty-two archetypes of the Major Arcana call attention to the unifying threads and timeless challenges of our shared experience.
The Trumps depict distinct stages of self-realization, from the innocent adventuring of the Fool to the transcendent completion of the World. One way to visualize this process is by placing the Trumps into three rows of seven cards, called septenaries (see chart, Tarot Trumps Septenary, page 19). The Fool, personifying the essential wholeness of which all the other Trumps are but a part, traditionally ?oats above or throughout the other cards. Laid out this way, each row begins to suggest its own general theme. To these rows/themes I have respectively given the names The Essentials for the Journey, The Inward Path, and The Heat Is On.
Each card in the septenary can also be viewed in its relationship to the cards appearing directly above or below it. Exploring these vertical correspondences can yield further insights into how the Trumps come together as a philosophy. Keep in mind that your life, no matter how "spiritual," will not follow the neatly ordered progression of the Tarot Trumps. Awakening is a dynamic, lifelong process. In one moment you may know the euphoria associated with the World, and in the next find yourself emotionally unhinged in the Moon. You will acquire the archetypal experiences that the Trumps depict in your own way and in your own time.
In Rachel Pollack's model of the septenary, the Trumps "story" progresses in the traditional horizontal way as well as in a downwardly vertical fashion.
The Minor Arcana: Life in Snapshots
Life is what we make it, always has been, always will be. —Grandma Moses
The Minor Arcana are fifty-six cards divided into four suits, each of which represents the characteristic energies of one of the four classical elements—Fire, Water, Air, and Earth.
Wands/Fire—desire, vision, ambition, challenge
Cups/Water—feeling, merging, imagination, depth
Swords/Air—intellect, clarity, conflict, judgment
Pentacles/Earth—physicality, stability, security, money
Each suit is organized from Ace (1) through 10. The Aces are the most abstract cards in the deck, representing the pure elemental energies of their respective suits. Cards 2–10 depict people in various situations and relationships. In contrast with the soul-guidepost role of the Trumps, the Minor Arcana are traditionally viewed as dealing with the "lesser" themes of everyday life. And yet, where else do we find opportunities to grow in spirit if not in the day-to-day challenges and opportunities of family, work, and relationships?
Don't be fooled by the designation Minor. As you'll see in the many examples in this book, the Minor Arcana can reveal major insights. Just as a Major Arcana card can have a mundane meaning in a reading, the message of a Minor Arcana card can turn out to be the most provocative, illuminating, and healing.
The Court Cards: Sixteen Types and Temperaments
The Minor Arcana include sixteen Court cards. Although every card in the Tarot is capable of showing us aspects of ourselves, the Court cards articulate specific personality traits. They can depict attitudes expressed in the moment or more permanent ways of responding to life. They can even represent societal roles, from schoolchildren to CEOs. A Court card can represent the querent (the person for whom the reading is done), a person involved in the querent's situation, or the general atmosphere of the issue in question.
The Pages are the parts of us that, like the Fool, are curious, naive, open to experience, and willing to take risks in the spirit of self-discovery. Depicted as youths in the cards, the Pages can represent children, or the childlike passion for leaping into learning that keeps us young no matter our chronological age.
The Pages are the beginners, the apprentices, the unapologetic amateurs who accept the current limits of their skills and understanding, yet try their hand anyway. Whereas the Aces signal the potentialities of the respective suits, the Pages take the ?rst steps toward activating those potentialities.
As the courtly correspondents of the Chariot, the Knights embody the glory-bound warrior archetype. Knightly behavior is intense, given to swearing oaths and throwing down gauntlets. Where there's a cause, there's a Knight riding forth to champion it. Their common mission: to pursue, uphold, and defend the ideals of their suits.
We assume the role of the Knight when energized by tests and challenges, when fueled by opportunities to prove ourselves, and when ennobled by the call to serve, persuade, or rescue others. Whether taking out the trash or taking on the world, an unshakable sense of purpose beats within the brave breast of the Knight.
Unlike the fledgling Pages and questing Knights, the Queens are enlivened by a deep reverence for the qualities of their suits, having matured the most creative aspects of those qualities within themselves. They represent the soul of their particular elements, containing, preserving, and cherishing the related essences and gifts. This umbilical connection to essence enables the Queens to recognize the same in others and, like the Empress, nurture it in them. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Tarot for Life by Paul Quinn. Copyright © 2009 Paul Quinn. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
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