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TAROT of THE SPIRIT
By PAMELA EAKINS
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 1992 Pamela Eakins
All rights reserved.
The Tarot Deck
Welcome to tarot, the game of life! Welcome to this incredible game in which the object is to understand all that has been, is and ever-shall-be! Welcome, dear traveler, to the Tarot of the Spirit!
To play this intriguing game is to learn about all existence—origins and structures—past, present and future. This is done through the contemplation of images, pictures that when attended to with the mindfulness given to great art, contain the power to propel the player on a profound path of spiritual realization.
The tarot provides a vehicle for the transformational journey of the soul. Each card contains a transformative image which—as you work with it—becomes a living entity, that is, a living projection of your own instincts and emotions, capable of guiding you inward toward a deep understanding of self and cosmos. Since its inception, the tarot has functioned unequalled as a sacred oracle, a spiritual path and a focal point for meditation. This is its divine legacy.
There are many paths to enlightened understanding. Tarot is only one. Yet it is comprehensive and provides a marvelously magical and mystical journey that spirals through the innermost layers of consciousness to the very heart of being. It is able to do this because—as you will see upon undertaking its study—the tarot contains every key element for enlightenment that has become known to humanity in its quest for wisdom.
The objective of working with tarot, whether as oracle, spiritual path or meditative tool, is to attain a sublime integration of internal contradictory elements in order to transcend conflict or conditioned response patterns and move into a state of inner peace and a deep awareness of our true identity. The tarot teaches us how we create our individual and collective identity, and therefore reality, through our chosen allegiances and actions and how we can break destructive patterns to move ever closer to the balanced centerpoint where the spiritual and material worlds intersect. Through the tarot, we learn how to bring our material world into balanced alignment with our deepest spiritual values. We are thereby enabled to redirect our consciousness in order to achieve true health, wealth and enduring happiness. Thus, tarot, in a sense, provides a frame upon which we can build the inner temple of our selves, "stone by stone."
As poet Phyllis Koestenbaum once wrote, "Right form pleases and controls like bones ..." The tarot is quintessential "right form" for understanding the human psyche. The structure of tarot, at once, enhances and limits possibility. That is to say, its structure is like a springboard for consciousness, but it is a springboard in which both the spring and the direction of propulsion are controlled. As such, when the divine tool of tarot is correctly employed, the potential for haphazard movement and spiritual chaos is reduced.
The divine legacy of tarot has been passed down through many centuries, undergoing continual refinement. In the last five hundred years, despite occasional controversies over particular interpretations, the structure of the tarot has remained essentially the same. One could say its structure has been perfected.
Every true tarot deck contains the same number of cards in approximately the same order. The Tarot of the Spirit follows a traditional tarot pattern. Thus, as an oracle, the Tarot of the Spirit demonstrates an awesome precision. Nonetheless, the Tarot of the Spirit is unsurpassed as a vehicle for traveling the spiritual path. While chapter 3, The Spiritual Path, explains in greater detail the background of the Tarot of the Spirit, let me briefly state that this tarot is qabalistic in orientation and therefore completely balanced in its treatment of opposites. It is neither a "dark" nor a "light" tarot. It is neither "chauvinist" nor "feminist" in its approach. It stands completely centered on the Tree of Life. As such, the Tarot of the Spirit is offered as a guide for those seeking lasting balance.
In subsequent chapters, I will speak more about how to use the tarot, but first let us look at the overall structure of the pack of cards.
The Pack of Cards
The tarot contains 78 cards. Of these, 56 belong to the Minor Arcana and 22 to the Major Arcana. Arcanum means mystery. The cards, it is said, contain secret knowledge which is hidden in their symbols. The object, for the seeker, is to unravel the mysteries of tarot through working with the deck.
The Minor Arcana___________________________________________
The Minor Arcana are divided into four suits of 14 cards each. The suits represent the four major components of human life: spirit, emotions, intellect and body. These suits are also known as planes of consciousness. Thus, represented in the Minor Arcana we have the spiritual plane, the emotional plane, the intellectual plane, and the physical plane. The contemplation of the cards of the four planes, described further in chapter 4, carries you deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the human psyche.
In the Tarot of the Spirit, the suit of spirit is represented by the element Fire. Thus we refer to the suit as Fire. The first card is the One of Fire. The second card is the Two of Fire, the third is the Three, and so on. In addition, as you will see in chapter 3, each card is named. The One of Fire is called Force. The Two is Convergence. The Three is the Birth of Light. The names of the cards are not as important for this particular discussion, however, as the structure of the suits.
The suit of emotion is represented by Water. The suit of intellect is represented by Wind and the body, or physical world, is represented by Earth. We have, then, four elemental suits—the suits of Fire, Water, Wind and Earth—each containing 14 cards which make up the first 56 cards of the tarot deck.
Each element is symbolized by a particular magical tool. In the Tarot of the Spirit, Fire is represented by wands. Traditionally, Fire is also represented by wooden rods, clubs, and other objects which either burn up (such as trees) or send out currents of flame or energy. In other tarot decks, as well as in decks of playing cards, this suit has frequently been known as the suit of wands or clubs.
Water is represented by cups in that cups contain and, in some ways, give form to liquid. Traditionally, any vessel becomes the tool for the suit of Water. Because it is the suit of emotion, it is also represented by hearts. Thus, it has often been called the suit of cups or hearts.
In the Tarot of the Spirit, the tool of the suit of Wind is the sword. Upon studying the Sacred Texts in Book II, the connection between the element of Wind and the sword will become more clear. Blades and spades of all kinds fall into the category of swords. Thus the suit of Wind has been known as swords or spades. Feathers also represent the Wind. This is easier to comprehend in that birds spread their wings—feathers—to rise up on the wind. This, of course, symbolizes the process of spiritual transcendence.
Finally, Earth is represented by pentacles. The pentacle is the five-pointed star that represents humanity—two arms, two legs and a head—in physical form. When the star is encircled, it signifies humanity passing through eternity, always changing, always moving, cartwheeling through time. Earth is also represented by dishes, platters (especially when they hold bread), coins, disks and diamonds. It is most often known as the suit of pentacles, disks, or diamonds. See figure 1 for the correspondences of each suit.
Of the 14 cards in each suit, ten are numbered 1 through 10 and four are "face" cards. We will look at the theoretical structure of these in turn.
Numbers 1 through 10 __________________________________
Each card in each suit represents a particular aspect of human consciousness or experience. In each of the four suits, the Is contain many of the same properties, the 2s are similar, the 3s are similar, and so on.
At 1 something is beginning to open up; at 2, it becomes polarized; at 3, it becomes dimensional; at 4, it becomes stable; at 5, it begins to move; at 6, it restabilizes; at 7, it becomes highly complex; at 8, it grows; at 9, the suit comes into its highest point. At 10, the suit is completed, a cycle has fulfilled itself, and new ideas or elements begin to enter. It is as if at the 10 in any suit, the querist moves on to a new plane of experience.
It is useful to think of the numbers 1 through 10 in terms of a geometric progression. The 1, for example, is a point. At the point of the 1, everything begins to come into sharp focus. The 2 is two points that form a line; the line symbolizes duality, polarization or continuum. The 3 makes a triangle or triad and also a plane. When you begin to think of the numbers geometrically, if you use your creative imagination (as described in chapters 3 and 4) much light is shed on the meaning of the particular card. I offer the symbolism of figure 2 for your further contemplation on this matter. Figure 2 does not purport to be exhaustive, but it will provide greater insight into the possibilities of the tarot deck.
To enhance the picture obtained through thinking geometically, the meaning of the numbers can be outlined as follows:
1. raw energy;
2. will, purpose, initial understanding;
3. conception, manifestation;
4. production, mastery, clinging to achievement;
5. surrender, release, destruction;
6. solution, exaltation, seeing;
7. feeling, deepening, mystery;
8. repose, consideration, retreat, ripening;
9. understanding before or beyond words, strengthening;
10. processing, moving to a new level.
A final way of looking at the theoretical structure of the numbers 1 through 10 is as a linear graph of experience. At the 1, something begins. At the 2, it grows in intensity. At the 3, it grows stronger still. At the 4, it reaches its initial peak. At the five, problems arise. At the 6, the querist feels the problems are solved. At the 7, the querist realizes that the solutions embraced at the 6 were probably not of a permanent nature and thereby goes "back to the drawing board." At the 8, real learning, which will have lasting results, begins to occur. At the 9, the major messages and mysteries of the particular suit or issue at hand have been processed and understood. At the 10, the querist moves to a new level or a new way of knowing. See figure 3 for a graphic depiction of this concept.
The theoretical meaning of numbers 1 through 10 is uniform in every tarot deck. Thus, the querist need not know the "name" of the particular card in order to interpret its meaning. When you know the meaning of the suits, the theoretical structure of cards 1 through 10, in addition to the meaning of the face cards, you are capable of "reading" an ordinary deck of 52 playing cards.
The Face Cards ____________________________________
An ordinary pack of playing cards contains three face cards in each suit. They are traditionally referred to as Kings, Queens and Jacks.
Each suit of the tarot contains four face cards for a perspective which is, overall, more balanced. In different decks, these cards go by different names. They are sometimes called Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses, or Knights, Queens, Princes and Pages. One deck calls them Shamans, Priestesses, Sons and Daughters. In the Tarot of the Spirit, the face cards are called Fathers, Mothers, Brothers and Sisters. In all tarot decks, there are traditionally two parent-like cards and two offspring. If you wish to read an ordinary pack of cards, however, where there are only three face cards, you may wish to combine the attributes of both "children" into one child, which would, of course, be represented by the Jack.
In the Tarot of the Spirit, the Father in the suit of Fire is known as Fire Father. The Mother is Fire Mother. The Brother is Fire Brother and the Sister, Fire Sister.
Just as all the Is have similar qualities, all of the Fathers have similar qualities. This holds true for Mothers, Brothers and Sisters as well. So, while we have 16 face cards in the entire deck, and while each face card will be modified by the suit in which it appears, the face cards can be reduced to four major personality type.
All Fathers, for example, even though they are conditioned by the element of the suit in which they reside, are essentially related to the element of Fire. Thus they represent spirit—action, energy and movement. If the Father is residing in the suit of Water, he will be modified, for example, by the spirit and energy level of Water. Since Water is by nature passive, the Water Father, who is really the Fire Father in Water, is likely to be passive. His high energy is subdued by Water's heavy and calming influence. When the Father appears in his own element, in Fire, however, he becomes the very essence of his inner qualities. He is hot and flaming, all action, high energy and continuous movement.
Just as all the Fathers are related to Fire, all Mothers are related to the element Water. Regardless of the suit in which they appear, although they are conditioned or refined by the attributes of that suit, it can be said that all the Mothers personify the qualities of emotion and understanding. The Mothers—in their exalted state—are receptive, loving and nurturing.
The Brothers represent the suit of Wind. They are intellectual, relying on reason, seeking understanding through the processes of thought. They seek to discover higher purpose through rationality. In the Tarot of the Spirit, the Brothers are the Spirit Warriors. In their exalted state, they are not afraid of creating and employing new information as they speed their causes along.
The Sisters represent Earth. They solidify, or "ground," all the energy generated along the path through the particular suit. In a certain way, they can be seen as the essence of the suit or the element of the suit as it is processed and applied—concretely—in the body, mind or spirit of the querist, or in the querist's life. The Sisters represent the manifestation of the messages, mysteries or lessons of the particular suit. Thus, they are like the Priestesses of the element. They are capable of understanding the element thoroughly and putting its tools to work.
While much more information regarding the modifications of the face cards as they appear in each suit is presented in Book II, it is useful to think of the face cards as four essential types: Fire Father, Water Mother, Wind Brother and Earth Sister. Beyond that, we can conceptualize Fire Father in Water, imagining, for example, how the element of Water would affect his fiery nature. We can imagine Fire Father in Wind with the same empathetic stance, or Fire Father in Earth.
In each suit, the Fathers and Mothers unite to produce their offspring. Thus it can be said that the Brothers and Sisters contain the characteristics and receive the guidance of both of their parents. Whether they attune to their parents or follow their directives is, of course, a personal matter. As the querist begins to understand this, the cards begin to come alive.
The querist, then, will understand that the Father and Mother do not necessarily contain the characteristics of their offspring. The Father and Mother are "pure" in nature. The children, however, have the ability—if they so choose and if they exalt their own potential—to soar beyond the limits of their parents, "casting," as it were, "the disk of Earth much further."
To understand this, to understand any of the face cards of the tarot, we ought to put ourselves in any one of their shoes. Only then can we begin to perceive their meaning on a deep level. We can then begin to understand the theory of the tarot which takes us, in terms of internalized knowledge, far beyond the limits of rote memorization. The apprehension of these four personality types in theory, renders the whole of tarot easier to understand.
If you wish to understand the Earth Sister in Wind, for example, try to experience things from her perspective. How would you feel with an older Brother and two parents who were guided, for all practical purposes, by the challenge of the intellectual endeavor?
Learning to experience the tarot from the inside opens the doors to its minor and major mysteries.
The Major Arcana ____________________________________
There are 22 cards of the Major Arcana, also known as Trumps, numbered 0 through XXI. In the Tarot of the Spirit, these cards are known as Keys. That is because each one has a powerful capacity to unlock the door of a major mystery of the human psyche.
Excerpted from TAROT of THE SPIRIT by PAMELA EAKINS. Copyright © 1992 Pamela Eakins. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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