PATHS WITHIN PATHS
Another Look at the Art of Tarotology
My convoluted journey of life has certainly been rich in variety, in uncommon growth opportunities, in sweet blessings, and recently, in the peace that comes from clarity. Interestingly, my path is now taking me back to the study of Tarotology through which I had found abundant insights and spiritual nourishment, as I was studying for my Master’s degree in Religious Studies years ago.
Beyond the use of the cards for entertainment, I discovered that the Tarot was originally designed to facilitate personal introspection and growth on a spiritual level. Although various theories on its origin exist (e.g. Babylonian, Egyptian, secret societies, or European gypsies), each tradition resonates with a central theme of self-discovery in relation to Source/God. The framework for this age-old tradition is formed by a western spiritual account of the cosmos, namely the Kabbalah (a.k.a. Cabbala, Cabala, and Qabala).
The Kabbalah is an ancient philosophy and methodology by which Jewish mystics seek enlightenment. Kabbalists allegorically map our time and space existence in the form of an ideal "universal man,” in keeping with the tenet that the human being is created in the image of God.
Superimposed on the human form, which is an expression of the physical plane, are aspects or attributes (ten in total, called Sefirot) of God/Source, reflecting the spiritual plane. These aspects depict the divine traits that are roughly equivalent to axioms that human beings must master in their journey of enlightenment, e.g. Beauty, Wisdom, and Power. Another way to look at it is that the human represents the microcosm while the divine aspects represent the macrocosm.
In this way, through life-long dedicated study and practice, the Kabbalistic seeker comes to master successively esoteric attributes of an ideal form (archetype) of humanity that ultimately reflects God-like awareness or communion with God/Source. (You can therefore appreciate the complexities not mentioned here.)
In Tarot, the 78 cards are divided into two salient groups, i.e. 22 cards that comprise the Major Arcana (or ‘Mentor’) and 56 Minor Arcana cards. When translated as the Spiritual Tarot, the Kabbalah appears as the Major Arcana, with each path of the map between the ten sefirot reflecting a relationship that is equivalent to its corresponding card (see the diagram). That is to say, each Major Arcana card appears as a dimension of God along a path of self purification.
So in Tarotology, while various parts or paths correspond to levels of spiritual awareness that we are capable of achieving as human beings, these images form a sort of template for study and living called "The Tree of Life.” In essence, the Tree of Life with the Major Arcana becomes a map for achieving spiritual enlightenment!
In the meantime, the Tarot’s Minor Arcana reflect our mundane journey in time and space. This type of card deals with aspects of our daily lives in four primary areas, that is ‘enterprise/distinction,’ ‘mind/struggle,’ ‘love/happiness,’ and ‘money/skill.’ Groups within groups of cards take on various meanings and significance, depending on the focus of each card, its orientation, and its placement relative to others.
In this way, interpreting the 78 cards as they are laid out in a ‘spread’ incorporates and weaves together our every day existence and our divine purpose. Tarotology becomes an invitation (for both the reader and seeker) to reflect on and hone one’s ‘conscious’ thought, word, and deed.
In keeping with the tradition of esoteric initiation, the Kabbalah yields its ageless wisdom to the initiate in degrees or one step at a time. "When the student is ready, the teacher appears,” is truly applicable in this dynamic agent of wisdom. So just when I think that I have a grasp of the breadth and depth of the teachings, I am able to glimpse a yet broader and deeper layer of awareness just ahead. It feels much like a treasure hunt, where I not only revel in the profound personal growth, but also in the precious heart connections, sublime adventure and joy.