A Brief Introduction to the Tarot

seven pillars of wisdom tarot2.jpg

The first seven “Major Arcana” from the Fournier Tarot of Marseille

My introduction to the Tarot came about quite unexpectedly through Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey Into Christian Hermeticism (hereafter “MOTT“–reputed to be among “100 best spiritual books” of the 20th century).  Prior to reading MOTT, my evaluation of the Tarot was little different to that of most of my friends and colleagues in academia–or, for that matter, to my friends and family in the Bible belt.  Indeed, my typical reaction to any mention of the Tarot  would generally be comprised of about 2 parts of ridicule and 1 part of fear–with little or no energy left for open, honest engagement (much less meditation).

Over the past couple of years, however, however, I have become increasingly fascinated by this 600 year old text which comes down to us from 15th century Italy in the form of 78 cards (more on this below).  Moreover, I have also discovered (through both observation and experience) that if they are approached in the right spirit, these cards can constitute a profoundly effective teaching tool.  Indeed, when the circumstances are right, they can contribute substantially to the opening of hearts and minds to a deeper, more intimate relationship to Reality — i.e. to God, to other human beings, and to creation as a whole.

–> Continue reading A Brief Introduction to the Tarot…

Petrarch’s Triumphs on Cassone: Follower of Mantegna; Italian, c.1460s.

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The French Tradition

Editor’s Note:  Recently, while preparing to give presentations touching on the history and symbolism of the Tarot, I came across the following resources at Tarot-History.Com.  The owner of that site kindly agreed to my use of this beautiful and historically illuminating material here and in my classes.  Many thanks to Roxanne Flornoy and Tarot-History.Com !!!  🙂

The Tarot has always fascinated the casual inquirer and amateur as much as the seasoned initiate.

Here we deal with both the history and legend of tarot cards, as well as the tarot as game, magic
and “journey of the soul“.


These reflections are centered around the following traditional “Tarot of Marseille” preserved in the French National Library :

Tarot of Jean Noblet and of Jacques Vieville c.1650, Tarot of Jean Dodal c.1701, Tarot of Nicolas Conver 1760.

There are only three (plus another of a slightly different tradition) Tarots of Marseille which have come down to us complete and unaltered. It is these which are the foundation and source of all modern tarots. They were produced at a time when traditions were still alive, and it is to them that this site is dedicated

Our principal activity consists in re-editing these few historic, popular Tarots preserved in the French National Library:

This tradition, seven centuries old, originates in the knowledge, science and art of the men who built the cathedrals.

All tarots which are not rooted in this tradition (effectively dead by 1730) can be called “fantasy”, and just reflect their authors. Personal creations remain creations which are only personal, however erudite or beautiful.

–> Tarot-History.Com

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The Soul’s Choice

Here, for immediate download, is the current version of a very short essay I have been working on entitled, The Soul’s Choice.  It contains an outline of a contemplative, nondual understanding of various Christian modes of discourse together with a model of spiritual formation illustrated by an arrangement of images from The Tarot of Marseille.  The images (which also appear, below) are on the second page of the PDF and will need to be printed out or “rotated clockwise” in your Adobe Reader (under the “View” menu).  

Keeping in mind our anonymous author’s warning in Letter VIII that we should avoid attempting to “explain” a symbol by reducing it to a few general abstract ideas, perhaps the following bullet points can serve, nonetheless, as a kind of abbreviated “key” that may provide a point of departure, for some, that will lead to a more profound realization:

  • The Wheel of Fortune, in this context, is meant to suggest separation and duality (cf. fallen creation, maya)
  • The World (Le Monde) indicates union/nonduality (cf. true nature, nirvana, the kingdom of God)
  • The Moon points to the empirical ego and, more generally, discursive thought (induction, deduction, ratiocination)
  • The Sun suggests the light of awareness (cf. the transcendental ego; Divine Intelligence/Nous/Logos)
  • The Tower points to the destiny of the egoic mind (i.e. the inevitable end of “the story of me”, however successful “I” may be along the way)
  • The Hanged Man suggests the possibility of “dying before we die” (transcending the ego/being crucified with Christ)
  • The Devil indicates the temptation of duality/forgetfulness
    (in material, ideological and/or sensual pursuits)
  • Temperance alerts us to the call of conscience
    (mindfulness/remembrance/Divine presence)
  • The Ace of Swords indicates the rule of the empirical/dualistic/egoic mind (cf. Vaentin Tomberg’s “emancipated personality”)
  • The Ace of Coins suggest the ego’s preoccupation with “laying up treasure on earth” (wealth, power, prestige)
  • The Ace of Batons points to Spirit/Presence/Awareness
    (God’s will, our real will)
  • The Ace of Chalices suggest the heart that is open to Spirit
    (“set your affections on things above”)

Note the correlation and, at the same time, the contrasts that can be drawn between each side of the arrangement of images:

  • Ace of Swords (vs. Ace of Batons)
  • Ace of Coins (vs. Ace of Chalices)
  • Upside Down Men in The Tower (vs. The upside down Hanged Man)
  • Two Dogs howling at The Moon (vs.  Two Children playing in The Sun)
  • The Rat-Race around The Wheel (vs.  The sacred animals at rest around the spacious “LeMonde”)

Note also that the images that make up the two (oval) “mandalas” are symmetrical — the one on the left suggesting a world of superficial appearances that obscure the richer and more profound Reality on the right.  Living in ignorance of this “vertical” dimension of our lives, our world seems out of joint, our lives absurd, and all our efforts ultimately in vain.  The good news, however, is that the kingdom of heaven is within us, among usat hand:

Luke 17:20 Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

“His disciples said to him: On what day will the kingdom come? It will not come while people watch for it; they will not say: Look, here it is, or: Look, there it is; but the kingdom of the father is spread out over the earth, and men do not see it” (Gospel of Thomas 113).

Once again, the arrangement of Tarot images in the PDF are also included, below– only a slight revision to the one I have shared repeatedly, over the last few months –but be sure to have a look a the first page of the PDF, too! 🙂

–> The Soul’s Choice (PDF)

[Note: It goes without saying that this material has been inspired in large part by my study of our anonymous author’s Meditations on the TarotI am also indebted to Paul Nagy for his feedback on the arrangement of images.]

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“Two Gravitational Fields” (Pope Benedict XVI)

In one of our initial posts (Let the journey begin), we suggested that Meditations on the Tarot might be linked to Pope Benedict XVI through Robert Spaemann (the same Robert Spaemann who wrote the forward to the German edition of MOTT, Die großen Arcana des Tarot).  And just recently, additional evidence has come to our attention which also suggests that Benedict may have been familiar with our anonymous author.  Indeed, it is not at all farfetched to think that, in addition to the Fathers of the Church, Pope Benedict may also have had Letter VI and (especially) Letter XII of MOTT, in mind as he wrote the following lines for his 2011 Palm Sunday Homily:

“The Fathers of the Church maintained that human beings stand at the point of intersection between two gravitational fields. First, there is the force of gravity which pulls us down – towards selfishness, falsehood and evil; the gravity which diminishes us and distances us from the heights of God. On the other hand there is the gravitational force of God’s love: the fact that we are loved by God and respond in love attracts us upwards. Man finds himself betwixt this twofold gravitational force; everything depends on our escaping the gravitational field of evil and becoming free to be attracted completely by the gravitational force of God, which makes us authentic, elevates us and grants us true freedom.”

By way of comparison, consider the following paragraphs from Letter XII of MOTT:

Now, the domain of freedom— the spiritual life —is found placed between two gravitational fields with two different centres. The Gospel designates them as “heaven” and “this world”, or as the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of the prince of this world”. And it designates those whose will follows or is submitted to the gravitation of “this world” as “children of this world”, and those whose will follows the gravitation of “heaven” as the “children (or the sons) of light.

 The human being participates in these two gravitational fields, as the apostle Paul had in mind when he said:

<<< For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh: for these arc opposed to each other, to prevent vou from doing what you would. (Galatians v. 17) >>>

These “opposing desires” arc the tendencies through which the two gravitational fields manifest themselves. The man who lives in the grip of gravitation of “this world” at the expense of the gravitation of “heaven” is the “carnal man”; he who lives in equilibrium between the two gravitational fields is the “psychic man”; and. lastly, the one who lives under the sway of the gravitation of “heaven” is (he “spiritual man” (MOTT, Letter XII, “The Hanged Man”, 306-307).

Less explicit, but very helpful by way of background, in Letter VI, our anonymous author writes:

“The choice before which the young man of the sixth Arcanum finds himself placed is of greater significance that that between vice and virtue. It is a matter here of choice between on the one hand the way of obedience, poverty and chastity and on the other hand the way of power, richness and debauchery. The practical teaching of the Arcanum “The Lover” is to do with the three vows and the three corresponding temptations.
“The three vows are, in essence, memories of paradise, where man was united with God (obedience), where he possessed everything at once (poverty), and where his companion was at one and the same time his wife, his friend, his sister and his mother (chastity). For the real presence of God necessarily entails the action of prostrating oneself in the face of Him “who is more me than I myself am”— and here lies the root and source of the vow of obedience; the vision of the forces, substances and essences of the world in the guise of the “garden of divine symbols” (the garden of Eden) signifies the possession of everything without choosing, without laying hold of, or without appropriating any particular thing isolated from the whole —and here lies the root and source of the vow of poverty; lastly, total communion between two, between one and another, which comprises the entire range of all possible relationships of spirit, soul and body between two polarised beings necessarily constitutes the absolute wholeness of spiritual, psychic and physical being, in love —and here lies the root and source of the vow of chastity. One is chaste only when one loves with the totality of one’s being.
Chastity is not wholeness of being in indifference, but rather in the love which is “strong as death and whose flashes are flashes of fire, the flame of the Eternal”. It is living unity.
“The Christian doctrine and experience of grace expresses the very essence of chastity, just as it also contains the principles of poverty and obedience. It is the doctrine concerning chaste relationships between that which is below and that which is above. God is not an object and neither is he an object of knowledge. He is the source of iiluminatory and revelatory grace. He cannot be grasped, but he can certainly reveal himself.

“Here we have chastity, poverty and obedience underlying the Christian doctrine and experience of grace. Now, all Christian esotericism or Hermeticism, including here all its mysticism, gnosis and magic, is founded on the experience and doctrine of grace, one of the results of which is initiation. Initiation is an act of grace from above. It cannot be achieved or produced by any technical outer or inner procedures. One does not initiate oneself; one becomes initiated” (Letter VI, “The Lover”, pages 124, 133-134).

To meditate on these themes more profoundly, let us re-read Letters VI and XII in their entirety and meditate on the image below.  Our study guides should also be helpful, but are no substitute for a close reading of the primary text.

–>  See Study Guides VI. The Lover and XII.  The Hanged Man

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Ask About Upcoming Classes In Contemplative Tarot

Cultivate the Seed of Self-Transcendence by Meditating on the Tarot:

  • The Self is a relation that relates to
    itself and to the power which grounds
    (cf. Kierkegaard).
  • The idea of “the separate self” is an
    illusion to be transcended.

Serious Students May Reasonably Aspire To:

  • Enhanced Self-Knowledge
  • Authentic Inspiration and Creativity
  • Clarity and Grace in Thought and Action
  • More Effective Communication and Better Interpersonal Relationship Skills

Students May also Come to Recognize and Honor their Eternal Life NOW:                                                      

  • Each of us participates in the magic, eternal life that NOW IS.
  • The Tarot provides a context for concentration and mindful introspection.
  • Fear, desire, resentment, and wishful thinking are observed–not served.
  • Courage, Courtesy, and Self-Reliance are cultivated in the process.
  • If and when conditions are right, the “separate self” will be seen through.

Students Who So Desire May Inquire of the Cards as Follows:  What factors or possibilities should be considered as I contemplate ______?”  For example:

  • …a desire for health, wealth, or wisdom?
  • …a pressing need or urgent dilemma?
  • …a relationship issue?
  • …a professional challenge?
  • …an anticipated trip or project?
  • …a change of address or employment?

Quoting P.D. Ouspensky:  “If we imagine [the] twenty-one [numbered Tarot  Trumps] disposed in the shape of a triangle, seven cards on each side, a point in the centre of the triangle represented by the zero card [the Fool], and a square round the triangle (the square consisting of fifty-six cards, fourteen on each side), we shall have a representation of the relation between God, Man and the Universe, or the relation between the world of ideas, the consciousness of man and the physical world.  The triangle is God (the Trinity) or the world of ideas, or the noumenal world.  The point is man’s soul.  The square is the visible, physical or phenomenal world.  Potentially, the point is equal to the square, which means that all the visible world is contained in man’s consciousness, is created in man’s soul.  And the soul itself is a point having no dimension in the world of the spirit, symbolized by the triangle.  It is clear that such an idea could not have originated with ignorant people and clear also that the Tarot is something more than a pack of playing or fortune-telling cards” (The Symbolism of the Tarot).

Email:  ContemplativeTarot@TeenyTinyTarot.Com

–> Download Contemplative Tarot Brochure  (PDF File)

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The Hanged Man — Again!!!

Don’t be surprised if we return again and again to this arrangement of images with our primary focus, perhaps, remaining on The Hanged Man.   In any event, consider, for a moment, that Christianity, construed as an exoteric tradition, is designed for us as apparent individuals (playing The Wheel of Fortune) whose understanding is darkened (cf. The Moon) and who, as such, have nothing to look forward to but death and destruction (The Tower).


Biblical narratives– insofar as we find them in some sense captivating or compelling –remind us that there is more to us than meets the eye; that the operations of our minds shine in a borrowed light; that we are, in fact, chosen/created in Christ before the foundation of the apparent world; and that we would do well to wake up and turn our hearts and our minds toward home.

Thus we are invited to repent (cf. The Lover) to take up our cross (cf. The Hanged Man), to become like little children (to walk in the light as He is in the light–cf. The Sun); and to enter into the life of the Spirit NOW (cf.  Le Monde); with our hearts wide open to the Spirit and Word of God (cf. The Ace of Chalices and Batons).

The Spirit and the bride say, Come.  And let him that hears say, Come.  And let him that is thirsty come.  And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).

–> XII. The Hanged Man


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TTTarot Hermeneutics

One of my fantasies is to open a little brick and mortar meeting place called The TeenyTinyTarot © Cafe and Community Center with a study area devoted to Tarot Hermeneutics.  With regard to the Tarot Hermeneutics study area, I would designate it by that name for couple of reasons–partly in honor of my friend, Paul Nagy, who happens to host a website by that name…

…and partly because the expression so brilliantly captures (what our anonymous author refers to on page 7 as) the game of tarot, while at the same time subtly  suggesting how much light an understanding of the history and usage of the Tarot can shed on the subject of hermeneutics in general!

But this post is not really about my (imagined) TeenyTinyTarot © Cafe and Community Center with its (imagined) Tarot Hermeneutics study area– nor is it about the kind of light which an understanding of the Tarot can shed on our understanding of hermeneutics in general –rather, it is about a concrete example of tarot hermeneutics involving myself, Paul Nagy, and my little booklet, A Metaphysical Reading of the Tarot Suits.

Paul hosts a weekly teleconference on MOTT (which, unfortunately, I am unable to regularly attend due to a scheduling conflict with a local philosophy group which happens to meet at the same time).  But recently, he was kind enough to share a draft of A Metaphysical Reading of the Tarot Suits with several members of that group and then to open it up for discussion during one of their teleconferences.  While no one gave me the blow by blow from the teleconference, I did manage to squeeze one or two observations out of Paul, after the fact.  The most significant of these, from where I stand, was his suggestion concerning the following image from page #4 in the booklet–namely, that the positions of Le Monde and Le Pendu  (The World and The Hanged Man) should really be reversed:


My Original Arrangement of the Cards on Page #4 of the Booklet

Paul  saw this arrangement of cards as a pair of mandalas and rightly pointed out the elegant symmetry that would be effected by positioning The World at the center of the mandala on the right, while leaving The Wheel as the center of the mandala on the left.  While we did not discuss it explicitly, I am assuming he would agree that The Lover represents our freedom to choose– indeed, the necessity of choosing –between these two gestalts or ways of life.  In any event, I think his suggestion is brilliant:


New Arrangement of the Cards, per Paul’s Suggestion

Why didn’t I think of that!?  It seems so obvious…  And the new position of The Hanged Man, on the far right, nicely balances and sublates the general impression conveyed by the upside down men falling out of The Tower, on the far left.  Indeed, I decided then and there that I should probably revise the little booklet (at some point) in light of Paul’s suggestion.  But, as I reflect on it further, I also realize (the obviousness of Paul suggestion notwithstanding) that my arrangement of the cards is also very reasonable and perhaps equally worthy of attention (as I will attempt to demonstrate, below).

The initial idea for the image came from this five-card spread which (as explained elsewhere) I had shared with a group of undergraduates in an introductory philosophy class:

house of the wicked new captions

A student’s question and the discussion that followed, resulted my first little booklet on the Tarot:  Christianity, Platonism and the Tarot of Marseille.  In that booklet, I explain the five-card spread, above, as follows:

Remember that, for Plotinus, we reside in two worlds. On the one hand, we appear on the horizon of space and time as one entity among a world full of entities competing for finite resources and eventually being overcome by some power greater than our (apparently separate) selves . This is illustrated by the two cards on the left in this series of images: The Wheel of Fortune and The Tower of Destruction. On the other hand, in our higher aspect, we reside in the intelligible realm (aka Nous – more loosely referred to as Spirit) where eternity and mutual inclusiveness replace time and space and separation (see Plotinus’ Enneads V.9.10) . The possibility of becoming aware of our higher aspect is illustrated by the two cards on the right (more on this, below).

Perhaps you have heard our conventional existence in time and space referred to as the horizontal dimension (or plane) — in contrast to the vertical dimension which is accessible to us if and only if our hearts are open to it. This distinction is key to understanding the universal symbolism of “The Lover” who is pulled in two directions (reminiscent of the myth of the soul in Plato’s Phaedrus). Those who choose the route of separation (seeking to secure their personal power, pleasure, and prestige on the horizontal plane) encounter mixed success, at best, and then face death and destruction; while those who “die before they die”— those who become attuned to deeper/higher levels of reality — realize their eternal life NOW (i.e. the vertical dimension).

–>  Christianity, Platonism, and the Tarot of Marseille  [PDF, v.2.0]

left hand mandela - kingdoms of this world - moon and tower reversed.jpgNow, as indicated above, I think Paul Nagy’s point is well taken–there are, indeed, important points of contrast and comparison between The Wheel of Fortune, on the left, and The World, on the right.  Moreover, if we construe each of these two sides as a mandala, we can easily imagine the mandala on the left superimposed over the mandala on the right (note, in the image to the left, that I have further reversed The Moon and The Tower so that they can be superimposed over The Sun and The Hanged Man, respectively).  Indeed, as we shall see, superimposing one over the other in this way will further enrich our meditation.

right hand mandela kingdom of god.jpgThe left-hand mandala, as I see it, represents (in Christian terms) the kingdoms of this world (with The Wheel of Fortune at its center) while at the same time suggesting (to my mind) the Buddhist concepts of maya and samsara (i.e. the illusory nature of our lives along with the cycle of suffering and death).  As for the right-hand mandala, I see it as representing the kingdom of heaven (with The World at its center) while also suggesting the Buddhist concept of nirvana (loosely construed).

NOTE:  If it grates on anyone’s Christian sensibilities to correlate “The Kingdom of Heaven” with “The World” card, remember that the world, in New Testament Greek, is the cosmos and that, in addition, we are promised a new heaven and a new earth:

Revelation 11:15 Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.”

Revelation 21:1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

[cf. II Peter 3:10-13; Romans 8:19-21]

While all this is usually understood (exoterically) as a future (quasi-historical) hope, it can also be understood (esoterically) in terms of  a present (transcendental/mystical) realization.  Thus, with regard to the superimposition of one of these worlds over the other, we should remember Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Thomas:

“[The kingdom] will not come while people watch for it; they will not say: Look, here it is, or: Look, there it is; but the kingdom of the father is spread out over the earth, and men do not see it” (Gospel of Thomas 113).

Similarly, in some Buddhist traditions, it is suggested that the seeker must eventually come to recognize that samsara is nirvana.

NOTE:  While we should beware of cavalierly conflating Buddhist and Christian concepts– and our anonymous author, especially, would not want us to confuse the Buddhist nirvana with the Christian notion of salvation or the kingdom of heaven –a loose comparison between the two seems justified to me in this case–at least by way of analogy.

Be that as it may, let me repeat that Paul Nagy’s point is certainly well taken and I am inclined to agree that we would do well (generally speaking) to reverse the two images in question so as to reflect his more comprehensive, mandalic gestalt.  But when we consider the position of individual seekers (i.e. those who are not yet seers) it might also be good, in some instances, to use the original arrangement to help such seekers recognize that their plight is, in part, a result of an erroneous self image–i.e. they continue to think of themselves as separate (from God, from nature, and from other human beings) and continue to struggle in an effort (as Alan Watts puts it) to “get one up on the universe” (and/or other human beings).  So doing, they continue to invest their time and talents in  The Wheel of Fortune, not realizing that they are not what they think and that life is much different than they imagine it to be!  On the other hand, there is another sense in which they are (or at least very palpably seem to be) what they think–a sense alluded to both in the Bible and Shakespeare:

“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7).

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…”  (Hamlet).


Our imaginations are very powerful, indeed!  But if anyone thinks they will ever finally arrive— that they can every finally secure their position at the top of The Wheel of Fortune, once and for all –then all I can say is,  they have another think coming…

Alas, here too we may run into trouble with Paul Nagy who sometimes suggests that the sphinx (setting atop The Wheel of Fortune) may be understood as having stepped off the wheel–singing perhaps, like John Lennon, I no longer play the game… (!!!???)   Imagine that!

cbd-the-wheel-of-fortune-radical-cropWhile that is, indeed, one way of imagining it, I have also heard Paul refer to the sphinx as the one who is setting in the catbird seat.   I like that metaphor better–since the catbird seat (to my mind) clearly suggests an egoic achievement which was gained in competition with the others and which will necessarily be lost, at some point, as the wheel continues to turn.  And since there is no universal principle of tarot hermeneutics that requires us to adopt any single interpretation (in dogmatic fashion) as the only correct one, it is in this latter way– that of being in the catbird seat –that I prefer to understand the sphinx in this context.  Moreover, I would suggest, with yet another of Paul’s interpretations, that the proper movement for those who have become trapped in this game is away from the periphery of The Wheel (with its competition for the catbird seat) and toward its center–since, as we know from the gospels, that the kingdom of heaven is within or among us (Luke 17:20-21); and from the Tao Te Ching that:

The empty hub at center
Allows a wheel to roll
The vacancy within defines
The function of a bowl

The openness within a house
Provides the places to reside
The open space that is the heart
Is where ten thousand things abide

~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching cbd the world.jpg

Now I think Paul would agree that The World aptly illustrates the nature of life lived from the center– especially if we recall the definition of God as ‘an infinite circle, whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere’–and I would suggest that The Hanged Man provides the clue as to how to we are to make our way from the periphery of The Wheel to the center, at which point we can say with the Apostle Paul, “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20–more on this, below).

cbd hanged man.jpgThe point is that while Paul’s suggested arrangement of these cards does indeed facilitate a more objective understanding of these two ways of life (offering a beautiful, dual mandalic symmetry, from side to side),  my initial arrangement (nonetheless) aptly portrays what is necessary in the life of the seeker if he or she is to step off the broad way (portrayed by The Wheel) and avoid the death and destruction to which it naturally leads (portrayed by The Tower)It is simply a matter of exchanging the hamster-like comportment of one’s life on The Wheel of Fortune for the Christlike comportment of The Hanged Man.  This is the same alternative that was more simply represented in the (aforementioned) five card spread which is worth another look:

house of the wicked new captions

To repeat, those who would step onto the narrow way that leads to life (the eternal life represented by The World) must die before they die — an idea which is very graphically portrayed by The Hanged Man.  Indeed, the way of transition from the curse of sin, death, and destruction to the way of obedience, life, and creativity is very aptly described as the way of the cross:

Mark 8:34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.

Perhaps the most essential characteristic of The Hanged Man is his very different center of gravity.  But that different center of gravity is only accessible to one who, like the Apostle Paul, has been crucified with Christ and is, thus described (by our anonymous author) as both a benefaction and a martyrdom:

“…the one who lives under the sway of the gravitation of “heaven” is the “spiritual man”. . . . The Hanged Man represents the condition of one in the life of whom gravitation from above has replaced that from below.  . . . This is at one and the same time a benefaction and a martyrdom; both are very real” (MOTT, Letter 12, page 307).

Compare that to St. Paul:

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God” (Galatians 2:19-20).

In this way, the Apostle Paul became a living example of The Hanged Man— the man with an upright heart who, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, truly lives in the presence of the Lord –the same kind of man alluded to in these Psalms:

How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights.  For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.  O continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your salvation to the upright of heart!” (Psalm 36:9-10).

“Surely the righteous shall give thanks to your name; the upright shall live in your presence (Psalms 140:13)

Paul Nagy and I did not really discuss the role of The Moon and The Sun in this image–or, for that matter, the role of the four Aces (at least not in much detail).  But Lord willing, those cards will provide the subject matter for new adventures in Tarot Hermeneutics as we continue our Meditations on the Tarot.  In the meantime, readers are encouraged to check out the two aforementioned booklets:  Christianity, Platonism, and the Tarot of Marseille and A Metaphysical Reading of the Tarot Suits.

–>  See also: The Lover


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New “RWS Style” Tarot Trumps

RWS Bookmark 1.16 gold.jpg

150px-ArthurEdwardWaite~1880pamela-colman-smith“TeenyTinyTarot” © is proud to introduce this new set of Waite Smith style tarot trumps based on the original Waite Smith design, first published in 1910 (or 1909, depending on who you talk to).  As you may have already guessed, RWS in the title of this article –refers, respectively, to the original publisher, “William Rider & Son” (London); to the author, designer, and project originator, “Arthur Edward Waite“; and to the artist and collaborator, “Pamela Coleman Smith“.

rws-00-10-scan0268-croppedOur goal is to share Meditations on the Tarot and the path of Christian Hermeticism more widely by offering this more colorful, more popular set of tarot trumps in addition to the more traditional “Marseille style” trumps that we have been offering since 2014.

Despite the significant differences between the two sets of trumps, the Waite-Smith design retains much of the same imagery as the Tarot of Marseille while at the same time (it seems) appealing to a wider audience.  In any event– since its initial publication here in 1971 by U.S. Games Systems, Inc. –it appears to have provided the primary point of entry into the Tarot tradition for the majority of people in the United State and it continues to have a broad appeal.   Indeed, if its popularity has waned over the last 2 or 3 decades, that is only because of the competition from hundreds of new decks which it has served to inspire.

–> “TeenyTinyTarot” © “Waite Smith” Style Trumps


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