The Magician, the Fool and the Empress
The Tarot Cards in the cycle of life and in therapy
Ruth Netzer, Modan Publishing House, 2008
After years of studying the antique symbols of alchemy, and then authoring my book, "The Quest for the Self", I was nevertheless surprised to discover Tarot to be a unique and practical application of alchemy even to this day.
Over the years, my hesitant acquaintance with Tarot cards developed into something of a love affair with alternating closeness and distancing, with forces either attracting or hindering. As we packed my mother’s belongings, preparing for her transition to a parents home, in her kitchen drawer, among the Sabbath candles, a Havdala candle and a packet of tissues, I found a tiny deck of cards that she had brought over from China! Baroque-style cards of figures that till now had lain concealed in a paper wrapper; flamboyant, powerful, tricky, clever and malicious images whose body movements, expressed by a sudden gesture, wearing fancy clothing, moving around in a stylish melodramatic dance, seemed pleading, but astonished with their tricks, carrying ribbons, swords, wands or mysterious artifacts as if to dazzle, to captivate, with the recklessness of a coquettish son. I was wondering how these fraudulent Gypsy cards were correlated with my mother, a respectable German-born woman, whose legs were already getting too heavy…? Never in my life had I come across such cards. I was enchanted by them and placed them in my drawer, where they waited for me, like messengers conveying news from a foreign land, like yeast in dough until finally my curiosity won over and I went on to study the language of these cards, their meaning, the language of the Tarot.
In these Tarot cards I found the Holy Grail, Hermes' Wings, the Quest for the Magic Elixir of Life and Holy Matrimony, as well as other symbols of alchemy. During that time I was learning and teaching the the Journey of the Hero. I felt a need to supplement my self-knowledge and the insight provided by these cards which had the symbols of alchemy and journey flowing from within them. This is when I found out that the Heroine’s Journey also played an important role in Tarot cards. I took the time to learn and become closely acquainted with these Tarot cards and to study their profound meaning. The cards fascinated me. Becoming profoundly familiar with them has deepened my insights in all that concerns the human soul and the journey towards the realization of life. I have consulted Tarot cards several times with the help of women possessing card-reading skills, and received answers to my questions. I read books and looked at the pictures, until I realized that I was flooded with the smallest details and different possibilities concerning every single card, and found that there are variations of interpretation from one book to another. Yet none of these books could provide me a complete answer as far as the significance of the cards. I saw a need to add my own insights, and so decided to conclude for myself a clear and established summation for each and every card. I felt that my oncoming towards the spirit of the card could be more complete and more of an experience if I were to write down the significance of each card, as if the card was telling me about itself.
In this fashion, the book presents the various aspects of each and every card in the manner of a monologue, as if the cards were telling me their stories. Here I was, in fact, using the active imagination method developed by Jung . According to this method, a person imagines a conversation between himself and significant figures in his life, or between himself and imaginary figures, which symbolize aspects of his personality. This active imagination discourse permits awareness to the contents that these figures carry for us. But as I am sitting here, writing about the cards, I am not revealing the meaning that the cards bear for me, but instead their archetypical (all-human) significance, as it became consolidated during the course of the years and as it is presented by the Tarot literature. In this case, the story of the cards is based upon a combination between the acknowledgment of the symbols of alchemy and my comprehensions.
I have processed and deepened the significance of the cards, and enhanced the possibility of utilizing them for personal work. The Tarot cards are based on two principles: the psychological principle and the synchronic one.
According to the psychological principle, any answer given on the basis of reading the Tarot cards is implying our conscious and unconscious world onto the card, rendering it a kind of farseeing mirror, through which we may converse with our most inner, self-guiding selves.
According to the synchronic principle, a card chosen from an upside-down deck does not appear by sheer coincidence, it is in accord with us during this moment since there is a latent correlation between the internal and the external world, allowing the right card to be chosen at that specific moment. One of my experiences of drawing a card demonstrates the existence of the two principles alongside each other. In the quest for an answer to my question I had picked the card “Sun”. I was surprised to see the face of the sun looking at me, as though it were my very own face gazing at me, from within the face of the sun. The unpredictable sense of oneness, in which the other entity and I are one and the same, was a mysterious sensation, incomprehensible, unbelievable, but powerfully uniquely and convincing. The solar energy of this card accelerates and encourages the Child of the Inner Soul Individuality who is galloping on a horse, to leap over the fence that has been blocking him from fulfilling his authentic and spontaneous life. He may be assisted by the energetic force of the sun and by its potential of concsiousness. This is exactly what I needed at that moment.
I believed in the Sun card and it continues to accompany me even up to this very moment.
Unlike the Tarot books, which focus on teaching the Tarot practice, this book also explores the philosophical, the psychological and the spiritual meaning of the Tarot system. Our interest here does not concern the common use of Tarot for sorcery and prediction, but for consultation in regards to current dilemmas, the development of self-dialogue and self-consciousness. My position upholds the de-mystification of the Tarot in general, without denying the mystical dimension as far as the soul and certain cards. The Jungian comprehension of the soul stands at the basis of this book. The integration of the psychological principle with the synchronic principle also characterizes the Jungian philosophy in general, providing an expression of the unity of contradictions, which is also in the foundation of the Tarot.
The Tarot is a living system of symbols, one that may be subjected to different interpretations, much like the legends and the myths. There is a possibility of seeing it from a female perspective or from a male perspective or from both together as one. I've chosen here to present a combined perspective.
The system of the Tarot symbols was designated to connect us with the latent powers within us, those which we most need. The Tarot is revealed to us not just as a system of different cards, each one holding its own significance, but as a system that utilizes the card sequence in order to describe the journey of the soul towards its fulfillment: the Journey of the Hero, the Journey of the Heroine and the Quest for the Self . Thus, the Tarot system is revealed before us as a dynamic system comprised of a sequence of self procedures. The Tarot is realized as a system of riddles that we must decode, while we are deciphering ourselves. These riddles have been encrypted for us within the cards, pretending to be just a card game with prediction cards, and turn out to be messages of awareness transmitted to us from the distant past of humanity.
Today the Tarot cards hold a unique significance, at an age of interest in unveiling the latent knowledge in the fields of physics, psychology, mysticism and the esoteric doctrines altogether. Another aspect of the uniqueness of the Tarot is in the pre-feminism itself, granting a distinctive position for the Journey of the Heroine, for the feminine principle and women in general. The book also further contributes to the Jungian literature; it broadens the insights which concern subjective and objective interpretation, synchronicity, unique archetypes for Tarot, and the place of the Tarot in the process of the evolution of collective consciousness nowadays. However, the main contribution lies in improving the acquaintance with a wide variety of archetypes which function within our souls and in expanding the comprehension of the Journey of the Hero, the Journey of the Heroine and the Quest for the Self.
The book is an additional contribution to the inner journey of the reader. I have found myself benefiting from new insights in respect to life situations, of my own and of others as well. I began using the cards for myself, while saving the application of their advice for special situations, in order to preserve the uniqueness of the encounter. As time went by, I also began using the cards to assist in psychotherapy meetings, and was impressed by the force of their guidance and by their contribution to my patients in the course of the therapy process. The patients’ replies contributed to further my understandings of the qualities possessed by the cards. Tarot consultation may also assist in psychotherapist guidance. I find myself reflecting that, "Now the spontaneity of the Fool can help you get ahead on your way", "Be the High Priestess now and just listen without acting", "Now be careful of the Scorpion drawing you towards dangerous waters when you devote yourself too much to the high moon experiences", "Don't be afraid of falling from your tower of aspirations, because this will only help you construct a better position towards the next stage", and so on.
As aforesaid, this book is not a practical professional guidebook for anyone wishing to become familiar with the complex spread layouts and the various relations between the cards in each spread layout. It does not teach how to “spread the cards” in the regular manner in which several cards are chosen as an answer to each question. This book is an attempt to be friendly and accessible to many. The goal is to enable a vivid acquaintanceship with these cards that are open to anyone who seeks them; to permit self-use as well as to make using Tarot an additional instrument in psychotherapy. The simple and accessible way suggested herein is to pick one card as an answer to a query, then to identify what it contains and what answer arises from it to the question that occupies us. Only later should one read the chapters describing the cards and the specified significance of the chosen card and what it says about itself. There is no need to study in advance the whole contents of the book and the meaning of the cards in order to use the Tarot. It’s enough to just read the chapter of the cards telling about themselves. However, anyone wishing to sharpen his insight, to become skilled at using the Tarot and understanding its profound significance, should indeed read the whole book.
The motif of the cards is laced through the book of poems by Asher Reich entitled A New Packet (1983). Reich uses motifs from the Tarot cards as a metaphor for situations in his life. His book has been resting upon my bookshelf for quite a while, and I have just leafed through it again, picking out gems of poetry that are in amazing accord with chapters of this book. With the permission of Asher Reich, chosen verses of poetry from his book provide the motto for many of the chapters in my book.
My book is intended not only for Tarot lovers, but also for the enthusiasts of the riddle of the human soul, for psychotherapists, supervisors of psychotherapists, patients, for adherents of the alchemy symbols, followers of the Jungian doctrine, for devotees of symbols, myths and legends, for proponents of imagination and creation, for supporters of the mental and the spiritual development of humanity and of the individual, for the awareness advocates, for the New Agers, for persons who enjoy studying the manifest and the latent, and for those researching the correlation between mythology, religion and psychology, for persons exploring the historical development of processes of consultation and self consultancy, from predicting the future to self-observation, and also for those examining the perception of the feminine and the place of the woman in culture.
Is it really necessary to publish this book? There already are so many other books about Tarot; so why should I even bother writing this book?
I asked the cards. I drew a card and picked the card 'Justice'. The Justice card portrays a woman sitting with scales in one hand and a sword in the other. The card “answered” that my role is to put some order, to balance and to organize, to find the proper balance between the red, emotional color of the dress and the balanced and composed sitting posture; to present the relations between the woman and the femininity of the soul and the masculine action of holding the sword; through the scale, to find that which creates equilibrium in the soul of an individual and in society and in my own soul as well; to use the sword of symbolic thinking in order to cut, to separate, to sort out and to clearly distinguish between various states and different emotions, in order to enable awareness and inner control of my life, as well as to those of others to whom I shall present this knowledge. Since the woman in the justice figure is sitting at the gate of the city, or of the temple, or of the social pavilion, she is serving not only herself but society as well. The woman is not young, she is mature; and the justice card is located in the middle of the Major Arcana. This means that her personality has already gone through processes of growth and has established itself in her life. In this sense I am also a mature woman, one who has already gone through much of life, allowing me to provide for others from my own life’s experience. The woman sits self-assured, authoritative, at peace with her inner authority and with the authority that she projects to others. This is something that I must learn to accept from her. Therefore, I must accept the confidence in my inner authority, permitting and even obligating me to pass on the knowledge which I have accumulated so far. And thus, I should write this book.
After I have completed the writing of the book, I dreamt of seeing a map of the Land of Israel, and it was comprised of a crossword-puzzle made of many oblong cards, each one being of itself a map of the Land of Israel in a variation of its own. The dream combined all parts of the map, with each one complete in itself, in order to assemble together the "wondrous portrait" I once dreamt of. In the dream of the amazing portrait, I saw a carpet whose fabric was weaved entirely of pictures taken from everyday life, containing verses whose meaning is something that has always existed, and I know that this is what I have always been looking for which is, as the dream says, "the wondrous portrait".
The dream of the map also contains the fractal concept, according to which the entirety is a combination of parts of ourselves, with every part of the whole containing the design of the whole, just like each kabalistic sphere, which is part of the divinity, containing within itself all of the other spheres. Thus, every person contains within himself all of the characteristics of the map of the all-human soul, in a variation of its own. And this is, in fact, the basis of the deck of the Tarot cards, describing the map of the Journey of the Self. Every individual shall find in each card, with its own unique variation, the map of his own soul. Indeed, the map of the human soul is a wondrous portrait existing forever.