The “Psychic Fishing Expedition” — Saving Tarot from Psychology

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This long essay amounts to a “wool-gathering” effort that pulls together several previous threads on the subject of tarot and the “pop-culture” forms of Jungian psychology, with little editorial adaptation beyond organizing the paragraphs in a way that reads clearly and smoothly; therefore, expect a small amount of subject-matter redundancy. The original posts can be found on my previous blog:

During a delightful presentation by Rachel Pollack at a regional tarot meeting several years ago, the subject of fortune-telling came up. Rachel made the fascinating remark that back when she began reading for others over forty years ago, she was committed to saving tarot from the tarnish of fortune-telling, but now she is more inclined to attempt saving it from psychology. As I’ve probably made clear in numerous past posts, I have been promoting the same agenda for the last decade, but it is encouraging to hear it coming from an internationally recognized tarot master.

When I left pubic divination practice in the early ‘80s, psychoanalytical character analysis had not yet infiltrated tarot to the extent that it had overwhelmed natal astrology. People were still more interested in what might happen than who they were as shown in the cards (what I call “psychological profiling”); in other words, the focus for most querents was more external than internal. I tended to fall back on psychological nuances when a more literal approach failed to connect with my sitter’s understanding of their circumstances. But I always tried to work it back around to the main point made by the practical testimony in the spread.

The consensus at the meeting was that tarot is best used to identify energy patterns or trends that may appear in the lives of our querents, on which they can capitalize to make a meaningful difference in their future development. It isn’t so much deterministic as exploratory, and it’s goal is to give the querent ammunition to face down their personal demons. In other words, it’s a form of empowerment. Rachel gave us a list of every way she could think of that people have used the tarot, and “healing” and “saving lives” were included. These are more visceral uses than trying to construct a character portrait from the cards to satisfy the idle curiosity of a sitter who is focused, for example, on discerning someone else’s attitude toward them. At its most pragmatic level, it is summarized in Rachel’s list entry: “Identifying threats or issues in a person’s life, and what to do about them.”

In fact, “psychological profiling” or similar “psychic fishing expeditions” barely make a dent in her list, appearing only as “Spying” and “Discovering secrets — in others or yourself, or in the world.” In my opinion, asking the cards what someone else is likely to do in a particular situation is far more useful to a querent than pestering them about what that person may think or feel; it gives the client something concrete to watch for, whereas attempting to pin down someone’s current mental state via the cards resembles trying get a grip on a writhing snake. Those of you who have ever tried to hold one in your hands will know what I’m talking about. Thoughts and emotions are too ephemeral and slippery to submit to predictive certainty; actions, on the other hand, speak for themselves. As Bob Dylan once wrote: “You don’t need a weatherman to see which way the wind blows.”

I do feel that there is some common ground between tarot divination and psychology, since I’ve assumed from the very beginning that tarot operates through a subconscious channel from the collective unconscious, both Jungian concepts.The ultimate source of whatever comes through from the unconscious is where it gets more abstract, requiring a deeper metaphysical explanation. Plato had one (“the soul of eternity”) in his definition of intuition as a form of precognition, and Joseph Maxwell had a comparably spiritual one (the Astral Plane). I have no problem with the architecture, it’s the use to which it is put that I find questionable. For me, astrology is a much better tool for psychological profiling (that is, trying to fathom someone’s state of mind). In past forum debates on the subject, some people have said that a state of mind is just a precursor to action, so both should be equally accessible to reading via the cards. It just seems too much like “psychic guesswork with props” to me.

Twentieth Century psychologist Carl Gustav Jung subdivided the discriminating faculties of the human personality into four general “types:” sensation (encounters with the physical world that trigger our five bodily receptors); thinking (the intellectual function by which we process the evidence of our senses); feeling (the emotional ways in which we do the same thing); and intuition (the subconscious “hunches” by which we “connect the dots” and try to make sense of the experiential landscape). Although Jung himself never wrote more than a few words on the subject of the cards, tarot writers later in the same era decided that these four types should be assigned to the classical elements as used in the tarot as follows: sensation applies to Earth and the suit of Coins (Pentacles/Disk), the realm of mundane phenomena; thinking relates to Air and the suit of Swords, the domain of the intellect; feeling belongs to Water and the suit of Cups, where all “affairs of the heart” originate; and intuition corresponds to Fire and the suit of Wands, the spark underlying all aspiration and initiative.

I have no quarrel with the first three of these allocations. But Fire as intuition never did much for my comprehension of how tarot fits the psychological model. I see the association as an expedient non-choice rather than an ideal match like the rest; after all, Fire had to go somehwere. To me, intuition makes much more sense as a subcategory of “feeling” since it relies on sensitivities that are more elusive and mystical than the brash forthrightness of Fire. (It’s customary to say we “feel” something is true but we “can’t quite put our finger on” why.) However, in the Qabalistic system Fire also does double duty as “Spirit,” so I can certainly see “inspiration” as the appropriate cognitive activity. Our waking consciousness is “in-spirited” by subtle influences outside ourselves that give subliminal hints of occurrences the senses can’t intercept. The processing of these intimations happens at a level below the rational purview of the intellect, falling more into the sphere of emotional integration.

A comparative definition is probably in order here: Intuition is knowledge obtained by non-rational means; inspiration means being “invested with Spirit,” kind of like “push” advertising. One you actively seek by focusing your attention, with the other you open yourself to unbidden insights. Inspiration operates at the creative level of “art” while intuition is more interpretive in nature. It’s not a perfect analogy, but I do believe there is a subtle difference. Much of what we call intuitive tarot reading involves free-association from the images, which is a form of focusing even if we do intentionally blur the boundaries. As a visual artist I can vouch for the fact that inspiration often comes completely out of the blue when I’m not seeking it. To show that I’’m not completely deaf to counter-arguments, I did learn from a Facebook acquaintance that “Jung saw intuition as an ‘awareness of possibilities’ rather than intuition as we understand it. It’s more entrepreneurial, which does fit quite well with Wands and Fire.”

The truth of the matter may be that those who profess to reading the tarot intuitively (which has always struck me as a purposely non-rational approach) are tapping into the “spirit vision” and not drawing their conclusions directly from the cards, which serve more as convenient “signposts” by which to steer the querent into constructive avenues of understanding. Thus, on the scale of psychological responsiveness, the individual grows from automatic “knee-jerk” reactions to stimuli into both an objective (reasoned) and subjective (creatively surmised) estimation of circumstances and finally into an inspired contemplation of the abstract significance of one’s experiences. My main point in all of this is that either Jung could have chosen a better word or the original tarot incorporators could have found a better way to integrate Fire into the model. As it was they had little choice since Wands was “the last man standing.”

Those of you who have been following my tarot writing for a while know that I favor proficient knowledge-based reading leavened by impromptu flashes of illumination that typically invoke heightened sensitivity. Conversely, I have a distrust of total reliance on speculative guesswork (more commonly known as “intuition”) when it comes to tarot interpretation. My suspicion is that unsupported hunches too often serve as a convenient replacement for structured learning and preparation, and sitters never know they’re being finessed. Such extemporizing can deliver an over-abundance of uncritical “Cups” whimsy and insufficient “Swords” clarity, “Pentacles” firmness and “Wands” intensity. Whatever we may think of it, the canonical “wisdom of the ages” is not entirely irrelevant; ideally, it provides the underlying framework that we clothe with more topic-driven substance. But it isn’t my purpose here to beat that particular dead horse.

In thinking of Jung’s four psychological functions — intuition, emotion, intellect and sensation — I get the distinct impression that tarot writers assigned the fiery suit of Wands to intuition only because everything else was taken: watery Cups are clearly emotion, airy Swords can only be intellect and Pentacles, as Earth, most certainly embody the realm of sensation. I personally don’t believe that Jung’s four-fold theory is a perfect fit for the tarot, but we still feel compelled to shoehorn it into our interpretive model. For example, many writers justifiably consider Wands to represent sexual energy, but I can’t see that sexual enthusiasm and intuitive perception dovetail seamlessly despite the mental gymnastics that have been performed to make it seem credible. How often do we succumb to intemperate sexual compulsions that defy all sense, common or otherwise? It seems to me that instinctive intelligence does not function reliably below the waist.

The element of Fire isn’t markedly reflective or contemplative, two qualities of a “quiet mind” that would seem to be necessary for lucid intuitive comprehension. Intuition is inherently responsive and inferential, while Fire is assertive and egocentric to a fault; it’s a case of holistic relativism versus the “one-track-mind.” In modern practice, purely subjective impressions can override more objectively plausible ones when the intuition is given too free a rein. I prefer to toss out “intuition” in this context and replace it with “inspiration;” where intuition is passive, resembling a vessel waiting to be filled, inspiration connotes the active influx of galvanizing insight that instills a sense of purpose in addition to spontaneous awareness. Intuition and psychic sensitivity dip from the same subliminal well, while inspiration suggests an origin in the superconscious, for which the subconscious is only a channel and not the source. I’m convinced that it’s more than semantic hair-splitting to draw a distinction between the two.

I often mention that tarot isn’t especially effective for probing the psychology of an individual or a situation, such as occurs when we’re trying to penetrate the thoughts and feelings of someone who isn’t present at the reading. If Jung hadn’t laid the groundwork with his exploration of archetypes, I doubt the major (or “trump”) cards would ever have taken on anything beyond a purely literal meaning. Furthermore, it’s tempting to see the court cards as variations on a mental-emotional theme, mainly tied to their suit qualities and relative level of maturity, but I tend to think of the Kings and Queens as narrower expressions of the archetypal Emperor and Empress (in essence, their “little brothers and sisters”), the Knights as a reduction of the energy of the Chariot (this is most apparent in the Thoth Princes), and the Pages as the flesh-and-blood equivalent of that “wild and crazy guy,” the Fool. (Number theory gives us 3 [Empress] + 4 [Emperor] = 7 [Chariot], a “Mother-Father-Son” scenario; although it seems sexist to say that the Pages as avatars of the “Daughter” add nothing to the equation [Fool = 0], it might in fact be instructive to see them as something of a youthful “wild card” when they appear in a reading.)

The 40 minor cards are best read as practical statements describing routine activities and behaviors, particularly when using decks with non-scenic “pips.” The urge to draw conclusions about attitude from the human figures on the Waite-Smith minor cards can lead to unreliable assumptions. The man on the Waite-Smith 4 of Cups might look thoroughly bored, but that may have nothing to do with the querent’s sense of emotional security and stability as emphasized by this card. I find suit and number theory to provide a more useful tool for gauging the impact of the minor cards, although I will occasionally draw intuitively on the visual images when something strikes me about them within the context of the reading. It’s where my growing store of vivid metaphors and analogies comes from.

My primary objective in reading the cards is divination and its less dignified step-sister, prediction (aka “fortune-telling”). I’ve long grown past the stage of self-analysis and self-definition that preoccupied me during my early years with the tarot. To be honest, I’ve used natal and predictive astrology to much greater effect for that purpose, and still find them more precise and accurate than the tarot for psychological examination. Reading the cards is largely anecdotal, relying much more heavily on inspiration, imagination and ingenuity (my less mystical stand-ins for “intuition”) than on observable characteristics encoded in patterns of cosmic energy, and as such it doesn’t have the historical database of semi-empirical evidence that one finds with astrology. I’m far more comfortable exploring the “what,” “who” and “how” of any forecast shown in the cards, and accord less significance to the “why” when the answer seems to indicate the querent’s involvement with other people. Doing otherwise is tantamount to wandering into a minefield of unsubstantiated suspicions, presumptions and misconceptions, and I choose not to add fuel to the fire.

Some diviners present themselves as counselors, therapists or “life coaches” offering advice via the tarot for dealing with life’s problems. Some are very good at it. But the fact remains that by doing so without the requisite technical training, they often risk straying into the territory of the licensed mental health professional. I have talked to readers who position themselves as grief management specialists, others who advertise as marriage counselors, and many who adopt the currently fashionable title of life coach, all of which are apparently exempt from formal credentials or certification in some jurisdictions since they are informal and colloquial rather than rigorously scientific. These are serious professionals who shun the “for entertainment only” disclaimer but nonetheless may be courting legal repercussions if their remedial recommendations go awry. Their healing wisdom is of a more shamanistic than clinical type, and not really something that can be derived or dispensed from books, but that argument can be a hard sell for ostensibly damaged parties (and their lawyers).

I consider its mystical inscrutability to be part of the “magic” of tarot; the cards speak a symbolic language that bypasses the faculties of rational comprehension and penetrates straight to the subconscious level of awareness. But translating its testimony into actionable guidance can be a dicey proposition, fraught with liability. For my part, I shy away from offering advice that might be easily misconstrued or poorly implemented by the querent, such that a less-than-optimum outcome ensues. I take pains to make it clear that the story in the cards is determined by the sitter through the acts of shuffling and cutting the deck, thus imparting ownership of the answer. The cards communicate directly with the querent through subconscious induction, telling them what they already knew at a deep level of self-discernment. In that sense, the shuffle creates a kind of psychosomatic channel between the consciousness and the fingers, painting a visual portrait that symbolically mirrors the querent’s private universe. As the translator, I strive to connect the dots between the images in ways that generate useful insights but I don’t purport to be an infallible fount of practical wisdom. The idea is to point the way, albeit sometimes cryptically, but to refrain from offering a hand in steering the course.

The most legitimate use of the tarot for therapeutic purposes is probably in the area of self-understanding and self-improvement, where there is nobody to blame but oneself for any regrettable consequences of flubbing the interpretation. At their best, these failures are invaluable learning experiences; at their worst they may incite a hesitant false step or two but, if handled prudently, are seldom irreversible in their implications. The cards may still lead the seeker astray, but it takes an intemperate suspension of disbelief to follow their advice blindly to an unfortunate end.

With the exhaustion of that complex academic perspective, I will now present an experimental technique for psychological tarot reading that I worked up in collaboration with Catherine Knapp of the Massachusetts Tarot Society. It was offered for consideration to several cartomantic publications but never picked up, so I’m posting it here for public information and use.

The Psyche, Numerology and the Tarot: A Psychological Reading Method

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Copyright US Games Systems, Stamford, CT

This reading template and methodology were developed by me using Catherine Knapp’s translation of psychologist John Beebe’s archetypal model into tarot terminology. In adapting it to my own analytical style, I made some changes to apply personal preferences, knowledge and experience.

The bottom row of the layout represents the Ego, in both its outward “personality” manifestation (left side) and its inward “shadow” expression (right side). The Sun at the far left reflects the “developing Ego” while the Chariot provides the worldly “vehicle” for that Ego on its anticipated forays into socialization. The Hierophant between them serves as the “moral compass” by which the Ego navigates between what it believes itself to be and what it wants to make of that awareness. As it evolves, this combination is highly susceptible to the conventional wisdom of social mores and directives. The numerological signature for this aspect of the Ego is “4” (19 + 5 + 7 = 31, 3+1 = 4), the Emperor, the “law and order” card. At this point, the Ego is “master of all it surveys” but it is starting to develop a conscience.

The Fool on the “shadow” side provides the Sun’s counterpart as the “incipient Ego” in its raw state. Youthfulness is implied in both cards, but the Sun has a starting purpose and the means to pursue it, while the Fool is carefree and unrestrained by normal boundaries. I see the Fool as having a dual role: it stands apart as the archetypal “engine” of self-realization but it also has a part to play in egoic individuation. It is free to roam wherever it wants within the psyche in an unfettered fashion, learning from every encounter but essentially altering nothing it touches; however, it can also blunder around getting into situations it isn’t ready for simply because it “doesn’t know any better.”

This eventually brings it to Temperance in the center as the symbolic analog of the Hierophant; its number (14) reduces numerologically to “5,” the number of the Hierophant. Both cards are about learning, the Hierophant in a more personal way and Temperance in a largely abstract sense. The former teaches by example while the latter shows the “middle way” to self-understanding through direct experience of duality. Astrologically, Temperance corresponds to the philosophical sign of Sagittarius, here suggesting the “wise fool” of Shakespeare’s King Lear, while the Hierophant relates to the Venus-ruled sign of Taurus and its preoccupation with stability, security and traditional values, all things the fledgling Ego prefers to the “make it up as you go” implications of Temperance.

The Wheel of Fortune mirrors the Chariot and carries a similar “wheel” motif; movement toward the future is implied in both cases, with the Chariot a more conscious agent of the Sun’s resolve and the Wheel of Fortune a “blind force” befitting the Fool’s unconscious urges and motivations. The Wheel of Fortune represents the end of the first half of the Fool’s Journey of self-discovery. This makes sense, since after that point the Ego moves on into more complex interactions: specifically, the experience of external authority. Note that the Sun (19) at the beginning of the line and the Wheel of Fortune (10) at the end both reduce numerologically to One, the number of Unity; both aspects of the Ego are necessary to produce a unified personality. The numerological signature for this aspect of the Ego is “6,” (0 + 14 + 10 = 24, 2 + 4 = 6) the Lovers, one meaning of which is a crossroads or “parting of the ways” (ready or not); at this stage of development it implies panicked flight rather than planned exit.

The next row up denotes the Ego’s first exposure to external Authority as typically embodied in a Father and Mother figure. In the “personality” phase of the Authority sequence, I bracketed Justice with the Emperor (“Father”) at the beginning and the Empress (“Mother”) at the end since I believe it serves as the “mediator” for the different styles of discipline meted out by the two. I consider this three-card series to represent emerging “Self-Discipline,” which is acquired through the formative experience of Justice under the tutelage of the Father and Mother. The numerological signature for this aspect of the Authority paradigm is “9” (4 + 2 [the reduction of 11] + 3 = 9), the Hermit, which presages the inevitable encounter with the “shadow” side of the duality.

I associate the “shadow” side of the Authority complex with “Self-Absorption” and place the Hermit first because its number (9) incorporates the sum of all the cards on the “personality” side as noted above. The Hermit is internally motivated and cleaves to his own inner sense of right and wrong. Similarly, the Hanged Man’s number (12) reduces to Three (1 + 2 = 3), the number of the Empress, and the number of Death (13) reduces to Four (1 + 3 = 4), the number of the Emperor; furthermore, the sum of the Hanged Man and Death (12 + 13 = 25 , 2 + 5 = 7) is identical to the sum of the Emperor and Empress (4 + 3 = 7), suggesting that these more complex archetypes reveal the “dark side” of the parental experience. These observations seem to validate the cards as belonging to the “shadow” aspect of the authoritarian model, with “death of the Father” and “submission to the Mother” suggesting an Oedipus complex. The Hanged Man in the middle is also inwardly focused and dwells in his own insular reality, while Death at the end opens the door to passage into a more self-directed phase of development. The numerological signature for this triplicity is “7” (9 + 12 + 13 = 34, 3 + 4 = 7), the Chariot, which symbolizes a problematic “side-trip” on the Ego’s path to full-fledged autonomy.

The third row from the bottom defines the Child who emerges from the parental shadow. The “personality” side of the Child series I identify as the “Well-Adjusted Child,” and the “shadow” side as the “Maladjusted (Temperamental) Child,” which seems to match the “light”associations of the Star and Strength (untrammeled innocence slowly growing into mature self-control) in the first case, and the “dark” connotations of the Tower and the Moon (self-destructive urges and disillusionment) in the second case. Seven, the sum of the Star and Strength (17 + 8 = 25, 2 + 5 = 7) is identical to the reduced value of the Tower (1 + 6 = 7), indicating that a fine line exists between a well-integrated personality and a traumatized one. Interestingly, the sum of the Tower (16) and the Moon (18) is “7” as well (16 + 18 = 34, 3 + 4 = 7), revealing the taut interplay between these facets of the personality. The thin veneer of civilization often rests precariously upon the brow of the troubled Child. In esoteric number theory, the number Seven represents a step in a new direction, but with the need to clarify where that first step should properly land. Setting aside its religious attribution as a “holy” number (unless we choose to see it as a “holy madman” — aka “teenager” — in this context), Seven is an unbalanced number that seeks redemption through the countervailing adjustment of the Eight (which just happens to be the individual numerical value of both the Star and Strength); I liken their relationship to the dynamics involved in learning to ride a bicycle, swaying drunkenly first one way and then the other, fighting for balance. Here, the Seven is without a saving offset, throwing the psyche back on its own primitive survival skills unless it can manage to return to the “light” of the well-adjusted Child. It’s a wonder that any of us makes it to successful adulthood. Because this is a short row, I will take all four cards to produce the numerological signature: 17 + 8 + 16 + 18 = 59, 5 + 9 = 14, 1 + 4 = 5. Here we see the need for reinforcement of the Ego’s “moral compass” as symbolized by the Hierophant.

The top row is associated with aspects of the Soul and Spirit that the mature Ego confronts as it enters the realms of philosophy and theology (in fact, this encounter was intimated by the Hierophant as the Child’s numerological signature). The “personality” side is headed by the Lovers, an indication that the first experience of these deeper matters presents a “fork in the road” where one can choose either the “high road” (High Priestess and Magician) or the “low road” (Devil and Judgement). On the “personality” side of the sequence, this decision leads to the “higher calling” of the High Priestess and the Magician: the former is the tarot’s avatar of the “Soul” as reflected in its correspondence to the more spiritual side of the Moon, and the latter is associated with Mercury, sometimes called the “Psychopomp” or “Soul’s guide” in the Underworld. In fact, with the Devil and Judgement sitting squarely in the Soul’s path to fulfillment in the World, this scenario depicts more than a hint of the 23rd Psalm. Note that the Lovers has three figures on it (the sum of the Magician and the High Priestess — 1 + 2 = 3), while the number of the Lovers (Six) represents a doubling of that sum suggesting the Soul “in its fullness,” ready for the experience of Judgement. The numerological signature for this set is “9” (6 + 2 + 1 = 9), the Hermit, which was considered the number of “completion” in Greek arithmology and titled the “Third Perfection” (after the Three and the Six). Here the wandering Hermit has found his homecoming.

On the “shadow” side I placed the Devil at the beginning because it has a fascinating visual similarity to the Magician which precedes it in the sequence; both have the right hand raised and the left hand lowered, implying the transmission of knowledge “from that which is above to that which is below.” (I see the source of such knowledge as the Collective Unconscious, which makes no distinction between “good” and “evil,” the two horns of a purely moral dilemma.) The Devil has a downward-pointing torch, suggesting Lucifer, the “Light-bringer.” I see the former as imparting exoteric knowledge to the world and the latter as bringing esoteric — or occult — knowledge into the light. The number of the Devil (15) reduces to Six, the number of the Lovers, which begins the “personality” series, lending this apparently incompatible pair a hidden sympathy of purpose in preparing the Soul for its transcendence.

Judgement in the middle is numbered Twenty, which reduces to Two, the number of the High Priestess, sublimating her role in the personality by delivering the Soul’s salvation. At the end of the series, the number of the World (21) reduces to Three, the sum of the Magician and the High Priestess. As mentioned previously, this is also the number of figures on the Lovers, implying that the interaction of the Man, the Woman and the Angel results in “Wholeness,” but only after an intervening crisis of consciousness and/or faith. The numerological signature for this triplicity is “2” (15 + 20 + 21 = 56, 5 + 6 = 11, 1 + 1 = 2), the High Priestess, indicating that the Soul will “win through” all difficulties standing in its way.

There is another revealing duality to be found in this row. The “personality” side consists entirely of Air and Water cards, which together comprise the fluid realm of spiritual aspiration, while the “shadow” side holds only Earth and Fire cards, suggestive of vulcanism and a detour into the nether regions of the psyche (although in some systems Fire is also the medium of Spirit). In the first case, the Moon (High Priestess) is bracketed by two Mercury-related cards (the Lovers as Gemini and the Magician as Mercury proper), showing the mental-emotional elevation of the Spirit. In the second case, the card of Primal Fire (Judgement) is surrounded by two cards associated with Saturn, the “Taskmaster” and the “Great Teacher” (the Devil as Capricorn and the World as Saturn proper). This combination molds volatile and formless Fire into a suitable spiritual vessel to carry the Soul to its point of debarkation.

In practical usage, the central column is intended to be populated with four random cards from any single-topic pull or periodic draw (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly). The interpretation of those four cards in combination with the trump cards of the template will show how the personality absorbs and processes the energies in ways that are meaningful to its development at that particular point in time. The orientation of the random cards (upright or reversed) can be used as an indication of whether the “bright”outward qualities of the individuality will prevail in this operation, in which case, only the left side of the layout should be read, or whether the “shadowy” inner nature will dominate, with only the right side of the template being considered. If reversals aren’t used, each card of an entire row should be included, with the central random card as the “hinge” or focus of the narrative.

As a side note, in the Albano-Waite RWS deck I used for this analysis, nearly all of the brighter, more optimistic cards in the pack appear on the “personality” side of the template and most (actually all) of the more somber, pessimistic cards show up in the “shadow” region. Only the Fool serves as a tiny, encouraging “spark” in the descent of the Ego into the shaded realm of the “Alter Ego.” But the Fool is essentially neutral and aimless, so making too much of appearances would be a mistake. Besides, it looks like he has blithely turned his back on the lofty curriculum of Temperance and is preparing to depart, stage left, in search of an easier way that is more in tune with his breezy temperament. After all, the world is full of sanguine people who refuse to acknowledge and integrate their “shadow” (or who even possess the vocabulary to recognize it for what it is).

I’ve been involved in the esoteric arts since 1972, with a primary interest in tarot and astrology. See my previous work at

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