Personal Alchemy

The Tarot can be an amazing tool for self-realization. On one hand, it is a deck of 78 cards, much like an expanded poker deck. On the other, it is a set of detailed images that are capable of making changes within the observer.

I’ve read plenty of articles and books, and the opinions differ as to why these images are so evocative. Some authors make the claim that the cards should be considered as living things; the forces depicted on the cards are real in an external sense. Others are convinced that these images are primal archetypes that anyone can relate to, much in line with Jungian psychology.

For me, it really doesn’t matter. In all likelihood, it is probably a mix between these two prominent ideas. These images reflect parts of our inherited cultural mythology as well as the ordeals that we all must go through.

Most literature on the Tarot relates to fortune telling, which is an aspect that I am certainly not interested in. Even if it is possible, it sounds like a fine way of learning how to abjugate personal responsibility. Why strive for change if failure is in the cards, right? Fortunately, there are a few finer books that speak on using the Tarot for cultivating inner wisdom.

Wanting to put some of these claims of transmutation to the test, I began an experiment about six months ago. I decided that I would spend a few minutes per day with one of the cards of the major arcana (otherwise known as the Trumps or Keys), and contemplate the symbolism. The pace was set for one card per week in order to let the ideas set in. I kept a detailed journal, and took some time this weekend to review my notes.

While this so-called experiment is obviously subjective, I can say that I got results. Each week of contemplation appeared to unlock something within my subconscious that allowed me to begin to witness the forces described in the card. For example, the image of Key I, The Magician, made it clear that the self-conscious (me, my ego) has the ability to direct the subconscious. Key II, The High Priestess, represents the virgin subconscious and its vastness when compared to the ego. The imagery evoked a warning of sorts, making it clear that I should be careful with what I plant within, as it could easily get out of control.

Now, these ideas are fine to read about and rationalize, as I was doing before I began my experiment, but it is not the same thing as actually contemplating and meditating on them. I highly encourage others to take this or something similar up for themselves. Spend a few minutes a day by first quieting the mind, and then in contemplation. Poetry would probably be a fine thing to work with, or any religious text of interest. If you would like to work with the Tarot, I recommend starting with the famous Waite-Smith deck.

These fifteen minutes a day of experiential work have done more good for me than any amount of reading.