Monday, September 1, 2008

A Map of the Unconscious

"According to tradition where the Egyptian cleric, inheritors of the wisdom of Atlantis, were still guardians of the sacred mysteries, the Great Hierophant, foreseeing a period of spiritual decay of humanity and the persecution of the sacred teaching, convoked to the temple all expert cleric of Egypt so that, together they could find a way to preserve from destruction the initial teaching, thus allowing its use by the far distant generations.

"Many suggestions were presented, but the wisest among the present said that, due to the moral decay of humanity, vice would prevail everywhere and then suggested that the Eternal Truths were perpetuated through vice, until the time when it could be taught.

"And so it was done and the great symbolic system of the Esoteric Wisdom - the Tarot - was presented to humanity as a set of 78 cards that, for millions of years, have served to satisfy human curiosity about its future or to distract themselves playing.” (*)


It is common to subdivide the tarot's 78 cards in two big distinct groups: the Major Arcanes (22 allegoric cards) and the Minor Arcanes (56 suits).

The 22 Major Arcanes: the Sorcerer, the Female Pope, the Empress, the Emperor, the Pope, the Enchanted, the Litter, Justice, the Hermit, the Wheel of Fortune, the Hangman, Death, Temperance, The Devil, the Tower, the Star, the Moon, the Sun, Judgment Day, the Crazy Man, and the World.

The Minor Arcanes:
14 clubs representing the spiritual activity.
14 hearts symbolizing affective activity.
14 spades expressing mental activity.
14 diamonds corresponding to material activity.

In the card-reading manual, it is affirmed that the Minor Arcanes emphasize the "objective" life, mode of happiness such as: trips, illness, children, and money -- while the Major Arcanes would be more psychological or "subjective,” representing in its allegories, states of our interior life or "levels of conscience.” Esoteric authors, with more initial rather than divinatory worries, like G.O. Mebes, emphasize that "only after studying and understanding the 22 Major Arcanes, can the disciple go on to the study of the Minor Arcanes, because they are more profound and abstract".

In a general sense, we can say that the two groups in which the tarot is subdivided emphasize different levels of conscience, the Major ones bordering on psychic biography and the Minor ones specifying details and more profound relations, as in previous lives and the general configuration of the destiny of the person on the spot.

Thus the Major Arcanes work like masks or sub-personalities before frustrations and complexes that we suffer throughout life. They are structuring symbols of our biographic and social experience, that operate on the Interpersonal Relations level. These archetypes form the first board of the Illuminated Road Game, in which the

22 major Arcanes, impersonal relationships level
16 figured cards, interpersonal relationships level
40 numbered cards, transpersonal relationships level

The majority of specialists, being esoteric authors or historians and skeptical collectors, are unanimous in affirming that the pack of cards, used to play, derive from the Tarot and not the contrary, as it was thought to be. However, admitting the common origin of both, how can we know that the divinatory activity came before its use as a past-time and a game of chance?

The origin of the cards is unknown, but its appearance in Europe dates back to the end of the last century - at least it is from this period the most ancient packs of cards that we have nowadays come from. The first register of the tarot, however, dales from 1377. It relates to the correspondence of a certain friar John, a Swiss monk who surprisingly narrates "a game of cards which indicates by the figures, the actual state of the world.”

There is also another register; from 1392, that mentions a requisition of three packs of cards to the artist Jacqueline Grigonneur by order of Charles VI, king of France, used to distract the king during his crises of madness. This second register is considered by many researchers as the most important, because it describes the way the cards should be painted, taking as examples the most ancient and mysterious versions (1). As there is also a French decree from 1369 prohibiting the games of chance that doesn't mention the cards, we can deduce that they "appeared" between 1370 and 1330.

Among the possible introducers of the tarot in the west are the gypsies, the crusaders and the Saracens. However, while esoteric authors divide themselves between the Masonic legends (like the one of the rescue of the Arch of Alliance from the temple of Solomon by the Templar Knights) and the no less doubtful existence of mystic countries, the more academic researchers prefer the hypothesis that it was the Saracens that introduced the cards to Europe. However, being more similar to the truth, there is no hypsographical proof that this hypothesis is real. It is certain that nobody believes that the tarot is a medieval European creation and that everybody agrees that the cards have a far more remote origin than is recorded, although we can't explain its more recent precedence or its subtle reappearance in the short period of ten years.

In reality, the consensus about these two points - primarily the divinatory use is an anterior origin to ancient times - reveals the universality of the language of the tarot, of which elements appear in different cultures. So, Hindus. Caldeus. Chinese, Atlantians, angles and even E-T's are appointed as the original creators of the cards. However, by being spread more and counted with a big number of followers, the Egyptian hypothesis of the origin of the cards was emphasized and started to be taken as the real one. The fact of the first two modern researchers of the tarot, A. Count de Gebelin and Etteilla, having passionately embraced this hypothesis, deeply contributed to this.

Antoine Count de Gebelin was born in Nimes, 1725, and died in Paris on the 1st of May, 1784. He studied theology in Lousanne and followed in his father's footsteps becoming a pastor for the Reformed Church. Gebelin passionately studied ancient mythology. He got involved in the studies of religions from the linguistical point of view; he tried to "rediscover the primitive language, in which the hieroglyphic way of writing would explain the various know mythologies that reflect in different symbols, the revealed truths.”

The first person to use this discovery was a wig maker called Alliette, than in his spare time used to sell magic amulets, practiced chiromancy, interpreted dreams and made horoscopes. Under the pseudonym Eteilla - his name backwards - Alliette became rich and famous at that time. He was the first modern card reader, or at least, the first to use the tarot for individual divination with commercial purposes that we know of. While Gebeiin and Etteillla neatly tried to prove the Eliphas origin of the cards of the Tarot, Eliphas Levi believed that they were a sacred and universal alphabet, present in the Greek, Egyptian and Hebrew culture.


Eliphas Levi, known by the pseudonym of Father Alfonse Louis Constant, was a student of the cabala, the Israel mystic tradition. He became interested in the Tarot in 1856 and, noting the symmetry between the two systems, associated the Major Arcanes to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Besides this, Levi also associated the 4 clubs to the 4 cabalistic worlds, relating the 16 figured cards with the Sacred Tetragrarn - the YHWH or JHVH - and its 40 numbered cards meaning the ten aspects of God, expressed in the symbol of the tree of life.

The ten sephiroth - plural of sephirath - are spheres of energy in which manifestations develops. Each sephirath is contained in the previous one and contains, in itself, the possibility of a next sephirath. Thus, all universe rests calmly in Kether, and it emanates another circle, Chokmah, that besides existing in the first one, opposes to it, generating a third Binah, that is contained in the two previous ones. We have therefore, a series of concentric circles, one inside the other, keeping a relationship of polarity in function to the that sphere that encloses it an in function to the one that follows.


Kether - the crown, where the incognizant manifests itself as a static and endless light, the eternal flame of life, the center of all circles, the point.

Chokman - knowledge corresponds to light that engages in movement and becomes a cygnet force. It is geometrically represented by a straight line or by a circle.

Binah - intelligence, where force finds resistance to its movement and generates the form, represented by the triangle or prism.

Cheseed - kindness, a sphere where, balancing the imposed restrictions by the form, manifestation is realized through divine mercy. This sphere is symbolized by the Jupiterian gods, like Zeus and Xango.

Geburah - severity, a sphere where the force, being physical or moral, manifests as energy and impetuosity. It is symbolized by the sword and the fire warrior gods like Ares and 0gum.

Tiphareh - beauty, a sphere that harmonizes the ethical contradiction between severity and clemency. It is generally represented by the solar and redeeming gods that sacrifice themselves in benefit of a whole.

Netzach - eternity, a sphere that represents feelings and instincts, the sexual fire, the second light, the planet Venus and, microcosmically, the astral body, a reflex of the world of creation.

Hod - reverberation, a sphere that represents the conscious thought and concrete mind, the planet Mercury is a microcosmic reflex of the world of formation.

Yesod - fundament, a sphere that represents the moon and the essence of organic life, the double ether, the reflex of the archetypical world.

Malkuth - reign, a sphere that represents the inorganic essence of materiality, the sensorial image of reality, the planet Earth, and the physical body conceived within the material world.

While the first three sephiroth - Kether, Chokmah and Binah - form a group denominated macroprosopos, the big face formed by the three primary causes; the other seven sephiroth, in their turn, form the microprosopos or the smaller faces, expresses the seven secondary causes. Between the micro and macroprosopos, there is an abyss, where Death exists, the invisible sephirath. The abyss means that God's Desire and Conscience only realizes directly in the first triad; in the seven lower planes, they are realized through their sons, in the mechanism of evolution. That is: above the abyss is the absolute and whatever is under it is always related to the karma and to one's discretion, to the cosmic laws that rule development and evolution. We shouldn't confuse micro and macroprosopos with micro and macrocosmos. The macroprosopos is absolute, represented by the number 3. The microprosopos is a relative universe, symbolized by the number 7. Macrocosmos is the exterior unity of everything and microcosmos is a miniature of this unity that each one of us has inside.

There are many different forms for quatemary structure to reflect in the tree, all of them are inverted reflexes and symmetric projections. We can not here go inside this labyrinth of symbolic relations, but to give an idea of the functioning of the tree, we chose a simple example. Let's imagine that we wish to bake a cake. This wish, when it comes to mind, is similar to first triad, where Kether represents the wish, Chokmah the idea, and Binah, its formal image. However, the cake will only become reality if it crosses he abyss, getting to the 7th level of materialization; Cheseed will correspond to the choosing of the ingredients; Geburah, the necessary effort for the preparation of the dough; Tiphareh, the balance between the amount of ingredients and their correct preparation; Netzach, the necessary artistic touch and to intuition; Hod, the technical instructions of the recipe; Yesod, the baking in the oven; and, finally, Malkuth, the cake's final form, to its materiality. The cabalists analyzed all the phenomena under all these criteria, reducing them always to the same elements, to spheres of manifestation.

Besides these descendent and materializing processes that come down from the Ketherian light to the concrete Malkuth, the one that is called creative, there are the evolutive processes, that go from the matter in search for a more subtle reality. The kundalinic serpent of the tree of life represents this double circuit of the creative and evolutive processes. The sephiroth or spheres of manifestation work as "transistors" of this circuit, units that receive and emit energy transforming its characteristics. Other versions associate the tree to the image of Adam Kadmo, where each sephiroth corresponds to a part of a body establishing a relation between the micro and macrocosmos. The triad formed by Kether, Chokmah and Binah, for example, corresponds to the head. Following this, forming an inverted triangle, Geburah, Cheseed and Tiphoreh represent both arms and solar plexus. The legs, the sex and the center of gravity, are associated to the sephiroth Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malkuth.

The tree of life is a diagram of the structure of the universe, an axis under which the many levels of manifestation are organized (2). The tree, therefore, doesn't form a closed system; it is a method or an analogical key to decipher other symbolic systems.

Its correspondences, therefore, besides being infinite, are many times contradictorily, because it permits different associations and incompatible analogies in itself, but "truthful" form the psychological point of view.

The main benefit of the proposal of the occultist priest was the institution of the tree as a "center" a vertical axis of associations of all archetypes. According to this logic, the lettered cards correspond to the 22 ways that interconnect the 10 spheres of manifestation of the tree, representing all the possible subjective experiences.

Besides this, Levi, exhaustively discussed the quaternary symbol and its relation with the decimal structure. For him, the 40 numbered cards represent the involution of the universe as a process of 4 phases and 10 agents. The universe is developing itself in 4 levels of density of manifestation, in 4 progressive stages of materialization of the subtle in the dense. In each level, there are 10 "steps" or agents. Thus besides the principle tree of the 22 paths, Levi proposed the existence of 4 more: the tree of the 10 archetypical emanations, the tree of the 10 arcanes, the tree of the 10 stars of the solar system.


Olam Atziltuth or the reign of the archetypical emanations, where the Desire and God’s Conscience are realized by he himself, directly through his emanations, represented by the Ten Divine names. It is the absolute, the immutable Eternity. In it there is no individualized conscience, everything is unity and harmony.

Olam Briah or the reign of creation, where the Desire and God's Conscience are realized by his Ministers -- the ten archangels: where the souls are nurtured and live together with the creatures that rule evolution. We can call it the spiritual world and imagine it as a space where intelligence energies manifest and desindividualize.

Olam Yetzirah or the reign of formation is what we use to informal call "stars,” and intermediary region between the spiritual and material world. When we incarnate, according to this tradition, we go down from Briah to Assiah and we receive besides the physical body, an astral or dreamer body, for, during sleep, work in the lost zone of Yetzirah, the land of the lost souls, of the ten angelic phalanx, the always of thinking and the unconscious of one's energy.

Olam Assiah or the reign of action and concrete manifestation is the physical or material world that we perceive through the five senses. The exterior world or the sensorial image of reality, however, is a reflection of the interior levels. Therefore, this level is known by the title "the sphere of elements" -- where Atziluth reflects himself under the form of fire, Briah as water and Yetzirah as air.

However, it's worth observing that, although since Levi, the occultists have never again denied admitting the interdependence between the tarot and the Cabala, the truth is, besides one not being perfectly connected to the other, there is no historical proof of this relation.


The fact that there is no consensus about the correspondence between the two symbolic languages and that, adding the associations with astrology, the occultist discussion became a true Babel of images with out any author having achieved the "honor" of establishing a perfect system of analogy (3).

We can distinguish two leagues of occultism that defend different associations between the Tarot, the Cabala and Astrology: the Eliphas Levi followers, also known as continental occultists, and the followers of the system of development by the Golden Dawn order and improved by Aleister Crowley, also called the Anglo-Saxon occultists. The first group - of which includes the names of Oswald Wirth, Stanislaw Guaita, Gerald Encausse (Papus) and G. O. Mebes - is characterized by the association of the card of the crazy man with the 31st way to the Tree of Life. The thinking of this group was hegemonic until the end of the last century.

In this century, however, the tarot was developed and became very popular due to the appearance of the Golden Dawn occultist order, founded by Mac Gregor Master and W. Wynn Westcott. The main characteristic of this group is the association of the arcane of the crazy man to the Aleph letter and to the 11th way of tree. Following this principle, Sir Charles Edward Waite and Aleister Crowley, the two major exponents of the order, were responsible for two beautiful Tarots and for a vast theorical work (4).

Crowley, maybe the most polemic occultist of all time, greatly amplified the taro and the Cabala's symbolic correspondence which other systems like astrology, the I Ching, perfumes, colors, magic objects, launching the basis of modern witchery. Even disagreeing with his rituals and eccentric and macabre behavior, the majority of thinkers that followed Crowley adopted his system of correspondence, expressed in his book “777". This group of authors is predominant nowadays and includes names like: Dion Fortune, Allan Watts, Garth Knight, Israel Regardie and Robert Wang, among others.

Besides these two big groups of occultists, there are also independent authors that defend their own systems of association, like Paul Foster Case and the mysterious "Zain" from the temple of the light that takes the chromatic criteria as a basis for his system.

The hypothesis about the origin of the Cabala adopted by the occultists are less delirious than the Tarot's. For some of them, it was taught by the angels to men for them to be able to return to the primordial paradise. For others, it was received by Set, the third son of Eve, or Enoch, Abraham and Melkisedek.

There are also versions that it was directly dictated by Jehovah to Moses, during his stay, for 40 days, on Mount Sinai.

From the historiographical point of view, therefore, we know that the Cabala, as an oral tradition of the Hebrew mysticism, dates back from the 2nd Biblionic slavery, being a type of adoption of the astrological symbolism of the Caldeus to the Jewish monotheism.

We can even doubt that the tree of life is an axial interpretation of the symbolism of the Mesopotamia Eneagrama. For many centuries, the Cabala was orally transmitted as a type of mythic exegesis of the Torah until when, around the year 100 a.d. appeared Sepher Yetzirah and Zorah. Since then, the Cabala had many distinct cycles in the Judaic tradition, with very different characteristics (the magic cycles of the Black Forest, the speculative philosophical cycle of Spain in the XII century, the monastic cycle of Safed, directed by Isaac Luria), but only became popular when it was appropriated and deformed by the occultist thought.

Under this distorted popularization promoted by occultist movement there was nothing more normal than the Cabala students linked to Judaism to protest with vehemence (5). But the truth is that, if the esoteric drank in the Hebrew tradition to elaborate their own Cabala, the Judaic mysticism also recycled itself and was influenced with the occultist approach and, more recently, with the development of the analytical psychology. A contemporary example of this reciprocity is the work of Z'ev Ben Shimon Halevi (6) where we find a genuinely Hebrew Cabala strongly influenced by esotherism.


With its mysterious origin and varying emphasis, the tarot is a multiple puzzle of references, in its technique of history. Studying it is, above all, studying one self. The books, although important, are absolutely secondary. The main objective is to get in direct contact with the archetypes, mentally using them as concepts and felling their live power in everyday reality. However, to initiate its theorical studies it is advisable to start reading the works of psychological academic thinker, that recently, started to get interested in the archetypes of the cards, instead of facing the complicated classics of occultism.

In this sense, Nichols and Steinbrecher (7) are very profitable pieces of work. The emphasis of Nichols is particularly recommended because it escapes from the theory embassments of the endless discussion about the association of the cards with other symbolic systems in which the occultists got lost and presents a series of cultural and literary references to characterize each archetype. On the other hand, its principal disadvantage is that it involuntarily ends up in one of the systems of correspondence, when divinizes the crazy man and sees the sorcerer as a "mercurial fake" and not like the father archetype of the primordial unity.

If we associate the tarot to the creative imagination technique and to the psychodrama, the meditation of the interior guides is a simple and fascinating method of transformation of different archetypical aspects of personality, deduced from the quarters and astrological oppositions of the Natal map. Unfortunately Steinbrecher also presents the same deficiency as Nichols, because he uses the Crowleyan correspondences in detrirnent of other possibilities. Far from the esoteric discussion held between the continental occultists and angle-Saxons about if the primordial unity of the Uranian power should be represented by the number 1 or 0, many other contributions have been enriching the study of the tarot in the analytical psychology field (8), even though indirectly, principally in the study of the quaternary, considered by many comtemporary thinkers as a universal basis of symbolic associations.

Maybe the principal indirect contribution of the analytical psychology to the symbolic study of the tarot is of Jung himself, principally in his "psychological interpretation of the Trinidad Dogma" where he calls attention to the role played by the Holy Mary in relation to the Christian zymology. In this work, Jung presents for the first time the notion that the quaternary structure is universal and works as a structuring symbol of the psyche and of the collective unconscience.

In Brazil, emphasis is also given to the work developed by the psychoanalyst Carlos Byington that for many years complicated the question of the quaternary as a structuring symbol, applying to history and psychotherapy (9). Unfortunately, we can't discuss here those points which are cited only for the reader to be aware of the important debate that exists nowadays about the subject.


As we saw Eliphas Levi and Aleister Crowley proposed different associations between the symbolic languages of the tarot and cabala. However, both were based in the same structural correspondences.

A) The equivalence of the 22 major Arcanes to the Hebrew letters and to the paths of the tree of life. According to the occultists these archetypes appeared due to the "decay" of humanity, understanding by "decay", not only the expelling of Adam and Eve from Heaven or to the catastrophically end of Atlántida and Lemurian civilizations, but above all, "a deterioration of a superior state of harmony among men gifted with psychic powers for the more instinctive societies and for merely sensorial perception of reality". Thus, the dream of a social utopia, a form of a perfect social organization, without conflicts, desires and inequalities characterized by the major Arcanes archetypes, is a return to this state of collective conscience of humanity, to the primordial "collective nirvana.” This feeling of unity that overcomes a simple harmonization of social relations and the political equilibrium among the diverse groups that form a society to psychologically introject in each person as a necessity of universal communion, as a challenge of the reconquest of the lost paradise, like a desire of union". Following the same logic, in the crossing, the first stage of the illuminated road, is a return to the original paradise in which we will take an archetypical journey through the problems of the decadent humanity to get to the eschatological city of New Jerusalem.

B) The identity of the 16 figured cards of the minor Arcanes with the quatemary, IHVH, and with the reciprocal relations between the four fundamental elements. Here the desire for union overcomes the world's problems to consolidate itself as a marriage of opposite symbolic poles and as a search of more profound identity, of a level of self-awareness that allows the re-encounter with the twin soul. In the Christian-Judaic tradition, this re-encounter is shown in the Canticle of Canticles, where the bride (Israel) awaits for the groom, the Messiah; in Paul's Epistles, the bride is the church and the groom, Christ; in the mystic poetry of San Juan de la Cruz, the groom is the spirit and the bride, the soul and the body. In the game of the twin soul we will develop the idea that only knowing our transferences and projections in relation to the 4 fundamental archetypes (the Father, the Mother, the 0ther Sex and the Ego-Hero) is that we can realize this alchemic marriage and be prepared for happiness.

C) The association of the 40 numbered letters with the 4 cabalistic worlds and the decimal structure of the tree of life. The desire of union in this level doesn’t refer to the realization of social utopia or happiness, but yes to the mystic reintegration with God. The trips taken by Dante, Enoch and by the mystic sufis through the celestial palaces that are previous to the throne of the Almighty, when Creator and Creature will meet face to face. These necessary theory considerations having been made let's follow through this way of lights and needles, facing our return crossing through the Major Arcanes.


(*) MEBES, G. O. - Os Arcanos Menores do Tarô (Te Taro Menor Archanes). Rio de Janeiro: Pensamento, 1984. Together with "Os Arcanos Maiores" (The Major Arcanes) from the same Brazilian collection is also know in other countries as "Encyclopedic course of occultism".

(1) NICHOLS, S. Jung e o Tarô (Jund and Tarot). São Paulo: Cultrix, 1989. Nichols cites the "the theory of the suits”, from the writer Gertrude Moakley, according to which the Major Arcanes "are of esoteric origin, simple adaptations of illustrations of a book of sonets of Petrarca and Laura" – the ‘Trionfi’. The theme, common in the European middle age, would have inumerable versions, and it was teatrically played as a succession of characters, like in a parade. Because of the fact that these manifestations were celebrations of victories, Nichols puts the meaning of the word "suit" close to "triumph".

(2) The Totems - from the more primitive ones to the trees, crosses and swords - aren't sexual symbols, as thought by Freud. In reality, the "Penis" that is a totemic and axial symbol, that represents the axis of the "center of the world". But, the universal idea that there is a vertical axis of development of the conscience around which the whole universe gravitates, continues being reduced by the detrieved unconscience of the western society to a mere alegory of male virility.

(3) The two systems of association of the correspondences between the symbolic languages of the Tarot, the Cabala and Astrology.

(4) WANG, R. O Tarô Cabalístico (The Cabalistic Tarot). São Paulo: Pensamento, 1993. Is a book that puts together in a more compact way all the system of the Golden Dawn, comparing to the works of Master, Waite and Crowley. It presents a complete bibliography of the books published by the participants in sequence, being a modern and impartial guide of the ideas of its exponents.

(5) To the greatest historiographic authority of the Hebrew Cabala in this century, Gershom Scholen, for example: (...)"the activities of the French and English occultists were useless and only served to generate a great confusion among the teaching of the Cabala and its own inventions, like the supposed cabalistic origin of the tarot cards". Trying to protect the association of the two symbolic languages, the occultist Robert Wang tried to answer to Scholem objections, affirming that there is a Hebrew Cabala and another Esoteric one, founded by Pico de Miranbola

(6) HALEVI, Z B. S. Universo Kabbalístico (Kabbalistic Universe) São Paulo: Siciliano, 1992.
STEINBRECHER, E. C. A Meditação dos Guias Interiores (The Interior Guides Meditation). São Paulo: Siciliano, 1990. Is a work less known by the Brazilian specialists, but that is already considered a classic abroad. It explains the therapy elaborated from the combination of cards with the technique of the creative imagination, done according to the natal map

(7) For example: DICKERMAN, A. C. A Aventura da Autodescoberta (The Self-discovery Adventure). São Paulo: Cultrix, 1992. It is an excellent summary of psychologic excercises of self-awareness based on the Major Arcanes.

(8) BYINGTON, C. Revista Junguiana (SBPA.), no. 01, Petropólis: Vozes, 1986.