Pick up any book about Tarot cards and randomly thumb through it. You are almost certainly to find in the majority of them several references to Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. It is his work that framed the concepts of the collective unconscious and the theories of archetypal imagery and synchronicity that serve as the vital underpinnings of Tarot readings and practice. In fact, Jung’s breakthrough precepts actually legitimizes the study of Tarot and its ability to connect with our inner-selves.
On the other hand, you would be surprisingly hard pressed to find any references to Tarot cards whatsoever anywhere in the voluminous writings of Jung. How can this make sense in light of the great influence and association the learned Jung has with Tarot cards? Is it a mere coincidence? Or does the answer to that question reside in Jung’s explanation of synchronicity “as a meaningful coincidence?”
And amazingly one he did not recognize? Let’s step back and begin to put this puzzle together.
Carl Jung was a member of the seminal triumvirate of the founding fathers of the science of modern psychology. They were Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Wilhelm Reich. Freud is the most well known of the three, followed by Jung and then Reich.*
The supernatural and parapsychology was no stranger to Jung. He personally underwent a near-death experience, had clairvoyant dreams, incidents of precognition, encountered various hauntings with actual manifestations and poltergeist activity. He conducted experiments in telepathy and had a spirit guide known as Philemon, who flew out of the sky one day and landed at Jung’s side. Jung gave him the nickname of the “Old Wise Man” and they often conversed as they walked together in Jung’s garden. Jung claimed he had a second soul, one that allowed him to access the occult realm. Many of his beliefs were derived from The Tibetan Book of the Dead which he consulted though out his professional life. He used the I-Ching to help diagnose patient’s maladies and suggest treatment methods. He investigated the arcane arts of Alchemy and Astrology as well.
Jung’s grandmother was a “ghost seer” and his mother when a child protected her father, who was a curate from ghosts while he wrote his sermons. The subject of Jung’s dissertation was a 15 year old medium with exceptional abilities. The medium was his cousin. Probably one of the more startling claims Jung made was that he talked and preached to the dead. This claim is supported by his privately published Septem Sermones ad Mortuos (Seven Sermons to the Dead) which was produced via automatic writing. Some reviewers consider this text to be an example of Jung’s best written pieces. His final book was about Flying Saucers. He originally thought that this sighting were projections from our inner psyches. However upon awaking from a particular vivid dream that involved UFOs, he recounted his guess and instead stated “that we were actually projections from the Flying Saucers.”
As you can gather from the above, Carl Jung had profound inner and outer visions that both guided him to, and tormented him with the truth of all things. Yet it all reveals an incredibly open-minded individual that marched to some very different drummers.
CARL JUNG AND THE TAROT
Returning to Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious will help us understand his association with the cards. He thought of the collective unconscious as the “soul of the world” and it is in that “soul” that our shared symbolism of the archetypes dwell.
He also postulated that an event in a person’s life can trigger an internal mechanism that allows access to the collective unconscious. Once this process begins an archetypical configuration takes place. He called this “being” that formed during this configuration a “psychoid.” It was part real in the sense that it was manifesting itself and taking on a form and it was also part psychic due to it’s origin in the depths of the unconscious mind. Which Jung described as “the deposit of all human experiences back to the beginning of time. It is the source of the instincts, since archetypes are merely the forms that our instincts have assumed.” At this point the conscious mind can now recognize this primordial archetype, and understand the message it is trying to convey through its symbolic form. After this triggering episode has subsided, the “psychoid” melts back into the regions of the netherworld.
These “psychoids” are somewhat like the Tulpas that are reportedly created by Tibetan monks** through shear will power. These are also temporary beings that are brought to actual physical life for a short time, perform the tasks that they are created to complete and afterward return to nothingness. It is easy to see the wide influence that The Tibetan Book of the Dead had on Jung.
DOES TAROT CARD IMAGERY DEPICT “PSYCHOIDS”?
Perhaps the only way we can answer that is if we look at Jung’s definition of archetypical characters. Jung felt they were a “universal disposition of the human mind with which the mind organizes its content.
Below are Jung’s archetypes and what Tarot cards I feel best reflect the character of each archetype as described by Jung. I will only use the Major Arcana*** for this exercise.
A. The Animus and Anima – together they form a syzygy which is Greek for “a divine pair”.
The anima is the female in man and the animus is the male in the woman.
TAROT CARD: VI – The Lovers
Card meaning: Two people coming together, a partnership, union, reunion, two elements uniting or events coinciding.
B. Old Wise Man – Ancestors, conservative teachings, a spiritual guide. Jung called Philemon the “Old Wide Man.”
TAROT CARDS: IV – The Emperor, V – the Hierophant, IX – The Hermit
Card meanings: All three of these cards jhave the same thematic to various degrees. They are authorities, they adhering to a conservative doctrines, they have great knowledge gained over time and freely shared or set down by decree.
C. The Self – Not the ego, but “a totality of a heavenly kind, a glorified man, an Adam.”
TAROT CARD: The Fool
Card meaning: The totally free spirit, the universal optimist, the trickster, what we all are at certain times in our lives, the promise of all good things to come. The Tarot deck is also called the Fool’s journey because the Fool travels through the deck either leading the way or bringing up the rear. It is one of the most potent cards to appear in a spread.
D. Self-Expression – Creativity, gestures, ritual
TAROT CARD: I – The Magician
Card meaning: Making things happen, conjuring, taking charge of everything in your life, creating something out of nothing, being the center of attention, an Alchemist.
E. The Persona – The face we turn towards the world, meaning, transformation and order
TAROT CARDS: II – The High Priestess, VII – The Chariot, VII – Strength
Card meanings: For the Priestess, one of serenity and introspection, calmness and inner control.
intuitively knowing the outcome of all matters. To be the Charioteer is to be in complete control of everything, change forward, getting places, overcoming obstacles to get where you need to be.
F. Orientation – The four directions of the compass, crossroads, appointments
TAROT CARDS: X – The Wheel of Fortune, XI – The Hanged Man, XXI – The World
Card meanings: We are all always traveling up and down on the Wheel of Fortune. As for the Hanged Man, we often find ourselves in a place where everything is upside down and we don’t know what to do and what direction to take so we remain suspended and inactive. While all this is going on, the World keeps on turning regardless of what we do or not do.
G. Change and Evolution
TAROT CARDS: XI – Justice, XIII – Death, XIV – Temperance, XX – Judgment
Card meanings: Justice reconciles all things in life. Death is change, either and end or a new beginning is signified here. Temperance calls for a new way of living in moderation and measure behavior. Judgement. final decisions must be made and from those decisions a new way of doing things will emerge.
H. Success – accomplishment, good fortune
TAROT CARDS: III – The Empress,
Card meaning: The card of birth and fertility, indication that a situation will turn out successfully,
good fortune ahead.
I. Love and Immortality
TAROT CARDS: XVII – The Star, XVIII – The Moon, XIX – The Sun
Card meanings: What love song doesn’t include the Sun the Moon and the Stars in it? If you “listen” to these three cards you can “hear” the song of the celestial spheres. In the Star card hope always springs eternal. The Moon our nearest neighbor in space and one that constantly meddles with our ocean tides. And then the Sun, which is the source of life and the constant promise of a new day everyday.
J. The Shadow – the dark aspect of the personality, an evil that needs to be cast out or assimilated
TAROT CARDS: XV – The Devil, XVI – The Tower
Card meanings: The Devil, the dark angel, obsession, trouble, temptation, your choice to choose either good or evil. The Tower is the card of liberation. Perhaps you have pent up behaviors or beliefs that are doing you harm? A destructive lighting bolt hurled from the heavens suddenly casts you from your high tower to the ground below to start again.
As stated earlier, Carl Jung did not specifically write about Tarot cards. Yet uncanningly the symbolism of the archetype and the theory of the collective unconscious which he created, mirror the symbolism and practice of Tarot cards exactly, although on different but parallel tracks.
If we accept the notion that these “psychoid” archetypes reside in all of our minds, then each one can be identified by applying Tarot card symbolism to them. In essence we are indeed carrying around a Tarot card set in each one of us. The value of this proposition is that by using Tarot cards regularly and committing the cards to memory you will quite possibly be able to unlock the wealth of your unconscious mind in a controlled manner, thereby leading to a greater understanding of the workings of your inner-self and a way of cultivating your intuitive powers.
This recognition of both your outer-reality and inner-thoughts serves to unite both important aspects of being. Overcoming such fragmentation can go a long way in the healing process to become an individual.
Written by Bernie O’Connor