Notes on the TAROT

by Patrick Mulcahy (

The tarot is a pictographic language system that facilitates communication between our personality consciousness (Nephesh) and our soul consciousness (Ruach).

The symbols are akin to dream images which are also sometimes employed by the soul in its attempt to communicate with the personality.

The effectiveness of the communication depends upon the degree of our conscious attunement with our intuitive faculty. This is an organ of the soul whose energy is Love-Wisdom.

Study of the tarot (and other symbolic systems) prepares the mental body for conscious contact with the soul. As we program our mind with the archetypal imagery of the tarot, we come to understand the 'wisdom-essence' of the symbols. We then become open to all manifestations and reflections of those essences as they appear to our inner vision (in dreams and visions) and to our physical eyes (in the various forms that they may assume in our environment).

When we are conscious of these essences (and open to their myriad possible forms) then we are able to view the events that occur, and the shapes that appear in our personal world, as an ongoing communication between our soul and personality, and between macrocosm and microcosm. (Our soul waits for us to recognise its presence, purpose and power, and for our acquiescence to allow it to become the co-creator of our personal reality.) We are then able to cooperate on a conscious level with the Will aspect of our soul.

The occurrence of synchronicitous (meaningful) and serendipitous (fortunate) events/coincidences in our lives are major evidences of soul communication. These can be noted and meditated upon to great advantage.

So, by learning (via the tarot) to utilise the Love-Wisdom faculty (or intuition) of the soul, we become able to be guided by the Will-Purpose faculty (or atmic body) of the soul. Success in this is a great and beneficial magickal achievement for one and for all.

Because the tarot is a tool for spiritual development, it is wise to consecrate the cards in the Name of the Highest, and also to dedicate their use to the Love and Will of the soul. You may wish to compose a prayer and design a short ritual for this purpose. As you perform it, see the cards bathed in brilliant white light. For maximum effect, repeat the ritual once per day for seven days.

It is important to be in a meditative state when consulting the tarot. This can be achieved by the recital of a short invocation with an accompanying visualisation before the cards are shuffled.

The above is an abbreviated form of the Eight Card Layout.


78 Cards

40 (4x10) Minor cards ('stages of consciousness expansion')
22 Major cards ('developing powers')
16 (4x4) Court cards ('phases of the creative process')


4 Suits

(4+10): Fire. Electrical energy. Impulse. The creative mind united with the causal body. Mind in its highest, abstract form (i.e. the three highest levels of the mental plane or third dimension). Mind as the creator of our personal reality. Mind united with the Will (causal body) of the soul. Mind in harmony with the Tao.

Cups (4+10): Water. Magnetic energy. Response. The intuitive body (fourth dimension) and the astral body (second dimension). Wisdom, Understanding, Love and Creative desire. Magnetic attraction of unconscious (and conscious) desires. The outer world as a reflection of the inner consciousness.

Swords (4+10): Air. Chemical energy. Continuous Activity. Preparation. The lower, concrete mind (i.e. the four lowest levels of the mental plane or third dimension). Mind combined with etheric (physical/vital) energy (i.e. of the first dimension). The rational or reasoning mind. Mind-set. Thought processes. Interpersonal exchange of ideas. Communication.

Disks (4+10): Earth. Mechanical energy. Crystallisation of energy. Physical manifestation. Construction. The final creative product of unified Will, Desire and Mind. The impact we have upon our environment.


The Colours and Their General Meanings

The following colour attributions apply specifically to the Thoth Tarot cards of Crowley and Harris, but they may also be applicable to other tarot decks.

White ~ Tao. The Will/Purpose of God.
Red ~ Creative mind. Directed Will (i.e. focussed towards a specific purpose)
Yellow ~ Causal body. Will of the soul (i.e. radiating, all-pervasive, coordinating the greater Purpose)
Blue ~ Intuitive body. Love-Wisdom
Pink-Crimson ~ Unconditional love. Spiritual love. Devotion to the Beloved.
Orange ~ Reasoning mind.
Green ~ Astral body. Creative desire. Imagination. Abundance.
Violet ~ Etheric body. Physical energy used in the final stages of the creative process.
Brown ~ Energy forms. Living energy. Differentiated energy.
Indigo ~ The Great Ocean of Space. Cosmic Mother. The Infinite Source.
Black ~ Undifferentiated energy. Matter.

A: Intuitive Body/Plane (Blue)
B: Abstract Mental Body/Plane (Red)
C: Causal Body (Gold/Yellow)

D: Lower Mental Body/Plane (Orange)
E: Astral Body/Plane (Light Green)
F: Etheric Body/Plane (Violet)

G: Physical Body/Material World (Dark Green)


The Four Court Cards

(Father) ~ The Supreme Creative Force. Yang. The masculine fertile seed (or sperm). The original impulse and power to create. The expanding centre of the circle. Pure Light.

Queen: (Mother) ~ The All-embracing and Receptive Form. Yin. The feminine fertile womb (containing the eggs or ovum). The divinely coordinated response to the creative impulse of the Knight-King. The contracting circumference of the circle. Darkness.

Prince: (Son) ~ The Human Soul = A+B+C. The dispersion and differentiation of the Knight-King's creative seed. The instinctive (or inspired) movement of the Knight-King's seed within the womb of the Queen (i.e. towards the Queen's egg). Light penetrating Darkness.

Princess: (Daughter) ~ The Human Personality = D+E+F. The 'physical' qualities/attributes of the differentiated seed (Prince). The 'purity' of the Princess determines our ability to 'physically' reach our destination (i.e. the egg in the body of the Queen). The journey is one of personality development. Darkness being illumined by Light.

The above diagram symbolises the light (Knight-king) penetrating the darkness (Queen) through the medium of the human soul (Prince) and personality (Princess).


The Minor Cards ~ Stages of Consciousness Expansion

Four Basic Divisions

The following diagram displays the ten minor cards and their basic relationship with the court cards.

[insert minor.gif here]

1) Triad 1-2-3 (Spirit-Macrocosm)
*Knight-king + Queen
*Frame of reference
*Complementary polarities
*Primary dimensions of being
*Working parameters

2) Triad 4-5-6 (Soul-Microcosm)
*Preparation (of the Philosopher's Stone)
*Distillation, extraction of essence/elixir

3) Triad 7-8-9 (Personality-Microcosm)

4) Number 10 (Physical body-Microcosm)


The Ten Stages

The minor cards reflect the natural process of the interaction between energy and matter. It is an archetypal process and so, with due meditation, it can throw much light on the analogous human experience. There are ten basic stages to the process.

Energy = Matter-mass x Light-speed2 (E = Mc2)

1) Light-speed2.
Infinite acceleration. (It becomes limited, or is reduced, by matter/mass ~ 3.) The ability to be everywhere at once. The beginning and end occur simultaneously. The creation of a universe (i.e. a closed system). Spirit.

2) Energy/Impulse.
The energy spectrum that permeates the universe ~ derived by the combination of (1) and (3). Unified energy field. Universal Consciousness. Holistically focussed force (4) (i.e. radiating from the centre of the system). Macrocosmic intention (i.e. incomprehensible in its wholeness to the microcosm).

3) Matter/Medium.
The matter that permeates the universe. The medium that contains/conducts energy (2). Universal Mind. An atmosphere that is composed of varying gradations of mass ~ through which units of that mass (or microcosmic forms [5]) are propelled.

Force = Mass x Acceleration (F = ma)

4) Force.
Energy (2) in linear motion. Specifically directed energy (2), focussed towards the movement of a particular object or mass (5).

5) Mass.
A quantum of matter (3). Individualised mind. The focus (or target) of directed energy, or force (4). For mass to accelerate (6) towards infinity (1), its inertia must be overcome. This is achieved through the 'lightening' of mass (change of form) and/or the increase of force (4). (In all cases it involves the conversion of matter [3] into energy [2].)

6) Acceleration.
The increasing velocity of mass (5) ~ the overcoming of its inertia. If the terminal velocity (9) is not reached, then the sequence proceeds to (4) where there is another application of force. The ideal scenario is for the accelerating object (6) to then proceed directly to its terminal velocity (9) thus bypassing (7) and (8).

Momentum = Mass x Velocity (p = mv)

7) Critical Velocity.
The velocity at which an object (5) becomes unstable. Too fast. Speed wobbles. Loss of control. Burn out. The object must be refined (or streamlined) before its speed can be further increased.

8) Stabilisation.
The adjustment, realignment and deceleration needed to bring the object (5) back into balance and harmony with the atmosphere through which it is moving (3).

9) Terminal Velocity.
Optimum speed. The maximum speed the object (5) can manage in its present form. The original force (4) has fulfilled its function. The object is moved now only by its own momentum. Therefore, it must move (decelerate) to (10) and then be remodelled (or further refined) in (5).

10) Stasis.
The limitations of the present form are realised. The cycle ends with a fresh impulse from (2) or less frequently, a completely new beginning from (1).


The 22 Major Cards (Developing Powers)

Triad 1-2-3 (Spirit-Macrocosm)

The macrocosmic triad constitutes the House of Life wherein we all dwell as children of the Creator. It symbolises the living Universe (or, on a lesser scale ~ the planet Earth) the supreme Organism in Whom we exist as an aggregation of microcosmic cells. The body of our Great Mother is especially imaged in the Path of the EMPRESS.


The above diagram shows the microcosm within the macrocosm.

FOOL (Aleph)
The Heart of the Knight-King. The all-pervasive, free-ranging Spirit. It unifies every atom of consciousness/life into One Gestalt Consciousness/Life. The underlying spiritual connection that exists between all things. The magnetic field of Love that permeates and coheres the Creation. POWER: Spontaneous right action (Tao), Oneness, Love, Fearlessness.

MAGUS (Beth)
The Intelligence of the Queen. The preparation of the materia prima (base substance) by the Creator. The arrangement and manipulation of the various gradations of matter ~ that is, the four planes of being (tarot suits). Their fluid interpenetration and interrelation. The internal/external structure of 'physical' existence. The closed, moving system of 'wheels' that is the universe. POWER: Intelligent organisation.

EMPRESS (Daleth)
The Marriage Bed of the Knight-King and His Queen. The emergence (birth) of the myriad atoms of consciousness within form, and their continuing evolution. The collective swarm of life. The Great Mother. Form as the nurse-maid of consciousness. The abundant, all-provident and beneficent environment wherein consciousness dwells. The evolving macrocosmic manifestation of the Creation. POWER: Manifestation of abundance.


Triad 4-5-6 (Soul-Microcosm)

The human soul extracts Wisdom from key life experiences like a bee collecting pollen from a field of flowers. As pollen is transmuted into honey, so understanding is transmuted into Wisdom. The soul is also the creator of Knowledge and Destiny. The degree of receptivity of the personality to the guidance of the soul determines how securely we remain on our Path.

LUST (Teth)
The process of embodiment of Love-Wisdom (into abstract form) during the microcosmic creative act. Love and Will combine to express the Essence of the soul. Every aspect of one's being is unitedly focussed upon the object of the soul's Desire. All fear is swept aside in the fervour of a life devoted to the creative expression of the soul's Purpose. POWER: Courage of the Heart, and soul-inspired creativity (Magick).

The 'Jewel in the Lotus of Love'. Pure Love-Wisdom. The orbit of every Star is unique, as is the Path of every soul. The creative energy/seed, the root of our personal existence, is swimming in the body of the Great Mother. It is a divine spore blown by the four winds over the surface of the Great Sea. It seeks out the island of its destiny ~ the special conditions that will awaken it to germination, ultimately to bear its golden fruit. POWER: Wisdom of the soul.

The equilibrated orbit of a Star of consciousness in perfect relation to all other Stars. When Heart and Mind are brought into balance and alignment, when they are united as one (and fight not one against the other) then we flow in perfect harmony with the Love and Will of our soul. Then the Star of our self is not deflected from its Path by ignorance and fear. Clear perception and wise judgement result from objective analysis (of self and situation) and by responding in the light/love of one's inner truth. POWER: Inner/outer harmony, discernment.


The Connecting Pathways Between the Microcosmic Soul and the Macrocosm.

There are five Paths that unite the microcosm with the Macrocosm. It's the development of their special Powers that enables us to cross the Abyss of separateness, to harmonise ourselves with the creative will of the Father and Mother, and to become divine creators in our own right. We also may choose to become fully conscious members of the Spiritual Hierarchy.

During the birth/creation of our soul, we issued forth from the Source of All and appeared as a Star in the Heavens. The fulfilment of our destiny is the Way of return. As we round each new bend on the Path of our Going, a portion of the mystery of our unique destiny is revealed to us. Each time we enter the darkness of the Abyss (of unknowing) the Priestess draws away the curtain and we step into the Light. POWER: Attunement to the Source.

The Spiritual Hierarchy (or Knight-King) is the source of Wisdom. We are all connected to this Fellowship (more or less consciously) through the medium of our soul. The wisdom can emerge within us via our inner connection with the Masters, or it can come from outside in the words of another physical being. This wisdom we can use in the creation of our personal reality. POWER: Contact with the divine Hierarchy.

The Knight-King's divine love for His Queen is anchored in each one of us. Its power within our soul is the inspiration for our deeply felt vision of the future. When we hearken to its subtle pull, we are drawn towards the Beloved, to the sacred grove wherein we will plant our Seed. POWER: Magnetic attunement to the Queen. Heart-felt dream of our future. Belief in, and devotion to that dream.

The Queen beckons to the Prince (whom She Loves) to follow Her to the Kingdom She has prepared for his rulership. The Prince then becomes eligible to wed his Princess and make her his Queen; he can assume the Throne and become himself a Knight-King. But to reach the Promised Land he must be true to his Heart and never leave the virtuous Path. POWER: The Royal Marriage between the soul and the physical realm (Mother-Daughter).

The peak experiences of life are battles in which we transcend the limitations of our previous state of consciousness. As our understanding expands to encompass the universe, so we ride victoriously across the Abyss to the Palace of the Queen. There we are knighted by Her and join Her legion of Light-workers. POWER: Universal understanding.


Triad 7-8-9 (Personality-Microcosm)

The personality triad is a cocoon of leaves and twigs (i.e. material substance) drawn from the Great Mother (i.e. the physical world) and woven about the soul. The grosser, heavier, or more unrefined the 'matter' of the cocoon, the more difficulty the soul has in lifting it up the trunk towards the upper branches of the Tree of Life (i.e. in its quest for spiritual food).

The conflict that rages within our subconscious (and conscious) mind, between our various desire-charged thought-forms, must be resolved if we are to build a strong and stable tower of consciousness to Heaven. Any war within the subconscious is mirrored in the outer. We are 'magickally' drawn into (or manifest) the life circumstances we need to bring the inner turmoil into consciousness where it can be reconciled. When the tumult has ceased then we can sense the desires of the soul (see: STAR). POWER: Consciousness of soul desires.

EMPEROR (Tzaddie)
With the knowledge of our innermost desires comes the power of right and determined action (or self-assertion). If we are ignorant of our soul-empowered desires then we become weak, unwilling and/or unable to act ~ a pawn in the power play of others. When others attempt to control us, then we are forced to go within, to discover what it is we truly desire. POWER: Self-assertion, right action.

SUN (Resh)
The web of thought-forms that is the mind is a prism that the white light of the soul pours through in multi-coloured splendour. The clearer the crystal, the stronger, the more brilliantly vivid and vibrant is the light. POWER: Conscious self-expression.


The Pathways of Connection Between the Microcosmic Soul and its Human Personality

The influence of the soul (Prince) upon the personality (Princess) is felt along these five pathways. It delivers the evolutionary impulse.

The key to a fortunate life lies in our adherence to our soul's directives. The voice of the soul is heard beyond the maelstrom of personal desires that swirl within the sub/conscious. When our conscious being resonates to the Desires of the soul, then we are drawn naturally into situations that provide for the fulfilment of our Purpose. Then we come to realise that fortune is naught but our birth-right. POWER: Serendipity.

In order to understand the Wisdom of our soul, it is necessary to penetrate into the depths of experience, to submerge ourselves in the waters of life. Our re-emergence from the depths, into the light, concludes our baptism by water. Then we no longer need direct physical experience of the mysteries. Then our baptism is by the fire of pure (abstract) mind. But until that time, in order to gain self-knowledge we must continue to plunge ourselves into the experience of things already manifested in physical form. POWER: Intuited knowledge.

The fountain of life-energy that is our soul cannot be contained in a singular form. An artist requires many works to express his divine essence. Our personality (and its extension ~ our personal reality) is the canvas upon which the soul portrays the countless facets of its being. But before we can receive the new life expression of the soul, we must let go of the forms the old life has taken. We must become as a clean sheet of canvas upon which the soul can apply its living pigment. The soul effects our transformation through the palette of our desires ~ diminishing one, increasing another. Once this operation is performed, it is inevitable the picture of our life will change. POWER: Conscious, willing, death and rebirth.

ART (Sameck)
The spiritual regeneration of our desires, the intelligent (wise) restructuring of our thoughts, and the correctly focussed fusion of water and fire, enables our soul to express its innate beauty through the vehicle of our personality. But our thoughts and desires must be artfully combined, and the dross burnt away, before we can become a living reflection of the inner truth. POWER: Self integration (Alchemy).

DEVIL (Ayin)
Evil is symbolised by darkness while good is represented by light. Darkness implies separation from the light. The human personality is not a pure 'light body' but contains both light and darkness because that is the nature of physical form. Part of the purpose of our soul is to purify the personality by dispersing the darkness with its light. This is achieved by the penetration of the darkness of the mind with the light of understanding. Sometimes the darkness is almost impenetrable because of the emotion attached to certain of our ideas and beliefs. By opening our mind to the light of understanding we allow the soul to release us from our misconceptions, our prejudices, hates, and personal taboos. Our emotionally charged ideas, our furiously, passionately held beliefs of what is right and wrong, thus become mitigated by love and compassion, and we are able to assume a calm, detached, accepting and more understanding attitude toward ourselves and others. We become the master and no longer the slave of our own ideas. POWER: A truly opened mind.


The Connecting Pathways Between the Personality and the Great Mother

The human personality (or Princess) is a conglomeration of material substance, a nodule of 'matter', formed within the body of the Great Mother (Queen). It is moulded like a clay pot in the hands of the Prince.

MOON (Qoph)
By virtue of her physicality, the Princess is tied to the primeval rhythms and pulsations in the body of the Queen. She is moved this way and that way by the ebb and flow of the tide of life. As she matures, and as her relationship with the Prince becomes stronger, she looses herself from the maternal power of the Queen. She overcomes her fears and insecurities and claims her own power. She is able to perceive a higher purpose to life than material security and propagation. She is able to discern between the pull of matter and the pull of the spirit, between the sun and the moon. She chooses more and more to hearken to the call of her Lover/Prince. POWER: Freedom from maya, sensuality, glamour and illusion.

AEON (Shin)
The Queen is a highly intelligent Organism (or Organisation). The mental body of the Princess is an individualised facet, separate and yet intimately a part, of the Mind of the Mother. The subterranean connection between the microcosmic mind and the macrocosmic Mind, links the mental perception of the Princess with that of her many sisters (other personalities). As she comes to recognise this essential oneness, then she can reach a common accord, and flow in harmony with the evolutionary plan and the collective will of the one intelligent Being that is Humanity. But it is for her to choose. POWER: Movement with the collective evolutionary pulse.

The conscious designs of the Princess are woven into form, built into her personal world, and become part of the physical adornment of the Queen. Her craft requires dedication and determination, love and will, to bring it to completion. But by so doing, she adds her own personal touches to a greater work of art that is the Masterpiece of Humanity. POWER: Physical manifestation of creative ideas.