The Way of Tarot –
The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards
Author: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Marianne Costa
Translator: Jon E. Graham
2004 (Editions Albin Michel)
2009 (Destiny Books
“The Way of Tarot” is a very impressive work. Whether you agree with the authors conclusions or not, it will make you think outside of the box, and will perhaps be the impetus needed for someone out there in the Tarot world to connect the dots between their thoughts and present them for examination.
Card references in this book are to the “Tarot of Marseilles” restoration done by Alexander Jodorowsky and Philippe Camoin (used with the permission of Camoin Editions).
Alejandro Jodorowsky is a filmmaker (“El Topo”, “The Holy Mountain”), psychotherapist and author of many books on Tarot and spirituality (including “The Spiritual Journey of Alexander Jodorowsky). Marianne Costa has worked with Jodorowsky since 1997, co-teaching workshops on the Tarot and family tree therapy. She is the author of “No Woman’s Land”.
This book is a presentation of Jodorowsky’s insights into the Tarot as a spiritual path. Working with the original “Marseilles Tarot” to reveal the roots of western wisdom, he provides the key to the symbolic language of what he terms the Tarot’s “nomadic cathedral”, moving the Tarot from a tool of divination into a vehicle for self-realization and healing. He sees the Tarot as representing the structure of the soul.
Jodorowsky structures the Tarot as a multi-dimensional mandala, representing both the microcosm and the macrocosm. The book includes a full color representation of each of the 78 cards of the Tarot, as well as a two-dimensional and a three dimensional representation of the Tarot mandala. The thought is held throughout the book that the cards should always be viewed with an awareness of the whole structure, in order to fully grasp the Tarot’s hermetic symbolism.
The book is broken down into five parts: Part One – Structure and Numerology of the Tarot, Part Two – The Major Arcana, Part Three – The Minor Arcana, Part Four – The Tarot Two By Two, and Part Five – The Reading of the Tarot. Each Part includes introductory remarks by Jodorosky.
I would actually suggest reading the introduction before anything else, as this is where Jodorowsky talks about his life, his personal background, and how his interest with the “Marseilles Tarot” evolved (he worked with other decks, but did not connect with them for varying reasons).
In “Part One, Structure and Numerology of the Tarot”, the authors present quite an interesting schematic of the Major Arcana, with The Fool on the left hand side, The World on the right hand side, and the other Major Arcana cards divided into two rows between them – I-X and XI-XX. They also present a schematic where the 22 cards are laid out in a row, and connections are made between them that add up to 21, the figure of realization.
The Minor Arcana suits are addressed, along with their associations (Swords/Intellect/Active (pointing towards sky); Cups/Emotional/Receptive (pointing towards the sky); Wands/Sexual/Active (pointing towards the earth); Pentacles/Material/Receptive (pointing towards the earth).
The Court cards are also addressed, as to what they represent. It should be noted here that Jodorosky has realigned the court structure to Knight/King/Queen/Page.
In his section on numerology, Jodorosky presents a schematic with 1 at the bottom, 10 at the top, and the other numbers paired in between:
He describes each of the ten degrees, and then shows their dynamics as pairs. Two and Three are seen as heavy and energetic, adolescents. Four and Five are seen as still in the material world, but as adults. Six and Seven are refined and active: one knows where one is going. Eight and Nine combine to permit evolution. At degree One, the Totality is in potential. At degree Ten the Totality is achieved, symbolizing the end of one cycle and the beginning of another.
The mandala at the heart of Jodorowsky’s work is based on numerology, so it is imperative that the reader review the section on numerology and come to some personal understanding of it.
The presentation of the Major Arcana includes a discussion of the cards energy, keywords, a discussion of the symbols in the card (along with accompanying small graphics along the right hand side of the page), how the card functions in a reading, the figure in the card speaking to the reader, and traditional interpretations for the card. There is also a full-page black and white illustration with each card.
The presentation on the Minor Arcana Pips (numbered cards) begins by presenting each set of numbers together (i.e. all four Aces, all four Twos’s etc), along with small black and white scans. There is a discussion of the energy of each card, as well as the symbolism within it. Small graphics of the symbols under discussion are included. At the end of this section the suits are presented as a whole (from Ace through Ten).
The presentation of the Honors or Court Cards includes small black and white scans, a short discussion on the card, the voice of the card speaking, and the cards position on the mandala. Each title (Page, Queen, King and Knight) is presented in a group (i.e. all four Pages, all four Queens etc.). At the end of this section is a summary of the meanings by suit.
In Part Four the authors address the “duets” in the Two Decimal series (remember – two rows, with I-X on top, and XI-XX underneath, with O at the left hand side, and XXI at the right hand side). Jodorosky posits that one cycle can be seen as the shadow of the other cycle. The pairs are presented as: Magician and Strength – Two Beginnings, The High Priestess and the Hanged Man – Gestation and Interiority, The Empress and The Nameless Arcanum – Creative or Destructive Explosion, The Emperor and Temperance – Security on Heaven and Earth, The Pope and The Devil – Temptation in All Its Guises, The Lover and The Tower – The Appearance of Pleasure, The Chariot and The Star – Action in the World, Justice and The Moon – Faces of Perfection, The Hermit and The Sun – Crisis and Regeneration, The Wheel of Fortune and Judgment – What Begins Comes to an End. Also discussed are male/female and other pair relationships, including the pairs that add up to 21 (the Eleven Paths of Realization).
In Part Five – The Reading of the Tarot, Jodorowsky encourages (let say “mandates”) the reader to become a mirror for the cards. Presented are exercises and sample readings with One Card (The Spirit of the Day, The Ally, Sounding Yourself, Exercise of Humility with the Major Arcana, Exercise of Humility with the Minor Arcana, What Are My Limits), Two Cards (Advantage-Drawback, Strength-Weakness, The Conflict, The Most Favorite Card, The least Favorite Card), Exercises With One Partner (The Tarological Conversation/Tarot Poker, Tarot Poker Variation), and with Three Cards (Past/Present/Future, Beginning/Deployment/Result, The Reasons for the Present Situation, The Family Trio and its Influence on the Consultant).
Jodorosky also goes into Tarot strategy (How Questioning the Tarot Makes Us the Actors and Authors of Our Own Lives, Repositioning the Cards) and the Psychological Aspects of Tarot Reading (Yes, But … Therefore, Protagonist –Mediator – Antagonist, Reading the Card at the Bottom of the Deck, Choosing a Positive or Negative Reading), and Reading Three Cards Based on Their Numerological Value. A unique take in this section is Following the Eyes, Gestures and Clues given by the Cards.
In his section on using Four Cards or more in a reading, we see exercises entitled The Tarot of Doubt, The Tarot of Liberation, The Hero’s Journey, The World Tarot, The Tarot of the Two Projects, and The Tarot of the Choice.
In the section on using Ten and More Cards in a reading, we see Amplifying The World Tarot, the Tarot of the Realized Self, The Tarot of the Hero Applied to the Four Centers, and Tarot of the Choice Applied to the Four Centers. There is also a section entitled The Artistic Reading, included to help the reader develop their own spreads.
Jordowsky concludes the book with his thoughts on his own Tarotic Philosophy.
I found this book to be interesting and worthwhile, even though I do not agree with some of the concepts. There is a great deal of material to be worked with here – each individual will take what works for them, and leave the rest behind. This is a worthwhile addition to the Tarot library of anyone that wishes to move beyond the divination aspects of the cards into self-realization.
© October 2009