Category Archives: Tarot

Astrological Signs and the Tarot Major Arcana

These are the astrological signs associated with the major arcana tarot cards:

Aries – The Emperor

Aries like to be in positions of power and to take charge of situations. The Emperor card is about how to be a proper force in ruling the state or government. One must be prepared to act on instinct, set limitations, act in a defensive manner, and take immediate charge with force — many things Aries does.

Taurus – The Hierophant

Tauruses are known to have a defined value system. Their set ways of looking at the world means that the Bull will never evade the ideology they believe in. No matter what else is going on in their life, they’ll stay true to values, spirituality, and beliefs that are a part of them.

Gemini – The Lovers

The Lovers is all about choice and the need to understand juxtaposing sides in order to effectively make decisions. Like the zodiac sign Gemini, this card gives us both narratives. The caveat is that we must use our Mercurial skills in understanding and making the right decision that can shape our lives for the better.

Cancer – The Chariot

The vehicle of movement (The Chariot) has stopped. Instead of moving forward, it’s opting to go in a different direction. Like the crab, The Chariot isn’t taking the straight path, rather moving from side-to-side. This card reminds us that situations and emotions may change, but the outcome remains the same. Sentiments are always in flux.

Leo – Strength

Taming the passion (this is depicted through the imagery of the lion) of others and oneself takes a lot of patience and energy. Be kind to yourself and to people. Maintain the “strength” to back away from arguments that occur because of desires and frustrations. 

Virgo – The Hermit

Being that Virgos are often seeking clarity, understanding, knowledge, and perfection, they’ll align with The Hermit. This card is all about reflection, shedding light on matters, and using one’s analytical mind to make proper decisions. Information is coming that will offer insight — wait and see what is being brought to consciousness and awareness now.

Libra – Justice

Like the zodiac sign Libra, the scales of justice are depicted in the tarot card. It is a reminder to be honest, fair, maintain balance, and ensure equality in all matters. If not, then karma will come full circle and make things right for you. Play by the rules and do right by others.

Scorpio – Death

The Death card represents transformation and growth. As we all know, Scorpio is the only zodiac sign who easily evolves with times and wants to change throughout the stages of their life. Moving towards a new view, self, or place in this world can be intense — but, also extremely helpful towards one’s personal well-being.

Sagittarius – Temperance

One cannot do everything in extremes. If they do, then things will go haywire. The Temperance card is a reminder to find moderation and peace within. This a reminder to Sagittarius that building greatness, knowledge, and understanding the ways of the world takes time. Don’t rush the process.

Capricorn – The Devil

All work and no play can lead one to feel as though they cannot escape annoying mundane, activities. It signifies relationships or situations that have become toxic. This horrible cycle needs to end. Letting go from power struggles and dominant situations is hard. Taking back one’s personal strength is challenging — but, can be done.

Aquarius – The Star

This card usually depicts a water-bearer (which is the symbol of Aquarius) by a stream. It is a card of promise, hope, and new beginnings — all of the attributes that describe the zodiac sign Aquarius. If you’re experiencing a difficult time or are in need of change, The Star card is a positive omen.

Pisces – The Moon

The Moon rules the tides and flow of the ocean, water, and our bodies (because we are composed of water). In this card, the crayfish is emerging from the water to see two dogs howling at the Moon. Therefore, it shows fear, confusion, and illusion (since the fish did not expect to see that scene).


Tarot Major Arcana Summary

The Major Arcana is a set of cards in a Tarot deck that represents significant life events, spiritual insights, and overarching themes that influence an individual’s journey. These cards make up 22 of the 78 cards in a standard Tarot deck. Each Major Arcana card stands alone with its own deep meanings and implications.

The Major Arcana starts with the Fool card and ends with the World card. The 22 cards and their basic interpretations are as follows:

  1. The Fool (0 or sometimes placed at 22): New beginnings, spontaneous action, leaps of faith, innocence, and potential.
  2. The Magician (1): Skill, creativity, determination, and the power to achieve goals.
  3. The High Priestess (2): Intuition, the subconscious, mystery, and inner wisdom.
  4. The Empress (3): Fertility, abundance, nature, femininity, and nurturing.
  5. The Emperor (4): Authority, structure, control, leadership, and paternal influence.
  6. The Hierophant (5): Tradition, conformity, morality, ethics, and belief systems.
  7. The Lovers (6): Love, harmony, relationships, choices, and alignment of values.
  8. The Chariot (7): Determination, control, overcoming obstacles, and moving forward.
  9. Strength (8): Courage, inner strength, compassion, and patience.
  10. The Hermit (9): Solitude, introspection, guidance, and wisdom from within.
  11. Wheel of Fortune (10): Cycles, destiny, unexpected change, and turning points.
  12. Justice (11): Fairness, truth, cause and effect, and law.
  13. The Hanged Man (12): Suspension, sacrifice, letting go, and new perspectives.
  14. Death (13): Transformation, endings, beginnings, and change.
  15. Temperance (14): Balance, moderation, patience, and purpose.
  16. The Devil (15): Bondage, addiction, materialism, and negativity.
  17. The Tower (16): Unexpected change, upheaval, chaos, and revelation.
  18. The Star (17): Hope, spirituality, renewal, inspiration, and serenity.
  19. The Moon (18): Illusion, fear, anxiety, insecurity, and the subconscious.
  20. The Sun (19): Joy, success, celebration, positivity, and a sense of self.
  21. Judgment (20): Rebirth, inner calling, absolution, and a fresh start.
  22. The World (21): Completion, accomplishment, integration, and fulfillment.

The order of the cards (called a journey or path) can be seen as a narrative – starting from the Fool (beginning of a journey) and ending with The World (end of a cycle, achievement of enlightenment).

In a Tarot reading, when a Major Arcana card appears, it’s often taken as a signal to pay special attention to that area of life or aspect of the self. These cards indicate major forces at work and can provide insights into the deeper layers of a situation.

Source: “Explain Tarot Major Arcana”,  ChatGPT


B.O.T.A. Tarot and Paul Foster Case Review by BeneBell

The B.O.T.A. Tarot and Paul Foster Case

Let’s conclude Golden Dawn Tarot week with an offshoot-GD deck, the B.O.T.A. Tarot by Paul Foster Case, illustrated by Jessie Burns Parke. In this blog post, the fully colored Majors are from the 2009 Ishtar Publishing reprint of Paul Foster Case’s Learning Tarot Essentials: Tarot Cards for Beginners (1932), via the Internet Archive.

You can buy the black and white deck for coloring direct from the Builders of the Adytum here for just $8.50. It’s an incredible deal! I’ll share more photos of the physical deck later in this review, but it’s matte, unrounded corners though, and lovely quality.

The digital images of the Major Arcana for download can be purchased for $5.00, linked here and digital the Minor Arcana digital files for $5.00, linked here. B.O.T.A. also has a couple of other deck purchasing options at their online store, so be sure to check it out, and nothing over $20– great prices. (fyi this is not an advertisement or promo; no one paid me to say any of this.)


In Learning Tarot Essentials, Case traces the connection of the tarot to the occult to a revival that happened in 1854, credited to Eliphas Levi’s Doctrine and Ritual of Transcendental Magic. Levi took his inspiration from the French occultist Dr. Gerare Encausse, or Papus. I have a free two-part video lecture that was part of Sightsee the Tarot on Tarot of the Bohemians.

This deck review will also cover Case’s discourse on tarot card meanings as found in his Introduction to Tarot published in 1922.

Coloring instructions for the deck can be found in Tarot Fundamentals (1936). The background for the Fool card, for instance, should be yellow, the garment green, violet mountains, the eagle pictured on his knapsack is brown, a white sun, the Fool is flesh-toned, with blond hair, etc.

Major Arcana, The First Septenary

Key 2: The High Priestess is memory and record-keeping of the past. Key 2 endows us with the power of recollection. The tarot High Priestess is a personification of Prakriti, a feminine primordial aspect of all life forms. The binary dark and light stone cubes forming the base of the pillars is also symbolically important– any time you see stone cubes, pay attention. “STONE is an esoteric word representing Union, Life, and Wisdom,” writes Case.

The Empress, significantly, features a string of seven pearls and a crown of twelve stars for her connection to Urania, Muse of Astronomy.

Key 5: The Hierophant, for another example of Case’s texts on the cards, is assigned the function of Hearing, or more particularly, Interior Hearing–clairaudience.

From Highlights of the Tarot (1931)

As we do this look-through of the card images, I’ll also be referencing “Highlights of the Tarot” (1931) a pamphlet published by Paul Foster Case and a B.O.T.A. study guide. That text also includes all coloring instructions for the deck, and esoteric card meanings for the Majors.

Little snippets here and there do date Case’s texts, such as the explanation for why The Emperor follows The Empress: “A man cannot be master of his household until his mate has had children.” (On Key 4: The Emperor, Lesson Three, An Introduction to Tarot) Or making reference to Asians as Orientals, which hey, I’m no mad at all. Context is everything.

His tarot school of thought runs contrary to much of what you see of contemporary tarot as it’s gone mainstream (or what I call “fast food tarot”). For instance, he notes:

“The tarot is a textbook of occult teachings. It is intended for the use of serious aspirants who are in search of spiritual enlightenment . . .

“Those who seek to find in the Tarot an easy method of spiritual development will be disappointed. . . . The Tarot is not a plaything, nor is it only a pack of cards designed for the purposes of fortune telling.”

From “The Great Adventure” booklet published by B.O.T.A.

Case makes reference to the Inner School, where and how occult wisdom is kept alive and passed on through the tarot cards. Don’t quote me here, but I think this is the same reference Robert Wang makes in An Introduction to the Golden Dawn Tarot when he describes his Mathers-based deck as being based on the Inner Tradition. These references are in contrast to an exoteric approach to religion or here, divination. The Inner School or Inner Tradition thus refers to an esoteric approach to the cards.

Of Key 6, Case writes: “The principal lesson of this Key [The Lovers] is of importance to all who wish to make best use of their powers. In very simple terms it is this: Superconsciousness (the angel) sheds its influence impartially upon both self-consciousness (the man) and subconsciousness (the woman). The most important meaning to understand about Key 6 (per Case’s writings): this is the key of discernment, and how to harness the alchemical powers of harmonizing opposites.

I’ve often heard modern-day tarot readers express confusion over the astrological correspondence of Cancer, a Water sign, with Key 7: The Chariot, especially in light of the classical card meaning attributed to The Chariot– that of kinetic energy, progressive movement, achievement, the vehicle of the mind in full motion, etc. It doesn’t quite seem to align with the watery Cancer sign of introversion.

“The ignorant, when they hear us name water, think it is water of the clouds; but if they understood our [occultists’] books, they would know it to be a permanent or fixed water . . . our water is a heavenly water, which wets not the hand . . . water is the root of all minerals. . . . In short, the occult ‘water’ is the Astral Fluid, the electromagnetic energy which is the substance of all things.”

Major Arcana, The Second Septenary

Case’s order of the Majors follows Waite’s switch between Keys 8 and 11. Of Strength, there are two principal symbols in the force behind this Key: the snake and the lion, The Adversary and The Redeemer. Exoteric theology would have you believe the two are irreconcilable antagonists, but it is in esotericism and occult wisdom that you understand that they are not only necessarily reconciled, but one never appears without the other.

From Learning Tarot Essentials (1932, Ishtar Publishing edition, 2009)

Key 10 features at its outer corners “the four mystic animals mentioned by the prophet Ezekiel, and appearing again in the Apocalypse.” The four mystic animals designate the four fixed stars, four elements, which “occult tradition associates” with the Divine Name IHVH. Therefore IHVH is inscribed within the Wheel, alternating with ROTA, meaning wheel, and also the Latin sentence: Rota Tarot Orat Tora Ator– “The Wheel of Tarot speaks the Law of Ator (Hathor).”

Case describes Key 12: The Hanged Man as the “most important emblem in Tarot.” The Hanged Man represents the Law of Reversal, and the Law of Reversal “is one of the great secrets of occultism.”

Here is the secret of the Law of Reversal, quoting Case:

“To reverse the conditions of misery, disease, and failure, and substitute for them their opposites of health, happiness, and success, it is necessary to think, speak, and act in ways which are the reverse of those in which most persons think, speak and act.” (An Introduction to Tarot, Lesson Seven, Key 12: The Hanged Man)

And “right use of Key 12 is such a method” for fully understanding and actualizing the Law of Reversal.

The red pants of the Hanged Man and his legs forming the figure 4 connects Key 12 to Key 4: The Emperor, both by the red color and the figure 4. Both teach the seeker Use of Power. Meanwhile, the Hanged Man’s jacket is blue, connecting this Key to the High Priestess and the element of Water, with silver trimmings invoking a lunar presence.

“Verification is the basic meaning of Key 14,” Temperance. This is having arrived at the Truth after undergoing a Trial. The Great Work necessarily “combines and harmonizes all the various elements which enter into the constitution of human personality, blending them together in one whole.”

Temperance is the alchemical process of combining and harmonizing that leads to achievement of your Great Work. Case identifies the angel in Key 14 as Archangel Michael, Angel of the Sun. IHVH is written on his robe, meaning One Reality and all aspects coming together as One Life.

Major Arcana, The Third Septenary

The last seven Keys of Tarot, beginning with Key 15, illustrate seven steps in the spiritual unfoldment of man, writes Case. And that first stage begins with The Devil card: confronting fear, ignorance, and misery. There is no path to spiritual ascent open to you without first confronting The Devil.

As for Key 16: The Tower, “use this Key as a means to overcome your superstitions. Use it to free your mind. . . . Use it also whenever you are confronted by what seems to be a problem. You have a problem because you are ignorant. You are ignorant because hitherto you have accepted some appearance at face value. You are in trouble because your words express faulty reasoning.” Thus, Key 16 is the occultist’s tool for overcoming problems, ignorance, and faulty reasoning.

Describing The Moon card, there should be eighteen falling Hebrew Yods, colored red and yellow to represent the life force. Red is the exoteric vision of raining blood, while yellow is the esoteric vision of Light. Key 18 is a gateway, as formed by the two battlemented towers. There should be a suggestion here that beyond the edges of the card, the towers connect to a fortified wall, and so the only opening for access forward is this gateway revealed in The Moon card. The two facets of canines represent the two facets of man: the wolf is natural evolution and the dog is human adaptation.

The Sun card is used to harness conscious energy as power to move terrestrial activities. The sunflowers “represent the manifestation of the solar force in the organic world below man.” Depictions of human youth in the tarot Sun card is about representing “the unfolding of regenerated human consciousness.”

In the Judgement card, writes Case, the angel is Gabriel. Here, though, he makes a distinction between the Biblical doctrine of the Last Judgment and Key 20 in the tarot. Key 20 Judgement is about completion of the Great Work. Key 20 also gives access to the Fourth Dimension. This card is the magus’s tool for “personal realization of immortality” and “realizing that, even now, you are living in the Fourth Dimension.”

In this card image, note a man, woman, and child rising from the three coffins in the waters. The man and woman are again two aspects of the consciousness paired, and the child “stands giving the traditional sign of Typhon, or Apophis the Destroyer. This is because he represents the rebirth which comes as the result of mastering the destructive principle.” The three figures together “represent an ancient mystery formula– Isis, Apophis, and Osiris… I A O, or Yaho, one of the most potent words of power.” (Lesson Eleven in An Introduction to Tarot).

By the way if you’re interested in a discussion on Invoking HRU and commentary on the references to I A O, check out an old Sightsee the Tarot video, “Invoking HRU and the Riddle of the Sphinx” in which we talk about M. M. Meleen’s Book M: Liber Mundi (2015).

The Tarot Tableau, arranged as you see above, while most likely older than Case, was popularized by Case, so he tends to get the credit for it. He talks about pathworking and meditation with the Tarot Tableau. (Thomas of Hermit’s Mirror published a great modern take on working with a Tarot Tableau. My book review of it here.)

(halfsheet size booklet that comes with the B.O.T.A. tarot from the Builders of the Adytum)

B.O.T.A. (Builders of the Adytum), like the Golden Dawn, emphasize using the tarot in meditation rather than fortune-telling. Case himself elevated the definition for “divination” as distinct and separate from “fortune-telling.” Case goes so far as to call fortune-telling with the tarot “vulgar.” (in The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages, 1947)

In many of his texts, Case espouses an astral concept called the Cube of Space where 3 axes (up-down, left-right, front-back, and also symbolic of the Tria Prima, Mercury, Sulfur, and Salt), plus its 1 center converging point, connect 6 sides of an astral cube and 12 edges: 3 + 1 + 6 + 12 = 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

The card backs of the B.O.T.A. Tarot published by B.O.T.A. (2007 edition)

I’m speculating that the Cube of Space is inspired, at least in part, by the Platonian concept of all earthly matter being made up of cubes. I went to town on this concept of the Cube of Space, but through my own lens.

In the above hand-drawn diagram, each of those units are supposed to be perfect cubes. It’s not to scale. I did it by hand so by the time I got to the front/bottom half of that diagram, I was running out of space and my “cubes” started looking very un-cube-like…

Anyway, in my approach, I perceived each of the 22 Majors to be an astral cube (one astral realm or gate of light), tiered as an astral ladder up to Knowing by Way of Unknown, hence Key 0, which can also be represented by a Holy Trinity, hence three Key 0s in my SKT deck.

Then each numerological realm (as in all the Fours, all the Fives, etc.) are four elemental cubes (one cube is the Four of Fire, one cube is the four of Water, four of Air, Four of Earth) that combine to form a bigger cube of four cubes, thus forming the elemental worlds. The court cards then represent the concept of a fifth element, Spirit, and they are the Light that traverse across all cube-realm-gate-things in this…thing. 🙂 Also, hence we get this concept of angels as messengers.

From Book of Maps (2018 and 2019 Editions)

Here is where I start thinking about how an equilateral triangle can be inscribed in a square forming three right triangles in addition to that equilateral triangle that unites the three right triangles that, superimposing the multiple dimensions in the Cube, forms the Merkahabah star, relating to the Chariot and Ezekiel’s vision, then somehow connect that to Ezekiel’s Wheel on Key 10: Wheel of Fortune and Postel’s Key, Key to the Wisdom of the Ages they keep saying… and the unit circle within the square, sine, cosine wavelengths forming that unit circle, cycle of life, God, Squaring the Circle, and around this moment is where my brain melts and I need to go eat cake.

Paul Foster Case

In contrast, as I understand Case’s Cube of Space, this diagram on its own is symbolic of Creation, both how the universe was created by the divine and also a blueprint for how the magus creates, transmuting what was in the mind into what is now matter. The numerical sequence of the 22 Keys, because they correspond with the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, are the whole “in the beginning there was the Word” idea. And you extrapolate that into an ordered series of steps to turn Word (mind) into reality (matter).

The sets of Minors from the B.O.T.A. Tarot are grouped by their numerological ranking. One of the “blinds” that Case purportedly removed from Waite’s deck so that more of occult wisdom could be revealed to the lay is in the depiction of the Wands. The Wands in this deck are drawn per the instructions of Eliphas Levi, on the magician’s wand.

Unlike the Rider-Waite-Smith, which was one of several inspirational sources, or at least sources of references to Case and his illustrator, the pips in the B.O.T.A. Tarot are simple, though the formations of the elemental relics are significant. The active Fours (Wands and Swords) form a square, while the passive Fours (Cups and Pentacles) mark the four corners.

The formations in the active elements (Fire and Air) convey materials arranged by human intelligence and willpower while the passive elements (Water and Earth) convey materials arranged by nature, and organic evolution– Mother Nature’s architecture and an expression of the building blocks of life.

Something I’ve noticed about Golden Dawn based texts on tarot fundamentals is the great amount of pages within these books that are devoted to the Major Arcana, but the Minor Arcana cards pretty much get summed up in a couple of pages, mainly rooted in numerological and elemental theories. If you’d like to learn more about Case’s perspective of the four suit correspondences, I wrote about it in a 2013 blog post on Oracle of the Tarot (1333) here.

Case talks about the “Occult Meaning of Numbers” and its through plotting elements and numbers on an astral Cartesian coordinate system that you derive a significance for each element-number coordinate. The 36 coordinates that make up the pip cards Twos through Tens correspond with the 36 decans (also, 9 x 4) in the astrological zodiac wheel, demonstrating an interplay between mathematics and space, where a continuum is thus created, giving rise to the Fourth Dimension that Case likes to talk about. One layman’s approach to conceptualizing that Fourth Dimension is as Time. (See An Introduction to Tarot.)

In fortune-telling, you’ll reduce each of these element-number coordinates to keywords revealing different formulas of universally experienced life events or emotions. Divination is reaching up to grasp at the astral, intangible Divine and, through the works of the magus, bringing it down to the earthly plane and transforming or translating it into a physical, tangible Mundane for the lay to comprehend.

But in occult approaches to the tarot, you want to keep your studies and meditations on the abstract and conceptual. So here in decks like the B.O.T.A. Tarot, or as applied to any deck where the pips are presented in an abstract, diagram-ornamental form rather than humanistic and scenic, the occultist can just focus on the raw blueprints.

By that rationale, these types of pips, like what you see here and in all of the Golden Dawn based decks we reviewed this week, are “better” for meditation. Even if I don’t personally agree with that point of view, I can certainly appreciate it, and see its merits.

This theoretical concept is most pronounced in the Tens. The active cards (Wands and Swords) show intelligent design from human willpower and ingenuity. So you get the whole as above so below motif with the square symbolic of harnessing the cube of space between the two triangles. This is union of opposites in alchemy. Meanwhile the passive cards (Cups and Pentacles) show the relics in a Tree of Life arrangement, which is the natural order of design.

For all the talk about how Case removed the “blinds” from the RWS deck to offer a more accurate deck of occult wisdom, it’s interesting to consider how here, he keeps Waite’s court rankings, i.e., Page, Knight, Queen, and King.

I’m trying to remember exactly which occult author said this was one of the blinds that Waite put into his deck to conceal the true identities of the courts… argh… yeah I’m blanking out, but I swear I read that somewhere. Flowing from that, the perspective forwarded by some occultists (predominantly from the Thoth schools) is that this is a blind, and the “true” ranking of the courts is Princess, Prince, Queen, and then Knight.

Revisiting the Golden Dawn decks we covered this past week on the blog, Robert Wang’s Golden Dawn Tarot, created with the guidance of Israel Regardie, uses the court titles Princess, Prince, Queen, and King, where the imagery on the King cards would, to an RWS reader, look like Knights, and the Prince cards ride chariots, like in Crowley’s Thoth.

In the New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot by Chic and Tabatha Cicero, also done under the guidance of Israel Regardie, use the same designates as Wang’s deck– Princess, Prince (on chariots), Queen, and King (with horses). Lon Milo DuQuette’s Tarot of Ceremonial Magick follows Crowley’s titles: Princess, Prince, Queen, and Knight.

One of the hallmarks of Golden Dawn decks, writes the Ciceros (in The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot), is that the four Kings are shown to be on horseback, representing “swift and ecstatic but not lasting” energy, which RWS readers are going to scratch their chins and think, hmm, that sounds a lot like Knight cards.

Case’s deck departs from that stated Golden Dawn tradition and instead, look like spitting image clones of Waite’s Kings.

“There is nothing you know that is not made of Light. There is no force or power you employ which is not a transformation of that same illimitable radiance.” (from the Key 3: The Empress entry in An Introduction to Tarot)

Paul Foster Case advocated for every serious tarot student to, at some point, color in your own tarot deck, and he produced a set of black and white images for just that purpose. Coloring your own set of tarot Keys is a form of spiritual integration– it is you putting your psychic and magical imprint on an external, preexisting collective value of magian powers, and also, you giving yourself access to that external, preexisting collective of powers and abilities. It is “one of the most practical secrets of all occultism” and “the necessary foundation for all advanced tarot practice.” (Case, from Highlights of the Tarot, 1931)

The practice reenacts the metaphor of you as a triangular prism, embodying the trinity. The esoteric concept of Light represented by the white space on the cards pre-coloring encompasses the full spectrum of colors, but in its divine form in union to appear as white light. You refract that white light into a full scale of different colors and color patterns to reveal, for yourself, your own theology for how the Divine appears in all aspects of the Mundane.

This practice of coloring in your own deck, or at least coloring in a full set of Majors, was most likely inspired by the Golden Dawn initiatory practice of having their members each creating their own tarot deck from scratch, though per particular Order instructions.

You may find it productive to follow the Golden Dawn color scales for coloring instructions, but it most certainly isn’t necessary for an enriching, spiritual experience. In fact, if you find yourself not resonating intuitively with the GD approach, you’ll want to (and I’d strongly recommend that you) go your own path. Let your thoughts and feelings guide you in the coloring process.

Heck, that’s how I did it myself. I started with the intention of following the Golden Dawn scales, and then realized it just wasn’t working for me, so diverged from that path to chart my own route. None of this is about wrong or right. It’s about what works for you.


The Seven Stages of Spiritual Unfoldment by Damian Sebouhian

The Seven Stages of Spiritual Unfoldment

The map to Cosmic Consciousness can be found in this Major Arcana spread

A Note on My Sources

The following information comes primarily from the teachings of my first occult teacher J. Owen Swift who was largely informed by Paul Foster Case and Ann Davies. Case founded the Builders of the Adytum (B.O.T.A.) and Davies took over where Case left off as an extraordinary adept in the school of Ageless Wisdom.

This essay is far from comprehensive and is closer to a summary of the Seven Stages. I am currently writing a more detailed series of essays dedicated to each one of the stages. Stay tuned for the first installment to be posted in the near future.

How to Navigate the Tableau

The Fool is placed atop the three-tiered rows because the Fool is the Zero Key and does not represent a single number or step along the path. Rather, the Fool represents the Life-Power, or the “Spiritus” (in Latin), the “Ruach” (in Hebrew), the “Pneuma” (in Greek), the “Prana” (in Sanskrit), the “Qi” (in Mandarin/Chinese).

In other words, the Fool is unformed, raw, energy that is given specific expression within the archetypal avatars of the other twenty-one Major Arcana figures. In this regard, the Fool is like Christ Consciousness or Buddhahood: The alpha and the omega. The first and the last. God awakened to the Truth of the Self.

Moreover, the Fool is what we are striving to realize when we embark upon the Seven Stages of Spiritual Unfoldment — consciousness free from all the limitations of delusion.

The rest of the Tableau represents the map or grid or matrix that our conscious selves must navigate through in order to realize, among other wonderous things, our soul’s purpose.

The first (top) row represents what Paul Foster Case calls the “seven dominant mental states or principles.”

The second (middle) row represents the “intermediary activities, laws, or agencies” that the conscious states act through.

And the third (bottom) row represents the “conditions or phenomena resulting from the expression of the principles of the upper row through the agencies of the second row.”

Don’t get too hung up on the erudite language here, for I shall explain it in more practical terms, I promise.

So, those are what the rows indicate. What about the columns? There are seven columns and these seven columns represent the Seven Stages. We begin with Stage One, which Case titles: Bondage.

Stage One: Bondage

The Keys (cards) involved: The far left column of Key 1 (the Magician); Key 8 (Strength); and Key 15 (the Devil).

The Goal: To mentally free ourselves from the illusion of separateness and dualism which is created and perpetuated when we limit our perspective to the realm of the five senses.

Once mentally/intellectually freed from this fundamental lie of separateness, we begin the journey to awakening with the first truth of stage one: Our mind (the Magician) creates our reality. So, pay attention to your mind and use it wisely!

As the Magician, you must master the use of your tools as symbolized by the staff, cup, sword, and coin and the fundamental principles of creation described in this context by Case as representing the “Four Admonitions: To Will; To Know; To Dare; To Be Silent.

The last “admonition” he explains as being “the most important. Occult means ‘hidden’, and one of the first duties of a practical occultist is the practice of silence.”

The extent that you create a reality of free soul expression and healthy enjoyment of the material world (the Devil card in its upright position) versus bondage to the material world (The Devil card in its inverted, reversed position) is based on the purity of your creative capacities (as symbolized by the Strength card).

If you create solely from selfish, egotistical intentions (Strength reversed), you risk bondage to the material world.

If we create from a place of pure intentions and for the benefit of the highest good (as symbolized by the Lady in White in the Strength card) then we have achieved the appropriate yin/yang relationship between our creative force (the red lion) and our higher self, or soul-self (the Lady).

You’ve most likely heard the phrase: Be in the world, not of it. Or, “I’m not a human having a spiritual experience; I’m a spiritual being having a human experience.” That is the truth we are learning to embody in the First Stage.

Example of Bondage: “I don’t have any artistic talent and I only have a high school diploma, so I guess I’ll just work retail my whole life or marry someone rich so I don’t have to work.”

Example of Freedom from Bondage: “I will discover what it is I love to do that makes my heart sing and I will create (from my imagination) the circumstances that allow optimum expression of that love.”

Key Words/Phrases for the Three Cards:

The Magician (as the principal mode of consciousness): Mental concentration. Single-pointed consciousness. What you plant so shall you harvest. As above, so below; as within so without — and vice-versa.

Strength (as the mediator): Creative force guided and influenced by pure intentions, the soul.

The Devil (as the conditioned phenomena): The material world as it is experienced through the five senses. The result of the creative process as it is conducted by the Magician via Strength. Upright: fertility and mirth, the God Pan; Inverted: fear and bondage, the Devil as described by Christianity.


“My mind is focused on creating what my soul most needs and desires.”

“I am a center of expression for the Primal Will-To-Good which eternally creates and sustains the universe.”


“You must mentally identify yourself with the Magician. Every day you must take time to remember who and what you really are.” Paul Foster Case, Occult Fundamentals and Spiritual Unfoldment

Stage Two: Awakening

The Keys (cards) involved: High Priestess (Key 2); The Hermit (Key 9); The Tower (Key 16).

Goal: Once we have mentally freed ourselves from bondage and accepted our roles as the Magicians of our own lives, we have essentially created fertile spiritual ground conducive to increased “samadhi” experiences, or flashes of insights into the true nature of reality.

Stage one and two, as with all the stages, are not separate from each other; nor must they necessarily be experienced in a strictly linear fashion indicated by the spread. For example, one could have an awakening experience long before one has realized the illusion of separateness. Nevertheless…

The High Priestess is the yin to the yang of the Magician. The Magician is concentrated aware consciousness. The High Priestess is our subconscious, or, as Case liked to call it, the “transliminal consciousness” (transliminal means “across the threshold”).

To revisit the garden analogy, the Magician represents the gardener planting his seeds. The High Priestess represents the soil. As such, she is designed to grow whatever the Magician plants.

But this analogy is limited because the High Priestess isn’t just there to carry out the directives of the Magician. She represents the memory of everything that’s ever been planted within her “soil”.

This is why it’s so challenging at first to manifest and to create like a practiced, adept Magician. Most of us have so much programming to unplug from because we hadn’t realized that our thoughts were creating our reality. And so much of what we think about ourselves and about reality doesn’t come from us. It comes from our culture, other people, social media, etc.

This is where the Hermit enters the picture.

The Hermit takes over where the Magician left off. He tends the garden. He weeds out the unhealthy thoughts, ideas, and emotions, and monitors the light (as symbolized by his lantern), and waters and fertilizes the soil. (Note: The astrological correspondence to The Hermit is Virgo).

Another analogy for the Hermit as it relates to Virgo energy: The Hermit digests the thoughts, ideas, and emotions produced by the Magician and grown by the High Priestess, and he absorbs the healthy, nutritious ones and eliminates the waste (Virgo rules the digestive organs in case you were wondering).

All this “gardening” results ultimately in creating the circumstances for samadhi flashes, symbolized by The Tower card. The Tower looks like it’s depicting a catastrophe, but if you think of the Tower of Babble from the Bible, you’ll know that its destruction is positive and necessary for enlightenment.

The tower in The Tower card represents everything that was created when we believed in the world of illusion. The flash of lightning is coming from the sun in the card and that sun is the same as the lantern light wielded by the Hermit.

To put it another way: When we shed light on our past and evaluate it honestly and with the intention of creating a beautiful and healthy “garden” (or mind), our insights into who we are and the nature of reality deepens and we become more efficient at deciphering lies from truth, illusion from reality, healthy from unhealthy, etc.

Essentially, we become better Magicians, better at manifesting our soul’s deepest desires.

Key Words/Phrases for the Three Cards:

The High Priestess (as the principle): Universal Consciousness, Subconsciousness, Transliminal Consciousness, Memory; the soil that grows the seeds planted by the Magician.

The Hermit (as the mediator): The knowing light within; the watcher; discernment; wisdom that comes from experience.

The Tower (as the conditioned phenomena): Samadhi flashes; insight; destroyer of lies and illusions.


“I gently release all toxic, unhealthy thoughts, emotions, and ideas.”

“I easily and effortlessly realize the truth of every situation.”


“…Suddenly to see that one is immortal, suddenly to perceive that all other human beings and all the conditions of personal existence are working together to bring about the perfect realization of a cosmic plan which, in essence, is the outworking of the inmost reality of one’s own being is a reversal of personal and human consciousness which temporarily knocks one flat.” P.F.C., Occult Fundamentals, and Spiritual Unfoldment

Stage Three: Revelation

The Keys (cards) involved: The Empress (Key 3); The Wheel of Fortune (Key 10); The Star (Key 17)

Goal: After freeing ourselves from bondage (stage one) and after the lightning flash of awareness (stage two), there comes a period of calm and gradual growth.

As described by Case, “In the second stage, there is an uncomfortable overthrow of the false belief of the world, a momentary, but a never-to-be-forgotten glimpse of reality, of the absolute unity of life.

“In the third stage, this new conception of the Oneness of All begins gradually to unfold.”

Essentially the Seven Stages are about the process of enlightenment, which results in an ultimate shift of consciousness from separation/materialism perception to unity and oneness perception. From that fundamental base, we can supercharge our consciousness into higher, wider, deeper capacities.

When this happens we begin forming a brand new body, both at the physical level (all the way down to the trillions of cells in our body) and at the energetic level (which includes our chakras, our aura, and our torus field).

This rebirth and reforming of our body happen naturally, organically, and over time, and requires from us the unconditional love and nurturing symbolized by The Empress.

Through self-love and through showing appreciation and acceptance of others (no matter their stage of development), we open a portal to the karmic realms via the Wheel of Fortune.

The more self-care, nurturing, peace, and calm we cultivate at this stage, the more negative karma we purify, the more opportunity for awakening insights we create.

This brings us to cosmic consciousness awareness as symbolized by the Star card. As such, the most profound activities we can conduct to further our ripening process are all the traditional ones: yoga, meditation, qigong, massage, acupuncture, therapy, right diet, exercise, moderate (or no) use of drugs and alcohol.

The growth we want will happen very naturally at this stage as long as we help foster an atmosphere where growth can happen at all. If we are not moved to change any of our negative toxic behaviors, then we are unlikely to continue to have awakenings or progress along the path.

An example of this from my life: I had a powerful spiritual awakening in 2004 as described in the first two stages. However, soon after this awakening, my wife took our two daughters and left me for another life. This triggered in me a decade’s long depressive slump and I became an alcoholic, turning away from my spiritual path altogether.

But I never forgot that flash of awakening wherein my personality completely dissolved and I became one with Soul Consciousness.

Today, I’m back on the path and although I have yet to have an awakening as powerful as that first one in 2004, I’m much more mature in my process of taking it easy and letting things come to me as they will. In the meantime, I meditate, listen to binaural beats, and practice qigong and yoga every day.

I also eat well, exercise, and I completely removed alcohol from my diet.

Key Words/Phrases for the Three Cards:

The Empress: Nurture & Nature, Gestation, Beauty & Love, Lushness & Fecundity.

Wheel of Fortune: Opportunity, What goes around comes around, karmic laws, rotation, cyclic nature, fate, destiny, chance, probability, the cycle of cosmic expression.

The Star: Cosmic Consciousness, Meditation, Insights from above and beyond, towards a human utopia.


“I love and nurture myself for the benefit of all.”

“The universe provides me with opportunities for love and mature evolution.”

“I am receptive to cosmic consciousness.”


“When you can see that all your mental states are phases in the manifestation of the One Consciousness which directs the growth of trees and grasses, the flight of birds and insects, the flow of streams and the sweep of ocean currents; when you begin to feel that through your mind and body flows the power that holds the stars in their courses, the power that flames in countless suns, you are beginning to exchange mere intellectual assent for that true knowledge which has been called the doctrine of the heart.” — P.F.C.

Stage Four: Organization

The Keys (cards) involved: The Emperor (Key 4); Justice (Key11); The Moon (Key 18)

Goal: Stage four is remarkably similar to stage three in that it involves a further ripening of our receptive faculties, but instead of an overall meditation meant to nurture our energetic and physical bodies, in stage four we are actively focusing on two specific aspects of our consciousness: clear sight and right action.

The Emperor as the guiding principle rules the head (like Aries in the Zodiac), and, more specifically the brain. More specifically still, the Emperor is all about Clear Sight/Vision. In order to “rule”, the Emperor must see clearly.

As such, Case suggests that we direct our meditation practice towards the part of our brain that governs sight, esoterically (and physiologically) speaking. The Hindus call it the “Cave of Brahma” in the center of the brain. Case identifies that area as the section from the medulla up to the pituitary gland.

Moreover, Case says that the meditation practices we employ should act as directives to the cells in our brain — our literal cells — which he insists are “living beings” and “centers of consciousness” that are “always amenable to the control of your objective mind.”

He suggests the type of meditation one should use here is auto-suggestion and is most optimally practiced right before one falls asleep at night (or during a nap) during what is called the hypnogogic state. To increase your receptivity here, I suggest finding a binaural beats track on YouTube or (what I use) an app called Sacred Acoustics.

This type of yogic meditation is practiced widely now and it’s called Yoga Nidra.

Along with focusing on increasing one’s Clear Sight faculties, this stage is about cultivating what the Buddhists call “Right Action”.

Case describes it this way: “The riper we become, the better we understand that the secret of right action is the giving up of all attachment to results. Attachment is the desire to see a particular manifestation of name and form. It is a phase of the delusion of separateness.

“Do whatever comes to hand with no thought but that the doing shall be your very best. That is the secret of right action.”

To sum up Stage Four, we direct our meditations (The Emperor) by carefully and intuitively weighing what processes work best for us (Justice), and in doing so we will create a state of consciousness that taps into ancestral and past-life knowledge that makes our physical and energetic bodies conducive to “obeying” our directives (The Moon).

After we finish this organization meditation, we “let it go” by releasing all attachments to results. (Think of the phrase: “Let go, and let God”)

Key Words/Phrases for the Three Cards:

The Emperor: Clear Sight/Vision, motivated towards a bright future, Directives, Orders, Organizing principle, Inspired, Leading the way.

Justice: Balance, Weighing the options judiciously, mental clarity.

The Moon: Psychic phenomena, past lives, the house of the soul.


“My vision is pure and true and reaches far and wide.”

“I am able to recall all of my past lives as easily as I can recall the events and lessons of my current life.”

“Thank you beautiful brain cells for all that you do! I send you love and light and ask that you help support optimum sight/vision health and function.”

Quote: “[Through meditation, the Life-Power] shows us, step by step, what lies ahead of us on the journey along the path which leads upwards from the plain of sense-life and third-dimensional consciousness to the height beyond.

“On those heights, as one who looks down from a mountain-peak sees in one glance a hundred separate forms of life below him on the plain, we shall see as a whole what now we see only in part.” — P.F.C

Stage Five: Regeneration

The Keys (cards) involved: Hierophant (Key 5); Hanged Man (Key 12); The Sun (Key 19)

Goal: Like with all the stages, your goal here is to embody the energies of the first Key of the stage, in this case, the Hierophant.

The Hierophant is the ultimate Knower of Truth and Spiritual Teacher. He has expanded his vision as the Emperor-consciousness in stage four. Now, in Stage Five, he has ripened his understanding.

But before he can Know and Speak the Truth, he must go through another test. The essence of this test has been described in many religious and mythological traditions, from the tale of Osiris and Horus, Jesus in the desert, Buddha under the bodhi tree, and Odin hanging from Yggdrasil (the World Tree).

A sacrifice must be made, and it’s the ultimate sacrifice known today as Ego Death. All your needs, fears, ideas, assumptions that come from years of personality formation, must be surrendered and replaced with the pure knowledge of the Life-Force energy.

Jesus went to the desert for forty days and forty nights, fasted and endured temptations; Buddha (as Siddhartha Gautama) sat beneath a bodhi tree for 49 days (seven weeks); Horus and Odin both lost an eye in their respective sacrifices, the symbology being that in order to gain inner wisdom, they had to sacrifice their attachment to outer sight.

This sacrifice is symbolized by the Hanged Man in the fifth stage. Now, am I suggesting that you have to go to the desert or sit under a tree for an extended period of time? Certainly not.

It really comes down to creating your own ritual and being clear with your intentions.

When I had my awakening experience in 2004, the ritual I participated in was a combination five-day liquid fast, followed by a “seven door” sweat lodge, followed by a breathing meditation that triggered an intensely amazing kundalini rising experience. My ego was sucked from the top of my head, replaced by my soul or higher self.

I knew the Truth of reality in a way I never had before. It was more than conceptual knowing. It was experienced knowing.

However, since I hadn’t properly prepared myself with the prior four steps, my awakening didn’t fully “take”. A week after my awakening, some minor conflict occurred that triggered me out of soul awareness and back into my ego perspective.

Today, I have more patience and therefore I interact with the stages, including stage five, in a plodding, day-to-day manner. My ego is strong and does not like to surrender power so easily. So my way is to slowly integrate my ego into my higher self, such that now, my ego rather enjoys it when he gets to sit back and let my higher self “take the wheel”.

Whatever methods you employ, the goal is to surrender the ego for the wisdom of the higher self (whether at an ultimate level or at a measured step-by-step level).

Once this is accomplished, the Sun (as the card of the same name) of enlightenment will shine through you from deep within your soul and you will, as Jesus said, “receive the kingdom of God like a child…”

Key Words/Phrases for the Three Cards:

Hierophant: Channeler of the Life-Force; Teacher; Knower; Higher Self.

Hanged Man: Sacrifice; New Perspective; Ego-Death; Reflection; Contemplation.

The Sun: Illumination; Innocence Reborn; the Soul shining from within.


“I let go of my personal desires and listen to the Teacher Within.”

“My Inner Child is healed of all its wounds and awakens within me refreshed and renewed.”

“I am an unobstructed channel for my higher self’s expression.”

Quote: “Submit yourself wholly to the guidance which comes, not from above and without, but from within, at the very center of your being. The law you must obey is not that of an alien sovereign, usurping the direction of your life. It is your own law, the perfect method of the Eternal One expressing itself through you. Know it, open yourself to it, live it moment by moment and day by day. This is to begin the life of conscious liberation.” — P.F.C.

Stage Six: Realization

The Keys (cards) involved: The Lovers (Key 6); Death (Key 13); Judgement (Key 20)

Goal: The sacrifice we made of our constructed personality/ego in Stage Five leads to a new re-integration between our subconscious mind and conscious mind (The Lovers); this results in a Realization that death is not an end, but a new beginning (Judgement), a true transformation of our mind such that it may escape the confines of the third dimension (the material world) and fully access the fourth dimension known as the Astral Realm.

In essence, Stage Six is about dying without dying and being reborn with an expanded consciousness that can now perceive and interact with the fourth dimension of time and space!

We’ve all experienced the astral realm, most often in our dreams.

Dreams are a perfect representation of what the fourth dimension is like. The boundaries in a dream of time and space don’t really exist. Phenomena occur that could never take place in “real life”. Yet, often, we don’t realize we are dreaming, so we still perceive ourselves as being limited, and sometimes even as victims in a nightmare.

Unless, of course, we are lucid dreaming.

In Stage Six of Spiritual Unfoldment, a person has gone from being a dreamer in a dream she didn’t know she was in, to a dreamer who realizes that all this firm “reality” is no more than a dream.

From this place of awareness, all your affirmation and manifestation practices are highly accelerated, often at an instantaneous clip.

This is an actual theory that’s been tossed around in certain scientific circles. You might know it as “Simulation Theory”.

One of my favorite comedians Bill Hicks sums up what this stage is like in one of his brilliant “jokes” about what it would look like if a newscaster reported on a positive “drug” story :

“Today a young man on acid realized that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively; there is no such thing as death; life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Here’s Tom with the Weather.”

As a child, I had multiple “astral” experiences (including being able to see the faces of my past lives in the mirror when I’d wake up in the middle of the night), so I was fascinated to read that this is common among children, according to Case.

“The spinal cord is a tube. In young children, it is open at the lower end, so that the serpent-power coiled in the sacral plexus can rise through it. That is why little children [frequently] have astral vision, and why they sometimes have animal and human invisible playmates.

“As they grow older this tube is closed at the lower end, in order that the greatly increased activity of the Mars-force in the sacral plexus at the time of puberty may not cause the serpent force to rise prematurely and destroy the brain.

“When the practical occultist seeks to gain astral vision again, he must apply the Marse-force to the destruction of the cells that close the lower end of the tube. But opening it again, he becomes ‘as a little child.’”

Key Words/Phrases for the Three Cards:

The Lovers: Integration of the masculine & feminine principles (or consciousness and subconsciousness); communication from the higher self, duality transformed into trinity consciousness.

Death: The forces of change; Transformation; the last “enemy” to be overcome by “overcoming evil with good” and “Love your enemies”; physical dissolution.

Judgment: Rebirth; entering the astral realm; the fourth dimension.


“I transcend the boundaries of time and space with love and understanding.”

Practice chanting using words syllables like “OM, or AUM”. Here are some more suggestions.


“All practice of this kind has just one object, and that is to get the inadequate personality out of the way, so that the true Self, which knows just what to do and how to do it, may find no resistance to the free expression of its perfect mastery of mind and body.” — P.F.C.

Stage Seven: Cosmic Consciousness

The Keys (cards) involved: The Chariot (Key 7); Temperance (Key 14); The World (Key 21)

Goal: Through successful integration of all the dualities of our existence — primarily the energetic and the physical, the subconscious and the conscious, the yin and the yang (as indicated in the symbology of the Temperance card) — we “build” our body anew (The Chariot) and enter the “Kingdom of Heaven” (The World).

And what is the “Kingdom of Heaven”? It is the ultimate reality of the physical world of existence stripped of all illusion embodied in our flesh.

A famous quote by the Sufi mystic Rumi sums it up perfectly: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop”.

It is one thing to grasp this fractal nature of reality intellectually — the entire ocean in a drop, just as we have the entire human in a single cell — it is another thing altogether to live this truth as a real conscious experience.

Cosmic Consciousness (the title of this stage) is the ultimate goal and as the ultimate goal, it far surpasses anything we can compare it to.

In Stage Six we can move our consciousness like a lucid dreamer in a dream, navigating the fourth dimension of the Astral realm at will. While this is amazing in and of itself, it’s describable; it is something we can visualize and conceptualize and communicate to others.

With Cosmic Consciousness, there are no words to describe it, because it is a place beyond words, beyond thought. As a matter of fact, it is the mind devoid of all thought, all concepts, all ideas. It is the I Am at blissful oneness with all existence.

Many Near-death experiencers have claimed that they entered a realm that sounds a lot like Cosmic Consciousness, and they all expressed how impossible it is to put that experience into words. One such person is Dr. Eben Alexander.

There has been a lot of talk in New Age circles lately about the Cosmic or Galactic Federation of Light beings. Supposedly, these are beings who have realized and exist in Cosmic Consciousness and have been aiding humanity during these times in our collective evolution towards reaching that same destination.

I like to think that this is the case and that we are nearly there, but we still have to “do the work” as individuals. It’s not about waiting to be saved, and it certainly is NOT about transcending the physical world and escaping the third dimension.

This idea of “escape” and transcendence has long been misunderstood. There is nothing to transcend except for our misconceptions, there is nothing to escape except our own prison of delusions.

The emphasis, therefore, should not be on transcendence, but rather on realizing the power of our own mind and integrating our consciousness with the consciousness of the One Power — that which is the creator of all reality and IS all of reality, which ultimately is…drum roll, please…us.

You are the One Power. You are God manifested in a body.

And here’s the real kicker. Your body has the entire body of the universe — all of time and space and everything else — inside of it.

It only seems like you are separate. Once you realize — experientially — that you are not separate from the One, the mind becomes empty of all defilements and you experience the universe as you really are.

Your body becomes like the Chariot, a perfect vehicle of light and consciousness, a Merkaba field of pure awareness capable of traveling anywhere in time and space, to interact with all the vast beings of light and love that fill the universe.

Key Words/Phrases for the Three Cards:

The Chariot: The Merkaba; Vehicle of light embodied in the flesh; Vehicle that “carries us from thought to the consciousness beyond it.” NOTE: here is some more information about the Merkaba

Temperance: Alchemy’s conclusion; IHVH (Yod He Vau He), the syllables of creation; The Builder; The transmutation of the corruptible body into one that is incorruptible.

The World: Consciousness beyond thought; the Plan of Creation Revealed and Experienced; the Kingdom of the Life-Power. Freedom from delusion.


“The Kingdom of Spirit is embodied in my flesh.”

“In thought and word and deed, I rest my life from day to day upon the sure Foundation of Eternal Being.”

“I am that I Am.”

Quote: “No one who has eaten of the fruit of this tree may describe it as it really is. [She] will understand the meaning of all descriptions of this experience. [She] will know how hopeless are all attempts to define it. [She] will know, too, that the vagueness of the various accounts arises from no vagueness in the experience.

“The consciousness beyond thought is crystal-clear, sharply defined, free from the least suspicion of haziness. Its very clearness is what makes it ineffable. We have no words to convey such a fullness of meaning. our language is built to describe piece-meal no experience. How can it express what one has recorded as ‘being everywhere, and all at once.’?” — P.F.C.



1. Bondage, free yourself from limitation, restriction and illusion
2. Awakening, awareness of what is important, making choices
3. Revelation, understanding of Oneness and the All
4. Organization, establishing clear sight and right action
5. Regeneration, release and moving to the next level of your personal work and unfoldment
6. Realization, a new re-integration between our subconscious mind and conscious mind
7. Cosmic Consciousness, integration of all dualities to a state of mind, of Oneness

Strength and Justice Cards in Tarot (By Madavi Ghare)

The positions of the Strength and Justice Cards in a Tarot deck has long been a source of controversy and discussion among all Tarotists. Traditionally, the Justice card was numbered 8th in the Major Arcana, while the Strength card was numbered the 11th. However, when A. E. Waite published the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot card deck, he changed all that. He put Strength as the 8th card and Justice as the 11th card in the Major Arcana sequence. Naturally, he was quite criticized for this. Following that,  when Aleister Crowley published the Thoth Tarot deck, he put the Strength and Justice cards back in their former positions.

Lets look at this placement from both the angles, and understand their respective significance.

The Traditional Placement of Strength and Justice

Justice - MarseillesStrength - MarseillesTraditionally, the decks like the Marseilles Tarot decks have placed the Justice card as the 8th card, and the Strength card as the 11th card in the Major Arcana. The images remained pretty much the same as as they are today – just the numbering was different.

Justice still sat on a throne with a sword in one hand and a pair of scales in the other, while Strength still tamed a wild beast and had a semblance of an Ouruboros on top of her head.

Many conjecture that this placement was made in order to confuse people about the true placement of the cards. Naturally, with the symbolism present in the cards, Justice would correspond astrologically with Libra, and Strength with Leo. With the traditional placement, the natural order of the astrological signs in the Major Arcana was upset. However, from a numerological point of view, this placement made a lot of sense. 8 is the number of balance and and therefore Justice sits just right in this situation. And therefore, it is said that this placement was done more in keeping with the numerological system than the astrological system.

Strength and Justice in the Rider-Waite-Smith Deck

Strength - RWSJustice - RWSIn the RWS deck, however, A.E. Waite placed Strength as the 8th Trump and Justice as the 11th Trump. Naturally he was quite criticized for changing the traditional placement of these cards, but then, this placement makes more sense on an Astrological perspective.

These changes put the cards in proper order, astrologically and according to Waite, it was the true order of the cards in the Major Arcana.

As I have always said, the cards of the Major Arcana tell a story – a story of the Journey of The Divine Fool. They depict this journey as it moves through all the 3 planes of existence – the Material plane, the Mind plane and the Spiritual plane.

So lets see how both these placements (of the Strength and the Justice cards) make sense in the Journey of The Fool.

The Journey of the Fool with the Traditional Placement of Strength and Justice

In the traditional placement, Strength is Trump 11, and Justice is Trump 8.

Marseilles Majors - Strength and Justice

So, if we arrange the cards of the Major Arcana in 3 rows of 7 cards each (of course, keeping The Fool card outside), we can see the placement of the Strength and Justice cards in the second row.

If we look at the Journey of the Fool in this particular manner the journey appears like this:

The Fool begins his journey, with a bag of hidden talents and ideas, despite all the hurdles in his path.

On the Material Plane: The Fool transforms into The Magician who opens his bag full of ideas and talents and understands his connection with the Universe. He then encounters the opposite side of this Masculine energy in The High Priestess, where he comes in touch with his inner self, and the secret knowledge that he already possessed within. From that point, he became fruitful and matured into The Empress. This maturity gave him the energy for his disciplined approach towards ruling over his realm in The Emperor. The Fool then learns his way through the rules and regulations of society and religion in The Hierophant, and comes in touch with his sexuality in The Lovers card, where he chooses to go for his growth and Individuation, which he achieves in The Chariot.

On the Mind Plane: The Fool then balances his knowledge of his inner and outer self in Justice and looks inward for more knowledge in The Hermit. He then understands the meaning of the cyclical nature of life itself in The Wheel, which gives him the Strength to tame his inner beast. All of this puts him through a change of perspective in The Hanged Man, and he lets go of his old self in Death. After such a life changing change, he finds his inner Master in Temperance and moves to the next plane.

On the Spiritual Plane: After mastering his inner and outer selves, The Fool discovers in The Devil that he still has attachments to the material plane which are more deeply rooted than he thought. His Ego is shattered by this knowledge in The Tower, which then leads him to the peace of The Star. But the confusion of the soul is still to be resolved in The Moon, from where he regains his clarity in The Sun. All of this leads him to the Judgement where all his Karmic balances are cleaned, transforming him into The World.

The Journey of The Fool with the Changed Placement of Strength and Justice

RWS Majors - Strength and Justice

In this changed placement, Strength is Trump 8, while Justice is Trump 11. So again, if the cards are arranged in 3 rows of 7 cards each, with The Fool card kept outside, the Majors would look like the arrangement above.

Lets now look at the Journey of The Fool with this placement:

The Fool begins his journey with a bag of his hidden talents and takes the leap into the unknown.

On the Material Plane: The Fool transforms into The Magician who connects with the Universe and channels the energy of the Universe to create something powerful in the world. He then encounters his inner, hidden self, his subconscious and learns the deeper secrets that were already hidden within him in The High Priestess. From there, The Fool grows and matures into The Empress, who then matures into The Emperor with his disciplined and hardworking approach. The Hierophant is the stage where The Fool learns about society and religion and rules, and with that knowledge he moves into The Lovers card where he discovers his sexuality and chooses the right path ahead. Which is why, in The Chariot card, he has achieved success and victory over the Material Plane.

On the Mind Plane: With success, The Fool needs to learn how to tame his inner beast in the Strength card, which then leads him to looking more inward in The Hermit card. His knowledge leads him to understand the cyclical nature of the world in The Wheel. This creates a sense of balance and harmony within him in Justice. After this understanding, he goes through a change of perspective in The Hanged Man, and then leaves his past behind in Death, emerging thereafter to be a Master of the Mind Plane in Temperance.

On the Spiritual Plane: It is here, in The Devil card, that he discovers that he is still attached to the material plane, which totally shatters his ego in The Tower, and leads him to a place of calm contemplation in The Star. His confusions are confronted in The Moon, and he moves towards clarity in The Sun. This takes him to clearing off his Karmic balances in Judgement, then leading him to real harmony with the Universe in The World.

Summing Up…

So if we see the Journey of the Fool from both the perspectives, it makes sense either way. Whether Strength comes first, or whether it is Justice, the Fool does go through a journey of awareness, discovery and understanding and evolves into The World card.

The meaning of the card doesn’t change with the change in the placement of the card. And essentially, both these journeys make sense.


Tarots have hidden their mysterious origin for centuries. Even the etymology of their name is unclear: experts have tried to use varying degrees of information and imagination to explain where the word “tarot” originally comes from, with references reaching as far as ancient Egypt and the Hebrew tradition.

The relationships between the 78 cards in the deck – 56 “Minor arcana”, 21 “Major arcana”, and “the Fool” – are to be laboriously interpreted within a coded structure, which once deciphered unveils their true meaning: a complex task that only real enthusiasts, experts in the field, clever fortune tellers, and astute charlatans have been able to carry out to the end.

Tarots, however, have also inspired many talented artists, such as Brescia-born painter and miniaturist Bonifacio Bembo (1420-1480), who was so charmed by these cards’ Neoplatonic idealism and exoteric symbols that he created a deck for Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan, between 1442 and 1444.

Bembo’s deck – 48 cards measuring 180-by-90 millimeters, illustrated on gold and silver backgrounds – is now part of the Pinacoteca di Brera collection.

Here are some of the most beautiful and mysterious cards by the early-Renaissance artist.

Photos via:

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

“Maid of Swords”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, “Faith”; on the right, “Maid of Sticks”

On the left, “Horsewoman of Coins”; on the right, “Horsewoman of Sticks”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

“Horsewoman of Coins”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, “Maid of Coins”; on the right, “Maid of Cups”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, “The World”; on the right, “Horseman of Sticks”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

“The World”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, “Hope”; on the right, “Queen of Sticks”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, “Knave of Swords”; on the right, “Knave of Coins”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

“Knave of Coins”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, “The Emperor”; on the right, “Time”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, “King of Cups”; on the right, “Horseman of Swords”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, “Death”; on the right, “The Magician”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi


Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, “Doomsday”; on the right, “The Wheel of Fortune”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, “Six of Coins”; on the right, “Two of Cups”

Bonifacio Bembo Tarocchi

On the left, “Four of Cups”; on the right, “Six of Swords”

SOURCE: Bembo’s tarots: mystery on a golden background – Italian Ways 

10-Week Independent Study Course with Paul Foster Case: A Review of Oracle of the Tarot (1933)

A 10-Week Independent Study Course with Paul Foster Case: A Review of Oracle of the Tarot (1933).

Paul_Foster_CasePaul Foster Case (1884 – 1954) is one of the most influential American occultists on modern tarot studies. His approach to tarot is influenced heavily by Western astrology and the Hermetic Qabalah, as evidenced in his tarot divination course, Oracle of the Tarot, and other writings, such as An Introduction to the Study of Tarot (1920) or The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages (1947). Oracle is keyed to the Knapp-Hall Tarot, which was first published by J. Augustus Knapp and Manly P. Hall in 1929. The Knapp-Hall Tarot differs significantly from the Marseille, Rider-Waite-Smith, or Thoth interpretive traditions, so the card meanings in Oracle, in particular from the Minor Arcana, are not readily transferrable to the Marseille, Rider-Waite-Smith, or Thoth systems. Nonetheless, Oracle offers the beginner and intermediate student a strong foundation in the basics and anatomy of tarot.

Case opens the book with a strong statement: “TAROT divination is not fortune-telling. The practice of fortune-telling is based on the false notion that human life is governed by luck, chance, or fate–by obscure powers at work outside the personality. True divination rests upon the occult truth that the causes of all events in human life are really internal.” He thus begins by distinguishing divination from fortune-telling. Divination is an inward reflection process of using tarot to tap into the superconscious. The tarot utilizes imagery and symbols that communicate in the language of the superconscious and thus understanding tarot is in its essence the learning of a new language.

The introductory Lesson 1 warns the tarot practitioner to take tarot divination seriously and reviews a few ethical guidelines, in particular the practitioner’s duty of confidentiality and impartiality. Practitioners must remain non-judgmental when conducting tarot readings. Lesson 1 also subdivides tarot decks into exoteric and esoteric decks. Case provides the Knapp-Hall Tarot as an example of an exoteric deck, or one that operates in the realm of public knowledge, with imagery that more closely resembles the tarot deck originally used for playing games, and contrasts that with the Rider Tarot (or Rider-Waite-Smith), which he refers to as an esoteric deck. Esoteric tarot decks are the versions of tarot re-interpreted by occultists and used specifically for divination or other spiritual exercises.

Note that it is unclear and somewhat contradictory as to why Case expends the first half of the Introduction to describe tarot divination as an internalized process, but then applies an exoteric deck to teach divination, rather than an esoteric deck, which would seem to be more aligned with the internalized process of tarot divination. What’s more, the subsequent lessons in Oracle repeatedly reference esoteric tarot traditions.

The 10 lessons of Oracle are meant to be studied over a course of 10 weeks.

Lesson 1 then proceeds to describe the anatomy of the Major and Minor Arcana (referred to as the Major Trumps and Minor Trumps in Oracle). Case claims that his Hebrew letter attributions for the Major Arcana are the “correct” attributions and that preceding claims by such authors as Papus were wrong. Case sources his attributions from Eliphas Levi (1810 – 1875), a French occultist and influential writer on tarot. Case claims that his Hebrew letter attributions are better aligned with the standard astrological attributions of the Major Arcana, which he provides as follows:

Case’s Hebrew and Astrological Attributions in the Major Arcana


Major Arcana Hebrew Attribution Astrological Attribution


Le Fou (The Fool) Aleph (A) Air; Uranus


Le Bateleur (The Magician) Beth (B) Mercury


La Papesse (The High Priestess) Gimel (G) The Moon


L’imperatrice (The Empress) Daleth (D) Venus


L’empereur (The Emperor) Heh (H) Aries


Le Pape (The Hierophant) Vau (V) Taurus


L’amoureux (The Lovers) Zain (Z) Gemini


Le Chariot (The Chariot) Cheth (Ch) Cancer


La Justice (Justice) Lamed (L) Libra


L’ermite (The Hermit) Yod (I) Virgo


La Roue de la Fortune (Wheel of Fortune) Kaph (K) Jupiter


La Force (Strength) Teth (T) Leo


Le Pendu (The Hanged Man) Mem (M) Water; Neptune


La Mort (Death) Nun (N) Scorpio


La Temperance (Temperance) Samekh (S) Sagittarius


La Diable (The Devil) Ayin (O) Capricorn


Le Feu Du Ciel (The Tower) Peh (P) Mars


Les Etoiles (The Star) Tzaddi (Tz) Aquarius


La Lune (The Moon) Qoph (Q) Pisces


Le Soleil (The Sun) Resh (R) The Sun


Le Jugement (Judgement) Shin (Sh) Fire; Pluto; Vulcan


Le Monde (The World) Tau (Th) Saturn; Earth

He attributes the Minor Arcana as follows:

Attributions in the Minor Arcana

Suit Divinatory Representation

Elemental Attribution

WANDS Work, enterprise, ideas; the energies of the spiritual plane or archetypal world (Plato’s world of ideas)


CUPS Desires, hopes, wishes; emotional activities; the states and forces of the mental plane, the creative world in which mental patterns are formulated


SWORDS Action, and therefore conflict of forces; the states and activities of the astral plane; the formative world of unseen forces, which build the conditions of the physical plane


COINS orPENTACLES Things, possessions; the concrete objects and bodies of the physical plane; the objectification of the energies and forces of the higher worlds or planes represented by Wands, Cups, and Swords


As for significator cards, Case’s approach is to simply use Key 1: The Magician for male seekers and Key 2: The High Priestess for female seekers. That differs from the more popular modern approach of using the court cards as significators.

Oracle also teaches an initial divinatory method called the First Operation, which seems to be an antiquated practice now, as few modern tarot practitioners adopt the First Operation. It is nonetheless a method that the serious tarot practitioner should be familiar with. The First Operation is to be performed prior to a question. The significator card is shuffled in with the full tarot deck and then cut into four piles as follows:


The tarot practitioner then proceeds to locate the pile that the significator card is in. That pile, be it I, H1, V, or H2 (reading right to left respectively), will indicate the nature of the seeker’s question. The four piles correspond with the Hebrew letters Yod (I), Heh (H), Vau (V), Heh (H), which is a transliteration of the four constants forming the Hebrew name of the Supreme Being, again showing the strong influence of Qabalistic tenets on Case.

The four piles of the First Operation correspond as follows:


Personal Development; Health & Wellness. Seeker is asking about matters of personal development, such as work or career. Could indicate an interest in beginning a new venture or carrying out a new idea. Pile is also associated with the physical, such as body, health, or wellness issues.

H 1

Love, Marriage, Family. Seeker is asking about emotions, feelings, personal relationships, or desires. This pile pertains to the domestic sphere and interpersonal matters.


Politics, Ambitions, Social, Intellectual. Seeker is asking about ambitions and high aspirations. This pile could also pertain to conflict resolution, imbalances or disappointments. This is also the pile that corresponds with the Seeker’s intellectual faculties.

H 2

Money, Business, Property. Seeker is asking about a material matter, finances, property, or wealth.

If the significator card is in a corresponding pile that is consistent with the seeker’s question topic, then the First Operation has confirmed that the subsequent tarot reading will be accurate as applied to the question at hand. If, however, the significator card appears in a pile during the First Operation that is not consistent with the seeker’s question topic, then it shows that right now is not an appropriate time for the tarot to answer such a question.

Lessons 2, 3, 4, and 5 deconstruct the Suit of Wands, Cups, Swords, and Coins (Pentacles) respectively, keyed to the Knapp-Hall Tarot. Contained in the lessons are also simple 3-card spreads for divining past, present, and probable future influences.

Lesson 6 on the Major Trumps (Major Arcana) can be applicable to the prevailing tarot interpretive systems used today, though note that the Key 8 referenced in Case’s Oracle is “La Justice” (Justice) and Key 11 in Oracle is “La Force” (Strength), which is similar to the Marseille, but the reverse of the Rider-Waite-Smith (Key 8 is Strength and Key 11 is Justice).

Case claims that the timing of events can be revealed by looking at the astrological attributions of the cards, and the lessons in Oracle set about explaining how the 12 astrological houses can be used to divine the timing of events. From there, Lessons 7, 8, 9, and 10 teach complex tarot spreads, most notably combining astrology, the Tree of Life, and tarot, and further provides an overview of elemental dignities. Lesson 10 also provides an overview of numerology and its application to tarot.

Though some of the historic references in the book have since been disproved as myth, Oracle of the Tarot is still a work that every serious tarot student should have read. Not having read Paul Foster Case if you are a tarot practitioner is like not having read Anton Chekhov if you are serious about writing literary fiction. Though written over 80 years ago and keyed to a tarot deck that is, as of this writing, long out of print, Oracle nonetheless holds relevance today and every practitioner, no matter how advanced, will find at least one nugget of new information from Oracle.

So. Can Oracle teach tarot in 10 weeks? An operable foundation in tarot, yes, probably, though generally I am doubtful of any program that claims it can teach tarot in anything under 10 years. Learning tarot is nothing like learning to ride a bike. It’s really more like learning to play violin. In 10 weeks time you can probably learn no more than just how to properly hold the bow.

NOTE. You can download a PDF copy of OracleOracle of the Tarot by Paul Foster Case (1933). Download by CLICKING HERE (Source Credit: TarotWorks).

UPDATE (6/2/13). Read more about the First Operation: The First Operation: Adapting a Traditional Method in the “Opening of the Key” to Contemporary Tarot Applications.

SOURCE: A 10-Week Independent Study Course with Paul Foster Case: A Review of Oracle of the Tarot (1933). – benebell wen