Scroll Top

The Story of the Enlightenment Tarot

This is the story of how I came to design the Enlightenment Tarot and focus on psychological Tarot readings.

The Beginning

I have worked with Tarot and the Tree of Life for more than 40 years. I’m not a Tarot reader. I have used Tarot as an enlightenment tool, meaning I used it mostly for meditation and as a device to summon intuition.

The original and foremost purpose of Tarot is the facilitation of communication with other levels of consciousness. There are three levels of consciousness: superconsciousness, self-consciousness – that’s our consciousness – and subconsciousness. Superconsciousness and subconsciousness don’t speak English or German or Spanish. They speak the language of consciousness, which is pictorial and symbolic. Subconsciousness speaks to us through dreams and superconsciousness speaks to us through visions or inspirations. Whenever it gets pictorial and symbolic, we are communicating through the language of consciousness.

Traditional Tarot decks with authentic Tarot symbolism speak the language of consciousness and that’s why they can facilitate the communication with the higher self, subconsciousness, and other sentient beings. If it comes to meditation or Tarot reading, traditional Tarot decks are the most effective. But there is an issue with the graphic quality of traditional Tarot decks.

The Two Types of Tarot Decks

Oversimplified, there are two types of Tarot decks: Tarot decks that express the imagination and artistic talent of their authors and traditional Tarot decks that are designed according to the language of consciousness. Examples of traditional decks are the Marseille and Rider-Waite Tarot decks.

While the first type of Tarot decks are usually well-crafted, the designs of traditional decks leave us wanting. The quality of their illustrations are medieval and the illustrations have flaws. See for yourself:

The lack of graphic quality of traditional Tarot cards used to pull me out of my meditations. Instead of attuning to the state of mind pictured by a Tarot card, my mind mulled over graphic flaws and imagined possible improvements. One day, I decided to produce a Tarot deck that is based on original Tarot symbolism but that has immersive illustrations. That was around 2019.

For four years, I worked with a digital illustrator, and we illustrated one card after another. That was tedious, time-consuming, and it cost me quite some money.
Beginning of 2023 we were finally done with the illustrations.

The Enlightenment Tarot Titles

In addition to improving the illustrations of Tarot cards, I wanted to update some of the titles. There were three reasons for that: First, some of the titles had violent connotations, like the Chariot, which is a war machine. Or the Hanged Man, who reminds of torture and execution. Second, I wanted to eliminate blinds. At the time the Tarot was designed, enlightenment was a dangerous business. As it seems, the authors of the Tarot used blinds to disguise the original purpose of Tarot.

The two most obvious examples of blinds are the Devil and Death. In the context of enlightenment there is no such thing as the devil, only adversity. The Death card doesn’t depict death at all, in fact, it stands for the opposite, which is immortality. The skeleton in the picture symbolizes our soul that transmigrates along the stream of its incarnations (the river) toward enlightenment (the rising sun at the horizon). On its way, it reaps wisdom, understanding, and empathy. Hence, I changed the title Devil to Adversity and the title Death to Transformation.

Third, I wanted to give the minor arcana titles too. The original titles of the minor arcana repeat the obvious, which is a missed opportunity. For instance, the picture of the Ten of Sword shows ten swords. The title, Ten of Sword doesn’t add any insight to the picture. Now, check out the Enlightenment Tarot title of the Ten of Swords, which is Plan.

That title takes us right to the core meaning of the Ten of Swords.

Giving meaningful titles to the minor arcana has an additional benefit. Tarot readers don’t need to explain to their querent’s the meanings of the minor arcana. A querent can instantly grasp the meaning of Plan and the Tarot reader can dive straight into the interpretation of the spread.

Why I Reviewed the Meanings of Tarot Cards

I didn’t plan to work on the meanings of Tarot cards that pertain to Tarot readings. I planned to use those which are available, tidy them up a bit, and reuse them. But I found that Tarot card meanings were a mess. Many meanings are fuzzy, contradictory, and overlap. I wrote a separate article about the issue of the overlapping meanings of Tarot cards. You can read it here.

Tarot card meanings are a mess because tarotists gathered meanings from various sources. These are:

  • The position of the Tarot cards on the Tree of Life
  • Astrological correspondences
  • Tarot symbolism
  • Intuition
  • Fortune telling

Further, many of these interpretations are shaped by the personal perspectives, knowledge, and linguistic background of the tarotists.

The Tarot meanings you know today, are mostly astrological and go back to the Golden Dawn and Arthur Edward Waite. Astrology is a tool of divination, and astrological Tarot card meanings pertain to divination or fortune telling. They are unsuitable for Tarot readings.

I soon realized that I didn’t want to contribute to the current mess of Tarot meanings. But to avoid this, I had to develop an objective and holistic framework, which would yield objective and unbiased meanings.

Fortunately, such a framework was already in place and I just needed to adapt it to psychological Tarot readings. This framework is the Tree of Life.

The Four Levels of Human Expression

As I reviewed the titles and meanings for the Tarot cards according to their position on the Tree of Life, I ran into an unrecognized issue: the issue of the four suits and the four worlds.

Originally, the four suits represent the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life in the four universes. The suit of wands represents the Sephiroth in Atziluth, the suit of cups represents the Sephiroth in Briah, the suit of swords represents the Sephiroth in Yetzirah, and the suit of pentacles represents the Sephiroth of Assiah.

But in order to access the higher realms of Yetzirah, Briah, and Atziluth and become receptive to their influence, we need to succeed in enlightenment first. For this reason, the four-world model doesn’t work for Tarot readings. I needed a new model.

The Magician card helped me with that. On the magician’s table, you can see four implements: the wand, the cup, the sword, and the pentacles.

The Magician or Attention Tarot card

These are the four human, mental faculties:

  1. Intention (wand)
  2. Imagination (cup)
  3. Intelligence (sword)
  4. Action (pentacle)

These four implements also represent the four levels of human expression:

  1. The spiritual level
  2. The creative-feely level
  3. The intellectual level
  4. The bodily level

On the Tree of Life, the four levels of human expression correspond to the Sephirah Creativity (Netzach), Intellect (Hod), Energy (Yesod), and Domain (Malkuth), which form, together with Yesod, human personality.

Netzach is the sphere of creativity, feelings, and desires. Hod is the sphere of intelligence, analysis, and reason. Yod is the mind, and Malkuth represents the human body.

Tiphareth is the seat of the higher self, the heart of mankind, which is a cosmic being that lives in our hearts, protecting, guiding, and inspiring us from within. On a side note, the Christian name for Tiphareth is Christ.

In order to arrive at the new psychological model for the four suits, we need to consider one more important information, i.e., that each Sephirah contains a Tree of Life:

This takes us to the following model:

  1. The suit of wands represents the Tree of Life in Tiphareth and the spiritual level of human expression. The respective human faculty is intention (wands).
  2. The suit of cups represents the Tree of Life in Netzach, the creative-feely level of human expression. The respective human faculty is imagination (cups).
  3. The suit of swords represents the Tree of Life in Hod, the intellectual level of human expression. The respective human faculty is intelligence, the ability to discern and think.
  4. The suit of pentacles represents the Tree of Life in Malkuth, the bodily level of human expression of human expression. The respective human faculty is the ability to sense (see, hear, smell, touch, and taste), act without or body, and speak.

What about Yesod? Yesod is the mind or medium or stage where intention, imaginations, thoughts, and sense impressions play out.

This model also helps defining the basic characteristics of the court cards. King, Queen, Knight, and Page of Wands represent willful people. King, Queen, Knight, and Page of Cups stand for creative-feely people, King, Queen, Knight, and Page of Swords personify intelligent people, and King, Queen, Knight, and Page of Pentacles symbolize practical, down-to-earth people.

The Four Challenges of Designing the Enlightenment Tarot

As you can see, I faced four challenges while designing the Enlightenment Tarot:

  1. I had to re-engineer the meanings of Tarot cards for Tarot readings using the Tree of Life as a psychological framework.
  2. I had to take the four levels of human expression into consideration.
  3. I had to look inside the Sephiroth and explore the Trees of Life in Tiphareth, Netzach, Hod, and Malkuth.
  4. I had to engineer the meanings of the major arcana on the four levels of human expression.

As far as I can see, none of these challenges have been attempted before.

The Meanings of the Tarot Cards Derived From Their Position on the Tree of Life

The position on the Tarot cards on the Tree of Life determine their primary meanings.
Unfortunately, the meanings of the Sephiroth and paths on the Tree of Life are a bit of a mess too.

Oversimplified, the Tree of Life is a glyph for three things: the totality of the human self, the universe and its four worlds, and God. Often, these meanings are mixed up. For instance, the first Sephirah is called Kether, which means intention or will. That’s a psychological term. The sixth Sephirah, Tiphareth, translates as beauty, which is an internal experience. The seventh Sephirah, Netzach means victory or success, which is an external experience. Malkuth, the tenth Sephirah means kingdom, which is a thing.

Soon, it became clear to me that I needed to impose an additional restriction upon the Enlightenment Tarot framework. I had to use the Tree of Life that describes the totality of the human self. For this reason, I decided to change all Tarot card titles to psychological terms.

This determined the prime use of the Enlightenment Tarot: psychological Tarot readings. Psychological Tarot readings trace adversity back to the querent’s weaknesses and inner demons. That was a moment of grace because I found my niche and everything suddenly made sense and fell into place.

But doing so, I jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. The Tree of Life is an intricate map of the human self. The totality of the self consists of four Trees of Life whereby each Sephirah contains a Tree of Life too. This adds up to 4,096 states of mind or powers of consciousness.

Luckily, I had to interpret only the Trees of Life in the four Sephiroth Tiphareth, Netzach, Hod, and Malkuth. But I still had to identify the power of consciousness each card represents, it’s positive and negative application, and the positive and corresponding negative experiences. That amounts to almost 400 psychological terms.

The most tedious aspect of this undertaking was juggling the ambiguity of psychological terms. For instance, what is the difference between happiness, joy, fun, and pleasure? I had to take a linguistic scalpel to psychological terms and terms that describe emotions, feelings, and states of mind. I can’t remember having done something as tedious as that. It took me six months to finalize the first draft of that list and I’m still tinkering. I will probably be still tinkering for another year.

Psychological Tarot Readings

Psychological Tarot reading is a thing, now. Even some psychiatrists use Tarot for psychoanalysis and therapy, for instance, Arthur Rosengarten, who made the Tarot presentable to a professional psychological audience.

Maybe, the Enlightenment Tarot deck is the missing piece in the psychological Tarot reading domain. At least, I hope it will help.

Tarot Therapy

The next step in the Enlightenment Tarot project is using Tarot for therapy.
Using Tarot for therapy isn’t new either, but the Enlightenment Tarot framework may make Tarot therapy more effective.

To understand this, we need to know where Tarot cards get their magical aura from.
Tarot cards deliver a dual-hemisphere impact. The images affect the left, creative-imaginative side of the brain, and the titles affect the right, cognitive side of the brain.
Dual-hemisphere impacts ignite sparks of inspiration.

The old-school Tarot titles of the minor arcana don’t deliver a cognitive impact since they carry the same meaning as the image. For instance, the picture of the Ten of Swords shows ten swords. The title, Ten of Sword, states the obvious. For that reason, the minor arcana of the Enlightenment Tarot have psychological titles, which ease the readings of minor arcana.

In the case of a few major arcana, it’s even worse. Let’s take the Death/Transformation card as an example again, which doesn’t depict death at all but its opposite, which is immortality. The picture of the Death card and its title produce cognitive dissonance. One may object that an observer may associate the skeleton with death, which would eliminate the dissonance. This may be true on the conscious level, but the observer’s subconsciousness understands the symbolism of the white skeleton. Hence, this card produces a dissonance between the intuitive-subconscious understanding of the image and the cognitive response to the title.

Images are more powerful than thoughts. That’s why negated instructions sometimes fail. For instance, when you tell a child, “Don’t touch the dog,” you produce the image of touching a dog in the child’s mind. That image will induce the child to touch the dog, even though you put the word Don’t in front of that picture.

If you want to be effective, better tell the child, “Dogs bite.”

One of the first rules you will learn when you study creative writing is Show, don’t tell. This rule suggests showing events through descriptions and action rather than telling them. An example of a tell is he’s angry. This is a show: his face turns red, and he makes a fist. The pictures of Tarot cards show, and the titles tell.

The inventors of the Tarot innovated enlightenment because they made use of the power of showing. Previously, enlightenment wisdom was available in writing only.

Because of the power of showing, the subconscious-intuitive responses to Tarot images prevail over the conscious-cognitive responses to the titles.

Meaningful titles can, together with the image, deliver a spark of inspiration. Second, the titles help to take the subconscious-intuitive response to Tarot cards to the surface of consciousness. This helps Tarot readers to articulate and communicate the meanings that pertain to the querent’s question.

Tarot cards picture the positive and spiritual expression of a power of consciousness. Subconsciousness understands these pictures perfectly. By merely looking at Tarot cards, subconsciousness re-arranges itself and discards wrong patterns of thinking and selfish patterns of desiring.

How far I will pursue Tarot therapy, I don’t know yet. Two books are already in the making. The first book shall help to overcome depression with Tarot, the second shall help to overcome ADHD with Tarot.