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The Psychological Framework of the Enlightenment Tarot

The psychological framework of the Enlightenment Tarot is based on the Tree of Life.

Oversimplified, the Tree of Life is a glyph for the external and internal world, the macrocosm, and the microcosm. You can think of the Tree of Life as the DNA of the universe and the human self (of which the body is only a small part). 

If you have a software background, think of the microcosmic Tree of Life as a state machine. Without input, the Tree of Life is in equilibrium. Inputs enter the Tree of Life at the top or bottom. The former initiates undertakings, the latter initiates responses to experiences. The Sephiroth and path react to spiritual and sensual inputs and produce either physical results (undertaking) or enlightenment (experience). 

The Tree of Life

The Tree of Life comprises thirty-two so-called paths of wisdom. These include ten spheres of activity — the Sephiroth — and twenty-two paths connecting the Sephiroth.    

The twenty-two major arcana personify the paths that connect the Sephiroth. The forty minor arcana stand for the Sephiroth. The aces represent the first Sephirah, the 2’s the second, the 3’s the third, and so on.

The court cards represent the 2’s, 3’s, 6’s, and 10’s as well as actual people. To avoid confusion, we limited the meanings of court cards to the character traits of actual people. For instance, the King of Wands stands for a willful man of authority, a leader: honest, influential, just or cruel, generous or intolerant, kind or cruel.

The Titles of the Sephiroth

The original titles of the Sephiroth are Kether, Chokmah, Binah, Chesed, Geburah, Tiphareth, Netzach, Hod, Yesod, and Malkuth. These titles translate to Crown, Wisdom, Understanding, Mercy, Severity, Beauty, Victory, Splendor, Foundation, and Kingdom

For various reasons (as explained in the Enlightenment Tarot Guidebook), we changed these titles to Intention, Wisdom, Understanding, Grace, Severity, Higher Self, Creativity, Intellect, Energy, and Materialization.

The World And the Four Universes

The Tree of Life and Tarot are part of a tradition called ageless wisdom. Ageless wisdom comprises the unchanging principles that apply to the world and everything in it. According to ageless wisdom, the world contains four universes:

  • Atziluth: the archetypal or spiritual universe

  • Briah: the creative universe

  • Yetzirah: the formative universe

  • Assiah: the physical universe (the one we can see)

Each universe has a distinct fabric or quality. Atziluth is fiery or radiant, Briah is fluid, Yetzirah is fast-moving-airy, and Assiah is solid.

There are two ways of showing the four worlds with the Tree of Life. The first is to segregate the Tree of Life into four sections: Kether and Chokmah comprise Atziluth, Binah represents Briah, the Sephirah Chesed to Yesod comprise Yetzirah, and Malkuth represents Assiah.

The Tree of Life and its four universe sections

The second way is assigning one Tree of Life to each universe. This looks like this:

Four Tree of Life Side By Side with Tarot cards

The four suits represent the Sephiroth 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.

This model works for enlightenment, but not for Tarot readings, which is an unrecognized issue. Here is why: We live in Assiah, the physical universe. Yetzirah, the universe above Assiah, is the dream world or soul world. That’s our true home, where we live our real life that we sometimes interrupt with an incarnation. While incarnate, we can get conscious access to this world through OBEs and astral projections.
To access the higher realms of Yetzirah, Briah, and Atziluth, we need to succeed in enlightenment first. The bodies of those who don’t perform enlightenment can’t intercept the vibrations emanating from these higher levels.

So, why are wand and cup cards used during Tarot readings if people aren’t receptive to them? To understand this, we need to return to the history of Tarot readings. As mentioned, Tarot was originally an enlightenment tool and the four-world model helped navigating higher states of mind. But Tarotists turned Tarot into an instrument for fortune telling. To that end, they combined horary astrology with Tarot card meanings and ignored the four-world model and the positions of the Tarot cards on the Tree of Life. That’s why most Tarot card meanings you learn today have astrological significance.

The astrological meanings of Tarot cards work for fortune telling but not for psychological Tarot readings. To perform psychological Tarot readings, we need to return to the meanings that pertain to the cards’ positions on the Tree of Life. However, since we cannot use the four-world model for psychological Tarot readings, we need a new model. And that needs to be a psychological model.

The Four Levels of Human Expression

The Magician or Attention Tarot card

On the magician’s table, you can find four implements: the wand, the cup, the sword, and the pentacles. These are the four principal 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

Now, look at the following division of the Tree of Life:

The personality section of the Tree of Life

The Sephiroth Creativity, Intellect, Energy, and Materialization form human personality. Creativity is also the sphere of feelings and desires. Hod is the sphere of thinking, analysis, and reason. Yod is the mind, and Malkuth represents the human body.

The Sephiroth Intention, Wisdom, Understanding, Grace, Severity, and the Higher Self are cosmic Sephiroth. They are the same for each person.

The higher self is a cosmic being that lives in every human’s heart, protecting, guiding, and inspiring us from within. To do so, it collects the influences of the Sephiroth above it and conveys them to us.

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:

The Tree of Life with Trees of Life in the Sephiroth

Putting all this together, we arrive at the following four-layered model: 

A) 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).

B) 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).

C) 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.

D) The suit of pentacles represents the Tree of Life in Malkuth, the bodily level of human expression of human expression. This includes the senses and the ability to act and speak. 

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

This model also defines 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.

This new model still conforms to ageless wisdom, since the human self functions in all four worlds: the spiritual, creative, astral, and physical world.

The Major Arcana And the Four Levels of Human Expression

Like the minor arcana, the major arcana manifest differently on the four levels of human expression, too. The four-fold expression of the major arcana is another unrecognized issue only a few tarotists know.

The Magician or Attention Tarot card

For instance, the Attention card manifests on the spiritual level as prophecy, on the creative-feely level as concentration, on the intellectual level as vigilance, and on the bodily level as brain focus or — if inauspicious — as brain fog.

Since Tarot was originally an enlightenment tool, Tarot cards picture the spiritual level expression, less so on the creative-feely, intellectual, and bodily levels, which is yet another unrecognized issue. 

The Attention card shows spiritual attention, which includes receptivity to the higher self and focus on creating experiences. The uplifted wand symbolizes receptivity to the spiritual level. The pointed finger symbolizes focus on a task at hand. 

This means that proper attention combines receptivity and focus. On the creative-feely, intellectual, and bodily levels, people may concentrate without receptivity.

As you can see, we have few visual clues of how the powers of consciousness of the major arcana express on the creative-feely, intellectual, and bodily levels. 

That’s where the Enlightenment Tarot titles and meanings come in. They clarify the expression of the cards’ powers of consciousness on all levels.

The Enlightenment Tarot Framework

Considering the spiritual, creative-feely, intellectual, and bodily levels and the fact that each Sephirah contains a Tree of Life, we arrive at 4,096 faculties of consciousness. These make up the totality of the human self and span four universes.

Does that blow your mind? Let’s have a moment of silence to celebrate the grandiosity of the human self. 

Do you find this complexity overwhelming? It is overwhelming indeed, and it takes a lifetime to familiarize oneself with this formidable framework.

Luckily, you only need to familiarize yourself with the four Trees of Life in Tiphareth, Netzach, Hod, and Malkuth, as well as the psychological profiling of the court cards. 

To further reduce the complexity of this framework, we limited the meanings of Tarot cards to five. This is how it works: Every major and minor arcana represents a power of consciousness. We can use a power of consciousness constructively or destructively, which produces a favorable or adverse experience.

Now, we still need to consider that the major arcana manifest on four levels too, which gives us four more meanings per major arcana.

This adds up to 398 psychological meanings plus the sixteen character profiles of the court cards. 

Do you find this still intimidating? It’s not that bad. 

First, the Enlightenment Tarot framework translates Tree of Life jargon into 398 modern, self-explanatory psychological terms. The cards display 78 of those. The remaining 320 terms emerge from an objective, holistic framework. Hence, they are logical and transparent, and, with a little practice, you can deduce them from the titles. With a bit of practice, these meanings become second nature.