In my ongoing study of the tarot I am looking at the oldest connection to the tarot, the Kabalistic Tree of Life, which symbolizes the creation of the Universe in the mystical Jewish tradition and shows the path to a universal awakening.
If you do any type of research on the tarot, read tarot blogs and books you will see the Qabala, or Kabbalah or the Caballa mentioned in connection with the tarot. All three spellings pertain to a different approach to this aspect of Jewish mysticism. I will say right out that I am only skimming the surface with this study and I welcome comments, arguments etc. But my idea is that by writing about my study that I can begin to grasp these concepts.
I am not going to attempt to explain the Tree of Life here. There are hundreds of sites where you can get this information. What I want to begin to explain is the Tree’s connection to the tarot and why a basic understanding of this connection is needed to finally take the tarot into the 21st century.
The tarot of today is about enlightenment, about how to navigate the great changes coming our way. The tarot as connected to the Tree of Life can show us how we can ride these waves of transformation to a universal consciousness.
Both the Waite-Smith decks and especially the Crowley/Harris decks, the two most influential decks in the last hundred years, use the Qabalistic forces of the Tree of Life as a blueprint for their decks.
Currently I am studying the Qabala’s Tree of Life with my tarot circle. After a preliminary study of the Tree itself, we are going backwards, starting at the top and working our way down the tree in order to connect it to the tarot numbering. We are now at the sephirah, Chesed, and the Tarot fours which are also influenced by the Emperor. Since I have given no previous information about the Qabala or the Tree of life, this is a very self centered writing, but I encourage you to keep reading because I hope by trying to explain to you as simply as possible, that I will begin to grasp the information myself.
So how are the tarot fours influenced by the Qabala Tree of Life? The fours sit in the position or sephirah of Chesed in the left hand column, an extreme position only balanced by the opposite sephirah or position of Geburah where the fives sit. As I begin to understand the two extremes of Chesed and Geburah, I begin to get why the fours are so lethargic and controlling, while the fives feel frighteningly out of control. On the Tree of Life, the position of Chesed is an extreme of mercy and goodness, lovingkindness to the point of almost too much which is well illustrated in the Waite Smith deck when you look at the uncomfortable positions of the people in the fours. Even though all seems to be well, we see lots of cups, maybe more than we can handle; pentacles on our head and under our feet; the mind at peace with the swords and seeming sucess and stability with the wands; but there is an uneasiness there because as with all the cards, change is in the air. The situation seems to be all right, but change is coming because the life force is moving swiftly and what may seem to be solid in the fours will shift dramatically in the fives to conflict and loss. Look at the watchfulness in the Waite Smith four of cups card, as though the person is thinking, “This is too good to be true, it can’t continue” and the resting in the four of swords which the person knows is only a respite. It’s like in our daily lives when we feel it’s all going so well, too well. That though it seems absurd, we are out of balance on some level, that life is not about smooth sailing but about the challenge, and the goal to find joy and peace in what seem to be a flashing back and forth of extremes as seen clearly with the flashing movement of insight in the Tree of Life. The path in the Tree shows the quick movement that balances the fours with the opposite position of severity and judgment in Geburah, but the Tree as a whole shows the path to integration and wholeness. Sound familiar? This is exactly what the tarot images show us. The Tree of Life and the tarot look at life as a whole, not dwelling so much on the ups and downs but more on the path at hand, the centering needed to sail through the extremes which we cannot escape from but if viewed as needed, as a part of the journey to completeness, can then be seen as a positive influence, a lesson which will take us to a higher level of consciousness.