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The Tarot as a tool for Inner Alchemy

Tarot by Aleister Crowley

The journey of life is equally and inner and an outer journey. We have to interact and relate with the external world all the time, but we also need to be interacting and relating with our internal world. If we neglect the inner world and are focused entirely on the external, then we will lose touch with ourselves, and if this goes on for too long we’ll find we no longer know who we are. If you have ever been in an abusive relationship, you will know what this feels like.

Conversely if we neglect the outer world and are focused entirely on our inner experience, we will likely lose touch with what’s going on around us. Even when you are doing deep inner work, such as you do on a Vipassana meditation retreat, you still need to stay attuned to your outer environment. And in fact – your senses, when you remain silent, eat less and turn your attention inwards – will usually become heightened. The scent of flowers will become pungent, the tweets of birds will become loud and magical, and the whistling wind in the trees will seem like the dance of the cosmos.

At a time like the present, when there is a strong degree of madness in the outer world, where governments infected with the fear virus start to organise things so that they attempt to control the every life decision and movement of their populations, it’s even more important than ever to be in touch with your inner resources. When you have the ability to return to love again and again, in spite of the fact that your government or the media or your neighbours might be spreading fear and division, then you become a spiritual warrior. This is when you know that you are in charge of yourself, you are in charge of your feelings, and you are in charge of your own destiny.

Is there something nice and relaxing though, about giving over your life to a higher power, like a government (they know what’s best for me, so I’ll just do as they say), like a family (Dad wants me to be a lawyer so I’ll go do that to make him happy) or like a cult leader (he says that everyone has to move to Mexico and take Peyote every day so I’ll do that even though I like it here in Hawaii)?

It can feel good for a while to give over control / management of your own life to someone else, because then you are no longer responsible for the things that go wrong. You can just point to your higher power (government, family, cult leader) and make it all their fault. This might provide relief from pain in the short term, but it also means you can’t take credit for your wins and your successes, because you are following the guidance / orders of someone else. It might feel good for a while to let go of the reins of your own life, but eventually when you’ve strayed too far off the path and are living someone else’s life, you’ll probably want to get back on your horse and guide it in the direction you want to go.

So much of the fear present in the world today seems to be to be a basic fear of death. Because people are so deeply afraid of death, they will start to orchestrate and manage things in life – such as people’s behaviours, movements, ability to speak up, to protest – so that they can feel a sense of control over death, so that they can feel that they have the upper hand, and are keeping death at bay. But what do all these measures do to our lives? Is it worth living if everything you do is organised to protect you against dying, rather than to get the most out of the experience of living? Of course it is sensible to take appropriate precautions to protect yourself from dying. If you jump out of a plane to skydive, make sure your parachute is firmly strapped on and that you aren’t jumping out over sea or mountains! But when do sensible precautions start to become overbearing and unnecessary measures that start to limit your life and freedom? It reminds me of the beautiful song, Attenti Al Lupo (watch out for the wolf!) that I’ve been listening to non stop recently. What if the wolf is fear itself?

‘Indolence’, the 8 of Cups and ‘Ruin’ the 10 of Swords, from the Aleister Crowley Tarot.

The Tarot is a really useful tool for looking at your inner self, because it functions as a mirror for everything that’s already there. It has all of the light and the shadows of the human psyche. It helps us to watch out for laziness (‘Indolence’), for the effect of overwhelming emotional states (‘Debauchery’ or ‘Lust’), for jealousy, for anxiety (‘Strife’), for constricted and constrained thinking, and for constricted or constrained relationships (‘Ruin’). It also reminds us that death is really just a metaphor for transformation and that we need to allow things to die (‘Death’) constantly in our lives, like jobs, relationships or friendships and out-dated ideas that are no longer aligned with us, in order to be fully alive.

It also reminds us that we are the Queen or the King in our own life, that we are the sovereign ruler over ourselves: we decide what we think, we decide what we believe to be true, we decide how it’s best for us to live, we decide how we’d like to best impact the world. It also reminds us that we contain worlds within us (‘The Universe’) and that sometimes it’s healthy to be silly (‘The Fool’).

Trump cards, the Fool (0) and the Universe (21) from the Aleister Crowley Tarot.

So, what are you choosing today? Love or fear?

If you’d like to know more about the Tarot, join in my workshop this Saturday, September 18th, It’s a two hour workshop on Zoom, where I will take you through a presentation on the history and origins of the Tarot, covering the trump cards and the suits, how it was developed, and how you can use it as a tool for inner guidance (and also do readings for others if you’d like!). I’ll include a few impromptu readings for people at this event, and teach you how to hold the space of what the card says for someone else, without being too prescriptive. I don’t do any readings of ‘the future’ when using the Tarot, I always stay aligned with the present and with what the present situation tells us about ourselves.

Book here: Eventbrite booking page.

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