Carl Jung on the Power of Tarot Cards: They Provide Doorways to the Unconscious & Perhaps a Way to Predict the Future


jung and tarot

It is normally accepted that the basic deck of playing cards we utilize for whatever from three-card monte to high-stakes Vegas poker developed from the Tarot. “Like our modern-day cards,” writes Sallie Nichols, “the Tarot deck has 4 matches with 10 ‘pip’ or numbered cards in each … In the Tarot deck, each match has 4 ‘court’ cards: King, Queen, Jack, and Knight.” The latter figure has “inexplicably vanished from today’s playing cards,” though examples of Knight playing cards exist in the fossil record. The modern-day Jack is a survival of the Page cards in the Tarot. (See examples of Tarot face card here from the 1910 Rider-Waite deck.) The resemblances in between the 2 kinds of decks are substantial, yet nobody but adepts appears to think about utilizing their Gin Rummy cards to inform the future.

The noteworthy psychiatrist Carl Jung, nevertheless, may have done so.

As Mary K. Greer explains, in a 1933 lecture Jung went on at length about his views on the Tarot, keeping in mind the late Medieval cards are “truly the origin of our pack of cards, in which the red and the black signify the revers, and the department of the 4– clubs, spades, hearts, and diamonds– likewise comes from the private meaning.

They are mental images, signs with which one plays, as the unconscious appears to have fun with its contents.” The cards, stated Jung, “integrate in particular methods, and the various mixes represent the lively advancement of humanity.” This, too, is how Tarot works– with the included measurement of “signs, or photos of symbolical scenarios.” The images– the hanged guy, the tower, the sun–” are sort of stereotypical concepts, of a separated nature.”

RWS Tarot 00 Fool

Thus far, Jung hasn’t stated anything lots of orthodox Jungian psychologists would discover disagreeable, however he goes even additional and declares that, certainly, “we can forecast the future, when we understand how today minute developed from the past.” He required “an user-friendly technique that has the function of comprehending the circulation of life, perhaps even forecasting future occasions, at all occasions providing itself to the reading of the conditions of today minute.” He compared this procedure to the Chinese I Ching, and other such practices. As expert Marie-Louise von Franz states in her book Psyche and Matter:

Jung recommended … having individuals take part in a divinatory treatment: tossing the I Ching, laying the Tarot cards, seeking advice from the Mexican prophecy calendar, having a transit horoscope or a geometric reading done.

Content appeared to matter much less than kind. Conjuring up the Swedenborgian teaching of correspondences, Jung keeps in mind in his lecture, “guy constantly felt the requirement of discovering a gain access to through the unconscious to the significance of a real condition, due to the fact that there is a sort of correspondence or a similarity in between the dominating condition and the condition of the cumulative unconscious.”

Rider Waite 1

What he targeted at through making use of prophecy was to speed up the procedure of “individuation,” the approach wholeness and stability, by ways of lively mixes of archetypes. As another magical psychologist, Alejandro Jodorowsky, puts it, “the Tarot will teach you how to create a soul” Jung viewed the Tarot, keeps in mind the blog site Faena Aleph, “as an alchemical video game,” which in his words, tries “the union of revers.” Like the I Ching, it “provides a rhythm of favorable and unfavorable, loss and gain, dark and light.”

RW Death

Much later on in 1960, a year prior to his death, Jung appeared less sanguine about Tarot and the occult, or a minimum of minimized their magical, divinatory power for language more matched to the lab, right to the typical grievances about staffing and financing. As he composed in a letter about his efforts to utilize these techniques:

Under particular conditions it is possible to try out archetypes, as my ‘astrological experiment’ has actually revealed. As a matter of reality we had actually started such experiments at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, utilizing the traditionally understood user-friendly, i.e., synchronistic techniques (astrology, geomancy, Tarot cards, and the I Ching). We had too couple of colleagues and too little ways, so we might not go on and had to stop.

Later interpreters of Jung questioned that his explores prophecy as an analytical method would pass peer evaluation. “To do more than ‘preach to the transformed,'” composed the authors of a 1998 short article released in the Journal of Parapsychology, “this experiment or any other needs to be finished with enough rigor that the bigger clinical neighborhood would be pleased with all elements of the information taking, analysis of the information, etc.” Or, one might merely utilize Jungian techniques to check out the Tarot, the clinical neighborhood be damned.

RW Queen of Pentacles

As in Jung’s lots of other innovative reappropriations of legendary, alchemical, and spiritual meaning, his analysis of the Tarot motivated those with magical leanings to undertake their own Jungian examinations into parapsychology and the occult. Influenced by Jung’s verbal descriptions of the Tarot’s major arcana, artist and mystic Robert Wang has actually developed a Jungian Tarot deck, and an accompanying trilogy of books, The Jungian Tarot and its Archetypal Imagery, Tarot Psychology, and Perfect Tarot Divination.

You can seeimages of each of Wang’s cards here His books claim to be extensive research studies of Jung’s Tarot theory and practice, composed in assessment with Jung scholars in New York and Zurich. Sallie Nichols’ Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey is less ingenious and abundant– utilizing the standard, Pamela Coleman-Smith-illustrated, Rider-Waite deck instead of an upgraded initial variation. For those prepared to give a relationship in between systems of signs and a cumulative unconscious, her book might offer some permeating insights, if not a dish for forecasting the future.

Note: An earlier variation of this post appeared on our website in 2017.

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Josh Jones is an author and artist based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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