Exploring the Tarot
An intellectual, esoteric explanation of the Tarot, published in 1989 and illustrated with cards from the Aquarian Tarot.
By Carl Japikse
Book - Published by Ariel Press
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
(As with many things in my life, this book 'found' me. Having worked with and reviewed the Aquarian deck, I had always thought to study this book, but never quite made it happen. Recently, one of my online friends, Nancy Lee (a beautiful lady who has a wonderful way with words, and is a very knowing artist in her own right) gifted me with an extra copy that she had. This review is a thanks to Nancy for bringing a very interesting work into my life.)
I think to understand this book we have to take a look at who the man behind the book is. Carl Japikse is a Dartmouth graduate who worked for several newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, before deciding to devote his life full time to teaching and writing. His interests are in the area of the mind, to include meditation, intuition and divination. He is the developer of the "Enlightened Management" seminar and the "Enlightened Classroom". Reading his work, one feels like a student in a college classroom, listening to a professor who, dressed in the proverbial jacket with patches on the elbows and smoking a pipe, wanders back and forth in front of the lecturn musing on life.
"Exploring The Tarot", while not a companion book to the Aquarian deck (by David Palladini), does use illustrations from the deck on the cover and throughout the book. In fact - Mr. Japikse states in the forward that the only two decks he deems to be 'true' Tarot are the Rider deck by A.E. Waite and the Aquarian deck by David Palladini. Throughout this book he references his explanations for the Tarot to the symbols found in the Aquarian deck.
Japikse sees Tarot as a "complete and versatile system" for exploring life, on both the inner and outer planes. So far, so good - me too! From here on in - we pretty much differ! Japikse describes the Tarot cards as symbols of the Tarot energy, and as such, relatively unimportant. I agree that the physical cards are merely representations of the energy that Tarot mirrors, but if the decks are so unimportant, what is the deal with working only with the Rider or Aquarian decks? Japikse sees the 'Real Tarot' as the archetype symbols behind the cards, which in itself is also true. But seeing 'Real Tarot' page after page is annoying - and rather denigrating to some of the other uses of Tarot.
Japikse sees the levels of Tarot as: (1) the physical cards, (2) fortune telling (into which he also throws the nitty gritty life questions that most readers are dealing with), (3) intellectual Tarot, into which he places all esoteric studies, and (4) the Real Tarot, which he defines as: "... a system of archetypal forces which exists within the mind of God, and can be readily known by human intelligence, if we apply ourselves correctly."* Granted, there are levels of work that we as humans are to do in this lifetime, but Japikse seems to be boxing out many avenues here to apply himself strictly to the spiritual. I see this as a horse wearing blinders, and think what a loss it would have been had I read this book at the beginning of my studies, instead of after I already had a sound Tarot foundation.
So far, Japikse and I agree that Tarot is here to answer life's questions. Our differences come in how we apply the Tarot. There is no right or wrong way - we simply agree to disagree here.
Japikse does an excellent job of describing the archetypes: that they are of God, that they exist within the mind of God and not the mind of mankind, and that they are abstract patterns, rather than images or symbols.** These are the truths that we are meant to reflect in our own lives, the energies that will help us to affect change when we understand their proper use. This to me is a good reflection of what Tarot is in my life, and what I attempt to reflect into the lives of my clients.
How the interpretations for the cards are presented was intriguing to me. They are not keywords, or catch phrases, but the energy and movement of each card. For example, the Empress appearing in a spread may indicate: "A need to exercise authority and dominion over our subconscious", or "The need for more self discipline in learning to use the mind"*** amongst other things. This opens the way to the story that a Tarot reading really is in a very nice way.
This book has a great deal to offer in the way of phrasing questions and interconnecting the energy of the cards in a reading. However, Japikse allows only one spread for 'Real Tarot' - that of the Celtic Cross! I like this spread too - but I think we may be losing a bit here if we limit ourselves only to its use. There are times, in my opinion, when one or two cards will give a very complete answer to the question asked.
I thoroughly enjoyed his mini discussions with the Page of Rods. Here Japikse shows what wonderful forms Tarot can actually take. He uses them as bridges from topic to topic, and as preludes to some of his chapters. These discussions are eloquent and wonderful bright sparks of energy.
At the end of the book we are given a glimpse into actual readings that Japikse has done with the Tarot, in a group setting. Here we see the actual dynamics that have been discussed throughout the book. I was still left with the deep feeling that this is only part of Tarot - that if one were to follow the path that Japikse suggests fully, that one would be deprived of a great deal that Tarot has to offer.
I recommend this book to those Tarot students who already have a firm foundation built through their studies. These are the people that have the knowledge and wisdom to take from this work what will benefit them, and leave the rest behind. They will not be blinded by the walls that are set up here. This work has its place -but one needs to tread lightly through it for maximum benefit.
* "Exploring The Tarot", Carl Japikse, Ariel Press, 1989, p. 7.
** "Exploring The Tarot," Carl Japikse, Ariel Press, 1989, p. 11.
*** "Exploring The Tarot", Carl Japikse, Ariel Press, 1989, p. 90.
Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.