The Game of Life
The Game of Life is centered around Leary's idea that the tarot trumps represent the stages of growth that humanity is going to experience not just individually, but as a species. It's an unconventional and quirky, but thought-provoking, book on tarot.
By Timothy Leary, PhD
Book - 200 pages - Published by New Falcon
Review by Jeremy Lampkin
As a student of tarot I consider myself very fortunate to have taken a friend's suggestion to read a book entitled The Game of Life by Timothy Leary. The Game of Life is centered around Leary's idea that the tarot trumps represent the stages of personal growth that humanity experiences both as individuals and as a species. According to Leary, the Major Arcana represent the stages of growth that our species evolves through, and he even included 2 extra trumps that uncover the way of the future. Ultimately the Major Arcana encompass all life when considering the cards as organisms of various stages and complexities.
Other than The Book of Thoth, The Game of Life was perhaps the biggest influence on me as a student of tarot. Many of Leary's ideas on the tarot seemed to me like quirky statements of the obvious, but he also did unprecedented things with the tarot such as corresponding the trumps with The Periodic Table of Elements. Little characters on the sidelines like to throw out their 2 cents every now and then. The book might seem silly, but that's just Leary's mode of communicating, the way he likes to lighten the mood.
Leary discussed the notion of life being based on a 3-fold system of octave rhythms, arriving at the conclusion that the correct number of majors would actually be 24. Leary stated:
The number eight (particularly expressed as 7 + 1) seems to be involved in the basic equations of energy-matter. Neurogenetic theory looks to atomic physics for explanatory guides. The Periodic Table of Elements is a logical foundation for any model of energy manifestation, even as peripheral as the psychological and sociological. The Periodic Table defines eight (7 + 1) families of elements.
Leary also pointed out the neurological significance of the number 3 and the numerological significance of the 4 elements ultimately permeating 24 trumps (1X2X3X4=24). He added that since there are 24 hours in the day, this number should also match the number of trump cards. He presented a number of mathematical reasons why the number of trumps simply have to be 24.
For a couple years I had searched for a tarot that I could relate to, and as far as I was concerned, that tarot would have to be influenced by Leary's ideas. My search for this tarot yielded no results. I could not believe that nobody seemed to notice or care about Leary's book. When my life took a strange turn and I winded up actually designing a tarot deck, naturally it was laced with Leary's unique discoveries. I included 2 extra cards in order to complete the tarot as Leary would have wanted it.
The 2 extra cards at the end of Leary's Major Arcana reveal the path homeward to the center of the universe. In the position before The Universe is a card entitled Violet Hole Fusion. This card shows that at the center of The Universe, there is an axle known as a Black (or Violet) Hole. This axle is actually a portal to the spiritual dimension as well as a type of center in that dimension. The journey to the Black Hole occurs in the final stages of evolution, where the evolved being escapes the cycle of life and moves on to another form of existence. Through the Black Hole, one gains universal oneness and then proceeds to the Singularity. The final trump, Singularity shows where the soul meets its maker and gets reabsorbed. At the stage of Singularity, the organism has outgrown its body, having evolved to godhood.
Despite the quirky sideshow of oddball characters such as Richard Prior and Adolf Hitler doing color commentary in the page margins, The Game of Life seriously does have a lot of value for the serious tarot student. Like its author, the book has taken its place in history. In time more and more souls will find their own way, with just a little help from Dr. Leary.
(There's more about the implementation of Leary's extra two trump card ideas here.)