Review by Bonnie Cehovet
When I first saw this title, I thought the book would be perhaps a bit simplistic, and more than a little "New Agey". I stand corrected! (In fact, had I ever looked closely at the cover of the book, I would have seen that it would have more than a little wisdom to offer!) Karmic Tarot is based on a very specific Tarot spread of the same name. It is meant to help the Seeker (hereafter known as the "Readee", a term that I don't react well to, but one that the author consistently uses) to view their current life as part of a pattern of past/present/future lifetimes. There was no date that I could find for the printing of the second edition, but I did find it interesting that Ed Buryn (the William Blake Tarot) was one of the editors. Our world is indeed a small one!
A bit of background on the author is called for here. William Lammey was living in Austin, Texas in the 1980's - working as an architect and functioning as the owner of a bookstore. As Lammey himself states, the quality of life in the mid-80's in Austin was not good - partially due to the crumbling oil economy, and partially due to the impact of the aids epidemic. To help cope with this, Lammey fell back on his studies in Eastern philosophy (including Zen Buddhism and Taoism) - taking them from the realm of intellectual pursuits to the realm of everyday living. We have all benefited from the system of reading that came out of his work. Lammey's aim with this work was to create a system that would enable our intuitive Soul/Spirit self to communicate with our objective Mind/Emotion/Body self. I believe that he succeeded (indeed - this is what Tarot is all about)!
One of the first things that Lammey does is give working definitions of the principles of karma and reincarnation. Reincarnation is defined as the belief that the soul never dies - that it is reborn in a series of lifetimes, which is the process of the evolution of our consciousness. Karma is defined as the belief that the soul's purpose (agenda) for any given lifetime is determined by your progress on the path of your evolving consciousness. Each lifetime is driven by the power of free will, and by the Karmic Contract that our soul made coming into it. Our challenge is to stay centered on our path.
The Karmic Tarot spread consists of 22 cards, laid out in four rows of seven cards each. (I can count - this would make 28 cards, except for the fact that six of the cards are in "swing" positions - i.e. the end of one column and the beginning of the next.) The four rows are the four Planes (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual). Plane 1 correlates with the suit of Pentacles (Earth), Plane 2 with the Suit of Cups (Water), Plane 3 with the suit of Swords (Air), and Plane 4 with the suit of Wands (Fire). Lammey also lists correlation's with Aristotelian Concepts, Elementary Physics, Psychology, Numerology, Color, Dualities, Rosicrucian Concepts, Older Channeled Material About The Ancient Races, and Disciplines of Yoga.
The seven columns represent the seven stages of consciousness: Birth, Early Childhood, Recent Past, Present, Near Future, Mid Future, and Long-term Future. The Seven Stages are read on two levels: Time Factors and Aspects of Consciousness (Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual (the awakening), Higher Mental, Higher Emotional and Higher Physical. Correlations are also made with the Minor Arcana suits, as well as the Major Arcana, Color, Sound, Concepts of the Hierarchy, Days of the Week, Philosophy, Chakra's, and the Theosophical Concept of the Seven Root Races.
The progression of the positions of the Major Arcana in each of the seven stages are (from the book):
Stage 1: Magician (1), High Priestess (2), Empress (3), Emperor (4) Stage 2: Emperor (4), Hierophant (5), Lovers (6), Chariot (7) Stage 3. Chariot (7), Strength (8), Hermit (9), Wheel (10) Stage 4: Wheel (10), Justice (11), Hanged Man (12), Death (13) Stage 5: Death (13), Temperance (14), Devil (15), Tower (16) Stage 6: Tower (16), Star (17), Moon (18), Sun (19) Stage 7: Sun (19), Judgment (20), World (21), Fool (0/22)
There is an excellent section that defines the 22 positions by the archetypal nature of the card and by the journeys through each of the four planes. I am going to use the Magician as an example. From the book:
Position 1 Governed by the Magician
Here are the physical/material aspects of the Karmic Contract; your disposition toward the Physical Plane, matters of health and well being. Beginning, origin, and birth of all aspects of existence. The beginning aspects of beginnings. Specifically, the Physical Birth, the effect of the Genetic Father, your masculine heritage. Your package of instincts. The absolute physical individual before any environmental influences. From this position all the life will evolve. Your propensity for fears and anxieties. Financial roots. Basic resources. Sustenance. Fuel. The will to live. From here everything is possible (Magician), everything is the future, as this is your first stop on the journey, specifically the Physical Material journey.
Plane One: The Physical Journey
The Magician (1)
Your physical birth, the given biological package and the very earliest aspects of material existence. Everything appears to be magic. You have no rationale, no basis for judgment. There are sensations, but no emotions. This is simple existence. Everything is seen in wholes, then in big chunks as the sense of self develops and begins to differentiate self versus other. Behavior is predominately instinctive and dominated by fear and survival mechanisms.
Definitions are given for each of the 78 cards in the upright and reversed position, and there is an extensive section on interpreting each card in each of the 22 positions. This material is not meant to be memorized - it is given as a guideline to help the Tarot student define their own meanings. Something quite interesting about the Karmic Tarot spread is that the cards can be interpreted in any order, and the reading will still come out as it should.
At the end of the book Lammey gives the general layout and position definitions for the Celtic Cross spread, but does not present a sample reading. There are suggestions for interpreting the Karmic Tarot spread, but no sample reading is shown.
This is not a book for beginners, in my humble opinion. It is for advanced students that have a thorough understanding of the basic Tarot archetypes, and at least a rudimentary understanding of metaphysics, including numerology, astrology, chakras and colors. It is an excellent book for reference and for study, on an individual or group basis. Because of the nature of the Karmic Tarot spread, I would say that this book would fit well in a Tarot coaching venue. If you are ready for personal growth, want to do extended readings (read time and labor intensive), or want to build a Tarot coaching practice, then this book is for you.
By the way - read the end notes - there is some great information there!
© Bonnie Cehovet
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.