Tarot Awareness: Exploring the Spiritual Path focuses on developing a personal practice of introspection through the Tarot, and applying the ensuing knowledge in a practical manner in one's life.
By Stephen Walter Sterling
Book - Published by Llewellyn
Review by Bonnie Cehovet
The focus of "Tarot Awareness" is one that is close to my heart: that of developing a personal practice of introspection through the Tarot, and applying the ensuing knowledge in a practical manner in ones life, effectively turning personal knowledge into personal wisdom.
We are reminded that Consciousness, or Spirit, is reflected in all of our activities, and on all levels of our being. Sterling places emphasis on the spiritual approach to Tarot in this book, especially on keeping the ego in balance through working with the virtues, such as reasonableness, discipline, and compassion. Sterling's stated objective is to awaken the Seeker to active participation in the contemplative life.
The book is divided into four parts. Part One is entitled "An Introduction To the Lay of the Land". Part Two is entitled "The Major Arcana - Portals To t he Inner Landscape", and includes the Seven Modes of Consciousness (I Magician - VII The Chariot), the Seven Universal Laws (VIII Strength - XIV Temperance), and the Seven Levels of Spiritual Unfoldment (XV The Devil - XXI The World). Part Three is entitled "The Minor Arcana - Consciousness From the Garden To the Battleground". Part Four is entitled "Tarot in Practice - Reading the Cards".
In Chapter One, Sterling briefly goes through the various myths on the subject of Tarot history, and then addresses what he terms the "Four Planes of Existence" that make up the Tarot: (1) the realm of spirit, including ideas and pure awareness, associated with the element of Fire and the suit of Wands; (2) Awareness moving into the realm of the heart and feeling, associated with the element of Water and the suit of Cups; (3) Awareness operating as Pure Intellect and entering the thinking mode, associated with the element of Air and the suit of Swords; and (4) the realm of manifestation, the planet we live on and pure matter, associated with the element of Earth and the suit of Pentacles.
Included in this chapter is a relaxation exercise (one exercise, even though the heading is "Relaxation Exercises" plural). The exercise presented is adequate, as far as it goes. There is no suggestion to tape the meditation and play it back, which is what really needs to be done. I do not think that enough time was spent on this subject. Very quickly mentioned in this same chapter were working with Tarot and poetry, Dreams and the Tarot, formatting a personal Mission Statement with the Tarot.
Chapter Two covers the basics of astrology, including a definition of the grouping of the signs by element, a short blurb on each of the planets, and a quick review of the Court Cards.
Chapter Three addresses the Fool, which Sterling entitles "The Life-Power Manifesting". Along with a black and white scan, the presentation includes:
The Inner Atmosphere
The General Atmosphere
Other Symbols In the Fool
...in a Reading
The Fool's Invocation
Part Two covers the Magician through the World. I did find it of interest that while the same categories were covered as were used with the Fool (with the exception of the section on symbols), their order varies from card to card.
Part Three covers the Minor Arcana. While the Major Arcana dealt with how our soul expresses itself, the Minor Arcana deals with human experiences. Stering offers three questions that he feels dominate this inquiry:
1. How well do you (as an Energy aware of Itself incarnating in order to create and gain experience) understand your purpose (Fire - Wands), emotional make-up (Water - Cups), thought processes (Air - Swords), and physical well-being (Earth - Pentacles)?
2. How well do you understand Universal Law?
3. Can you describe your spiritual level of attainment?
Each card is presented with a black and white scan, the cards title, and the following:
Alchemical Element (Aces and Court Cards only)
Keyword or Phrase (or Basic Trait, in the Court Cards)
...in a Reading
Part Four deals with the practice of reading the Tarot. Sterling begins this section by taking each of the Major Arcana, and showing how they would be read when in proximity to various other cards in the Tarot. This is a big boost for those that are new to the Tarot, and not sure how the "story" should be read. He then goes into "other factors" to be taken into consideration in a reading, such as multiples of the same number; and general themes in a reading.
In the chapter on actually performing a reading, Sterling states the following:
"Tarot Awareness", illustrated by the four Suits, encourages us to remember that through our consciousness - when it is clear and uplifted - the soul is then able to shine through us in four ways:
1. The "power to focus" is concentrated in the symbolism of the Ace of Wands; 2. The illustration of the Ace of Cups suggests spiritualized "emotional response"; 3. In the Ace of Swords we see the symbol of spiritualized thought; 4. And all three are directed outward into the words, behavior, and circumstances of our Physical Plane "experience" (Ace of Pentacles)."
A meditation and prayer of intent to be done before each reading are presented, along with the following spreads: Yes/No (a six card spread), the Celtic Cross Awareness spread (an eleven card spread), the Star of David spread (a seven card spread), the Tree of Life spread (a ten card spread), and the Twelve Houses of the Zodiac spread (a twelve card spread). There are sample readings for each spread.
At the end of the book is a bibliography and an index. There are some recognizable names in the bibliography, but it is also readily apparent that some major Tarot works, and writers, have for whatever reason been left out. This would not affect someone who came to this book with a strong Tarot background, but it could be limiting for those who do not have that background.
While I would have liked to have seen the Tree of Life play a greater part in this book, and astrology and visualizations gone into in a more in depth manner, there is enough information contained here to give the student of Tarot a place to start in working on the spiritual aspects of the Tarot.
My biggest quibble with this book was its cover - showing four Tarot figures: The Fool, The High Priestess, The Hermit, and Temperance. Temperance is shown in a traditional stance, the Fool faces the right hand side of the cover (and yes, I have seen this position in certain Tarot decks), the High Priestess is shown seated on her heels, with a rolled scroll in her right hand, and her chin leaning on her left hand, while the Hermit carries his staff in his right hand, and his lamp (which is not shown as being lit) below his waist in his left hand.
© 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.