Tarot and Individuation

Tarot and Individuation is a Jungian study of Tarot correspondences and associations with Cabala and the Tree of Life, alchemy and the chakras.

By Dr. Irene Gad · Book · Published by Weiser Books

Review by Bonnie Cehovet

I had the good fortune to see discussions of the 1994 version of this book (published by Weiser Books) on various Tarot e-lists, so I had some idea of the breadth and depth of Dr. Gad's work. Which means that I did come to this book with high expectations (and a little unsure of whether I would be able to appreciate the wisdom that it contained). My expectations were met and surpassed manifold - due in large part to writing so clear and concise that someone like me, with a minimal to moderate background in Cabala and the Tree of Life, could walk away with a firm understanding of what had just been said.

The Major Arcana of the Tarot are often referred to as representing The Fool's Journey (or alternately, The Hero's Journey). They represent the element of Spirit in the Tarot, and speak to the path that the Seeker follows in seeking a deeper connection with the Divine. In Jungian terms, the Major Arcana of the Tarot have to do with individuation - the process of bringing the conscious and unconscious selves into harmony. In her foreword, Verena Kast speaks of the symbols presented in the Major Arcana of the Tarot - of their archetypal nature (i.e. as coming from a universal, or collective unconsciousness), and the inner connection between the cards.

The foreword also speaks to the backbone of this book - the process of amplification, or placing a symbol in a wider context for interpretation, a process that was developed by Carl Jung for the interpretation of collective symbols. In this case, Dr. Gad amplifies the symbols of the Major Arcana by corresponding them with the Cabala, Alchemy and the Chakras.

It was very much an "Aha!" experience that led Dr. Gad to the major addition to this edition of her work. In the first edition of this book, Dr. Gad corresponded the Tarot Trumps to the Cabala and the Tree of Life, positing that the first ten Major Arcana trumps represented the Cabalistic Path of Lightening (Lightening Flash), or the descent of Spirit into matter. The remaining twelve cards were corresponded to the Serpent of Wisdom. A reader wrote to ask if the Serpent of Wisdom could be correlated with the Kundalini serpent. The chase was on, and in Carl Jung's four lectures on "Psychological Commentary on Kundalini Yoga" Dr. Gad found an important argument in favor of her intuitive interpretation of the Major Arcana Trumps XI - XX. This led to Part III on Tarot and Kundalini (Part I being The Lightening Flash (Tarot and Cabala); Part II being The Path of the Serpent (Tarot and Alchemy).

Other additions to the 2004 revision of Tarot and Individuation include a new spread in the Divination Appendix, taken from Rosemary Guiley and Robert M. Place's The Alchemical Tarot. Dr. Gad calls this spread "The Transcendent Function Spread", and presents it as a tool for looking into the underlying aspects of relationships and conflict. Relationship - personal, familiar and business - being an area that, like it or not, comes up in many Tarot readings, this spread gifts the reader with a wonderful tool for helping their clients - or themselves! The existing section on Alchemy and the Tarot also underwent growth, due to another "Aha!" experience - one regarding prima materia (the beginning of the work) being identical to the philosophers stone (the end result of the work).

Part I (The Lightening Flash) does a thorough job of discussing the Tree of Life, the four worlds, and the triads involved. Each of the first ten Tarot Trumps is presented in depth (from the perspective of individuation, rather than that of divination). Included are the corresponding Hebrew letter, as well as themes, associations and correspondences, which include: an ideogram for each card, the Cabalistic and Alchemical amplifications, Psychological and Jungian interpretations.

Part II (The Path of the Serpent) gives us an in depth look at Tarot and Alchemy. Dr. Gad presents enough background on Alchemy to make it both interesting (which is invariably is anyway!) and understandable. The four elements (Fire, Water, Air and Earth) are tossed into a mix including Sulfur, Mercury and Salt, the twelve numbers (1-12), and the seven metals (Gold, Silver, Quicksilver, Copper, Iron, Tin and Lead). The Tarot Trumps XI-XXI and Trump 0 (The Fool) are presented in the same manner as were Trumps I-X: the corresponding Hebrew letter, an ideogram, Cabalistic and Alchemical amplifications, Psychological and Jungian interpretations.

Part III (The Path of the Serpent and Kundalini) is an extraordinary presentation. Here we see Jung's thoughts on the chakra's and Kundalini energy. Words cannot begin to express what one single, simple graphic conveys: in your mind, superimpose the Serpent of Kundalini rising over a graphic of the Lightening Flash on the Tree of Life. Thought provoking and definitely awe inspiring!

Appendices are included for Astrological correspondences to the Tarot Trumps, and an in depth section on Tarot and divination, where Dr. Gad presents a comprehensive array of Tarot spreads (from single card spreads to spreads including all of the Major Arcana.

Aside from being one of the best Tarot resources I have ever seen, Tarot and Individuation is easy (and fun!) to read. There are numerous charts and graphics, and intriguing scans from old alchemical texts that show some of the comparisons between alchemical imagery and the imagery contained in traditional Tarot decks. If you are at all interested in Tarot and individuation, this book needs to be in your library.

© 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.

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