What is the Tarot?
"...Metatron, the Prince of the Presence, said to Moses: "Receive the  letters [of Tarot and Kabbalah]..." - The Third Book of Enoch.
Throughout history, humanity has periodically received teachings from highly developed individuals to help us rise up from our state of suffering into a higher way of being.
All of our religions and mystical traditions have taught us the same wisdom, because all of them emerged from the same source: the root divinity of existence, which is deep within us, but we remain unaware of it.
Thousands of years ago, the angel Metatron gave to humanity the Tarot and the Hebrew letters, a precious set of knowledge containing the keys to liberation from suffering. Those keys help the instructed to access the root divinity within them, and gain knowledge to help them conquer the causes of suffering, and also help those who remain in ignorance. Yet, to protect the uninstructed from harm, those keys were “encoded,” and given in a language only the instructed would know: the language of the higher worlds.
The language of the higher worlds is a language of archetypes. It is the language of the world of dreams. It is a language of analogies, intuition, and inspiration. The book of Revelation was written in the same language: the language of symbols.
The teaching Metatron gave is hidden in the images and symbols of the Tarot. For thousands of years, the symbols of the Tarot have been silently preserved, in a variety of ways, always hidden, rarely understood.
In ancient times, the Tarot was among the highest secrets of the mystical traditions, and was completely unknown to the public. Unfortunately, some cunning people stole and modified a portion of the protected teachings, and over the centuries that stolen knowledge passed through Egypt, Arabia, and finally into Europe, eventually becoming what we popularly refer to as the Tarot: a deck of cards marked by seemingly obscure images and symbols. Over the centuries, it degenerated. It was re-arranged, misinterpreted, misused...
Being so far removed from their source, very few contemporary Tarot decks accurately reflect the teachings of Metatron. Nevertheless, nowadays people believe that the Tarot cards they found in the marketplace or on the Internet are the “best” and “authentic” Tarot. The reality is that the Tarot decks of recent centuries are at best merely decayed remnants of what was stolen long ago, or worse (and very common now), outright inventions of confused people, which, as you would correctly infer, are truly useless.
Understandably, since for centuries only degenerated Tarot decks were available to them, the “experts” on the Tarot have been in disagreement with each other, contradicting each other, and even contradicting themselves. From them sprang innumerable schools and movements, each convinced they had the ultimate authentic teaching, meanwhile their groups fell victim to gossip, infighting, politics, scandals — what about the power of their supposedly accurate knowledge? As the great Master Jesus advised us,
“By their fruits you will know them.”
The chief fruit of genuine spiritual knowledge is the creation of real human beings, people with mastery over themselves and nature, people who radiate love towards all beings, have profound insight into difficult problems, heroic patience and compassion, brilliant diligence and humility, temperance and purity, and most of all, supreme tolerance for the faults of the rest of us. By this measure we should judge what knowledge and teachers we deem worthy of guiding our spiritual development, and furthermore, how to understand the Tarot.
In this new era, the doors to the real Tarot have been opened to humanity. Now, with the revelation and availability of all the sacred teachings that were hidden for so long, much that was unknown is now easy to find, thereby revealing many mistakes that had spread throughout spiritual groups. Rather than holding as perfect that which is from the past, we should understand that much of what was taught in the past was flawed, incomplete, even useless. Where we find contradiction or mistakes, it is due to ignorance, bad information, wrong assumptions, mistaken ideas. It is necessary for us to be willing to throw out our mistaken ideas if we want to get past them to find the reality. Spiritual realization is a process of realizing what we have been wrong about! If we are unwilling to change, then our lives will also never change.
The Purpose of the Tarot
Just as humanity has done in so many cases, all that is sacred about the Tarot has been forgotten, and it has been reduced to a distraction, a way to cheat the foolish out of their money, or a way to entertain oneself. The modern use of the Tarot — for profit, distraction, and amusement — is as far from its true purpose as are the great temples of Egypt as tourist attractions. They were not made for that. Neither is the Tarot for playing around, fortune-telling, or making money. The Tarot is an ancient, sacred method of acquiring information for spiritual insight. It is personal. It is intimate. It is something that one should keep private, sacred, holy.
Metatron gave the Tarot and the Hebrew letters to humanity so that we, who are so confused and blinded by our psychological state, could have some way of acquiring reliable information.
“An imprisoned person with no other book than the Tarot, if he knew how to use it, could in a few years acquire universal knowledge, and would be able to speak on all subjects with unequaled learning and inexhaustible eloquence.” — Eliphas Levi
The Tarot represents the laws of all things, thus the Tarot can be used to understand anything: science, religion, nature... But the most important use is to understand ourselves.
Anyone can use the Tarot to understand the forces at work in their lives, and get guidance regarding what they must do. However, being a way of receiving guidance from the divine within us, one must understand that the divine has absolutely no interest in our terrestrial ridiculousness.
“The Innermost will not reply to an ordinary question, for It does not interest Itself in the personality’s world of illusion.” — M, The Dayspring of Youth
Our Innermost Being — our internal divinity — cares for our spiritual development, thus if you want to experience the reality of the Tarot, you should use it to focus on your spiritual development, too.
The Science and Philosophy of the Tarot
In spite of our troubled history, the real Tarot continues to exist, and has never changed. What we have in our hands that we call “the Tarot” is just a symbol that reflects the real Tarot. The real Tarot is not physical. Similarly, the flag of a country is not that country. Just so, as accurate as our physical Tarot decks may or may not be, they are not the Tarot itself, since it exists in the internal worlds. The Tarot in the internal worlds is a “living art” that cannot be reproduced in the physical world. Nevertheless, we need our physical deck to be as accurate as possible, else we will be confused. The Tarot is a language of symbols: if we have a mistaken dictionary and a mistaken alphabet, we will never understand what we are being told.
The real Tarot is not from one culture, time, or place. It is a teaching originating from where all things originate, thus it contains within it the laws and functions of all existing things. The real Tarot represents laws of nature. It represents how nature works.
“The universe was made with the laws of numbers, measurements, and weight. Mathematics forms the universe, and the numbers become living entities.” — Samael Aun Weor, Tarot and Kabbalah
Those who aspire to perfection do so by mastering nature, firstly within themselves. For that, one must know the laws of nature perfectly. The Tarot provides the map.
The real Tarot symbolizes the archetypes of the laws of nature in a mathematical, symbolic way. Just as a written number represents a factor in an equation, each Tarot card is a factor in an equation. When you ask a question and use the Tarot to get an answer, the result is an equation and its sum. Each part of the equation is relevant. Each factor has meaning and importance.
There are seventy-eight arcana or factors, which are divided in two groups. The first twenty-two factors are the Major Arcana. The remaining fifty-six factors are the Minor Arcana.
Each factor is a function in nature, not just physical nature, but the subtlest dimensions of existence, far beyond what we know here as thought, feeling, or sensation. Thus, each arcanum is related to laws, dimensions, energies, forces, intelligences. All of that is condensed and synthesized in what people today call “Kabbalah.”
The Tarot is Kabbalah, and Kabbalah is the Tarot. Kabbalah is the science of numbers. Tarot is the science of numbers. They are like our two hands: the same, but different, and when used together, they are capable of anything.
Each arcanum is a factor in an equation, and thus each arcanum is numerical, symbolic, astrological, intuitive. Yet this “Kabbalah” is not Jewish, or even Western, it is universal. Real Kabbalah, like the real Tarot, is just laws of Nature, which every religion has viewed and studied using their own words.
When Metatron gave the ancient ones the teaching of the Tarot, he also gave the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The Tarot cannot be separated from Hebrew, and vice versa. The alphabet of the ancient Hebrew scriptures is constituted of twenty-two primary letters: each letter is represented by an arcanum in the Tarot. So, the entire structure of the Jewish and Christian religions can be found in the Tarot. Yet, modern spiritual leaders have lost sight of this, and guess at the interpretations of their scriptures. If they knew the Tarot as given by the Angel Metatron, their religions would be much more useful and effective.
Nevertheless, the Tarot is not a Western invention — it is universal — thus even Asian spiritual traditions reflect the laws of the Tarot. For example, the twelve stages of the life of Buddha Shakyamuni are undeniably structured from the first twelve arcana of the Tarot.
All religious and mythological traditions are reflections of the primordial archetypes. The Tarot shows us how the archetypes are arranged and relate to each other, and to our lives.
“The Tarot cards must be considered (1) as separate and complete hieroglyphs, each representing a distinct principle, law, power, or element in Nature; (2) in relation to each other as the effect of one agent operating upon another; and (3) as vowels and consonants of a philosophic alphabet. The laws governing all phenomena are represented by the symbols upon the Tarot cards, whose numerical values are equal to the numerical equivalents of the phenomena. As every structure consists of certain elemental parts, so the Tarot cards represent the components of the structure of philosophy. Irrespective of the science or philosophy with which the student is working, the Tarot cards can be identified with the essential constituents of his subject, each card thus being related to a specific part according to mathematical and philosophical laws.” — Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages
Each arcanum has levels and levels of meaning. Knowing the Tarot is mathematics, one knows that a factor cannot be understood in isolation, but only by its relation with other factors. So, every arcanum has to be seen in relation with other factors, because everything is interdependent in life. The Tarot reflects and reveals the interdependence of all things.
Try for a moment to use your imagination: look outward and become aware of everything that exists in all of the universes outside of you — all the people, animals, plants, minerals, atoms, and the planets, moons, suns, solar systems, galaxies, universes; now also imagine the universes that are inside of you: the worlds of dreams, memories, thoughts, feelings… All of that together — how it is all created, is sustained and changes, and how it dies and is born anew — is reflected in the Tarot. Existence, life, nature, the universe — none of this is simple. Neither is the Tarot simple, or a plaything for simpletons.
Each arcanum is numbered and named, and has corresponding mathematical, astrological, and philosophical significance. That is what the rest of this book provides: a complete introduction to the basic correspondences for each arcanum.
However, you must understand something clearly: each arcanum is only a doorway to the real Tarot in the internal worlds. That is, the number, name, planet, etc., of each arcanum are only like signposts: they are not the place the sign points towards. When you get an arcanum as an answer, you have to then go to the place that is indicated. You have to meditate and comprehend. Merely noting the card or its correspondences in your mind has no real benefit. Whatever information you store in your head is unreliable and fleeting. You will forget it later today, or in a few days, maybe longer: but no matter how good your memory, you will forget that information when you die. On the other hand, when you meditate and truly comprehend what the arcanum teaches, that knowledge, that comprehension, becomes part of your very soul. You will never forget it, even after death. This illustrates the key point: intellectual analysis has limited value. Comprehension is priceless. Intellectual knowledge is of the brain. Comprehension is of the heart.
The twenty-two Major Arcana are the spinal column of the Tarot. They are the base structure, the root. Each arcanum is a number, a letter, a symbol, a law. They are immutable, eternal. Yet, in the physical world, the images of the cards have been changed, hidden, modified, lost. Most significantly, the 21st and 22nd arcana were switched. What people in the physical world have been mistakenly calling “The Fool” or zero card is actually the Twenty-first Arcanum, Transmutation, related to the Hebrew letter ש shin. It is followed by the final Major Arcanum, The Crown, related to the Hebrew letter ת tav. This correction is immediately understandable to those who understand the Hebrew letters and their Kabbalistic significance, thereby illustrating that the Tarot cannot be studied separately from Kabbalah, nor vice versa.
Furthermore, very few Tarot decks retain the original fifty-six Minor Arcana, which should be numbered and named in the same manner as the Major Arcana; for example, the Twenty-fourth Minor Arcanum is “The Weaver.” So, in the real Tarot in the internal worlds, the Minor Arcana are not known as Cups, Wands, Staves, etc., as is commonly used today.
You can learn more about all of this in the book Tarot and Kabbalah by Samael Aun Weor.
The Art and Religion of the Tarot
Art is communication. The highest art is the communication between the soul and the spirit. The Tarot can facilitate that art, by showing the soul how to hear what the spirit communicates. The soul who learns that no longer requires a Tarot deck, or any other intermediary.
Religion is not belief, dogma, or ritual, but how the spirit and soul are united (the word religion comes from religare, “to reunite,” like yoga, from yug, “to unite”). The ultimate purpose of the Tarot is to help us cast off the causes of suffering and reunite with the root of genuine happiness, our true nature. Real religion is not a belief — it is an experience of unity with the divine.
The archetypes are within us. The divinity within us can use the Tarot to educate us in the language of the internal worlds, and to guide us in our awakening. We do not need to remain in spiritual darkness. The masters have given us the tools to awaken. The Tarot is one of the tools, but we need an accurate Tarot, and we need to know how to use it wisely.
The Tarot is a sacred tool that should be treated with the highest respect, and utilized only in very important cases.
“Many persons use the Tarot in an experimental manner, and that is why they act wrongly.” — Samael Aun Weor, Tarot and Kabbalah
The first and most important use of the Tarot is as a reference for interpretation of meditation and dream experiences. By understanding the symbolism of the arcana, one can interpret dreams and visions accurately. Furthermore, by meditation on the arcana, one can receive more information. For example, a dream of a lion may be related to the Arcana 11 or 5.
Secondly, it is possible to use the cards for prediction and investigation. The method is simple, and is explained later in this book. Simply be aware that it is necessary to meditate profoundly on the answer received.
The terrestrial mind will usually not understand the answer, and will want to ask again. Don’t do it! God does not have problems with hearing or memory, and knows what you need to hear. Ask once, then seek to understand the answer given. Set aside the foolish mind. It is necessary to comprehend the answer intuitively, with the powers of the heart. Meditate, reflect, and pray. Watch your dreams. Be patient.
Having a respectful and humble attitude facilitates the accuracy and dependability of the Tarot. Those who use the Tarot as a business, game, or to ask superficial questions, will not be answered by the divine, and will instead fall into deeper confusion. Your Innermost Being — who is the one who will answer your inquiry — will not respond to the desires, manipulations, or interests of your desires.
One has to use the Tarot cards as though literally standing in the presence of Deity. In that presence, one would not ask stupid questions, but only questions of great importance.
An answer is precious, sacred. Treat it as such. Show respect and gratitude. Treat the Tarot as a sacred tool, and the answers you get will be sacred. Treat it disrespectfully or casually, and you will get nothing from it.
Upon receiving an answer, meditate and reflect upon it as though one had gone up with Moses to see the Living God face to face, and been told what to do. Whatever one was told —as inexplicable and mysterious the answer may have been — one would value it, and reflect upon it until understanding blooms in the heart.
When we get an answer, the resulting arcana provide intuitive and numerical guidance that can be investigated in scripture and in meditation for more details. This simple method can guide us even through very difficult problems.
The Tarot should never be used as a way of making money. Fortune-tellers are mere circus acts. The Innermost Being — who provides the answers to the deserving — is not a circus performer!
“We knew a man named John. He was an excellent theurgist! He knew how to consciously travel in his astral body.
“One night, a most peaceful, silent night, John left his physical body, and invoked the Holy Spirit... Suddenly a marvelous bird, a white dove of ineffable whiteness, with the head of a venerable elder and a long white beard, deliciously floated above the head of the theurgist. This big and beautiful, pure dove, with the head of a venerable elder, was something to see and admire! The white dove settled upon the shoulders of John’s friend, and chanted wise counsel in his ear. Later, the dove of ineffable whiteness, with the head of a venerable elder, stood before John. Enraptured in ecstasy, John as a good disciple, questioned the Holy Spirit, ‘Oh my Lord, my God, tell me… how am I doing? ... Am I doing well?’
“The white dove, taking the shape of a sublime human figure, filled with love, spoke, ‘My son, you are not doing well!’
“Surprised, John asked again, ‘Lord, tell me, why am I not doing well?’
“And the Holy Spirit declared, ‘I am healing one of your patients [students], an ill woman who is your responsibility. Thus, you are not the one healing her [mind, heart, body]. I am the one doing it, and yet you have charged her money! That money you received should be returned. It was given to you with much sacrifice on her part!’
In consternation, John answered, “Lord, if I return that money, will I then be on the right path?’
“The venerable elder affirmed, ‘Yes, then you will be doing well, very well!’” — Samael Aun Weor, Logos Mantra Theurgy
Only a very awakened master can accurately interpret the Tarot for others. Since we are all so asleep and easily confused, it is best to not rely on others for interpreting the Tarot. Your Innermost Being is within you, thus you need to learn to listen, interpret, and understand your own experiences. That is why we should also avoid doing Tarot readings for others: we scarcely know our own karma and our own Being; how can we know the karma, psyche, or destiny of another? It is better to encourage others to develop their own spiritual skills, and learn to listen to their own Innermost. Spiritual development is about learning to know the Innermost and rely on the Self. Start now. Do not rely on other people: rely on your Innermost.
Nothing in life comes free, especially in spiritual life. Everything of real value must be earned. This is also true of answers from the divine. When you really need an answer to a question, find a way to earn it. Learn how to work with the power of the scale: cause and effect, the law of karma. Do good deeds. Pay your karmic debts. Sacrifice your desires and your defects. Choose the virtuous action over the selfish one. In this way, one gains the right to ask and be answered. To one whom nothing is owed, nothing is paid. This is how all the great masters became so: by sacrificing themselves for others, thereby becoming incarnations of the highest intelligence in the universe: love.
The Symbols of the Tarot
The cards presented here have a particular structure and symbolic language. While the style of the art is reminscent of ancient Egyptian culture, the Tarot did not originate with the Egyptians, nor is it limited to their religion, culture, or timeframe. Rather, the arcana are merely viewed here through an Egyptian frame of view. Furthermore, the figures depicted should not be viewed literally for their race, gender, culture, stature, or any physical characteristic. They are symbolic, not literal.
Some may remark upon the prevalance of bare breasted women in these arcana. Again, this is symbolic. The bare breast is an ancient symbol with many levels of meaning. For example, in the Second Arcanum, her breast symbolizes how the Divine Mother nourishes her child (the soul) with wisdom. In addition, in Hebrew, the word for breast is דש, which is part of “El Shaddai,” a Hebrew name of God. There is deep meaning here, and you can learn more at glorian.org.
Each arcana is illustrated with letters, numbers, glyphs, and symbols. It is worth becoming familiar with them, especially the numbers and the Hebrew letters. Incidentally, many of the glyphs in the upper portion of each card are merely alternate ways of drawing the relevant Hebrew letter. Speaking of the different parts of each card, it is important to know that each arcana depicts the four worlds of Kabbalah.
Kabbalah provides a view of creation and existence based upon a division into four levels, which are beautifully illustrated in this verse from the Bible:
“Everyone that is  called by My name, and  whom I created for My glory,  I formed him, yea  I made him.” — Isaiah / Yeshayahu 43:7
These four levels are called the Four Worlds, and outline a conceptual view of how subtle, latent potentialalites become manifested into physical form. The first world relates to the highest, most subtle level, and the lowest world relates to the physical world, while the middle two illustrate the stages towards full manifestation.
1. Atziluth, the world of archetypes or emanations, the level of potentialities or “blueprints.” Example: In the sperm and ovum are the possibilities for a child. Yet, this remains only a possibility, and is not manifested. Everyone has this within, but not everyone has children. More to the point, everyone has the potential within them to become a complete human being, but very few do so.
2. Briah, the world of creation. Example: the father and mother unite sexually and the embryo of a human being is created. That which was possible is propelled towards becoming formed.
3. Yetzirah, the world of formation. Example: the child is formed in the womb for nine months.
4. Assiah, the world of action. Example: the child is born into the physical world.
Knowing this, it is then easy to see that the upper third of each card corresponds to Atziluth, the world of archetypes.
The middle third of each card corresponds to Briah, the world of creation.
The lower third of each card corresponds to Yetzirah, the world of formation.
Finally, the card itself corresponds to Assiah, the world of matter.
Therefore, the symbols in each portion of the card relate to the corresponding Kabbalistic world.
You can find more detailed information about the symbols, letters, glyphs, and meanings of each card in Tarot and Kabbalah by Samael Aun Weor.
May the light of your Innermost guide you to liberation from suffering, and may you in turn help others to become free!
Books about the Tarot
- Alchemy and Kabbalah in the Tarot by Samael Aun Weor
- Practical Astrology by Samael Aun Weor
- Tarot and Kabbalah by Samael Aun Weor