Tarot and The Tree of Life
The 22 Pathways and Tarot’s Major Arcana
There are 22 pathways that connect the ten sefirot or ‘cosmic chakras’ on The Tree of Life which we can imagine emerging in a lightening flash pattern from Keter (Spark) pictured at the top of the tree, and descending to The Pillar of Expansion on the right and then across to The Pillar of Reception on the left, down through seven levels and concluding at Malchut (Physicality).
Each of the pathways has a unique energy. As spiritual beings on a human journey we are ‘earth born and heaven sent. At one and the same time we are both infinite and temporal. The infinite aspect of ourselves is our essence, the vertical, inner dimension of the Eternal now, unfettered by limitation, without beginning or ending. It is symbolized the Central Pillar of Balance.
Our temporal nature is represented by the two outer pillars. Our ego-driven temporality are ruled by clocks and calendars of our own creation. The ancient Greeks symbolized the eternal dimension of time as Kairos and the temporal dimensions of time as Chronos. Between the two, we seek our balance.
The numbering of the pathways offered here is an arbitrary one, referring us the spectrum of possibility that exists on each path. The diagram and numbering system evolved for me as I worked on The Syzygy Oracle, where each of the pathways are seen as steps on a cyclical route that returns to where it began. The first 11 pathways lead down the Tree and final 11 return the sojourner to the place of beginnings.
This circular route differs from more traditional numbering that takes us on a linear journey from start to finish — from top to bottom. Each card (including the cards of the Minor Arcana) will reflect in a different way on each path, affected as it is by the ‘cosmic chakras’ on either end of the path.
For example, The Empress on Path 15 that runs between Harmony and Tradition may wish to honor the traditions of love that are familiar to the group— perhaps traditional views of marriage; if she is placed on Path 7, between Harmony and Innovation, she may encourage new ways of honoring love by validating same-sex relationships.
As we place each card on a pathway, we sense where we personally feel most closely connected at that moment— to one end of the spectrum or the other, as we attempt to find our balance between the two extremes. This will change from day to day.
The Downward Journey Into Experience
Between Spark and Wisdom we have the opportunity to open to that inner knowing, beyond anything we have learned. On this pathway we intuit an inner connection between Source and awareness. The impulse to create is as a mysterious flash that sparks into the darkness of our own unknowing. Wisdom to Spark is the path of recognizing the flask and inspiration with gratitude for the miraculous.
The central harmonizing path from Spark to Harmony represents Kairos, magical, mythic and mystical— ‘once-upon-a-time and faraway.’ On this pathway, we are in ‘the zone’ where everything is perfectly aligned and we know, without doubt, that the Universe is unfolding as it should. These moments of consciousness are brief and illuminating, giving the us opportunity to experience our true joy, connection and one-ness. An energy of well-being runs both ways on this pathway.
This spectrum is pathway to service-over-self, a place of recognition of beauty and resonance, within and without. It is other-directed, unlimited and joyful and is our birthright. It aligns us with beauty, synchronicity and symmetry.
Compassion is the ‘cosmic chakra’ that engages our highest ideal— our goodness and our gratitude. Wisdom offers the innate path to recognizing the underlying patterns of commonality we all share— our oneness and our similitude. This is a pathway of wholeness and completion and the goal of the spiritual seeker. To base all of our decisions on a balance between these two dimensions would ensure that we create a world worthy of our children whom we raise to be ready for a wise and compassionate world.
Compassion to Harmony offers the celebration of a spiritual community that celebrates diversity and so honors life. This vibration increases the well-being of the human family living in balance with one another and the natural world, simultaneously and equally honoring the individuality and commonality that enriches life’s experiences for all.
This is an exciting path that invites us to discover new ways of expressing the essence of who we are. Just as all traditions are expression of a particular time, place and consciousness, here we experiment with what is exactly right for here and now. In this moment of conscious evolution, we are learning to move towards inclusivity and group consciousness and away from isolated exclusivity.
This pathway keeps our new ways of expression in keeping with the good of the whole. As Harmony blends individual needs in balance, the greater plan is reflected in the elements that compose it.
Here we find limitless opportunities to express ourselves in the archetypal roles we play as we discover who we are. Like all other paths to and from Harmony, the bigger picture is in the foreground into which all details must harmonize.
This pathway brings creativity down into a denser vibration as new and exciting images are sorted, categorized and compared to the familiar imagery of myth, story, projection and dreams that we each individually amass during our sojourn on the earth. It is the bridge where creativity meets imagination and reflects the level of our own spiritual maturity.
This is the pathway and process of manifestation— using the abilities we have, we create a tangible new form of our own belief system. It offers a path to continually revise how we express ourselves. At the same time, physicality informs our imaginative life, and just as on all of the paths, we seek a sense of balance that will differ from day to day.
Physicality to Imagery is the mechanism of bringing belief into manifestation. As we believe, so we imagine, as we imagine so we create.
The journey down the Tree is fulfilled— our challenge is to return to where we started, with the awareness and experience gained in physical vibration and reality. Now the return commences.
The Return Journey To Meaning and Maturation
This pathway dictates so much of our normative behavior. It is a limiting pathway because it offers they way things have always been done. We honor all that has already been experienced and learned and build on the learned behaviors of those who have gone before us.
This pathway is ignited by imagination. As we believe, so we imagine, as we imagine so we create. In looking to heroes of the present and past, we set our goals that will allow us to be remembered as we would wish; we make our mark by standing appreciatively on the shoulders of those who came before. Here we balance our ingenuity with potential limits to our creativity and authenticity in terms of the spiritual development and mores of the community in which we find ourselves.
Innovation to Tradition provides the balance between expressing a new, personal authenticity and honoring the traditions on which the family and culture have relied in the past. A satisfying and creative life is found in balancing the gifts of both. Our consciousness is now calling on us to build on inclusivity in all that we do and expand the limits and boundaries of earlier experiences.
Tradition to Harmony is the pathway that is tried and true. It gives us the opportunity to make peace in our world through methods that have been tested and found reliable in bringing people and ideas together for the common good.
This is a pathway of discernment. We honor those on whose shoulders we stand, and discover who we are from the family and culture out of which we emerge; at the same time at this point in the evolution of consciousness, we assess where our traditional values express inclusivity and strengthen those beliefs; where they teach any form of exclusivity— an ‘ us/them’ ideology — we need to remodel and reform our identities into a celebration of our oneness— not sameness, oneness.
This pathway is the one we walk as we find the power of our own voices— our individual strength that allows us to express who we are as we add our unique gifts to the creation a community of respect. It takes courage to not only stand up for all in which we believe, but to recognize that we need to take on the responsibility of also speaking up for the voiceless among us.
This spans the emotional realm that many spiritual teachers suggest is the reason we incarnate. To experience and know the full range of emotions and to find balance between Compassion and Strength is the first step to transforming humankind to humane-kind.
Understanding to Harmony offers a pathway be celebrate our unity and commonality. In appreciating the Oneness that underlies our experience, we recognize who we are and our purpose in incarnating.
This pathway calls our commonality to the fore. We remember that we judge no-one till we have walked a mile in their moccasins. Understanding requires stepping into our own strength and authenticity and consciously choosing the best course of action (rather than reaction) that is most appropriate in any given circumstance.
This pathway spans the intellectual realm. Whereas Wisdom is the receptacle for unexpected insights and inspiration, Understanding represents the gestating of our perceptions and inklings of something new and novel that is ready to unfold. Such processing makes the new insight usable.
This pathway offers us the opportunity to expand the wisdom we have processed. Here is the chance to appreciate the power of intuition and intention that enriches our lives.