Is There a Secret Path in the Tarot?


The answer to that is probably both, “yes,” and, “no.”

It would seem to me that it’s, “no,” if you’re looking for some clearly delineated path that involves going to point A, learning it’s lessons, then being prepared to move to point B because of what you learned at point A, then moving on to point C because of what you learned at point B, and so on.

In other words, starting at The Fool and learning it’s esoteric lessons which then enables you to understand the esoteric lessons involved in The Magician, which in turn gives you the knowledge to understand The High Priestess, etc.

Occultists have been chasing their own tails trying to find some sort of linear path in the Major Arcana at least since Victorian times.  Many of them linked the cards with systems of numerology or astrology. A.E. Waite was so determined to make them fit into his numerological scheme that  he actually switched the placement of the Strength and Justice cards so that they’d be in accordance with his theory.

And it IS kind of tempting to try to see some sort of a pattern.  At the beginning or the Major Arcana it actually looks like some of the cards fit together.  The Magician and The High Priestess certainly might be male and female energy in magic. The Empress and the Emperor seem to go together, at least in name.  But then that goes to shit because The Hierophant certainly doesn’t fit with The Lovers or The Chariot with Strength.

The astronomical cards are sort of grouped together, with The Star, The Moon, and The Sun in sequence.  But then the Judgement card gets thrown in between them and The World, which messes that up.

And that’s the deal with the Major Arcana:  if you squint your eyes and turn your head sideways you can see all sorts of patterns in them.  I’ve seen books where they were divided into thirds with each third being a separate path. Or where one card was linked to the card that fell four places behind it.  All SORTS of wonderful, creative schemes that pretty much seem to lead nowhere.

So I don’t think we can say that there is a path in the Tarot, at least not in the sense that the classical occultists like Waite and Levi and Crowley would have loved.  But if there isn’t A PATH there are some definite trails which we could call Doctrines.

The Fool, for instance, contains the truth of being intoxicated with the spirit world.  The Magician embodies the occult maxim of, “as above, so below,” and reminds us that we create on the astral plane what comes to be in the material plane.  The Wheel of Fortune is a perfect diagram of karma operating in our lives. The World reminds of the truth of rebirth and reincarnation.

There are a lot of truths contained in the cards and, taken together, they point us to a different way of experiencing the world and a different way of living.  To make a path out of them, though, we have to connect the dots ourselves. Ultimately, the path is in us, not in the cards.