I hear you asking, “A Jung Platform course on the Tarot? Isn’t that fortune telling? What next, tea leaves?” My only response: perhaps!
Among the many orthodox and heterodox psychological concepts that Jung explored, divination and its companion, synchronicity, are part of the Jungian canon. Rather than being surprised at this, it is helpful to see Jung’s wide-ranging interests, including not only divination but also alchemy, flying saucers, and discussions of religion, soul, and spirit, as a testimony to the power of Analytical Psychology as a discipline as well as a therapeutic method.
Anything that interested or influenced the human being at any time in recorded history, and even in archaeologically derived pre-history, was fair game for Jung as he sought to articulate his singular vision of human suffering and healing. Jung believed that the unconscious, the powerful reservoir of resources that could reveal causes and solutions for life’s problems, was composed not only of unprocessed material from one’s personal life, stored for later exploration in what is called the personal unconscious. The unconscious also contained collective elements based not on any individual’s personal experience, but simply present in the unconscious by virtue of being alive. This aspect of the unconscious Jung called “collective”, and the contents of the collective unconscious Jung came to call “archetypes”.
One of the gifts of the Jungian paradigm is that every experience can be viewed not only from the personal perspective, but also as a space/time expression of the timeless archetypal ground. This means that all personal experience is built upon an archetypal foundation, and efforts to understand “my” personal experience is simultaneously an exploration of the collective unconscious. Self-knowledge can be obtained through intense scrutiny of one’s personal history, or through reflection on one’s life through the various means used in Jungian psychology: dreamwork, as well as discerning projections, displacements, parapraxes, somatizations, and synchronicities. Divination, including the I Ching, about which Jung wrote extensively, and the Tarot, mentioned only in a few places in Jung’s writings, were examples of synchronistic experiences that, because of the symbolic nature of the material, could reveal things about one’s life journey that are not available through any other means.
The Tarot, a deck of seventy-eight cards containing images both personal and archetypal, has been used for at least a thousand years around the world. People consulted the Tarot to understand the present moment as well as the past and the future. For Jungians, this isn’t as much of a stretch as it may seem to modern sensibilities. Jung taught that every situation, particularly those in which the individual experiences suffering, has both a cause in the person’s past, and a purpose, a pull, toward a future situation which would resolve the suffering and reveal its meaning. This aspect of human suffering was referred to as the “telos” by Jung. The word “telos”, a transcription of the Greek τέλος, means “end, purpose, or goal”. Before Jung assimilated the term to his own psychology, it was used by Aristotle as one of the classical forms of causality, along with initial causality (which is what we mean by “cause” in modern usage), formal causality, and material causality.
The telos of an event implies that everything that we experience is tending toward a goal in the future. For Jung, the process of individuation, the term he used to refer to psychological growth and healing, required a discernment not only of personal historical causes for suffering, but also the acceptance that one’s suffering had a purpose, guiding the sufferer toward a future state that would relieve the suffering in some way and allow the experience to be integrated into a larger whole. Any means that could help with this process, including exploring tools of divination, was considered relevant for Jungian analysis to consider.
In October and November of this year, I will be teaching a Jung Platform webinar on the Tarot. The webinar will include the study of the Tarot using the Rider-Waite-Smith deck that is the most popular and readily available. The webinar will also explore the relationship of the different parts of the Tarot to elements of Jungian psychology, including the structure and dynamics of the personal and collective unconscious, typology, and the synchronistic context in which divination in general, and the Tarot in particular, can be given a place of honor as a therapeutic tool to further the process of individuation. Several ways of reading the Tarot will be explained, and ample time will be given for questions from the participants related to course content and other areas of relevant interest. I hope you will join me in this exploration via the Jung Platform Webinar Jungian Perspective on the Tarot. The webinar will be held on five Saturdays: October 23, 30; November 6, 13, 20, 2021 at 11 AM Eastern/10 AM Central/9 AM Mountain/8 AM Pacific time. The webinar will be recorded for later viewing.
Kenneth James, Ph.D. is a Jungian analyst in private practice in Chicago, Illinois. He received a Ph.D. in Communicative Sciences and Disorders from Northwestern University, and a Diploma in Analytical Psychology from the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago. Along the way, he studied vocal music at the American Conservatory of Music, and learned a modality of music therapy known as The Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music at the Institute for Consciousness and Music in Baltimore, Maryland.More Posts by Ken James