William Blake Tarot
Created by Ed Buryn
Reading for Group of 12 on December 31st, 2011
1st card - 2 of Science – Reflection
KEYWORDS: REFLECTION • MENTAL CHOICES • UNCERTAINTY • TENSION • AN UNEASY PEACE OR DELICATE BALANCE • CAUTION • BEGGING FOR A DECISION • WAITING • PROCRASTINATION • NEED FOR COMPROMISE • ENTRYWAY •
2nd card - 10 of Science – Defeat
This card shows three figures encircled by serpents of death, falling head-first into a pit of fire. Two faces peer out from the flames, while eagles circle overhead. In Blake’s plot, Urizen, furious with the other Eternals for opposing him, consigns them in his mind to “unquenchable burnings.”
In this view, the divine qualities in man are defeated by the forces of tyranny, and are painfully lost in the infernal abyss of materialism. Likewise, you may find yourself entangled in the slander or machinations of others, and headed for a fall. This could arise from being ‘too smart for your own good’, or from unavoidable situations reflecting your worst fears. If defeat is inevitable, you can still surrender with grace, your thoughts imaginatively circling above. The two faces peering from the flames are the perennially contending spirits of life who ritually defeat each other: the one on the left, old and wizened, represents repression and loss; the other is young and leonine, representing energy and life.
In the creative process, this is when difficulties consume you, and your work goes down in flames. Defeat is a form of intellectual bondage, and must be transcended. Physical or materialistic suffering is the quickest path to spiritual breakthrough.
KEYWORDS: INTELLECTUAL DEFEAT • SPIRITUAL VICTORY • DESCENT INTO PERSONAL HELL • HUNG-UP OVER MATERIALISTIC FEARS • WRAPPED IN VICES • ACCEPTANCE AND RESIGNATION • SACRIFICE AND SURRENDER • DEFEAT OF THE REASONING SELF • MISFORTUNE • RUIN • ADDICTION •
3rd card - 6 of Science – Passage
Two scenes from the book are collaged into one image. Below, Urizen explores his “dens, mountain, moor, & wilderness, with a globe of fire,” while above, a naked woman pushes back obscuring clouds to reveal the firmament. Urizen blindly strides, left foot forward, on a “fearful journey” through “forsaken mountains,” encountering “cruel enormities” and “dread terrors” writhing in the sky. His globe of imagination is enclosed by his selfishness, and its black flames provide no light. He does not see the lion, who seems ready to offer guidance or even humor (which Urizen lacks although Blake does not). The lion is our ignored instincts, and life’s exotic surprises. The unseen lion and the blackened globe represent lost opportunities, much like the classic tourist who carries the wrong luggage, overlooks
the natives, and misses all the fun. Nevertheless, this traveler pushes forward with a sense of purpose, feeling his way as he goes.
In the creative process, this shows where opportunities may be overlooked by blindly pushing forward without pausing for reassessment. Stay open to making adjustments based on new circumstances encountered in the process. Get an overview of your progress.
KEYWORDS: PASSAGE, TRAVEL • RITE OF PASSAGE • JOURNEY OF CONSCIOUSNESS • MENTAL OVERVIEW OR PERSPECTIVE • HELP FROM HIGHER UP • MOVEMENT AWAY FROM DIFFICULTIES TO RESTORE HARMONY •
4th Card - 7 of Painting – Patience
This card is a collage of two images from Blake’s Jerusalem. In the lower part, Jerusalem, who represents Liberty, sits in a Druidic landscape awaiting (or perhaps summoning) the forces of the four Zoas to emerge from the earth around her, as a new day dawns. In the upper part, a maiden in harness patiently pulls the new moon along a track of clouds into the stars.
This card signifies the need to wait until a current period of uncertainty has passed. The upper figure symbolizes time as a triple-starred female presence, harnessed to eventually bring forth the new and loving energy of the moon. The moon also symbolizes female menstruation, a time of cleansing and purification. Both figures are women, emphasizing that this is a period of creative gestation. In the lower portion, Jerusalem’s neck is bent by the weight/wait of time just above her, but her hands signify an attitude of patience and endurance. There is also the sense of opening oneself up to whatever comes. Jerusalem’s gestures go beyond mere acceptance, however. Like the figure in harness who is working to change the situation, Jerusalem’s hands show that she is an active force; they are like wands releasing the elemental powers in the situation, which will bring new freedom of action following this stage of testing and delay. This is a time during which it is difficult to get things done, but the Zoas, the “four faces of man” are now being liberated, and the dawning of the next stage is evident.
In the creative process, this is the fallow period when you must relax and wait; straining will get you nowhere. Seeds planted will emerge on their own; subconscious visions and daydreams may bring innovative solutions.
KEYWORDS: AWAITING EMERGENCE • UNCERTAINTY DESPITE MUCH WORK • FEAR OF FAILURE • APPREHENSION, TESTS AND TRIALS OF MANIFESTATION • DELAYS. SLOW GROWTH •
5th Card - 5 of Music – Melancholy
This card depicts the “unlettered Muse” of Gray’s most famous poem, “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” standing amidst several tombstones. Her finger traces the letters of the words, DUST THOU ART, beneath which the inscription says, HERE LIETH WM BLAKE. As a spirit figure, the muse touching the gravestone signifies the possession of psychic powers. The tombstones generically symbolize the death of love, emotional loss, broken vows, or plans overturned. They can also signify one’s own buried emotions. Gray’s poem is a melancholy speculation on mortality and immortality; Blake’s name upon the tomb is his own ironic gesture of empathy. Melancholy (‘black bile’) is a deep and bitter emotional sadness, often produced by the contemplation or experience of death or extreme loss. In Blake’s time, melancholy was widely believed to be the wellspring of inspiration, providing both the topic and motivation for much art.
Although Blake himself at times went woefully “walking along the darken’d valley, with silent melancholy, he believed it to be “a disease which God keep you from & all good men.” Sorrow
or grief may result in creativity, but happiness and joy are preferable, by far. Ultimately, this card declares the necessity of transcending sadness: the muse’s lyre itself connotes energy and life; and she leads with her right or spiritual foot.
In the creative process, this is when you convert the pain of disappointment or loss into artistic expression. Or it may mean letting go of something old or dead, and moving on to something new and alive. Or the let-down or dissociation that follows intense effort.
KEYWORDS: SORROWS AND REGRETS • AWARENESS OF MORTALITY • SENSITIVITY TO PSYCHIC INFLUENCES • DISAPPOINTMENT IN LOVE • DEEP EMOTIONAL CONFLICT • REPRESSED (BURIED) EMOTIONS • SPIRITUAL MATURITY • NEED TO TRANSCEND AND MOVE ON •
6th card – XIV – Forgiveness
Forgiveness corresponds to Temperance in conventional Tarot. It represents the quality of mercy depicted as Jesus, who now appears as the soul’s guide through the infernal regions yet to come. Jesus is Blake’s symbol for the human imagination, the divine power in man. To Blake, Jesus is not a religious or church figure, but the personification of an idea. Forgiving error in oneself and others is an idea so creative and powerful that most people cannot even imagine it. Forgiveness has far-reaching implications in both everyday and artistic life – because if you do not forgive others you cannot know the feeling of true joy; if you do not forgive yourself, you cannot function as an individual. Forgiveness is imagination in action. It is the root and the vine of all healing, the place of communion with all that is holy. Blake’s view of the historical Jesus disagrees with the Christian version. A lifelong Bible scholar, Blake stated that Jesus was a bastard who died a hopeless sinner. He criticized Jesus’s politics and labeled the resurrection a lie. Nevertheless, Blake was profoundly inspired by Jesus’s idea of forgiveness of sin, for it repudiated the pernicious laws of Mosaic morality, eliminated the necessity of war and violence, and rendered the judgement of good and evil irrelevant.
Forgiveness conceptually incorporates Temperance – as in the traditional card of that name. Dealing with matters in a moderate or proportionate way (temperance) is suggested here by Jesus’s hands extending over the “ambrosial fruits fetched from the tree of life” (bread) and “ambrosial drink from the fount of life” (wine) offered by angels below. It also refers to strengthening or toughening, with the fire of the sun providing spiritual tempering. And it relates to mental disposition or temperament, exemplified by the angelic choirs. In the border, the shepherds at the corners and the small angels above suggest patience at this time. Forgiveness has the power to cast out all error. It takes Transformation a step further into the alchemical transubstantiation of bread and wine into body and blood.
KEYWORDS: CREATIVE SOLUTIONS • COMPASSION • HEALING AND BEING HEALED • WORKING WITH AN INNER GUIDE • MANAGEMENT OF RESOURCES • BLENDING AND HARMONIZING • PROPORTION AND TIMING. ALCHEMICAL ARTS. RENEWAL •
Needy of forgiveness, many souls linger here to feel safe. For those who choose to go on...
7th Card - Angel of Science (Air of Air – Mind of Mind))
Ironically, this image is from the title page of a scientific textbook advocating the rational materialism that Blake despised. Therefore, this is Blake’s satiric comment on the scientific and intellectual idealism that separates us from our prophetic imagination, or soul. The card depicts a radiant temple in the sky, a veritable ‘brass tower’ of the mind whose foundations are hidden behind a bank of ephemeral clouds. The angel is apparent only as a circle of white light illuminating a geometry of Ionic precision and philosophical starkness. The breeze-blown banner asks Who would demonstrate the foundation of such a structure? This is a lofty Deistic vision, a literally classical projection of overglorified intellectuality. The Angel of Science is so abstracted that it has no human features. It is an abstract angel of air supported by a vaporous structure of mind. The muse of intellect offers you pure, objective mind coupled with clear, unemotional and unbiased thinking.
This is the part of yourself or another that believes in answer and explanation for everything, or a law by which things can be understood: absolute justice, universal principles. It is wanting to ‘know’ for knowledge’s sake. You crave mental stimulation. This is like a bright idea, a light bulb in your head. It taps the invisible power inherent in maps, diagrams, equations, measurements, relational databases and spreadsheets, so as to mediate between us and the physical world, and spirit as truth. This muse can take the form of an environment, atmosphere, or attitude conducive to mental focus.
The archangel Gabriel can be associated with the Suit of Science, for it acts as the chief messenger of God. Gabriel (‘God my strength’) is the angel of truth and celestial revelation. Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her to name her son Jesus. Although Gabriel is not related to the Angel of Science, both angels can bring fresh perspectives, or stimulate enlightening ideas. In the creative process, this is the pure inspiration that can come in a flash of transparent thought, and you are likely to know how to apply it to your work.
KEYWORDS: RATIONAL MATERIALISM • FOCUSED INVOLVEMENT WITH ABSTRACT ISSUES • ISSUES OF CLARITY VERSUS ILLUSION • SCIENTIFIC AND INTELLECTUAL IDEALISM • UNEMOTIONAL AND UNBIASED THINKING • MENTAL STIMULATION • A BRIGHT IDEA • WORKING WITH MAPS OF UNDERSTANDING • INTELLECTUAL SELF-ABSORPTION •
8th Card - Child of Music (Earth of Fire – Spirit of Passion) - This card is from a design to Gray’s poem, “The Progress of Poesy,” illustrating the lines:
Where shaggy forms o’er ice-built mountains roam,
The piping boy in leggings and wolf skins represents the primal feelings, outwardly wild and fierce, but inwardly innocent, tamed by love’s lyrical power. The starkness of the ‘ice-built mountains’ and the primitiveness of the animal skin’s ‘shaggy form’ emphasize the preciousness of the boy’s humanity and the sweetness of his private tune – he is a ‘sheep in wolf’s clothing’. Obviously oblivious to his surroundings, he communes deeply with an inner muse. No matter how barren his environment, or how crude and unkempt his raiment, his songs are intuitive expressions of his feelings, and personal communications from his dreams and subconscious mind. Although he is emotionally independent and has a thick skin, he is inwardly vulnerable and moody. His willingness to take risks for love is part of his inherent valor. He strides forward confidently with his right or loving foot, and even the menacing persona on his back proceeds with its right paw first; thus the fearsome child is on the path of goodness. The emphasis on nature symbols in this card shows its relation to elemental earth as the source of primal feelings.
This is the part of yourself or another that plays on the most primitive of feelings. You are an empath proceeding alone into the psychic realm or into dreams. Emotionally vulnerable, you may be singing the blues, and turn away from human companionship. This can be your inner child whose trust has been betrayed, and retreats into insecurity or reclusiveness. You play-act with animal magnetism to see who will respond to your wild tune. This individual may become wrapped in fantasies and illusions of reality.
In the creative process, this when you explore the possibilities of improvisation, led by heart and soul. You fall in love with your own imagination.
KEYWORDS: SELF-COMMUNICATION • BEING TOUCH WITH ONE’S OWN FEELINGS • SHARING OF VISIONS AND DREAMS VIA CREATIVE EXPRESSION • DISGUISED EMOTIONAL VULNERABILITY • WILLINGNESS TO TAKE EMOTIONAL RISKS •
9th Card - 2 of Poetry – Individuality - This image illustrates Young’s lines comparing the “mortal man”
(shown holding a hand-mirror and writing on his lap) with the “man immortal” (the angel at his right foot) and the “world’s dark shades” (the group of spirits below his knees). The ethereal blue mountain establishes that spiritual aspiration is the background of this card. The seated man sees his material self in Blake’s “vegetable glass of nature,” and presumably writes what he see. But the man’s face is vapid, and he wears classical garments that symbolize secular, materialistic consciousness. He embodies Young’s point that men can only “make their comment” on “what they find at home” – their pallid earth-bound vision. The huddled “dark shades” represent the self-enclosed society that urges people to stay focused on their egos. To see and express one’s deeper individuality requires looking beyond the temporal self into the eternal self. If the man in this card puts aside his ego-mirror he will see his immortal self reflected in the square mirror at his feet, as well as a reflection of the infinite sky overhead. His true individuality is his divine reflection, the angelic self. The angel bows not to the mirror but to the divine spirit it reflects. Blake asserts that “general forms have their vitality in particulars: & every particular is a man; a divine member of the divine Jesus.” Thus, each man’s individuality or identity is his divine portion, and his path to knowledge, because “all knowledge is particular.”
“Every man’s wisdom” (from the window quote) defines his individuality, and empowers his imagination to express itself uniquely. In his quote, Blake’s own “individiality” is wryly shown by his misspelling the word. This card is about avoiding worldly confusion and not being influenced by selfish concerns. You need to discern into which mirror you look – the vegetable glass of earthly issues, or the mirror of imagination that reflects the eternal truth. This card suggests that every issue makes a surface impression behind which lies an eternal reality. True individuality comes from seeing both one’s outer and inner personalities, discerning the difference and then acting accordingly.
In the creative process, this is when you look into yourself to see the underlying content and meaning of your project. This is the choice of whether to express your ego-self or your true
self, which is a particularized expression of immortal truth. The more you are your (true) self, the more universal your message.
10th Card - 10 of Poetry – Prophecy - This image illustrates Young’s lines:
Orb above orb ascending without End!
Likened to Ezekiel’s prophetic biblical vision (see X–Whirlwind), these heavenly eye-studded gyres signify not just God’s glory but everything that is beyond man’s understanding. In response, man can only kneel and humbly acknowledge the divine workings of the universe. The angels stand behind two gyres forming the sign of infinity, and represent the four Zoas; in viewing them we see ourselves as a portion of the divine plan. Note that the nearest orb has parallel arcs that pass through the body of the kneeling worshipper. The orb with eyes signifies that man is part of the divine plan, even though he fails to comprehend his inclusion in the circuit of higher consciousness.
The black orb without eyes means he is still impaled on Blake’s “circle of destiny,” the materialist round of cause and effect. Which orb he chooses is determined by his prophetic vision. This card is a vision of spiritual possibility, foreseeing a time when mankind rises to its full spiritual stature. In the meanwhile, everyman’s task and the poet’s responsibility is that of Prophecy, which means to speak the eternal truths – past, present, and future. This means ‘telling it like it is’ – not from the fallen and illusory perspectives of history, science, medicine, or religion, but according to the only eternal realities, which are those of imagination and the soul. In the window quotation, Blake prophesies that spiritual awareness will make the materialist desert of man’s mind into an eternal garden of delights. Although he speaks of “futurity,” in Blake’s cosmology there is only the eternal now. The future is now, and this card depicts spiritual awareness in this present moment. There is an element of humility or penance in this card. Spiritual awareness and prophetic statements can be easily misunderstood, not only by the people around you, but by yourself as well. The true nature of things is ultimately incomprehensible, so humility and awe serve better than egoistic pretenses to knowledge and understanding. Speak the truth as you see it, but always remember that your truth can never be the only or complete truth.
For those who choose to go on...
11th Card – VI – Knowledge
Knowledge corresponds to the Lovers in conventional Tarot. It represents the three types of knowledge within the human psyche: conscious, unconscious, and superconscious – represented by the first man (Adam), the first woman (Eve), and an archangel – in the lush garden of physical Eden. The card depicts the interrelationship and integration of these states,
which can also be called: masculine, feminine, and divine. The archangel, with its wingtips joined as if in prayer, is Raphael (‘healer of God’), who symbolizes healing and mediation. Raphael urgently dialogues with Adam and Eve, asking them to heed the advice of God and thus be ‘good’. Eve, the central figure in the drama, submissively serves fruit and wine but pointedly looks at Adam instead of Raphael; meanwhile Adam gestures as if to say, ‘I’m sorry, but it’s out of my hands’. We know that Adam and Eve both disregard the divine counsel, and listen instead to the serpent who girdles the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’ behind Eve’s head.
KEYWORDS: SELF-KNOWLEDGE • SELF-INTEGRATION • CLARIFYING AND MAKING CHOICES • TAKING RESPONSIBILITY • MORAL FREEDOM • CARNAL KNOWLEDGE • MARRIAGE • INFLUENCE OF OTHERS •
Knowledge brings self-satisfaction, along with many dangers. Consciousness now realizes the potential for its own divinity, and learns about ecstasy. Many seekers stop here to enjoy the physical fruits of Eden. For those who choose to go on...
12th Card – IV – Reason
Reason corresponds to the Emperor in conventional Tarot. It depicts the seemingly godlike form of Urizen, who is Blake’s southern Zoa of Mentality, the “eternal mind.” His name may be a multiple pun on ‘reason’ or ‘horizon’, and ‘Uranus’. Urizen, driven by self-doubt, fails to understand the need for a balance of forces, and selfishly desires to dominate eternity. Urizen is associated with the element Air and the art of Science, so he has a lofty ability to explain, quantify, and manipulate reality – but Urizen is also orthodox, moralistic, stubborn, and egotistic. He is the aspect of deity that, if unchecked, can degenerate into Satan. Supremely dualistic, Urizen represents good intentions and blind egotism, intellectual wisdom and implacable patriarchy, expansion and contraction, dynamism and stasis. Wielding his compasses as a classic symbol of this dualism, Urizen measures all things, but without compassion and true understanding. He is the “king of pride.”
Like the jealous and vengeful god of the Old Testament, he is the author of absolute law, which is justice without mercy. Urizen is called the Spectre, and the adversary of spiritual consciousness.
Another mocking Blakean name for him is Nobodaddy, from ‘nobody’s daddy’.
Despite his dictatorial traits, we can also see him as the traditional Tarot figure of the kingly father who benevolently directs the actions of his subjects and children, defines limits, sets boundaries, and asserts the law. In the border, two books of knowledge connected by a scroll of inspiration are tended by an angel who represents the holy spirit, or Comforter. These symbols have a dualistic meaning. On the one hand, they literally illustrate that truth and knowledge are linked by imagination, and presided over by love – all shown connected to Urizen through his compasses. On the other hand, these books represent Urizen’s dreaded metallic books of brass (laws) and iron (war), impaled on the compass points of reason. When limited to finite perception, they deny the infinite and introduce error; when unlimited, they offer loving direction.
KEYWORDS: RATIONALITY • PATRIARCHY • AUTHORITY • REPRESSION • ORTHODOXY • ASSERTION • POSSESSION • DEFINITION • FALSE DIVINITY • SELFHOOD • DUALISM •
At this stage, consciousness realizes that it can control and define itself, wielding its intellect to create and enforce. Many seekers, fascinated with power, find it logical to stop here. For those who choose to go on...