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Spiritual numerology for the Tarot’s Minor Arcana

January 19, 2012

The following is my rough draft of a numerological take on the cards of the Minor Arcana that reflects a spiritual framework:

1. Aces (ONE) are about the true reality of Unity. We are one with each other and with the Divine. (It is significant that there is a hand of God offering the suit icon on the Aces in many Tarot decks.)
2. TWO is about Duality. It can indicate our illusion of separateness—from each other ad from the Divine.
3. THREE calls to mind “Trinity,” which is a common religious conceptualization of the divine, generally quite anthropomorphic. (Attempting to conceptualize the Divine is a consequence of our illusion of duality.) This number is also symbolic of creativity.
4. FOUR, being the number of structure (four seasons, four directions, etc.), symbolizes the material world. The separate reality of this material world is an illusion, but we typically think it is the ultimate reality.
5. FIVE indicates our humanity (five senses, five fingers, etc.), and the FIVE cards all have an element of the suffering that is common to us all and that results from our illusion of separateness. These cards thus show us our lessons in life.
6. The number SIX represents reciprocity. These cards depict acts of compassion as we tire of the suffering of the FIVE cards and begin to learn their lessons. We also are beginning to see through the illusion of duality.
7. In the SEVEN cards, we see the resistance that the persistent and seductive illusion of duality (and of the reality of the material reality) creates in opposition to our realization of divine unity.
8. EIGHT is movement and power, so here we see that in working to overcome the duality illusion we can move forward toward the reality of oneness. (Our success here is dependent upon having passed the tests of the SEVEN cards.)
9. NINE is the manifest result of the work of the EIGHT cards.
10. TEN can be a return to divine union and a return to our community with an intent to help others along this path. However, it also can indicate that our failure to realize divine union sends us back to start the process over.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts about this.

Addendum: We can use these (or any) card associations as a tool to help us expand our awareness of the cards, but we should not use them as a straightjacket to constrain and limit our understanding of the cards.

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10 Comments
  1. Wonderful essential take of the spiritual energies of the base 10 numbers. Thanks.

  2. I’m not persuaded by 8 as power, unless we want to see it as multiplied duality, 2+2+2+2, or tensioned structure, 4+4, the latter also indicating a rivalry. I always think of the 8 cards as a moment of inhaling – you don’t want to break the tension – and hence acuity. The silence in the 8 cards spills over as a moment of crisis into the 9 cards, and from there there’s only one thing to say when in the 10 cards: thank god it’s over, whether we eat the myth of happiness or wail in the hysteria of cutting blades (P.S. I always read with the Marseille deck).

  3. Dear James,

    I always appreciate your insight and contribution to Tarot wisdom. Your spiritual interpretation takes us on the journey of the suit through the numbers to their completion. Although I may have a slightly different take on some of the numbers, I can see the picture you are painting.

    If I may, I would like to offer my unique take on the 2s. It is inspired my by study of Kashmir Shaivism. If “1″ is unity (Paramashiva), the “2″ is indiscernible as 2 aspects (Shiva/Shakti), the beginning of dualistic awareness that has not yet been separated (visually looks like a Vesica Piscis, intersecting circles). I associate it with the biological process of mitosis, the dividing of a cell into two, but still joined. It represents being in the conscious and unconscious worlds.

    Beautiful work. I am excited to see your eventual book.

    In Spirit,
    Katrina

  4. I’ll try…! :) heheh…. For the most part I do like your take on this. I would not say I disagree with any of the above, although I tend to see some of them somewhat differently. But you can never say everything about an archetype and symbol, which these are, so there is always more to be said!

    I like your ONE and TWO. ONE is that Divine “spark” from which all else flashes. TWO is the beginning of separation, or duality. It is also quite often how we tend to see things, as opposites and opposing forces. Harder to see the continuum betwix and between.

    THREE. I have always liked the phrase Father->Mother->Child. It seems to me as a very likely “core human” understanding of the number three. I would expect to see this reflected as we turn our eye toward the Divine. As such, I’m not too taken with the orthodox Christian Trinity, in that there is no Feminine Divine. To find it we must engage in some fancy footwork, most commonly seeing Mary in this light, or softening Jesus to play this role (some go so far as to say “feminizing” Jesus). But other religions embrace this outright.

    Another aspect of THREE in terms of consciousness may be in seeing the “gray.” We begin to appreciate there are at least *three* sides to every story! In so seeing, we begin to gain a wider perspective on the world, and how we all are related with one another. I think this is important, and much needed in the world.

    FOUR. Also the first solid in three-dimensions, so growth is also appropriate, as is increasing perspective and complexity.

    FIVE. I also see this as one of the big “dynamic” numbers. And sometimes I see it as embracing the “Fifth Element” of Spirit, which is one of the reasons I think it is the number of the Hierophant.

    SIXES. Also, a higher level of creation (double threes) and of course the blending of the Divine and the Physical, as seen in the interwoven triangles in the Seal of Solomon (“David’s Star”). I’ve often heard it described as a “resting point” like a landing on a set of stairs. A point of intermediate transition.

    But I really do like your take on the idea of reciprocity and compassion. And I have always liked the 6-Swords (RWS) in that it brings me a feeling of peacefulness. Perhaps in this line of reasoning it represents leaving behind the “swords of contention” and embarking upon a more peaceful and all-inclusively compassionate path?

    SEVEN. Of course so often cited as “Divinity.” Whatever that means. This is one of the more difficult numbers for me! Another visitation to the idea of Dynamic. Seeing it as you present, or as I am taking this anyway, perhaps it is offering the dissolving of the tensions we have brought about in this physical existance? We are about to “face the Divine” and become transfigured in some manner? This would seem to indicate a test of our mettle, or something like that. Once we are facing the Divine, or our own Higher Consciousness for that matter, do we stretch out to grasp this and grow in spiritual understanding, or do we shrink back, falling into the mundane/profane habits we have for so long sown? Interesting….

    EIGHT and NINE. These would seem to play out the outcome from our confrontation with the Divine (or Inner Self) in the Seven. I like that arch…. The idea of Eight = Speed is of course often seen directly in the 8-Wands. And many of the suites/decks show us the Nines as what we might think of as the first fruits (good or bad).

    TEN. I like this. It ties in directly with the WHEEL too. Makes perfect sense!

    • Hi Erik,

      I also resonate strongly with your explanation of the 10 steps of a suit, especially the “3.” We could all put our heads/hearts/spirits together and create an amazing picture of this spiritual universe.

      Just a little note about “9″ from a numerology point of view. On a spiritual journey, it would be the seeker who no longer looks outside for answers or validation, but like Dororthy from “The Wizard of Oz” realizes that she is already home, she is complete onto herself, just needed to click her heels to wake up. It is the completion of the spiritual journey, understanding that the source of love and life resides within.

      With this said, the 10 can be the celebration and graduation to the next level, next horizon, as James said, “return to divine union,” to source, not separate, but with greater awareness of the cycles of the wheel of life.

      Really enjoying this post and all the comments!
      Katrina

    • Thanks for all these thoughts about the numbers, Erik. Of course, my post here is a very brief list of concepts on them. I have only attempted to apply them to one specific context: a spiritual perspective. For example, in terms of more mundane issues I also see the Aces (ONE) as seeds, opportunities, beginnings, ego, your individual self, etc. As you said, “you can never say everything about an archetype and symbol.”
      Again, thanks for your run through of the numbers and I will probably incorporate some of your ideas into my final product.

  5. Thanks to everyone for your comments so far. There is so much to be said on this topic, and there are no “right and wrong” answers, just different perspectives, the sharing of which is always a mind-expanding process.

  6. Cameliaelias,

    I like the idea of the “tension” in the 8, the holding of the breath, which I am imagining along the lines of the “balls all in the air” while we wait to see how things will turn out (in the 9).

    EIGHT. Also of course 4+4, doubling of the “earthly” 4. One perspective sees this as a higher “octave” of the 4, a refinement of that process/progression. Others point to the number of points seen in the various stars — 8 as in the Hermit’s latern (RWS, anyway) is indicating their nearness to the Divine. The more points on the star, the closer it approaches a circle (the Divine) vs. the earthly realm (the 4).

    Given the Six is a half-way point between earth/Divine (intertwined triangles: 6-pointed star), one might assume in an 8-pointed star one has further progressed toward the Divine. Which is generally an assumption made by many interpretations of the progression of the numerical elements/archetypes – that is pretty much what we are all saying in one way or another in discussing these matters, afterall ;)

  7. Hi Katrina,

    I too am enjoying all these posts. It is a rich vein indeed, and not one we’ll mine out here! ;)

    The way you describe the 2′s, as in the biological process of mitosis, certainly brings the RWS 2-Pents to mind. I can easily imagine the swirling/juggling Pent’s in this light. It would also lend itself well to the idea of fecundating the union of opposites, which will be given its birth in the 3′s.

    And, I suppose if one wished to use more primal symbols, “1″ can be seen as obviously male, while the vesica piscis (2) may be seen as obviously feminine. Which also naturally leads to the birth of the union in the 3.

    You also mentioned you see the 2 as representing “being in the conscious and unconscious worlds.” This certainly lines up well with the High Priestess (my favorite card) guardian and mediator of this liminal space!

    Your observation on the nature of 9 and 10 are quite nice. I really like the image of Dorothy realizing she need only click her heels to return home – the power has always been within; awaiting only her realization of this. Very nice! …Better preparing us for the next round on the Wheel (10).

  8. James, you certainly seem to have connected strongly with many of us on this subject!

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