Tarot as a Tool for “Active Ascension”

Ascension is an active process for a magician.

When Abraham Maslow coined the term self-actualization back in the 1950s, he placed the term atop a hierarchy of needs, the pinnacle of attainment towards which all human beings must strive, and ascend to, in their quest for self-knowledge and realization. This pioneering humanistic psychology would become the impetus for the self-improvement/self-development industry. It would also lend validation and support to wisdom traditions such as the Hebrew Kabbalah with respect to an ascension, or evolution of the embodied experience through a series of existential dimensions.

Maslow’s process of self-actualization is synonymous with what Joseph Campbell referred to as the Hero’s Journey. It’s the developmental path from adolescence to mature adulthood, which takes heroic persistence, courage, and will.

On this journey we learn to:

Confront Fears
Resolve Anger
Accept Guilt & Shame
Get to Know Our Shadow
See Through Self-Deception
Experience Grief & Loss
Assert Ourselves
Locate Authority Within Ourselves

As all of this continuously unfolds, we come closer and closer to ourselves, accessing more internal power and innate ability, that is to say, we access and integrate more of our potential.

Campbell wrote about 3 distinct stages of the Hero’s Journey.

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he writes of stage 1:

“This first step of the mythological journey—which we have designated the “call to adventure”—signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown.”

Stage 2 he refers to as The Initiation wherein the Hero will face a series of Trials and Tribulations. The Hero is tested in battle, skill and conflict. The hero may not succeed but must press on. The hero will meet allies, enemies, and mentors with supernatural aid throughout the initiation stage.

And finally in Stage 3, having endured the trials and hardships of the adventure, the hero returns home. But the hero is no longer the same. An internal transformation has taken place through the maturation process of the experience.

Self-actualization is understood in the field of psychology to be a spontaneous and natural process of human development. Unfortunately the so-called new-age appropriation of terms like kundalini awakening, not to be confused with the Tantric phenomenon by the same name, or ‘ascension’, coupled with a growing distrust of establishment ideas, has led to more confusion than is rightfully necessary, and the symptomatic expression of awakening or ascension is not enabled to be dealt with candidly and beneficently. The metaphysical gets poked and prodded for meaning and ironically this often only exacerbates the trials and tribulations of Stage 2.

The Tarot can be used, both to examine and explore the current status of one’s spiritual evolution, as a guidepost between journey markers along the way forward, and as a tool to actively encourage the ever unfolding process of awakening awareness.

A Sample Inquiry

Show me where I am in my current ascension process,

and what I can do to make forward progress.

  1. 1st draw, the center trump (III Empress) in the center.
  2. 2nd draw, the Queen of Pentacles to the right
  3. 3rd draw, the Queen of Swords to the left

To map the ascension process, using Tarot as position markers, I refer to the Tree of Life, a model which has been created for this, among many purposes.


  1. The Empress (III) is the bridge (path | path of wisdom) between the 2s & 3s in the upper triad of Ace-2-3.
  2. The 2s & 3s are the realms of the Kings (Knights) & Queens.
  3. The upward facing Empress (III) in the first position shows me my current position and direction (towards the 2s)
  4. The downward facing Queens show me my suggested avenues of focus to support my journey forward.

Ascension, into 5D consciousness, higher consciousness, transcendent consciousness, is NOT a one-way adventure. I am human after all, embodied. The 3D reality, the urge to normalcy, MUST be reconciled with the urge to transcend. There must be balance. Hence the focus downward, with the utmost understanding of this embodied condition.

The Queens share with me the elemental aspect of focus in this regard, viz. the swords (air = intellection | cognition) and pentacles (earth = physicality | solidity)

Further, Empress (III) + Queen (3) X 2 = 333 (9), both representing perfection, as well as imagination.

There is a lot for me to personally parse, and it will only make sense to me to go further in the analysis of my own self and journey. Depending on how I engage with and apply this lesson, tomorrow’s pull should be equally revealing.

A Perspective from the Non-dual Tradition

Life is not always good regardless of personal perspective. But personal perspective will determine how you engage with life. Rupert Spira likes to define happiness as the acceptance of what is, and suffering as the resistance to what is. According to this perspective then, life would be good if simply accepted as it is. And that’s not always easy! And neither does that mean that we need to accept that as it is means as it always must be either.

I can accept that I am in a job I do not like, and that no longer serves my interests. In the acceptance of my choices, to be there, to look for another one, the reality of my feelings about it, and my needs, etc., I reduce my turmoil and empower myself with options. This is good, even if the job sucks. My ability to think in these terms depends on a particular vibrational frequency, too. I must be healthy, of good vitality; my essence must be juicy with the proper elemental calibration. I must be flowing rather than rigid.

For instance, if I were to descend from the 3’s Realm of the Queens, into the 5’s Realm of conflict and difficult conversations, I might be able to engage resilient shadows at a more profound level than if I were to try and engage them in the Emotional Realm of the 7s, or worse, the Astral (dreamy) Realm of the 9s.

Trauma is my lingering emotional attachment to a past emotional reaction. Raising my vibration first (making a shift in perspective) should allow me to release the attachment to the emotional reaction. For instance, I’ve known trauma at several levels.

Let’s look at the first. My parents threw me away when I was a baby. That must have been some kinda trauma to little me – and it really did reveal itself as scarring for a good many years. aThat scarring revealed in my self-expression, how I related with the world, how I felt about so many, many things. The truth is, however, that that was a long time ago. They did that. I lived that scenario. It’s done. A lot has transpired since then. A lot transpires now. Every moment. Do I really need to hold on to that memory? Is a mother wound not allowed to heal like any other? Of course it is. If I let it. If I know how to make the shift. If I know how to follow the Hero’s Journey and am enabled with tools to cross the thresholds, or a strong, guiding hand to mentor me through the wilderness of my own mind and show me clearly how I might align with life, as it is.

Alignment is an interesting word.

What am I aligning with? Is there really something to align with? Nature perhaps? Can it possibly be that I am not aligned? How id that happen?

The yogic tradition talks a lot about alignment (with reality). First order reality. The reality before my story gets a hold of it. Here, too, raising the vibration (or making the shift in perspective, from 7s to 5s to 3s) allows for the alignment with reality as it is, rather than how I would like it, or assume it to be.

Alignment with life, with nature, with reality, is just so much easier, too. When I’m aligned, synchronicity and serendipity are also able to support me. When I sail, rather than row (as Alan Watts likes to say), I get to my destination faster, easier, and in a better frame of mind, not exhausted from all the rowing. Flow. That’s not to say that there’s not a ton of effort required in the life either. Of course there is. But personal effort, in alignment with the laws of reality, will be a much more practical, productive and efficient means to the goal, supporting me on my way to the manifestation of a life in accord with my personal vision of joy. Real Ascension.


Maslow’s Hierarchy
Campbell’s Hero’s Journey
Visconti-Sforza Tarot (3 Cards)
Thoth Tarot – 78 cards placed on the Tree of Life