Although generally, I prefer the quick and simple spreads, three up to seven cards, sometimes, some specific and complex questions, requires some more in-depth analyses.
This 12 cards spread is highly recommended for personal development, so-called ‘spiritual’ matters, but it is also an excellent choice to obtain a detailed answer to any specific question regardless its subject.
The philosophical and structural foundation of this spread relays on Astrological, Numerological, Kabbalistic and Alchemical joint considerations.
The basic concept is very simple and transparent: we have three type of basic energies which have different manifestations in the four realms (Alchemical stages, respectively Kabbalistic worlds).
Although I love theories and sophisticated philosophical analyses, I am aware that people are more interested in practical aspects. A theory without immediate practical application, it is a dead and sterile theory.
Theory and practice are complementary. Can’t have one without the other. Just like, you cannot practice if your theoretical preparation is not strong enough.
So, for this spread, I will introduce you to the Alchemical formula and its practical use in a Tarot reading.
Regarding the Alchemical aspects, most of it has its origin in the works of the 16th-century German alchemist Basil Valentine and one of the most famous English alchemist George Ripley (1415? – 1490).
For further Kabbalistic study and clarifications, I warmly recommend the works of Dr Michael Laitman.
Although regarding the analyses of the self, most of the people prefer Jung, I think nobody explained better the human psyche than Gurdjieff. According to Gurdjieff, the man has four bodies and three centres which control all her or his actions, feelings and thoughts. This Tarot spread, combined with all Astrological, Numerological, Kabbalistic and Alchemical features, demonstrates the viability and functionality of the analyses made by Gurdjieff. Obviously, Gurdjieff possessed all that Esoteric knowledge.
As a method of self-development – enlightenment if you prefer -, Gurdjieff proposed the ‘self-observation’.
I think ‘self-observation’ is not possible without a powerful tool such as the Tarot deck.
On the other hand, I reasonably doubt, that one man can observe her or himself honestly and objectively. Man is extremely indulgent when it comes to her or his person, our brain tricks us first, always find the ‘best explanations’ for our failures, find us the best excuses and in the end, always project the guilt, the blame outside, find the responsibility in somebody else’s backyard. In my 25 years of practice, I did not meet one single person capable of objective self-evaluation.
When it comes to self-reading, people interpret the cards to justify their own choices and find someone else to blame for their ‘misfortune’.
Self-observation and self-reading can be a very dangerous path to follow. Lying ourselves is generally presented to ourselves as a mean to preservation.
Although self-reading might be highly tempting, especially for beginners, it is not recommended.
We have three different types of energies – forces – which generates different types of manifestations in the four worlds – respectively on the four levels of consciousness or spiritual development.
The so-called Active type of energy is associated with the notion of Salt. Not to be confused with the material! This type of energy means that we have the initiative, respectively it is the result of our direct and immediate action.
The second type of energy is what I called Reactive, but generally it is called Passive. It is associated with Sulfur. It is an important aspect to understand: each energy is active but differently. The Reactive energy is a response to external impulses (stimuli).
The third type of energy is bipolar, can act both as Active and Reactive in different circumstances and its fundamental attribute is to maintain the balance between the previous two energies (forces). This type of energy, allegorically, is associated to Mercury.
The three energies may also be associated with what some people call subconscious, unconscious and conscious. I am afraid, this fancy, to some extent Jungian terms, may be more confusing than effective. People tend to interpret and associate these abstract definitions with various psychic functions. Not always and not for everybody is clear what exactly ‘subconscious’ or ‘unconscious’ practically means.
In practical terms, the first energy represents our action, the second one our intention, while the third one represents the result.
Bear in mind; this is a process, what begun with the action represented by the first card, will end, will materialise into the twelfth card.
The reason why most of the predictions prove to be accurate is that vast majority of the people resisting the changes making the future pretty predictable.
It is also an important aspect; this is the current course of action. The free will means that we always have alternatives and we can make changes, choose a different path. The future is fluid, most of the time changes are possible.
The first three cards represent Assiah, the World of Action, associated with the element Fire which represents our instincts. It also represents our day to day life on Earth, respectively our immediate actions and reactions.
The World of Action is associated with Nigredo, the first stage of the Great Work.
The Great Work (Latin: Magnum Opus) is an alchemical term for the process of working with the ‘prima materia’ to create the ‘philosopher’s stone’. It also has been used to describe personal and spiritual transmutation in the Hermetic tradition.
Nigredo or blackness means putrefaction or decomposition.
Alchemists consider that as a first step in the pathway to obtain the philosopher’s stone. In order to do that, all alchemical ingredients had to be cleansed and cooked extensively to a uniform black matter.
In analytical psychology, the term became a metaphor ‘for the night of the soul, when an individual confronts the shadow within’.
1 – First instinct.
The 1st card represents the alchemical process called Putrefaction.
The rotting of a substance, often under a prolonged gentle moist heat. Usually, the matter becomes black.
In practical terms, the first card represents our first instinct, our raw, uncontrolled approach to the matter in question.
2 – The trigger.
The 2nd card represents the alchemical process called Calcination.
Calcination represents the breaking down of a substance by fierce heating and usually burning in an open crucible.
In practical terms, the second card represents the hidden reason behind our primary action, respectively the trigger of our actions.
3 – Next step.
The 3rd card represents the alchemical process called Fermentation.
Fermentation represents the rotting of a substance, usually of an organic nature, often accompanied by the release of gas bubbles. (Example: convert sugar to alcohol).
In practical terms, the third card represents what we have chosen to do, respectively our next move. Near future.
The second level is the World of Formation, Yetzirah, associated with the element Water. Formation is an emotional process originated from our soul. This stage is associated to the notion of “Sacred marriage”, which has its origins in the myth of Tiamat, the primordial goddess of the salt sea who has mated with Abzû, the god of fresh water to create the cosmos and successively the first generations of gods.
Yetzirah is associated with the alchemical stage Albedo.
Albedo meaning “whiteness”. Following the chaos or ‘massa confusa’ of the Nigredo stage, the alchemist undertakes a purification in Albedo, which is literally referred to as ‘ablutio’ – the washing away of impurities.
Carl Jung equated the Albedo with unconscious contrasexual soul images; the anima in men and animus in women. It is a phase where insight into shadow projections are realised, and inflated ego and unneeded conceptualisations are removed from the psyche.
The second level it is very important because here is the place of formation of our emotional foundation and our beliefs regarding the subject of our question.
Most of the people take all of their decisions based on emotional consideration, although, some of them believe that they are driven by instinct or by rational considerations.
4 – Attachments.
The 4th card represents the alchemical process called Conjunction.
Conjunction represents the joining of two opposite components, often seen as the union of the male and female, the subtle and gross, or even the elements.
Very important! The 4th card belongs to the middle pillar! 4 is the result and
the direct consequence of 2.
Understanding the string of numbers is also a very important part of the process of analysing.
In practical terms, the fourth card represents our beliefs, respectively the emotional foundation of our actions – what motivate us in our démarches – our attachments.
5 – Our feelings.
The 5th card represents the alchemical process called Sublimation.
Sublimation occurs when a solid is heated and gives off a vapour which condenses on the cool upper parts of the vessel as a solid, not going through a liquid phase.
In practical terms, the fifth card represents our emotional approach, respectively what we feel about the issue in question.
6 – Signals.
The 6th card represents the alchemical process called Projection.
Projection represents the throwing of a ferment or tincture onto a substance in order to effect a transformation of the substance.
In practical terms, the sixth card represents the external manifestation of our emotions, the signals we transmit.
The third level is the World of Creation, Beri’ah, assigned to the element Air and associated with our spirit (mind, intellect). The act of creation is a spiritual process, a manifestation of mind through energies.
Beri’ah is associated with the alchemical stage called Citrinitas.
Citrinitas is a term given by alchemists to “yellowness”. It refers to the process of “transmutation of silver into gold”, respectively “yellowing of the lunar consciousness.” In the Jungian archetypal schema, Citrinitas is the wise old man (or woman) archetype.
7 – Our thoughts.
The 7th card represents the alchemical process called Multiplication.
Multiplication is the operation by which the powder of Projection has its power multiplied.
In practical terms, the seventh card represents our thoughts – all the ideas circulating in our heads, the pros and cons.
8 – Received information.
The 8th card represents the alchemical process called Cibation (feeding).
The feeding of the substance being acted upon in a flask, with some reagent, usually a liquid.
In practical terms, the eight card represents the impressions, impulses we receive from outside. What our entourage, what our partner says, the information we receive.
9 – Decision.
The 9th card represents the alchemical process called Separation.
The making of two opposite components separate from each other. Often alternated with the conjunction process.
In practical terms, the ninth card represents a choice, a decision we have to make.
We must understand that the result of our decisions is the foundation of our future. Take a turn to the left in a specific moment, or take a turn to the right, can make a huge difference. People hate to assume responsibility and instead of taking firm decisions, they deluding the problem and consequently postpone taking the decision – which is a decision by itself and has unwanted consequences.
The fourth and highest level is the World of Emanation, Atziluth, associated with the element Earth. Earth represents the materialisation of all our physical, emotional and spiritual efforts. Without this final stage, all our previous efforts are meaningless – and in vain.
Atziluth is associated with the alchemical stage called Rubedo.
Rubedo means “redness” and signifies alchemical success, the end of the great work. Rubedo is associated with Earth element and represents materialisation, respectively ‘coming into being’.
In the Jungian archetypal schema, Rubedo represents the Self-archetype and is the culmination of the four stages, the merging of ego and Self. The Self-manifests itself in “wholeness,” a point in which a person discovers their true nature.
10 – The solution.
The 10th card represents the alchemical process called Solution/Dissolution.
Dissolution is the transformation of a substance by immersing it in water or other liquid. In the lab, it is the liquefaction of a solid or the absorption of a solid into a liquid. It usually involved dissolving the ashes from Calcination in water or liquid chemicals. The water in which the ashes were dissolved took on magical proprieties, and the term ‘elixir’ emerged from the Arabic Al-iksir which literally means ‘from the ashes’.
The tenth card represents the recommended solution to our question; it is a practical advice.
11 – How we should behave.
The 11th card represents the alchemical process called Exaltation.
An operation by which a substance is raised into a purer and more perfect nature.
In practical terms, the eleventh card represents the behaviour pattern we should follow in order to achieve our goal.
12 – The outcome.
The 12th card represents the alchemical process called Congelation-Crystallization.
Congelation is the conversion of a thin flowing liquid into a congealed thick substance, often by heating.
Crystallization is the formation of crystals out of a solution of the substance usually in water, either by their gradual formation from the liquid or by evaporation of the liquid.
In practical terms, the twelve card represents the outcome, the result of the process – according to the current course of our actions.
(Excerpt from the book “The Unified Esoteric Tarot – General introduction and Guidebook” by Attila Blága. Full or partial use of this text for commercial or non-commercial distribution by any means whatsoever is strictly prohibited unless expressly authorised by the author.)