Psychic Kathleen

Confessions of a Psychic - the life of a psychic practicing off and online in Canada for more than 30 years.
Alchemy and the Tarot

by Robert M Place

This book is an impressive and erudite body of work.  It is resplendent in its historical references, legends, stories, mystical and esoteric ideas.  Spanning, in some cases, more than a 1000 years.  This is a reference book everyone who is at all interested in the esoteric, particularly alchemy and tarot, should have on their bookshelf.  At 250 pages, including an impressive bibliography, it’s a tightly wrapped, dense treatise.  The book itself is a large sized paper back.

Numerology, the Emerald Tablet, Knights Templar Connections to Tarot

But alchemy and the tarot represent only a portion of what this text encompasses.  Robert gallops through such a broad range of topics; it would be surprising if anyone reading this book was already familiar with even a fraction of what’s in it.  In the first 140 something pages Robert explains, describes and discusses a whole gamut of psychological and esoteric topics: numerology, the Emerald tablet, the Knights Templar, Rusicrucians, the Renaissance, the body humors, Jungian psychology and of course alchemy.  Considering the number of volumes published on Jung’s work alone, plus all the other topics he includes, this is nothing less than a heroic undertaking.

Even if you do not possess Robert’s deck, also titled The Alchemical Tarot, you will find this book useful.  As you might imagine, this book is hardly a toasty read that you could polish off in an afternoon.  It is well written and illustrated; considering that Robert is addressing a broad range of, in many cases, fairly complex concepts, it is a book I am confident most tarotists will comprehend.  That is another reason why I think this book should be on your reading list this year.

Early Tarotists also Alchemists

Until reading this book, I honestly didn’t realize how significant alchemy was to understanding the meaning of the tarot.  For example, many notable early Tarotists were also alchemists and their study of alchemy influenced the meaning they assigned to particularly the trump cards.  It isn’t at all difficult to connect to the why of an Alchemical Tarot in the first place.  It’s actually surprising no one had connected these two disciplines more intimately before.  According the Robert, however they had.  He includes a brief discussion of Waite’s Tarot and the evident alchemical symbols present. I’m pleased however, that Robert was the one to assume the baton.  His Alchemical Tarot deck was one of the most popular decks ever published and still is in demand.  Sadly it’s no longer in print. If you want a copy be braced to pay an exorbitant amount of money for it!

In this paragraph Robert explains why alchemy and tarot are perfect mates,

“In this alchemical journey, the Fool acts as the alchemist, and proceeds through the trumps toward his goal.  He begins with the Materia Prima, represented by the Magician, splits him into his four physical elements, the four cardinal rulers, the High Priestess to the Pope, and recombines the elements in the lesser conjunction, the Lovers.  The product of this union, the Chariot, is subjected to a series of chemical processes, represented by the trumps in the second section.  These processes culminate with his death, the Death trump. The soul of the product is also separated, in the Tower, purified, in the Star, and recombined in a greater conjunction, the Moon and the Sun.  Now, the dead matter can be resurrected, in Judgement, and the elements can take their places at the four corners of the World trump, framing the beautiful nude in the centre, who is the Anima Mundi, the Quinta Essentia, and the essence of the Philosopher’s Stone.”

This might all sound rather confusing and complicated but after reading the first 100 pages of the book, it makes perfect sense!  That’s how much the reader has learned about alchemy by this point.

The only negative criticism I have is why Robert felt so compelled to reinvent the wheel.  In some cases the descriptions of a particular esoteric discipline (or Jungian psychology) only required a reference to where you could learn more.  It seems redundant to delve into many of the topics in the depth he does when other whole texts are dedicated to the topic.  There could have been more focus on alchemy and tarot had he refrained in many cases from going into such detail on all the correspondences the Tarot shares with a multiple of disciplines.  On the other hand, for the reader who really isn’t familiar at all with these topics, his work will serve to familiarize the reader enough that you would feel as though you had already attained a solid grounding upon which to build.

I highly recommend this book.  I assure you that you certainly get a hefty return on your investment.  It’s a bargain at roughly $25 depending on where you purchase your copy.  It’s likely you’ll keep it on your shelf and refer to it for years.  You might even have to read it more than once!

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