Welcome to the Tarot Blog Hop!
As the wrangler for this hop, I proposed our topic: tarot continuing education. Last year, Tarot Blog Hop Founder Arwen, of Tarot by Arwen, mentioned in her newsletter that she was taking some tarot classes that she loved. She asked, what are you doing to continue your tarot education? Not only was I inspired to share what I’m up to, I was dying to know what others would say on the subject! Use the links here or at the end of the post to navigate to other blogs on the hop, and the Master List in case there’s a hiccup.
Tarot Continuing Education
There are so many ways I’ve approached tarot continuing education over the years. Study and research, classes and meetups, seeing fabulous tarot luminaries who stopped in Denver to share their knowledge, attending conferences, reading blogs, watching YouTube videos, Facebook tarot groups, and on and on.
But what has helped the most has been my ongoing trifecta: teaching tarot, facilitating Meetup groups, and writing tarot articles (mostly on my blog, but some published elsewhere online and in print). If I had to narrow it down to the one thing that most increases my understanding of the cards, I would probably say the comparative thinking of studying the esoteric correspondences of the cards and the resulting hermeneutical circles that swirl symbols into meaning. That’s my internal process.
But currently, the two things that are teaching me the most is my ongoing blog series on tarot card astrology and my advanced meetup group, which has been studying the Cube of Space. I probably learn best on my own — I learn so much writing about tarot that I shock myself — but for this post I’m going to focus on the benefits of studying with a group.
The Cube of Space
The Cube of Space group has been huge for me in terms of advancing my tarot understanding. This is a small group, only four, recently up to five, participants. I don’t advertise it and it’s not open to new people. We’re keeping it tight, just a few of us who have the same background in the tarot, including qabalah, astrology, and Paul Foster Case’s published books and his BOTA coursework. Each participant brings a unique specialty to the group. Some members have studied the material before and are able to bring their previous knowledge to the group. This is my first time through the material. The Cube of Space is introducing me to a profound and innovative way of seeing the Major Arcana.
The first thing we had to decide was how to approach the material. There are three books on the Cube of Space, two by Kevin Townley, and one by David Allen Hulse. After looking them over and discussing it with the people who had already read them, we decided that the Hulse book seemed more accessible. Townley took such a different approach that it didn’t even seem we could study the two authors side by side, and instead decided to work through Hulse first, then explore the Townley writings and meditations. There’s no rush for this group. We’ve been meeting since March 2018, over a year, and are a little more than half-way through the cards of the Major Arcana, in the order outlined by the Cube of Space.
We meet once a month and focus on a single card each time, but discuss that card in the context of all the cards on the side of the Cube we’re studying. We start by reading out loud the short chapter in Hulse on the card of the month, then open it up for discussion. Some of us wing it (me). Some people will have prepared points they want to share or discuss, so there’s always direction for our conversation. About three-quarters of the way through our time, we read the Paul Foster Case meditation from the Book of Tokens. This always starts a new ferment in our discussion. Then we conclude by noting which card will be the next one for study and confirming our date and time to meet the next month.
The Path of the Soul
Hulse’s premise is based on the paradigm of spiritual development through repeated incarnations. If you’d like to more easily follow along with these ideas, refer to the diagram above, or you can print out and assemble your own Cube of Space from the pdf below.
The soul enters the Cube via the top face, the Magician. Descending through the top face it follows the vertical path of the Fool downward until it reaches the World in the center of the Cube. Then the soul moves to the West face via the horizontal West-East axis of the Hanged Man.
The soul enters incarnation via the Wheel on the West face of the card. From here it moves down to the bottom edge of the West face, the Devil. This represents incarnation without spiritual awareness. Then the soul moves counter-clockwise to the South-West edge, the Death card. Here the soul dies. It is then reincarnated through the same process, born through the Wheel, descending to the Devil, and the cycle continues. This reincarnation process can happen repeatedly until the soul is able to connect with the West-above edge of the Cube, Temperance. Temperance is the Holy Guardian Angel who guides our spiritual awakening.
Once we’ve connected with our HGA and begun to live a spiritually aware life, then the soul continues around to the North-West edge, Justice. Justice evaluates if we are ready to move on to our next incarnation. If she lets us pass, then we proceed to the North face. From here our soul will no longer have to incarnate via the West face and can start further along its path.
The North face with its central Tower card represents the solitary search for knowledge. We wander in the dark, gaining all that we can on our own. Like the West face, the sequence of cards for the North face proceeds in a counter-clockwise direction.
After having learned all we can from the North face, we travel the North-South axis via the Judgment card, taking a rest in the center where the World, Fool, Hanged Man, and Judgment cross. We then continue along Judgment to the South face, with the Sun in the center.
The South face represents working with a spiritual group, such as a lodge or magical order. Now information and knowledge is freely shared by those with experience and wisdom.
The soul can choose to continue incarnating to the North or South face as it likes. But the ultimate completion comes from traveling via the Hierophant at the North-East edge of the Cube onto the East face. The East face, the location of the rising sun, with the Empress at its center, represents the magical adept.
Thinking Outside the Cube
What seemed very strange to me is that back when I was first learning qabalah during the two-and-a-half year study we did with our Tarot Geeks meetup between 2007 and 2009, is that I came up with a Major Arcana tableau that I really valued. I called it the Day – Night – Resurrection Tableau.
I based the layout on the 3 – 7 – 12 numerical symbolism. I started with the twelve Day cards. I laid out the first twelve cards of the Major Arcana, from the Fool through Justice. The second row was the Night cards, the seven cards from the Hanged Man through the Moon. The final row was the Resurrection set of cards, Sun, Judgment, and the World.
As I conceived it, the Day sequence was the usual life path, as many tarot readers tend to see in the opening sequence of the Majors, from the youthful Fool through the old man Hermit. As the soul’s progress in life reached Justice, she determined if the soul must repeat any lessons or could move on.
If the soul moved on, it descended through the Hanged Man into the Night sequence. This part of the cycle happens beyond physical incarnation, the soul’s journey of Death and after. Temperance shows an angel pouring liquid from one vessel to another. This metaphor refers to the transfer of the soul from one physical vessel to another. Next comes the Devil, physical incarnation devoid of memory of past lives or of having traveled this cycle previously. The Tower is the next step, indicating that the soul has broken out of strict physical limitation, and has realized that there is more than life and a no-nonsense death. Memories of past lives rush in at this stage. The Star indicates that the soul is now under the guidance of Spirit. Finally, the Moon indicates that both life and death are only reflections of pure, Divine being. If the soul doesn’t realize this, it returns to the living Day cards again. The recidivist soul will repeat this cycle as long as Justice hands down that sentence.
Once the soul discovers that both life and death are flip sides of Eternal Light, it passes from the Wheel in the Day level straight to the Sun at the Resurrection level. Here the Eternal Light is realized, and Judgment indicates that soul passes from the ephemerality of the cycle into eternal life, represented by the World.
Certainly my tableau is not the same as the Cube of Space. But I was surprised by the recognition of ideas I had developed and had been sharing with my students. Had someone explained the Cube to me back in the early Tarot Geeks days and I forgot? Is the soul sequence so obvious that anyone can figure it out? Or perhaps I only read it all in one of Paul Foster Case’s books and don’t remember. Or did I glide through the collective unconscious in my meditations on the cards and land in the same space that David Allen Hulse occupied when he conceived of his Cube interpretation? And of course, I haven’t read all the other material on the Cube of Space yet, so I don’t even know if this soul progress idea is perfectly unique to Hulse or not.
Nevertheless, I love how deep study of a topic brings many of us to the same place, out of the infinity of thought. We often talk of working in a vacuum. But that is practically impossible, because all is connected on some level. But we don’t realize this without sharing. The exchange of ideas we have in our group takes things I know and opens them like doors into places I’ve never been.
Getting Solid with the Cube
Here’s a Cube of Space you can cut out and glue together.
Listen to the Cube
Here is a recording of one of our group discussions on the Cube of Space, from December 9, 2018.
The recording starts with an impromptu twelve-minute guided meditation (an edited version is available here). Then it segues into the group discussion of the North-Above edge of the Cube, the tarot’s Strength card. Participants are Joy, Hal, John, and Penny. I think the voices enter the discussion in that order. I lead the meditation, then Hal speaks next. It’s long — an hour and 50 minutes — so wait until you have some down time and give it a listen.
Have you studied tarot in a group? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments! Continue your tarot education by hopping on to the other blogs in this series and hear what all our authors have to say about continuing their tarot education!
Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.