I am participating in the online
Tarot World Summit.
Follow this link for information:
Alchemy and the Tarot:
Using the Cards for Personal Transformation
with Robert M. Place
Four monthly Classes sponsored by Morbid Anatomy
beginning April 17
Monthly on Saturdays,
April 17, May 15, June 19, and July 17
2–4 pm Eastern time
$200 full series / $175 for members
$55 per drop-in / $50 for members
follow this link to register:
In the summer of 1987, Robert M. Place was reading a book on alchemy when he became fascinated by an illustration representing the Philosopher’s Stone, the magical catalyst and universal panacea, whose creation is the goal of the alchemical Great Work or Magnum Opus. The illustration depicted the Stone as a type of mandala with a heart in the center of a cross, and surrounded by a thorny wreath. The cross divided the background into four sections, each containing an image representing one of the four ancient elements: Earth, Water, Air, and Fire.
Besides the obvious connection with the Christian icon called the Sacred Heart, Place saw another correlation and realized that the symbolism of the design was entirely interchangeable with that of the Tarot’s World card. The dancing nude on the World, like the heart, stands in the center of a wreath, and she can be interpreted as a symbol for the soul. The creatures representing the four evangelists in the corners of the World are also symbolically connected to the four elements through their correlation to the fixed signs of the zodiac.
This realization was like a key that opened a lock to a forgotten door. Place was mesmerized as images poured out of this new portal in his mind, forming a parade of alchemical illustrations that were spontaneously paired with Tarot trumps and it became clear that the series of Tarot trumps describes the alchemical Great Work. This insight led to years of research, and to the creation of one of the most beautiful and meaningful modern Tarot decks, The Alchemical Tarot.
The Alchemical Tarot is designed to illustrate that there is a close connection between alchemical symbolism and the Tarot. The Fool and trumps in The Alchemical Tarot each relate to an alchemical material or process, which is part of the Great Work or Opus of alchemy that leads to the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, a mystical catalyst that transforms what it touches to its highest form. Composed of the mysterious fifth element, it can cure any illness, turn lead into gold, and turn an ordinary person into an enlightened sage. Although this symbolism is clearly expressed in The Alchemical Tarot, it is illustrating a philosophy that is found in every Tarot and that is a valuable tool for improving our lives.
In this series of four classes, we will discuss the history and symbolism of alchemy, see how this symbolism relates to the Tarot’s Fool and 21 trumps, and learn how they capture the alchemical Opus, as expressed in The Alchemical Tarot. We will explore the relationship between the four elements and the minor suits and learn what alchemical symbols they contain. We will learn how the Tarot can be used as a psychological tool and practice transformative alchemical spreads designed to internalize the symbolism and bring forth a personal transformation. Instead of using the Tarot to predict the future, I believe that the best use for the deck is as a tool that connects us with inner wisdom, and helps us to make better decision that will improve our lives.
The series will consist of four two-hour classes:
1. A discussion of the history, philosophy, and practice of Western alchemy: stressing the role of transmutation and the mystical quest for enlightenment. Starting with the ancient Egyptians, we will demonstrate that the alchemical Magnum Opus, the quest for the mystical Philosopher’s Stone, is actually based on the myth of the death and resurrection of the god Osiris. Alchemy married laboratory experimentation with this mysticism. But in the 16th century, laboratory alchemy and philosophical alchemy split, and the philosophical branch led to the development of mystical societies, like the Rosicrucians. These mystics, in the next century, inspired romantic artists and this led to modern art movements.
2. A discussion of the history and philosophy of the Tarot. Starting with the creation of Cards in China, we will learn how Islamic invaders introduced playing cards to Western Europeans in the 14th century. In the next century, the Italians transformed the deck into the Tarot by adding a series of allegorical cards that expressed Hermetic philosophy. The Italians passed the Tarot to the French, and in 18th century Paris, occultists discovered the deck.
3. A demonstration of the symbolic connection between alchemy and the Tarot. Using The Alchemical Tarot as a model, we will learn that, although the Tarot was not meant to be an alchemical text, the Fool and twenty-one trumps in The Alchemical Tarot demonstrate that each card can be correlated with a substance or process in the Opus. This demonstration culminates with realization that the World card is a symbol of the mystical substance, called the Anima Mundi, that comprises the Philosopher’s Stone. We will also learn how to use the cards in groups of three, so that they become a tool for communicating with the unconscious mind.
4. Correlating the four minor suits with the four elements. Looking at the minor suits in The Alchemical Tarot, we will find meaning by associating each suit with an element and paring the element with one of the four psychological functions described by Carl Jung. We will also demonstrate how to read the cards in layouts designed to put us in touch with an inner source of wisdom that I call the Higher Self.
Because of the coronavirus outbreak,
Tarot at the Met is canceled
until the pandemic is under control enough to allow us to reconvene
Wednesday, June 17, 2020
from 2:00 pm to 4:30 PM
I will once again take a small group of people into the back rooms of the Metropolitan Museum to look at the museum’s collection of historic Tarot and divination cards, ranging from the earliest woodcut Tarocchi, printed in 15th century Italy, to rare 19th century Le Normand divination decks. All accompanied by my talk on the history and symbolism of the cards. This year we will also see one of the oldest and richly illustrated books on divination with cards, Le Sorti, published in Venice in 1540.
The afternoon at the Met is $85 per person, prepaid. Each participant is also responsible for obtaining a ticket for entrance into the museum for the day. There is only room for 14 people at this event so don’t delay; it will fill up quickly. I will be handling this event myself; so all arrangement must be made through me.
To register contact me at:
Payments can be made by PayPal, check, Visa, or Master Card, or by requesting a PayPal invoice.
My Chinese workshops are also being conducted through Zoom.
You can contact Giselle Gao for details:
These photos are from my 2021 class in Hangzhou, China
To receive The Restored Temple of Hermes, my free newsletter e-mailed every three months or so, with links to my latest articles and news about up-coming lectures, workshops, and publications, send an e-mail to me with The Restored Temple of Hermes in the subject line. Also, please let me know what state or country you live in.
Issue 60 of the Restored Temple of Hermes was sent out on March 18, 2021. If you did not receive it you may need to send me an updated email address.