Taoist Influence in Tarot

What a blessing it was for me to be introduced to the wisdom of the I Ching and, eventually, the teachings of Lao Tzu through the Tao Te Ching (and its various interpretations) back in 1975. It continues to be a guide and philosophical pillar to my life, combined over time with many other wonderful spiritual influences. It has been the perfect compliment to my Tarot studies which were initiated around 1971.

Many of us in the scholarly world of Tarot know that the minor arcana cards, much like the four suits of playing cards, is a direct contribution from early China, via the Mamluks/Persian Empire, and added to the creation of the first Tarot decks in northern Italy around the late Medieval period and early Renaissance.

What is not as well known is the essential influence of Taoism in the mystical wisdom of the major arcana cards. One of the more important contributions, which was later echoed in Western Mysticism and explored in ancient Greek philosophy, is the spiritual concept of unity with Source and our journey from Source, through this dualistic existence, then back to oneness with Source.

The historical contribution of Taoism is illustrated in my Tarot History poster:


In my recorded online class, Sacred Journey of Your Soul – through the Major Arcana of the Tarot I describe how each card is a stepping stone in this journey, much like the way Joseph Campbell explains our “Hero’s Journey” through life, where we leave the known, pass through the unknown, then back to Source with the wisdom gained from our challenges and lessons while discovering our deepest strength, heart, and constant connection with Source, finally with the realization that we are one with Source.

Tarot also takes us on this journey and offers the ancient wisdom of Taoism in conjunction with the layers of knowledge from Greek philosophers, Eastern mysticism, Western mysticism, and many other threads of great wisdom as our guides and friends along our path. I cover this material in great detail in my recorded online class on the Spiritual Roots of Tarot available to purchase from Global Spiritual Studies.

Over the years I have had friends and Tarot colleagues who have attempted to overlap the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching with the specific lessons of the 78-card Tarot deck. I can appreciate the archetypal resonance of these two systems, but also understand that each is too immense to contain the other.

My recommendation is to approach the Tarot with the humble attitude of the Taoist seeker and sage, with the understanding of the Tao, but interfacing with the Tarot cards from their depth of psychic richness.

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