The “Be All You Can Be” Archetype Alignment Spread

There was an old recruitment slogan used by the U.S. Army for over 20 years that went “Be All You Can Be.”  I poached this phrase to reflect aspiration to the universal human ideals captured in the first four numbered trump cards of the tarot as Fire (Emperor/Mars), Water (High Priestess/Moon), Air (Magician/Mercury) and Earth (Empress/Venus), and augmented by the spiritual Aether or Quintessence (Sun/Sun). I found it interesting that the numerical values of the first four add to 10, which reduces to One, the epitome of perfection as the first positive integer and indivisible root of all numeration, while the value of the fifth trump also adds to One (19 = 1+9 = 10 = 1+0 = 1). I took some liberties with the original Golden Dawn correspondences in that the Emperor is technically associated with Mars-ruled Aries, not directly with the planet, while Spirit is generally assigned to the Fool as the spiritual Sun behind the physical one. My tinkering produced the epiphany regarding the relevance of the Number One to the perfected state of being represented by the archetypes embodied in these cards.

This is a philosophical spread that is intended to demonstrate how closely one’s personal reality aligns with universal paradigms and ways to cope with any deficiencies. It uses two decks, one to lay out the “Ideal” line and its “Sub-Quintessence” card, and the other from which to draw the “Actual” line and derive its Sub-Quint. The draw is best performed with a Majors-only deck or 22-card sub-set, but a full 78-card deck may also be used with the understanding that it may yield too much information and excessive hair-splitting, especially if reversals are applied. Note that a third deck may be needed if the Sub-Quint card for Line #2 already shows up in the draw. A Grand Quintessence is calculated by summing and numerologically reducing the two Sub-Quints; this card is read as advice for adjusting one’s behavior and/or attitude in response to any weakness in archetypal alignment. The Sub-Quints reveal the action of karma, by which one reaps what has been sown; the Ideal line produces archetypal Justice while the Actual line delivers what may be termed one’s “just desserts” as the result of prior deeds.

Here is an example reading I performed to test this spread. I used the Golden Universal RWS for the “Ideal” line and the RWS Centennial Edition Major Arcana for the “Actual” line, with reversals.


The Moon – My Will is more refracted, elusive and nebulous than overtly forceful; as a Cancerian I’m fully attuned to the nature of the Moon and work its watery ways through a “slow drip” infusion or persistent “wave action” rather than a torrent. This is seldom conducive to decisive episodes of volition.

The Devil rx – My Heart is kept “close to the vest” (if you’ll pardon a very bad pun), and I don’t readily reveal my deepest feelings. There is an old Procol Harum song titled Crucifixion Lane that has the verse:

“All my sick is in my stomach
All my sweat is clearly fear
And if you could see inside me
I don’t think you’d have me here”

While I certainly don’t feel that way (it makes me think of the 1950’s TV puppet character, “Crabby Appleton – rotten to the core”), it does neatly summarize the quality of the Devil as repressed feelings. The reversal puts them a bit out of reach, even when I try to pin them down. Astrologically, I do have the natal Moon intercepted in Capricorn.

The Hermit rx – My Mind is turned inward in search of wisdom rather than outward and upward. My quest is primarily a solo voyage of discovery.

The first three cards here are an accurate portrait of my private mental/emotional state of being. Interestingly, they sum to a negative Six (18-15-9 = -6), the Lovers reversed as the numerological counterpart to the reversed Devil (-15 = [-1] + [-5] = -6), a crossroads with signposts pointing into the (Freudian?) depths of consciousness. But if reversed values are added together rather than subtracted, they combine into a positive Six (18+15+9 = 42, 4+2 = 6), the Lovers upright and still the numerological complement to the Devil (1+5 = 6). The Moon and the Hermit both vibrate to the number Nine, and the Hermit rx here brings their sum total to 9 (18 – 9 = 9), or if you prefer, 27 reducing to 9 (18+9 = 27, 2+7 = 9).

As Jimi Hendrix once sang:

“Now if six turned out to be nine
Oh I don’t mind, I don’t mind”

The Chariot – My Body is oriented toward growth and achievement. This card corresponds to the sign of Cancer, which is right in my wheelhouse. As can probably be seen from my dedication to this blog, that sentiment can border on relentless.

The Sun – My Spirit is perfectly aligned to the universal paradigm, and should serve as my guiding light when the relative darkness of the first three cards settles in for a protracted stay.

Judgement as the “Actual” sub-quint* shows that a definite step into the future is on the agenda, which is certainly in line with my plans for the next couple of months. This card is saying “get on with it and don’t look back.”

The Emperor as the Grand Quintessence is rubbing my nose in the realization that I need to be more direct and authoritative in bringing my Will to bear on my life’s circumstances. With the “wake-up call” of Judgement on the horizon, there is no time like the present to marshal my resources and step up to the plate.

*My method of calculating quintessences treats reversed cards as negative values and includes the court cards as 11 through 14. This use of reversals allows the Fool to remain as zero rather than having to reposition it as 22, and also permits reversed quint cards.

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