AUTHOR’S NOTE: It’s going to be another “two-fer” day for my readers since I decided to sneak this one into my usual “tarot brain-dump.” It’s not so much writing as thinking (way) outside the box. This is a liberal adaptation of the “standard” Hermetic (Kircher) Tree of Life that appears in most modern esoteric books. I’m sure I’m going to “Kircher Hell for Qabalistic Renegades” for this one!
As I’ve mentioned several times before, from an astrological credibility standpoint I think that the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn did a fairly shoddy job of assigning zodiacal correspondences to the 22 Major Arcana and the associated paths on the Hermetic Tree of Life. I had taken a previous stab at re-jiggering the alignment to be something I could agree with (for which I got a lot of grief from the Hermetic Qabalah crowd on the Aeclectic Tarot forum, but I just said “Mission accomplished!” and shrugged it off). More recently, however, during online conversations it became obvious that the entire model should be scrapped and replaced with something a little more coherent.
Here is my first cut at what I call the “Astropsychology of the Tree of Life.” I stripped out all of the zodiacal correspondences for the paths and the related trumps and replaced them with planet/sign combinations in accordance with a design that follows a “Personal/Interpersonal/Social/Transpersonal” arrangement going up the Tree. Then I relocated the cards to the paths I think are the best astrological fit. Where possible I tried to stick with rulership and exaltation for the chosen planet/sign pairs, but with the Sun and Moon I used detriment as well since I needed more “plug-ins.” In this pattern, all of the modern or “outer” planets reside in the “Supernal” region of the Tree above the Abyss, except for the Hanged Man which “dangles down” toward Tiphareth, the sphere of the Sun and home of the “Dying God” myth of many religions from antiquity to the present day (aka Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, and all other death-and-rebirth paradigms that symbolize solar periodicity).
An obvious question comes up here: What is the difference between “Interpersonal” and “Social?” I can explain it best with an example. Think of Gemini and Sagittarius as polar opposites; Gemini will “button-hole” you while Sagittarius wants to include you in their “posse” (gaggle of admirers). It’s a distinction between one-on-one engagement and “mingling.” Put another way, Gemini is more “push-to-play” while Sagittarius wants to “read the libretto” and compare notes.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Golden Dawn model went from top-to-bottom on the Tree, following the “Fool’s Journey” from the loftiest spiritual plane to the most material realm. I decided to go bottom-to-top, with Earth and Water planets and signs closest to the Earth (Malkuth or “Kingdom”) and the more subtle and volatile Air and Fire increasingly entering the picture as we ascend, always keeping in mind that the “kinder, gentler” planets and signs populate much of the “Pillar of Mercy” and vice versa. Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are a “world apart” since they sit above the Abyss.
You’ll notice that I tried to create some convergence around the sephiroth (for example, the sephira Binah [Saturn] has only Saturnian paths leading from it except for that of the Magician), and also some logical correlations across and up-and-down the Tree, as in the placement of most of the Moon and Venus paths on one side of the “Personal” and “Interpersonal” zones (the right-hand “Pillar of Mercy”) and most of the Mercury and Mars paths on the other side (the left-hand “Pillar of Severity”). These titles definitely make sense from a planetary “astropsychology” perspective.