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The Spiral of the Hero: How the Archetypal Figures of the Tarot’s Major Arcana Correlate with the Levels of Consciousness as Described in Ken Wilber’s Spiral of Development

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This paper proposes that the orderly sequence of the 22 cards of the tarot’s major arcana, known as the “Journey of the Hero,” is a symbolic representation of consciousness evolution equivalent to Ken Wilber’s consciousness mapping system called the Spiral of Development (a treatment of Donald Beck and Christopher Cowan’s system Spiral Dynamics). A summary of the Spiral of Development is presented as well as a thorough look at each of the tarot trump cards and their relevance and relation to the spiral. An analysis of the two systems’ comparison is presented, and suggestions for raising consciousness from both Wilber’s and the tarot’s perspective are offered. Concluding remarks suggest the applicability of both systems in today’s world.
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Running Head: THE SPIRAL OF THE HERO
The Spiral of the Hero:
How the Archetypal Figures of the Tarot’s Major Arcana
Correlate with the Levels of Consciousness as Described in Ken Wilber’s Spiral of Development
Ryan N. Harrison
Fall 2003
Masters Paper Online
Naropa University
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Table of Contents
Abstract......................................................................................................................................3
Introduction................................................................................................................................4
Spiral Dynamics & Ken Wilber.................................................................................................4
How the Spiral Functions..............................................................................................7
From Tier to Tier...........................................................................................................9
The Call for Caution....................................................................................................12
Tarot and the “Journey of the Hero”........................................................................................14
Jungian Psychology & Archetypes..............................................................................14
Tarot History...............................................................................................................16
Tarot Card Composition..............................................................................................18
A Human Legacy: Spiral Associations & The “Journey of the Hero”....................................19
BEIGE – The Fool.......................................................................................................21
PURPLE – The Magician & The High Priestess........................................................22
RED – The Empress & The Emperor..........................................................................24
BLUE – The Hierophant or Priest...............................................................................27
BLUE-to-ORANGE Transition – The Lovers & The Chariot....................................29
ORANGE – Justice.....................................................................................................32
ORANGE-to-GREEN Transition – The Hermit.........................................................34
GREEN – The Wheel & Strength...............................................................................36
First-Tier to Second-Tier Transition – The Hanged Man & Death.............................41
YELLOW – Temperance & The Devil.......................................................................43
YELLOW-to-TURQUOISE Transition – The Tower.................................................47
TURQUOISE – The Star, The Moon, & The Sun......................................................49
CORAL & Transpersonal Consciousness – Judgment & The World.........................53
Analysis of the Comparison.....................................................................................................56
Applications.............................................................................................................................59
Raising Consciousness................................................................................................60
Conclusion...............................................................................................................................62
References................................................................................................................................63
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Abstract
This paper proposes that the orderly sequence of the 22 cards of the tarot’s major arcana, known
as the “Journey of the Hero,” is a symbolic representation of consciousness evolution equivalent
to Ken Wilber’s consciousness mapping system called the Spiral of Development (a treatment of
Donald Beck and Christopher Cowan’s system Spiral Dynamics). A summary of the Spiral of
Development is presented as well as a thorough look at each of the tarot trump cards and their
relevance and relation to the spiral. An analysis of the two systems’ comparison is presented, and
suggestions for raising consciousness from both Wilber’s and the tarot’s perspective are offered.
Concluding remarks suggest the applicability of both systems in today’s world.
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Introduction
Among the many definitions of Transpersonal Psychology given in The International
Journal of Transpersonal Studies (2002), the significance of consciousness in its varied states
and levels is a resounding theme. As the study of human consciousness is fundamental to the
study of the human experience, it is appropriate that transpersonal psychologists have given
much attention to its exploration. Within the field of Transpersonal Psychology, however,
theorists are often at odds as to what constitutes a transpersonal domain and what constitutes the
experience of consciousness and its evolution toward such domains. This paper will focus on
two seemingly disparate theories: the Spiral of Development, Ken Wilber’s treatment of Donald
Beck and Christopher Cowan’s system of Spiral Dynamics, and the tarot’s “Journey of the Hero”
– the sequence of 22 tarot trump cards, called the “major arcana,” which is known for its
archetypal symbology. If each theory is a viable map of human consciousness and its evolution,
then the Spiral of Development and the “Journey of the Hero” ought to support, or at least relate
similarly to, each other. This is feasible and discernable when the symbology of the major
arcana is seen as a reflection of the levels of consciousness Wilber proposes through his
treatment of Spiral Dynamics. A review of the literature that provides insight into these two
theories will allow for a more informed study, and will shed light on a plausible relationship
between these two seemingly unrelated systems of consciousness evolution and development.
Spiral Dynamics & Ken Wilber
Authors Donald Beck and Christopher Cowan (1996) drew upon the work of the late
Clare Graves in producing their theory of “Spiral Dynamics,” which explores human VMEMES
(“value memes,” the equivalent of genetic or cultural organizing principles) and the manner in
which they characterize the various internal and external realities experienced by the human
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species. While they never directly mention consciousness and its relation to their system of
“mind mapping,” Beck and Cowan (1996) present a diagram of successive human “core
intelligences” (p. 4) from the most basic (e.g. instinctual, physiologically-motivated) to the most
complex (e.g. holistic, collective), as they are located on a great spiral, a form chosen for its
qualities of never-ending expansion and simultaneous inclusion of its own history. According to
Spiral Dynamics, there are eight readily identifiable VMEMES, separated into two tiered groups.
Each VMEME is assigned a color (BEIGE, PURPLE, RED, BLUE, ORANGE, GREEN,
YELLOW, and TURQUOISE), and reflects the worldviews, valuing systems, and psychological
existences of humanity at this point in history (Cowan & Todorovic, 2000). These worldviews
act as filters through which individuals, organizations, and societies experience and understand
reality, as well as how they relate directly and indirectly to each other. In essence, Spiral
Dynamics gives an account of how and why “whole cultures and epochs have their own style of
thought and life…[and understanding of] what is really happening” (Feuerstein, 1988, 5).
Ken Wilber, a leading philosopher-theorist in the area of transpersonal and integral
studies, has adopted Beck and Cowan’s system of Spiral Dynamics – which he in turn has named
“The Spiral of Development” (Figure 1) – as part of a monumental effort to create a unified,
integrated “theory of everything.” Wilber (2000b) refers to Spiral Dynamics as “simply one
series of photos of the Great River,” (p. 47) and notes that Spiral Dynamics, as Beck and Cowan
have fashioned it, does not specifically include states of consciousness. He does, however, find
the system to be useful as a model of the journey of the self through what Clare Graves called the
“waves of existence” (ibid.), and Wilber spends much time and energy discussing the spiral’s
various levels and characteristics.
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Figure 1. The Spiral of Development. Note: From A Theory of Everything (p. 8),
by K. Wilber, 2000, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
One of Wilber’s most important contributions to transpersonal and integral studies is an
understanding of the multi-dimensional nature of consciousness; it is this understanding that he
brings to Spiral Dynamics. In an effort to differentiate among possibly innumerable gradations
of consciousness, Wilber uses the terms “waves” or “levels” and “lines” or “streams,” (Wilber,
2000c, p. xvi). He proposes that there “are various levels or waves of consciousness” (as
presented by Spiral Dynamics, for instance), and that “various developmental lines or streams”
(ibid.) pass through these waves. This suggests that a person’s consciousness is made up of many
developmental lines (e.g. cognitive, moral, interpersonal, spiritual, etc.) which evolve through
waves of consciousness (e.g. BEIGE, PURPLE, RED, etc. in Spiral Dynamics language).
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Conceivably, a person’s level of consciousness could be active along the entire length of the
spiral, with some developmental lines being highly developed (and thus touching higher-level
consciousness waves), and other lines poorly developed (and therefore experienced at lower-
level consciousness waves). Wilber (2000b) states that “human beings have available to them an
extraordinary spectrum of consciousness, reaching from prepersonal to personal to transpersonal
states” (p. 9). This allows for an incalculable continuum of human consciousness from the most
simple to the most multifaceted and complex, while simultaneously suggesting “a person’s
overall development follows no linear sequence whatsoever” (Wilber, 2000c, p. xvii).
How the Spiral Functions
Movement along the spiral is organic; no one can be forced to evolve, and evolution is a
somewhat chaotic affair. Christopher Cowan states that “the general trend is up the spiral
because thinking in more complex systems offers more degrees of freedom to act appropriately
in a given situation by using more fully the mind/brain which is there” (NVC Consulting [NVC],
2001a, p. 4). Accordingly, the shift from one VMEME to another entails a shift of mind/brain
capabilities and characteristics. Beck and Cowan (1996) also state that there is an equal
possibility of regression, plateau, or progression at any level of the spiral, depending on life
conditions such as “the historic times, physical place, psycho-social existence problems, and
socio-economic circumstances” (NVC Consulting [NVC], 2001b, 6). Additionally, there are
any number of transitional phases between distinct VMEMES. During transition phases – which
Beck and Cowan (1996) call “entering” and “exiting” phases – the individual’s current
predominant worldview experiences a kind of unrest that leads to a sense of discovery and an
exploration of new thoughts and values. This discovery compromises the stability of the current
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worldview, which begins to disintegrate, leading to confusion, instability, and problems that
outstrip the individual’s current mindset capacities. Though Beck and Cowan flesh out such
transition phases, for the purpose of this paper, I will refer to them more generally. Nonetheless,
an awareness of transition phases will become important as I proceed to compare the tarot’s
“Journey of the Hero” with Wilber’s Spiral of Development.
Beck, Cowan, and Wilber also present the concept that evolution up the spiral
“transcends and includes” what came before (Beck & Cowan, 1996; Wilber, 2000a). This means
that within every succeeding, “higher” level of consciousness, all those that came before it are
also present (e.g. BLUE contains RED, PURPLE, and BEIGE in its own composition). This
allows an individual access to its consciousness history, ensuring that “each wave can itself be
activated or reactivated as life circumstances warrant” (Wilber, 2000a, p. 12). Within the
understanding that each individual’s consciousness changes throughout the course of life is the
implication that “there can be no single true and complete worldview….we have only partial
information about the world, and our information changes as our knowledge increases”
(Sahtouris, 1990, 2). This is a valuable understanding, especially considering that “the way we
know has powerful implications for the way we live” (Palmer, 1989, 1).
Another interesting phenomenon that occurs between spiral waves is that there is an
oscillation between what Beck and Cowan (1996) call “Express-self and Sacrifice-self themes”
(p. 56). Between these two poles, human consciousness seems to tilt, moving from self-centered
to group-centered worldviews and back again. Beck and Cowan maintain that this is a normal
function of human mind/brain thinking in response to changes in the worldviews. “Whenever
this human pendulum approaches [either pole’s extreme], it generates the new Life Conditions
that can only be addressed with solutions from the other” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 57). Any
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problems that “Express-self” waves call forth find their solutions within communal “Sacrifice-
self” waves, and vice versa. Thus, where one wave is strongly egocentric, it will find its
evolution toward much more sacrifice-oriented thinking, which, after it tightly holds its
community within a herd mentality, will find freedom once again in individuality and self-
expression.
From Tier to Tier
Spiral Dynamics proposes that the eight identifiable VMEMES are divided into two
groups: first-tier and second-tier (Beck & Cowan, 1996, pp. 65-66). Beck stated that “we human
beings are only just emerging from the first great episode of human history – a 100,000 year
epoch defined fundamentally by survivalism: the spiral’s ‘First Tier’” (Roemischer, n.d.,
Introduction, 4). Spiral Dynamic’s first-tier is a set of six VMEMES characterized by
subsistence-based thinking and relating to the world. “What that means is that we’re more like
animals than like gods and we have to deal with what are essentially earthbound existence
problems” (Roemischer, n.d., Interview, Spiral Dynamics, 10). The first six levels of the spiral
are BEIGE, PURPLE, RED, BLUE, ORANGE, and GREEN, and despite the differences in their
individual characteristics and expressions in the world, each is concerned, at least to some
degree, with being right and having its way; each state seeks to be master over the others. This
marks these levels as egoic states, existing prior to states of transpersonal awareness and
consciousness.
As noted by Wilber (2000a), Beck and Cowan estimate the percentage of people and their
social power that each first-tier level of the spiral (e.g. VMEME color) expresses in the world. As
summarized in Table 1, each level has its own degree of influence on the world. It is clear that
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the numbers in each column total to more than 100%. To this, Cowan (NVC, n.d.) answered that
the table is meant to indicate a symbolic – not an accurate – representation of VMEME influence
in the world. As a “deliberate effort not to suggest accuracy” (NVC, n.d., Question 24), these
figures leave much room for play. This is appropriate, according to Cowan, since any
“assessment of levels of psychological existence is very difficult…[akin to trying to assess a]
moving picture full of mixes and transition states” (ibid.). Nonetheless, according to “the UN
and other information,” (ibid.) these broad proportions give an interpretation of global
circumstances and geopolitics.
Table 1
Estimated Percentages of First-Tier VMEME Population and Social
Power
VMEME % Population % Power
BEIGE 0.1 0
PURPLE 10 1
RED 20 5
BLUE 40 30
ORANGE 30 50
GREEN 10 15
Note: From A Theory of Everything (pp. 9-11), by K. Wilber, 2000,
Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Whereas the first-tier levels of the spiral are known as “subsistence levels,” second-tier
VMEMES are called “being levels” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 274). The VMEMES that comprise
this second-tier of consciousness are dynamic and clear-seeing. Moving into second-tier involves
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“a shift into a totally new dimension of thinking, a new conceptual order” (Roemischer, n.d., The
Leap to Second Tier, 3). Wilber (2000a) explains that at these higher levels of consciousness,
“one can…for the first time, vividly grasp the entire spectrum of interior development, and thus
see that each…wave is crucially important for the health of the overall Spiral” (p. 11). Second-
tier consciousness is not caught up in only one worldview, for it has the ability to distinguish
between all that has come before. Understanding that each wave transcends and includes its
predecessors, second-tier consciousness realizes that “each wave of existence is a fundamental
ingredient of all subsequent waves, and thus each is to be cherished and embraced” (ibid.). As a
result, those at second-tier consciousness are able to work “to create healthy forms of all the
first-tier systems in the context of an information-rich, highly mobile global community”
(Roemischer, n.d., Interview, Spiral Dynamics, 11). This ability to actively embrace, include,
and integrate all the waves, transforming them into a holistic whole, means that “second-tier
thinking, in other words, is instrumental in moving from relativism to holism, or from pluralism
to integralism” (Wilber, 2000a, p. 12).
This new and enlightened second-tier consciousness is not common in our world today.
Wilber (2000b) estimates that second-tier consciousness is evidenced in only one percent of the
world population, and that it possesses a scant five percent of social power. Even so, this second-
tier consciousness is a natural part of human consciousness evolution. As such, it illustrates the
potential capacity of every human being, and holds many of the answers to the problems that
have arisen as a result of the first six VMEMES (Wilber, 2000b). Wilber (2000b) puts it this way:
“…without second-tier thinking…humanity is destined to remain victims [sic] of a global ‘auto-
immune disease,’ where various memes turn on each other in an attempt to establish supremacy”
(p. 53). Due to first-tier rivalry and the worldwide issues and problems it creates, the leap from
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first- into second-tier consciousness seems vital to the unfolding of a healthy future. We cannot
be naïve enough to think all the problems are solved at second-tier levels, however. Because all
people start at BEIGE and progress up the spiral of consciousness development, there will
always be people at varying degrees of awareness, with varying – and often contrary –
worldviews. “Dealing with the whole spiral at once is the great challenge for second-tier thinking
and beyond” (NVC, 2001a, p. 6).
The Call for Caution
Here, an important observation needs to be made. According to Spiral Dynamics, it is
fundamental to “accept that the memes do not represent a hierarchy of ‘better,’ but rather, that
each can be expressed in a positive and negative way” (Roemischer, n.d., The Memes, RED,
5). Indeed, following Wilber’s tenet that “the more a system evolves, the greater its capacity for
pathology” (Edwards, 2002, p. 3), it is logical that extraordinarily high levels of consciousness
can be capable of extraordinarily negative expressions. Moreover, where first-tier consciousness
levels are concerned, anything read, studied, or discussed is done so through the lens of that
worldview. Thus, a person at the GREEN level of consciousness may disdain the worldviews of
the RED or BLUE, but that disdain indicates only the personal opinion of someone at a different
egocentric (e.g. first-tier) level of consciousness development. The worldview espoused at any
given moment shapes the way we think about things, not the things we think about (Beck &
Cowan, 1996), allowing each person to have their own take on “what is so.” Concurrently, “the
greatest danger in [consciousness] work is to mistake what a single viewpoint reveals as though
it were the whole” (Vaughan, 1998, 3).
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Beck and Cowan are highly aware that discussion of Spiral Dynamics can too easily lead
to judging and labeling, and they have repeatedly remarked that the student of Spiral Dynamics
would do well to “beware of finding simplicity which is not there” (NVC, 2001a, p. 5). Spiral
Dynamics is not a typology – a system of personality categorizing, sorting, or
compartmentalizing – it is far more complex than most people understand. For one thing, no one
is generally locked at a single level, so using VMEMES as a tool for labeling is inappropriate
(NVC, 2001a). Consciousness, according to Spiral Dynamics, is composed of “shadings,
mixtures, and blends” (NVC, 2001b, 9) of the various developmental lines within the waves, as
mentioned above. This means that, contrary to our tendency to compartmentalize and categorize,
each person is capable of exhibiting each wave’s traits. No one is simply one “color,” though any
given wave may predominate any given developmental facet of an individual’s consciousness.
As each “whorl” (e.g. a turn in a spiral) of the spiral transcends and includes its predecessors, a
logical correlation is that those who disparage perceived lower levels of consciousness will find
those same levels within their own consciousness level. This fundamental aspect of Spiral
Dynamics means “people may shift their thinking to fit the conditions at hand” (NVC, 2001a, p.
5). This explains how people who tend to be piously BLUE or conscientiously GREEN may fall
back on instinctive BEIGE behaviors when under pressure or stress (ibid.).
What is imperative, according to Beck, Cowan, and Wilber is the health of the entire
spiral. This means that “all of the [waves need] to be seen as necessary parts of the overall spiral,
and thus each be allowed to make its own crucial contribution to the comprehensive health of the
spiral” (Wilber, 2000e, p. 72). The most beneficial manner in which to relate to Spiral Dynamics,
therefore, is to recognize the influence and characteristics of each VMEME in ourselves, “to
become at one with it, not just observe it” (Lorimer, 2001, 9), to honor our collective
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consciousness history, and to remember that, in dealings with others of our own species,
differences of opinion may very well be differences of deep-seated worldviews.
Tarot and the “Journey of the Hero”
Though often thought of as an oracular or fortune-telling device, tarot cards have been
gaining respect as viable psychological tools in certain circles. While the history of the system of
78 cards is still highly debatable (Arrien, 1987; Banzhaf, 1997; de Laurence, 1918; Gwain, 1994;
Hamaker-Zondag, 1995; & Lionnet, 2002), Jungian psychologists and their supporters have
acknowledged “there is a progression in the [tarot] trumps of the soul’s initiation into higher
consciousness” (Campbell & Roberts, 1979, p. 46). Considered a “symbolic map of
consciousness” (Arrien, 1987, p. 12), the tarot’s “Journey of the Hero” – the sequence of the 22
archetypal-imaged cards – offers those familiar with its images the opportunity to view their own
consciousness evolution from its most humble beginnings to its most promising possibilities.
Jungian Psychology & Archetypes
A discussion of the tarot’s “Journey of the Hero” necessitates a look at Jung’s theory of
consciousness development, which hinges almost entirely upon his view of the unconscious
dimension of the human psyche. While Jung agreed with his contemporaries that the human
mind has both conscious and unconscious aspects, he presented a lasting (and lastingly
controversial) contribution to psychology when he proposed the existence of a collective
unconsciousa legacy of the breadth and depth of the human experience. This collective
unconscious consists of “prehistorical [sic] mental aspects of personality which [function] far
below the level of normal consciousness” (Van de Castle, 1994, p. 146). Further, “Jung
proposed that the collective unconscious contained information that predated any individual’s
personal existence but was rather a mental remnant of the species’ ancient past” (Van de Castle,
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1994, p. 147). According to Jung, an understanding of the unconscious and its processes is
invaluable, for in order for an individual to fully mature and become his or her truest self – a
process Jung called individuation – a person’s integration of unconscious energies with the
conscious mind is essential.
Information from the collective unconscious, however, is rarely – if ever – communicated
clearly in our native tongues. Rather, symbols are used. Within the collective unconscious’ pool
of ancient psychic remnants, there exist energies called archetypes. These archetypes have been
described as “latent predispositions to perceive the world in particular ways” (Ewen, 1998, p.
95), and have been, essentially, “hardwired into the human cognitive processes [and]…
symbolized as far back into history as humans have been using symbols to express concepts”
(Thompson, 2001, p. 10). As a result of the species-wide shared nature of the collective
unconscious and its wellspring of psychic energy, archetypal symbols are readily accessible to all
people of all cultures.
While archetypal symbols are expressed at a universal and cross-cultural level, cultural
context has a direct influence on the manner in which such symbols are interpreted, and the
meaning with which they are infused. For example, the universal experience of a cup –
something familiar to all cultures – may be expressed and experienced differently based on
cultural context. It may appear as an ornamented and coveted chalice held in the hands of the
noble, a holy grail worthy of legend, loyalty and quest, a witch’s cauldron bubbling over with a
forbidden brew, or a mundane soup bowl in the hands of a hungry child. When one can see
beyond the cultural clothing of a symbol into its essence, however, its universal quality can be
discerned. With this understanding, Jung concluded that indeed, such a marriage of universal
symbols and the human species has existed all throughout time and all over the world as
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evidenced by the fact that “archetypes….can be detected not only in dreams, but in the content
of myths, fairy tales, psychotic delusions, and religious rituals” (Van de Castle, 1994, p. 147) of
all different peoples and cultures.
For Jung, the unconscious – especially the collective – is the surest source of wisdom.
Jung wrote: “The unconscious mind is capable at times of assuming an intelligence and
purposiveness which are superior to actual conscious insight” (Van de Castle, 1994, p. 174). A
crucial factor determining how conscious we are is whether we attend to the messages of the
unconscious and to what degree we are able to make the unconscious conscious (Stevens, 1995).
The only barrier between us and the wealth of already-inherited wisdom is our inability to access
it, understand it, and integrate it. One of the ways that Jungian analysts approach the work of
individuation is through active imagination. The general understanding behind this approach is
that bringing contents of the unconscious to the conscious mind integrates them and furthers our
development. As “Jung was fascinated by the symbology of the tarot, regarding the major arcana
figures as examples of archetypes of the collective unconscious” (Davidson, 2001, p. 3), working
with the “Journey of the Hero” is a practical path toward raising one’s consciousness and will be
covered in further detail later.
Tarot History
Tarot history is incomplete at best, fraught with fanciful imaginings at worst. Some
propose that the earliest origin of the cards lays “in the religious rituals and symbols of the
ancient Egyptians” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 10), and that, among other equally questionable
connections, the name “tarot” is a “corruption of the name Thoth, the ancient Egyptian god of
magic and wisdom” (Arrien, 1987, p. 16). The tarot might therefore be a compilation of “the
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ancient and magical Book of Thoth, which had been rescued from the great fire of Alexandria”
(Hamaker-Zondag, 1995, p. 18). Others have suggested that the cards originated in the Eastern
countries, where the small symbolic pictures “were in essence a sort of secret language, a code
with an accompanying dogma or insight which could be understood by none but initiates”
(Hamaker-Zondag, 1995, p. 9). Co-author Richard Roberts (1979) suggests that the “Tarot is
traditionally Hermetic and…a kind of Western Book of the Dead” (p. 46), while others have
maintained that the more archetypal cards “were concocted by the Albigenses, a Gnostic sect
which flourished in Provence in the twelfth century” (Nichols, 1980, p. 3). Yet another theory is
that the cards were first fashioned for “the aristocratic Italian Visconti-Sforza family [who]
commissioned the painting of several Tarot decks” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 10), ostensibly, as a means
of entertainment and as a testament to their affluence. Yet it is believed that the “earliest set of
Tarot cards of which actual examples survive was prepared in 1392 for King Charles VI of
France….Seventeen of their number are preserved in Paris in the Bibliothèque” (Campbell &
Roberts, 1979, p. 9).
There is little reason to doubt that ancient and primitive cultures engaged in some kind of
cartomancy. Among all the diverse theories – ranging from conception of the cards by the
ancient Celts, Chinese, Koreans, Indians, or Persians – lays an interesting bit of factual history,
however, that deals less with the cards ancestry than with the artistry of their archetypal symbols
(Arrien, 1987; Campbell & Richards, 1979; Lionnet, 2002). Renowned scholar of mythology and
its myriad of symbols, Joseph Campbell (1979) reported that the archetypal images of the tarot
might be connected to a group called the “Order of the Golden Dawn….[an] arcane company
[that] conceived the deities of Celtic, Classical, Oriental, and primitive myth to be veritable
manifestations of aspects of the life-structuring force” (p. 5). A study of this group’s iconography
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found that “there was…something anticipatory of C. G. Jung’s psychological theory of the
Collective Unconscious and its Archetypes” (ibid.). Evidently, Jung was “significantly
influenced…by the same Gnostic and alchemical texts from which the members of the Order of
the Golden Dawn drew inspiration” (ibid.). Not surprisingly, one of the most widely used and
adapted versions of the tarot, the Waite deck, was prepared by two of the Order’s initiates and
contains images highly suggestive of Jungian archetypes.
Regardless of the veracity of this account, or of any promoted view of tarot history, what
stands out is the fact that “the many imaginative hypotheses as to the cards’ inception, and the
numerous visions and revisions inspired by their pictorial symbology attest to their universal
appeal and demonstrate their power to activate the human imagination” (Nichols, 1980, p. 5).
The importance of the cards is that some very real and transformative emotions must have
brought them into reality. “It seems apparent that these old cards were conceived deep in the guts
of human experience, at the most profound level of the human psyche. It is to this level in
ourselves that they will speak” (ibid.).
Tarot Card Composition
The tarot is comprised of 78 cards, broken down into two groups, the major arcana and
the minor arcana. The major arcana – also known as the trump cards – contains twenty-two
archetypally influenced cards. These trump cards are the seat of what has become known in
many circles as the “The Journey of the Hero” – the sequence of cards that represents the stages
of consciousness evolution from the instinctual Fool (card 0), to the illumined World (card 21)
(Banzhaf, 1997). The images contained in the 22 trump cards are believed to be archetypal in
nature (Arrien, 1987; Gwain, 1994; Hamaker-Zondag, 1995; Lionnet, 2002; Nichols, 1980), and
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thus have the capacity to reveal the “life principles, universal laws, or collective experiences that
all humankind have” (Arrien, 1987, p. 18). For the remainder of this paper, only the major
arcana and its symbolic “Journey of the Hero” will be examined.
The “minor arcana” is made up of four different suits: swords, wands (or staves), cups,
and coins (or disks), each with its own symbolic correlate. My studies indicate that there is some
variance in how the minor card suits are symbolically described. What seems to be most often
the case, however, is that swords symbolize the intellect; wands, creativity and intuition; cups,
emotion and the unconscious; and coins, the grounded, material plane of existence (Arrien, 1987;
Lionnet, 2002; and Hamaker-Zondag, 1995). Author Karen Hamaker-Zondag (1995) proposes
“the Major and Minor Arcana developed separately and were merged at a particular moment” (p.
16). This might explain the differences between the major and minor arcana cards’ symbolic
imagery and importance; author and tarot instructor Hajo Banzhaf (1997) maintains that only the
22 trump cards contain “wisdom in their profound symbolism” (p. 5). The minor arcana,
“having never been interpreted into a language that transcends that of fortune-telling” (ibid.), are
often left solely within the territory of cartomancy.
A Human Legacy: Spiral Associations & The “Journey of the Hero”
Beck & Cowan (1996) explain that the spiral structure of human mind/brain development
is applicable to every person in the world. Spiral Dynamics “describes human nature in a
universal sense rather than through personality types or racial, gender, and ethnic traits” (Beck &
Cowan, 1996, p. 30). The human species, from the time of its existence, has been expanding and
deepening its collective consciousness. New ages and epochs have demanded new thinking, and
the species has survived by answering such needs through spiraling consciousness evolution. In
Spiral of the Hero 20
the present time, each individual that is born has the capacity to experience each level of
consciousness that its species has experienced, from BEIGE through GREEN and onward,
depending on its life circumstances (Beck & Cowan, 1996). The spiral seems to be inherent to
each individual, offering a map of consciousness possibilities and explanations as to mind/brain
worldviews. The “Journey of the Hero” is quite the same.
Sociologist and Anthropologist Dr. Curtiss Hoffman (1999) has suggested that the
collective unconscious and its archetypes “somehow [became] socially, or even genetically
encoded” (p. 37) into the human species through prehistoric and common experience. In
addition, research into neuronal development and connections has also “found evidence of
consistent ‘packets’ or ‘modules’ of neurons that may turn out to be the physical correlate to the
archetypes” (Hoffman, 1999, p. 38). Even Wilber (2000d), who differs much from Jung in his
approach to psychology and consciousness studies, agrees that “the typical archetype is a basic,
inherited image or form in the psyche….[which, through] millions and millions of past
encounters…[has], so to speak, ingrained [itself] into the collective psyche of the human race”
(p. 245). It appears, therefore, that just as human beings are incapable of operating outside of the
Spiral of Development due to the history of its species, so too are they incapable of existing as
conscious individuals without being affected by the archetypes of the collective unconscious.
Additionally, just as the Spiral of Development suggests that consciousness follows
developmental stages, I propose that the archetypal “Journey of the Hero” can be presented as a
stage system, which requires that each level be achieved before development at the next level
becomes possible. While this is an admittedly unusual approach to the tarot and to archetypes in
general, my observation is that the Spiral of Development and the “Journey of the Hero” relate
similarly to each other in terms of developmental progression. With the aim of substantiating
Spiral of the Hero 21
such a proposition, I will present each card of the “Journey of the Hero” with its characteristic
definitions, and will correlate each card to the Spiral of Development.
BEIGE – The Fool
The first whorl on the spiral, BEIGE is an archaic form of consciousness. A “virtually
automatic state of existence” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 198), BEIGE consciousness strives only
to exist, to endure life, and to act according to its instincts and biological needs (Beck & Cowan,
1996). Called by Swiss cultural philosopher Jean Gebser the “Archaic Structure” (Feuerstein,
1988, 8), BEIGE is the starting point – the place at which infants are born (Beck & Cowan,
1996). As such, it is a beginning, a place of possibility and growth. Simultaneously, it is not a
level that seeks further development or enlightenment. Author Georg Feuerstein (1988) wrote
that this BEIGE, archaic structure has the “least degree of self-awareness….[yet] it contains the
possibility of evolution [though it] is itself dim” (Archaic Structure, 1). Wilber (2000a) notes
this level as egocentric, not because BEIGE consciousness has a distinct ego on which it chooses
to focus, for the “distinct self is barely awakened or sustained” (pp. 9, 21), but rather, because
BEIGE has no ability to extend its awareness beyond itself. It is, therefore, completely self-
interested – egocentric.
The first card in the major arcana, the Fool is often numbered as zero or left unnumbered
altogether. This marks him as prepersonal, meaning that the Fool’s sense of a personal self is
markedly low; he has not learned to consciously differentiate between himself and the rest of the
world. Like BEIGE, the Fool is regarded as the “start of a phase” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 20), and “a
card of beginnings” (Bunning, 1995, The Fool, 1); the Fool is the instinctual commencement of
consciousness. Representing “the energy that triggers the process of dawning consciousness”
Spiral of the Hero 22
(Franklin, 2001, p. 25), the Fool “contains all potentiality” (Gwain, 1994, p. 134) – such
consciousness can only go forward. The Fool is the starting place for all humanity, and thus it
relates directly, along with all that it represents, to the BEIGE VMEME of the Spiral of
Development.
While the BEIGE/Fool worldview is present at birth, its transition phase results from
having basic survival needs met and from the budding awareness of self from the rest of the
observable world (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 202). The Fool is most often depicted as a young
man who is oblivious to the fact that he is perilously close to walking off the edge of a cliff. As
his consciousness rises, he awakens to this sense of danger; “the self begins to differentiate and
one senses the power in the imposing, scary, outside world” (ibid.). As there is strength in
numbers, relationships become conceivable and necessary. Memories begin to accrue,
connecting “now” with “then,” and one steps, as an autonomous being, into a magical and
mysterious world (Beck & Cowan, 1996).
PURPLE – The Magician & The High Priestess
When BEIGE consciousness spirals into PURPLE, there is a shift from instincts and
biology to a truly conscious mind (Beck & Cowan, 1996). PURPLE is the first wave to deal with
forces recognized as outside the individual, and the first to foster relationships with family and
clan members. Where BEIGE did not comprehend causes to life experiences such as thunder and
rain, sun and moon, or birth and death, PURPLE activates such a capacity. It seeks harmony and
communication with the powers of nature, and in an effort to secure safety and blessings for the
self and the family or clan PURPLE devises spells, customs, sacred places and rituals (ibid.). To
PURPLE consciousness, “practically no aspect of nature [escapes] utility as a prophetic art”
Spiral of the Hero 23
(Halpern, 2000, p. 17). Wilber (2000a) refers to PURPLE as “magical-animistic,” for thinking at
this level recognizes “spirits, good and bad [that] swarm the earth leaving blessings, curses, and
spells which determine events” (p. 9).
To exist at the PURPLE wave is to experience and value heightened intuition, emotional
attachments to places and things, and a mystical sense of cause and effect (Roemischer, n.d.).
Myths, superstitions, legends and parables abound in PURPLE as explanations of experiences
and carriers for the collective memories of the clan. The line between reality and fantasy,
however, is often blurred and PURPLE consciousness can therefore confuse fables with fact
(Beck & Cowan, 1996).
Perhaps it is more than coincidence that the names of tarot trump cards 1 and 2 – The
Magician and the High Priestess – are in sync with the VMEME which is home to magic, sorcery,
and other arcane arts. Both the Magician and the High Priestess correlate to the PURPLE wave
of the spiral, with its movement toward perceiving, comprehending, and manipulating the natural
world. The Magician represents the awakening of personal consciousness. Signifying “the
universal principle of communication” (Arrien, 1987, p. 27), Magician consciousness has
differentiated enough to recognize the difference between himself and others, and he has sought
interaction. This card also represents the “process by which the Divine is freed from nature”
(Gwain, 1994, p. 134); the Magician is concerned with “the physical world, the behavior of
matter and of the psyche, and the activity of the spirit” (Hamaker-Zondag, 1995, p. 33), and
explores ways in which he can communicate and control the energies of the world. This card
symbolizes the human capacity for self-realization, made possible through a realization of “the
link between the conscious and unconscious mind” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 23).
Spiral of the Hero 24
Card number 2, the High Priestess, alludes “to hidden riches in the unconscious mind”
(Lionnet, 2002, p. 24). Like PURPLE, she represents heightened intuition, and the ability to “use
the irrational and emotional as instruments to tune into people and situations” (Hamaker-Zondag,
1995, p. 135). She expresses trust in the inner voice, and embodies the kind of “passive,
receptive principle” (Banzhaf, 1997, p. 37) that is essential in certain spiritual and magical
workings. She senses correlations, comprehends dreams and has premonitions of developments
to come (Banzhaf, 1997).
Exiting the PURPLE/Magician/High Priestess wave occurs when repeated “exposure to
the world reveals how baseless many of the superstitions actually are” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p.
213). When a need for personal autonomy rises in an individual, those that wish to keep
PURPLE under control may resort to using tradition and ritual as cultural weapons. This conflict
gives rise to “anarchy (renegades and misfits) in the well-wrought tribal order” (ibid.), leading
precisely to the next level: RED/Empress/Emperor.
RED – The Empress & The Emperor
Also called the “Power Gods” and “The Egocentric VMEME” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p.
215), the briefest description of this spiral wave’s developmental characteristics given by Wilber
(2000a) is “express impulsively, break free, be strong” (p. 8). RED is a break away from the
tribe of PURPLE. It is “powerful, impulsive, egocentric, heroic” (Wilber, 2000a, p. 9), and of
the first three VMEMES, RED is the most egocentric, having a distinct awareness of self and
others, and choosing to enjoy itself “to the fullest without regret or remorse” (ibid.). RED
consciousness seeks control by asserting one’s self for dominance, conquest, and power (NVC,
2001b).
Spiral of the Hero 25
With a penchant for order and management, RED is the response to life conditions that
require strength, self-assertiveness, and the ability to fight one’s way out of a compromising
situation (Roemischer, n.d.). RED feels a need to be decisively individual, to be heard and
acknowledged as a sole authority. It “stubbornly resists power exercised over it” (Beck &
Cowan, 1996, p. 216). It “wants to be bigger than life – awesome” (p. 219). As heroes in their
own minds, RED-level thinkers are unabashed; their “strong self-assertiveness, claims of power,
and assumed prerogative are the norm, since there is neither guilt nor concern for others” (p.
220). What a RED fears is failure and any resulting disgrace (ibid).
Like any level of consciousness, RED has its strengths as well as weaknesses. Because it
is so strident in its characteristic expression, RED can seem, perhaps, an aberration. The truth,
according to Spiral Dynamics, is that RED and its expression in the world is “a normal part of
the human VMEME repertoire” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 217). It is a swirl of the spiral, part of
the expansion of human consciousness and evidence of its evolution from earlier levels. Of the
RED wave, Beck states “we see all kinds of rage and rebellion, but we may also see wonderful
spurts of creativity, heroic acts, and the ability to break from tradition and chart a whole new
pathway” (Roemischer, n.d., The Memes, RED, 4).
Tarot trump cards 3 and 4, the Empress and the Emperor, respectively, parallel the RED
wave of the spiral. Together the Empress and Emperor define a strong RED quality, which
requires that “you own your own power and authority and that you don’t abandon your own
authority or give your power away to others” (Arrien, 1987, p. 38). The Empress represents “an
enjoyment of life” that comes as a result of her singular “supreme power as a woman in her own
right” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 26). She embodies “an earthy, physical sensuality” (ibid.) to which she
is “able to surrender…as [to] secure a solid foundation” for her life (p. 27). Much like the
Spiral of the Hero 26
boundary-breaking creative energy of RED, according to Banzhaf (1997), “the Empress is…the
almost inexhaustible original source that gives birth to something new over and over again” (p.
42).
RED can be thought of as totalitarian and dominating. Indeed, it is the wave to which
Wilber (2000a) attributes the rise of “powerful people….feudal lords….power and glory” (p. 9).
The Emperor is, of course, such an archetype. Ruling over an empire, full of individual power
and prestige, the Emperor is servant to no other. A figure of power and authority, the Emperor
feels no need to squelch his ambition. With extreme self-assurance, the Emperor
“uncompromisingly [turns] ideas, intentions, and perhaps long-held desires into reality”
(Banzhaf, 1997, p. 44). In many tarot decks, “he holds an orb and scepter indicating his authority
and power…indicative of the desire to take control of life” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 28). Much like the
energy of RED, the Emperor “commands respect and admiration” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 29) and “is
a dynamic force signifying our ambition, our drive for status and power” (ibid.). He is “direct,
forceful, and firm” (ibid.), the perfect RED example of “the pioneer, the leader, the builder, the
doer, and the visionary” (Arrien, 1987, p. 37).
As RED/Empress/Emperor begins to relax its guard and spend time outside of its armor,
guilt sneaks in. “Doubts about unbridled desires and impulsive acts” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p.
226) creep in, as well as a genuine, though perhaps loathed, awareness of others. The concept of
“might makes right” loses its gleaming significance as the RED worldview takes into serious
account that in the end, everyone dies, dust returns to dust, and the question shifts from being in
power to the price of the crown upon one’s brow. RED begins to see the value in taking up a
cause, and the introduction of BLUE grants the worldview a sense of standards and legitimacy.
Spiral of the Hero 27
RED then becomes ready for a shift into fighting for what’s right, rather than for one’s own
cause.
BLUE – The Hierophant or Priest
Having spun out of a completely self-centered worldview, BLUE is communal, drawing
strength from commonality found in belief structures. Full of its previous RED energies, BLUE
transfers its narcissism from the self to the group by underscoring ties to its community with the
sense of rigidity, determination, and strength that it developed and expressed in RED. As Wilber
(2000a) says it: “…not me, but my country [church, organization, government, etc.], can do no
wrong” (p. 21)!
Truly communal, tied together by faith, myth, and consciousness, BLUE sees its “Truth”
as fundamental, all-encompassing, and worthy of any sacrifice or personal surrender, even of
one’s life. Known also as the “Truth Force” VMEME, “in BLUE there is a search for a
transcendent Purpose, a recognition of the importance of order and meaning, a universe
controlled by a single higher power” (Roemischer, n.d., The Memes, BLUE, 2). The extreme
faith that BLUE puts in its “higher power” is such that it will sacrifice its self “to the
transcendent Cause, Truth, or righteous Pathway” (Roemischer, n.d., First Tier, BLUE, 2). For
a BLUE, faithfulness produces not only stability in this lifetime, but a guarantee of reward in the
future. The sense of purpose found in true BLUE consciousness is such that its worldview “not
only can spell out the project of life but can provide a sense of group identification that drives
people to attempt almost anything” in the name of the perceived or respected Higher Order or
Power (Donald, 2001, p. 296).
Spiral of the Hero 28
BLUE seeks to clean up, straighten, and structure the chaos of life. “BLUE movements,
whether religious, cultural, or nationalistic, are forged from conditions of chaos, deprivation, and
suffering” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 231). BLUE’s accomplish this within their worldview, in
part, due to their polarized thinking. Knowing the difference between what is “good” and what is
“bad” makes BLUE consciousness able to act without doubt according to held beliefs and ideals.
Rife with myths and legends that give its “higher power” ultimate authority, BLUE seeks
to perpetuate its ranks and strengthen its worldview. It does this especially well through its
myths and ritualistic dogma. In Keith Thompson’s article (1986), Joseph Campbell, widely
considered one of the greatest scholars of mythology, is quoted as saying: “the social function of
a myth is not to open the mind, but to enclose it: to bind a local people together in mutual
support by offering images that awaken the heart to recognitions of commonality” (The Tribal
Suppression of Mercy, 2). As a result, consciousness evolution for a BLUE is evolution
allowed only within its approved structure. BLUE’s believe that any “non-system approaches
are implicitly wrong, possibly sinful, and may have been introduced as tests of faith and
commitment to the True Way” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 232). If it challenges the currently held
structure of power and authority, it is to be feared and fought, for it is outside of the sanctioned
path.
Card number 5 is the Hierophant, also known in many tarot decks as the Priest.
Representing the BLUE VMEME, the person in this card is most often shown “in papal robes
standing between two pillars” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 30), symbolic of his place in the church and the
spirituality that is to be found within its dogmatic structure. Arrien (1987) describes the
Hierophant as “the universal principle of learning and teaching that is experienced within our
families and in life challenges that require us to trust our faith” (p. 41). As a symbolic
Spiral of the Hero 29
representation of BLUE and its firm, community-based worldview, the Hierophant “holds the
staff of commitment which reminds us that any commitment requires that our mind, heart, and
action all share the same intention and focus” (Arrien, 1987, p. 42). People at Hierophant-level
consciousness are “loyal, practical, and community-minded people. Learning and teaching
situations are important to them” (ibid.).
True to BLUE’s emergence from rugged, self-centered RED individualism, the
Hierophant teaches “there is a greater reality beyond time and material space” (Gwain, 1994, p.
137) and that connection to this greater reality requires “a spiritual teacher…a religious ritual or
ceremony” (ibid.). Often, in observing the religious rules that teach how to govern one’s actions,
the BLUE/Hierophant consciousness may kindle “a form of pride that has its source in the
conviction that [it is] holding cosmic, moral, or ethical truth by the right end of the stick and that
‘therefore’ others must be wrong” (Hamaker-Zondag, 1995, p. 142). Indeed, the combination of
this level’s quest for meaning and subsequent conviction is responsible “for the world’s immense
variety of religious traditions, art, and literature” (Feuerstein, 1988, Mythical Structure, 1).
BLUE-to-ORANGE Transition – The Lovers & The Chariot
After BLUE/Hierophant has stabilized its world and brought order to perceived chaos,
the self begins to stir again. At this transition phase “we find a cautious, inoffensive, controlled
move back toward independent thinking” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 238), which eventually leads
to questioning “whether the authority is all it is cracked up to be” (ibid.). While there may still
be a greater need to submit than to self-express, the scales tip toward autonomy in this phase. As
ORANGE gains strength and momentum, any perceived lack of freedom caused by the
BLUE/Hierophant hierarchy and traditionalism may act as fuel for evolution (Beck & Cowan,
Spiral of the Hero 30
1996). Doubts about BLUE teachings and “self-evident truths” begin to allow a reinterpretation
of the truth to fit more “real world” issues. The result is a consciousness that comes to believe
that it is a better authority than the authorities, and the zeal of BLUE can quickly become the fire
of ORANGE. Though the connection to some infallible (if not amendable) truth remains
seductive to the transitioning BLUE/Hierophant, the self that has discovered its own thoughts
and feelings may soon find its own voice in ORANGE.
The Lovers is the first major arcana card that relates to a transition phase on the spiral, as
BLUE whorls into ORANGE. Contrary to what one might think from its name alone, card
number 6, the Lovers, is not necessarily related to love. It is, rather, a call to distinguish and
discriminate between values that serve or hinder the self. Of the consciousness that occurs at the
Lovers wave, Arrien (1987) wrote:
You may experience a need to reassess all of your relationships – friends, family,
colleagues, deep emotional relationships. It is a time of assessing whether you have the
kind of support system that you need and want, or the kind that you do not need and
want. It is a [time] where you want to deepen and expand certain relationships, and
where you may want to distance, shed, or split apart from other relationships which you
feel you have outgrown. (p. 48)
Quite in line with the transition from BLUE to ORANGE, the Lovers archetype expresses the
developmental circumstance that arises when “the self ‘escapes’ from the ‘herd mentality’ of
blue, and seeks truth and meaning in individualistic terms” (Wilber, 2000a, p. 10). Naturally, this
does not mean moving from community to complete isolation. Rather, this transition phase is
fraught with the need to decide one’s own beliefs and to determine one’s own values (Bunning,
1995). There is internal movement that leads toward “making a decision of one’s own free will
Spiral of the Hero 31
and from the bottom of one’s heart” (Banzhaf, 1997, p. 55), even if it is contrary to the law and
order of BLUE. This part of the BLUE-to-ORANGE transition phase, as depicted in the
“Journey of the Hero” is one of recognition and perception. In the next part of the transition – the
Chariot – one takes action.
Card number 7, the Chariot, is a further development of the transition from BLUE-to-
ORANGE consciousness. Here, there is continued – or perhaps even heightened – internal
conflict and struggle. Generally portrayed as a chariot “being pulled in opposite directions by
two different-colored horses” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 34), this card symbolizes the potential for
resolution that is achieved once one learns how to act upon “the conflicting forces competing for
supremacy within” (ibid.). Contrary to BLUE’s fear of change, the Chariot “illustrates that
change is pervasive in that it touches every individual multi-dimensionally” (Arrien, 1987, p.
51). Though the Chariot is an image that describes the need to leave the community “which has
given…protection and a sense of security up to now” (Banzhaf, 1997, p. 57), when the urge
comes to actually expand outward from the reign of BLUE, we find the energy of the Chariot,
which “depicts the need and the desire to function more powerfully and more self-assertively, to
display will-power, and to affirm our identity” (Hamaker-Zondag, 1995, p. 145). Chariot
consciousness realizes that its “reality is never the absolute reality…[and that there exists] the
possibility of growing beyond the limits of our previous mental boundary through interested
participation in the reality of others, thereby pressing forward to an increasingly deep
understanding” (Banzhaf, 1997, p. 59). As the archetype of departure (Banzhaf, 1997), the
Chariot symbolizes the final stage of the BLUE-to-ORANGE transition that finds its completion
in the card Justice.
Spiral of the Hero 32
ORANGE – Justice
Called “Scientific Achievement” by Wilber (2000a, p. 10) and “Strive Drive” and “The
Strategic VMEME” by Beck and Cowan (1996, p. 244), ORANGE consciousness struggles for
autonomy, independence, material abundance, and “progress through searching out the best
solutions” (ibid.). A clear move away from the group-centeredness and restrictive force of
BLUE, the ORANGE VMEME rekindles its previous RED desire to do as the self demands,
while tempering it with BLUE’s understanding of rules, regulations, and a need for meaning in
life (Beck & Cowan, 1996). A fine example of this is Roger Shattuck’s book Forbidden
Knowledge (1996) which, in its entirety, is devoted to breaking free from BLUE restraints on the
pursuit of life-enriching and meaning-granting knowledge: “Are there things we should not
know? Can anyone or any institution, in this culture of unfettered enterprise and growth,
seriously propose limits on knowledge” (p. 1)? ORANGE would reply emphatically in the
negative. Noted by Wilber (2000a) as highly “rational” (p. 21), ORANGE “seeks meaning in
individualistic terms” (p. 10). This means that ORANGE still sees importance in seeking
meaning (a characteristic gained from its BLUE history), but that it does so on its own terms,
through its own devices, and at its own fast pace and preference.
In response to the dogma and reliance on “unseen truth” in BLUE, the ORANGE
VMEME raises up science and technology as means toward fulfillment. ORANGE turns science
into a religion of its own (Feuerstein, 1988). The creed of such a religion is such that
ORANGE’s believe in change as a force of nature; they are not inured to promises of rewards
down the road (e.g. in the next life), for they believe that “science and technology equip us to do
virtually anything so long as we do not bog down in metaphysical ramblings or pointless
debates” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 250). ORANGE exhibits a “growing belief in optimism, in
Spiral of the Hero 33
changeability…[it believes] we are stewards of the universe and therefore have dominion over
it” (Roemischer, n.d., The Memes, ORANGE, 3).
As one might expect, ORANGE’s value clear, logical seeing, quantifiable experience,
and calculable success. ORANGE is “highly achievement oriented” (Wilber, 2000a, p. 10), and
authority is given to those who noticeably excel, having figured out the rules of the game of life,
and having manipulated them in order to come out on top. “To succeed in the ORANGE life
there is no room for guilt and no time or energy to be wasted” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 251).
Principles are a troublesome and flimsy affair and better left untouched, and ethics can be easily
disregarded in the race for quick prosperity. “I’m only looking out for number one” is a typical
ORANGE statement.
Despite all the ways in which the ORANGE serves the self and can injure its world and
culture in the process, Beck points out that just as with all VMEMES, for every weakness there is
a strength (Roemischer, n.d.). The ingenuity and brilliant creativity of ORANGE have enriched
the world, and have provided valuable breakthroughs in medicine, business, and economics.
With regard to ORANGE, Beck says: “We can challenge a manifestation of it, but without the
ORANGE thinking system, we couldn’t solve medical problems, we couldn’t figure out how to
clean up the water or the air, and we would sink back to the myth and mysticism of BLUE”
(Roemischer, n.d., The Memes, ORANGE, 5).
Traditionally, Justice is the 8th card of the major arcana, although some decks switch it
with Strength, which occupies number 11. As Justice represents the characteristics of the
ORANGE whorl of the Spiral of Development – a powerful use of intellect and the rational mind
– I agree with its traditional placement as the 8th card in the sequence (Lionnet, 2002).
Spiral of the Hero 34
Justice is often pictured as an androgynous being seated on a throne. A unique card,
carrying the symbols of the sharp sword of intellect and the scales of careful calculation, the
archetype of Justice describes a level of consciousness that understands the laws of this world.
Lionnet (2002) writes that the sword represents “discrimination [that] enables us to cut through
our prejudices and analyze a situation rationally and intelligently” (p. 37). The scales “offer us a
balanced perspective so that we are in a position to make a sound judgment” (ibid.). Justice
consciousness insists that one makes a thoughtful and cogent decision based on one’s own sense
of what is right, rather than listening to the advice of others (Franklin, 2001). Overall, just as
with the ORANGE wave, the quality of this consciousness is such that it “reflects our mental
ability to discriminate and make dispassionate evaluations” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 37).
Arrien (1987) writes that the card Justice presents “symbols of legalities, financial
balance, and business acumen” (p. 55). This is in agreement with the ORANGE wave, which
according to Wilber (2000a) is “highly achievement oriented, especially (in America) toward
materialistic gains. The laws of science rule politics, the economy, and human events” (p. 10).
ORANGE-to-GREEN Transition – The Hermit
Constant competition in the game of life can eventually bring loneliness to an
ORANGE/Justice personality. ORANGE/Justice’s tools of science and technology replaced
BLUE/Hierophant’s religiosity and confined spirituality in a race for material success, but such
tools have their flaws; “science…tells us what we might do in the universe but not why we
should or should not do it” (Hoffman, 1999, p. 39). As it releases its grasp on such materialistic
goals and opens up to the needs of others, ORANGE/Justice becomes conscious of feelings,
though initially they may not appreciate them (viewing them as a weakness). Coupled with a
Spiral of the Hero 35
gnawing sensation that “winning” in life may just not be about “dying with the most toys,” this
wave begins to explore the value of relationships and other facets of life it has ignored or
trampled underfoot in its feverish effort to come out on top. The movement from ORANGE to
GREEN is a momentous one, taking the spiral to its peak of first-tier consciousness.
Card 9, the Hermit, symbolizes the transition phase of ORANGE-to-GREEN. Beyond the
material plane with its baubles and ornaments lies the internal landscape. It is this inner-realm
where the Hermit resides, and from this place that he shines the light within in order to recognize
who he truly is (Banzhaf, 1997). Arrien (1987) writes that “the Hermit….[symbolizes] that state
of consciousness associated with introspection and contemplation” (p. 60). This introspection is
often what leads one from the wiles of ORANGE materialism and the allure of science-as-spirit,
to realms that help us define who we are in relationship to the world around us and its
inhabitants. Such “retreat…contemplation, [and] inner collection” (Banzhaf, 1997, p. 85) open
one up to the realization of “self-knowledge…personal standards of values….clarity, inner
peace, [and] finding oneself and standing up for oneself” (ibid.).
Transitioning from ORANGE to GREEN may require patience, solitude, and reflection,
all of which the Hermit symbolizes (Lionnet, 2002). Often depicted as a lone figure atop a
mountain with a staff in one hand and a shining lantern held outstretched in the other, the Hermit
goes deep within himself for answers (Franklin, 2001). There, consciousness gains insight that
speaks to a life’s worth that is not drawn from what is earned, achieved, or hard-won. This phase
of the Hermit is “a personal search for the universal values and laws, stripped of external rituals
or any dogmatic approach” (Hamaker-Zondag, 1995, p. 149). The worldview transitions at this
level, and one enters a time in which “we look at things more and more from another dimension”
(Hamaker-Zondag, 1995, p. 150). This other dimension is one that is beyond the ORANGE
Spiral of the Hero 36
individualistic worldview. It is much more GREEN in nature, as symbolized by the next card, the
Wheel.
GREEN – The Wheel & Strength
The last of the first-tier consciousness levels, Wilber (2000a, 2000b) places high value on
the GREEN wave. “Postconvential” and “worldcentric” (Wilber, 2000a, p. 21), GREEN – also
called “The Sensitive Self” (p. 10) and “HumanBond” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 260) – is a very
relativistic, communitarian worldview. GREEN believes that “the human spirit must be freed
from greed [of the ORANGE], dogma [of the BLUE] and divisiveness [of all the previous spiral
waves]” (Wilber, 2000a, p. 10), as it stretches beyond the faculties and awareness of the five
VMEMES before it. It is, in fact, “the result of both the successes and the failures” (Beck &
Cowan, 1996, p. 260) of all the previous waves of consciousness.
At its peak, GREEN is consensual and egalitarian. Its group orientation results from the
loneliness and isolation that ORANGE brought upon itself. Its emphasis moves from one-
upmanship and competitiveness to “themes of sharing, understanding, appreciating, and
tolerance” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 265). GREEN is interested in diversity. It views each
individual’s unique contributions – “language usage, values, lifestyles” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p.
268) – as ingredients that enhance the whole of humanity. To some degree, this may be due to its
own desire to know itself and its place in the world. “GREEN starts with the search for self. ‘I
want to get to know myself. I want to deal with the hidden child in me. I want to make peace, I
want to find tranquility’” (Roemischer, n.d., The Mean Green Meme, 14). GREEN believes
that there is no such thing as a “bad person” or as “evil”. For a GREEN, perception is everything:
wide, open eyes should reveal that in essence, we are all the same. The danger in this, of course,
Spiral of the Hero 37
is that GREEN can forget the worldviews of other levels. Beck asserts that the tragedy of
September 11 “was a wake-up call, and for the first time GREEN began to see the ugly face of
RED/BLUE” (ibid.).
Beck, Cowan, and Wilber (Beck & Cowan, 1996; Cowan & Todorovic, 2000;
Roemischer, n.d.; Wilber, 2000a, 2000b) have all spoken to the egocentricity hidden in GREEN.
While it claims there is “plenty of room for everyone” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 266), this
VMEME can “be quite dismissive of (or blind to) the rest of the Spiral in the belief that its way is
the way, not a way” (ibid.). According to Wilber (2000a, 2000b, 2000d, ), GREEN’s greatest
weakness is that it is poised to transition from first-tier into second-tier consciousness, and yet it
fights the development, leaning toward its own egocentric understanding as if it were infallible
and the last word. Its most unhealthy expression, labeled by Wilber (2000a, 2000b, 2000d) as the
“Mean Green Meme” (or “MGM”), stands directly between personal and transpersonal
consciousness, a determined example of egocentricity digging in its heels. When this happens,
“this negative version of GREEN…[destroys] the capacity of ORANGE and BLUE social and
economic systems to actually address the gaps that GREEN itself has identified” (Roemischer,
n.d., The Mean Green Meme, 10). Though it marks the culmination of first-tier consciousness,
GREEN is by no means the endpoint of the spiral of development. When it sets itself up as such,
it can do as much damage as good.
Wilber (2000b) has spent a great deal of time and energy addressing the GREEN
VMEME. According to his treatment of Spiral Dynamics, “with the completion of the green
meme, human consciousness is poised for a quantum jump into ‘second-tier thinking’” (p. 51).
His largest concern with GREEN is that, because “green egalitarianism cannot easily abide
excellence and value rankings, big pictures, or anything that appears authoritarian, [it] reacts
Spiral of the Hero 38
strongly to blue, orange, and anything post-green” (ibid.). Though it is from the “large fund of
green memes (and sometimes orange) that the second-tier emerges” (Wilber, 2000b, p. 53),
GREEN’s inability to step beyond its worldview keeps it fixed to first-tier consciousness. As a
kind of “wake-up call” to those who reside predominantly in GREEN, Wilber and Beck direct
their energies, hoping to “give [GREEN-centered] people an understanding that what they are
doing is actually destroying the very thing they want to accomplish” (Roemischer, n.d., The
Mean Green Meme, 12): health and vitality for all people.
As part of the Spiral of Development, however, GREEN is invaluable. In its move away
from ORANGE materialism and individualism, GREEN develops a “heightened empathy”
which leads to “abundant communication” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 267). With a high priority
on equality and equanimity, “GREEN discussions dissolve conflict, build consensus, and
enhance everybody’s feelings of inclusion in the group” (ibid.). Its relativistic worldview makes
room for many truths, each acceptable, until one of them tries to dominate others. Then,
“GREEN swells up indignantly, a phenomenon which shocks those naïve enough to equate
GREEN-ness with softness and unconditional love of everyone” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 268).
Still, its ability to be inclusive, to listen with little prejudice, and to support those who have been
marginalized or condemned by other VMEMES, makes GREEN vital. In essence, “what GREEN
has accomplished, in a very positive sense, is the cleansing of the spiral, declaring an equality of
all the different experiences of life” (Roemischer, n.d., The Memes, GREEN, 5).
As a VMEME that is closer to the “sacrifice self” polarity, GREEN much prefers feeling
liked and accepted to feeling materially successful or regarded as a winner. Accordingly, a
GREEN individual gives its power to “whatever the community thinks is best, true, right, and
proper” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 270-71). Its members accept each other unreservedly,
Spiral of the Hero 39
expecting reciprocity. This allows for expressions of any number of alternative lifestyles and
behaviors, each of which is acceptable as long as it does not harm others.
The tarot trump card numbered 10 in the “Journey of the Fool,” the Wheel is often
understood to symbolize the completion, from start to finish, of a cycle or project (Lionnet,
2002). Some may feel tempted to attribute transpersonal meanings to it, by relating it to the
mandala or Jungian “Self” and the wholeness that is represented by each (Wilber, 2000b). While
the Wheel certainly does represent completion – in this case, of the first-tier of consciousness – it
also contains in its symbolism “the cycles of forward movement, spiritual evolution, and
progress” (Gwain, 1994, p. 139). Thus, the Wheel can be thought of as representing “the
universal principle of…expansion” (Arrien, 1987, p. 63). The consciousness of the Wheel
realizes that “we can turn our lives in more fortunate and positive directions by being
objective…flexible…and reaching for new opportunities and ways to express our creative
power” (ibid.). The Wheel’s GREEN message is “a reminder that expansion and abundance
come with the willingness to change and keep things moving by taking risks and being open to
new opportunities” (ibid.).
The nature of the Wheel is one of constant motion, a lesson “that everything passes and
nothing lasts forever” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 40), and thus, that we would be wise to remember that
“wisdom and virtue lie in not regarding the [Wheel’s] rim” (Campbell & Roberts, 1979, p. 16).
The realization that at the center we are all connected unites the human species with the turning
of life’s forces, and moves us from the ORANGE sense of a singular self against the world, to a
self “within the grander scheme of a universal plan” (Bunning, 1995, Wheel of Fortune, 2).
Thus, this GREEN consciousness cherishes the earth, values community and consensus, and
places great emphasis on feelings of caring where cold rationality was once present (Wilber,
Spiral of the Hero 40
2000a). The archetypal symbol of the Wheel challenges us to face what is outside of us in an
attempt to find the harmony, balance, and mutual growth that leads toward wholeness (Banzhaf,
1997).
Just as the GREEN VMEME is consciously aware of what price was paid for the material
success of ORANGE, so too does Wheel consciousness clearly see how the seeds that have been
sown in the past affect present circumstances. Indeed, the Wheel calls for action to help heal the
wounded, lift up the downtrodden, and disengage those aspects of the self and society that will
bring only further harm to the whole (Banzhaf, 1997). As the Wheel continues to turn, gathering
consciousness and awareness and drawing together communities of like-minded individuals, it
prepares for the spin off into what is known in spiral language as second-tier thinking.
Strength, card number 11 in the “Journey of the Hero,” reflects the action for which the
Wheel calls. Typically depicted as a woman who is gently but firmly closing the mouth of a lion,
this archetypal symbol represents GREEN’s acknowledgment of “the beauty that we all possess
in our gifts, talents, and resources” (Arrien, 1987, p. 66) as well as the community’s collective
strength-in-numbers experience and ability to deal with whatever demons have been unwittingly
unleashed in the world (Franklin, 2001). Strength “expresses vitality, passion, and the joy of life”
(Banzhaf, 1997, p. 97), each necessary as one frees the human spirit “from greed, dogma, and
divisiveness” (Wilber, 2000a, p. 10).
Fully aware of the harm humankind can do and perhaps has already done (e.g. the lion),
Strength seeks to control it, peaceably but firmly (e.g. the flower garlanded and crowned
woman). The depiction of Strength certainly suggests a hidden power clothed in refinement and
loveliness. A communal consciousness that presses for the equality of humankind, for
compassion and sensitivity toward those who have been trod underfoot by the earlier whorls of
Spiral of the Hero 41
the spiral, GREEN/Strength realizes that it is through the collective creativity and strength that
the world will be able to renew and regenerate itself (Arrien, 1987).
First-Tier (GREEN) to Second-Tier (YELLOW) Transition – The Hanged Man & Death
GREEN-to-YELLOW consciousness is confusing, for “the person stepping out of First
Tier sees too much, from too many new angles to accept simplicity that is not [there]” (Beck &
Cowan, 1996, p. 273). This transition phase is dynamic, as the consciousness is preparing to
break out of the egocentricity of the first-tier. This shift is monumental in scope, affecting a
person in multi-dimensional ways. Judgments that access whole-spiral experience and wisdom
begin to replace GREEN relativism, and the individual’s ability to handle both complexity and
diversity increases. The focus shifts so that the “question becomes not the question of conflict or
peace, but how we can deal creatively with these enormous tensions that presently afflict our
planet” (Berry, 1988, p. 84).
GREEN begins to transition into second-tier consciousness YELLOW when it
experiences doubt about the effectiveness of collectivism. The sense of individuality resurfaces
as an understanding arises that “positive relationships with others are important components of
being, but not the purpose of it” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 272). When GREENS find that their
individual goals have been sacrificed to community, and that their resentment of such has been
restrained by harmony, they allow themselves to begin looking outside of the community at
alternative approaches and ideas, “finding relevance in other groups and competent individuals”
(ibid.). When the individual can get things done well alone and away from the community, the
growth into YELLOW is well on its way.
Spiral of the Hero 42
Fear also decreases, as consciousness rises into second-tier realms. The strong sense of
self as something separate from the rest of reality subsides and a feeling of connection to the
larger whole is born. There is a shift from the need to belong to a group, to an understanding that
“bigger issues [are appearing] on the horizon that are beyond the scope of any community to
handle within itself” (ibid.). Second-tier consciousness is about to usher in an entirely new way
of being.
Cards 12 and 13, the Hanged Man and Death, are transitional cards that speak of the leap
from first-tier to second-tier consciousness. This transition does not necessarily occur all at once,
however. Arrien (1987) points to the Hanged Man as a representation of “the universal principle
of recognizing and awakening to repetitive patterns that bind, limit, and restrict our growth and
evolution” (p. 69). Appropriately, she calls this archetypal symbol “the pattern breaker” (ibid.) as
it takes what there is in GREEN consciousness and wears away the encircling-but-enclosing rim
of the Wheel. “The Hanged Man denotes a time when we are asked to surrender control of the
ego” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 45). It is during this transition phase from first- to second-tier
consciousness that we experience the “crucifixion of the ego” (Arrien, 1987, p. 69) in order to
recognize that, ultimately, “there are always many more options, solutions, and perspectives to
consider” (ibid.) than those which are characteristic of the first six waves.
The shift from first-tier to second-tier consciousness is not an easy one. First, one
encounters the Hanged Man who “signifies hopelessness in the face of Death…and the necessity
of a confrontation with this unavoidable fate” (Banzhaf, 1997, p. 114). Wilber (2000b) states that
“green has often fought to prevent the emergence of second-tier thinking…[because] all first-tier
memes resist the emergence of second-tier consciousness” (p. 230). Thus, the Hanged Man is a
Spiral of the Hero 43
strong and complex symbol, a call for great patience that will lead eventually to the sacrifice of
egocentrism and its need to always be right on target.
When the leap from tier to tier occurs, Death has entered the consciousness wave. The
ultimate symbol of endings, detachment, and release, Death is also the symbol of transformation
and the condition from which rebirth commences (Arrien, 1987; Lionnet, 2002). While Death
“reminds us that we have to let something die before we can give birth to the new” (Lionnet,
2002, p. 47), what dies is the egocentrically held worldview of GREEN. The result is that rather
than clinging to one narrow worldview, the consciousness is privy to wisdom made rich by
knowledge of all the spiral’s previous waves’ strengths and weaknesses. This is one of the
reasons that the card Death is situated midway through the “Journey of the Hero” and not placed
at its end (Banzhaf, 1997). One can look at the archetypal card Death “as an unavoidable
precondition for this fundamental transformation” (Banzhaf, 1997, p. 131). Indeed, one must
“cross over” from tier to tier and consciousness to consciousness. The important thing is that
“death is always followed by rebirth” (Gwain, 1994, p. 140), and in the “Journey of the Hero,”
this results in “a change in the form of consciousness” (de Laurence, 1918, p. 64).
YELLOW – Temperance & The Devil
Called “Integrative” by Wilber (2000b, p. 12) and “FlexFlow” and “The Systemic
VMEME” by Beck and Cowan (1996, p. 275), YELLOW reaches forward from GREEN in a
search for peace of mind coupled with the ability to be interactive with the world. YELLOW is
able to accept that nature is inconstant and changing, and it has no need to try and exert control
over nature’s expression. No longer tied to one worldview, YELLOW thinking “begins to
question and analyze all of [the] human processes as parts of an integrated spiral” (NVC, 2001a,
Spiral of the Hero 44
p. 2). As a result, this VMEME is capable of focusing on functionality, competence, flexibility,
and spontaneity in daily life. All previous VMEME systems and worldviews become legitimate,
understood as forms of human consciousness that have a right to be as they are. Each wave is
considered, when healthy, a vital contribution to the whole spiral, and subsequently, to the
continuation of life.
YELLOW produces a “FlexFlow” worldview. It is “flexible” in that it is able to be in
touch with each preceding worldview, interacting with them in their own language and on their
own frequencies. It recognizes that “what is right yesterday may not be seen as right tomorrow”
(Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 279), dependent largely on which VMEME worldview one accesses.
While it might not agree with the worldviews of the other VMEMES, YELLOW is able to clearly
see their individual significance and points of view.
YELLOW is “flowing” in the sense that it understands the evolutionary process. It does
not see finality, but an open-ended quality to human consciousness and nature, which allows it to
refrain from the kind of value judging that occurs between first-tier consciousness waves.
Because YELLOW constitutes a system that honors the differences of each VMEME on the
spiral, it is capable of getting “behind the scenes in a hurry [to act] directly on the deepest
dynamics that are causing [problems]” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 277). While this wave-seeing
worldview necessarily observes stratification and layers of consciousness among people, it also
sees each layer without judgment. “If PURPLE is sick, it needs to be made well. If RED is
running amuck, the raw energy must be channeled. If BLUE turns sour and becomes punitive, it
must be reformed” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 277).
As YELLOW is the first level at which each wave can be clearly seen and valued, each
wave’s problems “can only be sorted out through the YELLOW complex of intelligences and
Spiral of the Hero 45
resources” (ibid.). YELLOW’s unique ability to think at any previous level’s worldview makes it
highly skilled at perceiving, learning and doing. “YELLOW-based thinkers will identify the level
of Spiral complexity of the information to be learned and will activate the VMEME-specific
learning style that will access it” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 279). For example, if necessary, a
YELLOW may draw upon BLUE’s patience and self-denying abilities, ORANGE’s ability to
compare with others, or GREEN’s skill of collaboration.
YELLOW is concerned with “what’s necessary, natural, and next” (Beck & Cowan,
1996, p. 280). It gets to the core of issues, focusing on what it necessary in order to help the
situation evolve. Authority for a YELLOW is contextual; “the best equipped and most capable
gains authority, regardless of rank, tenure, or even feelings” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 280).
YELLOW’s endeavor to provide what is natural to the occasion, as what is necessary to perform
the task in the best manner becomes the primary concern, albeit YELLOW is also keenly aware
of the conceptual and personal worldviews of each previous VMEME and allows what is natural
for each. Above all, YELLOW is interested in uncovering ways in which other living systems
thrive, so that individuals retain as much freedom as possible to be as he or she chooses. This is a
complex pursuit, but well within the scope of YELLOW’s abilities, as it instinctively recognizes
that “what is ‘natural’ comes in all of the Spiral’s colors – both singly and in various blends,
mixtures and combinations” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 281). YELLOW consciousness is adroit at
finding problems, producing complex answers that are simple to execute, and thus creating win-
win outcomes that work for all the levels of consciousness involved.
Cards 14 and 15, Temperance and the Devil, stand as representations of YELLOW
consciousness, its capabilities and call. Temperance, most often depicted as a haloed angel
pouring water from one cup to another, signifies the integration, synthesis, cooperation,
Spiral of the Hero 46
compromise, and moderation (Arrien, 1987; de Laurence, 1918; Lionnet, 2002) that arise in
YELLOW. The Devil, variously characterized, but usually seen towering over a man and a
woman bound with chains, is a strong call to put this newfound YELLOW wisdom to action.
The challenge of second-tier consciousness is to integrate all the waves that have come
before it in an effort to ensure the overall health of the spiral of consciousness. As Banzhaf
(1997) states: “after death has dissolved the boundaries that the ego previously had to build…it
will be important to unify what had been separated before” (p. 141). Temperance consciousness
is able to value each level of consciousness and interact appropriately with them. “At this
point…the valuation between good and evil…becomes invalid because the matured
consciousness comprehends that nothing in this Creation is just good or just bad” (Banzhaf,
1997, p. 151). Rather, only the right proportion and balance, understanding and action are
decisive in dealing with all other worldviews.
Typically defined as the archetype of balance, the Temperance card is seen as “the
mixing and blending of opposites in order to find the right balance” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 48).
Bunning (1995) speaks to the YELLOW VMEME attribute of Temperance when she writes of it
as consciousness that has “combined all aspects of [itself] into a centered whole that glows with
health and well-being” (Temperance, 1). Arrien (1987) writes that Temperance refers to
balancing “the apparent paradoxes, oppositions, or polarities” (p. 75) that exist within us and our
world. Further, Temperance clearly relates to YELLOW in that it represents “the union of two or
more principles [e.g. VMEMES] which combined, can create a greater whole” (ibid.).
Temperance consciousness is capable of reconciling opposites and finding dynamic new forms
of harmony. As the first step in second-tier consciousness, and one that sees and values the entire
Spiral of the Hero 47
spiral, Temperance is “a movement toward what has been called cosmic consciousness”
(Hamaker-Zondag, 1995, p. 160).
Perception precedes action for YELLOW, and this VMEME, having clearly seen the
weaknesses of the spiral, take steps to affect a positive change in the world. The Devil card
speaks to this acting influence of consciousness. With its seemingly ominous imagery and
associations, the Devil is often misunderstood. Perhaps this archetype is so fearful to us because
it “confronts us with…all those things that we would rather not see or know about ourselves…
but which we simply must pass under review if we are going to be able to integrate them”
(Hamaker-Zondag, 1995, p. 162). Arrien (1987) suggests that the Devil archetype “represents the
need to face whatever we might consider our bedevilments or problems” (p. 78). Indeed, the
Devil signifies the clear-seeing aspect of YELLOW consciousness, coupled with the knowledge
of where weaknesses lie and how to best manage or treat them. When, with the advent of second-
tier consciousness, great knowledge is acquired, with it comes great responsibility. This is what
the Devil symbolizes; the call to action. The Devil realizes that “when we are able to unblock the
parts of our [worldviews] that we find unpalatable, a huge amount of positive energy is released”
(Lionnet, 2002, p. 51).
YELLOW-to-TURQUOISE Transition – The Tower
YELLOW consciousness is fairly individualistic, relying on the self in the process of
integrating worldviews and opening up possibilities between them. YELLOWS rely much on
their own capacities. “Much of the time, YELLOW will stand virtually alone, relying on the
power of knowledge and information, not colleagues, in affirmation of the uniqueness of life”
(Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 284). With the turning of the spiral, the YELLOW sense of
Spiral of the Hero 48
individualism begins to blend into an awareness of community. TURQUOISE, “the global
collective of individuals, rises to enfold YELLOW, the information elites” (Beck & Cowan,
1996, p. 284). YELLOW acknowledges that it cannot answer all the questions by itself, and
seeks increased light and knowledge in the community of others of higher consciousness. With
the clear seeing and farsightedness of YELLOW comes the understanding that the “huge amount
of raw information calls for a renewal of order and collaborative synergy if it is going to be
useful” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 287). TURQUOISE arises to give shape and direction to the
energy and awareness that has come into being.
Temperance/Devil/YELLOW consciousness finds that, despite the wealth of wisdom it
possesses, it cannot solve all the world's problems on its own. When this transition phase begins
to emerge, we have the energy of tarot trump card 16, the Tower. This is an archetype of
liberation (Banzhaf, 1997), and symbolizes the “state of awakening and of seeing the deeper and
authentic aspects of the self” (Arrien, 1987, p. 82). The Tower represents movement toward an
all-encompassing sense of holism. In Tower consciousness,
you can see what is working and what is not working….you believe very much…that
once an organism experiences chaos and disorder as a means of dismantling itself, the
organism always reassembles itself to a more evolved and expanded structure (Arrien,
1987, p. 83).
The Tower is a call to once again stretch beyond the confines of individuality and whole-spiral
intellectual sharpness of YELLOW to seek increased light and knowledge in the community of
others of higher consciousness. This can be one interpretation of the Tower card’s imagery, as it
depicts a single, tall and mighty tower, struck by lightning and thus cleft open to the heavens,
from which the illuminating bolt came. A stripping away of individualism and reliance on the
Spiral of the Hero 49
self’s intellectual abilities, the Tower can signify the transition phase between YELLOW’s
strong sense of self and the collective, holistic, oneness experienced by TURQUOISE
consciousness.
TURQUOISE – The Star, The Moon, & The Sun
This level of consciousness belongs to those that Beck and Cowan (1996) speculate are
“born out of time” (p. 286). They are unique individuals whom we come to revere as “prophets,
pathfinders, and visionaries” (ibid.). Swinging away from the “Express-self” pole that was
influential in YELLOW, TURQUOISE moves “back toward the sacrificial/collective pole, the
first time in the Second Tier” (ibid.). Beck and Cowan (1996) state that at the present time,
TURQUOISE consciousness is minimal in the world, more novel than normal, but they insist
that it is developing and extending upward and outward, and list some of its characteristics.
Called “The Holistic VMEME” as well as “GlobalView” and “Whole View” (Beck &
Cowan, 1996, p. 287; Wilber, 2000a, p. 8), the TURQUOISE wave represents the blending and
harmonizing of a strong collective of individuals. This VMEME generates an integral approach to
life where “one learns not only through observation and participation but through the experience
of simply being” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 289). Described by Beck as “an elegantly balanced
system of interlocking forces” (Roemischer, n.d., The MEMES: Worldviews and Realities)
TURQUOISE taps into all of its innate resources, trusting intuition and instinct while also
allowing the mind to process both “conscious and unconscious selves as coparticipants” in every
life experience (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 289).
The TURQUOISE consciousness worldview is one that sees “a world of interlinked
causes and effects, interacting fields of energy, and levels of bonding and communication most
Spiral of the Hero 50
of us have yet to uncover” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 289). It sees everything at one moment,
how things are interdependently related, and it understands how affecting one element of a
situation or thing impacts all others. While YELLOW was self-expressive enough to step into
chaos and affect change through spiral intelligence and dexterity, TURQUOISE “steps back and
creates the next form of order” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 290). With incredible alacrity,
TURQUOISE can perceive levels of interaction between all the various waves and the
experienced world and respond in ways that strengthen and enrich each element involved.
TURQUOISE lives in paradox as it bridges seemingly different dimensions in an effort to
accomplish what is in the best interest of the health of the spiral. With an awakened sense of a
spirituality that extends beyond human egocentricity, TURQUOISE focuses “on the larger waves
and energy flows and will work on behalf of the Life Force itself, in its many manifestations in
Life Forms on the planet” (Roemischer, n.d., The Leap to Second Tier, 8). In the service of this
Life Force, TURQUOISE looks for “solutions on a global, holistic scale” (NVC, 2001a, p. 2)
that embraces all aspects of life – human and otherwise – without offending individuals’ rights to
be wherever and however they are on the spiral of development. This VMEME sees the world as
“a single dynamic organism with its own collective mind” (Roemischer, n.d., Spiral Dynamics,
1) and is constantly attentive to its own truth that “a grand unification is possible and that
everything somehow connects to everything else” (Beck & Cowan, 1996, p. 291).
TURQUOISE spirituality is one that stands in awe of the cosmos, from the immensity of
the universe to the smallest aspect of a molecule. The wonder, awe, and reverence that this wave
expresses spiritually affirms that one can never know or understand all things, nor does one need
to. Devoid of fear and imbued with a sense of spiritual illumination that “sees multiple levels of
interaction, detects harmonics, the mystical forces, and the pervasive flow-states” (Wilber,
Spiral of the Hero 51
2000b, p. 52) that pervade all of existence, TURQUOISE flows into oneness with the cosmos.
Cards 17, 18, and 19, respectively the Star, Moon, and Sun, reflect the growing illumination of
TURQUOISE consciousness.
The Star represents “the universal principle of self-esteem and confidence. It is the state
of radiance and confidence that is neither inflated or deflated” (Arrien, 1987, p. 85). It is
indicative of consciousness that trusts intuition and inner guidance, that sees things with
tremendous clarity, and that expresses itself in more spontaneous ways “like flowing water”
(ibid.). Just as there are innumerable stars in the heavens, each casting its own light and thereby
adding to the overall luminescence, so too does the Star represent the state of consciousness at
which we realize that “each of us is an opening for light, or a gateway through which the
Absolute can manifest” (ibid.). This level of consciousness experiences “moments of
illumination and great clarity of vision” (Franklin, 2001, p. 124). The Star, having grasped an
understanding of its place in the cosmos, recognizes its smallness and insignificance and
simultaneous uniqueness and preciousness. “The Star…is the externalized expression of internal
balance and clarity” (Arrien, 1987, p. 87). This level of consciousness has “learned the laws of
the world…now comprehends the laws of the cosmos and gains insight into much larger, more
universal correlations” (Banzhaf, 1997, p. 188).
“Tarot decks vary in their portrayal of the Moon, but the central theme is invariably a full
moon” (Lionnet, 2002, p. 58). Part of this new wave of consciousness is its integration of
unconsciousness. This is expressed by the Moon, which signifies that the unconscious has been
contacted and integrated “in a positive involved way in order to understand ourselves at a deeper
level and to grasp the impulses and activities of our instincts” (Hamaker-Zondag, 1995, p. 167).
This integration “stimulates the creative imagination” (Bunning, 1995, The Moon, 2), and thus
Spiral of the Hero 52
increases the ability to express oneself ingeniously, and to respond to life situations in supra-
creative and intuitive ways.
The Moon also reminds us that we are still humans, despite the touch of TURQUOISE
cosmic consciousness attained. Nonetheless, Moon consciousness has reached “a positive path of
perfect alignment with one’s instinctual nature” (Gwain, 1994, p. 143), and “reflects back to us
the mystery of who we are…[reminding] us of those qualities which are inherent within our
authentic natures” (Arrien, 1987, p. 89). The Moon represents the “capacity of bringing light into
darkness” (ibid.) and tells of the ability to make choices that are a reflection of consciousness
from which nothing is truly hidden. When Moon consciousness is activated, one recognizes that
just as one is singular and individual, so also is one a part of a greater whole (e.g. the cosmos).
This recognition leads to another message of the Moon with its realization of ceaseless
wholeness: “Peace, be still” (de Laurence, 1918, p. 74).
The Sun, representing a fully illumined consciousness, signifies the TURQUOISE
balance of body, mind, emotion, and spirit. The culmination of TURQUOISE consciousness, the
Sun symbolizes the ability to integrate and apply “creativity in both magnetic and dynamic ways
[which] allows us to experience the unlimited aspects of who we are” (Arrien, 1987, p. 92). The
“consciousness of eternity” (Banzhaf, 1997, p. 208) has been reached, whereby the separation of
the opposites with which the intellect splits reality has been effectively overcome. Connected to
the shifting nature of reality, Sun consciousness embraces an identity “that is not rigid and
dogmatic, but able to adapt to tomorrow’s changing circumstances” (Hamaker-Zondag, 1995, p.
170). At this level of consciousness all that exists is one, guided by the truth and flow of that
which enlivens the cosmos.
Spiral of the Hero 53
The TURQUOISE level of consciousness is not the end of the spiral, nor is it the spiral’s
most graceful and benign point. As with each spiral whorl before it, TURQUOISE will
undoubtedly produce its own problems, negative ideas, and attachments (Beck & Cowan, 1996,
p. 291). Each level of the spiral has its healthy and unhealthy manifestations, and TURQUOISE,
theoretically, will be no different. As it progresses into the future, expanding outward and
upward, realizing its potentials and expressing its capabilities, TURQUOISE may mature into
what has been conceived as the next whorl on the spiral, CORAL.
CORAL & Transpersonal Consciousness – Judgment & The World
Still shrouded in the obscurity of predictive speculation, the CORAL VMEME is difficult
to characterize or define. Wilber (2000a) gives it the name “Integral-Holonic” (p. 8) and refers to
it as an “even higher [wave] of consciousness” than TURQUOISE, and one that is “an enduring
trait or permanent realization” (p. 146). While there may be any number of theories regarding the
characteristics of CORAL, in Wilber’s opinion, it “is the psychic wave” and the first of “truly
transpersonal waves” to come (Wilber, 2000a, pp. 146, 150). As the first transpersonal wave,
experience “is still largely somatically based” (Walsh, 1995, Transpersonal Development, 4),
indicated by a spirituality that is reflected in nature mysticism.
The most defining characteristic that Wilber (2000d) gives to this psychic level is to state
it “is an awareness that is no longer confined exclusively to the individual ego” (p. 235). This
degree of consciousness allows a sense of oneness or synthesis to develop which is experienced
by the individual as a fusion of self into the whole of the world, including into other human
beings. “The mystery, of course, is the mystery of the [psychic realm] allowing us to recognize
ourselves in each other, beyond the illusions of separation and duality” (Wilber, 2000c, p. 300).
Spiral of the Hero 54
CORAL consciousness may thus manifest the theory of eighteenth-century French
mathematician Pierre Simon Laplace that “any being who was aware of everything about the
universe at any given moment would understand everything about it for all times” (Halpern,
2000, p. 52). Obviously, first-tier consciousness cannot abide such a theory, but perhaps second-
tier can.
I believe that truly understanding CORAL consciousness characteristics requires more
than logic and reason; it seems to require experience and feeling as conditions of understanding.
As author Felipe Fernández-Armesto (1997) wrote: “It is tempting to suppose that the oneness of
everything is a truth which – if it is a truth at all – can only be felt, for it seems so vast as to be
beyond constraint by mere intellect” (p. 42). Perhaps this state of mystical union with the world
is as of yet untouchable by the masses, who appear to be at much earlier levels of consciousness.
In the “Journey of the Hero” only cards number 20 and 21 remain: Judgment and The
World. Together, these two cards represent not so much the aspects of CORAL, which are
relatively unknown at this time, but aspects of transpersonal consciousness. Just as Cowan
(NVC, n.d.) has described the spiral as one which does not know a final state or stage of
completeness, it would seem presumptuous to try and ascribe a definitive, closed set of
characteristics to transpersonal consciousness. Still, the Judgment and World cards give us some
indication of what lies ahead.
Judgment is “the card which registers the accomplishment of the great work of
transformation” (de Laurence, 1918, p. 78). Judgment signifies a state of consciousness wherein
“all perceptions come from our ability to take a look at the whole” (Arrien, 1987, p. 95). A
profound card, well above the dictates of socially or culturally bound consciousness, Judgment
“reminds us to look at the history [e.g. spiral] we have shared and to forgive ourselves and others
Spiral of the Hero 55
for the judgments we are making about what we are doing or not doing in our lives” (Arrien,
1987, p. 96). With the ability to see clearly, this level of consciousness can distinguish things
from a multitude of perspectives, and it values each according to what it offers. Each instance
flows from one into the next, a “wonder of transformation” (Banzhaf, 1997, p. 219) that is both
redemptive and liberating. With the recognition that “we are part of a greater whole…we are all
one” (Hamaker-Zondag, 1995, p. 172), comes a synthesis of will, purpose, and action that
characterizes this level of transpersonal consciousness. Questions of how to act are replaced by
actions which by their nature are creative, rather than reactive.
The World, the culminating card of the “Journey of the Hero” stands as “the principle of
individuation, totality, and wholeness” (Arrien, 1987, p. 98). Devoid of duality, there exists only
a sense of completeness, symbolized by the resplendent (often androgynous) individual who
hovers in the air, surrounded by the elements and enclosed in a living circle that signifies unity,
wholeness, and completion (Banzhaf, 1997). Guided by a higher wisdom or cosmic
consciousness, we have reached what “Carl Jung defined…as the realization of the Self”
(Lionnet, 2002, p. 62). Those at the consciousness level of the World experience “the completion
and integration of great inner work which has involved unifying polarities, oppositions, and
paradoxes within oneself” (Arrien, 1987, p. 98). Wilber (2000b) relates that the visionaries,
prophets and yogis of the past were those endowed with such consciousness:
The most advanced figures of the past were plumbing the depths of the transpersonal
levels, and those lie in our collective future, not our collective past….those spiritual
pioneers were ahead of their time, and they are still ahead of ours. They are thus voices,
not of our past, but of our future. (p. 157)
Spiral of the Hero 56
Indeed, at the transpersonal levels of consciousness one is a natural visionary, instinctively
seeing “what needs to be re-built or designed in new ways whether it be environments, ideas,
projects, or people” (Arrien, 1987, p. 99). Signifying the universal understanding of cosmic
awareness, the World ends the “Journey of the Hero” with its open-ended symbolism and
representation of complete and universal oneness.
Whatever its characteristics, it is important to remember that CORAL is not the end point
of the spiral. Cowan states:
There is no final state or ‘top’ of the spiral, no stage of completeness for or perfection for
human nature. It is not a spiral toward spiritual revelation and transcendent being as some
would like, or wish. The spiral opens up and widens; it does not focus down to a
spot….The future for the Spiral is the passage more and more systems [sic] in the human
repertoire. (NVC, n.d., Question 9)
It appears that, despite our best guesses and most intuitive predictions, we will have to
experience CORAL, and any other levels beyond it, in order to accurately comprehend their
advanced worldviews, characteristics, and capabilities.
Analysis of the Comparison
Though my theory that the “Journey of the Hero” is equal to the Spiral of Development in
consciousness mapping may be novel and innovative, that is not to say that the two systems are
entirely comparable. As maps of consciousness, I believe that they both are justifiably accurate;
at the very least they support one another. Where the spiral is fleshed out by Beck, Cowan, and
Wilber, however, the tarot has been subjected to so many variations of interpretation as to render
it quite ambiguous in and of itself. In fact, I specifically chose to compare the “Journey of the
Hero” with the Spiral of Development because I felt it would help give a more definitive form to
Spiral of the Hero 57
the tarot cards’ openness to interpretation. Yet this is the mystery of the tarot and of the
archetypes – symbols are able to give rise to different thoughts and feelings to each individual
who works with them. It is important to remember an overarching feature of archetypes: they are
of a nebulous and shifting nature and can never be completely described or understood (Ewen,
1998; Hamaker-Zondag, 1995; Van de Castle, 1994).
In general, Wilber (2000b, 2000c, 2000d) criticizes the Jungian approach to archetypes as
unclear and undifferentiated. His claim is that the majority of archetypes are prepersonal or
personal – existing before a strong ego center has been constructed or subsequently transcended
– and that they reside in the BLUE, myth-creating level of consciousness (Wilber, 2000b). While
he does attribute transpersonal aspects to some of the well-known Jungian archetypes, which he
calls “high archetypes” (Wilber, 2000b, p. 104), they are not the same archetypes that I have
delineated above as second-tier or transpersonal in scope. My intention, however, was not to thus
classify the archetypes, but to present their parallel and symbolic relevance to the Spiral of
Development. In essence, what I have done is simply suggest one more way that the archetypal
symbols of the tarot may be perceived, understood, and supported.
It is possible to refute my suggestion that the “Journey of the Hero” can be seen as a stage
system, with each level of development dependent upon completion of its predecessor.
According to Jungian psychology, archetypes are located in the collective unconscious and are
available to everyone from the time of birth, which may suggest that “there is no exact order in
which the archetypes will emerge” (Van de Castle, 1994, p. 148) within an individual. Also, it
has been proposed that “archetypal imagery is generally more prevalent around the time of
crises” (ibid.), and obviously, crises vary widely from individual to individual dependent on life
Spiral of the Hero 58
circumstances and conditions. Clearly, this compromises any presentation of archetypal
symbology in any kind of sequence or order, such as that of the “Journey of the Hero.”
In response, I propose that as a reflection of the spiral, and as one manner in which the
tarot’s archetypal symbols may be interpreted, the “Journey of the Hero” is tenable as a stage
system. I suggest that, much like the Spiral of Development and the characteristic traits of its
developmental waves, the archetypes of the major arcana can be accessed at any time as
temporal states. This allows one to experience higher-level archetypal influences before one has
actually integrated and stabilized such archetypal developmental traits. For example, a person
whose worldview is soundly Empress/Emperor/RED might have a poignant Wheel/GREEN
experience of community and bonding while attending a conference on diversity in the
workplace. The impact of such an experience may fade and diminish, however, as the individual
returns to his or her normal life conditions, because the experience was not congruent with the
individual’s current worldview. Essentially, while the experience of higher consciousness traits
is possible at any other given level of development, such an experience may be a temporal state
and not result in a stabilized trait. When viewed from this perspective, I believe my proposition
that the “Journey of the Hero” can be seen as a stage system is one that merits earnest
consideration, and perhaps further research.
One other point seems especially keen to my observation. Where the spiral is an open-
ended, ever-extending system that boasts of an eternal scope, the “Journey of the Hero” is a
closed system comprised of only 22 cards. While the images and interpretation of the cards can
vary, the fact of the system’s closed nature does not allow further development or progression.
To this, I would note only that the final card of the sequence – the World – represents totality,
oneness, completeness and wholeness. By its nature, it covers all that exists, everything and
Spiral of the Hero 59
nothing all together, conceived as one whole. An attempt to define further stages of
consciousness may prove not only supremely difficult, but fruitless, for even differentiation from
the oneness expressed by the World could only result, in its final evolution, in a recognition
(once again) of the oneness of all things! Some tarot theorists suggest that the “Journey of the
Hero” is one that, if ever completed, immediately commences anew (Banzhaf, 1997; Bunning,
1995; Franklin, 2001). The manner in which I have presented the “Journey of the Hero” does not
propose such, but rather, that like the spiral, the journey is one that commences anew each time
an individual is born into consciousness.
Applications
A map of consciousness is likely best used as a tool of understanding. Familiarizing
oneself with the territory of consciousness, from its most basic to its most complex expressions,
can help individuals relax their judgments and more readily identify the worldviews of others.
While simply comprehending the various levels of consciousness is not enough to experience
them, familiarity with the different worldviews that exist offers an opportunity to approach
individuals, cultures, and societies with a mind that is more open and more aware of possibilities.
This is especially true for those at first-tier consciousness levels, which by their nature are more
concerned with substantiating their own views than with acknowledging the veracity of other
viewpoints. Thus, one application of a map of consciousness is simply to use it as a mediating
influence: where two worldviews cannot meet, at least there can be a call for mutual respect and
some semblance of consideration. For those whose level of consciousness is predominantly high,
understanding the structure of the spiral or the “Journey of the Hero” may help to ascertain the
consciousness development of others and thus, to know how to connect with others most
Spiral of the Hero 60
appropriately in any given circumstance. Spiral Dynamics (Beck & Cowan, 1996) was created
for precisely this purpose. It stands as a wonderful tool for shining light on the obscurities of the
various worldviews people espouse and the behaviors they exhibit as a result.
Raising Consciousness
Just as a map of a physical territory meets its highest use when employed to guide one
from place to place, so too a map of consciousness is most useful if it is followed. One might
certainly look at a map and simply enjoy fantasies of its denoted landscapes; having a map in
hand does not necessitate undertaking a journey. But for those who have sought out a map in
order to work their way from “point A” to “point B”, there is often substantially more work to be
done. Both Ken Wilber and Jungian psychology offer methods by which one might raise his or
her individual level of consciousness.
In accordance with Wilber’s (2000b) understanding of the multi-dimensional aspects of
consciousness, he has developed what he calls “integral practice” (p. 112). Because human
consciousness is such that it has both interior and exterior personal and collective aspects, a truly
integral practice would have “not only individual but cultural, social, spiritual, and political”
elements (Wilber, 2000b, p. 113). Accordingly, an integral practice would incorporate elements
from each angle so that the individual can “simultaneously exercise all the major capacities and
dimensions of the human bodymind – physical, emotional, mental, social, cultural, spiritual”
(ibid.). For a breakdown of activities that can add up to a truly integral practice, consult Wilber’s
books Integral Psychology (2000b) and One Taste (2000f). The general idea is to “exercise body,
mind, soul, and spirit in self, culture, and nature” (Wilber, 2000f, p. 399). The more facets that
Spiral of the Hero 61
are engaged, the more effectively a person’s consciousness will be activated and directed toward
evolution.
Tarot teachers and theorists point to the tarot as a tool that can be used to raise
consciousness (Banzhaf, 1997; Gwain, 1994; Hamaker-Zondag, 1995). When working with the
tarot, it is suggested that entering into active imagination with the cards’ images may help
facilitate integration of those unconscious aspects that they represent (Gwain, 1994). Davidson
(2001) writes that
current work on brain waves (alpha, beta, and theta) [has] indicated that meditative states
converted the normal wave, beta, into the calming and meditative waves, alpha and
theta….it [follows], therefore, that the reading of tarot cards, whether by oneself or with
another, might be producing some such altered state. (p. 2)
Employing a method that Jung called “active imagination” (Van de Castle, 1994, p. 169), an
individual “enters into a quiet meditative state, focuses attention upon the [tarot card] image, and
observes how the form or appearance of the image gradually changes” (Van de Castle, 1994, p.
170). Arrien (1987) suggests that
when an individual selects a Tarot symbol, the card itself represents an outer mirror of an
internal process, and in that moment, one could say that the seat of the soul or the human
psyche is revealed in the connection between the outer portraiture of the Tarot and its
synchronistic appearance reflecting back an internal process. (p. 19)
Accordingly, working with the archetypal symbols of the tarot may open the conscious mind to
the unconscious. If significant contact and exploration is made, it is presumed that integration
can result, leading to raised consciousness (Franklin, 2001; Gwain, 1994; Hamaker-Zondag,
1995).
Spiral of the Hero 62
Conclusion
It is easily apparent that the world’s people, cultures, and nations are at odds with each
other. Differences and disparities are developing into disquiet (at best) and destruction (at worst).
Leaders are needed at every level – from grade schools to governments – who can not only
perceive and understand a wide diversity of worldviews, but who can appreciate and find ways to
creatively honor them. Ken Wilber’s “Spiral of Development” (drawn from Donald Beck and
Christopher Cowan’s system “Spiral Dynamics) offers itself to the world community as a map of
consciousness, which can assist individuals in the process of personal, societal, and global
awakening. When accompanied by a suitable practice for raising consciousness, such a map
offers the kinds of insight that leads to cooperation, reconciliation, and transformation.
Within the tarot exists a series of 22 archetypally-oriented cards known as the “Journey
of the Hero”. When approached as a reflection of the Spiral of Development, the “Journey of the
Hero” also appears as a viable map of consciousness, capable of symbolically representing the
various waves of consciousness development as experienced by the human species. Unique to
these tarot cards is the hidden energy of Jungian archetypes which, once tapped and brought into
consciousness, assist the individual in consciousness evolution.
Together, these two systems of “mind mapping” offer two alternatives to a world in need
of illumination. Fleshed out and full of multi-cultural examples, the Spiral of Development has
the ability to reach those whose education is best found through textbooks and the logical mind,
while the symbolism of the tarot – as a Jungian tool for archetypal recognition and integration –
may be more accessible to those whose method of learning needs to be of a more personal,
intuitive, and symbolic nature. For those few who reside in both worlds – with one foot in
science and the other in spirit – the combination may prove most enlightening.
Spiral of the Hero 63
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Tarot and the journey of the hero
  • H Banzhaf
Banzhaf, H. (1997). Tarot and the journey of the hero. Maine: Samuel Weiser, Inc.