Worlds and Sould and Elements in Tarot

When you go into Tarot a little deeper there is just no way to avoid that sooner or later you stumble across the Kabbalah, and especially when going into the Minors, it's just not done with the Tree of Life alone.

Now this site is about Tarot and not about the Kabbalah, so just let me give you some scraps that are somewhat important to understand the Minor Arcana. There are fairly basic sets of rules which give every part of the whole a specific place, and recognizing these rules in a structure provide you with a deeper understanding of the system.

As you can see, each suit of the Minor Arcana represents an element and is attached to a 'world' and a 'level of soul' i.e. a mental state of the human being. As you can see, each suit of the Minor Arcana represents an element and is attached to a 'world' and a 'level of soul' i.e. a mental state of the human being.


First off, one shouldn't forget Yechidah, the 'uniqueness' of soul, or in other words, the space in which the universe exists, the universe itself, so to say (if you miss it in the figure above, you can take the black background image as 'Yechidah')..

Wether you see Yechidah as the 'Divine' or the space in which the Big Bang took place, fully depends on what kind of person you are. Some people just need the certainty that there is a God or anything 'Divine', others - like me - feel better with the term 'universe'.

The catch in here is to recognize that the Chiah within us is *our* highest level, that Atzliuth is *our* highest world - but not at all the highest there is. The human being is not the universe, it is just another part of it, and hereby it doesn't matter at all wether you see the human being as God's creation or just as a evolutionary mishap..

As for the human, the highest level of the soul is Chiah, the 'general living spark', the vitality itself, our collective unconscious, connected with all life and being held for the level closest to the universe. Chiah is best described as the general instinct to live, but on a much higher level than just the instinct to exist as represented by the animal soul of Nefesh. In Tarot, Chiah is connected to the Wands and the element of Fire, and it corresponds to the world of Atziluth.

Atziluth is the world of pure emanation, the world which flows directly out of the infinite, the human soul in general, the spirituality which lives within us. This fire - the living light - motivates us to strive for consciousness and action. In the positive aspect, Fire manifests as will, inspiration, the wish and power to achieve honor and victory. Negatively, these last qualities become pride, egoism, despotism, and tyranny. In a literal sense, Fire is the provider of warmth and light, but uncontrolled is the most destructive of the elements.

Next to Chiah comes Neshamah, the higher level of spiritual consciousness, rather reigned by emotional aspects than by rational ones. Neshamah is often referred to as the 'breath of God', and it's said that it only can be fully recognized through mystical discipline. Neshamah is represented by the Cups in Tarot and refers to the element of Water and to the World of Briah.

Briah translates as "creation", and like Neshamah, Briah is the stage where the human soul creates individual personality and identity, to define a specific form and function from the amorphous energies of Atziluth. The creation done in Briah is not the creation of a conscious thought like in Yetzirah, let alone any physical creation like in Assiah, it's rather the first creation of a precondition that is needed to create anything at all.

The level next to Neshamah is Ruach (wind or air), the intellectual spirit, which represents the soul in its consciousness. Ruach implies the human intellect, the consciousness of the mind, it corresponds to the element of the Air and to Yetzirah, the world of 'formation' and abstract thinking. In Tarot, Ruach is represented by the suit of the Swords.

Yetzirah is the world of formation, of synthesis and analysis, where the amorphous flames of Atzliuth and the subconscious emotions of Briah are analysed, seperated and formulated. Therefore, Yetzirah is the realm of human intellect and culture and consciousness of mind.

Now here some people have their difficulties because the tradional line up of the elements usually set Air above of Water, while the Kabbalah places Water above of Air. Cynics often mock that the reason for this simply lies within the religious concept of the Kabbalah, because intellect and mind usually are not so much appreciated in a religion. I don't think this is the reason - if it would be, we would probably find the Air ten miles below of Earth..

I think the reason for it is a more philosophical one - before the mind comes the emotion, even the most rational thinking that rejects any emotional imput results from the emotional decision to be reasonable - as weird as it sounds. Don't forget that 'emotion' is not just a romantical or sentimental feeling, but any movement caused by the soul, any subconscious (e)motion of ourself.

Nefesh is the lowest level of the soul - or better said: the most 'down to the ground-level' - it represents the animal soul, the spark of life that rules the body and its unconscious functions such as breathing or the heart beat. Nefesh corresponds to the element of Earth and the suit of the Disks, and it belongs to Assiah.

Assiah is the world of making, literally translated as 'action', the actual material area in which all things live and grow physically. It is the final ground that all the preceding worlds need to become real. Assiah is stable and predictable, though it would be dead without the warmth of the Fires of Atziluth, without the Waters of Briah and the Air of Yetzirah.

None of these levels really stands all by itself, like the worlds they are connected to, they overlap and interact with each other. Chiah is the bodyless, undefined spirit of life, Neshamah is the 'creative' power directing this forces into individual directions. Ruach is the mind manifesting consciousness and consideration, while Nefesh provides the body where the whole mixture can exist in.

Things I've left out
One thing that you will stumble across in most books is the Tetragrammaton, which represents the four letters of the name of God: Yod, Heh, Vav and Heh. Each of the letters corresponds to a world and a soul and stands for the four basic stages of the process of creation. As far as it concerns me, I can live perfectly well without it.

I'm just no religious person, and although I truly admire the wisdom of the Kabbalah from the philosophical and psychological side, I cannot relate to any aspects regarding belief or religion. So all you find about it here is a short line telling what letter is attached to what world. If you feel this is important for you, or you need the referring to the 'Divine', you might look for other sources that go deeper into that.

Here in short: Yod is attached to Atziluth (Chiah); the first Heh is attached to Briah (Neshamah); Vau to Yetzirah (Ruach) and the second Heh is attached to Assiah (Nefesh).

Another thing I won't get into any deeper are the 22 letters of the Hebraic alephbeth. For those of you who are interested, you can use the link below to get a short view on the letters and the Trumps they belong to.


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