Table of Contents


Tarot Reflections


 September 1, 2003

Book Review: Magical Tarot, Mystical Tao
Robert E. Mueller, CPTR

My adventure into the world of Tarot started because of my life long desire to see the great pyramids of Egypt. My dream was about to come true, my life partner, Sandra Thomson said why not take the trip? My plane was to do a lot of meditation in the great pyramid and Egypt's sacred places.

The unconscious always speaks in symbols. My psychic development teacher said if I wanted to learn symbology I should study the Tarot. That was the beginning of my 20 some year journey down the Tarot path. After three co-authored books, a generous Tarot library, and more than 300 Tarot decks later, I am still on the Tarot path.


Are you ready for a change of perspective in your Tarot readings?  How about opening the Tarot cards as a stream of consciousness?  Try using some new meditations for each card so connected with the Tao that you will never see the cards in the same light.

In introducing her unique associations of the Tao with the Tarot, Diane Morgan writes, "For the Tarot to work for you, you have to make it your own.  When you follow the Tao, you set forth on a flowing river—the Tao Te Ching is your boat, and the Tarot your sail.  But you steer the course."  Not only is this the description of the interconnection of the Tarot and the Tao Te Ching, it is the concise description of the path you travel through this book of wonders.  

Morgan considers the combination of the Tao and the Tarot as the crossroads of the mind and spirit.  It is where magic meets mystery, where the "Wizard meets the Wise.  Tarot meets Tao."  Morgan understands that both the Tao and the Tarot deal with transformation, the "fundamental transmutation between what is and what can be." 

The Tao Te Ching is an ancient book of 81 poems.  Its meditations give us moments to reflect on our place in the world and the world's place in us.  "For while the Tao Te Ching does not 'tell fortune,' it gives a philosophy to live by every day. . . .The Tarot lights up the mysteries of Tao, while the Tao Te Ching deepens the meaning of the Tarot." 

Morgan connects 78 of the Tao Te Ching's poems to the Tarot deck.  Immediately upon picking up the book, the question came up for me, "Why isn't the material presented in the conventional numerical order of the Tarot?"  Morgan explains, "...we are going to take a different path, the path of the Tao.  We'll follow the river of the Tao by reading the Tao Te Ching, and [then] looking at the Tarot card that accompanies each chapter or Meditation."  The three remaining meditations—Meditations 1 (Setting Forth), 41 (Turning Point), and 81 (Return)—are focusing points not meant to have an assigned pictorial accompaniment.  For these, Morgan says, "the image source must be your own spirit."  These points are almost like resting stops to take the time to stop and smell the meditations.

In part one of her book, Morgan provides an in-depth comparison of Western magical tradition with divination and our search for the divine through the Tarot.  "Divination is a way of seeing into the heart of things," she writes.  "The heart of things is not readily apparent; hence, the notion that the 'diviner' has, as the name suggests, a connection with the omniscient divine.  The divine is at the heart of all, a fact that magic has long understood."

In introducing the Eastern mystical tradition, Morgan says, "Taoism teaches that the fulfillment of humankind lies in finding our place in the world, not changing the world to suit the vagaries of our will."  Throughout the book, she delivers a beautiful in-depth philosophy and history of each tradition which allows us to compare them to determine how they can fit into our own Tarot-reading philosophy.

The second part of the book introduces us to the specifics of this new way of considering the cards.  In addition to the meditation associated with each card, Morgan also provides a "Mystical Key" (the Eastern tradition), which describes in detail Eastern insights into the symbols of each Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) card.  They can pertain, however, to cards in any RWS-inspired deck. 

Following that, Morgan describes the "Magical Key" (the Western tradition) of the cards.  Under "Magical Key," Morgan has created a list of divination categories for each card, with interpretations and explanations.  Her categories fit insight into the cards, querent, or the question presented.  For instance, "Character" describes the strengths and power of the card.  "Current Circumstances" describes the mood, atmosphere, or action called for by the card.  "Conflicts, Dangers, and Limitations" call attention to important things to take note of.  "Career" describes attitudes and actions that revolve around situations and relationships at work.  Additional categories include Friends and Family, Health Concerns, Romance, Travel, Decision, Future Events and Spiritual Achievements, and Omens and Talismans. 

Part Three of the book, which Morgan calls "Beneath the Waves," introduces the principles of divination.  Divination, as she defines it, "is a complex mix of magic and mystery that encourages us to discover within ourselves and the world around us the keys to wisdom, compassion, and joy."  Some parts of this chapter include: Taoist Meditation, The Tarot as Writing, and The Tarot as an Alchemical Tradition.  Reading the cards: Basic Techniques, offers guidelines to help you with framing the "right" question.  To make the book all inclusive she also includes ways to take care of and use your cards.

Although Morgan calls her one-card reading, the Waterdrop Reading, it does not differ significantly from any other one-card reading.  She does explain it more poetically than most, however.  "Just as a drop of water contains the chemical properties of the river, but not the dynamic ebb and flow of the current, the Waterdrop Reading encapsulates the major significance of the question, but cannot offer the nuanced understanding that a more through reading can give."

Morgan has devised a unique way to answer those pesky yes or no questions.  She arranges the cards into five categories: yes, no, probably yes, probably no, and maybe. 

Cards that answer "yes," include all Swords cards and certain Major Arcana "yang" cards, i.e., The Magician, The Emperor, The Hierophant, The Lovers, The Chariot, Justice, The Devil, The Tower, The Sun, Judgement, and The World.

Other "yin" Major Arcana and Minor Arcana suits provide answers to the other categories.  The Fool uncategorically answers the "maybe" category, for The Fool says, "What is the difference between yes and no?"

The wealth of information that Morgan supplies for each card can seem overwhelming.  However this blessing in disguise is something you will want to refer back to many times.  I suggest you get little sticky note flags on which you write the name of each card and stick them on the edge of the book's page.  It will save you time as you wear out this book returning to it again and again. 

For the beginner to the seasoned professional, Morgan adds insights into the Tarot cards that I have not found in other books.  I highly recommend this book as a totally new way to see and work with the Tarot.  It will give you an understanding of the Western magical tradition through the Tarot and an insight into that mystical path, the Tao.  This is a powerful combination.

Magical Tarot, Mystical Tao (ISBN-0-312-31221-0) is published by St. Martin’s Griffin.  You can visit their website at



Subscribe to Tarot Reflections, and receive notification of each update!

Request to be added to the list by sending email to!



All articles remain the property of their respective authors.
Tarot Reflections is a publication of the American Tarot Association - Copyright (C) 2003
Questions or Comments? Contact Us.