Carl Jung: Tarot Cards Provide Doorways to the Unconscious, and Maybe a Way to Predict the Future

It is generally accepted that the standard deck of playing cards we use for everything from three-card monte to high-stakes Vegas poker evolved from the Tarot. “Like our modern cards,” writes Sallie Nichols, “the Tarot deck has four suits with ten ‘pip’ or numbered cards in each…. In the Tarot deck, each suit has four ‘court’ cards: King, Queen, Jack, and Knight.” The latter figure has “mysteriously disappeared from today’s playing cards,” though examples of Knight playing cards exist in the fossil record. The modern Jack is a survival of the Page cards in the Tarot. (See examples of Tarot court cards here from the 1910 Rider-Waite deck.) The similarities between the two types of decks are significant, yet no one but adepts seems to consider using their Gin Rummy cards to tell the future.

The eminent psychiatrist Carl Jung, however, might have done so.

As Mary K. Greer explains, in a 1933 lecture Jung went on at length about his views on the Tarot, noting the late Medieval cards are “really the origin of our pack of cards, in which the red and the black symbolize the opposites, and the division of the four—clubs, spades, diamonds, and hearts—also belongs to the individual symbolism.

They are psychological images, symbols with which one plays, as the unconscious seems to play with its contents.” The cards, said Jung, “combine in certain ways, and the different combinations correspond to the playful development of mankind.” This, too, is how Tarot works—with the added dimension of “symbols, or pictures of symbolical situations.” The images—the hanged man, the tower, the sun—“are sort of archetypal ideas, of a differentiated nature.”

Thus far, Jung hasn’t said anything many orthodox Jungian psychologists would find disagreeable, but he goes even further and claims that, indeed, “we can predict the future, when we know how the present moment evolved from the past.” He called for “an intuitive method that has the purpose of understanding the flow of life, possibly even predicting future events, at all events lending itself to the reading of the conditions of the present moment.” He compared this process to the Chinese I Ching, and other such practices. As analyst Marie-Louise von Franz recounts in her book Psyche and Matter:

Jung suggested… having people engage in a divinatory procedure: throwing the I Ching, laying the Tarot cards, consulting the Mexican divination calendar, having a transit horoscope or a geometric reading done.

Content seemed to matter much less than form. Invoking the Swedenborgian doctrine of correspondences, Jung notes in his lecture, “man always felt the need of finding an access through the unconscious to the meaning of an actual condition, because there is a sort of correspondence or a likeness between the prevailing condition and the condition of the collective unconscious.”

What he aimed at through the use of divination was to accelerate the process of “individuation,” the move toward wholeness and integrity, by means of playful combinations of archetypes. As another mystical psychologist, Alejandro Jodorowsky, puts it, “the Tarot will teach you how to create a soul.” Jung perceived the Tarot, notes the blog Faena Aleph, “as an alchemical game,” which in his words, attempts “the union of opposites.” Like the I Ching, it “presents a rhythm of negative and positive, loss and gain, dark and light.”

Much later in 1960, a year before his death, Jung seemed less sanguine about Tarot and the occult, or at least downplayed their mystical, divinatory power for language more suited to the laboratory, right down to the usual complaints about staffing and funding. As he wrote in a letter about his attempts to use these methods:

Under certain conditions it is possible to experiment with archetypes, as my ‘astrological experiment’ has shown. As a matter of fact we had begun such experiments at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, using the historically known intuitive, i.e., synchronistic methods (astrology, geomancy, Tarot cards, and the I Ching). But we had too few co-workers and too little means, so we could not go on and had to stop.

Later interpreters of Jung doubted that his experiments with divination as an analytical technique would pass peer review. “To do more than ‘preach to the converted,’” wrote the authors of a 1998 article published in the Journal of Parapsychology, “this experiment or any other must be done with sufficient rigor that the larger scientific community would be satisfied with all aspects of the data taking, analysis of the data, and so forth.” Or, one could simply use Jungian methods to read the Tarot, the scientific community be damned.

As in Jung’s many other creative reappropriations of mythical, alchemical, and religious symbolism, his interpretation of the Tarot inspired those with mystical leanings to undertake their own Jungian investigations into parapsychology and the occult. Inspired by Jung’s verbal descriptions of the Tarot’s major arcana, artist and mystic Robert Wang has created a Jungian Tarot deck, and an accompanying trilogy of books, The Jungian Tarot and its Archetypal Imagery, Tarot Psychology, and Perfect Tarot Divination.

You can see images of each of Wang’s cards here. His books purport to be exhaustive studies of Jung’s Tarot theory and practice, written in consultation with Jung scholars in New York and Zurich. Sallie Nichols’ Jung and Tarot: An Archetypal Journey is less voluminous and innovative—using the traditional, Pamela Coleman-Smith-illustrated, Rider-Waite deck rather than an updated original version. But for those willing to grant a relationship between systems of symbols and a collective unconscious, her book may provide some penetrating insights, if not a recipe for predicting the future.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Jared Leto Stars in a New Prequel to Blade Runner 2049: Watch It Free Online

Blade Runner, as anyone who’s seen so much as its first shot knows, takes place in the Los Angeles of November 2019. Though the film flopped when it came out in 1982, the acclaim and fans it has drawn with each of the 35 years that have passed since didn’t take long to reach the kind of critical mass that demands a sequel. After numerous rumors and false starts, the October release of Blade Runner 2049, produced by Blade Runner director Ridley Scott and directed by Arrival director Denis Villeneuve, now fast approaches. The new movie’s promotional push, which has so far included trailers and making-of featurettes, has now begun to tell us what happened between 2019 and 2049.

“I decided to ask a couple of artists that I respect to create three short stories that dramatize some key events that occurred after 2019, when the first Blade Runner takes place, but before 2049, when my new Blade Runner story begins,” says Villeneuve in his introduction to the brand new short above.

Taking place in the Los Angeles of 2036, the Luke Scott-directed piece “revolves around Jared Leto’s character, Niander Wallace,” writes Collider’s Adam Chitwood, who “introduces a new line of ‘perfected’ replicants called the Nexus 9, seeking to get the prohibition on replicants repealed,” the government having shut replicant production down thirteen years before due to a devastating electromagnetic pulse attack for which replicants took the blame.

A timeline appeared at Comic-Con this past summer covering the events of the thirty years between Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049, though in very broad strokes: in 2020 “the Tyrell Corporation introduces a new replicant model, the Nexus 8S, which has extended lifespans,” in 2025 “a new company, Wallace Corp., solves the global food shortage and becomes a massive super power,” in 2049 “life on Earth has reached its limit and society divides between Replicant and human.” The two other short films to come should just about tide over fans until the release of Blade Runner 2049 — not that those who’ve been waiting for a new Blade Runner movie since the 1980s can’t handle another month.

The short Blade Runner 2049 prequel, entitled “Nexus: 2036,” will be added to our list, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More.

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The Blade Runner Promotional Film

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Periodic Table of Elements Presented as Interactive Haikus

British poet and speculative fiction writer recently got a little creative with the Periodic Table, writing one haiku for each element.


Show-stealing diva,
throw yourself at anyone,
decked out in diamonds.


Locked in rock and sand,
age upon age
awaiting the digital dawn.


Deadly bone seeker
released by Fukushima;
your sweet days long gone.

You can access the complete Elemental haiku here.

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via Mental Floss

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Man Ray and the Cinéma Pur: Watch Four Groundbreaking Surrealist Films From the 1920s

Man Ray was one of the leading artists of the avant garde of 1920s and 1930s Paris. A key figure in the Dada and Surrealist movements, his works spanned various media, including film. He was a leading exponent of the Cinéma Pur, or “Pure Cinema,” which rejected such “bourgeois” conceits as character, setting and plot. Today we present Man Ray’s four influential films of the 1920s.

Le Retour à la Raison (above) was completed in 1923. The title means “Return to Reason,” and it’s basically a kinetic extension of Man Ray’s still photography. Many of the images in Le Retour are animated photograms, a technique in which opaque, or partially opaque, objects are arranged directly on top of a sheet of photographic paper and exposed to light. The technique is as old as photography itself, but Man Ray had a gift for self-promotion, so he called them “rayographs.” For Le Retour, Man Ray sprinkled objects like salt and pepper and pins onto the photographic paper. He also filmed live-action sequences of an amusement park carousel and other subjects, including the nude torso of his model and lover, Kiki of Montparnasse.

Emak-Bakia (1926):

The 16-minute Emak-Bakia contains some of the same images and visual techniques as Le Retour à la Raison, including rayographs, double images and negative images. But the live-action sequences are more inventive, with dream-like distortions and tilted camera angles. The effect is surreal. “In reply to critics who would like to linger on the merits or defects of the film,” wrote Man Ray in the program notes, “one can reply simply by translating the title ‘Emak Bakia,’ an old Basque expression, which was chosen because it sounds prettily and means: ‘Give us a rest.'”

L’Etoile de Mer (1928):

L’Etoile de Mer (“The Sea Star”) was a collaboration between Man Ray and the surrealist poet Robert Desnos. It features Kiki de Montparnasse (Alice Prin) and André de la Rivière. The distorted, out-of focus images were made by shooting into mirrors and through rough glass. The film is more sensual than Man Ray’s earlier works. As Donald Faulkner writes:

In the modernist high tide of 1920s experimental filmmaking, L’Etoile de Mer is a perverse moment of grace, a demonstration that the cinema went farther in its great silent decade than most filmmakers today could ever imagine. Surrealist photographer Man Ray’s film collides words with images (the intertitles are from an otherwise lost work by poet Robert Desnos) to make us psychological witnesses, voyeurs of a kind, to a sexual encounter. A character picks up a woman who is selling newspapers. She undresses for him, but then he seems to leave her. Less interested in her than in the weight she uses to keep her newspapers from blowing away, the man lovingly explores the perceptions generated by her paperweight, a starfish in a glass tube. As the man looks at the starfish, we become aware through his gaze of metaphors for cinema, and for vision itself, in lyrical shots of distorted perception that imply hallucinatory, almost masturbatory sexuality.

Les Mystères du Château de Dé (1929):

The longest of Man Ray’s films, Les Mystères du Château de Dé (the version above has apparenlty been shortened by seven minutes) follows a pair of travelers on a journey from Paris to the Villa Noailles in Hyères, which features a triangular Cubist garden designed by Gabriel Geuvrikain. “Made as an architectural document and inspired by the poetry of Mallarmé,” writes Kim Knowles in A Cinematic Artist: The Films of Man Ray, “Les Mystères du Château de Dé is the film in which Man Ray most clearly demonstrates his interdisciplinary attitude, particularly in its reference to Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard.”

The films will be listed in our collection, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in April, 2012.

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Man Ray’s Portraits of Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Marcel Duchamp & Many Other 1920s Icons

Four Surrealist Films From the 1920Watch Dreams That Money Can Buy, a Surrealist Film by Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder, Fernand Léger & Hans Richter

An Animated Introduction to Ludwig Wittgenstein & His Philosophical Insights on the Problems of Human Communication

In the recorded history of philosophy, there may be no sharper a mind than Ludwig Wittgenstein. A bête noire, enfant terrible, and all other such phrases used to describe affronts to order and decorum, Wittgenstein also represented an anarchic force that disturbed the staid discipline. His teacher Bertrand Russell recognized the existential threat Wittgenstein posed to his profession (though not right away). When Wittgenstein handed Russell the compact, cryptic Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, he admitted his student had gone beyond his own analytic insights in the pursuit of absolute clarity. Wittgenstein’s longtime mentor and friend, famed logician and mathematician Gottlob Frege, expressed criticism. Some have suggested he did so in part because he saw that Wittgenstein had rendered much of his work irrelevant.

Alain de Botton gives a brief but fascinating sketch of Wittgenstein’s ideas and incredibly odd biography in the School of Life video above. The eccentric Austrian savant, he asserts, “can help us with our communication problems” through his penetrating, though often impenetrable, claims about language. That may be so. But we may need to redefine what we mean by “communication.” According to Wittgenstein in the Tractatus, an overwhelming percentage of what we obsess about on a daily basis—political and religious abstractions, for example—is so totally incoherent and muddled that it means nothing at all. He revised this opinion dramatically in his later thought.

Though he published nothing after the Tractatus and soon became a near-recluse after his startling entry into analytic philosophy, notes from his students were collected and published as well as a posthumous book called Philosophical Investigations. This version of Wittgenstein’s approach to the problems of communication involves a development of the “ostensive”—or demonstrative—role of language. Wittgenstein made an argument that language can only serve a social, rather than a personal, subjective, function. To make the point, he introduced his “Beetle in a Box” analogy, which you can see explained above in an animated BBC video written by Nigel Warburton and narrated by Aidan Turner.

The analogy uses the idea of each of us claiming to have a beetle in a box as a stand in for our individual, private experiences. We all claim to have them (we can even observe brain states), but no one can ever see inside the theater of our minds to verify. We simply have to take each other’s word for it. We play “language games,” which only have meaning in respect to their context. That such games can be mutually intelligible among individuals who are otherwise  opaque to each other has to do with our shared environment, abilities, and limitations. Should we, however, meet a lion who could speak—in perfectly intelligible English—we would not, Wittgenstein asserted, be able to understand a single word. The vastly different experiences of human versus lion would not translate through any medium.

Just above, we have an explanation of this thought experiment from an unlikely source, Ricky Gervais, in an attempted explanation to his comic foil Karl Pilkington, who takes things in his own peculiar direction. Though Wittgenstein used the idea for a different purpose, his observation about the unbridgeable chasm between humans and lions anticipates Thomas Nagel’s provocative claims in the 1974 essay “What is it like to be a bat?” We cannot inhabit the subjective states of beings so different from us, and therefore cannot say much of anything about their consciousness. Maybe it isn’t like anything to be a bat. Luckily for humans, we do have the ability to imagine each other’s experiences, in indirect, imperfect, roundabout, ways, and we all have enough shared context that we can, at least theoretically, use language to produce more clarity of thought and greater social harmony.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Margaret Hamilton, Lead Software Engineer of the Apollo Project, Stands Next to Her Code That Took Us to the Moon (1969)

Photo courtesy of MIT Museum

When I first read news of the now-infamous Google memo writer who claimed with a straight face that women are biologically unsuited to work in science and tech, I nearly choked on my cereal. A dozen examples instantly crowded to mind of women who have pioneered the very basis of our current technology while operating at an extreme disadvantage in a culture that explicitly believed they shouldn’t be there, this shouldn’t be happening, women shouldn’t be able to do a “man’s job!”

The memo, as Megan Molteni and Adam Rogers write at Wired, “is a species of discourse peculiar to politically polarized times: cherry-picking scientific evidence to support a pre-existing point of view.” Its specious evolutionary psychology pretends to objectivity even as it ignores reality. As Mulder would say, the truth is out there, if you care to look, and you don’t need to dig through classified FBI files. Just, well, Google it. No, not the pseudoscience, but the careers of women in STEM without whom we might not have such a thing as Google.

Women like Margaret Hamilton, who, beginning in 1961, helped NASA “develop the Apollo program’s guidance system” that took U.S. astronauts to the moon, as Maia Weinstock reports at MIT News. “For her work during this period, Hamilton has been credited with popularizing the concept of software engineering.” Robert McMillan put it best in a 2015 profile of Hamilton:

It might surprise today’s software makers that one of the founding fathers of their boys’ club was, in fact, a mother—and that should give them pause as they consider why the gender inequality of the Mad Men era persists to this day.

Hamilton was indeed a mother in her twenties with a degree in mathematics, working as a programmer at MIT and supporting her husband through Harvard Law, after which she planned to go to graduate school. “But the Apollo space program came along” and contracted with NASA to fulfill John F. Kennedy’s famous promise made that same year to land on the moon before the decade’s end—and before the Soviets did. NASA accomplished that goal thanks to Hamilton and her team.

Photo courtesy of MIT Museum

Like many women crucial to the U.S. space program (many doubly marginalized by race and gender), Hamilton might have been lost to public consciousness were it not for a popular rediscovery. “In recent years,” notes Weinstock, “a striking photo of Hamilton and her team’s Apollo code has made the rounds on social media.” You can see that photo at the top of the post, taken in 1969 by a photographer for the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory. Used to promote the lab’s work on Apollo, the original caption read, in part, “Here, Margaret is shown standing beside listings of the software developed by her and the team she was in charge of, the LM [lunar module] and CM [command module] on-board flight software team.”

As Hank Green tells it in his condensed history above, Hamilton “rose through the ranks to become head of the Apollo Software development team.” Her focus on errors—how to prevent them and course correct when they arise—“saved Apollo 11 from having to abort the mission” of landing Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon’s surface. McMillan explains that “as Hamilton and her colleagues were programming the Apollo spacecraft, they were also hatching what would become a $400 billion industry.” At Futurism, you can read a fascinating interview with Hamilton, in which she describes how she first learned to code, what her work for NASA was like, and what exactly was in those books stacked as high as she was tall. As a woman, she may have been an outlier in her field, but that fact is much better explained by the Occam’s razor of prejudice than by anything having to do with evolutionary determinism.

Note: You can now find Hamilton’s code on Github.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How to Listen to Music: A Free Course from Yale University

Taught by Yale professor Craig Wright, this course, Listening to Music, operates on the assumption that listening to music is “not simply a passive activity one can use to relax, but rather, an active and rewarding process.” When we understand the basic elements of Western music (e.g., rhythm, melody, and form), we can appreciate music in entirely new ways. That includes everything from classical music, rock and techno, to Gregorian chant and the blues.

You can watch the 23 lectures above, on YouTube, or Yale’s website, where you’ll also find a syllabus and information on each class session. The main text used in the course is Listening to Music, written by the professor himself.

Listening to Music will be added to the Music section of our ever-growing collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

It’s also worth noting that Prof. Wright has created an interactive MOOC called Introduction to Classical Music. You might want to check it out.

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If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks!

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Alice in Wonderland Gets Re-Envisioned by a Neural Network in the Style of Paintings By Picasso, van Gogh, Kahlo, O’Keeffe & More

An artist just starting out might first imitate the styles of others, and if all goes well, the process of learning those styles will lead them to a style of their own. But how does one learn something like an artistic style in a way that isn’t simply imitative? Artificial intelligence, and especially the current developments in making computers not just think but learn, will certainly shed some light in the process — and produce, along the way, such fascinating projects as the video above, a re-envisioning of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland in the styles of famous artists: Pablo Picasso, Georgia O’Keeffe, Katsushika HokusaiFrida Kahlo, Vincent van Gogh and others.

The idea behind this technological process, known as “style transfer,” is “to take two images, say, a photo of a person and a painting, and use these to create a third image that combines the content of the former with the style of the later,” says an explanatory post at the Paperspace Blog.

“The central problem of style transfer revolves around our ability to come up with a clear way of computing the ‘content’ of an image as distinct from computing the ‘style’ of an image. Before deep learning arrived at the scene, researchers had been handcrafting methods to extract the content and texture of images, merge them and see if the results were interesting or garbage.”

Deep learning, the family of methods that enable computers to teach themselves, involves providing an artificial intelligence system called a “neural network” with huge amounts of data and letting it draw inferences. In experiments like these, the systems take in visual data and make inferences about how one set of data, like the content of frames of Alice in Wonderland, might look when rendered in the colors and contours of another, such as some of the most famous paintings in all of art history. (Others have tried it, as we’ve previously featured, with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner.) If the technology at work here piques your curiosity, have a look at Google’s free online course on deep learning or this new set of courses from Coursera— it probably won’t improve your art skills, but it will certainly increase your understanding of a development that will play an ever larger role in the culture and economy ahead.

Here’s a full list of painters used in the neural networked version of Alice:

Pablo Picasso
Georgia O’Keeffe
S.H. Raza
Frida Kahlo
Vincent van Gogh
Saloua Raouda Choucair
Lee Krasner
Sol Lewitt
Wu Guanzhong
Elaine de Kooning
Ibrahim el-Salahi
Minnie Pwerle
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Edvard Munch
Natalia Goncharova

via Kottke

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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