Philip K. Dick Tarot Cards: A Tarot Deck Modeled After the Visionary Sci-Fi Writer’s Inner World

What does Philip K. Dick have in com­mon with Jorge Luis Borges, Her­mann Hesse, and John Cage? Fans of all three twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry vision­ar­ies will have much to say on the mat­ter of what deep res­o­nances exist between their bod­ies of work and the world­views that pro­duced them. But they can’t over­look the fact that Dick, Borges, Hesse, and Cage all, at one time or anoth­er, enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly con­sult­ed the ancient Chi­nese div­ina­tion text known as the I Ching. Also known as The Book of Changes, it became a must-have coun­ter­cul­tur­al vol­ume in the 1960s, and the words of guid­ance it pro­vid­ed, in all their open­ness to inter­pre­ta­tion, sure­ly influ­enced no small num­ber of deci­sions made in that era.

What the I Ching had to say cer­tain­ly influ­enced the deci­sions of Philip K. Dick, in life as well as in writ­ing. Not only did he use the book to write The Man in the High Cas­tle, his 1962 nov­el por­tray­ing a world in which the Axis pow­ers won World War II, he also includ­ed it as a plot ele­ment in the sto­ry itself.

And speak­ing of alter­nate his­to­ries, we might ask: could Dick have writ­ten The Man in the High Cas­tle with­out the I Ching? Or could he have writ­ten it using anoth­er div­ina­tion tool, per­haps one from the West rather than the East? What would the nov­el have looked like if writ­ten while har­ness­ing the per­cep­tive pow­er of tarot, the 15th-cen­tu­ry Euro­pean card game whose decks also have a long his­to­ry as win­dows onto human des­tiny?

Recent­ly the world of tarot, the world of the I Ching, and the world of Philip K. Dick col­lid­ed, result­ing in The Fool’s Jour­ney of Philip K. Dick, a tarot deck pub­lished by Wide Books. “PKD schol­ar Ted Hand and tarot artist Christo­pher Wilkey have brought togeth­er a new vision of tarot and the great works of Philip K. Dick,” says Wide Books’ site. “Ide­al for advanced stu­dents of tarot as well as novices to the I Ching,” the deck “takes the seek­er through an ini­ti­a­tion into the life and writ­ings of one of the great­est writ­ers of recent times.” In addi­tion to its 80 cards, each draw­ing from some ele­ment of Dick­’s body of work, the deck includes “four rule cards for two I Ching inspired card games and an eight-sided fold­ing book­let about tarot as Gnos­tic Alle­go­ry, with begin­ning exer­cis­es con­trast­ing tarot to the I Ching.”

Two of the games pay trib­ute to par­tic­u­lar Dick nov­els: A Maze of Death and its “domi­no-type game” that “famil­iar­izes play­ers with the tri­grams of which I Ching hexa­grams are com­posed,” and Ubik, which has “play­ers either hop­ing to avoid accu­mu­lat­ing entropy or try­ing to cap­ture all the ener­gy you can from the deck and oth­er play­ers to be the last stand­ing at the end of the game.” If that sounds like a good time to you, you’ll have to reg­is­ter your inter­est in order­ing a copy of The Fool’s Jour­ney of Philip K. Dick on Wide Books’ con­tact form, since the ini­tial run has sold out. That won’t come as a sur­prise to Dick­’s fans, who know the addic­tive pow­er of one glimpse into his inner world, with its rich mix­ture of the super­nat­ur­al, the sci­en­tif­ic, the para­nor­mal, and the para­noid. But what kind of books will they use his tarot deck to write?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Behold the Sola-Bus­ca Tarot Deck, the Ear­li­est Com­plete Set of Tarot Cards (1490)

H.R. Giger’s Tarot Cards: The Swiss Artist, Famous for His Design Work on Alien, Takes a Jour­ney into the Occult

The Tarot Card Deck Designed by Sal­vador Dalí

The Thoth Tarot Deck Designed by Famed Occultist Aleis­ter Crow­ley

Twin Peaks Tarot Cards Now Avail­able as 78-Card Deck

Robert Crumb Illus­trates Philip K. Dick’s Infa­mous, Hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry Meet­ing with God (1974)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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  • David Hyde says:

    I just found this! Great job describ­ing this tarot deck and inter­weav­ing it with the life of Philip K. Dick. Wide Books is in the process of issu­ing a 2nd edi­tion of the PKD Tarot (2024).
    Also, in 2024 we are spon­sor­ing the 3rd inter­na­tion­al Philip K. Dick Fes­ti­val over June 13 — 16, 2024 in Fort Mor­gan, Col­orado. Hope to see you there! Best wish­es — Dave Hyde/

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