Inner Pathways to The Divine: Exploring Your Spiritual Self Through the Tarot's Major Arcana by Diane Toland                                      
Review by Diane Wilkes

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Many times as I read this slim but powerful book on the Major Arcana, I was struck by how similar Toland's beliefs are to mine.  It also reminded me stylistically of Amber Jayanti's Living the Tarot, though it's far more concise and much less esoteric in its approach.

By stylistically, I am referring to the structure of Inner Pathways to the Divine, which, like Jayanti's book, addresses only the tarot's Major Arcana.  After a brief introduction, where Toland describes the Major Arcana as "mentors" and expresses that her belief the tarot can be much more than a predictive tool, the bulk of the book's material is found in Chapter Two: Self-Exploration and the Major Mentors.  This chapter contains 88 pages--the entire book is only 125 pages (not including the acknowledgements and references).

Chapter Two is divided into 22 sections, one for each of the Majors.  All follow an identical format that includes a short card description (the Rider-Waite-Smith deck is used).  Then, under the heading "Self-Exploration," a series of five directions/ questions are listed.  Following that is an affirmation, an action that "pertains to the lesson of the card" (Toland offers suggestions, but encourages devising your own), a suggestion to "choose a song, poem, or piece of art, literature, or film that relates to the card," explaining your choice, and finally "Mandala," which advises the reader to select an image that represents the card (when all 22 images are selected, you combine them to create a personal tarot mandala).

The benefits to this format are obvious.  Each directive is designed to aid the reader in developing a personal relationship with the cards.  The brevity might cause some reviewers to inquire, "Where's the beef?" but I respect the author's intent, which is clearly to allow each reader to form and create their own conclusions about and concepts of the cards with minimal authorial influence. I'm not a minimalist, but I appreciate the thought behind its application.

As I wrote earlier, I found myself very in synch with Ms. Toland's approach.  In the companion book to the Storyteller Tarot, I included a section at the end of each card's chapter called "Your Personal ________" (insert name of Major Arcana card).  While each had different, creative suggestions to personalize the archetype, all included the sentence, "What books, movies, songs, myths, etc., show you aspects of the ____________?"  So, while I applaud Toland's methodology, I wished that she had, like myself, offered a suggestion that was card-specific and appropriate.  The author does make the "Self-Exploration" section card-specific, but I am greedy enough to want the "Action" section to also be so, since any action would be part of a ritual to understand the specific archetype on a subcutaneous level.

In The Storyteller Tarot, I use It's a Wonderful Life as the story for the Judgement card; Toland discusses it in conjunction with The World, which I think is an equally valid association.  There are other ways in which I relate to the author's view of the tarot, so many that I have a soft spot in my heart for this book because of it.  I would have preferred that Toland had widened her focus both to include decks other than the Rider-Waite, because I think this methodology would be valuable for any deck, and to include the Minor Arcana, because I think every one of the 78 cards offers us an important lesson.  Both the choice of using only one deck and not including all 78 cards limits the book's readership and usage.  While I don't consider it essential reading, I find it a valuable adjunct to my tarot library.  I recommend it highly to those who are looking to develop a personal relationship with the Rider-Waite Major Arcana cards.  

Excerpt:

XIX. The Sun

Description

A happy, naked child holding a large, red banner rides upon a white horse.  Behind the child is a walled garden brimming with beautiful, healthy sunflowers.  The sun, in its splendor, shines brightly above them, like the Divine light that infuses the regenerated spirit.  This is a card of profound optimism and success and represents rebirth and joy.  Solar energy is masculine in nature (or yang) and corresponds to the dynamic element of fire.  The banner in the illustration symbolizes victory and success.  The horse represents the body and the forces of earth.  And the child indicates innocence, freedom, and solar intelligence.

Self-Exploration

1.  Look at the card and note how it makes you feel.  Do you like this character?

2.  The Sun card relates to the experience of shining forth and taking "center stage."  It represents our moment in the proverbial spotlight, when we express our glory like the sun.  When we experience hard times and our self-esteem is low, we forget our shining moments and focus, instead, on our mistakes and difficulties.  At these critical moments, it would benefit us greatly to have a list of crowning achievements ready to reflect upon to remind us of our previous successes.  Make a list of four such positive experiences to review whenever you have doubts about yourself.  If you can list more than four, please do so (they can be little successes, too).  Better yet, compile your own "brag book," or scrap book of achievements to help remind you of your accomplishments.

3. Solar (sun) energy, as opposed to lunar (moon) energy, is masculine in nature.  We human beings contain aspects of ourselves that are both feminine and masculine.  All people have within them an anima (yin) and an animus (yang) component.  Is there a situation in your life that would best be handled with a surge of dynamic energy?  Is there something you've been thinking too much about and now requires that you take action?  In what way would this action allow you to regain a sense of personal power and bliss?

4.  The Sun card symbolizes new opportunities, excellent health, and countless blessings.  By taking time every day to enter into a state of gratitude, we reconnect with the source of our many blessings.  We affirm our belief in universal abundance and open our hearts to spiritual and earthly bliss.  In what ways do you give thanks?  Do you regularly "count your blessings" or focus on gifts rather than adversity?  Is there a time of day that you can designate for celebrating life by appreciation.  Make a list of twenty things for which you are sincerely grateful.

5.  On the spiritual path, we spend most of our time exploring our inner world.  However, the body itself is considered the "temple of the soul" and also requires attention.  The body, as a temple for our Divine Spark, requires that we make a commitment to its continuous health and wellness.  Consider the way in which you express yourself physically.  When is the last time you laughed and played--spontaneously and openly?  Do you fully and openly express yourself sexually?  The energy we project from our bodies is powerful and can have healing, liberating effects.  Consider movement and dance and the way it makes you feel.  Are you involved in the dance of life?  Do you energize your body through athletics or exercise?  How does it make you feel?  Explore this issue and make a plan to allow your body to fully express itself.

Affirmation  

Our beliefs create our reality.  Write a personal affirmation that reflects your beliefs seen through the mirror of this major mentor.  I have provided one for you.

I live in a radiant state of gratitude and bliss.

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Excerpted text 2001 Diane Toland
Review and page 2002 Diane Wilkes