The Hierophant by Ted Hand

The tarot card that represents 2021 is the fifth card of the Major Arcana, The Hierophant (2+0+2+1=5). To mark the turn of this tricky year, we are returning to Ted Hand’s text on finding The Hierophant in the work of C. G. Jung and Philip K. Dick, originally published as part of the Ignota project 22 Moons.

Change yourself, the heavenly wisdom says, from dead philosophical stones into living philosophical stones, because I am the true medicine and I change everything which cannot exist into something eternal. Why are you possessed by madness? Through yourself but not from you, is everything which you need and which you wrongly seek outside.”

Carl Jung’s rediscovery of alchemy as a precursor to analytic psychology is exemplified by this quote from the early modern alchemist Gerhard Dorn. Jung drew parallels between the alchemist’s work and the process of integrating the psyche, creating the conditions for a rebirth of alchemical thinking within the modern discipline of psychology. Within Jung’s new esotericism, his theory of the archetypes of the collective unconscious provides a framework for thinking about the symbols of Tarot, which esoteric tradition conceived of as signals from the ancient Book of Thoth. ‘As above, so below’: the master symbol of the Mandala, pictured in our Jung card, makes the connection between the personality becoming an integrated whole and the unity of the world.

We chose Carl Jung as the Hierophant of the Philip K. Dick Tarot because of his influence on Dick, who also created a new esoteric tradition. The Hierophant is a teacher who initiates students into the mysteries of the hieratic art of theurgy, stretching back through esoteric traditions like Tarot and Alchemy to the Neoplatonism and Hermeticism of Late Antiquity. Dionysius the Areopagite had his Hierotheus and occultists harken back to the legendary figure of Hermes Trismegistus.

Philip K. Dick was a faithful reader of Jung in the 1950s and 1960s and in his novels we find characters like Mr. Tagomi of The Man in the High Castle wrestling with Jungian ideas. Dick’s series of mystical experiences in the 1970s referred him back to Jung’s work and its esoteric influences, including the Hermeticism of early modern thinkers like Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme and Giordano Bruno, reflected in Dick's masterpiece Valis.

Like Jung, Dick turned to the esoteric traditions for help with healing, as part of a response to the trauma that he had experienced and perceived in the world around him (when he had a vision of Asclepius he asked for medical attention). We can understand Dick's mysticism in the context of the Kabbalistic tradition of Tikkun Olam, or repair of the world to bring it closer to a state of harmony. Just as the Jungian alchemist seeks to bring light to the darkness of the Unconscious, the Kabbalist performing Tikkun Olam redeems the spark trapped in the darkness of matter.

In what is perhaps his most terrifying novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (source of the Devil card in PKD Tarot) Dick portrayed a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by global warming. Dickian spirituality must be seen as a response to the oppressive trauma inflicted on the environment by a Satanic and mechanized world order that Dick recast using his own spiritual archetypes such as the ‘Black Iron Prison’.

Dick’s response to the climate grief he experienced and expressed in his fiction was to articulate a new gnostic spirituality which envisioned salvation in terms of an escape from the horrors of capitalism. The situation may be bleak but there is some hope. There are redemptive possibilities in the dissolution of pseudo-realities, by means of gnostic signals from a transcendent beam of information-rich light. 


Ted Hand is a teaching credential student and independent researcher working on esotericism who lives in Sonoma, California. He is the co-creator of the Philip K. Dick tarot deck

This text was originally published for the full moon in Aries on 13 October 2019. It formed part of 22 Moons, an Ignota project responding to climate grief through the Major Arcana. 22 Moons delivered a new text on each new and full moon, bringing together twenty-two poets, writers, artists, thinkers, curators, scientists, astrologers, practitioners, witches and technologists for twenty-two lunations.