Jodorowsky on Tarot and Family

A Jodorowsy LR

[disinfo ed.’s note: the following is an excerpt from The Dance of Reality: A Psychomagical Autobiography by Alejandro Jodorowsky.]

I began my Tarot reading sessions at the same time that I was writing the comic The Incal for Moebius. The more I progressed with the readings, the more I noticed that all problems have their roots in the family tree. To examine a person’s difficulties is to enter into the psychological atmosphere of his or her family. I realized that we are marked by the psychomental universe of our families. We are marked by their characteristics, but also by their insane ideas, their negative feelings, their inhibited desires, and their destructive acts. The father and mother project all their phantoms onto the expected infant. They want to see him or her do what they themselves could not experience or accomplish. Thus, we assume a personality that is not our own, but comes from one or more members of our emotional environment. To be born into a family is, as it were, to be possessed.

Jodorowsky psicomagia soto caricaturaThe gestation of a human almost never takes place in a healthy manner because the fetus is influenced by the parents’ diseases and neuroses. After a certain time, just seeing a client move and hearing a few spoken phrases was enough for me to tell the manner in which he or she had been born. (Someone who feels compelled to do everything quickly was born in a few minutes, as if with urgency. Someone who, faced with a problem, waits until the last moment to resolve it, using outside help, was born with forceps. Someone who has trouble making decisions was born by caesarean section.) I realized that the way we are born, which is often not the correct way, alters the course of our entire lives. And these bad deliveries result from our parents’ emotional problems with their own parents. The damage is transmitted from generation to generation: the possessed become the possessors, projecting onto their children what was projected onto them, unless there is a gaining of consciousness that breaks the vicious circle. We must not be afraid to explore ourselves deeply in order to confront the ill-formed part of our being, the horror of nonachievement, and shatter the genealogical obstacle that rises up against us as a barrier and obstructs the ebb and flow of life. In this barrier we find the bitter psychological sediment of our fathers and mothers, our grandparents and great-grandparents. We must learn to stop identifying ourselves with the family tree and understand that it is not in the past: on the contrary, it is alive, present within every one of us. Every time we have a problem that seems to us to be individual, the whole family is involved. AlejandroJodorowskyAt the moment we become conscious, in one way or another, the family begins to evolve—not only the living members, but also the dead ones. The past is not set in stone. It changes according to our point of view. We have a different understanding of ancestors whom we consider heinously guilty of altering our mentality. After forgiving them, we should honor them, which is to say, know them, analyze them, dissolve them, reshape them, thank them, love them, and finally see the “Buddha” in each and every one of them. Everything that we have achieved spiritually could have been done by any one of our relatives. The responsibility is immense. Any fall drags down the whole family, including future children, for three or four generations. Children do not perceive time in the same way that adults do. What seems to an adult to last an hour, children experience as if it lasts for months, and it marks them for their whole lives. As adults, we tend to reproduce the abuses we suffered during childhood, either on other people or on ourselves. If I was tortured yesterday, then I keep on torturing myself today, becoming my own tormenter. There is a great deal of talk about sexual abuses suffered during childhood, but we tend to overlook intellectual abuses, which imbue the child’s mind with insane ideas like perverse prejudices and racism; emotional abuses that include deprivation of love, contempt, sarcasm, verbal aggression; material abuses like lack of space, abusive changes of territory, lack of clothing, and improper nourishment. There are also abuses of the being, which may include not being given the opportunity to develop one’s true personality, having one’s life planned out as a function of one’s family history; being forced into an alien destiny, not being seen for who one is, being made into a mirror of someone else, being desired to be someone else, being born a boy to parents who wanted a girl or vice versa; not being allowed to see what one wants to see; not being allowed to listen to certain things; not being allowed to express oneself; or being given an education consisting of the implantation of limits. As for sexual abuse, the list is long, as long as the list of accusations:
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“I married out of obligation because your mother was pregnant with you; you have been a burden to us; I left my career because of you; you are selfish to want to live your life; you have betrayed us; you let yourself surpass us and achieved what we could not.” Family history is full of incestuous relationships, repressed or not, as well as homosexual urges, sadomasochism, narcissism, and social neuroses, which are reproduced as a legacy from generation to generation. This can sometimes be seen in names. One client wrote, “You suggested that I clarify my unconscious incestuous urges with my brother. You were right. My brother’s name is Fernando, and the father of my children is also called Fernando. But this can also be found in my genealogy; my mother has a brother called Juan Carlos, and she married a Carlos. It was the same for my grandmother: her brother was named José and she married a José, and her father (my great-grandfather) was also called José.”

Excerpted from The Dance of Reality: A Psychomagical Autobiography by Alejandro Jodorowsky with the permission of the publisher, Park Street Press. 
Alejandro Jodorowsky is a playwright, filmmaker, composer, mime, psychotherapist, and author of many books on spirituality and tarot, and over thirty comic books and graphic novels. He has directed several films, including The Rainbow Thief and the cult classics El Topo and The Holy Mountain. He lives in France.

7 Comments on "Jodorowsky on Tarot and Family"

  1. Sounds like my family.

  2. Ted Heistman | Jun 11, 2014 at 1:04 pm |

    makes sense. At some point I decided that this is what Karma is.

    • Kinda the reverse of Christian morality; first you are punished, then you commit the sins.

  3. I have been following Jodorowsky for a while now. I am Chilean and I value his work, his art and poetry. Sometimes I wish I could translate some of his quotes to the core so that other people can understand,
    Thanks for the article !
    Greetings from Chile

  4. Just saw his newest film, Dance of Reality (I’ve only ever seen Holy Mountain before). It’s oddly semi-autobiographical and visually stunning. Lots of weirdness, darkness and humor, so I’m sure Disinfo fans will dig it.

  5. BuzzCoastin | Jun 11, 2014 at 5:35 pm |

    in many so called primitive cultures
    child rearing was the primary concern of elders
    while cildmaking wad the primary concern of the young
    butt as a consequence
    they lived highly structured “primitive” existences

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