The King of Cups and the Unconscious Mind

May 9th, 2012 § 2 comments

Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow

I read a book last week called Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior by Leonard Mlodinow.

As might be guessed from the title, it’s about the unconscious, and how much of what we experience in our conscious lives appears to arise out of or be directed by this mysterious and uncharted part of ourselves.

It’s really interesting stuff, and I highly recommend the book. Reading it made me want to ask my own unconscious what it thinks of itself. To do so of course, I turned to the Tarot.

King of Cups from the Smith Waite Tarot

The card I pulled when I asked ‘what is the nature of our unconscious?’ was the King of Cups.

In it, a king sits on a slab of concrete in the middle of an ocean. A fish pops out of the water to his right, while a boat sails past on his left.

What a perfect card for my question.

This is the emotional King, the one who communicates through feelings more easily than with logic. He intuitively senses how to navigate his way, and works very well with symbols and nuance.

And you could say that within this question, the King himself might represent consciousness. He’s the part of us that experiences sensation. He acts and emotes.

The ocean on the other hand, is like the unconscious. It’s deep, and dark, and for the most part unknown. Anything might pop up from under the waves or float by.

If we look at it this way, it’s also interesting to notice that the King takes up so much of the picture, when in fact he’s so little compared to the sea below and around him.

It’s similar to how we experience our consciousness relative to our unconscious. Our conscious mind seems to think it’s the one directing the action, or at least is the most important element in the picture.

Really though, it’s likely just a tiny speck on a giant ocean.

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