Learning the Opening of the Key (Online Course)

$20 USD

Originally offered at the Tarot Readers Academy in 2016 for the Tarot Summer School

Course Description:

We will be citing and reconciling publicly available texts on the Opening of the Key (OOTK) divinatory technique from Paul Foster Case, Macgregor Mathers, and Aleister Crowley and supplementing those texts with commentary from contemporary masters such as Chic and Tabatha Cicero and Paul Hughes-Barlow to learn the mechanics and the metaphysical implications of the OOTK. Much like how the Celtic Cross spread has become a golden standard, we will learn how to integrate the OOTK into personal practice. Along with deconstructing the five operations of the OOTK, we will learn about elemental dignities, Kabbalistic basics, traditional card counting, Western astrology basics, and what all of these studies combined with tarot divination can teach us about the cornerstone principle in Western occultism–“as above, so below.”

This course will be taught through concise video installments, instructing on the OOTK one operation at a time. I’ll also offer my explanation for why each operation is part and parcel to the OOTK and how astrology, numerology, elemental dignities, and the Kabbalah come together to provide us a transcendental path toward connecting to a divine principle.

An easy-to-follow workbook in plain English will be provided, which you will be expected to work through while taking the course. Supplemental study guides will be provided to teach elemental dignities, Kabbalistic basics, reference charts for card counting, guides on the twelve houses and twelve signs in astrology, references for the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life, and a Sepher Yetzirah trumps correspondence table to help explain card counting.

Even if after the course you opt never to use the OOTK in its traditional form, the various techniques and metaphysical principles you will learn in this course will deepen your understanding of tarot, of divination in general, and of Western occultism.

My OOTK course is not just about learning the OOTK. This course is an invaluable lecture with supplemental texts on how to process and think through esoteric practices and studies. This course is about how to calibrate your own mental state and vibrational frequency to ready yourself for communion with higher consciousness (or Divinity). The lessons I strive to teach in this course transcend a tarot technique tutorial. I hope to share with you how to be a more powerful metaphysician.


An intermediate level proficiency with tarot is a prerequisite for the course. This is not for tarot beginners.

However, it is okay if you are not familiar with Western astrology or the Kabbalah/Qabalah. All the references you need for the basics in the various esoteric studies will be taught through this course. You do not need to come in to this class with a background in astrology or the Kabbalah.

Course Outline:

  1. Introduction to the Opening of the Key
  2. First Operation: The Four Worlds
  3. Second Operation: The Twelve Houses
  4. Third Operation: The Twelve Signs
  5. Fourth Operation: The Thirty-Six Decans
  6. Fifth Operation: The Tree of Life
  7. Concluding Remarks

Recommended Supplies:

I say “recommended” here only because there is no feasible way for me to force it. However, I strongly recommend that you print out a copy of the OOTK workbook, at the very least, to help you navigate the OOTK exercises and video lectures. If you have a 1-inch 3-ring binder, then I recommend that you print out all relevant course materials provided, use 5-tab binder dividers to section off your binder as recommended, and compile the course materials so you have your very own OOTK textbook.

Oh. Do I need to mention that you need a tarot deck?

I also recommend that you set aside an entire day for going through this course, the course materials, and practicing the OOTK alongside the video lectures. Even though actual run-time of videos is 105 minutes, this course is likely to occupy an entire day.

Important Notes:

Given the subject matter of the course, there will be religious references, specifically to Abrahamic faiths. While such references are always in an academic tone, the way the content is framed is definitely not secular (or even exoteric).

Lectures and oral instruction consists of 10 videos, total run time 105 minutes.

Video #1: Introduction

How To Order


I’m going to give step by step instructions on how to order the course and get access to download all the materials for yourself.

  1. Send the tuition cost noted above via PayPal to the e-mail address abelldelivers@gmail.com. Yes, it’s going to say “James Zhang from Castro Valley.” That’s the Hubby. Also, this is the preferred method of payment. (~or~)
  2. Pay with your credit card by following this link: https://www.paypal.me/benebell(~or~)
  3. Only if (1) and (2) are impracticable for you, pay by ordering me an Amazon Gift Card, sent to abelldelivers@gmail.com. Direct link to Amazon gift card orders here.
  4. When you send payment, please include:
    1. Your name or a name identifier for me to reference you by, (~and~)
    2. Your e-mail address, so I know where to send your ordered course materials to.

That’s it!

But if any of that sounds confusing or you just don’t know, no worries. Email me at abelldelivers@gmail.com to let me know you want to place an order. We’ll take it from there together.

Once I receive your payment as the purchase order, your course materials will be delivered to the e-mail address you specified within 2 business days.

If you don’t receive the course materials in the e-mail inbox specified within the two business days, then something went wrong. Doh! Please email me at the below address asap.


DELIVERY NOTE: So far I’ve been good about getting the course materials to you in less than 48 hours from when I receive the PayPal payment, so if that time has gone by and you haven’t received anything from me, first check your Spam folder. Second, check to see the e-mail address associated with your PayPal account. I may have sent it to that account if no e-mail was provided in the notes section of the transfer. If still nothing, then something went wrong somewhere, so contact me at the above e-mail addy ASAP so we can get things squared away.

Book Review of the Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions

Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions Book 01

It’s no secret that I’m one of Christine Payne-Towler’s biggest fans and the Tarot of the Holy Light (THL) is my personal reading deck. While I may not reach for the THL for readings I do for others (though those who’ve gotten readings from me know that from time to time, I do), it’s almost always the first deck I reach for when reading for myself. So naturally, I eagerly awaited both Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the companion texts that go along with the THL.

I reviewed the THL deck here (first edition of it) and Volume I of the companion text, Tarot of the Holy Light: A Continental Esoteric Tarot here. This will be my review and overview of Volume II, Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions, pictured above alongside the newest version of the THL deck, which I also have. Wherever you all seem to think my smartness is, multiply that by one thousand and that’s Christine Payne-Towler.

Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions Book 03

Foundations begins by explaining why the THL focus is on Jacob Boehme, a seventeenth century occultist. Boehme’s works are said to have heavily influenced later Rosicrucians, Freemasons, and Martinists, and then the early esoteric tarot deck by Etteilla. While Volume I was a study of each individual card from the THL, Volume II takes us back to the source theoretical principles behind the THL. What was the purpose behind conception of the THL deck? What are the foundational gnostic premises that the deck is built upon? In fact, what are the foundational gnostic premises that all esoteric tarot decks to come are built upon? These are the questions Volume II explore.

Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions Book 04

Volume II provides interdisciplinary instruction on various esoteric theoretical models from Western mystery traditions and ultimately synthesizes it with the continental tarot deck. This is the kind of book you sit at a desk to read, because you have pen and paper ready for notetaking.

Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions Book 05

Since I am not well-learned in Western mystery traditions or the Kabbalah, this was slow reading for me, but wholly enjoyable slow reading. I loved how Payne-Towler compels me to explore the Kabbalah further. Alchemy and esoteric astrology are also explored in detail and depth.

Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions Book 06

If you work with the THL deck, then you must have this book. If you don’t work with the THL deck but possess an active interest in Western esotericism, then get this book with or without the deck, because there’s so much in here that will enrich your own metaphysical studies.

Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions Book 07

Payne-Towler does enter with a distinct religious point of view and I don’t think the THL books are intended to be strict, objective scholarly research. There’s a great deal of scholarly research in here, but pulled in such a way to support a very clear religious thesis. For me, I don’t mind that at all, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.

Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions Book 08

Anyone with occult leanings who want to study the Western mystery traditions should have a copy of this book in their personal library. This is just one of those incredible, rich texts that I cherish having access to.

Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions is 260 pages of Western theosophic exploration keyed to the incredible THL tarot deck, though it’s not an operation manual the way Volume I was. Here, Volume II is a treatise that explores the roots, foundation, and backstory of the mystery traditions that the deck and, beyond the THL deck, esoteric tarot in general is founded upon. Foundations will deepen your pool of knowledge. In many ways, this book is about teaching you how to think, and how to process information found on a tarot deck through the filters of Western occult history.

Foundations of the Esoteric Traditions Book 02 Book and Deck

Volume I and Volume II are both self-published and can be ordered at Christine Payne-Towler’s site, Tarot University. Also be sure to check out the new version of the THL deck. I have both. To be honest I prefer the earlier version, but the new version is more functional. It’s easier to shuffle, easier to transport around with you, and all around more practical as a user-friendly deck. The earlier deck is more of a collector’s item and for someone with my size hands, forces slow shuffle and meditation. With the new deck, I can shuffle faster. Anyway, go check out Tarot University.

Review of the Hezicos Tarot by Mary Griffin

Hezicos Tarot 01 Whole View

The Hezicos Tarot by Mary Griffin is a self-published Rider-Waite-Smith based deck that blends a multicultural point of view with fairytale fantasy. It is a versatile, readable, and easily accessible tarot deck for novices, beautiful imagery that is fit for professional readers, and artwork that will tempt any tarot deck collector.

My favorite artistic style for tarot decks is unembellished hand-rendered line art, and that’s exactly what we have here. The Hezicos Tarot is done in watercolor and ink. There is a contemporary style to Griffin’s art. The imagery here leans feminine, storybook, with a fable and fantasy tone that works really well with a modern tarot deck.

Continue reading “Review of the Hezicos Tarot by Mary Griffin”

The Generation Gap Between Tarot Practitioners

Photograph that is unrelated to the topic at hand but posting here for the visual effect notwithstanding because your eyeballs need there to be a photo here and I couldn't source one that would be related.
Photograph that is unrelated to the topic at hand but posting here for the visual effect notwithstanding because your eyeballs need there to be a photo here and I couldn’t source one that would be related.

First off, naturally I will be speaking in generalizations.

People my age are sandwiched somewhere in between the Old Guard and the Millennial Readers.

Although my mother is not a tarot reader, she’s a metaphysical reader/practitioner of sorts and I’m super sure that had tarot been accessible to her as a young one, she would have totally become a tarot reader. Instead, she reads other stuff. Like your face. No, I kid, but oh no, I don’t. She really does.

I can see her attitude reflected in many of the Old Guard tarot readers. “I’m not normal. Tarot is not normal. Damn straight this is fringe. Deal with it.”

There’s an unabashed embrace of marginalized culture. There’s no embarrassment with dressing woo-woo as you walk among normal society. You can almost see traces of a hedge witch mentality.

Although she has never come outright to say so, I get the distinct sense that she doesn’t want everyone and the mainstream to become diviners, mediums, shamans, and practitioners of craft. There is a tacit yet clear exclusionary attitude. Or at least that’s always been the impression I got. She doesn’t want (let alone buy in to the ideas of) Mediumship 101, “everybody’s psychic,” or “pay me $300 and I will certify you as a bona fide tarot master.” (Hi. Certified tarot master here.)

Meanwhile millennial readers apply general business and marketing tactics to tarot–e.g., general PR and marketing principles to tarot business, coaching anyone and everyone to become diviners, mediums, shamans, and practitioners of craft, if you so choose. There are efforts to establish tarot into mainstream culture.

There is a pop psychology approach to tarot (which I have been pegged and critiqued as adopting, so apparently I’m in this camp) that strives to normalize divination practices or astrology, and to talk about spell-crafting as the law of attraction and “yay for positive thinking.”

However, at the heart of the millennial approach is the notion of accessibility, a socialist attitude toward the metaphysics. We can all have equal access to the Divine, to metaphysical energy work. (I confess, that is the attitude I adopt. That line sums up my opinion.) Metaphysics is for everyone. This is not paranormal, it’s normal. You don’t need anybody else to help you connect to the Divine. You only need you.

Okay, so as circumstances would have it, I’m now only a couple paragraphs in and I’ve already changed my mind.

Maybe I haven’t changed my mind exactly, but it is for sure vacillating. Is it really a generational thing? Or is it just a two-different-schools-of-thought thing? Is my personal anecdotal evidence and direct observations even reliable?

I’m in effect just looking around me, only to the point I am able to physically see, and making gross generalizations about what else is out there based on only what I see. Is what I happen to see an accurate microcosmic sampling of the macro? I don’t know. I really don’t.

However, there is for sure a determined voice among the occultists and metaphysicians who say that “occult” means concealed, and we are not to remove the veil for all. Only those who choose the path should or even can go beyond that veil to see for themselves what is there, and then come back with divinatory or revelatory information as needed, like an appointed messenger.

Is that way of thinking a bit reminiscent of limiting literacy to the elite so that the proletariat must rely on figures of authority (like a priest or priestess) for Divine insights? That was the way of institutionalized Western religion for ages. Is it hypocritical when metaphysicians repudiate that kind of authoritarian approach to religion, pursue occultism because they’re anti-authoritarian and want the answers for themselves, but then once they’ve found those answers, act in the same exclusionary manner?

I’ve observed that the Old Guard, Mom inclusive, have this sense that what they do “isn’t for everyone.” She would probably opine that not anyone can just pick up a grimoire, follow something in there, and yield results. Only certain people can do that. As I said, there’s a staunch exclusionary attitude. I’m also sure if I introduced her to the 21st century spiritual coaching power of manifestation business model, she’d find it absurd.

Actually, she wouldn’t. She’s pretty open-minded. She’d be surprised at first, but then come around. “Okay, all right, I get it. I wouldn’t have thought of that but I get it.” For instance, it might take her some time to grasp the idea that, say, I’m holding an online webinar course on Learning the Opening of the Key for Tarot Summer School and teaching occult theories to a whole bunch of people I’ve never even met, all at once. Perhaps in her view, spirituality, divination, and woo-based teaching is done one pupil at a time, a single teacher to pupil relationship that is honed over several years, not in 60 minutes.

Whereas maybe I do have a more “free love” attitude here. We’re entering a social era where notions once reserved in the New Age or even occult category run as an undercurrent through mainstream society. Corporate offices pay for yoga classes and meditation retreats for their employees. Businesses far from the woo will consider feng shui tips and tricks. Law firms invite in tarot and palm readers for their company Christmas party. Silicon Valley high-tech companies will hire a witch to cast a circle of protection around their computers, protecting them from hackers. All true stories here. I doubt any of this would have happened even 20 years ago. Things are changing.

As woo practitioners such as tarot readers converge more with the corporate and mainstream worlds, they adopt corporate and mainstream commercial strategies to advance their tarot business. Corporate and mainstream businesses converge more with woo practitioners and adopt woo into their environments because hey, “anything to help us earn more money. If that’s a spell or feng shui, then let’s do it.”

So admittedly, there was no point or core thesis to this post. I just thought I’d ramble on some thoughts of late.

Tarot Summer School at the Tarot Readers Academy


Summer School 2016 at the Tarot Readers Academy will be in session just after the summer solstice, beginning on June 21. Here’s the schedule of courses and lots more info from our headmistress Ethony.

Whether you’re a tarot beginner (in which case may I suggest you check out “Introduction to Intuitive Tarot,” “Tarot and Pop Culture,” or “Unlocking the Major Arcana through Yoga”), proficient with tarot but looking to take your practice to the next level (ooh–check out my class on “Learning the Opening of the Key” *tooting my own horn*) or you’re aspiring to become a professional tarot reader (check out “Party Readings for Tarot Professionals” or “Tarot, from Hobby to Profession”), the first ever Tarot Summer School is a magnificent trove of tarot studies. A complete list of all course offerings is here, via this link. I’ll be a student, just like you, sitting in on all the courses. So many of them are getting me super excited!

There will also be campfire Q&A sessions where all enrolled students can come together (over the Internet; I don’t know how it works; it’s magic; you’ll have to ask headmistress Ethony) and I will try very hard to make it to one of those campfire sessions so if you want to chat with me, ask me your tarot questions, or whatever, you’ll want to enroll and gain access to the campfire Q&A.

Check out the below link to read all the course listings, meet the faculty, and watch everybody’s course introduction videos. It’s a really diverse group of tarot personalities.


And to give prospective students a free preview of my course, “Learning the Opening of the Key,” I’ve uploaded and made available the first video installment of the lecture series, the Introduction. Check it out:

If that sneak peek into my full course piqued your interest, then enroll today! It’s only $24 USD per course. Or get the lifetime access season’s pass for $199, which gets you all the courses this semester.


And if I did not manage to pique your interest, then… *shrug* doh. I did my best.

But do check out everybody else’s course offerings even if mine isn’t your cup of tea. I know at least one of those master classes is making you go “ooh!!” Embrace that “ooh!!” and your woo, and we the instructors at Tarot Readers Academy will see you at Tarot School this summer.