Life Navigator & Mentor

Remembering Angeles Arrien – My Tarot Teacher

Angeles Arrien

1940 ~ 2014

With the sudden and unexpected passing of my great Tarot Teacher, Angeles Arrien, I am reminded how she inspired me to become a professional “tarotist.”  My first Tarot Reading ever was with her. We were both faculty members at the California Institute of Integral Studies.  The Reading was so upbeat, so positive and, of course, so right on, that I was moved to take her series of classes in San Francisco in 1977, which included tarot luminary, Mary Greer.  Angeles used the Thoth Deck by Crowley, but never referred to his weighty, incomprehensible book (at least to me it was).  She simply reframed the picture symbols and archetypes in such a way that it was empowering and made sense (not occultish or all that esoteric).

I learned how to use the power of symbols.  I learned how to read the cards.  I learned how use them in a practical way in my daily life. I learned about magic! I learned about intuition. I learned how to teach.  All this from a master teacher. I pretty much imitated her and copied her way and style of reading and teaching Tarot.

For the first few years, I read the Crowley cards.  It was my only work in San Francisco and almost starved. I lived in her office.  But when you love what you do and do what you love, so what?  Yes, follow your bliss and the money will come, but who knows when.  Keep the faith and keep on trucking.  Believe.

Angeles and her team began creating annual Tarot Symposiums, which might have been the first of such a kind in the world.  Becoming very acquainted over these first few years with many of her other students, we began to coalesce, which eventually led to our collaborative publishing of “The Wheel of Tarot: A New Revolution,” that Angeles and I edited as an anthology of how to apply Tarot in a variety of ways from dance to therapy to politics to dreams to literature.  This book is out of print, but it’s great and still very relevant in the tarot world (It includes articles by Angeles, myself, Ralph Metzner,the prolific explorer of consciousness, Mary Greer who has gone onto write many well-researched and popular Tarot books, and the esteemed Dr. Hilary Anderson).

In the meantime, I began making Voyager Tarot with Ken Knutson.  Much of the Voyager Deck was inspired by the Crowley/Lady Frieda Harris cards, including the original large sized cards.  In fact, some of the Voyager “Family” Cards were based on the Thoth’s Court cards.  And I ascribed some of the numbers, titles and meanings of the Majors to the Crowley/Arrien way. (See her excellent book  on Tarot and the Crowley cards, “The Tarot Handbook”).

Angeles has produced many, many books over the years.  All exceedingly relevant and beautifully done.  Maybe in some subconscious way of being primed by her, I proceeded to write myself.  One of my early books, “New Age Tarot,” was based on her meanings of the Thoth Deck cards.  I spiced it up with a reading and master layout graphic for each Major Card.
As I was finishing up the Voyager Deck, of course, I wanted to know what Angeles thought of it.  Yikes.  But she appreciated it.  In fact, she called Voyager “A Symbology beyond any Tarot Deck.”  What a compliment.

After Voyager was published in 1985, Angeles and I collaborated a couple of times by teaching a Tarot class at Esalen Institute on the spectacular Big Sur coast.  That was pure fantastic!  And in that period, we began to co-create with a small group to make a new deck, a deck of “nature cards for business.”  We even had a Stanford Business professor on the team.  It was a radical idea.  And it’s difficult to make a deck by committee.  Eventually, it lost steam, but I didn’t.  So, 20 years later, I finally harvested that initial vision with the publishing of the “Sustain Yourself Cards.”

Thinking back on mirroring Angeles as my mentor (btw…. she was known as Angie then, and I was Jim), I certainly embodied her “wholistic” approach to the Tarot – I think she had a “Whole Person Spread,” which became my “Whole Self Mandala” in a transformed way.  Her Readings were always based on that Spread and she would project into the future the cards that arose.  Over the years, I gravitated away from that with my own “Q & A” conversational style of Readings.  As I say to my students, find your own style.  Then you will be in your power and more able to empower your clients.

Over the years, Angeles moved away from Tarot into her work as a Shaman….perfect!  She was an in-depth teacher who could nurture the growth of a person’s soul in a step-by-step, clear, comprehensive, absolutely real and loving, friendly, gracious way – a true Empress!

As I’ve grown and become more of myself, my way of coaching/reading/teaching is well-described by my most recent client who says that I am “a delight, so human, so straight forward, creative, raw, honest, humorous,… a real treasure of a human.”  I’ll take that and I thank my angel, Angeles Arrien, for planting within me the seeds of my own flowering.  She would be happy, happy, happy.  That’s what great teachers are for – to blaze the way so that those on the path become their own trail-blazers!



One of the most fulfilling things I do in Asia is give a person a western name! Names mean so much. They are our face, our logo, our identity, and most importantly, indicate our sense of self. I love my name the most because I was named after my grandfather (William James Wanless) who was Knighted by the King of England for his medical missionary work in India.

On this last trip, I was asked by a young Japanese woman to help her with her new name. How do I come up the name? I ask the cards! Remember, I am, aka. “Captain Pick A Card.” The Voyager Card she selected was “INTEGRITY.” Integrica as a name for her? An exotic name, but not really! So, if the word-title on the Card does not work, I look at the picture-symbols. I hummmm, like the intuitive sounding-out of the Priestess, and move my finger around the Card until something strikes me. In the Integrity Card it was the picture of St. Patrick’s Church in New York City. Patrick, Patrick, I repeat, knowing it’s a male name, and then aha!… PATRICIA. The name feels good for me and I ask the young woman and she loves it! ( I explained that “Patricia” is derived from the Latin word, patrician, which means “noble.”) She likes that name even more, now. But what about a last name for her. Hmmmm… As I’m looking at her, she seems to have a rounded, moonish-like face. How about “Moon?” She swoons, of course, being a moon-lover that she is. I just got an email from her today with her new western email address that is Patricia Moon.

Check out the new Patricia Moon as she peers over pizza and tarot after the “sacred naming ritual” (“When the Moon hits your eye like a big Pizza Pie, that’s Amore,” so sang crooner, Dean Martin, a long time ago). Now, that’s a sign for her name being correct!

Anyone need a new name!?


When I saw on my Japan work schedule that I didn’t have a day off during a 3-week stint of 14 different day-long events in five different cities, I sort of freaked out. I had to use all the the wisdom that I’ve received by writing “Adventures with Greening Man,” and “Sustainable Life: The New Success,” and “Sustain Yourself Cards” – all are about perpetual self-renewal.

I write this for your own benefit when you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, need to rebound, recover, reenergize, and just keep going and going at a high level of aliveness and productivity.

This “right livelihood” principle is by far the most vital for sustaining, living well and long. Teaching empowerment, growth, success, creativity and energy is my destiny. Loving your work, you experience the “future-pull” of the life-force that inexorably carries and pulls you along, such that work is not a job, job, but energizing and experiencing the atomic life of aliveness and ever-renewability!

None of the day-long sessions I taught were repetitions of another. At first, the thought of creating all new and different workshops was daunting. In the end, however, variety and diversity is the spice and savior of life. Otherwise, it’s “repeat and deplete.” Creativity takes energy while the same old repetition is easier, but in the end, creating is way more energizing! Making two short outrageous video films (“Saving Tarzan” and “Green Man Goes to Japan”) before work in the morning took time, organization, “guerrilla and commando-like” efficiency in public places, creative visioning, directing, and acting, but instead of demanding extra work, they rejuvenated and revitalized.

My stomach could never digest the white rice and strange things I was fed. Nor did I sleep well in the 7 different beds and futons throughout the three weeks, let alone on the plane, and usually wake up at 6 AM. to get my email business done, Facebook photos editing and postings, class to figure out, clothes to iron, some kind of breakfast to absorb, train perhaps to get to class.

By simply standing up, you get 20 % more oxygen to your brain than sitting, and the brain is the most demanding organ in our body for air to think well and not age. Every day, I presented the class while standing. Sitting is for the sedentary and sedated, not the energized.

While my organizers with best intentions want to insure that I am well taken care of by entertaining me to dinners and tours, my secret energizer is “time out.” No people and nothing-to-do is the ultimate mini-vacation on the road. The only tourist thing I did was go to the Stone Buddhas and there were few people and lots of good vibrations.

To recycle your energy, take “time out for time in” – the meditation way for purifying and energizing yourself. Just sitting with a straight back for 20 – 30 minutes a day is the quick fix way for self-restoration. Though my meditations, especially in Tokyo, were scattered and unfocused, just “conscious sitting” works wonders. There are at least 500 clinical studies of the effects of meditation and they all say that it restores your body to balance and long-living wellness. I do not particularly meditate to achieve enlightenment but to renew myself.

Following my mythic mentor, Greening Man, I would always seek out parks and trees, wherever they might exist. Somehow, in some magic way, I become calm and centered. I love trees and stones and they love me back, especially in Japan where they are often revered with rope wrappings signifying great respect.

Instead of repressing feelings, which depletes energy, show them! I especially act them out in presenting my work. When the “Sorrow Card” comes up in class, I “cry” it out; for “Stagnation Card,” I demonstrate the “blahs;” for “Anger Card,” I exhibit my “power roar;” for “Negativity Card,” I go off on saying, “NO!” Emotion is energy and to release it is to renew it.

The best way to teach and learn is through play, as every study affirms. I have a blast doing what I do. Remember, those who laugh, last. There’s nothing like the healing tonic of being funny and creating joy. Somehow, my humor is well appreciated in Asia, many laughing even before they get the translation.

And in my “alone time,” I have fun simply walking around and photographing with my iPhone at what I see as artistic (like the beautiful packaging in Japan), or impressive (the Stone Buddha’s of Usuki), or odd and funny like strange signage (“Have a Good Trip” on the side of a bus), or wild animals like the Tigers the Shigisan Temple in Nara. Also, my photo-walks are my “yoga of spontaneity,” which means that if I see something interesting, I do not stop and judge it as worthy of photographing, but simply take it with “no thinking.”

Although it takes more time to present with a translator, it’s a better way for me to sustain with less words and with more efficiency and clarity. Spacing my talk with a translator becomes rhythmic, a kind of dance that has a pace which is truly sustaining. Speaking of dancing, me and the “Men of Voyager” did the Magician Mamba of “See it, Feel it, Believe it and Do it” at a reception and in class. Spectacular, of course 🙂

Getting paid in Japan, way more than in America, is certainly motivating. There is no doubt that piling up the Yens is a turn on that incentivizes me. Working hard for little payoff is demoralizing, a real downer whose only upside is that work becomes a kind of meditative, karma yoga requiring a warrior-like discipline, focus and integrity.

I do great in Japan and Asia, because, more than anywhere else, my work and I am respected, valued and loved by a ton of enthusiastic students. I must say there’s nothing like getting bombarded with adoration as I continually sign autographs on cards and books and other things along with the proverbial happy smile photograph, which does indeed make me feel good.

Having one host film me for 2 hours about my story for how I became who I am and have created what I’ve done certainly strokes the ego, and this is absolutely catalytic along with prompting self-reflection that engenders a greater sense of self-worth, meaning and purpose – all of which inspire.

And as a male, it certainly is enlivening to be surrounded by so many flowers of female cuteness. I cannot deny this.