Reaching Into the Universe

Tarot spread: 4 Quadrant spread

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Integral theory’s quadrants model readily lends itself to tarot. A lot has been written about the quadrants, so this will be a very brief overview.

What are the 4 Quadrants?

The quadrants are a way of looking at any person, event, or situation in terms of four key aspects:

• Individual & Collective — everything is both an individual and part of a group
• Interior & Exterior — everything has an inner, subjective aspect and an outer, objective aspect.

Putting these four together allows us to look at a comprehensive snapshot of any subject of a tarot reading:

4 quadrant integral tarot spread diagram

That's great, but how do I interpret the cards?

Here’s one way to describe the quadrants, in terms of reading this spread for a person:

  1. Upper Left: Individual Interior
    Keyword: Awareness
    The person’s subjective experience and development, including awareness, sense of self, consciousness, and psychological and spiritual development. How does this person feel? What does she value? What is he aware of?
  2. Upper Right: Individual Exterior
    Keyword: Behavior
    The person’s objective physicality and behavior. Anything that can be measured, cut open and observed, and seen by others directly. What does this person look like? How healthy is he? What is she doing, how does she behave?
  3. Lower Left: Collective Interior
    Keyword: Culture
    The person’s cultural situation, including interpersonal life, relationships in terms of group dynamics, shared values and meaning, conflicts. What culture does this person come from? How are his values shaped by those around him? What are  the power dynamics?
  4. Lower Right: Collective Exterior
    Keyword: Systems/Environment
    The person’s social and environmental situation, including home, neighborhood,  job, pollution, economy, etc. Where does this person live? In what type of society? Does he have a a suburban home or a grass hut? Does he drive a car on paved roads or ride pack animals on dirt roads? What is the government like that she lives under? What kinds of institutions does his society have?

Four aspects of one thing

All of these four aspects arise together and impact one another. Some examples:

  • Relationship trouble in the lower left (interior collective) might show up as unhappines in the upper left (my individual feelings), aggressiveness or withdrawal in the upper right (my behavior), and fights with my spouse in the lower right (my social reality).
  • A person undergoing psychotherapy and seeing positive results could be reflected as both forward movement in the upper left (my individual psychology) and smarter behavior in the upper right (what I do differently as a result of my upper left development).
  • Conflicts between two or more quadrants: if I'm an arrogant donkey, my upper left may look very positive (the way I see myself) but my lower left may look the opposite (others see me negatively and so my relationships are a mess).

What about subjects that aren't people?

It can be tricky when learning the quadrants to apply them to subjects other than people. For example, we're not used to thinking of  objects as having an interior.


  1. Upper left: from a shamanic or psychic perspective, the object's "spirit" or "identity". In aesthetics, the aspect of beauty that is "in" the object rather than culturally constructed.
  2. Upper right: the object's physical construction and condition. What is it made out of? What are its properties (physical, chemical, etc)? How old is it? Is it well kept or in disrepair?
  3. Lower left: what the object means in culture, either its culture of origin or the culture it's in now. Is it a sacred item? Was it a sacred item in the past, but now it's simply a cultural or scientific curiosity? Does it have sentimental value?
  4. Lower right: how and where the object is actually being used or disused. Where is the object? Who and what is around it? How is it used or not used? Is the environment or use appropriate to this object?

In the case of a stolen car, the right hand quadrants might be more helpful: upper right corresponds to the car's current condition, lower right corresponds to the car's environment and where it is right now.


  1. Upper left: what's the feel of the event (the "vibe" or energy of the occasion)? Full of positive feelings and life like a party? Serious and focused like a good business meeting? Chaotic and unproductive like a bad business meeting? Dour and emotional like a funeral?
  2. Upper right: what happened or is happening? If a scientist observed the event, what would she be able to see, detect, measure, or describe? Who is there? What do they do and not do?
  3. Lower left: what is the meaning of this event? How do the people, organizations, and events in relationship to this event feel about it? For example, while the upper left aspect of a political event might be very conservative, serious, and straightforward, the lower left might include controversy, protest, and some chaos.
  4. Lower right: what is the context of this event? Where does it occur? How does it fit into the social systems around it? What is its environment and how does it relate to its environment? If anthropologists from another planet observed this event what could they say about it in terms of the big picture of society?

What would you like to know now?

Thanks for reading! I know from my own experience learning the four quadrants model (and I'm still learning!) that it's not always easy. But this is a valuable spread, and worth the effort.

What questions are you left with? What parts of this post could be more clear? Please tell me below in the comments!

Did you try this spread? How did it work for you? When you try this spread, I would love to hear about it. Please feel free to post experiences/readings below as well.

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