This week we interviewed James Wanless, a Speaker, Author, Teacher and Creator of Best-Selling Voyager Tarot. The “78 year-young”, as he puts it in his website, has a lot of stories to tell and an impressive journey that is still happening. Check out the interview below!
As you mention in your website, a life-threatening disease changed everything for you. How did that open you to new types of knowledge?
In my early thirties, I worked as a Political Science professor in Cairo and Beirut. After I finished that job, my wife and I decided to go to other places in the Middle East: Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan and then India. I wanted to go to India to learn Transcendental Meditation. We went climbing in Nepal and I got sick with hepatitis – from the water, no doubt. All of sudden, I couldn’t even get out of the bed and all my body was yellow.
I heard there was a meditation course for Westerners outside Katmandu. I could be at death’s door, so I decided to go to this one-month meditation course with a Tibetan Buddhist. One month out there meditating all day long and listening to lectures on Buddhism, Enlightenment and more. After a month, I was well! I had no more hepatitis, I felt great and walked out of there. I really learned the power of meditation, particularly the power of visualization.
Tibetan Buddhists are great visualizers and I really learned how to apply the imagination we have to anything. In this case, to see myself as full of energy and gold light, every day, for hours. After 30 days, I was healed, but my life changed too. I did not want to teach Politics anymore. It was too mundane. I was on the spiritual path and, once you’re in it, it’s hard to get off.
We got back to California, and I had to pay the rent. So, I got into teaching meditation and spiritual things in the Bay Area. That whole journey changed my life. I think life is an adventure and even the worst adversities that happen to us – diseases, financial setbacks or whatever –are ultimately the great teachers. Our gurus! Because we have to adapt. Even though we hate it, it’s the most important thing to be doing.
What about cards? When did you discover their power?
It’s funny because when I grew up in Leblon, Rio, and then in Long Island, when I moved to New York, I was a sports guy. I hated cards! Funnily, when I came back to America after that 4-year period, I was on a spiritual path and got a great teacher of Tarot in San Francisco.
So, I decided to explore it, even though I hated cards. Fortunately, she was a great teacher. She was mostly an Anthropologist, not a “Witch”. So, it was interesting to my intellect, let alone to the mystic part of it.
It was 1978 and I started doing readings to earn money in San Francisco. I told my relatives and close friends I was a professional Tarot reader and they saw me as the person most likely to succeed in school turned into a fortune teller!
My view of Tarot is as a roadmap of life: 78 cards giving us 78 destinations of how to live the whole life of happy, healthy, holy, wealthy, mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. After one or two years of readings, I realized I did not like those old, medieval, traditional decks with royalty figures, a bunch of people from Western Europe, and swords and blood.
I knew I wanted to do my own deck and it should be multicultural. One day, my neighbor Ken wanted to do a collage project and I suggested we do the Magician, which is a Tarot figure. So, we started out doing originals, which turned out to be the deck, called Voyager Tarot.
It took me 4 years to make these cards and write the book. Nobody wanted to publish my deck, but a friend I knew loaned me some money to do it myself, which was the best thing that could’ve happened. Setback equals success, because it means you need to get more innovative. Since 1985, when I published Voyager, I’ve sold 250,000 decks.
Do you believe anyone can read the cards like you do?
Doing Readings with Voyager Tarot follows its namesake and hero, the evolutionary purpose of the amazing Voyager spaceships still operating and communicating back to earth past our solar system 15 billion miles away, even though such a tiny craft.
So, my work with individuals whether it’s a Question & Answer “Reading” for insight based on my curiosity, or if it “Strategic Foresight” for posting an array of different possible scenarios based upon my rich imagination and life experience, or whether it’s “Coaching” to help a person actually create the future and results they want, it’s all based on living their life-purpose to grow, expand and evolve as the universe from which we are created.
As “Captain Voyager,” my job is through the Cards to assist others navigate their “Hero’s Journey” of transformation and fulfillment, and give them the “Magic Formula” meditation based on the archetypal Magician to become their own “Youniverse. In doing so, I motivate others to pass their own doubts by teaching the so-called “negative” Card in positive ways, and instruct and encourage them how to tap their authentic selves by the “Wise Woman Priestess” for genuine intuitive empowerment.
So much of my work is teaching so that others can independently and integratively unite the various centers of human consciousness – the spiritual life force, metaphoric thinking and imagination, heartfelt emotional expression, physical health and robustness, and all in sync with our world of relationships and work.
This variety of approaches and techniques culminates in a dynamic state of wholeness and synergy for actually becoming the Cards and system of consciousness that is the Voyager “MAP to Youniverse.” Voyager and I work together with a mix of different styles of communication. I deliberately pepper this Voyager brand of wisdom by seeking to “Edutain,” as humor helps us learn faster and create more. Called a “Path Finder,” I break tarot free of the old medieval simplistic philosophy and art into a revolutionary, multi-functional and multi-dimensional Mindful Psychology for the 21st century
I’m curious about the term “modern-day alchemist” that you use. What is it about?
Alchemy is an old medieval term, it’s like the basic elements of life, such as air, water, earth. We are ultimately made of those elements, physically. But alchemy is how we symbolize that. What does air mean to us, symbolically? Freedom, lack of obstacles, great vision, for instance.
I’m making each of those elements have symbolic meaning in our lives and then I mix them together. Alchemists do that and, out of that, something is created. It’s the mixing together of the elements and what they mean to us, symbolically.