Interview with Stephen Walter Sterling
Conducted by Valerie Sim-Behi
Here is what Llewellyn Publications has to say about Stephen Walter Sterling's Tarot Awareness:
"For centuries, practitioners of the Ageless Wisdom have used the Tarot for divination, in ritual, and as a spiritual tool. As a result, we have inherited a rich body of Western metaphysical thought, including astrological, Qabalistic, and numerical correspondences that add depth and richness of meaning to a reading. Tarot Awareness presents this esoteric wisdom in an engaging and accessible format designed to promote contemplation and a deeper understanding of this complex system."
And Stephen remarks in the book's Preface:
"One of the great tragedies of human existence is forgetting the secret we knew so long ago--- that Consciousness looks at the Universe through our human eyes...Tarot Awareness will show the seeker how to illuminate the Golden Path that our soul takes on its journey up the mountain, the mountain we call Life."
Valerie: Tell me a little about Stephen the boy and the young man. Who was he?
Stephen: I was born and raised in San Francisco. My parents were both Strict Irish Roman Catholics, so as you can imagine, I had a very conservative
Valerie: With that background, how did you get interested in the Tarot?
Stephen: I wasn't interested until I got a reading when I was 18. Don't even remember how I talked myself into getting it, but it convinced me that there
was "something to it".
Valerie: And what was the next step?
Stephen: It was an indirect one. I had been doing a lot of searching, a lot of reading. I read Ernest Holmes'
The Science of the Mind and several of Dr. Paul Brunton's works, including
The Quest of the Overself and The
Secret Path. Then I read Paramahansa Yogananada's The Autobigraphy of a Yogi, which taught me a lot about knowing the true self, self-mastery and many simple honest truths. This was a spiritual catalyst for me. And then I read Paul Foster Case's The Tarot: A Key to the Wisdom of the Ages and something clicked. Following the reading of that book I had what I can only describe as a "truly spiritual experience"...
Valerie: And then you began your study of the Tarot?
Stephen: Yes. I also read Amber Jayanti's Living the Tarot during this
period. I liked her connections to Qabalah, magic, mythology, astrology, numerology, yoga, Buddhism and psychology. I dedicated myself to studying
Valerie: Did you read anything else on Qabalah?
Stephen: Yes, I read Dion Fortune's The Mystical Qabalah.
Valerie: And from which authors/teachers did you learn astrology?
Stephen: Steven Forrest, Isabel Hickey and Stephen Arroyo.
Valerie: What deck did you learn with?
Stephen: The Rider Waite deck.
Valerie: Is this the deck you still use in reading and teaching?
Stephen: I prefer to read with the Universal Tarot now, I like the coloration, and I also use my B.O.T.A. Tarot cards for teaching the Majors.
Valerie: Do you use any other decks?
Stephen: No. Should I?
Valerie: Don't get me started, Stephen! [both laugh]... No, you should use what works for you.
When did you begin teaching?
Stephen: In 1994. In 1995 a friend referred me to the Mandala Labyrinth Center. I went there and really liked the people involved. Soon I was teaching classes there and still do so.
Valerie: Mandala Labyrinth Center... So this was not in San Francisco?
Stephen: No, I began teaching in Carmichael, California. I moved to the Sacramento area in 1994 and really liked the people here. There were so many seekers.
Valerie: That is a term I see used often in your book. Another term you use repeatedly is "Ageless Wisdom". How do you personally define this?
Stephen: I would call it "the eternal verities common to all cultures from the mists of time", or as "the hidden mysteries revealed"...
Valerie: So when did you decide to write a book?
Stephen: I am not sure when I made the actual decision. My students had been telling me that I should write a book based on the materials I was presenting to them and I finally decided to do so.
Valerie: How much of your book is your original material?
Stephen: The meditations and poems are strictly mine. The other teachings are those I have gleaned from a synthesis of the sources I have previously mentioned.
Valerie: What is your book's greatest message?
Stephen: Hard to encompass in just a few words, but I will try: "Through the symbolism of the tarot we can develop a deeper relationship to ourselves and to the universe."
Valerie: Stephen, it seems to me that this book is as much about a spiritual journey as it is about Tarot per se, would you agree?
Stephen: Yes, very much so. Tarot is a key to accessing one's own spiritual nature. I give you mine in hopes that you may find your own.
Valerie: Thank you, Stephen! I have enjoyed talking to you.
Stephen: My pleasure.
Interviewer's notes: Following the interview, Stephen graciously agreed to read for me. His reading was excellent. I accepted Stephen's invitation to attend one of his classes and took the photograph shown here during that class. Stephen has an excellent rapport with his students. I enjoyed the class. For a warm and friendly introduction to Tarot and its common correspondences, I recommend Stephen's classes highly.
Valerie Sim-Behi is the founder and moderator of Comparative Tarot, an email list devoted to studying cards of different decks in comparison to each other. She has worked with the tarot for over 30 years, recently attending a Blake Tarot Workshop with Ed Buryn. Valerie created a spread that will appear in the book accompanying the Victoria-Regina Tarot by Sarah Ovenall, and has written various articles, including one on the Comparative Tarot method that will be published in Llewellyn's Tarot Calendar 2002. You can visit Valerie at the Comparative Tarot website.
Click here to read a review of Stephen Walter Sterling's book, Tarot Awareness.
Interview and photograph © 2001 Valerie Sim-Behi
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes