Personal Experience

The Eyes to See and The Ears to Hear:  A Spiritual Journey of Re-Discovery

by Alexander Dunlop

I read playing cards for a living. And, if you had told me that one day my profession would be what Gypsies used to do, I would’ve told you you’re crazy. I’m a Harvard graduate and former Wall Street consultant.  I’ve also worked as a Director of Marketing for a software company and I later co-founded and co-directed a successful holistic health center in Manhattan. But, behind and underneath the business of my life, what motivated me and drove me to the ends of the Earth was my spiritual quest for meaning.

It began when I was 17. I was sitting with a Roman Catholic priest at a retreat offered by my Catholic high school during my senior year. I ventured to sit down with him because his talk had moved me to tears.  He had spoken to us about the walls we erect around our hearts and how these walls block out the love of God. I sat with him in what is termed a face-to-face style “confession.” I had been subjected to the practice of Confession, as well as weekly Mass, growing up. 

This was the first time I voluntarily sought out a priest. I can’t remember what I said to him.  When I finished, however, he stood up to offer the traditional prayer of Absolution, one that I had heard countless times in my youth.  As he began to pray, he touched his hands to my forehead.  The moment he did, something went woooooshh right through my body from head to toe.  It felt like a split-second flash of electricity and water flushing through my system.  It felt like a torrent of cleansing power washing through me.

Upon returning from the retreat, my family recognized the new version of me that had emerged.  I was transformed from a sullen, introverted teenager to a happy, expressive young adult. And, this baptismal-like experience gave me my first direct encounter.  I suddenly knew without a shadow of a doubt that there was something quite real behind the dogma and underneath all the pomp and circumstance.

This singular experience jump-started my quest to know and understand whatever that was. I wanted to know the reality of that energy, that life-force… whatever that was that had passed through me, refreshing me so that I did indeed feel born again. It led me first deeper into Christianity.  I became involved in the charismatic Catholic movement, where ‘speaking in tongues’ was part of the Mass. 

Then, at Harvard, I was one of the student leaders of the non-denominational Christian Fellowship.  I led prayer groups and Bible studies on Harvard campus. By my senior year, however, I felt a gnawing, discomforting sensation that Christianity was too limiting and too small – that it fit a tight collar around God and took God out for walks on a leash. I couldn’t articulate it at that point in my life, I just felt like I had to grow and that there was more, so much more to know about life, myself, God, reality and everything. What I did do, perhaps ironically, is enroll in Jesuit Seminary.  I still wanted to become a priest and I thought that perhaps seminary would help me sort out my faith.

After two years, however, I knew for sure that neither the priesthood, nor further academia, was my path.  I left with a Masters degree in Roman Catholic Theology. That’s when I did an about-face, leveraged my undergraduate degree and was hired by a consulting firm to advise financial services companies on the strategic use of technology. But, my spiritual quest didn’t stop, it just moved underground.  And, come the weekend, I consciously explored the nightlife of New York City, experimenting with every recreational drug I could find. 

I wanted to explore my own shadow side, all the parts of me that had been verboten to a good catholic boy straight-A student. Within a couple of years, the consulting firm that hired me was so successful that it was bought out by a software company.  I was promoted to a position of manager and then director of marketing.  But, that newly minted firm didn’t last long.  When the bubble burst, it imploded and we were all laid off. 

I took my severance and my savings and I travelled to India.  I had heard of a spiritual teacher named Osho who taught dancing meditations.  And, while on the dance floors of New York City clubs, I had often felt like I entered a meditative state. So, I made the long journey to his ashram in Pune, India, where I meditated eight hours a day (not all dancing) and eventually took initiation as a Swami. After staying in India for six months, I returned to New York City.  But, I couldn’t imagine returning to the corporate world. 

Something had shifted inside of me.  I couldn’t go back.  I bummed around, working odd jobs as a temporary secretary and bartender. That didn’t pay my rent though and I soon had to give up my apartment (that I had sublet while away in India). 

My summer work during my college days had been to work for my father’s construction business.  And, not knowing what else to do, I decided to return to construction work as a paid laborer.  But, I also needed a place to stay.  So, in exchange for my work, I was also allowed to sleep on a grimy mattress on the floor in the back office of their industrial yard. It was certainly a low point in my journey. Even worse, however, was my physical health. 

I suffered terrible Irritable Bowel Syndrome and I had Psoriasis all over my neck and face.  Not knowing what else to do (because doctors told me there was no known cure), I signed up for a five-day juice cleanse led by a Shaman.  I couldn’t afford it, but I knew I needed something.  And, I had a faint suspicion that it was something about the food I was eating. On that cleanse, we met each night in yoga studios to reflect, share and learn.  On the first night, the teaching was that we could manifest anything we want by fasting.  I wrote down that I wanted to unleash my Shamanic gifts and meet the mother of my children. On the last night of the cleanse, we met out of the city to do a sweat lodge together.  I offered a lift back to anyone who wanted to ride in the beat-up old company pick-up truck I was driving.  One woman said yes.  She became the mother of my two children.

We moved in together, or rather, I moved in with her.  She became my health coach, in a sense.  It was through her that I found out I was allergic to gluten and soy, among other things.  And, three years later, we started a holistic health center together.  We did so well that we opened a retreat spa in the mountains of North Carolina as well. Our marriage did not do as well, and although we are good friends now, we went through a very rocky time running two businesses together while sleep-deprived with two young children sixteen months apart.

It was the day after divorce papers were on the table that I decided I needed to go out to a party.  As a focused entrepreneur and dutiful dad, it had been far too long since I had relaxed and enjoyed myself. I called a couple of old friends and found a party to go to, somewhere deep in Brooklyn.  It was in an industrial loft live-work space.  When I walked in, I saw one of my campmates from Burning Man, when I had gone there many years before. As we reconnected, he told me about a mathematical system of self-knowledge he had discovered that was based on the ordinary deck of playing cards.  It’s based on the numbers of our date of birth.

So, he asked me, “What’s your date of birth?” 

“… August 30th.”

“Ok,” he says, “that means you’re born to play the 9 of Hearts and that’s the symbol of heartfelt endings.  In your life, you’ve probably gone through a lot of tragic endings of the heart and you’ve got to learn how to let go, forgive and move on.”

Woah. My knees actually buckled under me.  I felt like time slowed down and the air got thick around me.  It felt like a deva vu scene out of a movie. I mean, the day after I realize my marriage is over is when I find out that my life script is written for these kinds of experiences! And, it’s true.  Not just in my divorce.  But, in my friendships and my life – inexplicable and sudden endings!  And then, new chapters starting with new life experiences and new relationships.  It has been a series of heartfelt endings and inspired beginnings in my life. And all of it means I am indeed learning to transcend my hurt feelings and sense of personal loss so as to develop a more universal and unconditional approach to life. That’s the pattern of my life as indicated by the 9 of Hearts, which is the game my soul has chosen to play in this lifetime.  And yet, that’s just the beginning.  We each have 13 “cards to play” in our lifetime, each one indicating different patterns of challenge, lesson, growth, and mastery.

And, what I have since discovered in my own meditation and research is that this so-called “ordinary deck of playing cards,” is actually an ancient book, a book of our life on Earth. It’s a conceptual toolkit to help us understand the holographic reality in which we live and move and have our being.

Consider the basic construction:
• There are 52 cards in the deck, and 52 weeks in the year.
• There are 4 suits in the deck, and 4 seasons in the year.
• 13 cards in each suit and 13 weeks in each season.
• The cards:  Ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King
• Are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13
• Add these up: 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 7 + 8 + 9 + 10 + 11 + 12 + 13  = 91
• There are 91 days in each season
• And, 91 x 4 suits = 364.
• The Joker is worth 1 ¼ or himself plus 1 each of all the 4 suits. 
• Add the Joker plus the value of the other 52 cards and we get 365 ¼

The deck of cards is thus a perfect depiction of our calendar year.  It symbolically represents the seasons and cycles of life upon the Earth.  It is a little book of our life on Earth.  And, that’s how it was known in ancient circles:  as a little book of our life.  Keep in mind that the ancient conception of what makes a book is very different than our own.  The books of the Bible, for example, were written on scrolls or parchment.  They were not bound together with a binding as we think of books today.

We don’t know exactly how old this little Book of Life is, but there are references to a “book of life” or “book of Thoth” or “book of destiny” in ancient Egyptian and Sumerian civilizations.  It was also sometimes referred to as the “tablets of destiny” or “tablets of Thoth,” probably because the symbols were inscribed on clay tablets. My own insight and research thus suggests that, contrary to accepted Western history, the playing cards are not a diminutive derivation of the Tarot.  And, my own feeling is that these two decks or books have independent origins each related to the holographic deck or reality they represent.

The deck of cards, or Book of Life, symbolizes the mathematical construction of our reality.  My sense is that the Tarot deck is imported from another reality where it forms the perfect mathematical code of that holographic matrix.  But, it overlaps significantly with our own and is thus very helpful for divination. What I’ve also discovered is that this little Book of Life was well-known in ancient esoteric spiritual societies.  It forms the basis of Kabbalah and Hermetic philosophy. The Biblical writers were well aware of it. 

There are more than 20 references in the Bible to the Book of Life. In the Middle Ages, however, the Church ironically called it “The Devil’s Picture Book.”  But, this little Book is, in fact, none other than the same Book of Life as referred to in the Bible. This same Book of Life forms the basis of our entire Western spiritual tradition. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all based upon this Book. 

As for me, when I found out what’s written for me in the Book of Life, I found the answer to my spiritual quest:  I found out why I’m here.  I found the meaning of life, how life is constructed, and what my perfect placement inside of this elegant, mathematically-precise holographic matrix is. For, once I understood my 13 “cards to play,” I realized that I am indeed here in a priestly role.  It is my purpose to guide others into their self-realization, to help people consciously re-connect and re-align to their soul’s purpose. And so, I started a professional practice to do just that.  Now, I show other people what’s written for them in the Book of Life.  It’s the most rewarding work I can ever imagine doing.

P.S.  Knowing what’s written for me in the Book of Life also helped me to choose another life partner, one who is perfectly suited for me, pun intended.


Alexander Hamilton Dunlop

Alexander is a Living Spirit Guide, Strategic Adviser and Teacher who helps people play their cards right, from darkness to light. He brings more than 20 years of professional coaching and consulting experience to his position as Founder and Director of the New York City-based Global Center of Spiritual Nutrition.

A charismatic speaker and workshop leader who provides life-changing counsel to clients located on six continents, Alexander is acknowledged as the world’s leading expert on the spiritual tool known as the Book of Life. As such, he powerfully guides people towards the fullest expression of who they are, creating an alignment and integration between their human and divine aspects, the merging of life and spiritual destinies as divined by their individual birth dates.
Contact him at





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