1 Magus

Letter: Aleph = Air Element (Breath, chest, respiration)
Path: Heart crossbar, Chesed to Gevurah
Quality: Cardinal (Active) inspired, transmission & communication in Spirit

The Magus represents the imagination, site of one's genius and uniqueness. This is the communicating intelligence, Gichtel's 'lifespirit' , that uses Solar System cycles to knit our random experiences into a coherent narrative of the self. Around him shimmers the energetic architecture of the higher planes towards which he is constantly striving. His earliest form, called Mountebank or Juggler, points to the camouflage this character wore in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. But once the archetype of the theurgical magus became popular, this Trump came to represent the seeker of hidden truths and invisible powers. In the Sophianic mysteries this is the scribe or aspirant to initiation, who is coming awake to his noble lineage and seeking his Path of Return. This could also be viewed as the Christos, male half of the Christ/Sophia pair, who are each sent to redeem the world at different stages of healing the Pleroma.

This Trump's original title and image, The Mountebank, lets us know that we are looking at a person who appears at the lowest scale of human development. He is not rich, nor is he particularly well-educated. His occupation is mundane and his possessions are meager -- he's even sometimes shown with the tools of a cobbler, which was Boehme's profession. Traditionally, those tools are thought to represent the four elements of the world; Fire and Water plus their two 'children' Air and Earth. Though he may occupy the lowest rung on the ladder of the Trumps, our Magus is in possession of his full faculties and a unique outlook, which frees him from blind fate (faith?) and allows him to confidently follow the divine leading of Spirit through the world. At his best, this Magus strives for self-discipline, evoking order and organization out of the mixed elements of his personal character.

Across Tarot tradition, Major Arcanum #1 will represent the choice to put oneself 'at cause', thereby claiming that spiritual inheritance available to a soul that knows itself to be 'made in the Image of God'. We take this emanation of pure awareness as the first Premise of our trine of Light, initiating a ripple of action that will ramify across the entire sequence of Trumps. Our Magus of the Holy Light is shown to us just as he's awakening to his higher potential and sense of mission. This is a vision of the innermost Self, accepting the challenge to serve as a representative of Spirit across the Three Worlds. He recognizes that his holy spark must willingly embrace enmeshment in the earthy (blood-red) sphere of manifested matter. To make this identification, his light body densifies and centers around his body's lower chakras. His penetration into the time/space world evokes an upwelling of animal vitality and egoic passion, gift of the physical plane. As he accumulates experience in the flesh, the horizontal Lights (Sun and Moon, marking time in the physical sky) and the vertical Lights (Light and Fire moving up and down the Chakra Tree, awakening his Centers) are educating this Magus about his innate potentials. Such are the raw materials of incarnation that he will subdue and then deploy to enact his evolutionary mandate.

Being the first Trump of the sequence, The Magus carries the significance of the letter Aleph and the element Air (mind). Appearing like a candle in the dark, his presence declares 'Aha! Behold! Eureka!' The wings at his feet bear him into the pure sky of the Imaginal, which is the natural environment in which to have this expansive visionary experience. Around his upper chakras circulate the astrological and alchemical symbols of the Hermetic Cosmos. Responding to his presence, the peak of Nature's fire surrounds him and rises above his crown. The symbol of androgynous Mercury (Azoth) activates the caduceus in each hand. Thus armed, the soul of the Magus enters into matter to arouse its latent potentials under the oversight of Tradition. He pledges to devote all of the energies that his lower chakras can generate towards the fulfillment of the vision that his upper chakras are reaching for. The human individual draws up from the animal/elemental self the resources to evolve towards eternal Being.

The main tool our Magus possesses is the power of an awakened mind to pierce through the world of appearances and connect with the divine idea at the center of reality. Applied to his elemental constitution, this quality of attention can direct his energies towards becoming a better version of his natural self. Of course, the base matter being re-ordered and evolved is his own personality, his inborn nature and qualities, including the karmas he has brought along from past incarnations. Imagine that the caduceus in one hand is his birth chart, his own interior fixed points of reference. The caduceus in his other hand collects and transmits the eternally-changing dance traced in the sky by the moving planets. By staying in touch with these two Mysteries he witnesses and hosts the continuous play of elements manifesting through his inner and outer senses. The Magus lives within a constant and ongoing conversation with Spirit, and his or her world becomes increasingly ensouled, able to manifest ever-more sophisticated and resonant ideals.

The Magus doesn’t simply allow ideas and impressions to flow through his mind unexamined, like an automaton. Instead s/he utilizes desire and attraction to point vitality towards the long-term goal of self-cultivation. His or her aura announces to the three worlds – celestial, astral and terrestrial– that he is aspires to be tutored by the World Soul. This Magus is becoming something more than just a person in the world. He or she desires to evolve into a power center, a vortex of will, intention, focus and drive that will ultimately manifest Spirit in flesh. In time such a soul succeeds in making 'the Tincture', as Boehme called it. Alchemically, the soul becomes a vessel fit for the alchemical reconciliation of the opposites, overcoming the either/or dichotomy of the zero-sum game. In the process the Magus will fulfill the full range of elemental potentials and acquire every experience that evolution offers. Setting out with high hopes and all the best expectations, he or she brings a big heart and a wellspring of optimism to the work.

At best, the Magus shows us the active principle of Spirit bringing forth a unique personality and creative impulse which can invent new patterns – first through imagination, later through the action of will. However one must constantly battle the forces of inauthenticity, pretense, and egotistic fantasy, which continuously arise both within and without. The ancients said “Know Thyself”. Without taking that essential inventory, including all flaws and weak points, there is no start-point for this journey of the soul.

There is another challenge for the Magus as well, which is endemic to his correspondence with the element Air in the alphabet. The Imaginal (or imaginary realm), which all shamans and magi point to as the true location for their magical actions, is not “grounded” in the Earth the way tangible things and beings are. In the imagination, our visions appear perfect and complete, untainted by the many compromises that time/space materialization forces onto the final product. Objects that appear to the mind take the form of one’s conjecture, being effects the mind is conjuring. Therefore it is easy to become fooled about what is possible, losing track of what can actually become real in material terms.

Because the letter Aleph sits on the heart-bar of the Kabbala Tree, it is considered the mediator between the Celestial Fire pouring in through the 3rd eye (Shin/World) and the Celestial Water pouring forth from the pelvic center (Mem/Death). Aleph symbolizes the very first stroke Creator made to define the realm where the Creation could come to be. It places the heart at dead center of the cosmos, labeled “Middle of the Balance and Tongue of Decree”. Just so, each human life is lived at the intersection point between the three Worlds – material, psychological and energetic (or spiritual).

Therefore, whether this card falls upright or reversed, true success with The Magus depends on keeping one’s balance, harmonizing all opposites instead of polarizing with one side against the other. One must open the mind to an inclusive, and/and approach, because that is how Great Nature expresses herself – with everything interpenetrated, rather than this versus that. The Magus portrays that state of being in which one’s gut, heart, and mind arrive at unity for an eternal minute. During such a moment, a true view of Reality can be gained, as long as we don’t distract ourselves with fear, self-consciousness, or cynicism. Such moments come few and far between, so the Magus tries to arrange both lifestyle and commitments to offer the best possible conditions for internal awareness and the natural self-adjustments that follow.

2 Priestess

Letter: Bet = Moon
Path: Channel between Keter and Tiferet
Quality: Wisdom

This is the Virgin Sophia, first companion of Creator, who channels and conveys authentic Divine Love into the world. This is also the sensitive Soul of the mystic (male or female) who, having entered the temple of the heart, waits expectantly for a revelation of the Feminine Divine. We see her drawing life-force up her left side (the ascending Father Pillar), harmonizing it with Cosmos around her crown, then pouring it out (along the descending Mother Pillar) through her right breast and hand, feeding the sub-lunar realms with her heavenly Light. The two candlesticks with their twining vines demonstrate that all of Earth is the Priestess' altar, putting us in mind of Jakin and Boaz of the Hebrew Kabbalah Tree, later reproduced in Masonic temples. From antiquity this is Silence, spouse of Depth, first syzygy of the Valentinian Gnostics. She was present in the beginning, and is the shaper of Divine thought into individual things. As the personal guide and invisible lover of the scribe or aspirant (this is you, dear reader), she is also the Mistress of Books, Foremost in the Library. Boehme would call her the Noble Virgin of Divine Wisdom. Alchemically, she is the Soror Mystica, spiritual companion to the alchemist at work in the laboratory.

Major Arcanum #2, the Priestess, represents the antithesis-response which naturally develops in the Light after the appearance of the Magus. The rule is, if this then that. Where he is outgoing, she turns inward. Where he is the Divine Word in Action, she is Wisdom, witness to the Truth that gives meaning to the Word. He balances across the breastbone, she plunges down the spine. Like night follows day, this Priestess is the Depth to the Magus' Breadth.

As befits her association with the Hebrew letter Bet, the Priestess occupies the altar in the inner sanctum of the Temple, enthroned between the two Pillars of rising and falling energies that make up the cosmos. She represents the developed intuition, the ability to harmonize with Divine Will. Scripturally, Sophia is the name of God's Wisdom and first companion, called the Logos-Cutter. She separates out the infinite potentials of Divine Mind and gives each thing its eternal Name for substantiation in matter. In Major Arcanum #2, she is the soul's tutor in the labor of contemplation, which requires conforming one’s inner life to the Archetypes. Under her titles of Science and Mistress of the Library, she has access to all of the teachings the ancestors distilled for our edification. She bears witness to pure potential, not yet committed to any particular manifestation but backed up by all the luminous intelligence shimmering forth from the vibratory universe. Whichever way she is named or portrayed, astral energy pours out of the Sophia's heart into creation at large.

Often we'll see the High Priestess represented as an oracle or a sibyl. She’ll be veiled, and on her lap will rest the Torah, including sometimes a gold and silver key (keys to the Inner Sanctum, referencing astrology and divination). Etteilla took a different tack and named her Eve. This title also emphasizes the intuition; Eve may be uncultivated and unsophisticated, but totally in touch with subtle currents both celestial and terrestrial. In any of these forms, she is a creature of the inner senses, the dreamtime fantasia of visualization and trance. This is the shadowy feminine figure that the Grail Knight follows both through his outer adventures, and through his life of dreams and visions. She has various roles in his life – as sister, as guide, as lover, as corrector. But the one role she doesn’t take is Mother. (That is reserved for our next Major Arcanum, the Empress).

Some religious philosophers interpret the symbol of Eve as the Initiatrix of all future humanity. In this interpretation, Eve’s eating of the apple proffered by the serpent was necessary, in order to open humanity's spiritual sight and awaken our capacity for discrimination. Her sacrificial act grants us some protection from false presentations and dissembling manipulators as we navigate this illusory world. We are to understand the “knowledge of good and evil” as being a good thing to possess, not a tragedy, but a growth stage to master. We have chosen to emphasize this reference with our Priestess of the Holy Light, because it best illustrates the esoteric operation of this Arcanum.

This Priestess represents the Keeper of all the esoteric arts, but such is her nature that she uses them only as a catalyst, to open the mind towards higher states of consciousness. So, whereas the Magus represents the will to awaken dawning in the individual ego, the Priestess represents divine consciousness looking in on us, and out through us. This Priestess mediates awareness of the hidden realities that support the mundane world, spooling out the knowledge through the waxing and waning cycles of the Moon. Although The Priestess speaks all the languages of the mystery schools, her genius lies in synthesizing the teachings of Tradition with the living presence of Spirit in the consciousness of the individual. She stimulates the awakening of intuitive inner voices, which become our guides and allies as we study the spiritual sciences.

The Priestess is all forms of sentience, bestowing a clarity that dawns from within. She teaches through the parables of the ancients, and there are multiple levels to her every word. With her help, the voice of the personal will is met by the even more compelling voice of spirit. The Priestess is the first and last teacher, primary companion through the life of the mystic. She guards that inner sanctum within the self, where in her eloquent solitude we can relax and absorb the messages she writes on the mirror of the mind.

When the Priestess appears reversed, one might be facing a fear of silence and emptiness, including dread of one’s unmediated thoughts and feelings. The Priestess imposes the discipline of external silence and stillness, whether this is wanted or not. She counsels that we go willingly into the most private places of our being and still the jabbering self-talk. When we become transparent to the inward-looking eye of God, we will grow a conscience that willingly submits to the discipline of the Mistress of the Library.

In the inner sanctum, we meet another attribute of the Priestess which some people are deathly afraid of, and that is the conscience. The sensation of an awakening conscience can feel like a ripping wound when it first dawns. In a person who routinely chooses their actions without consulting with their conscience first, the presence of the Priestess is the worst form of punishment. As Bet, the Moon, she doesn’t herself either reward or punish. What she does is impose the clarity of Wisdom into worldly events, revealing the shadows we are casting and their effects on the things and beings around us. This gives us an opportunity to make changes and seek forgiveness, both within and without. The Priestess doesn’t rescue anybody, but allows us to experience the natural consequences of our actions, which is the only way humans manage to learn. She knows the truth of Science, which is that any situation, circumstance, experiment, relationship or unfolding event will begin to change as soon as it is being looked at by an outside source. The pressure of Sophia/Priestess pouring through our mind’s eye and illuminating our interior motives, is the first step towards making the kind of positive, evolutionary changes that a true spiritual seeker wants to make.

Therefore, the smart individual takes the hint that the Priestess’ position in the sequence suggests: Accept the burden of self-awareness. Find your true self and come into possession of your impact as a cause, not just a reactor, in your life. Realize the necessity of taking full responsibility for the Self in relation to the vast Otherness that fills the category of non-self. At this stage of the sequence, we don’t know all of the details about who or what is ‘out there’ looking in on us. It’s only sensible to assume that the ego, the I, is not the only active agent present in the landscape! This is a simple lesson, one that all of Nature teaches: there is always someone or something watching. Be aware of what they are witnessing about you! Be self-aware, and modify your own behavior before an outside energy finds a way to use your lack of self-consciousness against you.

The Priestess in reversal only presses this point more firmly. All veiling we have wrapped around our secrets and hidden affairs is pulled away. Our private bits are revealed, naked before the Priestess, stripped bare of all the rationalizations, subterfuge and misdirection we have allowed to grow up around us. Will we fight off this bolt of clarity as if it was an enemy, or can we accept the Priestess’ radical critique gracefully? The outcome of our choice will set the tone for everything that follows on from this moment.





3 Empress

Letter: G = Venus
Path: between Chakhmah and Chesed.
Quality: Wealth

This is the compassionate and generous web of life envisioned by Godhead to provide vehicles for all the sparks that wish to enter the creation. The principle of Venus is that of attraction, harmony, magnetism, charisma and sympathetic resonance. Venus binds all souls and species together through mutual reliance and interlocking function. She is also the patient gardener of Eden, looking for the best conditions for every species. Therefore she has been known as the Engine of Nature.

The Empress points to the Great Mother aspect of Sophia, wife of the King of the realm of Light. It is she who originally granted Anthropos the spark of divinity that animates him, and shows forth his divine lineage. She sends a letter in the form of an Eagle to her son who has forgotten himself and is slumbering in earth's distractions. This is the Goddess of Nature and giver of life to all, without whom the seeker is lost. This would be the Mariological Goddess of Paracelsus, the feminine side of the Father from whom the earthly Virgin Mary was reflected when it was time for Christ to be born.

Major Arcanum #3 provides the mediating third term for this Light trine, supporting the creative and generative functions of the Magus in fertilizing the meditative stillness and sensitivity of the Priestess. She does this through her power of Love and Eros Magic, the attractive force that everywhere enlivens Nature. Boehme would call this quality "the magic of nature". The Empress evokes and nurtures life in the earth plane; this is the Holy Mother who sponsors every incarnation as microcosmic fractals of the One Great Body. She's the mother of all the plants and animals, the inspiration for all the lifeforms on the planet, whose great magnetism attracts souls to occupy the bodies she calls forth from nature. As the face of the Immanent Divine, she reveals herself through the vital and effulgent tissue of Earth, which sprouts infinite forms under her tender attentions. Once we accept her tutelage, we learn what each manifestation is intended for, what purpose each life-form serves in the overall fabric of creation.

The Empress powers the ecological web made of all the creatures that arise within it. She tends to the harmony, the interpenetration, the mutuality of the species as they hold each other in place. She does her work by evoking universal attraction, multidirectional brotherhood and sisterhood. Without the strong family bonds she forges between species, the web would fail. No individual consciousness, no matter how well-cultivated, can in any way affect the laws by which matter is structured. However, we can harness our growing understanding to what Nature herself already wants to accomplish. Paying attention to nature's ways and responding to Her requirements evokes the creative imagination, out of which all of humanity's inventions and productions flow. Wherever she stands, the Empress organizes the lives around her according to her generous dictates of love and support, affinity and bonding, encouragement and opportunity. We have only to emulate the Empress to thrive.

Academic tradition tells that Venus is the patroness of Rhetoric because Venus is the most beautiful of the visible planets. Her 'brilliancy of aspect' symbolizes the rhetorician's concern for style and taste, always presenting attractive combinations the same way a poet labors to decorate his verse. But beauty for its own sake is not the issue with the Empress. In daily life, the appearance of beauty can be affected even in contexts where the good, the true and sacred are lacking. With Major Arcanum #3 we are beyond artifice and seemings, relying on direct insight granted by clairvoyance. Our Empress radiates an invisible emanation which awakens the internal memory of Divine intention, instilled at the creation of this world. This is the light of 'natural reason', by which humans perceive Wisdom even in this transitory realm of deceiving appearances. In the words of medieval exegete Guiseppe Mazzotta, "[Dante's] term, "chiarezza,"…translates claritas, the light that St. Thomas Aquinas conceives to be the substance of beauty and the means of its disclosure." He also suggests that, "For Dante, memory is the visionary faculty, the imagination through which the poet can question the phenomena of natural existence and urge them to release their hidden secrets." In the light of Venus (the Empress), the things of this world show themselves as they really are, allowing us access to their original Ideal. [Giuseppe Mazzotta from the article "The Light of Venus", found in the collection Dante: Modern Critical Views (ed. Harold Bloom; Chelsea House, 1986: p. 189 - 204)]

It is sometimes forgotten that the Empress not only gives life, but also eventually takes it back. Embodied life is temporal, meaning that it begins and ends; it is not perpetual in its fleshly aspect. Humanity's ambiguity on this point is expressed clearly in the two aspects of Venus among the Greeks. In Antiquity it was not known that the stars called the 'two sons of the dawn goddess Eos' were in fact a single planet, Venus. They named the morning star Eosphorus or Phosphorus (bearer of dawn or light) and personified it as a male figure bearing a lit torch. They named the evening star Hesperus or Vesper (evening star, west, dusk) and this torchbearer holds his extinguished firebrand upside down. The father of Eosphorus was said to be one of the gods, but the father of Hesperus was said to be mortal. This gives us a hint that even so far back in time, the influence of Venus was caught up in a double standard.

In fact, the situation got worse for the Venus when Christian translators got into the act. The Hebrew name for Venus is Helel, 'son of dawn, the brilliant or shining one', (as found in the Hebrew version of Isaiah). This name was translated from the Hebrew in two ways; as Heosphorus in the Greek Septuagint, and as Lucifer in Jerome's Latin Vulgate. Lucifer means "light bringer" in Latin, with exactly the same connotation that we see in the Greek Eosphorus or Phosphorus. But after an imaginative rewrite by St. Augustine during the fourth century, Venus (under the name Lucifer) was boosted far beyond the status of an ordinary angel. In this telling, Lucifer was the anointed cherub that covered the very throne of God, the one chosen to rule over all the earth before the creation of Adam. Augustine acknowledges the angelic glory of Lucifer, but he does so only to contrast it with the depth of his ruin upon the 'fall from heaven'. In this way, Venus' more ambivalent evening appearance became identified as the fallen archangel Satan, personification of unbalanced narcissistic forces that fatefully distort the Light-bringer's self-esteem, resulting in banishment from Heaven. (This banishment echoes the Gnostic myth of Sophia, whose trajectory also includes a fall from heaven, though for far less malevolent reasons.)

How easy it is for one culture to appropriate a figure from the mythology of another, applying a makeover that obliterates most of the original archetype! This is the first time we see this rebellious, self-centered, enraged archangel of Christian repute, identified with overweening pride and egoic greed, who aspired to the status of a god but could not maintain the necessary humility. Though stripped of his title as Morning Star/Lucifer (which appellation is subsequently given to Christ), Satan's still-angelic countenance continues to lead the unwary to spiritual harm even as they gasp in horror at 'his' spectacular fall.

What a paradox for benevolent Venus to be cast in this Satanic role! We can see the implications this split mythos has upon the reversal of this card. With the two aspects of the single Venus so polarized in the mythological imagination of humanity, it is no wonder the people can become afraid of love and their creative urges, afraid of their feelings of attraction and magnetism. Many people fear allowing their true desires to become conscious, whatever their reasons. Others cringe away from the results of their creative passions. Why?

Let us remember again that Venus is reputed to show things in the light of their own true essences. If, as Mazzotta says, "knowledge is made available by and through the light of natural reason”, then the least we should do is learn to stand in that light and see what is present. We have nothing to fear from the Light of Venus, and much yet to learn.








4 Emperor

Letter: D = Jupiter
Path: Binah to Gevurah
Quality: Seed

Among the Gnostics this is the King of Heaven, Bythos, the first-father of the Pleroma, known as the Father God (Zeus, Yahweh). This Emperor exudes nobility of purpose from every pore. As Jupiter, he identifies with expansion and multiplication of all kinds; his optimism and generosity keep a door open for a better future to appear. At the human level, the Emperor is the icon of personal sovereignty, in that his individual history becomes the destiny of his lands and peoples. Knowing this, he lives his life with full commitment, accepting the Mandate of Heaven. In the Greek pantheon, it was Jupiter who was given ‘lordship over the Earth’ after the death of Uranos. But despite his utter and complete power, our Emperor humbly remembers himself as the head servant of the realm, the fortunate son of Destiny. He truly understands that the same Fate that empowers him now will eventually bring the doom to which he must also obediently submit.

While he occupies the throne, the Emperor's empowerment as leader and figurehead causes all to bow to the inevitability of his vision. His desires and attractions, the first stage of this responsive trine, represent as his thesis the appetite body awakened in matter. Major Arcanum #4 is passionate and avid about his involvement with matter, his body, and his “place” in time and space. He consumes and dominates his realm, yes, but he does so because he enjoys the experience of its administration so much. It pleases him to be engaged with the various parts of his extended domain -- he revels in being the Husbandman, Lord and Master of all he surveys. Whether things go well or not, he's always there like a good father, steering the course of the ship of state with mind and heart fully engaged.

Being the scion of a royal family that traces back to semi-mythical ancestors, The Emperor's very presence exposes linear time/space to a touch of Eternity. His aura billows and spreads around him like the clouds of heaven. The holy blood of his lineage has the power to heal his subjects; like Samson, there is power in all of his parts, even (or most especially) his hair. All the lives in his realm are subject to his will and dependent on his grace. He even has treaties with the laws of nature, affecting the formative functions that the elements usually render unconsciously. When he’s in tune with his higher nature, the Four Winds and the Directions happily respond to his inclinations, bringing fair weather and full harvests.

The Emperor abounds in human will and libidinal drive - which is earth's answer to the spiritual awakening of the Magus. Energy courses through the Emperor's body as the desire to innovate, the will to lead and the boldness to break with the past if doing so will advance the well-being of his empire. One only needs to fear this force if one is trying to contain it -- the Emperor brooks no opposition, and deals forcefully with those who think to inhibit his self-expression.

We could see this Emperor as a social scientist involved in an experiment of civic evolution. His enterprises are almost always fortunate. By encouraging his people to do what they are best at, he nurtures a local economy that is diverse enough to support his empire, even reaching beyond the borders of his region. His court is like a business incubator, attracting a wide range of creative individuals who possess the boldness to form associations and undertake increasingly sophisticated challenges. The natural gravity of his personality builds up the metropolis and increases the reputation of the realm.

The Emperor's quest to find better ways to meet his people's needs acts like a catalyst, permeating the environment with his enthusiastic and progressive expectations. This is the inspired man of destiny who puts his signature upon the landscape and upon his times. In the era of Tarot’s first appearance, there were many little city-states all over Italy, and each one was a culture-center with its own form of government, it’s own traditions and it’s own style of art, music and Tarot. This Emperor can be seen as a culture King and performance artist , personally embodying his realm with a signature ethos that magnetizes and attracts talent of all kinds to his court.

The Eagle standing in a bed of flames atop the Emperors’ shield amplifies the meaning of this Major Arcanum. According to the Dictionary of Symbols, edited by J. E. Cirlot (Philosophical Library, NY; 1962),

"…The eagle is a bird living in the full light of the sun and it is therefore considered to be luminous in its essence, and to share in the Elements of air and fire. . . .Since it is identified with the idea of male activity which fertilizes female nature, the eagle also symbolizes the father. It is further characterized by its daring flight, its speed, its close association with thunder and fire. It signifies, therefore, the 'rhythm' of heroic nobility. From the Far East to Northern Europe, the eagle is the bird associated with the gods of power and war. . . [I]n Christianity, the eagle plays the role of a messenger from heaven. Theodoret compared the eagle to the spirit of prophecy; in general, it has also been identified … with prayer rising to the Lord, and grace descending upon mortal man. According to St. Jerome, the eagle is the emblem of the Ascension and of prayer. . . . As Jupiter's bird, it is the theomorphic storm, the 'storm bird' of remotest antiquity. . . . On Roman coins it occurs as the emblem of imperial power and of the legions. . . . Dante even calls the eagle the bird of God."

With this totem as a sign, we know that our Emperor is a powerful actor on the world stage for the fulfillment of Divine Will. He knows his life is not an ordinary one, and he does not begrudge the fate that makes him a figurehead. Possessing the full courage of his convictions, he challenges himself and all of his subjects to live up to their highest potentials, to reach for the heights in all that they do.

When reversed, the Emperor appears to be an unrepentant narcissist. He certainly accepts no correction, and like Alexander of old, he precociously takes more than is freely given. The level of inspiration and entitlement that are available to this larger-than-life ego can certainly border on mania and madness. But for those who fall under his patriarchal rule, his status as Benevolent Dictator remains uncontested. Anybody who finds themselves in a tussle with the Emperor should double-check their expectations. There is such a thing as ‘losing by winning’ and the reversed Emperor will take pains to ensure that his adversary experiences this lesson to the fullest.

Another difficulty that can appear with the Emperor reversed is the syndrome of “too much of a good thing”. The Emperor, being Jupiter, honestly believes that more is better, whether that is in fact true or not (usually not.) The temptation to overtalk, overreach, overeat, overspend and overkill is this Emperor’s pitfall. The best of everything comes to him, and he loves to indulge in it all. Therefore he is prone to all the ailments of excess – inflammatory syndrome, cancer, addiction, hoarding, and related issues.

The suggestion to supersize our appetites and expectations comes at us from every direction in our current culture as well. The wisest course for Jupiter in his progress through the mine-field of temptations is, whether working or playing, exerting or resting, to keep a pace and style that is humane and healthy to all participants, young and old. Whatever the goal, work is best done “family style”, with proper breaks and holidays to balance the heroic projects this Emperor loves to undertake. You are doing it right if you still have time for play, for love, for sleep, for hobbies, and for simple “doing nothing”.

With Jupiter’s slow orbit, longevity is one of his gifts to humanity. The person who knows how to titrate their cycles of indulgence and austerity will be much better equipped to thrive in whatever climate and conditions Nature dishes out over the years. Remember the Biblical Joseph, advisor to the King of Egypt, who put away grain for seven years of famine during the time that his country was experiencing seven years of plenty. There is no rule of mutual exclusion between having a good life and being sensible, at least not in this Emperor’s domain. His goal is to see his friends, family and subjects living a full and meaningful life. He knows that if he can provide peace and opportunity for all, he will always command the people’s loyalty and affection.






5 Hierophant

Letter: Heh (E) = Aries
Path: between Keter and Chakhmah
Quality: House of Life

This is the High Priest of every lineage, the Master of the Doctrine of Correspondences. He is also the Headmaster of the Temple University, setting the curriculum and choosing the students. He wears the triple crown and enacts the role of Hermes/Mercurius (the Philosopher's Stone), separating out the ascending, expanding influences (Sun, Mars and Venus, Fire and Air -- thumbs up) from the descending, consolidating influences (Moon, Jupiter and Saturn, Water and Earth -- thumbs down). Hierophant is the role for which the soul is being prepared and tutored by Sophia. The person who wears the mitre assumes political and administrative responsibilities of a cosmic nature.

As antithesis to the Emperor's thesis in this fiery responsive triangle, the Hierophant departs from the sensuality and worldliness of the court to establish the Holy Hill -- a cathedral with a monastery, a bookbinding operation and a university attached. This High Priest or Pope transmits the Mysteries, opening his students to a new dimension of awareness. His position in the receptive trine is analogous to that of the High Priestess in the active trine; but instead of working with consciousness born from the pure interior life, his gift is the consciousness generated from studies of the historical Mysteries. She uses her time at the altar to cement her communion with the Invisible Divine, but the Hierophant is more attached to the symbols of the Arcana; the letters and numbers, the charts and glyphs of astrology, the alchemical and kabbalistic concepts. Where the Popess occupies the Inner Sanctum, attuning her consciousness to the harmonic proportions of the holy shrine, the High Priest faces the outer temple, seeking those who could become initiates and inviting them to the Mysteries.

The Hierophant faces down the test of technical transmission every day. The intelligence of the body is a pristine gift of nature, but it is largely unconscious and inarticulate. The Hierophant trains people to penetrate that obscurity and bring the unconscious into consciousness. Having gained voluntary control over his bodily energies, this Pope can shift his life force at will, from interior to exterior, active to receptive at need. This is why he is associated with the sign Aries -- he has been reborn through the Mystery Teachings, to live simultaneously in both worlds, the temporal and the eternal. He uses the Doctrine of Correspondences to work the energy world like a Taoist or a martial artist, simultaneously tracking subtle energies while operating on multiple realities.

This Major Arcanum provides the Magus with his first formal teacher, who administers the program of established tradition impartially. His school is a boot camp of sorts, but in this case the goal is to awaken the spiritual faculties. The Hierophant winnows out the psychically-gifted from those whose mentality or emotionality interferes with their intuition. As he comes to understand the strengths and special gifts of his students, The Hierophant will reassign the natural empaths for further tutoring with the High Priestess. Those who are intuitively denser and less transparent will stay with him, to fill out the functional ranks of the outer Orders. Such people keep the temple running and administer the social services that churches have historically provided.

The Heirophant performs this sorting and sifting process under our gaze. At the top of the image, in the Hierophant's astral laboratory, he separates the subtle from the gross. Wearing Hermes’ triple crown, he balances the Lights around the Summer signs. I mean this literally: Mercury/Hermes (Gemini/Virgo) balances the Lights (Moon/Cancer and Sun/Leo) around the Summer Solstice. These are the most active times of the year for the Alchemical Work. The Stoicheion-Somata system with its Ladder of Lights assures that the influence of the alchemical triplicity saturates through the whole Zodiac via the extended relationships these special three maintain with the remaining signs.

The Hierophant's right hand approves Sol's influence on Mars and Venus, the rulers of the Spring (Aries/Taurus) and Fall (Libra/Scorpio) signs. By this he indicates that these transitional seasons also have their usefulness in the alchemical labor. The Moon, on the literal "other hand”, languishes with the rulers of the slower, colder and more internal signs of the year. These signs prevail during the dark months of the northern hemisphere's Winter -- Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces -- hence the thumbs-down signal. One cannot commence any new projects in this period, because seeds won't sprout, trees are bare and the life force has retreated underground. Further, the two crowned orbs (containing these combinations) below the Hierophant's feet demonstrate that each grouping comprises its own realm and climate (or temperament), and serves its own function in the metabolism of nature. This whole suite of visual ideas illustrates that the system moves forward only when powered by Solar energies, and falls into hibernation when the Lunar-lit winter grouping is ascendant.

Moving down the diagram, the celestial bears (ancient symbolism of the North Pole) represent the physical Sun's relationship with the galactic center across the vast, slow cycle of the world ages. Meanwhile, on the steps below the Hierophant's immortal circle, the mundane operations of the transiting Sun and Moon work through the four Elements to ensure the stability of the seasons, including weather and fertility cycles. Worldwide, the Priesthoods traditionally retain the necessary knowledge and calculations to reestablish the calendar and the clock, whether civilizations should rise or fall. Despite pole shifts, cultural cataclysms or the slow but ceaseless precession of the equinoxes, the Hierophant continues to calculate the calendar and administer the Mysteries. His personal experience is enhanced by the magical boost of priestly affiliation, which extends far back and far forward in time.

Tradition holds that once a soul has accepted initiation in any lifetime, they are marked for service in all lifetimes. This is a mystery that only a soul who feels an authentic calling understands. The Hierophant has only to open the door and his students will find their way to him. His enhanced aura catalyzes the initiate's encounter between the limited self and the unlimited Universe. The Hierophant also stands by to buffer that wave of shock and awe that hits the soul newly faced with the All-One. In this sense the Hierophant is the modern equivalent of the shaman, healing those among the tribe whose bodies are suffering from soul-sickness. He does this by tossing their stuck and boxed-in souls out of their bodies and into the cosmos, forcing them to discover new dimensions and giving them a taste of their immortality before death.

In the world of medieval Europe, all of the original universities were associated with religious communities. This gave the Hierophant his pick from the smartest students of each generation. The fact that the High Priest holds the keys to the magical techniques – the high arts and sciences of his culture – means that whomever he selects and trains will join the charmed circle around the King as advisors and functionaries. This is the basis of his reputation as the power behind the throne.

As an Aries, the Hierophant arouses and communicates a great attraction to the Spiritual Sciences. He is passionate about literacy, numeracy, and psychic development the exact same way an artist is passionate about their medium. He wants to create Priests who can heal, Bishops who can talk to the elementals and help direct the weather, and bardic Cardinals who can change the spiritual fate of whole cities with a single sermon. The Hierophant wants to see his students be skillful in all three worlds: Even as the right brain can communicate directly with the spirit world, the left brain can calculate with the arcana of letters and numbers, synthesize the spiritual meanings in play, and pull out a remedy that will fuse body and soul into a new and more integrated synthesis. Moderns tend to think that 'books on the shelf’ translate instantly into knowledge and skill. Far from it! This Hierophant's mission is to ensure the student's mental ambidexterity in the theurgical arts.

In reversal, the Hierophant desperately makes up edicts and persecutes charismatic individuals to cover up for his lack of capability in the mantic and theurgic arts. The same syndrome takes hold in government and industry when a person in authority rises beyond their true capacity. Such people are dangerous to associate with, because they have no personal loyalties, nor spiritual ethics either. Even the individual with the title of Head Primate can’t rescue the ship of state when the corporate body allows predators to mingle with the flock! When this card appears reversed, light needs to penetrate into the back room deals and behind-the-scenes abuses that are corrupting the community. Only full transparency will address the trust issues that make the reversed Hierophant’s claim to legitimacy absurd and tragically farcical.




6 Lovers

Letter: Vav (W) = Taurus,
Path: between Keter to Binah.
Quality: House of Property,

This Major Arcanum points to the charged eros-magical field that springs up between the Lover and the Beloved. In this field new lives are created, gestated, and brought to birth. Unanticipated worlds come into existence, evoked by the charisma between the charmed opposites. Major Arcanum #6 represents Sophia as lover and personal tutor of the Scribe, who opens the path to success and riches, but only if she is valued over all other offers.

The resolving, harmonizing card in this responsive fiery trine is usually called The Lovers. But in Tarot's early days, the title refers directly to the discipline of eros-magic, also known as sympathetic magic. Major Arcanum #6 actually signifies the energy running between the Lovers (be they human, planetary or divine) -- the magnetic, irresistible field of their attraction. This was traditionally symbolized by a cherub with a bow and arrow aimed at one or the other in the charmed couple. The language of eros-magic is replete with images of Love's dart piercing the Lover's heart and stealing his attention away to his Beloved. There is something fateful, some kismet or divine gravity operating beyond the will of the individuals involved, which brings the opposites together to complete their mutual fate.

The Lovers is one of the most variable Major Arcana of the pageant, showing a number of different aspects over the centuries. An early version shows one or more couples meeting, strolling and dancing in a public place, playing out local courtship rituals under the watching gaze of the community (or at least the community's proxies, the Lovers' personal Pages). In the decks bearing this image, the Lovers seek a union that benefits the blending bloodlines, solidifies village prosperity and is sanctified in the local religious context.

Another early Lovers image shows a "meeting at the crossroads" theme. In this case the Lovers' paths only cross in a place that's at some distance from the either one's domain. Arriving from entirely different realms, the Lovers meet as in the traditional Scottish song "Comin' through the Rye". Venturing forth from the safety of their known worlds, opposites attract and the loving couple celebrate their attraction ‘in the rye’. The issue in this case in not about choosing one path over the other. Rather, what we have here is the symbol of fate leading two unique destinies away from their self-created spheres into a neutral space that is safe for their private union. (Think of the Lovers in the Cary-Yale Visconti pack, where we see the Divine Couple standing in front of a lavishly-appointed marriage bed, whence they will repair, draw the curtains, and take their leisure.)

After the mid-1600's, this card begins to show the image of a youth stopped at a split in the road, forced to choose between two very different paths. The contrast between the two directions is usually cast as a choice to follow carnal appetites and the animal sensibilities on one side (seduction), contrasted against accepting a spiritual assignment and developing etheric sensibilities along the other path (self-discipline). The Magus has to be very self-knowing and wise at this juncture in order to make a choice that he can live with for the future as well as the present. The fundamental question posed at this crossroads is, “Shall I go with my instincts or shall I follow reason's guidance?” In truth, there's no wrong answer to make at this crossroads, which appears so often in a person’s life. However, by answering this question in either possible way, fateful developments ensue that determine one's future relationships to everyone and everything around them.

Major Arcanum #6 of the Tarot of the Holy Light shows balanced opposites in a willing union. The chivalric alchemy of our Protestant Theosophers teaches that the best results arise when the fiery forces of ego are put in service to the illumined forces of Spirit. This orientation allows for magical results. As in our Great Arcanum, celestial Light (active) and terrestrial fire (responsive) are inherently entwined with each other. But remember, the Protestant Theosophers were not subscribers to the old male-dominated, patriarchal philosophies! In the thinking of Paracelsus and Boehme, the excessively harsh fiery Father-force requires a soothing, quenching immersion in Sophia, the Holy Spirit. Spirit's sensitive understanding of the gap between the divine Ideal and the compromised Real introduces healing to the roiling chaos of Jehovah's demanding intensity, allowing him to reveal his heart, the Son/Sun. It's a match made in Heaven, symbolically and literally (referring to the 13-times-a-year renewal that happens every New Moon).

The Lover's conjunction allows the self be completed by the other, even if that "other" is the invisible Sophia, companion to the mystic. The left and right hands, like the left and right hemispheres of the brain, find each other across the midline and start to coordinate. The dynamic cosmic radiator and the absorptive, nurturing receiver form a strong creative union that evolves the material plane and produces opportunities for growth in all participants. As we can see, the firmament of heaven and the depths of embodied earth truly desire each other; they are meant to be brought together and complete each other. Between them shimmers the field of eros that is the true identity of this Major Arcanum.

The reversal of the Lovers might suggest a circumstance where people act like magnets presenting like poles to each other – they will repel with the very same force that attracts them when they are lined up correctly. For every instance of sympathy one experiences, there will be another experience marked by antipathy. It is important to be aware of one's natural responses to life, and be authentic in our responses despite the opinions of others. The Taurus correspondence reminds us that everything happens in its proper season. Until all of the individual preconditions are met and all the cosmic forces are in alignment, the ancient triangle of the Lover, the Beloved and the Love cannot manifest in flesh.

Remember, the lack of an outer partner does not preclude having a significant relationship with Sophia, the invisible companion of the Grail Quest and Soror Mystica of alchemy! The best protection against cynicism and emotional damage is to have an ideal upon which you can rest your love and devotion, whether or not the human world is offering a physical avenue for its expression. And when one is in relationship with Sophia, (for example, as the Priestess living within the imagination), then even challenging situations and unfulfilling human relations become useful lessons and grist for the mill. Nothing is lost and all experiences are metabolized towards the goal of Wisdom.

At the fulfillment of this manifestational triangle, we have an alchemical union of inner and outer opposites, sanctioned by the secular leadership of the Emperor as well as the esoteric blessings of the Hierophant. This willing union can represent the harmonizing of any two opposed forces, be it a loving relationship between two strong individuals, the conjoining of two businesses, or treaty-making between nations. In every case, the message is union and mutual completion. This is the higher meaning of the Lovers card -- to heal and resolve those inherited dichotomies that entrap us into a too-small, self-dominated worldview. Here we see the opposites lovingly engaging each other's differentness without canceling each other out or losing their individual identities. The card suggests that we can create room within ourselves (and in our lives) for a fertile union of opposites, where spiritual intelligence quickens the inherent potentials of matter. When we can achieve this divine union within our private, internal contrarieties (inside the watery cave), then we can start to bring this supportive and trustworthy energy out into our manifested human relations, eventually healing the whole community (the prospering city).











7 The Chariot

Letter: Zayin (Tz) = Gemini,
Path: between Chakhmah to Tiferet.
Quality: House of Attraction

This is the principle of perpetual motion, meaning the eternal circulation of light and sound frequencies that compound invisible energies into tangible matter. The awakened human, that divine animal, becomes attuned to the Voice of Spirit. Sound is the vehicle of Sophia immanent in the human world, traveling across all cultural, temporal and religious boundaries, seeking an abode among the children of men.

The Chariot card, capstone of the first septenary, represents polarity in cooperation, or integrated frequencies. The individual who entered upon the self-cultivation path in the Magus card has reached the first synthesis. The fixed throne of matter is now animated, moved by one dark and one light horse. These two steeds (sometimes Sphinxes) show that all polarities are harnessed to their common denominator, working towards a mutual goal. Individually, the horses are each very distinct in their own nature, but function best in harmony with their equal-and-opposite partner. By harnessing the body's great passion and libido (dark horse looking backward) to the clarity of an awakening consciousness (the white horse looking forward) the pair can influence each other's evolution over time. This is the sign of the yogi, the meditator and the martial artist, producing a duality that transcends the either/or paradigm.

The state the Chariot represents is more than the sum of the previous six Major Arcana. We now have a vehicle that responds to the witness in consciousness. Our Charioteer has won the first level of Hermetic androgyny by bringing the physical body (original referent for the Cube of Space) into harmony, balancing its cosmic and terrestrial attributes around its astral center. In Major Arcanum #7, contending opposites no longer have power to take the driver off the chosen road (which was determined in Major Arcanum #6). The Charioteer has outgrown the pose of victim of circumstances. Nevermore will she be pulled in one direction by intuition and in the other direction by reason or acculturation. Having yoked and directed both opposites onto the spiritual path, she is ready to claim the first evolutionary victory, that of self mastery and self-unification.

Our female Charioteer’s armor signals her awakened left brain. The Medusa head on her shield suggests this dynamic lady is Athena, bearing gifts derived from the reasoning Mind. This points us back to the Wisdom Tradition again, the cumulative inheritance of our literate ancestors. This Gemini Charioteer can be likened to Wisdom in the Chariot of our ancestors. She aligns her goals to Divine Will, as signaled by the course of the Planets overhead. The inner vision of her mind’s eye directs her horses and keeps her wheels on the road. When this card is at its best, the Planets, the body’s energies, and the mind’s eye are functioning as one.

Another quality that the Chariot card refers to is ambidexterity -- a brain so well-balanced and cross-wired that either hand can be rallied for action at any time. So often in life we find ourselves building up with one hand and tearing down with the other, and it happens right under our own noses. Cross-coordination (of thought, at very least) is a signal accomplishment. Those who harbor internal inconsistencies can’t get their ego, will and spiritual vision focused on the same project at the same time. Society takes advantage of this unfortunate situation, because humans make better herd animals when our internal balance is repeatedly upset. One who wishes to achieve higher than average levels of integration has to expand their capacities across the centerline and develop their weak side, however that might manifest. This is a vital aspect of the traditional symbol of androgyny.

The implications of having a feminine figure driving the Chariot reach into the astral plane and stimulate theological ideas. Remember that our Protestant Theosophers were all ardent spiritual feminists,self-chosen servants of the Holy Spirit. This Major Arcanum implies that the Chariot of the body is being cultivated by the Divine Feminine, the Comforter or Paraclete. This suggests a life associated with the leadings of Spirit, instead of being guided by the more ego-bound aspect of the worldly personality. Seen from this point of view even the acculturated ego is part of the body, being a product of the time-bound outer layer of matter that encases the soul. Whenever a Chariot card shows the Divine Feminine as the actor, we are to envision Sophia enthroned within the psyche of one who is blending Light and Matter, ascending and descending forces.

The Chariot archetype also points to an alchemical treatise called The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony by Basil Valentine (1676). See it here. Valentine's Chariot is not a war-chariot, but a classic Triumphal parade wagon studded with symbolic references. In Valentine’s illustration, two traditional planetary pairings (Mars and Venus, Saturn and Moon) collectively pull while Jupiter (with Thor’s hammer tucked into his belt). holds the reins. Mercury and Antimony are the celebrated couple. grasping each other's hands within a suspended hoop or ring. The ring is held aloft by the wreathed Solar Angel, who also hoists a flaming torch. This image announces, "Let all who witness understand: With the spagyric preparation of Antimony, Paracelsus has achieved the homeopathic creation of chemical medicines." The male-androgyny of Mercury is hereby completed by the female-androgyny of Antimony, as if to boost the Planetary Governors from seven up to the Gnostic Ogdoad.

Metallic Antimony is known as far back as 3000 BC in Chaldea and Egypt, but, this word is most often found in connection with kohl, the ubiquitous eye-blackening cosmetic used in many civilizations since the most ancient times. Kohl is the oily smudge coagulated from the fumes of multiple medicinal substances that are combined and burned together under a brass bowl. The result is thought to protect against blindness, communicable diseases, the Evil Eye, and the intense brightness of the sun. Meanwhile, mineral Antimony was considered by the alchemists to be a higher octave of mineral Mercury, more potent for healing purposes and closer to the "quintessence" (the most refined and complete form of matter). Yet this same ore has poisonous qualities that have caused its name to be translated in the popular etymologies as "monk-killer". Paracelsus became famous specifically because of his ability to tincture such "venomous" substances into healing remedies.

Valentinus relates that Antimony is produced in the course of an interaction among the four "elements". Through a complex "Spiritual Sidereal Transmutation" (a day/night process), earthy water is evaporated and then precipitated (like dew or manna). As it "ripens", the Antimony demonstrates attributes that bridge the gap between Gold and Mercury. The alchemical terms for the threefold States of Matter are Salt (hardness or fixity), Mercury (not the metal, but the style of manifestation - mercurial, flowing, liquid), and Sulfur (heat, the "spark of Life"). Valentinus’ analysis of Antimony shows her to be on a continuum with Gold and Mercury -- having an increment more salt (hardness) than metallic Mercury, and possessing even more hotness than metallic Gold. The essence of this solidified vapor (kohl) safeguards physical vision and wards off the malevolent glances of others. I am certain that our Protestant Theosophical Alchemists would consider Antimony a fit symbol for the gift of clairvoyance as well, characteristic of visionaries and those who possessed "second sight". Antimony's symbol in Alchemy is a circle with a cross on top, which is the two-dimensional equivalent of the orb of sovereignty in the hand of the Emperor. Mystery upon mystery!

Looked at from an exterior perspective, the Chariot appears to grant access to the larger world, providing mobility in the realms of culture, time and space. But the cost to win these privileges is high; the Feminine Divine, rather than the worldly ego, is put firmly in mastery. This symbolizes a personality that is no longer ruled by self-referenced motives. Instead it works to fulfill Spirit's directives, in particular the aspiration towards the most pure spiritual subjectivity, which is to say ‘not my will but Thine be done.’ By subduing worldly assertiveness and innate intelligence through submission to a Higher Power, all the self-serving fragments of the ego come under one master. What results is a synthesis of Spirit, human, animal and machine, all working together to convey consciousness to the next higher plane. Receiving the Chariot card in a spread represents a graduation diploma for achieving the First Grade of the Initiate. And if this card should come up reversed, then it’s back to the drawing board to learn from your failures and engineer yourself into a more worthy Chariot. Remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained! While you still have a body, the path to self-mastery remains open before you.






8 Justice

Letter: H (Chet) = Cancer
Path: between Binah and Tiferet
Quality: House of Ancestors

Here we see the principle of analysis, that piercing vision which cuts to the heart of things. She weighs and measures all the parts of the process until the balance-point is revealed. This is Sophia as a figure of Law, Torah, Nomos. In this form she is the possessor of shrewdness in statecraft and the scribal profession. She is also the symbol of intellectual light, the "Mistress of Science". She embodies the canon of weights and measures.

The Justice card is the first step out of the inward focus of self-cultivation, which makes internal resources available to society and fosters the transformation of consciousness at a collective level. We are immediately confronted with a symbol of the Law, both natural and human-made. Core concepts associated with Justice are balance, equilibrium, fair measure, and the challenge of being weighed against collective norms. Justice adjudicates the commonweal in the collective assembly, ensuring the sustainability of the culture despite the tendency of individuals to take advantage or tilt the playing-field.

We tend to be familiar with the image of blind justice with scales in one hand and the sword of truth in the other. This is the classic posture of the Greek Goddess Themis. Hers is the ancient justice principle that theoretically sorts out human relations in the cultural marketplace, the realm of trading and social exchanges. I emphasize this point because in our materialistic society we have lost track of the greater good, tending instead to look for opportunities to take advantage rather than opportunities to further the well-being of the whole. The modern lust for profit is part of the cultural myth of manifest destiny and marketplace determinism. But these values are not suitable for human relations or spiritual development. So the Feminine Divine must unsheathe the two-edged Sword of Truth and prune away all hyperbole, dissembling, and excuses. This Justice will measure every comer by those exacting standards of impartiality and equity by which she measures herself. Each person who comes before her in the community court will have their ‘story’ examined for every shred of accountability. In this sense, A. Crowley was inspired when he changed the traditional name of this Major Arcanum to Adjustment for his personal Tarot.

Our Justice is of the type to speak truthfully to the needs of the innocent, the helpless, all those who have no individual voice, and who therefore cannot defend themselves. Tending to the welfare of the least among us is one of the highest ideals of the Rosicrucian movement, but humanity is still struggling to find the best ways of realizing that dream in practice. To fill in the gap, Major Arcanum #8 offers the image of the wise and disciplined mother, who is at pains to balance out the needs of her individual family members while still advancing the general well-being of the whole. She knows how to make all of the products of wild nature into food, comfort, and remedies. Rather than living in an either/or universe of ‘bad and good’ , Justice figures out what is useful and appropriate about every circumstance she examines. She understands the constant recombination of the four-season, four-element wheel of changes, and from this format she is able to anticipate and provide the needs of her people as they arise. Justice also knows how to distribute the goods of the family (or of society) equitably, ensuring that the largest number of her subjects get the benefits, instead of the most powerful few commandeering all the resources.

Another very powerful image of Justice is seldom seen in modern packs. In this version we see Solomon ready to resolve a problem that would vex a lesser man. A case is presented at his court by two neighboring women, each of whom has recently given birth. Sadly, on this day one mother woke up to a dead baby. But instead of accepting that her infant was gone, this woman accused her neighbor of slipping a corpse into her bed and stealing her live infant. How could the true mother of the living child prove that it was hers? Solomon knew that one of the mothers was lying, so his proposal was to cut the live baby in half and give each mother half. The real mother was horrified and protested, “Give the child to my neighbor. It will break my heart, but at least then I'll get to see him grow up.” On the other hand, the mother of the dead baby said “Yes, cut it in half, at least then we’ll both be even.” It might sound savage and arbitrary for Solomon to make a judgment like his; we have to remember that the event happened millennia ago in a culture very different than our own. But we can see the wisdom required to find the perfect strategy that would reveal the motives of each mother, exposing which woman showed the maturity to properly value this new life. This illustrates a poignant challenge that constantly faces the Justice card – to ignore the sway of appearances or established convention, but fearlessly test appearances until they reveal their true underpinnings.

Further, since it is the 4-elements, 4-seasons grid (the Stoicheion-Somata schema) that is at the basis of all alchemical cures, the Justice principle is intimately involved in the year-round work of creating and administering energetic medicines. We see her here, weighing out the balance between Fire and Water, or any two opposites that we might find in the world, as a precursor to making the medicine in the course of this second septenary (which culminates in Temperance, the Alchemist). At this stage, Justice (Adjustment) assays all the ingredients meant for the alchemical (social, spiritual) medicine and ensures the purity of each ingredient separately. Holding the finished recipe in mind from the earliest steps in the process, Justice deconstructs the formula, weighs out the newly-purified ingredients, and hones her own sensitivity to the subtleties of each step in the process. All through the work, she holds herself back from making judgments based on preference or popularity, opinion or reputation. She is single-mindedly interested in discovering what works, what will truly and sustainably serve the need.

In her fine-tuned precision and attention to detail, Justice represents a traditional feminine gift that is being rediscovered in the 21st century. This generally-feminine icon defends as well as administers. Her keen blade and exacting scales will not allow counterfeits or impurities to enter her aura unchallenged. Nor will she be tempted or swayed by an over- romantic fantasizing of nature. This wise mother has truly ‘been there and back', qualifying her as a keen judge of character. Her Cancer influence gives her the dauntless heart and spiritual passion of all mothers in nature. Justice fights for the creation as a whole, even when this involves disciplining her individual creatures.

Another aspect of Justice is that she’s administering the karma of the community -- her fearless accountability reveals who has to accept limitation versus who gets that extra helping. In this way Justice is adjudicating the social and economic flow as it plays out through the community's transactions. Justice sets the standards, then holds her subjects to the letter of the law. Individuals can forget that there are spiritual principles that demand our participation, but Justice always remembers and exacts her due. It is the Justice principle that fosters us when we give freely and take only at need. This same Justice undermines us when we attempt to dissemble, make excuses for our greed, and do things in the margins that we wouldn't want shown in the light of day. Without intending to be punitive, Justice is an enforcer -- she sees to it that those individuals who want to grant themselves shortcuts, or misrepresent their needs, or help themselves when they haven’t yet contributed their share will eventually be corrected in an appropriate way for their development and growth. Nor is Justice dramatic or theatrical; her style is to support the inevitability of natural consequences. Ultimately Justice gives us the motivation to adjust our stance to the needs of society rather than demand that society adjust to us.

In the second septenary, we’re moving away from internal work and towards work in the world at large. A prerequisite for earning the right to affect other people’s lives is our willingness to consider their feelings and their reality as being of equal magnitude and importance as our own. We can't move on until we learn the lesson of Justice, which is to put ourselves in the shoes of everyone whose lives our decisions might impact. This Major Arcanum and the next two comprise the radiantly active trine of Light in the second septenary. This trinity represents formative forces working invisibly to channel and adjust the world of matter from the celestial plane. Justice lays down the Law, thereby creating the context in which the Hermit will cultivate himself in service to the Greater Good.








9 Hermit

Letter: T = Leo
Path: between Tiferet and Chesed
Quality: House of Descendants

This is the possessor of Gnosis, who not only has the Light, but is a Light and guide for others. The natural shaman, a Priest of the Order of Melchizedek (self-initiated). Having abandoned all false paths, the Hermit lives intimately with Nature and Sophia. Hence this Major Arcanum points to the aspect of Sophia that makes her teachings available at the gateways and the crossroads, calling out from the ramparts of the city, and appearing in the liminal places "between the worlds". This is Hecate, Trivia, her shrine placed at the meeting-point of the Three Worlds or three Paths, guarding the place of their linkage. The Hermit highlights Sophia's link with prophets and diviners, whose calling it is to interpret the oracles.

Major Arcanum #9 represents the second (antithesis) point in the Light triangle, following mastery of the first septenary. While Justice stands in the marketplace, accessible to all, the Hermit occupies a location accessible only to the intrepid. Historical allusions to the Hermit's identity have ranged far and wide; the planet Saturn, the angel Melancholia, the philosopher Diogenes, St. Francis of Assisi, Father Time, the agricultural god Kronos, one of the Desert Fathers, or as here, the mythical Hermes Trismigistus. His title means "thrice born", implying true continuity of consciousness maintained across multiple lifetimes. This Hermit has found the key to humanity's Divine Potential, and has shaped his life accordingly. He is an accomplished yogi, a devoted eros magician, and a dedicated life-extension strategist, having achieved functional immortality without having to drop his body -- a coveted accomplishment.

The apparent maturity of the Hermit is as much a symbol as it is a state. At any age, the Hermit arranges daily life to avoid unnecessary worldly demands, so as to protect the privacy necessary to maintain a deep immersion in Nature. Having left cultural time, he is participating in worlds that operate by laws of Being instead of becoming. Though shown with his feet encircled by the terrestrial Leviathan (water serpent of material time), our Hermit has realized that his only connection to eternity is his consciously-directed imagination. A life of self-discipline imbues the environment with a preternatural calm and lucidity. The traditional lamp in his hand has become a mini-Sun with which to banish the spiritual darkness of the reflexive reptile brain. The pontifical shepherd's crook is not only there to support this wise elder, but also to serve as a magical wand, fixing and subduing the restless Leviathan at his feet. The entire landscape is in communion with the Hermit's point of focus, which is to subdue the fearful fight-or-flight reflexes, and thereby release consciousness to its higher destiny.

Overhead, the Hermit's inner practice is laid bare. Knowing that consciousness exists both within and outside the body, the Hermit seeks experiences that exceed the five material senses. The higher mind's all-seeing eye blazes through the cosmos, following the lead of the Holy Spirit. The whole operation is protected and guarded by the cosmic mate of the earthy Leviathan. This aeonic serpent, the Teli or Pole Serpent that circles around the balance-point of heaven, organizes the eternal Light that forever emanates from the invisible higher world. These two serpents demonstrate the Hermit's control over his electro-magnetic presence, both in the time/space world and beyond it. This opening in the fabric of time/space is mediated by a sub-sonic harmonic hum emanating from the Hermit's throat gem (a reference to Da'at, the salvation of those who struggle in the Fallen Tree of the Kabbalah). This tuning device helps strengthen the vibrational platform that allows the Hermit to stretch his limited consciousness past the Ring-Pass-Not into eternity.

This Hermit exemplifies the natural royalty of the individuated human soul, one who has outgrown every role that culture defines. This individual is no longer beholden to parents, spouse, family, commerce, culture or legacy for a sense of identity. Self-motivated and self-created, this Hermit demonstrates the attributes and attitudes of Leo, the fixed fire sign that is the natural home of the Sun. The Hermit is alone in a magical landscape much of the time, following inner lights, not answering to outside sources. Having long ago solved the problem of survival, The Hermit lives entirely on personal terms, as if high on the Holy Mountain. For the Hermit, the superficials of cultural reality become insubstantial and fade away. S/he has moved from clock-time to natural time, from sophistication to simplicity, and from a declining stage of life to ageless immortality. Staying true to inner currents, the Hermit takes refuge in an austere-seeming lifestyle that opens into the vast richness of the inner life. When you see a Hermit card dressed in the "plain brown wrapper" standard monk's robes, this is the implication.

Notice the obvious link between philosophical Hermeticism, the myth of Hermes Trismegistus and the Hermit. Hermes is the Greek god of intelligence, and Mercury is his Roman form. He is the master of communication and crafty solutions, whose gift with languages facilitates all forms of exchange, especially across cultural boundaries. Hermes was considered to be the inventor of numbers and letters, therefore the denominator of the Hermetic Cosmos with its 12/7/3 pattern (mirrored in the alphabet and the Major Arcana). Hermes' traditional presentation with an astrolabe in one hand and the other hand pointing to Earth ('as above so below') is meant to remind us of his ability to navigate around both macrocosmos and microcosmos.

This portrayal of Hermes in oriental robes and tall squash-shaped headgear, teaching astrology and the alchemy of long life, represents a standard visual trope for Trismigistus by the late 1400's and early 1500's. Due to his reputed sagacity, Trismegistus came to symbolize the emergent observational method of science. Following this approach (first employed by Paracelsus), one studies phenomena objectively (without preconceptions) and tabulates natural developments without interfering. The idea is to learn the norms before attempting to address deviations. This is where the Hermit acquires the more modern implication of silent witness; the canny observer who can fathom the subtleties of a situation without directly entering into it.

Our Hermit has collected such a wide range of exposures and experiences, that s/he only has to look within to accurately diagnose the dilemmas that arise in the environment. For some, this level of insight appears to operate by magic. This is why the Hermit archetype arouses suspicion in the Roman Church, arising in situations in which the Hermit was persecuted and distrusted. The city-based clergy understood that if the people were getting their needs for healing and spiritual guidance met by a charismatic local figure like a village shaman, they would not turn to Priests and Deacons. An even greater threat was that the people might encounter the Gnostic heresy of reincarnation. How could a stark heaven-or-hell confrontation staged during a single short lifetime, ever compete with the idea of multiple incarnations? Trismegistus gave Europe a new kind of culture hero, an ordinary human (or so they thought) who could penetrate so far into the Divine Mind as to recover knowledge stored in the World Soul from previous lives. To the mystics after Paracelsus, caught up in a Rosicrucian fervor, Hermes Trismegistus offered an alternate model for spiritual growth.

Among the alchemical illustrations, one can see The Hermit conversing with the Serpent of Genesis, even following it through the landscape. This is a reminder that one is to look beyond the human world for models of creative evolution. Through befriending and studying even humanity's old adversary, the Hermit learns those wise secrets that nature holds. The serpent at the Hermit's feet handily symbolizes our collective not-quite-tamed human instincts. When this card is reversed, it represents a constant undertow, buffeting human civilization with sub-conscious and regressive pressure, ready to drag us down into fears and phobias whenever we are stressed. The upright Hermit can separate himself from the grip of the hive mind, can distill his consciousness out of the collective trance of self-absorbed subjectivity. By learning from Mother Nature how the whole ecology is interwoven, the Hermit acquires perspective on humanity as a species, and comes to understand our intergenerational planetary destiny.

The Hermit studies the strategies that the Divine Mind apportioned among the plants and animals to create their unique technologies for life. Modern humanity desperately needs this wisdom. Like Aesop, Pythagoras and Paracelsus, our Hermit extracts remedies from the living thoughts of nature. The highest discoveries are made by taking the position of the fly on the wall, witnessing the mind of God at play. From this vantage point the Hermit has access to all three worlds -- manifest nature here on Mother Earth, with all of her themes and variations; human nature as it is revealed in the psychological and socio-cultural world; and finally celestial nature, meaning the astronomical developments continuously descending from on high.





10 Wheel of Fortune

Letter: Yud (I/J) = Virgo
Path: between Tiferet and Gevurah
Quality: House of Health

Here we have a representation of the circular and cyclical metabolism of Time, riding like a bubble on the surface of Eternity. Fast or slow, the Wheel never stops, and it never retraces its steps, despite rhythmic fractal reflections. The Creation is forever carried along via the Wheel's interlocking cycles, though at the macrocosmic level nothing ever changes. In Sophiology, this is God's providence or Pronoia, the gift of seeing-forward through time, understanding the cyclic dynamics that mediate the outworking of the Divine Plan. Pronoia refers to God's "providential koine" expressed as divine governance through what may, at the moment, seem to be chaos.

After the Justice card presents the thesis in the Light trine, and the Hermit card gives the antithesis, we move to the Wheel of Fortune, representing the synthesis of this radiant triangle of Light. The Wheel of Fortune evokes the Law of Karma, which simply stated means that "reality is round". Whatever we put out there will eventually come back to us, bringing its consequences along as well. One cannot escape one's widening wake, and there is no relief for the repetitious nature of daily life. Each one of us is married to our unique daily track, whether the personal sphere is tiny or huge. The nervous system plays its tape-loops over and over again. One must eat, sleep, wash, "chop wood and carry water", and every day it's all to be tackled anew. Some find this repetitiveness comforting and safe, some find it appalling to the point of rebellion and even self-harm. All who exist within a human body are subject to the mill-wheel of Time, which, as has been said, grinds slow and exceedingly fine. The pre-Christian world called this cosmic mechanism Heimarmene, the personification of Fate.

The historical Wheel of Fortune is a very sophisticated image, in that it combines a number of allusions in its details. Sometimes at the bottom of the picture we see a small and fragile moon-shaped boat bearing a giant Wheel in the place of sails. This little craft floats upon the turbulent ocean of the subconscious, reminding us how dependent Fate is on accident and synchronicity. Sometimes a wheel of eight spokes recalls the Wheel of the Year or the compass-rose of the mapmakers and navigators. Other times the Wheel shows only six spokes, which references the Hexagram or Great Arcanum of the Hebrews. On the left you see the descending path of those who are abandoning eternity to come into materialization and incarnation. On the right side ascends the avatar of those who are evolving beyond the merely human, whose aim is to return to their point of origin in the Invisible. This is the World Mill, the wheel of time/space that brings us into these bodies for our personal schooling and the evolution of our inner life. As each of us dives onto matter, we become that reptile creature of the descending side, avidly embracing sensation, ego, and entrapment in matter. This path of descent is seen in spiritual teachings as a fall of sorts -- from the purity of spirit life into this dense flesh that is locked and limited to temporally- and hormonally-dominated modes of thought.

The soul that chooses to follow the path of return, longing to extract itself from the terrestrial bog, is symbolized by that ambiguously gendered human-headed creature climbing the right side of the Wheel. This illustrates the effort needed to movie out of entrapment in the flesh, towards the hermetic androgyny and away from the realm of attachments and addictions. At the top of the Wheel we see an alchemical hybrid (sometimes a phoenix), which in this case is a blend between an angelic human, a lion and an eagle. This creature suggests the fused Fire/Air/Water intelligence that defines our fulfilled nature according the Three Mother Letters, the three Modes of Astro-Alchemy, and the Trinity of Jehova/Christ/Sophia according to Boehme and his followers.

The sideways-8 of the Ouroboros refers to the Greater Whole, consisting of the visible and invisible worlds intertwined. This twisted circle describes the two sides of reality, the known and the ever-unknowable. These complements feed into each other, providing an early visualization of a perpetual-motion machine. Their relationship expresses a dynamic rather than a static exchange. In a static polarity you have two things that withdraw from each other because they’re so opposite as to be mutually exclusive. But in a dynamic polarity you have two halves that catalyze and attract each other as they chase each other around the circle (like the Taoist Great Ultimate, the Yin Yang symbol). The ouroboros also testifies that the visible is the mirror of the invisible, an essential insight. As J. E. Circlot reminds us in the excellent A Dictionary of Symbols (Philosophical Library, 1962), "The ouroboros biting its own tail is symbolic of self-fecundation, or the primitive idea of a self-sufficient Nature -- a Nature…which…continually returns, within a cyclic pattern, to its own beginning" (p. 235).

At its simplest level, The Wheel signifies Nature embracing all of us in the cycles of life – that of the moon or the seasons of the year. Everybody reading this is caught up in the karma of the our planet and the material world. In order to succeed and thrive, we need to stop fighting our relationship to this creation, symbolized by the four suits/elements. This card challenges us to start cooperating with the energies that comprise our substrate, including the autonomic processes that are built into our bodies and our psyches. This means getting to know our birth charts and the movements of the Planets and Lights overhead. Without this essential knowledge, we will continue to be caught by surprise and cast down by the Wheel of Fortune, subject to excess ups and down that waste our energy and break up the continuity of our spiritual cultivation.

The Wheel is a tester, challenging us to see ourselves in context and surrender to those forces that are larger than ourselves. We must learn to trust that all immediate manifestations are temporary and natural; they are each flowing one after the other according to the larger cycles of Nature. The Wheel suggests that we integrate ourselves with the flow and go with it instead of fighting it. We do not have to experience ourselves as being mowed down and run over by the process of time. Instead we can learn to roll with The Wheel; learn to work with the tenor of the seasons and the planets in the sky.

The basic premise of alchemy is that we are made of sensitive material which is responsive to the cosmic clock and the movement of the planets in their great procession around the sun. The Wheel says that once we understand our place in the larger mosaic of time and space, and find that channel of flow that governs our destiny, we can then ride the Wheel, become the sphinx and skip being beat up by the ins and outs of impersonal fate. This includes those challenges over which we will never gain complete control. When this understanding is achieved, you wear the Crown of Gnosis, are lifted by the wings of angels, and your individuation is ‘ fixed’ for eternity (the Lion's head). The two hands hold the sign of the Lily, or Fleur de Lis, which Boehme took as a symbol of the coming Age of the Holy Spirit, come to quell the turbulence of the human ego. This is the gift available to those who make the effort to still their own churning and find their balance. Esoteric study teaches that we can be intentional about where we fit on the Wheel of Time. The more equilibrium we can manifest, the more we can allow the flow of Nature's plan to move through us and carry us along.

For people who are still learning the lesson of the Wheel, this dizzying churning expresses our day-to-day adventures here in the human world. One could think of it as the Great Washing Machine of Life: you get thrown in, tossed around up and down, put through your changes, and are finally spun dry. By the end you've had the opportunity to see what sort of substance you’re made of, what the real fabric of your being is. Those few who are organized to flow within Nature's cycles – who understand the workings of the Planets and Elements in the Zodiac -- can identify with the sphinx and not be distressed by all the changes that happen in a seemingly chaotic fashion. The truth is, most of us are still over focused on the reversed qualities of the Wheel, bemoaning the fragility of our point-of-perspective as we struggle to navigate the choppy waters of the subconscious. Completing the Light trine requires learning to wield Justice from our active side while holding the wisdom of the Hermit (that inner insight of the serpent) close to the heart on the responsive side. Only then, with those forces in place, can one finally learn to balance within the Wheel's cycles, cultivating a resonant integrity that will endure through the changes, adjust with nature, and partner with the flow that has us all in its grip.







11 Force/Tamed Lion

Letter: Kaf = Mars
Path: from Chesed to Netzach
Quality: Dominance

This path channels the immutable strength and relentlessness of wild Nature, which is only ever temporarily tamed. That power which allows us to live and thrive can also recycle us at a moment's notice. The only control we truly possess is self-control, which needs constant renewal through fresh acts of self-discipline. In Sophianic terms this is the taming and refining power of Love working through Wisdom, to harmonize the creation and organize the animal, vegetable, and mineral world for humanity's sake. Here we see Harmozousa, the Divine Technician who arranges or structures things, putting them together in the appropriate manner and seeing to it that they maintain mutually-supportive relations.

Some might be surprised to find a feminine face upon a card representing Mars, but this is absolutely not an anomaly. In another variant of the Continental family packs, the branch emanating from Spanish esoteric currents, one can see Mars attached to the Empress card, leaving Venus to occupy the Strength icon.

As a rule, gender images within the sequence of the Major Arcana are not to be interpreted in a physiological manner, as if these forces were actually burdened with inflexible either/or limits. The ancient Hebrews who developed the Alphabet as an astronomical and astrological tool didn’t suffer from the same gender expectations that we moderns do. It was common to find the women in charge of running the household, dealing with practical issues like food, children, livestock and the domestic economy. Masculine preoccupations (beyond survival tasks) were focused on studying scripture, embracing mystical explorations along the lines of yoga and/or meditation, and writing extensive scholarly commentaries on the ancient teachings.

The basic construct describing the Kabbalah Tree’s appearance from it’s invisible Source gives that the Father force of expansive Space (Fire) pours out and lights up a realm of potential, into which precipitates the condensing response of Time (Water) from the Mother. On the human scale, materialization happens when a divine spark ignites the Will of a person who is ready to mold their inner and outer lives in accordance with its dictates. This explains the attribution of Dominance to this Major Arcanum -- the Strength icon represents the intention to prevail, irrespective of the momentary goal.

Having completed the Light trine of celestial motivation, we now enter into the Fire trine of emotional and intuitive responsiveness. This triangle registers the descending forces of the previous three Major Arcana as they impact upon matter, which in response starts to seethe and give birth to new forms engendered by the Light. The Strength or Force Arcanum has a revolutionary implication, which is summed up in the phrase "entering into the Wrath-fire unafraid". Unlike the Fool, who arrives at his situation unpremeditated, the Strength icon shows us the courage and fearlessness that comes from engaging with one’s challenges head-on, openhearted and ready to respond with full energy. Such is the virtue of feminine force that her passionate suasion empowers the most noble and radical of our Divine elements.

When this representative of Spirit appears, the usual clanging chaos among the Elements subsides. For love of her, the unregenerate instincts of Nature feel moved to conform themselves to a higher Power, of which this Lady is the representative. Even the King of Beasts cannot resist this prodigy of nonverbal engagement. The persuasiveness of this expression of Martian vitality is fulfilled perfectly by Mulder's amazing image: "The hair of Lady Alchimia is Fire. Her eyes are Sun and Moon, the twin Principles -- Mercury and Sulphur -- of the Work. Her breath is Air and the influx carried in the shape of rays by Light. The three Stars on her forehead are the three Works, and the milk flowing from her generous breasts is Lac Virginis, the Virgin's Milk which nourishes the Stone… " (The Golden Game: Alchemical Engravings of the Seventeenth Century, Stanislas Klossowski de Rola. Thames & Hudson, 1988, p. 307).

In the esoteric system that connected with the Marseille-style Tarots, the Strength angel embodies the most attractive, constructive and creative aspects of the planet Mars. Nevertheless, this Lady Alchimia is a fully ambiguous figure, somewhat monstrous upon close inspection. Her deviations are also apt -- as a symbol of ambition, drive, desire, aggression, and the appetites, Mars is not above the occasional confrontation or conflict demanded in order to win the fulfillment of our visions and desires. In this context, the Lion symbolizes the restrained yet still feral side of the Martian force. The humanesque figure in this Major Arcanum (which is most often shown as feminine, sometimes androgynous, very occasionally masculine) is with no apparent effort stilling the fierceness of this lion and silently encouraging it to take a protective rather than aggressive stance. Despite the title Force, this is clearly not the strength of muscles and brawn (although we do occasionally see the image of Hercules or Samson as Strength in some older Tarots -- see below).

According to historical usage, this Strength is a spiritual force. It’s a strength of heart, a strength of principles, of inner conviction and integrity in relationship with the spirit world. The Strength angel knows that nothing in this material world is going to hurt her or him. She comes forward as a sibling to the Creation, with no known enemies. Revealed to be a servant of the collective need, the only goal is to bring harmony and respect among the different life forms, and among the elements going into the alchemical cauldron. In this case, this extraordinary goddess is telepathically communicating with the lion to still the passionate ego-bound nature. She's transmitting that there is no need for the adversarial paradigm; we are all equal parts of the divine intelligence that nature has woven together like a web, each designed to support the other. There is no "us versus them" in the planetary mind; it is therefore our responsibility to recognize that kinship and relatedness, and to cease engaging with ideas that cause us to take adversarial stances against each other.

The goal is to let go of personal interest or human acculturation at this point, in order to defend and befriend the creation in a guileless and openhearted way. This feminine form of strength is motivated by compassion, acting from empathy and sensitivity. A feminine Strength also accepts the special case instead of defaulting to averages (which are therefore insufficient in every case). The Strength angel asserts, “We are brother and sister. There is no contest. We have no reason to fight or squabble with each other. Our responsibility right now is to acknowledge our kinship, to solve mutual problems, and to expand the field of our understanding so it includes the whole web of life.” All this is done, let it be noted, without words or "reason" with its confounding overlay of rationalizations and excuses. Strength communicates nonverbally, but is never misunderstood. Her assertive aura does all the talking!

A deck that shows the Hercules or Samson image offers a flip side to the refining power of Lady Alchemy. Historically the male hero's strength exists to wrestle his people away from their animalistic instincts, to conquer the beast within. Self-control is the primary focus in case of a deck that makes a masculine reference, with the emphasis on struggle and overcoming resistance. This is certainly an important part of the Strength card, pointed towards overcoming internal resistance to personal growth and maturation. But when we see it with a feminine or angelic actor, emphasis falls on the use of non-violent, voluntary and loving means to corral and refine (rather than crush and dominate) the wilder impulses. Persuasion and the power of attraction provide more trustworthy motivation for the Lion (ego) to come into alignment with the angelic program. This form of Strength employs personal charisma, moral force and social conditioning to uphold right action in situations when no laws, rhetoric or luck can be enforced. Mutual agreement asserts an invisible constraint that guides behavior even in circumstances when impulse would otherwise rule.

An inversion of the Strength icon suggests a distortion has emerged that is interfering with the unique individual will of one or more players in the current scene. This is a karmic infraction that will degrade the quality of one’s results if continued. The highest expression of Mars is to inspire right action through embodying and defending the higher order. Using brute or psychological force to cause pain to compel obedience only attracts greater resistance and more chances for bad results down the line. This attitude also cuts off any fresh, creative responses that might emerge from the various players involved. Any whiff of top-dog competition, me-first selfishness or adversarial thinking needs to be rigorously purged from one’s frame of reference.





12 Hanged Man

Letter: Lamed = Libra
Path: between Chesed and Yesod
Quality: House of Coition

This card is upended, suspended and undefended, a willing sacrifice to the principle of non-resistance. With hands, arms and heart open, the soul enters into the problem, embraces the opposites and quenches their contraries. In the ancient Hymn of the Pearl, this is the Prince who must redeem himself before he can recapture the Pearl and return to the World of Light; this is also the Christ/Sophia, both of whom self-sacrificially descend to the lowest level of creation to harvest the fallen and dormant soul-sparks before making the turn-around to begin the ascent again. In Tarot Major Arcanum #12 symbolizes Metanoia, the spiritual turn-around point, which marks the end of the Fall and the beginning of the upward path.

The second, antithetical term of our responsive Fire trine presents Major Arcanum #12, the card of the Martyr. This idea evokes many cruel and horrific associations because of the layers of pagan, Gnostic and Judeo-Christian spiritual politics that have become attached to it. In its purest form, however, the Hanged Man represents an initiatory exercise, a personal sacrifice undertaken by an individual marking a certain level of spiritual development. In this Major Arcanum, the commitment is supreme -- it will be an ordeal and there is no way to avoid the bodily and/or psychological agony involved. Through the extremity of the ordeal, the aspirant is driven out of their ordinary perspective of reality, which transforms his or her entire body of socio-cultural programming, turning ordinary perception upside down and inside-out. The Hanged Man views the world through the inner or third eye while occupying this seemingly awkward and helpless position.

This Major Arcanum doesn’t always imply torture and martyrdom by any means, although that aspect is sometimes present. Better to see Major Arcanum #12 as the talisman of a voluntary awakening that involves upending one's perspective by switching the orientation of the crown and root chakras. This refers back to the Shaman's Tree from deep antiquity, which has always served as a vehicle for moving between the Worlds.

One important lesson of this experience is that communion with Spirit demands a sacrifice. Some of your personal comfort, trust and feeling of safety will be sweated out in the process of having this experience. Having passed the previous Major Arcanum's test by learning self-discipline in the face of outer constraint, the reciprocal challenge now emerges. Here the upsetting and emotionally unbalancing effect of being scapegoated and fingered as “the problem” is under examination. One must overcome the aversion to feeling shamed or made a laughingstock in the collective judgment. The protagonist of Major Arcanum #12 must also overcome any resistance to being exposed, since all his “privates” are on display while upended in this embarrassing way. The Hanged Man demands a total willingness to endure whatever it takes to serve the group good. Remember, the 2nd Septenary addresses the collective consciousness, and this triangle within the septenary relates to Earth's response to a wave of incoming Light. Therefore this Major Arcanum is the icon of willing sacrifice of matter to Spirit, offering the turned cheek and the soft answer, poured out into the Wrath to still its restlessness. In the process the seeker becomes a contributing member to a corps of self-evolving individuals who collectively devote themselves to raising the consciousness of humanity.

Selflessness is the watchword here; doing the right thing just because it's the right thing to do. The Hanged Man devotes his vitality and energies to the causes that the universe assigns. At best the soul is willing to go through the process of relinquishment or even humiliation to advance the cause for the larger whole. Generally speaking, one is past fighting one’s fate at the point this card appears. Most often, these situations utterly transcend what is "fair" or "deserved" from the individual point of view. What the person who is hung out to dry has to remember is that they are atoning for collective sins, and only when the mass guilt is expiated will they be taken down from their cross. Each one of us will be called to take our place on the Hanging Tree over the course of a lifetime, so there is no shame in being recruited for this role. If you participate in this world, you will find yourself hanging on this Tree at some point, it is simply inevitable.

Major Arcanum #12 represents the individual who is willing to throw themselves into the breach, even at risk of life or limb, to highlight a matter of principle. One hopes and prays the sacrifice can awaken the collective consciousness, if not now then eventually. No matter that this action undermines the individual security, health or physical safety. From the point of view of reincarnation, all sacrifice is temporary. That's what makes this sacrifice voluntary; the Soul understands that it isn't a waste but an honor to use one's incarnation in defense of a principle. When the sacrifice is timed appropriately according to the need of the situation, it can make all the difference to the cause going forward. The Martyr doesn't have to outlive the revolution; he's not angling to become a bureaucrat or politician. The Hanged Man’s significance and his impact stem from his willingness to put his flesh on the line for the cause where and when it can do the most good. There is no strategy involved -- often the whole drama is a debacle from the start -- but once the passion play starts, the Hanged One must submit and wholeheartedly play his/her allotted part wherever it might lead.

One of the things that you regularly see in this card is that The Hanged Man is suspended between two uprights, which can symbolize the Two Pillars of the Kabbalah Tree, and/or the two halves of the zodiac divided at the Solstices (as we see in the Hermetic Cosmos diagram). Given that this Major Arcanum appears at the halfway point in the alphabet as well, it marks a distinct cleavage between “before” and “after”. From this Major Arcanum forward, the protagonist suspends old norms and accepts a new worldview. A plethora of ancient myths assure us that this timeless sacrificial ritual has the power to reduce the community's karmic load, as well as cleanse the practitioner of her or his individual sins of omission or commission.

If there is a paradox here to meditate on, it is that fate designates certain individuals, seemingly mere creatures of the moment, to transcend their personal interests for the sake of a larger cause. How does one find the Will to become a sacrifice? Even outside of Christianity, the story of Christ's sacrifice has galvanized people of every era and culture for two thousand years. What motivates a person to embrace such a path? The Hanged Man is an icon of how the Divine Plan can seize upon an individual and take them out of themselves, allowing them to mediate and resolve our collective guilt. This is why we sometimes see the Hanged Man surrounded by a vineyard, or hanging from a grape arbor. The exquisitely poignant imagery of Christ's blood transubstantiating in the pomegranate Grail Cup only extends the analogue between Christ and the grapes in the wine press.

This uninhibited offering of the mundane self for the sake of the collective consciousness distills the wine of Spirit so it can be shared out to the collective in a sacramental way. When upright, this is not a symbol of wasted martyrdom, useless bloodshed or self-sacrifice that fails to make any impression. At best this is an intelligent act of self dedication to preserve what is highest in the human makeup, and relinquish those ego-centered motives that only impede the progress of humanity's maturation. No attempt to activate an Archetype in space/time will be perfect, but at least when the card falls upright, it suggests that there is value is making a sacrifice for the sake of future humanity.

When the Hanged Man appears reversed, the pretense of sacrifice becomes a sham and a distraction, bringing no lasting benefit to either the Hanged Man or the community. Internal resistance to self-transcendence wastes the potential with the inversion experience. Refusal to walk the obligatory mile in the other person’s shoes demonstrates a failure of compassion and empathy. Attempts to co-opt the Hanged Man’s contribution, trying to hijack the significance of the ritual to serve a lesser cause, will only cause the perpetrators to become focus of a future Hanged Man episode.








13 Death

Letter: Mem = Water Element (universal solvent, body fluids)
Path: The pelvic crossbar, Netzach to Hod
Quality: Fixity, containment, absorbing & binding; precipitates Time & matter like dew.

Death is the realm of dissolution and surcease, where all structure and differentiation collapse into a slurry of mud, the primordial matrix. The totality of the dissolution forces the soul to gather up and evacuate, whether temporarily or permanently. The Earth then hungrily devours the nutrients released by the abandoned structures, the bones and the ashes of the past. The Kabbalists say the letter Mem drives compassion and mercy up the Father Pillar away from the realm of matter and into consciousness (to Chakhmah, the left eye of witness). This suggests that we can only arrive at absolution (being “washed clean in the soul”) when all ego ties to the past self and its worldview have been permanently severed.

Paradoxically, Death highlights the relative dormancy of the eternal Soul while still embedded in the flesh and serving out its incarnated time. An ancient homily holds that an angel cries every time a human is born, and rejoices every time one dies. This expresses the sense of spiritual oblivion that accompanies our physical incarnations, compared to the order and peace of the Pleroma. For many, it is only at the threshold of Death that they understand their life.

Death marks the third term of our Fire triangle, bringing a synthesis between the two previous Major Arcana. This is one of the most controversial cards in the Major Arcana sequence, at least in terms of exciting the individual’s superstition. When this card comes up in a reading people tend to panic. This is not because it always means a literal death, but because of the much more real and frightening possibility of radical and permanent change with no going back. The Death icon presents the necessity to absolutely abandon the past and all of its attachments, to become worthy of the future that is yet to come. What a paradox for the lower nature -- becoming willing to die to the self in order to go forward in the chain of incarnations!

Part of the drama of this card comes because it belongs to the Fire triangle, where we no longer have the perspective of the type that we learned in the Light trine (by which I mean detachment, rationality, learned wisdom, freedom from instinct's and superstition's chokehold). In the Fire triangle one is thrown back on one's personal cultivation to date, where the individual's unique evolution and innate responses make all the difference in how things turn out. With the Death card we experience intimately the breakdown that makes the alchemical recombination possible. What I mean is, without undergoing the "separation of the quick and the dead" in Major Arcanum #13, it is not possible to purify and evolve our "lead", the lower attributes that make up the denser, more material aspects of the self, into "gold", which historically symbolizes the highest, most radiant and most integrated of substances.

Now that we understand more directly the ways the alchemical system references Astrological and Kabbalistic processes, it becomes clearer that the Death card brings us to the alchemical furnace of transmutation. After we have run the gamut of stock responses and solutions derived from the past, nothing will serve but to recycle ourselves. In this process, everything -- our patterns, our attitudes, even our very ground of being -- cries out to be rendered back to its constituent parts and recast with a new goal in mind. Death is the third of three worldly responses that the Fire triangle offers within this collective septenary, coming after Strength (defending what's worth preserving) and the Hanged Man (rectifying one's attitude towards suffering). Now, in Major Arcanum #13, we’re ready to release everything that made it possible for us to exist in the old context, even up to being obliterated from the known universe. This does not mean that there is no life on the other side of this passage, only that it is necessary to completely reframe our understanding of ourselves, our potentials, even our very purpose for living. Life as we’ve known it is gone. Now what will we do with ourselves?

This Death card means giving oneself over to the compost heap or the melting pot, willingly rendering down all the hard parts and sources of resistance inside. There is no worldly cause so compelling, no tie or bond so profound that Death has no sway over it. This means giving up all hope and allowing even one's very body to be stripped away. Death is the Cosmic Pruner, who like the winter wind wields the scythe of Saturn. For this cycle, your time is up. Just as the pre-school child encounters a certain day when they have to go off to public school, and the college student has to finally graduate and look for a job, every stage of life forces us to outgrow what we’ve known about the self of the past in order to experience a new identity at a higher order of reality.

Death is also the path of the Phoenix or Firebird, in the sense of the old Greek myth of the Aeons. This cosmic bird flies for 500 - 1000 years, then reaches a point of exhaustion, falls to earth, bursts into flame and self-immolates to incubate the egg within. As the flames die down the bird of the new age rises up out of ashes and flies again for another world age. This is a very ancient myth about the procession of the equinoxes, but it’s very strongly tied to this pivotal stage in the relationship between the soul and body, where we must finally drop the old pretenses and either mutate or die. Any move to a higher order is accompanied by relinquishing the dear peculiarities of the old self, which is often harder to do than one would expect. With the Death card we finally merge with the forces that will liberate the eternal Light from the clay.

When the Death card comes up reversed, you might be facing the paradox of being rejected by the pruner’s hook. All those around you have been felled (or have transcended), but amazingly, somehow you remain. This can leave one feeling hollow, full of ghosts, even riddled with survivor guilt and wordless shame. Even if the incoming change is absolutely necessary and healthy right now, some people will still become riveted by grief and loss, finding it difficult to let go and move forward into life again. Clinging to a devitalized past leaves one empty and exhausted, stripped of the motivation and identity from which to build a future.

Therefore, as would be natural with the element Water, our best strategy is to surrender, like the man wrapped in the green snake lying in the grave. He offers no resistance as he willingly enters the fatal embrace. No protest mars his demeanor, nor does he attempt to bargain with his captor as his head tips back for the kiss of death. The coils of the serpent’s body remind us of the windings of Time as the planets move around the Sun. This accords with the Kabbalistic understand that the letter Mem (and the element Water) represent the flow of time in the life of manifested creatures. There is a time to be born, and a time to die.

Some say that only in the presence of Death can we live a life of authenticity. When we forget about the very thin veil that separates us from the Invisibles, we begin to become heedless and sloppy, putting off until tomorrow what we should be attending to today. The Death icon presents the archetype of the true deadline, beyond which the old manner of being, the old arrangement, is no longer viable.

It is also wise to remember that in situations where no healing is possible, a good death can be the very best outcome. The Death card can be paradoxical in that sometimes a termination will represent the best outcome for all concerned. A situation that cannot be redeemed in its fullness can at least be disassembled and/or recycled, leaving any useful parts to go forward to new applications.

The law of conservation of energy and mass assures us that in a closed system, nothing is essentially lost, no matter how many changes of form or state are undergone. When ending-points are reached, every soul contemplates the choice of whether to go down with the ship (like the man melting into his grave), or whether to somehow survive and start over from scratch (like the woman feeding the dead bodies to the funeral pyre). In either case, nothing will ever be the same again; one is tasked with finding new reasons to go on.

The wonder and glory hidden in this zone of tragedy is the discovery that there is always something new growing out of the carcass of the old. The yearly flooding of the Nile is a perfect model of this process, as it refreshes the dead and exhausted soil of its delta, leaving behind enough fertility to feed a nation for another year. Just so, the compassionate waters of Mem (the flow of Time) will eventually dissolve and wash away the evidence of the present suffering and loss. Those who are observant are likely to discover sprouting seeds of future possibilities springing up as a result. We have only to cultivate them while remaining open to the mystery of life!




14 Temperance

Letter: N = Scorpio
Path: between Gevurah and Yesod
Quality: House of Death

Directly following the Major Arcanum traditionally entitled Death, we encounter the one that corresponds with Scorpio, the Zodiacal sign long known as “the House of Death”. We now learn to differentiate between the element of dissolution (the astral Waters of Mem; the flux of Time that separates the soul from Eternity) and the process of transformation as its lived in consciousness by one who is undergoing it. This period of intensification is symbolized by the subtle agitation communicated to the mutating substance by the Temperance angel. This angel’s mission is to awaken the immortal soul from its dormancy within matter, using whatever extremes are required. On the Kabbalah Tree, the Path of Temperance is mirrored by that of Major Arcanum #13, The Hanged Man, both of them leading down from the base of the Heart Triangle into Yesod, the pelvic center.

In this Arcanum the Angel of Alchemy distills out the Spirit that has been inhabiting matter, separating the dross from the pure essence and tincturing the attendant poisons into healing medicines. This purification process greatly reduces the bulk of the matter but exponentially increases the concentration and quality of what remains. Major Arcanum #14 represents the Alchemist at work, the Baptist (soul healer), and the Tincture, (meaning the fusion of Father, Son and Sophia according to Boehme's followers). The dove, symbol of Sophia and Holy Spirit, is the unique bearer of the germ of soul. The dove moves in all directions between the heavenly and earthly planes, mimicking the shaman’s role of effecting communication between the worlds. Also signifying election, the dove marks the initiated soul for immortality.

In Major Arcanum #14 we are finally brought to the center of our second septenary, to win the prize that awaits those who have integrated the previous six Major Arcana.

The Temperance concept has correspondence to the angel Raphael, the Healer in the celestial pantheon. Raphael was sent over this earth to monitor the ecology, to balance the forces, to bring about the experiences – historically, socially, politically, culturally – that are designed to temper our species, forcing us to grow into our higher potential as a collective. Temperance literally refers to the tempering of metal - in the very manner by which iron becomes steel. Alchemico-kabbalistically, the wrath-fire of the father-force is attenuated in the fountain of compassion that is the mother-force, during which the angel mediates a medicinal blending of the opposites.

We saw in the Chariot card the two opposites of yin and yang yoked together to pull the same vehicle. Now we see those polarized forces actually being poured together to make the elixir of life. This is to be distributed through nature and into the terrestrial world as a balm, a healing essence, to ease the pain of our struggles as we attempt to interface inner life and outer life, the personal ego and the collective life, mortal forces and the immortal quest. Temperance means finding a living balance, a liquid balance, a flexible balance of mediated opposites that supports life beyond the ministry of the Reaper. In the Paracelsian spirit, Temperance seeks to modify, blend and dilute life's poisons into medicines and agents of awakening. Temperance indicates a level of consciousness that no longer lives in a dualistic universe. The ego is beginning to realize that all value-systems are relative to the level of consciousness their believer has attained. The creation begins to show itself as an infinite ladder of ascending steps towards higher and higher orders of wisdom and integration. At this stage, all dependence on either/or thinking evaporates, to be replaced by the infinite question,"What is this (situation, thing, experience) good for? How does it serve the larger creation? What can I learn from it?"

When the opposites are brought together, there can be quite a storm, but when they find their balance they provide a creative matrix out of which the new format of selfhood can be born. We shouldn't be surprised that Temperance follows the Death card – Major Arcanum #14 illustrates the soul as it exists outside the envelope of time and space. Everything that ties the soul to materiality has been etherealized, to reveal the Medicine. In order to move to that new state of reality that survives the tempering crucible and outlasts the stresses and strains of this purification process, one has to identify solely and completely with one's quotient of Light. This is the highest of the world's magical disciplines – to bring together the Light trine and the Fire trine without annihilating either of them. Each triangle's potencies are brought to bear upon the other, sparking a fertile union from which something new emerges on the scene of human consciousness. At Major Arcanum #14, that newly emergent gift is the angelic consciousness that earns the possessor the right of passage into the next realm, meaning Cosmic Consciousness (the final Septenary of Major Arcanum #15 through #21, followed by the Fool).

With the appearance of the dove, we can also read an Annunciation into this image. Our Protestant Theosophers would recall the baptism of Jesus by John, and the dove that descended to ensoul the Christ and complete the Incarnation. In terms of the individual psyche, this would represent the moment when one finally realizes that the ’I’ of our self-referencing is not the body, nor the ego, nor the emotions, nor the mind, but the immortal Soul, the spark of Light within, which is indeed "made in the Image of God". This is the seat of identity and the key to our ultimate transcendence.

The Temperance cards from several of the original Etteilla Tarots shows the angel navigating a somewhat tippy perch. A thick triangular stone block is under one foot (suitable for being the head corner stone of a pointed arch), while the other foot rests on a stone orb or ball. This is yet another suggestion about the mediation of opposites. There are any number of ways one might read this (rough-hewn vs polished); the One vs its infinite geometric facets; the plane vs the sphere depending on the circumstance. Maybe the angel isn't actually standing at all, but is only hovering over these objects to unite them. These geometric shapes could also be understood in reference to their known significance within Sacred Geometry, architecture, music, and the other architectonic Arts. One could also consider the dichotomy that was often faced in early medicine, which is the question of whether the remedy could be found among the "simples" (single-herb remedies), or whether true healing will require a more sophisticated combination approach. A future researcher who is better schooled in Masonic and Rosicrucian symbolism will eventually point out the very parable or ritual that informs this symbolism. We can in the meanwhile rest assured that, though the slab and the sphere might appear very different in their physical form, their internal geometrical proportions are ruled by the same governing Law of Proportion. In the Tarot of the Holy Light, we merge the significance of these objects into a single inverted triangle (symbolizing the descending Light-triangle of Spirit) colored with the passionate red of the Holy Wrathfire. Like the dove, this ruby platform of purified passion suggests a successful fusion between opposites, providing another vehicle for the Soul to move between worlds.

Correspondingly, should this card fall upside down in a spread, one must allow the diamond-sharp tip of this fiery triangle to pierce directly into the hidden truth that sets us free. This is the moment when all superficials are washed away. The remains of the past are lost forever and irredeemable, submerged by the ocean of Time. Now we must finally stop attributing the accidents of life to outside causes; we must stand alone and naked in the deep Psyche, revealed to heaven and all of Nature. Only in Scorpio, in this pressure-cooker atmosphere, can we convert our ancient karmic poisons and deficits into the medicine of spiritual rebirth. Only after we’ve been melted down, rendered, poured out and recast many hundreds of times (through who knows how many lifetimes) do we finally become pure and self-aware enough to realize that this distillation and concentration process is, in fact, the very experience we came into matter to undergo. Finally we learn to stop fighting with ourselves, stop the resistance to the forces of growth and change, and willingly accept the correction that awaits us. It’s time to surrender to the forces that have always been right there, trying to guide and educate us through our life’s lessons, but which we were resisting and rebelling against for whatever reasons. What remains after having burned out and eroded away every previous stance and worldview is our original nature, that pure essence of Spirit which has been with us all along.








15 Devil

Letter: Samekh (S) = Sagittarius
Path: between Yesod and Netzach
Quality: House of Travel

Here we witness the display of the Peacock Angel, alchemy's fleeting but revelatory experience, as well as a sign of suppressed Goddess energies reawakening. The writing on the arms of the Rebus testifies to the two repeating stages of the alchemical work, expressed as the breakdown of attachment to the body (Solve) and the strengthening of attachment to the Soul (Coagula).

The first step into the Third Septenary is taken with the deeply ambivalent Major Arcanum #15, known as The Devil. We have retained the title and traditional associations that belong to this Major Arcanum, but have discarded the camouflage that defaces this card via the goat mask and legs. Our Protestant Theosophers would have probably taken a harsher stand towards this Major Arcanum than we have. We took this liberty because mystics and magi have never been in total harmony about the ultimate fate of Satan or The Devil after humanity becomes awakened. According to Roob's commentary on Figure VIII of Frehrer's 13 Figures, "The two S's, Sophia and Satan, are the two contrary snakes of the staff of Mercury (Caduceus) and must be united." (Alchemy & Mysticism, P. 171.) Each one of us has to decide for ourselves how to handle the energy of Major Arcanum #15, so let's catalogue some of the considerations involved, allowing each person to draw their own conclusions.

In the eros magic event pictured on the Devil of the Holy Light, both the male and female parts of the Self are now so awake and turned-on that they dissolve out of their overspecialized separation, to coagulate in the heart of their opposite, fusing into a mutual Yes. The purified twins are now made one at a higher order of functionality. Two-headed Lucifer, the Light-Bringer or Daystar, provides the context for the reborn Animus and Anima. Implications include shedding acculturation, awakening of the suppressed self, shamanic shape-shifting, and renewed libido. Major Arcanum #15 grants the return of the broken parts of one's innate being, parts which have been tabooed, scapegoated, shamed and castigated. We discover what we have been missing and seeking throughout the world, which was hidden within ourselves after all.

The letter Samekh has been endowed with tremendous significance from antiquity, for several reasons. The very shape of the Hebrew letter is that of a snake holding its tail in its mouth, a veritable high-sign for gnostic ideations. Some also suggest that this symbol was used as a graphic representation of opening of the vagina, the ultimate female sexual symbol. In many ancient societies including the early Hebrews, the spiritual implications involved with women's fertility cycles were an important preoccupation, due to masculine fears of being "polluted", unmanned and disempowered by contact with menstrual blood. These additional vectors of meaning help us imagine how The Devil has accumulated such a fascinating and frustrating set of correspondences across the centuries.

The earliest pictured cards we have show the composite demon named Legion from the Old Testament, with the faces of its constituent demons located at every prominent spot on its body. In the 1660's the Devil suddenly morphs into the prototype of the card we have become used to in present time -- the Baphomet figure. When this Templar title is dissected using the Kabbalistic art of Gematria, we discover that Baphomet decodes to the word “Sophia” in the Hebrew atbash cypher (as demonstrated by Hugh Schonfield in his book The Essene Odyssey, Appendix A.) This revelation aligns the Devil with other early Semitic creation stories in which Creator always manifested as a male/female pair, known among the gnostics as a syzygy (two-in-one). Unmasked and put in theological terms, the Devil would be the Gnostic Christ/Sophia, the united co-redeemer pair, who rescue and complete each other while being immersed in the material creation. Once this syzygy is achieved, matter and time/space begin the process of reintegration with the Pleroma. Thus the magical 'white hole' symbolized by Major Arcanum #15 illustrates the magician's secret well of materialization.

Samekh's correspondence with the zodiac sign Sagittarius also points towards the power of spiritualized desire which, when focused on the material plane, is said to be unstoppable and irresistible. This energy has tremendous evocative power wherever Sophia casts her charm and weaves her spell. History shows that it can be hard to differentiate between the energy of a saint like Frances from that of an inspired madman like Rasputin, especially when both personalities aroused a transcendental awe and respect among their followers.

In fact, the magical charisma, spontaneity and passion associated with this card are not a product of either good or evil; they arise from the unfiltered life force of the individual. This explains why we will often see a caduceus on the belly of the Devil card. A magnet of desire and natural attraction enlivens the aura of the individual who is acting from his or her deepest passions. This is the astral vortex or "tourbillion" that we set loose into the world with our vitalized appetites. A great deal of focus, will power and individuation is necessary to organize this energy without becoming victim to it's multiple seductions. Who, after all, can discipline their desire for the things they naturally find most delicious?

Hence, the Devil is constantly looking for avenues to consummate what the Magus only imagines. Naturally, no one is comfortable in the presence of this type of intensity unless they have parallel motives! As befits the ultimate Eros Magic icon, Major Arcanum #15 binds the lower-consciousness person through their bodily and egoic likes and dislikes, even as it attracts the higher-consciousness person with visions of spiritual attainment and world salvation. The Devil uses our personal attractions to seduce and trigger us, inciting us to exceed our previous bounds and take action on our unmet desires. In truth, we aren't really safe in this world until we learn the truth of our inherent, innate desires! Otherwise we will be forever confused by the circumstances we attract to ourselves, while secretly or not-so-secretly lusting after the next piece of bait the Devil will so kindly hang out for us.

The Spanish word Diablos means 'the one who sows discord', therefore that which destroys order and promotes devolution. That being said, one must be careful when reading this card to remember that the energies associated with the Devil card are perfectly natural for humans, though every culture has its own strategies for naming and training them towards their own ends. It does no good to attack natural energies or try to eradicate them. The best we can do is channel them towards their own transcendence, like a yoga practitioner does. This strategy requires a long-term investment of time and attention, whether to transcend these dichotomies, or to master them for one’s own purposes. Ultimately, the Devil’s temptations can be brought around to harmonize with the highest teachings of all spiritual paths, but not without a huge personal effort to erect boundaries around one’s sense of entitlement. The goal is not to either glut or extinguish the life force, but to train it towards its highest expression. In some cases this can indicate a lifestyle of solitude, austerity and/or celibacy, undertaken as a means to foster concentration on a burning passion.

A spectrum of considerations arise when the Devil appears reversed. Depending on the context, it could represent everything the more strict religionists have feared about human self-centeredness and narcissism. There is a case to be made that hubris is inflating someone's judgment to such a degree that they are falling out of touch with reality. In this sense, the Devil consolidates all of our temptations into a dominating delusion of having no limits, as if an endless stream of power and pleasure could be had without creating long-term collateral damage. Paradoxically, the Devil reversed could also represent one who breaks the unspoken mass taboo against self-fulfillment and enlightenment, possibly threatening social sanctions as a result. It might also be time to investigate one's judgmental reactivity in the face of other people's innate and natural inclinations. In reversal, Major Arcanum #15 presents the theological night-star (Venus' nighttime visage), highlighting humanity’s tragic undoing; our addictions, overcompensated insecurities and feet of clay. Then again, it might simply be time to lift the scapegoat mask off the face of Sophia and look deeply into our inborn, God-given, natural and innocent characteristics, uneven and tragically flawed though they might seem on the surface.







16 Tower

Letter: Eyin (O) = Capricorn
Path: between Yesod and Hod
Quality: House of Government

Here we absorb the shock of the unforeseen, a blow from the Hand of God, or of Fate. Yet even as a seeming disaster plays out before our eyes, a precious medicine that has been gestating in the sealed and suspended vessel is vitalized by the electrical bolt. The suggestion is that the forthcoming liberation will prove to have been worth the shock of change.

At this stage of the process, Sophia shows herself to be the protector of and companion of the prisoner or monk, who is confined to the Tower for one reason or another. Under the symbol of the bolt of lightning (as well as the Eagle), she is the architect of release from the "sleep" of the incarnated soul, effecting the salvation of the endangered individual. Alchemically this is the result of a progressive heating of the soul in the alchemical furnace, until every attachment to gross or astral 'matter' is shattered, releasing the locked-in Light. This parallels the Lightning Bolt that cracks the heart open in Boehme’s visionary synthesis. This is the point when all the hardness, dryness, fixity, resistance, and immovability of the Father-spirit are pulverized, forcibly liberating the soul from its immersion in time/space and forcing a radical re-prioritization of its focus. Some might see this as the lightning-bolt that ejected Lucifer (the day-star) out of heaven, parallel to the flaming sword that drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden in the myth of the Fall. From this view, the Lightning is the punishment for hubris or excessive self-regard, correcting the tragic failure of humility.

We must remember that the Lightning has been known to descend even at times when the innate self-pleasure principle (the Devil) hasn't done anything particularly wrong. Sometimes just being the nail that sticks out beyond the rest is enough to attract attention and therefore correction. There are also karmic reasons why, at certain points in life, one is treated to the electro-shock therapy of the Lightning. So often, Judeo-Christian religiosity fails to allow for any speculation along those lines other than guilt and atonement, which we have already seen in the Hanged Man. But in fact, with Major Arcanum #16, one might appear to be crushed and ruined in the falling of the tower, when in fact one has been discreetly escorted out a back door and away from the site of disaster by a sudden stroke of luck. Whatever the outer circumstances , the net effect is a total restructuring of one's relationship with the manifested world.

The solidity of the stony structure that so often appears in the image can cause us to forget that the active force in The Tower card is elemental electricity. When the Tower of the Alchemists appears, we are observing a carefully-crafted experiment for collecting and grounding the ambient "wrath" (friction, irritation, tellurgic static) that naturally accumulates in the landscape. Such a Tower when built by a magical practitioner can serve as a lightning-rod and esoteric energy-collector, protecting the landscape by attracting the Lightning and channeling it through the sealed vessel and then safely into the ground. As far as Boehme was concerned, such an Act of God cannot be either provoked or controlled, but neither should it be dreaded. The Angelic Brethren understood themselves to be creating conditions that would be conducive to receiving the Lightning, which they interpreted as opportunities to liberate themselves from the binding constraints of the ego.

With the Tower, we are in the reactive stage of the descending trine of this septenary. Over time our life experience can accumulate into a rigid edifice that begins to constrain the individual it belongs to. Even a life well-lived can, after much repetition, densify and solidify until it encases the Mystery of the Peacock Angel in an unyielding containment vessel. We think we "know something" now, and that thinking hardens into belief, which we then mistake for the Final Word. This impression arises because while we were in the (inflated, exalted) Devil state we lost perspective on the necessary descent at the other end of the Bell curve. A soul that hasn't learned the lesson of willing self-limitation will eventually lean too far away from its center of gravity and become subject to Nature's inevitable correction. Earthy Capricorn's ruler Saturn, the Karma Lord, will bring on the Lightning to blow off the inflation and restore balance to the creation.

In the Tarot of the Holy Light, when the soul has matured enough to survive the process, the Finger of Fate penetrates the veil between worlds and delivers the spark of liberation to the Alchemical Vessel. When this happens, something from the larger life of all Humanity takes form in collective consciousness. It is an exalting moment, but also humbling in the extreme. Now we must face the fact without divine support, we tiny human individuals are helpless, outclassed, revealed as hapless creatures of luck and circumstances. Nature is no respecter of individuals! The Tower makes it clear that if we have not contributed to the larger labor of human evolution, all the steps that have gone before Major Arcanum #16 avail us nothing. Our greatest individual accomplishments can be wiped out in the blink of an eye, erased without a second's notice. In fact the Great Work is utterly impersonal, so much so that it repels ALL those who have failed to purge the "I-me-mine" out of their thinking. Only the radical enlightenment delivered by the Lightning can completely pierce the veil between the worlds and liberate the Divine seed in matter.

Those who can survive a cosmic bolt out of the blue and come through the experience whole are few and the blessed. Most folk fight tooth and nail against the realization that 95% of the things humans stay busy with amount to little more than a pile of stacked stones, which a stray lighting bolt from the Divine can upend in one shot. Finding the Devil, the signifier of great inflation, immediately followed by the Tower, signifier of instant deflation, delivers a very distinct and bracing message. The fact is, you can develop yourself into the greatest magician, the greatest seducer, the greatest redeemer or whatever else seems powerful to you. As long as you are useful to the larger whole, Spirit will not interfere with you. However, if at some point you accumulate an intense ego-charge and inflated sense of self- importance, you are magnetically courting disaster.

Self-importance marks the soul as ripe for the Lightning, which is a sure remedy that puts the overgrown ego to rout. Until we have graduated from this planetary incarnation, we will be repeatedly tested regarding our distorted idea that one of us might be more important than another. Without the whole tribe, even the whole species, pooling our resources and sharing the wisdom gained from hard experience, we lack the open-minded understanding to grow towards a sustainable future. Being seen as the "top dog" in a militaristic hierarchy might look good from some peoples' momentary point of view, but spiritually and culturally it’s a disaster, and that’s what this card is speaking about and confronting in the individual ego.

When the Tower appears in a spread, it signifies the emotional or cultural equivalent of an electrical storm crashing through your neighborhood -- this is a violent and destructive episode in the short term, but in the long term it allows the over-concentrated energies to discharge, and in the process inseminate the landscape with fresh potentials. There is no knowing in advance whether this will be a grand tragedy or a quickly-passing dance with fate. Generally, whatever is not either well grounded or deeply buried is fair game for the Lightning, also known as the Finger of God. When the card is reversed, it might imply that an Ivory Tower of detached theory and educated speculation that lacks practical experience is about to fall. It might also point to the protections erected by the renunciate or recluse, who walls himself in to impose spiritual discipline and exclude worldliness. The reversal of this card could also reference the tower of imprisonment, indicating liberty's loss. At minimum, there is always an experience of shock with this card, which sets us back for awhile and requires that we reorient our point of focus closer to our true gravity-center.










17 Star

Letter: Peh (P) = Mercury
Path: between Gevurah and Hod
Quality: Grace

Here we see the newly-awakened Soul, freshly in possession of the purified (astral) body, beginning to explore the New Heaven and Earth revealed after the lightning strike of Major Arcanum #16. She is bathing in the Astral Light, exquisitely sensitized to the invisible world, while blessing the earth and its waters. The veils separating the Soul from its eternal identity have been lifted. Major Arcanum #17 symbolizes the eighth or starry sphere beyond the visible planets, the final limit of human experience (according to antiquity) verging on the borders of Heaven. The enlightened Soul is shown dispensing the "moist light" of Sophia, which the terrestrial waters will circulate throughout the earth. Possession of this Light identifies the individual as an immortal. This Light also illuminates and aligns the astral chakras (microcosmic cognates of the Planets of the Solar System), freeing the soul from compulsion on the Wheel of Time.

Now that the soul is finally disentangled from its illusions and delusions, the Star reveals what the ego would never be able to find on its own. We have reached the third point of Light on the final descending triangle. More rightly put, this is the third amplification of the impulse of Light showering into matter. This is Mercury as the Virgin Earth, the infinite potential of the intuitive inner life that informs the personal, subjective 'feminine' side of human experience.

Research in the early iconography of Alchemy shows that, following Hermetic premises, the earliest alchemical texts described and illustrated the "Philosophic Mercury" in feminine form, while the "Philosophic Sulphur" would be envisioned in the masculine form. It was from the varying admixture of these polarized substances that the alchemical metals were thought to emerge. (Alchemy’s third term, Salt, was finally named described and integrated as a "medicine" by Paracelsus.)

In Major Arcanum #17, the Mercurial soul is freed from the compulsions of the previous two Major Arcana -- the demon of desire, and the prison of karma. As is often the case, the greatest of spiritual liberations can only follow after some kind of breakdown process, after which we are liberated from both our excesses and our deficiencies. Thus unburdened, the soul is free to bond with Life and respond to the moment without any preconceived program. It's as if the slate of memory had been wiped clean, but the wisdom and maturity gained through aeons of human experience is simultaneously made available. The individual self goes into remission, and the transpersonal self takes over, bringing her quicksilver power of mythic reinterpretation, which in an instant can change the destiny of any mere mortal.

Finally, our past accomplishments and identifications no longer "protect" us from the opportunity for true spiritual growth!

The alchemical stork watching over the soul makes a reference to chastity, attentive care, and peace. In Hebrew, the stork's name literally means kindness, referring especially to the stork's tender nurture of its young. Their migratory habit allows them to symbolize harbingers of another world, along the lines of the Ibis or Crane. This stork is a guardian and guide to future evolution up the planes of consciousness. It serves as protector and companion for the Alchemist, who might otherwise feel alone under this star-studded, velvet sky. Its posture suggests an immanent ascension as it springs into flight.

The Tarot of the Holy Light fills the sky of Major Arcanum #17 with the Pleiades or Seven Sisters of Greek mythology. This is an open star cluster at the end of the constellation of Taurus, associated with the Spring Equinox in Babylon of the 23rd century BCE. Regarding the Pleiades, Cirlot says "Both Hebrew and Hindu traditions see in these stars the image of the septenary as applied to space, to sound and to action." (A Dictionary of Symbols, p. 248). He is referring to the light and sound spectrum, both of which express in repeating cycles of 7, with the eighth color band or octave note being a restatement of the first at a faster or slower frequency. In traditional astro-anatomy, Taurus is associated with the harmonic sequence, music and the throat-chakra. Mercury, of course, is associated with speech, tone, note and word. When we realize how important this combination of ideas is for motivating invisible energies into manifestation, this combination of symbols takes on extra weight and poignancy.

Additionally, shining through the Sisters from the opposite side of the Galaxy is the (invisible) Spiritual Sun or Galactic Center. This design for the Star card symbolically links our current moment in time with the spiritual renewal foretold for this era by the Maya, the Vedas, Islam and the Egyptians, according to historian John Major Jenkins (see Galactic Alignment by; Bear & Company, 2002). 0ur solar system's current passage through this quadrant of intergalactic space is aptly compared to the Devil - Tower - Star sequence in the Major Arcana. As the alignment marks the depth of the Iron Age or Kali Yuga, the path forward points in an evolutionary direction again, inviting a corresponding reversal of consciousness. From this point forward, those souls who have forgotten their origins in the Light will be called back to themselves during the unfolding of the next 13,000-year cycle. This cosmic drama is playing out in the consciousness of every creature embodied during this pivotal era (roughly from the 1975 to around 2021). All the souls presently embodied are participating, carrying humanity across this turn-around period, and in so doing, completing lifetimes of self-development work!

Some versions of Major Arcanum #17 show a butterfly coming out of a cocoon, possibly even taking wing. This is a long-time symbol of self-initiation and the second birth, which for some can be accomplished while still alive. It also symbolizes the awakening of the truly spiritualized higher nature. This is another direct association to Mercury as a messenger between the planes. At this stage, she doesn't work through the collective mind anymore; her attainment authorizes her to function as an independent agent. Finally, halfway through the final septenary, we experience the true freedom of liberation from the bounds of ego with the awakening of the higher mind, communicating and receiving purely, without filters, immersed in higher frequencies. In this magical landscape she is unburdened of all physical and psychological defenses, free to stand forth naked in eternity, purified of the need for veils, armor or inhibitions.

In the situation of The Star reversed, it might be best to consider the bone-deep vulnerability of this tender soul in the magical landscape. Arrival at this point of consciousness can only be won by successive divestiture from all false identifications and inhibiting structures. Like a chick stepping out of the shell that encased it, she must learn to discriminate everything anew, as if for the first time. Her only protections are the impeccable Star in her aura, and the Stork sent by Spirit. She calmly holds her center even under the scrutiny of every celestial eye. Nakedness in ancient symbolism means "nothing to hide"; therefore having all of her upper chakras open to the sky declares her psychic condition of utter surrender to the Divine Impulse. How many of us can fully open ourselves to the urgings of life, with no blocks and no denial to limit the scope of the engagement? Because she brings no ego-agenda, her entire body is awake to the Cosmic situation, pulsing with the cosmic alignment of our times. No part of her private self interrupts her communication and communion with the entire Creation. One cannot know where this renewal of spiritual orientation will lead, but one can at least strive to handle one's part in the outworking of destiny with grace.












18 The Moon

Letter: Tzadi (Ts) = Aquarius
Path: between Netzach and Malkhut
Quality: House of Friends

This is the Twilight, the magical crepusculum, the luminous darkness that is the doorway to the Dreamtime, where we are instructed by the Voice of the Astral Waters. The Sublunar realm is the realm of the Pips, which represent the Laws of Matter that govern events on the surface of the Earth. In the gathering darkness instinct battles intuition, and our more civilized aspects must either spontaneously combust or wash away in the rising tide of feelings and sensitivities. Only a person who is conscious in their Unconscious can navigate here. The Moon rules the elemental sphere immediately surrounding the Earth, and is the feminine compliment of Saturn, the Old Testament Jehovah of wrath and control.

At this point the Major Arcana move on to the fiery trinity of earthly manifestation that rises in response to the incoming Light. This final fire trine forces Matter to reveal the Divine Hand at work. The descending triangle (Devil, Tower, Star) has stripped the soul of all its defenses and revealed its innermost thoughts, forcing the aspirant to conquer his or her fear of the inner demon, fear of worldly collapse, and fear of nakedness before the eye of God. Now, at this first step of the ascending Firey triangle, the sublunar realm or Unconscious (Moon) struggles to contain and reflect the Aeonic radiance without collapsing from the inadequacy of matter to express the dictates of Spirit.

As in most oft-repeated versions of The Moon, we see no human protagonist. We simply see the moon herself, full and occult, calling the tides and dripping with mystical light. In the landscape stand two castles with towers, the larger of which seems to be abandoned and crumbling, the while the smaller, close one is still whole and sound. The Septenary Star upon the castle to the right tells us that the individual who has cultivated their inner balance is protected and safe, despite the seeming chaos outside the walls. This is the Memory Castle of the western esoteric master, within which has been gathered all of the Wisdom imparted by the Holy Spirit since the Incarnation. Those seekers who take refuge in the castle will find a thriving hive with the Priestess as their Queen.

In the background, a path or road between the opposites leads off into the distance. Meanwhile in the foreground a bay or inlet fills up at high tide, and a crab crawls out of the waters. Two fighting dogs struggle for dominance, signifying the tension between the feral animal within each of us, versus our acculturated modern servility. Those with copies of the oldest packs might also see drops of 'celestial dew' falling (or rising!) in response to the Moon, another hint about its power to stir the Waters and move the creation through the collective dreamtime.

All references to "moving the waters" carry a double meaning, because behind them stands the Hebrew doctrine of The Tzimtzum. This refers to the time before Creation, when the unmanifest Idea of creation was still hidden in the void of the deep. In order to open an arena wherein creation could take place, God had to exit the void and carve out a realm that would become the Cosmos. This process is manifested for humanity in the Kabballah Tree, said to be the pattern that God inscribed through a series of emanations. When the process of emanation was complete, out of compassion for humanity's nascent free will, God retreated and left us in possession of a neutral, un-impinged creation. What becomes of it now is left up to us. This is the essence of the Tzimtzum. Now we can better understand the drops rising towards the Moon in the oldest cards -- it's not just the Moon drawing the earthly tides, but also the pull-back of the Solar radiance to make space of human development. Just like the parents of nearly-grown children need to give them space and refrain from overshadowing the child's growth, so too does God take a hands-off approach. This is not because we have been abandoned! It is a grace, a mercy, in order to give us some space in which to make our own mistakes.

In the meanwhile, let us not miss the Theosophical pun that is built into this card because of its name and it's correspondence to the Hebrew letter for Aquarius! Remember, Boehme's 7th Property is the Moon, and when it finally fuses with the other six Planetary Properties, it closes the circuit between the signs Cancer and Aquarius, to complete the final union between heaven and earth. Boehme tells us that we won't find anything new in the 7th Property, rather it represents the awakening of "ensouled matter" in the material cosmos after Sophia has fulfilled her wish to penetrate every particle with the moist Light of her celestial dew. In short, once The Star (the Great Hexagram) has appeared in a person's aura, that person can rest assured in their immortality, meaning that he or she will be "going home to God" when this incarnation is over. This is the meaning of finding the sign of Aquarius on the Moon card. One's primary identification is no longer limited to the Earth, but now is opening to include Eternity. This is not to make the sublunar realm (our earthy world) wrong or inferior or infernal, only that it represents the human incubator for immortality -- we came here to hatch and fly on, not to stay here forever and identify with it perpetually! The Moon in the Tarot as well as in Boehme's system provides the reset mechanism for the eternally-rotating sweep of the Planets, to return the soul to its original estate once the lessons of incarnation have been gained.

This haunted landscape and darkened forest provide a perfect mirror of the soul that is discovering reality beyond the body’s outer senses. Learning to navigate the astral planes is not for the faint of heart! This existential loneliness of the soul is the biggest test of all the Major Arcana, it’s what stops us from claiming our immortality as a birthright. We cringe away from the arid austerity of those dark heights and the depth of space facing us, while we suffer from crushing doubt about how our private, individual experience could possibly matter to the vast cosmic plan. The people who thrive in this environment are true argonauts of consciousness. Only the special soul who has no fear of eternity can embrace the Moon's opportunity for open-ended "being", despite the lack of guarantees or safety nets.

In all likelihood when this card comes up, one is still unsure of one's own boundaries, still catching up with the significance of incoming perceptions. The Moon’s scanty but suggestive light might show a path through the landscape. But to make real progress, one must avoid falling victim to the dramatic extremes on all sides-- high tides, creepy-crawlies, haunted towers and fighting dogs. Any tendencies we have to revert to a feral mentality (to lose control, beg for rescue or howl in rage) have to be settled before we set out to navigate this territory. Those who have experienced the landscape in their daylight expeditions, and therefore possess the courage of their convictions, might attempt the passage, while the rest can just take shelter in the shadows and wait it out.

In this sense, the Moon card reversed would signify a landscape deprived of the Light of God, a truly agnostic universe where impulse and instinct fight for dominance. In this landscape, the soul who lacks an interior Light to guide and orient him or her will devolve into an animal and come unstrung. In such a condition Major Arcanum #18 is attributed the Siren song of Nature, the Call of the Wild, as in Lord of the Flies. Here we meet the final test of the Major Arcana; the test of one's self-rulership in the absence of outside intervention. Many sources will refer to this episode as the dark night of the Soul. This type of experience stimulates our childhood fear of parental abandonment, only at the existential level, in relation to God. The soul raves through the landscape like these agitated dogs, hovering at the fringes of consciousness, feeling lost and riveted by an ignorant fear of the dark. We feel alone and forsaken in an alien landscape where even familiar guideposts seem to mutate in the unstable light. The Moon card signals childhood's end for the soul, and the quintessential gnostic dilemma. The message for the mature and fully-formed soul is; "Do not depend upon receiving Light from your environment, but become a Light unto yourself."










19 The Sun

Letter: Kuf (Q) = Pisces
Path: between Hod to Malkhut
Quality: House of Enemies

Here we meet the spirit of Apollo, the Sun, figurehead of the planetary corps and leader of the Muses. Light and sound comprise Apollo's domain; he can pass freely through the Underworld (12th House) armed with nothing but laughter and music. Here he symbolizes the individual ego, backed by its astral constitution as portrayed in the birth chart. Apollo’s presence presages the fulfillment of our individual dreams.

In the second stage of the Fire Triangle, the Sun provides the joyful counterpart to the Moon's dark but fertile matrix. The union of these two accomplishes the fusion of the Hermetic Androgyny inside the self. In Major Arcanum #19 we witness the final union of all opposites within one’s nature. Some packs will emphasize the idea of a meeting of soulmates with romantic connotations (as we see in the Tarot of the Holy Light), but that is by no means the limit of the Sun icon’s meaning.

The ancient myth that Plato put in the mouth of Aristophanes teaches that when humanity first appeared, we were two-sided, and came in three genders; male/male, female/female and male/female (androgynous). This version of humanity was very powerful, which started to make the gods feel at risk. Zeus disempowered them by splitting them in half, and forever after the human individual has gone through life feeling incomplete, searching for its missing other half. The story of broken soul-fragments incarnating to find each other again is also the extra-biblical story of Sophia and Christ co-redeeming the world.

Like all gnostics, Boehme feels keenly the loss of his feminine side, his personal Sophia. The myth is that Sophia withdraws from the individual when he or she clings to an external gender-identification for the sake of attracting sexual activity. This is the very technical sense in which Boehme and the Protestant Sophianics claim to be Virgin -- they want to return to their androgynous, undivided original form, relinquishing identification with the world's cliches of gender identification. Inspiring a spontaneous self-sufficiency, The Sun illustrates a soul that is ready to lay all gender acculturation down, and simply be.

One could easily describe this angelic state as whole-brained in contrast to the split brained-state most people occupy and identify with. In this light, the union going on in the background of Major Arcanum #19 represents the reconciled heart and mind, the dream self and outer-world self, even the Mother and Father pillars in the energy-body. The intertwined lovers stand for the resolution of all personal dichotomies in a full acceptance and celebration of our personal uniqueness and multidimensionality.

The Sun Arcanum represents the first-fruits of Initiation, a realization of true, conscious freedom for the individual soul. This is not the dark and unconscious freedom of Chaos, which had to build itself up into an anxiety of wrath in order to boil it's way into Being. Instead this is the self-aware freedom of the resolved and tinctured Light, which offers immunity from guilt, fear and the existential dread that haunts every unawakened individual. With Major Arcanum #19 the seeker leaves behind the mortal worldview, which includes shedding the limits of any externally-defined construct, whether sexual, social or religious. In this newly-unified state the individual sees and participates in Eden directly, acquiring its own evidence of the restored Garden, at least insofar as his or her body's constitution can support this experience. The Sun icon testifies to a surge of prana, life-force or kundalini, often symbolized as cosmic drops raining down from the sky.

Major Arcanum #19 represents the soul having graduated into an incorruptible state of unity and wholeness which resembles gold in its shining purity. No longer in danger of breaking down into a lesser by-product, one completes ones androgynous integrity. Here we encounter states of mind that resemble lucid dreaming, in that the magical universe and ordinary self-awareness are literally conscious of each other without the experience of oppositeness. This erases our ancient cultural programming, which taught us to live within an either/or worldview, left brain or right brain, but never both at once. The Sun fuses the dream self and the lucid waking self permanently at three levels: in the world of things and beings, at the psychic level of the inner life, and in relation to Eternity. This is quite a victory, worthy of celebration!

Historical Tarots show different images, depending on their era. Often there is either a single golden-haired child, or alternately the Gemini twins, riding the white horse of the Logos and carrying the Sun. At other times two children play in a garden, protected by a secure wall while being bathed in the Solar effluent. These two represent humanity's future, destined to fulfill the promise that Adam and Eve supposedly abdicated. Other packs show the two as mature man and woman, raising the possibility of alchemical tantra. This could also be an inner event, wherein all the lifetimes as a woman and all the lifetimes as a man finally merge together into full conscious within the individual. In the Tarot of the Holy Light, we represent this idea by showing the divine couple embracing outside the Paradise garden, while Apollo moves freely through the landscape purifying everything his searchlight beams touch. Even as the previous years' leaves crackle underfoot (this is the sign of Pisces after all), Apollo causes the new growth of spring to burgeon all around.

If there is a challenge that accompanies this card, it will be our ego's fear of our soul's true identity, in particular our responsibility to give back to the creation. In an expanding universe we will be continuously tasked to increase our capacity for response. Now that we have passed the Moon card, we know there is no "oblivion" we can hide in. No soul can remain stuck within the ego's self-referencing worldview forever. Arriving at this androgynous Light is not an ending, in fact it's the beginning of a whole new mode of living. Imagine gaining access to the wisdom of ALL of one's egos, ALL of one's sins, ALL of one's learning experiences across a thousand lives! Only an awaked soul can laugh and sing past the graveyard of human folly, becoming fully reconciled with all the pain, suffering, grief, horror and oblivion that we impose upon each other as we grow in self-awareness.

For this reason we have put Apollo in the foreground, standing outside the Paradise fence. Let him serve as a sign of release from limited, programmed self-centered thinking. His cheerful music grants freedom from victimhood and the forgiveness of sins, ours and everyone else’s.

20 Judgment

Letter: Resh (R) = Saturn,
Path: between Tiferet and Yesod
Quality: Peace

Here we see the divine dove of election appearing over the globe, embracing all the world in its wingspan. The dove symbolizes the descent of Sophia into the World. With its appearance, the immortal soul awakens from its sleep in the grave of incarnation. Consciousness distinguishes itself from Matter in response to the Aeonic announcement. Releasing all focus on the transitory field of time, the soul casts aside the Ladder of Lights (the bindings of the Solar System and the Wheel of Time) to recognize the truth of Being. The self, the Spirit, the Call and the Angel are one!

In the Judgment icon, which I fondly call Resurrection, we see the completion of the responsive, fiery materializing trine. The achievements stabilized with the Moon and the Sun Major Arcana allow the individual to solidify a platform of consciousness that was only hinted at in the cards preceding this moment. Saturn holds the reality-tester function of demanding demonstrable knowledge of manifestation and demanifestation, as is consistent with his role in the ancient solar system as the Ring Pass Not. He is the final arbiter of whether one can leave the plane of time and space, or whether it is required to ride the Wheel of Incarnation once again.

What we see illustrated is the awakening of the power of the Word, the (often internal) magical voice. This signifies the individual achieving control of his or her vibrational frequency, which supports ever-more-subtle attunement and true change in the expression of matter. Major Arcanum #20 is a revelation of the resonant magical power of the Logos, which in the traditional biblical story is the sonic weapon used to win the Battle of Jericho. Here the soul comes into a set of capabilities that are commonly considered to be beyond human ability. This whole final septenary introduces energies that transcend the world we are accustomed to. Bad becomes good, exaltation leads to a terrible fall, then we wake up naked in the cosmic Night. The Void sucks at our soul until we pop and disclose our own interior Light, perhaps for the first time. Only after we have resolved all of our opposites, have identified with every error and have forgiven all transgressions can we finally face Saturn and the release of the living Word. With Major Arcanum #20 we finally reveal what in ourselves is truly "made in the Image of God", capable of fulfilling the divine mandate, versus the parts we have let go of, being no longer responsive to the call of eternity.

Theosopher Jacob Boeme was extremely sensitive to the dichotomy of Saturn, who is both the paternal source of eternal protection and support, but remains still the potentially crushing force of Karma that binds the soul in time. Saturn’s expression depends entirely on the way a person uses their power of choice. In Boehme's understanding, Saturn stands for the fulminating Wrath of the Father-force boiling out of the Unmanifest, which unleashes the rest of the Source Spirits and manifests the Creation as we currently experience it. Saturn is a condensing force like gravity, like entropy, which slows down and crystalizes energy into the forms of matter. When this Word is unleashed into the landscape of consciousness, those souls that are still in debt to the Karma-Lord are unable to slip out of their material shells and follow the Call. Which are fully mature, on the other hand, will have the innate development to hear the Call, as well as the cumulative self-cultivation to respond appropriately.

To state this more plainly, Saturn's effect is to rip through the astral ground-of-being with a super-low frequency karmic earthquake. In the process he shakes apart those structures that are used up, flimsy or non-sustainable. This releases the Light that has been trapped in the transitory forms of matter, liberating it for return to the One. Saturn is no respecter of individuals, nor can one bargain with one's karmic debts. When the trumpet blows, we each are revealed for who we truly are.

This Major Arcanum comes to the 20th century clothed in the trappings of the biblical Last Judgment, including the angel of the apocalypse. Gabriel comes down from the sky and blows the proverbial trumpet, unleashing the new Aeon with a blast of his horn. At this eternal moment, everything that has a limited time/space identity discorporates. (Hence the Kabbalistic attribute of "peace" for Saturn; discordant energies are shattered and dissolved, after which a single harmonic-rich tone pervades the scene). Despite its seeming destructiveness (for the unready), the Call attracts and elevates those whose energies are compatible with the eternal OM. In this way, the quick are separated from the dead in the old parlance -- those who are ready to rise beyond the Ladder of Lights and become citizens of a larger and more enlightened cosmos are permanently separated from this plane and moved on to greener pastures.

Once this Call has been sounded, the soul has permission to pre-empt any material reality that holds it back or inhibits it from the fullest expression of its divine potentials. From this location in consciousness, every form of resurrection that you can imagine is possible: making up for lost time, reawakening of faculties that have fallen into disuse, the return of past and future life memories, even the abolishment of time and space itself. As we ascend into this wide-open firmament, one is restored to one's eternal identity, to "the face you had before you were born". Transcending all previous identifications, we effortlessly flow into alignment with the divine invitation. In some versions one sees the whole world bathed in the Violet Ray (or the unique energies of Galactic Center). Somehow the solar system (symbol of the personal astral body) achieves a state that is at one with the heart of creation. One is finally redeeming the inheritance connected with our divine nature from the vault of matter.

At this stage of the process, those souls that are eligible for eternity have such a strong basis of psychic integrity that they are unafraid allow their repressed and hidden subconscious factors come out and show their full colors. This is part of the significance of the souls’ awakening from the tomb: one is released from all the socio-cultural inhibitions that were imposed just to make us more easily manipulated, more tractable by external forces. As the individual soul opens up to its natural power to wield the Logos, the Holy Word, all the hidden potentials of the human species -- all our secret powers that have been slumbering in the collective consciousness – come back online and make themselves available to us. This is the glyph of our resurrection as individuals and a species, becoming conscious again of the Planetary organism within the larger Body of the Cosmos.

The only warning attached to this card, which could be construed as a reversed meaning,is that the price of responding to this Call will be to lose everything from your former self. Anything less than full commitment is inappropriate given the opportunity on offer . In fact, what stands to be gained is infinitely more valuable and desirable than what would be lost, in the larger scheme of things. If you can't give an unconditional YES to this energy when it appears, then be truthful with yourself and let it go completely. The greatest sin in response to The Sun stems not from rejecting the opportunity, but from failing to bring it into clear focus, being ambivalent and undecided in a way that wastes the opportunity for everybody involved.








21 The World

Letter: Shin (Sh) = Fire (Living Light, radiant energy)
Path: Cranial crossbar between Chakmah and Binah.
Quality: Mutable, stirring, expansion of Heaven/Space

The World shows the fullest realization of Sophia saturating and awakening the Creation. Her catalytic presence is announced by the letter Shin and the element cosmic or astral Fire. The fierce and relentless letter Shin pumps astral volatility, heat and excitation from God’s imagination directly into the physical world, imposing the divine agenda upon the helpless material substrate.

Scripture tells us that Sophia/Wisdom was present at the Beginning, ARCHE, which makes her the co-creator of the Archetypes, the prototypes or "first forms" of matter. Like a good mother, Shin imposes Logos (meaning Reason and Order) upon the chaos of matter. The pain and suffering that results forces the creation to evolve and become more conscious. Logos is one name the theologians used for the Heavenly Sophia, God's Light, co-Redeemer (with Christ) of all time and space. As such this Icon enthrones the infinitely recombinant Celestial Virgin of the World (Kore` Kosmou), Bride of Christ in Eternity, the Platonic Anima Mundi, the World Soul, our Mother Earth.

With the World card we reach the goal and consummation of the three septenaries, which is to mediate the awaking of heavenly Spirit within human form and in the world of matter. The World icon summarizes the collective Goddess traditions of Antiquity, by enshrining the weaver of the web of life, which intertwines the frequencies of light and sound into the slower, denser frequencies shaping matter.

Because of Sophia’s exalted status as the Mirror of God's Wisdom, the seeker or Magus studies at her feet. Her legacy comprises all of the sacred arts and sciences catalogued in the western Mystery Traditions, which were then symbolically condensed into the Tarot. The aspirant seeks everywhere for knowledge that leads to communion with the Virgin of the World. That longing, desire and yearning for communion attracts her personal attention (sometimes called the Moist Light). Over time studying Sophia’s legacy, and by exposure to all the forms we have seen her assume in the sequence of the Major Arcana, the seeker slowly becomes re-virginized and angelicized. Eventually the soul reestablishes its original unhindered divine Nature, at which point Eden opens within the heart. By this means, the World card holds out hope for all compromised souls at every level of personal development. We can each reach Sophia from wherever we stand!

Like God, of which she is the reflection, Sophia exists at the center of all extremes, facilitating a collapse of all opposites into the androgynization of consciousness. This pulse between the All and the One was first described as the coincidentia oppositorum by Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher. The term was later revived by Nicholas of Cusa, who used it to illustrate his "doctrine of learned ignorance" in the spiritual life of the Holy Fool. We see many instances of the same idea playing out in the art of Alchemy as well. The gobsmacked alchemist can only fall to his or her knees in awe at the spontaneous gnosis that rends all veils and resolves all dichotomies. Sophia's all-one-ness transcends any limits brought by consecutive time, psychological history or collective evolution. As She opens us up to ourselves, we simultaneously increase in knowledge of the Whole, until we finally awaken to the Monad, the unlimited field of living Light that seamlessly supports the intuitive, interior life of all souls.

The World is envisioned in feminine form because that signifies a high order of intuition and responsiveness to the needs of Life. In the radiant Light of Shin’s astral fire, we come to know ourselves as the Great Mother knows us. Major Arcanum #21 grants the revelation of our spiritual purpose, our Prime Motive, and the special gifts we have been granted to fulfill it. Here the Monad redeems humanity from being locked into our perpetual opposites, harmonizing all the individualistic frequencies into a single grand and glorious living chord.

And here’s a mystery that has puzzled many a Tarot researcher: The World provides a perfect viewpoint on the Major Arcana as a coincidentia oppositorum. Taking the Major Arcana as a story, the unfolding plot starts with Aleph (the Magus, shaman or alchemist), a sovereign individual who chooses a path that leads beyond the plane of normalcy. Once he comes awake to humanity’s abysmal self-ignorance, the Priestess can lead him along through the 19 subsequent levels of development to Major Arcanum #21, where the two re-appear as Sophia and Holy Fool. This much seems obvious, yet when we correspond the Major Arcana numbers to their traditional path-letters on the Kabbalah Tree, the same Major Arcana lead us downward towards materialization, from the head of the Tree to the foot. This is a paradox of illogic, but it’s a perfect representation of the spiritual situation. A dual circulation is always happening in the Major Arcana -- the Magus climbs "up" while Sophia climbs "down". Better said, even as the soul evolves "up" the ladder of lessons described by the Major Arcana, spirit penetrates "down" the Tree, precipitated as drops of heavenly dew and manna, from the celestial state to the terrestrial state. Humanity ascends the microcosmic socio-cultural ladder while the Light descends the macrocosmic steps of the Ladder of Lights. The two impulses, both moving along the vertical axis between heaven and earth, meet here in the World Card, in the "divine body" of the Virgin of the World.

This is of course what the Tarot has always purported to do -- to grant humanity a map of consciousness by which we might route our evolution and encounter our highest self in a staged and sane process. At each step of the way we are granted the guidance of deep historical wisdom and spiritual insight that challenges us to live up to our opportunities. This body of teachings illustrates the meaning and value offered by the twists and turns of fate -- especially during those times in our lives where we cannot control what is happening to us. What we can control is ourselves, our reactivity and stuck thinking. By studying Sophia and watching her ways closely , we can render and recast our human experience in the mold of the Virgin Of The World. And I pray, dear reader that this happens for all of us in our lifetimes, because with this transformation at a personal level comes transformation at a planetary and species level as well.

If the upright World card represents the reunion of heaven and earth, the reversed card could signify the lack of this healing convergence. Major Arcanum #21 reversed might point to a failure to awaken, the negative spiral of addiction and denial, or being thrown back onto the Wheel of Incarnation with imbalances unresolved. One might feel trapped within implacable attachments and the Ring-Pass-Not of NO. Spiritus Mundi is Boehme's name for the wrathful and consuming force of the old-Testament Jehovah, the "great constellative world spirit" that entraps us in our natural and karmic consequences. This is the Father of nature, Boehme's Abgrund, also known as the Mysterium Magnum, the magical fire-eye of ardent wrath/love. (Think of the consuming rage of the 2-year-old trying to get Mommy to do what it wants!) One could also identify the reversed World with the Turba or Astral Tourbillion, also known as God's Finger of Correction, which moves like a hurricane through this world disrupting whatever it touches. The World card reversed is the devouring and possessive graspingness of matter and the senses, source of endless appetites, which can drag the soul into karma-inducing misadventures forever.












22 The Fool

Letter: Tav, Tau (Th) = The Sun
Path: between Yesod and Malkhut
Quality: Life

Here we see Freher's presentation of the Holy Fool or Fool for God, the redeemed and awakened Seeker who has used the "doctrine of learned ignorance" to contain and diminish the Hell realms within himself. This Fool may be "enlightened" (filled with Solar, Lunar and Stellar Light), yet he orients his energies towards this chaotic and unfinished world to serve as a protective and healing influence. At his best he serves as a willing agent of Sophia's moist light.

In the worldwide phenomenon of shamanism, a certain domain of human consciousness is devoted to experiencing reality outside of our time-space references. The name for this state and the cultural significance of it is reinterpreted for every society, but the core phenomena remain. Those who develop their subtle sensitivities can actually occupy a point of view that transcends both linear time and psychological time. This platform of consciousness aligns us with all realities simultaneously, so that a move made in one world (whether it’s the terrestrial world, the intellectual world, or the celestial world), is a move made in all worlds. A realization accomplished at one level is accomplished at all levels, past present and future. This is the domain occupied by the Fool for God, who bears the Sun and symbolizes the soul standing outside of time, contemplating its options.

Remember that the Fool in his earliest historical manifestation had no number whatsoever, meaning that we have to look at the relatively-modern Zero as an overlay on the older archetype. Our Fool is the Spiritual Franciscan's Fool for God, the Holy Fool who, like a member of Gichtel's Angelic Brethren, lives exclusively in and for the Holy Spirit. This Fool has access to the entire eternal storehouse of infinite potential, but that is only possible because he does not abuse his position by unduly squandering it in meaningless action. Standing within the Wheel of Time (the Moebius strip containing the Zodiac), the Fool averts his eyes and allows his active, willful chakras (on his right side) to rest. The 'naught' that he represents is his refusal to donate energy to the roiling Chaos under his feet. The Fool confines all of his acting and reacting to the interior world of his own consciousness, his own mythic imaginal. The outer world plays around him, the hellfires seethe, the Lights and Planets come and go overhead, and the barking dog of daily concerns nips at his ankles. But the Fool remains focused on the interior Eden, taking his cues from the Father, Son and Sophia constellated within his energy-field. All this is possible because of his humble and yielding attitude.

Thus Major Arcanum #0 takes refuge within a reborn connection with untrammeled Divinity, meditating on its ever present option to descend into matter. The Fool knows full well that doing so would release a chain of consequences that will drive it through another karmic round on the Wheel. Standing at the threshold of incarnation with the best of motives, the soul realizes that stepping into Time and Space immediately raises the risk of losing consciousness to the worldly fray, and thus forgetting its divine mission. The issue for the Fool is not whether he will or won’t throw himself into the flames one more time to “save the world”. The real prodigy of the Fool’s realization is that he has a choice, and his choice is to re-enter the world and then surrender his Will to Sophia.

Major Arcanum #0 represents a Mystery that is at once the end and the beginning. We know that the Major Arcana sequence represents a cycle, each card stemming from the last and leading on to the next. Therefore any sense of an end is merely an appearance -- in fact the Fool links the culmination of the World to a new beginning with the Magus. In this way the Fool represents the state of in-between, a pause between acts, or between incarnations.

Looked at another way, this Fool is the occasionally-visible particle that occasionally pops out of Sophia’s vast invisible energy-field. Like the Sun, it centers and organizes all the other members of the Solar System (the Signs, Planets and Elements -- meaning all the other Major Arcana). Those who have seen Manly P. Hall’s diagram of the Major Arcana arranged in Pythagorean-pyramid shape superimposed against the backdrop of a giant Fool card will recognize another variation on this theme. The Fool puts a face on the cosmic administration, a momentary puppet on the hand of Sophia. He has become a willing and egoless tool for the Holy Light.

In microcosm, the The Fool is a western yogi, caught in a moment of contemplation, looking to the Solar System within. In some decks he is drawn as a grotesque to ingrain the idea that he is different in a significant way. He has achieved the Tincture (of androgyny) and has constellated the Trinity within his heart (Mars/Venus), his will (Mercury/Jupiter), and his root (Saturn/Moon). His right side, (which in a worldly man symbolizes ego-centered action) is dormant, meaning that he has surrendered his powers of Wrath. He has ceased defending or offending as a way to get things done. He prefers to work within what Divine Will commands, and to devote all care and attention to the labor of healing the world and returning Love back to Deity. (One can consider this a powerful “tell” of the depth of spiritual feminism practiced by Boehme’s angelic brethren!)

The Fool's only aspiration is to serve, share and perform his practices in humble gratitude for love's sake only. His self-cultivation ceaselessly lifts up the fallen ones with the revelatory power of Sophianic compassion and understanding. His immediate surroundings demonstrate the temperament, complexion and natural climate that he creates with his own thoughts. Understanding himself to be a microcosmos within the World, he exercises his resemblance to God by enclosing his outer senses and opening his 3rd eye (which we see with the Jupiter symbol on it). Despite the churning that ceaselessly rises from the incomplete nature of the temporal creation, the Fool is no longer prone to mistaking the outer world for the plane of causality. Like a seed waiting to sprout, he is now a representative of Heaven on Earth. So he waits, and listens, and only moves when he is shown the opening by Sophia. This keeps him free to follow his inner Lights, whether he is guided to re-enter the throng of the vast human hive, or to move on to another position within the great web of life.

In the earliest chapters of the excellent testament to the Tarot written by Harriette and Homer Curtiss (The Key of Destiny and The Key To The Universe, published by Newcastle; Hollywood, 1983, but first publicly printed in 1915), there is a systematic presentation made that addresses the interrelated symbols of the Zero, the circle and the Sun. These two books are devoted to the Gra correspondences to the number-letters, as we see in El Gran Tarot Esoerico and it's cognates (again, the Spanish group of Continental packs.) Those who investigate these sources will find the individual Major Arcana, as delineated by Curtiss, show the switch between Mars/Venus and Jupiter/Sun that I have mentioned as part of the Spanish or Greco-Muslim subgenre of the Continental family.

Despite those differences, the Curtiss' introductory chapters provide the perfect explanation of our Tarot of the Holy Light Fool. These early chapters also set the context for the numeric logic that is unfolded through the full set of Major Arcana and Pips. (This is a body of ideas that all Continental Tarot practitioners should review, whatever nuances of correspondence they follow.) Here is a paragraph from Chapter 2, which perfectly delineates the spirit of the Fool in the Tarot of the Holy Light. In the places where the word [circle] appears in square brackets, one should visualize a perfect geometrical circle, rather than a numerical Zero or the letter O.

"The circle also represent the Garden of Eden which contained everything that would be needed for the growth and unfoldment of the as yet un-manifested man or Adam, the number 1. It was into this great encompassing [circle] or Garden that 'the Lord god' (the 7 Elohim) put the 1st man, made in their 7 fold image, 'to dress it and keep it'. In the midst of this Garden was placed the Tree of Life which, astronomically and astrologically, is the sun with all its life-giving powers in the center of the zodiac, or the Dot in the circle. As applied to man, the Tree of Life in the midst of his 'Eden' (body) refers to a deep mystery which, when understood its fullness, will, as the gods said, make him 'become as one of us' (the Elohim) a perfect [circle] knowing the good as well as the evil or both halves of the [circle]. Man upon the physical plane stands in the center of his circle, which reaches up to the realm of the Gods and also sweeps downward into the nether worlds. Hence, ere he can manifest in and master his complete [circle] he must, like all Saviors, descend into the hell of matter and become the Savior of all the lower kingdoms, ere he can ascend into the higher realms or reenter Eden… (p. 29-30)

In light of the above, the reversed Fool is the one who will not stop, pause, and take heed of the Divine leading. He isn’t capable of lending his potentials into the evolution of The World. He has somehow arrived at a major turning point but is unwilling or unable to transcend his ego and do the right thing. Terms like default, immaturity, blank slate and empty bucket come to mind. This false start causes a reset in the whole process. By failing to ask the right question, even success can be turned into failure.