HIEROGLYPHS OF THE SOUL
One way of understanding the Major Arcana of the Tarot is to imagine them as representing in succinct form the septenary philosophy of the major planets of the zodiac. Viewed this way, the Tarot becomes an extension, or an artistic elaboration of the western esoteric wisdom of Astrology.
The seven major planets are Mercury, the Moon, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and the Sun. Let us tackle them one by one. Mercury represents communication, interaction, dynamism, commerce, the exchange of goods, discourse between equals, movement, mobility, two-way exchange of goods and services, as well as the lower mind, the thinking animal and all forms of interactional dynamics. The Moon, which is considered a “planet” in Astrology, represents something hidden, any subtle thing. Whereas Mercury would represent the obvious then the Moon represents the not-so-obvious. So, realities like incubation, mystery, secrecy, the esoteric realm and anything that is kept under wraps is under the purview of the Moon. There are paradigms in the esoteric realm where the Moon represents the dormant Yin, or the hidden female. In these paradigms, Mercury can be postulated to represent the developing Male, represented by the mystical force of Yang.
Venus in Astrology represents the desire principle. It is something we would like to have, or any tangible object we would like to acquire. It also represents the tangible, or practical realization of any transcendental principle made form. It is the realization of any eternal principle in the lower planes of matter. For example, Harmony is an eternal principle. The practical realization of Harmony in the material plane would be domestic bliss. Thus, Venus represents all those eternal principles that enchant the mind, or captures its attention. On the other hand, Mars in Astrology represents the executive principle. It is the desire translated into action. It is the use of force to shape something in nature. It is the active, dynamic transformation of reality to suit the needs, wants, and desires of the Observer.
The next zodiacal planet to consider is Saturn. Saturn is the exponent of time. Thus, it represents the changing of the seasons, as well as the lessons learned through experience. Some say Saturn is the taskmaster of the zodiac, and indeed it is, for lessons are thoroughly absorbed by the Learner only if it is learned the hard way. Therefore, we can say that Saturn is the contraction principle. In contrast to Saturn, Jupiter is the expansion principle. It is the area where serendipity, synchronicity, nature, hard work and the Eternal Principle all combine to translate a certain arena in the life of an individual into a veritable work of art. Finally, the Sun, which is considered another zodiacal planet, is the summation of what has gone before. In other words, is the sum total of experience. It is the final product when the Learner, going through the alchemical stages finally reaches a form that is pure, magnificent, and whole. The undeveloped learner, or the learner in potential, becomes through the mystical experience of the Hero’s Quest the mature Learner, or simply the Hero/Heroine. Now, let us journey through the triune stages of the mystical quest as represented by the Major Arcana of the Tarot.
The Lower Octave: Alchemy of Self
The first seven stages in the Major Arcana are reflections of the seven planets in the arena of individual consciousness. They are illustrations of the journey of the Hero from the unrealized to the realized, from the dreamer to the Awakened.
The MAGICIAN is the lower octave of the Mercury archetype. It represents the learner in potential. In every human, the potential to be the Hero is already there, consisting of the four elements representing the dimensions of personal experience: fire (existential), air (mental), water (psychological) and earth (physical). Thus, it is incumbent upon the Learner to discover for himself how to use these materials in order to awaken his Higher Self. The moment of Awakening is a combination of both active and passive processes.
The HIGH PRIESTESS is the lower octave of the Moon archetype. It represents the Female principle operating in individual consciousness. In humans, this would mean that anytime we encounter a challenging event to go deep within ourselves to find the resources of strength that will allow us to unravel the strands of Fate and overcome the obstacle posed by Destiny. It is the anima as a counterpoint to the animus. Since the active male is the normal mode of the human, then its opposite the female expression is passive.
The EMPRESS is the lower octave of the Venus archetype. It may represent the stark sexuality of the human. Also the full range of biological resources. It also represents all the investments we would like to make in order to improve the capacity of these individual biological resources in order to evoke Beauty. The Empress is passive in the sense that the full range of biological resources is already there, just waiting to be awakened.
The EMPEROR is the lower octave of the Mars archetype. It represents individual use of the executive function inherent in the nature of the universe. It is the intelligent management of biological, psychological, mental and social resources. It is also the manifestation of the active manipulation, expression and transmutation of energy. Hence, it is dynamism at its most forceful, activity at its zenith.
The HIEROPHANT is the lower octave of the Saturn archetype. In the individual consciousness, it is the environment which offers the greatest learning parameters as well as the instrument of those learning parameters. Saturn is the great teacher of the zodiac. In the astrological chart of the individual, this would represent the capacity and opportunity for higher education as well as the religious of mystical philosophy (if any) which is the driving force in his life.
The LOVERS CARD is the lower octave of the Jupiter archetype. The benefits of love and romance as an inspirational tool for the development of individual consciousness are well known. This would also represent any beneficent force acting in any sphere of the querent’s life. This is a principle of balance, operating and utilizing both active and passive forces. The eternal principles of Harmony and Symmetry are brought down into the level of individual consciousness. The human is thus given a peek of the fruits of paradise.
And now we arrive at the CHARIOT. It is the lower octave of the Sun archetype as well as the summation of the previous stages. Here the individual has learned to utilize all the gifts, talents, powers as well as challenges of the previous stages. He has achieved the summit of ego development. This is the individual who can now enjoy the fruits of his labors. But, all the benefits of these first seven stages are translated most clearly into personal ego development so the Learner must be careful to understand that instead of representing the finality of the Quest, the Chariot is a reminder that there are other stages that the Hero must hurdle in order to reach the Summit of the Mountain.
The Middle Octave: Alchemy of Time
The next seven stages are a completely different process. They represent the peregrinations of the soul in its search for the Infinite. The soul explores the Infinite through the caverns of time. In these Intimations of Mortality, the soul learns to align itself with the workings of systems greater than itself and comes to learn Virtue. At the same time, it is exposed to the rhythms of things greater than itself and comes to learn of Power. But power is finite and mortal and this is the greatest lesson of this stage.
The STRENGTH card is the middle octave of the Mercury archetype. It represents the capacity to integrate the animal nature and the spiritual nature. Here strength is not the use or manipulation of force as described in the Emperor. Rather, it is the ability to understand that there are two opposing natures in the human being, the lower as well as the upper. Consequent to this realization is the understanding that real strength is the ability to integrate these two forces in one whole seamless system. Integration, not disharmony is the key to strength. The associated cardinal virtue is, of course, strength itself.
The HERMIT is the middle octave of the Moon archetype. It is the intelligent use of incubation in the development of a person. Life is a dance of two opposites, yin and yang. Activity and quiescence. Anytime a person is using periods of quiescence to improve his wellbeing, then he is communion with the powers of the Hermit. And the Hermit is incredibly powerful as a guide to self-mastery. The associated virtue is hope.
The WHEEL OF FORTUNE or Lady of Fortune is the middle octave of Venus archetype. Indeed the desire principle and the lady of fortune would seem to go well together. The important thing to realize is that fortune is a cycle, as played out by our mother planet in the seasons of life. Cycles come and cycles go; life is a wheel of fortune. The individual must not forget therefore that whenever he is down, there will always come a time when he goes up again and vice versa. The associated virtue then is charity.
The JUSTICE card is the middle octave of the Mars archetype. Here we should reflect not so much on the application of force into the structure of matter as described in the Emperor but more on the understanding of the nature of energy. Any use or misuse of energy will have attendant ramifications. When man’s ego is predominant he uses force as a matter of course. It other words, it is like the first option that he constantly uses. But with greater maturity and responsibility, he comes to realize that all forms of energy manipulation have consequences. Others would call it karma. It is simply the nature of the universe to attain a state of harmony and implicit in Harmony is the balance of force. The associated cardinal virtue is, of course, justice.
The HANGED MAN is the middle octave of the Saturn archetype. Saturn is the great teacher of the zodiac and experience is, of course, the best way to teach. In the cycles of incarnation, man learns the great lessons of life. When man attains a sufficiently deep understanding of the mystery of the incarnation and evolution, he will come to realize that this “imprisonment” in the planes of matter is really a voluntary one.
The DEATH card is the middle octave of the Jupiter archetype. Here we should understand that it means transformation of all kinds. Transformation is ultimately beneficent because it is the signature of evolution itself. How can a being evolve if he cannot transform himself? How can a man realize his Higher Self if he cannot transform his Lower Self? And how can the Hero/Heroine realize his/her true nature if the base qualities within that nature are not transformed? More than anything, this card epitomizes very clearly the alchemical quest. The associated virtue is faith.
TEMPERANCE is the middle octave of the Sun archetype as well as the summation of the second series of stages. The soul who has learned to integrate his two natures and understood the significance of enduring the cycles of incarnation achieves a different kind of summit. Here is the soul who is beginning to understand Divine Wisdom. For he is able to see that the stages of the ascent actually help to improve the process of transmutation. The associated cardinal virtue is, of course, prudence and temperance.
The Final Octave: Alchemy of Immortality
And now, the Hero begins the final stages of his journey. After conquering his ego (first stage) and submerging it to serve a greater cause (second stage), he begins to take the journey which will eventually cause him to transcend the ego and unite with the eternal processes on the way to union with the Infinite. The Fool who has begun as a Magician will graduate as a World Dancer!
The DEVIL archetype is the highest octave of the Mercury archetype. In group consciousness, it represents the tendency of a fractal system to glorify itself at the expense of the whole. This tendency is latent in individuals, groups, and even in ideas and systems of thought. In many ways, group consciousness starts with a set of disparate systems. But then it begins to merge and thought time, cohesion slowly appears. Egocentricity slowly paves way to sociocentricity but this process is a painful one. All beings and systems are polarized and the sacred marriage of the polarity inherent in all systems is the beginning this fusion. Thus, the lesson of the Devil archetype is directed at systems attempting hegemony and the implications of such egocentricity.
The TOWER or SHATTERED CITADEL is the highest octave of the Moon archetype. In its truest expression, it represents the contact between disparate two systems of thought or two asymmetrical forces or energy systems. A very mysterious card of incredible potency. The true meaning of this card is its invitation to contemplate Asymmetry! Whenever two forces interact, there is always the threat of annihilation or conquest by the weaker side. Because, whenever two systems interact, the weakest links of both are revealed to the surface. Thus, it ascribes a mantle of responsibility on both sides of the equation to be aware of this eventuality.
The STAR is the highest expression of the Venus archetype. No longer just focused on the material realm, it is the definite call to partake of the garden of paradise that is present in the higher reams or dimensions. The Star archetype encourages us to contemplate the full beauty of the Cosmos in all its dimensions. It also represents all the investments we would like to make in order to improve the capacity of all kinds of resources in order to evoke Beauty. The Star archetype is the veritable call to connect with all that is. It is also the elegant expression of the connection between the Higher Self and the fractal soul.
The MOON is the highest expression of the Mars archetype. Here we should reflect not so much on the application of force into the structure of matter as described in the Emperor but more on the understanding of the nature of energy. Any use or misuse of energy will have attendant ramifications. When man’s ego is predominant he uses force as a matter of course. This is also a representation of the power of the subconscious world. Potency resides both in the known and the unknown. The Moon archetype has access to the full potential of the human mind. This is referring to the mind that is open to the Conversation between Order and Chaos. The receptive mind understands that Order and Chaos are two sides of the elegant symmetry of the Cosmos. There is always the known, which is balanced by the Unknown. We should not fear the forces of the unknown. Rather, we should cultivate the capacity to be open to new experiences, in order to have the mental and spiritual fortitude to enter the realms of Chaos once in a while, there to partake of the hidden wisdom of Ultimate Reality.
The SUN is the highest expression of the Saturn archetype. In the individual consciousness, it is the environment which offers the greatest learning parameters as well as the instrument of those learning parameters. Saturn is the great teacher of the zodiac. The wandering soul which has gone through all the phases of existence reaches a maturation state where it can display its full brilliance. This is the phase of the Sun! It is the efflorescence of the individual fractal soul that underwent the learning trials of Life to emerge into the clear panorama of blissful existence. In the domains of Psychology and the Social Sciences, this is called the stage of self-actualization.
The JUDGEMENT archetype is the highest expression of the Jupiter energy pattern. The transformation that began in earlier stages reaches a crescendo. Transformation is ultimately beneficent because it is the signature of evolution itself. How can a being evolve if he cannot transform himself? How can a man realize his Higher Self if he cannot transform his Lower Self? And how can the Hero/Heroine realize his/her true nature if the base qualities within that nature are not transformed? Taking everything into consideration, Judgment is about transcending the lower octaves of our nature to unleash the higher melodies of our soul and spirit. To undergo the archetype of Judgment is to undergo redemption itself.
The WORLD or WORLD DANCER is the highest expression of all the archetypes. Here the individual has learned to utilize all the gifts, talents, powers as well as challenges of all the previous stages. He has achieved the summit of ego development. This is the individual who can now enjoy the fruits of his labors. This is the Fool energy that has gone through all the stages. This is the Fool that has navigated the perilous portals of existence. The being is transformed by living through the manifold dimensions of the Third Density. This is the energy that is unleashed in the Ascension process.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.