First let me take a moment to address in part my feelings about the Tarot. I don’t practice magic, or use Tarot for prognostication. I regard the Tarot, similarly to how I regard the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, with a combination of intrigue, and respect on the one hand, and skepticism and trepidation on the other.
I think the images in the Waite-Smith deck in particular have a truly majestic quality that reverberates deep in the psyche. The images convey a wealth of meaning. Numerous inferences can be made about them. They contain powerful lessons about our own consciousness. I find investigating them to be very fruitful, and elucidating because I think they are emblematic of psychological processes and states.
Waite, in his own words, drew a lot from Eliphas Levi the 19th century French mystic, but I’m sure other sources as well. Levi is a man with a questionable background, a pattern to which all-too-many initiates into the mysteries share. Many people shrug off the notion of darker elements practiced by some of these organizations as simply misunderstandings or bad publicity and propaganda, and while I suspect this is in part true, I also consider there to be a distinct possibility that darker, more corrupt practices do take place, and that the more visible societies are recruiting grounds for others. The Tarot being a part of this initiatory process can’t be entirely separated from it.
I guess I see it as a tool that can help explore the psyche, investigate your own soul, but as a tool it can be used to befuddle the mind, or even imprint subliminal messages. It is easy to believe you’re the magician when in fact you’re playing the fool.
Moving on to The Hermit, the IX card in The Major Arcana…
His image stirs up many allusions, father time, Moses on the mountain, A druid, Diogenes of Sinope with his lantern looking for an “honest man” I think it was, Or Nietzsche’s madman who draws upon the image of Diogenes, and later his Zarathustra, high on his mountain casting a shadow over all of Europe. The image also reminds me of Socrates for some reason, father of western philosophy, working from his high axiom that he knows that he knows nothing, illuminating to us the notion that there may be worse things than death.
I mentioned the axis of the earth with The Chariot, yet I think we can see allusions to it here also with the old man standing in the cold with his staff placed like a pole and the lantern raised with the star in it. Could it be Polaris the north star? Perhaps this man carries with him some great axiom. If so, he is quiet, hermetically sealed. Looking down on humanity, but it does not appear as though he’s judging it. is he sleeping? I don’t think so.
The pursuit of wisdom and understanding can be a lonely path, dark, cold and desolate, the hermits path. It is a journey through your soul that no one can take for you, so hold your lantern high and follow the light it emanates, and remember that while it is your lantern, the light is its own presence. Follow the path long enough and behold, for the devout seeker, going inward, will gain insight. This is what The Hermit conveys. With enough insight perhaps you will be able to perceive the world as from a high mountain top.