Life’s Only Promise

It was a sunny day here in Columbus, Ohio.  I was able to work in my garden tilling the soil. Soon will be a time to plant.  I’m not skilled enough to sow seeds, but I would like to become so.

The beauty of gardening is that it brings you in touch with the cycles of nature, the changing weather, the waxing and the waning of the seasons.  The forces that drive these processes: growth, preservation, and decay can be seen in an hour, a day, or a year.  The lessons of gardening can be effective metaphors for considering one’s life, and inevitable death.

The destructive principle has within it, like the yin yang, the seed of creation, just as the creative principle carries the seed of destruction in its womb (why else does the spring cry so much). Death clears the land so that it may be transformed by rebirth. A rebirth that is new, and different, yet self similar: fractaline. It is this similar yet different continuity that perpetuates the lesson of life, and the culmination of purpose.

This doesn’t make the existential reality of death any easier.  It is a heavy load to bear for we humans. We have an intense foreknowledge of its inevitability unlike any other animal (though perhaps no better comprehension of it), and this is what makes us heroic figures.

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The initiate who faces the dark night of the soul, considering penance for his actions or inactions, shall eventually come to face the idea of his own mortality.  It is common to fall under the spell of the fear of death, especially if you smell his ashy flower. Instead one must find his inner child, looking bravely with a young eye, and perceive death as an apocalypse, an unveiling to an internal mystery of one’s purpose.

A kind of Learning

Whereas yesterday’s card was Justice, today is penance.  The young man is bound to the tree, perhaps it is the tree of life.  Bound to this life we must take responsibility for our actions.  Yet the young man has no actions. He is inactive. Tied by the foot he is not swinging like a pendulum back and forth anymore but has found comfort in the neutral position.  The position at rest.  When you are in a bind struggling will only send you back and forth in the karmic cycles. But coming to rest, you will find the mind light up.  Perhaps in this state of balance one can call on more profound forces within him, or beyond him for solace.  The background is grey as if the sun is somewhere close to dusk or dawn, the sun facing behind the man, who rests facing the dark.  And what is this dark staring back at him…

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And Justice For All…

Moving into the second half of the Tarot, Spring was born again today after ten days of winter.  hopefully nature is coming into better balance and we can experience the growing season.  Everyone is passed ready for it.

The image of The Justice card is very traditional, drawing upon Iusticia, I believe her name was, the Roman goddess of justice and where the word comes from.  This same goddess is Libra in the sky watching over us from afar, perhaps awaiting a return to the golden age, she is placed next to Virgo/Astrea, who correlates with the Tarot card, Strength.

As America I sometimes get the feeling like we don’t revere justice the concept, so much as serve justice the goddess.  In all our campaigns in so many theaters of war we are not bringing justice, but crusading. Justice has a violent side.  Perhaps this is what the raised sword in the Tarot card alludes to.

Merry Go Round

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The ten card (Actually the eleventh), half way through the Tarot, and The Wheel Of Fortune reminds me the most of a magical sigil.  The details are too numerous to note, but some significant ones would be the symbols of salt, sulfur and mercury, or body, mind and spirit, within the circle. And then the four corners contain the four corners of the world, or their representative entities, or the four gospels, or the carriers of the throne of God in Ezekiel’s vision, or Leo, scorpio, aquarius and taurus, maybe it represents all these things, and certainly suggests more even. They are bound to it, and I wonder if it is more than an illusion, but rather an actual attempt at a binding.  This could very well simply be my ignorance showing here, but the spell aspect of the card generates a concern within me.  It is a microcosm of my trepidation over the Tarot that I mentioned in the last post.  And it reminds me of a speculation I had when first beginning this series of posts that April fools day signaled some kind of initiatory process or spell that goes into a significant stage  when the sun enters into the house of Taurus, which is nearly upon us.  Of course, even if there was, I don’t know how I’d know.  Nevertheless I’m just putting the idea out there.

The card itself seems deliberately mysterious, and ambiguous, just like fortune itself.  Instead of focusing on fortune, the wheel that goes round and round, focus on your higher purpose, and bring your focus to the now, rather than to some arbitrary end that says, “this is fortune,” which will almost always be fleeting. I like the line in Watchmen, “Nothing ever ends.”

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Like The Chariot, and The Hermit, find the axiom and get off the marry-go-round of samsara.  Easy to say of course…

Overstanding

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.

More on this later.

Moving on to The Hermit, the IX card in The Major Arcana…

The Hermit

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.

The Magic Touch

I ended the last post with a comment about octaves.

This is going to be very short even though I have a lot to say. The Strength Card of The Major Arcana shares with The Magician card the eight/infinite character suspended over their head. While I think a lot could be said about The Chariot and Octaves, an Octave exists between The Magician and The Strength, A feminine card (feminine, for in actuality it is the ninth card). We See the lady holding and controlling a lion who is licking her hand.

I take many issues using the word Magician, because I think the negative connotations associated with the word magic, mage or magi, have their place, yet I think there is something to be said about the magic of nature, the beyond description of creation, which is for lack of a better word magical in many ways.

Magic in one case could be the movement of ones will into alignment with nature–the creative generative principle, rather than bending nature to one’s will; for, the will of man does not seem bound by external forces in quite the same manner that  other natural phenomena seem to be.

Strength in The Major Arcana is in harmony with nature, so can control the beastly force of the lion. She has the natural touch. Moving her will in attunement with that is other than natural, since the will is a different type thing than creation otherwise understood. It is a magical thing.

Celestial Purpose

The Precession of the equinoxes is marvelously slow, and it gives us the impression of a fixed position aligned with polaris that the universe rotates around. Yet it is not this way (or so I believe, but I am inferring a lot from my schooling). Instead, we are orbiting the sun, which orbits the galaxy, and I don’t have a clear understanding about the movements of galaxies.  The heavens are still and we orbit a crystalline, life-bringing  beauty that moves within the celestial seas.

In a different sense, the purpose that you set your life to appears to orbit around you.  The principles that guide your purpose are like stellar satellites that come into view at different hours or seasons, sometimes align with one another, moral reminders of how you ought to behave, how to spend your time, what you should be doing. Like a sailer of purpose we follow principles to a distant land we’ve only imagined.  There are no true maps other than the stars.

And like the real heavens it is we who orbit the heavens of abstraction, the heavens of purpose.  Feel the ground below you.  Feel your foundation that is what moves through the heavens.

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The great challenge is to build the right chariot. With the right axel you may ride towards your celestial purpose.

The eight pointed star on the victorious man in The Chariot, reminds me of the eight parts of the year: the  two solstices, the two equinoxes, and the 4 extremes of the seasons.  These are eight nodal points of distinct connection with the celestial cycle.  One is on its way now, Spring, Beltane (May 1st), Walpurgis night (Usually around April 19th).  This is a time where one can reconnect with the waxing power of the sun.  In ancient times it was significant to herds people, as a time  where the herds were driven out to summer pastures.  Perhaps this is why this time of year is symbolized with Taurus.

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Though the card shows seven it is the eighth card, the octave.  It suggests the music of the spheres finding the right axel for your chariot is like a coming into harmony with a divine music.

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Life and Knowledge

rws-vi-the-loversThat our most fundamental creative act, sex, is a sin is a mystery beyond me, though I don’t shrug it off as many perspectives would like to, engaging with the nuances of the principle of it endeavors into the very existential nature of man. Powerful interpretations of the Genesis story already exist, and I have little if any to add to the topic, but I will say this, as I watch the Spring struggling to be born out my window, the creative drive seems everything but sinful in nature; yet, www humans are not entirely bound by this nature. We are unique, and not just another one of the animals, and how we define ourselves existentially is important not only internally, but to the entirety of this world.

As it stands, the Genesis tale is a compelling rite of initiation into the world, that we must take responsibility for our knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong.  This is all-too-true, and the world suffers for a lack of responsibility.

The Lovers are cosmic forces, hinted at before, odd and even, the Empress and the Emperor, but now it is contained within a single entity of the Sixth Major Arcana. Six is a lucky number. Both the sum and the product of of six’s factors 1,2,and 3 is six, the first perfect number, so called in arithmetic.  Also the sum of 1,2,3,4,5  equals fifteen, and 1 and 5 is six.

The binding of two equilateral triangles into the six pointed star is often represented in alchemy as the fusion of the elements, alchemical nuptials.  The Lovers represents an internal process of growth and fusion not unlike the magic of the burgeoning of spring.  The unification of the masculine and feminine principles.

But The Lovers is the seventh card, perhaps alluding to the seventh day of creation where God rested. Here the creative choice, binding of the polarity, and transforming consciousness is our responsibility.

The Way You Seek

It is the growing season.  It’s trying to be. The cold and wind don’t seem to want to let up. In order to grow there needs to be direction. The direction of the sun shortens the shadows. In the light the vibrant energy can come out to dance.  The longer the sun shines the more heat begins to build up.  To grow it is necessary to have both the flowing life force and the severe heat.  this is true also for anyone who wants to cultivate himself. These directions are abstract ones, even esoteric ones in that they are invisible to all but internal experience. Such roads can be difficult to discover. It may be necessary to have a guide.  As the paths you take to gain direction for life are not material, the guide you may be looking for may be visible only with super-mundane eyes.  There are the four corners of the earth, and there is above and below, there is the past and the future, but there is also the pillar upon which these emanate. The principle of direction and guidance.  The Hierophant card in the Major Arcana is like this.  I’ve never responded well to the pope-like figure. To think of him as a guide figure is counter intuitive to me, but be careful where wisdom lies, seeing with super-mundane eyes means to look passed the world and familiar features and recognize the lesson being conveyed to you through signs, and be brave, gracious, and wise enough to accept a message when and where it appears. Do not kill the messenger.

The initiate seeks knowledge. The keys are before him and the Hierophant points the way.

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Conflicted Self

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Where this is going I’m not entirely sure.  If you ever stand before The Emperor though, be sure. Hot tempered and severe, what reason does he have to look at you? He is the Emperor. He has a commanding presence, suggestive of Jupiter or Mars, or perhaps the Nordic Tyr. The color and the barren landscape reminds us of heat, the burning force within us the seeks to lead, to control, to dominate forcefully.

We could use some of this fire now, as spring has faded back into the caves of tartarus, and it is bitter cold this month. A very mysterious April. The natural forces seem disrupted. We biological creatures all need our seasonal transformations. It is the natural initiation process of life forms.  There are biological rites of passage.  It feels as though an impediment is occurring in these forces, and that we are being guided to another threshold. What this passage is I cannot say, but the collective psyche is turbulent.  Many people are on edge. I get the sense as though the forces of nature are tense as well.

Conflict is arising over who will be in control. In this country,  The United States, political controversies amass within both parties, and towards the presidency as well. Here and abroad the threats of war signify underlying disputes over military international dominance.

But could these worldly conflicts simply be manifestations of more profound, unseen struggles for power over fundamental forces of nature?

There is a false dialectic that we must rule others or be ruled.  Most people deep down want an emperor to rule them, or to be emperor. Last post I commented about the generative energy, and with the Empress it creates abundance and growth, but with the Emperor the heat of the energy burns. Like the sun in the heart of the summer time browning the grass, the intensity of this energy has the capacity to annihilate, to wipe out what it has produced.  In the Tarot image water is just a trickle. One could imagine it evaporating right there.  All that remains is the hard stone throne, and the metal of the emperor.

In life we fearfully direct this energy away from us on to others.  The type who want a ruler cast this energy on to their idol, delivering to the their power. Those seeking to rule use this energy to burn down their opponents.

The initiate must reflect deeply, turning this energy on himself. The heat will purify the stone and temper the steel.  As the proverb goes, “Strike while the iron is hot.”  The Emperor teaches discipline in order that the initiate may come to rule himself.