I was in a deep sleep, and dreaming.
The Knight's Dream, oil painting by Antonio de Pereda, 1650
Note the Tarot cards on the table nest to the coins.
Antonio de Pereda , Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
I was dressed in a plain leather jerkin, with a white shirt beneath, brown leather pants and boots reaching to my knee with large flaps hanging down from the top.
Jane and I were in a large, high-ceilinged wooden-beamed room, like a cathedral, sitting in high-backed chairs facing a group of 30 or 50 people dressed as if for the Renaissance Fair. We were their guests. The leader of their group sat in a similar chair next to us. He leaned over and whispered to me that it was time for me to speak about the Tarot, for that was the purpose of the gathering.
Sagrada Familia Stained Glass
Ank Kumar, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
There was a window in the room, and that window, a mosaic of colored glass, contained a luminous image of the Divine Lovers, locked in an embrace of unearthly beauty and unending bliss. Behind them I could see two trees, and on the branches of one tree a white dove and a black raven. On the other tree I saw fruits that looked like diamonds, glistening as though wet with dew, composing a geometric diagram upon the living plant.
I became nervous and sweaty, and looked around for my notes. I found a folder with some poetry I had written 30 years ago, when I first began to study the Tarot, but I realized that it was not appropriate for this occasion. Still, I thought, I could read some of it.Then I began to search the area around my chair, and the table next to me, for other notes on the Tarot.
I became increasingly agitated as I looked, and realized that I had no notes. Then I found some notes, but they were sketchy, and somewhat esoteric in nature, not a coherent outline, much less a written speech.
The leader of the group said it was time for me to begin my talk.
I walked to a dais set in the center of the room and sat cross-legged, still sweating, and fumbling for my written text. Then I reached inside my shirt and found my notes a couple of folders filled with papers. I looked at them and realized they were worthless. I began to speak.
I said, Tarot is the Yoga of the West, the story of the genesis of the Universe, and the blueprint for the unfolding of the human spirit within an earthly body, and for the ascent of spirit to spirits highest home.
Tarot is Rota is Orat. The Tarot is a wheel (Rota) and the Tarot is the Word (Orat, like orate, meaning to give a speech, third person singular of Ora, Latin verb meaning pray, worship, adore, beg, ask for.). The Word is the Source of Creation. In the beginning was the Word.
Ace of Disks, Golden Dawn Tarot
The Word is a Wheel and the Wheel is a Tree. The Tree of Imagery is the Tree of Life and the Tree of Life is Tarot. Tarot is the Tree of Life and the Tree of Life is the Tree that gives us the true knowledge, which takes us beyond knowledge of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Tarot is the Yoga of the West.
I was still very nervous, looking around at all the people sitting very still like statues, sweating, and feeling self-conscious. I kept thinking that I was not doing a very good job of this. I cast about in my head for some wisdom that would be useful to these folk, who I perceived to be initiates, and thus fluid in their use of the Tarot, adepts with great knowledge of the cards and the spiritual system they represent.
The Tarot is a system of visual images, glyphs, or symbols designed to awaken our souls memories we bring with us from the world of spirit into this world of matter, and of course the memories we have of spiritual teachings we have received in our previous incarnations.
As powerful as these visual images are, they are but shells, for the true power of the Tarot is the power of numinous, numerical Truth. Tarot is the Yoga of the West. Yoga means Union, and especially the union of the self with the Self, of the individual with the web of life, of the soul with the Source of Creation.
The relationships between the individual Tarot cards reveal the secret sacred geometry of the Universe, and the secret blueprint for the microcosm of the human body, which is equivalent and analogous to the cartography of the entire Cosmos.
Macrocosm and Microcosm by Eliphas Levi
These relationships are expressed mathematically, but they can be grasped in their fullness through a simple exercise that requires little or no mathematical sophistication.
Simply place the cards in patterns of various kinds, and you will see the hidden relations between spirit and matter, soul and Self, self and Self, Self and Source.
You will understand the inter-related states of being that correspond to the various stages of creation, the various stages of the long and winding road that comprises the journey of human life, and the steps each of us must take to climb the mountain of spiritual aspiration to the very peak of enlightenment and Self-realization. The Tarot is the Yoga of the West.
Let us begin by visualizing the small cards in the deck. There are four suits, wands, cups, swords and disks, corresponding to the four elements of fire, water, air and earth. In each suit there are ten small cards, numbered from 1 to 10.
Herein is a great secret for understanding and self-transformation.
Nine of Swords, Cruelty, Waite-Rider Tarot
The nine of swords is cruelty, and when we are beset by cruelty, self-judgement, despair and sorrow, our desire is to escape these negative states of mind and emotion.
Yet the way out is the way in.
It is within our power to transform our own inner attitude, our own relationship to the events, thoughts and emotions that constitute the stellum of cruelty.
And that way leads us to the state of being described by the two of swords, which signifies peace, especially peace of mind, as the swords represent mental activity.
Two of Swords, Peace, Waite-Smith Tarot Deck
This is an example of a great mathematical and philosophical and spiritual law revealed in the Tarot. In every suit, the small cards represent a state of being.
The Trump cards represent a pathway between states of being, and more than that, of which we shall perhaps speak, and some of which we shall not.
The court cards represent personality types, fragments of the Universal Soul.
I felt that hopefully I was going to offer some useful information to this gathering of great beings, for now I so perceived them, as I became increasingly aware of the finery they wore, the jewels they bore on their collars and their cuffs, their fingers and around their necks, and the wise and learned demeanor they all assumed, men and women alike, in equal numbers, gathered round about the dais on which I sat cross-legged, in a half-lotus position.
However, I was beset by doubt and fears that this august company assuredly already knew and was totally conversant with the neo-Platonic number theory of Marsilio Ficino and its pagan roots, the pagan debt to the cosmic mathematicians of the East, specifically the yogis and holy rishis of ancient India, and thus with the rather superficial and rudimentary wisdom I was dispensing in my talk.
The Spiral Dance
In every case, in every suit, the one is equal to the ten, the two is equal to the nine, the three is equal to the eight. . .
Looking up from the bottom of the double spiral staircase designed by Giuseppe Momo for the Vatican Museums in 1932
As I was still speaking, the entire company around me rose from their seats on the floor and began to weave a spirited spiral dance around the dais, chanting as they joined hands, The one is equal to the ten, the two is equal to the nine, the three is equal to the eight, the four is equal to the seven, and the five is equal to the six.
I was nearly overcome with emotion, and my heart opened fully to this company, now smiling, even laughing, dancing, and chanting, around me, sending me the combined energy of their spiritual love and wisdom.
I continued to speak and as they danced, and chanted, I awoke from my dream . . .conscious of lying in my bed, next to my beloved Jane, in the crepuscular twilight of early morning.Yet the dream continued. I closed my eyes again and remained awake and asleep simultaneously, aware at once and the same time of two very different realities.
I felt that my talk betrayed me. I feared I was playing the Fool.
There was very little depth here, very little light being shed. How had my thirty years of training in Tarot deserted me that I found so little to say that captured the essence and the energy of this profound system of personal enlightenment?
I was a little chagrined, yet I found myself, in both the dream state, where I still sat on the dais, now surrounded by this company of adepts, who had returned to seated postures, and in my waking state, somnambulant upon my pillow, aware of my beloveds breathing and the contour of her face beside me, energized and suddenly filled with a luminous understanding and eloquence that doubtless came from the energy imparted to me by my august companions.
The Tarot is the Yoga of the West, a system for the obtaining of personal enlightenment and a system for visualizing the creation, the maintenance and the destruction of the Universe in its cycles of self-fulfilled existence.
Tarot is Rota and the Rota is the Wheel. The Tarot is a wheel. There are 22 Trump cards in the deck, and the true nature of these 22 cards can be understood by placing them in the form and shape of a wheel.
Tarot Trump 0, The Fool, Waite-Rider Tarot Deck
Take the card number Zero, which is the Fool, and the card number 21, which is the Universe, and place them before you on the ground.
These cards can be visualized as two sides of one hub, the hub of the Universe.
Place the other 20 cards in a circle around this hub, and consider the cards first of all as a series of groups of two.
Although there are many other ways to group the cards, and a multitude of other relationships that can be drawn between them in this configuration we will consider only this configuration today, because it is the configuration of the earthly journey to Self-realization and the achievement of Unity with the Source of Creation.
The Tarot is the Yoga of the West. You may also place the cards in a figure eight, and in other patterns that yield great wisdom, but these are stories for another day.
Trumps I through VIII
Consider cards number one and two. The One is the Magician and the Two is the High Priestess. These two are Divine Lovers, and they are wed on high, their union is a spiritual union, their offspring are offspring of the spirit and the soul, their children all of humanity.
Trump Tarot I, The Magician, Thoth Tarot Deck
The Magician speaks the Word, the Word is the Mantram, the AUM, which is the energy signature that sustains all of Creation.
Thus the Magician utilizes not the written word, although he is a Master of the Word.
His vision triggers his verbalization, and his Word is his bond, binding the disparate parts of the Universe into one Unity.
The Magician is the seer, the shaman and the storyteller, the memory of the community. He speaks the Word that proceeds from the image,and vibrates among the people.
The High Priestess is the Divine Mother in her aspect as Eternal Virgin, she who is veiled, yet she who would be seen. Yet he who sees her unprepared will be transformed into a beast.
Tarot Trump II, The High Priestess, Thoth Tarot
He who sees her truly, having been spiritually prepared for the experience, will be transformed from a beast into a deity.
She is the source of loving wisdom, the Sophia whose garden contains the pillars of creation, the twin pillars of the Law, with which she guides the growth and flowering of all Creation.
She is the fount of healing wisdom and the wielder of the bow of aspiration that launches the arrows of human will that bring about spiritual unfoldment when they strike the target she has visualized for them.
She is the artist and the healer, the memory of the community.
She fashions the images that spark the Word.
The next two Trumps, are Three and Four.
The Three is the Empress and the Four is the Emperor.
They too are Divine Lovers, but their love is a ferocious love, and it is subject to the fetters encountered in a love anchored firmly in the material world.
As the One leads the Two on the path of lifes evolution, so the Three leads the Four.
Tarot Trump III, The Empress, Thoth Tarot
The Empress leads the Emperor on the path of life.
The Empress is the fertile imagination that births and nurtures. The Empress presides over the creation of the fine arts and crafts that adorn the family structures she creates, empowering generations of offspring to build upon and recreate the patterns of birth, life and death her creations depict.
The Empress rules over the dark mysteries of birth and death, and initiates spiritual seekers into the symbolic meaning of the cycles of life, celebrating every season in the yearly wheel of life.
The Emperor energizes and organizes the interaction of the many families that constitute the community, fertilizing the group mind with the seeds of right human relations. The Emperor's will manifests as an energetic force that empowers and enforces the complex social relations that generate prosperity and progress over time.
The Emperor commands and directs the Universal Life Force energy that vivifies the mind, body and spirit, and therefore has the gift of healing touch, symbolized by the Lamb at his feet, representing Christ Consciousness.
Both the Empress and the Emperor are focused primarily on their interactions with the outer world, imprinting social relations among individuals, families, and larger groups with the structures, mores, values and goals they manifest in their constant creativity.
Tarot Trump IV, The Emperor, Thoth Tarot
Yet the Empress and the Emperor gaze fixedly upon one another rather than outward upon their life path. The Empress looks to the right, at the Emperor, and the Emperor looks to the left, at the Empress.
They are inwardly directed in their sprits, yet their activities in the world create social organization among the community around them, and thus, they become leaders of the community in its day to day activities.
Their marriage is the marriage of the imagination with the managerial will that organizes and establishes right relations among the various elements of Creation, or of the community of men and women.
Their marriage produces many children, yet there is an unresolved conflict between them that drives them relentlessly forward into the world, eternally unsatisfied with their relationship, with their creations, their offspring, and their Empire.
They are the instruments of progress through creative conflict.
On a cosmic level, through their marriage the Word and the Light begin to coalesce into the objects of matter, and the Universe expands through continuous sub-division.
The next two Trumps are the Five and the Six.
The Five is the Hierophant, and the Six is the Divine Lovers.
Tarot Trump V, The Hierophant, Thoth Tarot
The Hierophant is the Higher Self, the Superior Mind within each human being that transcends the egoistic personality, and thus transcends the rational mind, which is centered in that egoistic personality.
On a Cosmic level, the Hierophant represents the Wisdom and Love of the Divine Word and the Divine Light seeking self-expression and self-consciousness through the evolution of the Universe in its cycles of Creative becoming.
He is pictured as a Pope, a figure of authority wearing the robes of high office, and holding the keys to the spiritual kingdom.
The path of the Hierophant is a painful path, for the aspirant must discover and unite with his opposite sexual polarity, and unite with the love and wisdom of that Divine Angel represented therewith.
This is a very secret teaching, and cannot be fully elaborated in this lecture, but it can be said that the Hierophant must discover the Goddess living within his own heart and yield his own mind, and yield his own will to the sword of liberation this Goddess wields.
This yielding appears to the mind to represent a deep wounding to his sexual identity, which is why shamans and priests often exhibit an ambiguous sexuality.
Tarot Trump VI, The Divine Lovers, symbolizes the eternally blissful newlyweds, representing the duality that must be harmonized within a human consciousness to achieve the self-conscious, self-expressive Creativity of the Universe which is the flowering of the Divine Plan and of the Divinity within each and every human being.
Tarot Trump VI, The Lovers, Waiter Tarot
The Divine Lovers are pictured at their marriage ceremony, and they are overshadowed by a large Divine Angel, representing the Higher Self.
It is only through the mediation of the Higher Self, Christ consciousness, Krishna consciousness, or Buddha mind, that the dualities, the creative conflicts, the apparent limitations and sorrows of this Universe of life and death can be transcended and alchemically transformed into the true knowledge, the true being and the true bliss underlying the appearances of Being in this Cosmos.
However it is necessary for each individual to exercise discernment, choice and commitment before, during and after the Sacred Marriage in order for the promise of the Divine Lovers to manifest in our lives.
This is no small matter.
The Seven and the Eight are next.
The Seven is the Chariot and the Eight is Justice or Balance, pictured by the Woman holding the Scales.
These two cards represent the initiate who has succeeded in contacting his or her Higher Self and who has begun the journey toward conscious self-realization.
The Chariot can be pictured as the vehicle for this journey.
The horses are the body and the senses, the charioteer is the personality and ego-self and the body of the chariot the Higher Self, which now becomes the gyroscopic guidance system that will keep the initiate firmly and squarely on the path toward self-realization.
Tarot Trump VII, The Chariot, Thoth Tarot
This is why in the Thoth Tarot deck the Chariot is pictured with the horses turned into statues, and the Chariot itself connected to rails upon which the Charioteer rides in meditation, with his visor closed, seated in the Lotus position.
The Charioteer holds in his hands the Holy Grail, pictured as a spinning wheel, the microcosm of the Wheel of Fortune, the open heart chakra that is the true spiritual gyroscope that will lead the aspirant unerringly from existence within the dualistic vale of tears back to a blissful existence of Unity within the Garden of Eden.
The Grail serves humanity, and it is only with an open heart and through service to all humanity that the aspirant may pass back into the Garden of Eden, past the Cherubim with whirling circular swords, who guard that Garden day and night, preventing the passage of the uninitiated, the fallen who have been forced from Unity into the world of dualism, egoistic thinking, suffering and ignorance known as everyday reality.
The Eight of Trumps is Justice or Balance, and represents the continuous self-regulating system of equilibration that constantly brings the aspiring initiate into a dynamic balance with the energetic forces that constitute the ever-changing Universe.
Tarot Trump VIII, Balance, Thoth Tarot
This system of dynamic equilibration is equivalent to Divine Law, and the aspirant who has achieved the station of the Chariot has attained to a state in which more and more unity with the Higher Self, and consequently with Divine Law, has been established.
Thus the movement from the Chariot to the state of Cosmic Balance indicates a movement from a state of dynamic striving toward Divine Law to an effortless achievement of harmony with Divine Law, in thought, word and deed.
On a Cosmic level the Seven and the Eight represent stages in the unfolding of the Cosmos from its dualistic origins as Word and Light, spirit and matter, in accordance with the Divine Law that governs and regulates that evolutionary journey which manifests whole orders of being, from the fiery stars to the multi-elemental planets.
This unfolding Universe manifests the mineral, plant, animal and human kingdoms on the one hand, and the spiritual hierarchies of deities, archangels, angels,devas and nature spirits and individual souls on the other, all of whom undergo transformational births, evolutionary journeys, transformational deaths and rebirths as their energetic signatures move from state to state, kingdom to kingdom, proceeding always toward that ultimate self-conscious, self-creative Unity which is the Alpha and Omega.
Spirit descends within matter and material aspiration arises in human consciousness within the realm of spirit, to lead material creation upward and back to the Omega point, where the kingdom of Heaven appears on Earth and the kingdom of Earthly delights informs and vitalizes the kingdom of Heaven, all in accordance with the dynamic equilibration of Divine Law.
Trumps IX through XIV
The Nine and the Ten are next.
The Nine is the card of the Hermit and the Ten is the card of the Wheel of Fortune.
Tarot Trump IX, The Hermit, Thoth Tarot
The Hermit represents the aspiring initiate who has withdrawn his senses fully from engagement with the material world. He is imaged as a man with a long beard in a full cloak that hides his face, carrying a lamp in his hand, standing upon a mountain ledge far above the plain of human existence.
The aspiring initiate must light his own inner lamp through meditation, through conscious conformity with Divine Law, as expressed in the Seven and the Eight of Trumps, and through service to others.
Thus the Hermit's light, high upon the mountain, though not yet at its summit, offers those below him on the journey toward the mountaintop of self-realization a ray of light, a beam of hope, an encouragement to spiritual ambitions, and a guarantee that other aspirants on this journey have indeed successfully scaled the daunting heights that confront the person enmeshed in the activities of the egoistic personality, beset by the trials and tribulations of an unexamined life lived on the plain of human existence, constrained by ignorance and spiritual lethargy to a life of black and white, love and hate, life and death, joy and sorrow, as mediated by the untrained and unenlightened mind.
The reward for the patience, practice, and service of the Hermit is the vision of the Wheel.
Once the aspiring initiate has nursed the spark of inner spiritual light that dwells within each and every one of us to a full flame, and established an inner sanctum sanctorum, within which that flame can be fed and nurtured, safe and secure from the storms of egoistic mentality and the vicissitudes of life within the material Universe, a vision of the Unity of self and Universe arises spontaneously.
The Wheel represents the Wheel of the Tarot, and the vision comprises a simultaneous understanding and cognizance of the unfolding pattern of human life and Universal life, and their analogous development, symbolized by the cards and the images thereon.
Tarot Trump X, The Wheel of Fortune, Thoth Tarot
The Wheel represents the Web of Life, the inter-penetration of all things.
For none of us exists except as the crystallization of a field of energy, maintained and vivified by that field which surrounds us and interpenetrates our being.
In turn the energy field that births and sustains each one of us is inter-connected to the energy fields of all living beings.
We live and breathe, eat and grow through our mutual interactions with other living beings, sentient and non-sentient, material and spiritual, all of whom live within yet larger energy fields comprising the earth, the sky, the oceans, the planet, the solar system, and the stars beyond, the Universe itself, and the spiritual realms that are the energy field surrounding, birthing and maintaining our material Cosmic creation.
Further the Wheel represents the Wheel of Karma, the vast energy field of time as well as the vast energy field of Universal spaces.
We each exist within that Karmic energy field, inter-connected with spiritual beings and groups of individuals living on this planet today by virtue of our family heritage, cultural heritage, blood lineage, sexual relations, religious affiliations, business connections, national origins, ideological affiliations, friendship networks, and the groups we put ourselves in opposition with in the course of our earthly existence.
Further we are each inter-connected to our past incarnations, and through those past incarnations, to a myriad of sentient beings with whom we have had energetic relations over the vastness of time.
Insofar as our relations with those sentient beings, some of whom are incarnated in bodies on this planet at this time, and some of whom exist in spiritual realms, have not been fully equilibrated, or balanced, there is an unstoppable impulse to interaction with each and every one of those beings, which can only be fulfilled by achievement of equilibrium, and that equilibrium can only be achieved in the realm where the action originated, resulting in the typical human patterns of reincarnation, karmic affiliation and interaction, joy and suffering, love and hate, which operate to restore that equilibrium among all beings as they evolve toward creative self-conscious Self-realization.
The Eleven and Twelve are the next two Trumps.
The Eleven is called Strength or Lust, and the Twelve is the Hanged Man.
Tarot Trump XI, Lust, Thoth Tarot
Lust is Desire, and desire will perpetuate itself until death, or until through spiritual aspiration, meditation, and withdrawal from egoistic mind and sensory enslavement, the aspirant can achieve total surrender to Higher Self, to the Unity of the Web of Life and to the direction provided by the Universal Source of Creation. Lust is also the sexual energy which is the source and driving force within all that lives in this material Universe.
This energy is the universal life force energy sustaining all creation, and is called Shakti in the Hindu system of the yogis.
Lust cannot be denied, it cannot be repressed, or it will erupt in a volcano of negative manifestations.
The life force energy within each of us can however be redirected toward spiritual goals, rather than being directed toward egoistic self-gratification at the expense of others.
The difficult process of re-orienting the life force from service to the egoistic personality to the service of Higher Self, The Unity of the Web of Life, and the Universal Source of Creation is pictured in that most daunting Trump, the Hanged Man.
This re-orientation is the goal of all spiritual practices, both East and West. Seekers have used techniques such as meditation, fasting, prayer, ceremonial magic, vision quest, and even martyrdom to subordinate the ego, purge the Self of the mind’s illusion of separation, and attain the unity consciousness that is the fruit of this Great Sacrifice.
The Hanged Man also depicts the crucifixion of the body. This is the card of surrender, the card of death by water.
Tarot Trump XII, The Hanged Man, Thoth Tarot
Those who were crucified normally died a long, slow death from suffocation brought about by the collapse of lungs filling with water, as they found themselves unable to maintain an erect posture, sinking down with fatigue, increasingly unable to breathe.
Symbolically, it was through being filled with the element of water, which represents the emotional power of compassion manifest as unconditional love, that the ego of Jesus died on Good Friday.
The death of the ego is long and slow, and our ability to remain constant during this process of suffering and ego-death is made possible only by a constant renewal of faith. Yet as Jesus the Christ experienced on his cross of wood, every aspirant reaches a point where he or she will cry “My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?”
Each aspirant must rest assured that despite all feelings of despair and loss, the process is only purging us of the illusion of the separate self, the illusion that the egoistic personality is in control of our lives. Jesus the Christ remained Self-aware on the cross, in a spirit of total surrender.
In our spiritual practice, whatever it may be, we must also surrender to Universal forces far beyond the control of the egoistic mind, in a spirit of love, with a sincere desire that our sacrifice be offered for the salvation of the Whole, and thus we will achieve a great spiritual victory.
That spiritual victory is figured in the next two Trumps, Thirteen and Fourteen.
Thirteen is Death and Fourteen is Art or Temperance.
Tarot Trump XIII, Death, Thoth Tarot
Tarot Trump 13, called Death, refers both to physical death and to the death of the egoistic personality, which is an illusory death. For the personality remains after this death, but it is stripped of the illusion of control.
The aspirant no longer lives to satisfy individual material desires at the expense of others, or without thought for the consequences of actions upon the larger Web of Life that comprises the great Karmic Wheel of Existence figured in Tarot Trump 10, The Wheel of Fortune.
This is the death by water that is the culmination of the spiritual exercise pictured in Trump 12, the Hanged Man. As at the moment of physical death, the ego is submerged completely in the collective consciousness of humanity and the evolutionary record of all sentient beings incarnating over time on planet Earth.
This is the true baptism of water, and this baptism leads to new life, to a true rebirth of the spirit, the flesh and the soul.
This rebirth is figured in Trump 14, Art or Temperance. In this card, an angel is imaged, balancing two cups with water flowing between them, or overshadowing lesser figures of the Divine Lovers in the background.
Tarot Trump XIV, Temperance, Waite Tarot
This angel is the Higher Self, and the new life is a life lived in accordance with the dictates of the Higher Self.
Suddenly the aspirant discovers a new, vast creativity operating through him or through her, leading and directing the aspirant’s life in new directions. Through a series of miraculous synchronicities and felicitous encounters, this powerful force elicits flashes of loving wisdom, triggers acts of compassionate service, and fosters a continuous consciousness of the Unity that underlies the apparent dualities of material creation in this Universe.
This is the true spiritual marriage of the Higher Self with the egoistic personality, and once this stage of spiritual progress is achieved, the illusory dualities of male and female, love and hate, life and death are overcome.
For one who has achieved this spiritual initiation, it is possible to enter into love relations with another human being based solely upon spiritual partnership, and from that spiritual partnership vast energies of love and light radiate forth, illuminating material and spiritual realities simultaneously, extending unto the utmost periphery of the Universal Wheel,and working to harmonize all that exists within that Wheel of Cosmic existence.
For the spiritual aspirant this stage of development represents the flowering of the Higher Purpose which the soul most desires for this incarnation, and the unfolding of a series of interactions that will restore equilibrium to all those unbalanced relations that constitute our bank of karmic debt from time immemorial stretching through the present to the ever-receding horizon line of the future with all its possibilities.
The sexual energies represented by Trump 11, Lust or Strength, have now been placed firmly and squarely in the service of the Higher Self, and in the service of the Web of Life, the Grail which is the Wheel which is the open heart which is the Mirror of Universal creation. The spiritual aspirant now is centered firmly on the upward path and is set to ascend on the final pathways leading to the mountaintop of Self-realization.
On a cosmic level, Death represents the transforming energies that dissolve illusion, egoistic personality, transient manifestations of form and substance of all kinds, relating to all sentient and non-sentient beings in both material and spiritual realms of existence.
Art or Temperance represents the infusion of spiritual energies of love and light into the material world, and their expression in acts of creativity, compassion and service that unify matter and spirit and bring to fruition the evolution of human consciousness in Self-directed acknowledgement of our true, angelic nature.
In this initiation, the aspirant transcends rational humanity even as rational humanity transcended the existence of the Ape, and becomes primarily a spiritual creature living simultaneously in the two worlds, harmonizing them both through every thought, word and deed.
Trumps XV through XVIII
Trumps Fifteen and Sixteen are the Devil and the Tower.
The Devil represents bondage to material creation, bondage to karmic debts we have incurred in this life and the past, and bondage to negative mental patterns, negative emotional states, and negative patterns of relationship which we have manifested through the course of many lifetimes.
Once the aspirant has reached a point of strength and unity imaged in Trump 14, Art or Temperance, and come under the protection of the Holy Guardian Angel, the Higher Self,the aspirant is prepared for an encounter with the dark side of creation and has the spiritual tools necessary to engage the forces of the dark side, indeed to overcome them.
Tarot Trump XV, The Devil, Thoth Tarot
This engagement is firstly an inward engagement. In Trump 15, the Devil, a man and a woman are pictured held by chains to the figure of the Goat.
These chains are also depicted as breaking apart. The chains are karma, and the subsequent guilt and self-judgement that flows from that guilt.
Self-judgement is projected outward onto others by the egoistic personality, which is unable to bear the consequences of karmic debts without the support of the Higher Self.
Thus the egoistic personality engages in scapegoating, in acts of aggression directed at others in the world who are also guilty of similar karmic transgressions.
This primal egoistic ignorance is the root cause of spiritual, mental, emotional and karmic bondage, and leads the egoistic personality to direct sexual energy, the energy of creation, which is depicted in Trump 11, Lust or Strength, into self-destructive acts of lustful sexual activity, fear, material greed, guilt and shame, uncontrolled anger and aggression, acts of war, jealousy, impatience, judgemental and critical thoughts, words and deeds, and other manifestations of dark universal forces that reside within our collective consciousness.
However, when the aspirant has achieved the initiation of Trump 14, Art or Temperance, the aspirant confronts these inner demons from a standpoint of strength, and with the help and guidance of spiritual beings far greater and stronger than the aspirants egoistic personality, far greater indeed than the aspirant can even comprehend with a limited human mentality.
In the shadow of the Higher Self, through the mediation of Christ Consciousness or Krishna Consciousness or Buddha Mind, the aspirant becomes aware of the chains of karma, lust, ignorance and anger that have bound the incarnating soul for millennia and through that awareness and using the tools for liberation provided intuitively by the Higher Self and by the spiritual beings charged with guidance and governance of human evolution, now available to the aspirant as a reward for past spiritual efforts, the aspirant breaks the bonds of karma and ignorance as easily as a strong warrior snaps a twig in his or her hands.
Tarot Trump XIVI, The Tower, or Thunderbolt, Osho Tarot
This triumphant moment of liberation is depicted in Trump 16, The Tower. A tall tower is imaged as being struck by lightning and figures are falling from the toppling structure.
This represents the moment of self-realization when the workings of the Higher Self and the aspirants unswerving inner determination to achieve liberation combine to remove the obstructions within aura, mind, body, heart and soul that have kept the individual in bondage, ignorance and suffering.
It is true that The Tower also represents the consequences to the egoistic personality that ensue when these blockages are ignored, the initiations not taken, the sexual energy of Lust or Strength not redirected toward spiritual goals, the Higher Self not granted mastery of the incarnating vehicle. In such cases, the end result of greed, lust, aggression, fear, and spiritual lethargy result in destruction, often self-destruction or the destruction by uncontrollable outside forces of the delusional tower comprising the unbending egoistic personality and its material constructs in the world, its Empire of self-worship.
Subsequent to the positive manifestation of the initiation depicted in Trump 15, the Devil, the successful aspirant who has confronted and conquered these inner demons is allowed to confront similar energies in the outer world, as an aspect of spiritual service granted as a reward for inner work completed and initiations fulfilled.
This represents yet another aspect of the initiation figured in the image of Trump 16, The Tower.
Through applied intuition and with the mediation of the Higher Self and the grace and guidance of spiritual teachers and members of the spiritual hierarchy, who have become more and more firmly linked to the aspirant as a result of these successive initiations, the aspirant can help others to liberate themselves from karmic bondage, ignorance and lust.
The details of this work remain outside the scope of todays lecture, however.
The next two Trumps are 17, The Star, and 18, The Moon. Here the aspirant has achieved the realms of the transpersonal, and gone beyond the limitations of the illusory separate self, beginning the process of true Self-realization, the steps preparatory to the final ascent to the mountaintop, site of the aspirants encounter with universal truth and enlightenment.
The seven pointed Star represents the living light the energy of being, self-consciousness and bliss that creates and sustains the Universe.
Tarot Trump XVII, The Star, Thoth Tarot
This Trump 17 images a naked female figure holding two jars filled with water, and she pours that water out into the Universe, where it fills the void and coalesces into a myriad of stars.
This is the pure form of sexual energy pictured in Trump 11, Lust or Strength, when that universal life force energy, called Shakti by the Hindu Rishis, has been purified and is directed solely in the service of Spirit.
For the aspirant, this initiation brings an experience of unconditional love, inner bliss and peace that passes understanding, of unity with the Universal life force energy that creates and transcends all transient forms and structures in both material and spiritual realms of being.
The initiation associated with The Star often involves an experience of transcendent, unconditional love between two individuals.
This initiation also often is accompanied by a flow of meaningful coincidences or synchronicities which lead the aspirants into a love relationship which is predominantly spiritual in nature.
This could be a love relationship with another human being or a relationship with a spiritual teacher.
These encounters invariably offer opportunities for life changing and soul transforming experiences.
Depending upon the aptitude, karma and spiritual attainment of the aspirant, these experiences may be fleeting or may forge bonds of positive karmic attachment that will guarantee ongoing love relationships, ongoing spiritual relationships, ongoing disciple-teacher relationships, that will accelerate spiritual progress, bring increased love and light into our lives, and set the seal of universal bliss and peace upon our continued evolution.
Having had a glimpse at least of unconditional love and transpersonal energies of transcendent beauty and peace, the aspirant reaches the realm imaged in Trump 18 The Moon.
Tarot Trump XVIII, The Moon, Waite Tarot
The Moon is the resting place of the dead, and the repository of all the karma of our past lives, where our karmic connections reside.
The initiation associated with The Moon is a realization of the ways in which all our karmic connections, throughout all our incarnations, have served, through our pain and suffering, our apparent delusion and ignorance, our tragic and pathetic transience and unfortunate mutual misunderstandings, to further the spiritual evolution of all parties involved.
For the aspirant who has not successfully completed the initiations leading up to the path of The Moon, this vision of the network of karmic interconnections comprising incarnation upon incarnation through the vastness of time and space would prove overwhelming, for without the spiritual abilities gained in these previous initiations, this vision of karmic interconnections would delineate pain, suffering, ignorance, fear, death, pathos, tragedy and cosmic defeat upon defeat.
Therefore the vision of individual past lives is very seldom granted to spiritual aspirants, nor is it a vision to be actively sought for its own sake, and only when conditions are ripe for the aspirants spiritual development will grace and spiritual guidance make the vision of The Moon available.
Buddha Confronts the Demon Mara Beneath the Pippala Tree, Guimet Museum, Public Domain
Those who are granted this vision, must, like the Buddha, sitting beneath the pippala tree, reviewing past lives, like Christ on the cross, take full responsibility for all their actions, remain dispassionate in the face of the full force of evolutionary activity within the material Universe, including repeated transformations, death, apparent destruction, transient loss, suffering and pain untold over aeons of time.
Thus The Moon initiation is associated with the Dark Night of the Soul, for it is inevitable that when the aspirant confronts all his or her failings through all his or her incarnations, and all the suffering that he or she has inflicted upon others in these incarnations, the burden is considerable and the souls affliction can be great indeed.
However, for those great souls who are able to withstand the tempestuous energies unleashed in this initiation and who have the strength, dispassionate nature, patience, humble mind and force of will necessary to traverse the abyss, the reward is beyond mental comprehension.
Trumps XIX, XX, XXI & O
Trump 19, The Sun, represents the dawning of Self-Realization that follows the Dark Night of the Soul.
The achievement of the Buddha, the Resurrection of the Christ, the victory of Krishna and Arjuna on the battlefield of the spirit in the Bhagavad Gita all provide images of the glory and splendor that the aspirant attains upon realizing Tat Tvam Asi, I am That, in the moment of Self-realization, achieving Unity with the Divine.
Tarot Trump XIX, The Sun, Thoth Tarot
In the Thoth Tarot deck The Sun shows two figures with wings, a male and female, ascending to a mountaintop, where resides a walled garden, while above that garden the sun shines in a cloudless sky.
This represents the ascent to the heights of enlightenment and the re-entry of male and female into the Garden of Eden.
Life in the Garden of Eden exists beyond dualities, and is a preternatural existence composed of unified being, loving wisdom and bliss.
In the Garden of Eden, male and female live in a perpetual state of unconditional love and balanced sexual affinity, and all their sexual energy manifests as directed by the Higher Self in the service of the Unity that sustains Cosmic creation.
This is the Ascension of the Divine Lovers into a World of Bliss.
The esoteric meaning accorded the Divine Lovers has a twofold aspect.
On the one hand, the Divine Lovers refers to the experience of spiritual partnership between two human beings dedicated to one anothers spiritual advancement, and manifested as accelerated spiritual progress in their own lives and activity in the world that serves to accelerate the spiritual progress of all sentient beings.
On the other hand, the Divine Lovers are of course the egoistic personality and the Higher Self. When the two are firmly joined and the aspirant has experienced the initiations depicted in Trumps 13-19, the aspirants personality has been permanently fused with the Higher Self, expanded to include aspects of personalities experienced in all previous incarnations, and infused with the blissful energy of unconditional love depicted in Trump 17, The Star.
This condition results in the Ascension of the personality, which now partakes of the immortality of the Higher Self through the initiation into Christ Consciousness or Krishna Consciousness represented in Trump 19, and once this has been achieved, the aspirant enters into the Garden of Eden, ready for the penultimate initiation imaged in Trump 20, The Aeon.
Once living in the Garden of Eden, the Divine Lovers experience the initiations pictured in Trump 20, The Aeon and Trump 21, The Universe.
Tarot Trump XX, Judgement, Waite Tarot
The Aeon is sometimes called The Last Judgment, and images the resurrection of the souls of the dead as the angel Gabriel blows his horn.
This Aeon card also represents the working of the wills of the Divine Lovers who have attained the summit of Self-enlightenment in this new Aquarian Age.
The image of the Aquarian Age is the hieros gamos, the consummation of the spiritual, alchemical marriage of the Divine Lovers.
In this marriage, their radiant Self-knowledge, obtained during the initiation figured in Trump 19, The Sun, enables these Divine Lovers to direct their energies through acts of creative service in the material world that further the restoration of the Garden of Eden, resulting in the enlightenment over time, of all sentient beings who live or who have lived and will live on this blue-green planet Earth.
That collective enlightenment is the Last Judgement, and that Resurrection is the promise of Christ, the Buddha and Krishna to all embodied sentient beings who have participated in the evolution of humanity on planet Earth.
The Tarot teachings concerning the Last Judgement consider that apocryphal event to be the culmination of lifetimes of spiritual practice, the doorway to liberation of the mind and enlightenment.
The Judgement or Aeon card is about transformation of the egoistic personality, and awakening to a higher consciousness, the birth of the Higher Mind, the dawning of the Higher Self, and represents the final preparations before the disciple can attain the final goal, Christ Consciousness, or Cosmic Consciousness, Self-Realization, pictured in Trump XXI, called The Universe.
In the Waite deck, Judgement pictures the Archangel Gabriel blowing his trumpet, as three figures, a man, a child and a woman, rise from coffins in the lower foreground.
The man represents the conscious, rational egoistic mind, the woman represents the unconscious powers of instinctual wisdom, and the child represents the infant born of their union, the intuitive consciousness residing in the Higher Mind.
Gabriel’s golden horn delivers the sacred sound that triggers our awakening from the living death and spiritual imprisonment represented by consciousness dominated by the egoistic personality and the instinctual impulses of the unconscious mind.
The energy signature of Gabriel’s horn is a sacred tone, or mantram, which also exists as a vision – a frequency of golden light. This golden light of inner awakening, which emanates from Gabriel’s horn, and at his command, appears in the mind’s eye on a field of deepest midnight blue during the meditative state at the moment of initiation and realization.
For those evolving individual souls who have entered into committed spiritual partnership with another incarnated being, the Aeon represents the attainment of a state of unconditional love and balanced sexual affinity in which the two partners, through their mutual aid and support, accelerate their spiritual development and ground the healing energies of that love which transcends the karmic ties that bind and blind men and women who are still entrapped by the dualities of existence, and who are still engaged in the perennial war between the sexes.
The completion of this great work, which has taken the aspirant into the Garden of Eden, brings the aspirant to the hub of creation, represented by Trump 21, The Universe and Trump Zero, The Fool.
Tarot Trump XXI, The Universe, Thoth Tarot
On a macrocosmic level, the Universe represents the manifestation of the Universal Life Force Energy in all its evolutionary manifestations, at every level of life, including sentient and non-sentient beings in the material and spiritual realms of being, as they all simultaneously progress toward individuated self-conscious creative participation in the Unity of Enlightenment that constitutes the true nature of the Divine play of consciousness, being and bliss that is our living Cosmos.
On the microcosmic level, the Universe represents the state of being attained by the Divine Lovers once they have entered into the Garden of Eden.
They live in harmony with Divine Law, they remain in a state of dynamic equilibrium with all the energies and sentient and non-sentient beings around them, and they participate consciously andjoyfully in the creativity that constitutes the working out of the Divine Plan for spiritual evolution of individual and collective entities within both spiritual and material worlds.
This Universe we live in, and strive to comprehend and harmonize ourselves with, is of course but an entry hall to a far greater reality that we cannot mentally comprehend. This unknowable greater reality, from whom all mental concepts and manifest forms recoil, is the Ground of Being, the ultimate Source of Creation, from which the Universe itself, the Universal Life Force Energy, and all manifested sentient and non-sentient beings arise throughout all time and space.
Probably Nurpur, Punjab Hills, Northern India, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
This Ground of Being is worshipped as the God Brahma by the Hindu sages, is known as the Void by Buddhist llamas, and is depicted in the Sacred Tarot as The Fool.
In the Hindu Upanishads, there are four great statements that stand as signposts to the nature of ultimate reality, the truth of being.
Prajnanam Brahma: Consciousness is Brahman. Consciousness is the Absolute, that ineffable energetic essence which the Greeks called the Fifth Element of "ether". Medieval alchemists called this mystical substance "quintessence". This Fifth Element is called "akasha" or "space" in the Hindu system. Brahman fills all of space, and is present in everything from the Creator to the simplest forms of matter.
Aham Brahmasmi: I am Brahman. The "I" is the witnessing consciousness, the "Higher Self" that stands apart from the mind, transcends the egoistic personality, and contains the collective consciousness, both the archetypes of the collective unconscious and the superconscious elements of Higher Mind that connect the individuated self to the Unity of Creation manifest as Absolute Consciousness, the One Self, known as Brahman.
Tat Tvam Asi: Thou Art That. The Higher Self of the aspirant, which guides the child, the fool and the wise man, but which is subordinated to the mind and the egoistic personality in most individuals, is Brahman.
Ayam Atma Brahma: This Self is Brahman. The Higher Self, or Atman is Brahman. Brahman is that intelligent energy, that etheric consciousness, which is the substance out of which all things are really made. This Universal Life Force Energy, which is everywhere, is also within us, and this pure, conscious energy within us is everywhere. The awareness of this Unity within all creation is known as enlightenment.
One in that blissful, all-knowing state of Cosmic Consciousness knows himself to be Brahman, the antecedent and origin of all Creation. Brahman fills all space, expands into all existence, and is vast beyond all measure of perception or knowledge. Brahman's attributes include self-luminosity, non-relativity and universality.
This identification of the Self with the Absolute is not a dialectical process, a mental synthesis of two differing objects of thought, but is an affirmation of the ultimate Unity of creation and the unknowable, transcendent Ground of Being. Brahman is both immanent and transcendent. There is nothing outside Brahman, nothing which is not Brahman, yet Brahman cannot be known, except by Brahman.
Tarot Trump 0, The Fool, Thoth Tarot
As an anthropomorphic depiction of this unknowable Ground of Being, The Fool is represented as a playful carefree figure who lives without self-consciousness, without mental considerations, without social conditioning and without attachment to outcomes or antecedent conditions leading to present situations.
Therefore at a microcosmic level, The Fool represents the unthinking human being, in his or her natural condition prior to the great journey toward Self-realization depicted in the Great Wheel of Tarot, and also the innocence of the Self-realized being who has completed that Great Work and who has experienced the many initiations imaged in The Trumps of the Great Wheel of Tarot.
Thus the end result of the great journey of incarnations untold is to arrive at the still point, the center of existence, which is truly everywhere, to know the circumference, which is truly nowhere, and to be the self-conscious embodiment of the original innocence, being, wisdom and bliss inherent in all creation.
The end is to return to the beginning, and to know ones true identity, inherent in that beginning, for the first time.
Thus does the Sacred Tarot depict the reality of existence at the Hub of Creation in the imagery of Trumps 21, The Universe, and Zero, The Fool.
This is Unity. This is the Yoga of the West.
Interior of Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis
Alejandro, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
As I finished my lecture to the eminent assemblage in the mahogany beamed cathedral of my dreams, and as I turned toward my dear wife Jane, throwing my arm across her shoulders in the crepuscular light of a pre-dawn Sunday morning, I felt an amazing energy glowing around me, flowing throughout my being.
And I heard the assemblage asking me questions. Why have you not written anything about the marvels of the Sacred Tarot and its analogies to the ancient wisdom of the East, the Sacred Yoga of the Rishis?
Oh, I said internally, for this dialogue had not yet wakened Jane, I have not wanted to sit so long at the computer at one time and besides I have preferred the ancient traditional methods of oral pedagogy that I learned in many previous lifetimes of spiritual study, in both East and West.
Write this vision down today, my audience commanded. I said my morning prayers, Jane and I had tea, and I told her about my dream. "Wait no longer," Jane told me. "You must write this dream. Sit at once and do so." And so I did.
May 16, 2004