By Myself I Can Do Nothing

The title of this post is the first phrase of a verse from the gospel of John (5:30), as translated in the New International Version (© 1984) of the Bible. The full verse is: By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

This verse is a concise statement of the meaning of Tarot Key 5, The Hierophant. I thought it would be a good topic for today, as we transition from the astrological sign of Taurus to that of Gemini. Key 5 is associated with Taurus, the sense of hearing, intuitional receptivity, and contact with the Inner Teacher, or the small, still voice within.

This card is an application of the Holy Family, too. It signifies that the aim of spiritual achievement is to be a fleshy conduit for Divine Wisdom, which descends the Tree of Life. The judgment spoken of in the verse isn’t meant to imply any sort of critical appraisal of anybody, but is simply a statement of best choice – how to behave, how to think, how to interact with the world.

When we are in concert with the Inner Teacher, the flow of higher inspiration is automatic, and bliss fills one’s consciousness. It’s a lofty goal, and one not easily achieved. Small, everyday stuff tends to get in the way. These are the distractions of the ego, the part of consciousness that is always trying to take and keep control. Like an unruly child, it needs to be kept in check while not destroying its interest in life.

Making the Inner Teacher the guide while using the ego as a tool – one of life’s many challenges. However, it’s the one we have to work on mastering in order to advance spiritually.

Contacting Your Self

Tarot cards aren’t just a divinatory device. In fact, that’s one of their more mundane uses. The deeper uses of Tarot involve its function as a map of the journey toward true knowledge of the Self. What is most true is the inner knowing of the Self. Some call it “the God within.”

One of the best ways to access it is to use certain Tarot cards as aids to meditation. It’s not that tough to do. Use the indicated card as a focus point for your meditation; you can even just gaze at it and let associations flow. Notice the colors, the figures in the picture, etc. What do they suggest to you?

A card that’s especially good to get your intentions clear regarding wanting to keep the relationship with the Self strong is The Chariot (Number 7 in the Major Arcana, a.k.a. Key VII). [This picture is from the B.O.T.A. deck. To some extent, the deck one uses isn’t critical. However, some decks are more faithful to the traditional (proven effective) associations of the cards. These decks will work more directly in meditation.]

The importance of Key VII lies in its associations to the ideal state of consciousness. 7 - ChariotThe body is the chariot itself, pulled by the twin sphinxes of intellect and desire (wants and needs, left and right brain, etc.). The Charioteer is the Higher Self, the true expression of the God within. Therefore, the true mover/driver of our existence should be that Higher Self, rather than letting the sphinxes run amok. BTW, notice how peacefully they await the charioteer’s command. This is symbolic of the inner peace that accompanies allowing the Higher Self to be the driver of our life.

Of course, this is just the start of the associations to this card, and I won’t go into them all here. Patience, gentle reader.

One other tidbit, though. The Hebrew letter on the lower right of the card is Cheth (pronounced chet’ where the ch is kind of like that in the Scottish word “loch”), which means fence or enclosure. So, this card can also be used as a way of strengthening our personal, psychological boundaries.

Persistence vs. Arrogance

Let’s take a brief look at the 3 of Wands from the Tarot deck. This card, when well placed, indicates persistence and a position of established strength. When ill placed, it shows conceit or arrogance. At least these are the usual interpretations.

Now, take a look at the card3W itself. The man stands looking out at the land and sea from high ground as if he’s master of all he surveys. He has one wand to each side of him and the third protecting his back. It gives the sense of an unassailable position. In Tarot, the suit of Wands is associated with the Qabalistic world of Atziluth, the world of paradigms and archetypes – the loftiest of ideas. The number three is associated with the sphere of Binah on the Tree of Life. This sphere is linked with manifestation energy, and is creative in the most practical sense. So, the card speaks of making the highest ideals manifest or actualized.

Take government as an example. Governments have no greater responsibility than the care of the people governed, especially in the case of representative governments like ours (at least that’s the theory). The government’s established strength is given to it by those who elected their representatives.

Given that, look at the card again. The person has a grip on one of the wands. Now, think about our system of government. It has three (how convenient!) branches which we should all remember from civics class: executive, legislative, and judicial. Which one of these do we have the best hold on? I think it’s the legislative, the one most answerable directly to the people on a day-to-day basis. That’s right, it’s us, the electorate, that has the established strength if we decide to exercise it.

Takeaway point: Only through our persistence can we overcome the arrogance of those in power. Make a bit of noise; let your voice be heard.

[Sorry I got preachy today, but I weary of watching those on Capitol Hill engage in “wand measuring” contests, if you catch my drift.]

The Lady and the Lion

I thought that I’d talk a bit today about the Tarot card Strength (Major arcanum VIII). The card 8 - Strengthdepicts a woman holding a lion’s mouth open. A picture of the card is at right.

Astrologically, this card is associated with the sign of Leo (the lion). This sign rules the heart and spine.

The lion is an obvious reference to Leo. But what about the woman, the roses around the lion’s neck, and the infinity sign? On Tarot cards, roses tend to symbolize the senses. Also, the lion symbolizes not only the sign of Leo, but also the subconscious (“animal”) mind. Here, the woman (the conscious mind) controls the subconscious, which reacts through the senses. One of the messages here is that the conscious mind needs to direct the subconscious. The messages we give to the subconscious determine how we interpret or sense the world.

It should be mentioned here that each of us has all of the astrological signs in us. This means that we all have an inner Leo (our creative self). Using the Strength card in meditation is a great way to contact those creative parts of ourselves and to reinforce our heart energy.

It is important to remember that the Tarot is a map of the psyche, and is intended to lead us down the road of spiritual development. But to go down that road, ya gotta have heart.

Hi, Priestess

I have talked a little about the Feminine as it relates to the Tarot, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other great aspect of the Feminine contained in the Major Arcana. After describing The Empress as the fertile aspect of the Feminine, I need to explain another aspect that’s typically attributed to the Feminine, namely, intuition.Zc2 - High Priestess

Enter the High Priestess (my hand colored version of her is at right). She is a very deep archetype, and is associated with species memory, as well as personal memory. Meditating on her image often brings about new insight and messages from the deepest recesses of our psyches. Notice the scroll she holds in her hand. Here is where the secrets are kept.

Flanked by the two pillars of the temple, and hidden by the curtain behind her, resides the Holy of Holies, the very abode of God (in whatever way we understand that concept). Also notice the water of Life originating from her robes. This is the water that appears as the river and waterfall in The Empress card.

On theTree of Life, the High Priestess connects the highest sphere (Kether, the Crown) and the very middle of the tree (Tiphareth, Beauty). I talked about these and the other spheres of the Tree before.

(The cross over the High Priestess’s heart is a representation of how her path and that of The Empress cross on the Tree; the intermingling of the spiritual – the High Priestess – with the physical – The Empress)

The association of the High Priestess with intuition is hinted at by her crown, which holds the silver moon. The Moon has long been connected with intuition, and with the Feminine. It is frequently colored silver (“By the light of the silvery Moon”), in contrast to the gold of the Sun. These are the two great currents of existence. You can think of these as similar to the Chinese concepts of Yin (Moon) and Yang (Sun).

Furthermore, the High Priestess is connected to the Sixth Chakra (the Third Eye of intuition) in the B.O.T.A. tradition. It is in communion with her that we can know that which we cannot know by other means. To connect with her, do a variation on the meditation I presented in the post on The Empress. Pay particular attention to the scroll. Let it open to give you insight.

Powerful ladies, The Empress and High Priestess. Part of the powerful system for personal development known as the Tarot. It ain’t just for telling fortunes, gang. In fact, fortune telling is, in many ways, the least of its uses.

Nobody’s Fool

It’s always interesting to notice what happens when an icon dies. The death of the so-called “King of Pop” (and we ain’t talking Dr. Pepper here) allowed us to reflect on what such a person represents.

Michael Jackson was someone who continually reinvented himself as an artist and a human being. Yet underneath lay the tortured soul who felt the need to change his face over and over again. There was something in him that never grew up, and this problem, which manifested in his sometimes inappropriate affinity for children, put him at the unpleasant end of several investigations.

I have never been a Michael Jackson fan. Fool However, within him was an energy that defied definition, and a sense of the eternally questing. Perhaps this was one reason why so many people followed his career. Somehow he was a representation of something that couldn’t be grasped. That train of thought got me to pondering the first card of the Tarot, the Fool.

This card is both the beginning and the end, in a sense. It is the pure representation of the questing Inner Self. This Self sets out upon a journey to return to where It started. The Fool will appear the same, seemingly unchanged to earthly eyes, even when the journey is completed. Notice how he is literally dogged by material reality yet he goes onward with the merest of possessions (but with admittedly groovy threads).

Looking up, his eyes are on the Eternal. As a result, he doesn’t seem to apprehend the cliff in front of him. Perhaps he knows it is there and is unconcerned because the Eternal is protecting him. He is, therefore, the image of simple trust.

The Fool is usually considered a fortunate card, and talks about our connection to the deepest yet loftiest parts of ourselves. When confronted with this card, we are asked to trust in the Universe and to be assured that all is unfolding as it should. This can be a fearful revelation if we are unprepared for it at any level.

Meditation on the Fool can allow us a closer connection with that inner sense of trust. It also prepares us to ride with any choppy seas or trickster influences. The Fool asks us to look beneath the surface to see the true reality beneath worldly appearances.

This is both the triumph and the tragedy that was Michael Jackson. He unwittingly urged us to see beyond the superficial changes that he continuously wrought upon himself, while he was seemingly unable to do so on his own.

In fact, we must all be fools in order to assure our inner growth. Looking about with eyes that truly see and ears that truly hear — that’s what it’s all about.

Everyone’s Mother

Since it’s Mother’s day, this is an ideal time to talk about the Tarot card that is closely associated with the archetype of motherhood. In the B.O.T.A. system of Tarot interpretation (the system that I use), this card is The Empress, card III of the Major Arcana. She is also associated with the throat chakra, which is the refined center of creativity, and the color green. The card is pictured below.

Empress(I colored the card myself because B.O.T.A. requires that each student color his/her own deck, in accordance with precise instructions, in order to impress the symbols more fully into the subconscious. Yes, even though I have no drawing talent, I can stay pretty well within the lines when I have to.)

She is in a place of fertility, with Nature blossoming out, nourished by the life-giving water that originated in the High Priestess card (I’m saving that card for another post). An additional clue to the relationship between this card and the High Priestess is the crescent Moon, and these two cards are representatives of the Great Feminine in the Tarot.

The Empress is pregnant, a promise of current efforts bearing fruit in the future. On the Tree of Life, or TOL, The Empress forms the path that joins the spheres of Chokmah (Wisdom) and Binah (Understanding), the archetypal Father and Mother spheres, respectively. She carries within her the fruit of their union. (A brief, related article I wrote entitled The Roles of Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding in Health is here.)

As she is associated with the planet Venus, she stands for beauty and desire (The TOL sphere named Netzach, which means Desire, is the Tree’s sphere of Venus). Through the proper channeling of the creative force generated in the Sacral chakra (the red triangle in the picture), we can bring into highest expression that which we desire. If the translation of this force is not successful, or gets sidetracked by baser urges, an unsatisfactory or transiently satisfying outcome results.

To contact your inner Empress, meditate on the card for a few moments, letting all the symbols impress themselves into your consciousness. Then close your eyes and let pure green light permeate your being. In this state, you can communicate your highest desires to Universal Mind. Be sure to record any impressions or messages that you receive during this time of contemplation. This is a good habit to cultivate.

The Empress is in our psyches to assist us with the realization of true spiritual beauty. Her planet, Venus, rules Taurus and Libra, the signs of material manifestation and relationships, respectively. Beauty in our surroundings and in our dealings with others. No better way to see our desires fulfilled.

The Holy Family of the Central Pillar

The central pillar of the Tree of Life (TOL) is composed of four spheres: Kether (Crown, white), Tiphareth (Beauty, golden yellow), Yesod (Foundation, violet) and Malkuth (Kingdom, multi-colored). A brief explanation of them can be found in my two previous blog entries on the Tree itself. The relationship among these spheres is fascinating, and is worth many hours of meditation.

[For the rest of this entry, I may be coming off as a little sexist, or at least a little genderish. Please don’t get all upset with me. I’m talking gender polarities here. I’m not trying to be either misogynistic or misanthropic. Sorry for the interruption, but I had to say that. These days, people can get so sensitive.]

First, Kether is the outpouring of the Divine, and is like God the Father in Christianity. Next comes Tiphareth, seat of Christ Consciousness; God the Son, if you will. It is also the seat of the ideal, primal human or Adam Kadmon. At the base is Malkuth, God the Holy Spirit. However, Malkuth is also the seat of the Shekinah, the Female aspect of the godhead in ancient Hebrew mysticism. At times, Qabalists will refer to Malkuth as “the bride” of Kether. I didn’t forget Yesod, but it is the odd one out. This sphere is where little ol’ us come into the picture. Yesod is the residence of the human collective unconscious, and the individual soul. This is the place where we get messages from the Divine.

Looked at another way, the central pillar represents the Holy Family of Joseph (Kether), Jesus (Tiphareth), and Mary (Malkuth) – or as my mother used to swear at us kids, “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! If you kids don’t quiet down, I’m going to . . .” (insert here the scariest thing you can imagine a Sicilian mother doing with some unnamed cooking utensil)

The Holy Trinity, the Holy Family; sometimes I miss Catholicism, but only sometimes. At any rate, the way these spheres, and all spheres, connect on the Tree is via paths. Each of these paths has a Tarot trump associated with it. From Kether to Tiphareth, the High Priestess is the path. From Tiphareth to Yesod, it’s Temperance, and from Yesod to Malkuth, it’s The World. (I will talk about these cards and paths in due course. For now, just take my word for it.)

This gets complicated quickly, so I will try to be brief. The High Priestess is the holder of memory and guards the entrance into the Holy of Holies. Temperance is represented by an angel (Michael, angel of the heart and Tiphareth). When we communicate with our highest nature, the Christ Consciousness, we are having what Qabalists call the “conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel.” This is how high consciousness speaks to us meat puppets. Making our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs into 3D reality is accomplished by the force symbolized by The World, a card associated with limitation and restraint. How else could the chaos of our minds become reality without a little restraint?

It is said that the Tree is embodied in us, and that the Malkuth of any Tree is the Kether of the next. Like Ezekiel’s wheels within wheels, perhaps. Nevertheless, it is possible for us to commune with the primal forces of the Masculine, the Feminine, and their union, the Child. This is done through the powers of our imagination and our intuition which, not so coincidentally, are said to reside in Yesod.

If you aren’t completely confused by now, congratulations. Now do you see why some people say we made our first mistake as a species when we came down out of the trees?