The Misunderstood Tower

There are several cards in the Tarot deck that can stand your hair on end. Getting them in a reading can send chills up the spine. One of these cards is The Tarot, number 16 of the Major Arcana. Usually, there is lightning, falling figures and masonry – disastrous looking stuff. The interpretations given in Tarot cookbooks are much better, talking about disaster, a shaking to the core, etc. However, these initial impressions can miss the mark.

Thinking about The Tower in an esoteric way can ease these concerns. In its most central energy, this card represents Mars. Think of Mars as pure force, dynamic movement, and reproductive energy. It is the gas, if you will, of our actions. Without Mars, we would be essentially inert.

In the card (this depiction is from the Haindl Tarot Deck), the tower itself is an edifice of false belief, error, an opinion at odds with the ultimate reality of Spirit. The falling figures are those beliefs themselves, the erroneous “knowledge” and “understanding” put up by the personal ego for its own use. The lightning is the illumination of Spirit, bringing insight and exposing the erroneous beliefs for what they truly are.

When looked at in this way, The Tower is a wake-up call from Spirit. This card is asking us to evaluate the way we are looking at ourselves, or a given situation. It is urging us to contact our Mars force and direct its considerable power in another direction.

Self-examination is the hallmark of personal growth. Unless we can take a long, hard, honest look at ourselves, advancement along the spiritual path is virtually impossible. Fortunately, Spirit is extremely willing to help if we show the motivation (Mars) to pursue our own growth. The lightning starkly shows where we are mistaken and brings us the energy to change those beliefs or ways of acting that are interfering with advancement along the spiritual path.

Using The Tower as a meditation is extremely helpful. With the card before you, allow the imagery to merge with you. Enter the card and become it in all its details. See and feel yourself as the tower, or the figures. See the flash of lightning striking the tower. Feel its loving, cleansing strength. Invite the lightning strike and ask it to cleanse any beliefs or behaviors that are impeding your progress along the path of spirit.

With practice, The Tower becomes a welcome influence. When you see it in a reading, it will no longer be frightening. It will be a reminder that Spirit is with you, helping you, guiding you.

Uh-One and uh-Two and uh- . . .

What activity can get you tossed out of a casino, but can give you tons of information in a Tarot spread? Why, counting cards of course.

If you’re at a blackjack table and the management suspects you of counting cards, you could very well be escorted unceremoniously off the premises by large men with names like Vinnie and Rocco (for example, remember 21?). But, use counting in a Tarot spread, and a new world of interpretation opens up. The practice was a standard with the Golden Dawn, and it has been carried on with organizations that have evolved therefrom, such as B.O.T.A.

Warning: this technique is not for beginners, but for those readers with a comfortable familiarity with spreads and interpretation.

First off, you need to know the code. In the minor Arcana: 2’s through 10’s count as their face value; aces count 11 (beginning of a new cycle of ten) or 5 (the fifth element, quintessence), depending on the spread; court cards count 4 (for the base elements), though Pages count 7 (messengers of the Elohim, the “Seven who stand before the Throne”).

The major Arcana are a different matter entirely. It depends on their associations. Here goes, so hang on: Those associated with astrological signs count 12 (Emperor, Hierophant, Lovers, Chariot, Strength, Hermit, Justice, Death, Temperance, Devil, Star, Moon); most associated with the planets count 9 (Magician, High Priestess, Empress, Wheel of Fortune, Tower, Sun, World); while those associated with the “Mother letters” of the Hebrew alphabet, even though these cards are associated with planets, count 3 (Fool, Hanged Man, Judgement).

See now why it’s not for beginners? Anyway, here’s how it works. Take any spread you prefer, though the process works best with spreads that have at least six cards (to keep it interesting). After the usual interpretation, take the cards and arrange them in a circle. Start at the first card as is recognized by the spread. Always start any count by counting the card you are on as 1. For instance, if the first card you count from is the Six of Wands, start the count with this card as 1. Then count in the order of the cards of the spread until you reach 6. This is a card of importance to the Six of Wands and should be interpreted within the sense of the Six of Wands. Taking that new card as 1, count its value and interpret the card landed on, etc. Since the cards are in a circle, eventually you will land on a card that has been landed on before. This signals the end of the cycle, and the count. However, this card assumes greater importance, having been touched twice.

Side note – In ten-card spreads, like the Celtic Cross, count Aces as 5 instead of 11, since counting them as 11 will always cause them to count back to themselves.

Sound confusing? Lay out some cards and give it a try. You can also count in the opposite direction to gain “the other side of the coin,” for a reading.

And don’t feel limited. You don’t have to start at the first card of a spread. After all, this is a circle of cards. Say a particular card has caught your attention. That could be the starting point for a new layer of exploration. The possibilities are endless, as are the opportunities for depth in a reading. It proves immensely satisfying for both the reader and the querent.

All I can say is that this entire process goes to show what we’ve already known about Tarot readings. Every card counts. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)

Celebration?

Soap Box Time.

Just a couple of days ago, on May 1, 2011, it was announced that a U.S. special forces mission had succeeded in killing Osama bin Laden. The latest bogeyman of all bogeymen has been dispatched.

How does one react to such news? After all, this person had been the posterboy of terror for ten years.

It looks like some chose to react by whoopin’ it up, chanting “U-S-A !” in that obnoxious way favored by sports fans, and in general acting like they’d just won the lottery. I take it that these people were pleased by the news.

Celebrating death? Giddy with excitement that one of our species has bitten the dust?

Look, relief I can understand, or a sense of satisfaction that justice has been served in some fashion — but the displays that broke out across the country seem beyond the pale. Granted, he was a bad guy, and bad guys deserve comeuppance. However, I felt sad to see the way people reacted. It’s not a sporting event. I believe that the “in yer face” attitude is beneath what we stand for as a nation. To turn it around, how did we Americans feel when we saw the (largely staged) videos of people dancing in the streets after the World Trade Center buildings came down? Think our own spontaneous two-stepping endears us to others?

So maybe we’re even now? Perhaps ahead? Great! Can the wars end???

But look at us. We’re a nation that loves the Ultimate Fighting Championship, The Real Housewives of (fill in your favorite city/county/state), and foolish, tiresome displays of bravado at every touchdown. In short, we are a nation without class, and it simply shows our distance from true Spirit. Reactions such as those shown in response to bin Laden’s death are not the signs of a spiritual people, or an evolved people.

Where does that leave us as moral guardians or examples, I wonder.

I was frankly embarrassed to see it and to call myself an American at that moment. I am not an apologist for what evil has done. I just don’t want to see evil itself mirrored in our reactions to the elimination of a tiny bit of it.

Agree with me or not, it doesn’t matter. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

King

On Martin Luther King Day, I would like to share something I noticed. Please come along for the ride.

The initials MLK are the transliterated Roman letters for the Hebrew מ ל ך which, amazingly, means king. It’s pronounced melek, as Hebrew is read right to left. (Also, the ך is the form of the letter כ that is used when that letter ends a word.)

But wait, as they say in infomercials,
there’s more . . .

The three Tarot cards that are assigned to these letters are as follows:

  • The Hanged Man (Key 12) is assigned to Mem (מ)
  • Justice (Key 11) is assigned to Lamed (ל)
  • The Wheel of Fortune (Key 10) is assigned to Kaph (כ)

OK, so what? Well, consider the meanings of the cards themselves. The Hanged Man is often said to represent transition and sacrifice. During a Hanged Man time, one is asked to persevere, realizing that the desired end may be a while in coming. Justice represents the law, and bringing things into balance. Justice says that what is right and just will come to pass. The Wheel of Fortune is all about cycles and things coming in their proper time. It is often a fortunate card, showing movement toward better times.

Put it all together and we have a man whose sacrifice and perseverence led to a righting of injustice and a movement toward a more hopeful time. Kind of sums up Dr. King, don’t you think?

It’s always a delight to explore what Tarot has to say. It is amazing in its ability to put forth deeper meanings. Tarot always rewards serious study.

Happy MLK Day.

It Doesn’t Matter What You Do

It’s been a while, so I thought I’d write about some of the stuff that’s been on my mind.

One matter that has occupied my attention has been the belief that it doesn’t matter what you do. Sounds nihilistic, I know, but I don’t mean it like that.

Here’s the deal. There are lots of things to “do” in this world, and I’m specifically referring to occupations. Some hold high prestige, other not. Take refuse collection, for instance. This is one of the most important jobs in modern society, yet it is held in low esteem. After all, who wants to be a sanitation worker? But without them, we’d be in deep . . . you get the point. Where’d your civilization be then, huh?

Anyway, I don’t want to get too far off point. What is really important is not what one does, but how one is. Each of us has a life purpose, and it is our duty to seek it out and follow it. This is essential for our soul’s sake. Living and being in accord with one’s purpose is what makes each moment holy, not how much cash we have or how much other people envy us or think that we are cool. A person living his or her life’s purpose is approaching enlightenment. Ultimately, that’s what matters. At least that’s my opinion.

Seek it out. Live it. Embody it. The rest, as they say, is just window-dressing.

What A Fine Fallow

Farmers know that it is advisable to let a field lie fallow occasionally to rest the soil. Intensive planting and harvesting will only exhaust the land, and lead to inferior results. This is an example of the role of cycles in nature and, by extension, in ourselves.

It is an important, if often underestimated or forgotten, principle of esoteric study that one cannot make constant progress. It is essential to allow study and practice to incubate in order to blossom at full potency. Those who feel that they are constantly reaching greater heights and states of accomplishment are building their castles on a sandy foundation. It is an illusion. Their structures are certain to collapse upon themselves, leaving them with nothing but shadows of their imagined glory. There is no substance to such practices.

The Tarot card often associated with cycles is the Wheel of Fortune. This is the card of the Third Chakra and the planet Jupiter. The card reminds us to respect cycles and to understand that they are part of the cosmic order. Respecting cycles includes an appreciation for those times when no progress seems to be made in our practice and spiritual development. This is merely a time of resting of the spiritual field – a period of germination of previous practice which is moving inexorably toward a greater level of understanding and functioning on the spiritual plane.

Take a lesson from the Wheel of Fortune and see that all is unfolding as it should. Meditation on this truth will yield fruitful results.

Mystery, Mastery

I don’t know about you, but I get occasional bolts from the blue. For me, it’s almost like hearing something; it pops into my head as if it were being spoken to me. Hallucinations, perhaps?

(I won’t get into it now, but it is my opinion that all symptoms of what we call mental illness are really normal phenomena carried to an extreme in frequency, intensity, and/or duration. For instance, we’ve all had the experience of asking someone if they had just spoken to you when in fact they had said nothing. Seems to me that you just had a hallucination.)

Back on task now – I had one of those bolts that other day. A voice said, “Move from mystery to mastery through the power of YA.” Of course, it was a play on the two words, whose spellings differ by those two letters. However, the implication is potentially profound. Let me explain.

YA is a shortened form of the tetragrammaton, the four-letter Hebrew name of God. It’s the one usually transliterated as Yahweh or Jehovah. The two Hebrew letters used to form YA are yod and heh.

In the Major Arcana of the Tarot, each card is associated with a Hebrew letter. Yod is associated with the Hermit, and heh with the Emperor. These two cards are manifestations of power, with the Hermit being internal and the Emperor, external.

What’s the message? It seems that taking the mystery, an understanding of which is arrived at via the Hermit consciousness, and transforming it into mastery, via the Emperor consciousness, is the path of making the spiritual manifest in the physical world. In other words, if one can take deep spiritual truths and live them day to day, then mastery is truly achieved.

Who says that all hallucinations are bad?

Heart-Centered Living

What does it mean to live from the heart? There are plenty of opinions about it, ranging from giving it all to everyone to taking care of yourself first. Like everything else, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

The Buddhists have a term, bodhichitta, which is defined as limitless compassion for all sentient beings. This is the ultimate in heart-centered living, but it is most difficult to attain. After all, it means the release of all attachments. These attachments are replaced by pure compassion. I’ll let you know when I get there.

Living from the heart means to have at least a well enough developed sense of empathy to be able to understand and truly feel with another’s experience. This releases judgment and replaces it with identification. But does the release of judgment mean that everything is OK, regardless of the action or its consequences? Obviously not.

On the Tree of Life, the sphere of Compassion (Chesed) lies opposite that of Severity or Judgment (Geburah). – You can review the Tree in my post here. – The goal of consciously incorporating the Tree into one’s being is based on balance, or following the Middle Way, to borrow a term from Buddhism. In other words, from a Tree of Life perspective, balance must be maintained between Compassion and Judgment. Straying too far one way or the other leads to error. To put a further twist on it, sometimes the best way of showing compassion is through a stern punishment. True tough love.

It’s difficult to live from the heart, and it’s an easy out to justify insensitivity on our part as “taking care of ourselves.” After all, love does begin at home. Without self-love, all other forms of love are hollow, being ill-directed attempts to find inner acceptance. Carried too far, though, self-love becomes narcissism. Not carried far enough, it becomes self-loathing. Neither alternative is pretty.

Balance, balance.

Is It Intuition?

Here’s a vexing question for you. We’ve all had intimations, gut feelings, vague senses, etc. Is it intuition? It can be tough to tell.

But what is intuition? It has been called a direct realization of the truth, without resorting to a reasoning process. Good enough; let’s use that. Not perfect, but it will do.

In the health care field, we have the notion of clinical intuition. It is a term that is accepted even by some of the stodgiest amongst practitioners. I have told class after class of budding healers that intuition needs a channel through which to flow, and that channel gets bigger and better worn the more one knows about the relevant field. In other words, intuition needs a translator to be useful, and the better the translator, the more accurate the intuition tends to be.

In my opinion, there is nothing worse than someone who calls themselves a healer without a good grounding in what they are doing. Such individuals have an unfortunate proclivity to speak every thought that crosses their minds as if it were Divine Guidance – when often it is only the pontificating of personal ego. Such healers can and often do harm to those they are trying to help.

So, is it intuition, or ego gratification? A most important consideration is whether there is true neutrality about the situation in the intuiter, to coin a term. When there is no ego involvement, the information is more likely to be accurate – but even that is no guarantee.

As you can see, there are no easy answers here. Outside verification of intuitive impressions is helpful, but not always available.

Bottom line: Caution is advised. Not much help, I’m afraid. I’ll do some Qabalistic musings about this soon, as it pertains to the Tree of Life.

Tarot Reading – Stage Five

Please note: I no longer use this stage, as I do not believe that it gives enough extra information to justify its use. Therefore, this post is for information only.

So, we’ve reached the final stage. By this point in a reading, the major themes have been identified and fleshed out to a large extent. Now, it remains to see what sphere on the Tree of Life is most applicable. This gives the aspect of personality, or the manifestation of the God-self, that is being called upon. Vague, I know. It’s a difficult stage to quantify.

To lay out the cards, they are dealt into ten piles, traditionally in the shape of the Tree  itself. Whichever pile the significator is in, that is the sphere begin brought into play.

As an example, say the significator is found in pile four, which is the sphere of Chesed on the Tree. This is the sphere of Jupiter, and it brings good fortune, but also a call for order and regularity. In our dealings with others, Chesed brings compassion. Depending on the question, this result could indicate a need for proper attitude, a reminder to heed the natural cycles of things, or an uplifting bit of support for a fortunate outcome.

As in previous stages, the cards are laid out, counted, and paired. Timing of the outcome to the question can also be approximated by the card that falls in a particular position in the spread. (This is true for the third stage as well)

So, there you go. This set of posts was especially for those interested in reading the cards, and for those curious about how I go about it. Go here for details of how to request a reading from me.

Maybe I should do a reading on a topic and post results here for inspection. It’s always an interesting thing to do, and there’s always something to learn from a reading.