The cards of the tarot can be laid out as a map of forces. They would then show, in symbolic form, the process of differentiation leading from an all encompassing unity, all the way down to the completed product of manifestation. This is an ‘overlay’ that can be applied at any scale, but we can probably get the best ‘handle’ on it if we use it as a model relating to our own development.
The evolutionary force naturally and freely flows outward (downward) from oneness, towards greater complexity and diversity; But in so doing, it finds itself becoming more constrained as it explores an ever increasing density of matter.
At the top of the diagram lies the undifferentiated unity; The divine, denoted by the aces (1s) of the minor arcana.
At the bottom; the completion of the scattering process. This can be thought of as the material world and denoted by the 10s of the minor arcana.
This exploration of ever greater complexity is a natural and irresistible process. The mystic, however, struggles against nature, swimming against the current, back towards ever greater freedom of form. S/He strives to return to the source fully laden with the hard won experience of the adventure. There and back again.
The 10 of discs, situated at the bottom of the diagram, can be used to symbolise ‘the ego’. This would make the 9 of swords above it, the ‘subconscious’. On a different scale we could just as easily call 10 ‘the Earth’ and 9 ‘The Moon’.
The central Sun of our solar system finds itself a symbol of ‘pure consciousness’ (6 of swords). In turn, Mercury (8 of cups) becomes the sphere of analytical thought; A place where language gives form to things; associated with learning, intellectuality and ritual. On the other side, Venus (7 of wands) correspondingly ‘becomes’ creative thought; The power of energy to overcome limitations, associated with emotion, passion, music and dancing.
Unconscious desires arise in ‘venus’, and are given form in the symbolic realm by ‘mercury’, manifesting unconsciously through ‘the moon’ to become ‘matters of fact’ on ‘the earth’
This is the lightning strike.
Our world is the end product. It is not the prime mover; In fact it is exactly the opposite. It is informed by all the preceding emanations.
‘The Lunar sphere’ is the focus and lens through which our world is projected and made flesh.
The 22 major arcana of the tarot describe the paths between these way-points or emanations.
We turn around and face ourselves, casting our eye to the fearsome forces that have been driving us onwards.
The three paths from the ego; XX Judgement, XXI The World & XVIII The Moon, describe experiences given; A knowledge from outside.
XXI The World, is a journey of self discovery. XX Judgement is a journey to discover our relationship to others and XVIII The Moon is a journey to discover nature; Red in tooth and claw.
In contrast, the pathways leading to pure consciousness, symbolised by XV The Devil, XIIII Temperance & XIII Death present more internal, practical pathways. There is an element of the personal trial about these. They are sometimes referred to as ‘Dark nights of the soul’.
XV The Devil, is a path of illusion and bears the symbol of the ‘eye’; A labyrinthine hall of mirrors to be traversed or hopelessly lost within.
XIIII Temperance , is the path of temptation; An ordeal in the wilderness, resisting attempts to deflect intent with offers too good to be true. A Refusal to be bought off and sold short.
XIII Death, explores the fear of letting go; A clinging to that which we didn’t possess in the first place. A voyage across water on to stranger shores. Setting sail from the grey havens or the death boat across the Styx.
in XXI The World, we see the figures of the Angel, lion, ox and eagle, which correspond to the four elements, water, fire , earth and air, which come together in the creation of our world.
XX Judgement is a path of fire. leading to a water emanation (8 of cups)
XVIII The Moon is a path of water leading to a fire emanation (7 of wands)
The balancing of these two elements (Fire and water) is the business of alchemy and transformation.
When we map these ‘emanations’ onto ‘The Heralds Wand’, symbolic of that Sumerian deity, ‘Lord/Lady of the good tree’, we see a pattern emerging.
The entwined snakes about the solid staff emphasise the mixing of these polarities.
The head of the water snake on the left, is the great receptive black sea of potential, denoted by the 3 of cups. It reflects, like a palace of mirrors, the pure point of light from the head of the fire snake on the right. (The 2 of wands)
It literally gives birth to the whole of creation, providing the supernal womb.
The crown and the two heads are the 1, 2, 3; The original trinity.
Instead of beating about the bush with wands and chalices, we could just ‘cut to the chase’ and evoke the phallus and the womb.
These three emanations are cut off and separated, There is a gap. We, in our human condition are estranged from their direct influence.
The lightning strike accumulates in the head of the water snake and irresistibly flashes across ‘the abyss’ seeking a ground to discharge its power.
There is no emanation bridging this gap, it is a wild territory. (The magenta circle in the diagram) The II Priestess of the major arcana can be placed here.
II The priestess is the active reflection of the passive XXI The World
Both entail ordeals, submissions and sacrifices. A Descent into the underworld and a crossing of the abyss.
There are two gaps in the ‘process’ which need to be bridged. One is given and the other one has to be sought.