Deeper than the day has realized: the Moon in the Tarot (part 2)

It is by no means a new way of looking at things to put the 21 numbered Arcana of the Tarot into an arrangement that gives the picture of three fundamentally different paths. These are:

The first path is the active, masculine path. The energetic Magician marks the beginning of the series; with the warlike ruler, the Charioteer, Death and the Tower appear figures that are strongly influenced by the astrological principle Mars. The Wheel of Fate and the Sun, in turn, correspond to the equally masculine energies of Jupiter and the Sun.

The second path begins with the High Priestess. It is the feminine path, the path of Love, Virtue and Patience. With the Hierophant a man appears in this line, but even he wears women’s clothes. The virtues of Strength, Justice and Temperance follow, all allegorically represented by female figures. The cards “The Star” and “The Judgment” conclude the series.

Now, however, things get exciting. Both paths are antagonistic, are opposites. In the interaction the synthesis happens, the Alchemical Marriage between Sun and Moon. This interaction between the solar and lunar forces brings to light seven realizations, and these are the well-known seven Hermetic Principles (these seven laws are presented in detail in the classic “Kybalion”).

So let’s begin the journey that will lead us to seven fundamental realizations.

Arcanum #3, “The Empress,” marks the first stop. She is the result of the meeting of Magician and Virgin, she is the realized potential of the virgin of Arcanum #2, she is the pregnant mother, the fertile Goddess Venus. So the first realization is the secret of procreation, of birth. In short, the beginning of the threefold path shows the Principle of Gender. It is in everything, everything carries its male and female essence. Sex reveals itself on all levels.

The Empress gives birth to a son, the Emperor.

Arcanum #6, “The Lovers”, represents the second station. The Pontifex Tarot, like the Tarot de Marseille, shows a man who has to choose between two women, two ways of life. Does he choose Isis as his wife, or does he choose Lilith? The light path of the spiritual (corresponding to the Hierophant) or the dark path of the material (corresponding to the Emperor)? The usual interpretation is that the hero has to choose the light side, called virtue. My view of this card is different: in front of him the path divides. But instead of choosing one and against the other, isn’t it better to choose both? Wouldn’t that rather correspond to the search for wholeness? Cupid’s arrow points to the seeker himself. Only if he reconciles the light and the dark side, the one pole with the other pole, the two sphinxes can pull the Chariot in the Arcanum #7 in one direction. So the second insight is the Principle of Polarity, the insight that opposites are two aspects of one thing, differing only in the degree of their distance. The solution is therefore always to seek harmony and thereby to unite and reconcile the conflicting extremes. Incidentally, the Lovers of the Waite-Smith Tarot also refer to the fact that the fruits of both trees, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge, must be eaten.

The light and dark sphinx pull the cart and do not interfere with each other.

The third station is the Arcanum #9, “The Hermit”. It stands for the Principle of Correspondence: As above, so below. Without this law of analogy, knowledge would be impossible. We could know nothing of the great correlations, of the laws of life, if what takes place in the great whole did not have its correspondence in the small and vice versa. Are we not the drivers of our body, are we not the tamers of our desires? Therefore, “The Chariot” represents the soul of a man in which the Higher Self has its dwelling, and the lion represents the personality of man which is gently guided by the Higher Self. How could we know anything of this Higher Self within us and above us if the above were not reflected in the below and the below in the above?

The Hermit’s lamp reveals the riddle of the world, represented as a Wheel.

Arcanum #12, “The Hanged Man,” marks the fourth realization, the Principle of Vibration. Whoever grasps the principle of vibration has the scepter of his freedom in his hand and overcomes his powerlessness. Just as the Sphinx in Arcanum #10 succeeds in remaining motionless on the ever-moving Wheel. The Hanged Man is also motionless, even if involuntarily. How does he overcome his agony, his rebellion against this ordeal? He knows that nothing rests, that everything is in motion, that everything vibrates. And he learns to control his own vibration, because he has time to pay attention to what increases or decreases his own vibration. So he can save himself from his agonizing situation, not by loosening the rope, he is not able to do that. But he can conquer his panic (thus reduce his vibration), end his fight against fate. He can accept his disaster, surrender and thereby inwardly let go. Thereby he achieves inner peace. Even more: one does not know whether the Hanged Man has not chosen this agonizing situation of his own free will. He then makes a sacrifice and the Principle of Vibration gives him the strength to do so.

The Hanged Man offers a sacrifice and experiences a small or large Death.

“The Devil”, the Arcanum #15, illustrates the Principle of Causality, the Law of Cause and Effect. The card “Death” (solve = he dissolves) shows that we reap what we sow. The reaper is Death, but he rules only in the service of life, as Henry Miller says. The Arcanum #14 (coagula = it binds) is also a symbol of transmigration: the soul leaves a vessel and receives a new body. For how could the Law of Cause and Effect be understood if only one life is considered? The Devil is the emblematic shadow that our consciousness has built overpowering and frightening. We have just realized that Lilith, the Moon, is the shadow of Isis, the High Priestess. For this reason, Lilith is also associated with the Devil. We have become slaves to ourselves: everything we have denied and despised comes back to us as a shadow, and this shadow has the terrible grimace of the Devil. The only lesson to be learned here is to accept the shadow and all that is self-induced, to accept it, perhaps even to take a step toward the Devil and kiss him on the mouth. It is the Law of Causality that every phenomenon has its cause. Therefore, all that which frightens us and which we detest has its cause in ourselves. Maintaining this shadow makes us unfree. If we redeem the dark aspect of our soul, if we redeem Lilith by accepting her as a part of us, then we are allowed to come one step closer to her secret.

The integration of the shadow and acceptance of karma releases us from our self-built prison, the Tower.

This brings us back to the card that started it all: The Moon, the Arcanum #18. Here we meet the Guardian of the Threshold. Watchdogs and watchtowers, darkness during the day due to the Moon moving in front of the Sun.

What does the Guardian of the Threshold mean to us? This guardian symbolizes the greatest and most difficult test, it represents the most difficult struggle of the hero, the final confrontation. Since we are able to pass this test only if we always gather strength, make a new attempt, solve minor trials, fail at others, but never slacken. It is the Principle of Rhythm that is evident in everything, and that helps us to mature in our great task. It is the alternation between drama and peace, strife and love, it is Arcanum #16 (ego) and #17 (humility) that form the tides of our lives, that do not let us give up, but give us the necessary perseverance on our long winding path, paradoxical as it may sound.

As the seasons change, so do the tides. And, of course, the Moon itself; only for a short time does Lilith reign, then she hands the scepter back to Isis. In this darkest hour, however, one can dare a glimpse of what lies hidden beyond the sphere of the Moon. It is a distant goal, dangerous only if we dare to step there too soon. For the dogs scent who is ready and who is not. But to get there, it takes ebb and flow, again and again, endlessly, life and death strung together like white and black beads on a long, long string. Only through the rhythm of life do we mature, pass small and ever greater tests, miss and fall behind, but little by little we cross new, albeit small, thresholds. Looking not at the big picture but at the level of everyday life, it is not about the great Guardian of the Threshold, but about the many small guardians of the threshold. So every cycle, every adventure, every experience has at the end this one last test before the way is free to the crowning conclusion.

When the night sea journey is completed, the Sun appears.

But Arcanum #18, “The Moon”, is the becoming whole, the completion of the four elements. It is the threshold to the completion of a cycle, it symbolizes the most difficult test, which opens the door to the last realization, the Arcanum #21, the “World”, the quintessence. That is why the deep midnight speaks, the world is deep and deeper than the day thought. There the goal is reached, there the last law, the highest insight, the Principle of Mentalism reveals itself: the All, the Cosmos, the All in All, it is of mental nature. All of us, the whole creation, the universe, all of it is nothing but a thought, a meditation of God. When we have realized this arcanum, we are truly citizens of the universe. Some call this Nirvana, some call it Enlightenment.

However, as described, it takes a felt eternity to realize all this. All that for which Arcanum #18, “The Moon,” stands, when we align ourselves with the great goal. Is there only this long, winding path towards the light? Only this path which is marked by the change of ebb and flow, by the change of life and death? Whose symbol is the long, hard and laborious ascent of the mystic mountain? It is again the moon that shows us another solution: there is indeed a shortcut. Let’s look back to the beginning of the Path of Love, to Arcanum #2, “The High Priestess.” Both Moon Cards, #2 and #18, find their synthesis, as stated in Part 1, in Arcanum #12, “The Hanged Man.” The Hanged Man shows us the key?

Yes, because the number 12 is the upside-down number 21. When you look at the world upside down, everything shows a whole new side. We realize that we cannot cause anything by ourselves. Turning the number 12 upside down, we have completed 21.