Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Minor Arcana: Number 4


Four: Mysteries and a sense of order

Around the world, what ancient building best represents stability, permanence, eternality and architectural grandeur? Of course, in Egypt, it’s the Great Pyramid! For centuries it was the world’s tallest building. It was constructed with over a million giant blocks of limestone including an outer cover of limestone casings. Supposedly, it was glistening white in the sunlight and could be seen for miles. The base is foursquare  - a four-sided pyramid of equal proportions. The implications of it’s measurements are still huge in mathematics and in Sacred Geometry.
     In Tarot, the number 4 means a sense of order, of measurement, classification, even the organizing principle of government. It is also the 4-fold pattern seen in nature’s realm. The ancients were always concerned with the 4 elements (which we see in the Tarot): Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. Then there are lots of other fours to consider: 4 footed creatures; the 4 winds; the 4 cardinal directions: East, West, North, and South; the 4 phases of the moon: waxing, waning, full and void; the 4 seasons: Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall, and so on.
     Four is symbolized by a square with 4 corners. It represents a stable framework for manifesting ideas in concrete form by following a blueprint, a design, or plan, in an ordered sequence of events.The conclusions arrived at in number 3 can now be carried out and realized in the results signified by number 4. Pythagoras said the tetrad, number 4, was the root of all things. Today, we see it has formed the basis for cosmologies in many early cultures and, the design and structure of ancient cities and temples.

 Let’s take a mathematical jaunt around the Great Pyramid:
According to some Pyramidologists, the Great Pyramid proves the "squaring of the circle" wherein the circumference of the circle is approximately equal to the perimeter of the square. This can be figured based on the angle of the casing stones which was approximately 51 degrees 51 seconds. It also proved Pi. (For all the configurations and numbers, refer to Great Pyramid Statistics website.)

     To draw a diagram of squaring of the circle, you would first draw a square with a dot in the center. Then place a compass point on the dot and, using a protractor, draw a line from the center to the top edge of the square at 51 degrees 51 seconds.  Then place the pencil of the compass on that crossing point and draw the circle. Viola! you have just squared the circle and have taken a step into the realm of the Sacred Geometry of the Ancients. 
     So this must mean something. What? It has been considered a metaphor for the merging or fusion of the material life with a spiritual life. The square is the earth - our material world with everyday goings on, and the 4 elements. The circle symbolizes our inner spiritual world or cosmic life with no beginning or end. For some it’s the realm of the gods. 

  “Early temples were often built foursquare…these structures symbolized the transition-point between heaven and earth. (Sacred Geometry by Nigel Pennick, 1994, Caball Bann Publishing, UK, p. 16.
      A famous foursquare city is described in Revelation 21 in the Bible. The city was measured with a golden reed and was 12,000 furlongs in length, breadth, and height, all equal, so it formed a cube. But it was no earthly city like Babylon, which was also foursquare. It was a spiritual, celestial city of God within a spiritual realm - a "golden paradise," so-to-say. On the other hand, according to Herodotus, the city of Babylon formed an exact square 14 miles long each side and was filled with earthly gardens and other earthly delights. Here is a link to Hieronymus Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights," a 15th century artist's interpretation of such gardens. (Also see the Project Gutenberg Ebook of Ancient Town-planning by F. Haverfield.)
    
What does this have to do with Tarot? 
Think about these interpretations when you get a 4 card in a reading.

The 4 of Wands, which I have illustrated here, means the ongoing work on yourself can be perfected in grace and beauty. A new identity is manifested and asserted in the world. Beauty and harmony reign, exemplified by a state of “Harvest Home.” You are spiritually satisfied.

The 4 of Cups: Here you feel stable and secure in expressing emotions and are capable of acting them out publicly. Needs, such as comforting and being comforted are expressed through Love.

The 4 of Swords: You can inspire others by expressing your philosophy publicly and find security in stating your opinions. There will be positive and expansive results. 

The 4 of Pentacles: Here your material success is assured by the ability to get organized, and become stable in business and management. You take responsibility in managing, restructuring, and organizing the flow of objects, people and things. 


Monday, June 16, 2014

Minor Arcana: number 3

Number 3:  Three Little Pigs





 
    We talk and act in terms of the physical, mental, and spiritual. 
3 of Cups 

    We symbolize “three-ness” in geometry and art by a triangle — 3 sides; the trident —3 tongs;  a trefoil — 3 leaves; and a Fleur-de-Lis ♓︎—3 components.

   We hear about the 3 Graces, the 3 fates, and other combinations of the number 3 such as: body, mind, and spirit in the human condition. In a religious sense we think of the Trinity: Father, Son and the Holy Ghost; and Faith, Hope and Charity; the 3 Wise men.

Pythagoras envisioned a metaphysical philosophy behind numbers. He saw a universal principle in a number, therefore — number 3 — added to number 1 and number 2, would mean completion, unity. It takes us beyond duality. Kenneth Guthrie writes, “…this is the archetypal pattern of cosmogenesis, the pattern of creation…”  (The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, Phanes Press, 1987, p.22). So what is the principle behind number 3 and how is it represented in the Tarot? We have seen with number 2, the relationship of one thing to another and the possibility of making a choice “for better or worse.” We choose to reflect the One or, to do the opposite, where we experience duality. When you add number 3 to 1 and 2, the duality of "twoness" is overcome, and we can achieve a synthesis. Out of the combination of 1 and 2, something new is manifested. A third addition can bridge the tension between opposites and extremes, and the result can be a balanced arrangement. According to Rachel Pollack: “Three also signifies birth and motherhood, for a baby is the “sum” of its parents genes mixed together.” (The Haindl Tarot, Newcastle pub. 1990, p. 28)

In the fairy tale of ”Three Little Pigs,” the big bad wolf attacked the pigs and blew down the house of straw of pig number 1, and the house of sticks of pig number 2, but he couldn’t bring down the house of pig number 3. The third pig obviously learned from the mistakes made by the first two pigs in building houses of straw and sticks, so he built a more substantial house made of bricks that the wolf couldn’t blow down. The first 2 pigs just hurriedly slapped together their houses so they could rest and play. They made the wrong choices. (Original story by Joseph Jacobs, English Fairy Tales, 1890) This is the same moral lesson of the 3 card of the Tarot. The 2 card is about making a choice but, the 3 card is about the outcome of making the right choice. The 3 of Cups in the Rider-Waite deck shows 3 maidens celebrating happiness and success, dancing with their cups held in the air. There is a lot about the “Three Graces” in literature and art. For instance, we see them in Sandro Botticelli’s painting, “La Primavera,” in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. They were companions to the goddess, Venus and their function was to spread joy and beauty. They provided specific gifts:  Aglaia—brilliance,radiance; Euphrosyne—joy from the heart; and Thalia—beauty (especially of flowers). 

 Tarot card number 3 generally means integration, and the manifestation of one’s work. It indicates a unification of preparation and planning. It is creative power brought to fruition. The Empress card in the Major Arcana is also number 3. She represents the abundance of plenty, creativity, fecundity, and the formations of productivity, especially in agriculture.
  
When you get a number 3 card in a reading:
The 3 of Wands signifies manifesting one’s thoughts through planning and execution. One’s ideas are expressed in concrete form.
The 3 of Cups signifies spiritual and emotional completion; success and fulfillment of promise, and a sense of harmony and love.
The 3 of Swords represents the power of discrimination in being able to sort the true from the false and arrive at an equitable conclusion.
The 3 of Pentacles deal with day to day physical things in business, homemaking, gardening, where there is a product, and the satisfying result of hard work.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Minor Arcana: Two

Two: the other


Two-ness in the Minor Arcana cards of Tarot is not just about two items or things. It is mostly about polarities and dualism. We are confronted daily by an array of colossal forms of opposition. The most obvious and immediate concerns are seen in the futuristic optimism of a desire for peace, but opposed by the never-ending condition of violence and war.

Numeral 2 means 2 separate units, an alternative to numeral one in the form of something different. There are 2 ways at looking at two-ness: (1) a reflection of the One, or (2) an opposition to the One. Then we have polarities that are opposites, or counterfeits such as: good versus evil; active, passive; light, dark; spirit, matter; mind, body; strong, weak; right, wrong; positive, negative; male, female; yin, yang; life, death; war, peace; love, hate; and so on.

In these times, we would like to think that nowadays nothing is set in concrete. So we’ll start out by examining, in human terms, the profound tension between “I” and “Thou,” which is exemplified by the struggle between oneself and the other. Keep in mind that for some, there are still a few absolute truths. When we dip into early philosophical and religious beliefs, we can trace the beginning of the polarities of dualism and its influence on us today, especially since Tarot in general seems to be an outgrowth of those beliefs. For instance, The Magician symbolizes one who has the power to influence events. In absolutist metaphysics, Plato envisioned that ideal Forms such as Good, Beauty, God, and Truth, were unchanging. There was no room for something contradictory. There was only the infinite One, Good, or the Mind of the universe, everything else was an imperfect, transitory, or relative imitation of it.

Harvard scholar, Annemarie Schimmel, talks about Manichaeism (Gnostic beliefs) where the good is spiritual and the bad is evil, “…hence the soul had to strive to escape the evil material person of this world and this body” (The Mystery of Numbers, Oxford Press, 1993, p.51). She points out that this became a major underlying influence in the philosophy of the early Christian Church, and still persists in such “black and white” thinking today.

In biblical interpretations of the first chapter of Genesis – there was only one God and everything in creation was good. As the story goes, metaphorically, Adam was the first man (the other) and then along came Eve who was eve’n another. But Adam was supposed to be in the image and likeness of God, yet it seems something happened, as the struggles in the second chapter appear to be a contradiction to the first. Adam and Eve discovered themselves as separate entities other than the One, and therefore, they were banished from the Garden of Eden, and things got even worse for their sons when Cain killed Abel. This is aptly portrayed by William Blake. Thereafter, supposedly all of mankind’s troubles began. An entire religious dogma of hatred for the material body arose out of this saga. In early religions, such as Zoroastrianism, Ahura Mazda (the good God) was contradicted by Ahriman (the bad god). In Goethe’s “Faust,” the demon or devil, “…Mephistopheles is the spirit who denies, protests and above all, halts the flux of life and prevents things from being done” (Mircea Eliade, The Two and the One (HarperCollins, 1965, p. 79).

Author, Susan Griffin, in a lecture at the University of Washington several years ago, talked about the “Nazi Death Cults” of World War II and how self-hatred on a grand scale has produced a state of suicidal self-destruct in the denial of human feeling, exemplified by nuclear war. We see how this is still being acted out today in the extreme violence of warring factions and opposing forces all over the world.

So what is the meaning of the 2 cards in Tarot? Numeral 2 can be interpreted according to the connotations of the four suits: Wands (Fire, growth, spirituality) Cups (Water, feelings, psychology) Swords (Air, thoughts, systems) and Pentacles or Coins (Earth, materiality, everyday goings on). In most situations there are always two possibilities, some positive, some negative, depending on the position of the card: upright or reversed. Two-ness always indicates we have a choice to make. Which will we choose?



2 of Wands – Choosing to grow from experience when unforeseen obstacles appear that impel us to choose the right path or, on the other hand, tempt us to go the wrong way which might result in failure and ruination.



2 of cups - Choosing to be joined in love, romance, and feeling good about it, or to enter a love/hate relationship filled with rejection and disappointment, and always feeling emotionally drained.



2 of Swords – Choosing to think things through carefully, while making plans for positive change or, stumbling into unrecognized pitfalls based upon a lack of judgment.



2 of Pentacles or Coins - Choosing to make good decisions in investments, choice of partner, and being frugal in spending and saving or, choosing the wrong person, making bad investments; being greedy and exploitive.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tarot Minor Arcana

And a One and a Two!


ONE—“I AM THAT IAM! (Exodus 3:14) What a more profound way to state your identity in the universe! “Hello, this is the Cosmic Mind of the Universe speaking.” To talk about the numeral ONE brings up many levels of contemplation. It’s not about counting dollars in your “counting house,” but more about the nature of numeral ONE in a metaphysical sense. So how should we think about one, or oneness, in a deck of Tarot cards? The dictionary defines an ace as “a single point on a card,” and also as “one who excels.” Here are some of the usual meanings implied by numeral one:

1. One is undivided. It is unity in a state of wholeness.

2. A state of oneness. It is “I” alone. One Self and no other.

3. It is the unity of oneness. Everything is part of the ONE.

4. A singleness of purpose

5. A beginning

6. The first, or something new

7. Manifesting

8. The one Being

Michael Talbot wrote of a Hindu myth about the Self of the Universe who perceives existence as a form of play: “It assumes a kaleidoscope of faces and facades—a dazzling infinity of masks and forms until it becomes the living substance of the entire universe…it is the one and eternal Self of the cosmos.” (Mysticism and the New Physics, Bantam 1981, p. 160)

What does ONE mean in relation to the ACES in Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness?

ACE of Wands (Fire)
It symbolizes the primary creative impulsion to begin growing, and coming into being. It is the yearning to establish one’s identity. “Who am I?” It is the beginning of consciousness and all things new in the realm of day to day experience. In a metaphysical sense, numeral one signifies the start of a journey to find your spiritual Self-hood or soul. Here you affirm your oneness with the Universe and your place in it. The Ace of Wands in Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness is depicted as a magic wand with the fire of Light at both ends. It represents drawing down fiery energy from above and sending out a fiery energy below in an endless cycle of wholeness.

ACE of Cups (Water)
This represents getting in touch with your feelings or sensing how somebody else feels. It means dealing with emotional interactions and, the inner concerns you may have in learning how to get along with others, which includes gaining new insights into dealing with worry, fear, anger, love, passion, and compassion. It’s important to pay attention to your intuition and feelings in knowing if a situation is right or not. You are dealing with issues of feeling a sense of security, finding emotional and spiritual contentment, and being productive through useful and fruitful endeavors. The Ace of Cups in Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness is depicted as a huge cup of spiritual elixir supported by rainbows, signifying hope.

ACE of Swords (Air)
Here, this means you can experience clarity of thought and have a penetrating awareness of the motives of your companions and colleagues. This presents an opportunity to bring new inventive ideas into being. You can formulate brilliant plans and better yet, you are able to communicate your thoughts to others. You have a desire to get to the truth of the matter and can dig deep to find the cause of troubling problems. It is an affirmation of expecting and experiencing justice in being able to discern the difference between good and evil. The sword of the Ace in Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness is centered between dark and light values, indicating one’s skill in separating the reality of truth from the unreality of lies.

ACE of Pentacles (Earth)
This is the potential for you to be involved in earthly, practical manifestations such as planting seeds, and experiencing abundance in growing gardens and harvesting produce; building a house; or following though on a job. It points to having a sense of self-worth that includes monetary, as well as psychological and philosophical values. Hard work leads to material success and generates significant rewards and compensation. The Ace of Pentacles in Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness is colored in earth tones and includes an illustration of a sphere containing a centered pentagon, signifying the oneness of all things working together.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Tarot Minor Arcana

A Bean Sprout, Numbers, and the Minor Arcana


What does a bean sprout have in common with a Tarot deck? — Time!
We can think of the Minor Arcana cards as the time-keepers of our lives. They can be aligned with the four changing seasons of earth’s yearly cycle around the sun, and we can apply the implications of their meaning to our daily lives. How do we associate that with the Tarot? First, we see there are four suits: Wands (Fire), Cups (Water), Swords (Air) and Pentacles (Earth) which represent earth’s seasonal changes in general. Each suit consists of 10 numbered cards, plus four court cards: Page, Knight, Queen and King. The numbered cards are not about quantitative functions, but instead, have metaphysical meaning in Tarot. Various interpretations describe the cards as representing processes of change and growth in situations that can be correlated with a person’s life. My teacher, Gail Fairfield, views the Minor Arcana in developmental cycles: “Within the fourteen cards of each suit, there are four cycles of three… a conceptual level 1,2,3; actualized level 4,5,6; expanded level 7,8,9; a transitional level 10; and a fulfilled level P, K, Q, K.” (Choice Centered Tarot, Ramp Creek Publishing, 1990, p. 30)


For a quick overview for finding meaning in the cards, I’ll use a bean sprout as a metaphor for the states and stages of life-processes that are implied in the Tarot. A study of the Tarot Minor Arcana can reveal the underlying universal laws and patterns manifest in our earthly existence. I like how the author, Arthur Young, discusses the process of fourfold development in his book, The Geometry of Meaning (Delacorte Press, 1976). He says, “Spring is the time of physical acceleration…Summer is the time of physical change…Autumn…is the time of mental stimulus” and “…Winter the time when growth has ceased” (p. 118).

In SPRING, the ground is prepared, but empty, (Zero 0, the number of the Fool). [Think of TV’s Mr. Bean] No thing is happening, yet it is full of unbelievable possibilities. One (1) the seed planted in the ground represents a beginning. It is motivated to start the miraculous life-building process—it germinates. (Aces) For us, it’s beginning to conceive an idea; to create something new; a time to start a new endeavor. Two (2) by mirroring some mysterious life-DNA-blueprint within the seed, it begins to establish itself as a new life and becomes something—a “bean sprout.” It sprouts 2 leaves, which are initially nourished by the seed. This action resembles the same process for us as we begin to establish our own unique identity (number 2 cards). Three (3) the bean plant flourishes in stage three with more leaves and its sweet flowers bloom. It is an expression of creative powers and unification of purpose. We synthesize our growth, plan our strategies, and are learning to adapt to a changing world by working together (number 3 cards).

Four (4) in SUMMER, the growth of the plant increases; it matures, and pollination takes place. We explore how to manifest our dreams, ambitions, and plans. We find stability and learn to structure our lives by stepping out of the box (number 4 cards). Five (5) in mid-summer, bugs and disease attempt to attack the plant and, its resilience is tested. It persists in fulfilling its mission. Now, we face our own challenges and confrontations. We take our chances in learning how to deal with opposition, arguments and the unexpected (number 5 cards). Six (6) the plant reaches the apex of perfection and beauty, producing an abundance of graceful bean pods. We strive to find balance and harmony in our lives, and count our blessings, and savor our successes (number 6 cards).

FALL, Seven (7) an entire cycle is complete and the harvest is on. The bean plant is ripe and fulfilling its creative function by continuing to replenish its kind. We bask in a sense of victory and accomplishment in having achieved our aspirations. We have subdued the opposing forces (number 7 cards). Eight (8) from the stems of the plant, the bean pods snap open releasing the seeds within, which drop and fall where they may. We have an opportunity to begin again at a new level; to re-invent ourselves and go in a new direction; a send off to new events and new possibilities (number 8 cards). Nine (9) the new bean seeds make their way back into the earth and wait for the moment to begin the cycle again. We have integrated all our lessons and are learning a new way of thinking and being. We take on a new attitude of well being (number 9 cards).

WINTER, Ten (10) the bean plant enters a transitory state of dormancy, even torpidity. Its function has been fulfilled and accomplished, which was to live and grow and replenish its form. It is the end of a cycle and everything is complete, yet there is a promise of renewal again in the spring. We are in a state of transition into the unknown. We have accomplished our goals and can now rest at the end of a cycle and reminisce on rich memories of the events in our lives (number 10 cards). [The next segment will continue with the court cards.]

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Universe

 The future —Paradise and Utopia
When you receive The Universe (The World) Tarot card in a reading this could be the beginning of a “reality check” concerning how you envision the future. What do you want the future to look like? Do you wonder about it or do you just live day to day? What do you see for yourself in the future? For some of us, we imagine a heavenly Paradise or Utopian society: “And they lived happily ever after!” Some are seeking Nirvana, or hope to go to Heaven; to find Shangri-La; to get rich quick; to find the love of one’s life; or to just live in an ideal society—“The American Dream.” There’s a sense that if you pass all the tests life has to offer, then you are rewarded with happiness, peace, contentment and fulfillment. Is this true or is life just a “crapshoot?”

First, we let’s look at the past and see how others have imagined a future. Plenty of philosophers, poets, artists, and religionists have written about, and painted how they thought “Paradise” and “Utopia” should look. Plato envisioned the ideal perfect and just utopian city in “The Republic.” He proposed four classes of society: a merchant class, a working class, and a military class all ruled by a philosopher-king elite class of educated men (how did women fit into this and what has this classicism done for the world?)

There is an interesting similarity in the Waite deck depiction of “The World” card, and ancient Roman Mithraicism sculptures of Phanes, a god-like figure (Sun-god) enclosed in an oval ring made up of images from the Zodiac. The four seasons fill the corners just as in the Waite card. The interior figures are somewhat similar. Mithras was a “cosmocrator,” the cosmic ruler of the universe and, the dancer has achieved a place in the universe. Obviously, there is some hidden influence here.

One of the most famous paintings of an artificial paradise is the “Garden of Earthly Delights” Triptych by Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516) in the Prado Museum in Madrid. The central panel, “Paradise,” is a bizarre, fictional painting complete with parades of lovers entwined with plants and animals, enjoying picnics of strawberries and cherries while frolicking among phantasmagoric fountains and strange plant-like buildings. “Themes are invariably passion and restraint, nature and civilization, freedom and coercion, and how love is to be perceived between these extremes.” (Hieronymous Bosch: The Complete Paintings and Drawings catalogue from Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2001, p. 102)

In the Marseilles Tarot pack of the 18th century, the nude dancer on The World card carries a wand in the left hand and a “philter” in the right (a form of perfume bottle containing a love-potion). Some think this is a hint of an “athanor,” the digesting furnace of alchemy.

In contemporary times, futurist Buckminster Fuller concluded that since, “…there was no operating manual for spaceship earth,” — he wrote one. Talk about imagining a future! He said, “We will now tackle our present world problems with the family of powerful thought tools: topology, geodesics, synergetics, general systems theory, and the computer’s operational ‘bitting’” (Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth,” Simon & Schuster, 1969).

Seattle artist, Deborah Lawrence, has produced a series of Utopian Collages based on the answers she received from over 200 people on what their vision of Utopia would be. She has created several collaged “trays” depicting the different types of Utopia they envisioned such as “Nonconformutopia,” with no class system, no dress code, and no stifled creativity. There is a “Paving the American Dream Tray” with the words “Privatizing the National Parks”; and there’s The “Shock and Awe Souvenir Tray,” depicting all sorts of weapons of war. Art Critic, Susan Noyes Platt, writes in Lawrence’s book: “Dee Dee Does Utopia” (Marquand Books, 2008) “She speaks to our disrupted and despotic world, offering possibilities for another future.”

The media blasts us today with all the contrasting viewpoints between the “optimists” and “doomsayers;” the socialist states, the fascist police states, and democracy. On the one hand, we are entering a new frontier imagined by Sci-Fi futurists in space-exploration, more technological breakthroughs in finding new power sources, and establishing environmental protections; while on the other, some see a violent future of wars and destruction threatened by the now ongoing devastating turmoil and governmental upheaval in the Middle East.

What are the indications in The Universe card of Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness? If you get this card in a reading it means we are shaping our future by the crucial decisions we make now. We need strength, courage, and compassion in facing the “big unknown.” The Universe card represents a more spiritual concept in that we will reap the rewards when we acknowledge our own oneness with the Universe. This is symbolized by the prismatic figure embraced in the “womb” of the Universe. It is an uplifting sign of HOPE for achieving happiness and success, gained by our efforts and perseverance as we work on mastery of self and express unconditional love, especially in cooperation with others.

Richard Roberts writes that: “From the atomic point of view, a divine dance is taking places within all particles, similar to the allegory of risen anima mundi in Key 21, the spirit of the world. Thus out of the Zero, the No-thing, comes the One…” (Joseph Campbell and Richard Roberts, Tarot Revelations, Part II (Vernal Equinox Press, 1982) p. 95.

It’s time to enjoy the fruits of our labors!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Judgment

Remembering a life


   Who judges who—and for what? Did you pass the test? Did you break the law? What happens when we leave this earthly plane? Several traditional Tarot decks depict people rising from their coffins with an angel blowing a trumpet. This is obviously a Christian theme of being judged worthy of eternal life or being condemned to an eternal hell. According to the New Testament, where to go depends upon what is written about the person in the “book of life.” (See Rev. 20:12, hmm! 2012, and the Judgment card is number 20; more to be paranoid about.) This implies a final divine judgment based on an examination of one’s life and it comes with blessings or punishment. It denotes both redemption and resurrection in heaven, or a trip to hell. In this context, God or the Messiah, redeems the righteous and punishes the wicked. For a lot of people those concepts don’t work anymore. Some are making their own heaven or hell right here and now. In contemporary thought, most of us reflect on our lives through a process of self-examination and self-monitoring. Robert Nozick says, “The understanding gained in examining a life itself comes to permeate that life and direct its course. To live an examined life is to make a self-portrait.” (The Examined Life, Simon and Schuster, 1989, p. 12)
     One must come to a point sometime in life (usually when we are much older) when we contemplate fragments of memories of our past experiences. We look at old albums of faded photographs, travel itineraries, souvenirs and trinkets, tokens gathered along the way. We reminisce on fun adventures and try to forget the bad encounters, mistakes and blunders. We are always working on transcending the errors and limitations of our past, and in so doing, sometimes we are our own worst critic, but eventually there is recompense.
     Some of the world’s greatest paintings are of the “Last judgment” depicting people in heaven or hell, painted during the Renaissance in the cathedrals of Europe. We think of Michelangelo’s fresco of enormous figures on the end wall of the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican (1541). A powerful Christ waves his right hand upward summoning the blessed to immortality and, with the left hand, sends the damned down to hell. An early innovative painter, Giotto, filled the Arena Chapel in Padua, Italy, with realistic Biblical scenes including an end wall of the “Last Judgment,” (1305) complete with a scary, monstrous blue devil devouring the sinners. The blessed are on one side, the damned on the other. Rubens painted two “Last Judgment” scenes, both of which are in the Alte Pinakothek Museum in Munich. His painting, “Fall of the Damned,” (1620) is filled with bloated bodies tumbling into the torment of hell and being beaten by demons. Jesus and Mary are shown at the top beckoning the blessed to come into the light of heaven. We also see similar themes in the art of earlier cultures.
      Moustafa Gadalla in his book “Egyptian Cosmology,” (Bastet Publishing, 1997, p.141) says, “Ancient Egyptians expressed their metaphysical beliefs in story form.” Their religion was based on the correct way to transcend this earthly existence. Hieroglyphs of an afterlife were like a mystery play where complex rituals for judging the dead were portrayed in temple carvings and written in the Book of the Dead, actually called “Coming Forth by Day: The great Awakening.” Their writings and bas relief’s expressed the belief in an afterlife where their transfigured spirits traveled to the stars. “…this, the purified one shall come forth by day after his burial.” (Wallis Budge, Dover Publications Reprint, from1895, p. 177) In the journey, a person’s soul was sent to the Hall of Judgment of Maat where the heart against was weighed against a feather. If the heart weighed more than the feather this meant the deceased was weighed down by guilt. If it balanced, the soul became a star for eternity. The person would then be judged by 42 judges. (42? In Douglas Adams “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” the computer’s answer was 42, “The Answer to Life, the Universe and Everything”!)
     In the pyramid at Saqqara, archeologists discovered the sculpture of the Pharaoh, Zoser, in a cubicle placed at a 17ยบ angle aimed at the circumpolar stars – perhaps this was a repository for his earthly life while his Ba (spirit) shot out of the pyramid toward the stars. In Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness, I have painted a pyramid with a little pentagonal window from which symbolic “souls” are escaping—celestial travelers on their way to the stars or a spiritual plane. The main theme of the Judgment card is resurrection and transformation where salvation and the belief of eternal life allay fears of doubt and despair.
     So what does this mean in a Tarot reading? This implies judgment of one’s conscience and is a warning to get busy preventing any impending doom. It’s a time for repentance or confession in asking for forgiveness for misdeeds, crimes, and mistreatment of others. Think of how you can make amends and express your remorse in order to bring about healing of difficult situations. Remind yourself as Vickie Noble says, that when “…people begin speaking and acting from their hearts to protest world destruction and work toward peace, Judgment is being felt.” (MotherPeace,” HarperCollins, 1983, p. 140). This means getting down (underworld) to the deeper meaning of life and working on the rehabilitation of inappropriate behavior, and finding the best way to express love and compassion for others and all earthly things. Then it can be an uplifting card of promise for a bright future.