Monday, January 17, 2011

The Hermit

The Hermit/Crone: Path to Enlightenment

After her Grandfather’s funeral, a little girl called up her Grandmother and said: “Grandma, are you dead yet?”     

I’ve chosen to paint The Hermit card of Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness with a sense of peacefulness and hope seen in the Newgrange tomb in Ireland. Yes, in reality it was formerly an ancient burial chamber, but symbolically, it is full of expectation. All is not dead yet. At the Winter Solstice, sunlight slips in through a crack in the rocks and illuminates the interior walls, which are covered with swirling, busy carvings. They look a lot like enlarged fingerprints. This card is about seeking enlightenment that comes from a retreat to find peace within by quieting the mind; being “dead,” so to speak, to mental machinations and illusory imagining.

Winter is a good time to contemplate “The Hermit” card when we would rather hibernate, or sit by the fire and read a good book. Haven’t you longed for a time to be by yourself, to just sit and think, or sleep, or cry, and just do nothing? In a world bustling with people, cars, work, computers, TV, cell phones, and the din of everyday living, it’s hard to find a peaceful moment. With The Hermit, we imagine the old stereotype of a person who goes off to meditate in a cave or tiny cell somewhere in solitude. What does this card mean? We associate it with austerity, stillness, quiet, peacefulness. There is nobody there to harass, flack, argue, pressure you, or to rush around with, as Shakespeare said: “much ado about nothing.” The meaning of The Hermit in traditional Tarot decks is about a person who has become enlightened—the “wise one”—standing on a mountaintop lighting the way for those on the path below.

There are two different concepts to explore in thinking about The Hermit. One is rooted in the Buddhist tradition: of being in a state of mindfulness through prayer and meditation, where everyday actions and thoughts are seen as impermanent, temporary, and illusive. The devotee is seeking “Nirvana” or release from suffering on the Wheel of Life, Samsara, by transcending all transient desires. In the practice of Zen, mindfulness means being alive to the present moment and living in the “now” without all the excess baggage of constantly reliving the past and rehearsing for the future. Our human mind babbles to itself every minute, whereas, to retreat and meditate in quietude, gives it a rest, and we can assimilate the totality and deeper meaning of our experiences.

The other concept is discussed by Corrine Heline in “The Bible & the Tarot” (Devorss, 1993) where she explains the raising of Lazarus, the widow’s son at Nain (nine, the number of The Hermit) (Luke 7:11). She links it to the Ninth Initiation in the Mysteries of Life and the biblical legend of Elijah. In a symbolic sense, Lazarus was lifted out of a state of being “dead”—into Cosmic Consciousness—revealing the spiritual immortality of mankind.

The hexagon star painted in the center of the tomb is sometimes referred to as the “Key of David” (Isaiah 22:22). I have used it as a symbol of the Light of a Higher Consciousness and divine order occurring in the Hermit’s enlightenment. The Light has dawned in the darkness of the cave and now he/she, The Hermit/Crone, bestows Light and provides guidance for others on the spiritual path. Life is cyclically renewed again and again. With this card in a reading, we have seen the Light.