Monday, October 24, 2011

The Devil

The Devil: Good versus Evil

It’s time to deal with the “nitty gritty” source of some of the world’s most complex problems. What better place to start a deeper examination then with The Devil,” ‘Da’ evil,’ in the Tarot. In the discussion of what is good and what is evil; keep in mind that the difference may not seem so black and white—we might see a lot of gray in between. The problem of defining evil begins with finding someone or something to blame for mankind’s seemingly innate destructive tendencies. So let’s blame the devil. Heh, heh! “The devil made me do it” The devil has been the personification for evil deeds since early civilization. In ancient times, a goat (hence, scapegoat) was loaded up with the evils of society and sent away into the desert, which may be why some Tarot decks depict the devil with a goat’s head. In ancient Middle Eastern religions such as Zoroastrianism, the evil Ahriman, god of darkness, chaos, and destruction, was the antithesis of Ahura Mazda, the good sun god—god of light. And devils inhabited certain evil-doers in the stories of the Old Testament. In the Gospel of John, the Pharisees argued with Jesus about who was inhabited by a devil, written 2,000 years ago. After Roman rule and Christianization during Constantine’s reign, the devil was characterized as the pagan god, Pan, later seen with horns and a tail in some Renaissance paintings.

In Tarot of Cosmic Consciousness, The Devil card is painted as a symbolic whirling black hole that sucks out the world’s evils and disperses them into space. It is a warning not to “get sucked in” to doing wrongful and harmful things that lead to disaster and one’s “undoing.”

Currently, on the internet, you can read all about evil in “The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil,” by Paul Carus; placed there by J. B. Hare. (First published in 1900) Hare writes, “At that point in history it seemed apparent that evil would soon be eliminated by the onrushing forces of rationalism and modernism. The devil has been reduced to a literary character….” Then in hindsight, he continues, “However, the 20th century brought total war; genocide; nuclear, biological and chemical weapons; mind-control; double-speak; ecological destruction; and finally, indiscriminate mass terror.” Wow! What happened to the good?

“The evil that men do lives after them—the good is oft interred with their bones,” as Shakespeare says in Julius Caesar.

On a recent trip to Germany, in Konstanz, I was awed by the 22 abstract Tarot sculptures of the Major Arcana by Johannes Dörflinger. He portrayed The Devil as a simple powerful arrow bending The Tower next to it. His commissioned geometric work replaced an old wire fence that divided Germany from Switzerland. His interpretation of The Devil and The Tower he described as “A tenuous balance between aggressive and defensive impulses, a momentary standstill in an incessant struggle.”

So, what about the good? In Plato’s metaphysical concept of Forms, he proposed the Good (capital “G”) as a cosmological model: as the only reality; eternal and changeless. The Good, in his view, was harmony and unity as the first principle of everything, including intelligence and truth. Evil was some kind of temporary misinterpretation of the good, a counterfeit. For us, today, to solve the problem of evil, we can take action by discerning and separating the truth from lies; the symbolic engagement of evil by the Swords in Tarot.

Caitlin Matthews in her book, “The Arthurian Tarot Course” (Thorsons, 1993), mentions the “Dolorous Blow.” She says, “The land becomes overrun with opportunist foes who waste remaining resources and terrorize the weak. The kingdom becomes anarchistic as the structure of society breaks down” (p. 38). She points out that the “Wasteland” occurs when mankind is dominated by self-interest, greed, self-righteousness and hubris, neglecting and/or abusing the land. This hurts the lives and circumstances of other people and leads to oppression, doubt, fear, delusions, bondage, and destruction. An imbalance of the order of nature sets in that is hard to redeem.

How do we find the good in our lives? “Evil must not be avoided but rather, transformed,” says Sheldon Kopp, in “The Hanged Man” (Science and Religion Books, 1974, P. 223). We transform darkness by seeking the light in our own lives. Positive change for good involves an evolution in our consciousness. When we purposely put our energies into expressing compassion for others, we work on establishing an inner peace and non-violent solutions to oppressive situations. In this way, we find balance and forgiveness in our love for one another through acts of graciousness, kindness, and helpfulness. When we take responsibility for the world we have created, we must first transform things gone wrong within ourselves in order to see change in the outer world. Then we can find room for mercy and the hope that comes with redemption.

When you get The Devil card in a reading, stop and sense how you are feeling about everything. What has caused a turn for the worse in your life? If your answer is yes, are you filled with anger, dread, hatred, or revenge, and thinking of doing “bad things” to people? Or, on the other hand, is someone directing their antagonism at you? Let the “goat,” or the “black hole,” carry away your grievances and anger by rooting out the truth of the matter. Think about how you can turn this gloom around for good and, working toward being the best you can be. Find joy in “doing good” and benefiting others.