Saturday, May 19, 2012


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.