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.