Now this post is going to seem a little strange–I’ll warn you in advance–but I happen to have been reading about tarot cards. Apparently, the 22 cards of the “major arcana“–the heart of the tarot deck–can be taken, in order, to symbolize the stages of a person’s inner growth.
The “Fool’s journey,” as the complete arch of the psychological life is called, begins with the childlike innocence of someone just coming into the world and ends with wholeness and fulfillment of a person who has well learned life’s lessons. It is hopeful take on life in the sense that it suggests that the polestar towards which we head is actualization.
I don’t know why, but trying to make sense of our current place in history–of the planetary crises we find ourselves in, of our obsession with the material, of our slowness to wake up to our problems–I of ten wonder whether there might be a corollary between the evolution of the species and the psychological growth of an individual personality.
I’d like to hope that the race, too, might be headed towards wholeness and fulfillment, notwithstanding the bumps in the road suggested by the story of the Fool’s journey as told by the tarot cards. One of the bumps in the road, according to the tarot website of Joan Bunning, is symbolized by a tarot card called “the Devil” (not symbolizing the literal Devil, by the way). It struck me that, in some ways, the Devil card seems to represent the place where our culture is stuck now.
Bunning writes [with my remarks in square brackets]:
The Fool [meaning us, or as I’m thinking of it, that part of American and Western European culture which has yet to recognize and do something about our environmental and climate crisis] has his health, peace of mind and a graceful composure. What more could he need? On everyday terms, not much… But he soon comes face to face with the [inner] Devil.
[In the tarot], The Devil is not an evil, sinister figure residing outside of us. He is the knot of ignorance and hopelessness lodged within each of us at some level. The seductive attractions of the material bind us so compellingly that we often do not even realize our slavery to them.
We live in a limited range of experience, unaware of the glorious world that is our true heritage. The couple on the card are chained, but acquiescent. They could so easily free themselves, but they do not even apprehend their bondage. They look like the Lovers, but are unaware that their love is circumscribed within a narrow range. The price of this ignorance is an inner core of despair.