If I’m ever going to create my future, I’m going to have to come to terms with my past.
I’ve been trying to avoid it, deny it, explain it away, make excuses for it, compensate for it, erase it, and so much more.
I’ve struggled to accept that this is the truth of my life. That this isn’t “just a phase.” It isn’t just going to disappear one day like it never happened.
I think I may have (unconsciously) thought that if I worked hard enough I would be “cured,” I’d become 100% “better”, and it would all be as if nothing had ever happened. That there would be some kind of “redemption” where I would be saved from my own damn self.
In practice what this meant was that I was working toward a model, a “goal” identity, that was completely inappropriate for me.
I wanted so badly to be normal. I would have done anything to not be so “complicated.”
The ideal future self I had in mind was so boring, so basic. So unthreatening. She was some happy, carefree, extraverted, easy going, and very chill girl (that’s why they said they wanted from me, right?).
I thought I could nip and tuck and edit away all of my humanity, become acceptable to the greater mass of society, and call it a success.
I would know I had “made it” when I was deemed normal by everyone and no one ever said anything bad about me ever again.
That was my vision for health: to completely erase myself, and finally just be what everyone else wanted me to be.
My vision now is this: I will not deny my past, I will not erase this self. I will not even try to compensate for the suffering I’ve had with some grandiose and misguided attempt to “make it all worth it.”
I will integrate my past. I will honor myself.
I will acknowledge all of the places and the people I have been, regardless of how strange or scary others find them to be.
I will speak to the truth of who I was, and how it was that I became who I am today.
I wanted to pick up where I left off before, writing in response to what I had learned from my B.O.T.A. lessons the night before.
There was one idea in particular that captured my attention, and I think it is worth repeating here:
“So long as we ascribe power, wisdom, supply or anything else of worth to external conditions, just so long we are dreaming. The sources of life and power are within us. Human personality is like a projection machine. Human environment is like a screen. Our mental imagery (inside us) makes the pictures, and the words of our mouths incite the reactions we experience. But the light which projects the pictures is an inner light… the light of the One Self.
When we awake we come to ourselves as did the Prodigal. We stop dreaming. We are freed from the nightmare terrors besetting those who dwell in dust. Then we find the Creative Word in our mouths and in our hearts. We learn that our “speech,” that is, our mental definitions of ourselves and our relations to our circumstances, never return to us void. If our definitions be wrong, because we are deluded by appearances, the appearances grow worse and worse. When we awake and come to ourselves, a new set of pictures is projected on the screen of our environment.”
–TF 36, “The Tower”
Before I get too far into the details, I wanted to mention this little synchronicity: I read a very similar concept earlier in the afternoon yesterday, only in my psychology textbook.
The chapter was about worry and anxiety, and how these mental and emotional conditions can lead directly to physical health problems.
It basically described the Law of Attraction, only in the book they called it “the Law of Expectation,” and they had a very different explanation for how it all worked than B.O.T.A. It was rooted in physical causation, in contrast to B.O.T.A.’s assertion of spiritual/energetic causes, but the process was essentially the same.
They cautioned against worrying (as it “creates stress”, “rehearses failure”, releases harmful biochemicals, etc.), promoted the practice of visualization for success, and even suggested a focus on the sense of touch being included in visualization practices (just like B.O.T.A. did).
They described essentially the same tools, the same processes, the only difference being the causal mechanisms attributed to each.
I thought this was an interesting coincidence (or synchronicity). I was impressed to see the same content and concepts appearing in these two different areas of life at exactly the same time.
I feel that now I’m on the right track. Clearly, there’s something to all of this.
And this is just one of many little meaningful coincidences that have cropped up repeatedly over the past week or so…
For this reading, I had asked the following questions:
What should I be focusing on now? Is there anything I need to know about my purpose, especially as it relates to my personal healing and growth?
What follows are the notes I took that day on my interpretation of these cards:
The Core of the Issue & What Crosses It: Death crossed by 10 of Cups
Truly, the core of my question is in many ways about the process of death and rebirth I now find myself in.
I’m dying to many past elements of myself and my past so that I may be reborn again and become the woman I know I am meant to be now and in the future.
As I accept and lean into this dying, my natural joy seems to be returning. There is no longer such a driving pressure to push myself into “achieving” happiness.”
Instead, as I let all that does not serve me wither and fall away, my well-being seems to arise more spontaneously.
The Basis of your Question: 7 of Pentacles
The basis of my question is that I am looking to my past to observe what has come about as a result of it, in order to start making plans for my future. I’m seeing what I have sown and what I have reaped so that I can do differently in the future if I want to.
Recent Past: 3 of Wands
This is reinforced by the 3 of Wands in the position showing my recent past. This card is about surveying the landscape in front of you and using your previous experiences, current desires and even your past pain as you look out toward what could become your future. It means pausing and taking the time to ascend to higher ground to view the territory from a more objective perspective.
Higher Self: Queen of Pentacles
This position is meant to represent your Higher Self, and with the Queen of Pentacles here, it shows how I have been learning how to take on the role of being a mother to myself. I am finding ways to give myself all that I once wanted and needed as a child, but never was given or allowed to have by my actual mother. Above all, I am learning how to hold myself gently and with care, much as this Queen holds her Pentacle on her throne.
Near Future: 8 of Cups
This shows how, much like in the image on this card, I am preparing to leave behind one situation to go out in search of greater happiness and fulfillment. In this card we see a solar eclipse, symbolizing one kind of order or way of being in the world receding as a new one arises to take its place.
What I Bring to the Situation: 9 of Cups
I think that in some way I do feel like my wishes are being granted right now. I’ve read anything and everything out there, gone through so much therapy, and worked so hard in an effort to heal, and now I feel that this healing is happening for me.
What Others Contribute / How What You Bring is Perceived in Your Outer Environment: Page of Wands
This card can indicate a sense of honesty, innocence and eagerness to please. It can mean someone who has great ideas and intentions, and shows a lot of excitement at the beginning of a project, but is usually not so great with the follow through. It’s a reminder that I need to be more persistent and committed to acting on my goals (and not just the dreaming and planning parts).
Hopes & Fears / Advice: 9 of Pentacles
The woman in this card is known to be independent, self-assured, secure, and at ease in abundance. She has good boundaries and has taken the time to cultivate herself in order to achieve success. Truly, this is what I want most for myself right now.
Final Outcome: 7 of Cups
This card is all about imagination, fantasy, illusions and dreams. This reflects the danger I am in of falling into a familiar pattern or trap that I have of eternal dreaming about the possibilities and never getting anything real or substantial accomplished. So with that said, I know now that I need to be careful and watch out for this as I move forward.
I want to commit to taking direct, practical action on specific tasks that will actually move me forward towards my goals. I need to release my previous patterns of overthinking and endlessly theorizing while I neglect reality and my actual state of affairs. I’m ready to start making real changes now.
Want more clarity on what’s really going on? Need guidance on what your next steps should be?
At the top of this card, we see Archangel Gabriel as he bursts forth from a cloud, blowing the trumpet which announces the Last Judgement. From his trumpet hangs a banner, on which we see a red cross over a white background.
Notice that the arms of this cross are of equal length. This indicates that this symbol is not a reference to the cross of Jesus Christ, but rather, a more ancient symbol which signifies the meeting of the physical and the spiritual planes of existence.
This indicates the purpose of the trumpet’s blast: it is meant to call our attention to a significant moment of transformation and change. It announces that at last, the spiritual and the material, the inner and the outer, the individual self and the collective or universal consciousness will be unified.
Below Gabriel, we see the gray bodies of the dead as they rise up from their graves.
It is interesting to note that in this representation, Archangel Gabriel appears to be blowing his trumpet directly over the outstretched arms of the woman.
She lifts both arms up in grateful acceptance of the angel’s call. The male figure, in contrast, seems to stand back more passively, with arms held close to his body, and head gazing directly up stunned amazement.
The woman, as a symbol of subconsciousness, is likely more prominent here due to the fact that the process of awakening or enlightenment begins with a call first heard by the intuitive, feeling aspect of our personality. The first inner rumblings of awakening are heard deep within our hearts before they are made known to our conscious minds.
This speaks to the fact that any experience of transcendence or redemption cannot be reached through the logical, linear processes of the reasoning mind that we have come to so heavily rely on. It is an experience that benefits from preparation and intention, but refuses to be planned.
It is something we do not earn through our own efforts, but which in some way, we receive through grace.
Interpretation of Judgment in a Reading
When the Judgment card appears in a reading, it often indicates a turning point, one where we are called to make an important decision in our lives.
Judgment can refer to all of the situations in our lives where we are asked to reflect on what we know, and then use our discernment to choose the best path forward. When this card appears, we often must use our critical reasoning capacities to evaluate and assess the problem at hand and then make a decision.
This card may also mean that we have heard an inner call to pursue a spiritual journey. In relation to this, it can refer to an experience of awakening, one where we may hear an inner call to more carefully observe ourselves and our world. This card refers to the development of awareness and higher consciousness that could ultimately be the result of such an endeavor.
Consequently, this card also has associations with experiences of rebirth and renewal. We may feel transformed by the inner developments due to the challenges and opportunities for growth encountered along the way.
Having glimpsed the light of truth, we may now be called to act in a more enlightened manner, with our convictions having been strengthened and reinforced, especially when it comes to knowing what actions we must take to make a difference in the world.
For these reasons, the Judgment card can also be associated with the concept of forgiveness. In fact, in some decks this card even bears the name “the Last Judgement.” It can mean, not a final condemnation for all eternity, but instead a cessation of blame.
Having seen a greater vision of the truth underlying all manifestation, we may no longer feel the need to blame or condemn. We may find that we have issued our last judgement, leave blame in the past, and move forward with an attitude of compassion and care for others.
Most tarot decks in use today, including the Rider-Waite, contain a standard number of 78 cards, which is then split into two sections: the Major Arcana and the Minor Arcana.
The word “arcana” itself means “a deep or profound secret.” It is thought that each of these cards contains symbolic imagery revealing a powerful hidden meaning. These cards are meant to convey, through a pictorial language, the secret mysteries of the universe and our place within it.
The Major Arcana contains 22 cards, numbered from 0 to 21, all of which go beyond the more common, quotidian concerns represented in the 56 cards of the Minor to touch on the archetypal dimensions of our spiritual development.
Furthermore, we can look to the Major Arcana not simply as a set of 22 isolated archetypal ideas, but rather, as a mythic or heroic journey, one that each of us may choose to undertake as a route to greater self-knowledge and realization.
We can start by turning our attention to the first of these cards, The Fool. It is interesting to note that although this is the first of the series, it does not carry the numeral 1, but 0.
As we will see in greater detail in our next post dedicated to this card, the Fool likely carries the number 0 because it is representative of pure potential. As a symbol of the unmanifest, the Fool contains all possibilities within himself.
In some sense, the Fool exists outside of the trajectory represented by cards 1 through 21 of the Major Arcana. We can even think of the Fool as being the hero of the Major Arcana’s series of transformations. For it is the Fool which takes a leap of faith, from a place of unrealized potential into a life of action and consequence.
In fact, there are many commentators who have even called this series of 22 cards “The Fool’s Journey.” It is wise to keep in mind, however, that this is not merely a story about the Tarot’s naive protagonist. It is not the tale of a character in a land far from us; it is in fact our story, describing a journey each of us must go on as individuals on our way to greater awareness and self-actualization.
We all start out like the Fool, inexperienced and filled with boundless optimism, dazzled by the seemingly infinite options which glitter like stars on the horizons of our futures.
Each of us, like the Fool, takes a similar leap of faith into what is to come. As we move forward in time, each of us makes choices, acting on decisions that lead us through certain doors, decisions which simultaneously will close certain others.
Some sources, such as modern mystery school Builders of the Adytum and noted author Rachel Pollack, divide the Major Arcana into three distinct series containing seven cards each. Each series of seven represents three distinct stages or levels of experience and development: the conscious, the subconscious, and the superconscious.
Cards 1 through 7 describe our journey through the first stage of our conscious development. This first set of seven depicts the archetypal influences and developmental milestones we must master and achieve in order to be effective in the outer world of material achievement.
In the next set, cards 8 through 14 represent a turning inwards, where we must come face to face with elements of our subconscious minds and integrate them into our being to achieve further wholeness. We come into contact with what has as of yet remained latent beneath the surface of our daily experience.
“True, whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see first of all his own face. Whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation with himself….
The meeting with oneself is, at first, the meeting with one’s own shadow. The shadow is a tight passage, a narrow door, whose painful constriction no one is spared who goes down to the deep well. For what comes after the door is, surprisingly enough, a boundless expanse full of unprecedented uncertainty….
It is the world of water, where all life floats in suspension; where the realm of the sympathetic system, the soul of everything living, begins….
All those who have had an experience like that mentioned in the dream know that the treasure lies in the depths of the water and will try to salvage it.” — from C.G. Jung CW 9
Here, we must face the primal, chaotic life energies that constitute our subconsciousness. This experience can be deeply shocking and even terrifying, especially for a culture as unprepared to deal with these deep and powerful currents of psychic energy as the hyper-rational, patriarchal capitalist culture of today.
Finally, the last set of cards numbered 15 through 21 show the development of what both B.O.T.A. and Pollack describe as “superconsciousness”, or what some might call the transpersonal level of psyche. This level transcends the purely personal experience to encompass a union with the spiritual, universal and archetypal level of existence. In this stage, we move beyond our personal, individual life stories and connect with the mystery of the infinite, that which is greater than ourselves.
“We know that the mask of the unconscious is not rigid–it reflects the face we turn towards it. Hostility lends it a threatening aspect, friendliness softens its features.”
–from C.G. Jung CW 12
It is here where we come into contact with what we might call cosmic consciousness. This is a level of development reserved to those who are brave and willing enough to take a leap of faith into the vast unknown.
It is interesting to note that the great majority of the human figures represented in these 22 cards are displayed in static, unmoving positions, almost as if they were posing for a portrait.
Only two cards portray figures in movement: Key 0, the Fool, and Key 21, the World.
This is likely meant to suggest a certain similarity between what is represented by the Fool and the World. Indeed, we find that the symbolic imagery represented in the World portrays our experience when we find that we have successfully traversed the various tests, challenges, and opportunities for growth shown in each of the previous cards of the Major Arcana.
Having integrated all of these lessons, we arrive at the World, liberated from our previous patterns, our illusions, and our limitations. We have freed ourselves from any inner restrictions and defense mechanisms, much of which had arisen as attempts to protect our ego from the incursions of a seemingly dangerous outer world.
When this happens, we find ourselves once again in a state of pure openness to the world, where we can experience a true receptivity and responsiveness to our experience as it arises moment-by-moment.
This is a state very similar to that of the Fool. Once again, we find that we are open to the fullness and totality of the world around us, at one with our environment and all that is. We have come full circle to once again embody pure potential and limitless possibility.
However, this state is in many ways much more powerful. Arriving at the World, we have gained the capacity to combine the wisdom of experience with a child-like sense of wonder, awe and joy. We are able to move beyond dualistic concepts and achieve union with what is beyond ourselves.
The purpose of this transcendent spiritual union with the Divine is not to escape our material and embodied physical existence, but to transform it. We are meant to use our higher spiritual consciousness in service of the mundane.
In true alchemical fashion, the purpose of this spiritual ascension is to bring what is gained above back down to perfect the world below.
“It rises from the Earth to Heaven, and descends again to Earth,
Thereby combining within it the powers of both the Above and the Below.”
–The Emerald Table
As we have seen, Major Arcana of the Tarot provides a profound symbolic representation of the soul’s journey from innocence to awareness. Although the Tarot is indeed a dynamic and powerful tool for divination, it is far more than that. The Tarot contains a profound message of transformation and redemption for those who have eyes to see it. We can use it as a tool for study, for quiet reflection, or for meditation on the archetypal principles underlying each of these 22 cards. If we can bring an attitude of intention, openness and receptivity to our work with these cards, the Tarot can be one of our best guides on the often labyrinthine journey of return to our highest selves.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
“This is our meditation practice as women, calling back the dead and dismembered aspects of ourselves, calling back the dead and dismembered aspects of life itself. The one who re-creates from that which has died is always a double-sided archetype. The Creation Mother is always also the Death Mother and vice versa. Because of this dual nature, or double-tasking, the great work before us is to learn to understand what around and about us and what within us must live, and what must die. Our work is to apprehend the timing of both; to allow what must die to die, and what must live to live.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run with the Wolves
This is what I must do now.
This is a turning point for me, and I must choose what will fall away, and what I will carry forward with me into the future.
I’m starting to come to terms with what has happened to me. I’m starting to be ready to see where I need to go next. And who I need to be, in order to get there.