THE TREE OF LIFE
When we study the Tarot, we learn about Fool’s Journey and the true meaning of the Major Arcana – Spiritual Quest. Looking at the Tableaux it is easy to see how THE FOOL develops from basics concepts of right and wrong to a deeper transcendent state of spiritual awareness. But that’s the Fool’s World – the World of Development of Spirit. And Spirit understands that in order to develop, it must descend as far from Utopia as possible – into the physical world.
Therefore, Spirit’s peak is development within the constraints of the human body and intellect. After all, if it weren’t for the cold – would we appreciate warmth? If we did not know the darkness, would we strive for the Light? Here, more than anywhere else, the principle of ‘As Above, So Below’ applies – except in reverse. Having gotten to know the darkness – the world of our perceived reality, we, as Spiritual beings, begin to earn to return to the Light. And so, unlike THE FOOL, who descends into the world of Malkut – the human journey is starts in the bowls of Malkut and continues through the various paths of the Major Arcana, making our way up the Tree of Life.
Therefore, each Trump of the Major Arcana is a path between the Sephirot (see Figure 5). It is not a state of being (that description belongs to the Sephirot), it is a means of getting from one state to the next. The Paths are numbered 11 through 32 (numbers 1 through 10 belong to the Sephirot).
Each path, in turn, corresponds to a Hebrew letter – twenty two paths in total (as is the total number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet). Consequently, each letter, in itself, gives the path further meaning. For example, THE DEVIL, is represented by the Hebrew Letter Ayin, which means eye. And so when we talk about the Path of Ayin, we often refer to the idea that to climb that path, we must stop our dependencies on our physical eyes, which only see the perceived world, and open our third eye – to see the real universal truth. It is that truth that will help us climb from the Sephirah Netzach (Victory) to the Sephirah Tipheret (Beauty).
BACK TO THE TRIANGLES
At this juncture, we must also address the Triangles, which I briefly described in Part I of this series.
The Tree of Life is based on the philosophy of opposing forces of positive and negative energies, producing a balancing third, middle, energy. It is a system of Triangles, composed of Activating (Positive), Formative (Negative) and Balancing States. Following the principle “As Above, So Below”, these triangles are also representative of the parts of the human soul (Figure 6). And so, the Astral Triangle represents the human Personality. The Ethical Triangle stands for our Higher Self. The Supernal Triangle is the Spiritual Self. The Paths connecting and intersecting the Triangles represent lessons about the Soul – specific trials which we must face (or choose to face) on our Spiritual Journey.
Thus, just like with the Tableaux, we gain more insight understanding the Paths and where they lie in our journey, and as such, the lessons they bring. So while THE TOWER may look menacing in a reading, we understand that it is a Path of Personality – and thus, the destruction it brings is a necessary ‘evil’ we must undergo, to wake up to a new reality – that of the Higher Self.
BRING IN ASTROLOGY
Finally, the Paths are each associated with either a planet or a Zodiac Sign. In TAROT DEEP DIVE, we discuss those associations at length. But it’s not until we apply the Kabbalistic philosophy to the Tarot that we understand the method by which these are related.
To grasp process of planet/sign application, we must look at the source: Sepher Yetzirah (The Book of Formation/Creation) – the earliest known Kabbalistic treatise. Sepher Yetzirah states: “From the Spirit he produced Air, and formed in it twenty two sounds, the letters. Three are mothers, seven are double and twelve are simple…”
The Maternal Paths are represented by Elements themselves. We start with THE FOOL – Aleph -Air. Because all other Tarot cards arise from this Primal Air, they all begin there.
Water was formed from Air, according to the same source, and so we have the Path of Mem – Water – THE HANGED MAN. It is this Water that is the foundation of all matter. And yes, that includes us – humans are about 60% water.
The Hebrew Double Letters are so called because each can be pronounced in two ways, hard or soft. Perhaps Sefer Yetzirah describes it best: “There were formed seven double letters, Beth, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Pe, Resh, Tau, each has two voices, either aspirated or softened. These are the foundations of Life, Peace, Riches, Beauty or Reputation, Wisdom, Fruitfulness, and Power. These are double, because their opposites take part in life, opposed to Life is Death; to Peace, War; to Riches, Poverty; to Beauty or Reputation, Deformity or Disrepute; to Wisdom, Ignorance; to Fruitfulness, Sterility; to Power, Slavery.”
So once again, we are confronted with the duality of ALL things. Every planet has two sides. Every path, in turn, can be viewed as negative or positive.
SEVEN PLANET PATHS
THE MAGICIAN – Mercury – Life-Death
THE EMPRESS – Venus – Peace-War
THE HIGH PRIESTESS – Moon – Wisdom – Ignorance
THE WHEEL OF FORTUNE – Jupiter – Wealth – Poverty
THE TOWER – Mars – Destruction – Rebuilding
THE SUN – Sun – Fertility – Barrenness
THE WORLD – Saturn – Power – Limitations
TWELVE ZODIAC PATHS
Sepher Yetzirah goes on: “These twelve letters, he designed, formed, combined, weighed, and changed, and created with them the twelve divisions of the heavens (namely, the zodiacal constellations), the twelve months of the year…”
And with that, we are finally brought to the twelve Paths represented by the signs of the Zodiac.
THE EMPEROR – Aries
THE HIEROPHANT – Taurus
THE LOVERS – Gemini
THE CHARIOT – Cancer
STRENGTH – Leo
THE HERMIT – Virgo
JUSTICE – Libra
DEATH – Scorpio
TEMPERANCE – Sagittarius
THE DEVIL – Capricorn
THE STAR – Aquarius
THE MOON – Pisces
And there you have it: The Major Arcana: human condition itself, represented in the twenty two cards. The Maternal cards are the primary spiritual forces; the double letters are the opposing conditions affecting the individual; the single letters are the activities in which the individual engages.