Tuesday, February 9, 2016

the seven gates of tarot: prelude: the joke




We have gotten a little way ahead of ourselves. Before we progress towards any further gates we should get ourselves more thoroughly acquainted with the card that starts (and keeps) this whole ball rolling,,,the fool, the joker in the deck.

The fool is the trump card and he survives today in the common deck of playing cards as the joker.

Being unnumbered he stands outside the array (of manifest reality), representing pure consciousness, which we could denote as a dreamstate. His expression suggests an insouciance, a look of 'farawayness' as if his mind wanders as it wills.

And with this absent-mindedness its corollary - the tendency to get one's pants pulled down when not paying attention! The meaning of the fool (as with all the major arcana) is primarily connected with what is happening in the card, with what is being done - the movements and gestures. And in the fool what is happening is that a blithe young vagabond is being relieved of his trousers by a small dog....it's a joke, and a slapstick joke at that.

But what is more is that this joke represents for us the central truth of the tarot, and therefore of existence. The fool is the card associated with consciousness in its pure form - unqualified and irreducible. And this consciousness amuses itself through us! What we are witness to is the humour of being human, the cosmic giggle at the centre of gravity.

Even though the dog is the cause of a certain lack of modesty on the part of our dreamer, he does not look at all concerned, and the dog himself looks friendly, simply seeking of our hero's attention, rather than being in some way a danger. Together with the joke there is lack of concern, perhaps even the satisfaction of being a source of mirth for others. The fool is beyond the worldly cares and desires that are dealt with in the other arcana - he couldn't care less about such things. For the fool there is only the eternal moment, which precludes any cares at all, being as all cares are concerned with the past or future. He is that energy which we call on when we are stagnant, stuck, lost...when things just ain't right. His is that voice saying: 'time to move on and meet life halfway'. He reminds us that we are here on earth to enjoy, to be amused, to follow our muse. Careless, free, happy...our wandering fool is the dreamer who dreams the world and everything in it. His small bag contains who knows what? Perhaps the stars themselves (the yellow light within), which he plants like seeds as he goes about his endless journey.

His red walking stick is a conductor of vital force, and perhaps is used to open the soil up for his starseeds, one of which seems to be there upon the receptive blue ground twixt his feet. His many spherical bells mean that his every step is accompanied by music and as such he is moved by the music of the spheres. His carrying stick is also a measuring stick, marked at the point of the golden ratio. The fool is the instrument of creation.

What does this mean?

Well for one we are left with a metaphysic or theology in which the first principle is: the joke's on us! The fool reminds us to remind ourselves that whatever we think we know, we don't; he reminds us to pay attention to what's around us, or we may get tripped up; he reminds us to listen to the music for guidance; he reminds us to see the divine mathematic of nature and trust in what this means; he reminds us that animals (and our animal instincts) are also divine (the dog is light blue - receptive to heaven); he reminds us that we are always planting seeds with our words and actions, and that from little things big things grow....and, above all, the fool is telling us that the secret to life is to remember not to take it too seriously,,,in the game of life one wins by giving up....


The dog is a symbol of the fool's animal nature. The light blue colour of the dog together with the point of contact (perineum/ base chakra) and the manner of contact (represented by the yellow arc) suggest that the dog is giving to the fool an energy, an energy that has been tempered by the heavens (the light blue colour of the dog), such that it is now able to be received by the pure consciousness of the fool, completing the circuit.

In the fool, animal nature is completely integrated and at the service of the self. No control is required. The dog is behind the fool – he does not guide it and it wears no leash. It would be more accurate to say that the dog is propelling and guiding the man. The dog represents at once the vital force itself and also the intelligence that is directly proportional to this force - intuition. The dog is above all a symbol of loyalty. The dog is the earthly mirror of the perfect compassion of heaven, embodied in Christ, who for Faustian man (whether he denies it or no) is god. That this mirroring is also mirrored in the words themselves – god-dog – indicates that language too has its unconscious.

The fool - the card that trumps all others - is not an emperor or conqueror; he is not a rich man or a beautiful woman; he is not a champion or a genius....the fool is he who is free of all worldly control: he fears nothing and wants for nothing - he is content. He is the 'green man' of Arthurian legend (his body is green), immortal and pure; he is Tom Bombadil of Lord of the Rings, the oldest and wisest and most joyful - the only individual who is not affected by the ring of power; he is the holy fool, the perennial archetype of divine wisdom and mirth – it is he and only he who can speak truth to the king, because to him its all impersonal. The fool impugns no-one, rather he sees always the 'hand of god' pulling the strings. His job is to remind us of this – he reminds us that our desires and impulses come unbidden and it is these that direct our lives and that all confusion and frustration begin when we begin to doubt our own inclinations. To the fool all the men and women are actors playing their parts in the divine drama - a drama written in the very blood of the actors themselves, such that one does not need to worry about learning lines! The fool never blames and can feel no shame. He is a conduit of divine impersonal energy and therefore is completely free. His happiness consists in this freedom and in sharing this happiness with others....

As the fool wanders blithely onwards towards the first gate, so too do we come into the world – bravely and foolishly we incarnate in all vulnerability and innocence and we must learn to live as we go. The fool reminds us of the trust we embody in our very existence, for it is the energy of the fool that is primary, that is ontologically prior to the ensuing drama of existence, that provides the motive force of the drama, and is that state of simplicity and joy to which the whole drama aspires. We could say that the whole meaning of the tarot, which is to say the goal of life itself, is to give birth to the energy of the fool in the field of time...




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