Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Meditations on the Tarot: The Chariot

As I mentioned a couple of posts back, I've got behind on my blogging with Meditations on the Tarot; I've read up to partway through The Hermit. While my voice is out of commission for doing recordings (I've got a persistent dry cough, and it's turned my voice all husky), I thought I'd catch up a little.

The Chariot, says the Unknown Friend, represents both the person who has triumphed over the three temptations and remained faithful to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and also the fourth temptation: to act in one's own name, to consider oneself a master rather than a servant.

The Chariot represents the person who is not moved by the three temptations, but instead is able to set forces in motion. The UF says:
That which is above being as that which is below, renunciation below sets in motion forces of accomplishment above and the renunciation of that which is above sets in motion forces of accomplishment below.
(Which seems to have a contradiction in it, to me, but never mind.)

So this, he says, is one of the laws of sacred magic: If you desire something and then renounce it, in line with the three sacred vows, the result is what the Gospels call a "reward in heaven". This is why, when the Son of Man had faced the three temptations and triumphed, "angels came and ministered to him".

Because the Chariot is the seventh arcanum, the UF links it to the seven archetypal miracles of John's gospel (water to wine, the healing of the nobleman's son, the paralysed man at the pool of Bethesda, the feeding of the 5000, walking on the water, the man born blind, and the raising of Lazarus) and the seven aspects of the Master's Name: "I am the true vine," "I am the way, the truth and the life," "I am the door," "I am the bread of life," "I am the good shepherd," "I am the light of the world," and "I am the resurrection and the life." In these, he revealed the glory of God.

However, there is also a mastership which reveals one's own glory, in which one comes in one's own name, and this is a serious spiritual danger. It is a "mystical megalomania", says the UF. It's not only what John Cassian discussed (as per A Mind at Peace) as "pride" and "vainglory"; it's more serious than that. Jung called it "inflation": exaggerated importance attached to oneself (which gives one a task to work on oneself), exaggerated superiority over others (which is a trial to be overcome), tending to obsession and finally megalomania (which is a catastrophe).

Jung's individuation is characterized by the creation of a new centre of the personality, in which the unconscious is being transformed into consciousness (the true self, second body etc. which the theosophers and Jacob Needleman and Cynthia Bourgeault talk about). This occurs by establishing a collaboration between conscious and unconscious, which occurs in the realm of symbol and through the awakening of the archetypes. The danger is that one may come to identify one's consciousness or ego with the archetype, for example, with the hero. This leads to inflation (or to negative inflation, where one is always unable to measure up and thus is a suffering hero). In inflation, a consciousness of superiority masks an unconscious inferiority, and in negative inflation vice versa. The initiation known as individuation involves transcending this identification of the archetype and the ego and a shifting of the centre of personality from the ego to the self.

This is the danger that attends a person seeking depth, something that the monastic orders are well aware of (hence their focus on genuine humility, which is neither inflationary nor deflationary but a reminder of the monk's finitude before God). The UF considers this a far greater danger than black magic or madness in the pursuit of occult or esoteric practice. The three stages he has noted repeatedly in his acquaintances are, first, self-assurance and informality in speaking of "higher and sacred things"; then, "knowing better" and "knowing all", the attitude of a master towards everyone; and finally, considering oneself infallible.

The monastic solution, mentioned by Mary Margaret Funk in A Mind at Peace and recommended also by the UF as the only solution he is aware of, is "ora et labora" - prayer and work. He says:
It is necessary to worship what is above us and it is necessary to participate in human effort in the domain of objective facts in order to be able to hold in check the illusions concerning what one is and what one is capable of.
This is to hold it in check; to actually overcome it, he says, one must have the experience of "concretely meeting" a being higher than oneself. "Authentic experience of the Divine makes one humble; he who is not humble has not had authentic experience of the Divine."

So the Charioteer in the sense of a warning is the megalomaniac with his false triumph, and the canopy separates him from God; but in the sense of an ideal, the Charioteer is the one who has become his or her own master, who has mastered himself or herself, in the sense of overcoming the three temptations and also the fourth, which is pride. In this case, the canopy is his awareness of not being God.

The breastplate is there to keep the Charioteer sane in the intoxicating mystical experience of union with Nature; the crown is to keep him sane in the sober mystical experience of union with the transcendental Self; and the canopy is to keep him sane in the third mystical experience, both intoxicating and sobering, of union with God. He does not lose himself in nature, does not lose God in experiencing his higher Self, and does not lose nature or the world in experiencing the love of God. He is a master not because he is "over" all the forces of the world but because in him all the forces are in balance and equilibrium (or health). In particular, he has the astral body, composed of the forces of the seven planets, in balance - he has broken what the theosophers refer to as the "astral shell", where one's planetary influences dominate one. To put it another way, he has transcended his own personality and balanced its powerful tendencies by gaining integration within the Self.

And the following arcanum, Justice, is specifically the arcanum of this balance.

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