Skip to content

Illusion & the Sword of Truth

November 6, 2011

CHAPTER FOUR

Illusion and the Holy Grail

We must use the Tarot Trumps a little out of sequence in order to study the secrets contained in Numbers 12 and 18 — these being the Hanged Man and the Moon respectively. There is a link between these two cards, No. 12 representing the fully awakened initiate and No. 18 the sphere of illusion.

Sooner or later sincere students must ask themselves: “Am I crazy — or is it the world that’s mad?” This is the meaning which lies behind Trump No. 12, which shows a man, eyes wide open, hanging upside down from a crosstree or gallows.

Once the link between cause and effect has been studied, the knowledge thus gained makes the world seem mad indeed. This can be clarified by a simple example. The Second World War caused world shortages of food. Yet, with people in many countries underfed and starving, produce was often burned or ploughed back into the ground so as to artificially inflate prices. In this way a vicious circle was established, the legacy of which was still with us a decade after World War II had ended. Consumers suffered from shortage of food, which took its toll of their health and rendered them less fit for work. Efficiency was reduced and unemployment simultaneously increased and, in order that relief schemes could be subsidised, taxes rose. Those still able to work, faced with rising prices of commodities, demanded more money in their wage packets, and the cost of food was driven higher than before. So many people were still unable to afford it, and as a result of increased production costs the farmer couldn’t afford to grow it. If he did, the price offered him was often so low that he couldn’t afford to market it, and in despair, allowed it to rot. For various economic reasons, a similar cycle frequently occurs even today.

What is at the root of this fantastic “economy”? Simply man’s fear and greed, combining to dictate a policy of insanity. It is small wonder that the occult student, realising that the world is upside-down, feels that only by viewing it from the same position can he get a correct perspective on it. That is one of the secrets of card No. 12, which represents the seeker after truth. He has discovered that his fellow men, far from loving one another, will gladly see one another perish in order to minister to their own feelings of greed and fear.

To realise this fully is to set one’s feet on the beginning of that lonely path which leads to true knowledge. It means a mental separation from the bulk of mankind, and it is what makes the pursuit of the Holy Grail of knowledge and happiness so difficult. It means the discovery that mankind (and that includes each one of us) pays lip-service only to those exalted ideals which his own selfishness will not allow him to live up to.

It is a great shock to each of us when we realise this. “What good is religion,” we cry, “when the injunction to love your neighbour as yourself falls on deaf ears?” We forget that we ourselves are, or have been, deaf also. Until each one of us becomes a Hanged Man and sees the futility of worldly practices like war, hatred, and lust for conquest and power, we shall not be able to do much about them. But once we do make this realisation, it is our duty to do what we can, however small or however exalted the sphere in which we are called upon to operate.

Not all the preaching in the world can open the eyes of others. We all have to arrive at the truth for ourselves, and the ways by which we are brought to it are devious — as were the journeyings and adventures of the Round Table knights. It is only a matter of time before the earnest thinker discovers that illusion, not truth, holds the world in thrall.

In the Morte d’Arthur the sword of truth, Excalibur, was hidden beneath the waters of a lake. This allegory describes what happens to truth when we allow our eyes to be blinded by illusion, or seek to blind the eyes of others. Truth is often unpalatable, and politeness sometimes bids us to “be kind” and deceive others when we consider that the truth may cause them pain. Far too often we lie to ourselves in order to excuse our own shortcomings. The greater the sphere of influence to which we attain, the bigger the ripple of lies we make when the sword of truth is thrown into the lake of illusion. False sentiment, or the concealment of truth in order to avoid giving pain, is evil. To accept deception as a part of life is wrong, and to deceive others, even “for their own good,” is muddled thinking. Lasting good never yet sprang from deceit.

Every student who searches for the Holy Grail of truth must learn of both the good and evil effects of illusion. A child who believes in Santa Claus is happy in an illusory belief, as is the woman who falsely believes that the man she loves returns her feelings. Both of them, some day, will discover the truth, be hurt, and thus advance another step on the path of knowledge.

Illusion can often make life pleasant, as the pioneers of film discovered. Audiences in darkened cinemas are transported to another world, lifted away from their worries and troubles, but the illusion fades as the lights go up. Generally speaking, those occult students who believe that they personally are “beloved of the gods”, or that they are getting private tuition from Higher Powers by means of dreams, are floundering in the astral sea of illusion. Any attempt to put that knowledge into practice results in a series of real trials, in which illusion is no help at all.

We can all be happy with our pet illusions until that day when we see them clearly for what they are — and are forced to cope with the havoc they have created for us. When that happens we can be compared to the child who has discovered there is no Santa Claus. We are bereft, often convinced that our whole world was plotting to deceive us.

Illusion is the stuff of which dreams are made. But sometime the sleeper must awake, and the swiftest way to do this is to search for occult knowledge. Materialists who assert that they alone are “captains of their fate and masters of their souls” are rudely awakened when circumstances put them into a position where they are powerless to help themselves. Self-sufficiency is also an illusion.

Yet the rosy haze of illusion was created for a definite and proper purpose. It was intended — in small doses — to be a sedative for the mind, permitting it to rest until the next problem comes up, or to provide a temporary refuge when we are either not strong enough or not aware enough to accept the truth and tackle its consequences.

EXERCISES

Remove Trump No. 12 from your Tarot deck. Sit with the card in front of you and first ask yourself if you agree that the bulk of your fellow human-beings, “far from loving one another, would gladly see one another perish in order to minister to their own feelings of greed and fear”.

Having decided whether you believe it or not, move into the meditational part of the exercise, which is to call to mind those times when you have “paid only lip-service to those exalted ideals”, those times when your own selfishness has not allowed you to live up to the noble sentiments your heart tells you are ‘true’ or ‘right’. Do this with your eyes open, concentrating on the picture on the card. Perform the exercise for three days, or until the unhappy record is complete.

Next, for four days look at Trump No. 12 bearing in mind that the path which leads to true knowledge is a lonely one. Remind yourself that to follow this path means a mental separation from the majority of humankind. Ask yourself why this should be. And when you have answered that question, ask yourself if you have what it takes to pursue this path to the end. If you do not, it would be better to terminate these exercises here.

For a further seven days, sit with Trump No. 12 in front of you but this time with the card reversed. Remind yourself of what is said above: “Until each one of us becomes a Hanged Man and sees the futility of worldly practices like war, hatred, and lust for conquest and power, we shall not be able to do much about them. But once we do make this realisation, it is our duty to do what we can, however small or however exalted the sphere in which we are able to operate.”

Now ask yourself what you can do to combat war, hatred, ignorance and the lust for power or conquest. The answer is never one big thing, a grand gesture; it is more often a series of very small things, such as deciding one will treat one’s neighbour as oneself from now on, in all one’s dealings with others.

Illusion is represented in the Tarot trumps by card No. 18, The Moon. Take it from your pack and set it before you. With eyes open, meditate on the correct (or legitimate) use of illusion. Think of the rose-coloured spectacles Nature puts on us when we enter the realm of Romance. Think, too, of illusion as a kind of sedative administered to the mind, permitting it to rest until the next problem comes up. Think of it as providing a temporary refuge when we are either not strong enough or not aware enough to accept the truth and tackle its consequences. Continue these meditations for three days.

For four days, meditate on the negative face of illusion: the woman who mistakenly believes that the man she loves returns her feelings, the false messiahs, those with a ‘mission’ to heal, teach, guide, lead. Recall that, although we may all be happy with our pet illusions for a while, the day will surely dawn when we will come see them clearly for what they are, and that we will then be expected to cope with the havoc they have created for us.

Finally, turn Trump No. 18 into reverse. On this occasion you may close your eyes if you need to, but it is better if you can do the exercise with open eyes. Imagine that the picture on the card is an image floating on the surface of a lake. As you watch the reversed Moon, someone throws something into the lake shattering the image, making ripples and splashes in the water. Before the picture can re-form, dive down into the waters of the lake. Try to trace the path of the item that was thrown in, and discover where it has fallen, find the place where it now lays among the rocks and weeds. When you find it, you may have run out of breath; in which case you may need to resurface, fill your lungs with air, and dive again before you can lay hands upon the Sword of Truth and fetch it back from the bottom of the Lake of Illusion in triumph.

If you succeed in returning with the sword in this visualisation, you are permitted to buy yourself a sword. However, since swords tend to be very expensive, as an alternative you are allowed to make yourself a replica of one out of wood or some other material, and paint it to look like an actual sword. Should you decide to make a sword yourself, its various parts are to be coloured in this way: the blade, a steel- or metallic-colour; the cross-guard, gold; the grip, red; the pommel, black. On one side of the grip you may write, in gold or chrome yellow, For Truth. On the other side in the same colour write your magickal name or its abbreviation (for example, S.R.M.D.)

You are given seven days for this exercise, but you may end it whenever you have succeeded in rescuing the Sword of Truth. For those who do not manage to find and return the sword within seven days (and it is not as easy as it sounds — as you are likely to discover), the attempt may be made again once the exercises appended to any further chapter are completed and before going on to the subsequent chapter; between finishing the work assigned to Chapter 5 and starting Chapter 6, for instance.

© Madeline Montalban, 1954

© Tony Willis, 2010

Advertisements

From → tarot

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: