Skip to content

Trumps 9, 11 & 17

November 14, 2011

CHAPTER EIGHT

Truth, Courage & Hope — Keys to a Happy Life

All of us vow we want to find truth; few of us can bear to face it in its stark reality, and more especially so when it is about ourselves. It is for this reason that we shun genuine self-analysis; fearing what we may find in our secret hearts, dreading to reveal the selfish motives that form the basis of so many of our actions. This is because there is no escape from ourselves — we cannot run away from our own natures as we can from people and situations, and to live with ourselves, after completed self-analysis, is hard indeed. “Make excuses for the actions of others but never for your own” is a primary instruction to students of the occult, and was one of the lessons the Knights of the Round Table had to learn. A certain time was set apart for them each day, when they retired into a chapel and examined their own consciences.

This task was called “The Way of the Hermit”, and is represented by card No. 9 in the Tarot, which depicts a venerable old man supporting himself by a staff, and holding a lantern, by the light of which he hopes to find truth. Yet under the mantle, he is naked and unprotected — as is every human soul; for truth is found not from external things, or the experiences of others, but within ourselves. It is the Jewel within the Lotus, and the secret of the Sphinx is that only we ourselves hide the truth from our own minds.

It is a pleasant and memorable thing to meet the person who makes excuses far the failings of others, but we meet every hour those who continually make excuses far themselves, attributing the loftiest motives to even their meanest actions, and talking glibly about “the principle of the thing” to excuse themselves. They deceive nobody but themselves, and this is the greatest deception of all, for the price they must pay for it is continual bewilderment at what they consider to be the unfairness of life.

The Way of the Hermit, practised assiduously each day, soon shows us that the majority of our troubles are self-induced, for they spring from same inherent fault in our nature which we either do not recognise or which we gloss over and refuse to tackle. That is only human, but occult students seek more than mere human experience. They are embarking on the discovery of divine secrets of terrible power, in which only honesty with oneself offers protection. Constructive self-analysis leads to that wisdom and prudence symbolised by card No. 9, while self-excuse leads to fear, and excess of caution which expresses itself in doubts concerning the motives of others.

We invariably attribute to others all our own faults. Listen carefully when anybody is indulging in malicious gossip for that person, while apparently slandering another, is revealing her or his own nature. This test is almost infallible, for it is based on the desire to confess the worst about ourselves, and to get relief from it, while preserving our secrets from others. The malicious tongue is an organ of self-confession, and the gossips slander nobody really, but tell the truth about themselves. This is but one of the many occult secrets concealed in Trump No. 9, the full knowledge of which is a vital step on the way to achieving personal happiness, which is the Holy Grail we all seek. When we know ourselves, we know the universe and the gods, but the way is hard.

Closely associated with the teachings of the Way of the Hermit is the Boon of Strength or Fortitude, depicted by card No. 11 in the Tarot. Starting our study of Trump No. 11 with a dissection of its allegories, we find a female initiate closing with perfect ease the mouth of a roaring lion. That lion represents all the fears by which humanity is beset; its roars are the feelings that threaten us, our apprehensions about life.

Humanity fears the unknown only. With known horrors it can cope, but what is not understood is feared, and with fear comes the first onset of self- defeat. The message of Trump 11 is that there is nothing to fear once you have faced the truth, for by accepting any ordeal that lies ahead, and determining to do one’s best about it wins half the battle. Once the mind is determined on this, there comes a feeling of power and security from outside oneself . . . the power that is always at hand to help those who help themselves. Nothing is ever so bad as fear seems to depict it, and all ordeals can be gone through and triumphed over if you are honest with yourself.

Self-honesty also reduces the trials that may lie ahead. It will stop us feeling those weaknesses in our own temperament that attract tribulations to us. The person who cries “I’m always unlucky” is simply not telling the truth. All of us enjoy good and bad luck throughout life. All of us get miraculous help from time to time. The occasions when it does not come mean that we have to find our own way out; that we have something vital to learn from an ordeal.

Always ask yourself: “What is the worst that can happen?”, and then face it squarely, making your mind up what you will do if it should came about, and then tackle your trouble with all your might. It is very rarely that the worst happens after that, because, subconsciously, by examining its possibilities, we have found the avenue of escape that is always there — waiting for us to see it. No cause is lost unless it is given up, and while there is hope of redeeming any situation, it can be saved. Once again the Tarot has a message for us.

Trump No. 17, The Star, represents the one vital ingredient in life that humanity cannot do without — Hope. No situation in life ever occurs in which an individual is bereft of hope, and that means that secretly, however materialistic we may be, we realise that beyond ourselves there is a saving grace that can descend on us. If it were not for hope, life would be impossible: no books would be written or pictures painted, no crops would be sown, nobody would love or marry. Always we have hope, or else we could not go on, and for this reason the initiation concerned with this card was a very important one to magicians of old. Hope is regenerative, it is the water poured on an arid desert which brings it to life. It is the mainspring of most of humanity’s effort, and it is the shining star which twinkles over the path that leads to the Cup of Happiness.

We all hope for happiness, but too often expect it to drop from the skies. Happiness must be earned, by self-analysis, courage to face life, and the will to bring dreams and ambitions about. The young woman on Trump No. 17 is pouring water from two vases into a spring. This represents both the right and left hand being employed in effort, the conscious and the subconscious, or her whole being. Above her shines the star Sirius, which plays a great part in navigation, signifying that our lives must be charted and planned, our whole efforts put into achieving our hopes, and that each of us must pour our full contribution into the spring of life. You will only get out of life what you put into it, and if yours is barren and empty, the fault lies primarily with yourself.

EXERCISES

Part One

The time has come for you to begin practising the Way of the Hermit. Above, you were told that the Knights of the Round Table set apart a certain time each day to retire to a chapel and examine their own consciences. In essence, this is precisely what you are now required to do. To the fifteen minutes you devote to meditation will be added a further, and separate, fifteen minutes given over to constructive self-analysis during which you can review your actions and the motives behind them. Those of the grade of Minor Adept take up this practice because they accept that Truth is to be found not in external events, nor in the experiences of others, but within themselves.

“The Way of the Hermit, practised assiduously each day, soon shows us that the majority of our troubles are self-induced, for they spring from some inherent fault in our nature which we either do not recognise or which we gloss over and refuse to tackle. That is only human, but occult students seek more than mere human experience. They are embarking on the discovery of divine secrets of terrible power, in which only honesty with oneself offers protection.” Constructive self-analysis leads to the wisdom and prudence symbolised by the upright Trump No. 9, while self-excuse leads to that fear and excess of caution which expresses itself in doubts concerning the motives of others denoted by the card in reverse.

Carrying out this exercise diligently every day is a vital step on the way to achieving full spiritual maturity, for when we know ourselves, we know the Universe and the gods. But the way is hard. For one week, practice the Way of the Hermit on its own without spending any time in meditation. Once you have acquired the habit of daily constructive self-analysis, you may start to add meditations to your routine, commencing with those on Trumps 11 and 17 set out below.

It is recommended that you carry out your meditations in the morning, so that they can set the tone for the day, and self-analysis in the evening, as being the most appropriate time to make a review of your actions. However, some people work best when doing these exercises the other way around. If, after following the above program for a full month, your meditations are suffering, and you are sure this does not arise simply from a resistance to adding the extra session to your daily routine, you may experiment with performing the self-examination sessions in the mornings and the meditations in the evenings. Should this line of approach not work either, you are almost certainly experiencing resistance.

Part Two

Take Strength, Trump No. 11 (though modern decks frequently number it 8), from the deck and set it upright before you. Meditate on its pictorial allegory for seven days. As you do so, keep in mind these words from an earlier part of the chapter: “All of us enjoy good and bad luck throughout life (Trump No. 10). All of us get miraculous help from time to time (Trump No. 7). The occasions when divine help does not come mean that we have to find our own way out; that we have something vital to learn from an ordeal (Trump No. 11, Strength).” Re-read, if necessary, the section in the chapter describing the technique for overcoming fear of the unknown. At the same time, remind yourself that self-honesty also reduces the trials that may lie ahead since it tends to stop us exercising those weaknesses in our own temperament that attract tribulations to us.

Turn the card into reverse and for a further seven days contemplate the idea that “No cause is lost unless it is given up, and while there is hope of redeeming any situation, it can be saved.” This is also a good time to call to mind the famous prayer:

Divine Parent,

grant me the Serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

the Courage

to change the things I can;

and the Wisdom

to know the difference.

Putting away Trump No. 11, take up in its place The Star, Trump No. 17, the key-word of which is Hope. “Hope is regenerative, it is the water poured on an arid desert which brings it to life. It is the mainspring of most of humanity’s effort, and it is the shining star which twinkles over the path that leads to the Cup of Happiness which is the Holy Grail. Thus above the central figure on this card shines the star Sirius. Sirius plays a great part in navigation, and its appearance in this picture indicates that our lives should be charted and planned, our whole efforts put into achieving our hopes.”

Madeline Montalban identifies the large central star on this Trump as Sirius. This is one of the traditions attached to the card. Where the largest star is seen as Sirius, the seven smaller ones are generally made to correspond to the seven planets of antique astrology. Another tradition equates the lesser stars with the seven stars of the Great Bear, with the larger star identified with Polaris, the North Star. Either way, the symbolism tells the same story, for the seven stars in the constellation of the Great Bear are said to possess qualities equivalent to those assigned to the seven planets, while the North Star plays a great part in navigation just as Sirius does.

Navigation is an important metaphor in the esoteric world. Occult philosophy teaches that there are rising tides which can speed one, almost against one’s will, towards good fortune. William Shakespeare puts it like this: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” [Julius Caesar, 4.ii., line 272.] There are also ebb tides that can draw one inexorably away from the beacon of a safe-haven before one has the opportunity to steer one’s barque into harbour. Students of occultism can achieve good luck by noting that there is a rhythm of ebb and flow in the natural order of things, discovering what that rhythm is and co-operating with it.

Astrology is one way of tuning in to this rhythm, which is nothing more that a particular application of the law of cause and effect. For the rhythm of the planets moving through space, and the regular procession of the months and seasons, all correspond to tides in human feelings and interests. Once you discover the rhythm and apply it, you will be in a position to improve your own luck.

Astrology reveals the connection most clearly, perhaps; but divination using the Tarot, runes, geomantic figures and similar tools can uncover similar correlations, though the link is often not so clearly apparent as it is when astrology is the divinatory medium. The correspondences between the components of these other divinatory systems and astrological factors have first to be established. One has to know, for example, that Trump No. 2, the High Priestess, is associated with the Moon, or that the rune Feoh, meaning cattle, is “ruled by Taurus”, to use ancient astrological parlance.

Trump No. 17 represents an esoteric method of charting and planning one’s life effectively. This method does not help you determine which port to head for, but once you have decided upon a destination, its secrets will permit you to navigate the safest and surest course towards it. Though you should bear in mind that the safest course is not always the most direct.

Contemplate these ideas over seven days while looking at Trump No. 17. See what ideas suggest themselves regarding your future progress in both the mundane and occult spheres. Or is there some course of esoteric research — which may or may not concern astrology or the study of occult cycles — to which you are being directed?

At the end of the seven days, turn the Trump into reverse and meditate on the psychological results of being without hope, of giving up hope, of letting one’s guiding star dim and go out. Do this for a further seven days; then turn the card upright again and spend one day recalling that, in the natural order of Tarot Trumps, the Star follows The Tower Struck by Lightning. The star of hope always shines in the aftermath of any disaster. As the proverb says: While there’s life, there’s hope.

Part Three

Finally, here are two exercises which may be held in reserve until they are needed. The first will help you to gain access for your own inner strength at any point in your life when everything seems too much to cope with but where you really want to keep on fighting.

First Exercise:

Take Trump No. 11 from the pack and place it upright before you. Contemplate the design on the card for fifteen minutes every day. Be careful not to miss even a single day. After a while, usually within a week, a solution will suggest itself. It may come to you during meditation or at some point in your working day, but if you persevere with the contemplation of the Trump, a solution will come.

Second Exercise:

The second exercise is intended to help you to decide what course to set in life, which port to aim for.

Place Trump No. 17 upright in a place where you can see it – on a table before you or propped up against a book or ornament. Contemplate the design for fifteen minutes a day while trying to calm your mind and harken to the voice of your Inner Self. Once again, in time an answer will come into your head. Sometimes it arrives during the meditation session itself, sometimes one wakes one morning to find one has a clear plan or direction in mind, and sometimes one makes a realisation while going through one of the routine procedures of daily life, such as doing the washing up.

While carrying out either of these exercises, it is advisable to commence each session by repeating the following sentence silently in the mind so as to set the tone for the contemplation. “The rhythm of the planets moving through space, and the regular procession of the months and seasons, all correspond to tides in human feelings and interests.”

© Madeline Montalban, 1954

© Tony Willis, 2010

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 )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google 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 )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: