TRUMP 8 - STRENGTH
And Moses said unto the people, "Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage. For by strength of hand YHWH brought you from out of this place." Exodus 13:3.
Tarot card #8 is strength. It completes the third trinity of the Tarot cards, the first trinity being the all power of the Fool, which becomes bi-polarized into the Magician and High Priestess. Then we saw the Empress and the Emperor, which are re-harmonized through the Hierophant. In the third trinity, we have cards #6, #7 and #8. Card #6 begins the trinity by presenting us with the human problem, the error which we must overcome, the fundamental root of sin--ego. We see the divine response to that in the Chariot, card #7, but as we pointed out so clearly, the Chariot sits and waits for us to enter. The Chariot will not interfere in our lives. The Chariot is there, but awaits our response.
So we have a pole. We have another dynamic tension between the problem of the lovers and the solution of the Chariot. How does one resolve this? There are many steps involved, and those steps will take us through the rest of the cards.
Though we have a series of cycles within cycles in the Tarot cards and every new card attempts to expound and explain and amplify points which in essence have already been covered by other cards, everything you need to know, everything in the entire universe is symbolized inside of the Fool. As we said so many chapters ago, everything else is simply commentary. Therefore, as we enter newer cards, we will see reiterated cycles of revelations and comprehensions of the past.
This flow has been discussed by western philosophers in terms of three aspects: thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. For example, the creativity of the Empress being the thesis, the harsh legalism of the Emperor being the anti-thesis, and the Hierophant and the two-fold nature of revelation, being the synthesis.
We have precisely the same problem or issue here. The lovers are the thesis. Mankind is draped in sin. We find ourselves in the ego state, trapped in hatred, malaise and hopelessness. The anti-thesis to that is the Chariot, ready to whisk us away, to solve our problems, to enable us to see that there is no problem at all. These two become synthesized through card #8, Strength.
Card #8 is one of the most sparse cards in the entire Tarot deck. By sparse, I mean that it does not have very much imagery. It is very plain. A simple, gentle woman or girl closes the mouth of a lion at her feet. In essence, that is the card. There are certain other elements, and we will look at them, but that is the message of the card. A simple young woman closes the mouth of a lion.
It is sometimes marvelous to wonder at and adore the power of the imagery in the cards--how so much symbolism and so much meaning can be packed into such simple pictures. These pictures are indeed worth thousands of words.
The woman is wearing a white gown. This is the first time that we see a white gown in all of the Tarot cards. The Empress has on a white gown, yet she has pomegranate symbols covering it making it part white and part red. Strength’s gown is pure white. Upon her head is a garland of flowers, around her waist is a string of roses, above her head the infinity symbol. She has her left hand upon the lion's nose and her right hand underneath his chin. She is closing his mouth while his tongue is still extended. This is an important clue. They stand upon a very natural ground. If you look carefully, you will see that the coloring of the ground is the same as that on which the lovers stand in card #6, and that mountain in the background is the same mountain standing between the two lovers.
As to the symbolism, obviously the first thing we have to deal with is the lion. So many things in the language of symbolism frustrate the novice explorer because there is not necessarily a clear one to one didactic relationship. If there were, then the symbols would cease to be symbols and would be signs, as we've discussed before. There is no clearer illustration of this than in the symbolism of the lion.
In the Bible, the lion is used to represent ultimate good and ultimate evil. Jesus is referred to as the lion of Judah upon the throne. In the book of Revelation, we see Jesus as the reigning lion, who is able to open and reveal the mysteries of the sacred scrolls. But, we also have the image of Satan prowling about like a lion seeking whom he may devour. What is the image here? What is the purpose of the lion here?
We will set aside, for our purposes, discussing whether the lion represents good or evil. The lion it is sufficient to say represents the animal nature. This is a powerful enough symbol and really does not here indicate either the presence of Satan, the devil, or Jesus. Certainly, Strength is not closing the mouth of God, and this is really not a card dealing with the Devil. The Devil is an important concept which we must discuss, but we do not encounter him until card #15.
Therefore, if Strength is not closing the mouth of the Devil, and she is not closing the mouth of Jesus, what is she closing? She is closing the mouth of our animal nature. We saw in the lovers, the power of the serpent, the power of the base of the spine, and the power of creation to move farther and farther away from the Creator.
Anyone who has ever done any extended creating, observes through the externalization, objectification, and internalization processes that the creation, regardless of its nature, begins to take upon itself ideas and powers and characteristics which are different from what the creator had originally intentioned, and actually struggles against the creator’s will. If you look at the manuscripts of Beethoven for example, it is clear that the man constantly fought against his music. He was at war with his compositions. There was a battle between the natural flow of the melodies--where they wanted to go and where Beethoven knew he had to take them.
Authors will regularly indicate that the story or the characters evolved into something which they had never imagined. This is the power of the serpent. This is the power of the creation. Ideally, as we have seen in other cards, most specifically the Empress, the purpose of the creation is to indicate the creator, that through the creation, we might see God. Yet the creation so seldom performs this function. Much more often, the creation pulls us away from the creator as we become entangled in the multitude of details within the creation--how this relates to that and that relates to this. Animal nature is summarized well inside of the book of Romans wherein Paul says that, "They turned from the Creator to worship the creation."
We do this every day of our lives. We do not see the soul inside of a human being. We simply see a body or a consumer to be used. We look not with the eyes of the spirit, but with the eyes of the body. We do not look at the spiritual principles, but at the physical principles. That is the lion who goes about prowling, seeking to be the head animal to devour others. Any thing or any person which stands in its way, we will conquer. We will crush them. Rather than try to work with them or compromise with them or love them or resolve all of our differences, we will eat them, either emotionally, or in the case of actual war or physical violence, physically destroy them. That is the lion, the base evil nature which comes through the creation of ego.
This is a problem, because we are all one. We are one family. We are all children of the same God. And if the message of the Fool is correct, the only reality that there is, is God. Therefore, the oneness and unification of the “uni-verse” is the only truth. That is the way, the truth and the life.
But we do not look at that goodness, we look at all that is not. We therefore seek to exalt ourselves above all others. Between the lion and the Chariot is the tension where we find ourselves in most of our day to day lives. Most human beings on this earth live right here. Each of the Tarot cards represents powers and forces in the universe, and as we have tried to point out so clearly, they also represent tendencies and realities within our individual soul. They represent stages of our development.
The vast majority of us have not attained to the revelation of the High Priestess, nor to the revelation of the Hermit or the Wheel of Fortune. The vast majority of us are past the real base problem presented in the lovers, and we struggle somewhere between the lion and the Chariot. Symbolically, you could say that although the Chariot awaits us, our prowling lion nature seeks not to enter the sacred celestial vehicle, but rather to find other beings to consume.
The regulating force among us is the lady of Strength. She has no struggle within her. None. The lion does not want his mouth to be closed. Strength is closing the lion's mouth effortlessly, with great peace and a smile on her face, while the lion still has his tongue extended. He is about to painfully pierce his own tongue with his own teeth.
This too is a symbol of wonderful power, for we are constantly biting ourselves. The pain we experience in this world is usually brought upon ourselves by ourselves--not always, certainly, but very, very often. The physical suffering can be induced by external circumstances, but we remain the controllers of our emotions and our minds. Our reactions to circumstances remain ours to control. I learned this crucial revelation really for the first time in 1984, when after a series a very painful events, I found myself feeling very victimized. Then, one glorious evening, I heard the voice of God saying to me that all of this pseudo-victimization was nothing more than a series of responses I was making to my own life; that just as I was choosing to feel myself the victim, I could choose to feel myself something else; and, that all of these difficult situations were ultimately no more nor less significant then stubbing my toe upon a footstool. There was a certain amount of pain, but that pain was incidental. What was truly pivotal was my response to the pain and how I chose to deal with it. Should I let that pain become my all consuming reality, or move past it to a new life? At that point I heard five words of magic, five words of immense power which have transformed my life and the life of millions of people who have attained this revelation: I am not a victim.
That is all, be it somewhat obtusely, symbolized within the lion’s tongue. All of this pain he is about to experience or could be experiencing right now, he is blaming on Strength. He is blaming it on the woman, but notice that all he has to do is pull his tongue in, and he would solve his problem. He does not have to be victimized.
The pathway of ego is not a pleasant pathway. We engage upon it constantly, but its blessings are so pathetically small compared to the rewards of the pathway of the egoless state, that it is nothing short of tragic to see the amount of energy we expend holding on to these useless trinkets of dust, which we call our accomplishments.
Who is this woman--this woman who so easily controls the animal instincts, who harnesses the base powers and enables us to enter the Chariot? I believe the answer is completely, intuitively obvious. The woman is the divine will which we've all been given. Above her head is the probably too obvious infinity symbol. The only other time we see this symbol in the totality of the Tarot cards is above the head of the Magician. Obviously then, she is the power of the Magician; she is the power of God. She is the controlling force; she is all power; she is strength. What is strength? Ultimately strength is control. The more strength you have, the more you are able to control. This is so simple, and yet so profound. Someone who is able to lift 200 lbs. is able to control much more of the physical world than someone who can only lift 20 lbs.
Health and strength are forever connected with each other, for health is defined as strength. We are able to do what we choose to do, and this controlling factor is the essence of will. We have said many times before that there are different parts within the human being; that divine will comes straight from the spark of God, the in-dwelling spirit; and that will controls the mind, the emotions, the desire, the physical body, and, actually any mechanical body, such as a automobile that we may be in. It is through our will, that we determine if we are going to follow the pathway of the Chariot or the pathway of the lion. It is through that will that we develop strength of character, strength of being. This strength wishes to touch all aspects of our being. Strength wants to make our minds powerful, that we might be able to comprehend the height and the depth and the breadth of God.
One of the things, unfortunately, which common religion expects of people, is that they check their brains at the door just as though they were checking a hat or a raincoat. We saw this during the discussion of the Hierophant--that religion, as it is exoterically taught, does not want people to think, is afraid of reason, and is afraid of intellectual exploration. God has given us our minds to explore and worship and know, and the power of God's presence in our lives will make us brilliant, will make us intellectuals, will open our minds to the wonders of the world.
The strength of God, through the power of will, shall also enable our desires to be controlled, that we desire not to follow the world as a prowling lion, devouring all in our wake, but rather to desire to enter the holy chariot and travel with Him to the highest points of Heaven. Strength will also encourage our emotions to have the proper reactions to all around us--to see ourselves not as a victim nor to seek retribution, but to seek only goodness, oneness and wholeness.
Strength will also touch our physical bodies, that we might have the ability to work and live and move in this world. In all ways then, the divine will is working to provide health to all of our vehicles--to our mind, our emotions, our desire and our body. This is why I began this chapter with this quote, which I will repeat. Moses said to the people, "Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of bondage. For by strength of hand, YHWH brought you out from this place." The woman is God. Divine will lives within us. Bondage in Egypt has become a symbol for slavery to sin. Held captive by the lower desires, we prowl the earth as a lion, and we are actually enslaved and unable to free ourselves. But as YHWH removed the Hebrews from bondage to slavery in Egypt, so too he will remove us from bondage to sin in our mortal lives.
How do we move from the lion state into the Chariot? We recognize that God's redeeming, freeing power is already present, and we enable that power to transform our base animal instincts into a vessel of holy, righteous purity. Notice that the scripture, Exodus 13:3, clearly states that YHWH is doing this by the power of his hand. The hand is immensely symbolic. The hand is the active mechanism. Just as the Chariot is there to actively participate in all aspects of our lives, so too the divine will is an active participant, an active controlling agent in our lives. These are not merely principles or ideas, nor are they merely pictures or symbols. The divine will is a real existent power working in the universe and working in our lives, moment by moment.
Exodus 15:2, "YHWH is my strength and my song, he is my salvation." Strength is also passion to encounter life with exuberance, not merely as a burden to be endured, but with great excitement, as a great journey to be explored.
Beginning to summarize, we see then that the lion is our base animal instincts, and that the woman of strength, through very little or no physical effort, automatically and simply overcomes the lion. To overcome your base instincts, to transform your life from being a hater into a divine lover, you need do nothing more than recognize that you already are free, you already are strong, you already are pure. It is up to you to focus on which part of you, you will use. That strength is health. It is power, it is control, it is commitment, it is passion. It is the divine will.
We are admonished in 1 Chronicles 16, to seek Yod Heh Vav Heh and his strength. Seek his face forever. We are told in Nehemiah 8, that the joy of Yod Heh Vav Heh is our strength. We are told in Psalm 18, "I love thee oh! YHWH my strength." Psalm 20:6, "I know that YHWH saves his anointed, he will answer him from his holy Heaven with the saving strength of his right hand."
It is all summarized, I think most beautifully, in two verses, Ecclesiastes 7:19, "Wisdom is a strength to the wise more than ten rulers that are in a city." Wisdom--we have seen wisdom before. That wisdom, that living life according to the powers of God, is our strength. And finally, Mark 12:30, "You shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind, and with all thy strength." That is the pathway. That is our vision. That is our quest--to take us from the darkness of the ego state and enable us to ride the infinite chariot to the kingdom of celestial Godhood.
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