Arcanum VI, The Two Paths in Egyptian Tarot, is often called The Lovers, Temptation, Dilemma or Choice in other traditions. The title The Lovers always made sense because in many other decks, the image is a man and a woman scantily clothed and obviously in love. In our tradition, temptation, choice, and dilemma are all key words for this card and in most instances, if this card should appear in a reading, the situation involves a love interest.
The imagery of The Two Paths, however, illustrates indecision, which is also a key word. It is that of a young man standing at a crossroad trying to decide if he should give his heart to the woman on his left or the woman on his right. One woman is dressed chastely and wears a headpiece of royalty and enlightenment. The Greeks called her Agape, or Affection. The other woman is bear breasted and wears the fruit of the vine. The Greeks called her Eros, or Erotica. A relationship is often begun by Eros but will certainly not endure without Agape.
Sometimes our choice may be simple. Will it be chocolate or vanilla? The consequences in that case are none. But some decisions can do irreparable damage and have dire consequences. These consequences are represented by the genie in the upper left-hand corner of the card, ready to strike if the decision is not made in the best interest of all concerned, another key phrase. The timing of a decision may also be important. Sometimes, if a decision is made in haste, the consequences may be dire. On the other hand, if one waits too long to make a decision, the consequences may be equally damaging. In The Two Paths, we can clearly see the vacillation that may exist between our conscience, which usually suggests the hardest way to proceed, and our passion, which usually suggests the easiest and perhaps the most fun way to proceed. As we all know, apple pie is far more tempting than a mixed green salad! Most of the time, it is far easier for us as human beings to take the easiest and most entertaining road, which may not be in the best interest of all concerned.
So, along our evolutionary path toward spirit, we come to trial or temptation. Arcanum V, The Hierophant, teaches us about ethics and values, and in Arcanum VI, The Two Paths, we are given a choice to use them, or not.
The Two Paths is ruled by Venus, and Venus rules the venous system of our bodies. In this system, blood is pumped through our bodies by the pressure of the capillary walls. So, another key word for this card is peer pressure, or a gal or guy who can’t say no. The word venereal, as in venereal disease, has its roots in Venus which suggests that another phrase might be enjoying too much of a good thing. Other key words for Venus are: a love of the arts, love, beauty, affection, and sensuality.
The spiritual message of The Two Paths is:
Remember, then, son of earth, that for the common man, the allurement of vice has a greater fascination than the austere beauty of virtue. If The Two Paths should appear in the prophetic signs of thy horoscope, take care of thy resolutions. Obstacles bar before thee the path thou wouldst pursue, contrary chances hover over thee, and thy will wavers between two resolutions. Indecision is, above all else, worse than a bad choice. Advance or recede, but do not hesitate; and know that a chain of flowers is more difficult to break than a chain of iron.
For more information about the correspondences of The Two Paths as it relates to its number, astrology, human function, alchemy, the Bible, masonry, magic, initiation, and occult science, consult The Sacred Tarot, by C.C. Zain, available at http://www.light.org.