Called The World in many other decks and The Adept in Egyptian Tarot, key words usually assigned to this penultimate card of the Major Arcanum are Success or Attainment. Here we see a young maiden kneeling in devotion to higher spiritual laws. She is moderately dressed to portray simplicity of lifestyle and moderation in desires. She plays a harp of three strings to demonstrate that she can affect vibrations in the physical, astral and spiritual planes. In the Waite deck and in many other decks, she appears as a hermaphrodite within a wreath, representing the whole or oneness, surrounded by the four fixed signs of the zodiac, representing perfect man. The symbolism of the hermaphrodite may represent a transcendence of the duality of the physical plane.
The wreath and four fixed signs are also depicted in the Brotherhood of Light deck, but within the wreath is another form of hermaphrodite, a phallus and yoni conjoined on wings and soaring to the heavens, reminiscent of the soaring eagles of our earthly couple, Isis Unveiled and The Sovereign, and symbolic of the reunification of soul-mates, The Magus and Veiled Isis. The call of The Sarcophagus has been answered; the soul is freed and at last reunited with its Divine Core and answering to its own higher wisdom and knowledge. With this card, we have finally entered the spiritual plane, The Adept symbolizing living the life of spirit while still on earth. The key words that apply are skill, talent, ability, success, and attainment; and The Adept is always read as a positive energy.
The Adept is often called The World. Philosopher Josef Peiper defines mysticism as “an affirmation of the world as a whole,” and reminds us that the mystic is not bitter or cynical toward the world. Nor is the mystic neutral toward the world. Rather, the mystic has taken in enough blessings of the world as to become awe-struck by it. What the mystic affirms is not the world laid to waste by human neglect, sin, and greed, but the world as a whole with all its ugly blemishes. Dr. Andrew Weil in his book on drugs and mysticism, writes that the paranoid and the mystic share much in common: paranoid persons believe there is a conspiracy in the universe against them while mystics believe there is a conspiracy in the universe on their behalf. (The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, Matthew Fox)
Finally, there is an ancient Hermetic prayer that may be found in The Gnostic Discoveries by Marvin Meyer that seems to tell the story of The Adept. The prayer reads in part: “…No hidden word can speak of you, Lord. My mind wants to sing a song to you every day. I am the instrument of your spirit, mind is your plectrum, and your guidance makes music with me…”
In the Egyptian tradition, Arcanum XXI expresses in the spiritual world as angelhood, in the intellectual world as the triumph of adeptship, and in the physical world as the highest possible attainment. The spiritual message of The Adept is:
Remember then, son of earth, that the empire of the world belongs to the empire of light and that the empire of light is the throne which God reserves for the sanctified will. If Arcanum XXI should appear in the prophetic signs of thy horoscope, thou wilt gather the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, and drink of the eternal fountain, if thou art sufficiently master of thyself to approach it without coveting; obstacles will disappear from thy path, and thy destiny will have no limit save those of thy will. __C.C. Zain, The Sacred Tarot
For more information about The Brotherhood of Light Egyptian Tarot and its companion book, The Sacred Tarot, visit our bookstore at www.light.org.