“I am the beginning and the end,the buckle in the belt, the snake biting his tail.” __Unknown
The Fool, as he is most commonly known, is said to be the card that connects the rest of the Major Arcana to form an endless loop. In the Waite deck, he is depicted as a starry-eyed optimist about to step off a cliff. Certainly, we all remember times in our past when we stepped into an abyss called Marriage, Career, New Business, or Adventure where unknown and unforeseen dangers awaited us. We thought we knew it all but, alas, we didn’t; and we paid a high price for our arrogance and naiveté.
In the Spiral Deck, it is surmised that at this point in the journey, we begin again, this time making better choices for ourselves based on our previous experience in life and the lessons we have learned from them. The Fool’s Journey is a road well traveled and a circuitous route in the process of becoming a Sage or, in rare cases, an Adept.
Arcanum 0 in most decks, it is either 22 or 0 in Egyptian tarot, and is the only other Major Arcanum besides The Hanged Man that has a different meaning when it is reversed. Turned right side up, the number of The Materialist is 22; in the reverse, the name of the card becomes The Spiritualist, and its number becomes the symbol of spirit, 0. According to the Egyptian tradition, the number 22 in the spiritual world symbolizes annihilation and the number 0, eternal progression. In the intellectual world, the number 22 symbolizes atheism and the number 0, devotion. In the physical world, the number 22 represents materialism, and the number 0 represents ceaseless cooperation in Spirit’s plan.
The planet Pluto, representing the universal welfare urges of the soul, rules the Materialist/Spiritualist. However, Pluto is a planet that is dual in nature. Its best quality is expressed as cooperation, while its worst quality is expressed as coercion.
The image of the Fool in most decks is a blind man with a dog at his heels and may derive from the Greek mythology of Orion. Orion was a strong and handsome man known for his skill as a hunter. After failing to rid the island of Chios of wild animals to make its inhabitants safer as promised to their King, he made matters worse by bedding the King’s daughter. In his anger, The King of Chios punishes Orion by blinding him. The hunter, Orion, resides in the heavens as a constellation at whose heels are the constellations of Canis Major and Minor, a couple of hunting dogs; however, usually only one dog is pictured in the Fool of Tarot. Adrian Gilbert writes in his book, Magi, the Quest for a Secret Tradition: “The story of Orion is in a sense that of Everyman as he seeks to grapple with nature, come to terms with his life on Earth, his blindness to his eventual destiny after death, and his yearning for a better world.”
In the image of The Materialist/Spiritualist in the Brotherhood of Light deck, he is also figured as a blind man. The bags he carries over his left shoulder symbolize the material possessions he’s acquired or his ability to minister in physical ways to the needy. The staff either indicates that prudence is subservient to the demands of the senses, or that the demand for uplifting and protecting is so great that he ignores all danger to himself in fulfilling them. The fallen obelisk symbolizes the final overthrow of all corporeal work and power. The crocodile represents the ultimate fate of all who are blind to spiritual ways, and also the persecution of those who work to spread the true facts of spirituality. The eclipsed sun in the background signifies that spirituality has been obscured by material interest; or it signifies that dark forces from the inner plane try to obstruct the spiritual illumination that guides the neophyte.
C.C. Zain summarizes Arcanum 22 this way: “This blind man is the atheist, or materialist, and the man who is so absorbed in material aims that he neglects all thought of spiritual things. It is likewise the man who is a slave to his desires. And the ensemble thus symbolizes the inevitable suffering which follow sin. Or, it symbolizes the truly spiritual man, who is so enthusiastic in his effort to assist the race that he is completely blind to the consequences to himself. And thus, equally well, it symbolizes the law of universal compensation, which decrees that for all effort expended in a constructive channel there inevitably follows increased ability and real advancement.”
The key words and phrases for Arcanum XXII are: failure, folly, mistake, suffer consequences for sin, error, non-spiritual approach; choose between coercion and cooperation; extend greater service to humanity; find pleasure in all that you do; find harmonious channels for animal urges. Reversed, in Egyptian Tarot: the spiritual approach is taken; reward, evolution, gain, and success.
The admonition for The Materialist/Spiritualist taken from The Sacred Tarot is:
Remember, then, son of earth that all things physical pass away; and that before the soul can pass to higher realms every debt to nature must be paid to the utmost farthing. If Arcanum XXII should appear in the prophetic signs of thy horoscope, imprudence threatens to encompass thy ruin, and thou wilt be called upon to pay for thy folly unless thou immediately changeth thy ways. __C.C. Zain
With Arcanum XXII, this blog series on the Major Arcanum is complete. Follow this blog next week for the beginning of a new series detailing each of the Minor Arcanum of The Brotherhood of Light Egyptian Tarot.
For more information about The Brotherhood of Light Lessons, which includes Astrology, Alchemy, and Magic, visit the website at www.light.org.