Thursday, May 1, 2014

Union of opposites

Today's Tarot Blog Hop is all about the Union of Opposites, as illustrated by the Lovers.

There are many possible concepts that one could place in the position of opposites represented by the Lovers card: Good and Evil; Male and Female; Consciousness and Subconsciousness; Body and Mind (Soul). One of the quick ways to talk about the general principle of opposites embodied by the Lovers card is to refer to it as the Marriage (Union) of the Sun and Moon.
Rider/ Waite/ Smith Lovers card recolored by MDE. 
The most common depiction today of the Lovers card is the card produced by Pamela Colman Smith for the mystic A. E. Waite, who then issued "his" Tarot deck though the publishing house of Rider. The above illustration is a recoloring of the Lovers card, done by me with one eye on the ideas about the proper coloring of the Tarot cards taught by the Inner Circle of the esoteric Order that I am a member of.

One of the factoids about Waite and Smith is that they were both members of the original Order of the Golden Dawn. Given that fact, one would expect the cards that they produced to be illustrative of the mysteries of the Golden Dawn...well, provided that one thought that the general lack of secrecy of today was normal in their day and age. In all honesty, comparing their version of the card with the Golden Dawn version reveals that Waite and Smith were much better at keeping secrets than the modern generation.

Golden Dawn's version of the Lovers card.
The most striking thing about the Golden Dawn version of the Lovers is that the picture shows Perseus rescuing Andromeda from an ugly sea dragon, Cetus. The reason that Andromeda needed rescuing was that Neptune was jealous of her beauty and demanded that she be sacrificed.

The two versions of the Lovers card are related to one another--the Golden Dawn version is the pre-union version, and the Rider/ Waite/ Smith version is the result of the union of opposites.

One of the things to remember about Golden Dawn is that different teachers of the system view the symbols differently. While some would like you to believe that there is one correct answer to the mysteries, typically their version, the truth is that the system was never as codified that it ended up with just one correct answer. Please keep that in mind as you consider the following example of what the Lovers might symbolize.

One of the biggest sets of opposites is the Spirit/ Material polarity. Many religions and philosophies argue that the world of Spirit is Good and that the Material world is Evil. This rather Gnostic viewpoint typically results in a person abandoning the material world in favor of the spiritual.

But there is a way to join the material and spiritual worlds together--to spiritualize the material world. Quick answer for those who are curious is that the initiation rituals and exercises of certain esoteric Orders are a way to bring the element of Spirit into the material world and into one's daily life.

The result of this union of opposites is that one's existence becomes one steady walking mediation, a form of prayer if you will. The divine genius guides one hands and actions, so to speak. And that in my opinion is what the Lovers card, both versions, is talking about--the process of making the ordinary world divine.

Is my answer correct? Probably not--after all, I am not of the proper Grade to have experienced the Lovers card in actual initiation ritual. But my answer will do until I learn a better answer.

{A quick note for those who look forward to the Tarot Blog Hop--the Tarot Blog Hop now has a Facebook fanpage set up to help remind you of when the Tarot Blog Hop occurs--check it out here at this link.}


Olivia Peters said...

Interesting account, and some new information for me - it's great!

Alison said...

Fascinating post - good to be reminded of how these came to be.

Unknown said...

oh definitely learnt something new here! Very informative post.

Anonymous said...

Is your answer correct? I neither know nor care... I enjoyed reading it!

Inner Whispers said...

Now I'm going to have to look-up the Perseus myth, what a tease! :D Fascinating post, Morgan!

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Anonymous said...

Nice, Morgan! I do appreciate learning more about the esoteric orders to give the post-Golden Dawn tarots some context in the system.

I find it fascinating that although Waite-Smith went for the Garden of Eden story for their Lovers card, the actual Golden Dawn system called upon a Greek myth about the consequences of challenging one of the pantheon (I think Andromeda's dad dissed Neptune) and then affording the opportunity for a really great hero (Perseus, sponsored by Athena) to strut his stuff and rescue Beauty from Beast. Really a different take than the descent of the Divine into the Material in the Garden. I fear we have been deeply misled by Waite in terms of what the Golden Dawn were really drawing upon.

Always, always, thoughtful and informative, Morgan. Thanks!