The Empress, the Chariot, and Strength
All phenomenon in every domain occurs as a result of a combination of the three forces: The active, the denying and the neutralizing. With regular observation, we can recognize only one force, which is the active force represented by The Magician, or the denying force represented by The High Priestess. An example of action by the two forces appears at the beginning of the Tarot cards when the active force awakens in The Fool and pushes him to begin his journey to acquire consciousness. And the denying force stops him by the next step. When The Fool begins progressing, he is focused only on the active force: what he wants to achieve and where he wants to get. He is not aware of the denying force, when it will appear and how it will stand in his way. Sometimes things occur in the opposite direction when The Fool can only see the denying force, the difficulties, the obstacles and the problems. In this situation, he doesn’t even notice and is not aware of the active force and doesn’t even begin his journey. There are several examples of this in the scriptures when God reveals himself to a prophet and gives him a task. At that moment the prophet can only see the difficulties and the hopelessness of this mission. Another example is of Joseph son of Jacob, for whom up to a certain point the denying force was very powerful.
For various reasons, the neutralizing force is hard to grasp, and people do not notice and aren’t aware at all of that force. It is commonly believed that one force completely overcomes another and so the processes either cease or continue.
The denying force, which inhibits The Fool may either be misunderstanding, efforts to which he is not accustomed or habits which he acquired over a lifetime which pull him back from the journey to his normal life. Of course, there are much more causes, some of which are objective and some of which are particularly subjective. In this situation, we have a conflict between the two forces, the “will” to move forward against all the denying factors that awaken at the attempt to progress, which inhibit the progress.
That situation is similar to a person hitting a concrete wall with his fist. The stronger he hits, the greater the resistance. He may eventually be able to crack the concrete wall, but the effort will considerably weaken him and prevent him from moving forward. Or the wall will remain intact, and the person will throw the towel and give up. To continue progressing, there is a need for a neutralizing force, which supports and strengthens the active force. In our case, The Empress card represents the neutralizing force.
“Man’s development depends on his understanding of what he may receive and what he may give in return”
That is exactly what is represented by The Empress, plenty to which The Fool can arrive. We are not talking about material plenty, but about energetic plenty, about controlling, balancing and transforming that energy. The understanding that this is the situation which must be reached acts as a neutralizing force which supports and strengthens The Fool’s ambition to continue his journey. The cards will also address what The Fool has to give in return.
Before we can proceed to the next card, I have to clarify a few points and even take half a step back. The Magician, The High Priestess and The Empress cards I linked with the law of three: the active force, the “denying force, and the neutralizing force. Now I want to mention another principle, which acts on and affects every aspect of our lives. We can find this principle in every phenomenon, but what interests me is its manifestation in various processes in our lives.
This principle addresses various stages within the process. Every process may be roughly divided into 8 different stages. Which means that in order to pass all the stages, man must take 7 steps.
For example, one may see the writing of this text as a process: the first stage of the process began when I started thinking about the subject and its writing. When I finish writing and publish this text, it will be the eighth and final stage of the process.
In every process in our lives, we can see a gap between the third and the fourth stage. The meaning of this gap is the halting and delay of the process. If we cannot find an appropriate bridge between the stages, the process may go in a completely different direction and proceed in a completely different direction which sometimes may end up being the opposite of its beginning. This is why there are no straight lines in nature.
If we look closely at our actions, we can notice that we started doing one thing and at some point, things have changed, and we continued doing something completely different while thinking that we keep going in a straight line. The process continues to develop but not in the same initial direction that it took. That may happen in every field of activity in our lives.
Now we can return to our Tarot deck and examine the first cards of the Major Arcana. The Fool represents the first stage, the Magician the second, the High Priestess represents the third, and the Empress represents the fourth. Between the High Priestess and the Empress, there is a gap. At this point, The Fool’s progress may be inhibited, and it may deviate from its path and develop into entirely different directions, which are entirely unrelated to his development. If such deviation occurs, The Fool will not suspect anything at his current level of development. While he keeps trying to develop, The Fool may stray further and further from his original goal (development). In other words, there is good chance that The Fool will fail to progress and his work that is actually related to his development will cease at this early stage.
If The Fool learned well and acted adequately just as the High Priestess demanded, then it is clear to him that he must undergo a process which consists of three different processes. That is, to continue his development The Fool must put different efforts into three different levels.
At first, The Fool has no way of doing so, and he can only start working on one level, but when he reaches the High Priestess, he must begin to experience the second level as well. Later the third level will be needed as well.
To understand it well, we shall divide the Major Arcana into 3 processes (Figure 1):
– The first process – from “The Fool” to “The Lovers”.
– The second process – from “The Chariot” to “Death”.
– The third process – from the “Temperance” to “Judgment”.
Thus we have 3 processes with 7 stages per process. “The World” card represents the eighth stage that is common for all 3 processes.
The second process begins its first stage with The Chariot card, just when The Fool reaches the High Priestess – the third stage of the first process. And thus it enables bridging the gap and allows the first process to continue in the right direction.
The Chariot card represents a departure, the beginning of practical work. It comes to tell us that it’s really a hitchhike which transports The Fool from the place where he is stuck. The same inhibiting place is represented in The Chariot card by the city and its walls, or the prison walls in another version. The Fool doesn’t need to do anything at this stage. The beginning of the second process enables the mechanical progression of the first process. One can say that a form of Providence which guards and takes care of The Fool is in play here.
If we talk about the version which contains the prison walls instead of the city wall, we may understand that The Fool isn’t trying to bypass the High Priestess to enter a certain place, but he’s trying to break free. To leave the prison in which he’s imprisoned and become a free man.
The three processes may be explained by a parable of escaping from prison: It’s a parable that’s equivalent to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave which describes well The Fool’s situation. Additionally, it explains how The Fool can escape from the prison.
1. The Fool must realize that he is in prison. The Fool and other prisoners aren’t aware of their situation, they don’t know that they are prisoners, and they are not aware that there is another option, which is freedom. And it doesn’t end up with that, as their blindness is so profound that they are certain that they are completely free. Or, in other words, they dream that they are free. So long as The Fool remains in that position, there is no chance he will attempt anything that will help him escape. He doesn’t want to escape as long as he’s certain that he’s actually free.
The Fool must open his eyes and realize that he‘s a prisoner! Once he realizes that he’s in prison and that there are other options, he will undoubtedly want to escape. Even in prison, there are influences which may cause certain people to occasionally open their eyes for a short period of time. And here begins The Fool’s struggle to try opening his own eyes more and more. This is only a slight touch at the beginning of man’s work on himself, and it may be said that it’s the beginning of the first process- the understanding that the “self” is imprisoned and the attempt to keep my eyes open for a more extended period of time.
2. The parable says that The Fool must find a group of people like him, who understand that they are prisoners in the same prison and want to escape from it. The parable says that on his own, The Fool cannot escape because the tasks are numerous and man cannot withstand them all on his own. An organized group can do much more than a single person. If they all work together and do what they have to do, the chance of escaping will increase. Some of the prisoners who want to escape will dig, some will move the dirt to another spot, other will keep the guards from detecting them and others will examine different directions. A single person can dig for his whole life and then discover that he dug in the wrong direction.
At that stage, it’s also about making contact with a person who previously escaped from the same prison! That person may provide maps, tools, and instructions. Here we begin combining the first process with the second process. Under the guidance of a conscious instructor, the group may begin real work, which includes the first phase of self-work and the second phase of teamwork.
3. In the third process, we must understand that not the entire group will make it. Some will change their minds, some will not withstand the challenge, and some will be caught. Only a few will manage to escape. None from the group knows whether or not he will be among those who will manage to escape. And yet, even with the knowledge that not all of them will make it, the entire group works for those few who will manage to escape. It’s about working for a higher goal.
The Fool has managed to overcome the inhibiting forces, he passes the High Priestess and reaches the Empress. Meanwhile, as I wrote before, a second process begins to act, and now The Fool works and advances in two parallel levels. The first and the second level will proceed from this stage onwards until the third process begins to act.
When The Fool tries to pass the High Priestesses, he gets help in the form of The Chariot card, the first phase of the second level. Thus he manages to reach the Empress on the first level and on the second level to the “Strength” card. (Figure 1).
The Empress, as mentioned before, represents energetic plenty which she controls and balances. To reach that control and balance, The Fool must overcome additional hardships. To describe these hardships, we must return to the Magician card, which reveals to The Fool the Pentacle, the Wand, the Sword and the Cup that are in his bag, which represents the four functions of man: the instinctive, the moving, the intellectual and the emotional. These four functions we will also meet in the Minor Arcana, which delves deeper into them and explains each function and what it consists of.
In general, to get a partial picture about the functions, it may be said that the suit of Pentacles represents the instinctive function, which is responsible for all the internal actions of the human organism: Food digestion, heart functions, breathing, etc. Also, it is in charge of senses such as sight, hearing, smell, touch and additional senses which we will discuss later. Also, this function is related to our psychology which is affected by it on many levels.
The suit of Wands represents the moving function which is in charge of motions such as walking, dancing, driving and up to the mental motions which are performed by the imagination.
The suit of Swords represents the intellectual function, which is in charge of ideas, their comparison, creation of explanations that are imaginary or real and so on.
The suit of Cups represents the emotional function which is in charge of emotions and interpersonal relations, such as hatred, happiness, grief and so forth.
If The Fool manages to see and recognize for himself the various functions, he will undoubtedly see that all those functions are in a state of great chaos. Instead of having every function doing its original intended work, they are busy doing the job of other functions and thrive on stealing energy from each other. From this imbalance, man’s development is impossible.
To reach the state of The Empress, The Fool is tasked with organizing, controlling and balancing his functions. So far, The Fool is utterly enslaved to all of his habits, passions, and desires, which means that he’s enslaved to a variety of patterns that were created by the incorrect working of his functions. To free himself from this slavery, he must begin to learn, to recognize and to understand the operation of his functions fully. Thus, eventually, he will be able to correct and balance the incorrect working of his functions.
That’s precisely what the Strength card is talking about: The beast represents the functions which The Fool must take control of and balance. The card gives us an important clue that The Fool must act wisely and even cunningly. If he attempts to subdue his functions by brute force, he may suffer a crushing defeat. He must become friendly and well acquainted with his functions until he knows exactly where the line is drawn: when you can stretch the rope, when to show affection towards his functions and when to allow them to operate according to their will.
In the beginning, The Fool will not understand the hint and will try to take control of the beast, which will result in a failure. But this way, while struggling with the beast, he learns and discovers some invaluable treasures about himself. In the end, he learns that he has to control the beast in a different, more cunning way. He learns to give the beast what it desires and doesn’t try to change it while at the same time he earns its affection and learns to treat it with kindness and respect. Thus, with love and respect, The Fool is able to control the beast without having it notice it.