Saturday, 30 July 2011

Strength - Leo: An Astroshamanic Voyage into the Tarot (by Franco Santoro)

 For the introductory article to this series please click here.

This introductory voyage through the Major Arcana reaches Strength, which according to the esoteric system of the Golden Dawn is associated with the sign of Leo. 
In the Rider Waite Tarot the trump of Strength shows a blond woman, with the symbol of infinity hovering over her head, in the act of taming a lion by gently, almost playfully, yet firmly, closing its jaws. She also uses a chain of flowers as a yoke to lead the lion, which further adds to the overall lightness and power of the card, suggesting Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.

This trump is a gateway into the esoteric nature of Strength. Most human beings appear to burden themselves with futile expressions of potency. They rely on their own strength, caring for the volume of their muscles, wealth and prestige, and strenuously competing in pursuit of power and security. So they live on the brink of the grave, struggling to ignore their unalterable date of expiry, which will inevitably wipe away all their tokens of strength. And it is this subtle awareness of impermanence that brings all the unceasing tension and anxiety that characterises our reality. 

If you are trusting in your own strength, you have every reason to be apprehensive, anxious and fearful. What can you predict or control? What is there in you that can be counted on?  (ACIM, W47.1). In a blink of an eye all our resources and comforts can fall apart. “In a moment everything can change” sings Hilary Duff in Fly.

The Strength described by this trump is the true call of the Gospel, the invitation not to labour in vain and to receive Christ’s gift of loving peace and rest which is available whenever we choose to let go of our strive for personal strength. 

The Lord is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation.” (Exodus 15:2) What underlies this choice stands as the gateway to the mystery of Strength, a fortitude stemming from a true surrender to God’s will and the capacity to accept It as one’s sole source of refuge. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalms 73:26) 

Yet this is not viable through our rational mind and can only be accessed if we are willing to face our unconscious fears and desires. True strength is not the result of repression and denial, nor is it based on control over threats to individual security, as well as to collective ideas and spiritual beliefs. The admission to the mystery is granted when we let go of the arbitrary strength of this separated world and decide to face the unknown strength of our multidimensional nature.

The Lion represents all the energies, emotions and feelings that have been expelled from our Human Arbitrary Configuration (HAC) in order to produce the separated ego, with which most human beings identify. The first step for moving beyond this bogus identity involves the decision “to shoulder Christ’s yoke” and address one’s veritable source of Strength. 

This is tantamount to connecting with the Spirit Guide or, as in the first stage of the Basic Ritual of the Sacred Cone, aligning with one’s Intent connected with the Function. The resolution that “God is the strength in which I trust” (ACIM, W47) is the first step, which allows a second and most fundamental stride to emerge.

Lion, Santa Chiara, Assisi
With this stride, as with the second stage of the Basic Ritual, the ego identity crumbles like a Pandora box and all previously suppressed energies are released. This shatters any forlorn attachment to our human arbitrary configuration, while also providing the required force that allows moving beyond. 

This unveils the goal of our original intention, which emerges in the third stage. Situations of fear and anxiety are unveiled, so as to be dismissed one by one, as we slide past each of them, reaching down to our place of real strength. 

You will recognize that you have reached it if you feel a sense of deep peace, however briefly. Let go all the trivial things that churn and bubble on the surface of your mind, and reach down and below them to the Kingdom of Heaven. There is a place in you where there is perfect peace. There is a place in you where nothing is impossible. There is a place in you where the strength of God abides.” (ACIM, W47.7:2-6)

In the final stage separation is released, disclosing our nature as holy multidimensional beings and leaving our previous self as a clean channel through which the strength of God can replace all the absurdities that were there before. 

God is indeed your strength, and what He gives is truly given. This means that you can receive it any time and anywhere, wherever you are, and in whatever circumstance you find yourself. Your passage through time and space is not at random. You cannot but be in the right place at the right time. Such is the strength of God. Such are His gifts.” (ACIM, W42.2-5)

The third step is the result of the joyous implementation of the preceding two stages, exemplified by the peaceful and gentle interaction between the woman and the lion. Here Strength is not based upon the capacity to endure sacrifice and sufferance. It is not a tug of war between higher and lower self, good and evil, purity and sin. It is not a crucifixion, martyrdom or any other cruel markers of the desolate madness induced by the Human Arbitrary Configuration. 

Strength is a peaceful and graceful process, and can never be attained unless we embrace the unbiased spirit of innocent childhood. Letting go of stubborn self-righteousness and joyfully opening up to God’s wonder are the doorway into the mystery of veritable strength. 

‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (Matthew 11:25-30)

Here there are some questions I propose to your awareness:

How do you feel when you read about things being hidden from the learned and the clever and revealed to mere children? 

Do you immediately see yourself as one of those clever and rational ones? 

Do you see yourself instead as one of those children to whom hidden things have been revealed? 

Or do you perhaps see yourself as both, forgetting or giving up the inner knowing of your heart, embracing other people’s ideas and begging for guidance, and then, from time to time, remembering your true source of wisdom and opening up to your Strength? 

What things have been revealed to you since you were a child, and whenever you have allowed yourself to be a child? 

Where does your true Strength lie? 

What do you have to say about all this? 

And what does your Strength have to say?

The Three Lions Crest
The Lion traditionally shines as the major emblem of regal power and of alchemical gold. It depicts the qualities of the Sun, yet this is not the bogus sun that comes and goes, drastically changing its effects on human beings according to seasonal or daily shifts. It is the Christ, the radiant power of God and the Light of the World. 

The true Sun bestows generous gifts at all times. It belongs to a world of which our human arbitrary is merely the palest and most depleted imitation, preceded by many other realms. These domains, though still separate, stand out as far more real than our mock world. Their gifts are attainable only by those who have eyes to see beyond the shadowlands of human ordinary experience. And yet these realms also exist within our human arbitrary configuration itself. Although this configuration is based on separation it is still the by-product of other realities and cannot exist without them, just as shadows owe their survival to objects lying between their surface and a light source.

What we perceive as reality is merely a shadowy copy of other worlds soon to emerge if we can let go of our victim’s attachment to consensus reality. The integrity of the spiritual seeker is based upon attaining a direct encounter with God, finding the truth no matter where or what it is, and despite all collective fears and prejudices regarding such truth. Here Strength is not the capacity to succeed in our competitive world and to prove one’s superiority over others. It is the power to fully embrace our adventurous spirit and joyfully engage with God as innocently as playful children. “For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.” (1 Cor 1:25)   

It is during their games that the four children in The Chronicles of Narnia move out of ordinary reality and reach a world where they finally encounter Aslan, the Great Lion. As their adventures expand they uncover more worlds within worlds. 

The further up and further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside” Mr Tumnus (the faun) explains to Lucy Pevensie (the youngest of the four children) in the seventh and final Narnia book The Last Battle. Lucy begins to see more and more clearly. She realises that the garden is not a garden but an entire new world, with rivers and forests, mountains and waterfalls. And yet this is not at all weird, for she knew this already. 

“I see,” she says, “this is still Narnia, and more real and more beautiful than the Narnia down below, just as it was more real and more beautiful than the Narnia outside the Stable door. I within world, Narnia within Narnia.” “Yes,” says Mr. Tumnus, “like an onion: except that as you continue to go in and in, each circle is larger than the last.” And Lucy comments “in our world, too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”  

Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

In the Rider-Waite deck Strength is the eighth card of the Major Arcana. This is controversial since in later decks the same position is held by Justice, while Strength is number 11. Arthur Waite and other authors influenced by the esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn switched the two cards, placing Strength right after the Chariot. This emphasises the polarity between Cancer (Chariot) and Leo (Strength), Moon and Sun, yet in a way in which their conventional attributes appear to be reversed and Cancer stands for yoga, control, rationality, attack and the male, while Leo represents tantra, release, emotionality, surrender and the female. 

Number 7 also belongs to male magic, while 8 to female. “Esoteric theory considers sexual energy as a manifestation of the energy principles underlying the entire universe, male and female being similar to the positive and negative poles of electro-magnetism. Through manipulation of this bipolar energy, ‘magic’ power results. The occultists considers these principles a science, no more, and no less, mysterious than the modern scientist’s manipulation of atomic energy.” (Rachel Pollack, 78 Degrees of Wisdom, p. 68)

 In Robert Places’ Tarot of the Saints, Strength is associated with St. Jerome, a 4th-century doctor of the Church traditionally depicted with a lion (see image), due to a legend described in Helen Waddell’s Beast and Saints. One evening St. Jerome sat with his monastery with other monks when a strong lion came in limping on three paws and holding the fourth caught up. While all the monks panicked, Jerome went out to meet the lion, greeting him as a guest. The lion offered Jerome his wounded paw. The saint noticed that it had been pierced by thorns, which he removed. The lion healed and became as peaceful as any domestic animal, going in and out of the cloister, and also offering services to the monks.

In the Alesteir Crowley’s deck Strength is restored to the eleventh stage, though it is renamed Lust. Here the emphasis is on the release and direction of the energy tied up in our strongest feelings, which is esoterically embodied by the mysteries of sacred sexuality.

Strength stands at a crucial cross-road on the path of initiation, heralding the emergence of a novel setting. This implies releasing our controlling attitude and embarking on the path of passion, tapping into the power of one’s deep desires, yet without succumbing to them. It is about letting go of the role played in stories set up by others and entering one’s authentic story, finally riding the Lion.

For the introductory article to this series please click here.

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or a selection of books on the tarot, please click here.  

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