Way of the Hero – Part 7 – The Journey Through Major Arcana

Way of the Hero Part 7.

In the previous “Way of the Hero” article, I have explained two-step, or levels of the Hero’s journey and mapped it out within Tarot cards. We looked at: The Hanged Man and The Death.

Now our Hero will journey through The Temperance.

The Temperance – the Soul Conductor

The concept of “Correct Measure” reveals the true value of this card. But the more important meaning here is to find the correct measure when mixing opposites, their successful union because it is one of the most important tasks at this stage of the journey. After Death broke the barriers built by our ego, we have to unite what was previously divided. We are being prepared for an alchemical wedding. This card also indicates valid and correct evaluations of the feelings (like fear for example), which is necessary if we want to avoid the dangers awaiting us on the path. This necessary knowledge of how and what exactly we feel is represented by the Soul Conductor, which is usually shown in the form of an angel.

We have two central issues with this card. The first is moderation, both in thought and in our actions, which also signifies self-control and self-discipline. It is about finding balance and harmony, most importantly between our physical and spiritual selves.  By getting the mixture right and making steady adjustments, we will find a balance. The second issue is tempering. To “temper” means to make certain adjustments by counterbalancing, or by mixing in new ingredients. It can also mean to make something stronger by passing it through difficult tests. Metal is made stronger by heating and cooling, and then another heating and another cooling. Our crises and hardships make us stronger and more refined. We learn by trial and error.

Another very important lesson that we must finally learn at this stage is surrendering. We must learn to trust our guide and surrender to the situation. Our awakened Self is trying to lead us to a new unity, to a new connection with the whole. The main problem with this is that we must now fully trust the previously unrecognizable “higher guidance”, which our “I” does not want. This is because it does not have enough understanding of the situation and does not have enough confidence in the “higher guidance”. That is why The Self often drives us into a situation so hopelessly painful, a severe crisis, that our “I” is obviously unable to cope with, despite its previous experiences. All of the clever tricks we used before do not work anymore. As a result, we find ourselves feeling totally helpless, hopeless, and miserable, until, finally, our “I” is left with no other choice but to surrender to the situation while awaiting an execution. However, instead of the execution, or falling into the abyss, we suddenly feel that a new force, more powerful than anything we have ever known, has picked us up and carried us further. This is a long-awaited meeting of a person with his Higher Self.

C.G. Jung, in one of his letters, describes how he himself experienced something similar when he had a heart attack: “I was free, completely free and intact, as never before … It was something invisible and impalpable, but very dense, riddled with incomparable and indescribable feeling of eternal bliss, before I would have never believed that this sense can be available within the human experience. In the eye of the outsider, and even more so, until he crossed the threshold of death, it might look like the greatest cruelty. But when you get there, inside, you will be filled with such a sense of integrity, peace, and fullness of life then you do not want to go back”.

This remarkable ability of the human mind to transfer his fallen owner from a hopeless situation into a new situation, C.G. Jung called “a function of transcendence”. The Hanged Man, The Death, and The Temperance cards demonstrate this transformation as a transition from the middle of the road to the last third of it.

When we rich the last third of the road, we will start to understand more clearly that time is not measured by a clock, and that it does not make sense to measure it quantitatively, because the most important aspect of time is its fullness. That it is not the quantity, but the quality. Therefore, it is not important how long we live but how we live, and not how much we are going through, but how deeply we are experiencing it. Based on this new understanding of The Death we are lead to a totally new attitude towards it. Now we are not defining Death as an event behind which nothing exists.

Let’s talk about the central figure on the card – the guardian angel. Where, and how, will we find our guide? During this stage of the journey, searching makes no sense anymore, no action should be taken, and we just have to open up to whatever is being done. We must be prepared to accept it and it will show up. To be exact, the guide was always with us, we just never took a step towards seeing it or listening to it. Of course, the guide is part of our own inner essence, although we tend to project this particular archetypal image on another person – a doctor, priest, friend, muse, or great guru. As shown in the myths, that person almost always turns out to be of the opposite sex, a person to whom the hero pretty often feels attraction. In the myths of Theseus, it is Ariadne, Perseus has Athena. It is not necessary that our anima or animus is the one that acts as our friend or lover. Pretty often it turns out to be the person that we consciously dislike, but at the same time feel a sexual attraction to. When we are younger this archetype could be projected on the mother or father.

From a psychological point of view our soul conductor is our own sexual opposite, anima or animus, so to speak. For he, who trusts this, in the beginning, the unconscious force will overcome his troubles along the way easier than the one who listens to the advice of others. Thus, it is desirable to learn how to communicate with your anima or animus. Of course, dialogue with the “self” may seem strange, but Jungian psychology brilliantly demonstrates the benefit of such dialogues. Dr. Jung himself stressed the importance of such methodical self-conversation: “The key to this is to learn to listen to our invisible companion, to allow him, so to speak, to express himself, overcoming the natural aversion to doubt the authenticity of the voice”.

He explains further that everyone, at least in the beginning, considers that they have come up with the answers by imagining them – precisely because they are accustomed to choosing what they “think”, unlike in their dreams, where there is no choice and everything happens by itself. However, later it ends up that the companion does not follow our choices, especially if a question is asked in the meditative state (when the state of our consciousness is altered). Self-deception is possible here, of course, and that is why Dr. Jung warns us: “It is an absolutely necessary condition for the success of such education of anima or animus is the total honesty with respect to ourselves and complete lack of prejudice to what may be said by our companion”. These dialogues teach us to perceive the symbols and signals of unconsciousness, so we can use and implement them in our practical life.

The Temperance stands in between two cards: The Death and The Devil, so it does not promise us having either peace or calmness. One of the meanings of The Devil is overindulgence which is the total opposite of the meaning of The Temperance, which means moderation.  But if we take both cards surrounding The Temperance, we’ll find a solution. The Death means to let go of something forever. The Devil, contradictory, means to allow something to reach an excessive level and to wish receive even more. The Temperance is located in between those two cards, so it means, you should have something but in moderation and this is always difficult. It is easier to let go of a box of chocolates completely, then to have one piece and be satisfied with it.

So, here is a conclusion of this arcane: do not deprive yourself of anything, don’t avoid temptation, but do not be greedy and do not fall into addiction.

© Rita Digilova 2010

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