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Observations placeholder

Tarot - 01 Minor Arcana - 09s The Tests



Type of Spiritual Experience


Just before the spiritual path really starts, there are all sorts of indications that something important is about to happen.  One of those important things is that you are tested.  The tests can be physical or mental, and they can be brutal –or as Crowley recognises in his Tarot they can seem cruel. 

As one goes from the Ace and descends to the tens, one is witnessing separation.  The separation of the soul from the Higher spirit and the resultant increase of the cult of Personality with its strong ego and sense of righteousness and infallibility.  The worse the separation has become , the more work will be needed and there are some who will never make it.  The Tests are intended to weed out those who will never succeed, very early on in the spiritual process.

If we look at the Sephirot from the Kabbalah, we can see that Yesod appears in the configuration of the sefirot along the middle axis, directly beneath tiferet, which itself is well below Keter – the Higher spirit.  In other words the separation is quite pronounced and it is noticeable that the figure in each card is entirely alone – cut off from other spirits and cut off from their own Higher spirit.

Ascending the Sephirot brings all souls closer together, whereas descent results in separation and a dog eat dog competitive aggressive, lonely and often aggressive world. 

The world is viewed almost entirely from a selfish perspective via the 5 senses.  In the Kabbalah, Yesod is associated with the power to contact, connect and communicate with ‘outer reality’ (represented by the sefirah of malchut).

The foundation (yesod) of a building is its “grounding,” its union with the earth (malchut).

You will notice that at this stage the path splits and to the left we have the 'feminine' path and to the right the 'masculine' path, one being the path of the subconscious and the other the part of Intellect and the Conscious mind.

A description of the experience

Disks [Earth] - Gain

This card is extremely subtle in the message it conveys.  But the message is that the women is still bound to the Earth – materialism.  The falcon is not flying free, it is masked and ‘owned’.  The Falcon is also – symbolically - the bird of Mars of aggression and competition. The woman’s headdress matches that of the falcon. Is she, in a way, just as owned by what she has, trained to return to it again and again with little questioning of the ability to be unfettered and to fly free? 

Everything in this picture is, in a sense, controlled and false, cultivated and created by man - the vines, the woman’s robes, the falcon’s confining mask, the two mirrored trees in the background, are all controlled and cultivated, they are not free and ‘natural’.

But then there is the snail. Nothing is ever added unintentionally in Pamela Colman-Smith’s illustrations. It is small, certainly.  But it moves unhindered in this highly regulated landscape. It is a tiny, but compelling, reminder of the potential that lies outside the limits that we place on our lives.

Snails take on the symbolism of the spiral.  The Order of Creation was a spiral  commencing from the centre and the Ultimate Intelligence and proceeding outwards system by system.  Thus a spiral can also be used in this context as representing creation.  By extension the anticlockwise movement represents destruction, whilst the clockwise movement represents creation.  Any spiral where movement has ceased - for example in the shell of a snail -  thus represents a sort of  stagnant state.

This card bring us to the point of new beginnings. It feels like all it takes is a shift in perception and a step in a revealed direction for the world to open up. Our potential calls to us.

The Hawk by Farid ud-Din Attar [English version by Raficq Abdulla; Original Language Persian/Farsi]
He was a soldier with a soldier's pride,
This hawk, whose home was by a king's side.
He was haughty as his master, all other birds
Thought him a disaster, his beak was feared
As much as his talons. With hooded eyes
(His place on the royal roster was his prize)
He stands sentinel on the king's arm, polite
And trained meticulously to do what is right
And proper with courtly grace. He has no need
To see the Simurgh even in a dream, his deeds
Are sufficient for him, and no journey could replace
The royal command, royal morsel food no disgrace
To his way of thinking, he easily satisfies the king.
He flies with cutting grace on sinister wing
Through valleys and upward into the sky,
He has no other wish but so to live and then to die.
The hoopoe says: 'You have no sense with your soldier's pride.
Do you think that supping with kings, doing their will
Is enough to keep you in favour, always at their side?
An earthly king may be just but you must beware still
For a king's justice is whim pretending to be good.

Cups [Water] - Happiness

A well-dressed man sits — legs apart and square, arms crossed — on a wooden bench in the centre foreground of the picture. Behind him, displayed in an arc on a stand draped in blue cloth, are nine cups. The figure seems rather smug.  “Look at these,” he seems to say. “They are all mine!”

The blue cloth is the symbolic veil.  He may think he has achieved spiritual success, but actually everything is hidden from him, but he does not realise it.  His expression is self-congratulatory, but it should not be.

The cups are laid out for our perusal and admiration. But they are self-consciously laid out as if the man is boasting about the nine golden cups, structured and arranged in an orderly manner, but containing nothing. He seems to believe it is the cups that matter not the content – and yet they have no content.  Spiritually he is empty. 

By far the boldest part of the image is not the cups themselves, but the man’s hat, which practically throbs out of the card like an LED. The head-dress on his head is red, and is a depiction of his active chattering mind.

This is all about ego and intellect, the delusion of the ‘masculine‘ ego coupled with the Intellect, that it has achieved spiritual success because, maybe, the man has read a few ‘spiritual’ books [but not understood them] or had numerous hallucinations and visions [without realising he is one of millions, as such he is not anything special] or perhaps he has had one significant experience – an OBE or NDE.

As you will see from the site a considerable number of people experience dreams/visions and even OBEs and NDEs.  Thus the tests here are about how you handle them.  A smug egotistical person boasting of his apparent spiritual prowess, is going to get nowhere.

Swords [Air] - Cruelty

In the Nine of Swords, a figure sits up in a bed, hands over eyes, in a state of despair. The background is black, impenetrable, while, counterintuitively, the lower half of the picture is colourful, an eiderdown or quilt alternating roses with astrological glyphs, a carving in the wood depicting a scene of submission.

As for the swords themselves, if we follow them from their handles at left across the card, they lead off the right edge of the picture, their tips missing. Metaphorically, they are rendered ineffectual against a physical adversary. As with the Nine of Wands, there is conflict, but this is no outward battle. Rather, it is the inner expressed outwardly.

Shamans and heroes,  in particular, appear to have to undergo a particularly  severe 'testing' process in which they may undergo trials of severe psychological strength.  Being a shaman or hero requires stamina, self sacrifice and enormous self discipline, and it has its dangers. 

Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa, for example, was a 'witch doctor' which means he was able to counteract the evil of witches and sorcerers.  By following the route of the witch doctor, Vusamazulu had to be tested to ensure he was psychologically able to counteract and cope with 'evil'.  And the testing process, which took place when he was still very young, took years and made him ill.

The trial these people have to undergo may be entirely visionary, in dreams, or may be out of body,  but because the visions are being composed probably from the thought databases of the victims of evil acts in the past, they seem all too real to the person undergoing them.

But there may also be actual tests, obstacles constantly placed on your path to test your resilience – can the person stay the course, have they the intelligence to find solutions? 

There may be tests that serve to break down our ego by a series of humiliating experiences.

The more difficult the challenge you have [unknowingly] accepted – your destiny – the more  relentless and pummelling will be the attacks, and the person may be showered with setback after setback.  There is the real possibility that people find they cannot cope with it anymore and may be ready to give up.   

The key is to abandon the ego, adopt humility and accept help, from wherever it comes.

Wands [Fire] - Strength

The Nine of Wands shows an injured man, clutching a wand. He looks over his shoulder towards the eight wands that loom over him. He seems weary and worn, as though he has been through terrible battles which have left him wounded.  The man’s sleeves are rolled up as if he had to work very hard and  there is a bandage on his head [showing that much of the battle was mental].

But despite the obvious hardships the man appears to have gone through the look is more one of defiance.  He has been tested for his ‘grit’ and resilience, and knows that every time, he has  overcome an obstacle, he has actually become stronger. 

It has shown that he does have the inner resources necessary to overcome the future difficulties he may encounter.

The Letters - Leonard Cohen

You never liked to get
The letters that I sent.
But now you've got the gist
Of what my letters meant.
You're reading them again,
The ones you didn't burn.
You press them to your lips,
My pages of concern…………..
…..Your story was so long,
The plot was so intense,
It took you years to cross
The lines of self-defense.
The wounded forms appear:
The loss, the full extent;
And simple kindness here,
The solitude of strength.
You walk into my room.
You stand there at my desk,
Begin your letter to
The one who's coming next.

The source of the experience

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