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Observations placeholder

Wirth, Oswald – 05 The Hierophant



Type of Spiritual Experience


Wirth’s card is called the Pope, but these days the card is more broadly designed and the title is simply that of the Hierophant – the leader of a religion and a teacher of the masses.  The priest and intervener, the one who comes between the spiritual world and the mass of people, helping to make it intelligible to even the most simple and uneducated of men.

Notice how his 'crown' is only level 3 and he completely blocks the view of what lies beyond. The two followers are level 4s [searchers] and level 5 [simple believers - sheep].  He is a level 3.

Although the twin columns leading to an understanding of the realm beyond can just be seen, he blocks the way, preventing access.  All understanding must come through him and his interpretation.  In Wirth's card,  he is given a benign appearance, implying that he protects the great unwashed from themselves, but even Wirth wondered on the wisdom of this approach, as blocks the way for level 4s.


A description of the experience

The Tarot of the Magicians – Oswald Wirth English translation 1985 Samuel Weiser.

First published in Paris in 1927 under the original title: Le Tarot, des lmagiers du Moyen Age

….it is the lot of the Pope to reply to the agonizing questions which believers put to him. When he dogmatizes he strengthens beliefs and he formulates religious teaching which is addressed to two categories of the faithful. These are represented by the two characters kneeling before the pontifical chair.

One is stretching out his arm and raising his head as if to say: 'I have understood'; the other is leaning his forehead on his joined hands and accepts the dogma humbly, convinced of his own inadequacy in spiritual matters.

The first one is active in the sphere of faith; he is preoccupied with what is credible and does not blindly accept the doctrine taught. ………Unfortunately those who govern the churches are afraid of the believers who thirst after knowledge. Rather than these, they prefer the submissive and disciplined flock, ready to bow passively without question.  Religion suffers because of this…..

The Pope’s [Hierophant] mission is to make known intelligible reality which hides behind the mask of the illusion of the senses............

………..the sceptre of his spiritual power is a cross with three transverse lines. Out of the ternary comes a septenary formed by the round ends of the transverse lines and at the rounded top of the cross.  Now seven is the number of harmony and also of secondary causes which direct the world: these causes correspond to the planetary influences or to the seven notes of the human scale................

It is for the Pope [hierophant] to govern by opposing the innate tendencies of man in order to give them harmony and balance so that not one of them degenerates into vice. When left entirely to ourselves and to the instinctive energies of our nature we fall under the yoke of the seven deadly sins. By helping us to exercise control, spiritual power keeps us in possession of ourselves and makes us participate in the communion of free and virtuous men.

Of the two faithful kneeling before him, the one on the left is in red (activity) and the one on the right in black (submission, receptivity, passive credulity).

Keywords …………………..  Conscience, duty, moral law, inhibition, restriction, for one must abstain from evildoing before devoting oneself to doing good.  Priesthood, religious knowledge, …… teaching, knowing how to (as opposed to being able).

The source of the experience

Tarot, the

Concepts, symbols and science items

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps