The Fool is actually the Soul stepping into the unknown at the moment of reincarnation. And I do mean the unknown. I do not subscribe at all to the view that the discarnate soul chooses (in any sense) its own next incarnation.
Nor do I subscribe to the notion that there is justice in the sense of punishment involved – punishment for sins committed in a previous life.
Is Karma then simply a matter of cause and effect? What goes around comes around? In any one life – in this life – if you smoke too much, you might get lung cancer. On the other hand, you might not. And someone who doesn’t smoke might. Reckless drivers can live to a ripe old age, while careful drivers are killed every day on the roads – often by those same reckless drivers, who themselves emerge unscathed.
And from life to life? If we were smokers or reckless drivers, there is no reason whatsoever to think we will suffer the consequences of that in a subsequent life. But if we did in fact die as a result of a car-crash or lung-cancer, in which we might very well be reincarnated with a fear of fast driving or an aversion to cigarette smoke.
In the same way that a fear, an aversion – even a full-blown phobia – might accompany us into a new life, so might guilt. And this what might seem at first glance to be some form of justice or punishment. But we don’t suffer from guilt, in this life or a subsequent one, if we don’t feel guilty. A Hindu who eats some beef, even accidentally, may be consumed by guilt; may believe that he will be reborn as a cow – or as a pig or a dog. May in fact be reborn as a cow or a pig or a dog, I suppose. But I believe he would be much more like to be reborn as a human with a horror of eating beef (or perhaps any meat) even if not now Hindu.
This is where we must decide what we mean by “sin” and the significance of a guilty conscience. Eating beef, for that Hindu and all those hundreds of millions like him, is a “sin”. We can all think of countless other examples deeds considered “sins” at various times in history and in different parts of the world today. “Sins” vary from culture to culture and even from era to era. Guilt, then, is subjective. What I might feel guilty about, you might not, and vice-versa.
A little poem here:
Not because you think you’re very clever – perhaps you are –
and not because you never keep your word, filling the air with empty balloons full of promises,
but because you let the flowers die.
Like Love, Guilt is personal, not universal, and feelings of guilt not subject to any “laws of nature”.
But is there anything that is always and everywhere considered a “sin”? Possibly everyone everywhere would consider matricide a sin. Note the way Orestes is pursued by the Furies after he kills his mother in revenge for her killing of his father.
What I am getting at here is that while perpetrators of atrocities like genocide and human-trafficking might very well never suffer from a guilty conscience, and such monsters (in our view) as the torturers and heretic-burners of the medieval Inquisition and the present-day ISIS might sincerely believe they were/are doing the will of God/Allah, anyone at all who kills his own mother, for whatever reason, is bound to be condemned, not only by society but by his own conscience.
Guilt is only one aspect of Karma, one relatively minor part of the baggage we bring with us (see that bag the Fool is carrying?) when we step out once more into the unknown. (This is an archetypal image, and must be what John Bunyan had in mind when he gave Pilgrim that burden to bear on his pilgrimage through life.) In that bag, too, are Love and Hate along with traumas like the ones I mentioned earlier. But more of that, and of this whole subject, in other posts still to come …
Death: The End. But is The End really what this card signifies?
Here is the Waite-Smith card. (The Waite-Smith deck is the one most readers use most of the time these days.) Study it carefully.
Here are a couple of others, one from the Visconti-Sforza Tarot (mid-1400s) and the other a typical modern card.
And here is the poem from my Tarot Poems:
XIII – Death
For those who know, and knowing – not deducing, not surmising, but knowing – like I know where I grew up, know the name and face and feel of my first love – and knowing, know that any attempt to show this was and is not so is laughable, preposterous, absurd – For us, Death is merely the end of this, the beginning of that, a funeral a rite of passage.
Beyond the Styx, beyond the Land of the Dead, between the two white watch towers, the sun is rising.
Clearly the card is not now usually seen as signifying “the end” either of life or of anything else. In the modern card the sun is rising behind the hills and in the Waite-Smith card you have “the two white watch towers” clearly depicted.
But what about that medieval card? Have a look at this fresco, also from the 1400s. It is in the National Gallery of Slovenia.
Death in medieval times was generally seen as the Great Leveller: Golden lads and girls all must like chimney-sweepers come to dust (Shakespeare). And in the Waite-Smith card, too, neither king nor bishop is spared. Looked at from that perspective the card is a memento mori: Remember that you have to die, and always bear in mind the transient nature of all earthly goods.
The frontispiece to the Kindle edition of Of Witches, Whores & Alchemists. I see it as depicting Mariana on the Wheel of Fortune. From teenage sex-slave she rises up to become again her father’s daughter, the Lady Marian MacElpin, but then the Wheel turns once more and through no fault of her own, in Live Bait she […]