The Tarot, Reincarnation and Immortality

I recently dug out an exceptional book to which I often return in order to ponder over its contents. The book is, Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism by an anonymous author. In thinking about what to write about in this column, I looked up the chapter on the 13th Major Arcana, Death, to see what this brilliant Hermeticist thought about life, death and reincarnation. As a small introduction, those of you who are not familiar to the Tarot and in oracles generally, I would like to preface with a few comments.

All oracles, like the Tarot or the Runes, etc. are simply ways of accessing the subconscious and superconscious mind. Both the person being read and the reader are bypassing verbal symbols and utilizing graphic symbols that ostensiably have certain universal meanings, but often have highly idiosyncratic meanings. Having received the symbols through unconscious manipulation and syncronicity of the cards in the case of the Tarot, they must be interpreted again into verbal symbology. A rather round about way of communicating with the subconscious, and somewhat unreliable because of the additional source of error, the reader, but that never the less is the purpose of oracles.

I sometimes do an exercise in CRST classes with the Tarot to demonstrate how the subconscious mind can utilize symbols to communicate with the student about any questions the student's might have. The point being that the facilitator must be able to utilize any and all symbols coming up during a session whether they be in the physical environment or expressed by observers, as vehicles of communication from the subconscious level.

The Tarot has 22 Major Arcana, that taken together, are highly symbolic of humankind's spiritual journey. The Minor Arcana, the remainder of the deck, are more symbolic of the physical journey. The13th card of the Major Arcana, the death card, has always been symbolic of spiritual transition, even though mundanely, it has been representative of physical death.

This anonymous author of the Christian-Hermetic tradition, has been a source of many spiritual insights for me and here he speaks to me by noting:

"You see now, dear Unknown Friend, why the Church was hostile to the doctrine of reincarnation, although the fact of repeated incarnations was known-and could not remain unknown-to a large niumber of people faithful to the Church with authentic experience. The deepest reason is the danger of reincarnation by way of the ghost, where one avoids the path of purification (in purgatory), illumination and celestial union. For humanity could succumb to the temptation of preparing for a future terrestrial life, instead of preparing for purgatory and heaven, during earthly life. To prepare for a future terrestrial life, instead of preparing for the confrontation with Eternity, amounts to chrystallisation in the sense of the formation of an electric double-the body of the ghost-which could, in its turn, serve as the bridge from one incarnation to another and be the means of evading purgatory and the confrontation with Eternity. One ought during earthly life to prepare for this meeting with a fully awakened consciousness, which is purgatory, and for the experience of the presence of the Eternal, which is heaven, and not to prepare for a future terrestrial life, which would amount to the crystallization of the body of a ghost. It is worth a hundred times fore to know nothing of the fact of reincarnation, and to deny the doctrine of reincarnation, than to turn thoughts and desires towards the future terrestrial life and thus to be tempted to resort to the means offered through the promise of immortality made by the serpent."

As I meditated on this chapter, I began to realize that here was something that I had overlooked. Primarily because I had always relegated the Christian church's rejection of reincarnation in 553 AD as politically and personally motivated and had never considered the spiritual implications of why so many christian mystics with authentic experience of reincarnation could tolerate the rejection of an experience that was so universal. But with this revelation, that is following the left-hand path with the Faustian promise of physical immortality, one could distort the process of reincarnation. One could utilize this process to avoid the evolutionary return toward Unity and to work toward the perceived goal of the left-hand path toward becoming individuated, separated, and godlike.

As I looked back at some of the clientele that I had worked with, I realized that here was an explanation for some of those who were not able to make choices about their lives that would have moved them along the evolutionary path, even though the obstacles to such movement had been removed. They had chosen to maintain their egocentricity, even though that egocentricity was the source of much of their discontent. I had assumed that with these persons that the only path available was always the evolutionary return to the Creator, except of course with those that I could clearly see the left-hand path as their choice. But the followers of the left-hand path seldom seek out CRST, or if they find themselves involved, quickly depart. These persons went through much of the process of clearing and releasing obstacles to their presenting problems and should have been able to make new choices.

Now I realize that I was totally blind to another consideration, the desire toward further crytallization and individuation of the material, to take the material path toward immortality and godhood. This could be considered evil with a small e. Must closer to Peck's idea of the people of the lie. Motivated by this goal of crystillization and individuation of the material, CRST became irrelevant for them except as a form of profound relaxation and a way to manage emotions so that they didn't make them so uncomfortable in their manipulations and lies.

We have in CRST also examined the purpose of and possiblity of personal physical immortality. A work that is in transition with many unanswered questions. That work will now have to be reconsidered in light of this understanding. One, that with consideration, is an obvious outcome of what we have already known about the left-hand path, but one that I had personally not consciously considered.

One of the serendipitous effects of writing these columns is the joy of discovering the previously unrecognized or unconsidered. Although it may seem to be a trivial point, to me it forces a reconsideration of the purpose and possibility of physical immortality.

Written by James M. Price, MSW, MPA


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