Journey Through The Major Arcana – Part 1

The Fool’s Journey as 3 x 7 Theory

I think that everyone understands that the journey through the archetypes of the Major Arcana is a journey of individuation, of personal growth and enlightenment. There are several different ways in which the journey can be broken down. In the companion book to the “Universal Marseille” deck, author/Tarotist Lee Bursten discusses the 3 X 7 theory, which is based on Plato’s theory of the soul being divided into three parts:

  • The Soul of Desire
  • The Soul of Will
  • The Soul of Reason.

According to this theory:

  • Trumps I-VII represent the Soul of Desire
  • Trumps VIII-XIV represent the Soul of Will
  • Trumps XV-XXI represent the Soul of Reason.

Note: To lay out the cards to get a visual for this theory, place the Fool at the top, by himself. He is not part of the journey – he is the person taking the journey. He is followed by the three lines of cards, set out in a linear fashion. Cards I-VII make up the first row, cards VIII-XIV make up the second row, and cards XV-XXI make up the third row.

3x7 theory the fools journey

Cards I-VII represent worldly powers. The card of the Lovers represents the individual making the choice to give higher priority to virtue. The Chariot clearly shows the Soul of Will as the driving force, leading the individual to move into the second sequence.

Cards VIII-IV show how we learn to develop the qualities of Justice, Strength and Temperance.

Cards XV-XXI show how following material leanings will not bring us to our goal. The Tower cards shows us, in a very abrupt manner, how the Divine will step in and release us from both the Soul of Desire and the Soul of Will. the Star, the Moon and the Sun show the search for beauty as being the search for light (enlightenment). The card of Judgment releases the individual from the constraints of both death and time. The card of the Universe shows the individual triumphing over all things.

In Seventy-eight Degrees of Wisdom, Rachel Pollack notes that the 3 X 7 template can be seen in two ways: (1) viewing each card separately, as a quality or situation of importance to an individual’s spiritual growth, or (2) as a sequence that views the Trumps as a progression. In general, she chooses to follow the sequence theory, as do I. This is the manner in which the cards (and the journey) will be presented in this series of articles. I should also note that Rachel differs slightly from the above in how she defines the three lines of cards: cards I-VII are seen as consciousness (the outer concerns of life in society), cards VIII-XIV are seen as subconscious (our inward search to find who we really are), and superconscious (development of a spiritual awareness and a release of archetypal energy).

Cards I – VII  (Consciousness)

magician and high priestess from sacred isle tarot

The Magician

I like to think of the Magician as part Merlin, part Trickster. He has the ultimate power of all of the elements at his disposal, and he uses them as he sees fit to channel Spiritual energy into the physical world. According to Pollack, the Magician represents conscious thought, action, and creation. He is quite literally the symbol of manifestation. (How many times have I taken the Magician into ritual and journeying when grounding a project and setting down a good foundation for future work!)

The important thing with the Magician is to recognize that we are a channel for this energy – we are not the energy itself. It needs to flow through us, and will not work properly if we try and hold on to it. We receive the power from Above, but we also direct it Below (here in the physical world). Energy without direction is at best scattered, at worst lethal (to us, and to those around us).

The High Priestess:

The High Priestess represents qualities that can be considered dark and hidden – the mysteries of life, and the feminine mysteries. She is aligned with psychic powers, with the ebb and tide of the moon’s cycles, with our unconscious self, and with the wisdom gained from all of these things. Her wisdom is a deep inner wisdom. Here we see the individual just beginning to come to an understanding of Spirit, and the part Spirit plays in their life. Through the energy of the High Priestess the individual begins to envision what Spirit is all about. Here we begin to see our potential – but generally do not act on it, as the energy of the High Priestess is passive energy.

Rachel sees the middle three cards (the Empress, the Emperor, and the Hierophant) in this line as a set, representing nature, society and the church (alternately, they represent mother, father, education).

empress emperor and hierophant from sacred isle tarot

The Empress:

In the Empress we see the more accessible aspects of the feminine (Mother) archetype. There are disparate aspects to this archetype – those of mothering and nurturing, and those of the expression of sexuality and passion. The Empress expresses in an outward manner the emotional self that the High Priestess holds in check. We have to experience something before we can understand it, and before we can release our attachment to it.

The Emperor:

Here we see the archetype of the Father, authority, and the rules of society. The Emperor is the authority figure that enforces the laws of society. Through the enforcement of society’s laws, order comes from chaos. Rachel also comments that the stability of established order allows for the spiritual growth and development. As the middle card in the first line, Rachel notes that the Emperor represents a test. The test is that of accepting and conforming to the laws/rules of society.

The Hierophant:

Where the Emperor implements decisions using the rules of society, the Hierophant implements his decisions using the rules of Spirit (a higher law). With the Hierophant, we also come across “secret” doctrines, or the sacred mysteries. This can also be seen as representing the energy of initiation, and of education. There is a feeling here of needing to conform to society’s idea of how we should act and think. Where with the Emperor this takes the form of outer laws, with the Hierophant it takes the form of an inner need to “obey”, or follow the rules.

Rachel sees the final two cards in this line as representing problems that the individual faces, such as love and sorrow, surrender and will. The process here is one of differentiating ourselves from the world around us, of developing our individuality.

lovers and chariot from sacred isle tarot

The Lovers:

With the Lovers, we are looking at choice, and at bringing opposites together. Here is where our individuality begins to take shape. We are moving outside of ourselves to form relationships with other people.

The Chariot:

With the Chariot, we see conscious will – an individual in conscious, focused control of his thoughts and actions. (Try and imagine the wisdom and inner power that it takes to keep two strong horses on the path you, the driver, wishes them to stay on!) This is the developed ego, where the individual is not victim to his/her emotions. It is a card of maturity. This is a card of success, and a card of victory.

Join me in Part 2 of Journey Through the Major Arcana where I explore Cards VIII-XIV (The Subconscious)

Bonnie Cehovet

The Sacred Isle Tarot by David Higgins is self-published and available through the Fool’s Dog’s excellent series of tarot apps for Android and IOS.

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