The Fool’s Journey as 3 X 7 Theory
In my Part One of Journey Through the Major Arcana, I talked about Rachel Pollack’s presentation (in Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom) of the Major Arcana Trumps as a sequence, or progression, of an individual’s journey to individuation and enlightenment. The Trumps (minus the Fool, who represents the individual taking the journey, hence the system’s other name of the Fool’s Journey) are divided into three lines:
- 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)
- cards XV-XXI are seen as superconscious (development of a spiritual awareness and a release of archetypal energy).
The second line of cards places focus on the individual’s inner world. This is a time of questioning, or, more pointedly, self-questioning and inner searching. Here the individual gets a sense of who they are, of what drives them. Pollack points out that line two is the mirror image of line one. (Remember – a mirror image is the opposite of the object placed in front of the mirror.) The sexual polarity of the Magician and the High Priestess are reversed in Strength and the Hermit (with the principle of light and dark remaining in the same positions). The Wheel of Fortune turns from the outer world of the Empress to inner mysteries. The force of the Chariot is replaced by the calm of Temperance. In the Hanged Man we see the image of enlightenment, while Justice acts to balance inner and outer, logic and intuition.
The Subconscious: Tarot Cards 8 – 14
Strength allows us to confront our inner feelings, our inner desires. Here we see the feminine qualities of intuition and deeply expressed emotion, and here we see the individual “taming” their animal nature. Strength brings the Seeker hope, and the ability to face, and conquer, life. The untamed will and passion of the individual is fine tuned, or brought under control, as opposed to being “broken”. The bottom line here is harmony in all things.
The Hermit withdraws from the world in contemplation, to access the messages of his subconscious mind. Once he has gathered this wisdom, he returns to the outer world to teach and help others, using his new found wisdom. This inner journey is often accompanied by dreams, which is the primary way that the subconscious brings messages to us. The time of the Hermit is a time of transition, whether through the use of meditation or some other form of inner searching. The challenge of the Hermit is in recognizing the teacher to be found within. In solitary contemplation the individual opens up the opportunity to align themselves with nature and spirit.
The Wheel of Fortune
The Wheel references karma (consequences of past actions) and the cycles of life. It is a time for questioning, a time to look at why our world is the way it is, and how it got that way. We look at what is reality, and what is illusion – and find that reality is often an illusion. At the top of the wheel, one finds clarity. And then … the cycles begin anew! As Pollack notes, we do not see the Wheel until we step away from it. What we see are the events that are currently going on, as well as the ones that led up to them (past events). We withdraw to see the whole pattern (Pollack likens this to an individual doing an overview of their life).
Justice brings balance to our inner and outer worlds. As Pollack notes, the justice in this card is not social justice, but the more psychic laws of Justice – i.e. that we progress in life according to our ability to understand the past – to see our personal truth. Justice requires us to act on the wisdom that comes to us. The scales of Justice are in effect balancing the past and the future. In effect, this is our conscience.
The Hanged Man
The Hanged Man brings with him an acceptance of life. By withdrawing from the outer world, from society, the Hanged Man gains awareness of self. The individual no longer fights life, they flow with it. There is a sense of independence indicated here – of the individual having a clear sense of who they are, along with the realization that they cannot take any actions to help themselves at this time.
The great equalizer! Death is a form of release – releasing that which no longer serves us well so that we can make room for something new, something that will work for us. We need to let go of the hold that the ego has over us, so that we can achieve freedom in our life. By releasing old habits, by releasing the hold that the past has over us, we make room for transformation.
Temperance brings to us a sense of moderation. The individual has gone into their inner world, and is now on the path back to their outer world. The two worlds are not separate, but flow together easily. The individual is undergoing a “tempering”, or cleansing, that will shape it and ready it for further evolution.
To get a better idea of what the 3 X 7 Theory is, and how the cards relate, take your favorite deck out and do the line-up. Look not only at the horizontal lines, but at the vertical ones. How do they relate? What do they say to you? What is being said in this series is only a beginning to your own personal understanding of this wonderful journey of individuation.
In Part 3 of Journey Through the Major Arcana, we will be looking at the superconscious, the development of spiritual awareness and the release of archetypal energy.
I look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions about the sequence of three lines of the Major Arcana, how they relate to the journey of individuation, and how they relate to each other.
Be sure to visit Bonnie’s excellent tarot website full of tarot articles, reviews and excerpts from her published works.
- Part 1 – Cards 1-7 – Consciousness
- Part 2 – Cards 8-14 – The Subconsious
- Part 3 – Cards 15-21 – The Superconscious