The Three Areas of Experience

The division into three allows us to see the Major Arcana as dealing with three distinct areas of experience. Briefly, we can call these:

through a dark cave, a labyrinth, or even by climbing down a rabbit hole chasing a Victorian rabbit with a pocket watch. Whichever way you choose, you are a fool to do it. Why look into the deep world of the mind when you can stay safely in the ordinary landscape of job, home and family? Herman Melville, in Moby Dick, warned his readers not to take even a step outside the ordinary path laid out for you by society. You might not get back again.

And yet, for those willing to take the chance, the leap can bring joy, adventure, and finally, for those with the courage to keep going when the wonderland becomes more fearsome than joyous, the leap can bring knowledge, peace, and liberation. Interestingly, the Fool archetype appears more in mythology than in structured religion. An institutionalized Church can hardly urge people beyond the limits of institutions. Instead, the churches offer us a safe haven from the fears of life. Mythology leads directly into the heart of those fears, and in every culture the mythological landscape contains the image of the Trickster - pushing, goading, jabbing the kings and heroes whenever they turn away from the inner world of truth.

In the King Arthur legends Merlin appears not only as a sorcerer and wise man but as a trickster. Constantly he appears before Arthur in disguise, as a child, a beggar, an old peasant. The young king, already seduced into pompousness by his high social position, never recognizes Merlin until his companions point out that he has been tricked again. More important than laws or military strategy is the ability to see through illusions. The Taoist masters were famous for playing tricks on their disciples.

The Fool archetype has even found social expression, as the real court jester. We all know the image from King Lear of 'the fool', permitted to tell the king truths no one else would dare to express. Today, our comedians and satirists enjoy something of the same privilege.

In many countries a yearly carnival releases all the wildness repressed through the rest of the year. Sex is freer, various laws are suspended, people go in disguises and the King of Fools is chosen to preside over the festival. Today, in Europe and North America, April the first remains 'April Fool's Day', a time for tricks and practical jokes.

The picture beside that of the Rider pack shows the Fool as conceived by Oswald Wirth. An older tradition than that of Waite, it pictures the archetype as a grotesque wanderer. This image has been interpreted variously as the soul before enlightenment, a newborn child entering the world of experience and the principle of anarchy. Elizabeth Haich has provided an interesting interpretation of Wirth's grotesque image of the Fool. Placing him between

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