Death

Numerical Value : 40 Letter: 0 Mem

In this picture we see a skeleton holding a scythe, the ancient symbol of death. His posture and the position of the scythe in his hand imitate the shape of the letter mem. The skeleton does not hold the scythe in the normal position for mowing. He holds it the wrong way round so that he cuts from left to right instead of from right to left. This shows that the skeleton has carried over to this level and retained the hanged man's inverted attitude. All his thoughts and actions are diametrically opposed to those of ordinary men. In addition, however, he expresses with this inverted position of the scythe that there is also inverted death, that with this death there comes not death, but life. This is indicated by the red colour of the scythe and the blue of its blade. The skeleton mows down the person with the fire of the spirit and the faith of the soul.

This skeleton is nothing other than man's spirit. When the spirit embodied itself in matter and was born as a human being, it was forced to die into matter. It could no longer manifest its spiritual qualities, it could no longer be its own spiritual life. It had to bear the qualities of the body and could manifest itself only to a very limited extent through the mortal frame.

The spiritual consciousness was repressed and man became a mixture of a great many material and very few spiritual qualities. Thus he perceived the inner effect of his own spirit from the unconscious as the inner voice of an unknown, external being. The spirit struggled in man in order to be able to manifest itself through the body. The qualities of the body and those of the spirit are opposed to one another. The essential characteristics of the body are sloth and indolence; those of the spirit are fire and activity. From birth the spirit fights against the tyranny of the body. Starting with the most trivial matters right to the greatest human problems, man suffers from this conflict between body and spirit. For instance, the body would like to adopt a bad, lazy posture, because it is sluggish and weighed down by itself. The spirit seeks to triumph over the body in man and compels it to manifest spiritual powers. Every sport is a triumph over the body, in every movement the spirit seeks to manifest itself over the inertia of the body. This struggle begins already the moment we awake. The body would like to stay in bed and continue to sleep. But the spirit compels it, in spite of yawning, to rise, get dressed and go to work or pursue a sport. And so it goes on all day long. Even when faced with great problems, we act as Paul so aptly says in the Bible: . . for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I'. (Romans 7:15) Who is the one who wants something, and who is the one who nevertheless does not do it ? And who is the one who does not want a thing and who is the one who does it nevertheless ?

Tlie spirit and the body are opposed and engaged in conflict; man constantly suffers from this inner struggle. Yet precisely this continuous suffering wakens his spiritual consciousness and compels him to find the way to his own spirit. One day he awakes and realises that he is not the body, the person, but his own higher Self, his own spirit, which should use the body as an instrument of manifestation, on no account, however, as an end in itself. This initial awakening is represented by tarot card 1. Here, for the first time, man has tasted spiritual freedom. Before experiencing this first spiritual level of consciousness, he was merely a blind slave dictated to by his instincts. Then his spiritual awareness increased step by step; gradually he lost the feeling that his own Self was an alien being outside himself, yet so uncannily well acquainted with him that it could speak to him through his conscience. He became aware that this 'being' above his personal consciousness was his own Self, his own spirit, was he himself! -An ever greater light began to radiate in him, he experienced various states within himself until, at his present level of consciousness symbolised by tarot card 13, he grows conscious in his own Self, in his own spirit. According to a law of Nature formulated by Pythagoras, 5 two things cannot be in the same place at once\ The spirit and the physical being, the person, cannot therefore simultaneously use the body of one person as an instrument of manifestation; one of them must disappear, be destroyed.

Since the person never possessed an actual individual existence, but merely borrowed its life from the spirit, the person must now disappear. Man, who has grown aware in the spirit, will henceforth without interference from die person, consciously be himself. His spiritual consciousness mows down the person, kills it. From now on the physical-vegetative powers will serve the body, but they will not take possession of its spiritual consciousness. In his consciousness the spirit will be master. The man who until now was a mixture of spirit and person becomes completely spiritual, completely impersonal. The spirit is the exact reverse, die opposite of the personal. The person stands for isolation and egoism; the spirit, however, destroys isolation, draws man into unity and makes him selfless.

The death of the person was already prepared at the previous levels. Man awakened, learned the meaning of justice, withdrew from the earthly world and gained control of his destiny, his karma. He experienced the titanic power of the spirit, true love, and gladly accepted its domination. In addi tion, he had to learn to be objective and to be able to place himself in the position of his opponent. Through this he saw everything 'the wrong way round' like the 'hanged man'.

What has remained of his person? - Nothing, nothing whatever! Yet does this mean that man has grown indifferent, apathetic, inactive, listless and lifeless? - By no means! - On the contrary. Since he no longer has any personal problems, he has also no personal troubles, no personal sorrows. He is always at peace, yet he feels with twice his former empathy for the joys and sorrows of men, animals and plants. He does not interfere in things, but allows them to happen as God decrees, because he knows that nothing can happen without the will of God and everything that happens is for the best. We must learn from everything in order to come one step nearer to God on the long path. Without the will of God nothing could happen.

In the picture we see that only the body, the person, has disappeared: the two heads, the consciousness - the crown denotes spiritual consciousness, the hands and feet signify activity - are still there, they are fully alive. These hands swear that they live and that the feet continue to carry man on his way.

The two heads denote that even after becoming impersonal, man remains a man or a woman: he still belongs to a sex. The male head wears a crown. This means that the positive principle, the spirit, governs in man and that he is conscious in his spirit. Thus he is fully alive in his consciousness. His activity, his consciousness, lives, only the person with its physical desires has been destroyed. There is an old saying which is a wonderful comment on this:

Long did I resist,

Finally I gave way

When the old person turns to dust

The new one greets the day.

And Goethe who was familiar with alchemistic transformation says:

And while this you cannot say: Die and rise again! You are but a shadow grey On earth's darkling plain.

Tarot card 13 carries the numerical value 40 and the letter mem.

The numerical value 40 results from the number 13 and the o, symbol of the universe. Unlike the previous number 12, which was divisible by six numbers, the number 13 cannot be divided at all. Therefore the number 13 is divisible only by 1, god, and by 13, by itself; it is a prime number.

Everybody knows that the number 13 is an unlucky number, but very few know why this is so. Those who know the tarot cards regard 13 as an unlucky number because the card 13 stands for death. Yet it was not mere chance that the great initiates, who created the tarot cards, made death identical with the number 13 and the letter mem. They chose these to represent death because, as we shall see, they contain the ideas of 'disappearance' and 'death'. For just as every circle contains seven smaller circles, whose diameter is one third of that of the large circle, so every sphere, which is the three-dimensional projection of the circle in space, contains thirteen smaller spheres, whose diameter is also exactly one third of the diameter of the large sphere. Once we know that, we also realize that the thirteenth sphere in the centre has' disappeared', it is invisible to the eyes of the external world: it is buried under the twelve spheres surrounding it, thus it is 'dead'. That is why the number 13 on the thirteenth tarot card means 'death'. And because people lack a rational understanding of these inner mathematical laws, yet deep down instinctively feel their existence, they fear that the thirteenth person must die, if that number is seated at table. But only the thirteenth! Not just any one of them, not the first, nor the sixth or eighth, no - it is the thirteenth who dies. Because twelve remain visible, therefore alive, the thirteenth has to become invisible, therefore die, just as with the spheres the thirteenth one in the centre disappears. It is quite remarkable that fate seems to know this law. For where a great religious or political leader is surrounded by twelve disciples, twelve generals or ministers, its validity can be observed. History provides examples enough in Jesus Christ, Julius Caesar, Napoleon and others.

The number 40 is also an allusion to the death of the spirit in matter. In symbolism, the cross and the square invariably stand for matter. As already explained in connection with tarot card 4, the first form of manifestation of creative power on entering the realm of dimensions, is the square and the cube, which is composed of six squares. All other crystal forms emerge from this first original form. The letter mem is the second mother in the Greek alphabet, mem lures the spirit into matter and through birth as a human being embodies it in matter. Birth into matter signifies death for the spirit, albeit an apparent death, as we already know. The spirit will rise again like Christ when it has attained self-awareness in matter. Or in other words, if and when man becomes self-conscious in the spirit. Thus man will rise again in his consciousness when he ceases to identify himself with his mortal body, in the knowledge that he used it only as an instrument of manifestation, and is not and never will be himself the body. The Christ figures of mediaeval painters swear to this fact and truth. They are depicted just as they emerge from the coffin holding a small flag of victory and resurrection and raising their right hand to swear: For the spirit, for the Self which we call I, there is no death, only eternal life !

mem also designates all rebirths arising from previous destruction, mem symbolises all transformations, therefore the birth from the spiritual world into the body; and in death, the birth from the body into the spiritual world. The letter mem, the mother, was therefore for all men, for each one of us, the door through which we entered from the other world into this world, into the world of matter. We had to die into matter in order to be consciously reborn in the spirit, in order to learn that our life is eternal.

Tarot card 13 denotes the death of the little apparent ego, of the person, and the victory of the spirit. Therefore the same card is both end and beginning. Here, as in the case of tarot card 7, one period of development has ended and a new phase is embarked upon.

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