The Parting Of The Ways

Number: 6 Letter: 1 Vau

In this picture we again see the 'magician'. This time he does not wear the hat representing his infinite spirit. Therefore what happens to him here does not concern his spirit. His fair hair falls loosely, its flaxen colour reveals his high intelligence. His tunic is red and green. The colours are reversed on the short skirt, green on his right and red on his left. The colours on his legs correspond to those on his chest. The sleeves are yellow. This clothing signifies that his whole being and his every step are guided by spirituality, charity and humanity. Inwardly, too, he is imbued with these principles. His activity, represented by his arms, is guided by his reason. He always considers carefully the rights and wrongs of what he is about to do. His hands are crossed on his breast as if he were shielding himself against an external influence. His eyes are downcast. He avoids suggestive glances which seek to penetrate him. Above his head is a twelve-pointed star and inside it a circle with an angel who, with drawn bow, is about to shoot an arrow at the magician. The twelve points of the star denote the twelve signs of the zodiac, and hence the creative energies which organise the visible world.

The young man stands at the parting of the ways with a female figure on either side of die fork. On his right we recognise the queen of heaven with the crown on her fair curled hair and her red and blue dress. On his left we see a woman with dark hair: she wears a yellow dress under a green cloak. We already know that yellow is the colour of reason, but in this case, yellow, the narrow red neckband, the red belt and the red flower in her hair are symbols only of her cunning and egoistic calculation which is devoid of true spirituality and belief. The colour blue is missing. The green cloak symbolises that she puts on an outward show of friendliness and sympathy in order to delude her victims. Both figures touch the young 'magician', they lure him to follow them.

Both women symbolise the inner struggle of man at the parting of the ways. At some point in our lifetime fate brings us all to this parting. We must choose whether we wish to go right or left. The right side leads us by way of difficult struggles involving even renunciation and sacrifices to a virtuous life, which nevertheless affords us a large measure of the pure joy of true love. The left side lures us to easy success without a struggle, to a licentious and profligate life, where we find shortlived pleasures in the gratification of our physical desire and urges. Such pleasures, however, inevitably leave a bitter aftertaste and drag our consciousness irresistibly down to a lower level. The end of such a life is inner chaos and the destruction of the soul.

The two paths are symbolised by die two female figures. This does not mean, however, that a man at this parting of the ways must necessarily choose between two women. It can, of course, happen, but it would be only one instance among the many where a person, man or woman, stands before this fork. How often does it happen that for instance a doctor, a scientist, an artist or a businessman must choose between easy success, for which, however, he must sell himself and give up his inner conviction, and a hard life, which, while allowing him to act according to his conviction, denies him worldly success and material comfort. A Dr Hahnemann gave up his practice because he could not agree with the methods of treatment in use at that time. He preferred to let himself and his entire family go without food and to earn a meagre livelihood as a translator, rather than sell himself and his deepest conviction. Then he founded homeopathy and became world-famous! Yet what misery he and his family had to endure until that time! Or there is the case of a man like Bocklin to whom an art dealer promised a large sum of money if he would sentimentalise a straight-necked swan in one of his paintings by bending its neck in a rather mawkish manner. Bocklin thought of his starving family, hesitated for a moment, but then replied: 'No! I cannot do that. In this painting die swan holds himself erect!* And although the Bocklin family continued to live very frugally, Bocklin did not sell his conviction, his Self. Further examples wordiy of mention are: Luther, who rejected the high ecclesiastical office offered him by the Pope as hush-money, preferring to let himself become die victim of religious persecution rather than betray his belief. Rembrandt suffered abject poverty and near starvation in order to explore the secrets of light and shade, instead of portraying rich burghers' wives as beautiful women, which would have made him wealthy in no time.

Many people have experienced this parting of the ways in themselves and know what it means 'to sell oneself to the devil'. Jesus of Nazareth also experienced it in the wilderness with the tempting of the devil. He was promised the kingdoms of the world if he would renounce his faith, follow the devil and do all that he commanded. How many people have stood at that same parting of the ways and had to drive away the devil with the divine words 'Apage Satanas!5 - 'Get thee behind me, Satan!'

Of course it does happen that a man at this level of consciousness actually must choose between two women - or a woman between two men. Or perhaps they must choose only between two ways of life. The emphasis here is on the question whether, on account of material profit, a man betrays his inner conviction, his inner divine voice, thus selling his divine Self, or whether he staunchly obeys his inner voice and follows his conviction. This means that he does the will of God I And the greatest happiness of all is when man is satisfied in and with himself, for it means nothing other than that god is satisfied with him!

In the picture the angel is about to shoot an arrow into the magician's heart. He knows very well that the magician can and will necessarily choose only the right path. For whatever path he chooses, he will choose the right one for himself because both paths will lead him to the same goal, to god. It is only a question of time, for the left one is slightly longer than the right one. For god, time does not exist. If the man is inexperienced, he will and must choose the left side, in order to make up for his lack of experience. On this left path he will realise that he makes himself unhappy, that he plunges into chaos and destruction of the soul. He loses himself on this path and falls out of unity, out of his divine self. And that is the greatest misfortune, that is hell. Thus he must turn back, 'become converted', and find the way out of this hell. He must strike the right path; now he has a rich store of experience. Then there will be no danger of his falling again. When Buddha suddenly realised after a night spent in his palace what a useless life he was leading, and how low it could drag him down, he went into seclusion to find god, to become buddha.

Or another instance here in Europe: amidst a drunken rabble Francis of Assisi came to an understanding of himself and realised what he was actually doing. He rose and left never to return, to become the great saint, Francis.

Thus on the left path man must sooner or later awaken so that he will never again stray on to it believing that happiness is to be found there. He must find the right path and advance along it in order to reach the great goal. Each one of us must have this experience on the left path behind him, if he does not wish to stumble on the right path. For if he chooses the right side directly, without the necessary experience, he will be unable to resist the devil whenever he tempts him in the guise of some everyday trial. He lacks the power of experience and falls. Therefore he must go back to the left path to gather experience. If, however, someone brings this experience from previous lives, he can, and will choose the right path. If he still lacks experience he will choose, with a deviation to the left, the right path - if he is experienced, he will choose the right path without deviation.

The angel who plays the part of the sun, shoots the arrow -a ray of light - into the magician's heart. Thereupon he selects that path, which, in the light of his experience, will lead him to the goal, to god.

The tarot card the parting of the ways carries the number 6 and the letter vau.

The number 6 results from the two triangles joined to form a whole: one triangle lies with its point facing upwards, the other with its point downwards. The former symbolises the Holy Trinity, the latter, the resistance, the material world. If we unite the centres of the two triangles in one point, we get a six-pointed star which symbolises the human heart. In the heart into which the angel shoots his arrow, the two worlds, the spiritual and the earthly, meet. Man must realise both of them. In the spirit, the heavenly world, and in the body, the earthly one.

Tarot card 6, the parting of the ways, finds its complement in tarot card i, the magician. Together they add up to the number 7, which again, as with the previous cards, leads to the number 10 by numerological reduction.

The letter vau means the eye, therefore everything that refers to light and brightness. The eye forms a bridge between man and the external world, for through the eye light and the outer world are revealed to him. The latter corresponds to die sixdi sefirah, Tifereth, which means the sun and radiance, therefore everything that we see with our eyes.

Tarot Card 7

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  • efisio
    What does tarot mean by parting of ways?
    7 years ago

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