Highlights of Study Guide XI on “Force”

Some highlights, separated by ellipses [. . .], are posted  below.  Follow this link to read the complete summary.  Use CTRL-F to search for a desired word or phrase

(This thing is the strongest of all powers,
the force of all forces,
for it overcometh every subtle thing
and doth penetrate every solid substance.)
……………………………..(tabula Smaragdina, 9)

(Powerful Virgin
Merciful Virgin
Faithful Virgin)
……(Lauretanian Litany)
……[Letter 11, page 268]

In Letter 10, our anonymous author discusses the transformation of fallen animality into holy animality:

In the preceding Letter the transformation of fallen animality into holy animality was discussed, where the latter is spontaneous obedience to God, without the hindrance of reflection, doubt or motives of interest.  Such obedience is basically an instinct (269).

In this letter, he continues to elaborate on this distinction, outlining two tableaus which summarize the kind of force that is active in the respective natures which are exemplified in these two types of animality–forces illustrated by the two types of water (or “seas”) and the two feminine figures described in the Apocalypse of St. John.

[. . .]

At this point, he quotes Revelation 12: 1-4, describing in some detail the two feminine figures representing non-fallen and fallen nature, respectively:  1) Israel/The Mother of God, and 2) The Whore of Babylon…

[. . .]

Thus, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…  The Virgin-Sophia was present in Mary as the soul of non-fallen Nature gave birth to the divine Word (274).  “Free Nature” has accomplished her task and, as the principle of Force, continues to cooperate in the realization of supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit which are a Divine magic that transforms, transmutes, and heals the effects of sin in fallen nature.

[. . .]

Thus the fallen animality of the lion yields to the Holy Animality of The Lion.

[. . .]

“It is the magic of virgin Nature which awakens the virgin nature in the lion, and it is this Force that the eleventh Arcanum is called to reveal. There are two principles which one has to understand and distinguish when one wants to go deeply into the Arcanum of Force. The one is the principle of the serpent, and the other is that of the Virgin. The former is opposition from which there proceeds friction which produces energy. The other is concordance from which comes fusion which engenders force” (275).

Above, we saw two types of water, two “natures”, and two feminine figures.  Likewise, we see two types of life, one of which has been corrupted by the domain of the serpent through which it flows.

After a brief discussion of the way in which truth flows from con-versation (a flowing together rather than the clash of opinions), our anonymous author distinguishes between the force of life and the force of electricity:

“electricity is due to the antagonism of opposites, whilst life is the fusion of polarities” (277).

He further distinguishes between two types of life, the first– Zoe –flows down from above, vertically, the second– bios –flows horizontally, from generation to generation:

[. . .]

But because bios flows through the domain of the serpent, it has become mingled with electrical energy in a way that leads to corruption and decay (cf. “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil–the fruit of the polarity of opposites” 278).  It is for this reason that we find nature divided according to the relative dominance and predominance of Zoe, bios, and electricity:

The soul of life-endowed Nature in which bios is subordinated to electricity is the “woman Babylon” of the Apocalypse.  Life-endowed Nature in which bios and electricity are in equilibrium is the “suffering creation” of which St. Paul said that it “sighs for deliverance” (Romans viii, 19-23).  And, lastly, life-endowed Nature in which bios dominates electricity —and therefore is itself dominated by Zoe — is non-fallen Nature.  Its soul is the celestial Virgin — the high priestess of natural religion.  This is what constitutes the Arcanum of the eleventh Card of the Tarot. One could formulate it as follows; Force is virginity (278).

[. . .]

…the reality of fertile, productive virginity is said to be immanent in Mary-Sophia who represents (incarnates/manifests) the principle of virginity:

…that of non-fallen Nature, that of natural religion, and that of Force… (279-280).

In the pages which follow, it is emphasized that the blessed Virgin is “a concrete and living individuality” and that every sincere, authentic Hermeticist (whose spiritual aspiration is intense and pure) will eventually meet her.  For it is only by being wrapped in her mantle that we can pass safely through the zone of illusion designated by the prophets and the Apocalypse as that great prostitute, Babylon (281).

[. . .]

Earlier, we saw that “the principle  of the Virgin . . . is concordance from which comes fusion which engenders force” (275).  This idea is further elaborated upon by distinguishing political unionthe alliance of individual wills with a view to achieving a common aim –from authentic unity:

“With respect to qualitative force, it would be appropriate to say that “unity is force”, because one is strong only in so far as there is unity of spirit, soul and body, i.e. in so far as there is virginity. It is inner conflict that renders us weak: the fact that we serve two or even three masters at the same time” (282; cf. 279, “the unity three worlds…”).

It is this unity that, according to the Emerald Tablet, overcometh every subtle thing and doeth penetrate every solid substance. 

It overcometh every subtle thing…

Far from dominating in a coercive manner, Force “turns enemies into friends” (282).  For it is through this power that Saul of Tarsus became the Apostle Paul and that, eventually, the Devil himself will be overcome when his voice . . . will be heard with the chorus of celestial hierarchies praising God…  Until that time, life on earth will continue to be characterized by temptation (mechanics/opposition/electricity), on the one hand, and inspiration (sacred magic/cooperation/life), on the other–which, together, constitute a kind of two-way street which our anonymous author describes as an exchange of influence.

[. . .]

In the pages which follow, a tableaux of degenerative and regenerative influences is suggested– temptations and inspirations –which operate on three different levels.

It doeth penetrate every solid substance…

[. . .]

…just as our anonymous author speaks of the “triple form” of electricity, even so solidity is said to be experienced on three different levels–each of which is penetrable by Force or virginity:

Now, there is physical, psychic and mental “solidity”.  All three forms of solidity have in common that they are experienced as obstacles to our movement.  They are experienced as impenetrable.  Nevertheless, the Emerald Table affirms that “every solid substance”, i.e. each physical, psychic and mental obstacle, is certainly penetrable for Force or virginity (287).

He goes on to describe this penetration in terms of an emollient action which is, once again, operative on all three levels . . .

[. . .]

This section is followed by a two page discussion of death which can be either the expulsion of the soul by the body (as in the case of sclerosis) or the retirement of the soul from the body in ecstasy…

[. . .]

Thus, the concept of Force is said to be an intermediary between pure consciousness and manifestation.  Force, in the generic sense, has two aspects–that of the serpent (electricity) and that of the Virgin (life).  It is through and by virtue of the latter– the Force of our Arcanum which is  the principle of springtime and spiritual flourishing –that Hermeticists are called to realize a springtime in the western world which has, otherwise, turned away from the Virgin (e.g. by pursuing, instead, the reformation, rationalism, the French revolution, materialism, and communism).  [290-291]

In contrast to many contemporary occultists (who have sided with the dethroners of the Virgin, e.g. the exponents of scientism and other iconoclasts), the Hermeticist is an iconophile for whom symbols, far from being obstacles to the truth, are revelatory.  Whereas the iconoclast is a murderer of tradition, the Hermeticist honors his father and his mother which is the spirit and soul of tradition (292).  Thus he concludes that:

Hermeticism lives and survives from century to century thanks to its essential faithfulness to the divine commandments “thou shalt not kill” and “honour thy father and thy mother” (293).

Such honor is extended not merely to representatives of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but also to “Greek philosophers, Cabbalists, and many others besides” (294).  And we can do this without engaging in syncretism or adultery, staying true to our tradition and to our Lady who vivifies it.  For however much we may benefit from the teachings of other traditions, we must not forget that the spiritual tradition of Israel– “the spiritual tradition par excellence” — is of universal significance…

[. . .]

He goes on to reformulate Moses’ ten commandments in contemporary terms, concluding that:

the ten commandments —when comprehended and practised — signify harmony with non-fallen Nature, with the Virgin and the principle of virginity, i.e. with the Force of the eleventh Arcanum of the Tarot.

(This thing is the strongest of all powers,
the force of all forces,
for it overcometh every subtle thing
and doth penetrate every solid substance.)
……………………………..(tabula Smaragdina, 9)

=> Study Guide XI. Force


Editor’s Note:
  While reading a summary of this letter is obviously no substitute for reading the original, this should offer a good review for those already familiar it and may help to focus the new student’s attention on the core issue(s) being discussed.  Don’t neglect the original, in any event.  The spiritual essence of these letters cannot be captured in a summary, however complete.  Quality time with our anonymous author is essential…

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Study Guide X. The Wheel of Fortune

A new “study guide” for  Letter X, The Wheel of Fortune, has been posted.  While reading a summary of this letter is obviously no substitute for reading the original, it should offer a good review for those already familiar it and may help to focus the new student’s attention on the core issue(s) being discussed.  Don’t neglect the original, in any event.  The spiritual essence of these letters cannot be captured in a summary, however complete.  Quality time with our anonymous author is essential…

–>  The Wheel of Fortune

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Lovers Solitaire

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Study Guide VIIII. The Hermit

A new “study guide” for  Letter VIIII* on The Hermit was recently posted.  While reading this summary is obviously no substitute for reading the original, it should offer a good review for those already familiar this Letter and may help to focus the new student’s attention on the core issue(s) being discussed.  Apropos of the discussion of contemplation & action AND the intellect & the heart in this study guide, two additional pages have been posted under the Xtra menu which feature relevant material from the authors indicated in parentheses:

IMPORTANT:  Please enjoy this study guide, but don’t neglect the original–the spiritual essence of these letters cannot be captured by a summary, regardless of how accurate and detailed it may be.  Quality time with our anonymous author is essential!  🙂

–> Study Guide VIIII.  The Hermit

* Note:  The Roman numeral “VIIII” reflects the older convention utilized by the Tarot of Marseille known as “long form” or “additive notation” (VIIII instead of the shorter, “subtractive” IX).

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Study Guide VIII. Justice

A new “study guide” for  Letter VIII on Justice has just been posted.  While reading this summary is obviously no substitute for reading the original, it should offer a good review for those already familiar Letter VIII and may help to focus the new student’s attention on the core issue(s) being discussed.  Don’t neglect the original, in any event.  The spiritual essence of these letters cannot be captured in a summary.  Quality time with our anonymous author is essential…

–>  Justice

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Authentic Christian Platonism

“St. Bonaventura, in his doctrine of ‘signatura rerum’, interprets the entire visible world as the symbol of the invisible world. For him, the visible world is only another Holy Scripture, another revelation alongside that which is contained in the Holy Scripture properly said:

“And it thus appears that the entire world is like a single mirror full of lights presenting the divine wisdom, or as charcoal emitting light.”

~ Meditations on the Tarot, Letter 1, “The Magician” (17)

The context for the above quotation is Our Anonymous Author’s discussion of the method of analogy as it pertains to philosophy and theology (citing, along the way, papal proclamations in 1588 and 1879 which describe St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure as “two olive trees and two chandeliers shining in the house of God”).

No doubt many (if not most) of us have read at least a bit of Aquinas, right?  But how many of us are at all familiar with St. Bonaventure?  While a google search turns up a plethora of resources, perhaps these two will be at least minimally sufficient for a first introduction:

The Cosmic Exemplarism of Bonaventure
Bowman, Leonard J. The Journal of Religion, Vol. 55, No. 2 (Apr., 1975), pp. 181-198.

Bonaventure on Creation: A Ressourcement for the Modern World
Kimball, Kasey. Crux, 51 no 4 (Winter 2015), 15-21.

The Kimball article is by a graduate student in theology who is, in part, addressing
ecological concerns (bringing Martin Heidegger and Martin Buber into the mix).  The Bowman piece is strict exposition and seems to captures an essential element of authentic Christian Platonism in these paragraphs:

As Bonaventure makes clear– along with Plotinus —it is a HUGE mistake to imagine the intelligible realm of Platonic ideas to be a mere aggregate of eternal abstractions.  Quite the contrary.  Indeed, Nous for Plotinus is the locus of our truth and being — the living and powerful essence of our existence which is, itself, pure act.  Moreover, we find that in Nous, which invites comparison with the Divine Intelligence of the Christian Logos, eternity and mutual inclusiveness replace time, space, and separation (Enneads V.9.10).  So while, on one level– that of the empirical ego –we may be lost in time and space (consumed by our very material concerns), Plotinus is quite clear that our higher part remains–we need only recollect our race and worth (cf. IV.8.8, V.1.1). To know this higher aspect of ourselves is to know eternal life— authentic Spiritual Life –which is our true vocation (having been chosen/created in Christ before the foundation of the world in the beginning with God).  But to realize this also requires the courage to be–the courage to be that which we ARE in Christ, Here & NOW.  Thus the exhortation:  Take up your cross, the kingdom of heaven is at hand . . .

“The Now is no mere nodal point between the past and the future. It is the seat and region of the Divine Presence itself…. The Now contains all that is needed for the absolute satisfaction of our deepest cravings…. In the Now we are at home at last.”
~ Thomas Kelly, “A Testament of Devotion”

–> Plotinus in a Nutshell…

Note:  Below is an additional except from the Bowman article:

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Tarot Course Materials

Most of the material linked to, below, was developed for a class which was offered at a local bookstore in 2017.   These links can also be found under our new Tarot Course Materials menu item.  Some aspects of this material will be revised and supplemented as time goes on, but for the most part this is probably its final form.  Please email the webmaster to report any broken links, errors, or omissions! 🙂

The following topics were touched upon in the class:

. . . Why Meditate on the Tarot?

  1. The Tarot as We Know It
  2. Two Watershed Moments in Tarot History
  3. Comparing the Marseille & Waite-Smith Tarots
    1. Comparing the Minor Arcana
    2. Comparing the Major Arcana
      A More Detailed Look at the Major Arcana
  4. Aesthetic Roots and Resemblances Prior to 1770
  5. The Philosophical and Theological Milieu
  6. Archetypical Psychology and Spirituality
  7. Outline of Seminal Figures in the History of Occult Tarot
  8. Two Esoteric Schools Worthy of Special Mention
  9. Contemplative Tarot

Works Cited and Additional Resources

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The French Tradition

Editor’s Note:  Recently, while preparing to give presentations touching on the history and symbolism of the Tarot, I came across the following resources at Tarot-History.Com.  The owner of that site kindly agreed to my use of this beautiful and historically illuminating material here and in my classes.  Many thanks to Roxanne Flornoy and Tarot-History.Com !!!  🙂

The Tarot has always fascinated the casual inquirer and amateur as much as the seasoned initiate.
 

Here we deal with both the history and legend of tarot cards, as well as the tarot as game, magic
and “journey of the soul“.

 

These reflections are centered around the following traditional “Tarot of Marseille” preserved in the French National Library :

Tarot of Jean Noblet and of Jacques Vieville c.1650, Tarot of Jean Dodal c.1701, Tarot of Nicolas Conver 1760.

There are only three (plus another of a slightly different tradition) Tarots of Marseille which have come down to us complete and unaltered. It is these which are the foundation and source of all modern tarots. They were produced at a time when traditions were still alive, and it is to them that this site is dedicated

Our principal activity consists in re-editing these few historic, popular Tarots preserved in the French National Library:

This tradition, seven centuries old, originates in the knowledge, science and art of the men who built the cathedrals.

All tarots which are not rooted in this tradition (effectively dead by 1730) can be called “fantasy”, and just reflect their authors. Personal creations remain creations which are only personal, however erudite or beautiful.

–> Tarot-History.Com

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The Soul’s Choice



The Lover
 stands in equilibrium between two gravitational fields—the world of the serpent, on the one hand, and the world of the Word, on the other (cf. the “psychic man” in Letter XII).

 

MOTT References:
“spiritual fornication“ (143); “It is love which awakens” (126); “the ‘psychic man’ ” (307).

 


 

 

The Wheel of Fortune— aka the world of the serpent —suggests separation and duality (cf. fallen creation, maya, samsara, or simply the rat race).

MOTT References:
”the world of the serpent” (242-243, 246-7, 253 – cf. 143;203).

 

 

The World indicates union / nondualitythe world of the Word (cf. true nature, moksha, nirvana, the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God).

 

MOTT References:
”creative joy” (644); “the world of the Word” (143);
“the kingdom heaven” and “nirvana” are not equivalent in MOTT.

 


 

The Moon points to our empirical  ego and personal self-image—and, more generally, to discursive thought and instrumental reasoning (cf. analysis, calculation, ratiocination—see also The Ace of Swords).

MOTT References:

“materialist intellectuality” (494).

 

The Sun suggests our transcendental Self—the light of awareness in which we are called to walk (cf. I John 1:5-7).  See also Matthew 18:3 — “Unless you become as little children, you cannot enter the kingdom…”

MOTT References:
“the look of a child” (552).

 


 

The Tower of Destruction points to the destiny of the egoic mind together with its projects—i.e. the inevitable end of “the story of me”, however successful “I” may be along the way (cf. “the tower of Babel” or “the house built on the sand”).

 

MOTT References:
“confronted by divine reality” (444).

 


The Hanged Man
suggests the possibility of taking up our cross— of “dying before we die” —and entering the kingdom NOW…  (aka transcending the ego, being crucified with Christ—cf. Romans 6:4-6; Galatians 2:20).

 

MOTT References:
“attraction from above” (307).

 



The Ace of Swords, in this context, indicates the rule of the empirical / dualistic / egoic mind (cf. the all too often “arbitrary will” of the “emancipated personality” per MOTT ).

MOTT References:
“arbitrary will” (411); “emancipated personality” (119—cf. 116, 125, 127). 
NOTE: The Tarot Aces are not discussed in MOTT and it’s treatment of the Tarot suits is Kabbalistic whereas this approach is best characterized as Neoplatonic.


The Ace of Batons
points to Spirit / Presence / Awareness / God’s will / our real will— as we are in the beginning in Christ, the image and likeness of God (cf. GK Nous / Logos / Mind of Christ / Divine Intelligence).

NOTE: “Action” as in Divine activity; the ground of authentic action… (not fallen reactivity).

MOTT References:
NOTE: The Tarot Aces are not discussed in MOTT and it’s treatment of the Tarot suits is Kabbalistic whereas this approach is best characterized as Neoplatonic.


 

The Devil indicates the temptation of duality and forgetfulness (in material, ideological and/or sensual pursuits).

 

MOTT References:
“two personages” (404, 408ff – see discussion of “egregores” for the ideological aspect).


Temperance
alerts us to the call of conscience
(mindfulness / recollection / remembrance / Divine presence); helps bridge the gap (functionally) between the image and likeness of God in us…

MOTT References:
“faithful ally” (375 – see pages 374ff for the distinction between image and likeness).

 


 


The Ace of Coins here suggests the ego’s preoccupation with “laying up treasure on earth” (See Luke 12:15-34; Philippians 3:18-21; I Timothy 6:9-10; James 4:1-3).

MOTT References:
NOTE: The Tarot Aces are not discussed in MOTT and it’s treatment of the Tarot suits is Kabbalistic whereas this approach is best characterized as Neoplatonic.


The Ace of Chalices suggests a heart that is open to Spirit (“If you are risen with Christ, seek those things which are above…” See Colossians 3:1-3; Luke 12:15-34).

 

MOTT References:
NOTE: The Tarot Aces are not discussed in MOTT and it’s treatment of the Tarot suits is Kabbalistic whereas this approach is best characterized as Neoplatonic.


[Editor’s Note:  Go to The Soul’s Choice menu to explore a recently
revised and expanded presentation of this material  ~ Nov. 2018 ]


The Soul’s Choice…
A Thirteen Card Spread of Inspirational Trumps & Aces:
[ Introduction | Commentary | Acknowledgements | Download ]

 Whosoever will may come and drink of the water of life freely…

[See TTTarot Hermeneutics for additional background on this arrangement of images.]

 

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“Two Gravitational Fields” (Pope Benedict XVI)

In one of our initial posts (Let the journey begin), we suggested that Meditations on the Tarot might be linked to Pope Benedict XVI through Robert Spaemann (the same Robert Spaemann who wrote the forward to the German edition of MOTT, Die großen Arcana des Tarot).  And just recently, additional evidence has come to our attention which also suggests that Benedict may have been familiar with our anonymous author.  Indeed, it is not at all farfetched to think that, in addition to the Fathers of the Church, Pope Benedict may also have had Letter VI and (especially) Letter XII of MOTT, in mind as he wrote the following lines for his 2011 Palm Sunday Homily:

“The Fathers of the Church maintained that human beings stand at the point of intersection between two gravitational fields. First, there is the force of gravity which pulls us down – towards selfishness, falsehood and evil; the gravity which diminishes us and distances us from the heights of God. On the other hand there is the gravitational force of God’s love: the fact that we are loved by God and respond in love attracts us upwards. Man finds himself betwixt this twofold gravitational force; everything depends on our escaping the gravitational field of evil and becoming free to be attracted completely by the gravitational force of God, which makes us authentic, elevates us and grants us true freedom.”

By way of comparison, consider the following paragraphs from Letter XII of MOTT:

Now, the domain of freedom— the spiritual life —is found placed between two gravitational fields with two different centres. The Gospel designates them as “heaven” and “this world”, or as the “kingdom of God” and the “kingdom of the prince of this world”. And it designates those whose will follows or is submitted to the gravitation of “this world” as “children of this world”, and those whose will follows the gravitation of “heaven” as the “children (or the sons) of light.
 The human being participates in these two gravitational fields, as the apostle Paul had in mind when he said:
<<< For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh: for these arc opposed to each other, to prevent vou from doing what you would. (Galatians v. 17) >>>
These “opposing desires” arc the tendencies through which the two gravitational fields manifest themselves. The man who lives in the grip of gravitation of “this world” at the expense of the gravitation of “heaven” is the “carnal man”; he who lives in equilibrium between the two gravitational fields is the “psychic man”; and. lastly, the one who lives under the sway of the gravitation of “heaven” is (he “spiritual man” (MOTT, Letter XII, “The Hanged Man”, 306-307).

 

Less explicit, but very helpful by way of background, in Letter VI, our anonymous author writes:

“The choice before which the young man of the sixth Arcanum finds himself placed is of greater significance that that between vice and virtue. It is a matter here of choice between on the one hand the way of obedience, poverty and chastity and on the other hand the way of power, richness and debauchery. The practical teaching of the Arcanum “The Lover” is to do with the three vows and the three corresponding temptations.
[…]
“The three vows are, in essence, memories of paradise, where man was united with God (obedience), where he possessed everything at once (poverty), and where his companion was at one and the same time his wife, his friend, his sister and his mother (chastity). For the real presence of God necessarily entails the action of prostrating oneself in the face of Him “who is more me than I myself am”— and here lies the root and source of the vow of obedience; the vision of the forces, substances and essences of the world in the guise of the “garden of divine symbols” (the garden of Eden) signifies the possession of everything without choosing, without laying hold of, or without appropriating any particular thing isolated from the whole —and here lies the root and source of the vow of poverty; lastly, total communion between two, between one and another, which comprises the entire range of all possible relationships of spirit, soul and body between two polarised beings necessarily constitutes the absolute wholeness of spiritual, psychic and physical being, in love —and here lies the root and source of the vow of chastity. One is chaste only when one loves with the totality of one’s being.
Chastity is not wholeness of being in indifference, but rather in the love which is “strong as death and whose flashes are flashes of fire, the flame of the Eternal”. It is living unity.
[…]
“The Christian doctrine and experience of grace expresses the very essence of chastity, just as it also contains the principles of poverty and obedience. It is the doctrine concerning chaste relationships between that which is below and that which is above. God is not an object and neither is he an object of knowledge. He is the source of iiluminatory and revelatory grace. He cannot be grasped, but he can certainly reveal himself.
“Here we have chastity, poverty and obedience underlying the Christian doctrine and experience of grace. Now, all Christian esotericism or Hermeticism, including here all its mysticism, gnosis and magic, is founded on the experience and doctrine of grace, one of the results of which is initiation. Initiation is an act of grace from above. It cannot be achieved or produced by any technical outer or inner procedures. One does not initiate oneself; one becomes initiated” (Letter VI, “The Lover”, pages 124, 133-134).

 

To meditate on these themes more profoundly, let us re-read Letters VI and XII in their entirety and meditate on the image below.  Our study guides should also be helpful, but are no substitute for a close reading of the primary text.

–>  See Study Guides VI. The Lover and XII.  The Hanged Man

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