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