Haredim’s joyous celebration of God

When we were doing our Neurology Residency in a major New York City teaching hospital, a Haredim religious figure was admitted to the ward after having had a serious Stroke that left him in a coma for many days. His close family members and friends liked to keep a vigil right outside the ward, and they often used our meeting room after hours to take turns to pray non-stop in Hebrew for his soul’s salvation.

All the residents and professors understood their deep grief and religious fervor. Except for one resident, who happened to be Jewish himself, but of secular views. One on call night, when we were in charge of the ward, together with an intern and two students, he accosted us in a tempestuous manner, holding a cup of coffee aloft.

-“Hey, why are letting these guys take over our room,” he told us, “Kick them out.”

Shocked by his unusually intolerant stance, we mumbled, “Er…They asked nicely.”

-“Who did, eh?”

-“A tall bearded old man came out and asked me if it was O.K….I said it was.”

-“What’s his f****** name?”

-“God Almighty, I believe he said.”

Fuming like a clogged steam locomotive’s chimney, he turned around and took off.

Note. This picture shows our son Gian Luca during his visit to Israel, on a hill overlooking Jerusalem.

David Biale et al explored in Hasidism: A New History multiple social, cultural, and religious aspects of one of the most influential movements in modern Judaism. They narrated the journey of Shlomo Halberstan, a Galician Jew, that arrived in 1945 to New York City, where at the time there were only 200-300 Hasidic Jews. He established the Hassidic Bobov community in Brooklyn that has more than 100,000 members at present. In the USA there are two more large Hasidic communities:

  1. Satmar: a Hungarian-born branch that is very zealous and insular.
  2. Chabad: a Russian-born branch that is more messianic and worldly.

These scholars point out the sheer irony of the fact that the resurrection of Hasidism occurred in the USA and the State of Israel, which has had a problematic relationship with these movements ever since the inception of the Zionist State in 1948. They said: “In its bitter polemical struggle with Zionism, the Hasidic leadership perceived modern Jewish nationalism as a secularizing movement offering an alternative national Jewish identity that would undermine loyalty to a traditional way of life.”

There are three dimensions of Hasidim’s mysticism that emphasize the here and now.

  1. God’s immanence.
  2. Worship in the Material World.
  3. Mystical State of Cleaving

God’s immanence

The Jews that had resided in Central and Eastern Europe for centuries believed that there was a continuous tension between the material demands of the body and the ethereal demands of the spirit, which favored an ascetic life to achieve saintliness. On the contrary, Hasidim rejected that melancholic stance leading to depression, and promoted a more joyful and enthusiastic embrace of God’s presence in daily lives. During the darkest moments of the Ghetto of Warsaw, the Hasidim engaged in enthusiastic dancing in the streets, to the dismay of other suffering secular Jews.

Worship in the Material World

God’s presence in our desires and mental states will be readily transmitted to our dealings and tasks in the material world that surrounds us. The Hasidim do not believe in the ascetic retreat from the material world to meditate and pray but rather work assiduously in all the professional and business realms of a modern society. If God Almighty is everywhere, the use of a plow, hammer or lens is rightly allowed.

Mystical State of Cleaving

The esoteric teaching of the Kabbalistic traditions of the Middle Ages influenced the Lubavitcher; they claimed that: “the state of cleaving to God—devekut—is attained by wholehearted inner concentration that is attuned to God’s presence in all being. It is not dependent on or achieved by knowledge of a metaphysical system that is possessed by an esoteric elite.” Contrary to the centennial Talmudic traditions of patiently studying ancient legal and religious treaties in the seclusion of libraries, the Hasidim believe that the state of devekut is obtained by their worldly cleaving.

The Hasidim freed the religiously minded Jews from the burden of esoteric learning.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

The Mystic Wanderer—Part III

-“Don’t you want to take a shower, Mystic Wanderer—looks like you need one.”

A few years ago, we were travelling frequently from Miami to San Dona di Piave in order to carry on our Doctoral studies in Health Policy and Management at Columbia University with extended stays in the Veneto region of Italy. We often bought a ticket from a German airline, which meant a transfer in a major hub like Munich or Frankfurt. Given that there were only a few hours of waiting time, we spent that time in the clean, secure terminal after eating a delicious snack and drinking a good beer. We often dozed off for a one hour or two, without any hassles. Until that day.

Those unsolicited words startled us, interrupting our nap in a super-comfy sofa of the main lounge; it had been almost deserted in the wee hours, with only the din of its open buffet-style cafeteria. Droopily coming out of our REM sleep, we looked askance at the impertinent creature that broke it.

In front of us stood a medium height middle-aged man with the dark complexion typical of Middle Eastern origin. With his wet hair neatly combed and his just shaven face, he was wearing a combo of a short sleeves shirt and a pair of pants, so nondescript that we cannot even remember their colors. He could have passed for any cheeky salesman that, out of nowhere, abruptly accosts you in a bazaar’s alley to peddle a carpet of dubious origins and worse weaving.

-“Sorry…do I know you?” we managed to mumble, rubbing our eyes.

-“Don’t think so. But I do know you. I sensed your presence well before I arrived.”

-“Really? And who are you?”

-“My name is Ahmed, I am a businessman that makes at least this connection once per month. I love this airport…There are nice free showers over there. Try them.”

-“Well, I’m kind of lazy. I’ll have a good one once I arrive in Miami.”

-“You seem to be very ambitious but still quite approachable…No obstructionist pride.”

-“Got plenty of defects, but vanity has never been the worst of them.”

-“Keep it that way…There is a stone inscription at home that warns against the dangers of pride…It says…” He then started to recite some words that seemed like Latin but we could not decipher.

At that moment, a two men-patrol of green-uniformed German police stopped by and asked to see our passport; we reached for our handbag and handed it to them. Once they checked it with a hand-held computer scanner, they politely returned it. We then noticed that our “new friend” was gone, as stealthily as he had arrived. We forgot to mention that he presented to us without any carry on luggage or handbag, something very unusual in a hub airport full of transit travelers.

We buried that anecdote all the way back in our so disgracefully cluttered Unconscious mind. Until a few days ago, when we were reading, out of sheer curiosity an excellent article in the Wikipedia about the Templar castle of Krak des Chevaliers, we found the following:

Note. This picture was taken from Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Krak_des_chevaliers_inscription_latine.jpg

You may have bounty, you may have wisdom,

You may have beauty

Pride alone defiles all these things

If it accompanies them

Wow! The sight and sound of our encounter with Ahmed rushed into our mind. Was this the inscription he had told us about? Why would he call that castle his home? Was he a time traveler that was making a stop-over in our world? Could it really be? Is there a parallel world and time?

Whatever the answer to those questions are, we will surely abide by those sage words. Pour quoi pas?

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Happy Easter

Dear readers and fellow bloggers:

Good morning. We wish a Happy Easter to all our Christian relatives and friends around the world. We are anxiously waiting the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ tomorrow, Easter Sunday. It is, together with Christmas festivity, the holiest day of the year for Christians and we always respected it. Our brother Gustavo yesterday reminded us that a day like today, Good Friday, we used to go to the Nuestro Señor de la Paciencia, a very old church in the Old City (Ciuda Vieja) of Montevideo, Uruguay, with our mother Gladys and our grandmother Yolanda. In fact it s a quaint little church below a bigger one, sitting in its basement with an access through a very steep marble stairwell. We slowly descended, firmly holding the arms of our ageing grandmother, until we reached it.

At the altar, an image of a sitting Jesus Christ reminds us of the value of patience and being patient. All around the walls, there are hopeful little mementos (limbs, hearts, heads, etc.) that the Faithful had planted after fervently praying for the well-being of their loved ones with their personal wishes. In our novel Madame D.C, – Three Voyages , we described the visit of our characters to this site. It has always been a site of strong emotional significance to us, Montevideanos, and we miss it badly. Due to its precarious architectural parameters, it had been open only on Good Fridays for decades. Today, due to the pandemic restrictions, it will remain closed. Closing our eyes, we are right there.

Note– This image of Caravaggio’s The Incredulity of Saint Thomas was taken from Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Incredulity_of_Saint_Thomas-Caravaggio_(1601-2).jpg

According to Saint John’s Gospel, Saint Thomas was the only disciple of Jesus Christ that doubted his resurrection on Easter Sunday, saying that he would not believe it until he personally poked his finger in Christ’s wounds with his own finger. He missed the first appearance of Jesus Christ to his disciples. Then Jesus Christ appeared to him and prodded him to put his finger inside his wounds. After Thomas made sure that he was in front of Jesus Christ resurrected, Our Savior told him:

Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29.

Caravaggio reproduced this Biblical tale in that great masterpiece painted around 1601-1602 and now housed in the Sans Souci gallery of Potsdam, Germany. In these terrible pandemic times, many of us are asking the same question: “how come God allowed this tragedy to unfold over Mankind?” With all the extra burden shoved on our financial and familiar dimensions, due to the draconian Public Health measures that severely limit our mobility, our faith is being put to the test everyday. How many times have we paused for a few seconds to mull over the same painful question:

“Why did you abandon us God? WHY?!!!”

Let us pause for a moment and reflect on the many blessings that we have in this valley of tears. The big scientific advances of the last few years have enabled the design and creation of good vaccines. The new Biden-Harris administration has efficiently distributed million of doses all over the country. Both my children and myself are now vaccinated and protected against the ravages of Covid-19.

How can we avoid feeling that God has always been at our side and never let go of our hands?

But the deliverance from this pandemic must make us reflect about the future course of our lives. We cannot go back to our ill-advised consumerism that is gravely damaging our planet’s ecosystem. We cannot ignore that millions of human beings are living in miserly conditions all over the world. We cannot tolerate that warmongering among nations, tribes, groups, etc., are destroying families. And we have to stop deluding ourselves that, even if we ignore the above, we can “save our skin.”

“Gésu était en agonie jusqu’à la fin du monde. Il ne fau pas dormir pendant ce temps-là.” (Jesus was in agony until the end of the world. We should not be sleeping during that time) Blaise Pascal

This is no time to go back to our old “sleep mode.” It is time to wake up and take positive action.

Thank you very much God Almighty.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Astrology – Part I Introduction

In order to spontaneously, smoothly start the discussion of such a difficult issue like Astrology—rife with hot controversies and opinions, pro and con—we preferred to “go with the flow”, instead of taking any firm position either way. We decided to first transcribe two pages from our novel Madame D.C. Book I – Three voyages.

In this scene Emily and Annie, two close friends, visit Madame Melina, a famous soothsayer with a small storefront office in Washington Avenue of Miami Beach. Here is their dialogue:

-“Oh, Madame Melina”, Annie said. “I’m desperate—help me,”

Annie and Emily were seated at the round table of the astrologer’s studio.

-“I will…But first you must calm down a bit, dear,” Melina said, turning her attention to Emily. “Who’s this nice lady that came with you?”

-“My cousin, Emily…A Wall Street financier—she needs help too.”

-“Hi, Madame…I’ve heard so many good things of you.”

-“Hello, pleased to meet you—I’ll take care of you of course.”

-“My David has a lover,” Annie said, sobbing. “What should I do?”

-“Mmm…To defeat your enemy you must know her first…Find out where she was born, the date and what’s more important…the time of the day.”

-“It’s not a woman—”

-“What?”

-“It’s a travesty.” Annie twirled a strand of her blond hair and smelled it.”

-“I see…We must find her, uh, his Ascendant…Know what it is?”

-”Nothing springs to mind.” Emily said.

-“Mmm…we’re familiar with the zodiac signs of the calendar but we ignore which one was ascending at the time…That variable differentiates each one of us from someone born in the same place that day…In Greek, ‘horos’ means ‘hour’ and ‘skope’ is look—to look at the hour of the Ascendant.”

-“Oh…I didn’t know,” Emily said, “but I’ve always been curious…”

-“It’s natural for a woman to feel some curiosity,” Melina said, “Astrology connects us with our mystical dimension…For centuries patriarchal figures of authority have seared guilt complexes in our minds to control us better. Astrology re-connects women with he stars that we’re coming from. We’re small pieces of the original Big bang—we project our own source of light.”

Annie stared at her in total rapture. “Have such a way with words—”

-“Let’s start with yours,” Melina said to Emily. “Write down your date of birth with time and place. I’ll check the Carta Astral website.”

Emily wrote in a post-it note. Melina read it and started hitting the keyboard.

-“Mmm…You’re Aquarius..But your Ascendant is Leo, which makes you practical, organized…Like all the great writers or politicians. Interesting.”

-“It’s funny that you mention it, but I’m toying with the idea of a writing and political careers…Are the stars aligned in my favor, Madame?”

-“Definitely, go for it—it’s your destiny…There’s a rub though.”

Emily hunched over the table. “What?”

-“Mmm…You were born in the 3.30 and 5.30 PM time frame…You got a vibrant body but you must learn how to handle your sexuality…and you’re brewing more than one existence inside you—you’re a latter-day alchemist.”

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

 

 

 

 

The longest, darkest night is falling upon us

Today, December 21st, 2020, our Celtic forefathers warned us through a dream at early dawn: “Wake up, Son of Samhain, you must prepare your family for today’s celebration.” We immediately jumped out of bed, ready to follow a ritual that has been in our families for centuries, both in the Basque and Italian branches: The Winter Solstice.

In an excellent article, Elizabeth Dias, a reporter of The NY Times, said: “Humans all over the Northern Hemisphere will share nature’s winter ritual of darkness on Monday, whether they acknowledge the winter solstice or not. In the lower 48 states, this year’s longest night will last 15 hours and 50 minutes in Angle Inlet, Minn., according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. In New York City it is 14 hours and 45 minutes, and in Miami 13 hours and 28 minutes.”

The end of the happy Summer season and the beginning of the harsh Winter has been celebrated by agricultural communities since Ancient Times with a special family gathering around a bonfire, sharing a hearty meal and traditional stories. The critical supply of grain was already stored in the makeshift silos, the animals were herded into the barn for protection and everybody looked up at the clearest sky. Will the deities above have mercy on human beings and allow them to survive this winter? They believed that the unstable period was used by wandering spirits to cross over. It was a time of great fear and uncertainty, and only their communal efforts could finally save them.

Note – This picture of David Rijckaert’s Barn Interior was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:David_Rijckaert_(III)_-_Barn_interior_with_a_peasant_feeding_cows_and_pigs,_with_three_peasants_near_a_fire_place_to_the_background.jpeg

We have become inured to the passional riveting of these ancient cyclical benchmarks, naively safe in the belief that just the marvelous scientific and technological prowess of the past two centuries would shield us from the dramatic consequences our ancestors suffered if they dared to ignore them. However, the terribly prolonged pandemic of the SARS-CoV-2 has dramatically altered the supposedly “normal parameters” of daily life, obliging  all of us to adapt quickly. Even something as simple as ordering a cappuccino at a bar, has been radically changed, maybe forever. This utterly contagious virus is an Agent of Evil that does not respect national boundaries or social standings.

The approval of the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna vaccines has given us the needed glimmer of hope that, after a long wintertime, the chain of viral transmission will be radically cut. The national governments, while enforcing a draconian lockdown for festivities, are actively signing contracts for a steady supply of the vaccine for their populations. It would be wise to look at the pristine skies tonight and pray to whomever/whatever.

May God Almighty have Mercy on us and grant us the privilege of surviving Winter.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Symbology in Tarot – Major Arcana Part V

Continuing with our discussion of Tarot, we will address the spiritual power with these cards:

VIII – Strength

This card shows a young woman gently caressing a fierce lion, the representation of soft power. In ancient cultures, the lion—and the lioness of course—was the preferred symbol of raw passion and strength at both personal and societal levels. Using her spiritual strength this woman manages to convert that ferocious beast into a domesticated cat; the “invisible nature” of soft power makes that oftentimes it is disregarded and even undervalued in our usually aggressive social interactions. However, the capacity to persuade, and not to force, others is a critical asset that has more relevance now that women, using their transformational style of management (more democratic and participatory) are slowly displacing the hitherto predominant transactional style of men (more command and control in nature) Times change.

Note – This image of Amedeo Modigliani’s Portrait of Jeanne Hebuterne was taken from Wikimedia Commons.

In 1990, Joseph Nye, professor at Harvard University, published Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power where he said: “when one country gets other countries to want what it wants might be called co-optive or soft power in contrast with the hard or command power of ordering others to do what it wants.” For this author, power is the ability to influence the behavior of others to get the outcomes you want; a country can do it with brute force or using its soft power. According to Nye, it is based on its culture, political values, and foreign policies.

In 2001, Robert Greene published The Art of Seduction, his second book, where he described 24 seduction techniques. In The 48 Laws of Power he wrote: “ seduction is about power and manipulation as it is about romance, about how to make someone fall under your spell.”

Upright strength – When this card appears, it means that you are strongly motivated by your inner spiritual strength and you have the stamina to undertake great tasks. You do not try to coerce or force others to accept your will but rather you gently try to persuade them “to see things your way.” The invisible nature of that great gift makes some foolish contender to underestimate you and try to take advantage of a situation. You will manage to turn the tables around and show who really rules. By controlling your animal instincts, you are able to re-direct that precious energy.

Reversed Strength – When this card appears, it means that you are either depleted of your inner strength or you are perilously overflowing with it, leading to mistakes. Contrary to the Upright Strength, you have lost your connection with your source of energy. The equilibrium must be recovered by calmly assessing what is missing or what is excessive in your present situation. After a major setback, both at the personal and social levels, we feel weaker and more vulnerable to outside influences. You must pause and calmly re-consider what brought you to that situation. Only by tapping again your spiritual source of strength, will you be able to recover from it.

 

IX – The Hermit

This card shows an old man standing atop a mountain, a sign of spiritual mastery; he is someone that has chosen a hard path of self-awareness and sacrifices. In his right hand he is holding a lantern with a six-pointed star—the Seal of Solomon. As he takes another step, he sheds light on the pathway immediately ahead, not far away. His left hand, whose sensations are transported to our Right Hemisphere (the seat of our Emotionality) is holding a long stick, an ancient symbol of authority in tribes. This card epitomizes the need for self-introspection, separated form the maddening noise of the world, to reach an understanding of who we are and where we are going.

Note – This image of Francisco de Goya’s San Ignacio de Loyola was taken from Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:San_Ignacio_de_Loyola.jpg

Ignazio Loiolakoa—also known as Ignatius de Loyola and Ignacio de Loyola—was a Spanish Basque priest that “revolutionized” the staid Catholic Church by emphasizing the need to carry long, deep introspections in order “to know who we are” and by establishing, together with his comrades, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1539. After being gravely injured in the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, he had a along recovery period for his lesion of the left leg, which eventually lead him to the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat. He did deep introspection and confessed all his past sins before giving up all his material possessions, his clothes included. He walked up to the neighboring town of Manresa where he begged in the street for his keep and spent long hours in a cave, praying to God Almighty and repenting. After a short pilgrimage to the Holy Land (where he had some “differences” the Franciscans who were in charge) he returned to Spain and studied Theology and Latin in the Universidad de Alcalá from 1524 to 1534. He travelled to Paris to study at the Collège Saint-Barbe where he obtained a Master of Arts degree in 1535. His meditation techniques were fully explained in his book Spiritual Exercises, which triggered a brief process by the Roman Inquisition until he got a papal pardon. It was the first friction between the Jesuit Order and the Roman Curia, which still persists today with the nomination of Jorge Bergoglio, a Jesuit priest, to Saint Peter’s seat.

A few years ago we did several Ignatian retreats (no talking of any kind) in a Juan XXIII house of Miami, under the guidance of the late Jesuit priest Padre Llorente. It brought us a lot of spiritual good and we are re-considering going back for another round. In this supposedly “modern age”, where all our spaces are invaded by obnoxious pings, we need the oasis of Silence more than ever.

Upright Hermit—This image is a clear call to engage in a period of deep reflection. Stop being distracted by the cacophony of torrential sounds of our consumerist society and take the necessary time to reflect on where you are and what is missing. Do you feel that you are achieving your professional or labor objectives? How is your relationship with your fellow co-workers, superiors, and subordinates? Do you have outstanding issues at home that you must address with your family members? Perhaps there are some personality flaws that make other people take a distance. Perhaps you should do a bigger effort to reach out to your children, spouse, parents.

Downright Hermit—This image means that you are either coming out of a period of introspection or that you should start to do it, trapped with too much self-isolation. Perhaps you went through a period of professional or labor re-engineering but now you are ready to jump again into the daily fray of our competitive society. At the strictly personal level, it might mean that your voluntary or casual withdrawal into your own cocoon is already hurting the feelings of someone close to you—a partner. Stop wallowing in your own concerns, fears, plans, and have a good look at him/her. Most likely you will find new ideas, new plans, new feelings that must be shared right away.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

Interpretation of Dreams – Part I Enantiodromia

In his book Psychology and Alchemy, Dr. Carl Jung, a pioneer in the study of the symbology of dreams, introduced Alchemy’s representations into the study of Psychology. He claimed that the ancient alchemists, working without the cultural and social constraints of a strong super-state or church hierarchy, observed and recorded their findings without any pre-established judgements or dressed-up conclusions. They had more natural empirical experiences.

Dr. Jung believed that many of the raw sentiments and beliefs in the Unconscious occasionally filter into the Conscious realm, but they have to be “dressed up” to soften their sharpest edges and most shocking shades to pass the “border customs.” For that deceitful camouflaging to succeed, the Unconscious often uses alchemist’s symbols that are not in the “no entry list” of the gate’s guardians checking arrivals.

In her book, Marie Louise Franz stated: “For example, a woman patient dreamt that an eagle was at first flying up to the sky, and then suddenly turning around its head, began to eat its own wing and dropped back onto the earth…This dream invokes of enantiodromia, the reversal of a psychic symbol.” The eagle was the alchemist’s symbol of Human Reason and Carl Jung patient’s dream implied that her actions might be running counter against her beliefs.

Enantiodromia derives from the Greek words enantios (opposite) and dromos (running course) In his book Psychological Types, Carl Jung defined it as: “the emergence of the unconscious opposite in the course of time. This characteristic phenomenon practically always occurs when an extreme, one-sided tendency dominates conscious life; in time an equally powerful contraposition is built up  which first inhibits the conscious performance and subsequently breaks thorough the conscious control.” It can be considered as the sheep’s skin used by the wolf. As a psychological tool, it acts as “two operational twins” that nonetheless have opposite characters and demeanor.

Note – the above image of Twins Grace and Kate Hoare 1876 by John Everett Millais was taken from Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Twins_Grace_and_Kate_Hoare_1876.jpg

The philosophical concept behind this term dates back to thousands of years ago, In the traditional Chinese beliefs, the Yin and Yang are inextricably related as shown by their symbol. When one of the components reaches its extreme position, it starts to become its opposite. The natural balance of Life is maintained by this correction. Dr. Jung read the writings of Heraclitus who said: “cold things warm, warm things cool, wet things and parched things get wet.” He credited him for discovering what he considered a major psychological law: the regulatory function of the opposites.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Symbology in Tarot – Major Arcana part IV

In this article we will discuss the two cards associated with the healing power of Love and the human willpower .

VI – The Lovers

This card shows a naked woman and a man standing before the Angel Raphael who is the representation of the healing power of God Almighty in Abrahamic tradition. Surrounded by the lush vegetation of the Garden of Eden, they are threatened by the sibylline enticement of the Devil in the form of a serpent attached to an apple tree. The twelve flames of the burning tree represent the twelve signs of the zodiac. The man—the Conscious mind—is watching the woman—the Subconscious mind—who is in turn watching the Angel—the Super Conscious. It resumes the progression from purely physical needs through the emotional concerns towards the spirituality. Women are the pulleys transmitting our physical energies towards the attainment of our spiritual goals, surpassing our limitations.

Note – This image depicting The Archangel Israfil was made in Egypt or Syria in the late 14th-early 15th century.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Arabic-manuscript.jpg

In most Abrahamic religions, (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) Saint Raphael is associated with healing in various forms. In the Gospel of John, he is the angel that is stirring the waters at the pool of Bethesda. In the Babylonian Talmud, he is one of the three angels that appeared to Abraham in the oak grove at Hebron, charged with healing him after his circumcision. In Islam, he is depicted with a trumpet because he will be responsible for blowing it atop the mosque in Jerusalem to announce the Resurrection. He heals our spirits from the manifold frustrations of Life.

Upright Lovers – This scene conveys the unique serenity and safety that a genuinely loving relationship, based on mutual affection and respect, confers to the partners. It is usually ascribed to sexual companions, but it can also refer to other members of our family and close friends. Being totally naked, they are not afraid to expose their innermost feelings and concerns to the other partner, eschewing hypocritical shame. In a labor or professional context, it might mean that you have to “come clean” with  your deeply held beliefs in challenging situations that put your honesty to the test. Your circumstantial choices must be aligned with your moral and ethical upbringing.

Reverse Lovers – This scene gives us the idea that something is wrong in your life. It could be that you are not being completely honest and sincere with your partner. In that case, you must sit down for an extensive discussion of possible remedies. If it refers to a labor or professional situation, it might mean that you must mend your ways by following the precepts of your teachers and avoiding the “easy way out.” The apparition of this card means that you must eventually make the rightful choice. Moreover, the coupling of two individuals will create a higher form of association.

VII – The Chariot

This card shows a courageous warrior of Antiquity riding his chariot into battle, which he does by the sheer power of his will and not by holding any reins. His attire shows several alchemical symbols like the crescent moon (the future) and a square (the willpower) In the front of his chariot, there is a representation of an eagle, which embodies human reason in the symbology of alchemy. Above his head there is a constellation of stars connecting him to The Divine and in front of him lie two sphinxes pulling in opposite directions. However, exercising strong voluntarism, he manages to steady the course right in the middle. Behind him, stands the natural flow of Life, represented by a tumultuous river that never stops and cannot be controlled by men.

Note – This image of an alchemist working in his laboratory besides a big vase with a painting of both an eagle (symbol of human reason) and the Ouroboros (a serpent or dragon eating its own tail) appears in the 15th century Swiss alchemical treatise called the Aurora Consurgens. 

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aurora_consurgens_zurich_044_f-21v-44_dragon-pot.jpg

Alchemy is an extremely ancient branch of natural philosophy that dates back to Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Greco-Roman world; the name derives from the Latin term alchymia. Alchemists tried to transform the physical and spiritual realities with esoteric techniques that were wrapped with Hermetic principles related to magic, mythology and religion. For example one of their methods was the chrysopoeia, i.e. the transformation of “base metals” like lead into “noble metals” like gold. After the translation of Medieval Islamic treaties on science in the 12th century, the European alchemy started to play an important role in the development of modern laboratory techniques and the experimental method, which are still being used in our times.

The blossoming of the basic scientific methodology in the 17the century eclipsed the Alchemy, which was considered as a charlatan’s endeavor tainted with magic. But the seminal studies of Carl Gustav Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, of our collective unconscious brought the symbology of Alchemy back to the fore. Jung dared to tackle its complex, dark significance in his book Psychology and Alchemy.  Marie-Louise Franz was a Swiss disciple of Jung and in her book An Introduction to the Symbolism of Alchemy and Psychology, she said: “in (his book) Dr. Jung has, as it were, introduced alchemy into psychology , first by publishing a series of the dreams of a natural scientist which contain a great amount of alchemical symbolism, and then by quoting from old texts, whereby he hoped to show how important and modern this material is, and how much it has to say to modern man. He himself discovered alchemy absolutely empirically. He once told me that he frequently came across certain motifs in his patients’ dreams and then one day he started to look at old books on alchemy and noticed a connection.”

Jung believed that our Unconscious is not an ethereal fabrication of our personal and collective minds but rather a physical entity that has a powerful characteristic:

The Unconscious is Matter that knows itself

Marie-Louise Franz said: “the alchemists, in observing and experiencing their symbols and in their written description, worked without any conscious religious or scientific program, so that their conclusions are spontaneous, uncorrected impressions of the unconscious with very little conscious interference, in contrast to other symbolic material which had always been revised.”

Upright Chariot – When this card appears, it is a clear signal that you must use all your willpower to steady the course of action and avoid being swayed sideways by obstacles and persons that would stand in your way to success in any kind of realm. On a personal or public level, you must move forward with focused determination. This is not a time for the meek or the doubtful. You must make that valiant first step. If it refers to an event in you recent past, it might mean that your spiritual strength has helped you surmount all those seemingly impossible obstacles with panache.

Downright Chariot – When this card appears, it is an unequivocal sign that you must stop and stand down in whatever major project or task that you might have started. Perhaps you must re-evaluate your course of action by studying all the parameters that had prodded you to take it in the first place. Even though you might successfully achieve your goals, they might turn out to be a “bad choice” for you and other persons. At the personal level, it might mean that you must sit down with your friend or romantic partner to discuss some past events or decisions that affected you greatly. While the Upright Chariot is a road sign that says: “Full speed ahead”, the Reverse version is another sign that says: “Stop”, in big bold red letters with a white background.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Symbology in Tarot – Major Arcana Part III

In our previous article, we discussed the powerful feminine figures that so strongly influence our lives from beginning to end. Today we will discuss the manly ones that influence our pathways.

V – The Emperor

If the Empress is the archetype of the “mother figure”, then The Emperor is the counterpart representing the “father figure.” This figure of ultimate power wears a red robe that signifies unbridled energy to perform his tasks and/or reach his ends, indicating that his decisive power is flowing permanently, wherever he might be. His bushy white beard signifies that he has acquired critical wisdom over the years. In his right hand he is holding an ankh—the hieroglyphic symbol that represented Life in Ancient Egypt—and in his left hand he is holding the globus—together with the cross, it has been part of the Christian symbol of authority since the Middle ages. The mountain range in the background gives an idea of a “rock-solid” determination that will not be indented by other people’s opinions and feelings about his decisions; however, the little stream at the bottom indicates that a softer approach might work.

Note – This bronze statue dubbed as the Genio Romano di Ponte Pu from the First Century B.C,. depicts a pater familias.  Source: Luis García, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons.

The pater familias was the head of a traditional household in Roman times. The Latin term “familia” derived from the famuli, which identified the group of slaves owned by the nobles and that toiled in their estates. In Ancient Rome, the family was considered an economic and a judicial unit, where the oldest male in the house had the ultimate say in all matters, big and small, that concerned their members. The term Patria Potestas implies that the head of the Roman family had legal and civil power over the other members of the households, the servants, the slaves, and certain clients of his enterprises. He had the responsibility of providing for shelter, food, and other amenities for all those under his aegis; if he forfeited his responsibilities, he could face the courts that had the effective power to take them away from him. It was a paternalistic conception of the basic societal unit that survived that Empire.

Upright Emperor – This scene represents the bonding with the Divine Masculine and encourages us to take charge of our situations and controversies in a firm way. You are encouraged to act decisively so you can bring stability and order to the family, labor, and institutional affairs. At the personal level, it might indicate that you have to control and channel your best impulses to make a relationship work.

Reverse Emperor – This scene implies that there is an extremely strong obstacle for the attainment of your personal or societal objectives. In a couple relationship, it might mean that your insensitivity to your partner’s feeling and desires is husting it. It is already time to sit down with your partner to discuss together certain issues. In a labor, business, or professional settings, it might mean that there are paternalistic figures—your boss, your colleagues, or superiors—that are sabotaging your career. You must seize the opportunity to face this obstacle instead of trying to dodge it. In an authoritarian realm, this random inversion could be interpreted as a “call to arms” for professionally and emotionally frustrated women to rebel against their yoke from the reactionary patriarchal institutions.

VI – The Hierophant

This card, the counterpart of the feminine High Priestess, represents a distinguished Man of Wisdom, not necessarily of religious origin, that is calmly siting between two pillars in a sacred temple, wearing a three colors-robe—alluding to the Holy Trinity—and sporting a three-tiered crown—representing the Conscious, Sub-Conscious and Super-Conscious minds. Foremost of all, he is a teacher, a mentor. In his left hand he is holding the papal ferula—in this case the rod is surmounted by a triple sceptre—and with his right hand he is pointing two fingers upwards to the Heavens and two downward to Earth. Right in front of him, two disciples kneel down to receive the wisdom of the two keys: The Conscious and the Unconscious minds.

In 1990, Sigmund Freud published what might have been the most overlooked and yet the most significant book of his prolific writing career: Die Traumdeutung (the Interpretation of Dreams) Freud revised the book at least eight times and in its third edition added a section about the symbolism of dreams, based on the pioneering work of Wilhelm Stekel, an Austrian physician and psychologist who had a special gift for spotting “repressed material” in his patients’ clinical descriptions. They both founded the first psycho-analytic society but had an unfortunate falling-out in 1912.

Note – The above picture shows Sigmund Freud (the first seated person on the left side of the picture) with other psychoanalysts in 1922. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Freud_and_other_psychoanalysts_1922.jpg

The Psychoanalytic School claimed that what we consider as “our mind” is just the tip of the iceberg of our mental structure: The Conscious Mind. On the other hand, our Unconscious Mind is filled with desires, expectations and fears that are often too traumatic and must be kept repressed. The only way for us to safely explore the depths of our Unconscious is to engage in dreaming, which has special parameters. Freud believed that every dream has a manifest content (what we actually remember when we wake up) and a latent content that must be camouflaged for safety reasons. He considered dreaming as a fulfillment of repressed wishes, which relieved our deep psychological tensions by finding a socially acceptable escape valve for them. In fact Freud was a vivid dreamer and he took frequent naps.

Upright Hierophant – This card represents the traditional teachings, religious or not, that must guide our communal lives. We must follow the advice of our mentors in order to develop our greatest potential in harmony with other people. Based on our education, the priest/mentor prods us to innovate in our lives with courage.

Reverse Hierophant – This scene might represent a subversion of everything that we had previously considered as “right” or “proper” in our lives, prodding us to rebel against the traditional norms and institutions that have shaped our intellects so far. It might encourage you to be more original and try other methods, opinions, feelings. However, if you find yourself in dire straits, this card might mean that you are paying a “high price” from reneging from your faith or acquired wisdom; you should go back to “your origins” and try to find practical solutions to your present problems in that most basic yet always nurturing medium.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.

Symbology in Tarot – Major Arcana Part II

We will continue to patiently analyze the trump cards of Tarot’s Major Arcana. We will discuss two cards that symbolize the decisive influence of the Divine Feminine in our daily lives and its significance for Mankind.

III – The High Priestess

This card shows a woman of great authority majestically sitting in front of a thin veil that is decorated with pomegranates, discreetly separating the Conscious and the Unconscious parts of our minds. It marks the boundary between what is evident in our daily lives from what is hidden in the same; in order to cross that threshold, we must acquire wisdom and knowledge. The pomegranate is an old symbol of fertility and thus epitomizes the Divine Feminine that assures the survival of our species. The access to the temple of wisdom has two pillars—one black with the letter B and one white with the letter J. The first one represents Boaz, i.e. “in his strength”, and the second one represents Jachin, i.e. “he will establish.” The juxtaposition of colors implies that both “the feminine” and “the masculine” halves are essential for Life. On her lap she has a partially concealed scroll dubbed as Tora, which represents the divine knowledge that will only be totally revealed to the truly capable for that task.

Note – This picture shows the sculpture called The Rape of Proserpina by Gian Lorenzo Bernini.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rape_of_Prosepina_September_2015-3a.jpg

One of the oldest myths from the beginning of Human Civilization in the stretch of land spanning between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers (located in what is known today as Iraq) is the Sumerian narration of an abduction. Samuel Noah Kramer, one of the foremost experts in Ancient Mythology, stated that the fair maiden Ereshkigal was abducted by Kur, the fierce demon that ruled the Underworld, and forced her to become his queen, ruling together their dark realm. Almost all the old civilizations had a version of this tale but the most famous one has been the Myth of Persephone.

In Greek mythology, Hades, the ruler of the Underworld, was madly in love with the beautiful Persephone but Demeter, her mother, was adamantly opposed to the bond. One day when Persephone was innocently gathering flowers in the field with Artemis and Pallas, Hades burst through a cleft in the terrain and abducted her. Demeter searched for her missing daughter everywhere until Hellios, the Sun, that could see everything told her what had happened. The grieving mother pleaded with Zeus, who received the pleas of other deities, and he forced Hades to release her. However, before he complied with his superior’s order, Hades tricked Persephone into tasting the pomegranate; hooked on that fruit’s unique taste, she was obliged to return to the Underworld a fourth of the calendar year, in Wintertime, and to go back to the surface when Spring came. The arrival of Persephone heralded soil’s fertility.

Upright High Priestess – This scene announces a period of unusual growth and fertile creativity in the life of an individual. For the eventual accomplishment of that goal., he/she/ihr must take some distance from the material and pedestrian world in order to healthily re-connect with the inner spirituality that we all carry, in different forms and levels, inside us. Only after we perform that “inner cleansing” will the truth be revealed to us and, therefore, pave the way for our open success in society.

Reversed High Priestess – This scene indicates that there might be some serious stumbling blocks in our path to creative expansiveness and personal happiness. If it appears in the context of a sentimental relationship, it means that there are some hidden or camouflaged issues that are damaging our relationship with other persons. It is our duty to pause and make an introspective analysis to find and remedy them.

IV – The Empress

This card shows a gorgeous blonde with a crown of twelve stars on her head—the symbol of her connection to the twelve months of the year and the twelve planets. With a robe adorned with the ancient symbol of fertility—the pomegranate, the fruit of Persephone—she is sitting on a comfortable cushion that has the symbol of Venus. In the background there is a glimpse of a thick forest that would most likely be teeming with animals, plants, etc. This scene epitomizes the growth and fertility potential of the Feminine Divine. In ancient civilizations, which were mostly agrarian in nature, women were enthroned as the symbol of human presence in their environment; only when marauding bands of hunting men started to conquer these settlements, did the idea of Patriarchy rise. The concept of Mother Nature, or Mother Earth, is the embodiment of the life-giving and nurturing capabilities of Nature by representing it as a woman and a mother.

Note – This well preserved mosaic from a Roman villa in the Marche region depicts Aion, the God of Eternity, standing inside a celestial sphere decorated with the twelve zodiac signs, between a green tree (representing the Summertime) and a bare one (representing the Wintertime) In front of him, Tellus (the Roman counterpart of Gaia, the Greek goddess of Mother Earth) is lounging with her four children, each representing a season of the year. Glyptothek, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Johann Jakob Bachofen was a Swiss antiquarian, jurist philologist, anthropologist, and professor of Roman Law at the University of Basel, that proposed the still controversial concept that in the beginning of human civilization, the matriarchate was the predominant form of social order in most communities. His seminal book Das Mutterrecht—”Mother Right: an investigation of the religious and juridical character of matriarchy in the Ancient world”—was published in 1861and even though it was largely ignored in his own times, it became one of the philosophical foundations of Modern Feminism in the 1970s. Bachofen proposed that by shunning the raw promiscuity of our prehistoric times, women started to efficiently organize their communities around the concept of family and parental obligations for the kin.

Upright Empress – This scene represents the personal period of renewed growth that will eventually spawn the emergence of new projects and new accomplishments. Following the guidance of our natural instincts, we should open our hearts and minds to new possibilities in the labor, professional, study, financial and romantic realms. For women, this card calls for a renewed bonding with their femininity—sensuality, eroticism, creative energies, and generous nurturing—in order to bring much more harmony to their environment and family relationships. The creation of Beauty. It represents an ancient allegory to the “birthing phenomenon”, personal or social.

Reversed Empress – This scene represents the actual blocking of our inner creative energies and deepest emotions by certain phenomena or persons standing in our way. The apparition of this card for a lady may mean that it is time for her to stop caring so much for the feelings and needs of her close ones and to dedicate a little bit more time to herself for a change. What to do? She should try to re-connect with her old girlfriends, make new friends, go back to school or the arts, change jobs, etc. If this card appears for a gentleman, it might be an indication that he “should open up more” in his couple ,without waiting for others to explicitly demand for a change. Do not procrastinate.

Stay distant. Stay safe. Stay beautiful.

What do you think? Please tell us.

Don’t leave me alone.