‘Know Thyself’ – a concept implicit in the philosophy of probably all of the wisdom and spiritual traditions of the world over time. Yet what we now know, thanks to the inroads made by psychology into the workings of the human mind, is that the mysteries of the subconscious can make that process of self-knowledge a little complicated. This is where I find the tarot helps enormously, as it is a sophisticated tool which allows us to get a glimpse of what might be happening in that mysterious subconscious world of ours.
Right at the beginning of the tarot journey is the card of ‘The Fool’, an archetype to launch us into that world. Reams have been written about the meanings of tarot cards, and there are many sources you can explore to support you if you wish to work with your own deck of cards. The message of the Fool that I’d like to share with you today though is one for all of us to remember before setting off into such an exploration. In order to enter that inner world, we need to actually become like the Fool each and every time we wish to do so.
The ‘leap of faith’ so often offered as the essential meaning of the Fool is so appropriate! The conscious decision to enter into a relationship and dialogue with the subconscious is exactly that.
Because Tarot images are archetypal, you’ll see similarities in the symbolism used in various decks. In the Fool, you’ll often see a bag or satchel of some kind; sometimes he just carries a stick with a handkerchief holding his belongings, as if he’s stepped straight out of a fairy tale. So just what’s in that bag that he’s carrying? If you were only able to take a few things with you on this journey, what would they be? Remember, this inner realm really is a different world, with its own landscapes and language. And just like any journey, we need to think about what we’ll need in order to manage in that world.
Our fool appears standing on the edge of a cliff, ready to step off into the unknown – it requires no small degree of courage to step off into this world, so do be prepared to come equipped with some, or to find some!
Sometimes the Fool looks as though he just might fall off that cliff! But this world doesn’t operate on the same laws of time and space occurring in the material world in which we live – it’s a mysterious world, ever changing. We need to remember that too as we set off – what we see and feel and experience may just be a little (or very!) surreal – our conscious linear thinking won’t serve us to understand and appreciate the messages we receive there. So courage needs to be in the satchel, but also our imagination, or at least, a willingness to become acquainted with it again.
We also definitely need to trust! The very nature of the subconscious is that there will be aspects which, at least to begin with, which won’t necessarily make sense to our rational minds.
We’ll doubt, and question, and all too easily, dismiss what comes. That too is natural, and an important part of our process.
The language of symbolism will help enormously here. This is the language of the subconscious, and the images and impressions offered up by it can be incredibly rich and dense. It may take some time to tease them apart.
A journal of some kind helps – returning to your impressions long afterwards will bring new and fresh layers of meaning and insight. Many people swear by dream journals – really powerful imagery shared with us from the subconscious can resonate with us years afterwards, and the same is true of waking intuitions. So patience is a necessary tool to bring along as well.
This is a mysterious world, ever changing – just when you think you might have worked things out, something new will appear. So hold on to your spontaneity too, and a willingness to keep on questioning and seeing things in new ways.
The tools we carry in our ‘Fool’s satchel’ will be more valuable ultimately than any fixed set of ‘meanings’ of the cards. Trust, patience, imagination, spontaneity and courage – that’s probably enough to be getting on with.
Mind Space Exercise
Take a few moments to relax your body and quieten your mind. Have your feet resting on the floor, slow your breathing, and let all stress and tension fall away from you. When you feel relaxed, gaze for a few moments at the image above of the Fool. Write down anything that comes to you, anything which stands out, words, phrase, lines of poetry or song lyrics; do you feel anything as you look at this image? Can you name what it is that you’re feeling. Nothing is ‘wrong’ – this is simply your own personal dialogue with this image and what it means for you today, at this very moment – nothing more. You can use this practice with any tarot image – it’s a great method for getting to know your own symbolic language.