graphic frame for living mysticism class
Thursday F‚Äčeb. 7th 2013
What is Strength?

I saw a posting recently on Facebook about a judge in the UK who issued a severe reprimand to some young person in particular and young people in general which amounted to: "go and help out in your family and elsewhere. Nobody owes you a living." The judge finished his diatribe with the words "get a backbone instead of a wishbone!"

I find this pronouncement not just "a bit harsh, don't you think", as one of the teenagers in the family commented under the Facebook posting, but also a bit shortsighted. Of course, there are problems with spoiled kids who think that the world owes them a living. But there are also equal and opposite problems with kids, or anybody, who take on the responsibilities of the society or the world they live in like Atlas holding up the world and wear these responsibilities like a girdle holding them in. Such repressions on the one side are usually the roots of anger and violence on the other side, in other words, a reaction to repression.

Enter the Tarot Strength card! The picture is that of a Woman and a Lion getting along quite nicely together. The lion is not devouring the woman, which of course it could. Nobody, male or female, is going to hold a lion at bay merely through force of strength or will. So obviously the Strength card is not about that kind of force of strength. It is not a matter of building more physical muscle to defend yourself against the lion. Or, as we like to say in our Tarot classes, the Strength card is not masculine but feminine. The figure in the image is a woman (or at least in almost 100% of Tarot decks) and therefore connected to the High Priestess card of intuition and wisdom. The Strength card picture comes much closer to the "whisperer" concept i.e. a horse whisperer or a dog whisperer or, in this case, a lion whisperer, where you seek to understand the energy that the lion represents, not force it, control it or suppress it. Then it works for you, much as in martial arts where you redirect the force of your opponent's oncoming energy to your advantage. The Strength card is not about suppressing but rather about getting in touch with and understanding the energy that the lion represents in yourself, in others and in the situations you encounter in life. Then you can see the lion as your friend and not as something that is going to devour or destroy you.

In Tarot all aspects of being are represented in the four suits. So, the Strength card can express your emotions and feelings (the suit of cups), your creative energy (the suit of wands), your thoughts and ideas (the suit of swords) and changes in your physical life and environment (the suit of pentacles). But all of this would be expressive of what you wanted and therefore an aspect of love. The word "courage" in English is based on the word "coeur" in French which means "heart". You might see this as having the courage to express what is in your heart. Or perhaps you find the strength or "backbone" to express, communicate or live some aspect of who you are, rather than trying to fit. This might be described as a "wishbone". Thomas Jefferson described it in the Declaration of Independence as "the pursuit of happiness". It allows your heart to be open and expressing, with less tendency to anger and violence or other extremes that come from repression.

No, this is not some kind of panacea for all the ills of society! But it is about being more open and less fearful and repressive both toward yourself and toward those whom you deal with in life. In I Ching, Hexagram 61 of "Inner Truth" touches on aspects of the Tarot Strength card when it says that "the superior man, when obliged to judge the mistakes of men, tries to penetrate their minds with understanding, in order to gain a sympathetic appreciation of the circumstances."

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