by Arthur Edward Waite, originally published 1910.
The variation from the conventional models in this card is only that the lamp is not enveloped partially in the mantle of its bearer, who blends the idea of the Ancient of Days with the Light of the World It is a star which shines in the lantern. I have said that this is a card of attainment, and to extend this conception the figure is seen holding up his beacon on an eminence. Therefore the Hermit is not, as Court de Gebelin explained, a wise man in search of truth and justice; nor is he, as a later explanation proposes, an especial example of experience. His beacon intimates that “where I am, you also may be.”
It is further a card which is understood quite incorrectly when it is connected with the idea of occult isolation, as the protection of personal magnetism against admixture. This is one of the frivolous renderings which we owe to Éliphas Lévi. It has been adopted by the French Order of Martinism and some of us have heard a great deal of the Silent and Unknown Philosophy enveloped by his mantle from the knowledge of the profane. In true Martinism, the significance of the term Philosophe inconnu was of another order. It did not refer to the intended concealment of the Instituted Mysteries, much less of their substitutes, but—like the card itself—to the truth that the Divine Mysteries secure their own protection from those who are unprepared.
by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, originally published 1888.
Prudence, Caution, Deliberation.
Over-prudence, Timorousness, Fear.
by A. E. Thierens, originally published 1930.
P.: “Humanity fulfilling the function of God the Holy Spirit. The human creative force.” Indeed this is clearly Sagittarius for every astrologer. The author might have mentioned in the same line that the Hierophant (Leo) represents God the Son.
The Hebrew letter “Thet represents a roof and suggests the idea of safety and protection … protection ensured by wisdom.” The astrologer says: the Ninth house is the house of the Master—idea of wisdom and protection in one; the Master in fact shields his disciples like a roof … in some way.
The sign is that of thought-power, creative mind, idealism, which throw their own light on the things below, and consequently the Sagittarian is remarkable for always seeing things in his own light and trying to throw light on things in order to instruct other people. He is the eternal traveller, the indefatigable walker. And mentally he is always more or less lonely. All this is very distinctly symbolised in the card of the Hermit, which stands for ideas, perspectives, spiritual or moral influences and for light thrown upon the objects of this earth-life. In divination it stands for teachers, legal authorities, advisers and guides, and with the guiding principles in everything and questions, in relation to the querent. But above all it is his own idealism, etc. The direction in which his thoughts are running.
In the older cards the Hermit is shielding his light on one side with his mantle. This may be indicative of the habit of Sagittarians to evade and disarm contradiction beforehand, knowing by intuition the power of darkness. He is leaning on the staff of knowledge with regard to earthy matters.
W. is perfectly right in saying, that “Prudence is the least of its meanings and the most negligible.” Some authors (M.) held this card to be the symbol of ‘prudence,’ but indeed the Sagittarian is not very famous for this virtue, though the card is truly Sagittarian and nothing else. This is again proved by the striking explanation of W.: “His beacon intimates that ‘where I am, you also may be.’” This is the stereotyped way in which a Sagittarian thinks.