The Tarot (Marseilles)¶
Description of The Lovers Tarot Card¶
This is usually described as representing Man between Vice and Virtue, while a winged genius threatens Vice with his dart. But I am rather inclined to the opinion that it represents the Qabalistical Microprosopus between Binah and Malkuth, while the figure above shows the Influence descending from Kether. It is usually considered to mean Proof or Trial; but I am inclined to suggest Wise Disposition as its signification.
Divination Meanings of The Lovers Tarot Card¶
Wise Dispositions, Proof, Trials Surmounted.
Reversed Meanings of The Lovers Tarot Card¶
Unwise Plans, Failure when put to the test.
The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (RWS)¶
Description of The Lovers Tarot Card¶
The sun shines in the zenith, and beneath is a great winged figure with arms extended, pouring down influences. In the foreground are two human figures, male and female, unveiled before each other, as if Adam and Eve when they first occupied the paradise of the earthly body. Behind the man is the Tree of Life, bearing twelve fruits, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is behind the woman; the serpent is twining round it. The figures suggest youth, virginity, innocence and love before it is contaminated by gross material desire. This is in all simplicity the card of human love, here exhibited as part of the way, the truth and the life. It replaces, by recourse to first principles, the old card of marriage, which I have described previously, and the later follies which depicted man between vice and virtue. In a very high sense, the card is a mystery of the Covenant and Sabbath.
The suggestion in respect of the woman is that she signifies that attraction towards the sensitive life which carries within it the idea of the Fall of Man, but she is rather the working of a Secret Law of Providence than a willing and conscious temptress. It is through her imputed lapse that man shall arise ultimately, and only by her can he complete himself. The card is therefore in its way another intimation concerning the great mystery of womanhood. The old meanings fall to pieces of necessity with the old pictures, but even as interpretations of the latter, some of them were of the order of commonplace and others were false in symbolism.
The Symbolism of the Tarot (RWS)¶
Description of The Lovers Tarot Card¶
I saw a blooming garden in a green valley, surrounded by soft blue hills.
In the garden I saw a Man and a Woman naked and beautiful. They loved each other and their Love was their service to the Great Conception, a prayer and a sacrifice; through It they communed with God, through It they received the highest revelations; in Its light the deepest truths came to them; the magic world opened its gate; elves, undines, sylphs and gnomes came openly to them; the three kingdoms of nature, the mineral, plant and animal, and the four elements—fire, water, air and earth-served them.
Through their Love they saw the mystery of the world’s equilibrium, and that they themselves were a symbol and expression of this balance. Two triangles united in them into a six-pointed star. Two magnets melted into an ellipsis. They were two. The third was the Unknown Future. The three made One.
I saw the woman looking out upon the world as though enraptured with its beauty. And from the tree on which ripened golden fruit I saw a serpent creep. It whispered in the woman’s ear, and I saw her listening, smiling at first suspiciously, then with curiosity which merged into joy. Then I saw her speak to the man. I noticed that he seemed to admire only her and smiled with an expression of joy and sympathy at all she told him.
“This picture you see, is a picture of temptation and fall”, said the voice. “What constitutes the Fall? Do you understand its nature”?
“Life is so good”, I said, “and the world so beautiful, and this man and woman wanted to believe in the reality of the world and of themselves. They wanted to forget service and take from the world what it can give. So they made a distinction between themselves and the world. They said, ‘We are here, the world is there’. And the world separated from them and became hostile.”
“Yes”, said the Voice, this is true. “The everlasting mistake with men is that they see the fall in love. But Love is not a fall, it is a soaring above an abyss. And the higher the flight, the more beautiful and alluring appears the earth. But that wisdom, which crawls on earth, advises belief in the earth and in the present. This is the Temptation. And the man and woman yielded to it. They dropped from the eternal realms and submitted to time and death. The balance was disturbed. The fairyland was closed upon them. The elves, undines, sylphs and gnomes became invisible.
The Face of God ceased to reveal Itself to them, and all things appeared upside down.
“This Fall, this first ‘sin of man’, repeats itself perpetually, because man continues to believe in his separateness and in the Present. And only by means of great suffering can he liberate himself from the control of time and return to Eternity—leave darkness and return to Light”.
Tarot of the Bohemians (Marseilles)¶
Origin of the Symbolism of The Lovers Tarot Card¶
The 6th Hebrew letter (Vau, ו)
The hieroglyphic sign for the Vau is the eye, all that relates to light and brilliancy. The eye establishes the link between the external world and ourselves; by it light and form are revealed to us. The dominant idea expressed by this letter will therefore be that of a connection, of a link between antagonists. We have already dwelt at some length upon the Vau, but we think it may be useful to quote Fabre d’Olivet’s observations upon this letter in extenso—
“This sign is the image of the deepest and most inconceivable mystery, the image of the knot which reunites, or of the point which separates, the nothing from the being. It is the universal convertible sign, which forms the passage from one nature to the other; communicating on one side with the sign of light and of spiritual sense וֹ (a pointed Vau), which is but a higher form of itself; on the other hand linking itself in its degeneration with Ayin (ע), the sign of darkness and of the material senses, which again is but a lower form of itself.”
The Vau is the second simple letter; astronomically it represents the second sign of the zodiac, the Bull.
This symbol represents reunion, antagonism, with all their consequences.
A beardless youth (our Juggler of the 1st arcanum), but without a hat, is standing motionless in the angle where two roads meet. His arms form a diagonal cross upon his breast.
The repetition of the 1st arcanum under another form. Here the man is not one of the Initiates. He does not know how to direct the magnetic currents of the Astral Light; he is therefore plunged in the antagonism of the different ideas which he cannot master.
Two women, one on his right, the other on his left, each with one hand upon his shoulder, point to the two roads. The woman on the right has a circle of gold upon her head, the one on the left is dishevelled and crowned with vine leaves.
The two arms of the Juggler, expressing the positive and negative, the two columns of the temple of Isis, expressing necessity and liberty, are here personified by the two women, who represent Vice and Virtue.
The future of the young man depends upon the road which he chooses, whether he becomes one of the Initiates, the Mage of the 1st arcanum (the spiritual ו), or the rash thunder-stricken personage of the 16th arcanum (the ע).
The spirit of Justice floats above this group in a radiant halo; he bends his bow and aims the arrow of Punishment at the personification of Vice.
A profound symbol indicating that if man chooses the path of Virtue he will not be left unaided, but that Providence will ally itself to his will and assist him to overcome vice.
In short, this hieroglyphic expresses the struggle between the passions and conscience, the antagonism of ideas.
But this antagonism is also the most powerful natural producer that exists in the world, when it resolves itself into LOVE, which attracts the opponents and unites them for ever.
This sixth card of the Tarot must be regarded under two aspects, which tend to the same signification.
General Book of the Tarot (RWS)¶
Description of The Lovers Tarot Card¶
From the original meaning of the sign Virgo, the virgin matter of the cosmos or world-ether, to that principle which makes ‘lovers’ is rather a long step, but we will observe that all these Tarot symbols relate to human points of view and human life in particular, i.e. cosmic principles seen from this particular standpoint which gives more of a practical image than of abstract reasoning, the abstract cosmic significance, however, being imbedded fairly accurately in them. So in the human constitution the sign Virgo means the nervous system and everything acting as an organ as well as the relatively ‘virginal matter’ which is extracted from the food and will serve to build up the body. So this house is known to rule health and sickness. It is further known to relate to the principles and materials of our work. And so the card of the Lovers must in the first place symbolise these things. It does indeed. Papus says it is connected with the Hebrew letter Vau in its significance of “the eye, and all that relates to light and brilliancy. The eye establishes the link between the external world and ourselves; by it light and form are revealed to us.” In fact ‘the eye’ is a very ancient symbol for the idea of ‘organ’; the Neoplatonists repeatedly used it. When saying it “establishes the link,” we must be aware, however, that it is not yet this link itself but offers the elements for it. And again this card does not say ‘love’ but ‘lovers’ (in the French edition of the cards the singular is used: l’amoureux). Evidently the meaning is this: what makes man feel ‘amorous’ is his sensuousness, the word used in the strictly philosophical and biological meaning of receptivity of the senses for agreeable, caressing, benefic, gratifying vibrations. The same receptivity, however, exists on the other hand for disagreeable, painful, disturbing, malific vibrations. The receptivity and the condition of an organic centre in its double possibility of experience is only the phenomenal expression of the same in organic existence in general, consequently stamping the whole of manifestation with the law of duality of ‘good’ and ‘evil.’ The latter is well illustrated by the picture on the older cards where a youth is represented standing between two women, the one appearing to be benefic, the other malific. This sensuousness indeed can lead to a lower sensuality or can be the means of demonstrating love. A sort of angelic figure (Cupid?) is seen shooting an arrow: symbol of the ray of light. The card which was drawn on the authority of Mr. Waite shows a man and a woman in a state of paradisical nudity, and over the two hovers the figure of an angel. It confers much the same meaning, of course. “This is in all simplicity the card of human love, here exhibited as part of the way, the truth and the life.” (Waite) And we shall find, that the same force which makes us love, physically, is at the back of all the work we do. Because it is the material response to the fiery and central pushing power and includes actual possibility on the basis of practical knowledge, experimental knowing. W. did well to show the Tree of Knowledge in the drawing, it being the symbol of Nature in general and of the seed or seminal elements.
Tarot Card Information Sources¶
- The Tarot by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, originally published 1888
- The Pictorial Key to the Tarot by Arthur Edward Waite, originally published 1910
- The Symbolism of the Tarot by P. D. Ouspensky, originally published 1913
- The Tarot of the Bohemians by “Papus” (Gérard Encausse), trans. by A. P. Morton, originally published 1892
- General Book of the Tarot by A. E. Thierens, originally published 1930