The Fool’s Journey is a symbolic path we all follow through our various incarnations, as represented by the archetypal images of the tarot’s major Arcana.
The Fool, by virtue of his or her innocence, receives Divine protection, because it is through such “fools” that the Divine works to uplift and transform the vibration of the world in which we live. Are you ready to ‘play the fool’? Then let us follow the Fool’s Journey through the twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana.
The Fool is conspicuous by his (or her) innocence, and a quest for both adventure and truth. The Fool is only considered as such because more jaded and world-weary folks would consider taking on life with such a sense of adventure as nothing but a ‘Fools errand’.
The Fool stands outside the rest, oblivious to the general consensus of Reality. Extraordinarily ‘empty’, as in the number zero (and the Infinite) the Fool is infused with a desire to strike out and see the world.
The dense forest path opens wide into the noonday sun; The Magician stands within a forest glen, silently beckoning the Fool to step forward. With one hand reaching for the bright, noon day sky, and the other pointing to the warm and fertile earth, the Magician unites Heaven and Earth, and the four elements of water, fire, air and earth are under his adept control. With gleaming eyes, the Magician speaks wordlessly, “You have the ability to create something from nothing. Your playful willingness to test your surroundings is your best advantage. Don’t create boundaries for yourself, your possibilities are endless.” In awe, the Fool watches the Magician’s proficiency within the elements of Nature. “Intrigue the minds of your audience, you are a catalyst of positive change!”
The Fool continues along the dusty road, the Magician’s four symbols of the elements tucked safely in his bag. It is twilight, and the Fool scans the road for a safe place to spend the night. On the horizon he sees a fire, smoldering brightly within a temple courtyard. Lifting the veil, the Fool enters- draped in a starry robe, the High Priestess stands in the stillness, and with her luminous eyes, she speaks silently, “Your intuition and receptivity is your greatest asset- Like a flower it must grow and blossom in thy soul. If thou wouldst plant the seed of this flower in thy soul, learn to discern the real from the false. Listen only to the Voice that is soundless. Look only on that which is invisible, and remember that in thyself, is this Temple, and the mystery, and the initiation.” Gazing upon the eternal flame, the Fool passes the night with the High Priestess in silence. Closing his eyes for just a moment, he awakens at dawn, and the Temple is gone! Where the flame once burned grows a white lily. The Fool dusts himself off, and continues on….
The Fool is carried forth on a warm Summer breeze, scented with flowers and the buzzing of bees. The dusty road turns and follows the smooth path of the river, seated on a throne amidst a verdant corn field, at the center of the web of Life, he meets the Empress. “I am the Queen of Life,” she declared in a clear and light voice. “Sit with me for a while; I will teach you the arts of healing, music, art, beauty and truth. ” The grass at her feet was comfort, and the song she sang was harmonious and wise. The Fool passed the Spring and Summer season with the Great Mother, and was reborn onto his path once again.
The path grew steep and rocky, but the Fool finds the great height exhilarating. Atop a lofty throne of hard gray stone, the Fool encounters the Emperor. “I am The Great Law,” the Emperor said in a clear, strong voice. “I am in the four principles. I am in the four elements. I am in the four seasons. I am in the four cardinal points. I am the beginning; I am action; I am completion; I am the result. For him who knows how to see me there are no mysteries on earth.” Center and grounded at the feet of the Great Father, the Fool spent the harvest season learning and experiencing the strong and empowered aspect of Self. As the snow began to fall, the Father spoke, “Set in motion the things that will fulfill your need for challenge, change and growth. You are the Ruler of your inner realm. Continue the path, child, walk in strength.”
At the foot of the Emperor’s lofty mountain, the Fool finds shelter in the Temple of the High Priest (or Hierophant). The High Priest carries with him the staff and scepter of reason. The Fool bows and humbly asks, “What have you to teach, Great Master?” The High Priest regards the Fool silently, raises his hand in a sign of benediction, and says, “Do not expect to hear the truth from others, nor to see it or read it in books. Look for the truth in yourself, not without. But you are welcome to stay the Winter, and learn from me the conventions and language of the Mystery.” So the Fool stayed the Winter, serving the Temple of Knowledge. At the first sign of Spring, the Fool continued his journey. “Seek the Path, do not seek attainment”, said the High Priest, “Seek for the Path within yourself.”
Restlessly, the Fool continues his journey down the long, and twisting road of Life. A heart shaped gate crosses the road, and passing through, the Fool finds himself within the walls of a beautiful garden. In the garden stand a shining and luminous man and woman; deeply in love, and their love itself is their service to God. Enraptured and entranced by the Lovers, the Fool feels his heart break, with a yearning for a lover of his own. Suddenly, the pair is torn apart, by some strange, dark force from without. “My God! What have I done!” the Fool cried. A voice answered, “You saw yourself as separate from the world, saw yourself as without. The Lovers can only be reunited within your own heart.” The Fool battled for many days and many nights with many, many demons. He grew as high as a mountain, flew across the sea, and spied upon the darkness in his own heart, but the mystical couple were always just out of reach. Tired and weary, the Fool lays his head to rest on the battlefield; right before his eyes, grows a small, simple, fragrant flowering herb. Plucking the simple flower, the Fool relaxes and remembers the High Priestess and the Magician, the Empress and the Emperor, the High Priest. The Fool regains his devotion to Truth, regains his own magic and sense of adventure. “To Thine Own Self Be True”, and with the magic of those words, the battle ceased. The sacred couple became a Light within the Fool’s own heart. And with that, he picked himself up, and continued on the path.
The Fool continues along the dusty path; in the distance behind he hears a great clattering commotion, and soon, he is overtaken by a conquering hero steering a wild Chariot. The vehicle comes to a halt; “Stranger, I am Victory, and I have conquered with Will alone the demons of my own heart.” The Fool is taken aback by the strange beasts that draw the vehicle, and innocently asks the one called Victory, “What are the names of the creatures who draw your chariot?” The Charioteer replies, “Passion and Intellect. They have learned to work together to take me where I want. Climb aboard, and let us seize the reins!”
In the midst of a green and verdant plain, the Fool walks alone. In the distance, he sees a woman dressed in white. She has an aura of Strength. As he approaches, he sees that she wears a wreath of roses upon her brow, and with small and gentle hands, and without a word, she closes the gaping jaws of a massive wolf. “Woman! What are you doing!” cries the Fool. The woman silently places a finger to her lips, calling for silence. Her eyes hold a strange power, sensual and subtle, a calming energy which others react to in kind. The Fool is mesmerized, and understands the woman’s silent pantomime. “This is a picture of power, it shows the power of love. Love alone can conquer wrath. Hatred feeds hatred. Love feeds love. A grounded and centered energy subdues discord, laying the path for harmony and cooperation.” The woman takes the Fool’s trembling hand; laying it upon the jaws of the beast, it becomes calm and steady. The Fool’s heart becomes calm and steady. Silently, the Fool thanks the strange, strong and gentle woman, and he walks away from the wolf unafraid.
The roadless plain gives way to step, barren, rocky mountains, and for many, many days, the Fool travels alone. Atop a summit, he spies a figure standing silent, arm upraised, staff in hand. Clambering up the rocky precipice, the Fool comes face to face with the Hermit. “Hello! And who are you?” the Fool eagerly asks. With eyes downcast, the Hermit replies, “I am the nameless one, my relationship is with the world of spirit, not with the world of personalities. My passion is a consciousness that has taken me beyond the Ego, it is the faculty of the wise man by which he isolates himself, even amidst a noisy crowd; it is his skill in hiding his mysteries, even while expressing them, his capacity for silence and his power to act in stillness. Young man, abandon your passion for the trivial. You need not a name to exist.” With that, the Hermit fell silent, and turned his gaze to the Earth. The Fool also fell silent; for how long, he could not remember. But when he finally looked up from the Earth, the Hermit was gone, and he was again alone.
In a strange silence, the Fool continued across the desert, his head swimming with all of the strange events and people he had encountered thus far on his journey. Suddenly, a huge, revolving disc appeared in the sky, and a voice in his head, in the sky, said, “”All must go, all will return, the Wheel of Fortune keeps on turning. All die, all live again, All separate, all meet again, the ring of existence is ever true to itself. Existence begins at every moment. Round each here, rolls a there. The middle is everywhere. The way of eternity is a circle”.
Overcome by the sight of the flashing Wheel of Fortune, the Fool sank to earth and shut his eyes. Suddenly, a skeletal rider on a white horse appears- Death. A deadly cold envelopes the Fool, and the Sun sets. The sun sinks at one point and rises at another. Each moment of its motion is a descent at one point, and an ascent at another. “Yes,” said a voice. The sun does not think of its going down and coming up. What does it know of Earth, of the going and coming observed by men? It goes its own way, over its own orbit, round an unknown Center. Life, death, rising and falling; do you not know that all these things are thoughts and dreams and fears of the Fool?”
When the Fool finally rose to his feet, he was standing on the stone steps of a great hall; confronting him was the blind folded figure of Justice. She held a sword in one hand and scales in the other. The Fool trembled with awe at her appearance, which was deep and mysterious. “You see Truth,” said Justice. “On these scales everything is weighed. This sword is always raised to guard justice, and nothing can escape it. But why do you avert your eyes from the scales and the sword? They will remove the last illusions. How could you live on earth without these illusions? You wished to see Truth and now you behold it!”
Then the Fool turned away from Justice, and beheld a most disturbing site; the Hanged Man. Like a Hindu Sadhu, he hangs silently, of his own accord. He chose this way, and no one else. At first, gazing at the man, the Fool feels defeated and lost; sacrificed. The Hanged Man is at a turning point, confronted by the need to release his Ego. Left hanging alone, he must go within to find a comfortable balance. Then, becoming one with the martyr, the Fool is overcome- suspended in a timeless moment, free of urgency and pressure. “He chose this way himself. For this he went over a long road from trial to trial, from initiation to initiation, through failures and falls. And now he has found Truth, and knows himself.”
A gentle woman appeared; “My name is Temperance.” In one hand was a cup of silver, in the other a cup of gold, and flowing between these cups a constant, glistening stream of rainbows. “By experiencing the extremes, you can find your true balance by experience in the middle. This is a time for healing; I Temperance challenge you to foster a positive outlook. Let go of negative ways of thinking. This is the time to begin healing, and you are ready to take responsibility for yourself. One of the cups I hold is the past, the other is the future. The rainbow stream between the cups is the present. You see, it flows both ways.”
Black, awful night enveloped the Earth. An ominous, red flame burned in the distance. The Fool was approaching a fantastic figure- high above the earth upon a tall tower appeared the repulsive face of the Devil. Chained to the devil were a man and woman; “This is a picture of weakness”, said the Devil, “a picture of falsehood and evil- they are the same man and woman you saw in the garden, but their love ceasing to be a sacrifice for God, became an illusion. This man and woman forgot that their love is a link in the chain that unites them with eternity, that their love is a symbol of balance. We’ve been taught to be wary of passion; we fear going too far, taking a fall from grace into hedonism and addiction. Your sensual desires must be accepted as healthy, without fear or shame, or they will be perverted. To grow into a healthy, vibrant individual who can make a difference, you must cast aside the fear and inhibition that is stifling your self expression.”
Suddenly, the Heavens opened, a thunder-clap shook the whole Earth, and lightning struck the summit of The Tower upon which the Devil sat. “The tower should warn the people not to believe in it. It should serve as a reminder of the inner Temple and as a protection against the outer; it should be as a lighthouse, in a dangerous place where men have often been wrecked and where ships should not go. The Tower is the ego fortress, built of stone, it seems to protect you, but is really a prison.” Severely shaken by this astounding and violent revelation, the Fool runs for his life.
Running along in the darkness, a strange emotion seizes the Fool; shafts of Light penetrate his being, and illuminate many things before concealed in darkness. The Star shining above, and beneath the radiant stars, beside a river, the Fool spies a Goddess, young and beautiful. “This is Nature’s Imagination,” said the Goddess gently. “Nature dreams, improvises, creates worlds. Learn to unite your imagination with Her Imagination and nothing will ever be impossible for you. To align oneself with the principals of Nature is to live one’s own truth and destiny, in synchronicity with the truth and destiny of the Universe itself. When we contact our Essential Self, our personal lives come into focus, we feel connected, and feelings of alienation fall away. You are knowingly on the road to your Higher Self, with the principals of Truth guiding you like a brilliant star, you are no longer lost in darkness. You are waking up to who you truly are.”
A desolate plain stretched beyond the river. A full Moon looked down, and under her wavering light, the shadows lived their own peculiar life. On the horizon, rose a path which stretched between two gray towers far away into the distance. On either side the path a wolf and dog sat and howled at the moon. Dread fell upon the Fool, but he continued along the path, to the horizon. Traveling between the inner and outer worlds, reality changes, your sanity seems to desert you, and you are left with only your intuition and instincts to guide you to a higher ground. In the pale moonlight, the Fool had the sense of apparitions; of someone watching from the towers, and he knew it was dangerous to look back.
Throughout the fearful night the Fool kept to his path. Over the hills, and across desolate fields, the Fool forged onto the dawn. The Sun broke over an endless field of sunflowers, and in this field, children played. “Come and join us!” the children cried. The Fool is filled with a radiant vitality. No challenge is too daunting. The Sun symbolizes a return to Paradise- the inner child feels safe enough to play. The Fool feels his intention, attitude and values are harmonized, he has no hidden motives, no doubts, no fear.
At sunset, the children run home, and the Fool continues his solitary journey. Across the flowering field to a lonely place- a vast cemetery. It seems it is time for the Fool to make a personal Judgement about his life. His own day of reckoning seems to have arrived. Suddenly an angel, or perhaps a god, appears in the sky, and one after another, graves open, and out of them come men and women, old and young, and children. They stretched out their arms toward the Messenger. The Judgment card symbolizes a spiritual awakening; the Fool has passed through life’s trials with a pure heart, and awakened to a glimpse of Divine Knowledge and Truth. Dreams and visions, his emotional being, and Soul are attuned with the Universe in such a way that all his gifts from many lifetimes can live through him now. The Fool raises him arms in praise, along with the awakened Dead, and feels Blessed to be alive.
The Fool re-enters the World of the living; he has integrated all the disparate parts of himself and achieved wholeness. The World symbolizes the stabilization of the Soul. This state of being is the culmination of many lifetimes; balanced, the Fool no longer feel alienated. Ego can not obstruct the light of consciousness that passes through him. Our spiritual duty throughout various incarnations is to reconcile the realms of Cosmic Consciousness, Self Consciousness and the Collective Unconscious. When this awakening happens, we find ourselves in Timelessness, where there is no uncertainty, sorrow or shame. This epiphany is the zenith of all your labors through many lifetimes, and a portent of extraordinary possibilities.