Monday, July 6, 2009

Larry's Notes: Meditations on the Tarot: The Fool

Continuing my series about the chapters of Meditations on the Tarot, tonight I want to talk about the Fool. Meditations has the Fool as next-to-last in the series, so why is he the second installment in my series? Because he should have been first, but I wasn't really sure about it until I finished reading the book for the second time. And it's not just because the Fool is numbered zero.

To really understand why the Fool should be first, let's look at two literary figures Meditations refers to in its discussion of the fool: Don Quixote and Dr. Faust. I started reading Don Quixote again a couple of months ago, and stopped about halfway through because it was like watching the Detroit Lions play football. Now if Don Quixote's problem is self-deception, Dr. Faust suffered from deception at the hands of the demon he summoned, which really amounts to the same thing.

I apologize in advance because this will sound trite, but these two literary figures are important because they are metaphors for the human condition. We deceive ourselves and have been deceived by others, and deceive them in turn. The road to recovery involves recognizing the deception and stopping it. This brings me to a third literary figure discussed in this chapter of the Meditations: Arjuna from the Bhagavad-Gita. For those of you who don't know the story, it's set in ancient India on a battleground. Arjuna is about to lead his army into battle, but is somewhat reluctant. Krishna, a god who for some reason is acting as Arjuna's chariot driver, explains to Arjuna why he must fight, along with a bunch of other things. My take on the story is this: Arjuna represents the ego, Krishna the higher self, and the assembled soldiers are the components of Arjuna's belief systems. All of the belief system must be slain for Arjuna to be left with his higher self.

So how does this all relate to the Fool? Remember what I said above about deception, and in the prior paragraph about destroying our belief systems. The word "our" is key, because these belief systems are shared. Stepping outside of them will make us appear to be fools to those not on the journey. And that's exactly why being willing to do so must be the first step.

1 comment:

Steve Palm-Houser said...

I enjoyed your bringing in literary figures in understanding the Fool. I hadn't considered Don Quixote and Faust, but they fit. And Arjuna is a good metaphor for overcoming self-deception.

I see the Fool as representing a literary and cultural archetype that's been called the "Wise Fool." In many older Tarot packs, the Fool is depicted as a court jester, a figure who seems to be foolish on the surface but is in a deeper sense very wise. I see the Wise Fool in such figures as Prince Myshkin in Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, and Forrest Gump.