Of Ants and Grasshoppers

If I may exercise a little alchemical “creative license” here, in the last half of the Fool’s Journey, it is the Hanged Man’s mission to submit to sacrifice on the altar of Justice, then undergo  radical reduction (Death), transmutation (Temperance), testing (Devil), purification (Tower), sublimation (Star), infusion (Moon), revitalization, (Sun) retrial (Judgement) and restoration (World). It reminds me of the allegorical sacrifice and redemption of “John Barleycorn” in the making of ale. It also suggests a re-imagined nursery rhyme where a resourceful King’s cavalry just goes to Walmart, buys some Super Glue, and sets Humpty Dumpty to rights again. In esoteric terms, the “glue” in the reconstruction of the World is its astrological correspondence to Saturn, the “master builder.”

I sometimes look at the standard interpretation of the World (or Universe) as “completion” and “assured success” and wonder why it should be so. After all, the angel in Judgement is just as likely to cast down hopeful candidates for resurrection as it is to admit them to a glorious rebirth. Then I realized that Saturn has an important role, as “gate-keeper” and “taskmaster,” to set the rules of engagement and define the field of operation for any rejuvenating make-over campaign, establishing the material structure and channels by which strategic advantage can be put to its most productive use, often through the application of patience and perseverance. The hidden message in this card is that one must be willing and able to measure up to stringent expectations, accepting the mandate for “right action,” and not blindly lapse into inertia on the promise of a hand-out from the Cosmos.

Illuminating as always, Alesiter Crowley’s last word on the Universe is “The crystallization of the whole matter involved,” which is an accurate way to summarize the influence of Saturn. Nowhere does the word “success” appear among his keywords. Simply put, the matter has come to a head and must be faced squarely. Crowley’s penultimate statement on the subject, “persistent stubbornness in difficulty,” implies that the road to completion is an uphill one, and satisfaction won’t be acquired by sitting idly at the end of the chute and waiting for it to drop in your hands. The purposeful trajectory of the honey-bee as opposed to the aimless drifting of the jellyfish, the fabled industriousness of the ant rather than the sanguine slothfulness of the grasshopper, the work ethic of the beaver and not the parasitical opportunism of the lamprey are all implied by the emphasis of Saturn and elemental Earth in this card. In the words of Algernon Sydney, from a 1698 article titled Discourses Concerning Government, “God helps those who help themselves.” So if you intend to make the most of the World as the outcome in a reading, be prepared to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. It’s a wholly positive card only if you aspire to make it so.

This essay completes my journey through the 22 cards of the Major Arcana. Enter the category of “Trumps” on the home page if you want to review them all, in addition to some related material.

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