Duality in the Tarot


Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

The Tarot offers up a story of duality and unity, of energies that separate and come back together again. We see this in the division of the Tarot into masculine and feminine cards, which reflects the Hermetic world view that life on the physical plane is generated by the ongoing tension between opposite energies.

When two opposing energies merge, their union yields a third composite energy that is even stronger than the first two. Many cards in the Tarot have a masculine or feminine counterpart with whom it shares a defining trait in common, although they go about doing things in opposite ways.

For example…

THE HIGH PRIESTESS (feminine) & THE MAGICIAN (masculine) both describe our relationship to the Divine, but The High Priestess accesses Divinity from within, while The Magician accesses his divine will by transforming his outer circumstances.

THE MOON (feminine) & THE SUN (masculine) represent the inner and outer aspects of the human experience. The Moon represents subconscious experiences such as emotions, imagination, dreams, psychic phenonmena, and our instinctual reaction to things. The Sun represents our conscious awareness and the ego essence.

THE EMPRESS (feminine) & THE EMPEROR (masculine) represent the influence of our parents. How we relate to our inner masculine and feminine as adults is primarily shaped by our childhood relationships with our mothers and fathers.

THE FOOL & THE WORLD represent the merging of these dual opposites. The Fool portrays a figure who is masculine in appearance, and The World a feminine figure, but I think of both of them as dual-gender beings. They represent the principle of GNOSIS, or knowledge God/dess that can only be obtained through earthly experiences. The dualism of the Tarot teaches us that the end-goal of the human experience is to see ourselves in the Other and to understand that separation is an illusion.

Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

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