The next step on our journey to awakening is The Lovers. In some card packs the image shows a young man flanked by two women while Cupid prepares to fire an arrow into his heart. In this version (the Rider Waite pack) we see two figures who appear to be Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with an angel watching over them. This is card number 6 which stands for tension and ambivalence, and was traditionally associated with the six days of creation in Genesis, linking it to ideas of evolution and the creation of life.
The Lovers represents choice. This is the first decision the hero must make alone without assistance from the parents, represented by the Empress and Emperor. As an individual he is now responsible for his actions and therefore, his destiny.
In cards depicting a youth choosing between two women, the hero is torn between loyalty to his mother and desire for his beloved; stick with traditional authority (The Pope) or strike out alone. The cherub wounds him with an arrow of love which helps him to make the right choice. Love awakens the hero so he can become independent and leave the familiar world behind, but the wound inflicted by the arrow also brings awareness of death.
Love can only arise with knowledge of duality – the ‘other’. Until Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they were unaware of their separateness and existed in a primal unity with nature. The symbolism on this card relates to the choice, not between good and evil, but the desire to awaken. The apparent Fall occurred because Eve chose to know. Once they had eaten of the Tree they became aware of duality and their separateness from nature and each other, and this made it possible for love to arise.
The angel above the figures may represent Eros – not the fat little cherub, but the original procreative power of the universe. Eros is a cosmic force, the primeval urge to create order from chaos. But this can only be achieved by choosing between opposites. Eros gives us the capacity to relate opposing principles in a way that harmonises them and brings about a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The synthesis of opposites moves the hero up to the next level and this is achieved through love.
This stage of the journey is about choosing to become more conscious so you can be an individual. If you remain dependent on established authority, you will not progress any further. To move forward requires an act of disobedience against the established order. Love has always been transgressive and this card makes that clear. The old order must be sacrificed if life and love is to flourish.
Keywords for The Lovers:
Next step on the journey to awakening: The Chariot