Tarot Hero’s Journey: The Devil

RWS_Tarot_15_DevilThe next step on our journey to awakening is The Devil. A rather conventional devil squats on a plinth holding a flaming torch. At his feet stand two figures similar to the ones on The Lovers, but now they have horns and tails, making them demons. They are restrained by chains around their necks. All very medieval. This is card number 15 which reduces to 6 symbolising the conjunction of opposites and again linking this card to The Lovers.

The hero has gained a secure link to his Higher Self and now goes deeper into the unconscious to see what else lurks in the darkness. Although he is supported in his quest by the creative forces of the unconscious, the danger isn’t over. Beyond the personal unconscious, the hero encounters the collective unconscious.

This is the shadow of mankind and contains all the unrealised aspects of our consciousness. It teems with powerful instincts and chthonic gods, and they begin to pull at the hero, lulling him into mindless unconsciousness.

The Christian symbol for these untamed forces is the Devil. In the ancient world they were symbolised by figures like Dionysus.

Dionysus is the abyss of impassioned dissolution, where all human distinctions are merged in the animal divinity of the primordial psyche – a blissful and terrible experience.” – C.G. Jung

The challenge here is to withstand the power of the Devil and resist being pulled back into dissolution and annihilation. If the Devil wins, the hero may become grandiose as his ego is flooded with dark energies. He may believe he understands all knowledge and wisdom, having become a divine messenger of God. But if the collective shadow can be brought into consciousness in a measured way (using Temperance), without reigniting the spark of egotism, then the forces of darkness will be transformed into light. The Devil, as Satan, is transmuted and becomes the angel Lucifer, the light-bringer.

The Devil depicted here could also be Pan, life-giver and Lord of Fertility. Instinct and nature are obviously necessary and follow their own laws. They must be channelled into life-enhancing, evolutionary paths or they become destructive. Life without death would be impossible and natural cycles must be respected, but the hero must not be enslaved by his instincts.

The chained figures on the card are not bound securely. They could easily slip free of their chains if they knew it were possible. We must free ourselves from anything that holds us back from liberation – obsessions, passions, fanaticism, and attachments to pretty much anything. This stage of the journey is about choosing to be more conscious and civilised, in an echo of The Lovers. The hero must awaken to his humanity and embrace the full force of his higher consciousness.

Keywords for The Devil:
  • Darkness
  • Inhibitions
  • Addiction
  • Uncontrolled passions
  • Obsession
  • Self-deception

Next step on the journey to awakening: The Tower

>Catch up with the rest of the series here

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