The final step on our journey to awakening is The World. A young figure wrapped in a veil dances within a wreath holding two wands. Four creatures are depicted in the corners. This is card number 21 which reduces to 3 symbolising the synthesis of opposites and creation.
The World symbolises the unified Self. The figure in the centre is an hermaphrodite, combining both male and female in a synthesis of opposites (the carefully placed veil hides the evidence!).
The tetramorphs in each corner symbolise the fixed cross of manifestation in the zodiac: the ox for Taurus, the lion for Leo, the eagle for Scorpio, and the man for Aquarius. The androgyne represents the goal of the quest. The opposites have been integrated and the hero no longer has any illusions about being separate from the world. He has reached his goal and dances joyfully at the mystic Centre where past and future, action and inaction, intersect.
The two wands represent the positive and negative forces of nature – yin and yang. The hero holds them casually in his hands, no longer their slave but their master. The wreath is the cosmic egg which contains the universe, and the figures outside the wreath are the four functions of consciousness or aspects of the Self.
The World is a mandala, a symbol of psychic wholeness. This is the integrated heart of the psyche, the squared circle, diamond lotus, golden flower, and mystic rose. The self has attained unity and is indivisible.
This represents the end of the hero’s journey but it also contains the seeds of a new beginning on a higher level. The hermaphrodite could be seen as an embryo in the womb of the wreath, awaiting rebirth. The hero circles the world and the quest begins anew. He will be reborn, back at the beginning, as the Fool.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” – C.G. Jung
This is the essence of the entire quest: to make what is unconscious conscious. No other creature can do this work, the Great Work of the alchemists. Only human beings have the capacity to reflect upon themselves and perform an act of self-creation by choosing to know, to be conscious. When the Great Work is accomplished we discover we knew who we were all along. The truth was with us from the start, carried so delicately as a flower in our hand. The white rose of the soul becomes the mystic rose or diamond lotus, and we smile with the Buddha and know that we are free.
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