THE HANGED MAN BECOMES THE HANGING MAN
There are various possible ways of reading the Books of the Tarot. They can be read separately or in sequence, as steps upon a path. The order, however, may be different for everyman.
Each Book is a complete Book and expresses an entire facet in nucleus containing a multiplicity of ramifications, and each Book can be taken as a way to read the whole, or the One. But each Book is related to every other Book and the relationships on one Book to another, or to others, brings many revelations and insights. As such, they can be studied in groups.
But in the present order of the sequence given, they may be understood as steps upon a single path, or the One in motion.
In this sense, they tell a story, commencing with the Nameless One and leading through various stages to the Knower, the Self, or the projected goal of the T, the Tarot.
As the Resolver and Container, the Nameless One is the source of the twenty-one Books following him. He has projected these steps as a way of unfoldment. From this stand-point he is, in every Book, the same Nameless One in different guises and aspects, re-encountering the problems and conditions met by the Fool but on a new spiral of evolution.
As the Hanging Man, the Nameless One becomes the Redeemer.
The dilemma expressed by the hanged Man of the older Tarot is being resolved in a new way. The Hanged Man was helpless. A rope noosed his right ankle and, being hung up-side down, he could physically do nothing to extricate himself from his seeming plight. He needed an outside agent to cut him loose or he was doomed.
The Hanging Man is also in a dilemma: he is hanging others. As the Hanged Man was trapped physically, he is trapped morally, and he is weighted down by the two figures dangling from his outspread arms. His sole salvation is by redemption. And redemption is an enormous feat, involving the entire seeming outer world.
The Hanging Man represents the Christ state. This involves the balancing of all opposites by permitting all to flow through him. To do so, he stands on man’s ultimate creations: the convex round dome of a mosque is under his right foot and a concave square tower which represents also a well going deep into the earth hides his left foot. These two structures signify man’s highest aspirations and man’s diggings into the depths, the dredging of the unconscious. He does not touch the earth directly; he is balanced precariously upon the dual realm of ideas and ethics.
The Hanging Man’s body forms the five-pointed star – perfected man. The red flower upon his head forms the apex of this star. This flower is open; he is inspired despite his dilemma. His body is in the night. This suggest that he is aware of a different – or cosmic – order, in which higher laws are involved. Beneath him the sun rises over the earth. Between earth and sky, matter and spirit, the Hanging Man stands not only as a balancer but as a bridge, a mediator, and by this very token a sacrifice. The redemption lies in the effort to bridge, reconcile and bring together the seeming opposites.
Many symbols in the Book of the Hanging Man emphasize duality, principally the two sexes. The latter depict a paradox, however. By a hand – a symbol of feeling – on his right wrist, a pale woman is held upside down; from his left wrist, a dark man is dangled by a chain – the Thinker’s chain. The woman’s feet are held on the right, the masculine arm; the man’s hands are chained to the left, the feminine arm. These symbols seem backwards, but evidently this reversal is necessary for re-establishing proper balance. As an observer or witness, the Hanging Man is weighted down by these two principal enacters within his own mind-projection stating the law of opposites. He weeps since he can seemingly do nothing to resolve their plight. He knows infinite consciousness and infinite unconsciousness simultaneously yet cannot move forward until the male and female sides of his own projection are going in the same direction, no longer divided, but in the harmony of Unity. Unity alone produces redemption.
The Hanging Man is reversing the polarities in order to achieve unity.
The Hanging Man’s robe is one of purity, yet his girdle is made up of inverted serpents pointing downwards to his groin, like the M in the Masonic apron. They form a reversed pyramid. On his chest is the letter A, partly hidden by the edges of his robe. It forms an upright pyramid. This letter is another attestation that he is an imperishable being, a completed five-pointed star. He awaits his place in the heavens, but he knows he shall never attain it until every living entity is redeemed. Redemption is a universal act. His responsibility is stupendous but self- ordained. Possibly the redemption of the Hanging Man awaits his realization that there is no difference between outer and inner and that he must first redeem him Self.
Compassion might be termed the essential nature of the Hanging Man. Yet he weeps not at the tragedy of life. From the oceanic depths of Self, the separated drops fall as a veil of tears. Each drop is the entire ocean but, believing itself as separate, is so. He can do nothing but wait and weep.
At the base of this Book stands three animals in stately procession: a black wolf, a golden lion and a white lamb. The wolf represents the poacher, the instincts. The lion signifies the guarding spirit which overcomes the thief. The lamb which stands between them is that which is sought and guarded; the open heart. All three face in the same direction. His animal nature is in line.
The ancient symbol for Atlantis was the red lotus. After the submergence of this continuum, whether that continent was mystical or real, the lotus was reversed to show that it had entered the depths and was now sunk in the waters of the unconscious. The red lotus upon the head of the Hanging Man is upright, signifying a risen Atlantis. It is also identical in meaning to a cardinal’s red hat, the red flower-like cap of Tibetan high lamas and Islam’s red fez. It is the insignia of one who, through self- salvation, has arrived at the state of redeeming all those around him – a tremendous responsibility as demonstrated by the Book of the Hanging Man.
But the responsibility is first of all to Self – for only thus can universal redemption be accomplished.