Tell the truth and shame the Devil.
This old aphorism sums up the meaning of this Major Arcana card for me today.
This card is one of the “acolyte cards” scattered throughout the deck, depicting a main character in the background and two subservient characters in the foreground. In this case, the acolytes are chained to the Devil’s throne or pedestal.
So I usually think of this card as relating to bondage of some sort – an addiction, or bad habit, or crushing debt, or compulsion, or some other condition which makes us unable to enjoy and fully express our freedom.
Today when this card turned up, though, I remembered one appellation for the Devil from scripture, “the father of lies.” I began to ponder how the issue of lies or deception might be relevant to my life at the moment.
It is accurate to say that what we experience as material reality is fundamentally a deception. This is recognized in Vedic texts as “Maya” defined as “an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem.”
When we look at the current world health crisis, we see the scourge of this COVID-19 virus which is attacking our lives and well being. We think of it as something “foreign” in all respects. It attacks our bodies from “outside.” It is “outside” the norm in terms of ailments. The dramatic effects on our daily routines are “outside” what many of us have ever experienced in our lives. Entire social structures which have seemed more or less reliable and predictable to this point now seem to be breaking down, all because of this intruder. Just a short while ago, this would all have been outside of the realm of imagination for most of us.
In reality, though, from a biological standpoint the virus is really just another expression of the abundance of life on this planet, and when we look at it through the lens of particle physics, it becomes very difficult to tell where we end and the virus begins.
As a practical matter, of course, this may seem inconsequential. In the context of our human experience, it is disruptive, and human lives continue to be lost. Nearly 10,000 of us have died already of the almost quarter of a million who are known to have been infected. Talk of the quantum field or the relationships between species in a complex global ecosystem affords little comfort to those of us who are suffering the loss of loved ones, the loss of jobs, the loss of freedom of movement, the fear, the nagging daily inconveniences.
And yet, it is literally true that all of this, every bit of it, is essentially an illusion – all sleight of hand that our consciousness performs. I do believe that there is at least some comfort to be taken in this fact.
I don’t know where I first heard this, but there’s another aphorism that helps me keep such things in perspective. Reality is not behind a veil. It is a veil.