Judgement (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on January 9, 2018

Tarot conversation January 9, 2018

20th Arcanum – The Judgement

Joel and Phillip were present

We began by invoking the inspiration of the Risen Christ, the genius of tonight’s phase of the Moon, by reading from the 21st chapter of John’s Gospel. We then performed the Divine Alphabet, with references to the Knight’s Practice, up through the 20th Letter, Resh. 

After reading the quotes from the beginning of the 20th Letter/Meditation, we observed both The Sun and The Judgement (as Yod and He).

– Once again, the face is looking straight on (the face of the Angel). The other Arcana with this feature are:  Justice (8), Wheel of Fortune (10), Hanged Man (12), The Devil (15) and The Sun (19). 

– There are lemniscatory/spiral forms in this Arcanum that are not nearly as prominent in the other Arcana, especially in the cloud forms around the Angel, and in the hair of the risen one. They are watery, or like seashells. The clouds around the Angel are more like flowing water (especially with their blue color). The hair of the risen one is a bit reminiscent of a monk’s tonsure, but also looks very much like a seashell. 

– The blue circle of cloud is like a portal. The cards are often ambiguous as to whether what is depicted is taking place on Earth or in some eternal/archetypal realm. Here it is explicit, that eternity is emerging from back to front, invading the mundane world. 

– Where are the yellow and red rays of light in relation to the clouds/portal? Are they behind, occluded? Has the sun been eclipsed again, this time by an Angel? Or has the Sun in a way unfolded, opened itself up, peeled away? And through this flipe, the Angel can enter through the portal created? 

– The Judgement is very much like The Lover, the 6th Arcanum, both in its geometry/structure, as well as in the shape of the rays and the angelic presence above. The same elements are there (one main person on Earth, flanked by two supporting people, and a spiritual being above acting upon him). However, the bow and arrow have been replaced by a banner and a trumpet. The positioning of the Angels’ arms is the same:  the right arm higher, holding the arrow/banner, the left arm lower and holding the bow/trumpet. 

– There is also a difference in the wings of the two angels. The Angel in the Judgement has wings everywhere, a bit chaotic – how many are there exactly? Are two of them coming out of its head/ears?

– The banner is the standard, like the Eagle-Shield in the Empress, but is such a departure from the Shield. The Eagle is unfinished, almost alive, full of detail and curves. The Cross on the Banner is concrete, distinct, simple, geometric. 

– The Lover has three blonde haired figures and one blue haired figure (on the right), and the Judgement has three blue haired figures and one blonde (above)

– The Angel in the Lover is very cherubic, Raphaelic, a pretty standard image in its face and wings. But The Angel in the Judgement is more chaotic and severe in a way, its bursting through with a strange, intense face. Is it wearing a white vest with red sleeves? Or is the chest invisible, allowing the light to shine through? Is there only a head and red arms? Possibly the midsection of chest/throat has become the trumpet and banner. Notice that the trumpet is held directly to the larynx, not to the lips of the Angel. An indication of the future task of the larynx, as a reproductive organ.

– Looking at The Lover, The Judgement and Justice:  Here we have Justice=Libra, and The Judgement=Taurus. The Lover=Venus; Venus finds her domicile in both Libra and Taurus. The connection between The Judgement’s imagery and the sign of Taurus had never been clear before, but now with the focus we have given to the trumpet/larynx and the wings/ears, we can see the indication of the larynx and eustachian tubes, the gift given to us through Taurus.

– The wings of the Angel are not really symmetrical at all. The right side has a large united wing at the top, whereas the left side has a divided wing. The other wings on the right side are all ruffled up and chaotic, whereas the left is more harmonious. 

– Why exactly is the title of this Arcana “The Judgement”? Is this the depiction of a man who is about to be judged? Are they praying for him, pleading his case—is he in the witness box? Or is it the depiction of a man who has just been raised from the dead through the threefold activity of Angel, Mother and Father?

This raises the question, how is resurrection also a judgement? It is showing us both of these things at once, so we can assume that at root, these two activities are united. How?

Maybe it is in internal judgement, in the confrontation with one’s own conscience. The Angel allows clarity of conscience. If something righteous is called to the fore through one’s conscience, maybe rather than shame something everlasting is created. Shame (reactive conscience) is a natural/semi-automatic purgative, whereas the creativity activity of conscience is something that resurrects. 

Or we could look at it through the lens of karma and reincarnation. That in every deed we perform, our actions are woven into and out of our karma—an ongoing, living process of judgement, of balancing of accounts. This karma is then woven directly into the process of reincarnation. Life, Death and Rebirth are the cosmic expression of Judgement.

In the Lord’s Prayer Course, Tomberg describes the Crown Chakra as the Death Chakra—but also as the region in which our Guardian Angel bears all of our positive karma, our Mission, our Name. On the other hand, the Root Chakra is the Chakra of Life, of the vital élan emanating from the Mother in the Depths. However, this is also the Chakra of our accumulated negative karma, of our errors. Each time we reincarnate, there is a two-fold resurrection occurring:  of that which is of eternal value, our Mission, that which needs to be accomplished and is future orientated on the one hand; on the other hand, all of our past errors that need to be redressed and dealt with, our past-orientated karma that needs to be brought into balance. All activity is tied up with karma, with the debit or credit in our account as Steiner would say. 

It is at once Resurrection:  the renewal of the Crown Chakra, accomplishing one’s Mission, as well as Judgement:  cosmic decree directed towards the negative karma of the Root Chakra, being given the chance to make good on one’s errors. 

– Notice that the crown of the risen one in The Judgement is like a miniature of the Cloud of Angel above:  the Cloud of Angel is like the enhancement of the Crown Chakra of the risen one (the Angel bearing his positive karma/mission). This is being delivered into his crown via the Trumpet.

On the other hand, the Banner is like the miniature of the coffin/tomb/witness box in which the risen one stands. It is a four petalled chakra of negative karma, in the Earth below. 

So in the upper half of the image, the Cloud (Crown) is the larger aspect above, and the Banner (Tomb) is the smaller aspect at the base. In the lower half, the Crown (Cloud) is the smaller aspect at the top, and the Tomb (Banner) is the larger aspect at the base. This creates the figure of a lemniscate, or of a top heavy lemniscate woven into a bottom heavy lemniscate.

The Cloud and Crown bear the signature of a lemniscate:  a figure 8. The Crown Chakra is the 8-petalled chakra. The Banner and the Tomb bear the signature of a cross or a square:  the 4-petalled chakra. The geometry of the card that Tomberg emphasizes in his Letter/Meditation is one of a parallelogram of forces (see page 559), he is focusing on the Root-Chakra aspect of the card. On the other hand, we are focusing primarily on the lemniscatory geometry of the card. Both are legitimate. This Arcanum is a weaving together of the straight and curved, of the geometrical with the flowing.

– There is an extreme mirroring of top to bottom; for example, the shape of the trumpet is exactly mirrored in the shadow on the spine of the risen one. 

– Maybe the Tomb=Throne of the Empress/Emperor. The Banner=Shield, the “by what right,” under what authority one can stand in the Tomb (rise from the Dead), like the Shield gives the right to the Throne. The Banner is the sign of Christ—it is by right of the redeemed physical body, the resurrection body. 

Is this an historical banner/flag? White background with yellow/golden cross? (Note – a little research online leads to the different banners of the Crusades in 1188: https://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/rel-c188.html. Yellow Cross on White was used by two different regions:  that of Italy, and that of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. This was a unique combination as white and yellow (silver and gold) were not usually allowed to be presented next to each other. One begins to think of the Gilded Cross and the Silver Rose, and certainly the Kingdom of Jerusalem is the standard held by the Angel).  

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Italian Templar Flag

– The Trumpet is the equivalent of the Scepter of the Empress/Emperor. This scepter is crowned by the gigantic “ball” of the Angel. But what of the Cross? The Cross has moved down off of the top of the ball, into and basically beneath it in the form of the Banner. This stands with the theme of this card, of the descent of Christ into the Earth in order to find the Mother and create/release the Resurrection Body. 

Maybe here we are coming to mysteries of the blood, referred to at the end of the 3rd Letter/Meditation on the Empress, of which they are too delicate for Tomberg to write about explicitly. 

From page 72:  “But the Arcanum of sacred magic, the Empress, calls to us to take another way. It calls us to the way of regeneration, instead of that of degeneration. It invites us to de-mechanise all that which has become solely intellectual, aesthetic and moral technique. One has to de-mechanise in order to become a mage. For sacred magic is through and through life—that life which is revealed in the Mystery of Blood. May our problems become so many cries of the blood (of the heart), may our words be borne by blood, and may our actions be as effusions of blood! This is how one becomes a mage. One becomes a mage by becoming essential—as essential as the blood is.”

And on page 73:  “The blood…is the ‘sceptre’ or power of sacred magic.”

Again a weaving of straight and curved. The mechanical is de-mechanized through the scepter of blood, the power of sacred magic in the Voice. The weaving of square and lemniscate is the description in imagery of the de-mechanization of the mechanical.

– In the 20th Letter/Meditation, Tomberg describes the Father as Christ commanding the stone to be rolled away (mysticism); the Mother as the tears of Christ as he approaches the Tomb (gnosis); and the Angel as Christ crying out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, Come Forth!” (sacred magic). The Risen One—Lazarus—is then Hermeticism. And what is Hermeticism? It is Resurrected Tradition, it is tradition that has become rote, dogma, now called again to life:  de-mechanized. 

This is the task of the Maitreya in his incarnations leading up to Buddhahood:  to shake things up, to de-mechanize, to avoid routine or habit. He maintains the opening that keeps the spiral from becoming a closed circle. This is a semi-tragic destiny, as he will almost always be misunderstood or even disliked by the karmic group responsible for the Tradition he has come to call back to Life (e.g. Anthroposophy in the 1930s).

To maintain the opening in the circle – here we have the sun turning inside out! What an image! The Being of Time, of Duration (The Sun in the 19th Arcanum) turning itself inside out to create the portal through which the Scepter of Blood can perform the Miracle of Resurrection. 

– And is The World next? The Vesica Piscis as the image of the Wholeness resulting from Resurrection?

In one sense, The World does follow after The Judgement (since 21 follows 20). But in another sense, in terms of the correspondence of the cards with the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet, The Fool stands between Judgement and World. One could look at it, rather as than two different sequences, as something more like this:

Maybe The Fool is the image of what follows on from Judgement as an Arcanum of discipline and prosecution (karma, lunar aspect). And The World is the image of what follows on from Judgement as an Arcanum of Resurrection (saturnine aspect), rather than simply prosecution. 

The risen figure in the Arcanum has his/her back turned to us, meaning it could be either male or female. It could be The Fool or The World. This leaves it open-ended:  a spiral instead of a circle. If the figure is considered to be male, The Fool is next; if she is considered female, The World is next.

– The quality that is emphasized in Robert’s practice of the Divine Alphabet is of a different nature for this Arcanum than the others:  “Last Judgement/Resurrection.” Before he had described it as “The Last Things.” This is very different than, for example, “Purity” for Force or “Righteousness” for The Hanged Man. The Last Judgement is not a quality I necessarily can cultivate as I could Righteousness. 

[Edit January 2021:

The essential quality of each Arcanum according to Robert’s eurythmy practice in the Tree of Life is:


High Priestess—Gnosis

Empress—Sacred Magic


Pope—Love of God

Lover—Love of Neighbor




Wheel of Fortune—Dharma


Hanged Man—Righteousness

Death—Crossing the Threshold


Devil—Transformation of Evil

Tower of Destruction—Humility

Star—Spiritual Growth

Moon—Raising the Subconscious to Consciousness


Judgement—Resurrection/Last Judgement

Fool—Fire of Love

World—Joy of Life]

– One really does feel the crescendo of these last four Arcana and Letter/Meditations. There is a massive amount coming through them. And how many can actually make it to the end of Meditations on the Tarot? There are legitimate reasons one might not be able to read the entire book—for some, just the first four Letter/Meditations might be enough to last a lifetime. For others, who have been fed a preconception of its Jesuitism or Catholicism, they will not be able to see what is right in front of them, and will be turned off by it. But very few could stop reading it because of indifference, lack of interest or boredom with the content. It will not let you go. But if one can actually make it through to the end, even after some of the quite harrowing content such as Death, The Devil, and The Tower, then one is rewarded with an almost over-abundance of riches. It is like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, when the triumphant motif keeps getting beaten down by the menacing motif – only to march in violently triumphant at the very end, a chaos of joy.

– Next time let’s look at the difference between the two portals we have encountered:  the portal of hypnotism/black magic in The Moon vs the portal of resurrection in The Judgement.

– Looking back is interesting. Thinking of one year ago when we were looking at Justice, the shapes reminiscent of prows of ships, of captains like Steiner, Tomberg, Koenig going down with their ships. Justice leading to Judgement. 

– Is it presumptuous of us to have come this far? To think that we can actually bring something to bear on this process and this content, not just now but on into the Minor Arcana? Joel has to come back to his first reading of MOTT over 7 years ago. His reaction, after finishing the last Letter/Meditation which refers to the homework assignment of 56 similar mediations on the Minor Arcana, was to say “OK, I can do that.” Without presumption or fanfare, just taking Tomberg at his word rather innocently. He came upon a Marseille deck at a used bookstore in Seattle and made a start, but with a 6-month old child, and a move across the country, settling into a Camphill lifestyle, it fell by the wayside. He has to keep tapping into that original, innocent reaction of “OK, I can do that.” Taking Tomberg at his word. 

And this is the group through which to do it. We have not simply been “book reporting” on MOTT, or simply allowing it to inspire us to sacred rituals. Both of these activities are necessary, but not conducive to writing Letter/Meditations. We have entered into a deceptively simple but very rich process. We have the trust and the faith that these simplistic little drawings will speak to us week by week. When we begin speaking under the inspiration of these Arcana, the feeling within us is akin to that which we have when we read MOTT – of being carried along by a current, not swept away, but guided. And that is not to say that what we discover along the way will be as erudite and well-researched as what Tomberg wrote in MOTT, far from it. But that is not really the point. Maybe Tomberg’s goal wasn’t to write a massive tome that would be lauded for its erudition and its effortless referencing of all manner of historical spiritual guiding lights. Maybe he was interested in pointing people to a process above all—a much simpler and more approachable process of dialoguing with the spiritual world than, for example, the exercises laid out in How to Know Higher Worlds. Nothing more nor less than opening oneself up to an Arcanum, and allowing the contents of one’s heart that can be interwoven with that Arcanum to dialogue with it, to become the vessel through which that Arcanum can be put into human language. The contents of one’s heart – prior experience and knowledge. And one doesn’t even realize until after that process is over what one has discovered through it, coming to know oneself and the world differently even though one hasn’t technically learned or done anything new over the course of the conversation. 

This is related to Tomberg’s description of true Faith in Christ and Sophia. True Faith is Knowledge that is not just in the head, in the intellect, but has descended all the way down to the Will. Tomberg doesn’t wish for us to understand MOTT with our heads, but to actually do MOTT, to know it in our will. 

From the meditation on the Paralyzed Man from the Knight’s Practice:  “Stream the light of thinking into depths of will…” This whole meditation was mysterious to Phillip, but now it makes more sense. This is what we are doing in a Tarot conversation, or in any artistic, spontaneous, creative activity. We can only prepare ourselves intellectually so much. Then we must allow this preparation to descend into the depths of will, and into the play of heart and hands, and back into the will (like the performance of a drama). Only afterwards, upon reflection again in the head’s heights, can we come to understand the spontaneous wisdom which we have just enacted.  Our Tarot Conversations are a way of putting this meditation into practice, and of cultivating true Faith.