Every good act is charity. A man’s true wealth hereafter is the good that he does in this world to his fellow.
— Moliere (1622-1673)
Money certainly does seem to be on the forefront of many peoples’ minds. Of course, the economic crisis goes on, perhaps not being covered by the news as spectacularly as it was. But it is still taking a toll that is deeply serious. On a more personal level, many of you reading this are working with me through Chapter Six of The Artist’s Way, which deals primarily with our blocks and beliefs about our own prosperity.
So having this card show up for only the second time in my weekly offerings seems significant. While experts sift through the entrails of economic minutiae, searching for clues that the worst is over, the waves of contraction and loss are still hitting ordinary people and businesses large and small, wiping out savings and serenity. In the areas around security, prosperity, wealth and power, there is no calling back the radical transformation now underway of what these terms mean, as well as who will possess them.
Thus, the Six of Pentacles seems to point to a week when we should pay very close attention to these changes, especially to what we need, how we spend, and how we share. It is especially a time to beware of hubris.
According to Joan Bunning, the wonderful Tarot teacher, scholar and author of Learning the Tarot, “The Six of Pentacles is a difficult card to describe because it falls in the shadowy area between the lack of the Five of Pentacles and the affluence of the Ten of Pentacles. These two cards represent the extremes of not having and having. The Six of Pentacles covers the huge middle ground where it is not clear exactly who has what.
“On this card,” she notes, “a well-to-do gentleman is tossing a few coins to a beggar while another supplicant waits to the side. The giver holds the scales of justice as if claiming the right to decide who deserves blessings and who does not.”
Notice that here we have another one of Pixie Smith’s “stage” cards. The figures are on what appears to be a theatre stage, and the hills and buildings in the background may or may not be real. This calls into question the role we play when we offer charity, as well as when we ask for help.
Joan comments, “In this picture we see both sides: what it means to give and to receive, to dominate and to submit, to be on top and to be on the bottom. It seems clear who has and who hasn’t, but is it? Life is not that simple, and how quickly fortunes change.”
As we are seeing, people like Bernie Madoff, who appear to be both vastly wealthy and generously philanthropic, are often exposed during economic low tides. Ponzi schemes, scandals, corporate and political corruption involving people who manage wealth in the public trust have become the daily news in the United States, Britain, and other countries.
It strikes me how the wealthy man in this card is simply dropping these coins, choosing not to be bothered whether they are actually received; he does not touch the recipient with a gentle hand. Is it all for show? No doubt he is certain he is being painstakingly fair and impartial.
But doling out pennies in public, while the other man is forced to wait on his knees betrays something important about his character. How would you feel about seeing this scene before you? Which of the figures do you most identify with?
All fortunes rise and fall. The tables can turn at any time. This week, be generous and genuinely grateful for what you have. Remember that the hand of giving is best not paraded for all to see.
Share in ways that do not rob others of their dignity. And if you see there is need, offer your aid in ways that respect what people feel they need, rather than what you believe is good for them.