Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
~ Kahlil Gibran
It appears that our challenges from last week continue, and we are offered another clue for the unprecedented (on my blog) Sun/Tower combination.
I regret to say that this week we are faced with another difficult message from the Tarot. The Five of Pentacles is one of the cards that usually comes up as a least favorite in my Tarot classes’ games of “Good Card, Bad Card.”
With good reason. The fives examine how we deal with conflict and loss. And in the physical world of the Pentacles, this struggle is usually literal. Therefore, this can involve money, home, health, or work — the most important issues of our material existence.
Here we see two miserable looking people on a wintry night, struggling past a stained glass window.
Where is the doorway to that place? Do they seek it? Or are they so used to surviving their hardship that they simply battle on?
Perhaps they have been cast out, no longer allowed into the holy places. Or maybe they deliberately pass it by, because what it offers is not what they need.
One is in rags, and obviously depicts poverty. The other, on poorly-made crutches, wears a bell around his neck. In the Middle Ages, everyone with disfiguring diseases like leprosy was forced to wear a bell. This was, in part, to warn of contagion.
But it was also to ostracize them from society. Leprosy, in particular, was viewed as a terrifying sign of divine punishment, and anyone with the disease was considered impure and cursed by God.
So it may well be that they are unwelcome in the halls of those who call themselves spiritual.
Blaming the Victims
What similar attitudes do we harbor today? How many times have you heard people pronouncing that victims of life-threatening diseases or other misfortune somehow attracted their fate to themselves.
Rather than declaring adversity as a Biblical punishment from God, so-called modern people instead whisper that there must be psychological reasons for someone’s difficulties. Perhaps the ill-fated person is ignorant, too pessimistic, weak of character, a spiritual failure, or is enduring a past-life karmic payback.
On some level, so goes this old reasoning re-jiggered for the New Age, their suffering is justified.
You would think we would be more enlightened, but to what extent have you heard similar ignorant and arrogant attitudes applied towards the nations and individuals who are struggling with, for instance, Ebola?
And how often have you heard the privileged accuse the poor of being shiftless, lazy, and lacking in character? That their poverty is their own fault?
Of course, blaming the victim is a feeble, false strategy that only works as long as we, or someone we love, are not the afflicted.
Ultimately, even the most wealthy, beloved, clever, or noblest of us cannot escape our mortality. Even the super-rich can be so tormented by the specter of poverty, it might as well be true. We all endure heartbreak, illness, and pain.
When we suffer grievous losses and setbacks that tempt us to despair, we may wish to simply give up. We, or those around us, may even begin to believe we have been cursed or somehow deserve our woes.
Some may even decide that their suffering is the ragged cloak that makes them special, and use it to excuse themselves from responsibility, or cling to it with secret pride.
The Missing Doorway
The oldest question of life is why we experience suffering and death. Such times come to us all. The “why” of it is probably futile and can be debated forever. But the “what” of it is that in such times, we stand on the brink of transformation.
Note that with this card, we are halfway through the Pentacles suit. The design in the stained glass is the top half of the Qabbalah Tree of Life. The Ten of Pentacles, as you may know, shows the entire Tree – the only place it appears in the Waite-Smith Tarot. This is no place to stop.
Changes often come disguised as loss, and it can be painful to say goodbye to what has been dear to us. But there are times when only the breaking of our hearts makes possible the sprouting seed that longs to come forth.
This week, your faith may be tested. What do you really need from Spirit, and how will you ask? What actual resources and support do you yearn for, to flourish and thrive? How much will you allow yourself to open and receive?
And what can you humbly offer to others? Who are the shunned ones, the lonely, the marginalized that need our compassion?
In the words of Jacob Marley, “It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men! If it goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death! It is doomed to wander through the world! Oh, woe is me! And witness what it cannot share but MIGHT HAVE SHARED on Earth and turned to happiness!”
Be patient with yourself while understanding the obstacles before you. Be kind to those who are struggling.
You, yourself, are the much needed doorway to the light.