The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Possibly a paraphrasing of John Stuart Mill, (but turns out it was not Edmund Burke)
This card has not come up since 2015, when we were all laughing at the ridiculous notion that a sleazy millionaire reality show host could possibly be taken seriously as a presidential candidate. Well, we all know how that turned out, don’t we?
After a long hiatus, it appears that The Devil has come calling for us once again. And, as it is one of the Major Arcana cards, it would seem that this week we can expect something big to be going on.
One of the most misunderstood cards in the Tarot, Arthur Waite wrote, “Hereof is the chain and fatality of the material life.”
As one contributor to the Aeclectic Tarot forums mused some years ago, “One of Wiktionary’s definitions for fatality is: ‘Invincible necessity, superior to, and independent of, free and rational control.’ And from the Oxford American Dictionary: ‘Helplessness in the face of fate.’ This seems to be the sense in which Waite uses it here.”
Thus, the R-W-S Tarot places The Devil directly in contrast with The Lovers card, “as if,” says Waite, “Adam and Eve after the Fall.”
The Devil is the number fifteen in the Major Arcana. This reduces to six, which is the Lovers card.
Look at both together and you’ll see that the couple is the same. The triangular composition of the two cards is also identical – the two nude figures, with the woman on the left, the male on the right.
But in The Lovers, they are in a sun-filled field, framed by two trees. Above the couple is the archangel Michael (some believe he is Raphael), whom the woman is turned towards, while the man looks towards her.
In the Devil card, perched on the slab above them is the Horned One, also sometimes considered to be the angel Uriel. Both human figures look neither at him, nor at one another, only blankly downward.
In both cards, the magical being overseeing the couple is offering acknowledgement or blessing. The angel in the Lovers gazes down upon the couple; the Devil looks straight out at us.
Like the Lovers, the Devil suggests there are choices to be made. Whereas the couple in their garden would indicate faith, awareness, and benevolence, the Devil is surrounded by black emptiness. He shows us our deepest fears and how we hide from them, sublimate and deny them, project them onto others, or else face them.
His lesson is what happens when we have no awareness, and the consequences that come when we fail to recognize our own power to act. For notice – if you look closely at this card, you’ll see that the chains the man and woman wear are loose. They seem fatalistically resigned to their prison. Yet, if they would only awaken from their trance, they could escape.
The Shadow Period
We have entered the “shadow period” of the upcoming Mercury retrograde which arrives July 7.
Jamie Partridge of Astrology King writes:
This particular Mercury retrograde 2019 is very intense and combative because it is conjunct Mars. It is also impulsive and provocative because it is square Uranus. Nervous and rushed thinking brings the potential for losing your temper and getting in arguments.
Mercury retrograde July 2019 requires self-awareness, concentration, patience and impulse control. Choose your battles carefully and avoid making spontaneous decisions. A tendency to act rashly without regard for the consequences could lead to great disruption or conflict…
…Mercury conjunct Mars gives focused and acute thinking which is good for arguing your case and defending others against harassment or provocation. But it also gives aggressive or defensive thinking which can lead to arguments, temper tantrums and being unnecessarily rude or abusive.
Without using up this intense energy in mental work, a good debate or solving puzzles, you may encounter hostility in others. This could come in the form of threats, abuse or intimidation. Choose your battles carefully because of a tendency toward acting before thinking…
The energy of Mars can be extremely valuable in such areas as war and business and politics. [The additional influence of] Pollux greatly increases the Mercury-Mars risk of arguments, losing your temper, and of verbal and physical abuse.
Mercury opposite Pluto creates subjective and narrow thinking and an even more competitive environment battle of ideas, either within your own mind or between competitors. Such mental intensity brings a risk of threats, intimidation and other forms of psychological abuse.
Propaganda, secrecy, mind control, superiority complexes and obsessions are possible. This aspect also increases the Mercury-Mars and Pollux aptitude for getting into quarrels.
Sounds like devilish times could lie ahead.
Certainly, there are plenty of alarm bells clanging all around us even now. Will we react in time?
The Banality of Evil
The Devil of the Tarot has been called the dark side of the collective unconscious.
And there is no doubt that we are seeing a lot of that repressed, distorted shadow energy acting out in the public – from the unwillingness or inability to curb a “textbook case,” possibly mentally ill resident of the American White House; to the ongoing slaughter of worshippers, schoolchildren, and office workers because no one dares interfere with the National Rifle Association; to the massive, ever-ballooning injustice between the super-wealthy and the struggling middle- and lower-classes where it’s business as usual on Wall Street.
How do you define evil?
Agatha Christie declared through a character who was speaking with her Detective Hercule Poirot, “Nowadays, no one believes in evil. It is considered, at most, a mere negation of good. Evil, people say, is done by those who know no better – who are undeveloped – who are to be pitied rather than blamed. But, M. Poirot, evil is real! It is a fact! I believe in Evil as I believe in Good. It exists! It is powerful! It walks the earth!’”
Is this so? Or is it just a matter of degree?
If the latter, where on the spectrum of evil would you rate the exile and subsequent deaths of uncounted thousands of Native American men, women, and children by the US government, when they were forced into temporary camps and “reservations” where poverty and misery still flourish to this day?
Or the enslavement of an estimated 12.5 million Africans between 1525 and 1866? What about the internment of innocent Japanese-Americans during WWII? And of course, there is the Holocaust, for which I really have no words.
During the past week, everyone has been discussing the seemingly inevitable national roundup of “illegal aliens” and the ongoing brutality in the American concentration camps (Yes, I said it. “Concentration camps.” Look it up.). These are the semi-secret internment camps where immigrants and asylum seekers are being held indefinitely and without due process along our borders in the U.S.
If these are not the acts of evil, then what is?
And if evil is grinning in your face, what will you do about it?
The problem that many people have with the term “evil” is that it has Puritanical, biblical, and fictitious underpinnings that point to Big Drama and some supernatural, diabolical mastermind at work. Like the scary mythical creature in the card.
But the story of evil in human history is, in truth, more similar to what Hannah Arendt describes. She was the Jewish journalist who narrowly escaped Nazi Germany and after the war, when he was finally captured, she reported on the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the chief architects of the Holocaust.
She wrote a sobering reflection, on “the lesson that this long course in human wickedness had taught us — the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.”
Real wickedness begins with something that appears boring, ordinary, and easy to ignore.
Look at the faces of this couple. They are passive, detached, and desensitized to what is happening. They seem obedient to their captivity, oblivious to their danger, and at ease in their bondage.
The goat-headed beast himself seems unconcerned with the couple.
What will it take, for each of us to remove our own bindings? How do we, you and I, personally address the problems, habits, and fears in our lives? Because if we don’t, the next card of the Tarot is The Tower, which is how Divine rectification rains down on us, whether we like it or not.
The entrenched status quo counts on our inability or unwillingness to challenge it. Our habits, doubts, and intertia keep us stuck.
Beware of being tricked into despair. Whether you are trying to get rid of 25 pounds, or a crummy, depressing job, or a pompous, dangerous bureaucrat, you are not helpless.
And the world is not hopeless. Do not give your sovereignty away.
In our communities, and in our personal lives, do we ignore addictions, self-sabotage, and behaviors that cause harm? How are we complacent? In what ways do we shun creative risks, preferring instead “the devil we know?”
Do we feed the fears and projections of our own Shadows? What bargains with the Devil have we made, in order that we not see or act upon the uncomfortable, inconvenient truths around us?
Like the apathetic couple in our card, the constant barrage of fear, cynicism, neglect, and denial becomes a habit that eventually numbs us; we become conditioned to expect the worse. Our shackles become so all-pervasive, we can barely discern them.
The Opposite of Love
When The Devil comes to visit, he is a messenger directing that, whatever is enslaving us, we must come to terms with it.
What will it take to motivate us? What is the straitjacket we have assumed is normal, or that some would have us believe we deserve?
This week, the Tarot urges you to resist being a passive bystander. Get angry; get sad; get real; get moving. Whatever it takes. Just wake up. We cannot afford the indulgence of anyone’s self-pity, denial, or inertia.
We all have our distortions, fears, and blind spots. But there is great hope in knowing that once we are willing to look The Devil in the eye, we can take back our lives.
Remember that the opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. The most malevolent acts of mankind always come, not from passion, but from apathy.
If we cower at the bullies, and turn away from those in need, we empower evil in the world.
As it has been each time it’s turned up in the past, may this card be an urgent call that catalyzes our positive actions. It is time to make sober, compassionate choices on behalf of the greater good for all.