The Hierophant and the Gatekeepers

In my book, “Just the Tarot,”  I wrote this about The Hierophant:

“In the earliest Tarot decks this card was simply labeled, “The Pope,” and that’s exactly what he represents:  established religions. In fact, the Hierophant represents religion as opposed to spirituality. This card is about dogma and priests and ministers interpreting spirituality for you, instead of you experiencing it directly.”

Despite – or perhaps because of – being reared in the old Catholic faith I’ve always had problems with organized religion.

That resistance to it has been increased by the never ending parade of pedophile priests and the evangelical preachers who want to fuck anything and everything.  Except their wives, of course.

Keep in mind that these, “frail reeds,” (as they like to describe themselves right after they get caught) CHOSE to stand up in front of their congregations and hold themselves out as the messengers of god.  Got a problem? NO problem: god’s got the answer. BUT . . . you have to go through me to get the answer because I’m god’s messenger.

In essence, they become the gatekeepers to the divine and they only let in the people they choose.  Alan Watts, the Zen/Beat philosopher of the 60s, pointed out that this is a very calculated position.  If you go into 99% of the churches in the West you’ll see a pulpit that’s raised far above the seats of the congregants.  It’s a literal, physical telegram: I’m better than you and I’m closer to god than you.

It’s become somewhat of a cliche’ to talk about the difference between religion and spirituality (“I’m more spiritual than religious, man.”) but that’s it in a nutshell.  Highly religious people feel that you have to go through a third party (priest, preacher,rabbi,imam) to get to god and highly spiritual people feel that you can – and should – do it on your own.

Religiosity leads to spiritual and ethical laziness, both for the preachers and those who are being preached to.  

Religious leaders tend to think that they’ve got divine truth and spirituality in their books (bible, koran, etc.), sort of like a firefly trapped in a jar.    If you’re confronted with a moral dilemma, you don’t pray or meditate because you can just flip open your Book of Truth and find the answer.

Religious congregants don’t try to figure it out on their own, either.  They just go to their religious leader and ask what god says about it, the religious leader opens his book, reads a few paragraphs, and SHAZAM problem solved.

Unfortunately, spiritual truth dies when it’s confined to a book just as surely as a firefly dies when it’s confined to a jar.  And spirituality, the contact with the divine, atrophies when it goes unused, when we turn it over to someone else rather than doing it ourselves.

In short, you gotta walk the walk, not just talk the talk.  You don’t gain insight by putting someone else’s butt on a meditation pillow – it has to be yours.

The good thing about churches and mosques and synagogues is that they’re symbols of the deep seated yearning for unity with the divine that lives in the human heart.  The bad thing about them is that – for the most part – they don’t nurture and grow and encourage that yearning.

Author: Dan Adair

Artist, writer, semi-retired wizard, and the author of, "Just the Tarot," by Dan Adair

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