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.

The Magician and Channeling Down Energy


The Fool is totally intoxicated with spiritual energy.  It’s just pouring into him and he’s dancing with the pure joy of it.

The Magician, on the other hand, is directing that energy.  We see him standing there in his robes, one hand pointed to the sky and the other pointed to the ground.  On his table are the four elements of the Tarot: wands, cups, swords, pentacles, also known as ideas, emotions, energy, and material.

He serves as a reminder that we are not alone.  We are not limited to our personal resources, our bodies and minds, as incarnate in this earth plane.  There are other realms of being and there is an infinite amount of energy available from those realms, energy far beyond what we think we possess.

And you can take a very, very, simplistic approach to that.  You don’t have to be a Master Occultist with secret knowledge of the Astral Planes and how to manifest that energy onto the Earth Plane.  You don’t have to go Full Wiccan and set up a Magic Circle with white candles at the quarters. You don’t have to be a Theosophist with intricate explanations of how the universe works.

Just start with three simple facts:

1 – you exist;

2 – there’s another realm of infinite energy;

3 – you’re connected to it.

No matter how beaten up or beaten down we may be, no matter how physically and spiritually exhausted we are, we have access to all of the energy we need any time we want it.

Don’t get hung up on names for the other realm.  Call it whatever you like – heaven, the astral plane, the angelic realms, foreverland . . . whatever.  I personally like the phrase, “Spirit World,” because it’s descriptive short hand without trying to put it in a box of faiths, creeds, or religions. But call it whatever rings true to you.

Don’t get hung up on methods for contacting it.  There are about a zillion religions and philosophies out there and they all claim to have the EXCLUSIVE method for getting in touch with Spirit World.  Bullshit. Try to think of it the way the Tibetan Buddhists describe it: at the level of our core being we are all beautiful, unique, crystals. The Light will shine through each of us in a different way.  For some, that light may be Reiki. For others, formal religions. For others, Wicca. Look around, experiment, and you’ll find what’s right for you.

In the meantime, there are simple, well established ways to get started with expanding your connections to the other realms.  Prayers work for some people. Meditation for others. Simply sitting quietly in nature and letting their hearts open works for others.  Dancing and shamanic drum circles may be your path.

Personally, I like meditation.  Rajinder Singh has an interesting book on meditating on the Third Eye (or brow chakra) called, “Inner and Outer Peace Through Meditation.” and that can take you on a Magical Mystery Tour.

Or you might want to try meditations that are more heart centered.  Tara Brach has many, many FREE downloadable guided meditations here.

The path is always there, waiting for you, full of joy, love and energy.