The High Priestess and the Hallway in Our Brains

In my original definition of The High Priestess, I said:  

“The real message in the imagery of this card, though, is about balance between opposites and the center point where intuition reigns.  The cross on her chest is the solar cross rather than the Christian cross, its’ four arms all of exact equal length from its’ center. She sits exactly between the white and black opposites of the columns.  The crown she wears is a solar disk surrounded by crescent moons, emphasizing the opposites of night and day.”

I also pointed out that she symbolically corresponds to the center point of our brain, the place where communication takes place between the right side of the brain and the left side of the brain.  Because, of course, through some bizarre turn of evolution we ended up with two brains instead of one.

Our brains look very much like a whole walnut.  There are equal but separate sides, the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere. 

The left side does math, reads, writes, is logical, is ultra critical and is considered to be male energy.  The person who lives on the left hand side of our brain looks a lot like this:

The right side of our brains is creative, poetic, artistic, dreams a lot, thinks in symbols, and is associated with female energy.  She looks a lot like this:

Now, you can see where they wouldn’t be very happy roommates.  In fact, they barely talk to each other at all.  They do have more conversations in women’s brains than in men’s brains, but it’s still a pretty strained relationship.

If you want to think of them as two separate children who were born into the same body, then the left side of the brain definitely got most of the food and the right side of the brain was almost starved to death.  From the time that we’re tee tiny children we’re being encouraged to excel in left brain activities.  We’re forced to learn to read books, to memorize the alphabet, to figure out how math works.  The poor right side of the brain, though, is pretty badly neglected, if not abused.  We’re discouraged from day dreaming, told not to talk to our imaginary friends, and we get it drummed into our heads that art and poetry aren’t, “practical.”

To use a different metaphor, it would be like if we went to the gym and only lifted dumb bells with our left arm.  One arm would be beautifully sculpted and the other would be shriveled up, right?  On the other hand, we can look at the human brain and see that both halves are equal.  They take up the same amount of space and they weigh the same, which pretty much implies that we’re supposed to be using both sides equally, not just the left brain.

So how do we get the wonderful, artistic gypsy who lives in the right brain to come out and join the party?  How do we get her to engage more and force the left brain to quit being such a grouchy old tyrant who wants to run the whole show?

Well, imagine that there’s a hallway that runs between the two rooms that right brain and left brain live in.  The grouchy old tyrant can keep the door to his room locked tight, but he can’t keep the hallway locked.  The gypsy who lives in the right brain can come out and dance in the hallway.

In the actual brain that hallway is called the, “corpus callosum.” 

It’s the brain tissue that connects left brain and right brain and messages between them travel back and forth in that hallway like secret notes that they’re throwing at each other.

The reason that all of that is important is that we now know that the brain can be physically changed through habits and behaviors that we adopt.  Scientists refer to that as, “neuroplasticity,” meaning that we can, to some extent, mold our brains into something entirely different.

We’ve known for some time that women have larger and more active corpus callosums.  They hypothesize that this is why women tend to be so much more in touch with their intuition than men – there’s a lot more connection with the right side of the brain.

What we didn’t know until a study at UCLA medical came out is that the corpus callosum can be strengthened and can actually gain in size in both sexes through the simple practice of meditation.  A control group that meditated daily for six months was found to have significant changes for the better in connectivity between the two hemispheres of the brain.

What that means in practical, day to day terms, is an increase in all of the qualities associated with the right brain.  Increased creativity, increased intuition, increased ability to live in the present moment instead of the past or future.  And, yes, increased intelligence because we’re now using both sides of our brains instead of just one.

And it all takes place in that magical middle, that center of the brain that’s exactly between male and female, logical and creative.  Like the High Priestess, we absorb and then synthesize BOTH of those opposing energies and release a new form of knowledge and a new way of knowing into our lives.

Valentine’s Day, The Lovers Tarot Card, Ram Dass, and Snakes in a Tree.

Uh, oh . . . Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.  The Lovers tarot card could almost be an emblem for it. 

 The Waite tarot deck portrays it as a pretty little scene from the Garden of Eden:  a nude man and woman are posed in the foreground while an angel with flaming wings floats protectively overhead.  Their love is pristine and pure and heavenly. Don’t look at the snake climbing up the tree.

I said, DON’T LOOK.  They’re in love. No snakes, goddamnit.

Well, okay.  Probably we can get a better picture from an earlier Tarot deck.

In the Swiss deck, we see a couple who are actually touching each other.  An old hag of a witch has obviously just whomped them with a love spell and – just in case that’s not enough – an angel is about to shoot a Love Arrow right THROUGH that girls head.  

They’re thunderbolted and flabbergasted, glimmered and glamored.  They’re in Love, L-U-V!

And it’s wonderful and it’s fabulous and it’s the best thing in the world.  But . . . what IS it, exactly? What is it that makes our brains pump out floods of endorphins, walk around with silly grins on our faces, and talk about our partners to a point where our friends want to strangle us?

A reductionist would tell you that it’s just chemicals in the body.  Hormones. Random encounters in the process of looking for a mate that somehow become permanent relationships.  Ultimately it’s all driven by the need to fuck and reproduce and then we . . . sort of . . . get fond of each other after we’ve had our orgasms and THAT, by golly, is love.

Ram Dass spoke of it quite differently.  He said that sometimes another person is the key that unlocks us and we’re the key that unlocks them and we exist in love.  That the other person is the vehicle for us to get to love.  And, when the other person dies or leaves, it feels like all of the juice, all of the magic, all of the love has gone out of our lives.

Think about that:  the vehicle that gets us to love.

One of the more interesting meditation exercises we can do is to just sit with the feeling of love.  Open our heart chakras and let ourselves relax into love. It may be that when we start that kind of meditation we need something to refer to in order to start the flow of love.  Perhaps we think of a person we love deeply or a place that brings us great peace or even a dog or a cat or a horse. The thought of the beloved starts the flow of loving energy. The beloved is the vehicle that takes us to love.

As we continue to practice that meditation, though, the need for an outside reference, for a thought, memory, or person to take us to that place of love lessens.  Our heart chakras become stronger and clearer and more open and we find that we can enter into loving feelings spontaneously.

We can just exist in, just float in, a sea of love.  And it feels SO good. At that point we’ve gone from needing something outside of us to, “cause,” love to just being love.

Here’s another way to look at it:  the Buddhists teach us that clinging and desire bring suffering.  We feel miserable and we tell ourselves, “If I just had that ___________ (fill in the blank with new car, new computer, iphone, house, dress, shoes, degree, etc.) then I’d be really happy.”  

And so we torture ourselves with what we don’t have, that thing that will finally make us happy, and the more we lust after it, the more miserable it’s absence makes us feel.  Maybe we get two jobs so we can afford it. Maybe we eat rice and beans for a year so we can scrimp and save and FINALLY we can buy the thing that will make us happy.

And it does!  For a while. But it’s a total sugar rush and after a very short period of time we don’t feel so happy anymore.

And then we start thinking about the NEXT one thing that will finally make us happy and we feel miserable because we don’t have it.

That’s really the basis of capitalist society and advertising:  convincing us that there is some THING outside of us that’s going to make us happy.  And, by golly, when that happiness wears off, we’ve got some other neat stuff to sell you that will make you REALLY happy.  For a while.

Or . . . we can just short circuit all of that process and say, “I’m happy.”  We really can. Like the love meditation, we can start out just thinking about things or places or people that make us happy.  We don’t have to buy them or worry about losing them because they’re our thoughts.

The trees make me happy, the clouds make me happy, my lover makes me happy, my vibrator makes me happy, a stream, or a river, or a lake, or the ocean . . . those thoughts make me happy.  And, as we continue that process, we can eventually move straight into BEING happy, without having to possess anything external to us to MAKE us happy. 

Walmart hates that, but it’s one of the most important lessons we can learn.  Happiness exists independent of things.

And it’s the same dynamic with love.  When our lover leaves us or dies we feel crushed because it feels like we’ve lost all of the magic of love.  But love exists independent of people. We’ve lost the vehicle that brought us to love, but we haven’t lost the love.  It’s always right there waiting for our hearts to open and return to it’s embrace.

And there’s no snake climbing up a tree.  Just love, L-U-V!

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.