“Freedom means the power to act by soul guidance, not by the compulsions of desires and habits. Obeying the ego leads to bondage; obeying the soul brings liberation.” Paramahansa Yogananda
In my journey with the Tarot, I feel that The Devil speaks to us about liberation & connecting in to our personal power. My first instinct lately, when I look at the classic Rider Waite version of this card, is to ignore the chains and flames depicted, and focus on the aspect of this card that symbolizes the intoxication of moonlit attraction, playing in the garden of earthly delights, taking pleasure in indulging the intensity of carnal desire…but the shadow side of these physical attachments is becoming shackled to the unquenchable desires we search to satisfy in other people’s wells, in toxic substances, unhealthy relationship dynamics, obsessive thinking & worrying, or the numbing of pain & fear with any kind of escapism, just pick your poison, there’s plenty to choose from. There is also the element of this card that represents people who blatantly abuse their power at the expense of others as a means of control or manipulation. We seek freedom & transcendence but become entangled, confusing temporary escape with liberation. The Devil asks us to reclaim our intrinsic power.
The Devil card depicts The Lovers in bondage, they are standing together, but not in union; there is an imbalance in each individual regarding the in-drawing of the feminine energy and the out-pouring of the masculine; where the Lovers represents empowered union & the sharing of love, The Devil points to an imbalance of power, as in the dynamic of the codependent and the narcissist, where the codependent individual denies his or her own needs to obsessively meet those of a narcissist. The narcissist thus gains their supply of external power, and the codependent individual gains their supply of external power by feeling “needed,” & “valued” by the narcissist, both cut off from their internal well of strength, and essentially their spiritual and emotional freedom…this comparison between the Lovers & the Devil to me reads: Bond vs. Bondage. This aspect of The Devil card can also be exemplified in the psychological manipulation that occurs in religious cults to keep people bound to fear, which ultimately guides them to give their power up entirely & lose any sense of individual identity. When there is a lack of acknowledgment of the inherent connection to source/the all/god/divine/wholeness/the essential self within, there is a perceived separation that fosters the belief that we need to fill ourselves with something, anything, outside of ourselves to satisfy our inherent longing. Longing is the human condition, and it arises from our biological need to belong—to belong to ourselves, and to the collective. Belonging means survival at the most basic level, but there is also the spiritual component–we expand & grow through interpersonal connection. However, when this need for belonging overrides the individual’s own true path, trouble can arise. Vital lessons come to the surface when we are cut off from the “supply” we have come to depend on so we can satisfy some elusive longing. Crisis is usually what it takes to wake us up to our true selves, when we realize that power can only be cultivated from within, & any other method is playing with some destructive forces.
When we are in balance and connected to the essential self, aligned with our true hearts, and replenishing from within rather than grasping outward, we are empowered to bring light to the shackles, so that we may release that which keeps us in patterns of tension and holding. This “holding” is reflected as stagnation in our physical, emotional, & spiritual bodies, affecting the ways we operate in relationship to self & other. “Lucifer” essentially translates to bringer of the light after all, so when we pull The Devil, here lies a rich opportunity to use that light in service of the higher self, or to refuse and thus remain enmeshed with chains of distraction. I believe that this refusal to illuminate the shadow is the undercurrent of all power struggles. When we hold hands with our shadow, we rise into the understanding that this imprisonment is ultimately a matter which can be released with consciousness; it is a balance of relinquising control and acknowledging reality, “what is,” while at the same time taking the reigns of our personal experience. All that festers in the dark pool of denial directs the currents of our lives, creating the urge to blame, to point fingers—a failure to take personal responsibility for what lies within, & a disconnection from the true self.
I love joyfully experiencing the sensual pleasures of being embodied, and this is another aspect of the Devil. Engaging with our sexuality, tuning into our creative energy, self-expression, finding delight in all of our senses, imbibing a little now and then to fuel the fire & dance with the spark, playing around with the energy generated from the tension of temptation…and like anything, it’s all about how we move with that energy—when we use it with with presence, temperance, gratitude, & reverence, it is a healthy & fun human experience, but over indulgence, addiction, and attachment to material items and carnal satisfaction can quickly turn into a rickety carnival ride of flashing lights and hypnotic hits to the system that leave us essentially empty, always needing something more to fill the void. A good question to ask ourselves is, are we seeking immediate gratification or long term fulfillment? How does this action affect our well-being and the well-being of those around us? This engagement with the self simply requires presence with our true needs. I do not wish to tame the innate wildness, nor deny my desire for pleasure, I wanted to be on earth, in a body, and here I am! In fact, I think self judgement is one of the most profound pieces of bondage we seek to be liberated from; and we can see how our own judgment of self is reflected back to us as judgment from others.
Through a fair amount of trial and error (ahhh, ok, maybe more than a fair amount,) I have found what it feels like to anchor into my truth in the moment, to really feel what it is like to trust that I know what I need to do in order to take care of myself in all ways, even when confusion creeps in & I feel groundless. To get to that place of self trust meant breaking free from the bondage of the false belief that my own intuition, mind, body, heart, & soul were not sacred. The Devil calls to us and asks us to take responsibility for our inner life and its outward expression, be honest about our boundaries, wield the sword of discernment; radical self love and self respect require conscious detachment from people, situations, and choices that are draining to our vitality. This is not always process we can do entirely on your own, and sometimes outside help is required, though real & solid help will always be a facilitation of your own personal power, not a replacement with someone else’s beliefs & ideas. Boundaries are freeing; bondage does not serve us to that same end. Honor the way the water has moved through the riverbed, kissed smooth over a thousand years; witness the purpose of this structure, the way it holds the nebulous flow of movement within it.
Ideas for Journaling and Self Exploration
- What fear-based beliefs and attachments restrain me from embodying the freedom of the Fool– unfettered, boundless & joyful, within the framework of awareness & integrity?
- What is my relationship to pleasure? Is there guilt around it? Do I want more of it? How can I cultivate joy & pleasure? What happens when I do not allow myself to experience that which brings me joy & pleasure? How do I feel when I allow myself a fully present and embodied experience of joy & pleasure?
- How does judging myself or others for having needs keep me imprisoned? How honest can I be about my true desires? How can my desire set me free?
- What does power mean to me? What would it look like to “be in my power?” What makes me feel powerful? What makes me feel powerless? How do I connect to my intrinsic power, the inner strength that is not dependent on any external validation or stimulation?
- How can I set boundaries in a way that is empowering, seeing boundaries as an act of self love? How does a lack of boundaries become disempowering and draining of my life-force?
- Practice cord cutting ritual or prayer to release fear, blame, resentment & other attachments that drain your precious energy. I call upon Archangel Michael and also the violet flame of transmutation to clear negativity or stagnant, draining vibrations. I ask Archangel Michael to clear away with fierce love anything that is draining my life force or hindering my light, past -present-future, known or unknown, throughout lifetimes, acrosss time and space. I ask that any piece of myself and my power I have given away come home; I ask that anything less than love be dissolved, and that the clear light of divine love heal me and all involved. Calling your power back with cord cutting & clearing are incredible tools to use, centered in love & compassion for the highest good of all.
- What happens when I feel I am over-indulging in pleasure seeking activities? What habits and addictions keep me bound? What shifts in feeling, thinking and action need to happen for me to experience the freedom of true self love?
- In what ways have I disconnected from my self? What is happening, either internally or externally, when I disconnect from my body, or heart? How do I reconnect with my body, how do I reconnect to my heart?