Personal Effort and Spiritual Reality

The principle underlying the other arcana, as revealed in the first Arcanum, is the relationship between personal effort and spiritual reality. The juggler relates the practical method that is necessary to know and to be able to do in order to enter the school of spiritual exercises that constitutes the game of Tarot as a whole. These are therefore the initial steps:

  • Learn first of all concentration without effort
  • Transform work into play
  • Make every yoke that you have accepted, sweet, and every burden that you bear, light

Concentration without Effort

Concentration is the faculty of fixing the maximum of attention on a minimum of space. To understand what concentration is, we can start with what it is not. And that is the automatic or mechanical movement of thought and imagination. As the first step of the first principle of the entire Tarot, it is necessary to understand this, and not in a merely intellectual or bookish sense, but in the actual sense of adverting to that automatism in one’s own consciousness. This does not happen overnight or from reading a text.

A simple exercise in concentration is to follow the movement of the seconds hand on a clock or watch for one minute without losing attention. You will see how that automatism will intrude thoughts and images into your awareness, thereby causing you to lose concentration. The remedy is not to “try harder”, but rather the opposite, a sort of mental Aikido. By not fighting them, the thoughts and images will pass by and disperse; otherwise, they will take hold and one thought will simply lead to another.

After this calm, the silence will follow. This is why in Hermetic teaching Silence precedes Knowing, Willing, and Daring. This is the esoteric meaning of silence beyond the exoteric practice of certain orders. Tomberg makes a key distinction. True concentration is free from passions, obsessions, and attachments that enslave the mind. Obsessions may mimic concentration because of the intense focus they bring, but that is not what is meant here.

So clearly passions, obsessions, and attachments are obstacles to concentration without effort; they make concentration difficult. As soon as the mind begins to be quiet, these thoughts and images will arise and absorb all the attention. That is why these meditations cannot be separated from the moral purification of the will.

Bateleur is a French pun meaning “the low deceives you” (“le bas te leurre”). We are deceived by the lower elements in us, that is, if we just satisfy this desire, or avenge a wrong, etc., then all will be OK. But initiates are not deceived as they learn to let go of all such obsessive thoughts. Patience is necessary. As Tomberg points out, we first measure our periods of concentration with instants, then minutes, and so on, until Silence becomes the fundamental element always present in the life of the soul.

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2 Replies to “Personal Effort and Spiritual Reality”

  1. Passions, obsessions, and attachments do indeed enslave our mind. All too often, we mistake obsessions with concentration. Knowing the distinction is truly important. Thanks for the excellent article.

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