A nude male and female figure—Adam and Eve—stand apart from each other in the Garden of Eden. Behind Adam is the Tree of Life bearing 12 fruits of flame, symbolizing the zodiac and the eternal rotation of the seasons. Behind Eve is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, around which is coiled a serpent, which seems to be whispering in her ear. Also on the tree are four fruits, the kabbalistic number of completion—the “circle squared.” All seems to be in perfect harmony—but something appears amiss. While Adam is content to gaze upon his beloved, Eve seems distracted, and casts her gaze upward—does she suspect someone up there is looking for her? Have they noticed that the Garden, save the two trees, has turned into a denuded plain, and that the mountain behind them looks like a volcano on the verge of an eruption?
Now an angel descends, casting a cloud over the Garden, and his brick-red wings withhold the full measure of God’s light from Creation. His countenance is calm but by no means pleased, and his red and green hair radiate equal amounts of symbolic anger and jealousy. If Adam and Eve know not the shame of their nakedness yet, they will soon, for the angel has been sent to expel them from the Garden.
This visual depiction of The Lovers here follows very closely an account of the Fall that we read in the Haggadah: of God blotting out the light from the Garden after Eve’s disobedience, of causing huge and inaccessible mountain ranges to be thrown up (the earth paid a price for original sin, too), and of sending an interpreting angel, not Himself, to scold the first couple. The legend also tells that God was prepared to forgive Adam and Eve of their sins if they would have asked Him for forgiveness. Instead they took turns blaming each other for their disobedience, and God, angered by their betrayals, sent them away. If this is so, then the forbidden fruit must have contained the seeds of ego-consciousness. If only they had stuck to pomegranates!
Another clue that Adam and Eve are being evicted, not welcomed, here is the Hebrew letter assigned to The Lovers: Zain, which means “sword” or “armor.” A sword, of course, divides and cleaves, and in that regard we may infer that God has decided to separate Adam and Eve from the Garden. It could also mean that Adam and Eve will be venturing into a dangerous world, where they will now need the sort of protection a sword can provide. This could also refer to the passage in Genesis where God commands an enormous flaming sword to be placed at the entrance to the Garden after Adam and Eve departed—presumably so they couldn’t reenter. But whatever the interpretation, it doesn’t indicate a warm welcome. This may also be the reason why the path of The Lovers, which joins saturnine Binah with sunny Tiphareth, is known as the Disposing Intelligence—literally, “to put in place” as a sword would separate.
The astrological sign traditionally assigned to The Lovers is, not surprisingly, Gemini the Twins. (Aleister Crowley once quipped that the card should be renamed “The Brothers” because of this.) This compliments the traditional meaning of the card, that is the division and reconciliation of opposites—of masculine and feminine, aggressive and passive, conscious and unconscious, psyche and spirit. But this process of reconciliation cannot take place psychologically if we are unaware of what our “inner opposite” is, or if we refuse to acknowledge that it even exists. In order for this to happen, we sometimes need to “expel” a part of our selves from our conscious mind—as Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden—before we can really know our true Selves. This can be a painful process—the ego wants to hitch a ride to Eden, too!—but it is essential if we are to avoid the dark side of Gemini-consciousness: the neurotic state of the “split mind” that can lead to denial and madness. This is perhaps why Eliphas Levi ambiguously titled this card “Vice and Virtue.”
On the subject, though not necessarily related to this card: According to Genesis, God told all of His Creation to be fruitful and multiply. Adam and Eve, among all the creatures in the Garden, didn’t consummate their relationship sexually until they had been cast out. (If they commingled earlier, it isn’t specifically mentioned in the text, and the first reference to Adam “laying down” with Eve takes place in Genesis 4, post-expulsion.) This would tend to indicate that the shame they felt at their nakedness vanished as soon as they left the Garden; otherwise, how else could they have brought themselves to have intercourse with each other? Some of the later Gnostic commentaries on the Creation myth portray the serpent in a much more sympathetic light for this reason; for if Adam and Eve had never left the Garden, would they have ever known the joy of sexual love? And if we cannot know the joy of sexual love, can we ever really know love in its totality? Sex isn’t the sum and total of love, of course, but it is an instinctual physical representation of it, and in this respect, perhaps this means that Adam and Eve—and us, their progeny—could never have known love in all its fullest human manifestations if they hadn’t partaken of the fruit and received Creation’s first eviction notice.
Another interesting coincidence with the Talmudic account mentioned earlier: The “interpreting angel” who descends to reproach Eve is Raphael, Archangel of Air (Gemini being an air sign) and of the Sephira “6” (Tiphareth/Beauty) on the Tree of Life. Raphael’s name, in Hebrew, means “God, please heal” or “God’s healing.” But God was not able to heal Adam and Eve because, the legend goes, they refused to ask for healing. Instead they betrayed each other with lies, and thereby sealed their fate.
Which leads us to The Lovers’ number designation, “6”. The perfected geometric symbol for this, of course, is the magen David, the magic six-pointed star that consists of both upward- and downward-facing triangles that share an identical center point. It too symbolizes the reconciliation of opposites, but also of limitation and self-discipline; neither triangle can exert too much upward or downward influence, otherwise the star will fall out of balance. Likewise in matters of love, we should always strive for harmony and accord, letting neither intellect nor emotion get too much of an upper hand; the former can lead to sterile and emotionally barren relationships, while the latter can cloud our judgment and cause us to make poor choices in love. This is particularly true in so-called “abusive” relationships, where one party—and sometimes both—is emotionally unstable and prone to excessive outbursts. There are many ways to achieve this state of emotional balance; psychotherapy can be helpful, as can confession at church, or attending a meeting of a recovery group such as A.A., or by simple prayer and meditation.
Meanings of this card in a spread can include: The Garden lost or reclaimed, the division and/or reunion of opposites, equilibrium of intellect and emotion, repentance and humility of man before God, Divine love given or withheld, the most exalted love of spirit, a romance in the offing, and sexual love in all of its aspects; but also distraction, unease, treachery, betrayal, a comeuppance in the works, false hearts revealed, sex perversion or repression, love misplaced, or the presence of the split mind. Up until now in our review of the Trumps Major, we have been discussing very distant archetypes in the uppermost plane of cosmic consciousness. Now, starting with the Lovers and the Fall of man to earth, things will gradually start to get more personal.