A winged horned creature—half-man, half-beast—crouches upon a black stone throne that is much too small for his stature. His feet are as a crow’s, his wings as a bat’s, and the horns of a goat spring from the top of his head. His “third eye” chakra radiates an inverted pentagram, symbolizing the disorientation of the senses, and the power of magic worked for malign ends. His right hand is raised to the heavens, and his open palm bears the planetary sign of Saturn, devourer of its own youth. His left hand points downward to earth, bearing a flaming torch. Before him stand Adam and Eve, fallen from Eden and now chained to the Devil’s throne. Both are now horned like their new lord and master, and both have grown tails. Eve’s is green and overflowing with pomegranate seeds, while Adam’s is red and tipped with fire. The procreative impulse has clearly been warped, and the ecstasy that accompanies a union of loving souls has been replaced by crude animal lust.
As Temperance would reveal to us the beauty of a world no longer bound by the fetters of ego and any fears of judgment and sacrifice, so the Devil reminds us of our ultimate power over our own worst impulses. Unlike God, whose power is infinite and eternal, the Devil’s is utterly ephemeral, and if we can summon the courage to overcome our fears—to part the curtain at the temple of Oz, so to speak—we can discover this truth for ourselves.
The Hebrew letter assigned to The Devil is Ayin, or “eye.” Of all the five senses, this is the one we think the most vital to our everyday existence, for it is the sense that allows us to “give form” to all things. Yet it is also the source of all mirages and optical illusions, and those of us who have ever watched a master magician perform dazzling acts of sleight-of-hand will readily acknowledge that we are much more capable of being fooled by our eyesight than most of us would care to admit. (In the legal world, eyewitness testimony has proven equally unreliable.) So while the eye is a source of “vision,” it is not the only source of vision, and equally a source of error; and a great deal of our spiritual growth depends on our willingness to accept the limits of conscious perception, and to understand that there is truly “more than one way of looking at the world.” When we talk about a spiritual leader being a great “visionary,” we’re not talking about 20/20 eyesight, after all.
On the subject of master magicians, a comparison is in order:
Note the shared “as above, so below” body language, and their apparent power over their respective worlds. But whereas The Magician is bathed in light, surrounded by flowers and crowned by the power of infinity, The Devil’s world is cramped and plunged in darkness—perhaps “blindness” is a more apt description—and nothing crowns him but the inverted pentagram: as Rachel Pollack aptly puts it, “the sex organ over the head.” In a way, The Devil is the “dark side” of The Magician inasmuch as he represents the power of creativity misapplied and a failure, not a triumph, of spiritual vision. In our own lives, The Devil—the “father of lies,” as the Scriptures describe him—appears whenever we think that all we behold with our eyes is the sum and total of all existence, even when we have experienced alternate states of reality (such as dreams or out-of-body experiences) that tell us that this cannot possibly be the case. This happens all the time in our waking lives—but because we wish not to think of ourselves as mistaken “little devils”, we ascribe the most horrible and perverse qualities to other, impersonal “devils” as a way of differentiating ourselves from them. The “devil,” to our conscious minds, is a serial killer or a war criminal—some sinister distant “other”—not the guy who resembles us driving down the highway who serial-honks his horn at other motorists in a perpetual stage of road rage. On a psychic level, this “dissociation” only makes matters worse for us since we are inventing devils that don’t exist when the ones that do—the ones that live inside our own heads—are quite enough to deal with on their own! This is likely the reason why the path of the Devil, which runs from sunny Tiphareth to mercurial Hod, is known as the Renewing Intelligence. If we are to fully grasp the nature of what we perceive as “evil” in our world, we need to literally renew the way we look at that world, and the part we play in perpetuating the error of “evil” in our minds.
If, on the other hand, we come to the realization that we literally “bedevil” ourselves every time we lose our temper, make a mistake, or commit an error in judgment, we can begin the process of de-romanticizing the archetype, and stripping it of its powers of fear and paralysis over us. Note that The Devil in Trump XV has a navel—which is to say, that he is a creation of man, not of God, and thus we have the power to restrain him whenever we wish. We also see that Adam and Eve do not appear to be terribly uncomfortable in their current state. Their chains are slack and appear as though they could slipped off at any time. If anything, their body language looks more relaxed and at ease—perhaps even bored?—than they looked in Trump VI, The Lovers (which corresponds to Trump XV as 1 + 5 = 6):
Curiously, the numerical value ascribed to the letter Ayin (70) is identical to the value ascribed to the Hebrew phrases Adam ve-Chavvah (“Adam and Eve”) and Gog ve-Magog (Gog and Magog, the “hostile nations of the world” described in Revelation, and/or the ruler and his nation behind the final conflict prophesied in Ezekiel 38). In the Talmud, the number “70” is used to refer to the number of languages that were created at the fall of the tower at Babel, and in the Gnostic manuscripts of early Christianity, we read of “The Seventy” apostles of the first church of Christ that was established at Jerusalem by Jesus’ brother James following the crucifixion. This all suggests that The Devil has been with us from the dawn of our existence, has had a kind-of “co-dependent” relationship with the people of faith, and will be with us until we depart this world, for he is nothing but a reflection of the corruptible mortality of man. To “give the devil his due,” we need to accept the reality that he can play a constructive role in the process of psychic individuation; for in his wickedness he also gives us the opportunity for renewal, to atone from sin by which we can be made whole. In that sense, then, it is pointless to actively “fight” the devil inside us, but better to pray that he would see the error of his—and our—ways. The psychological process to enable this is symbolized by this famous illustration from Eliphas Levi’s Transcendental Magic, in which goat-headed Baphomet is depicted with the Latin words “solve” tattooed on his right arm and “coagula” applied to his left:
Literally, “dissolve and coagulate,” this term from medieval alchemy is used in Jungian psychology to describe a spiritual process of “breaking down” the disparate, and sometimes warring, elements of the psyche so that any imbalances—colloquially, “evils,” and more accurately, neuroses—within it can be corrected and/or healed, and eventually reassembled as the wholly transformed and individuated Self. In Jungian practice, the primary vehicle for activating this process is the dream, the vision, and the language of the unconscious mind. There are other ways, too, such as prayer and meditation, but the salient point here is that we can never hope to control the forces that “bedevil” our world if we are unwilling or unable to identify the devils that lurk within ourselves. This takes time, patience, and the willingness to engage in honest self-examination. For most of us, this is easier said than done!
The astrological sign governing The Devil is Capricorn the Goat, cardinal sign of earth. Paul Foster Case notes that Capricorn is said to govern the knees, “to which,” he writes, “we are brought in prayer by our sense of bondage and personal insufficiency.” Once again, the principle of “as above, is below” is established: As we pray, so we receive, and as we emanate, so it is vibrated back to us. The Devil may think he has all the power, but what he perceives as his most exalted strength is really his greatest weakness—and it is only his powers of suggestion, like those of Mighty Oz, that prevent him from being exposed for the fraud that he is!
Meanings of the card in a reading are fairly straightforward and can include error, sin, bad intent, dissolution, sexual energy misapplied, “demon possession” which can be warped spirituality or slavery to materialism, corruption of the head or heart, exploitation of humankind in all of its aspects, capitalism in general, addictions of all kinds; but also recognition of error, atonement of sin, the healing process has begun, sexual healing or vows of celibacy, renunciation of material wealth, abandoning unhealthy living, and forgiveness of others that brings forgiveness of self. The Zohar teaches that in the hierarchy of heaven, God gives great favor to penitents—to those who have sinned, seen the error of their ways, and who have repented of their sins; to them, it is said, He gives greater affection than to those who have remained free of blemish. Christ put it this way: “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”