Return of The Prodigal: Pentacles

aceThe Zohar, the kabbalistic “Book of Splendor,” tells a simple parable that explains the aim of our entire existence. In it, a king sends his son to a school in a distant village where he will learn the ways of the royal court. Once he has reached maturity, the King will dispatch his wife, the Queen, to bring home the son to a season of feasting and rejoicing. So it is with us: we have been sent by our heavenly Father to a “distant village” here on earth, where we strive to learn the ways of the royal court in heaven; once we have attained that elevated awareness and graduated from our earthly “finishing school”, we will be summoned home by the Father’s bride, the Shekinah, the Spirit of God in the world. As the Zohar adds, “If the righteous were only aware of this, they would be filled with joy when their time comes to leave this world.”

The suit of Pentacles (or “Coins,” in some earlier decks) tells us stories about life in the here and now of our “fallen” world: its sufferings and travails, its joys and felicities, its mysteries and revelations. In a way, we are extensions of Adam and Eve, banished from the Garden not for their sin but for their stubborn refusal to repent of sin. That is our task in this world—to replace pride with humility and ego-consciousness with God-consciousness. It is much easier said than done!

As we’ve discussed in previous chapters, the Pentacle is engraved with the pentagram, the five-pointed star of ceremonial magic representing the five senses of man and the five extremities of the human body. It is a marvelous creation, the body—so much so, we often perceive it as a perfected form, as in this famous study by DaVinci:

Unfortunately, our bodies are imperfect vehicles—they get sick, they grow old, and eventually, they cease functioning. So too with all of man’s creations, his cities and civilizations: all are impermanent, and eventually destined to crumble. The suit of Pentacles challenges us, then, to look past the material surface of things, and search for the deeper meanings beyond the limits of our sensory perception. There is a Divine “spirit”—a life-force—in every aspect of Creation: In every tree in the forest, in every blade of grass in the meadow, and in every grain of sand on the shore. Our spiritual breakthrough occurs when we achieve a sense of unity with this spirit, for then we will have achieved a state of unity with God.

As the “last” suit in the Tarot deck, Pentacles corresponds to Assiah, the kabbalistic “active world” that incorporates all the material elements that we cognitively apprehend and, as Robert Wang elaborates, the “unseen energies of matter” concealed within. As with the cards themselves, our lives are rich with symbolic inner meaning that may be beyond our ego’s willingness to acknowledge but which we can consult for guidance and support in prayer, meditation and dreams. We’ll begin our survey of the suit tomorrow.

Dante DiMatteo

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