Reflections on The Emperor

Q: What can I do or say today to make the world a more peaceful and loving place?

A: This.emperorSuch a stern-looking fellow might seem an odd choice to play the role of “peacemaker,” but as the archetypal force who establishes discipline and order to the life-energies that flow like a mighty river from the card that precedes him in the Major Arcana (The Empress), The Emperor is the “enforcer,” if you will, of the Divine order that provides all living things with a sense of place, of purpose, and of responsibility. We sometimes think of this function as necessarily harsh, perhaps even bordering on cruelty—yet anyone who has ever raised a child or house-trained a pet understands the value of establishing boundaries and behavioral norms in the earliest stages of consciousness. Just as we are inculcated in the wisdom of staying “between the lines” when we first learn to drive a car, such developmental “rules of the road” are an essential first step in the maturation of well-rounded and fully individuated adults. The same is true among societies as among individuals, and the task of imposing the social order is best designated to those who are motivated by compassion and mercy to others. Sadly, in our world, the job all too often seems to fall to those who are motivated by sadism and severity, by those who instinctually reach for the stick instead of the carrot when disagreements arise—and as those of us who have engaged in esoteric study know all too well, violence above only engenders violence below. Thus is God’s Creation so easily given over to mindless savagery.

But there is another choice, and that is the querent’s duty today. He is a peaceful warrior and a conciliator by nature. He also understands the importance of “leading by example,” and this is where he can make his own individual contribution to the evolution of human consciousness—by showing, whenever and by whatever means possible, the virtue of collaboration over command, of mildness over mindlessness, and of the powers of the mature masculine to exert a constructive influence in the shaping of our daily discourse. Granted, as with an unruly child, sometimes discipline must be enforced more harshly than we would like; and even when we exert a gentle hand, we can expect to “take our lumps” at the hands of those who would wish us harm (this is likely why The Emperor wears a full suit of armor). But in either event, we should always remind ourselves that our spiritual enforcer—The Emperor of the Tarot—wields not a sword but an ankh cross, the ancient Egyptian symbol of fertility and his archetypal connection to The Empress; he is, in the end, a lover first and a fighter of last resort, and that’s the spirit in which the querent is implored to walk today. So should we all!

Dante DiMatteo

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