Reflections on The Moon

Q: What is the meaning of salvation?

A: This.moonHidden enemies, danger, calumny, darkness, terror, deception, occult forces, error . . . Such are the conventional meanings attributed to The Moon, and as a symbol of darkness and the unknown, a time when dreams and nightmares are unleashed, it has often been associated with unreason and madness. Someone who lives under the influence of the moon, literally speaking, is known in our language as a “lunatic.” But, as students of Jungian psychology are acutely aware, the unconscious mind—or, perhaps, the “moon-conscious” mind—can be a powerful helpmeet on our road to individuation, providing us with many.spiritual “guideposts” in the form of dreams and visions that, with the guidance of a skilled analyst or shaman, can give us a fuller realization of who we are, where we came from, and where we are going—indeed, where we must all go eventually. As Christ reminds us in the gospel of Matthew, “The gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life”—but to truly know life, try must we all to hew to the road that passes through the gate, depicted here as the path that “threads the needle” between the two towers—of light and darkness, of limited waking consciousness and unlimited spirit-consciousness. This is the Tarot’s representation of “the way, the truth, and the life”, and just as Christ spent three days descending, then emerging, from his own “dark night of the soul” to achieve a state of oneness with the Creator, so too with us—and when that happens, our salvation is at hand. Until that happens, the card instructs us, we are as a pack of dogs howling mindlessly at the moon—to which we are enjoined: “Do not give holy things to dogs, nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them with their feet and , turning around, rend you.”

Put another way: The unconscious mind of man is analogous to the dark side of the moon—a side we never see from our earthly waking viewpoint, but which exists nonetheless and which exerts a co-equal influence on the ebb and flow of the tides, pictured here as the crab that crawls forth from the primordial swamp at high tide: The time when the gravitational pull of the moon is at its strongest, and the sun’s, at its weakest. In a way, the crab signifies the origins of all earth-consciousness, albeit in its most primitive and undifferentiated form. But this is where human consciousness begins and from whence it evolves, and those of us who refuse to acknowledge this, and to analyze it closely, condemn themselves to a lifetime spent in a state of “sunny error”. The bright light of day may delude us into thinking that we exist in a state of complete self-awareness and self-actualization. But in fact we are only familiar with one element—one side—of our twin-sided psyche, and until we have engaged the full duality of that comprises our complete Self, we will repeat the same ego-driven mistakes that have afflicted so many of our so-called “civilized” forbears—of thinking that only what is visible and corporeal is real when in reality, the diametric opposite—that “faith in things unseen” that has influenced and shaped the collective psyche of humankind for centuries—is much deeper in reverberation and more profound in spiritual truth. Whenever this card appears in a reading, unless it reversed and/or is surrounded by cards portending trouble ahead, I generally see it as cause for optimism—a sign that a new day is about to dawn in the life of the querent, where a greater understanding will make itself known to her. Perhaps, as the moon waxes and wanes each month, perhaps the querent is now “transiting” into another “phase” of her life! In any event, it is something that is inexorable and eternal, like the movement of tides; thus there is no reason to fear or resist it.

Remember, too, that the crab, however primitive in its evolutionary state, moves forward by walking backwards, making it, symbolically, a metaphor for the power of introspection and of self-examination—of “looking back” inside ourselves—to “move forward,” i.e., to become fully individuated adults. This is why meditation, prayer and religious ritual can continue to resonate within us so powerfully, even in an age of empiricism that argues against the power of ancient rite and sacrament to act as a constructive vehicle to transform the mind of humankind. 

For all these reasons, we should not view the “dark” and the “unknown” with fear and trepidation but with great reverence and awe, for they are the psychic mechanisms which we must activate to truly know our Selves in full. With that realization, we come to know the primum mobile, the “first cause,” that sets all Creation in motion, and always has. 

Dante DiMatteo

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