The Whole of the Law
The tenth card in the twenty-two Major Trumps of the Tarot deck is the Wheel of Fortune. All the Major Arcana are crucial when using Tarot cards as a source for synchronistic understanding in order to gain insight into one’s current place in the Journey of Enlightenment.
However, the Wheel of Fortune is an apt symbol for the randomly divine unfolding of many of life’s events; it means Change, bringing with it positive or negative interpretations, depending on the other cards dealt in the same spread. I have often thought of this card, and the others, as a guide to understanding my own life’s tumultuous course since I first discovered Tarot back in the ’70s.
After nursing my wife on her ten-year progression to death from cancer in 2008, being diagnosed with lymphoma in 2010, and, most recently, experiencing my brother’s death at fifty-seven, all the while caring for my mother, who recently died at ninety-six, I couldn’t help but ponder how I came to be where I am. The Major Arcana kept appearing in my sketchbooks, and once again I became a student of these mystical cards.
In late 2012, I learned that my disease had progressed into a deadly form: I needed chemotherapy. While undergoing such treatment, children are often told to imagine that their body is engaging in an internal battle against the cancer, with white blood cells armed with swords and explosives to obliterate tumors. In December of 2012, I found myself engaging in the same violent visualizations—literally seeing my white blood cells transformed into demons attacking my own tumor with sharp teeth and claws.
I spoke to a friend who advised me against this method, explaining that the tumor was a part of me, and if someone was coming at me dead set on my destruction, in self-defense I would do my best to kill the other first. If fighting fire with fire was not the answer to remission, I wasn’t sure what was. My friend suggested I ask the tumor what it had to tell me, so I could understand it, and it could leave. I did.
Shortly thereafter I drew a self-portrait. In my drawing I was pictured from the collarbone up, with my tumor prominent in my neck. From the tumor I drew lines radiating outwards and spiraling around my neck. I continued to draw that tumor and its rays throughout the course of the next week. It subsequently evolved from a ganglia-like shape to a mandala-esque manifestation, with eight protruding spokes and swirling shapes within. I recognized the shape as a sephira (Hebrew for emanation), a nexus in the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. Some Hermetic schools of thought believe the Tarot and Sephiroth embody a unified path to Enlightenment.
Tarot is the key to understanding Ein Sof (the Infinite) as it materializes through metaphysical paths to form our material universe. For my tumor to repeatedly manifest itself to me as Sephiroth was a revelation, a sign to paint these two interlocking series and to thereby re-engage in the self-discovery and enlightenment that had drawn me to them in the 1970s.