The Suspended Man Key 12 is also called the Hanged Man in many Tarot decks. Key 12 demonstrates the Law of Reversal. The application of the Law of Reversal finds expression in the mental attitude of the truly Wise, which is the exact reverse of popular opinion. This is one reason that the first picture in the Tarot series is named the Fool. The whole series of Tarot Keys is intended to effect a reversal of the superficial, deluded interpretation of the universe held by most and thereby holds the ordinary human being in bondage. Here we have a symbol of absolute freedom, as experienced by the Wise. By looking at the card this idea of freedom appears to be a little far-fetched. So let’s go over the symbols and colors and discover what is really being said.
Let’s begin with the number 12. There are many references to the number 12. The structure from which the Suspended Man is hung is shaped like the Hebrew letter Tav. Each upright line of the letter is a tree trunk with six lopped off branches, totaling 12. They correspond to the twelve astrological signs of the zodiac, and thus the twelve astrological types of personality. The intimation is plain. In the state of mental reversal symbolized by Key 12, personal peculiarities are reduce to a minimum (lopped branches) and the emphasis falls on the inner Self, the true spiritual Reality.
The structure shaped like the Hebrew letter Tav takes us to the last Key of the series, Key 21 The World, which represents the esoteric significance of Tav. In the state of Samadhi, or the suspension of personal consciousness, an adept in meditation becomes aware of the real nature of the universe, as depicted by Key 21. To reverse ones mental attitude is to have a new world-view, which sees the universe as a dance of life, full of joy and freedom. Furthermore, this suspension intimates that in the state of consciousness represented here, one realizes the utter dependence of personality on the universal life. And further more, universal life is understood to be the perfectly adequate support of personality.
In turning from the old ways, whether from within or without, there is a complete reversal of thought and habit patterns, which must be set with care and deliberation. These may seem unnatural at first, even to the individual, but the ways of the Wise always look upside down to the flesh-blinded eyes of the material minded.
Moving on, we see the symbol for water in the lower right hand corner of the card and the Hebrew letter Mem. Key 12 is related to water, which reverses the images thrown upon it. Even the number of the Key is a reversal of 21, to indicate that the state of Samadhi, as the reflection of the perfect freedom of the Self depicted as the World Dancer in Key 21, appears in Key 12 to be a state of restriction or bondage. That is to say, the appearance shown in Key 12 is the reverse of the inner reality.
When concentration is prolonged we reach the experience of meditation. The effect produced is what Hindus term Samadhi, or the direct experience of superconsciousness. It is the perfect union of personal consciousness with the universal, attained by practices that quiet the mind and suspend the formation of chains of associated ideas.
In Samadhi, the personal vehicle is in a state of motionless trance. The physical body is cold, the heartbeat slow, and the respiration almost imperceptible. All the organic functions are in a state of suspension. But this is only the outward appearance. Interiorly an adept in this state experiences the bliss of union with the Central Reality of the universe and that Central Reality is a focus of intense activity, though itself is at rest. Others may approach the truth intellectually, but only they who have actually experienced reversal can fully comprehend the Water of the Wise, as alchemists call it.
In connection with the symbolism of the High Priestess, you learned to identify water with the sub-conscious mind. Water, on the esoteric (inner) level, refers to the stream of consciousness, the ever-flowing mind-stuff. Yoga teaches that “when the lake of mind-stuff is perfectly clear, it mirrors the Light of the Spiritual Sun.”
You learned also from the High Priestess that subconsciousness is actually the substance of every form in the universe. That it is the One Thing from which all things are made. Consequently it will be easy to recognize the letter Mem as signifying the Mother Deep, or Root of Nature. Also, Mem is one of the three mother letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The other two are Aleph-air and Shin-fire. These three letters represent the three aspects of the Absolute. The element Earth is derived from a combination of these three. The universal sub-consciousness is also your personal sub-consciousness. Its creative powers are those which you govern by means of suggestion.
One thing, which makes all forms of mental and occult practice seem difficult, is the supposition that what we have to do demands an exertion of some intangible mental power against the inertia of a very tangible physical reality. This “matter” surrounding us seems to be so dense, so resistant, so hard to move, that most people think it preposterous to believe that mere thinking can have any power over it.
A Wise man is not taken in by this surface appearance. He sees himself surrounded by things that have neither the solidity nor the inertia his unaided senses report. He understands that the densest forms of physical substance, as well as the lightest gases, are really forms of energy, built up from infinitely small, widely separated drops of the fluidic “water” of the occultists. Though we appear to be “solid,” at the atomic level we are just atoms flying through space held together by our mind.
Thus when a Wise man begins to attack the practical problem of changing conditions by changing his thinking, he does not face the difficulty that besets everyone who believes what his senses report concerning the things in his environment. He knows that there is no difference between the energy that takes form as thought and that which takes form as a diamond, a piece of metal, or any other physical object. He knows, in addition, that thought-forms are centers of more intense and lasting activity than any physical thing. By means of this reversal he is enabled to free his mind from that subjection to appearances that prevents most people from using mental imagery to change conditions for the better.
The planet Neptune is the Astrological correspondence to Key 12. Its symbol is on the card in the lower right hand corner. Though this planet was not discovered by exoteric (outer) astronomers until long after these Keys were invented, it was known to occultists, so
we find it in the Tarot series.
Neptune was called ruler of the deep, or mystic god of the sea. As a planet, it is related to mysticism as well as to sleep and silence. It is said to rule inspiration. Neptune is also ruler of Pisces, sign of the fishes, twelfth sign of the zodiac, wherein all the others have poured their influences. The experience of Samadhi is Neptunian in nature. Once having direct spiritual experience, you will find it difficult to return to any former pattern of living while knowing that there is more.
Jesus taught in the Piscean Age. His first disciples were fishermen. He had twelve Apostles, who are also called in the Book of Revelation the Twelve Foundations upon which rest the Holy City, or New Jerusalem. 12 is the total number of lines of any cube and has been called “the most solid number,” being the “foundation of our spiritual and temporal happiness.”
The shape of the Suspended Man suggests a 4 (his legs) placed above a 3 (the triangular position of his arms). 3 x 4 = 12. The 4 over the 3 also shows the subordination of imagination to reason. Most people permit reason to be dominated by imagination. A few have discovered that reason can determine what mental images shall occupy their field of attention. These few imagine creatively, and their imagery is governed by their mental vision of the place of human personality in the cosmic order.
We may also see his configuration as a triangle surmounted by a cross, formed by his legs. This is the alchemical symbol for sulphur, where the upward pointing fire symbol surmounts a cross. Sulfur represents passion, or the rajas guna in Hindu. In Key 12 sulphur is reversed and still. In the usual situation, the passions seek outer objects. In this disciplined situation, fire energizes the forces that bring about the splendor, the illumination.
Most people merely rationalize their uncontrolled imaginations, which are at the mercy of race thought and suggestions created by external appearances. Not so the adept pictured in Key 12. His sub-consciousness is always under the control of reasoning self-consciousness. He is not the slave of moods. He is not swayed by race thought. He remains unmoved when others are tossed about by tempests of passion.
His jacket is blue, the color attributed to the element water. His legs are red, color of fire. These elements are as opposite as light and darkness, as contrary as black and white. Thus opposition is plainly symbolized by the clothes, as well as the position of the figure. Silent, unostentatious reversal of one’s own life, combined with perfect tolerance of the ways of other people, is the method of the practical occultist. The grey background shows a blending of opposites, Spirit and Matter, wisely.
The lunar crescents forming the pockets of the coat represent the forces of sub-consciousness, and are shown as pockets to emphasize the idea that sub-consciousness is the container of the powers and stored-up experience that are the equipment of personality. The ten buttons on the jacket represent the ten aspects of the Life-power, called Sephiroth or numerations by Qabalists. The white belt and trimming of the jacket suggest the combination of the circle and cross, with the cross uppermost, so that the symbol is that of the planet Mars. Here is a hint that what appears to be absolutely motionless suspension of activity is really a form of intense expression of force.
The radiant halo surrounding his head suggests that he is an embodiment of the One Light. His hair is white, like the hair of the Emperor and the Hermit, hinting that he is to be identified as the Ancient of Days, even though his face is young.
The twisted white rope clearly represents the whirling force that descends from the Life Force. It comes down the rope, through the body, and out the head. It is said that a Yogi in Samadhi seems almost dead except for a hot area on the top of his head.
Below the Suspended Man’s head the ground is hallowed out, as though by a water course. This is a further reference to the letter Mem. All that part of his head from the eyes to the top of the skull is actually below the surface of the soil from which the trees spring. Thus we are shown that his vision and his brain functions are active below the surface. This is what differentiates an adept from most people. He sees through the surface of things, and discerns laws hidden below the illusive appearances on which the unenlightened base their judgments and their actions. The green grass reminds us of the nurturing power and presence of the Empress Key 3.
The whole figure represents a pendulum at rest. Thus the tree trunks are like the pillars of Key 2 and the Sphinxes of Key 7. The Suspended Man is unmoved and unmovable. He knows that no one ever thinks anything, or says anything, or does anything. He knows that the One Identity is the only Thinker, the only Speaker, the only Actor. He realizes his identity with that One, and sees his personality is perfectly and wholly supported by the Central Principle of the universe, symbolized by the Tav shaped structure.
This technical achievement does not mean you have withdrawn from life. Being not concerned means having very deep faith. You can be still because you are depending on Life Itself.