Here we are at The Chariot Key 7 and the last Key on the first row of the Tarot Tableau. It is considered a summary of all the Keys in the first row. It is a favorite card of mine and I call it the Victory card! Here is the Charioteer, you, your Inner Self, in charge. The Key states clearly all that you must do to be the Charioteer. In the Upanishads, which are the secret teachings in Sanskrit and part of India’s most ancient scriptures, we learn that you can’t win the game of Life as long as you try to win, because, in Reality, you have already won.
Your Inner Self is eternally victorious in the great game. On the front of the chariot is a shield (a shield = protection) with the Indian lingamyoni, a symbol of the union of the positive and negative forces and the generating power of the universe. Above the lingamyoni a blue-winged globe depicts the sun god Ra, and the spiritual mind carried aloft by wings of aspiration.
An essential feature of this Key is that it represents the Middle Way, not the extremes of right or left. The way of the Self, which is your self and my self, is in the Middle because that’s the place of Mastery. The Self is the Master in you and me. It’s hard for us to understand that the Self is not different from us. There’s always the old idea that God is up there and you’re down here. God is great and you’re nothing. You feel a kind of dualism inside yourself. The trouble with this “outer” doctrine is that it doesn’t work for anybody!
We are not God, but we are the sons and daughters of the Most High, made in the image of God. We meet here not as bodies, but as spirits. The Bible says these things because of the remarkable spirit that is in us. On this level we have a delightful camaraderie. It is the spirit, or Self, in each of us that makes us interesting to each other. The Self is the Charioteer, the triumphant rider in the vehicle of personality. This Tarot image is a mirror of yourself.
How is the Chariot a summary of all the Keys in the first row? The Magician is our self-conscious, directive power. The High Priestess represents memory, the all-inclusive aspect of the sub-conscious. The Empress signifies the power of active imagination seated in the sub-conscious mind. The Emperor is our ability to constitute our lives in a fashion that is acceptable, not only to ourselves, but also to the Law of Life Itself. Our intuitive faculty is indicated by the Teacher. The Lovers Key symbolizes the keen discrimination necessary to unscramble all the different factors that are dynamically interacting in ourselves.
The words receptivity and will are attributed to this Key. Receptivity was suggested by the Magician’s gesture – our support comes from within. Once we get the message, we can exert the will. Key 7 is the reward for the Magician’s mental efforts. The Tarot conception of will is different from ordinary notions, because Tarot looks upon will as being in no sense a personal faculty. Will is not something that strong-minded people possess, and timid people are devoid of. Instead it is a living, motivating power behind the entire universe, and every person and thing in the universe has an equal share in it. The difference between persons is not in the degree of will power, as a possession. It is the degree of our ability to express this power through our personalities. Hence the attributes of the Chariot Key 7, the Victory card.
Let’s discuss the numbers, colors and symbols on Key 7 that express these attributes. This is Key 7 and the number 7 symbolizes equilibrium – the concrete application of the laws of symmetry and reciprocation. In extension it means mastery, poise, rest, conquest, peace safety, security, art, victory.
The meaning of the Hebrew letter Cheth (Ch) is field or fence. Notice a very small fence in the lower right hand corner of the card. Both meanings imply enclosure. In man the field is the personality. The master, or cultivator of this field of personality, is the true I AM, or Inner Self. Ah ha – this implies that the personality can be cultivated. And as such, its value to man is that it is the instrument of his spiritual progress.
Speech is a function of this Key, in the sense of enclosing a thought with words, building a fence around it.The yellow background indicates thought, which precedes speech.
Astrologically the sign of Cancer, a water sign ruled by the moon, is related to this Key. Note the symbol for Cancer in the lower right hand corner of the card. This is protection by the mother aspect. There are two half moons on his shoulders. Remember the High Priestess Key and the lunar symbology on that card. The crescents show receptivity and two of them relates to rhythm, cycle and repetition. Two also signifies polarities – two extremes of one idea.
The blue stream of consciousness from the High Priestess flowing past permits growth in his field of consciousness. His Chariot rests on a field of green, the color of love, Venus and the Empress Key. Venus is represented by the brass of his breast plate, which provides the protective power of creative imagination and love. The cypress trees in the background remind us again of the Empress. Gold on his neckline and ornaments means he uses solar forces.
The One Self guides His vehicle using invisible reins of mind control. The stone Chariot represents the physical body or outer level. The sphinxes symbolize the senses and the desire-nature on the emotional level – I like (the white sphinx), I don’t like (the black sphinx)! These polarized forces use the same energy in opposite directions. How to overcome this basic-being-dragged about by our desires is the problem that’s solved in this Key.
The Charioteer’s left hand is holding the invisible reins of the mind. The mind is the means of controlling everything in your life, but if you’re unconscious, this arrangement isn’t going to work for you. When the mind is turned to the Self, it knows what it wants. Otherwise it just chases whatever comes along. The art of driving your vehicle is like any other art – in the beginning the rewards are meager, but as your understanding improves, so do your hearing, seeing and other senses.
The Charioteer’s belt indicates Time, remember the belt of the Fool Key, and the Zodiac – in the slanted circle of the ecliptic. His Scepter combines a lunar crescent with the solar figure 8, thus his dominion results from a blend of their powers. The development of will, using solar and lunar forces, has already been brought down and solidified into a vehicle.
The Grail cup denotes his function of receptivity and using his will, and the gift of transmutation. This is the lifting of your consciousness to partake of the spiritual life, which is brought by the dove of peace. To transmute means to change or alter in form, appearance, or nature, a change of physical form, structure or substance.
The Charioteer’s body is in the cube that represents the physical universe. His head is in the upper (remember in Tarot upper always means inner) part, in the cosmos, where it belongs. His canopy of stars indicates the presence of the High Priestess. Four pillars support this canopy, each ringed with the one spirit in the form of the 4 elements of fire, air, earth and water. His crown has 3 golden pentagrams, signifying mental dominion over natural forces.
Under his crown is a wreath of green leaves, same as we saw on the Fool. The green wreath encircling the Charioteer’s hair symbolizes the fact that the green leaves of plants actually do bind sunlight, just as they bind his hair. Capturing sunbeams and binding them into organic form is the principal work of the chlorophyll which is the green coloring matter of plants. They constitute one of the most important forms in which the Life-power is available for your use.
The Chariot wheels are orange, showing solar energy, which causes a revolving motion. The wheels also relate to the whirlwinds of Fire in the vision of Ezekiel and represent the orbits of the planets.
Another important part of the symbolism is that the Chariot is on the other side of the river from the city. “The other shore” is a metaphor for emancipation. You and I have left the city because it represents the complex conditioning of race-thought, the thing we must analyze and overcome. The city is real in the sense that real beings live there, yet to apprehend the One Reality, we must remove ourselves from distractions. The red rooftops signify the activity of a city.
The square of his chest with three black T’s shows the limiting power of Saturn. The 8 folds of his skirt with talismanic symbols show dominion over the terrestrial forces. We must discriminate between reaction and motivation. The Cabala teaches that you will never get rid of your desire. The Charioteer is able to look at desire and see what is going on. When you know what’s going on you are no longer a victim of it. At that point you are free of Karma, because Karma is desire-nature reacting to what’s in your memory bank – over and over and over again. Since the memory bank is limitless, as long as it works automatically it goes on forever. Wisdom is our salvation – it is here Life reflects upon itself. Part of the illusion is the idea that we can possess anything. We can’t. We can enjoy everything, but we can’t possess anything – because it isn’t ours in the first place.
The Cabala says the mind moves the body. Win, lose, or draw, we’ve got to learn to drive this thing! The scepter is a combination of the moon and lemniscate (infinity – figure 8). When the sub-conscious, the means of achieving everything, is teamed up with the higher aspect of self-consciousness, direction and discipline are the results.
The Bhagavad-Gita says, “The Self is the Rider in the chariot of the body, of which the senses are the horses, and the mind the reins.”