In just the same way the Fool had the test of the flaming sword after their sojourn through the Dark Night of the Soul (Hanged Man, Card XIII, Temperance, and Devil cards) so too is there a test on leaving the Treasury of Light, called the test of the Cherubim. These were the gatekeepers that God put at the Eastern gate of the Garden of Eden, making sure that Adam and Eve qualified to re-enter the Garden. You may recall that prior to their expulsion, they had eaten the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, essentially adopting the idea of ‘duality’, the belief that there was something that could be seperate from God. The only thing that could stay in the Garden (the kingdom of Heaven) was ‘oneness’ or what I referred to in the first couple of posts in this series, as undifferentiated consciousness. By eating the fruit, Adam and Eve had become differentiated from God.
The Cathars subscribed to the idea of reincarnation. In The Judgement card we can see this being played out. The central figure arising from the grave is typically depicted as being almost androgynous. It often appears as if one side of the body is more feminine in its form and the other more masculine. Of course this was the result of the hieros gamos between the Christ and Sophia that occurred in The Sun card. This is one of the scenarios that plays out in the afterworld. The other is depicted by the man and the woman (possibly the emperor and empress) who flank the androgynous character. They, in their separated state are not able to pass the final test and as such will be reincarnated. On the other hand, the Christ/Sophia androgyny may well pass the test of the Cherubim, and in doing so qualify to enter the bridal chamber of the mother/goddess where she encounters the union with her lover son (androgyny) as depicted in The World card. More about that in the next post.
Micheal the Archangel appears in the most brilliant of all the lights. Brighter than the sun, moon, and stars together. In fact, at this point they become redundant. His trumpet, as was often the case, was draped by a flag, or what was known as a ‘standard’. Etymologically, the origin of the word standard meant ‘an instrument by which the accuracy of others was measured’ or having achieved ‘a definable level of attainment’. This is exactly what was going on here. The flag as a standard has been presented, which measures whether of not the Fool as the androgynous ‘Son’ has met the definable level of attainment, consciously speaking.
In the Marseille Tarot, the flag bears a cross, the instrument by which the accuracy of others was measured. The key to the cross being the measure is that it represents The Four in balance, which was the objective of the Cathar Code. If you recall, the whole journey of the Fool has been about reintegrating The Four with a consciousness of love. This would enable The Fool to return back to the kingdom of Heaven, that place of undifferentiated consciousness. This is the test of the Cherubim. Has The Fool brought the four aspects of the Cherubim (the Bull, Lion, Eagle, Angel [man]) into a whole being?
The evidence that the Fool as the Christ is prepared to take the test was described by Paul in his letter to the Galatians. He lists the qualities that one would possess that would mean you could pass the test. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance...’ and it then goes onto say, ‘...against which there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22) In other words, if you possess all of these qualities, you are free of the judgement of all law, which means you would qualify to return to the kingdom of God.
The Judgement card is linked to the last and eighth Beatitude, “Blessed are those that are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” There is a lot of justifiable debate as to whether this was an original Beatitude. All of the other seven Beatitudes describe a state of consciousness that you would adopt at various stages in your spiritual sojourn. Then suddenly, the last Beatitude describes what will happen to you, and nothing about you adopting anything. The Cathar would have identified with the whole idea of being persecuted for righteousness sake. However, if they were the inspiration for the trumps, then this card has a totally different focus. The link could be that as a religion they were completely eliminated by the Catholic Church in the middle of the 14th century, and that without exception they would all face the judgement that meant that they would either be reincarnated or enter the kingdom of Heaven. The card could be the reminder of what the after-life options were for the Cathars, given the inevitability of total eradication.
If the Fool fails to pass the test of the Cherubim, then they are reincarnated. There is no hell, no inferno, no perdition, no nether world; only the hell we each experience here on earth, and keep experiencing each time we are reincarnated. If the Fool does pass the test, they are permitted to enter the bridal chamber, the sacred yoni, as depicted in The World card. More about that in the next post.
(The image of The Judgement card included in this article is from the Tarot de Marseille [Edition Millennium] © 2011 FJP (Paris)