In our journey through the Major Arcana we now reach one of the most conventionally appealing cards. At first sight the Lovers, for most folks, tend to provide a delightful feeling, which is inevitably associated with love stories. Since such themes rank number one in mundane cartomancy or fortune-telling, this trump obviously enjoys a first-class reputation. Yet, despite its romantic correlations, the card emphasises transparency, innocence and sacredness in relationships of any kind, including those having nothing to do with conventional love affairs.
The quality of a pure and sanctified relationship is particularly portrayed in the Rider Waite Tarot. Here there is a Garden of Eden setting, a trinity, where a man and a woman, unveiled, are presided and blessed by the angel Raphael (associated with Air and Mercury) standing with open wings. The Sun is shining at the zenith, while in the bottom foreground stands a mount, and at the sides, behind the man and woman, the Tree of Life with twelve fruits and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil with the snake.
In Robert Places’ Tarot of the Saints, conventional implications in relationships are apparently stressed through the Lovers’ association to Saint Valentine, the patron of lovers celebrated on 14 February. In the card the saint plays the part of the angel blessing the lovers from above. Valentine was a martyred priest in the early stages of Christianity. He was executed because he secretly married soldiers and their brides against the will of the emperor, who had ordered soldiers to remain unmarried so as not to create attachments interfering with their duties.
In more traditional decks, such as the Tarot de Marseilles, the card is called The Lover, and depicts a young man about to be hit by a Cupid’s arrow. He stands between two women: a mature dark woman dressed in a red robe, seizing his shoulder with her left hand and approaching his genitals with her right hand, and a young blond woman dressed in blue, pointing at his heart with her left hand and at her belly with her right hand. This trump exemplifies the confrontation with a choice, which on the esoteric level implies electing between ordinary and non-ordinary, darkness and light, separation and unity.
According to the hermetic tradition of the Golden Dawn and the system we employ in these articles, the Lovers is associated with Gemini. This correspondence allows the idea of lovers to move beyond its romantic or social connotations. Gemini immediately suggests a light, innocent and playful rapport between the parties involved, and a twin, brother-sister relationship, rather than a traditional couple rapport. It is brotherhood and sisterhood that the angel appears to bless as the ultimate engagement. This is also what is eventually left in a relationship, once all its outer layers have been stripped and the couple finally stands in authentic nudity.
It is the discrimination between, what A Course in Miracles calls, special relationships, which are egocentric rapports based on separation and fear of God, and holy relationships, connections founded on unity, unconditional love and God.
When this card shows up in a reading, it is often an invitation to trust the heart, no matter how irrational or paradoxical it seems to be. The Lovers exhibit the opening of a gateway, gently inciting to go for it. Yet, there is deep purity at work here, which can easily be contaminated by conventional implications of the term “heart” and cause confusion. What inspires the Lovers’ heart is not a romantic, sexual or earthly orientation. It is a state of pristine transparency, a graceful and natural surrender to the will of God, through which true Love is spontaneously bound to blossom.
The Lovers emphasize a nude and blessed acknowledgment of polarities, whose purpose is their harmonisation and also, eventually, their dissolution. From an esoteric perspective the division into genders appears to be the typical feature of separated reality and of our human arbitrary configuration.
Since the ego is based on the belief in separation, it projects its conviction into the world, which is experienced as a reality of dualities. Being unable, or refusing, to perceive wholeness, it confines us in a fragmented world where relationships feature as the major strategy of imprisonment. A way in which this captivity is promoted is described in an essay by Marnia Robinson (click here), which I mention to acknowledge a significant perspective, yet not necessarily one I fully feel resonance with.
When Jesus is asked which commandment in the Law is the greatest, he replies “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.” He then added a second commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” stressing that “on these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40).
As part of its initiatory challenge, the Lovers confront with the unique role each one of us has to play in the above respect. This first commandment on love for God is entwined with the second about our love of others, which is bound to the love for ourselves, as in “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Matthew 19:19).
The first step of the Lovers involves unconditionally loving oneself, which inescapably implies aligning with the source of unconditional love within oneself, who is the God referred to in the first commandment. By relentlessly releasing our split perception about ourselves we become more and more capable of seeing ourselves in others and walk together on a joint healing path.
The stage of loving oneself is an ongoing process, which goes together with its twin stage of loving one’s neighbour. As we proceed on the spiritual healing path, we enlarge this love of self by realising gradually and deeper as years go on, “that God really loves you with a love that has no end. You are loved and you are lovable. Whenever you try to acquire or deepen this attitude about yourself, you are cooperating with the grace of God.” At the same time love for self is increased through our deep connections with others, “by listening and trusting, by loving and (what is more difficult) allowing yourself to be loved, by being truly forgiving and (what is most difficult) seeking true personal forgiveness, by widening your circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
As long as we are in this separated world, we are inevitably confronted with what we see or feel with our bodies, no matter whether we indulge in their use or try to deny them. In our human life, God, self and others are parts of the same setting in the expression of our Love. And here the others play a special role, because it is through them that we can find a deep understanding of who God is. “Those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” (1 John: 4:20).
Many human relationships are addictive, selfish and destructive. Yet, this is what we have in this world, and the aim is to heal them no matter what they are, trusting that through the Holy Spirit “these relationships can become the holiest things on earth – the miracles that point the way to the return to Heaven.”
Just as the ego employs special relationships to uphold separation, “the Holy Spirit transforms them into perfect lessons in forgiveness and in awakening from the dream. Each one is an opportunity to let perceptions be healed and errors corrected. Each one is another chance to forgive oneself by forgiving the other. And each one becomes still another invitation to the Holy Spirit and to the remembrance of God.” (ACIM, What it is?)
The Lovers, far from denying their bodies, expose them in their immaculate nudity and under the light of the Sun. They also reverse the process of the fall in Gemini. Here they are blessed by the angel, who is whom the woman looks at, turning her back to the snake, while the man confidently looks at the woman.
The blessing here is on genuine and trusting relationships, which do not need necessarily to be sexual or romantic ones. True lovers unveil any secret, their nakedness is not meant to express eroticism or attract the partner. It is a sign of transparency towards both God and the other. This implies a commitment that does not automatically require being physical. As such, it may have nothing to do with what lovers or couples do in a conventional sense. Since this commitment does not receive official acknowledgment in our ordinary reality, those who experience it may feel confused or out of place. And yet it is this unlabelled bonding that has continued to inspire and generate true love throughout all the ages of our separated reality.
The Lovers illustrate a multidimensional connection, which on one hand is beyond our human understanding, while on the other is profoundly anchored in the quality of the human heart. It inevitably triggers a conflict between two parts of our nature and yet its function is to encourage them to communicate and finally join in their original wholeness. The association with Gemini emphasizes sacred communication, the profound need of the soul to get in touch with her twin, retrieving the fragmented self in the evident awareness of its immaculate original conception.
In Meditations on the Tarot, one of the most important works of esoteric Christianity, the Lovers have to do with the three vows of obedience, poverty and, most of all, chastity, as opposed to the three corresponding temptations, making a total of six, which is the number of this trump. This revisits the dawn of mankind, as it is described in Genesis, and sets the choice at the crossroads between the three vows and the three temptations.
Bearing in mind that the three temptations are simply the opposite of the vows, which lead to separation and a fragmented world, the three vows follow the patterns of the Garden of Eden. Obedience stands for unity with God, poverty implies possessing everything while not being attached to anything, and chastity is being at one with one’s companion, who is at the same time wife, friend, sister and mother. Chastity means loving with the totality of one’s being and is the expression of love in its wholeness, which is what according to the unknown author characterises the Lovers. Of course, there is much more ultra-heavy heady stuff here, yet I will not go into it, for thanks God it is Gemini!
The Lovers is the trump of multidimensional lovers, of twin souls and unconditional love relationships. Here love, far from being ruled by the water realm of emotions, is associated with the airy lightness of Gemini. The card teaches that love is primarily an act of sacred communication and alignment with the web of life, it is about responding to one’s life authentic calling and to what or who we are truly passionately drawn, regardless of whether this fits with conditionings, doctrines or belief systems. It is about courageously standing by your core multidimensional nature and fully retrieving the luminous path back to wholeness.
© Franco Santoro