Arcanum XX, Judgement


Esoteric Titles:
The Children of God
The Evangelical Spirit
Liberation of the Soul

Traditionally, the 20th Arcanum is attributed to the element Fire or to the planet Pluto, and that the 31st path connects the sphere of Hod (Splendour) with that of Malkuth (The Kingdom). It depicts an angel blowing a trumpet bearing a white banner emblazoned with a red cross, while below, in a mountainous barren landscape the figures of the dead, throw off the lids of their sarcophagi, and awaken in wonder to a new life. The card is entitled Judgement or Resurrection and in a Biblical context refers to the Ascension of Jesus Christ after the suffering and trial of crucifixion. It therefore symbolises the release or triumph of the spirit from matter which automatically leads to an expansion of consciousness. As one might have noticed there are only two other cards in the Major Arcana which feature angels – that is number 6. The Lovers, and 14. Temperance. The first of these images succeed The High Priest (orthodox religion) while the latter confronts 15 The Devil (Black Magic). The cards signify Religion, Philosophy and a Brotherhood based on the principles of Platonic Love. In other words the card illustrates how through the action of deep meditation a person can gain access to other realms and dimensions of intellectual and emotional existence. To see beyond or understand that there is more to life than this temporal existence calls for a rallying call, as symbolised by the angel, probably Gabriel calling his devotees to throw aside the shackles of mortal existence and embrace a transcendental path to knowledge and God. On a daily basis this spiritual discipline is capable of regenerating inner harmony, clarity of thought and thereby sustaining or fuelling the process of self-development. We see the figures of a man, woman and child emerging from the underworld known in the Greek tradition as Hades and being enticed by the clarion call of the angel. On one level it denotes the Evangelical Spirit in mankind – where one’s thoughts, feelings and actions are capable of becoming an example and an inspiration to others.

Artist’s impression of the Archangel Gabriel

This sense of Universal Brotherhood and being linked to the Divine however often spawns a myriad of religious sects, cults, and spiritual organisations all proclaiming the effectiveness of their doctrinal approach, beliefs and methods. We might mention for example the Scientologists, The Children of God, and Raj Neesh – whose members have inadvertently or by design become embroiled in drugs, corruption, sexual manipulation and the sale of armaments. The Evangelical Spirit in mankind can therefore be misguided in its loyalty to an ideological group that shuns society. There were nevertheless a series of evangelical crusades from medieval times (ie: Richard the Lion-heart) all the way to the present time, eg: the American preachers Billy Graham and Martin Luther King. People often join groups or sects because they wish to tap into some form of collective power and often because of a sense that they actually lack power or determination in their own lives. Just as the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley became a member of the Golden Dawn in order to carve out his own notorious career, so too the allure of the group often has sinister undertones. There is in this card an element of “rude awakening” and violent spiritual disassociation not unlike that of Arcanum XVI, The Tower.

“The Evangelical Spirit” (Two Gentlemen of Verona) Shin

Following on from Arcanum XIX, The Sun this will be the penultimate essay in which I compare one of the 22 Tarot trumps with 22 of William Shakespeare’s plays excluding the 10 history plays. The play which seems to resonate or correspond to the card Judgement is in my view “The Two Gentlemen of Verona”, for reasons which I will enlarge upon. “Shakespeare’s” early play “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” appears as the second play in the 1623 Folio of “Comedies, Histories and Tragedies” and while the first play listed in the catalogue would have been “The Tempest” in effect that was probably the very last play to be written by “Shakespeare” (ie: “The first will be last and the last will be first”). This arcane drama of ‘competitive brotherly love’ (Gemini, sibling rivalry) is synonymous with the Masonic dictum regarding the planet Mercury, its exaltation in Aquarius and where in Greek and Roman mythology they are represented as the mortal and immortal twins Castor and Pollux. Mercurius is the beginning of the Shamanic Journey from the Heavenly sphere, linked to Psychopompus on the Earthly sphere which in turn is linked to Luciferus in the Hellish sphere. It is also connected with the Greek myth of Leda & Zeus, the latter, King of Olympus having to transform himself into a swan when visiting the wife of the Spartan King. Leda became pregnant as a result and laid an egg in which was formed the Twins Castor & Pollux as well as Helen of Troy. With regard to the Masonic symbolism of the Twin Cherubs and the sign of Gemini in his book “The Shakespeare Enigma”, the director of the Globe Theatre in London Peter Dawkins writes:

“The Twin Pillars, or Gemini, also symbolise spirit on the one hand (right) and matter on the other (left). Spirit is equated with the Logos or Word, which is the Spirit of Love. Matter is equated with the quintessential ‘aether’, which in its original state is chaos (ie: formless and void) until disposed into form by the vibration of the Word or Spirit of love. The Greeks referred to the Spirit of love as Eros (Latin, Cupidos) and to matter as Proteus. The ancient myth of Proteus, which Francis Bacon explains in his Wisdom of the Ancients, allegorises the process by which matter is brought together, constrained (or ‘chained’, as the myth describes) and disposed into form, and then successively transformed into many evolutionary stages of form, by the effect of love, until eventually truth is revealed.”

The title page of Bacon’s treatise the Great Inauguration

He then goes on to say that the play Two Gentlemen of Verona aptly illustrates this fundamental Masonic truth, wherein the main characters Valentine (ie: Eros) and Proteus (Chaos) represent the Twin Pillars. They represent the sublime qualities of the human soul, namely emotion and thought, the former being the motivation or desire, and the latter the substance of the human mind (meaning Wisdom & Knowledge). The planet Mercury is the ruler of Gemini, while its natural ruler is the planet Venus or Aphrodite, whose chariot is drawn by two swans, again symbolising the two sets of twins born of Leda (the wife of the Spartan King Tyndareos) and Zeus, who took the form of a swan, namely the “Heavenly Twins” Castor & Helen, and the “Earthly Twins”, Pollux and Clytemnestra. The latter went on to marry Agamemnon and then murder him, while Helen being abducted by Paris went on to cause the Trojan Wars. This event was recorded in the Kypria and was the subject of a play by Euripides (412 BC), entitled simply Helen which “Shakespeare” would have read and used as a literary source. From this basic understanding the Elizabethan Magus, Dr. John Dee developed his own metaphysical talisman and sigil for the Monad. This was intended as a universal symbol in which everything magical and mysterious could be embedded or concealed, and the “art of the aspiring Mason” was to unravel its esoteric symbolic significance. It can of course be analogously applied to human biology and physiognomy – the left and right hemispheres of the brain, the left-hand and right hand limbs/organs of the body etc. I have enlarged upon the “Masonic Symbolism” found in Shakespeare’s publications in a previous essay on a similar subject. As in the case of Arcanum XIX, The Sun, Arcanum III, The Empress and Arcanum IV, The Emperor the playwright employs a soothsayer as a dramatic device to enlarge the depth of the narrative and dialogue. In Julius Caesar for example Calpurnia describes the strange happenings in the streets as omens warning of bad times to come:

Irvine, Hugh; Archangel Gabriel; The National Trust for Scotland, Drum Castle,

“A lioness hath whelped in the streets;
And graves have yawn’d, and yielded up their dead;
Fierce fiery warriors fought upon the clouds,
In ranks and squadrons and right form of war,
Which drizzled blood upon the Capitol;
The noise of battle hurtled in the air,
Horses did neigh, and dying men did groan,
And ghosts did shriek and squeal about the streets.
O Caesar! these things are beyond all use,
And I do fear them.”

But more importantly, Mercury is in the habit of discriminating or making subtle distinctions and metaphysical polarisations (masculine/feminine, good/bad, light/dark, yin/yang etc). These fundamental questions regarding natural polarity seem to encompass many of the themes of Shakespeare’s plays and poetry including for example the mistaken identities and odd similarities in “A Comedy of Errors”, the divergent interests in “Love’s Labours Lost”, the dichotomy between Falstaff and Prince Hal in Henry IVth, parts one and two, or the startling reversals in “All’s Well That Ends Well” and “Much Ado About Nothing”. The “Winter’s Tale” features two Kings who grew up together as boys, Polixenes and Leontes but who are diametrically opposed to each other due to the romantic ambiguity they display towards Hermione. The paranoid jealousy expressed by Leontes is in direct contrast to the unassuming altruism expressed by Polixenes. And finally, I must mention the two warring families (Montague & Capulet) in “Romeo & Juliet” featuring the rival protagonists Mercutio and Tybalt at war on the streets of Verona:


“Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”

The above quote could very easily apply allegorically to the rivalry between the Houses of York and Lancaster as suggested in my article; “A Rose By Any Other Name”. Similarly, the “Two Gentlemen of Verona” (1559-1598) has some commendable similarities to another play, the “Two Noble Kinsmen”, which is not included in the 1623 Folio but was consigned to the “Shakespeare Apocrypha” as being a collaboration between the playwrights John Fletcher and W. Shakespeare for several reasons. Ben Jonson mentions it in his own play “Bartholomew Fair” (Act 4, scene 3). It was first published in 1634 as a quarto and the earliest reference to the play is on a fragment of paper suggesting an earlier performance in 1619. But I have it on good authority to confirm that it had been composed as early as 1594 or an early version dated 1566 (“Dating Shakespeare’s Plays”, Parapress 2021, Kevin Gilvary). Its major literary source is Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” but there are some similarities found in John Lyly’s own play “Euphues & His Wit”, (1579) and another play by Ralph Radcliffe, “Titus & Gisippus” performed at Hitchin in 1538. It was originally adapted by Thomas Elyot in his “Book of the Governor” in 1531. However, the polarity found in the “Two Noble Kinsmen” is symbolised by the planets Mars (Arcite) and Venus (Palamon). And the ‘two incomparable and most noble brethren’ who appear to reflect these planets or characters were the Grandmaster of the Masonic Lodge (from 1618-1630), the 3rd Earl of Pembroke Sir William Herbert and his brother Sir Phillip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery. William Herbert along with his brother Phillip, the Earl of Montgomery to whom the Shake-speare Folio of 1623 was dedicated were close personal friends of Sir Francis Bacon (Baron Verulam) and Edward de Vere (the anonymous “Shakespeare”), a 28th degree Mason. Phillip Herbert went on to marry the Earl of Oxford’s daughter Susan de Vere while Elizabeth de Vere, who was initially proposed as wife to Henry Wriosthesley, was rejected by him and went on to marry the Earl of Derby, William Stanley. The wedding was celebrated by a first performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, composed of course by her father, Edward de Vere.

An artist’s impression of the “Rosy Cross” and Venus as the Universal Brotherhood

Furthermore, the narrative, action and plot in these plays or literary sources appear to embody or echo the ancient Masonic and alchemical maxim: “Solve et Coagule”, ie; “separate and recombine”. The fact that the text and narrative as well as the plot are rife with anomalies, fractures and inconsistencies due in part to the numerous revisions/versions from the original foul papers, the prompt books available, or due to compositor’s errors seems to reflect the mundane meaning of the Arcanum XX, Judgement. In effect it remains corrupted, unfinished, bodged and cobbled together and the product of several playwrights who had no idea how their contribution would knit together with other parts of the play. For those who would enjoy reading the full story of its provenance I recommend they consult “The Arden Shakespeare” edited by Clifford Leech (ISBN 0-415-02709-8). The mundane interpretation of the card, at least from a querent’s point of view is that something in their lives has or will not turn out as well as they would hoped it would. Since the Earl of Pembroke financed the publication of the 1623 Shakespeare Folio and commissioned John Heminges and Henry Condell to carry out the work, in my opinion they did a poor job of it. However, the play later attributed to “Shakespeare”, was extremely popular largely because it featured the comedian William Kempe in the character of Launce and his dog Crab intended as a gift to Silvia which, from a performance perspective in Elizabethan drama, was undoubtedly a piece of comic vaudeville:

“This shoe, with the hole in it,
Is my mother, and this my father; a vengeance
on’t! there ’tis: now, sith, this staff is my
sister, for, look you, she is as white as a lily and
as small as a wand: this hat is Nan, our maid: I
am the dog: no, the dog is himself, and I am the
dog–Oh! the dog is me, and I am myself; ay, so,
so. Now come I to my father; Father, your blessing:
now should not the shoe speak a word for weeping:
now should I kiss my father; well, he weeps on. Now
come I to my mother: O, that she could speak now
like a wood woman! Well, I kiss her; why, there
’tis; here’s my mother’s breath up and down. Now
come I to my sister; mark the moan she makes. Now
the dog all this while sheds not a tear nor speaks a
word; but see how I lay the dust with my tears.”

Aside from the comical scenes, which only an Elizabethan audience could have found in any sense amusing, this is another of “Shakespeare’s Italianate” plays (eg: “Romeo & Juliet”, “The Merchant of Venice” and “The Taming of a Shrew”) and is set in the cities of Milan, Verona, and Mantua. Although the geographical details suffer from some disorientation since there was not at the time an Emperor or for that matter a Duke of Verona, only a Duke of Milan, the author appears to have been personally acquainted with the canal network and a specific site of pilgrimage, namely St. Gregory’s Well. The question which is often asked by Oxfordian supporters is how did a glove-maker from Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakspere get to know about these regions of Italy so intimately? As far as biographical details allow, William Shakspere never went abroad but merely travelled on foot or horse from Stratford to London? However, as described in my post “A Stratfordian Homunculus in Italy” the 17th Earl of Oxford did travel there from Germany taking the usual route from Milan via St. Gregory’s Well to Verona where pilgrims usually stopped to refresh themselves:

Sweet Proteus, no; now let us take our leave.
To Milan let me hear from thee by letters
Of thy success in love, and what news else
Betideth here in absence of thy friend;

Divinatory Meaning of this Card:

The 31st path on the Tree of Life connects Yod (Splendour-Mercury), on the right hand side with Malkuth (Kingdom-Earth) on the central pillar. In Tarot it is known as the “Perpetual Intelligence” primarily because it regulates the disparate influences of the Sun and Moon within the human psyche as well as the destructive or transforming forces of nature. Astrologically, it represents the planet Mercury acting through fire upon the 4 Cosmic Elements. In Tarot symbolism it represents the primal fire or essential energy of the Universe and is linked to card number 20. Judgement which depicts an awakening, metamorphosis or possibly transformation of human consciousness even after death flying up into heaven as the image of a dove. Below stand a naked man, a naked woman and a naked child which represents the Pythagorean trinity of Father, Mother and Child. There are of course much deeper associations in this path with Pluto as Lord of the Underworld in Greek mythology who abducted the maiden Persephone and the archangel Gabriel in the Judaic tradition who awakened the dead with blasts from his golden trumpet. However, in nature it is the moment just before a chrysalis breaks open to reveal the beautiful wings and body of the butterfly. In other words the transformation of the limitations of material consciousness into the transcendence of spiritual consciousness summed up as a type of resurrection, an apotheosis or revelatory moment of epiphany stirred miraculously from the depths of one’s being. The gestalt image (Shin) of a tooth associated with this path gives an additional clue to its secret metaphysical or numerical significance since there are a total 32 teeth in the human jaw, 22 sutures in the human skull and 33 bones in the human vertebrae.

Positive: Awakening, renewal of projects health/vitality dawning of new perspectives and challenges. Previous constraints removed by mysterious or divine intervention/re-organisation of ideas and attitudes.

Negative: Psychological sleep, lack of vision or mental/emotional retardation. Prolonged hesitation and deliberation-harsh & unfavourable judgements.

SPHERE: The Perpetual Intelligence Shin – A tooth
Astrological: .Jupiter or Pluto.
Constellation: Perseus – The Champion
Sacred Gemstone: Fossils or Ammonite

The next Arcanum in this series can be viewed by clicking on the following link:

“Arcanum XXI, The World”

“We all love Shakespeare, whoever he was…”

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The links to my publications 
“Shakespeare’s Qaballah”,
a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry,