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Monday, April 3, 2017

Lent / Tarot / Juggling: The Two of Coins

Tarot cards are designed to be chock full of suggestive imagery. No card better exemplifies this than the two of coins. The picture is very simple: a fool juggling two coins. But there's so much more to the card than that. Today's entry must be brief, so I don't have time to comment on every detail or implication, but I can tell one anecdote.

I was reading the cards for a querent who was contemplating suicide. The two of coins came up in the "self" position. I had viewed this card hundreds of times, and, spontaneously, words popped out of my mouth that I had never previously associated with this card: "You are playing with eternity."

The two coins the dunce juggles are rolling around a lemniscate, a symbol for eternity. Coins, in tarot, symbolize the physical realm, including the human body. The pentacle image inside the coin is analogous to a human body. Indeed, my querent was playing with eternity.

Today, as I contemplate today's randomly drawn tarot card, the two of coins, in the context of Lent, I am put in mind of God deciding the fates of mortals: Heaven or Hell?

The other day a Facebook poster insisted to me that the Catholic Church teaches predestination. God has already decided who is going to Heaven and who is going to Hell. No such thing as free will.

I was horrified. I had never thought of predestination as a Catholic doctrine. I had always cherished the Bible's message of free will, repeated, emphatically, from Genesis to Revelation. In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, Adam and Eve's free will is the driver of our entire existence. In Revelation, the last book of the Bible, Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

There's a lot of high-stakes conditional clauses in the Bible, none more so than John 3:16. If you believe in God …

How does any of this mesh with predestination?

And then there is the Vatican page on free will, visible here. It begins, "God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. God willed that man should be 'left in the hand of his own counsel,' so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him. Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts."

I don't know how to reconcile any of that with free will.

If this is hard topic for believers, it is an even harder one for Atheists. Atheists will tell you that there is no such thing as free will. We are merely matter, wind-up toys, actions in reaction to other actions.

I used to debate this topic with Rabbi Laurie Skopitz. In addition to being a rabbi, he was also a counselor. He insisted that mentally ill people have no free will. They are victims of their illnesses.

Rabbi Laurie passed away suddenly eleven years ago. We never concluded our debate. Just as I will not bring this blog post to a satisfying conclusion, as it is time to go to my day job. 

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