2022 and the Nature of “Six-ness” – “Pleasure with Pain for Leaven”

Author’s Note: Here is a meditation on the nature of “Six-ness” as it applies to the year ahead. (Please forgive the cynic in me, it’s irrepressible.)

This is the time of year when everyone and their psychic brother (or, more plausibly, sister, daughter, mother, aunt or grandmother) will be doing an annual forecast for 2022. I will be performing just such a “look-ahead” sometime soon, but first I wanted to ruminate a bit on the numerological significance of 2022 as an expression of “six-ness” (numerologically, 2022 equates to 6 by “Theosophical reduction”). Although there are a number of grim challenges facing us – from the Covid pandemic to runaway inflation to toxic cultural malaise and sociopolitical chaos – “Six” may just presage a “sea-change” in some of these areas. I’m going to approach this from three angles: 1) direct tarot card associations; 2) numerological reduction; and 3) Joseph Maxwell’s system of “isomorphs.”

On the Qabalistic Tree of Life, the sixth sephira, Tipharet (var. Tiphareth) sits smack-dab in the middle of the array, giving it the pleasing associations of “balance” and “harmony” as the central hub for the revolving energies of the Tree. There is an exquisite equilibrium here and a serene benevolence befitting its esoteric connection to the physical Sun. In the tarot cards, beyond its obvious echo in the Sun card, this sephira (meaning “Beauty”) corresponds to the four Sixes of the Minor Arcana. I’m going to ignore the prosaic Waite-Smith sixes here since I think their connections to the Qabalistic blueprint are tenuous at best and at worst corrupted by Smith’s theatrical and folkloric presumptions. Instead, we will look at the Thoth sixes.

All images copyright US Games Systems, Stamford, CT

It’s abundantly clear that Aleister Crowley (and, for the most part, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn before him) held the Sixes in the warmest regard. Even the rather austere 6 of swords rates Crowley’s blessing as “the perfect balance of all mental and moral faculties, hardly won” (although, as with all the Sixes, he considered it a temporary state of rest) while the Golden Dawn called it the “Lord of Earned Success.” On the face of it, these cards could be saying that advances in medical science will bring the Covid dilemma under some degree of control. I don’t hold out as much hope for “six-ness” in relieving inflation (6 of Disks), cultural belly-aching (6 of Cups) or sociopolitical disarray (6 of Wands), since each is tainted by too much of its antithesis as discussed below.

The Major Arcana cards that relate indirectly to the sixth sephira or directly to the number 6 are the Sun, the Lovers (VI) and the Devil (XV – 15 – reduces to 6 as in “1+5 = 6”).

The Sun needs no introduction; it is by all accounts the most encouraging card in the deck, although its inherent flaws are unbridled optimism and an unwillingness to peer too closely into the shadows, perhaps personifying the “anti-vax, anti-mask” crowd. I’m not sure any amount of “science” will sway them.

The Lovers represents a “crossroads” on the path to recovery. I like to think of it as showing the choice between a “high road” that leads to a “place in the Sun” and a “low road” that ends in the murky domain of the Devil. This suggests 2022 as a “crisis” year in which the “fever breaks” and we regain our national health, both literal and figurative. If we don’t quite get there due to dithering along the road (all that cultural disaffection and political back-biting), the Devil’s astrological correspondence to saturnine Capricorn could mean that we wind up at the end of the year no better off than we are now, and perhaps with an even more onerous burden.

Joseph Maxwell’s system of “isomorphs” (see his book The Tarot) describes different sets of two numbers that add up to the same number and thereby provide an alternate perspective as input to the usual interpretation of the integer they form. In this case, the cards that embody them (2+4 and 1+5) give a strong impression of the line from Algernon Charles Swinburne’s poem Atalanta in Calydon: “Pleasure with pain for leaven,” in that each set of four has three generally agreeable cards – Ace, Two and Four – accompanied by a much less amiable Five (which, in keeping with Swinburne’s turn of phrase, acts more like a motivating “goad” than a palliative). The basis for this assumption is that Maxwell considered even-numbered “binary” cards to represent equilibrium and harmony and the odd-numbered “unitary” cards (with the possible exception of the untrammeled unitary “root” number, One) to show struggle as a kind of “crisis of becoming” as they strive to return to a state of balance. The impression this leaves is that we can’t just sit on our hands and wait for the solution to fall in our laps, but instead must, as a nation, step up to the plate and take a coordinated whack at it via those unflinching Fives.

The Wands series implies that there could be a good deal of in-fighting (5 of Wands) as we try to “muscle and bluster” our way (Ace and Two of Wands) past the challenges we’re facing, with the 4 of Wands fostering a sense of complacency that defies and confounds the 5 of Wands. A Machiavellian cynic with an eye for political intrigue (aka “me”) might observe that there are factions who would love to see the disruption of normalcy continue until after the mid-term Congressional elections, after which all will be sweetness and light (assuming, of course, that they win).

The first three cards of the Cups series remind me strongly of the repeated exhortations of Dr. Pangloss in Voltaire’s Candide that “Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” These could represent the “Covid deniers” (as in “those who deny,” not the French suit of Deniers), and the dismal 5 of Cups looks like it will disabuse them of their rosy illusions while everyone else pursues their more lucid civic vision to an ideally salutary conclusion. I’m by no means a “government shill” on this (quite to the contrary, I’m a Libertarian sympathizer and distrust government – particularly Fauci and the CDC – at almost every turn), but it seems like common sense to me that the hardiest (immunized?) and most resourceful (socially prudent?) rats will make it to the lifeboat while those who swallow the “poisoned rhetoric” won’t.

Here – in the 2 of Swords and 4 of Swords – we have “disengagement” writ large. It looks like a form of mental defeatism that retreats from contemplation of the “worst-case” scenario. The skeptic in me makes me wonder whether it’s the “ivory tower” intelligentsia (Ace of Swords) that is in the vanguard of this misbegotten attitude. At any rate, that 5 of Swords needs to be squelched before it infects the general populace; maybe “science” will provide the corrective. In the best sense, I see it as the “try, try again” card that eventually redeems the 6 of Swords. The alternative is unthinkable.

More entrenched inertia mars the Disks series. The 2 of Disks and 4 of Disks together exemplify Crowley’s “magickal formula,” “Change = Stability,” an aphorism I prefer to recast in less pithy terms as “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” which of course discourages evolution. The “power block” (4 of Disks) that’s squatting like an ogre on the nation’s financial infrastructure isn’t about to lift a finger, and that stick-in-the-mud Ace of Disks isn’t going to provide enough drive to restart the engine of economic recovery, while the 5 of Disks could be showing the gnawing misgivings of those economists who manage to look past the ends of their noses (that is, beyond the short-term gains and losses of the stock market). Tighten your belts, kids.

Summary Conclusion:

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that the “last best hope” for a 2022 turnaround is “science,” since it seems that nothing else will even get out of the starting gate. We as a culture of habitual procrastinators, finger-pointers and whiners don’t seem to have the communal gumption to pull it off, so – borrowing an aerial combat term – we will just rest on our “sixes.” There is more wishful thinking than gritty resolve in most of what I see here. I hope I’m proved wrong.

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