How do you approach the controversy of Waite’s swapping the positions of Justice and Strength?
For most Tarot reading purposes that makes no difference. As far as the delineation of the spiritual path is concerned it does.
Karma is a major spiritual law. It is the law of “cause and effect” and thus it must be addressed somewhere in the Major Arcana. It is right here in “Justice“.
With the Hermit’s light and introspection, we begin to analyze life and begin questioning things.
The Hermit is looking at the arcanum Justice, to his right and questioning: has it been a fair game so far? If so, at a particularly ripe time in the soul’s journey, we move forward and skip to Strength. If not; if we committed a transgression which generated an emotional burden between two or more souls then we enter the Wheel of Fortune and come back to pay, as well as receive, by allowing others to pay us, and restore balance by doing justice. Notice that the wheel sits on a stream of water: emotion.
(There is also self-karma; when the self-inflicting pain of the Devil is so strong that we transgress against ourselves. Profound martyrdom or suicide are examples.)
We cannot escape the Wheel of Fortune until debt is paid. The Hermit and Justice with their natural-law-abiding wisdom make sure of that. So the Hermit is always illuminating the past and present to see if it has been fair or not. First karma is paid and only then can we say a particular cycle has ended and a new one begun spiritually. Justice must, by natural law, come before the Wheel of Fortune and before the Hermit, not after. We don’t go to jail and then are found guilty or innocent afterwards. “Justice” on every level of duality, works the other way around.
Waite’s interference with the traditional placement of the cards is incongruent with the flow in the spiritual path and the natural development of self-awareness. The same problem of esotericists’ arbitrary modifications occurred with Traditional Astrology – a number of distortions entered the system in the late 19th century and it became modern astrology which is limited and in many ways incongruent with reality.
These are archetypes we are talking about. They represent the building blocks of psychic development on the physical plane and their attending laws. This is not the case where karma operates in one way for some people and differently for others; they would not be archetypes in that case.
But karma or, cause and effect, does not relate only to transgressions that impinge on our and others’ free will, it also relates to accomplishment. The soul has a plan prior to incarnating. The measure of success is shown by the arcanum The Chariot.
Yet, the figure in the Chariot is young and still lacks wisdom. He is looking to his right, that is, at his past accomplishments. He is not yet looking at the consequences of his choices. But he must. And that will come next.
Have we done what we set out to do in this incarnation, or by a certain time frame in this incarnation? If yes, then a new cycle may begin. If not, then we may repeat the plan. And that is why Justice is right after the Chariot.
The sphinx figure holding the sword atop the Wheel of Fortune can be seen as Justice. It touches the wheel and has the power to stop the wheel from turning which is congruent with the law in operation at that crucial spot on the path. The invisible hand of God which turns the crank abides gracefully showing that this drama is Impersonally moved in essence.
The result of paying karma successfully is a forward movement in spiritual learning and development, rather than cycling back to try again and “do it right”. This type of cycle can be seen within one lifetime when we realize we want to make amends to those we harmed or do something good to ourselves that we failed to do earlier in life; or it can apply to multiple lifetimes when the harm was so great that we were not able to make amends and thus must reincarnate in order to do so.
Paying karma successfully produces spiritual maturity, wisdom and psychic/spiritual Strength. Strength is the basis of conscious spiritual development on the physical plane, depicted by arcana XI through XX.
We have reached our goals, or not.
Our deeds from those goals are measured.
The quality of our deeds is recorded by consciousness and added to our wisdom.
According to our assessment, we go back to redo what was not done or badly done, or move forward to a new cycle
Spiritually, the new cycle is one of conscious spiritual work.