The clouds of the mind have closed in and left the painful impression that the love, truth and beauty the Hanged Man knew is inaccessible. Fear, doubt and confusion remain; all the ego-centric suffering remains to some degree or another, while the memory of the revelation remains beneath the suffering shining its light into the psyche. It is now time to discriminate and eliminate the obstructions.
Death describes the process of spiritual cleansing that takes place. This process may well have been going on before the Hanged Man first showed up. Spiritual work has begun with the Hermit’s introspection and analysis of life and its degree of justice.
However, since the Hanged Man, what we are working for and what we have been seeking is understood directly, not only intuitively or, intellectually. It is understood that we are what is sought. We are not working for some state of metaphysical power, we are not striving to add something to our selves or to improve our selves; we are not attempting to create an immortal vehicle for the ego; the work is no longer one aimed at personal achievement. The work is now to clear the psyche from weeds growing unconsciously in the dark ground, that is: from misconceptions and fear, until what is left is The World – the true self that we have always been, are now and will always be.
Death, represents the removal of all symbols of identity, namely: the personality and the body, thus the heads of kings and queens and body parts lying on the ground. It is the removal of the imaginary pictures of ourselves and the removal of the belief that we are exclusively those images and names.
This arcanum does not have a name. Spiritually speaking, the symbol of not having a name points at the elimination of one’s primary image of self. The arcanum is telling us: you are not your name, your body or the person behind the name, abandon all symbols of self and find the Real Self.
Why a skeleton doing the job?
Because the ego-as-author is still active, we believe we perform the spiritual work when in fact the ego-as-author was never alive on its own to start with. Yet, the colors in the skeleton show that the True Self is animating and acting through it. Spiritual work under the belief that we are the authors of our efforts have qualitatively different results from efforts that take place in the absence of that belief. The Hanged Man’s understanding provides an impersonal framework for the work which leads to present Self-realization rather than an imagined future salvation. Here we have a reminder of that perspective.
As the cleansing process continues consciousness gets more and more acutely aware. More and more is seen about the unconscious manifestations of duality and the prison of distorted thinking and fear, which is what prevents a life lived in present peace and spiritual fulfillment. These unconscious manifestations are represented next by The Devil.
Read the related article “Why does the arcanum 13 not have a name?“.