Tarot: the Hierophant and His Avatars – Gandhi (1982 film)
The Hierophant is the fifth Major Arcana in all the traditional tarot decks. In the Rider-Waite tarot deck, the Hierophant is a man sitting on a throne, between two white pillars, wearing a triple crown and holding in his left hand a sceptre terminating in a triple cross. Two fingers of his right hand are pointing skywards, in a gesture of benediction. At his legs, there are two crossed keys, considered the keys to Heaven, and two priestly ministers kneeling before him.
Although the Hierophant has been usually called „the Pope“, Waite assures us that this is only a particular application of the more general office that he symbolizes: „he is the ruling power of external religion, as the High Priestess is the prevailing genius of the esoteric, withdrawn power“.
The power and the knowledge of the Hierophant are coming from above: „he symbolizes also all things that are righteous and sacred on the manifest side. He is the channel of grace belonging to the world of institution as distinct from that of Nature, and he is the leader of salvation for the human race at large. He is the order and the head of the recognized hierarchy, which is the reflection of another and greater hierarchic order“.
In literature, painting and cinema, there are many scenes and characters that more or less accurately illustrate the meaning of this Major Arcana. One of the most interesting is Gandhi, the character from 1982 biographical movie starring Ben Kingsley.
Gandhi is a 1982 epic biographical film which dramatizes the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the leader of India’s non-violent, non-cooperative independence movement against the United Kingdom’s rule of the country. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, the real Gandhi (2 October 1869 – 30 January 1948) led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. Nowadays, his birthday, 2 October, is commemorated as Gandhi Jayanti, a national holiday, and world-wide as the International Day of Nonviolence.
The film opens with a statement from the filmmakers explaining their approach to the problem of filming Gandhi’s complex life story: „No man’s life can be encompassed in one telling. There is no way to give each year its allotted weight, to include each event, each person who helped to shape a lifetime. What can be done is to be faithful in spirit to the record and to try to find one’s way to the heart of the man“.
The film ends with Gandhi’s words: „When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it. Always“.
The film won eight Academy Awards, including those for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing and Best Actor.
Gandhi’s life, as depicted in the movie, totally reflects the spiritual but also institutional values suggested by the Hierophant, the fifth Major Arcana of the Tarot. Gandhi symbolized „all things that are righteous and sacred on the manifest side“. Gandhi also is „the leader of salvation for the human race at large“.
We chose, to illustrate those spiritual qualities, one of the best scenes from the movie. Rremember what Mahatma Gandhi said: „ An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind“!
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