The Lovers is the first major arcana where we can see more than a single character. Until now, The Fool, The Magician, The Emperor and The Hierophant represented one single man, while The High Priestess and The Empress represented one single woman. What is the meaning of this card? Four important masters of tarot – A. E. Waite, P. D. Ouspenski, Aleister Crowley and Papus – offer us some answers.
Waite about the Lovers: the Card of Human Love
Reversed, the Lovers can signify: „failure, foolish designs. Another account speaks of marriage frustrated and contrarieties of all kinds“.
In the chapter „The Doctrine Behind the Veil“, Waite writes that „This is in all simplicity the card of human love, here exhibited as part of the way, the truth and the life“.
Waite explains the dual signification of the woman: „the suggestion in respect of the woman is that she signifies that attraction towards the sensitive life which carries within it the idea of the Fall of Man, but she is rather the working of a Secret Law of Providence than a willing and conscious temptress. It is through her imputed lapse that man shall arise ultimately, and only by her can he complete himself. The card is therefore in its way another intimation concerning the great mystery of womanhood“.
Ouspensky about the Lovers: a Picture of Temptation and Fall
In his book, „The Symbolism of the Tarot“, P. D. Ouspenky considers The Lovers „a picture of temptation and fall“. Asked if he understands the nature of fall, the author responds: „Life is so good and the world so beautiful, and this man and woman wanted to believe in the reality of the world and of themselves. They wanted to forget service and take from the world what it can give. So they made a distinction between themselves and the world. They said, “We are here, the world is there.” And the world separated from them and became hostile“.
The answer is appreciated and he receives additional explanations: „The everlasting mistake with men is that they see the fall in love. But Love is not a fall, it is a soaring above an abyss. And the higher the flight, the more beautiful and alluring appears the earth. But that wisdom, which crawls on earth, advises belief in the earth and in the present. This is the Temptation. And the man and woman yielded to it. They dropped from the eternal realms and submitted to time and death. The balance was disturbed. The fairyland was closed upon them“.
Crowley about the Lovers: Solve et Coagula, Separate and Join Together
Crowley considers that „the subject of this card is Analysis, followed by Synthesis. The first question asked by science is: «Of what are things composed?». This having been answered, the next question is: «How shall we recombine them to our greater advantage?». This resumes the whole policy of the Tarot“.
The ceremonial magician connects this card with the XIV Major Arcana (traditionally Temperance, but it is called The Art in Crowley’s Tarot of Thoth). He tell us that, together, these two cards compose the comprehensive alchemical maxim> Solve et coagula. So, the two figures in this card teach us how to separate and to join together.
Papus about the Lovers: Beauty, Love, Charity and Univeral Attraction
- In the Divine. The Equilibrium between Will and Intelligence – BEAUTY (characteristic of the Holy Spirit).
- In the Human. The Equilibrium between Power and Authority – LOVE (characteristic of Humanity). CHARITY.
- In Nature. The Equilibrium between the Universal soul and the Universal life – THE UNIVERSAL ATTRACTION. Universal Love“.