The Hermit is the ninth Major Arcana, also called, in some tarot decks, The Monk („Le Moine“ in French), Time or The Sage.
We’ll see how the Hermit is interpreted by four important masters of tarot: the British occultist A. E. Waite (1857-1942), the Russian mathematician and occultist P. D. Ouspensky (1878-1947), the English occultist and ceremonial magician Aleister Crowley (1875-1947) and Spanish-born French occultist and founder of the modern Martinist Order, Papus (1865-1916, his real name being Gérard Encausse).
Waite about the Hermit: Divine Mysteries Secure their own Protection
Reversed, the Hermit can signify, according to the same author: „ concealment, disguise, policy, fear, unreasoned caution “.
In the chapter „The Doctrine behind the Veil“, Waite tells us that the Hermit refers „ to the truth that the Divine Mysteries secure their own protection from those who are unprepared“. But the old man’s beacon has also a more optimist signification „where I am, you also may be“.
Ouspensky about the Hermit: Human Mind, United with the Higher Mind
During his initiatic journey, Ouspensky meets the Hermit in „a sandy, waterless desert where only serpents lived“.
The Hermit has three symbols of initiation: a lantern, a cloak and a staff. Ouspensky describes each of them:
- „The lantern of Hermes Trismegistus […] is higher knowledge, that inner knowledge which illuminates in a new way even what appears to be already clearly known. This lantern lights up the past, the present and the future for the Hermit, and opens the souls of people and the most intimate recesses of their hearts“.
- „The cloak of Apollonius is the faculty of the wise man by which he isolates himself, even amidst a noisy crowd; it is his skill in hiding his mysteries, even while expressing them, his capacity for silence and his power to act in stillness“.
- „The staff of the patriarchs is his inner authority, his power, his self-confidence“.
According to Ouspensky, these three symbols of initiation „are needed to guide souls past the temptation of illusory fires by the roadside, so that they may go straight to the higher goal. He who receives these three symbols or aspires to obtain them, «strives to enrich himself with all he can acquire, not for himself, but, like God, to delight in the joy of giving»“.
But what about the initiations? „Initiation unites the human mind with the higher mind by a chain of analogies. This chain is the ladder leading to heaven, dreamed of by the patriarch“.
Crowley about the Hermit: Fertility in its Most Exalted Sense
The ceremonial magician assure us that „the highest symbolism of this card is, therefore, Fertility in its most exalted sense, and this is reflected in the attribution of the card to the sign of Virgo, which is another aspect of the same quality. Virgo is an earthy sign, and is referred especially to Corn, so that the background of the card is a field of wheat. […] Virgo represents the lowest, most receptive, most feminine form of earth, and forms the crust over Hades“.
Papus about the Hermit: Humanity Fulfilling the Function of God the Holy Spirit
- Wisdom, Circumspection.
Analysed on multiple levels, the Hermit offers us the following signification:
- Humanity fulfilling the function of God the Holy Spirit – the human creative force – the preserving power of Humanity – the equilibrium of the Father and the Mother.
- Equilibrium of Realisation and Justice – Prudence.
- Nature accomplishing the function of humanity – equilibrium of the Astral Light and Elementary Existence – the natural preserving force – the Astral fluid.