Here we pick up from our previous entry on The Lovers, Nth in a series of shortish essays ‘about’ the Major Arcana.
Press on. The Chariot: conquest (of earth, of self, of others). Movement without heed, without responsibility.
Not the high point it appears.
Having marshaled his will and confronted (or evaded) the central powers — state and church, the immovable, the orderly — the seeker faced a greater power, eros, and has now forsaken it. He has armoured himself against the world and counts (inter)dependency among the vanquished; he is become a knight, ‘a terrible worm in an iron cocoon.’
The chariot is its own sort of dependency, of course. Machines of war are powered by, and so ultimately serve, the earthly powers; having attained the Significant seventh rank, our foolish seeker is given permission for a victory lap — but by whom? Even in this moment of high achievement, cui bono?
Among the major arcana, two evoke technological achievement: this Chariot, audaciously following (trumping) the cocreated greater body, The Lovers; and of course the distant prideful (and so fallen) Tower. Picture Russell Hoban’s ‘power ring,’ the particle accelerator that brought about the near-death of all things in Riddley Walker — another attempt to break open the deep secrets, similarly doomed, but crucially, not an end. The procession of the major arcana will culminate in a return to the world, and to foolishness (from false innocence to grace); both the Chariot and the Tower symbolize not the ‘dangers of technology’ but selfish reliance, the precise opposite of Emersonian self-reliance. The charioteer believes himself ennobled and enshrined, not seeing that he is immured; the tower-builders will make careful count of everything below them, heeldess of the terrible forces gathering above. In each case, the ‘sin’ is the prideful belief that our machines erase our limits — and that we can transcend and so disregard or ignore them.
Yet the sky is the sky. Blood is blood.
The New Vision Chariot depicts a ‘rear angle’ on the Waite-Smith card: two prisoners walk behind, hands bound, tied to the chariot and its driver. Or he to them. The prisoner knows something the driver no longer will. Funny word, that: ‘will.’
The fallacy of the Tower (of Babel among others): I have found what I sought, taken what I am owed; and the taken were owed their fate as well. I deserve the earth. Later, having wandered and risen, I’ll deserve the sky.
To attain the world, to become it (to acknowledge one’s place as organ of the greater body), is to serve it. Earth, sky, all things. Closeness, sensation, opening — like a fist or a flower.
In the meantime, drunk on success (on rank), we will because we can.
They are in war. Fuck love.
Paradox of attachment: by renouncing your dependence on ‘material things,’ you bind yourself more tightly to all things, to materiality as infinitude rather than limitation.
Conquest is reification: movements and flows stillborn, stolen from the endless recirculation of energy. Thinking here about the chariot, VII among the major arcana: an artificial resting place. I said to my son yesterday (he asked) that even a war ‘easily won’ creates enormous responsibilities which the war machine can’t bear — it can’t create, except as a side effect of destruction. The war machine moves endlessly, remaking the landscape, but at the same time dependent on landscape, parasitic. It needs a place to sink its teeth. Living creatures to attach itself to.
War posits an end, strives for it — to close, to foreclose. But creation is to enter the middle again and again, to be always in the midst of life, of living. (Procreation not only.) The Chariot looks to represent restlessness but I think of it as something closer to shutdown, Waite’s victory parade which can’t help but be an expression of helplessness. ‘What are we gonna do now?’ Rite of passage, but passage to where? It’s fine not to know, but — not to wonder? ‘Live as if these were the first days of a better world.’ War, though, is (about) the end of days. Eyes firmly fixed on the world now gone, the perfect order which is war: We Must Win, They Must Die. Your identity derives from what you want to do. ‘Life is all middle’ — shouldn’t your identity, such as it is, draw from how you are living right now, your points of contact with the universe, your flow and flux, your transforming-being? The only eternal fact, which is that we transform.
The Chariot symbolizes, among other things, the lust for the perfect order of war — not of battle, death-dance, but of Ours and Theirs arraying themselves along imaginary lines across a killing field to assume perfectly coherent identities. The accumulation of identity. The soldier’s Noble Sacrifice is more than compensated for by a momentary sense of belonging to Death. The charioteer is a son of war, death, the open mouth slavering and gnashing.
‘We were only defending ourselves!’
More petulantly: ‘We were defending you, so be grateful.’ For death? For the deaths of others? Not to mourn the death but to show (to coerce) gratitude for the ‘better’ death, the more deserving? The war machine rolls on, and can’t help but make demands even of its casualties.
It has no beneficiaries, only victims.
The opposite of death is creation and the opposite of war is love. The charioteer is a prisoner of Death and will serve until his master comes for him in turn. ‘A soldier would never turn on his brother-in-arms.’ No, of course not. Death and betrayal are unthinkable, are not to be thought. Yet they are all about, so: no thinking allowed. You will enjoy yourself. You will give a cheer.