The image of the solitary traveler who crosses countless landscapes in search of something he does not understand or know how to define, is the inspiration behind countless narratives and artistic representations.
Many are deeply touched by this archetype of the tireless seeker, the wanderer determined to reach his mysterious destiny. Why do we relate so closely to this idea?
In the ancient wisdom that created the Tarot, we find the wanderer represented by the card ‘the Fool’ – the one eternally in search of something that he does not know, and is unsure of what it really is. For those who study these symbols, this card points to unconscious thinking, unrestrained longing, fate and naivety. It can mean the disposition towards a new endeavor to face the unknown and the new. It also indicates questioning dubious patterns of behavior and inclinations towards spirituality.
Among the major arcana of the Tarot, ‘the Fool’ is the only card without a fixed place: numbered zero-zero, it represents both a beginning and an end. It is responsible for bringing about the concept of ‘the joker’ in the deck of cards we know so well, which can take any position and value in a sequence, as it has no defined number or suit.
The wanderer image does not find his place in the world, does not fit in society, does not allow himself to be held back by social conventions, and does not covet the values widely desired by the majority of people. He lives in a reality of his own, which no one else seems to understand. It is towards this unconscious image that we feel such an affinity.
The seeker is however, not normally born this way. It is possible that he has matured from his accumulated experiences throughout life, becoming disenchanted with the shine of gold, the glory of fame, and the prestige of honor. Possibly at some point, he developed a deep longing, a strong impulse for a change of scenery, to reach another state of being, another reality.
From a spiritual perspective, it is possible to point out some distinct phases of this seeking:
– An initial reaction, in which the seeker still tries to fit into society’s molds with all its expectations, charges and rules of conduct, leaves him without success.
– This is followed by a second experience which is marked by a deep dissatisfaction, a restlessness, so poignant, that it seems to scar his very soul. It makes it impossible to find happiness in ordinary life, which is subjected to the judgment of others, and constrained by ‘common sense’. Thus, the impulse to search for his own ‘place’. Even without knowing where that place is, even without tracing a clear destination – the wanderer’s impetus can arise from the pure and simple need to change scenery and landscapes.
But it is only when the seeker turns his focus inwardly that he finds the deeper source of his dissatisfaction. Recognizing this powerful impulse, he can finally abandon his wandering through the world, and begin his journey of self-discovery, his spiritual realization.
The unconscious journey through life needs to bring about an awareness for conscious transformation. For, having abandoned all external authority, he will live without a clear compass, lost, until he discovers within himself the only true authority: the source of the call to eternity.
Everything he has known and understood of the outside world becomes secondary to his endeavors to walk this path. For him, the words of scripture become a reality: ‘The wisdom of the world is foolishness with God’ (1 Cor 3:19). It will be necessary to abandon all the heavy ballast of beliefs, certainties and security, acquired from the old way of living, so that it is finally possible to reach a new state of being, a new life.
We thus see the creative aspect of the ‘Fool’ (the wanderer) take on a deeper spiritual meaning. The consciousness will have to review its values down to the essence of its foundations, to establish a totally renewed dynamic in its processes of thinking, feeling and acting.
If the mystery of this sacred dissatisfaction is revealed through his self-awareness, it will become evident that all efforts for self-preservation, development in a material sense, as well as all inclinations to gain power, are illusory and are based on self-affirmation and individualism.
The source of restlessness that leads to the inner path, floods our consciousness with values absolutely incompatible with egocentrism. It is an intuition, a reminiscence from an entirely different state of consciousness – a longing for a life in perfect communion and unity with everything and everyone.
As long as consciousness dares not embrace this yearning as the key to attaining this higher life; as long as doubt and disbelief lead our life back to the safety of the old and known ‘common sense’, our inner life will remain as if completely ‘inverted’.
Immeasurable suffering can develop, if each new day is lived with the impossible task of satisfying ourselves with the worldly objectives that everyone seems to pursue relentlessly.
However, if approached positively with a deep insight, it will not be long before he can realize his task. As Rumi so eloquently expresses in the verse: ‘Your task is not to seek Love, but simply to seek and find within yourself all the barriers you have built against it’. Suddenly, worldly values reveal the most complete madness and illusion.
His yearning, that was previously misunderstood and ignored, finally becomes a single and clear objective for his soul. In this way the pilgrim is born. He then becomes one who ‘no longer finds any place in this world to rest his head” (Matthew 8:21), and who therefore needs to set out on this path, towards the new, towards the transcendent – towards eternity.
On this path, the master is the eternal call that resounds in his inner being, and whose voice he can now clearly hear. His intuition becomes his nourishment, giving him strength and courage to walk his liberating and transforming path.