The Star Key XVII:
Higher Darkness
(c) Cheryl Lynne Bradley 2006

The Star Key XVII

"Stars are ageless, aren't they?"
Norma Desmond, "Sunset Boulevard"

"And we are so miserably afraid of the light all of us."
Henrik Ibsen

"... the endurance of darkness is preparation for great light."
St. John of the Cross

"...the figure will appear as a type of Truth unveiled, glorious in undying beauty, pouring on the waters of the soul some part and measure of her priceless possession."
A.E. Waite, "The Pictorial Key to the Tarot"

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Carl Gustav Jung

The Star, Key XVII in the Major Arcana, is often spoken of as a card of hope, faith and attainment but somehow these ideas fail to capture the full essence of the card. We all know that stars only come out at night, existing in and shining their beauty through, and despite, the darkness that surrounds them. The Star is speaking about our experiences in the realm of Higher Darkness, the Dark Night of the Soul or Mystic Death. It isn't about the seekers journey for knowledge, it is about our seeking to be.

How many times have we all wished upon a star? "Star light, star bright, first star I've seen tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight." How many times have you seen a shooting star and made a heart felt wish? Or sang along with Jiminy Cricket "would you rather wish on a star, or carry moonbeams home in a jar"? As long as there have been humans and animals on this planet, we have looked upward at night to the beauty and mystery of the stars in the night sky. For every star in the sky, there is a chance of there being another galaxy just like ours.

The Star card is traditionally depicted with an eight rayed star surrounded by seven smaller stars, also with eight rays. A naked woman, kneeling on the land with her right foot upon water, is pouring the Water of Life from two vessels, one on the land and one on the sea. A.E. Waite tells us that the mottos for this card are "Waters of Life freely" and "Gifts of the Spirit" but dismisses the idea that the card represents hope in any way as "tawdry". He feels that the woman in the card is in reality the Great Mother of the Kabballistic Sephira, Binah, who is spilling her waters of understanding onto the Sephiroth below in amounts that they are able to receive or accept. She is the substance of the heavens and the elements.

The Star in Tarot represents the sign Aquarius, ruled by Uranus. Uranus is a planet of sudden upheavals and relates to our interior will, eccentricities, recklessness, perverse thinking, moodiness and our secret, deep-seated personal power. It is the planet of visonary, unconventional, peculiar people and related experiences. Higher Darkness is also similar to the turbulent and uncontrolled energy of Pluto. Pluto relates to uncovering past secrets to make way for a clear future and signifies death and rebirth, it can destroy or it can create. It is worth checking your astrological chart when you are experiencing Higher Darkness to see what Pluto and Uranus are up to.

The early Egyptians viewed the eight pointed star as a symbol of divinity and to the ancient Babylonians it was a solar symbol. It represented the influence of the sun, the solar circle was contained in its circumference and the points represented the solstices, equinoxes and the cardinal points. The Knights Templar used the eight pointed star on their shields.

In Buddhism, we are taught about the state of the subtle mind called the deepest dark lit immanence. It is likened to a cloudless darkened day, a bright blackness but not because of the absence of light. It is pure darkness but it is dark light. This state has two aspects: consciously endarkened and loss of consciousness; which puts us in a place beyond consciousness and unconsciousness and has an emphasis on the instinctual pattern of ignorance.

In Christianity, we are taught about the Dark Night of the Soul or Mystic Death. This is always depicted and described as a very negative, lonely, empty, uncertain, agonizing, painful and chaotic event or period in one's life often associated with spiritual growth. There is much anguish for the self and the challenge of sorting out our ego entanglements and distorted perceptions, illusions or preconceived notions. We are psychically and physically fatigued from experiencing mystical lucidity. We will feel the absence of God and question our faith. As Meister Eckhart states, "He acts as if there were a wall erected between Him and us."

Our doubt will lead us to seek Truth. In this process we come to reintegration with both our Self, the world and the Divine. It takes deep inner strength to deal with extremes in thought and mood that can seem to range from manic and despairing to catatonic and stagnant.

"This is one of the most bitter sufferings of this purgation. The soul is conscious of a profound emptiness in itself, a cruel destitution of the three kinds of goods, natural, temporal, and spiritual, which are ordained for its comfort. It sees itself in the midst of the opposite evils, miserable imperfections, dryness and emptiness of the understanding, and abandonment of the spirit in darkness."
St. John of the Cross

The experience in lucidity creates great instability for our ego created Self. We are on the move from the search for illumination to reconnection with the Divine and the Universe, but in between we go through the equivalent of a psychic, emotional and spiritual colonic. In Higher Darkness we must come to terms with the Five Dark Currents of the Will: to take, to keep, to advance, to achieve personal greatness, to hold on to another without allowing them to move forward. These are the dark currents of ego blockage, negative emotional patterns, controlling behaviours, false expectations and entitlement. We will question our social navigation and all false ideas we have about our Self.

Our ego will fight hard to hold onto it's considerable power. The only way into the light is to embrace the darkness. The ego blockages, and our tendency to only affirm pleasures, must be faced and torn down. We need to lose the ideas that everything we do must have a reward, that spirituality is about instant gratification or that we must give and never expect anything back. Our ego and our higher consciousness are having a head on collision. Higher Darkness precipitates the changes that can help us to live consciously, purposefully and connected to the Divine. We can achieve this by the mindful negation and restraint of our pain and suffering. In embracing this experience, and all of its intense challenge, we are opening ourselves up to receive wisdom, joy, deeper meaning and understanding.

Fractal Universe Tarot: The Star 17 by Nicole Cormier

Just Finishing Candle by Rumi

A candle is made to become entirely flame.
In that annihilating moment it has no shadow.

It is nothing but a tongue of light describing a refuge.

Look at this just finishing candle stub
as someone who is finally safe
from virtue and vice,

the pride and the shame we claim from those.

All too often we view any experience of darkness as negative and destructive. We can fail to recognize the spiritual growth and emergence which is occuring - it is like giving birth to a whole new Self. Working in your Higher Darkness is also about learning to balance the light. Without light, there are no shadows, just blackness. Without shadows, we couldn't endure the light. Higher Darkness can purify, organize and change or destroy the Light. Recognize its power and empower your Self. Accept the Higher Darkness as a gift of deep illumination from your Higher Self and the mysterious Divine.


This page was created November 20, 2006 and updated 2009-06-28.