Judgement Card: the Music of the Cycles

The Judgement card speaks of soul callings, awakenings, and rebirths. Its title and imagery, however, may draw uneasy images and feelings of divine retribution, karma, and the ultimate—perhaps even punishing—results of our actions. But could the second-to-last card of the Major Arcana be inviting us into an open, courageous, and receptive relationship with our reality? Could the medicine of this card be attuning us to the music of our ups and downs in life? As we will see, our successes and failures sing a song that is surprisingly joyful, always giving us the material of which the next cycle will be built.

Judgement is Key 20, being the card right before the culminating archetype of the Major Arcana: The World. As such, Judgement does vibrate with endings and completions, although we may not be quite there yet. When pulling Judgement, our egoic self may often flinch. “I will get the results that I deserve”, as fear of failure casts a shadow on the inner light. We may feel like all this work is for nothing because at the end, we will probably get a “no” from the Universe and our dreams will be cut short. I don’t know about you, but I have received such no’s before.

But I am not here to say that the Universe will always give you a “yes”, because that is not really true, at least from our limited perspective as finite, earth-bound beings. I am here to share with you, however, that whether we receive a No or a Yes, we will be receiving the seed of our next journey. And if we shift our paradigms, we will be hearing a song of joy.

As seen by its traditional depictions, Judgement is a trumpet call. At its core, Judgement is music. It is the deep songs that the ego forgot but that the soul remembers. It is the tunes that hit our heart with sweetness and a bit of sadness at once. Remember that Judgement’s place in the sequence of the Major Arcana is one of near completions, of breaching towards the next cycles. While heeding its calls, we become more deeply attuned to the music that underlies and sets the tone for the events of our lives.

What if we broke free from a view of the Cosmos that goes beyond “bad” and “good” results? What if we stopped seeing the “No’s” we receive as condemnatory judgments? What if we ceased conditioning our joy on perceived successes and failures? Judgement calls us into “having a continual relationship with the phenomenal world that is not based on either a good or bad result.” (Trungpa, “Smile at Fear”). Trungpa teaches us to “unconditionally trust the phenomenal world to always give us a message, either success or failure.” He goes on to share that the I Ching “often talks about success being failure and failure being success. Success sows the seeds of future failure, and failure may bring a later success.” And, “for warriors, fearlessness doesn’t mean that we cheer up by saying ‘Look! I’m on the side of the right. I am a success.’ Nor do we feel that we’re being punished when we fail.”

And this, my friends, brings us to Chögyam Trungpa’s analogy of music on the path to unconditionally fearlessness. I feel it resonates so much with the Judgement card, which I just happened to draw right after meditating upon these teachings. “Music is connected with the idea of continuously being joyful. The feedback or the result that comes from the warrior’s practice is never a dead end. It presents another path. We always can go on, go beyond. So while the result of action is fruition, beyond that, the result is the seed for the next journey. Our journey continues, cycling between success and failure, path and fruition, just as the four seasons alternative. There is always further creativity, so there is always joy on the journey, joy in the result.”

After Judgement, comes The World. When this card appears for us, we may be contemplating what will come of our dreams, of our efforts and of our vision. How will they be judged? Will we receive a big Yes or a resounding No? Are we headed for victory or perceived defeat? After the earth-shattering call of Judgement comes into our lives, we may very well be headed towards the fruition of The World. If not, that’s ok. Truly, deeply, honestly—that’s ok. Whatever the results of our current cycle are, they will seed the beginnings of our next journey. Even if we get a “No”, we will be given a different path of further creation. The Fool will take us by the hand as we resume our adventure through life. Continuous joy will still sing its melody. Our bad or good results are but notes in the music of the cycles.