Yesterday’s reading led me to ask the question, ‘What gifts have I been given through my experiences?’ Experiences, I suppose, is a euphemism for god-awful hard times. Sometimes it’s hard not to get bogged down in the negative and we lose sight of the lessons we’ve learned or the qualities that have gotten us through those hard times. So for the next few days, I’m going to draw one card a day to clarify what gifts my experiences have given me.
Temperance can be defined as ‘moderation in action, thought, or feeling; restraint.’ It has been a core value of most major religions including Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. Plato considered it a core virtue of the ideal city. Generally we think of temperance as restraining some desire or impulse such as sexual desire, gluttony, anger, or vanity. It also speaks of self control and discipline.
In the card to the left we see a winged angel standing at the water’s edge with one foot on dry land (grounded) and one foot in the water (the realm of intuition, feeling). Some sources say the angel is the child of Hermes and Aphrodite and therefore both male and female, a hermaphrodite. A blend. The angel holds two cups from which water flows from the lower cup into the higher cup. Some sources say the angel is blending a stream of hot water with a stream of cold water. A path leads from the water to the horizon where a golden crown appears promising future reward. The card imparts a sense of having found balance, harmony and peace.
The Greek word Sophrosyne lends a deeper resonance to this card for me. Sophrosyne was one of the good spirits released into the world when Pandora opened her box. She was the spirit of temperance, self restraint and discretion. The concept of sophrosyne was very important to ancient Greeks but is difficult to translate into English. It reflects a wholeness, enlightenment obtained through excellence of character, a sound mind and a healthy body. Socrates believed that obtaining knowledge of oneself and living virtuously were far more important than material wealth and riches. Perhaps sophrosyne it can best be sumarised through two sayings from the Oracle of Delphi ‘Know Thyself’ and ‘Nothing In Excess’.
Living within the limits of reason and nature through practical wisdom and self-knowledge is something that appeals to me very much. It implies a deep peace with where you’re at, allowing yourself to be imperfect, accepting your history and your place in the world and living virtuously. That is, living a life respectful of others, of the environment, and of yourself. In many ways I see a growing consciousness of sophrosyne throughout the world – for example environmentalism, the occupy movement, the growing acceptance of homosexual marriages in many countries, the growing popularity of meditation, increased interest in locally-grown and organic foods. Not to say that there aren’t still very deep and very real issues of discrimination and inequality in the world but Temperance is a good reminder of all the positive shifts that are occurring in the global consciousness.
When I think of my younger self, my patterns of behaviour, the way I reacted to challenging events, the way I treated people and how I act now I definitely feel much more connected with my true self than I ever have. I haven’t found a true happiness yet. But I can see myself moving through the world with more compassion, more calmly and with more ease. The fireworks of my youth are largely gone. The fire hasn’t been quenched. There’s still plenty of fire, but it’s definitely been tempered with more water and earth. I am more confident, more at home with myself and more giving to others. Definitely still working at it though. There are miles to go before I sleep.
How about you? How does Temperance show up in your life?