* ranks of men;
* conditions of human life;
* spiritual and celestial powers.
According to the interpretation of Michael J. Hurst, the images in the last section of the sequence are “related to Christian eschatology, and although they are not the most conventional representations, they derive from chapters 20 and 21 of Revelation”.
I have been looking for texts that could somehow parallel this structure, and I have seen that there are some that include a description of human life followed by a discussion of Christian eschatology. The only one I have read is “Della miseria dell’uomo” (On the Misery of Man), by Bono Giamboni (1240-1292 ca). The text is based on “De miseria humanae conditionis” (On the Misery of the Human Condition) by Lotario dei Conti di Segni, Pope Innocent III, (1160 – 1216).
Here are the contents of the book:
Bono Giamboni wrote:BOOK ONE
The first book illustrates the misery of men and women from the time when they are conceived until they exit from the womb of their mothers.
I. On the misery of the creature in its creation, since it is born in the original sin.
II. On the misery of the creature due to the baseness of the matter of which it is made.
III. On the misery of the creature for the baseness of how it is fed when it is in the womb of his mother.
IV. On the misery of the creature for the pain it gives to its mother when it is in her womb and for those it gives when exiting it to enter the world.
V. On the misery of the creature when it is born to the world, for the baseness of this thing and how it is discussed by the Wise.
About the pains and troubles suffered by the creature after it is born to the world.
I. Of the pains and worries that the creature suffers as soon it is born to the world.
II. Of the pains and troubles suffered by people as they advance in their days.
III. Of the pains, worries and miseries suffered by men and women at the end of their lives, that is in old age.
IV. On the remedies that man must take for his troubles, and of the benefits received by him who follows such remedies. The first benefit [the man is confirmed in the grace of God].
V. Of the second benefit that the man receives if he peacefully bears his troubles in this world [he makes himself similar to Christ]
VI. Of the third benefit [the glory of eternal life]
About the endeavors.
I. Of the endeavors to become learned of things, and how in the end they are just vanity and nothingness.
II. The second endeavor: richness.
III. Of the endeavors suffered by men in order to become rich.
IV. How the endeavors to become rich are ill placed, since riches are false and vain and turn to nothing.
V. How he who wants to be rich becomes greedy in gaining and mean in giving. First we see the vice of greediness.
VI. On the vice of meanness, that is keeping without spending.
VII. Reasons why man must not be greedy nor mean.
VIII. Here it is clearly explained why the greedy and the mean are never satisfied.
IX. Here it is explained of what the man must make treasure in this world.
X. Here it is explained why many people who were rich have been made saints next to God.
XI. A few arguments that seem to suggest that richness is better than poverty.
XII. Qualities that must be present in the poor so that his poverty is good.
XIII. Qualities that must be in the rich so that is richness is good for him. First we see how he must gain them.
XIV. How the rich man must be able to spend and use his richness.
XV. The rich man must know how to preserve and keep his richness.
XVI. A few other qualities that the rich man must have so that his richness is good.
XVII. The rich man must be courteous and how he must use his courtesy.
XVIII. Why a poor life is said to be blessed and more perfect and batter than a rich life.
XIX. From the desired of the flesh, the vices of gluttony and lust are born. First we discuss of gluttony and the evils that it causes.
XX. On the endeavors of the second vice of the flesh, that is lust, and the evil that follows from it.
XXI. Of the remedies that have been found and that men must use against the vice of lust.
XXII. Of the endeavors of lordship and honors, and the evil for man that follows from them.
XXIII. On the vice of pride, that is born from lordship and honors.
XXIV. On the vice of vainglory and the evil that follows from it.
On the fears of people in this world.
I. The four enemies that cause people to be afraid and from which nightly fears are born [the Devil, the Flesh, Man, the World]
II. The remedies that must be taken against these fears.
On natural death by which people die.
On the miseries and pains of the soul after death.
I. Men and women who die without faith go to hell. Our faith says that those that do not respect God's commandments go to hell.
II. Of the two main commandments.
III. How man is due to love God, and what he must do because of that love.
IV. How man must love his neighbor, and what he must do because of that love.
V. The three lesser commandments about the love of God.
VI. The five lesser commandments about the love for one's neighbor.
VII. About man after death.
VIII. On the location and disposition of hell.
IX. How the soul that goes to hell is tormented, by which punishments and torments.
X. How the soul that goes to hell is tormented in its souls.
XI. In response to what some say, that God in not eternally angered towards the sinner.
XII. It is proved by many authorities that God is eternally angered towards the sinner.
Of the beatitude and glory of the soul that goes to heaven.
II. Of the beatitude and glory of the souls that go to heaven.
III. On the powers of the soul.
IV. On the soul's power to work. And why in the world it works without rest. And how it rests in heaven.
V. On the soul's power to desire. How it is always empty in this world, without ever being full, and how it finds satisfaction in heaven.
About judgment day.
II. How the world must be undone on judgment day.
III. Here the fifteen signs before judgment are briefly described.
IV. How on judgment day souls must resurrect. How they will be examined and how the sentence will be given.
Obviously, Giamboni's discussion of human life is quite different from the apparent meaning of the central segment of the trump sequence. In particular, there is no great emphasis on the role of fortune (which Giamboni mentions as “ventura”). Moreover, life is not described as a parable from pleasant to unpleasant things. Still I find interesting that a discussion of the conditions of human life is coupled with a discussion of Christian eschatology.
BTW, I found it curious that in Book III Giamboni describes the four main goals of human activity using (almost) the same four categories that the Anonymous author of the XVI Century “Discorso” assigns to the four suits of Tarot. A similar discussion appears in the “De miseria” and in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (I,5), but both Lotario and Aristotle discuss three main goals, presenting the fourth one as secondary or additional. For Aristotle the additional goal is richness.
Lotario leaves out learning (that the Anonymous associates to the Batons):
Lotario De Segni wrote:Tria maxime solent homines affectare: opes, voluptates, honores Usually people are interested in three things: richness, pleasure and honors
In “De consoloatione philosophiae”, Boetius also provides a similar listing, but his list includes five goals: affluence, dignity, power, fame, pleasure.
Boetius wrote:For the desire of the true good is naturally implanted in the minds of men; only error leads them aside out of the way in pursuit of the false. Some, deeming it the highest good to want for nothing, spare no pains to attain affluence; others, judging the good to be that to which respect is most worthily paid, strive to win the reverence of their fellow-citizens by the attainment of official dignity. Some there are who fix the chief good in supreme power; these either wish themselves to enjoy sovereignty, or try to attach themselves to those who have it. Those, again, who think renown to be something of supreme excellence are in haste to spread abroad the glory of their name either through the arts of war or of peace. A great many measure the attainment of good by joy and gladness of heart; these think it the height of happiness to give themselves over to pleasure.
Here is the passage from Bono Giamboni:
E sono le fatiche dell’uomo tante, che non si potrebbe ora dire sopra tutte. Ma dirotti sopra quattro principali, per le quali l’uomo in questo mondo maggiormente s’affatica. L’una si è per divenire savio delle cose; la seconda, per ragunare ricchezze; la terza, per li disiderj della carne; la quarta, per le signorie e per gli onori.
Human endeavors are so many that it is not possible to discuss here all of them. But I will tell you about the main four, for which man strives more in this world. The first is to become learned about things; the second, to collect riches; the third, for the desires of the flesh; the fourth for lordship and honors.
sicome l’attioni humane tutte sono indrizzate ad uno di questi
quattro fini, cioè all’ acquisto delle ricchezze ò all’ armi, ò alle lettere, overo
alli piaceri ; cosi fù il giuoco dal prudentissimo Authore principalmente in
quattro parti diviso, cioè in Danari, Spade,b Mazze, et Coppe
Because all human actions are directed to one of these four goals – the gaining of riches, the use of arms, literature, or pleasure – so the very prudent author divided the game into four main parts, that is coins, swords, maces and cups.