Tuesday, October 02, 2007

8 Swords - "Yes, but - "

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students, not beginners or advanced students. It is particularly aimed at writers.

Updated and expanded compilation of all these Tarot Just For Writers entries is now available on Kindle:
The Wands and Cups Volumes and  the Swords and Pentacles Volumes, are now all available separately on Kindle.  The 5 Volumes combined are also available on Kindle as one book, cheaper than buying them individually.
The Not So Minor Arcana: Never Cross A Palm With Silver Aug 30, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Wands Sept. 1, 2015  99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Cups Sept. 11, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Swords  Sept. 17, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Pentacles  Sept. 21, 2015 99 cents

The Not So Minor Arcana: Books 1-5 combined Sept. 24, 2015 $3.25

This series is designed not for the beginner or the advanced student, but for the intermediate student and specifically for writers doing worldbuilding..

A vital point I made in THE BIBLICAL TAROT: NEVER CROSS A PALM WITH SILVER (which you can get on Amazon) is that nobody can tell you what a Tarot card means. It's not knowledge that can be taught or conveyed. Each person has to figure it out unassisted.

Once you've figured it out, you have to write little essays about it like these I' m doing here, just as beginning students draw and color their own deck. So here I'm demonstrating how to apply the principles behind the Tarot to derive useful insights into life's processes -- insights of real significance to fiction writers.

When you study Tarot, gradually, your Visualizaton of the Macrocosmic All, your Model of the Universe, changes. And that changes you. You don't want to be modeled by someone else -- you want to model yourself. So figure out and articulate these processes for yourself using the principles I'm demonstrating, not my personal conclusions.

ANSWERS to Kimberly's questions inserted here above a long essay on 8 Swords:

1) who inspired me -- http://www.simegen.com/sgfandom/welcommittee/influenc.html

2) In the early days, the Greats of the SF field debated (in print via editorials) the defn of SF and decided the oldest is the best -- "It's what I like". I refined that to Intimate Adventure.


See my review column for January 2008 (once it gets posted) on


which will lead to a totally NEW definition. SFR can't be SF unless it's part of the Literature of Ideas -- each novel needs a totally new IDEA that hasn't been pondered by the world before. You can't steal from mythology. You have to think something NEW -- not just original since we all originate thoughts that are in the Akashic Record, but NEW. Each novel is a Ph.D. thesis adding to human knowledge, forging a new scratch in the Akashic Record. Other fiction fields can get away with rehashing old ideas -- to be SF it has to have a NEW IDEA in it.

Here below, we're talking about 8 Swords - where ideas become really sharp swords indeed. All through these essays on Swords, you've seen how Ideas are promulgated. It's in Wands that NEW ideas are brought into manifestation. In Cups, Ideas ignite emotions. In Swords Ideas are communicated. In Pentacles, they are scribed into the Akashic Record.

3) Print publishing is still suffering a meltdown which will reform the industry -- and my bet is it will reform to follow conventions established in the film industry. These aren't "rules" to be broken -- they are "conventions" (like driving on the right side of the street; using a period at the end of a declarative sentence; the Dress For Success book). To discover these conventions for fiction and get ahead of the curve read SAVE THE CAT! and SAVE THE CAT GOES TO THE MOVIES both by Blake Snyder. I will be discussing this second book in great detail through this next year. "Conventions" change constantly (congestion caused the one-way-street to be invented).
Here's the Amazon link:

You want to be an agent of change, you must first master the conventions -- not "follow" them, MASTER them, in the mystical sense of "Mistress of Magick". Then you must become a Leader. A Leader can't ever be someone from "outside" -- a King, Queen or Leader arises from within the masses and articulates the values the masses are incapable of articulating for themselves. To do that, one must BE OF that mass, and then be "elevated" by that mass to leadership, not elevated by yourself (Princess Di comes to mind). Being an agent of change is something that happens to you, not something you do. Ponder that while reading 8 Swords. It's a long road with no rewards at the end, but that's how to become an agent of change. (Betty Friedan comes to mind. Now think Islamists.)

4) Most of the conventions that work and live to create classics all have in common the principles I'm discussing in this series on the Swords of the Tarot (and eventually the Pentacles of the Tarot). That's why I'm writing this Tarot book -- understand these principles of how things are connected into patterns, and you will be able to discern that pattern in operation throughout the entirety of the cosmos, including publishing and Hollywood.

5) All my fiction, from the beginning, was striving to be SFR but had to conform to the SF conventions of the time. THOSE OF MY BLOOD was the first book where I took the gloves off and blatantly exposed the romance -- and it took 22 submissions to sell it, then it was touted as my "Break Out" book by St. Martin's Press in their sales-force newsletter then dropped into obscurity by printing only a couple hundred copies of the HC. That's what happens when you "break" a convention in the commercial marketplace. Later, I won a Romantic Times Award with DUSHAU because the conventions had CHANGED. You won't find that Award for "Best Science Fiction Novel" on the Romantic Times website because it's too old -- it was the very first awarded for an SF novel. Every editor who rejected THOSE OF MY BLOOD loved it, but couldn't figure out "how" to publish it.


The meaning of a Tarot Minor Arcana resides in the placement on the Tree of Life (i.e. the number on the card) integrated with the "World" or Suit of the card. For the Tree of Life and the Jacob's Ladder diagrams see:


We're now looking at the 3rd circle up from the bottom on the left hand column on the Jacob's Ladder diagram.

Note that the 8 of Swords lies right over the 3 of Pentacles. Elements of the meaning of 3-ness are setting our Swords singing. (ever heard a well tempered Sword sing? It's a thrill! People think a Sword is a weapon - it's really a musical instrument, as is the Voice!)

Remember the essence of 3 is commitment. That means to have something is to have-not something else. To be anything is to not-be everything else. Dedication, specialization, underlie the meaning of 8 Swords. And this principle is true of all the other cards we've discussed.

There are 3 Pillars to the Tree of Life pattern, and 4 repetitions of the Tree make up Jacob's Ladder - the ascending extension ladder that the Soul climbs lifetime after lifetime to return to the Source. Jacob's Ladder is the path Jacob saw when he laid his head on a stone and dreamed of Angels ascending and descending. 8 is two 4's. A musical octave is 8 steps. 8 is a fundamental tone in the vast vibration that is the cosmos.

The essence of 8 is the intellect. The astrological association is Mercury, which like Venus as we discussed under 7 Swords, rules two signs.

Mercury rules Gemini and the 3rd House of the Natal Chart, the personal mentality and thought processes and everything to do with communication and travel. Mercury also rules Virgo the natural 6th House of work and the health of the body. The ability to communicate and move are fundamental to physical health, as is satisfying work.

Remember, the Waite Rider Tarot deck images seem based in the zero-sum model of the universe where winning creates losers. (winner + loser = 0) And losing is a stigma to be avoided, a path toward not having what you need. Losing, even in sportsmanlike sports carries the whiff of death.

Also remember that Swords are actions, and a thought is an action.

Now you can see that the energy we've been teasing down the steps of Jacob's Ladder finds a natural harmonic reinforcement in 8 Swords. 8 is thought - Swords is thoughts. 8 Swords then becomes Thoughts Thought. Or Thought about thoughts. Meta-thoughts.

So what happens to a person living in the zero-sum model of the universe whose thoughts become strongly intensified?

Worry. "Since there has to be a loser, I might be that loser!"

Swords are actions, so a person caught in the 8-Swords process, worrying, will reject any action suggested to them to solve their problem. They've thought of everything already, worried every solution to death, and found a reason to reject it. They can't see the results of any action for sure, so they get caught in a repeating loop of worry.

Even a good suggestion will be greeted by, "Yes, but I can't because -" And there's no end of creative becauses!

The problem is that the process of 8 Swords has you thinking about thinking. That is, you become critical.

Criticism is generally associated with Virgo, manifesting the negative side of Virgo, perfectionism. (every sign has a positive and negative manifestation; everyone has every sign; the trick of life is to manifest each in the positive way. That's what souls are here to learn.)

Ponder the "Yes, but - " syndrome a bit and you will see that the facile objections to any action actually come from having thought about the problem, and considered or even tried, each of the possible or conceivable solutions to that problem.

WRITERS: does that sound like a familiar process to you?

It is the condition you come to after having rewritten the novel you filled up with words in 4 Swords, got comments on in 5 Swords, revised in 6 Swords to something you love even better, then avoided conflict in 7 Swords by rewriting it yet again and maybe even again.

You considered, analyzed, tried different things, and by now you are heartily sick of the whole novel.

Some writers come to a point where they are so disgusted by the mishmash they've written that they won't even submit it to a paying market.

Hidden behind that could be the fear that it will be rejected and then they'll have to face the conflict squarely. You can spend your life caught in 7 Swords, copy-cat pretending to be a writer, and never actually publishing anything because that requires facing a conflict squarely.

Or you may be barely dabbling a toe into the 8 Swords process, endlessly researching where to submit your gem.

The image on the Waite Rider deck 8 Swords is the woman in a mud puddle field surrounded by swords. She's blindfolded so she can't move for fear of stepping in a mud puddle with her nice clean slippers. She's trussed up tightly by bonds of thoughts.

Each of the Swords around her is an action she took in the past, a thought, word or deed that now cuts off her options. If she moves, she could cut herself on her own prior actions, (thoughts, words (lies?), opinions, vows, self-image.)

To act in violation of your publicly stated opinion is to undercut your reputation for integrity. So you can't move through 8 Swords if you've been opening your big mouth too much.

The blindfold shows how her thoughts are turned inward, and highlights the fear of doing anything.

In the zero-sum game view of the universe, 8 Swords will very probably manifest as this kind of fear of doing anything. In the zero-sum universe, there is always the danger of failing to win. In the Abundant Universe, there's nothing to fear for you always have what you need, and even most of what you want, and plenty left to share.

So if, as you write this novel you've been telling your friends about it, bragging, showing off, building it up, publicizing effusively, now in the 8 of Swords you are seized with fear at sending it to a publisher. What if the publisher rejects it?

Or worse yet, what if the publisher accepts it, and the editor tells you to change this and that and the other thing. (typically, cut 20,000 words, change the gender of the protagonist, and add three scenes to explain motivations)

One reason new writers have such a hard time breaking in to publishing is simply that editors don't want to have the "Yes, but - " fight with new writers who cling to all these reasons why certain commercially necessary changes can't be made.

So the process of 8 Swords includes the sequence of submission, rewrite to editorial order, and resubmission.

That process involves a meeting of minds. 8 is thought; Swords is thinking. Meeting of minds: an exchange of thoughts, or possibly arguments, interacting with someone who is thinking about your thoughts which are exposed, naked, on the page for your editor to misunderstand.

8 Swords is all about problem solving without the direct confrontation of 5 Swords, the painful starting over of 6 Swords, or the agonizing re-re-rewriting of 7 Swords when the heart of the conflict is avoided.

As in Science, in the 8 Swords process two or more people think together, communicate, about a problem which is their mutual problem. 8 Swords is not about power, subjugation, winning or losing. 8 Swords is a co-operative effort.

Someone objective, outside the situation, has to take on the problem that has resulted from the 7 Swords process and parse that problem, open the writer's eyes to the real situation.

That's what editors are for. That's why a writer's career rests on choosing the correct publishing house and editor for their book. And that's what Agents are for.

7 is Imagination; 8 is the Mind.

8 is all about Science, the organization of knowledge into axioms, postulates and the laws of nature. 8 is about deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning. 8 is all about computers!

In the process of submitting to an editor, working with an editor, the Creative Imagination of 6 Swords encounters the scientifically derived Commercial Formula for the novel. An editor works for a publishing house that has a very specific and defined market developed from their computer sales modeling. For the most part, they think they know what sells and why, though they all admit they're only guessing.

Harry Potter; who knew?

Swords is all about actions, and thoughts are actions. But 8 Swords is thinking about your actions, and worrying about consequences. Remember, 6 is contained in 7 -- 6's ability to imagine consequences leads to 7's thinking about thinking about the consequences.
8 Swords is the admonition, "Don't leap before you look. Work methodically."

In the zero-sum Universe, you learn these adages for fear of what will happen if you don't.

In the Abundant Universe, you learn these adages for love of what will happen if you do.

But you spend your life learning and re-learning them.

We all feel that the power of the mind can solve any problem. We're taught that in school with tests and grades. Just get the right answer, know it, remember it, calculate it -- it's got to be the right one or you'll be punished with a bad grade.

So we get really up tight about thinking our way through problems. Sometimes we can stall out a project by being determined to do all the research for it in advance. You can't start writing your thesis until you know everything that will be in it. So you never start.

Also we learn early that the world is complicated and complex. There are a thousand considerations to be pondered before doing anything. For every reason to do something, there's a reason not to, maybe several.

When the reasons not to do something pile up and up and up, until you feel smothered, you are caught in an 8 Swords process, stymied and stagnated by reasons.

Very often, these 8 Swords situations are social or political and involve other people's imagined responses to your actions. You have business with this person, an affair with that person; what if one talks to the other?

Being "caught up in the affairs of wizards" is another story and plot that is symbolized by 8 Swords. Every simple thing that happens opens up huge long tangles of reasons why this and that, reasons not to do such and so, more complications piled on complications.

There is no such thing as thinking too much. But when you rely solely on thinking during the process of 8 Swords, the thoughts you produce are sharper, heavier, stronger than your own personal Will, and maybe even stronger than your character. It's not that they're wrong thoughts -- it's that they're too loud, too scary, too emphatic.

Any process ruled by Mercury will be exaggerated in 8. Remember communication, travel and writing are ruled by Mercury. Thus the editorial process described above is multiply emphasized. 8 Swords is where it all comes together for a writer.

Swords is all about habitual actions. Your fiction will expose inner mental habits you never knew were there, and a good editor will finger all of them, and it will hurt, and you will scream, squirm and avoid doing what's demanded.

So Swords is about unthinking actions, habits, and 8 is about thinking. During an 8 of Swords process, you can find yourself stalled out because you're thinking about your habits. You want to go back to 6 Swords and do it over, not go on to 9 Swords, because after all it's not perfect yet. (Mercury; perfectionism).

How do you flip over the 8 of Swords to break out into freedom of movement?

Well, remember Jacob's Ladder? How the 8 Swords overlays the 3 Pentacles?

Remember the essence of 3 is commitment. The psychological trick of getting out of the 8 Swords trap is to understand that you will take a loss.

The way out of the 8 Swords trap is to accept wounds. This is going to hurt.

Actions are depicted as Swords because the battlefield actually strips down all actions to their barest essence and lets us access action decisions with a part of our brain isn't usually in control - the hind brain, the animal within that just wants to stay alive.

Even in the Abundant Universe, there are battles, casualties, sacrifices, pain and growth.

On the battlefield, commanders assess the value of what is to be gained against how many lives it will cost, and how many casualties, how much equipment damaged or expended.

The familiar dilemma of needing to take various incompatible medications belongs in the 8 of Swords. It is solved with a "trade off" -- letting one condition worsen in order to treat another.
Which do you want to save, your sight or your heart?

Once understanding of the cost of action is reached and agreed on, free flowing energy flips the 8 of Swords over to the reverse, fear is sloughed off, and the Project Leader steps boldly onto the slippery, muddy field of an objective assessment of the state of the project.

Pain is accepted for the sake of gain.

It is a calculation, a science, a very cold calculation.

That is the cold calculation you must master in 8 Swords, a dispassionate, intellectualized assessment of what this gain is worth to you. What will you give up? How much pain can you endure? How much more blood can you afford to lose and still survive?

That is the exact calculation a writer makes when under editorial direction; what is it worth to you to get this book into print?

It sounds as if the 8 Swords is purely a zero-sum scenario.

But actually it's an exercise in free will.

Here you must apply the changes wrought by Love in 6 Swords and brought to Harmony in 7 Swords to make a fully informed free will choice using your whole mind.

The world is abundant. You have more than you need. You can afford to pay for what you want. You have to choose. You have to discern what you need as separate from what you want, and calculate what you will pay.

The image of the woman standing amid mud puddles surrounded by danger, blindfolded and bound, does capture that choice of what price you will pay. In order to get the blindfold off, she has to sidle up to a sword and run her bonds up and down the sharp edge. She'll ruin her shoes, likely cut her dress too, maybe bleed a little, but then she can take off the blindfold and do what she wants.

She's afraid because she thinks she's going to lose. When she understands that she'll only lose what she doesn't need or can replace, that the universe cradles her in abundance, then she will move through the 8 Swords and on.

Remember the old joke. A man notices a fly in his soup and shrieks to the waiter who says, "Don't worry. Flies don't drink much." The waiter is saying you can afford to feed the fly, but the customer is fearing diseases he might get from the fly. This is an 8 of Swords moment, a lack of meeting of minds, a moment driven by fear of loss, not confidence in abundance.

Your editor demands you cut out one whole character from your novel; you do it; and, many nightmares later, in the 6 of Pentacles, your book wins an award. That is how the Abundant Universe functions for those who have learned the lessons of the 7 of Swords Reversed.

Why not just save yourself all those tears and move with confidence through the 8 Swords process, knowing some of the dangers aren't imaginary, you will get hurt, but it's all right because you can afford it.

The Universe is Abundant.

Know that.

Act by that.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. Jacqueline, you've already answered most of my questions over the past many months and I continue to thrive on all your wisdom! Thank you!

    Being unpublished thus far, I don't have the counsel of an editor or agent. I have no one to say, "Leave this dimension out and the story will be marketable." My critique partners are in the same boat. All I can do is glean wisdom wherever I can find it, process it, and try to apply it.

    The answers everyone has given so far have helped sort things out in my head. I really appreciate it!

    I have one story which is this huge epic-movie-like story in my head, but I lack the skills necessary to get it all down on paper in a comprehensible way. At the moment. It's somewhere between Timothy Zahn and Linnea Sinclair, I think.

    So, while I read the big novels trying to learn how the big boys and girls put them together, I continue to polish up and submit my more simple stories.

    P.S. The books on screenwriting have helped me enormously. I think in pictures. Gotta love that cat!