Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Two of Swords

Last week we looked closely at the Tarot Card the Ace of Swords, both as an ACE (a "one") and as a Sword, or a manifestation of the alchemical "element" called "Air" (which has nothing to do with what you breathe to stay alive.) Remember this is written for the Intermediate Tarot student, so some knowledge is assumed.

Updated and expanded compilation of these essays 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..

With our point of view firmly fixed in the novel writer's perspective and the Alien Romance story in particular, let's see what the Two of Swords has to teach us.

If the Ace of Swords is the moment when you face the totally blank page and decide to write this particular story, the Two of Swords is the moment when the opening words are before your eyes.

All the Two's of the Tarot represent the fist division between the point where all is One and the point where the One subdivides.

Only when the first mitosis, the first cell division, has taken place can you have CONFLICT, and as students of the WorldCrafter's Guild Essence of Story course have learned, Conflict is the Essence of Story.

So after the first words flow out of your fingers, you stare at them and this character who has walked onto the page from somewhere inside you looks back and smirks. He or she is now a separate being with a rationale, goals, and a big problem.

At that moment, you, the writer, are in confrontation with your own subconscious mind, definitely your equal.

Thus the image on the Waite Rider deck's Two Swords is a figure holding two crossed Swords, Swords massive enough to unbalance the slim figure and tumble all into the waters behind.

Water, remember, is the symbol of emotion and is represented by the Cups of the Tarot. The Cups are all about the subconscious, or internal psychological conflicts. The energies driving Swords came down through Cups -- unbalancing at this point in the manifestation of that energy that first appeared in the Ace of Wands would represent a step backwards. That's sometimes necessary, but not usually much fun.

The Two of Swords represents that point of hesitation after the first move in a planned project. OK, it can represent the "cold feet" a couple about to get married experiences. It's a moment when opposing forces are equal and further action is impossible.

So staring at the first few words of your magnum opus without another word left in your head, what do you do?

You have decided to write this story or to launch this life-project, whatever it is. And now you've taken the first step -- "de-ciding" or cutting out the edges of the project to define it -- you discover that what you have generated is bigger than you are. The "di-chotomy" is more massive than the originator. Any disturbance can send the whole system out of control.

And that's it -- the pure essence of all the Two's -- a balance point which seems "safe" but must be left behind if the energy of the Ace of Wands is to propagate downwards into manifestation.

The essence of Two is balance and security. It's antithesis is what C. J. Cherryh calls, in her FOREIGNER UNIVERSE novels, "badji nadji" -- or "let the chips fall where they may" -- a statistical process that no one controls and no one can predict. Pure chance.

What you have created with your decision in the Ace of Swords is now manifest outside you and you can not control it.

That's frightening because Swords are sharp weapons that can do harm, just like words.

Fear is healthy, a sign of sanity -- but too much fear can kill you.

So there you sit before your creation afraid to move this way or that -- afraid to MAKE THE NEXT DECISION! Why? Because you can't CONTROL the result.

Well, some writers love it when the characters take on a life of their own and command the plot, and others just clamp down and stop telling the story. Still others will work with their alter-ego subconscious manifestations, make friends with them, and argue them into taking the plot-course that will get their message out (i.e. get the book published).

How you respond to losing control of something that has come from inside you will determine how the Three of Swords will manifest. How you habitually (Swords are habitual actions and reactions) deal with things you don't control will determine the shape of your life.

The most popular interpretation of the Three of Swords is "sorrow" and "loss." But that's NOT what it really is all about.

Within the Three is contained the Two, and the manifestation of the Three Swords is determined by how adroitly you finesse your way out of the situation of the Two Swords.

Now we come to the analogy of Acrobatics or Circus Flying, gymnastics, maybe High Diving.

The Suit of Swords represents Air. I've said that before. Some may argue that a different symbol in the card deck represents the alchemical element Air. Frankly, what symbol you draw to represent an element is irrelevant. The Alchemical Elements take their significance from the Tetragrammaton, the four letter Name of God, as I discussed under the Ace of Swords. I am using Swords to represent the third letter in that Name, the third level down Jacob's Ladder.

There is a Jacob's Ladder diagram and explanation of how that relates to the Tarot deck in The Biblical Tarot: Never Cross A Palm With Silver by Jacqueline Lichtenberg.

Pure energy enters manifestation in your Life by the ignition of AN IDEA (the Ace of Wands), and then that energy travels down the circuitry of your soul via the Tree of Life diagram. There are a number of Paths that energy can take. But let's try to keep this simple and at the intermediate level.

As the Idea energy ripens and becomes more complex, it leaps to the level of Emotions -- Cups -- and you get all fired up about the idea, seriously jazzed, whacked out of your mind by your own brilliance. Finally the energy leaps from Cups to the Ace of Swords where you decide to act on that Idea-emotion.

Notice how I've described this process dynamically -- energy flowing down complicated channels, gathering momentum and going faster and faster.

Now, in the Two of Swords it hits equilibrium -- a fear is faced.

If you CHOOSE (choices are Swords) to stop that energy at the level of Two Swords, the dynamic momentum pours and pours into the Two making those balanced Swords heavier and heavier and the consequences of moving one or the other worse and worse.

Trying to stay at that balance point (staring at the first words of your story) will eventually result in your falling over this way or that way, and anything can happen. But one thing is for sure. It's going to hurt -- just as a trapese artist will get rope burns hitting the net or a gymnast will be bruised by an ungainly sprawl.

Rope burns and bruises and making a fool of yourself in public by falling over is what the Three of Swords is usually interpreted as. But it doesn't have to hurt.

Any circus flyer or gymnast will tell you that nailing a landing is a joy beyond measure. So the trick of handling yourself through the Ace of Swords to the Two of Swords and then onwards is not to obstruct the momentum!

You swing through the Ace of Swords, plant your feet in the Two of Swords and push off in a mighty leap. You don't stop to think (thoughts are Swords too), you think on your feet. You talk and dance at the same time. You walk and chew gum. You keep going through the balance point. If you stop, you are in trouble.

The Two of Swords Reversed represents that moment when you are flying through the air, head over heels.

Now, fear.

Remember, above we touched on how Swords are thought, and one kind of thought that can leave us stuck at a balance point like the Two of Swords is fear, fear of losing control.

Fear is an emotion (Cups) -- but it has to be dealt with via Swords (thought).

Consider that if you know Newton's Laws of Motion, or if you're a practiced gymnast, spinning head over heels is not frightening - it's exhilarating. Experience and understanding of the process, of the forces operating on you, gives you confidence.

You know there's a measured uncertainty in where your feet will land. You know there's a chance you've miscalculated the push-off and you're going to fall over, or stagger. If you're diving, you know you may hit the bottom of the pool, or hit your head on the board.

You "know" (Swords; thought) the dangers, know what to do if any of them happen, know the probabilities, know the risk, and know the reward.

And so you're not afraid, not paralyzed, just cautious. But you are moving!

That's the Two of Swords Reversed -- it indicates that one of two situations is in progress: a) you lost momentum and sat still too long, but now you're moving, b) you didn't pause too long but pushed off and are now moving.

If a) then the Three of Swords will hurt. If b) the Three of Swords will sting a little but it'll be worth it.

Remember, "As Above: So Below" -- these analogies are not exact but they do hold. The spiritual level of reality works according to the same kinds of rules and priciples that obtain here below -- there is symmetry. (Two's represent that symmetry).

If you haven't read Marion Zimmer Bradley's circus novel, CATCH TRAP, I highly recommend it for an understanding of this process.

Circus Flying is an artform that uses mass and momentum to make visible certain spiritual processes which are the building blocks of all personal relationships, but most especially the love-relationship.

Swords are ACTIONS, so the Laws of Motion apply by analogy. The Two of Swords is a static equilibrium, but life works most smoothly as a dynamic equilibrium.

If you get caught in a static equilibrium (looking at the first few words of your story), eventually the energy flowing down your circuits from the Idea will dislodge you and the result will be a big mess you have to painfully clean up.

So when you come to that point of seeing your first words appear on the page, DON'T STOP. Keep going. Let the momentum carry you into the head over heels spin that feels so out of control. Practice that spin until you can nail the landing without a qualm. And the "landing" in writing a novel is the moment when you write "The End."

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

1 comment:

  1. There you are! My characters are my imaginary children. They don't scare me. They run rough-shod over me most of the time, but I've learned to enjoy the ride.