Tuesday, October 16, 2007

10 Swords - Your Chickens Come Home To Roost

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.

It should eventually be titled: The Biblical Tarot: The Not So Minor Arcana by Jacqueline Lichtenberg, but who knows? It has no publisher yet.


And Remember: 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: http://web.onetel.net.uk/~maggyw/treeladder.html

I don't really go with the way this page explains the Tree, but it is worth thinking about. There are many other ways. For now, ponder the diagrams on this page or google up some others.

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..

------------- 10 Swords -------------
Each person must find a synthesis of those 2 components of meaning for themselves. These essays are mine, not yours. Watch the methodology, do it for yourself, and find your meaning.

You will have to re-do this periodically through life -- because you change, things change, and your ability to synthesize multiple parameters changes. What is true for you today, may or may not be true for you tomorrow.


10 Swords:

Whee-ha! Whoopie! Yippie! Huzza! GO!GO!GO!

The first copy of your printed book has arrived in the snailmail. You rip the cardboard packing, break a nail, run around in circles screaming for a scissors, jump up and down until the downstairs neighbor yells -- and finally get the package open.

You know there has been no publisher publicity and won't be. You can't afford to do it yourself. But you hoped and prayed and imagined and dreamed through 9 Swords. It's going to turn out fine!


"They spelled my name WRONG on the cover!!! We fixed that last month!" or "They changed the cover! There's no naked, chained up woman in MY book!" or "Why-oh-why did they put that wimpish quote on the back cover. I never wrote that!" But checking the printed text, there's the wimpish quote -- checking the manuscript, it's written powerfully. Someone changed the words!

And you're scheduled to do a local access TV appearance tonight with the book in hand and smile evident.


We are now focused on the 3rd circle up from the bottom of the middle pillar of Jacob's Ladder.

It is the 10 of Swords.

Note it overlays the 6 of Pentacles.

Remember, there are no bad Cards.

The Waite Rider deck depicts the 10 of Swords as a figure prone on the muddy ground with 10 Swords piercing the body. It really looks like disaster and death and a lot of people do read it that way -- but that isn't really what this one is about.

10's are about culminations, consequences, results. Finality. Completion.

Swords are thoughts, actions, deeds, plans, and words.

The culmination of your deeds, how exactly your project comes out in the end, depends on several independent variables plus the imponderable of Divine Will.

Now remember, this is mysticism. In the world of magic and mysticism, the outcome of any action depends (after the Divine has a sayso) more on who you are than on what you do.

In the world of science, two different people doing the exact identical thing get the same result, which proves a theory. But in the world of Mysticism, two different people doing the exact identical thing get different results, which also proves a theory.

For example: a guy may have an important job interview, and remember to put gas in his car, get a new suit, a haircut, research the company to a fair-thee-well, and still miss the interview appointment because he had a flat tire (which happens when you've been out of work for a while). He's done every action he can to assure success -- but he misses the interview.

A different guy out of gas by the side of the road would get picked up by a friend and whisked to the interview on time, get the job on the spot -- then put a new tire on the credit card and pay the fine for abandoning the car, and never look back.

It is not possible, from our everyday perspective, to chart the direct cause-effect connections in events like this. If both job applicants have as many friends with cars, why does one get picked up and the other stand alone?

The reasons for that (other than Divine Will) are detailed in the first book in this series, Never Cross A Palm With Silver.


But remember, there are no bad cards. In 7 Swords we learned how to make amends for what we've done wrong, and in the process actually change ourselves on the soul level, which changes how things happen around us. You can argue with the Supreme Being, and Apparently you can win one.

And maybe more crucial, we should think about the two guys above: which outcome is "good" and which "bad?"

Even a very psychic Tarot reader can't tell you exactly what will happen when you pull your latest project through the 10 Swords process. An astrologer might tell you when the crisis will come; a Tarot reader might tell you how it will FEEL to you personally -- but nobody can tell you what will happen or what, ultimately, it will mean for you, good or bad.

That's because there is always the imponderable of Divine Will, and the even more inscrutable issue of human Free Will (yours and others')

Off the top of your head, which job applicant above would you say has a soul at a higher level of development? Which has better karma from good deeds in past lives?

Think about that really hard before you answer.

Now let's look again.

Applicant 1 gets stuck by the side of the road all dressed up, misses the interview. A cop car stops. A beautiful woman in an officer's uniform gets out, calls the tow truck, chats while they're waiting, sparks fly but professionalism is maintained, then she drives away.

At the church social hour the next week, he spots that same woman out of uniform and six months later, he has an even better paying job and they're married.

Applicant 2 who made it to his interview, finds he's now trapped in a dead-end job under the boss from hell, is in debt to his eyebrows and can't quit. His girl left him because his temper is in shreds. Now he's drinking himself to death.

Which one of them did a better job shaping the astral plane foundation of their lives during the 9 of Swords part of this process? Can you even tell from the evidence presented here?

Now back to the writer with a totally screwed up book packaging.

She pastes on a brave smile and presents her book on local access go-nowhere talk show on cable, instantly adopting the misspelled name as her new byline, her pen name as if it were done that way on purpose.

She called her editor and was told the story of the changed cover. The artist who submitted the sketches she had seen didn't deliver (maybe she suddenly got married to the guy she rescued at the side of the road during her day job as a cop). So the publisher had a cover left over from a book that wasn't delivered and they used that cover on her book. Sorry about the overprinting typo, but stuff happens when done at the last minute.

The writer tells this whole horror tale on TV with a chuckle, then exuberantly sketches what her book is REALLY about. Dozens of women log onto Amazon and order the book. (It doesn't take much to send a book to the top of Amazon for a few hours, if all the sales are simultaneous.)

The story of the raunchy cover gets picked up by the big networks. Oprah uses it as a "What's Wrong With Publishing Today" piece. A TV Network exec wants to base a TV series on the novel for Lifetime. The publisher offers six figures for her next book.

Later, she finds out the misspelled byline actually has a numerological advantage over her real name, in addition to attracting attention.

Apparenty, during the 9 of Swords process, this author shaped the "Foundation" of this project on the Astral plane for publicity, and she got it (which may or may not be a "good" thing). How was she able to do this (other than Divine assistance)?

Because in 6 Swords, love opened her to change, in 7 Swords she did what Kaballah calls tshuvah, returning to the connection to the benevolent power behind the Universe by doing good deeds, amending bad habits, cleaning up the messes you have made. In 8 Swords she behaved in a substantially improved way, proving she had changed, and in 9 Swords she was therefore able to shape the Astral in a way very different from what she had done before in other projects in life.

She probably did all that in both the text of the novel itself and in her own life and attitude toward the world in order to get such explosive results.

And don't ever forget the imponderable intervention of the Divine Finger that stirs lives. Her writing career boost might have little to do with rewarding her, little to do with her own skills on the Astral, and everything to do with reaching out to some soul she's harmed in a past life with a healing message of love.

Or perhaps she is merely the vehicle carrying a message to someone who needs to hear it.

The thing to remember through all these processes is that you, yourself, don't control these energies. You don't work the energies to your will. You're not helpless, but you're not in charge of the whole universe, either. You're only in charge of you, and you are very complex.

How any project begun in the Ace of Swords turns out in the 10 of Swords also depends on what your subconscious and your SOUL does during each of the other 9 processes.

Now here's the real problem with this ticklish and difficult 10 Swords process.


I did say there are no "bad" Cards. And that's still true.

I did say that you have a choice between living in a zero-sum universe and an abundant universe. And that's still true.

However - there is sticky-nasty stuff out there, and the abundant universe does, (when manifesting on our everyday material level), obey the laws of Conservation (as in thermodynamics).

Conservation of mass and energy, conservation of momentum, all the conservation laws of physics describe a zero-sum universe at least "down here" where we live, the only universe "science" studies.

We can't just dismiss the zero-sum model of the universe if we operate entirely within physical reality. Thankfully, though, we don't have to operate entirely and only within the confines of material reality because we have souls.

You can draw abundance down into physical reality, yes, but you can't have everything you want as long as you live. The rule is you can have anything you want -- provided you're willing to give up everything else for it.

But there are other rules that govern the importing of abundant energies into material reality.

We're going to touch on them here, but they really belong in the advanced level of discussion.

So let's reconstruct our model of the universe to include the interface between our material reality that science studies, which contains all the 10 processes of the Tree of Life, and the much larger reality that is the whole of creation, which is depicted by Jacob's Ladder and the higher levels above the Ladder.

In 10 Swords we come to the level of existence, above the universe science studies, where our actions produce consequences. So far as I know, nobody has ever figured a way to look at an action and determine what consequences it will cause.

There is a postulate about the structure of creation that explains why cause-effect doesn't work above the material world. And that's a postulate about Evil.

What most people mean by the English word Evil isn't exactly what is referred to in this postulate. And this is just my best understanding of the situation at this time. I too am always growing, changing my mind, and gaining new perspectives. I may not have understood what I've been taught; I may not articulate it in a way that you understand it either as what I mean or as what I was taught.

Language is just not the tool to use to convey these ideas. A life of practical actions is the only way I know of to propagate this view of the universe from one mind to another.

OK, so here's the postulate, which by no means belongs to the Intermediate level of study, explained in my own pitifully inadequate words.

In the Beginning, G-d created creation -- the first time He generated the Jacob's Ladder structure, He filled the Sepheroth, also known as Vessels, with Divine Light. And filled and filled to abundance and more.

And the "Vessels" shattered from the pressure.

This produced a kind of amorphous plasma, a roiling boiling fog, a heaving sea consisting of shards of shattered Vessel walls, all dark, dead and sticky dross, plus gazillions of tiny bitty little glowing sparks of pure, glorious, bright (too bright) blazing, stunning Goodness of what I term "Godshine."

All the dross and the Goodness were seethed and boiled and mixed up together.

The Nature of the dross is to "contain" Goodness. These shreds are bits of the Vessel walls.

They are naturally attracted to bits of Goodness. So every bit of Goodness gets plastered with this opaque, sticky mess.

Then G-d created a second Jacob's Ladder structure, the Creation we're in now, plopped right in the midst of the mess. The second one held together and here we are.

In this view of reality, the purpose of human life is to uncover the sparks of Goodness, separate out the dross, and elevate the Goodness back into contact with the Source.

The more goodness we free up to rise and shine down on us, the "brighter" our environment becomes, the easier it is for people with dim sight to see right from wrong, good from bad.

It is our job to find the Good within everything around us, but most especially within ourselves.

Meanwhile, because of the simple nature of the dross, every time we uncover some Good, all the dross in the neighborhood plasters itself around the Good, making our job harder.

Another principle of Reality in this postulate is like the Laws of Conservation in Physics. The Creator made Creation in balance. For every action, an equal and opposite reaction, right? For every Goodness, there's an equal amount of yucky.

The goodness inside a person is likewise balanced by bad tendencies. The "better" a person is at being a person, the stronger the temptations and opportunities to do bad.

Look at Jacob's Ladder again and you will see that the three pillars are in balance -- thesis, antithesis, synthesis in the middle. Creation is Symmetric. Likewise in Physics we find the material universe likewise has laws of symmetry. As Below: So Above.

We are awash, floating in a plasma of Good and Bad, mixed to neutrality.

Now, here's the trick of surviving and functioning in this mixture.

Move slowly, easily, gracefully, gently, just like when swimming. Don't disturb the plasma and it won't slosh back in your face and overwhelm the Good and drown you in sludge.

That dross sludge is what this model of the universe uses for Evil. The dross is not conscious, doesn't have an agenda, and can't initiate anything. It's just a heaving, sticky, mess you are swimming in, and there's a part of you inside you that has an affinity for it.

The whole trick is balance. (that's why we love Circus acts -- they are "life" in a nutshell).

So what happens when you start a project in Ace of Swords, bring the energies down and down, and finally get to 10 Swords? Why is 10 Swords so often experienced as a traumatic and horrible event if it's just "your chickens coming home to roost?"

10 Swords is just the consequences of your actions. But what if your soul took a quantum leap upward because of this project, (as the writer we've been talking about did). Suppose you strove and grew and improved and you deserve a REWARD -- but you get "this!" (bad book packaging as above; or worse)

Why do bad things happen to good people???? Or to a not-so-great person who finally did something magnificent and gets smacked down for it.

Does that negative consequence necessarily indicate that you aren't a "good enough" person, you didn't take a lesson of Love in 6, pay the piper in 7, learn your lesson in 8, and reshape your reality in 9? Is that failure why this nasty thing happened to you instead of success?

Why does no Good Deed go unpunished? Why? Why? Why????

There's the beauty of this postulate about "Evil" being just a sludgy sea of dross we swim in.

It explains in graphic terms exactly what happens when you strive magnificently, actually exceed your personal design specs, achieve something totally heroic, and get sandbagged.

When you make some soul-level progress by pulling a project down through the Swords processes, you are, in the language of this postulate, uncovering a spark of Divine Light within yourself, or those around you.

That newly exposed Spark instantly attracts a new coating of dross.

The Event that sandbags you in 10 Swords is the speeding dross smashing into the Spark you uncovered. SPLAT! And down you go.

It's part of the natural structure of the Universe -- dross splats.

So how do you avoid getting flattened by the dross your Good Deeds and totally warranted Successes attract?

Don't make waves. Don't stir the plasma. Don't splash. Swim.

Think of a little kid jumping feet first into a swimming pool that's sitting there smooth as glass.

Then the kid leaps and dives and sprays water, and gyrates -- eventually, the waves he's made reach the far wall and come back. If he's energetic enough, he can make a wave big enough to drown himself.

Now consider an adult who slices into that glassy smooth swimming pool, surfaces and sidestrokes across with clean, coordinated strokes and kicks that don't break the surface. There are waves, yes, but they don't impede him.

We are in a closed container - the Material Universe. The more energetically we splash, the more the dross splashes back. When you've splashed all your life, your first Good Deed designed to change your course in life will immediately be awash in waves of dross created by your past deeds.

And always remember, you're not the only one splashing about.

Let's step sideways into another model of the universe.

It is well known in Magickal circles that the way to tell whether a Candidate's first Initiation "took" is to watch the Candidate's life for the next year or so. Very often when a major Initiation takes hold in a life you will see divorce, job changes, change of residence, ill health (or sometimes amazing health recovery), job promotions, and all kinds of improbable things going wrong or swerving into uncharted territory. It usually makes a good soap opera plot.

These Initiates are observing the splash back of sticky clinging dross long stirred by the actions of the Initiate who was formerly operating on a much lower level of understanding.

The mark of the highest Initiates is that they move through the world without leaving a trace, not a ripple, in their passage. They are not famous. Nobody knows or remembers their names.

They make no effort at secrecy - but nobody notices them. Yet goodness and Light spreads everywhere they touch.

So back to our dross vs. Light model.

This dross vs. Light model of the universe is what those Highest Initiates finally get a handle on.

Remember the TV Show Kung Fu? That test of walking the rice paper runner to get out the door without leaving a trace? That's what we're trying to learn.

You can now see what happened to our Writer with the messed up packaging, and the two job applicants when their projects came down to the process of 10 Swords.

The writer had done quite a lot of splashing on the way to 10 Swords, but the bits of dross that smacked into her got "elevated" to become bits of light and goodness. She might have managed the trick a bit more smoothly, with better balance, so that every "bad" thing that happened turned out to help materialize her astral plane vision in 9 Swords. (and don't forget Divine Assistance) But she did an incredible job for a first try.

Job Applicant 1 got a tire flattened by a tidbit of dross, but again because his 9 Swords work (getting a new suit, doing his homework etc) aimed him toward success -- he got the love of his life and a much better job.

Job Applicant 2 got the job he thought he wanted, but it's a disaster. He didn't do his astral plane work well, quietly, smoothly. He splashed too much and waves of dross flowed back over him. Every good thing he did got plastered with sticky-yucky mess and he's overwhelmed by the side effects of his actions, even though he didn't do anything wrong and really isn't a bad sort of person.

At least it looks, at the point where we left them, that Applicant 1 has it made and Applicant 2 is lost forever. Just wait 20 years and look again.

These are processes not static situations.

Wherever you are in life, whatever your level of soul growth, and in your mastery of swimming in muck without splashing yourself and everyone around you with dross, there is always an opportunity to change, to improve, to fix your life.

So how do you do that? How do you quiet down the heaving ocean of dross, peel the stuff off the Good and send it on up the Ladder, and get your life in order so you can really do some heavy lifting?

What is the secret of dodging the tsunami of sticky-yuck heading toward you?

Suppose you really get it now, suppose you know what you did wrong and why and you really REALLY find yourself changing deep down inside. What can you do to climb out of the way of the consequences of your actions?

And if you do manage to avoid the consequences of your actions, isn't that dishonorable and only the source of more trouble?

Wellll -- there is a way, and it's so simple most people just don't comprehend the power of it.

Remember, the 10 Swords overlays the 6 of Pentacles. We haven't walked down the Ladder of Pentacles yet, so we don't quite grasp the entirety of what 6 of Pentacles is about, but we did learn 6 of Swords.

The 6's are about Love and Beauty and the love of beauty, and how percieving beauty ignites love within us. Reread the 6 of Swords


In 6 Swords, we encountered something through Love that jarred us out of an old rut and sent us packing for new shores. Love inspired real change, though we took our habits with us.

In 7 Swords we attempted to do tshuvah, to pay for our sins and make it right with the world, somehow to achieve inner peace.

This is the Path toward becoming a Tzadik, a wise person so at peace within that his steps through the world leave a wake of spreading peace.

In 8 Swords we had to get over the yes-buts, ammending thinking so that in 9 Swords the new attitudes bought so dearly in 6, 7, and 8 could now be applied to re-shaping our reality.

Now in 10 Swords comes the result of all that, the result of the good progress we've made along with all the dross stirred up and attracted to that good.

So how do we dodge the dross and cling to the Good?

We make the transition down to 6 Pentacles -- note the Waite Rider deck nails this one. It is a person giving away "Pentacles" in Charity.

And that's how you do it.

If you've realized where you were wrong, paid the price, braved the damage you had to sustain to get out of the trap of your own making, and transformed your nightmares to dreams, the way to slide right through 10 Swords is GIVE CHARITY.

Doing a Charitable Deed (not always giving money -- sometimes it's visiting the sick, opening up opportunities for others to do good, forgiving a bad driver for cutting in on you). Charity is the most powerful of all spiritual actions.

Even when your motive is not so pure, an act of charity can whisk you out of the path of the sticky-yuck tsumani.

Note in the example of the Writer whose packaging got messed up; what did she DO?

She took her misfortune and GAVE IT AWAY on TV, to explain to readers how these things happen, to entertain viewers with a truly amazingly silly story, to warn would-be writers of how things go in this business.

Putting her ego on a shelf, she took on the byline typo'd on her book. She gave herself. She exposed herself. She served others by not cancelling her appearance at the last minute. With those acts of Charity, she sidestepped all the dross splattered on her book.

She transformed the event down into Love (6 Pentacles) on the concrete level of reality. If you think that's easy, you just try it!

Now, of course, having skipped the Ace, Two, Three, Four, and Five of Pentacles, she will now find herself in more trouble than she knows how to deal with and will likely have to backtrack and scramble.

Marion Zimmer Bradley always quoted the saying, "Every ending is a new beginning," and that is so true in life and in Tarot.

When contemplating 10 Swords, think Frying Pan and Fire, and accept responsibility for the results of your actions.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Powerful stuff, Jacqueline. Thank you!

  2. Very thought-provoking! At first I wondered whether the Good vs. dross model was slipping into a dualistic view of ultimate reality (in which Good and Evil are equal and opposite, coeternal forces), but as you explain the model, it seems that it affirms the traditional monotheistic belief that "Evil" is derivative and dependent; only Good is ultimately "real." Unless I misunderstood, which is not unlikely. :)

  3. Margaret:

    Yes, exactly -- it all comes back to ONE.

    But it's a model that prompts many interesting story ideas, or at the very least, plot twists, doesn't it? Which is the purpose behind these Tarot posts - IDEAS that we can use.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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