Tuesday, October 09, 2007

9 Swords - Nightmares

Firstly: a comment on Linnea Sinclair's post of yesterday, Oct 8, 2007, which is essentially about the world of publicity, promotion, advertising.

Here is a post about what the changes in the world due to Web 2.0 look like from behind the Ad/Promo desk.


And here's an item that flew by me earlier this week on using Web 2.0 to reach young people with 1 minute videos that teach things.


And as I said in comment to Linnea's post on SFR and promotion, I think Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT GOES TO THE MOVIES has the solution to this problem embedded in it. It's up to us to extract that solution.

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..

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:

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.


We're now talking about the 4th circle UP from the bottom of the Middle Pillar of Jacob's Ladder. It is the 9 of Swords, but overlays the Da'at sepherah of Pentacles, the suit or world right below Swords, our material reality.

OK here things get really mystical.

The Tree of Life consists of 10 areas, or zones, or processes or functions called Sepheroth, plus the connecting links between them.

Jacob's Ladder is 4 repetions of the pattern of 10. One half-overlays the next repetition down the Ladder so Sepheroth appear to overlap. A better way to imagine it is to think of each of the 4 repetions as in different planes, like pieces of transparent paper stacked one on the other.

However, out of the plane where the 10 Sepheroth exist, there is another, 11th Sepherah, Daath or Da'at which is generally translated as Knowledge. You won't find any really definitive explanations of Da'at because it is so mystical and has no place in an Intermediate discussion like this.

For our (intermediate Tarot) purposes though, we should note that the 9 of Swords overlays the 11th Sepherah of Pentacles but doesn't touch it because they're in different dimensions.

Look at the top of the Jacob's Ladder diagram and you will see the shadowy 11th Sepherah of Wands pictured behind (or in some diagrams before) the spokes connecting the 10 into the Tree pattern. The 9 of Wands is over Da'at of Cups. The 9 of Cups is over Da'at of Swords. The 9 of Swords is over Da'at of Pentacles.

As we saw with 8 Swords the solution to the problem of 8 Swords came from the underlying 3. So also the solution to the problem of 9 Swords will come from Da'at or 11-ness whatever that might be!

When the Jacob's Ladder diagram shows two circles overlaying each other, energy flowing through one sets up resonances in the other. (Think guitar strings.)

A human being drawing down creative energy from the top of the Ladder through all 4 Trees can bring the energy from one Tree to the next at those circles which overlap.

A process doesn't have to proceed from 1 to 10 in the order we've been tracing here. The path we're following is called the Lightening Flash (because it zig-zags). But you can bring energy down via any of the routes marked, and in fact use several paths at once.

That's why life is so complicated and confusing -- because it is complicated and confusing.

But there is an underlying pattern -- really, truly there is! Cling to that idea of structure because we're going to venture into a realm here that makes it very hard to find.

Each Tarot Minor Arcanum takes its primary meaning from the number on the card and from its Suit. Each suit represents one of the 4 Worlds of Kaballah depicted by the 4 repetions of the Tree of Life to form Jacob's Ladder.

I call the top one Wands, or Fire, and the second one Cups or Water, and the third which we are studying here Swords or Air. The bottom repetition of the Tree is Pentacles or Earth. Lots of other systems work just as well, but this widely used one is simple, and helps keep the focus on the overall structure which reveals the usable meanings of the cards. So what does 9 mean?

What is the essence of 9-ness?

On the Tree of Life, 9 is called Yesod -- Foundation.

Foundation of what?

The World.

The bottom Sepherah on the Middle Pillar dangling out the bottom of the Ladder is Malkuth for the Pentacles suit (10 Pentacles card).

The World (the 4-dimensional space-time continuum we live inside of -- i.e. The Universe) is (this is my own opinion) entirely contained within that 10 Pentacles card.

The rest of the Tree exists above the point where Space and Time are defined. Yet within 10 Pentacles, within our material reality, the entire pattern of the Ladder repeats and repeats -- "As Above; So Below."

Thus we can identify the processes of writing a novel from the Ace of Swords down to 10 Swords as actions we do in material reality -- even though these processes actually exist outside space-time.

"Creation" -- that which exists because G-d said "Let there be" etc -- includes everything on the Ladder above 10 Pentacles -- and more above the Ace of Wands. Our material reality is the result of all that -- and bears traces of it all. Thus the level of 9 is the Foundation of all that's under it.

Wait a minute! The "Foundation" lies ABOVE what it supports?

Well, I did warn you! This is mysticism.

It does make perfect sense if you think of FOUNDATION as that which has to go in first, before the structure is erected.

The Foundation is where things are caused and determined -- the ultimate shape of the structure, how strong and tall it can be, how long it will last, its limits, and thus what it can be used for are all determined by the FOUNDATION.

Oh, wait another minute!

If 9-ness is only the foundation, the beginning of the project, what's the One, the Ace?

Aha, well, the 1's to 8's describe the processes that must happen before a foundation is built.

There's originating, starting, commiting, developing the blueprints, modeling, re-evaluating, re-designing, submitting the plans to an architect (who like the Editor, says, "No, it'll fall down." or "It needs fire exits!") and now in 9 there's GROUND BREAKING!

9 is where the substance of reality is finally moved and reshaped, strengthened and rearranged to accomodate the project.

We know that Swords are actions, thoughts, words, opinions, even plans.

So the 9 of Swords is the act of putting your money where your mouth is.

Or in the analogy of publishing a book, the 9 of Swords is the interval between the signing of the contract and subsequent the tussle with the editor over changes in 8 of Swords, and the point where you actually hold the first printed book in your hands.

The book is at the printers where paper is cut and ink applied, thus reshaping reality to convey your Ideas.

The 9 of Swords is the point beyond which you can't yell, "STOP THE PRESSES!" You've examined the galleys and OK'd them, or put in changes missed by everyone before. The copy has been sent to the printer. The presses are rolling (action). Publicity plans are unfolding.
9 Swords is the first stage of implementing the visions, decisions and actions made in the previous 8 stages of the project.

So why does the Waite Rider deck depict it as a person sitting up at midnight with 9 swords floating above as if about to fall?

Because this is the stage of the project where the project is still amorphous. At this point, all the work done before, all that energy drawn down the stages of Jacob's Ladder shimmers in shapeless potential.

Will anyone read this book? Will the critics like it? Will the publisher send out review copies? Will anyone buy it? Will anyone like it? Will I have to do the talk show circuit (what in the world can I wear!). Will it become a movie? Will ANYONE like it???? Will it get a good cover? Will my mother accidentally read it (ohmygawd!). Above all - is it good enough?!!!

Have I risked too much? Have I exposed too much personal stuff? Not enough? Have I said something stupid I'll never live down? Will my boss read it and fire me? Will it cost me a career? I should never have written this thing! What is going to HAPPEN????

In 8 of Swords, there's worry about consequences IF you take action. Here, in 9 Swords, the action has been taken, but consequences haven't materialized yet, so the worry is still there, now accompanied by nebulous horror that you actually did a dangerous thing. Nightmares.

The 9's are Yesod, the Foundation. In many traditions, this is called the Astral Plane.

The 9's represent where you go when you fall asleep, or have an "out of body" experience.

9 Swords is what you do (actions) while there.

Remember, the 9's exist above the point in creation where Space and Time are defined. There is no up, down, east, west, north and south on the Astral. There is no before or after. All places and all times are the same place and time.

That's what is so disorienting and "nightmarish." Or "dream-like." When you are in R.E.M. sleep, whether an experience is nightmare or dream depends on how you feel about it when you wake up.

We want our dreams to come true - but not our nightmares. On Jacob's Ladder, there's no way to distinguish dreams from nightmares.

9 of Swords is where we decide what among all our visions we will make come true. The 9 of Swords is the foundation, the beginning, the definition of the edges of our reality.

In the mystical reality, wishing can and does make things come true.

Our ventures onto the astral plane at night shape and guide our real, waking lives. And so how we approach and experience 9 Swords will have a measurable and visible effect on how our project eventually turns out in concrete reality.

As I have said here before, none of the Tarot cards are "bad" -- none of them cry doom! How you experience any of these processes depends a lot on whether you live in a Zero-Sum-Game universe, or an Abundant Universe where everyone can be a winner.

In the Zero-Sum-Game model, 9 Swords is the trip onto the astral plane into nightmare.

After tumbling on through 8 Swords, you arrive at this 9 process where everything, absolutely everything, depends on you and you alone, and you feel you have no control at all over anything.
That helplessness is the essence of nightmare (just like being a newborn in a crib; you can't even get your thumb to your mouth!).

The only thoughts (Swords) you have are fears of failure, and the assessment of the stakes if you fail. In the Zero-Sum universe, failing means losing. Someone else wins, not you.

In the Abundant model, you tromp through 8 Swords with confidence, negotiating so that you pay only what you can afford and get what you need, and some of what you want.

Then you fall into bed, exhausted, and into the 9 of Swords process, where you dream bright and glowing images of success in every detail and are possessed of happiness and blessed relief that the job is DONE, and now all you have to do is lay the foundation for your future.

Your joy shapes the fluid stuff of the astral plane and eventually what you've imagined becomes real.

Brian Boytano, who won the Olympic Gold Medal for men's figure skating, told the media he had spent years visualizing that moment with himself on the highest of the 3 platforms. He could really see it. And it happened for him. But he didn't just visualize it. He worked. His whole life was skating and competing. The astral plane is the foundation -- but it isn't the building.

If the project was writing a book, the writer who lives in the abundant universe spends this 9 Swords interval dreaming of the sequel, filling in details, living the character's lives and furiously outlining the next book.

In the zero-Sum model, which we all revert to because it's culturally sanctioned here, the artist or writer has nightmares of failure, and nightmares of the even worse contingency, success! How do I write the sequel to a world-wide best seller? Can I do it?

Ok, so how do you do it -- again -- on purpose?

You lay the foundation on the astral plane.

The stuff of the astral plane is amorphous, without time or shape. The force of your thoughts shapes it, whittles, hones, polishes, paints, and illuminates it. Everything in our concrete world was first shadowed on the astral, outlined like the strings surveyors put out to mark where to dig the foundation.

That shadow holds our concrete world together and gives it shape, just like a foundation holds a building and defines its shape. (Yep. Mysticism.)

Now you say, "But I've wanted and yearned for things, and imagined and dreamed, and they didn't happen!"

I told you, living is complicated because it's so exquisitely simple.

It isn't your conscious thoughts that shape the Astral to create your concrete world.

It is your subconscious mind that shapes the foundation of your life via the astral plane, via Yesod, the foundation of all reality.

How can you possibly control your subconscious mind?

You can't.

However, you can make friends with it, persuade, coax, negotiate. The subconscious is really stupid. It can't learn. But it can be trained, like a dog, with gentleness, consistency, kindness, and above all persistence.

But how do you communicate with your subconscious? How do you pet it and discipline it?

The best way I know of -- GO TO THE MOVIES! Rent some DVDs. Watch TV shows. Read books. Wallow in fiction to your eyebrows.

What is the essence of story? Conflict. Internal conflicts shown clearly in the character's external life, conflicts that are resolved by the action of the story.

What is your problem with your subconscious mind? For most of us, most of the time, the conscious mind is in CONFLICT with the subconscious, just like characters in a story.

In the 7 Swords Reversed, we began the process of resolving those internal conflicts. Here, in 9, we are rewarded with an opportunity to re-shape the foundation of our lives according to the changes made in 7 Swords (as a result of Love in 6 Swords which happened because of criticism in 5 Swords, which couldn't have happened if we hadn't finished the l first draft in 4 Swords, which couldn't have happened if we hadn't etc.). If we can pull it off here in 9 Swords, then we will get the concrete world to behave better.

The easiest way to start communicating with your subconscious is by watching for your emotional reactions to stories.

That emotional reaction (Suit of Cups) is your subconscious talking to you -- and it is especially illuminating when you burst into tears over a scene and you don't know WHY!

By thoughtfully analyzing what you react to in fiction, you can learn to see your own reflection in the fictional characters. And you can learn what nightmares you have in common with others.

Fiction has its origin on the astral plane. It can transport you back there. And when you return from walking a mile in fictional moccasins, you will not be in the same "place" you were in before, spiritually. Your subconscious will start negotiating peace with your conscious mind.

Novels are complex -- not as complex as life, but they can be very abstract and complex. The short story can be more to the point, but too simplistic.

So the medium I prefer for this purpose is film and TV. Because of the way the stories have to be structured for film, an emotional reaction can be traced very easily to its cause in a film.

Books are richer, but film is tremendously accessible for the purpose of igniting spiritual progress.

So I have two books that I hope you'll be able to find, read and study carefully. Not only are they good for teaching you to write stories, but also for learning to analyze films to find the cause of a surprising emotional response. Film uses the languages of the subconscious, and with modern techniques, can replicate the otherworldliness of the Astral.

The books: Save the Cat! and Save The Cat Goes To The Movies. See reviews:

http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/2007/ in both January and April columns.

and http://www.simegen.com/reviews/rereadablebooks/2008/ for the sequel reviewed in January 2008.

And on Amazon, in my reviews, I talk more about the usefulness of these books for writers.

Save The Cat! and Save The Cat Goes To The Movies are both by Blake Snyder. Here's a direct amazon.com link.


In my review of Save The Cat Goes To The Movies, Jan. 2008 review column, I discussed in depth just the first page of the book, with more references to come in following columns.

On that first page, Snyder explains a genre he calls MONSTER IN THE HOUSE. You have to read his explanation of this genre and the movies it applies to, but meanwhile think about it this way.

The essence of Blake's Monster In The House genre is that the cast of the film is confined inside an enclosed space with something that wants to eat them -- and it has gotten loose because of some "sin" done by the protagonist. (inviting the Vampire in)

You are locked inside your skull with your subconscious, and you are its Monster while it is your Monster. Snyder provides a perfect description of the astral plane nightmare.

The point of the Monster In The House genre is to evoke the sensation of intimate violation by a supernatural (i.e. from outside your view of the universe) evil.

The subconscious mind houses not only your main contact with the Creator of the Universe and all the Good, but your awareness of the negative forces beyond human ken. And you are trapped in there among these vast, incomprehensible forces. That is your dream world.

Those "yes-buts" you created in 8 of Swords become Monsters you create on the Astral to avoid dealing directly with your subconscious -- big, powerful, ugly, voracious monsters that want to eat you alive. They're the monsters under the bed, in the dark basement, and in the closet when you're little -- possibly shredded memories from prior lives and maybe deaths, bits and snippets of the astral plane shaped by you in prior lives, the stuff of hauntings.

The "yes-buts" are all the reasons why you can't talk to your subconscious sensibly. Instead you roar. If that's the condition within you, then likely you will also roar at your spouse.

The yes-buts are all your fears, especially the ones you don't want to admit - but they are also your SELF. They are what you can't control, conquer, beat, or dispatch. Go up against those monsters and you lose.

Such Monsters exist only in the Zero-Sum universe where you must win the war with your subconscious -- or nightmare wins. You are locked inside your skull and inside your life with this powerful and furious beast and you must win because losing is unthinkable and you can't escape.

And that's what the image on the Waite-Rider 9 of Swords depicts.


So how do you shake off a nightmare?

The old fashioned, tried and true method when waking from a nightmare is to go raid the refridgerator (food grounds you to the material world). Writing down the nightmare often does the trick. But then what? You have to go back to sleep some time.

The way out of the trap is through Da'at of the material world. Da'at is Knowledge, knowledge of the practical world and the spiritual world and how they are joined together, the Knowledge of the mechanism of the universe.

What makes the supernatural monster so scary is that we don't understand it. It is "the unknown."

The essence of Science Fiction is "encounter with the Unknown" -- the essence of Horror is "encounter with the Unknowable." Unknowable can morph into Unknown with a twitch of attitude.

By exercise of the conscious mind doing practical, everyday, things we shake off nightmare and prepare to reshape the astral plane matter into something brighter, better, more amenable, more suitable to our goals.

Often the most powerful actions for preparing your next expedition onto the astral are ritual: praying, cleansing, setting wards, confessing; or simple practical acts: giving charity, making right something you did wrong, helping the helpless, establishing and assisting a group with shared devotions -- do something special to honor your parents or teachers.

Once you have set your material world in order, brought your mind to bear on your problem and taken real, concrete action, (such as, if your publisher isn't advertising your book; you can do some advertising yourself!) you can venture onto the astral again with confidence, falling asleep imagining and then dreaming of a good outcome for your project.

If you are losing the vision of success of your project, do something that will let you dream of that success really happening.

What you shape on the astral with your imagination will materialize one way or another. But in order to do that shaping, you may have to study your nightmares until you have complete knowledge of them to turn them into dreams.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Very excellent stuff, Jacqueline. Lots to digest, so I'll have to come back later.

  2. Hey, Jacqueline, I just received a request for a partial on my first polished-for-submission novel, THE STAR CAPTAINS' DAUGHTER. This was from a query I sent out eight months ago. I'd come to the conclusion either I wasn't grown-up enough for SFR or it just wasn't my thing. Now I suddenly have to get this old story out the door and make it snappy. Thanks to the screenwriting books you recommended, it's NOT turning out to be a monster under my bed after all. The index card method from SAVE THE CAT has been especially helpful with this.

    Structure has been my greatest weakness and I'm finally feeling like I'm getting a handle on it.

    THANK YOU!!!

  3. Kimer an:

    TELL Blake Snyder that.


    His students will SEE what you write, and take heart from it. PASS IT ON is a maxim to live by.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  4. Oh, okay. I figured since I have no aspiration to write for the movies, he wouldn't be interestedin hearing from me.