She Wrote in response to my statement in my April 2008 review column (I sent her a copy because her book is in it) "Reading SF Romance is a good exercise for learning to judge character."---But doesn't reading any kind of fiction accomplish that? you ask.
Good question. My goodness, you're bright. Yes, it does. Reading fiction puts you in the driver's seat of someone else's feelings and experiences and—if you've half a brain and even a quarter of a heart—builds empathy and compassion.
I just think SFR—because of its very otherness—does it better.
And Linnea's correct, of course -- fiction per se is for me one of the necessities of life, along with air, water, and food. Fiction is food for sanity.
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
Fictionalizing is a form of hypothesizing which is the higher cognitive function that distinguishes "us" from animals. It is how we will identify humans from other planets who aren't even remotely anthropoid.
And she's right that the secret of SF is that it, like Fantasy, allows the "lesson" to angle into our eyes from a distance. Psychologists and Literary Analysts call that "distancing."
However, SFR, as a cross-genre hybrid, has unique properties that make my statement significant in even more far reaching ways.
The essence of SF is "meeting the unknown, possibly unknowable" -- SF depicts a human attitude of fearlessness in the face of the unknown, and how you acquire that attitude.
The essence of Romance is embracing the alien (all men are alien to women; women alien to men). We can embrace at the intersection point where we have things in common, like an overlapping Venn diagram.
The essence of SFR is FEARLESSLY EMBRACING THE UNKNOWN/UNKNOWABLE.
Where does that kind of fearless embracing attitude come from? How do you acquire it rather than just admire it from afar?
Well, that is precisely what this series on the Swords and Pentacles of Tarot is actually all about.
For writers, grasping the underlying patterning of the kind of thinking I am demonstrating here (NOT, G-d Forbid! MY ANSWERS, mind you -- but the process of generating these outrageous thoughts) will imbue your novels with a sense of philosophical adventure into the unknown, mapping the edges of the unknowable and finding the fearlessness within your own core of fear.
It is not any one Card that will help us communicate SFR's charisma to non-initiates. It is the underlying pattern, the relationships among all the components and how those components synthesize into specific meaning.
Specifically with regard to SFR, the study of this pattern is vital because the pattern reveals how the whole of creation is held together BY LOVE! And knowing that Love is what dispels fear and allows adventuring.
For readers, learning these patterns will allow you to fully benefit from walking a novel's pathways within the head of a person who is nothing like you -- but has everything in common with you.
Writers communicate with specific readers best when the writer shares a perception of the shape of reality or the universe with the reader -- shares a philosophy.
The secret behind all ART is that kind of philosophical shared communication.
It's like the sounding of one guitar string that by resonance transfers energy to another string an octave higher -- and MUSIC HAPPENS.
One fundamental of human nature is that we all have a "philosphy" -- but we keep it in our subconscious minds.
To broaden the reader-base of SFR, we as writers must embrace the philosophy in our readers' subconscious and communicate with it via art.
No two people are alike. We are each unique. But we are embedded in the same universe, and that universe does indeed have an underlying pattern which we all percieve and use. These 20 articles on the Tarot may provide writers and readers a "universe of discourse" in common, and allow writers to hit the right notes to resonate with readers on a more abstract level than the usual novel allows.
So the "magic" that SFR has over all other genres or types of literature lies at the intersection of SF and R. No other hybrid genre has that intersection -- though many others have different kinds of very beneficial intersections.
What has this all to do with the Suit of Pentacles at the ACE level?
It's all very abstract, and that's what the 4 Aces of the Tarot represent -- a notion that is so collapsed in on itself (like a neutron star or black hole or white hole), that everything is packed into it, and therefore it is what people call "abstract" which usually means difficult to understand.
So, put another way, the point of writing this sequence of 20 explorations of the Sword and Pentacle Minor Arcana is to discover how to use the master keys of the universe to empower SFR to reach and energize more readers, to connect at levels most people aren't aware exist, and to empower love through that channel.
OK, my objective also includes finishing the book I started 10 years ago! But I wouldn't be doing this if Rowena hadn't started this blog. So blame or thank HER for all this abstraction.
ACE OF PENTACLES
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:
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.
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. This underlying pattern, though, never changes.
I have been posting here since August 14th, every Tuesday, the 10 minor Arcana of the suit of Swords. Here we start again with the Ace of Pentacles.
Ace of Pentacles
Or the 1 of Pentacles.
So what is 1?
We covered some aspects of 1 in Ace of Swords, which you should review.
The Aces are beginnings, origins, the number ONE -- the unity behind all reality.
Let's call the Pentacles "Reality" -- the material existence we live in.
Aces exist at the level of reality where all things are just one thing, and haven't yet been divided into many things.
The esssence of One is "unity" -- or the fact that nothing can really be distinguished from anything else. There really ultimately is only ONE thing.
But let's look at it a different way. In this Intermediate level of Tarot we have to explore different models of the universe to discover what model works best for us today.
The model of the universe behind the structure of the classic Tarot deck is Jacob's Ladder from the Torah, and so a good place to start is with the story of Creation in Genesis.
Most all of Kaballah is the study of the moment of Creation in Genesis and the current mortal world implications of how our mortal world was Created.
Jacob's Ladder is the symbolic diagram of the "Ladder" that Jacob saw when he slept with his head on a stone. Angels went up and down the Ladder from Heaven to Earth, bearing messages.
To figure out how (and why) the Tarot works, and therefore what it's good for and what it's not good for, we have to try to build a model in our minds of what Creation is and what that has to do with us and our lives. I mean who cares?
That "Who Cares" level of abstraction is just what the 1's or Aces are all about.
Once again, remember that what you're reading here is your misunderstanding of my misunderstanding of dozens of Kaballistic Sources (hence I don't generally attribute my sources because I know I'm not faithfully representing them and there are literally hundreds.)
All this is my understanding at this moment in time, and I keep changing. What I'm showing you here is not "the" answer -- but how to blend all these symbols into your own personal answer which will then evolve as you evolve. You can't use my answer any more than I can use your answer -- but all of us can use the process of figuring out.
At the level of the Ace of Pentacles then, we need to figure out what "reality" is -- what's a Pentacle, where it came from, where it's going, and what it has to do with us.
So what happened that ended up creating "reality"?
According to the text, G-d SPOKE, and it was so.
It was a WORD that instigated Creation.
It wasn't a written word, but a SPOKEN one. It was a vibration.
The emission of a vibration created reality.
The Kaballists also say that G-d "creates" AND "sustains" the Universe, present progressive tense. That G-d recreates all reality continuously in every instant. The Divine Will causes all this to continue to be. Existence itself is a miracle that re-occurs every instant.
I think of it a little differently. Suppose the Word G-d Spoke is still being spoken?
Physicists know now that physical reality is made up of particles that vibrate -- everything down to the smallest particle vibrates if it's above 0 Degrees Kelvin. It can be argued that it isn't "vibration" when a particle's location is statistical.
And at a certain level, those particles actually aren't anything but energy which is vibrating. There's no such thing as solidity. There is only vibration at different rates. There isn't even a "thing" that vibrates -- but only the vibration itself. (physics is incredible)
So the whole of our mundane reality is nothing more than a Word the Creator is Speaking. The vibration of that Word is "hot" and therefore emits brightness which we call Good.
Yes, you remember there were several utterances that projected our world into being and it took 6 days, and a 7th to rest and observe.
Kaballists say that when G-d gave the 10 Commandments, all the words in them were co-vocalized, all collapsed into one single Word. We couldn't understand it, so we sent Moses up to get it straight.
Well, suppose (who knows if it's true?) that Creation is actually a single utterance, the co-vocalized version of all those Words that begin Genesis. Maybe that's not true, but it's a "model." Physicists routinely create "Models" of processes they want to study -- the "Model" is a mathematical fiction that works like the process and by using it, you can learn things you wouldn't learn from the actual process.
So let's use this model to study Pentacles.
From our mortal point of view, we can clap our hands, or sit on a chair -- reality is solid, not vibrating. This is the macro point of view -- we know it's not true, but it's a useful model.
Let's say Reality and the material in it consist of crystalized vibration.
If you study crystals, you see that chemical bonds hold atoms in a structured relationship to each other. In some crystals, electrons can break loose and flow between the latticework.
The latticework of a crystal is hollow, and everything forming it vibrates -- all the particles simply have a certain probability of being where they are, and sometimes they aren't there. It really makes no sense to talk of particles -- actually they're waves. Well, maybe not.
That's what the Pentacle in the Suit of Pentacles represents -- Reality as a Crystalized Latticework of Vibration where everything is "hmmm well, maybe not" probable.
That means that Pentacles are the Words and Thoughts and Deeds of Swords brought into a STRUCTURE, or solidified. Constructed.
The Pentacles represent the universe as a housing for the abstraction of Ideas, Emotions, Thoughts, Words and Deeds. Thus the Universe is a house and we are builders and housekeepers.
Or put another way, Pentacles are Structured Thought, Constructed Words, Deeds Done.
The Ace of Pentacles on Jacob's Ladder overlays the 6 of Swords.
Remember (or refer to) the 6 of Swords discussion.
We've been tracing the project of writing a book down from a beginning moment in Ace of Swords through creating a First Draft in 4 Swords, to showing it to a beta reader in 5 Swords and getting whacked with criticisms, to rewrite in 6 Swords.
The 6 Swords is a journey to another place. It is a leaving of where you are -- and a seeking of someplace to START NEW.
One essence of 6 is venturing into the foreign, the UNKNOWN, battered maybe but fearless (either because your adrenals are burned out from terror and you're fleeing, or because you finally understand what you did wrong and you're going to start over.)
Either way, it is the essence of both SF and Romance, the meeting place where Love is given, sought, and found, and started anew.
That place where you START NEW is the Ace of Pentacles.
Aces are Beginnings.
But by the time you've pulled your project down from Ace of Wands (the beginning of an Idea) through Ace of Cups (the budding desire to write the thing), then all the way through the tedium of Swords, the project is well-worked, rich with ideas and artistic potential. You have many versions, much rewriting.
The Ace of Pentacles contains within it all those false starts, complete but unusable drafts, and all the material you never put into the novel -- the character's backstories, the history of the World you've built, the tons of research you've done. It's all there compressed into the Unity of the Ace of Pentacles.
The world you've created has become real to you. You know it all, from start to finish, just as the Creator of this universe knows it all.
Have you ever tried to explain a novel you're writing to someone? You get tongue-tied not knowing what to put first, and you try to say everything at once along with all the details about what happened before the story starts. You LOVE that novel -- 6 of Swords, Love.
You KNOW that novel, but you can't SAY it in a way that conveys it to your listener in one sentence.
That KNOW is the Ace condition.
Now you turn your idea every which way looking for a new way to get into the idea, a new entry point, a new avenue to explore in your Universe.
If you haven't taken your old habits with you from 5 of Swords, you will be able to move from 6 Swords into this new beginning and not repeat the mistakes that drew criticism before.
Think of it this way. If you finished the novel started in Ace of Swords -- bringing it through all the way to 10 Swords -- then now in Ace of Pentacles you can start writing ANOTHER novel, one that won't contain those same mistakes and require rewriting (don't worry, you can always invent some new mistakes, and chances are you will.)
If, however, you have taken your old habits with you through 5 Swords, this new beginning will start to look very much like the old treadmill very quickly.
Being human, when we make "new starts" we usually just recreate the world as we knew it.
Sometimes that's OK because we're just not ready to change because we haven't finished what we're doing yet. But the result is depicted usually by the Ace of Pentacles reversed -- a process that is an attempted beginning without enough energy behind it to produce results.
You can be stuck in the "I'm going to write another book," process for a very long time.
Trying to break free too soon will only result in more partial drafts and failed attempts.
Where does the energy come from that gets you through the Ace of Pentacles reversed?
Again, remember it overlays the 6 of Swords, and 6 is Love. The beginning, the origin of everything (thing=Pentacles) is love.
The way I look at it, this whole universe we call reality is a love song. All we have to do is hear it.
Once you hear your song, you'll be able to sing it for us.
But this is a folk song. It changes constantly, gets new verses, new grace notes, new arrangements, new instruments.
And that's what a character-arc is -- the changes within a character because of the story that's happening. The character adds a new stanza to the love song of the universe.
Jacqueline, I'm saving all your Tarot posts in a special folder on my hard drive. This wisdom is incomparable. I'm still digesting your post of two weeks past. Sell the book. I need this in all one place. Hugs, ~LinneaReplyDelete
Jacqueline said, "To broaden the reader-base of SFR, we as writers must embrace the philosophy in our readers' subconscious and communicate with it via art."ReplyDelete
Excellent! It seems to me all great authors have this in common. They have a higher than average ability to perceive individual human beings as they really are. They don't rely merely on verbal communication. They can interpret body language, skin tone, behavioral patterns, and so on. Besides using this to create multi-dimensional characters, they use this (even if they're unaware they do this) to perceive what their readers want. They learn the readers' subconscious philosophy, as you put it.
Jacqueline said, "Think of it this way. If you finished the novel started in Ace of Swords -- bringing it through all the way to 10 Swords -- then now in Ace of Pentacles you can start writing ANOTHER novel, one that won't contain those same mistakes and require rewriting (don't worry, you can always invent some new mistakes, and chances are you will.)"
I've successfully done this between STAR CAPTAINS' DAUGHTER (Science Fantasy) and the HOLY BENNU (YA Science Fiction) and feel confident stepping to the third novel, SHIVERS. However, every time I try to set my foot down on SHIVERS my confidence goes out the window. Don't know what that's all about. I do know that I'm still not convinced any of these are SFR. And I'm hesitant to polish up any of my stories that I'm certain are SFR. Don't know why. I'm still a work-in-progress.
Thanks for another great column!
Thank you so much! I'm glad someone is reading these huge posts that are really too big for a blog.ReplyDelete
Still, when I get done, I should be able to compile the book. That will take a while as Wands and Cups have to be revised to match.
Then I may have to line-edit it down to some reasonable size. I truly hate line-editing to size! But Marion Zimmer Bradley taught me how.
She learned in her editor's office, hastily line-editing COLORS OF SPACE to size.
I admired COLORS OF SPACE as the absolute epitome of TIGHT writing. There was nothing missing; it was just short.
Jacqueline said, "Thank you so much! I'm glad someone is reading these huge posts that are really too big for a blog."ReplyDelete
When something is important, I *make* the time. Learning how to improve is important.
Otherwise, as wise Yoda said, "I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience."
I think I figured out my lack of confidence - my third book is totally Earth-bound. I have to lose my space legs. Weird. But, now, I think I can get rolling.
It's mind-boggling to shift gears and re-focus!