Monday, November 05, 2007

3 Pentacles -- Doctorate

As noted previously, this is a chapter in a book about the Tarot aimed at Intermediate students of Tarot, not beginners or advanced students. It is particularly aimed at writers looking to learn World Building and Alien Character building.

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.

I have been posting here since August 14th, every Tuesday, the 10 minor Arcana of the suit of Swords. The Ace of Pentacles was posted Oct 23, 2007.

3 Pentacles

Look back over the Ace and Two of Pentacles and note how we are juggling more and more variables to arrive at a meaning for a particular Card.

Check out the Jacob's Ladder diagram again and note where the Pentacles begin to dangle down below the Swords repetition of the Tree, so for those Pentacles there is no underlying or overlapping Sepherah to resonate with.

When there is an overlap, both the overlapping Cards take their meaning from 4 variables -- the Suit and Number of the underlying Sepherah and the Suit and Number of the overlying one.

The 4 variables combine to manifest two separate but related processes or life experiences.

Mastering this kind of synthesis will help a lot in learning to figure out the meanings of the Major Arcana.
The thesis of this series on the Tarot is that "Minor" and "Major" are not appropriate tags for these segments of the Tarot deck.

That's why it's titled The Not-So Minor Arcana. The numbered cards are the fundamental source of the meanings. The "Major Arcana" are not-so Major because their meanings are derived from the two Minors they link.

There is only one set of Majors, not 4 different ones, so each one manifests as 4 different things as processes move down the Ladder.

Not only that, but as you've noted, at certain points where Sepheroth overlie each other, a single Major joins 4 Sepheroth each of which is composed of 2 variables -- so to figure the Major out you have to juggle 8 of these abstract variables at once. And then you've only figured out one of the 4 possible manifestations of the Major.

To grasp the essence of the Major, you must find how all 4 manifestations of that Major are the same -- even though they are demonstrably different.

If that sounds like screenwriting or even novel writing's primary demand "just like something famous but totally original" you got it!

I'm describing a mental exercise in abstract thinking worthy of a college degree.
That's why I think of the 3 of Pentacles as a Doctorate.

A doctorate is specialization. Short of being Spock of Vulcan or the Renaissance Woman, to be a Doctor of Medicine is to not-be a Doctor of Mathematics. All the 3's are about commitment, choices, crossing a threshold leading beyond the point of no return. The decision made at 3 is irrevocable.

So what does it mean to be a Doctor?

You get a Ph.D. for making an original contribution to the sum total of human knowledge. Once you've taken the lid off Pandora's box and let loose something new - you can't undo.

Pentacles is "Reality" or the realization of something, the materialization.

3 is specialization, the moment of birth leaving behind so much of the immortal soul in order to manifest as this particular person living this particular life.

3 is about a point of no return -- a commitment.

Recall from the 3 of Swords how 3 is a process of commitment, a "de"cision. You can get anything in life, provided you're willing to give up everything else. Your identity is defined (at the moment of birth represented by 3) not by what you are -- but more by what you are not.

To be anything, you must not-be everything else.

In other words, specialization.

So 3 Pentacles is an achievement "they" can't take away from you. An accolade. Education.

Skills and abilities. Once trained and educated, you are irrevocably changed and so is your environment.

But most of all the 3 Pentacles is a spiritual elevation, a hard-won maturity, such as results from the trials and tribulations we writers put our favorite characters through. It is the degree in the school of hard knocks.

Since we've been tracing the writer's experience producing a novel, we can think of the 3 of Pentacles as the dividing line between professional and amateur. That may take more than one sale. You have to prove it's not a fluke, that you can meet deadlines rather than just write when inspired, and that you can take editorial direction.

The "would-be" is dropped from your title of writer when you finally get that first sale, or second or third, whatever it takes to qualify for membership in a professional writer's group.

Underlying the 3 Pentacles is the 8 Swords, the trial by fear, confusion, and knowing or not-knowing too much about risks. 8 Swords is "thinking too much" before acting. (8 is thinking, or Mercury, and Swords is action, also Mercury). And remember, 8 Swords is the process of editorial direction -- a maturing lesson.

What do you get when you combine the 3 Pentacles and the 8 Swords? How about Over-specialization? Or, "I'm sorry, but you're over-qualified for this job."

The 3 Pentacles is a degree, or accolade (writing contest won?) which distinguishes you, which bespeaks your professionalism and character to the world -- it tells the world what you have done and therefore what you can do -- but it also tells the world more loudly what you therefore can NOT do.

The very same achievement which is an accolade can be a stigma in another context.

If you submit your new novel to a contest which is known for giving awards to low-quality work, work so shoddy it shouldn't be published in that draft, and you win with a well-structured, clean manuscript -- you have made a 3 of Pentacles moment, but it's an accolade that is a stigma.

And it's a point of no return. You've made your bed, now you must lie in it. (if you haven't figured it out yet, I LOVE cliche's!)

Remember the 3 of Swords and the discussion of 3 as the Gates of Life and Death.

3 is about "who" you are, defined by who you are-not. It is the moment at which you are specified.

Pentacles are about manifest reality.

3 Pentacles then is about your purpose in taking this incarnation, your personal reason for existing as the individual you are.

Very often a writer's whole purpose for living is to produce a certain novel -- which takes a lot of practice producing novels before that one important one can be even conceived, never mind actually written.

Some people, when they finally achieve that life's goal, find they no longer have any reason to live, and they don't survive very long. Or they subconsciously recreate the struggle because they can't stop struggling.

3 Pentacles can represent that well-known situation where someone has been wronged (a lover murdered before the wedding, an inheritance pre-empted, being left for dead by a trusted partner) -- and they then dedicate their existence to revenge.

Revenge achieved is a 3 of Pentacles moment -- a moment which forever defines the individual.
It is a threshold to the 4 of Pentacles leading onwards through life, but often is a trap.
Think of the actress showered with Oscars for her beauty, grown old and trying to make a "come back."

Often the obsessive (think Pluto in the natal chart), focused energies necessary to achieve revenge or a comeback leave the person unable to let go of that focus. Such a person will then set up their lives so they are constantly recreating and reliving that revenge, over and over and over again. An embittered, narrow life of misery results.

That's great fodder for novels, but no way to live.

Megalomania can be a twisted sort of 3 of Pentacles process -- the obsession with one's own status, dominance, and imaginary (remember 8 Swords, imagination usually focused on fears, but it can be anything) anointed royalty.

The 3 of Wands has more to do with the mind while the 3 of Pentacles has to do with the manifestation of the mind, the brain.

The 3 Pentacles Reversed can represent an imbalance -- see 2 Pentacles -- where something is lacking. That lack might be the amount of effort, the discipline to acquire the prerequisites, the determination to read and follow all the directions submitting to the contest, neglecting to check the building code when renovating and flipping the house bought as a project, or spending too much time partying during your senior year and ruining your grade point average.

That pull-back, an inner psychological leash on your output effort, can be psychologically the result of the underlying 8 Swords process of facing fears, developing the ability to accept damage as part of the process of achieving goals, the ability to discipline the imagination, and apply the mind.

The solution to 8 Swords reversed is 3 Pentacles -- making your achievement public, putting your money where your mouth is, taking a stand on the issues.

The solution to 3 Pentacles Reversed is often going straight through the 8 Swords process.

For example, if you have written a great novel -- you must somehow find the courage to stop imagining (8 Swords) and just submit (point of no return, 3 Pentacles) the thing to an agent or editor!

And remember, 8 Swords is the "yes-but" process of responding to editorial direction. "Yes-but" loops are often hit when friends give advice. When you get caught in a "yes-but" loop, you can't get to 3 Pentacles directly.

The 3 Pentacles Reversed is the condition of being stuck, striving for a goal and failing, then repeating the same striving without re-evaluating, without the thinking process of 8 Swords.
Think of 3 Pentacles in terms of the SF-Romance plot.

The female Hero stands on the stage getting a Medal for bravery pinned on her uniform and a promotion in rank. She's got it made. She's got something they can't take away, an achievement.

Our male Hero stands in the audience and salutes her.

The Commander announces the male Hero is now under her command and their mission is to go where no one has gone before -- the Outer Ring beyond Antares, to make First Contact with some aliens.

At the halfway point in this adventure, she discovers the male Hero (by now they've really got the hots for each other) actually has not only the medal she just won but several she hasn't, and the only reason she is in command is that he got busted for insubordination. Twice.

Now the aliens turn out to be a monstrous threat instead of the pussycats they first seemed, and the fate of the whole human species depends on her ability to get him to follow her orders.

These are two people who have their Identity tied up with their accolades or kudus won as status symbols in a situation where status decides all matters (the military command structure).

Both of them have, as their purpose in life, the confrontation with these aliens.

It isn't what the ARE that makes the story -- but rather it is what they are-not that fires the possibilities.

So, they arrive home with the first Ambassador of the aliens to Earth and more accolades shower upon them. Once they have, as a team, become the Kirk/Spock of Space, fulfilling the impossible missions, they will get more such assignments. There is no going back from success, so ponder the results well before you even start.

Next we have to discuss the 4 of Pentacles, so you might want to review the 4 of Swords first.

Also note that with the 4 of Pentacles, we enter new territory -- there is no Swords Card underlying it.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. Great stuff, Jacqueline! I'll have to go digest it now. One thing I know, that couple you talked about at the end - they're going to bomb. Of course, they have to bomb. It's only in recovery from failure they can achieve resolution.

  2. You're right about that -- it's a life-cycle and "failure" is part of the cycle. That's built in.

    The trick of it is the "soft landing" of course. Failure shouldn't destroy you. It should teach you.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg