This spread, a slightly longer variation of the popular three-card “Past-Present-Future” layout, aims to guide us through those times when we are feeling as though we are not living up to our fullest potential, or when we are feeling stymied or frustrated by life as we perceive it. Perhaps we are struggling with a difficult relationship at home, or an unstable environment at work, or perhaps we’re feeling a bit lost and directionless in a world that often seems to be careening out of control. In any event, this spread encourages us to engage in some self-examination, to put our anxieties in their proper perspective, and to suggest a constructive “way out” of our emotional funk.
The cards are laid out, right to left, as follows:
4 3 2 1
The questions posed by the cards are:
(1) What is the source of my dissatisfaction?
(2) Given the option, what would I rather be doing?
(3) What is preventing me from embarking upon this?
(4) What can help me to overcome this?
Some archetypal and elemental correspondences that can assist us in interpreting the cards can include, but are not limited to, in order:
(1) Wands: intellect and intuition, fire and smoke, creation and destruction;
(2) Cups: emotions and feeling, water and fog, healing and sickness;
(3) Swords: ego and will, air and wind, power and impotence;
(4) Pentacles: becoming and sensing, earth and creation, wealth and poverty.
The cards that appeared today were these:(Disclosure: For simplicity’s sake, no reversed cards today—and for a change of pace, I’m using the Renaissance art-inspired Golden Tarot deck, which has fast become a new favorite.) The first thing we notice here is that we have a card from each of the four Tarot elements: Fire (Strength, governed by Leo), Water (8 of Cups), Air (10 of Swords) and Earth (4 of Pentacles). This suggests a general state of balance on the part of the querent, though the appearance of the 8 of Cups and the 10 of Swords—both cards denoting isolation and solitude—suggest a wish to reconcile the disparate elements of his psyche in a more harmonious arrangement.
(1) What is the source of my dissatisfaction? Four of Pentacles. This card has been showing up in a lot of my daily readings lately. Regular visitors to this site will know that the last couple of years have been somewhat challenging for your humble blogger, in particular regarding work and finances, so it should come as no surprise to see the Four of Pentacles in this position. It’s a card signifying material plenty, but it is also a warning against becoming a slave to material desires. Worrying over money—or the lack of it—is a neurosis that afflicts all too many of us; and certainly, while we need to be mindful of our finances, we don’t need to allow feelings of “money-panic” to govern our lives, even in tough economic times. To succumb to this thinking is to see the world through a prism of scarcity, not abundance, and such a cramped and constricted view of the world can leave us in a state of emotional paralysis.
(2) Given other options, what would I rather be doing? Eight of Cups. This speaks to a deep-seated desire to turn away from society and all its discontents, to literally go “off the grid” and live out the remainder of days as a solitary truth-seeker in an unspoiled wilderness. I’ll have to admit that I’ve entertained such a notion (haven’t we all at times?), albeit more frequently in my older years, regardless of how unrealistic—and, as we are about to discover, how spiritually impossible—it really is. More charitably, it speaks to that part of the psyche that seeks a spiritual union with the creative forces of the universe away from the bustle of civilization. It’s a reminder, too, that we don’t need to become hermits in hair shirts to achieve a deeper appreciation of the spiritual forces around us—we can discover these things in peace and quiet, alone with our thoughts in meditation and prayer, and we can do this just as easily in a crowded bus as we can in a distant idyll. We simply need to make the time, and to train our minds to “tune out” all of the static that distracts us from the task.
(3) What is preventing me from embarking upon this? Ten of Swords. This is the ultimate “wake-up call” among the cards in the Minor Arcana. It’s the card of the martyr and the persecution complex, of the self-inflicting sufferer whose public agonies mask the vainest type of narcissism. It’s the card that screams, “Get over yourself!” It is the symbolic representation of the ego-death that we must all experience before we can ever truly know our Selves—to see ourselves as fully individuated beings and not victims of illusion, captives of will, or slaves to sensation: In short, to reach a state of consciousness where we recognize ourselves as infinite spiritual entities, ever evolving and expanding in dimension, and not merely as three-dimensional assemblages of flesh and bone. To the seeker, this process is typically painful at first, and is generally accompanied by the kinds of emotional “fits and starts” such as we see with an addict who is undergoing withdrawal. Ah, those mistaken preconceptions of ourselves and others that we cultivated for so long were assuring, now, weren’t they? But now that we are disabused of all falsehood—of the notion of our “separateness” from others, and all forms of hierarchical thought that emanate from this—we can begin the process of “re-assembling” our true Selves as parts of the greater whole of humankind.
In this reading, the Ten reminds the querent that his idea of going “off the grid” (implied by the previous card) is a conceit of ego and a false construct based on the common misperception—often advanced in Western societies—that “separation equals individuation” when nothing could be further from the truth. Those of us in America are even more susceptible to this error: we take great pride, for instance, in our founding document—a declaration of independence—and we routinely hear our civic leaders chastising the lower orders for fostering a culture of dependency when the act of “dependency”, in fact, is what binds humanity to itself, and to God!
Look at evolutionary biology. When a cell multiplies via osmosis, is it not still a component of the same organism? The evolving organism simply has two cells now instead of one, but the organism has not changed its “identity” for that of another; neither do the cells within the organism attain a state of “separateness” or :apartness” from each other, even though each cell is unique unto itself; all work in concert on behalf of the organism. And each additional cell that the organism generates is utterly dependent on the cells to which it is chained in sequence in order to “grow” the organism to its completion.
So it is with us—no matter how many “separate” physical osmoses we appear to undergo during our lifetimes here, our true “spirit-cell” identity lies outside the cell itself, and it is one that we share with all other living things; and all of us, like cells in a celestial body, are interconnected, interdependent, and utterly necessary to “complete” the organism of God. We can no more realistically “declare our independence” from others than the billions of cells that dwell within us could decide on their own to split apart from each other and begin to build billions of disconnected bodies. When we realize this at last, we begin to heal the psyche, and the process of “re-cognizing” our true Selves can commence. If we stubbornly ignore this reality, however, we inflict severe psychic pain upon ourselves—the “living death of the split mind” that the Ten of Swords warns us against in such harsh and unforgiving terms. We Americans, of all people, should be acutely aware of this fundamental truth; our founding motto, after all, is E Pluribus Unum—”Out of many, one.” We should remind ourselves of it more often.
(4) What can help me to overcome this? Strength. This is fairly self-explanatory, with the emphasis here being less on brute force than on self-discipline, and on keeping one’s wilder, more animalistic impulses in check. In the querent’s case, it serves as a caution about material matters that may be giving him concern (implied by the first card); not to overindulge in food or drink, to avoid excessive physical activity (it’s flu season, remember), to keep his emotions in check, and to act frugally with his finances. Now is a good time, it would seem, to “save up” for that apocryphal rainy day—and just in time for El Nino, it would seem!