A man sits upright on a bed in the middle of the night. His head is buried deep in his hands as though he is in mourning or awaking from a nightmare. Nine swords are suspended horizontally in the air above him.
This is Yesod, the individual unconscious, in Yetzirah, the world of formation. It is the moment before birth, forgotten to us now, when we realized the separation that we were about to experience—the separation from the realm of spirit to be born into the cacophonous realm of humankind. Our last moments of pre-consciousness, then, are unhappy ones—and, most likely, our last moments of waking consciousness will be, too. But when we think about it, there is nothing to be done about it, and nothing to be sad about, for it is all an integral part of the endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth that we undergo until are, at long last, reunited with the kingdom of spirit that we left behind when we entered the womb. This is signified by the pattern of the man’s blanket: Red roses interspersed with the signs of the zodiac, suggesting the endless changing of the seasons, of the death winter brings and the regeneration of spring.
It could also be that this man has simply arisen from a bad dream, and has realized that he has lived in a state of misperception and error—that his conscious apprehension of Creation has been largely an illusion, and that the truth of existence is not to be found in our contentious world of will and ego that the Swords so mercilessly represent. In our own lives, such a spiritual “panic attack,” while upsetting, is a necessary catharsis so we can begin to heal our split minds and disabuse ourselves of the notion that this perishable world of marrow and bone is our final destination in life when nothing could be further from the truth..
Meanings of this card can include all obvious allusions to mourning and despair, but also nightmares, self-deception, self-pity, vanity and narcissism, unwillingness to “let go” of sadness, and blinding oneself to reality; but also awakenings, realization of error, release from sorrow, or the “darkness before the dawn”. We are almost at the end of one journey, and about to embark upon another: The departure from Eden and our arrival in the world. Initially, as we’ll discover tomorrow, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.