Reflections on The Two of Swords

From today’s one-card reading:

Q: As God wills for me to live in a state of perfect happiness, I accept this as my true function here. How best to enter such a state?

A: This way.

II

In the Minor Arcana, the number Two signifies the emergence of duality within consciousness, a spiritual counterforce that resists an initiating force: The suggestion of opposites formed within the psyche that must eventually come to exist in a state of harmonic balance if we are to live happy, fully individuated lives. Here, the fiery, unbridled will to power signified by the Ace of Swords is countered by the cool, constrained figure of the Two. If the Ace proclaims and projects itself upon the world, the Two withdraws in solitude beneath a waning moon. If the Ace is pure ego that seeks to conquer the world, the Two is the element of conscience that imposes self-discipline upon us. We look inward, not outward, for this important function, and that is why our sword-bearer in the Two wears a blindfold—for the outer world of Swords is a reflection of chaos, while the inner world, separate from ego, is where we learn the virtues of patience and self-restraint.

In the kabbalistic teachings of Isaac Luria, we see a parallel to the Two of Swords in the doctrine of Tzimtzun (in Hebrew, “contraction” or “constriction”) in which God is said to “contract” Himself from Creation, withdrawing from His limitless light so that a celestial “space” can be created through which other, finite forms of consciousness (including us) can exist. In practical terms, we experience this state of “withdrawal” whenever we create a similar “empty space” in ourselves when we pause to meditate or pray so that the light of God-consciousness can illuminate our minds—as below, so above. We also experience this whenever we allow ourselves to listen to our “inner voice” of faith during those times when we encounter circumstances in life that our “outer voice”—reason—alone cannot explain.

Naturally, we cannot remain in a purely meditative state forever, that we must eventually “remove the blindfold” and “open our eyes” to the outer world, and that our Ace-ego will rebel against its primacy being called into question (which we see most unambiguously in the card that follows the Two!). But when we incorporate daily devotional exercises into our waking lives—as suggested by the sword-bearer meditating in solitude—we become more acutely aware by the day of the presence of the Divine within us, and this in turn can lead us into a state of serenity and calm that’s implied by the landscape in which she finds herself. But this can only happen, the Two suggests, if we are willing to spend some time alone in deep thought, apart from the outside world.

Dante DiMatteo

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