A man’s lifeless body, impaled by ten swords, lies face down on the shore of a great body of water. The sun is setting, and storm clouds are gathering in the skies.
Thus we exit the world of Swords—the world of division and formation—and enter the kingdom of Assiah, the material world.
And what a world it is—a panic-stricken organism that always seems to be lurching from one self-inflicted catastrophe to another: Holy wars and beheadings (with swords, no less!), epidemic outbreaks, sea levels rising, religious oppression, civil liberties eroding, failed economies, historic droughts. You can’t be faulted for reading the news online or watching it on TV and coming to the conclusion that perhaps we really are living in the end times. (The English anthologist Bill Butler’s interpretation of this card—”television”—is not a mere sarcasm.)
Given the psychic tenor of our times, it is certainly easy to be pessimistic about the future and give in to feelings of terror and dread. Many of our civic leaders would like this, as it gives them greater power over us—and in fact, many of them willfully stoke these fears for that very reason. But the Ten of Swords warns us of what we do to ourselves if we allow such an attitude to rule over our consciousness: Mindless panic, mass psychosis, the abandonment of all reason, reversion to barbarism—and the result is a perpetual state of “spiritual suicide” in which we inflict needless harm upon ourselves—and by extension, upon our brothers; remembering that everything we do or say emanates throughout all of Creation for all time, when we allow destructive and negative thoughts to govern our lives, we inflict those same thoughts upon others—even if we fail to apprehend this, as in fact we usually do. When our head is “buried in the sand,” it is easy to see ourselves as lonely victims of life’s vicissitudes and not as active participants who are as responsible for all of life’s outcomes as the next person—but if we are to be honest with ourselves, we must accept responsibility for our free agency, and to resolve to either become a part of life’s problems or a part of its solutions. This is simply another way of stating that our only mission here is to love and forgive others. Any other course of action can only lead to self-inflicted wounds down the road.
This is not so say that there are no “victims” in real life. All of man’s wars and struggles, regrettably, create millions of them. At the same time, we must resist inviting the spirit of victimization into our own lives with ego-projection and other forms of negative thought. Learning to “let go” of things we can’t control, therefore, is an important step in the process of individuation; and the Ten of Swords tells, us in no uncertain terms, that ego and will are both cognitive “dead ends” that eventually need to be overcome if we are to become fully individuated adults. Even the will to live, so instinctual to us from birth, will need to be relinquished when our time to depart the material world and ascend the Tree of Life has been appointed for us from on High.
Meanings in a reading can include all the obvious attributions to oppression and calamity, reason “put to the sword”, mass psychosis, hallucinations, surrender to the “dark side”, or the violent end of a matter; but also release and/or death of ego, remission from sin, the power of love to conquer fear, “the worst is behind us” and the sun will rise again on the morrow. Whether or not we are living in the last days of Revelation, one thing we know for certain is that this world of flesh and bone is not our permanent home, and that one day we will take our leave from it. Let us pray and meditate that all should know peace, for this is the only way how the world can possibly be saved—by one loving soul affirming another.