Reflections on The Ten of Swords

Since my workload has been light this year, I’ve had more spare time than usual, and to fill my spare time, I read a lot of breaking news and political commentary on the Internet. Having come of age during the Vietnam and Civil Rights eras, I’ve always been pretty heavily “plugged in” to the world of national politics and international events, and have even performed my share of political activism and voluntarism for nonprofits over the years.

Now, this may come as no surprise to you, dear reader, but notwithstanding the work I have done in the past to make the world a more humane place, I have to admit that in my late middle age that there are many days when I find it increasingly difficult to view the future of civilization in a very optimistic light. Look all around us: transnational conflicts rage out of control, natural resources continue to grow scarcer, the planet continues to overheat to a point of future uninhabitability, and so long as somebody, somewhere, is profiting from this state of affairs, it is hard to imagine any of this changing in any substantive way . . .

Well, today I decided to take a break from the news of the day, and to meditate on the state of our world, what it really means, and what role we are meant to play within it. Reflecting on the matter in silence for a few minutes, I shuffled the deck and turned over the top card:


For the gazillionth time on this humble blog, it really is amazing how this Tarot stuff works, now isn’t it?

Of course, this card speaks to us on two levels today: First, when we view the world solely through a material lens—as is certainly easy todo—the Ten of Swords is, indeed, the ultimate reflection of our misperception: The triumph of collective ego-madness, where images of death and disease and devastation repeat themselves in our minds ad infinitum, and which we then project upon the world of Creation, and upon our fellow spirit-travelers, in our vain efforts to separate ourselves from their imaginary horrors. Look at ourselves as we are personified in this card—one sword would be enough to “run us through”, but our harmful and defeatist attitudes inflict us with even more punishment than would ever be conceivably necessary. And to what end?

Second, it’s true that the material world will not, as with our bodies, exist forever. One of our most important tasks in this plane of consciousness—in a way, it’s the only important one—is to train our psyches for that day when we utterly discorporate, leaving flesh and ego behind in total—for it is on that day when we shall know an end to all suffering and experience eternal reunion with the Divine. This is not a novel concept—Buddhists have taught it for centuries—and in that regard, the image depicted in the Ten of Swords should give us cause for relief; consider the card that immediately follows the Ten of Swords in the numerical sequence of the Minor Arcana:


Darkness before the dawn, the dark night of the soul that gives way to the eternal sunrise: We can’t pass through the gates of Eden without first spending a season in the underworld . . . so instead of succumbing to fear and despair today, let us join our hearts together in a spirit of renewal, to forgive others of all transgressions, and to ask forgiveness of same that we would heal our wounded world. A great teacher once reminded us that if any two or three of us would agree upon a thing in His name, so would it be done in Heaven. In any event, though, the Ten of Swords tells us, in the starkest possible terms, why we can never allow ourselves to give in to pessimism and resignation, no matter how bleak our situation may appear: Because it is a form of spiritual suicide that repeats its afflictions each and every day. It is the exact opposite function of what we have been sent here to do.

Dante DiMatteo

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