Q: What’s a good thing to think about today?
A: Today and every day, this.
This is a card signifying obstacles overcome, challenges met, fears allayed, and leadership assumed. When it appears in a reading, it reminds us that the powers it depicts—those of a conquering warrior returning to the cheers of his countrymen—exist, metaphorically at least, in all of us, and that we can all be leaders-by-example if we apply our powers of will and self-discipline in a spiritually productive manner. This is easy enough to say, of course, but much less likely to effect in the real world!
How is it, then, that so many of fail to achieve our fullest potential in life? Why do we sometimes seem to “fall short” when we are striving to achieve an objective, or to overcome some bad habit or poor lifestyle choice? Why do some of our relationships seem so unrewarding, and what prevents us from letting go of them? As a thought experiment today, I laid out a simple four-card “Thinking-Feeling Perceiving-Sensing” spread beneath the card, to see if the Tarot could expand our self-awareness in this regard. This cards were laid out as follows:
Six of Wands
4 3 2 1
The questions for the cards are, roughly:
1. How is my thinking (intuition) affecting my progress?
2. How are my feelings (emotion) affecting this?
3. How is my perception (ego-will) affecting this?
4. How is my sensation (physical self) affecting this?
First, this spread is oddly similar to one we examined the other day, in which three cards from the same suit were drawn consecutively in the correct numerical sequence, the odds of which occurring in a five-card spread are approximately 420,000 to one. (To put this in perspective, if we laid down a single five-card spread each day, we could expect to see a spread such as this appear once every 1,150 years [give or take], so we are looking at something quite out of the ordinary here!) Second, we see signs of conflict at the beginning of this “narrative” (Eight of Swords) and at the end (Five of Wands), with scenes of apparent peace and tranquility in between (Three of Wands and Four of Wands). If we stop to ponder the cards in their respective stations, an inescapable line of logic begins to emerge. Lets’s look:
(1) How is my thinking affecting my progress? Eight of Swords. This is a card of constraint and confinement, of self-imposed limitations and of the “mind as prison.” It suggests that if we are not making the progress we wish to achieve in seeking our goals, the root cause of our frustrations is to be found in our powers of cognition and intuition—or, more precisely, in our lack of confidence in them, or in our unwillingness to commit to the work of “re-cognition'” of re-assessing our view of the world. This condition often manifests itself in the minds of people who have been told all their lives by their civic and religious leaders that they are naturally wicked and undeserving of salvation (when nothing could be further from the truth), and they live out their lives governed by spirits of guilt and self-abnegation. In any event, we need to find a way to remove the spiritual blinders that “bind our minds” if we are to transcend our fears and apprehensions so that the process of individuation can be fully realized.
(2) How is my feeling affecting this? Three of Wands. If the Six of Wands depicts the triumphant conclusion of a journey, this card represents the beginning of it. The figure in the Six is surrounded by a throng of well-wishers, but the sojourner here is depicted alone, and this speaks to the loneliness we sometimes feel when we confront the spiritual path that we must traverse—the terrain seems so foreboding, and our final destination so distant and unachievable! While it is understandable—and in reality, rather wise—to reflect on our goals, to “think things over” before we “take the plunge”—inevitably we must “take the first step” if we are ever to overcome our fears and achieve the state of “victory” signified by the figure in the Six of Wands.
(3) How is my perception affecting this? Four of Wands. This is a card of exaltation and celebration, of life lived to its fullest. It also reminds us that as long as we “hold back” our feelings for others, keeping ourselves isolated (as in the Three of Wands) and hesitating to join in the grand celestial dance, we will continue to exist in a state of separation—in the condition of the “split mind” where ego reigns supreme over psyche and where heaven on earth—our spiritual birthright—becomes a living hell. The figures in the card beckon us to join them in the revelry; will we let down our defenses (as in the Eight of Swords) and take the first step? The following card provides the answer:
(4) How is my sensation affecting this? Five of Wands. The young men in the card are engaged in intense physical interaction. But are they fighting each other, or merely playing a game? Likewise, we need to ask ourselves if we are immersing ourselves in life’s great game by fully engaging with others in a spirit of play and enjoyment; for if we are not, the likeliest outcome—or at least as suggested here— is a quarrelsome nature and a hostile outlook on life. Granted, no great triumph is achieved without some amount of struggle (which is the significance of the Five of Wands immediately preceding the Six of Wands in the suit sequence), but we can never reach a stage of true self-mastery, of achieving our goals and assuming our roles as “kings” and “queens” on the royal road of individuation, if we refuse to acknowledge our interconnectedness with the whole of Creation as suggested by the Four of Wands. We have the powers to achieve and actualize anything we can imagine in life—but first, we must conduct a “reality check” and re-examine the way we look at the world, and at ourselves. Are we viewing life objectively, or have we blinded ourselves to its wonders, and wrapped ourselves in the bonds of fear and misperception?