Reflections on The Six of Swords

Q: If there is something I’d be advised to keep in mind today, what would it be?

A: This.VI

Swords can be problematic when they appear in a reading, not only because so many of their images appear so unsettling but also because they exist within the Tarot to remind us of the limitations of ego and will when applied to everyday existence: The conscious perception that separates (or “cleaves”, as with a sword) the corporeal from the purely spiritual and that “traps” us in a two-dimensional, binary state of consciousness. Swords can also exert a mediating and helpful influence once we realize how ego functions and how best to apply it—or not—within a healthy and individuated psyche.

A look at the even-numbered cards of the suit provide a clue. Taken in numerical order, all are scenes depicting isolation and solitude in situations varying from the elegiac to the tragic: Screen shot 2015-09-02 at 2.28.23 PMThe “middle card,” however, differs from the cards on either side of it by its depiction not of stasis but of motion—the oarsman guiding his dinghy through still waters towards a distant shore. In this case, when the Six appears in a reading, it can be telling us that the time has come to “move on”—that whatever difficulties we have encountered in our lives of late, it is time to set them aside, and to be willing to embark upon a new adventure in life. Whatever it is that we need to “put behind us” could be anything from the death of a friend or a loved one, a romantic affair gone sour, or an ongoing legal dispute—anything that ego would use to hijack control of the psyche away from its Divine office of acceptance and forgiveness and keep it confined in a dark and threatening world of self-loathing and recrimination. (Bear in mind, too, that the Six of Swords’ predecessor in the deck, the Five, signifies defeat and devastation; once again, there is a logical time for grieving, and a time to move on.)

The Six can also warn us against misdirection and misjudgment, particularly if it appears in a spread in conjunction with the Eight or the Ten. In this case, we have journeyed into a spiritual “dead end” from which there is no easy escape—and which might possibly result in the complete psychic rupture signified by the Ten. This could suggest that we have  been engaging in poor lifestyle choices for a number of years, or that we have allowed ourselves to become trapped in abusive relationships, or that we have become the abusers in our relationships with people—and now that the dire reality of the situation has been made manifest to us, we resist the urge to “move on,” self-righteously asserting our ego-identity as an innocent victim of some monstrous cosmic conspiracy. (We have all been guilty of this mindset, to some degree, at one time or another; in analytical psychology, we call it “self-victimization.”) This is the working of ego in its most destructive form, and if we do not learn to recognize it, to “tune it out” and to eventually heed our better angels, that “new adventure” across the waters mentioned earlier can turn into a one-way journey to Hades.

If, on the other hand, we accept the limitations of ego, and release its most troublesome aspects, we may find ourselves greeted on our travels-by-lake by a host who perambulates on the water, and who beckons us to join Him in a world of limitless love and light. As the Six of Swords reminds us, it’s our choice.

Dante DiMatteo.

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