Sooner or later, it happens to all of us: An unforeseen event, a perceived tragedy or a moment of adversity, that causes us to lose our emotional bearings and which, left unaddressed and un-remedied, can have extremely unfortunate consequences for us. Such a dire turn of events is symbolized in the Tarot in the form of Trump XVI, The Tower, which we discussed in detail the other day. So, as a kind of “thought experiment”, I decided to devise a new layout using The Tower as a Significator. The objective of this particular spread is to see what we can learn about ourselves in times of crisis, so that we might master events before they come to master us. It can be difficult, and perhaps even unwise, to perform a Tarot spread if unexpected news has left us feeling emotionally overwhelmed, but if we can calm ourselves sufficiently through meditation and deep breathing, and attempt to analyze events in an objective and level-headed manner, we can use our perceived tragedy as a psychological teaching tool, to find out what unsettles us that we might gain greater control over our ego and emotions.
Using The Tower as mentioned, as the Significator, I laid out the cards pyramid-style in the following order:
The meanings of the cards, roughly, are as follows:
1. The matter as we perceive it.
2. The matter as we misperceive it.
3. The influence of others over the matter.
4. Our own influence over the matter.
5. Things or events we should avoid.
6. Things or events that we should embrace.
7. The likely outcome.
What are we perceiving and misperceiving here? The Five of Pentacles speaks directly to the pain and anguish we feel whenever we find ourselves seemingly trapped in troubling times. We all experience emotional “rough patches” like this in life—be it over the loss of a job, a bad business deal, a marital breakup, or a unwelcome medical diagnosis—and while we are entitled to our sorrows (at least initially), we don’t have to allow them to govern every aspect of our waking lives. Once we reach that point where we have internalized our sadness to the point that we no longer differentiate it from our psyche at large, we erect a wall of separation between us and others, creating a prison of the soul where no light can enter and which keeps us bound in chains of our own making just as surely as The Devil of the Tarot keeps Adam and Eve enslaved—and most of the time, we don’t even realize it is happening.
How are others influencing this matter, and how am I influencing things? The Prince of Cups is the dreamer and the idealist of the court cards, and as such, the card asks us if we are not seeing others too altruistically, or if we are relying too heavily on others to inform our opinion of ourselves. This “inside-out” attitude of gauging our own self-worth, based on the approval and/or our over-romanticization of other people, may seem perfectly normal—how often have you ever heard someone say “you complete me” in describing a relationship?—but in reality this outlook can be very destabilizing because we are, in essence, ceding control over our inner lives to others, which puts us in a state of emotional dependency that in turn makes us vulnerable to huge emotional swings based on whatever others may think of us at a given time. That can leave us feeling psychically, and even physically, unbalanced just as the figure in the Two of Pentacles reversed must feel. How can we juggle all of our material commitments when our world—or in this case, our perception of it—is upside down?
What should we avoid, and what should we embrace in the matter? The King of Pentacles reversed cautions us—again—against attempting to make material commitments at this time, and against placing too great a priority on material matters in general; while The Empress reminds us of the many blessings for which we should ever be grateful—not only those blessings of hearth and home but also of the healing and regenerative power of Creation. If we’re ever to conquer the fears and sorrows that are borne out of tragedy in our lives, we must access that “Empress power” within ourselves that we might become more cognizant of the spiritual renewal that follows our “dark night of the soul,” which proceeds in a cycle that is as endless as the seasons on earth. There are many ways to reach this state of awareness—counseling, meditation, prayer, reflection—but whichever we choose, we must be willing to forgive ourselves of our shortcomings and to unburden ourselves of the tyrannical demands of ego. Bearing that in mind . . .
The likely outcome? The Prince of Swords is the most egomaniacal of members of the Tarot court, and reversed, the card warns of the destructive power of ego when it is turned against itself. Ego not only manifests itself as anger and rage but also as the self-pity suggested by the Five of Pentacles and the narcissism implied by the Prince of Cups, and it is these impulses that we must control if we are to move beyond tragedy and to “get on with our lives” again. This is easier said than done, of course, but it must be done if we are ever to know the state of Divine grace and ecstasy that The Empress would bestow upon us if we would but embrace Her. For the short term, however, the spread suggests that we’re likely to be enmeshed in a state of inner conflict—while reminding us that we can change this state of affairs anytime we choose.