It has been years since I last posted a reading. I feel humble, like The Fool in the title of this reading. During the time that I wasn’t writing, it turns out you were still reading. Because my posts are rather long and require a bit from the reader just to make it through the whole thing… I never expected many followers. Yet, in these past three years, many people have subscribed and are continuing to do so. My initial surprise has grown into a deep humbling. Thank you for taking the time to read what I have shared. Thank you for valuing it enough to subscribe.
Within the humbleness of witnessing the list of subscribers grow and grow, something started to rise. That “something” has indicated that I, once again, shuffle the deck and throw some cards. Ready? How ’bout some Rider Waite Smith:
Some of you may recall that I often read cards in sets of three, with the center card being the “hinge.” The hinge informs and supports the other two cards. This four-card spread above still has a hinge – the middle column is the hinge of the whole reading. Take a look at The Tower over Two of Swords, what do you see?
The Tower looks, well, not good at all: blackness surrounds a lightening-struck, burning tower, the inhabitants of which are falling out or have found themselves choosing to jump – either way it is hard to imagine a happy ending for them.
Two of Swords depicts a woman holding two swords perfectly balanced, dressed in a smock the same color as the cement bench she rests upon, the same color of the platform the bench is seated on. She is perfectly still. Everything around her moves, but not her. The sea behind her is slightly choppy and in the clear sky hangs a waxing crescent moon. She sees none of this: she wears a blindfold. And, since no one else is depicted in the card nor are her hands bound, we can assume she wants the blindfold there. She may have even put the blindfold there herself. She strike me as being as open as a cement block – she is the embodiment of cement.
We should make all spiritual talk simple today
God is trying sell you something but you don’t want to buy
That is what your suffering is:
your fantastic haggling
your manic screaming
Did that feel like a leap, Tarot cards to Hafiz? I didn’t see the connection at first, but as often is the case when I write these posts many “messages” arise which at first seem unrelated to the cards thrown yet manage to find their way into the story the cards are telling. A companion along the spiritual path introduced me to this poem two weeks ago and today we were talking about it again. The two cards that create the hinge of this reading both touch upon the theme of this poem, a common experience in the human condition (and in some way, defines the human condition or at least the ego): resistance.
The Tower can be scary when it shows up in a personal reading. Nobody really wants to see that card. It might even be more frightening than the Death card. The finality of the Death card makes it easier to swallow – at lease when we’re dead we won’t be suffering any more. Besides, usually the Death card implies a transition in our lives and not the literal death of our body. Transition, even the term, feels more welcoming and gentle than The Tower aflame and crumbling. The Tower is radical change, a jolt to the system where things are burning and crashing and there’s nothing left to hold onto. You can imagine it being loud and terrifying. The Tower means known structures must be razed to the ground. The Tower shows up when the structure of our lives should not and cannot be maintained.
What happens when The Tower shows up in a reading? Honestly… it is often resisted…oh no, not The Tower! But who choses the cards? We’re not in control. Might God be trying to sell you something that you don’t want to buy?
And the Two of Swords. Is it holding up or being crushed by The Tower card? Often, the Two of Swords implies resistance or denial. The woman’s arms are crossed over her heart, closing it off or protecting it. She has blindfolded herself. She refuses to see. It is as if she is saying “no” to everything around her.
What does our resistance actually beckon? What does it point to or teach us? Resistance seen beckons surrender. Seems like simply the balance of opposites – one resists or one surrenders. But surrender is more than just opposite reaction balancing the scales. Surrender shows us an entirely different way of being in the world. Surrender is to live from and in a trust of what is; aka, what God is trying to sell us. When we notice that we’re resisting what is… we have a clear option: we can keep fighting what is or we can open ourselves to the grace of surrender. This reminds me of another post, Days Like This, where it was framed as the grace of no escape.
The reason I claim resistance and surrender are not mere opposites is that surrender entails a level of awareness. Without awareness, the opposite of resistance is “giving up.” Blindfold is on in each case.
Can you feel or intuit the difference between surrender and giving up? What is an example of either of these in your own life? In the way that I’m using them, surrender brings a clarity: oh, yes, now I see that I had been haggling over the price. Whereas giving up doesn’t move us into clarity. It is as certain of its opinion as resistance is: yep, I fought the situation for a long time. Didn’t do any good. Nothing matters. Pointless.
It’s heavy, giving up. Surrender… is liberating.
What about the other two cards? Where is all of this long-winded tale going? Let’s look at the King of Cups. He looks rather stoic, eh? As King, he is the authority, he’s the guy in charge, responsible for structuring and maintaining everything and everyone in the kingdom. He doesn’t look very comfortable, though. Some would say the most natural king is King of Pentacles, Earth element. Earth likes structures. Cups are the element Water. Water relates to the heart, to intuition, to the flow of love and unity. Waves may crash upon the rocks and shore, but are never separate from the sea. Water merges.
The King of Cups rests on a cement thrown, stiffly holds his chalice and scepter out and away from his body, and he is adorn with a symbol of the sea – a golden fish pendent hangs around his neck. He has turn his elemental nature into a static symbol as if he can remain separate from it. Can you detect the note of resistance here? There is a longing, though, in this rigid figure. Notice the tip of his boot. It’s as if this King is hoping no one will notice his desire to touch his essential nature.
There is one card left. Isn’t it interesting how it is the only card in this reading that doesn’t depict any cement structures? The Fool, the beloved Fool… is he immature and careless or is he mature and carefree? The way these cards fall in this moment, our beloved Fool is the King of Cups transubstantiated – radically changed – through answering the call.
Look at The Tower again. The crown has been blasted off.
Have you ever known anyone who resisted the lightening strike of radical change? I’m not making light of it by asking; it truly is heartbreaking to witness. Something happens that they didn’t want to happen and their resistance lingers long after the event. Have you noticed that often, when any of us resist change, we become bitter or guarded. Defended. Self-righteous. Or in some way in perpetual withdrawal.
Resistance, blind resistance, or giving up, blind giving up – very sad states indeed.
The crown is blown off, human authority cannot hold back the storm, people tumble out into the darkness. We fear the end. And sometimes the end is very sad.
How does King of Cups – uncomfortable stifling his true nature – transcend (or descend through, given how the cards seem to move in a downward pattern) into the mature and carefree Fool after lightening strikes? I want to look, one more time, at Two of Swords. Can it really hold up the crumbling structure of The Tower? She may have tried – our King of Cups may have haggled over the price of merging with his true nature. I asked earlier if Two of Swords holds up or is crushed by The Tower. Maybe there is a third way to view Two of Swords.
She sits completely still while everything around her moves. She is consciously blindfolded by her own hand. She is the key to what makes The Fool so humble. Though her motionless stance traditionally is translated as resistance and denial, she may be showing us what it looks like to lay down our preferences (resistance shows up by our clinging to preferences). Her swords, perfectly balanced, stem from her heart. She is, in her contemplative meditation, showing us what it looks like when we pause and say: Your will, not mine.
She is showing us what surrender looks like. And through surrender, King of Cups is liberated. The Humble Fool walks in an authenticity more quiet and subtle than any authority fought for. And he may still be the ruler of the land, who knows? We’ve only been shown this simple part of the story: collapsing structures are not the cause of suffering – our preferences, our resistance to what is, our haggling over price, is what suffering is. Simple, when it is seen.
What is your experience of resistance, giving up, and surrender? Can you notice resistance and be simple about it – what I mean is can you notice a moment of your own resistance without judging it? What is your experience with the shifting meaning of Two of Swords? Tell me. I’d love to hear all about it.