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The Ace of Swords: Seizing the Power of Discernment

By Cheryl Lynne Bradley

Owner of Tarot Canada

"For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Hebrews 4:12 KJV

Ace of Swords - Rider Waite I have an image in my mind of Steve Martin doing his stand up routine with the fake arrow on his head and playing his 5 string banjo. This is a true picture of the Ace of Swords. I'm trying to have a creative life in 5 minute intervals, raise a family, do work that I love and withstand the constant bombardment of an unhappy world - it's a wonder the laundry gets done. I feel like I have a sword stuck through my head and I don't know if it is going to slice me apart like an executioner's sword or hold me together like the toothpick that held together my club sandwich at lunch today.

Sometimes it is a sword through the head, other times it is your foot in your mouth - no matter your circumstances - you are not a confused person, you are in a confusing situation. The first lesson of discernment. The most subtle changes in our perception of where and who we are in the world can create a "Butterfly Effect" for our mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. So get out your fake arrows, do your best impression of Steve Martin - "We are just wiiiiillld and crazy people!!!!" - and lets explore the concept of discernment.

Historically the sword was viewed as a sacred ritual object signifying bravery and power. The flaming sword of Boddhisatva procured knowledge and freedom from desire while the sword of Vishnu represented pure knowledge and the destruction of ignorance. A knight's sword was two edged - one to strike down infidels, the other thieves and murderers and the point represented obedience. Traditional Christianity and chivalry viewed it as a "luminous tool for chivalrous tasks" with a power that united spirit and matter - the binding of heaven and earth.

The Suit of Swords has the elemental quality of Air and has associations with the astrological signs of Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. This brings complexity, complications, arridity, detachment and overanalysis to our table. Air represents our spiritualization and is also viewed biblically in Genesis 1:2 and 8:1 as the emanation of the breath of the Spirit of God and as the Sword of Spirit in Ephesians 6:17. It can represent the wind in a more literal sense as well as the sense of spirit. In Ezekiel 37:1-14 he is commanded to invoke the life giving breath, wind or spirit of God. In Kaballistic study it would relate to one of the Four Worlds. The Olam Yetsirah,the Formative World of the mind, ideas and intellect is given the elemental quality of Air.

The Ace of Swords is the sword of our own personal power and in order to deal with the forces unleashed through the journey of the swords, one must develop discernment and a still centre for tranquility. This is the sword that converges the mind and the intellect with the ability to see and express ones self clearly and assertively. If you start to feel marginalized in any way, reconsider where you think the centre is.

Our society is oriented on the collection of experiences. We are perceived as successful if we have "in" clothes, "the hot ticket", the best car, the biggest TV, a big house - as if the whole point of life is to be the richest person in the cemetery. Access to money allows you access to many experiences but not to the true satisfactions of life. Are you a collector of experiences or satisfactions? A satisfaction is a spiritual occurrence - like a moment of feeling perfectly at one with the world or the sweet smell of a baby's breath.

We perceive fear as a lack of or absence of courage but courage is not the absence of fear, it is a decision to not be held back by fear. Finding the strength and courage to change your thinking or your situation is one issue, finding the strength and courage to maintain the changes is another.

Anyone who has had an experience with earthly justice knows that facts carry weight over the truth. The truth has to find its own road. Earthly justice, although it manifests the three properties of soul within its Constitution (understanding), Enactments (will) and Precedents (memory), cannot discern if it wants to be rehabilitative and restorative, or restitutive and retributive. Spiritual justice wears no such blind fold and carries her own sword, the Sword of Truth, Relinquishment, Redemption and Righteous Rage. What should be, will be.

"For the Justice is in the honest expression of the Truth."
David-Edward Butterfield

A more challenging issue for discernment is the difference between a sex object and a sexual objective. We have all heard jokes at one time or another regarding the difference between love and lust. I may lust after George Clooney (sex object) but he is not a part of my sexual objective - the reality factor. It is, of course, a disappointment that George could not realistically be my sexual objective but it is not a personal failure. This is another area of discernment that should be given some personal thought.

When it comes to dealing with people, you should always expect to be disappointed. The only time it could be perceived as a personal failure would be if you are unable to break a pattern of being drawn to people for what they need, you forget to value the gift of you and you make a bad bargain - then you are failing yourself personally. Let the Ace of Swords return the word "No" to your working vocabulary in an appropriate way. Who is saying "No" to you when they should be saying "No" to other people and situations? Who are you doing the same thing to?

We also tend to have a difficult time discerning between our logical thinking and our rationalization. Do you hate to lose more than you love to win? Do you hate to love? Do you love to hate? Will you fight to win? If we are thinking logically then we see both sides of any situation we are in and prepare for different outcomes. If we are too subjective, we can't see the forest for the trees and we rationalize one acceptable outcome. The problem occurs when we don't get the only outcome we were prepared for - the choice is not always ours. Feeling thwarted can lead to feelings of impotent rage - another quality of the Ace of Swords is strong, powerful emotions both good and bad. Our Guardian Angel just hit us in the head with a Sword to make us scrape our shoes and move on.

“I never came upon any of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.”
Albert Einstein
Don't waste time worrying about what "they" - meaning the nameless, faceless many - might think about you. "They" can think whatever "they" want to think - "they" have the freedom of their thoughts. So do you, no one can take that away from you. The Ace of Swords is a liberator. Just because we are discussing a cerebral experience does not mean it is an illusion. A boundary doesn't have to be a wall, walls can build bridges, passivity is not weakness, alone is not lonely, psychic is not always spiritual, delays are not denials and you can change your future but not your ultimate destiny.

"You can't control the wind but you can control the sails."
Author Unknown

It is a subtle shift in thinking on the journey to knowing ones true self. You have to discern between subjectivity to your own situation and objectivity. How are you using your personal power? What do you think you deserve to have happen in your life? You have to take one step back and decide if your course of action or reaction is constructive or destructive. There are very few problems in life that we will face that other people haven't faced as well. Very few things in life are absolute, there is a lot of gray area. Are you looking for problems or solutions? Are you holding on too tight? Are you running too loose? Are you confusing what you need with what you want? Is everybody listening but nobody is hearing a word you are saying? Do you repair or replace? Are you appeasing or are you strong enough to bend? Carl Jung viewed the sword as "penetration in a precise direction" and the desire to achieve a goal. At the end of desire, what you need and what you want become the same thing.

"But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those
who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and evil."
Hebrews 5:14 KJV

Seize the sword of your discernment and use it to cut through, open and release the conflicts, confusions and emotional machetes that challenge our journey through the Suit of Swords. See yourself, your situation and the people around you clearly and with balanced perception. See and speak your own truth. You will see all sides of your situation with more clarity, detachment and greater understanding of the other persons viewpoints. This tunes your mind to an almost painful level of acuity. Discernment is the key. You can remove the fake arrow now.

"So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the
garden of Eden, Cherubims and a flaming sword which turned
everyway,to keep the way of the tree of life"
Genesis 3:24

"And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth
forth his fruit in season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever
he doeth shall prosper."
Psalm 1:3 KJV

"To speak of God as an aerial or even as an ethereal body is absurd in the view of all who, with a clear mind, possessing some measure of discernment, can perceive the nature of wisdom and truth as not extended or scattered in space, but as great, and imparting greatness without material size, nor confined more or less in any direction, but throughout co-extensive with the Father of all, nor having one thing here and another there, but everywhere perfect, everywhere present."

St. Augustine 397 A.D
"Epistolatum Manichaei Quam Vacant Fundamenti"
"Against the Epistle of Manichaeus called fundamental" Chapter 15, Verse 20

Other Biblical References

Genesis 2:9, 16-17
Genesis 3:1-7, 22-24
1 Kings 3:16-28
Job 28:28
Isaiah 21:15, 45:18, 48:10
Psalm 55:21
John 3:8, 10:18
Matthew 13:9
Mark 7:15-23
Luke 13:56
1Corinthians 1:27
1Corinthians 12:8-12
2Corinthians 5:7
Ephesians 6:10-20
Hebrews 7:19
Romans 12:2, 13:11
Philippians 4:12
Revelations 13:9-10


Sources

The Holy Bible
King James Version

The Mammoth Dictionary of Symbols Author: Nadia Julien
Robinson Publishing 1996
London, UK
ISBN 1-85487-273-7

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