Ace of Swords – Clarity
The Ace of Swords shows a hand emerging from a wisp of cloud and holding an upright sword crowned with a wreath. Why is this so? With the exception of Swords, the object of each suit is an obvious representation of their element: the wand is a torch, cups hold water and coins represents the material world that earth symbolizes. So why does a sword represent air, the element that governs our intellect?
Perhaps it is because the intellectual journey is wrought with obstacles. The sword in this card is wearing a wreath because intellect, when used correctly, it is humanity’s crowning achievement. Language, science, math, medicine, philosophy, and so many other things that make civilization and peace possible, are products of the intellect. But like the double edged sword representing it, it is also capable of great destruction. When intellect isn’t governed by a clear and strong mind, it becomes enslaved by the ego.
The ego is responsible for our identities, personalities, beliefs and all the other bits and pieces that represent the comprehensible self. But it is not the self. Instead, it is a tool with which to understand and interact with reality. To confuse the ego with the mind itself is to confuse the servant for the master. When we make this mistake, we become trapped inside the illusions and stories that the ego creates. They can be narratives of self-importance or helplessness, beliefs that perpetuate hatred or indulgence – whether they make us feel good or bad, they are equally dangerous because it prevents us from seeing the truth.
The Ace of Swords invites us to utilize the great tool that is our mind for the greater good of all. When this card comes up in a reading, it is a challenge to be objective and think our way through a problem. Rise above doubts, fear, prejudices and pessimism.
However, be careful that we do not go to extremes in trying to deny our thoughts and feelings. Humans have biases because they assist us with our choices. Know when to rely on our gut instincts. Remember that the mind should be fluid and ever evolving. It is not an evil that we need to be rid of but a wild horse that can be tamed.
Hexagram 25 – Without Ego
The title of this hexagram is made up of two words, wu and wang. Wu means nothing or lacking and wang means rash or reckless. Some translations of the I Ching have translated this as Innocence. While this translation does capture the core of the intended meaning – which is that humanity’s natural state is pure and good and we should aim to act in accordance with our original nature that is designed to flow in harmony with the tao – it fails to address the deliberate use of the negative. Innocence is a virtue, which is a positive quality. Wu wang, however, is meant to describe an absence of a negative quality.
The negative quality being addressed is an excessive ego that no longer serves the truth. Instead of seeing the world as it is, the ego sees the world through a veil of expectations. When things appear to be going in one’s favour, it assumes full responsibility and takes on an attitude of invincibility. When things do not go according to the ego’s desires, however, it convinces itself that is a victim of fate and adopts an attitude of resentment and defeat.
This hexagram tells us that we must strip ourselves of the layers of excess and return to our original nature. Wu Wang is a time for deconstruction. Before beginning a new venture, we must first restore and clear the mind of falsehood.
Nine on line 1:
This line describes a period that is before the beginning. To begin means one is ready for action. Before we can be ready, we must be in the right state of mind. Thus, before we undertake anything new, we must first come to a stop. Clear the mind of the ego in order to think clearly and objectively so that we can be fully aware of our current situation and motives. It is only from this fully conscious state of mind that new goals should be set and actions be taken.
Six on line 2:
Once we have made the decision to act, we must act wholeheartedly. Be present and focused on the task at hand. Work towards achieving the goal of the project and the greater good for all who are involved. Do not concentrate on what we feel we deserve; selfishness is the trademark of the ego. Instead, concentrate on what we can offer.
Six on line 3:
Those who are in command of their ego can see and accept the world as it is. A part of this acceptance includes understanding that misfortune is an inevitable part of life, no matter how correctly one behaves. Even if we commit no error, we can be victims of those who behave thoughtlessly and uncivilly.
Nine on line 4:
After understanding that misfortune is an inevitable part of life, we need to appropriately apply this knowledge. Those who accept this with defeat have not truly mastered their minds because it is the ego who acts with the expectation of external reward. Those without expectation know that the universe does not favour or protect anyone. It is the individual who must seek to move in harmony with the universe. Thus, they persevere until they can find their way back to the central path.
Nine on line 5:
Even the wise are sometimes tempted to act upon their base instincts. However, being of clear mind, they are consciously aware when the urge to act is motivated by the ego and when they arise from true need or desire to serve a noble purpose. Thus, they know which thoughts and feelings require their attention and effort and which ones to leave alone.
Nine on line 6:
The top line of many hexagrams is often a reminder about the importance of timing. In this hexagram, it reminds us that there is a time for everything, even truth and sincerity. There are people in this world who will take advantage of others’ good will. Among such people, it is dangerous to be sincere and foolish to reserve judgement.
Intelligence is, among many other things, the human capacity for learning, planning, problem solving and self-awareness. It is the foundation of language and technology. In other words, it is the quality that separates us from all other animals.
As wonderful as it is, however, it also has a dark side. Not all thoughts are productive. In fact, all of us are capable of and have had many negative thoughts – thoughts of greed, jealousy, fear, defeat and hatred.
There is a difference between pain and suffering. Some schools of thoughts believe that while some pain and difficulties are natural and inevitable, all suffering and oppression we experience as individuals and society are caused by thoughts. The key to enlightenment is to know the difference between the thoughts that are aligned with the harmony of the universe from the ones that separate us from it.