High-Focus Cards: An Input/Output Model

Yesterday while performing a reading I was struck by the notion that certain cards  literally stand out from the pack as “high-focus” since they are symbolically replete and subject to little or no modulation in their expression. My immediate examples were the Aces, which are undivided and uncomplicated in behavior and purpose; they make a clear statement that is not readily amenable to interpretive hair-splitting. They can be considered exceptionally constant because they represent potential rather than kinetic energy (i.e. the urge to take an action rather than the first step itself), making them reliably unambiguous (that is, they aren’t a “moving target”).

In Qabalistic terms, once the elemental energy of a suit departs the Aces, it becomes more complex and is swayed by its associations (by which I mean it must cooperate with and mediate between the preceding and succeeding numbers/cards in the series). However, among the rest of the ten-card sequence, the Fours could be considered substantially “high-focus” because they are self-contained, deliberate and largely anchored in their operation, while the Sixes and the Nines illustrate the momentary concentration and balancing of the energy and the Tens its ultimate embodiment and conservation. In all four cases there is an interlude of “centering” that suggests an inward-looking perspective which can significantly heighten the intensity. Except for the Tens at the end of the circuit, they remind me of a “step-down transformer” in an electrical switchyard that translates “input” power from high-voltage transmission lines into a lower “residential” voltage for the next active “output” phase of its implementation. (In a more mystical sense, the “Descent of Spirit into Matter” assumes that the mundane Body ultimately “houses” the Spirit.)

The rest of the minor cards (Twos, Threes, Fives, Sevens and Eights) are all transitional; they are in a more-or-less dynamic state of flux that pulls them in different directions, externally dispersing and thus diluting their influence as they embrace diverse objectives. The Twos and Threes are in the process of busily transmuting the potential of the Aces into its next functionally stable and integrated form in the Fours; to elaborate on this, the archetypal numbers One, Two and Three operate in a wholly abstract and numinous environment “above the Abyss,” and the Four – the prototypical geometric solid – emerges from this amorphous zone as a first approach to concrete reality. The Fives exit this relatively constrained episode of inertia, striving for the more expansive and harmonious equilibrium of the Sixes, and the Sevens overturn the ensuing steady-state complacency as they seek redefinition; the Eights ramify and rectify that impulse in preparation for a return to center in the Nines. The three “turning-point” cards (omitting the Ten) I sometimes think of as brief “rest stops” along the road to manifestation.*

Among the court cards, the Knights – while vigorous in their action – are too restless and peripatetic to focus for long, and the Pages are only half-formed and as yet unpredictable. Queens are perhaps the most dependably attentive and level-headed due to their contemplative nature that partakes of both forbearance and patience. The Kings are not significantly less poised but they tend to be distracted by the concerns of their office; their focus must be multifarious as it plays one competing interest against another. My vote goes to the Queens as the least fragmented and therefore most unequivocal (i.e. “focused”) of the court cards in their expression.

It has been said that all of the major, or “trump,” cards describe implacable external forces that are both unavoidable and uncompromising when received; thus, the keenness of their focus is almost a foregone conclusion. However, I suggest that certain among them are more representative in this regard than others. The Magician must have a place on the list because it is the exemplar of the “will-to-act,” prefiguring the Aces, while the forthright and “four-square” Emperor is the model for all of the Fours; the Chariot makes the cut for its unswerving goal-orientation; Strength deserves mention because of its connotations of inner fortitude and self-mastery; Death – the “numerological counterpart” of the Emperor – engenders perhaps the most inexorable fixation of all; the Tower – similarly related to the Chariot – is singularly relentless in its trajectory and the least susceptible to redirection; the Moon just squeaks in because, apart from being the esoteric and numerological root of the Nines, it is the source of so much misunderstanding and anxiety; and the Sun is, of course, the unquestionable “center of all things” and the inspiration for the Sixes. Admittedly, the rest aren’t far behind in their potency but these strike me as the most single-minded in their influence.

So what should be done with these observations in a reading situation? I am going to experiment with giving them just a little more weight or emphasis among their peers when they appear in a spread; it could make a subtle difference in the thrust of the reading as it evolves toward the outcome, perhaps similar to the effect of reversals but in a more purposeful and less oblique way.

*For those of you who are knowledgeable of these matters, the foregoing is my understanding of the Aleister Crowley/Golden Dawn interpretation of the descent of spiritual energy on the Tree of Life.

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