Can you guess who said the following – Aleister Crowley or Albert Einstein?
“There is no true science which does not emanate from the mysterious.”
Here’s a bit more context:
“There is no true science which does not emanate from the mysterious. Every thinking person must be filled with wonder and awe just by looking up at the stars.”
It’s Einstein. He was much more spiritual than you might expect: “… there is a mystical drive in man to learn about his own existence […] I believe that the dignity of man depends not on his membership in a church, but on his scrutinizing mind, his confidence in his intellect, his figuring things out for himself, and above all his respect for the laws of creation.”
Crowley would have agreed with all of that, I think.
‘Science’ comes from Latin Scientia, to know. In the 6 of Swords the issue is knowledge, and particularly, the working out of things – the study, the trial and error, the research, and then – maybe – conclusions. We want an informed decision. But it’s not about microscopes or experiments – at least not entirely. This card asks us to accept and process all the information we have access to, wherever it comes from.
Let’s have a look at the card to see how we do it. The 6 of Swords card aligns exactly with the Tree of Life. Not only that, if we count the location of Da’ath (to give us a point on the top middle sword), the swords form a hexagram within the Tree of Life, with Tiphareth – the Sun – in the middle with the Rosy Cross. Each corner of the hexagram is assigned to the planet that corresponds to its position on the Tree of Life: Red is Geburah ruled by Mars, Blue is Chesed ruled by Jupiter, Yellow is Tiphareth ruled by the Sun, Green is Netzach ruled by Venus, Orange is Hod ruled by Mercury, and Purple is Yesod ruled by the Moon.You can see that the hilt of each sword is different, to show that each one brings new information.
In a reading, we can look at the influences of all these planets, in balance, for our message. For example, how could Mars’ energy affect the question at hand, and how might Jupiter’s expansion balance that out? How could Venus’ physical bliss respond to the intellectual rigor of Mercury? We want all the information we can get here, and we have it – from everywhere:
The hexagram encircles one of three areas on the Tree of Life – the part where we come in. The first area is a triangle called the Supernal Triangle and it includes Kether, Chockmah and Binah. These three are almost entirely formless, so they are grouped together above anything that might be considered form.
The middle area, the hexagram, contains all the other Sephiroth except for Malkuth, who forms its own group. I kind of feel sorry for Malkuth, dangling down there on its own, but that is the entire physical existence, and I guess we do keep each other company. We are kind of the point of it all!
This middle bit is where the alchemy takes place. It’s where heaven and earth come together to make something new – divinity within a human person.
Here is the Hexagon on its own, so you can see that Tiphareth matches the middle section of the Tree of Life:
Tiphareth is in the middle, the Sweet Spot – where the divine energy in Kether is converted into something that will become real in Yesod and Malkuth. There is a cross-over, which we can see in the downward-facing triangle and the upward-facing triangle.
It’s the crossing point of the whole Tree of Life, and Crowley also uses this imagery on the 6 of Disks and the 6 of Cups. The 6 of Wands is different because its element, Fire, is still so notional and pure that it hasn’t taken any kind of form yet.
‘Science’ as the name of the 6 of Swords includes the work that has to be done to get that knowledge, and the hexagram helps us get it. It’s the process, the amalgamation of all the wisdoms of the heavens brought together in us that becomes true understanding. In a Tarot reading, we are looking at what we’ve already learned in a situation to guide us going forward. It is about learned lessons and the logical ability to not make the same mistakes twice. In a mystical sense, the 6 of Swords is about understanding our place in the universe as spiritual creatures. Tiphareth is where we first become aware of our spiritual nature – if you’re moving up the Tree, it’s the moment when you start to think there is something ‘more than this’; if you’re moving down the Tree, it’s the moment when you are aware of your spirit inhabiting something physical. It’s a Crossroads. But who’s in the middle?
At the centre of the card where the six swords meet, there is a cross with a rose in the middle. The cross is segmented to make sure that we’re thinking about the origins of the Rose Cross – specifically, a cube :
In Sacred Geometry, the cube is hugely important because it and its centre point are a way to represent us in, and as a constituent of, the whole universe. The cube is ‘a symbol of stability and permanence, of geometric perfection’ and it also represents the earth: ‘a square plus the four elements plus three dimensions’. We are there in the middle, at that perfect centre, just like Tiphareth is in the middle of the Tree of Life.
If you ‘unfold’ a cube, you get a cross and the centre point settles neatly at the intersection. This point is the allegorical rose of the Rosy Cross – the Rose of the World.
There are a lot of interpretations of what the image of the Rosy Cross means, and it’s such a powerful symbol I think you can do a lot with it, but I really like the one that makes us the cross – the head and body on the vertical bar and the outstretched arms as the horizontal bar – and the rose our divine nature.
So, all these swords in the 6 of Swords are pointing at us and our divine nature. The universe is looking at you, kid. It’s also offering all its wisdom to you and your capacity to amalgamate different pieces of information into knowledge and understanding. It is a rational card in approach, but the information you’re getting is from everywhere: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, and the Moon. Mercury in Aquarius rules the card, and it’s happy there – thinking is quick and fluid, and although it leans toward the rational, it’s still the humanitarian who includes everyone.
If you compare this 6 of Swords to the RWS 6 of Swords, do you think there’s any overlap? What’s different about the Thoth 6S that you like better, or like less than the RWS?
 William Hermanns, Einstein and the Poet: In Search of the Cosmic Man (Branden Press, 1983), p. 108.
 Ibid., pp. 90-1.