My Yule Opening of the Key: The Fourth Operation

We continue with the Opening of the Key reading I did for myself at Yule. For those who are just joining us, you may want to read the First, Second, and Third Operations for context. In those stages of the reading, I talk through some of the things I’ve been struggling with in recent months (most of which boil down to Depressionā„¢) and hone in on the exact nature of the problem I’m wrestling with. Grief for my father’s death overshadows everything else, but more concretely, there’s a problem of feeling stuck, hopeless, and adrift, which is affecting other areas of my life (especially my work life). In the Third Operation, we saw the appearance of the Queen of Cups, a figure who can help me find a way out of this problem. In the Fourth Operation, then, we’re going to start to follow the thread out of the labyrinth, looking at how, exactly, this figure can help me. In general, the first three operations of the OOTK are about identifying the problem, and the last two operations are about seeking the solution.

The Fourth Operation is a bit different in structure than the first three. Those were designed around separating the deck into piles based on the elements, astrological houses, and signs of the Zodiac, respectively. In the Fourth Operation, there are no piles. Instead, we shuffle the deck thoroughly, then sort through it until we find the significator (in this case, the Fool). Then, starting with the significator, we lay out 36 cards in the order they appear in the deck—one card for each of the 36 decans of the Zodiac.

The Fourth Operation

The cards here are a bit hard to see, but starting with the Fool on the left and proceeding counter-clockwise around the circle, we have:

  • The Fool
  • The Aeon
  • Seven of Wands (Valour)
  • Two of Swords (Peace)
  • Princess of Swords
  • The Emperor
  • Six of Cups (Pleasure)
  • Six of Wands (Victory)
  • The Hierophant
  • The Chariot
  • The Tower
  • The Star
  • Eight of Pentacles (Prudence)
  • The Empress
  • The Devil
  • Six of Swords (Science)
  • Ace of Swords
  • Ten of Wands (Oppression)
  • Seven of Swords (Futility)
  • The Magus
  • Death
  • Five of Pentacles (Worry)
  • Nine of Pentacles (Gain)
  • Eight of Cups (Indolence)
  • The Wheel of Fortune
  • Adjustment
  • Eight of Wands (Swiftness)
  • The Hanged Man
  • Princess of Wands
  • Knight of Cups
  • Eight of Swords (Interference)
  • Ace of Cups
  • Four of Swords (Truce)
  • Two of Wands (Dominion)
  • Five of Swords (Defeat)
  • Four of Pentacles (Power)

Then, starting with the Fool and proceeding counter-clockwise, we do our card-counting to filter this glut of information, just as we’ve done with the previous operations of the reading. This gives us:

After card counting.

The Fool, between the Four of Pentacles and the Aeon.

The Seven of Wands, between the Aeon and the Two of Swords.

The Hierophant, between the Six of Wands and the Chariot.

The Magus, between the Seven of Swords and Death.

Adjustment, between the Wheel of Fortune and Swiftness.

Interestingly, the Queen of Cups (who came to prominence in the previous operation) is nowhere to be found here. Implicitly, the Fourth Operation charts the course for what kind of help she can offer, but she herself is not present. She opens the door to some positive change, but the change is not about her directly. We see the Fool feeling a need for a drastic overhaul, unsure of whether he has the valor required to make that change. His way is obstructed by the conservatism and institutional entrenchment of the Hierophant, who (quite literally) stands in the way of the Fool’s own victory and the path forward. In order to overcome this difficulty, the Fool must become the Magus, learning to let go of things that are futile. And we see that the end result is not the drastic, catastrophic change of the Aeon, but rather a more measured, balanced change—the change of Adjustment. This change will happen fairly rapidly, once the Fool commits to it, but a lot of it is spurred on by outside sources; change will come, and the Fool simply has to surrender to it and trust that it will take him in the right direction.

That’s all a bit vague for my taste, so let’s look at it in more concrete terms:

The Fourth Operation points out that I’m longing for a dramatic change in my life, but it suggests that the way forward is a much smaller, more temperate change. What we want is not the Aeon; it’s Adjustment. (In very concrete terms, this screams DON’T DROP OUT OF GRAD SCHOOL. Which I was probably not going to do, but when work gets shitty, I certainly do fantasize about leaving my Ph.D behind altogether.) The central theme in this operation is a conflict with an authority figure (my adviser), which gets resolved by recognizing my own self-worth (valor) and letting go of everything that feels futile. I’ve been butting my head against a wall trying to do things that feel pointless, and the message of the reading is that I should just stop doing to those things. (“Doctor,” said the patient, “It hurts when I do this.” The doctor replied, “Then stop doing that!”)

I’m spending too much time wallowing in my frustration. But the fact of the matter is, my adviser is not going to change, and I can’t pin my happiness on wanting him to do so. What I can do is adjust my work and try to give him what he wants to see. Importantly, what we see here is an attitude adjustment that’s then reflected by changes in the external world. My work, itself, will not change all that much, but if I can change the way I think about it, the Wheel of Fortune promises that something about my circumstances will change to reflect that new perspective. (And what’s more, it will change swiftly.)

This is, I confess, not exactly what I wanted to hear. It more or less amounts to “Stop whining and do your job.” Which, fine. That’s good advice.

We finish the operation, as always, by pairing the cards together:

  • The Fool and the Four of Pentacles (Power)
  • The Aeon and the Five of Swords (Defeat)
  • The Seven of Wands (Valour) and the Two of Wands (Dominion)
  • The Two of Swords (Peace) and the Four of Swords (Truce)
  • The Princess of Swords and the Ace of Cups
  • The Emperor and the Eight of Swords (Interference)
  • The Six of Cups (Pleasure) and the Knight of Cups
  • The Six of Wands (Victory) and the Knight of Wands
  • The Hierophant and the Hanged Man
  • The Chariot and the Eight of Wands (Swiftness)
  • The Tower and Adjustment
  • The Star and the Wheel of Fortune
  • The Eight of Pentacles (Prudence) and the Eight of Cups (Indolence)
  • The Empress and the Nine of Pentacles (Gain)
  • The Devil and the Five of Pentacles (Worry)
  • The Six of Swords (Science) and Death
  • The Ace of Swords and the Magus
  • The Ten of Wands (Oppression) and the Seven of Swords (Futility)

Walking through the interpretation of the pairs: The Fool is more powerful than he realizes. Feeling defeated, he yearns for radical change (the Aeon), not realizing that he is already possessed of great valor and dominion over his works and life. Rather than yearning for something drastic, he simply needs to look within and find emotional peace; the problem is in him, and not external. Yes, there is interference from an authority figure, which makes him seek escapism in pleasure (i.e. procrastination). But ultimately, he has the skill and power to be victorious. The oppressive authority figure is only a source of temporary suffering, and the Fool will be able to move on swiftly from this situation. Ultimately, his problems are not as catastrophic as they seem (the Tower), and they only require an internal adjustment. His internal healing (the Star) will be reflected in the external world (the Wheel of Fortune), so long as he doesn’t resign himself to stagnation under the pretense of wisely accepting things he can’t change. The biggest obstacle to his gain is his own worry and emotional self-sabotage, and he needs to let go of those doubts and just do what’s ahead of him with clarity and purpose. In doing so, he will overcome his feelings of oppression and futility.

This is quite the tone shift from the first three operations, which were, ahem, rather self-indulgent, whiny, and wallowing. Remember, the first three operations show us the problem, and the fourth and fifth show us the solution. We’re done with identifying my emotional state; now it’s time for us to do something about it. And the message of this operation could not be more clear: What I need is an attitude adjustment above all else. In short, I need to stop complaining, put my head down, and invest myself in doing the things that life requires of me. If I can do that, life will start to look up.

We’ll finish up the reading either this week or next week, with the Fifth (and final) Operation. Stay tuned for the thrilling conclusion. After that, I have a couple of deck reviews and a book review coming this way, so there are going to be some very fun, exciting things on the blog in the upcoming month. See you soon!

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