A Prelude

On November 8, 2021, Natalia reached out to the Tarot chat group (Sabrina, Joel and Phillip) about the Ace of Swords and High Priestess. She noted how she always sees the end (tip) of the sword in the Ace as going into the red flower:

But maybe this is just her wild Nordic imagination! Which gets even more wild as it pierces the heart of the High Priestess:

And her tiara has a great similarity to the crown of the Ace, including exploding blue flowers!

It makes Joel wonder if there is a connection going on here…Magician with Ace of Coins, High Priestess with Ace of Swords, Empress with Ace of Cups and Emperor with Ace of Batons…

This morning these messages came in and woke Phillip up…looking at them kind of half asleep…he really appreciates these layouts. The crown on the top as the tip of the sword…it’s really interesting, the relationship between flower and sword. In a way, that’s the whole suit of swords, is the juxtaposition of sword and flower or plant form, but with no obvious link between them. It’s implied, but you can’t quite feel it. But then he never though of it this way, this imagery with the High Priestess, with it being at her heart and then connected to her crown…there’s a lot there. A conception through the heart, and the conception of something that—maybe once it’s born, it’s vertically or cognitively generated rather than sexually generated. He can relate to that a lot these days.

The connection of Magician with Ace of Coins—we never really looked at that before. The one central piece is the way he holds this ball, or maybe it’s a coin, pretty much at the center of the entire image—at his genital region, maybe a little higher.

Natalia had been inspired by the previous notes of Phillip and Joel (from the Nine of Cups), and getting a better understanding of the complex numbering and the system of Tarot from Joel. It has been very helpful, especially in reading the notes, to figure out how Joel and Phillip have been playing with the numbers in the layouts. Somehow this grand layout…the wholeness of the Tarot really came to the forefront. She looks forward to getting deeper into that.

So, with all those “Ones” and “Twos” and “Threes” and those lines, she was choosing some of them and going through all the “One” notes, etc. And she got to the place in the Nine of Swords where Phillip is going into this connection between the Sword and the flower—it made her think of this flower in the Ace, that she always felt like the sword was pushed into it. It reminded her of the tiara of the High Priestess, that she always noticed as this similar flower. She appreciates this image of “conception through the heart” and something is cognitively generated through that.

That same thought came while she was doing this grand layout—that if the High Priestess is the Two…and the Ace of Swords is of course a One, but it is the first of the second Suit. She always assumed that Joel and Phillip had seen the Magician (since the coin is strongly there in the center), that there is this relation between the first four Majors and the four Suits. She’s pretty sure we spoke about the Empress…maybe in the Five of Cups…seeing this pregnant belly. But she’s not sure if we ever saw her specifically in relation to the Ace of Cups.

She keeps hearing “cognitive birth” as “cognitive bird”…and there do seem to be these bird-like objects flying out of the Ace of Swords. We don’t really see this bird-like quality again until the Ace of Cups. And then there is this connection between the Eagle on the shield of the Empress and this bird in the Ace of Cups. Almost like the Empress has gone inside the Ace. She even has something like tail feathers on her right side.

Joel brings up the instruction page (“On Numbers”) for working with the grand layout referenced in the conversation on the Nine of Cups…inspired to work on it from Natalia’s questions. Some of his immediate thoughts…the coin in the Magician is close to his root or sacral chakra, with this plant or cypress in the background right between his legs pointing up to that. Then it moves up in the High Priestess, the focus moves up to her heart. The sword pierces her heart, which leads to a blossoming of flowers all over her head. So a working upwards of something that leads to a blossoming in her crown. Something about that is reminiscent of the Foundation Stone meditation. What from our hearts we would found and our heads direct. This conception in the heart and this birth in the head kind of picture.

Some more thoughts from Phillip concerning the Sword and the Rose…it’s so interesting to Phillip, because the imagery makes it totally clear in the Ace of Swords that there is a relationship between sword and flower, because the sword actually becomes the flower in the crown. This relationship is then implicit throughout the rest of the Numbered Swords, but is never as obvious as in the Ace. But it’s interesting because he can’t feel the connection. He can only see it and intellectually recognise it. And what it reminds him of is the way he gradually started to become aware of his shadow or his double. Like, someone would explain to him that you have to begin to take responsibility and ownership for everything that is happening to you in your life—even the things that don’t seem like they’re your responsibility at all. But it’s only be taking on that level of ownership of what is happening to you that you can rise to the position of having any real kind of agency in your destiny. To be able to effect your life, or all the circumstances in your life, one can only do that from a position of feeling totally responsible for all the things in one’s life. Of course there are things we maybe can’t ultimately influence, or only can to a certain degree. But that’s the prerequisite, is to take absolute ownership, before we can have agency. And it took a long time for him to come around to that—those things that he would deny having any ownership or responsibility for actually eventually he saw quite evidently that yes he is responsible for. There are still things that he simply takes responsibility for even though he doesn’t really see outwardly how he is—there is seemingly no direct connection. But there are definitely things that originally he was in denial about, “oh no way am I responsible for that”—but now, after having begun to take ownership, can in hindsight see, “oh wait, yes I was absolutely responsible for that in a very direct way, but it was more instinctual and comfortable and natural to see the world such that I am just a victim of circumstance.” That’s how it has been becoming aware of the shadow for Phillip—seeing the negative repercussions of all of his life, his internal emotional states, or thinking, or relationships and interactions with others…down to the simplest things like his car breaking down. Things that are very external and not really directly related. Recognising that kernel of what actually links him to those things and it’s agency. Those negative occurrences are an expression of the negative self, the distinctly negative aspects of my personality, the shadow.

Now in terms of the Swords, the analogy here is that he can intellectually recognise the link between sword and flower, but he can’t feel it. It’s giving him this kind of perception intuitively through the absence of the feeling of the link between sword and rose, that it must have something to do with the crossing of the threshold. Reminds him of that same feeling…sensing the darkness, and looking for ways to take responsibility in the face of my inclination not to take responsibility. Recognising the absence of the link between the sword and the rose makes him think it has to do with crossing the threshold—like Tomberg says, the Coin is the value accrued, whereas the Sword is the payment of that value as you cross the threshold. The only link he feels between the sword and rose is that it is the working of karma in its most external aspect, in the sense that, e.g. prior to birth we might choose a path of events which we encounter them we absolutely despise them, “this is wrong, it’s not fair, I don’t deserve this” etc. But then taking that totally 180 view…what would it be like if I was standing above all of this, and wondering, well how do I get to the place I actually need to be? Well, you’re going to have to go through this and that, all these painful events in order to develop to the place that you’re needing to get to. So it’s almost hidden with the sword going through the crown and presenting itself as a rose, it’s a simultaneous view of the challenge that is completely disconnected from the earthly motivation, and utterly crushes it, but in fact it represents a higher motivation. It’s this absolute dichotomy that is representative of crossing the threshold. Now the problem is that he can only grasp it intellectually—both the image and the karma exercise—and can’t actually feel it as reality, can’t grasp it intuitively. It probably just shows Phillips inability to cross the threshold.

He thinks this concept of the pain that goes along with the unfolding of the “final cause” so to speak, through the earlier causal stages, if you will. The most benign form he can express it is the germination of a seed. A seed is dormant for however long, sometimes thousands of years maybe. Then you moisten it, give it the right temperature, and something is activated internally that cracks through the shell and consumes the germ. And what is consumed, what is radically transformed and burned up doesn’t even resemble what is eventually produced out of that process. Totally different thing. That’s an expression of this same process in the natural world that is relatively benign. But it contains the same process. And maybe intrinsically…it’s the same degree of intensity and what in the human world is experienced as suffering…but in the plant world is simply deeply unconscious drive and process. And with the sword and rose it is the human expression of it, the unfolding of that process in human life and events has much more intensity to it emotionally speaking, but may very well be the exact same process.

On November 9, Joel responds…Phillip is really touching on something there, and hearkening back strongly to this Suit of Swords experience. He feels like this is all bound up with human freedom. If there was some kind of compelling power that made me see quite clearly the perspective of the higher self that has determined that I need to go through horrible misery for the sake of my development, then what would make me any different than an animal? Whereas for there to be this chasm, this yawning abyss…which Steiner talks a lot about in the Class Lessons, the yawning abyss out of which the three horrible beasts arise. What that enormous blind spot forces me to do is to only grasp reality to begin with intellectually, and then I have to actually work out of my own effort to integrate this into myself to the degree that it does become intuitive. And that’s where freedom becomes possible, is where the nature of reality is torn in pieces and can only be reconstructed intellectually first. That’s where you can find your freedom. He supposes it’s something that’s been repeated often by Steiner, that there is no consciousness without illusion, and there is no freedom without illusion, it’s impossible without illusion. The gods have to present the world as a kind of lie, as something incomplete so that freedom can develop. And just the way Phillip characterised this divorce between sword and flower, even though clearly they belong together. You experience divorce, even though the intellect recognises unity. Putting that in the context of the double and suffering karma…now this idea of illusion, or the chasm/abyss, and its connection to the capacity for freedom is much more living for Joel now.

The Tarot present us very gently with that opportunity at all times because there are many interconnections, direct experiences you can have through the imagery of the Tarot that you don’t necessarily need to cross that abyss. But there are plenty of other interconnections that you do have to cross a pretty mighty abyss in order to make that connection. Either within the arcanum itself or between yourself and the arcanum. And it’s like you’re trained to see the connections that are there through the more obvious pictures, especially in the Major Arcana, or in the first pass through them. But then by the time you hit the Swords in particular in becomes increasingly difficult to find meaningful connection anymore. And it’s like that’s where your training is tested. And you enter more fully into this realm of freedom. Then it’s so interesting when you look back at previous arcana they appear in a totally different light, because you’ve learned how to look into the chasm, or walk over the chasm.

All of this makes Natalia think the High Priestess is so pure, is already making contact…she’s a seer, she’s been through that process we’re talking about.

Also her diadem is over the frame of the image…and also this curtain behind her has this openness…so it made her feel while Joel and Phillip were talking that she’s able to do that, to have this intuitive process somewhat perfectly. And she has most obviously this red flower in her head. So personally, she is for Natalia something ideal that she looks upon. Then realising there is so much for us to integrate and how painful that is. The image of the Sword for Natalia feels like a piercing element in karma…piercing the impure will…this is part of the process.

Of course, she did not accompany us through the Swords, and hasn’t read too many of the notes. But nevertheless that is how these pictures connected for her. Some sort of process which she first had yesterday…a sudden revelation or something…then as we talk it starts to make more sense. It wasn’t just her wild Nordic imagination, perhaps!

All this suffering and purification also can lead into flowering later on. Or maybe also it’s a constant process which is getting clearer or…you also have to become more aware of the quality of your perceptions. But the High Priestess is like somebody very pure, very far into that process. Able to write down something in a pure and clear way because she’s not bound to her personal karmic tendencies.

Phillip responds with this seed idea…it’s in a static form, one dormant condition. Then you give it the right temperature and moisture and it initiates this kind of metabolic process. Something in there comes to life and starts to eat up the rest. It’s like a consuming, a self-consuming. And it’s a new condition, development takes place as a kind of destruction, as the fruits of a destructive process that is eating a part of itself. Something new enters in and eats up the old. What is a crisis? It’s almost like the picture of a karma of an unfulfilled wholeness, a state of development that one has within oneself in potential, but you need the right conditions to stimulate its unfolding. And perhaps the vegetable example, with the seed, the plant is a very limited way to compare that to a human. Because really that takes place within a human soul, not a human body. So he feels like for him there are these hard limits, ways in which he cannot provide an internal container, or structure, or organising capacity to transform these stresses and challenges into something he can use as fuel, to eat and digest and use to produce a new state.

He starts thinking about the Virgin Mary…it’s always this mysterious thing…perhaps she’s the example of a human soul who has the right conditions and capacity to allow a process to unfold. To contain it, and to respond to it, and to organise in such a way as to allow it to unfold. It’s always been this mystery that is gradually getting clearer to him. On one hand, with the Virgin Mary, you could see it as: the angel comes to her and says “Oh Look! Everything everyone has been waiting for, we’re finally ready for it…and it’s you! You’re the one who can do this.” In the modern age, if someone comes to you with a job promotion, with a great salary, just the job and opportunity you wanted. The happiness that you have when you get that job you’ve been working toward. So why does it make sense that it would be an example of a great suffering on Mary’s part, which is this other whole aspect: “I am the slave of the Lord. Let it be unto me as you command.” Why is it like that? Like—I wasn’t really looking for this, but if you insist, I won’t say no. That is the general tenor of that moment. Maybe it becomes an example of…it pushed her to her limit, or beyond her limit. Perhaps she recognised that she would have to grow to meet that challenge, and that she would be pushed to her absolute limits to achieve that. And that she didn’t go through that process as “Queen of Heaven”, someone in a state of power and fullness, and all the reserves and capacities in their final developed form so that she could effortlessly pass through it. She had the potential, but she wasn’t volunteering for it. A bit like the Night in Gethsemane: “Oh! You want me to do this? I know that this is what needs to happen, but I don’t know for a fact that I can actually do that…but I’m willing to try if you ask me.”

Perhaps it was a huge burden to have to open her being up, to being confronted by the highest divinity while actually just being a simple human being. And so the purity isn’t that of a finalised accomplished experience, but the weakness and the humility of being untested and innocent and naive, but having the pure intention to be willing anyway. But her ability to structure that was sufficient. It’s like an alchemical process, where out of her inner purity as a potential she was able to rise up to that and fulfil it.

So the seed is a very simple example of a kind of container that houses a conflict of opposites, and the way that the opposites interact and their proper relation to each other—one allowing the other to devour and consume it brings about something new. Whereas in Mary—and in the human soul—there are many more layers and much more complexity to the way that the multifaceted nature of a human being has to come together as a container and organise itself in a way that requires much more subtlety and balance and conscious intention.

Natalia supposes yes, the High Priestess could be seen as Mary now that Phillip mentions it. Personally, she doesn’t always or immediately relate High Priestess to Mary. Somehow for her there is something that is not so much of how she would see Mary. Phillip really made her think…who is she? If she’s a seer, the Virgin Mary was more of a vessel. Maybe that’s the reason she doesn’t exactly see her as Mary immediately. Or she has something else in her. Also her facial expression is somewhat like an elder, someone who has gone through a process but not like innocent Mary. But weren’t there two Marys?

On the other hand, she does see her like Mary, but with a process. Personally she feels that she really needs her in order to be able to stand this process.

The state of purity maybe being something that is not just an accomplished state…interesting…and the conscious process of becoming a container. The soul is not so whole, it is broken. This is hard to do. That’s where Natalia feels Mary can help us to become a better vessel as well. And understand the difficulty of the process. She’s too perfect to be only praised. She’s also a helper on the way, keeping one encouraged, especially when feeling small, imperfect, not naturally virtuous enough, etc. More feminine understanding. With St. Joseph and Michael she feels more—”I can get myself together and act, do my duty.”