Notes of a Hermetic Conversation amongst Phillip, Joel, Brian, Jim and Jeremy on September 4, 2022.
During dinner time, we had a conversation in which Jeremy shared the special gesture of the heart that was given to him some years ago. Only later did he find out that this same gesture was coming through the visions of Estelle Isaacson as that of the community of Maitreya Buddha, totally independent of his experience. Joel described our discovery some years ago that in the Arcanum The Lover, the fair woman on our right is enacting the Maitreya Buddha gesture, whereas the dark woman on our left is enacting the traditional gesture of Gautama Buddha. In this light, it is an image of the transmission from Gautama Buddha to his successor. In terms of our “system” for working with the Majors in reverse as we work through the Minors, the Lover aligns with both the King of Cups and the Ace of Batons. And so this conversation was also aligned with our current Arcana.
The word ros, as in “Rosicrucian.” This ros means both “rose” and “dew” (ros means “dew” in Latin). And so it can mean “Rose-Cross” but also “Dew-Cross”, as in an ankh, a “Crux Ansata”, a T with a dew-drop shaped handle or head to it.
Where’s the rest of the circle, the vortex out of which the hand is emerging?
With the Sword, the vortex goes outside the boundary of the image, so you don’t even question whether it’s complete or not.
That vortex is also not quite a circle, pretty chaotic.
The question rises—why exactly are we pairing the Ace of Batons with the Lover? An explanation ensues, which eventually leads to all of the cards being put on the table (see here: https://the-unknown-friends.com/minor-arcana-study-guide/):
Originally, in the proto-Tarot of the 12th century Mamluk, the Batons were polo sticks.
Some of the Arcana have miniature details, like the rays, the drops, etc. Whereas others don’t. See the Sun, the Moon, Ace of Swords. And the Ace of Batons as well—it’s like the rays of the sun in the Lover broke off, and are now floating all over.
That’s a pretty glorious starburst just for Cupid. Maybe that Angel is actually higher than Cupid?
Cupid seems interchangeable in some way with the hand holding the Baton in the Ace. The circle of his rays don’t quite compete, just like the vortex. The top of the card blocks it from completing, though.
But there are cards where the image transcends the boundary—like High Priestess and the World, and maybe King of Swords?
The Ace of Batons is receiving something. Whereas in the Ace of Swords, it is a penetration. Yet the sword transforms as it passes through the crown—you don’t see it come out the other end. It becomes a red flower, it creates branches, organic material.
Is the Ace of Batons the first Baton or the last Cup? It’s like it’s catching something. Or gathering dew drops, congealing substance that’s all around it. This imagery of congealing is reminiscent of Tomberg’s works on the Days of Creation in Lazarus. An attraction, a gathering in the Ace of Batons vs the linear attacking of the Ace of Swords.
The hands come from different directions—the Sword on the left side of the card, the Baton on the right. And the Sword comes from a place outside the frame, whereas the Baton comes from a place outside the frame, yet within the frame!
The position of the hand—one is holding up the object (Baton) the other is jabbing outward (Sword).
Jim wrote a paper back in the day, about the way ferns appear in the biological/geological record. There are only ferns for a time, and then suddenly flowering plants appear. With no transitional event, a leap from fern to flower. But just prior to flowers appearing in the fossil record, the ferns begin to mimic the coming forms, they take on the shape of flowers, but with no function to it.
The fern forms in the Ace of Swords made him think of this, and also there’s something of the gesture there—a calling ahead to something that is about to appear, but hasn’t formed quite yet.
The Ace of Swords focuses on the man-made, whereas the Ace of Batons focuses on the natural (branch, piece of wood). And yet, the natural in the Ace of Batons must have had pieces of it lopped off by the man-made, by the sword.
There is another “hidden space”—within the Baton. You can see that the top red space in particular is open, it is red within.
There is something of a space like this in the Ace of Swords—the inside of the crown, this shaded area. When we were working with the Suit of Swords, we began to perceive the Numbered Swords as a journeying through this vesica piscis-shaped tunnel or vortex of the crown, travelling through the crown.
We didn’t perceive the Ace of Swords as a jabbing, but rather as a pulling. The central circle on the Ace of Coins—maybe it’s really a knob, like on a hobbit’s round door. And it isn’t really in front of us, it’s above us. A change of orientation from Ace of Coins to Ace of Swords. Then we pull on the knob, and an entire sword comes out. The Coin is broken, turned into sword and crown, opens up a portal to another world. Then the Numbered Swords again require a change of orientation, to see them as though we are traveling into and through the crown. We are facing it again as a doorway, not as something above us. A constant, jarring shift of perspective and center of gravity.
In the Numbered Swords—even in the Ace—the swords could be diagonal, not straight up and down. In other words, there could be a dimension of depth in these images, like the sword is leaning away from us, tilted diagonally into the arcanum. In fact, this is the point of view we eventually arrived at, in the Ten of Swords. If you look carefully at the way in which they are woven into the vesica piscis, you see that they must be tilting into the portal or gateway.
The pulling of the sword out of the coin—reminiscent of the Sword and the Stone, King Arthur. Coin is stone-like. Metal. But also seed, stone-fruit. The Ace of Coins is static, the movement is frozen.
This idea that this Ace of Swords is like one of these ferns taking on the form of flowers…that’s what the Swords are to the Batons. They are a preview, a preparation. A form only, without the real activity or essence yet. The way the tip of the sword becomes this three-petaled flower, this clover shape. In the normal deck of cards, which is derived from the Minor Arcana, the Suit of Batons has become the Suit of Clubs, which are shaped like this:
And so specifically it is the flowers in the Suit of Swords that are the proto-Batons. It’s funny, all along we perceived them more as a preview of the Cups or something—maybe because of this Sword-Flower dichotomy, we thought of Swords as masculine, and Flowers as feminine, and the Cups as being archetypal feminine. This changes the whole perspective on what the flowers within the Suit of Swords actually represented all along.
In the Suit of Coins, everything made sense. Then we got to the Suit of Swords, and nothing made sense—and we were dealing with how to make sense of that!
The Sword is the Flower across the threshold. Like the Sword is the efficient and material cause (what it’s made of, how you make it) and the Flower is the formal and final cause (what the goal is, and what the essence of it is). The alternation of Sword/Flower/Sword/Flower throughout the Numbered Swords. We keep looking at two sides of one object, on either side of the threshold. But it is impossible to find the continuity, the bridge between them. Perception of the threshold itself eludes us.
Is the Sword cutting? If so, how is it that all it brings is life (flowers, plants)? Note that the flowers in the Four and Six of Swords are cut, red, bleeding. And the Ace of Batons was cut—it flows from that same gesture.
The bottom cut is flesh-colored. The other cuts show the inside, red. The outside is green. We are in the inverted dimension of the other side of the threshold, an inside-out plane.
The blob in the Ace of Swords is really out of whack, totally off. The Ace of Swords ruins the orderliness established in the Coins. Then comes this disorder, this seemingly meaningless and mechanical alternation.
In the Ace of Swords, the tip becomes a flower. But in the Ten of Swords, the hilts are flowers. In all the other Numbered Swords after the Ace, there are always four corner flowers. In the Ten, the two bottom flowers are replaced by the Swords’ hilts. Perhaps the flowers have become swords, or vice versa. The flower and sword finally unite in the Numbered Swords after all the vacillation.
The form of the flower shaping the fern, working from the future into the past, this is akin to the cut flowers in the Swords forming a space out of the old forms of Coin and Sword. This leads to the Cups—the clear cut container where a new form can unfold. Leading to the living, inverted Cup in the Baton—the way that the space becomes fleshed out.
The very form of a Cup is to not have a form per se, but to make a space—the primal Tsim tsum.
Coin as primal material; Sword as cutting a space into this material; Cup as the opening, the empty space for something new. And now—the lance, the spear, the polo stick, etc. Wand, club.
Coin is Owen Barfield’s Original Participation; Baton is his Final Participation. The culmination.
Laying out the Aces:
We can easily discern an emphasis on One in the Ace of Coins; Two in the Ace of Swords; Three in the Ace of Cups; and Four in the Ace of Batons. But the opposite can also be seen. The Four corners in the Ace of Coins; the three-petalled flowers of the Ace of Swords, two branches and one sword as well, emphasize Three; the strange division of above and below in the Ace of Cups emphasizes Two; and the Ace of Batons is also One.
We can also see how the Ace of Coins sets the tone for the entire Suit, that there is an emphasis on the four corners. The World bears the entirety of the Minor Arcana within her, and it is the four holy creatures around the center that is emphasized in the Coins in particular. This makes sense of some of the images. For example, the arrangement of the Seven of Coins only makes sense if we see it as a triangle of coins embraced by four corner coins:
On the other hand, it is not the Four holy creatures that are emphasized throughout the Suit of Swords, but instead the Three-fold garland, which Tomberg relates to the three gunas of Hinduism. We see this in the ever-expanding Vesica Piscis in the Suit of Swords. Then with the Suit of Cups, we move to the Twofoldness—the battle between Truth and Illusion, the wand and the philtre that the Dancer holds. Now we come to the Batons, to the Dancer herself, to the One.
There is nothing and no one coming from outside of the image itself to bear the Baton in the Ace of Batons. It is akin to the Archimedean point in Philosophy of Freedom—that which holds itself up, creates itself, by its own power.
Noticing in the Ace of Batons, these four flames set apart in the upper left corner. All flames on the left are colored, except for one of these special four. Then on the right, there are these three special white ones.
Looking again at the base—it isn’t flesh-colored after all, it is yellow!
Green is a very rare color in the Tarot.
The blue petals of the vortex—there would be eight of them if completed. Of what we can see—there are four complete blue petals, and four red cuts on the branch. Then there is the fifth blue petal, cut into two halves, one above and one below, and a fifth cut that is yellow rather than red.
We’re brought again to this gesture of the four becoming five, or preparing a fifth. That is where our whole journey got interesting, when we were working with the Four of Coins. That was when a lot of pain entered our biographies, when everything began to fall apart. Events bursting in from a kind of eclipsed, bizarro universe. With the Four of Coins, that is the whole gesture. The Ace is the One, the Two is so clearly two, and the Three has only the barest indication of a four (the white pearl). But the Four of Coins has an insistent flower form in the center, it draws all the attention, and relegates the four Coins to the corners. It races ahead of itself to become Five when it isn’t and can’t be Five.
Why? Why does the four always need to be a five?
The four elements, Earth, Water, Air, Fire…then the fifth element is the Ether, it opens up the Akasha. In the Ace of Batons, the colors that are there repeatedly are yellow, red, blue, and white (only four white!)
Then the fifth color, the fifth element, is Green, is the wand itself. And then there is also peach-blossom, the flesh color, which is the polar opposite of green. But really, this is not the color of a thing, it is the color of a vortex, which is a space, a non-thing.
Jeremy describes for us the activity of “Finding the Thing” which he engages in with his group. A nameless social-community experience. Creating togetherness in a non-physical space. You cannot quite name or describe what is meant to be done, it must be found, spontaneously co-created, in the moment.
Going back to the Ace of Swords…if the Sword is the flower, and the flower is the proto-Baton, then the crown/Threshold is the Suit of Cups. The fern-flower is a preview of what is to come before it can happen. This is absolutely, then, what the Ace of Swords is: it shows us what is to come. The Swords (Sword) emerging from the Coins (the Blob) and passing through the threshold of the Cups (Crown) to become Batons (Red Flower).
It’s somehow reminiscent of the passage from Isaiah, of the swords being cast as plowshare. The Sword transforms into the Baton. The dagger of Djemshid. Zarathustra gives him the secrets of agriculture, changing his dagger into the first plow. The Suit of Swords—the Sword cuts the flower, then becomes that which it cut. The hand emerging out of the trunk in the Ace of Batons, pulling the top off with it, holding it as a Baton. The uniting of that which cuts with what it cuts.
The Legend of Seth (earlier incarnation of Zarathustra). He gains entry into Paradise. Finds the Tree of Life intertwined with the Tree of Knowledge. Takes a seed from this intertwined Tree and plants it in the mouth of Adam after he dies. Out of Adam’s skull grows a tree with three trunks. The wood is used to create all manner of legendary objects. Including the threshold between the pillars of Joachim and Boaz. This threshold was a block against evil influences. The priests at some point ignorantly discard the threshold piece. It is thrown into the Pool of Bethesda. Exerts a healing influence, heals the paralyzed man. When the Angel stirs the pool, it makes the water cloudy, conceals the piece of wood. Then the pool is later drained. They discover the piece of wood. It is used as a bridge, and then used for the Cross of Christ.
Originally, the unfinished work Personal Certainty was to be Valentin Tomberg’s last work, his final word on everything. It begins with this legend.
The two Trees—Tree of Life and Tree of Knowledge. The third Tree, Tree of Love, is the Cross, Tree of Resurrection. Is it a composite of the first two?
Maybe there is something analogous in the three brothers: Cain (Tree of Knowledge), Abel (Tree of Life) and Seth (Tree of Love). Seth is in some way a composite of the two brothers. Pure like Abel, but a gardener/innovator like Cain (at least when he is Zarathustra).
The Cross is raised on Golgotha, the place of the Skull—the Skull is Adam’s. He is buried here. The Cross actually hits against his skull when it is planted into the earth.
So the Threshold becomes the Cross? How so? Which part of the Cross—the vertical beam (which would indicate a change of orientation from horizontal to vertical)? Or the horizontal beam, which would indicate a lifting of the threshold from the region of the feet to that of the heart?
What shape was the Cross anyway? Was it more of an intersection of horizontal and vertical, as traditionally shown? Or more of a Y shape? Or a T shape, a traditional “Tau”? Steiner relates “tau” to “Dew.” Again dew. The head of Christ would be the dewdrop on this tau, the handle of the crux ansata. The Y shape would be more akin to the gesture of the Ace of Batons, a kind of widening out, receptivity at the top.
Going back to the four elements, and the emergence of the fifth element. This brings to mind the Letter-Meditation on the Wheel of Fortune. Tomberg points out the presence of the Sphinx (the combination of the four creatures/elements), but the glaring absence of any Christian symbolism. Christ is the answer to the riddle of the Sphinx, he is the fifth element that unites and organizes the four. This Arcanum speaks to the pre-Christian origin of the Tarot, and of the expectation for the Messiah to come.
The central, uppermost “cut” has a rim to it, akin to the Cups. The others are flat/solid.
Now it is filling up to the top. The dew drops are condensing into the green. The dew becomes blood in being absorbed into the living green, the pulsing.
Doesn’t green come into the Morning Meditation in one iteration? From Rudolf Steiner’s Esoteric Lessons:
Imagine the image of the Sun setting in white light as if the power of Christ radiates out from the light with these words: In purest out-pured light shimmers the Godhead of the world.
Then in one’s imagination let the image of the Sun become yellowish-red as if in the redness the love of Christ radiates in the words: In purest love toward all that lives radiates the Godhood of my soul.
Then in one’s imagination let the image of the Sun become transformed into green and at the same time let the four lower red roses appear upon the image of the Sun with the words: I rest within the Godhead of the world.
Then the three upper roses with the words: I shall find myself
Then imagine a black cross on the green background with the words: Within the Godhead of the world.
Well, this doesn’t look entirely restful. It looks a bit violent, like it was hacked.
The King of Cups breaks off the bottom, makes the Baton:
In working with the Tarot, you feel as though you ought to reach stages of completion, but whenever you feel as though you’ve reached one, it’s overtaken by something else coming into being. Eternally in flux, never at rest. The King ought to be a conclusion, but he is not at all.
If anything, the Queen is the climax of a process. The Cup is closed, capped, finished. Then the King seems to ruin everything. He doesn’t carry it on gently. A violence, a cracking. He ruins all that came to perfection. In contrast to her beautiful Cup, the resulting Baton is brutish, ugly, yet it is also a powerful, organic form.
There is something of this organic feeling in the Ace of Swords as well…goopy, Lemurian, under the sea.
The Queen looks at the Cup; the King looks the other way. His attention is not on the action of breaking it, he looks away from this. Like he is doing it secretly.
All of the Court Cups hold the Cup in the right arm:
And all of them look sad, except for the Queen. Like a funeral procession. “Lazarus has fallen ill.” The King can’t bear to follow the Cup like the others, but he feels compelled to, yet it is breaking. He’s looking away, dissociating himself from the tragedy. The final cause is working through him, the King is the instrument for what must come. Is he looking back at the Court? Or at the next octave, at the Ace of Batons?
The Cup will burst if he doesn’t break it. It must explode at just the right moment, in just the right place. If he didn’t break it, it would pop, would break down but not in the right way. All would have ended there. The dissolution of the material. Entering into the etheric.
The Swords are carving out a space that is never plainly visible; we’re just shown the steps for forming the space.
The Cups, then, are the actual space, with something forming inside of that space that is invisible.
Now, in the Batons, what was inside is shining through.
The King pulls both the Cup and himself inside out. The hand is all that’s left, as a bridge. The Cup and the King are one in the Baton.
We are back to this Archimedean point in Philosophy of Freedom. In the act of perceiving thinking, we are conceiving thinking simultaneously. It is the only act for which percept and concept are one and the same. The thinker and the thinking are identical. A self-supporting, self-creating act.
The community act of finding “The Thing.” The goal is to make a circle, which can be turned inside out by spiritual beings. To become instruments of their thinking and willing.
The moral ether as a fifth element. We transform nature, all the elemental kingdoms, by transforming ourselves. We create the beings of Jupiter evolution and the environment of Jupiter evolution through our deeds.
It is necessary to bring something to offer up, to transform it in order to achieve pure thinking. This is the Cup that he brings and breaks.
The way Tomberg describes the four Suits in the Letter-Meditation on The World. The Coins are the accrued values. Then in the Swords they have to be paid, have to be sacrificed. He goes on at length about this process, but only touches lightly on the Cups and Batons. They are left as a bit of a mystery.
The Coins are the landscape of values and moral structures. A higher spiritual realm carves a space out of them, a destructive experience. We learn to function in the realm of the Cup, this higher realm, out of this new organization. Then something flips in the Baton. The spark of life. It all congeals.
The Coin has two sides. The Sword, on the other hand, comes to a point, to “one side.” It cuts, creates Cups. The Cup has both an inside and an outside. The Baton shows us how they unite. And this unification doesn’t intrude from some outside force. It is in the picture. The hand is the link to the past; the Baton is the new living state.
The Coin—the world of ideals and forms and opinions and experiences and expectations—is destroyed by the Real (Sword). It is at the mercy of reality. The Cup is that which has adapted, adheres to the Real. In the Baton, you become the Real.
The Coin and the Sword seem to have something more to do with the Macrocosmic Lord’s Prayer, which expresses humanity’s current reality and struggle:
The evils prevail,
Witness of unleashing of egohood,
Incurred through others, selfhood-guilt,
Experience it in daily bread
In which heaven’s will does not prevail
Since man departed from your kingdom
And forgot your names, You fathers in the heavens.
Whereas the Cups and Batons conjure the feeling of the actual Lord’s Prayer, the future reality towards which we strive. The Mystery of Vulcan and the Resurrection Body:
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
And yet…there are still hidden places in the Ace of Batons…the inside of the Baton, and what is behind the Baton, behind the image, the place from which it originates. Where are we going?
Ultimately—to the Magician.
The “5th Suit” is the Major Arcana, which is also the “0 Suit”, the Suit before the Coins. It is both the Original and the Final Participation. The Four needs the Five.
The Tsim tsum; God’s primal deed must also become a human deed. We turn inside out, become creators. This is Vulcan evolution.
Going back to the first four. The ball and the wand begin as separate entities, and then go through this mysterious process of unification. The Baton is a new creation of life.
The act of pruning. Destroying disorganized, random growth and giving form—the form the plant doesn’t have, in order to maximize fruit, and therefore seed, and growth.
“The branches that don’t bear fruit, they are thrown into the fire and burned.”
The overall theme of the Cups, in hindsight: “Let’s expend all this energy to make this absolutely perfect—and then destroy it in one move.” Like Buddhist sand art. This laborious path, only to wash it all away.
The theme of Chardin’s Divine Milieu—The path to Christ is through an inner suffering and outer suffering meeting, culminating in one’s death. Christ comes to us from without through the pain of our destiny; he lives within us in our struggle against this destiny, to overcome our hindrances and achieve great deeds. The combination of these two struggles dissolves us, emulsifies us, both destroys us and makes of us eternal beings. We will never achieve our goal if we only resign ourselves to fate; nor will we achieve it if we always get what we intend, if things work out the way we want all the time.
The Baton cannot be formed directly, it can only be formed as the result of the creation and destruction of perfection in the Cups. Like the head massage—portions of the human organism that cannot be directly accessed. Only through mutually active pressure from without can those portions be worked on, indirectly. Here to, it requires a mutual process, of both the natural (wood) and the man-made (the tool that carves the wood).
The leaves falling in the Ace of Swords versus the condensing dew of the Ace of Batons. Or little flames, sparks, as though from a torch.
The Ace of Swords is more the release and falling of something resulting from the disturbance of cutting, jabbing, or pulling—something that has been. Versus the Ace of Batons, where these entities are either being drawn into the Baton (condensing) or radiating out—something that is coming into being.
The friction/electricity of the serpent versus the life/emulsifying of the dove.
Is the Baton brought along, from one dimension into another? Or was it found there by the hand when it broke through? Or was it created by the hand once in that domain?
The show us the creation of a space for what our hand causes or looks for. The space could not be there without the need for the Baton, and the Baton could not be there without the space, and the hand brings them both about. They are mutually supporting entities. Back to this image of the Tree, and out of this tree springs a hand. As it bursts out, the trunk of the tree snaps off, and is now in the hand. In one sense, the Baton was there before the hand burst through, but in another sense, the hand created it or brought it with it as it entered the space.
The King of Cups shows us the outer aspect of devastation. The Ace of Batons shows the inner aspect of victory, triumph. The moment of death is a tragedy from without. On the other side of the threshold, it is experienced as the most beautiful of events. It is the ever-present image of our own death which acts as our ego on the journey between lives, it carries our continuity from life to life.
The contrast of the King of Cups, who seems to be comforting himself with a lamp, or a blankie, or a giant cigarette. As opposed to the Knave of Coins, who is deliberately pricking himself to keep himself awake and attentive.