Notes of a Hermetic Conversation between Joel and Phillip on September 11, 2022.
Joel had just finished typing up the notes to the last conversation on the King of Cups, in which reference was made to this journey of the “main character” of the story of the Minor Arcana: the Knave of Coins, who becomes the Knight of Coins, and passes into the Queen of Coins, meeting the “Guardian of the Threshold”, the King of Coins. Then he passes through this dire re-birthing process, the initiation, and is reborn as the Knave of Swords. He devolves into the Knight of Swords, and is slain by the Queen of Swords. He resurrects as the King of Swords, but then disappears into his throne/Cups, evolving the Cups as the blue-red plant being. He gives over all of his own being to the Cups in the Knave of Cups, is regenerated by them in response in the Knight of Cups, and comes to completion in the Queen of Cups—becomes a kind of Queen of the Elements, a Mother Nature, bearing a perfected Cup. But then we can see that the Cup is ready to become a Baton, and at the same time the Queen of Cups is ready to become a Baton (notice the form of the Baton within her, with the red opening in her crown). There is then a confrontation with the King of Cups, the “Guardian of the Threshold” on the other side—does this transform the Queen of Cups into the Ace of Batons? This in contrast with where our conversation led last time, that the King transforms himself and his Cup into the Baton.
Are we seeing this as a journey like so?
With this we would see the space between Sword and Cup as a turning point, as in a way turning back and going the way we came (like the Midnight Hour). But at the same time that the Cups reflect the Swords, there is also an echo of the Coins in the Cups, and an echo of the Swords in the Batons. An interweaving.
Phillip is presenting something different than this. Represented more like this:
Here, we work up to a certain level of perfection with the Cups, but we overextend our reach so to speak. We move back to the level we achieved with the Swords, but having worked there from above rather than below, we come to it more naturally, in a more stable way. (As I transcribe these notes, I am reminded of tuning a stringed instrument, and how it is easier to tune to the right note by tuning a bit sharp first, and working back down).
The question becomes—when we get to the Majors again after the Batons, are we coming “back down” to the level of the Coins?
The Queen of Cups is the actual peak of the entire journey, the whole initiatory operation. There is nothing beyond her. Her Cup is completely ready, but to partake it has to break. Breaking of the Cup is the coming to being of the Baton.
The King has this attack gesture, his hat flaps are like Leo flaring up in eurythmy. Whereas she is more Capricorn. More protective/defensive.
One has the impression that her Cup could fructify into something different altogether, something even more cosmic, an even higher degree of perfection. But then it breaks, it “falls” into the Sword realm when you take a sip. When the Coin “falls” into this realm, it becomes Sword. But when the Cup “falls” into this realm, it becomes Baton.
The saw blade in the Ace of Batons. Cutting the wood, sparks flying. And this image was made in the 1600s?? It’s uncanny, anachronistic. Just like many of the Cup Arcana were.
But a hand in the midst of the saw blade? It’s like the opposite action, it grasps, it contains, it doesn’t sever.
In the Ace of Swords, the Sword has pierced and cut the two branches. There the hand is holding the cutting implement, rather than a part of it as in the Ace of Batons. There the cuff is the saw blade, integral to the hand in some way. Now the hand is holding that which was cut instead. The branches. The Sword has been integrated into the hand.
The mystery of the relationship of hand, sword, and flower (plant)—which we struggled with all through the Swords—is finally solved, presented in one image: hand and sword work together to create a branch to be grasped.
The Flower/Sword arrangement of the Numbered Swords. Opposites directly “related” but only through proximity; a discontinuity arbitrarily brought closer to each other, with a gap that always prevents an actual relationship/unification. And now here, quite clearly unified. Not just proximal, but integrated.
Maybe the journey through the Minors is actually more like so:
We start in the happy middle realm with the Majors. Then we rise into loftiest heights with the Coins, crystalline starry heights. Then we fall, we plunge into the lowest depths with the Swords, as the heights cannot be maintained. Lowest of the low. Then we rise again, back to the heights—but perhaps not as high as we once did. This idea that the Queen’s Cup is a level of perfection, but could actually transform into something loftier, even more cosmic. Maybe that would be a Coin? It is almost Coin-like. To return back to the Ace of Coins—”Ah, back to pure cosmic bliss.”
But no…instead of rising to the heights of the Coins again, the King comes and messes everything up. “Perfect, huh? Well in that case, I’m going to drink out of it.” He’s the Fisher King. He’s wounded. Is it for his healing? Or is this a picture of his illicit deed which wounds him in the first place, drinking stolen water? In any case, he brings everything back to Earth, back to reality, out of the lofty heights. He squeezes it, like a cow teat, pushing the blue to flow out of the bottom, and the red to fill up to the top.
We had just read Chapter 10 of Valentin Tomberg’s Old Testament Studies, on the Babylonian Captivity and Zoroaster. The Coins are like the Ancient Indian Apostasy, the urge to fly away into the heights. The Swords are the Turanian horror, this uniting with the dark forces of sub-earthly will. The Cups are like the Ancient Hebrew Mystery, the Mysteries of Birth. And the King of Cups is Zarathustra, with the Mystery of Death, the Vulcan mysteries.
The dangerous potency of these ideas…it’s fine when we take it all in as a general whole, but taken separately, broken down into its full details…the Mystery of Birth is the joy of Christmas…placing this into contrast with the Death Mystery? The entire point of the joyful Christmas mystery is Easter, is for the most perfect being to become totally, utterly broken. Not a fallen being! Not one who deserves it in any way. To even speak of such things is damaging to our psyche, it is traumatic to think of it.
The entire mission and purpose of the Ancient Hebrew people was bound up with this Mystery of Birth. All that they could look forward to was the Christmas event. It is no wonder that at first, and even up until now, the Easter idea is contemptuous and dangerous. The idea that everything they were building up to, bringing this perfect Messiah Child into the world was so that he could be brutally tortured and murdered. Foul. We mustn’t speak such things.
Back to the Ace of Batons and the King of Cups: the hand that can bear the light illuminates the gap between the blade and the flower. The space between the proximal that is imperceptible.
The King bears a lamp, sheds light on the floor. Like the reverse volcano of the Yahweh stream that Tomberg writes of in Chapter 10. A spotlight (again, impossible in the 1600s), a flashlight, guiding the steps up or down. It then turns upside down in the Ace. A flaming torch.
Maybe the milk and honey of manas revelation in the bowl? And the bread of conscience in teh stem, penetrating downward. The trap door is illuminated. A bit like the door to Moria in Fellowship of the Ring. Must be illuminated by the full moon, while the right word is spoken. He is helping the Queen escape the endless dream world of the Cups.
The unspoken, unseen “other” implied by the Cups. If the Cup is complete as Cup, and it tries to continue developing (after the Queen), then what? What can it possibly be? But if the nature of the Cup is to be a vehicle or vessel for something else to come into being, then it is in its nature to give way to that which it carries once it has reached its perfection. To give way to what lies behind it. The Cup is formed by that which it’s carrying. And if that needs to go further, it goes beyond the Cup.
Thinking of the King of Coins and the King of Cups as Guardians on either side of the Threshold: the King of Coins on this side, before entry; and the King of Cups on the other side, before exiting. In Meditations on the Tarot, Tomberg describes the Emperor as the Guardian representing Humanity to the Divine (so, one would assume on the other side of the Threshold); while the Hermit represents the Divine to the Human (and therefore on our side of the Threshold); while the Pope weaves between worlds, a Guardian of the respiration between worlds—on both sides one could say.
Both the Emperor and the Hermit are pretty strongly in the Ace of Batons. The shape of the Hermit’s staff, and his lamplight. The way the Emperor bears his sceptre. Not many Majors really resonate with the Ace of Batons. The Hanged Man? Chariot? The Fool?
The Devil has a torch! And there is something of Vulcan in this image. The Devil is the Ancient Turanian, the Ace of Batons is the Zarathustrian/Iranian. Really, the Devil has a torch/sword. Disjointed. If it’s really a sword, he’s holding it by the blade, like the Queen of Cups. He and his minions are fashioning implements from a dark place—a torch of darkness, it doesn’t illuminate anything. Whereas the Ace of Batons is the Light of Life, light of lifeblood and sap, somehow illuminating.
It conjures the image of maple sap. It only occurs when there are these special conditions of light and warmth. One must cut a hole. And then the substance itself, is a pure and perfect alchemy of wine and water. It is so much like water, yet totally different, imbued with pure sun shine and warmth. Water that has become wine. Totally pure. A marriage.
Is the Devil also an option for the Queen’s further development? She could have ascended to Ace of Coins, or degraded to the Devil. But the King says no—let’s cut right through the middle.
This idea that the primal curses were given on behalf of both heaven and humanity—that heaven also erred at the time of the Fall. This helps one understand how the curses are actually salutary. If heaven was finished and perfect, while we fell into error, the curses would be more strictly educational, not fraught with mysteries and possibilities for error. But the curses are embedded with the errors of heaven, and if properly dealt with, will heal both humanity (Earth) and heaven. Heaven makes itself dependent on human beings.
The path of agriculture is exactly this middle ground—I bear this burden and make it fruitful, even if it isn’t “fair.” The curses are painful for both sides. There is, then, a temptation on both sides to reject the curses, rather than seeing them as laying the groundwork for a remedy. The temptation to lift the curses entirely, avoid them, or to only have them apply somehow to humanity—the temptation of the spiritual world.
The Hanged Man. He has everything except for his hands, and there are two “Batons” holding him up. Versus the Ace—where there is only a hand, and just one Baton.
The Ace of Batons has five cuts, whereas each of the Hanged Man’s have six.
The Ace of Batons is like the unification of staffs and sceptres. The staff is for supporting mobility. The sceptre is for showing authority and stability—showing that one does not need to move. In the Emperor he stays at his post by the throne. In the Chariot, the horses move for him. A uniting of mobility and stability in the Baton.
Maybe in the Hanged Man, his hands needed to be cut because the branches have been cut? Whereas in the Ace, this has been overcome. His head is in darkness, the head as a root. Reoriented to the plant-human of Ancient Sun. Whereas in the Ace, there is no ground at all. His head is reminiscent of the vortex in the Ace, but a face instead of a hand. Does that make his body the torch? The darkness of his head can grasp the will of the body. Is he the torch lighting up the darkness? That would make him similar to the Hermit.
Remembering this pathway we discovered in the Cups, from working backwards through the Majors:
The Hanged Man lowers himself into Force’s hat, through her being. She is turned inside out, turns into the Wheel of Fortune. The Hanged Man becomes the Hermit, with the Wheel of Fortune as his guiding light. He then brings Force to Earth as Justice—he fives over his lamp and staff and cloak, while he receives the animals and wheel of the Wheel of Fortune. He becomes the Charioteer. The Hanged Man is given his mobility and becomes the Chariot. Force is brought to Earth and becomes Justice. The Lover is the culmination of this process, where the two of them are married, unified. The Ace of Batons celebrates this culmination of the healing of the Hanged Man, inasmuch as it aligns with the Lover.
And now? On to the Pope. The two that have been wed become acolytes, bowing before the Pope. Entering the night domain.
And along with it, to the Two of Batons…much nicer to look at than the Swords! More Coin-ness going on to be honest. But now there is a new gap, a new leap. How did the Ace-type become the Two-type? Just as the old gap was closed, a new one opens.
Are the four red portions related to the red on the Ace’s Baton? These seem weapon-like…Islamic? Not a scimitar, but unusual blades on the ends. Maybe even Far East, not Middel East…Shogun, martial arts.
Quite a bit of black. Not so common.
In the Swords, there were flowers on the corners. Colored corners with a lot of black in the middle. Here it is opposite: black corners, with colorful middle.
It’s a beautiful arrangement of blue and red (the red in our deck shows up better than the picture included here). An arrangement of ten: two sets of four leaves, and two flower buds. It’s dimensional. Blended spheres. The ten plants create a kind of vesica piscis. Another inversion: they are made of flowers, not swords/scimitars. And then the two batons in the middle, making an X = 10.
There is also something reminiscent of the Ten of Coins.
Different though, as that is all one plant, and this is several discreet plants. But many are touching in the center—at the two pearls. Maybe there is something behind them?
Well…we thought the Numbered Batons were going to be like the Numbered Swords, but maybe this won’t be as bad as we thought…