Ace of Coins (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on April 24, 2018

April 24, 2018

Ace of Coins (both Marseilles and Sola Busca, with The World)

We began with the protective practice from page 422 of MOTT.

We then invoked the Holy Trinity by reading the baptism of Christ from the first chapter of Mark (Christ=Son, Dove=Holy Spirit, Voice=Father). 

We performed the fourth part of the Inner Radiance Sequence (M), and read the quote from CS Lewis:

“From all my lame defeats and oh! much more

From all the victories I have seemed to score;

From cleverness shot forth in Thy behalf,

At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;

From all my proofs of Thy divinity,

Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.

Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust, instead

Of Thee, the thumb-worn image of Thy head;

From every thought, even from my thoughts of Thee,

Oh thou fair Silence! fall and set me free.

Lord of the straight way and the needle’s eye,

Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.”

as well as Revelation 1:1-3. 

– There is so much happening in the middle of this image, the middle of the coin. Many sets of numbers and forms:  a 4-fold blossom in the center; this blossom is 8-fold if we include the leaves; it is 12-fold if we are counting the lines on the 4 petals (3 on each). There are 16 rays around the outer part of the coin, or it may be 32 if we include the “background” rays. This makes us think of the 32 paths of wisdom from the Sephir Yetzirah (10 Sephiroth and 22 Letters). There are 12 dots in the very center of the blossom. There are 4 concentric circles, five if we include the center of the blossom.

– How does this coin relate to the plants behind it? The card has an aspect of 3 dimensionality about it, of depth, like The World. We are looking at two planes, a plane in the foreground with the coin and a plane in the background with the plants. (This is Phillip’s immediate perspective)

Alternatively, it could be that the plants are growing out of the coin, that they don’t exist on two planes at all. Joel has always seen this image that way, never imagined that the coin was on a different “level” as the plants. Possibly due to the colors, it seems that the plants recede (effect of blue) and the coin emerges (effect of yellow). 

– Coin = Metal, Stone, Precious, Worth. But totally inorganic. It is, however, inscribed with the image of the flower and of radiant sunshine. It certainly has some kind of relationship with the four plants, whether they are growing out of it or not, but it is of a completely different nature to them.

Is it like sprouts emerging from a germinated seed?

This is showing us the magical (i.e. effective) power of correspondence due to analogy. The inscription on the coin brings it into an actual and not just poetic relationship with the plant life.

One begins to see the “coin” as a Seal, an Archetype, an Insignia. It is the eternal (unchanging=metal) etheric being of the plant which stamps its insignia onto matter, resulting in physical plant life coming into being. 

– In the Lord’s Prayer Course, Tomberg speaks of Christ returning to the different realms of nature that which they have lost. Plant life seeks the light outside of itself. On Ancient Sun, the Light lived within the plant itself—this light will once again return to the plant via Christ. This image is like that of the primal plant being on Ancient Sun, the Illumined Plant, the Archetypal wholeness. 

– It is, like so many (all?) of the Arcana, a two-way image. One could see here a stone that is the remnant of something that has sacrificed its own life so that the plants can have that life. Or one could see it as plants that are in the process of dying, of turning into “stone”, dead matter. 

This is the image of Soil. Soil operates in exactly these two ways:  composed of dead plant matter, and sacrificing itself to become new plant. “From Dust you have come and to Dust you shall return.” However, the coloration is counter-intuitive. One does not think of soil as radiant, golden, yellow and of living plants as dark, shy blue. 

– It is an image of Sun Evolution. They look like sleeping flowers—but they are simply pointed toward the Sun. In Sun Evolution, the Sun was within and united with the Earth, hence the flowers would have reached for the center of the Earth, not towards the sky. This gives the flowers a quality of chastity and humility—bowing their heads in reverence. There is a kind of flower, Monkshood, that the flower hides, but it is more shrouded, it looks ashamed.

Monkshood Plant Info - How To Grow And Care For Perennial Monkshood

This just looks humble, drawn by the Sun. It is showing a realm in which celestial gravity and Earthly gravity, which are opposite in our time, are united. 

– Maybe this is an image of roots beginning to grow, hence the blue tone of the sprouts—they are sub-earthly. And the radiance in the center is the etherizing of the seed. Steiner says that before a seed can become a new plant, it must dissolve into complete chaos. 

This makes one think of Goethean plant observation, where one tries to document the form of the plant as it passes through its different phases of metamorphosis. This is a reminder that one can only observe what is happening “above the surface”, that is, what is physically occurring. The actual moment of the beginning of growth, the transition from seed to plant, escapes our observation. 

It is incredible to see time-elapses of plant growth, which so clearly present the vertical-horizontal polarity that unfolds during the stages of metamorphosis. (see for example here:

– Each of the 4 plants has a four fold development in terms of its leaves/petals. First red, then yellow, then blue, then the red/yellow blossom. 

There is a strong overall emphasis on 4.

– In The Wandering Fool, it becomes clear that Tomberg’s method at that time was to observe the cards numerologically. For example, numerologically 1, 10, and 19 are all of the value 1 (1+0 = 1, 1+9 = 10 = 1+0 = 1). So, he would look at the connections and metamorphosis of Unity amongst the Magician (1), Wheel of Fortune (10), and the Sun (19). 

This continued for the rest of the sequence:  2, 11, 20; 3, 12, 21, etc. 

In the notes for the World, things become interesting. If we consider The Fool’s value to be Zero, The World is number 21, and hence a 3. If we consider The Fool to be 21, then The World is 22, and hence a 4. Therefore, The World can be looked at in comparison to The Empress (3) and The Hanged Man (12) or Emperor (4) and Death (13). The sequence begins to be less strict; the circle becomes a spiral, more fluid. 

He then points out that with the Minor Arcana, one can see the Ace of Coins as a beginning and treat it as a number 1, or one can see it as a continuation of the Major Arcana and see it as the 22nd or 23rd Arcanum (depending on whether The Fool has been included, and hence whether The World is 21 or 22). 

This means that the Ace of Coins is not strictly a Unity:  it is at once 1, 4, and 5 (1, 22, and 23). 

The “moral math” of this card is 1=4=5. We can see this in the very image itself.

We see a primal unity in the center, splitting or sprouting into four directions. When we consider the unity along with its analysis into four, we have five (4 with a fifth in the center). This is the formula:

Unity (1)—Analysis (4)—Synthesis (5)

Does this not relate so directly with our approach using the Divine Name? The Divine Name is a unity, an indivisible whole, but manifests itself in a fourfold way as Yod He Vau He as we move through the Major Arcana. Now, as we move backwards through the Majors in the form of the Minors, we come to the five-fold name of Yod He Shin Vau He, which expresses unity within multiplicity. 

This multi-dimensionality existing in the very first card of the Minor Arcana is expressive of something new. With the Major Arcana, there is in a certain sense only one dimension of meaning; for example, The Magician = 1, plain and simple. It was only through using the Divine Name YHVH that any kind of multi-dimensionality arose in the Major Arcana (for example, the path from Magician to Sun expressing Yod to He, and hence The Sun equating somehow with High Priestess). In a way, though, this multi-dimensionality was superimposed by us onto the Arcana, it required our effort to come about, whereas this multi-dimensionality is intrinsic to the Ace of Coins, in the simple formula 1=4=5.

Possibly the exceptions are The Fool (which is 0 or 21) and The World (which is 21 or 22). Really, the Fool has no number at all, only a name (purely qualitative). Was it only in the continental tradition that he explicitly took on the quality of Zero?

– Returning to the idea that the blue and yellow forms in the Arcanum are separate and not attached, that the plants are not sprouting from the coin. If that is the case, then what exactly is happening behind the coin? It is again an image of One (yellow) separate from 4 (blue). Seeing it as a sprouting is like approaching the synthesis of 5 (blue sprouts from yellow). 5 = fifth element, union of physical and etheric. 

– Coins are exchangeable for items of value in the physical world. Tomberg characterizes the suit of Coins as representing that which is exchangeable in the spiritual world for items of spiritual value. For example, our thoughts, ideals, mental pictures are exchanged for actual spiritual perception, communion with spiritual world. 

Hence the central image becomes in this case the “static archetype” of the mental picture/imagination that is sacrificed in order to facilitate a more mobile manifestation of the Spirit (the blue plant), a living experience of the spiritual world that may be “darker” or more intuitive than the radiant, yet static, mental picture was. 

We looked at it before as an etheric “sealing” of the physical in order to bring about plant-hood. This is also an exchange. It is an exchange/descent of the static archetype into physical incarnation/manifestation. But the exchange can also go the other direction:  the static archetype can become living, spiritual being, spiritual experience. An ascent upward into the world of spirit. This sounds very much like an Arcanum; that which conceals and reveals at the same time, that which is a ferment and a gateway to a spiritual experience. The Arcana = Coins. 

A movement from Symbol to Arcanum to Mystery. The first stage is more or less just a concept, a mental picture. The second is a comprehensive image that points in the direction of, or builds the capacity to interact with, the third stage which is the Mystery, the Being which stands behind the Arcanum and has shaped the Arcanum to be a body into which portions of its essence can incarnate. It is amazing to look at the exact details of each of the Major Arcana:  each Arcanum has unlimited layers that can be explored via the small details in the Arcanum in question. 

– The Magician is described in the first Letter-Meditation as the “Arcanum of Arcana,” the key to the rest of the Arcana. This image, the Ace of Coins is similar. It is the “Coin of Coins.” It expresses in the most precise imagery possible the activity of sympathetic exchange, or direct lineage. It is the image of the intermediary/gateway. It is the perfect expression of the activity of “exchangeability.” 

– Our two perspectives are both valid:  Joel’s perspective of the plant sprouting out of the coin is Aristotelian:  the Archetype is immanent within manifest reality, they are inseparable. Phillip’s perspective is Platonic:  the Archetype hovers above the physical, which reflects the Archetype. 

– How much of the “convertibility” of the coin is limited by its configuration? With physical coin, its quantitative value is limited by what it is made of and what is imprinted on it. But here we are not concerned with quantitative value, but qualitative value. 

The Arcana present a paradox. Yes, there are unlimited nuances and interpretations to be found in a particular Arcanum. Yet at the same time, its domain is limited. Each Arcanum has a distinct qualitative value, a particular realm of meaning in which unlimited discovery can be made. The qualitative value is demarcated by the imagery “engraved” on the Arcanum, just a coin’s quantitative value is demarcated by the imagery engraved on it. Each Arcanum can only be “exchanged” for a particular realm of the Spirit.

– The qualitative value of this particular image/Arcanum/Coin is exchangeability itself! Its “value” is comprehensive, overarching—not to say that it can “buy you anything” (mean anything), but to say that it encompasses the general meaning of “Arcanum as Coin.”

– Going back to “what is happening behind the coin?” If we look at the Sola Busca version, the Coin is emblazoned with a shield. This speaks again of insignia, in the sense of a shield as bearing a standard, displaying the name/mission/affiliation of the knight. But it also speaks of protection. Is this a protective seal? What is it protecting? Maybe it is like a male bird, with his bright plumage, distracting predators from the nest.

– A Coin is nothing on its own; it is only important in terms of what it can be exchanged for. In this sense, thought is just like Coin. It is nothing on its own, it is maya, but it is a means or a pathway to something real. Thought is like the veil of Isis, concealing Her from mortals. Thought is the guardian of the threshold. Thought is the tool for a path of knowledge, but it is a maya that protects the fragile psyche from elements in the sub-conscious that cannot be recognized/assimilated/integrated without shattering the psyche. 

This whole card is a shield in this sense, as it is a mystery. It at once conceals and reveals, based on the level of development of the one observing the image. The shield seems to be sitting directly on top of the plant. The ambiguity of the image creates the crisis—and the crisis is the key feature of an Arcanum. Once you put the question to it concerning the ambiguity, the crisis arises. This crisis creates a shield/boundary between the mundane and spiritual domains. 

A shield usually does communicate, but is always there to protect something.

– Looking again at the Sola Busca shield. The shape of this shield reminds one of Raphael’s “School of Athens.”

The School of Athens - by Raphael

This is popularly conceived of as an image of Plato (older man pointing upwards, on the viewer’s left) and Aristotle (younger man pointing outwards, on the viewer’s right). But according to Steiner, this is a misconception introduced years later to distract from the actual content of the image. It is a depiction of the School of Athens in the first century AD—the older man is Dionysius, guardian of the ancient mysteries, and the younger man is St Paul, who is introducing the new, higher Christian Mysteries, which bring the ancient mysteries to their completion. 

The statue on the side of Dionysius is of Apollo, with his lyre. On the side of St. Paul is Athena, with her shield. This shield bears the image of Medusa. She received this shield as a gift from Perseus. Perseus used the shield to see Medusa in reflection, to be able to behead her. He then used this head to turn Cetus, the sea dragon, to stone and rescue Andromeda, who had been chained to a rock at sea by Poseidon to be tormented by Cetus. 

Here we see the shield as both protection but also as weapon—but only against evil. It is a portrayal of the cognizing of Evil, of then using it to paralyze the dragon, and release the Divine Feminine who has been captured. We might see the phenomenon of Q as a kind of shield of Perseus acting against the Medusa of the Web/Social Media:  Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google, etc., which are very much a head of snakes that paralyze those who witness them. Q/8chan now holds the head of this monster up to the dragon of the Deep State—paralyzing it, and setting free the Divine Feminine (innocent humanity, particularly children). 

This is also related to meditative reflection and contemplation as the only means for recognizing the double. We have spoken before of the paralyzing influence of the double, and the difficulty/impossibility of recognizing the double as it is manifesting in us. It is too horrific for us to assimilate, we are paralyzed in the face of accepting our fallen self. We can only do this through meditative reflection (looking into the shield/mirror). We are also protected then from seeing our double too quickly and superficially, and hence integrating it incorrectly/inadequately. 

Perseus shows us the path of moral development. The battle occurs within us. We are supplied with the shield/mirror that allows moral development through working with the Tarot/School of Christ. The fallen, overactive intellect/imagination (sphere of mirages) of Medusa is beheaded, and used to paralyze the fallen passions revealed to us through Cetus, awakening the Virgin Feminine that has been imprisoned within us. 

– The Tarot as a path of Moral Development is not there originally in the tradition of working with the Tarot. We can see this as an outgrowth, a deliberate expansion of the tradition by Tomberg, that wasn’t there originally, except as a potentiality. It was always more about knowledge/gnosis than moral development.

Possibly with the Major Arcana the path of Moral Development is not so obvious or primary; but it seems to Joel that it is primary for the Minor Arcana. We are confronted immediately with the Coin/Shield which brings up the whole realm of meditative reflection for moral development, and the realm of exchange of the lower (thinking) for the higher (moral content). Possibly, in order to prepare the way for an authentic penetration of the Minor Arcana, Tomberg had to re-cast the Major Arcana in the framework of Moral Development. He often seems to speak well beyond the obvious archetype of the Arcanum in question in MOTT. He speaks from a realm beyond what the card immediately offers. 

The fact is, Tomberg knows how to invest, in terms of qualitative currency. The most obvious meaning that can be gleaned from an Arcanum he sacrifices and exchanges for a higher, and then a higher, and a higher. What we read in MOTT is the result of this progressive moral investment of Arcana. 

– Are the plants bearing the shield/coin? It is like they are compressing it, holding it together or in place, like a frame. It is resting on them, or being held up by them. Like there is a hook on the back. The flowers have the gesture of the arm in a shield. They also have the gesture that Perseus would have facing Medusa:  looking down at his shield, crouching, instead of looking up at Medusa. His arm wielding a shield would be operating in the opposite direction of his head and gaze. He is like The Magician:  looking in one direction, while his hands are busy in another place. 

– The dots in the center are the only thing that aren’t symmetrical. The axis of their arrangement seems to be from upper left to lower right. They are arranged, from this perspective, in four groups:  3/4/3/2. 

– There is so much more here than simply “coin.” It is showing the basis of convertibility, but something much more active and multilayered than just a coin is here. Maybe that’s the point—money is nothing but a variable, a potential for anything once exchanged. 

– The name “pentacle” implies five-foldness. This card displays this in its geometry of four corners and one in the center:  4+1 = 5. 

For next time:  What exactly is a pentacle? What is the etymology, origin? Does 5 qualitatively relate to Wholeness?

We ended with the fourth stanza of the Foundation Stone Meditation.