Ace of Cups (III)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on December 17, 2020

December 17, 2020

Ace of Cups, pt III

We began with the protective practice.

We then invited the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide our conversation.

After briefly focusing the mantra “SHE FEELS” on the region of the heart, we moved the second portion of the Inner Radiance Sequence (“In purest Love for all the lives, radiates the Godhood of my soul”). In relation to the 11th Arcanum, Force, and the 11th Letter of the Divine Alphabet, Kaph, we moved the 11th part of the Grail Knight’s Practice (the 5th level of trespass, fleeing in the face of God). 

We then read from Revelation 14:6-8

– The base of the Cup…if we were to see this in three dimensions, it’s almost as though the base is like the Coin, and the Coin sprouted itself upwards from lying flat on the table. The blue and red portion as stem and bulb. The city as the flower above.

It’s the opposite of the Ace of Swords, which is pulling something out of the Coin from below, breaking it open. Here’s it’s like it was molten, still malleable metal, and got stretched upward. 

– The molten sea of Hiram Abiff is conjured by this imagery. And Abiff was the architect of the Temple of Solomon—there is something akin to Solomon’s Temple about the city above. Also akin to the Ark of the Covenant. Not just in the structural/design elements of it, but also in this experience that there is a powerful spiritual being gazing at us from amidst the city. Like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the Nazis go to open up the Ark and are obliterated by the incredible power of YHVH. Like there is this immense power or being contained within—too hot to touch, too energetically potent to touch.

Somehow there is this inner connection between the molten sea of Hiram Abiff and the Ark of the Covenant. Maybe the Ark is the Abel stream and the molten sea is the Cain stream? Yet containing a similar power or being—in the former, in a sanctified, divine way, and for the latter, in an alchemical/human way. 

This Ace of Cups is like the marriage of those two streams. 

Maybe the melting down of the golden calf is somehow related to the molten sea of Hiram Abiff? The Israelites were forced to drink it as remedy for their idolatry, their intemperance, impatience, and infidelity. 

The whole story of Moses on the mount is one act with two stages: first the unveiling of the Good in the Ten Commandments; then the remedying of Evil in the creation of the Golden Calf (exposing Evil) and melting it down to be administered to the people (remedying Evil). The Ten Commandments are the Abel path; the melting of the Golden Calf is the Cain path.

The Ace of Cups, again, conveys both.

– Earlier in the week, we had this conversation about “moving up the ladder of analogy.” The path of conversation around the Tarot takes us from a realm of very concrete analogies (Majors and Coins), into a realm of more and more transcendent analogies—where the elements we are putting to use for our analogies are the Tarot themselves, the Arcana themselves, rather than external concrete things, beings, activities, etc. Eventually, this “moving up the ladder” brings you into contact with that which cannot be brought into comparison with anything else—that which makes the creation of analogies, the “analogising act” possible at all. The first and final reference point. Maybe we could call this the “One Thing” from the Emerald Table of Hermes Trismegistus. Valentin Tomberg, in his Letter-Meditation on Force, calls this “One Thing” Virginity. And this Virginity overcometh ever subtle thing and doth penetrate every solid substance. It is what makes comparisons, relationships between things possible. Pages 286-287; these references to physical and psychic walls that are dissolved by Virginity. It makes one think of the wall that seems to be behind the Cup, at the base; and also the wall around the city at the top of the Cup. But also the references to the “emollient action” of Virginity. It again brings up this image of the “molten sea” of Hiram Abiff. Something that is both solid and liquid at the same time, fiery and liquid at the same time. Last time we had this image of a fountain building up pressure to explode, like a champagne bottle, but maybe this image of emollient action is a better fit. Like a city of molten gold, an emollient action, gently overflowing. Like a stew cooking. 

– Joel has noticed—for the first time? He can’t remember—the similarity between the plants emerging from the crown in the Ace of Swords and the plants in the Ace of Coins. Putting the three Aces together—the Sword pulling something out of the Ace of Coins, causing an emergence, a growth, to come out of it above—out of the “crown” that is left over. 

– The pattern on the base of the cup (this zig-zag, spiky pattern around the perimeter) is similar to the spiky, radiant pattern around the edge of the Coin in the Ace of Coins.

– The central red flower at the top of the crown is extending into the Cup. It even has this triangular base, the same “dagger” shape at the bottom of it. It isn’t exact, but a very similar geometry. Triangular base and three circles as a germ of sorts, then it continues to grow. 

– How did the coin go from circular in the Ace of Coins, to hexagonal in the Ace of Cups?

Maybe this action of drawing the Sword out in the Ace of Swords, and then this process of reshaping through the progression of Numbered Swords. The tension of pulling the softened metal of the coin upwards results in this reshaping, from circular to hexagonal. 

If the base of the Cup is like the hand-guard of the Sword plunged down into the earth…the hand-guard is the remnant of what was pulled out of the Coin in the Ace of Swords. 

Swords are like the root process—multiplying, underground, then the Cup would be what emerges from the Earth, the first sprout.

So the Cup is either a transformed (stretched) Coin or a submerged hand-guard. Either way, formed by Man.

Maybe the Ace of Swords is that moment of germination. That red flower is like the cotyledon, that first primal sprout.

The Numbered Swords are like the root system. And now in the Cups, a real sprouting into above-ground growth. 

The overall gesture/action: pull the Sword out of the Coin (Ace of Swords). Reverse it, plunge the blade below as root (Numbered Swords). Now, they reconnect (with the hilt of the sword entering into the crown rather than the blade as before)—the crown takes flower.

The Numbered Swords in hindsight now become the dream image expressing the progression through the root process. Which has to take place to some extent before sprouting. The unfolding of the Swords parallels as an unconscious (“underground”) development happening simultaneously with the “above ground” i.e. conscious Cups. A covalence, not a sequential determinacy. 

– Reading the opening of the 2nd Letter/Meditation with a friend. The Virginal idea of purity. Fire/air have to become Virginal by becoming the authentic expression of Spirit. Water must be Virginal as the absolutely still and silent reflection of Spirit; only then do we have the true Virginal nature. So this Virginity has a two-fold polarity, like the picture of Swords below and Cups above. The below = Water. Above = Breath of the Wind. Yet with the Swords and Cups this picture is reversed in a way. The Swords are the element of Air and the Cups are the element of Water. 

Maybe this is expressing more the relationship to the Mother. With the Mother as the Swords below, and we become the Cup of Water above. Properly reflecting the subterranean “Air” of the Mother and bringing it to blossom, to full expression above.

The Second Birth is a restoration of virginal growth.

The description of Air/Fire above and Water below in the 2nd Letter/Meditation is more about a path to the Father. The Crown Chakra opening. Whereas this Sword below/Cup above picture expresses something more like the redeeming of the Root Chakra. This is the Kingdom of the Goddess, of the Mother.

A reversal of Christ’s statement—“Unless you are born again, you cannot enter the Kingdom of the Father.” In this case, it’s more like “Unless you enter the Kingdom of the Mother, you cannot be born again.” These two paths are covalent, in one sense, but certainly initiated by contact with the realm of the Mother. “Enter the Kingdom of the Mother to be born again; be born again to enter the Kingdom of the Father.”

The roots are drawing the water up, like a spring. Nourishing the plant above the surface.

– Is it a feminine hand, then, on the Sword in the Ace of Swords? The Lady of the Lake, who takes the sword?

The path of Parzival through the Sword to the Grail. He is always looking for his Mother.

– The “Masters” of the seven chakras in the human being:

Crown = Maitreya (Abraham)

Brow = Steiner (Moses)

Larynx = Novalis (Elijah)

Heart = Zarathustra

Solar Plexus = Christian Rosenkreuz (as human representative of Gautama Buddha)

Sacral = Mani (Parzival)

Root = Skythianos

Parzival is related to the Sacral Chakra, which is in the form of a hexagram, two interpenetrating triangles. The form of the Holy Grail, of the New Jerusalem, as we discussed in the previous conversations on the Ace of Cups.

It is also related to the form of honeycomb (hexagonal). It brings us back to this image of candle-dipping in the Swords, of gradually adding layers of wax in the Numbered Swords, and then the actual creation of a candle in the form of the King of Swords. Now we have this “candled crown” or Christmas Tree of the Ace of Cups. A “molten sea”—wax is an amorphous solid, neither truly solid nor liquid. But now we come to the “origin” of the wax—the honeycomb. 

– Perhaps all seven forms of communion are within this image? The bread and wine we discussed at length last time. It is also a honeycomb. It could be a censer, for burning incense. Or a chrism, full of oil. And there are the “fins” of the fish sticking out. But where is the milk? We can see six forms of communion (bread, wine, honey, incense, oil, fish) but where is the milk? 

The Holy Grail gives to each what they most need. We can bring this into relationship to the way that Virginity/Purity “doth penetrate every solid substance”—on all 3 levels (physical, psychic, mental). It supplies the emollient action at every level of need. Akin to the Grail, it supplies what you need at any given moment, the Grail is that which is most emollient. Communion is a beautiful way of considering that. 

– Quotes 269-70. The bird singing, holy animality. This quote is reminiscent of the glyph on the throne of the King of Swords, like an image of a bird singing. The Ace of Cups has this “holy animality” on full display, like there is a giant bird-like being in the midst of this cup. 

It feels like a kind of antithesis of that pure joy of “natural religion” in the Swords. The bird-Angel in the Cup is a reflection of goodness, the living miracle of Creation. The Swords are a long void of unknowability of the miracle of Creation. They’re a penance and a wilderness—yet none the less an inexorable and unavoidable progression and drawing forward into that path of coming to know the miracle of Creation.

Instinct—Divine Animality—the Instinct of the Mother. Endure that darkness to its very culmination. To be totally willing to embrace it in order to redeem it.

It brings back to us again that strong sentient/animal sense from the Ace of Cups. More so than ever with the Swords or Coins, except maybe until the Court Swords. There it was animal forms developing, embedded in a human form. Here that development is finished. The whole form is permeated with animality and sentience.

– A three-foldness developing in the Court Swords. The head/larynx/trunk division of the Knave, leading to the threefold-Double situation in the Knight and Queen, and then the threefold John in the King. Page 279—this process culminates in this threefoldness of Force, of the One Thing that is the harmony of the three worlds (obedience of body to soul, chastity of soul to spirit, poverty of spirit to Heaven). Now we have fullness, now we have three suits, now we have holy animality. 

With the Swords, even in the Ace, it is all twofoldness, all above and below. Yet with the Sword Courts we already have a striving towards the Three. It is beginning to show itself.

Just skimming over the Numbered Swords, you really do have the struggle of the One and Two. We keep moving from “One” to “Two” and back to One. Creating pairs (Two and Three, Four and Five) all throughout, but never an actual representation of “twofoldness” in a single image. Always One by itself, then Two by itself. We don’t accomplish an actual twofoldness represented in a single image until the Ten of Swords, the culmination of the Numbered Swords. A repetitive attempt of the One trying to find a stable Two, finally finding it in the Ten, and then immediately moving to trying to find the Three in the Knave!

The Ace is the kick-off, the attempt to split the one in two.

Then we have a sequence of two singles after the Ace: Two/Three, Four/Five, Six/Seven, Eight/Nine. Yet each “pair” more like two totally separate single units arbitrarily smashed or bound together. No true duality expressed.

Then we finally find a true double in the Ten; and then immediately move on.

It really shows us the instability of a polarity. We really desire either unity (the One) or harmony (the Three). But we can’t really deal with a sustained polarity. The trouble is, once we move beyond the unity, he have to let the polarity completely form before we can find harmony. Maybe that’s the wall, the base—a fully-formed polarity, retained, as a memory. “Retention wall”?

Even the Ace of Swords itself is a failed attempt at polarity. The Ace, Two, and Three of Swords is a bit like a “beginner’s luck”, a false success. You keep rolling the dice, can we make it happen again? No…not really…it just stagnates.

– The path from the Ace of Coins to the Ten of Coins was simply to see if multiplicity could be found in unity—not to truly attain a polarity, but then it opens up the door for that. The Ten of Coins has two coins front and center—that’s where the gaze goes anyway.

“Let’s work towards a polarity.” From Ten to Knave of Coins, it’s a featured Two (the Knave has two coins, one above and one below, as in the center of the Ten). But then that goes back to unity (one coin) in the Knight, Queen and King of Coins. Trying to find the Two in the Coin Courts, just like the attempt to find the Three in the Sword Courts. Clearly the Coin Courts are not nearly so eager to find the Two as the Sword Courts are to find the Three! A resistance to polarity, an attraction to harmony.

– In the King of Coins, his hat has the same pattern as the base of the Cup in the Ace of Cups. You can barely see it. It’s dormant, a night-time state (all blue). Now in the Ace of Cups it has come to life. It’s the crown-like center of the King’s hat—the foundation for the Cup.

We never thought of his blue crown as somehow related to the crown in the Ace of Swords. Like the blue plants were wrapped all around it. Then when the Sword is pulled out, it cuts clear the detritus, takes it off.

And what about those three little dots on his collar? Especially after our observations of the Court Swords, they are seen in a new light. In fact there are three dots (like little tiny points), then a yellow triangle, and then two larger dots (more like the “seeds” or “pearls” from the Court Swords). A lot of peeking out of preminatory forms. “Let me show you what’s ahead…none of this will make any sense to you right now, but it will later…” He’s going to “plant” it, cover it over like it’s in the Earth. Everything is explained…and then you remember nothing! Like in a dream, all is explained to you and it evaporates the moment you wake up. Or your first day on the job—everything is explained, but until you actually are on the job for a while, none of it sticks. But there nonetheless has to be that first “planting of the seed”, that first cursory overview. 

– Maybe it’s more wholesome to go through the Swords along with the Cups at the same time. Maybe it would have been more wholesome and less brutal! To go from one Suit (Coins) to two companion suits (Swords and Cups). 

– It’s interesting, now that we’re in the third Suit, it feels natural to have facility with the first two Suits at the same time. To be able to skim and see what’s relevant. 

It’s an experience with the Minors that is similar to what happened to our relationship to the Majors when we got into the Coins. Suddenly we were more fluid.  In going through the Majors, we learned the basics of the alphabet, of the new language. Then when we entered the Coins, we were able to spell words, we were much more fluent with the Majors. Now this is happening within the Minors themselves.

– Phillip doing a layout and a reading with Alice. Even though it was the Rider-Waite, the cards still just seemed to jump out and speak. So fluent now after 4+ years. 

– In that regard, we think of the role of the Queen in the Coins, in terms of the levels or stages of Hermetic Conversation. With the Knave level, it’s a very intense concentration on details, a real objective taking in of the Arcanum. With the Knight level, it’s entering into a more intimate, subjective conversation with those details. Allowing them to light up within us memories of different experiences or associations, and bringing this aesthetic/intimate/soulful level to the conversation. Then with the Queen level, she shows us how to take the Coin that she is holding before her, and she filters it through her crown, transforming it into different forms—or perhaps “unpacking” the metamorphosis embedded within it. She is the third card—this capacity to unpack the metamorphosis from Arcanum to Arcanum can only occur when there are at least three cards. Otherwise you don’t have a true metamorphosis, you just have a contrast of two. 

And now, we’ve achieved that “Queen Level” in terms of the Minors overall—we’ve reached the Third Suit, therefore we can begin to see how the different suits are a process of metamorphosis one into the other. So beautiful to have arrived here after the torment of the Swords!

In that regard, perhaps what we should have done is the Coins and Swords simultaneously? In terms of Hermetic Conversation, we pointed out at the Santa Fe retreat that we have always done “Knave and Knight” levels together since the beginning of our work with the Majors—certainly without realising. Both of these levels can be accessed with a single image: the objective detail vs the subjective relationship to those details. And so Coin and Sword, as “Knave and Knight” levels could have been companions as they always have been in our conversations. 

Live and learn! But on the other hand, this entire journey through the Tarot of Marseilles is just our first pass—it’s all Knave to a certain degree, no matter how hard we try otherwise! Can we do it all four times over???

– The portion of the Lord’s Prayer Course we’re working with right now is the Third Petition—“Thy Will Be Done on Earth as it is in Heaven.” This portion in the Grail Knight’s Practice—reduced to a mantric essence—focuses on the phrase “I Thirst”: “I Thirst for warmth…I Thirst for light…” etc. This is also brought into relation to the experience of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. It made Joel think of the two-fold aspect of the Grail. Yes, it has this sweet side that provides whatever it is that one is in need of. But the Gethsemane experience—“If it be possible, let this Cup pass me by”—expresses this bitter side of the Grail. Perhaps this is related in some sense to this drinking of the melted down golden calf, a bitter medicine. The mystery of fluids from Temperance—“blood, sweat and tears.” Christ experienced all three in the Garden of Gethsemane, the fullness of the capacity for Imagination (Sweat), Inspiration (Tears) and Intuition (Blood). 

This twofold aspect kind of shows itself also in this ambiguous being/animality that is in the Cup. It could be a “bound” demon, a demon with the wall around it, or it could be a veiled Angel—perhaps the two need each other in order to be in those particular states? The demon can only be bound through the presence of the veiled Angel, and the veiled Angel can only be present if the demon is bound?

This week’s particular meditation in the Lord’s Prayer Course is about developing Loyalty in the Will. Where one desires a certain outcome, and then renounces that desire, yet does so without reversing the stream of the will. This gives the will much more effectiveness, that which was desired will be drawn to one. The desire must be there to activate the will—but then the desiring must be doused, while retaining the activated will. Typically denouncing the desire would mean chastising, developing the opposite impulse, reversing the stream of the will as well. It is a very interesting picture of harmonising a polarity.

– Where does that city come from???

The base of the Cup is the hilt of the Sword, that is the seed becoming sprout.

But that city came from elsewhere—a transformed will-impulse that was drawn from beyond.

We’re in Sacred Magic! Finally…after the desert of (failed) Gnosis. The Gnosis that the Swords teach is that you don’t know anything—knowledge of one’s fallibility, knowledge of true humility, knowledge of one’s limitations. A kind of comedy of error.

– One could see this object in the Ace of Cups as a kind of elaborate Christmas tree ornament. It brought back a memory for Joel of seeing a Christmas special when he was little, “Claymation Christmas.” Just different stop-motion animations to various Christmas Carols. The one for “O, Christmas Tree” starts with this elaborate ornament, that you zoom into, and there’s this whole world going on inside of it. And there is a Christmas tree inside of that ornament, with an ornament on it, and you zoom into that ornament, and there’s another world inside that one. And it keeps going like that, Christmas Trees inside of ornaments, with ornaments on them that have Christmas Trees inside of them…until at the end of the imagination, it leads back to the original tree. It loops back—what was the largest/most external Tree is the smallest/most internal Tree. ( This inter-dimensionality feels appropriate to the Ace of Cups as well. Like the One Thing that makes analogy possible—“that which explains itself.” Like in the Emerald Table—there is the One Thing, and then it performs a “single act of adaptation” out of which all else arises. Are the One Thing and its Single Act separate entities, a two-fold source for all things in the cosmos? Or are they simply two aspects of the the same thing, two different modes? “One thing did one thing and that’s where it all came from.”

Perhaps there is the “What it is” and the “What it does.”

What it is = Coins

What it does (adaptation) = Swords

And then realising that these two are identical, that what it is is what it does = Cups

This elusive third and magical term….one could put it into song, *sings* “3 is a magical number…”

This musical aspect, which has come in before with the Ace conjuring songs from Advent and Christmas…the bird singing…there is also the fact that the object in the Ace of Cups looks like a handbell resting on its handle. And there are even little bell towers all along the “wall” of the “city.” A bell with little bells on it. It’s a very musical image.

We saw all these sound waves formed by the concentric circles in the Numbered Swords. Now we get to see where they were coming from.

– It also seems similar to the lamp held by the Hermit, the lamp of Hermes Trismegistus. Again, reminiscent of Martinmas, carrying lanterns in the dark. The six sides of it remind one of the Wheel of Fortune, and back in the day when we were working with the Hermit and the Wheel of Fortune, we wondered whether the Wheel of Fortune was what the Hermit saw inside of his lantern, a whole story or cosmos contained in his lamp. Reminiscent of this image of the “world within a world” of the Christmas Tree ornament above.

– Another image that came after last week’s conversation is the “Fountain of Youth”, a fountain of eternal life. Maybe this is the fountain welling up inside of the King of Swords?

– This was our final conversation on the Ace, so we took a sneak peek at the Two…

A kind of fish-flower. They’re drinking out of their own flower. 

It’s like the Ace got stretched so thin vertically that these two cups flew off of the main cup. And really, these are the first two proper cups. They don’t look like a million other things.

It’s a very distinctive Ace in that regard. Like, it’s not quite yet the thing it’s going to be. The Coin and the Sword Aces definitely represented the object of their Suits in its fullness.

It’s like…you just couldn’t wait for harmony to come resolve the polarity. And now that it’s here, it’s a little bit shy, doesn’t present itself fully at first. Or it’s too much to take in, like the crescendo of the symphony. So much complexity to the harmony, it can’t be contained in one’s experience—it just has to wash over you and you become conscious of certain pieces of it.

We closed with the second portion of the Foundation Stone Meditation.