Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on July 12, 2019
Ace of Swords
July 12, 2019
First experiment with a conversation over Zoom.
– What struck Joel after the initial conversation was the imagery of the “Sword in the Stone,” the legend of the young King Arthur.
Traditionally one thinks of the Sword in the Stone as a large boulder with a Sword stuck in it with the point down, about halfway up the blade.
But in the context of the Ace of Swords, this archetypal imagery presents in a different iteration. One thinks of the Sword really in the Stone, contained or concealed completely within the stone. The hand (of Arthur) pulls it out of its “shell” so to speak.
Additionally, some of the imagery we were feeling last time—the amoeba, the feathery plants that are like seaweed—bring to mind the retrieval of Arthur’s subsequent sword, Excalibur, from the “Lady in the Lake.”
It’s like the Arthurian legend is accessing this particular archetype and expressing it in a variety of ways.
One always imagines the “Sword in the Stone” as the sword’s hilt above, and its point entering a stone below it. But here the Sword is below. The Lake is above you—or the Stone. Like the white stone with the true Name written on it, from the Book of Revelation. One also thinks of a stone fruit, a peach, with its vesica piscis shaped pit. Again we are brought to the seed/coin.
– The “stone” containing the Sword could be seen as its sheath. But is the Sword contained whole and complete in the sheath/stone? Or does it go through a process of gestation and development within this sheath? Like a flower that is forming and developing within the bud. At one point these two are distinct, at another they are merged.
This yields two different ways of interpreting the Arcanum. First of all, as something static: the sword is always in this form, whether within or without the stone. It is the eternal “buried treasure.” Or we can see it as an organic unfolding in an encasement.
– The realm within the crown, from which the Sword emerges. This realm is like the central Woman, the Dancer in The World, or like the Angel in the Judgement. They exist on the other side of a portal, in another world. The crown is a portal, beyond it is another world.
The two stalks that are emerging from inside the crown, from this other world: are they continuous with the plants that adorn the top of the crown? Or does it just seem this way? Notice that the plant stalks don’t necessarily connect to the “feathers;” they could just as well be attached to the blue flowers. Just as the Sword could be attached to the central red flower. Or they might be part of an entirely different entity that exists only “within” the crown. This is also multivocal, there are two ways of seeing this.
This almost connects the stalks more with the flames/tear drops coming out of the crown than with the flowers above. They are like slices at the end of a root—and these sliced off bottom sections are the same shape as the flames/teardrops.
Maybe the Sword severed a cord on its way in or out of the crown, the two stalks are two halves of one whole, and the different tear drops are slices from it.
Like the “upside down” from the show “Stranger Things.” The feathery flowers vs the stalks: one part is in the “upside down,” the other is not.
– The hand is on the amoeba: this seems like a very non-material, non-physical plane. The whole image is non-material. The Coin images have to do with the material realm, the Plane of Action/Facts. This is the Realm of Formation, descending out of the Realm of Creation (within/above the Crown).
If the Crown is the Coin, if we’ve formed everything upside down, then all below it is the Realm of Formation, even though this is “higher up” on the planes.
– Phillip and Joel had a conversation a week or so previously during which they discussed the implications of Arcana as the Etheric Christ. That the Arcana/Etheric Christ serve to bridge the wide chasm between entirely subjective Self within, and entirely objective Nature without, to bring us back to their common source within the Arcana (the “blueprints” or “mothers” of both Cosmos and Psyche). The question that arose is, why didn’t Christ establish this in his first coming? What was the purpose of the first coming, and why did this building of the bridge between worlds only begin to occur now?
The first coming occurred only on the physical world: a gateway had to be opened. That was the goal of both Lazarus and Christ in their journey into the sub-earthly spheres, to “make straight the way of the Lord.” Now the task is different. Christ descends into the sub-earthly to exhume/redeem it. His task exists both in the realm directly above (etheric/elemental/Plane of Formation) and below (sub-earthly spheres) the physical plane. The Arcana are the beings that create a process of redemption and circulation between these two realms.
So the Suit of Coins represents to us this purely physical realm of creating the Gateway—we see this especially with the King of Coins at the very end. He pulls back the curtain and invites us in.
But the Suit of Swords has to do with both the Plane of Formation (Etheric/Elemental Sphere) as well as penetrating sub-nature, redeeming the fallen elementals, recovering access to the Mother.
– We begin to see two realities that are contiguous. The Blue Flowers transform into feathery forms. They are connected. The Sword is the Red Flower. Prior to extraction, all we would see is the part above the crown. Then “pulling out the Sword” creates different, distinct entities out of the whole, unified crown.
– Is the central circle in the Ace of Coins actually the hilt of the sword? As seen from “below” (from the point of view of the Ace of Swords)? Look closely at the bottom of the hilt, it has a little tip on it, just as there is a smaller circle in the middle of the central circle of the Ace of Coins.
Then perhaps it has a round hand guard, like a rapier? Even though the blade is more reminiscent of a broadsword. Or maybe the four plants of the Ace of Coins are the hand guard, and it actually points in four directions instead of the traditional two. On could imagine this being the case based off of the decorative structure of the hand guard.
– Pondering this image gives one a distinct dream-like experience. One can see it playing out…one is walking along, sees a coin on the ground. Stoops down to pick it up, and suddenly one is drawing a sword out of the ceiling! Very disorienting.
Or maybe you daily go on walks through a meadow, collecting coins that you find on the ground from time to time. You bring them home and put them out carefully in the grass to sparkle in the sun. One day you go out in the dewey grass to pick one up and…the transformation into the sword state occurs!
At what point in that experience do you realize the change in orientation? Like in certain films, zooming in on just the hand of the protagonist, and then zooming back out and everything has changed. Seamless, no visible transition. That’s one experience.
Or like in the movie “Inception,” like a topsy-turvy house where the rooms are always spinning around. Like getting one’s sea legs, there is no up or down really, it’s all in how you choose or intend to relate to the space. Interesting that “Inception” takes place in different (deeper and deeper) levels of the dream-world.
– Even from the most literal, mundane view, the Sword certainly disappears somewhere, it’s not just “hidden” behind the red flower.
The only truly “mundane” portion of this image is where the hand meets the sword. The rest is totally fantastical, magical, dreamlike.
It reminds one of what Koenig and Steiner wrote about the Karma of Vocation. Whenever we work, whenever we transform substance with a tool, countless elemental beings come into creation—the beings that will populate future Jupiter evolution. But we are focused on the “mundane” portion of the work—where the hand meets the tool—and we are only barely conscious in this realm of the Will, where the elemental future beings are born. (See Koenig’s Village Lectures and the lecture series “Karma of Vocation” from 1916: https://www.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA/index.php?ga=GA0172).
– Are there any sleeves like that in any of the previous Arcana? Not really. And the blue fringe is definitely new. Other sleeves seem relatively insignificant. Force, though, has gauntlets. The Fool has two colors, like this sleeve does. And we can’t see his other sleeve, maybe it’s like this one.
(Again we’re given the sensation that whoever drew these Arcana is ingenious: there is ever-new detail!)
Fool or Knave? We had never noticed before, until it was pointed out at the Tarot retreat in Santa Fe, that the Knave’s sleeve is yellow, with an orange cuff. Both the Fool and the Knave, then, have two-colored sleeves. Fool vs Knave = Rogue. There is something of naivety, ignorance, innocence, inexperience with both of them—and perhaps also mischievousness. Something of Mercury.
– In terms of the Suit of Swords, both the Knave and Knight have two colors. In the Suit of Cups, the Knave has three.
…And we run out of time on the Zoom meeting…
(In the days following, Joel has some strong after impressions. He remembers their experience of the music of the Midnight Hour, the Fixed Stars, Saturn, and the Jupiter Sphere. It had felt once again like a journey from conception (Midnight Hour/Fixed Stars), to gestation (Saturn), to birth (Jupiter). The conversation of the Midnight Hour like the moment of conception, two elements meeting and uniting. Saturn, where we are reminded of our True Name, of our Nobility and Divine Origin, is like destiny being woven into our etheric. And then we burst into the thunderous realm of Jupiter like a birth. And this bursting in is shown to us in the Ace of Swords.
On top of this, Joel had experienced his family’s gradual departure from Plowshare very much like a pregnancy and birth. The “moment of conception” occurred in August/September 2018. There were the first few exciting months, when it was still mostly a wish and a hope, not shared with the wider world—one wants to make sure the pregnancy is viable before one makes it public. Then, in December 2018/January 2019 (second trimester), we made it public. And then it became much more difficult. Joel, for the first time in his life, experienced symptoms of depression (loss of appetite, inability to sleep, concentrate, amongst other things). Hypersensitivity to touch and smell set in. Between March and June (third trimester), the situation became almost unbearable at Plowshare, as greater and greater tension grew around us, in spite of our best efforts to offer constructive feedback as we departed. Leaving was like a birth. For some weeks afterward, Joel experienced the equivalent of “postpartum depression,” feeling relatively fine during the day, but at night having vivid dreams that resulted in waking up in tears. It was a real process of catharsis that mainly took place at night.
The gestation/pregnancy coincided with the study of the Suit of Coins. The departure took place just as we finished with the Suit of Coins, as well as with the first public presentation of our process—the “birth” of what we had been creating together. At this presentation, we emphasized the fact that working with the Arcana opens up realms of experience that otherwise would not be opened. When we become aware of the archetypal sphere, our destiny more and more becomes a process of initiation. The Suit of Coins was all about imprinting (minting of the coin) the etheric body. There was both an inner (transformation of soul) and outer (hard knocks of destiny) correspondence with the study of the Suit of Coins.
And now, if the Coins lead to Birth, do the Swords lead to the first gift of Christ, Walking/Uprightness? Do the Cups lead to the second gift of Christ, Speech? And do the Batons lead to the third gift of Christ, Thinking?
What felt so odd during this time of transition out of Plowshare was to experience something extremely analogous to birth as a man—a kind of etheric birth. Yet perhaps this is precisely what we see with the King of Coins—he is “giving birth” to the Coin…or maybe he is “drawing the Sword”?)