Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on August 9, 2019
Ace of Swords
August 9, 2019
We began with the protective practice.
We then invoked the presence of the Holy Trinity by reciting words from the closing of the Knight’s Practice (specifically, Ex Deo Nascimur, In Christo Morimur, Per Spiritum Sanctum Reviviscimus).
After concentrating briefly on the mantra “IT THINKS” and the larynx chakra, we performed the third part of the Inner Radiance Sequence (the Resurrection). We also performed the 16th Letter of the Divine Alphabet, Ayin, in relation to the Tower of Destruction.
We read from Matthew 2:16-18 (the slaughter of the innocents), Revelation 8:1-9, and a quote of Karl Koenig’s:
There is a knighthood of the 21st century
Whose riders do not ride through the darkness of physical forces,
as of old,
but through the forest of darkened minds.
They are armed with a spiritual armor,
and an inner sun makes them radiant.
Out of them shines healing, healing that flows from the knowledge of the human being
as a spiritual being.
They must create inner order, inner justice, peace, and conviction
in the darkness of our time.
We then turned our attention to the Ace of Swords, specifically in relationship to the Wheel of Fortune (the 10th Major Arcanum).
– There is a polarity or mirror image between the crown and flowers above vs the hilt and hand below. The Sword’s blade separates these two poles.
– Looking at the Ace of Swords vs Wheel of Fortune, recalling again that the Wheel of Fortune could be “The Prophetess” in some sense (see below). We’ve always seen that the Wheel of Fortune represents a massive departure from what is built up from The Magician through The Hermit; its appearance is quite jarring. What about the Sword? Doesn’t it have a similar jarring effect?
– Some backstory: Phillip and Joel had recently gone on a Hermetic scavenger hunt that led them to a fascinating man named Bradley Rader. One mysterious tidbit he left them with was the observation that the Emperor has the Empress, and the Pope has the High Priestess, but the Hermit (or Prophet) has no Prophetess. Bradley seemed to see that the Wheel of Fortune is the placeholder of the Prophetess, or seen from another plane is the Prophetess.
When Joel began to think about Hermit vs Wheel of Fortune as two that belong together somehow, he began to see a similarity between the King of Coins and the Hermit, on the one hand, and the Ace of Swords and the Wheel of Fortune on the other. And coincidentally, the King of Coins has a value of 9 as the 36th Arcanum (3+6 = 9), and so it has a numerological relationship to the Hermit, the 9th Arcanum. And following on from this, the Ace of Swords has a value of 1 or 10 as the 37th Arcanum (3+7= 10=1), and so it is numerological related to the Wheel of Fortune.
Looking further back, Joel then saw how similar the Knave was to the Lover (both “6”); the Knight to the Chariot (both “7”); and the Queen to Justice (both “8”). In fact, we had been working quite loyally with this system from the Ace of Coins through the Ten of Coins: comparing the Minor Arcana with Majors to whom they were related numerologically. But then with the appearance of the Knave, his features were so striking we forgot about any numerological connections to the Majors. The Ace of Swords has acted as a reminder, and now looking back the comparisons are quite striking and clear.
The Knave, Knight, Queen, and King of Coins are like neutral equivalents of their Major counterparts (Lover, Chariot, Justice, Hermit). The Court Cards show us the act of contemplating and/or creating a symbolic/arcane content, whereas the majors show an active struggle between choices, or different forms of inspiration. The Court Cards are more subdued, sublimated, not so specific in what they express as the Majors.
– The Knave vs The Lover: both are foolish, young, inexperienced, naive. They are being forced to exercise discernment.
The Knight vs The Chariot: such a clear analogue between the two. They are distracted and/or detached above, vs the power and energy that is active below. It is the moment of crossing the threshold—not yet an initiate, but in the midst of becoming one. The newly crowned prince riding through the streets.
The Queen vs Justice: Powerful, masculine women. Whatever she says, goes. She is the authority.
Now things get interesting with The King vs The Hermit. This feels less intuitive than the previous three. The Lover could certainly be a Knave; the Charioteer could also be a Knight; Justice might be a Queen. One would never think that the Hermit might be a King. But on the other hand, the King of Coins never really felt like your archetypal image of a king either—that was something we struggled with as a matter of fact. He always gave us a vibe that was more like: “Come with me, I’m going to show you something you’ve never seen before.” And that’s exactly what the Hermit is saying as well. They are more like wizards than kings. Perhaps “King” as in “Magi,” like in the Matthew Gospel? The Hermit fits this description (following the lamp/Star), and we’ve already compared the King of Coins to Flegetanis several times. It makes one think back to the Egyptian origin of the Tarot, when the Pharaoh was an Initiate-King, a Mage when Mage actually did equal King.
Now we come to the Ace of Swords as the Wheel of Fortune. The Crown and Sword of the Sphinx jumps out immediately.
– Returning to the issue of Prophet (Hermit) vs Prophetess (Wheel of Fortune). This is a real Arcanum, a crisis for us! How can we grasp this?
Could the Wheel of Fortune be like a human shape somehow? If the Sphinx is the head, and the animals are arms, the wheel itself is a belly, and the posts are legs.
– The statue of Artemis, with her arms held out, many breasts, covered with animals. The “arms” of this “woman” are also stretched out in the same way. She’s not very accessible—she is Natura, the World as Nature, instead of as Heavenly Wisdom or “Cosmos.”
Rethinking the image a bit. Similar to above but…erase the sides of the wheel, so that it’s more like a lemniscate, or a downwards triangle and upwards triangle meeting at their points. This creates something like the hour-glass shape of the feminine. Where the points meet is the hub of the wheel, and this is like a heart—and this “heart” is pierced by a “sword” (the crank). “A sword shall pierce your heart,” from the Purification of Mary.
With Force, we’re back to a human(-ish) figure after this strange cosmic interruption of a picture in Wheel of Fortune. How is the Wheel the opposite or companion of the Hermit? He is shrouding this hidden realm of destiny, while this is the realm of destiny, kept in organization by the heart of the being rather than being “seen” by a being.
The Hermit = Prophet = inspired by or has visions of the future.
Wheel of Fortune = Prophetess = She is or enacts the future. She doesn’t seek for it like the Hermit, it is occurring through and within her. She is the Oracle, the Sybelline Prophetess.
Reminiscent of the Pythia, of Apollo. (See https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA149/English/RSP1963/19131230p01.html where this is brought into connection with the third pre-earthly sacrifice of Christ and the Archangel Jesus). The Pythia is consumed by the god Apollo and prophesies in a mystical rapture, and the words must be interpreted by the scholars (hermits).
The Pythian oracle or the Sybelline Prophetess is overcome, in a mediumistic state. Her “prophecy” simply gives expression to her state, to her experience of the future, or some question of Destiny.
This brings us back to the Theodora question. Recall that in the Letter-Meditation on the Wheel of Fortune, Tomberg alludes to the fact that the Cross, Christian symbolism, seems to be missing from this image (see page 260). We can’t return to the mediumistic/atavistic clairvoyance. Christ has to be part of it.
– At the Finnish Sophia conference, Harrie Salman lectured on the biography of Sophia, of how there was always a tug of war as to whether Asherah, the female consort of Yahveh, should be honored in the Temple or not. After she was definitively cast out of the Temple, it was destroyed and the Hebrews were taken to Babylon. Hebrew words often have multiple meanings (depending on placement of vowels). This was employed to edit references to the Goddess out of the Bible—“cut out” = sword.
– Maybe in this image there isn’t so much a lack of Christ per se, but what is missing are the “stolen imaginations” of Sophia, stolen by Lucifer at the Fall so that he could create the Belt of Lies. The Goddess needs to be put back into the Temple. Maybe the Wheel of Fortune is a profane image of the Goddess? How she appears after her expulsion? Perhaps the Hermit initiates you by showing you the state of the Mother, the Feminine—her anguish and suffering.
– Let’s go back to the imaginations of Sophia. Tomberg describes this in the first lecture of Inner Development. Sophia had the primal imaginations, and in Paradise, human beings had access to these imaginations. Lucifer stole them—he created the Belt of Lies. Sophia was silenced, condemned to the depths. Ever since the Mystery of Golgotha, Lucifer’s redemption has been taking place. It started with the penitent thief as a representative of Lucifer recognizing the consequences of his deeds. Then the redeemed Lucifer united with the Holy Spirit and the Divine Sophia to enter the heart of Mary on Pentecost. The resurrected imaginations of Sophia then entered into the hearts of the 12 apostles on Pentecost. Rather than Lucifer guarding the imprisoned Sophia, it is now Michael who guards these imaginations streaming from Sophia. He guards this side of the threshold. Sophia guards the other side: she admonishes spiritual beings in regard to what they should or should not offer to the human world as revelation.
The Sword of Michael becomes an interesting question in this regard, in relation to the Ace of Swords.
The crown could be the Sophianic Imaginations. The Sword could be Michael guarding them. Or perhaps the hand is that of Lucifer stealing the fire of imaginations? Both the loss and reintegration of the Sophianic contact, which holds true for the Wheel of Fortune as well—the Monkey is like Eve, or Lucifer stealing the imaginations, while the Dog is like Mary as the suffering vessel for their return. The Sphinx is the eternal, timeless aspect—the Imaginations themselves? It all revolves on the “piercing of the heart” (the crank).
And there is also a piercing occurring in the Ace of Swords.
– Joel had a dream a few weeks prior involving a man named Peter and his wounded head. It made him think of Peter as Stone (Petra) and also Peter as the “head of the Church” (as opposed to John, the Heart of the Church). Some people in this dream saw this head-wound as though it were matter of course and not a terminal accident. An incident of trepanning. Characters in the story The Golden Compass practice trepanning in order to force a visionary state. Trepanning involves piercing the skull so that the brain can expand. A bit like forcing the return of a fontanelle (the soft portions of the skull on a baby, where the spiritual flows directly in. These close before we can begin to speak).
This is clearly an aberrant practice, the thief entering over the wall so to speak. But the image of the Ace of Swords shows a piercing from below to above, whereas a normal trepanning is the opposite. Perhaps this is showing the Heart boring a hole upwards, into the head? Visionary state that originates from within the heart?
Returning to the vesica piscis/eye form of the crown. Is the Sword cutting/infiltrating into the crown/imagination zone? Or is it emerging, a presentation, like confetti falling down. Or if we are seeing it as an eye, then the duality goes away and the eye comes into the fore. We can step back from the positives and negatives and simply say: “this is happening.” All of it is a vehicle for destiny. The eye as sacrificial act, as “seeing out” this Sword. The act of creation that you expend your entire being on—it “flows” out and becomes something else. Like something being turned inside out. It isn’t a new thing coming out of another, it’s a flipe, an inversion. The crown “pulls out” into the Sword, and the Sword “folds up” into the crown.
The yellow and red hilt mirrors the yellow and red crown. The blue blade in between creates tension and space in between what is essentially one.
– The overlay of the Wheel and Ace of Swords: feathers go with animals, the red flower with the red center of the Wheel. Here is the missing piece! In that sense, the crown is at the heart, not the head!
With the Wheel of Fortune, the Sword is concealed; with the Ace of Swords the Sword is pulled out, revealed.
– There is something of this overall quality of transitioning from the Coins. The Coins are quite grounded, in spite of how mobile they can be. This is another domain altogether. Images and ideas are present, but they no longer sit so firmly. The quality of the Fall—there was a proper state that has now been broken, but we don’t know how because there is still some degree of wholeness present.
– One can also see the Ace of Swords as a bird taking flight. This is an image and experience that one certainly won’t have in the Suit of Coins. The Suit of Coins is all interwoven and metamorphic.
This speaks to Tomberg’s indications of “paying up” when we get to the Suit of Swords. The fleeting, disappearing value of the money we’d invested in the Suit of Coins. The act of exchange. The Suit of Coins is all about the values of forms and structures. The Suit of Swords represents the actual process of exchanging those forms and values.
The Coins are labor and investment. Imbuing form and substance with value—accrual, earnings. Now with the Swords we come to only the first part of the act of exchange—paying! Cutting the plant, the bird flying away.
– Almost makes one think that the Wheel of Fortune could only be represented in its “fallen” or partial aspect, because its resolution would effectively eradicate the image. Opening up the hole in the circle to make a spiral makes it fly away, you no longer have the eternally revolving wheel.
– So does that mean that the Wheel of Fortune is a “truer” representation of the Prophetess than an “actual” image of her? Is she something completely absent? A product of the Fall and her stolen imaginations? Or encouraging humans to become conscious of that break, and then participate in overcoming that break by being the Prophet, the Hermit. Pythia witnessed and interpreted rather than the Pythia alone.
– Who in their right mind would use a sword this way? Complete self-sacrifice is implied in this representation, regardless of the specific iteration of the deed/interpretation.
– An inexpressible, paradoxical mystery around the Prophetess and the Feminine in general. That it is both an unjust and unwarranted tragedy that she is silenced, removed from the Temple, etc. Yet what better expression of the primal Feminine activity of Silence to counterbalance the Word, of Absence as Activity.
It represents her completely accurately because she’s not in it. “I completely self-sacrifice—I efface myself in order for something higher to come about.” The Magnificat.
– Wheel of Fortune’s glaring lack of the “quintessence” is the absence of Christ. Yet this absence is the Sophia, the silent counterpart. The tsimtsum, the waiting womb, the emptiness that precedes creation and activity. “All nature cries out for its fulfillment in great anticipation”—this is a Prophecy in reference to the Goddess Nature. The prophetic experience of the Wheel of Fortune/Natura is a longing, a feeling of absence.
– In the Letter-Meditation on the Wheel of Fortune, Woman is described so magnificently as the Sabbath that keeps the spiral open, prevents it from becoming a circle—she is the doorway through which an ever-constant influx of the New can enter from the spiritual world. She is the bane of the serpent, who wishes to establish the kingdom of the closed circle through the whirlwind of forming the ouroboros.
The gateway between worlds, the antidote to the serpent. Woman is the only way that new spiritual ferment enters the world.
And so this begs the question—ought the Feminine simply accept the role of Silence?
What is at issue in the cosmic drama is that in stealing the cosmic imaginations, Lucifer condemns Sophia/the Divine Feminine to Silence; rather than allowing her natural discretion to unfold (as in the Virgin Mary), he forced Silence. But then this intensification of Silence is ever deepened, fraught with the suffering of the Mother—and therefore becomes only that much more creatively powerful, for now all Creation awaits with eager longing for her Silence to be broken, to be filled with the Word.
– Life has changed completely for the two of us since the Swords began, and this goes along with changes in the conversation. The free-floating, extremely transformational gesture of the Ace of Swords comes right into the conversation. It is visceral, yet impossible to hold in one’s hands.
– The strokes of destiny that befell us while working with the Major Arcana were the “imprints” on our etheric, our “coining” or “minting.” They were consciously digested when we worked through the Suit of Coins. During the Suit of Coins, our strokes of destiny were those of cutting out or away, of “paying up,” paying the piper, of loss. We are now consciously working through those strokes of destiny by entering into the Suit of Swords. Perhaps now our strokes of destiny are preparing us for our future conversations on the Suit of Cups? The other pan of the balance—our cup overflowing. Thus far, the past few months have felt like a transition into a new chapter, halcyon days…let’s hope so anyway!
– We ended with the Third Stanza of the Foundation Stone Meditation in Eurythmy