Five of Cups (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on March 4, 2021.

March 4, 2021

Five of Cups, pt 1

We began with the protective practice.

We then invited the presence of the Crucified Christ to guide our conversation.

After briefly focusing the mantra SHE FEELS on the region of the heart, we enacted the second portion of the Inner Radiance Sequence (“In purest love for all that lives radiates the Godhood of my soul”), the seventh letter of the Divine Alphabet (Zayin, in relation to the Chariot) and the seventh part of the Grail Knight’s Practice (1st level of trespass—doubt; 1st level of communion—wine).

– The first thing that stands out is that there are now two blue/plant forms. We’ve been tracking the evolution of this non-Cup entity that had been gestating inside of the Ace of Cups, and it has always been a singular being thus far. Now it has divided into two. Is the upper one growing out of the middle cup? Or is it behind this middle cup? Like the question we had around the Ace of Coins long ago.

What was the metamorphosis from Four to Five? Maybe the red flower in the center of the Four became the central (fifth) Cup, and this split the vertical “spear” of the Four in two. 

There seems to be a blue pearl under the central flower of the Four. Is there a red pearl at the base of the Five?

This central flower becoming the central cup didn’t just split the spear in two. It flipped things upside down again. The leaves have flipped from the bottom half to the top half. And this triangular disc-face in the top portion of the Four seems related to the heart-shaped lower plant in the Five.

It’s the first time a plant feels this elaborate in the Minors, with the way things are stacking. In the top half, there is this golden section at the top with this tiny dome in the center of it, and then a red section with a larger blue dome in it, then this blue flower under that. This stacking, embedding gesture. It’s much more elaborate than before. Mirroring, reflecting. The most complex plant forms we’ve seen. So ordered, yet ornate and lovely, very aesthetically pleasing. Not a strict geometrical kind of order.

In the lower section, this blue flower between the two red flowers has a tiny dome encased in large spreading leaves. A theme that repeats. It happens again in the bottom red flower, but is turned upside down. It seems to have settled on this one special form that it will elaborate over and over. But like a motif in jazz or in Beethoven’s music—you take this single, simple musical theme and see how many different ways it can be presented. 

The flowers in the middle of the image are coming from the lower plant. One could expect them, based on their kind of archetypal flower form, to rise all the way to the top of the image, to present themselves at the top, not the middle. Or expect them connected to the top plant somehow.

The top two cups are a bit held by the leaves that are growing out of the central cup.

The flowers are at the top of the bottom, the leaves are at the bottom of the top, both meeting in the middle.

Is there a background/foreground depth perspective to this image? It feels like the bottom of the image is closer to us. Everything from the central cup below is closer to us, in front of the upper plants. 

Again, as in other Cup Arcana, a division somewhere in the middle, a top/bottom, front/back division.

Again we think of the Two of Cups, this red portion at the bottom that is set aside—a separation, both dimensional and spatial. 

That upper plant is like a chef presenting a fine soup du jour—Voila! Proud and generous.

The lower plant is receptive, appreciative. A crowd of admirers. Casting flowers at his feet.

This stands in stark contrast to the Four of Coins. The Five of Cups is the true presentation and reception of this one central thing. The true Five. As opposed to the Four of Coins, which is the Four trying to pass itself off as a Five, a false Five. The premature presentation.

The Four of Coins expresses the true Five, but only in the sense that the Five announces itself, and in such a way as to say, “Put this in your pocket, save it for later. You still have quite a ways to go on the path.” Premonitory.

You receive this gift from the future-Five for your dangerous journey…and then you almost forget about it. Like Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings, they receive the vial of Galadriel to shine a light when all other lights go out…and they nearly forget about it to the point that it is nearly too late, Frodo nearly dies and is taken captive by the enemy. 

By contrast with the Four of Coins, in the first place the Five of Cups feels like an abundance, something being offered and received, something of real substance. Not a flash or premonition of the future as in the Four, a mere image. This is real, true, overflowing abundance. The Four of Coins is the absence of substance, a kind of tease or sneak preview—“this is what will become, what you will someday have.” But you don’t yet have it. All that has come into being is the will to have it, and maybe the fantasy or false impression that I already do have it.

Whereas the Five of Cups is the banquet, the victory or homecoming feast. Maybe this is what occurs in Parzival after the strange ceremony with the Lance. The Grail is brought in, this cornucopia of abundance. This feeling of awe or expectation of how something unique comes in response to each person’s specific need out of the Grail. 

If the Four of Cups shows us the Gawan portion of the Parzival story, then maybe the Five shows us the end of the story, the second visit to Monsalvaesche, when Parzival heals Anfortas. 

But the Four does also have this strong Lance gesture, so maybe the Four also represents this Lance being brought to Anfortas. A fluid retelling of the Grail story, multivalent. Then the Five would show us the feast that same evening.

But when we arrange the first five Cups in the YHShVH form, we see that the Five of Cups follows on from the Two of Cups—and we saw the Two of Cups as showing us the wounded Anfortas, both on the water as Fisher King and also in Monsalvaesche, with the Lance being brought to him. So from two different pathways, the Five shows us the presentation of the Grail that follows on from this strange Lance ceremony.

When we place the Five above the Two, the fish of the Two seem to go right into becoming the flowers in the Five.

The Five is also like the Three of Cups—but it’s like we’ve pulled back, now we’re seeing the rest of the Three which was hidden from us. All this complexity in the Five is much more germinal in the Three. The Three is more expectant, like listening to the belly for the baby’s heartbeat or something.

There’s a shift in orientation from Three to Five as well. In the Three, this single cup is what is highest, it’s honoured and revered. But in the Five, we pull back and see the full picture—the upper cup in the Three becomes the central cup in the Five. We see that this cup is being presented, and the plant-form that is presenting this cup is what is truly honoured. 

Going forwards through the Cups takes us backwards in some strange way, back to the beginning. It progresses backwards, or to more completeness.

In a way, it’s like the relationship between the Ace of Coins and the Three of Coins. You thought that the Ace of Coins was the beginning, that the One was the origin—then you get to the Three, and you’ve zoomed way back to see the Ace in this fuller context. It becomes just this tiny pearl hugged or flanked by these three much larger Coins. And you realise this Trinity is the actual origin, vs the apparent origin of the One. You’ve actually been focused on the most granular detail in the Ace, even though it looks like this vast thing when you first see it. The Three is what shows you the actual, vast wholeness or context in which this granular piece finds its home. So you end up getting the story in reverse, so to speak. 

And this gesture is being used pervasively in the Cups, vs the one-time-gesture of Ace of Coins vs Three of Coins. We get increasing context with each progressive step, each Arcanum…”Ah! Now I know why that happened…”

And the Three of Coins predicts the third Suit, the Suit of Cups. This zooming out to finally get the context of everything.  This is all a more complicated version of that. Like we’ve starting zoomed in closest with the Ace of Cups, and each progressive Cup Arcanum takes a further step back, seeing more and more context.

And then on the other hand, the Queen of Coins also predicts this later Suit of Cups. And she is this extremely metamorphic picture. She passes this “One Thing” of the coin through herself, and all these forms elaborate themselves out of it. The Cups also have this strong gesture of metamorphosis. So they have both these qualities, of the Three and Queen of Coins.

Comparing the Three and the Five—it’s like the two poppy bulbs, as eyes in the face in the Three, have opened in the Five. A blind man given sight. Or asleep in the Three, awake in the Five. This gives the same feeling, the same gesture, “Now I see the context, my eyes are opened.” 

It’s interesting that in the Five we have open eyes below and then above it these gesturing arms in the leaves. Like something floating over someone’s head, or growing out of someone’s head. The top golden flower is very crown-like.

Are the two leaves ears maybe? Or horns? This changes the face to that of a ram or a bull. With red eyes! It’s almost threatening when seen as a ram or bull. 

Hmm…let’s look at these different forms we’ve seen…

Ace of Cups = a bird-like form—the Eagle, Scorpio?

Two of Cups = Fish

Three of Cups = a man—the Waterbearer?

Four of Cups = lion—Leo?

Five of Cups = bull—Taurus?

So with Ace, Three, Four and Five we have the Merkabah. Then what of the Two? Is it somehow related to the Dancer in the midst of the four beasts in the World? Why fish?

Joel had a strong impression after our last conversation that the Four of Cups is expressing the Merkabah, this crazy vision that Ezekiel has. With the cups as eyes or wheels within wheels, covered with eyes. And then the Wheel of Fortune and the Chariot coming into relation with this Suit, these are both vehicles somehow, these wild spiritual chariots.

Wow, it’s great to put the Chariot in relation to the Five of Cups. This grand gesture in both—“Well, how do you like me now!” The pomposity of the charioteer, the mastery. And the crown kind of matches the golden part at the top of the upper plant.

The “SM” on the Chariot—it’s in a similar position to that central cup in the Five, bringing us back to the Four of Coins again. The framing of the image of the flower in the Coin, as the shield or aegis, the sign or banner in whose name it is coming. 

And something in the tip of the charioteer’s sceptre seems related to the dome motif that repeats itself throughout the Five of Cups. 

The two upper cups in the “background” are related to the scaffolding that upholds the charioteer’s canopy.

It almost seems like the two V’s, the Roman numeral fives, are a natural part of the image. We haven’t really seen that before, where they don’t look like numbering as much as natural parts of the design. Maybe the impression of the equals signs in the Two was akin to that, but this is much more aesthetic, not so much a double entendre as in the Two.

– You get the impression that the top plant and central cup are one object—like a lady with a pregnant belly. This might be the first time there is such a concrete connection between object and plant form. Maybe there was a bit of this kind of contact in the Ace and Two of Coins, between the Coins and the plants, but it was ambiguous, not a clear strong relationship through contact as it is here.

And then the Ten of Swords—the swords crossing through the aposematism of the Vesica Piscis, and also this subtle indication there that the swords were actually flowers, an identification between object and plant form. 

– The destructive nature of the Sword is, in the grand scheme of things, part of the overall creative process. Just as the Arcanum Death is actually protecting destiny, progress, growth. 

This opening meditation from the Inner Radiance Sequence. Feeling “the Power of Christ’s Sacrifice in all Seven Chakras.” Power through the passion, through being able to endure powerlessness. To be able to pass all the way through that archetypal (i.e. most extreme) experience of suffering and death, with no hesitation—this is the greatest power. In Christo Morimur—“In Christ, Death becomes Life.” Death is the trick that Nature plays in order to have an abundance of Life. The Swords are actually flowers in the Ten of Swords. What you thought were two different things (Life = Flower and Death = Sword) are ultimately identical.

Seeing this upper plant and central cup in the Five of Cups as one thing makes a bit of a sword-like shape. With the cup as the hilt, the leaves as the handguard, the cascading flowers as the blade. This is the kind of sword Robert Powell could wield. Not a sword for battle or violence, it’s for a performance or a ritual. Yet it has this bizarre, shocking power. Maybe it’s a singing sword, an enchanted sword? 

“Be our guest…” sings Phillip…oh dear, yes, it’s actually very reminiscent of that singing Candelabra from Beauty and the Beast. That French candlestick.

Beauty and the Beast's Lumiére and Cogsworth Have a Fascinating Real-L |  Vanity Fair

Maybe that is its shocking power—that it’s enchanted. It suddenly starts talking to you, and it’s so unexpected and strange, you’re disarmed, taken off guard.

Again it’s the opposite gesture of the Four of Coins. There, it’s not a coin in the center—but they would sure like it to be! And they’re going to treat it like it’s the proper fifth, when it isn’t. They’re kidding themselves.

Whereas here, it’s presented as the Cup, and it properly is the Five of Cups…but maybe it isn’t only a Cup, maybe there is more here than meets the eye? 

Image (Five of Cups) and counter-Image (Four of Coins). Even the gesture of a picture of a flower where a Coin ought to be is a gesture of counter-image in the Four of Coins. 

Then the reflection of that in the Five of Cups, here’s an image of fullness, a magically alive fullness.

In the Four there is a deep longing for completion, a longing so deep that there is a false self-delusion that it has actually been accomplished. It leaves you in this place of wondering, “is this actually a Five?” A bit of an identity crisis that is yearning so much for the future, you might think you had already gotten there. Whereas with the Five, you start wondering “hm, is this actually a Four still? Is this thing in the middle not merely a cup?” Again this gesture of retaining what has been, retaining the past or (on the shadow side) getting stuck in the past.

The Four is all bluster and show, all bark and no bite. It’s trying too hard. And with the Five of Cups, it’s a bit of a message of “Here is what you wish you had, and what you think you have—but then because you think you already have it, you miss it when it really comes.” The Five of Cups is effortless, has ever more to give. This is only a taste of what it has to give. It surpasses all expectations. And your adoration only draws forth more of it, it doesn’t mean that you end up missing the boat due to distraction as in the Four of Coins.

The central flower in the Four of Coins is chalice shaped, this burning fire of longing, that draws forth the actual thing that you long for. 

Offering and reception. Adoration, worship—this is what is emphasised in the Five of Cups, but also in all of the Cups thus far really. From the start, already in the Ace of Cups we have this Mary gesture, of Our Lady of All Peoples. On the one hand, this absolute generosity, on the other hand this absolute gratitude for what is being given. Perfect generosity from above, perfect gratitude and receptivity below.

Joel started to feel this process of development coming out of last week’s meeting. That we begin with the Ace, and it kind of stands alone or stands above the Two and Three. Whereas the Two and Three are able to combine with each other in such a way that they become the Four of Cups. Like the Two of Cups becomes the upper cups of the Four, and the Three of Cups becomes the central red flower and the two lower cups of the Four of Cups. Somehow Two plus Three makes Four. And then the Ace of Cups, which is still hovering above this combination of Two and Three that has become Four, is now able to descend, and is born anew in the midst of the four cups maybe through the central red flower—and this becomes the Five of Cups. It is the combination, the accumulation of all that has come before, whereas the Four of Cups was only the Two and Three accumulated. 

Placing the Ace next to the Five, it’s like this being in the Ace has lifted up her arms, cast off everything binding or surrounding her into the air. There is something about that central Cup/Plant being that says “Here is the Ace of Cups again.”

This is characteristic of the Cups—that there are beings working through all components of the card. With the Coins it’s like the residue. How are the Coins really relating to the plant forms in their Arcana? It isn’t totally clear or tangible. There are occasionally face forms but not really…it’s more like you’re just seeing the body of a being, and not the life of the being. 

In the Cups, we’re seeing the actual creatures that the Coins only showed us the masks of. The difference between a totem pole with a bear’s image carved on it, and meeting an actual bear. The hermit crab shell vs the the actual crab. With the Cups, we get to see the whole creature, the whole forming of that creature.

Joel realised that this image we came to in the aftermath of our last conversation—of the red rose as the firmament with the white waters of the Lily above and below—is expressed quite beautifully in John Zebedee at the foot of the Cross. Here we have Lazarus united with the heart of John Zebedee, and John the Baptist is overlighting Lazarus. It is the three-fold John, but it is like John the Baptist is the transcendent Lily above, and John Zebedee is the manifest Lily below, while Lazarus is the red Rose in between the two, acting as the mediator from above to below. And this was the end result of the Swords—the threefold double in the Knave/Knight was slain and transformed by the Queen into the threefold John in the King of Swords. And now perhaps the Cups are expressing this activity of the threefold John, of the united effort of Rose and Lily.

Joel also realised that this whole process we went through at the start of last week’s conversation—moving from the Hanged Man to Force, all the way through to the Chariot—was actually expressive of this exact same process, of the Rosicrucian constantly evolving, dying and reforming, in order to facilitate the maintaining of the earthly expression of the cosmic or transcendent Lily, the Church. The Hanged Man dies into Force, and is reborn as the Hermit. Force becomes the Wheel of Fortune, who is borne by the Hermit in order to become Justice. Then the Hermit rides away as the Chariot. Force gains solidity, gravity in becoming Justice. The transcendent Lily (Force) is realised on Earth as manifest Lily (Justice) through the activity of Rosicrucianism (Hanged Man, Hermit, Chariot). Through this sacrifice on the part of Rosicrucianism, the bound Hanged Man gradually regains his mobility as he becomes the walking Hermit and then the rapidly racing Chariot. Force gains gravity; the Hanged Man gains mobility. 

Maybe the Hermit actually brings with him somehow, hidden amongst his implements, the wheel and the animals left over from the Wheel of Fortune—perhaps they are contained within his lamp? And when he bestows his implements back to Justice, she cuts open the lamp to make the scales and releases the wheel and animals, which become the Chariot of the Hermit?

So this whole imagery we began with last time set the tone for the subsequent conversation, and probably informed the conclusion we came to regarding the relationship of Lily and Rose, without us totally realising it at the time.

This moving backward from Hanged Man to Chariot is so interesting to follow. It seems to lead to a clearer story than the other way around, the “normal” order of Chariot, Justice, Hermit, Wheel of Fortune, Force, Hanged Man. There isn’t any longer this awkward leap from the Hermit to the Wheel that we always felt during the conversations on the Majors.

– One final impression: it seems like the Five is split into three levels of depth, rather than two levels as it is in the Four. In the Four, we see the two lower cups as the foreground (the front of the lion) and the two higher cups as the background (the rear of the lion). Whereas here, it’s more like the two lower cups are the foreground, then the central cup is somewhere in the middle, then the two higher cups are all the way in the background. It’s like a courtyard or a garden, or a temple, and the bottom plant is a kind of decoration on the floor, or a gate with pathways leading to a central pillar. And then there is this being standing in the m midst of the courtyard, just behind this central pillar. 

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