Five of Swords (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on February 16, 2020

February 16, 2020

Five of Swords, pt 1

We began with the protective practice.

We then performed the Hail Mary in eurythmy as an invocation of the Virgin Mary.

After briefly focusing the mantra IT THINKS in the region of the larynx, we performed the third part of the Inner Radiance Sequence (I Rest Within the Godhead of the World). We also performed the 12th Letter of the Divine Alphabet, Lamed, in relation to the Hanged Man.

We then read from Revelation 9:16-18.

– The Five of Swords is very plain. In this sense, it recapitulates the Two of Swords, which is also very plain—only it is a flower image, whereas this is a sword image. This is the sword equivalent of the Two. In the sequence Y-H-SH-V-H, these are the two He’s:

He = Five Vau = Four

  Shin = Three

He = Two Yod = Ace

The simplicity of the two He’s in contradistinction to the vibrancy of both the Yod (Ace) and the Vau (Four).

The Shin (Three) is balanced. It has both a Sword and a plant in the center. 

– The corner flowers in the Five have been simplified vs Two, Three and Four. They are almost cartoonish. Perhaps because they are familiar to us now, so they only need some kind of visual reference, not presented in their fullness like before?

– Actually, the Sword in the center has undergone the same process. Simplified. Flatter, less dimension.

– We never noticed before with the Four…but there are “ova,” egg-shaped nodules on the curved scimitars in the Two and Three. With the Four and Five, they transform from “ova” into lines or rectangles. We’ve never registered these “ova” at all before.

Related, we suppose, to the shift from one curved sword to two that need to be bound together, fused somehow. 

– The color relationships of the ova/lines within one image vs two placed side by side (2+3, 4+5). Different symmetries arise. The relationship of yellow and red along the curved swords is a bit topsy-turvy in terms of the symmetry of a single image, such as the Two. But place the Two next to the Three, and turn the curved swords into a circle, and their is a consistency in terms of what colors are on the top vs the bottom. 

– Looking at the progression of the odds, those with an emphasis on the broad swords: From Ace to Three to Five, there is a growing emphasis on the Sword, and a stripping away of the plant. The plant kind of descends. It is almost flamboyant, and up in the crown, in the Ace. Then simplified, and in the center of the image with the sword in the Three. Then in the Five, it is gone completely. And throughout this entire process, the plant is only leaf/stalk. No flower as in the Two and Four. Yet, oddly enough, along with the disappearance of the plant, the Sword does not grow any more elaborate. It too grows simpler and simpler, albeit more prominent. 

– From our prior conversations we have seen that from one perspective:

Ace = Unity, undivided unity (or perhaps, unity in the process of division)

Two + Three = The dual aspect of the One 

Four + Five = The dual aspect of the Two:

– There are many incomplete details floating about, trying to come together, but a lot still needs to be there to form a complete thought or concept.

– The Unity in the Ace. Crown = Flower = Left Pillar. And the Sword is obviously the Sword, the Right Pillar.

Then in the Two we have a top-down view. The Two is a proto-flower. No stalk. Flower-leaf, poinsettia or something like that. 

In the Three, we see the Sword is still associated with the plant, but now only the leaf side of the plant…not a flower. A distinction is developing. 

In the Four, all that was stalk and leaf in the Three has been given over to what was Two so that it could become the complete flower of Four. The Five is the Three left with only the Sword, its adornment having been given to the Two to become Four. 

So we have achieved a kind of fullness of flower and the Sword standing on its own. 

– It is certainly evident that there is a much greater degree of apparent wholeness when they are paired together. The relationship between plant and sword is much more—maybe only—evident when they are paired. This vs the Coins, where each Arcanum stands alone, very strongly represents something unique. 

And the curved swords only make a complete circle (coin shape) when two are united—only then do we have wholeness.

In fact, with the Coins, it was our core struggle to do the mental gymnastics needed in order to “move” or transform one Arcanum into the form of the next. To follow the impossible transition or metamorphosis. It wasn’t evident at all how they interconnected, at least not to begin with. This is the opposite. It is a struggle to see how they could ever stand alone, as unique independent beings. Whereas, by the end, each of those ten Coin Arcana meant something totally unique.

Here, in the case of the Swords, the Two meant nothing until we found the Three, and the Five seems to only be meaningful coming after the Four. Here we have an inverse relationship—what followed the Two gave it meaning, whereas it is what precedes the Five that gives it meaning.

– Recalling:

Ace (Tower)

Two/Three (Devil/Temperance)

Four/Five (Death/Hanged Man)

…if Two = Devil, and Three = Temperance, then the insinuation is that the Devil is totally meaningless without Temperance…and on the other hand, if Four = Death and Five = Hanged Man, then the Hanged Man is totally meaningless without Death.

That is, it’s almost like the stakes need to be both high and authentic. Evil (The Devil) without the possibility of good, of redemption (Temperance)? Totally banal. A waste. And on the other hand, self-sacrifice (Hanged Man) without Death, a self-sacrifice that’s just for show? A total farce. Again, a waste. 

Are all four of these elements already present in the Tower of Destruction?

– Also, we have this alternative representation:

Five (He) Vau (Four) = Hanged Man Death

Three (Shin) Temperance

Two (He) Ace (Yod) = Devil Tower

This is a harrowing image! Like the Mother (Temperance) trapped in the heart of the Earth, the darkness of the Underworld (surrounded by Tower, Devil, Death, and Hanged Man). Just imagine this as only Yod He Vau He, without Shin, the Fire of Love! No Temperance!

Reminiscent in mood of our conversation around the miracle of the Feeding of the 5000 earlier today. How it is a presentiment of the Last Supper, and the crowd, understandably enough, wishes to crown him king. Only 12 out of 5000 have any true inkling of what is going on. But the Last Supper without the Mystery of Golgotha is empty, it’s meaningless. Again, self-sacrifice without Death, a farce. And so the 5000 are only given a relative morsel of the bread of heaven, and then sent on their way. Their hunger is true after that! But it can only become meaningful—truly meaningful, and fulfilled—with Death

Beyond this, the immediate result of the miracle is the harrowing, traumatic miracle of the Walking on Water. Indeed, is there any other of the miracles that could be described as traumatic, as a kind of nightmare? The 12 who are “in the know” vs the 5000 are not given some kind of special treatment due to being a special inner circle—no, instead they are subjected to a terrifying trial. Which, to be quite frank, Peter is the only one bold enough to say yes to the challenge—and then his courage and faith fail him! He must be rescued by the Master. 

Temperance as the Fourth Miracle—surrounded by its aftermath, the Walking on Water. 

– Are the Fives archetypal images of the entire suit in question? When we look at the Five of Coins, for example, we see so clearly:

He Vau


He Yod

as Five dots, more or less, on the card.

But looking at this image, it is not nearly so straightforward.

The Yod and Vau curve, through the “Heh” region, to each other’s respective regions. Above meeting below. Curved lines, not pin-points. And the two He’s perform an equivalent action. Meanwhile, the Shin is a straight vertical line, not a central point. The Coins are discreet and straightforward. The Swords—not so straightforward! There is an intermingling once again rather than fixed points.

And here, in this iteration of the Divine Name, we have Temperance surrounded by the vortex of chaos vs the iteration of the Divine Name from the Coins, which represented:

Five-He-Star Four-Vau-Moon


Two-He-Judgement Ace-Yod-World

– This duality in the Swords is much more the nature of the Bet than the Aleph. The Coins are like what Weinreb writes about the opening lines of the Bible—that what is immediately being discussed, with the very first letter, is the realm of duality, the realm of manifestation, that is ordered by an implicit unity that cannot be spoken, but weaves through every letter of this realm of manifestation and apparent duality. Permeated by verticality.

Whereas the Swords are more horizontal. One needs one beside the other in order to create the sense of wholeness. It’s no longer implicit and immanent.

Like the two Creation stories.

The first ends with the creation of Adam-Eve, “male-female he created them”—an integrated being, a being of integrated duality.

Whereas in the second chapter, God creates Man, almost first thing, not the final act. And the Elohim basically say, “this doesn’t make sense by itself.” What we made doesn’t make any sense. “It isn’t good for him to be alone.” He is incomplete. So they pull out the rib—the curved Sword—in order to make Eve, to make 2 out of 1, so that the One can make sense. The companion is necessary.

– At the end of “The World,” Tomberg describes the Suit of Swords as the realm in which one must exchange the value that one has accrued in the domain of Coins. The transition from one edge of the domain of duality to its far side has this quality of breaking into pieces. Or of gathering fragments of something broken, and holding them together side by side. The four worlds. The material plane = realm of Coins, of action, of facts. Then on to the realm of Swords = realm of formation. The Sefer Yetzirah is not the Book (Sefer) of Creation. Creation is Briah. Yetzirah is Formation. The Elemental or Astral Plane in anthroposophical parlance. 

– In the Hanged Man, Death, and the Tower of Destruction, there is a theme of breaking into pieces, of scattering, shattering, butchering. Does Temperance perform this deed of bringing all the pieces together? Almost to the point of dissolving them entirely, blending them as a liquid. The parts become particles, a solution. 

– Non-philosophy (see The (undisclosed, unspeakable) Secret vs (spoken, reflective, communicable) meaning. Coins are the secret manifesting within its own reason. The sense of meaning in each of the Sword Arcana is cut off due to being restricted to a horizontal plane. It has adopted a more arbitrary meaning—independent from the Secret in its origination. It is a none-the-less rational and harmonious expression of meaning, but more horizontal and arbitrary.

Like the Four and the Five next to each other—the Sword and Flower are really well bounded, knotted and braided, separated off from any kind of wholeness with their surroundings. 

– Joel comes to the opposite conclusion to Phillip. The Coins allow for the endless elaboration of meaning so easily. With the Swords it’s more like coming to the gateway of the non-philosophical experience. “Sorry, you can’t bring meaning with you here! Here there is only the Secret.” Which, from Laruelle’s perspective, is that which is most finite. The most bounded. The most immanent and inward. It lies at the deepest point.

Oddly, it makes one think of the words written over the Gates of Hell: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” The portal to the underworld, to Shambhala! Here there is no meaning, only Truth which eradicates you in its purity. Say goodbye to the ground beneath your feet—the Hanged Man, the stability that underlies your sense of meaning is evaporating. The Walking on Water.

– Substantiality dissolving—terrifying! But also a bit like having wisdom teeth pulled…feels so good not to have these things in my head! Freedom—but an awful freedom.

Philosophy of Freedom. The whole gesture of this text is like sculpture, a cutting away of that which is not Truth. “Freedom is not this, nor this, nor this…etc.” until you’re left with a tiny nothing, but inside of this nothing is everything. The infinitely small point upon which all else hinges, the absolute center of gravity.

– There is still no definite act being portrayed. One could say that about any card we suppose, but in the Coins there was some kind of activity or enigma that had to be resolved. This is more like “how do these pieces fit together?” This is a more fruitful question for our considerations in the Swords than “what is happening here?”

Our process with the Coins vs Swords. Coins were showing a mysterious outer activity that activated an inner activity…vs the static Swords, that are a process of putting pieces together. Obvious realities: something cut, and something that cuts, but no actual cutting. We suppose that in the background, “beyond the borders,” so to speak, some crazy destructiveness could be going on. 

The only activity is in the swirling vortex that creates the boundary, a vortex that we are sucked into. There could be all this chaotic destructive activity swirling around the eye of the storm through which we’re passing. 

Steiner—possibly in Theosophy—mentions the fact that becoming clairvoyant wakes you up to certain realities that are analogous to realizing that you’ve had a gun pointed at your head for a long time without knowing it. Like you’ve been playing on the edge of an abyss without realizing it. The passage into elemental realms wakes us up to terrifying, unnerving realities that are always present, just without our knowing of them. We are protected from them by the Guardian of the Threshold, by the Guardian Angel—too much to bear without due preparation. One has been passing through terrible chaos, guarded from harm by one’s Angel. 

– When Phillip was a child he used to play this game that was similar to another scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The part where he must walk on the stones that spell out the name IEHOVAH. One wrong step, and he falls to his death. Phillip used to imagine that each step he took was like this, and that he had once again chosen correctly, but had narrowly escaped his doom.

– The image of walking through chaos without knowing it is a bit like the toddler. Constantly getting into life-threatening situations, and the parents need to be ever watchful to make sure the child doesn’t get hurt. But the toddler is happy, totally oblivious to the danger he constantly puts himself in and is saved from.

– The black on these Arcana looks innocuous, but has a substantiality to it. Again like Indiana Jones, the last trial, walking across the chasm. These curved Swords are pure force, binding these objects (Swords and Flowers) in St. Brigid’s crosses—crosses that were placed deliberately in Ireland as protection against evil spirits. The binding of a destructive power (Sword) next to the necessary sacrifice to appease the destructive power (Flower). The Sword = voluntary willingness to cut. The Flower = result of the act of cutting. 

– The swirling vortex is destiny, the Guardian Angel both holding in check that which is destructive within oneself (Sword), while keeping pure and safe that which is good (Flower). Try to step out of bounds…you just run up against this whirlwind which knocks you back into place. The vortex delineates the bounds of Freedom. 

– Notice there is no black in the Ace—the central part of the other images. So the Ace is outside of the circle. It is the pure formative force. The cutter, and the the cutting, and the cut objects are not yet separated. 

– Looking back through the Coin Royals…we might only find out later where the Sword, the Crown, and the Arm in the Ace come from. First we see what they do. But they seem to be related to the Queen of Coins, if they relate to anything that we’ve already seen. 

– We’re still left with the question: what exactly makes any one of these Sword Arcana distinct from the other? Not clear at all how one is really independent of the others, or what the distinct, unique quality/Arcanum/spiritual exercise is…which became crystal clear with the Coins.

– When you’re in a car accident, as it’s taking place, you don’t keep track of all the distinct details, in a linear fashion. It’s all a blur. Later, you can go back and flesh it out. Which maybe is what we’ll end up doing once we get to the Royals, the Court Swords. 

– Eventually writing the Letter-Meditations on the Swords…they’ll have to be presented in such a way that matches our conversational experience…somehow out of order, incomplete, a bit incoherent. Like one has found an old box of letters in an attic, and they’re not in order and some are too damaged to read, etc. Gradually the mystery, the wholeness, begins to emerge, but only bit by bit, with a great deal of struggle and confusion. 

We closed with the third stanza of the Foundation Stone Meditation in eurythmy, joined by Molly.