Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on March 8, 2020
March 8, 2020
Five of Swords, pt II
We began with the protective practice.
After invoking the presence of the Crucified Christ, we focused the mantra IT THINKS on the region of the larynx. We then performed the third part of the Inner Radiance Sequence (I rest within the Godhead of the World) and the 12th letter of the Divine Alphabet “Lamed” in relation to the Hanged Man.
We then read from Revelation 9:19-21
– Looking at the progression from:
We see that we are in a way zooming in on the central object (i.e. the broad sword), but losing detail when it comes to the “sword” branch (3 and 5). With the “flower” branch (2 and 4) we have a movement from a horizontally oriented flower to a vertical, upright flower.
With the Suit of Coins, we had to discover a metamorphosis that linked each card. Something happened between the Ace and the Two that transformed the Ace into the Two. Same with the transition from Two to Three, and Three to Four, etc. up through the Court Arcana.
But with the Swords, this no longer applies. There is no metamorphosis between the Two of Swords and the Three of Swords; instead, they are a pair. They complete each other. The metamorphic process can only occur from one even card to another (from Two to Four) or from one odd card to another (from Three to Five). There are two separate evolutions/metamorphoses going on simultaneously.
Like having a split focus, a divided attention.
It brings to mind Chapters 3-5 of Roots of the Bible. The first word of Genesis is “Bereshit” which means “In the Beginning.” The first part of the word bears the proportions of 2—200—1 (Bet—Resh—Aleph). The message of this proportionality is that Creating necessitates division, a division of the created from the creator, and a continuing division as creation unfolds until it reaches back to the unity—it returns to the source, but as in a mirror. For the unity at the end point of Creation is Man. As the duality that is Creation extends outwards from the Creator, Man’s destiny is to be the unity, the summary of this Creation, which he looks back on, as God gazes on it from its origin. And notice that the initial unity is only implied and not manifest (there is no “Aleph” or Unity that begins the Bible, only Bet, Duality) whereas the Aleph that comes after Resh (the greatest extension of Duality) is manifest as Man:
The second part of “Bereshit” is spelled Shin—Yod—Tau, and bears the proportion 300—10—400. The new unity, Man, looks back on the duality of Creation that has led to him, but does not know what to do with it—he does not realize that his role in the universe is to resolve all polarities, to heal all divisions, and bring all Creation with him back into the primal Unity (or integrated duality) of the Aleph. For the Aleph, in its very form, expresses a Yod above and a Yod below united by a Vau. The Yod being the smallest point, the infinitesimally singular, and the Vau always being a transmitter or connector, an “and.”
Again, Man in his dullness does not realize his position in the universe—and he ignorantly goes about interacting with nature in a utilitarian fashion, naively caring for his own needs. The Elohim realize that he needs to experience what they have experienced: division out of his own being, a portion of his being taken from him that he must yearn for in order to experience wholeness, or bliss. He cannot realize his role as uniter of polarities until he experiences division, and doesn’t just observe it.
And so Woman is taken out of man. Flesh of his flesh. And now we understand the true form of the Aleph: A Yod above, and two “He” below: a Five and a Five that must reintegrate to make Ten, fractally reflecting the greater whole of the Aleph, which has two Yods united by a Vau. All of this together creating “Yod—He—Vau—He.” Ten, Five, and, Five.
But the introduction of this division of Man’s own being creates the possibility of temptation and confusion of his mission: that perhaps his mission is to imitate God, to create ever more division like God has created division in his act of Creation. This is the temptation of the serpent, of the principle of division divorced from unity, to increasingly divide up the world and create, create, create. Progress for progress’s sake. The true purpose of the division into sexes—to recognize duality in order to heal it, to make all polarities reintegrate—is for a time lost.
This is the story of the second part of the word “Bereshit”, the 300—10—400. It expresses the division into Man (300) and Woman (400), with the 10 (the return to One after walking through all other possibilities) uniting the two of them. It is only through the experience and recognition of division that the reintegration of all binaries can occur.
The Coins express the integrated duality, the unity within multiplicity of the first story of Creation. The 2—200—1.
The Swords express the division into sexes, meant to awaken Man to his mission, but also a temptation to fall further. The 300—10—400. A bifurcation.
Or even more basically, the Coins are the hidden Aleph preceding the beginning of Creation, whereas the Swords express the splitting into Duality that brings about Creation.
We see in the path of the Numbered Coins, a movement from a sole coin raised above the plane of the other coins (the Ace), to two coins raised above the plane of the other coins (Ten of Coins). So the whole path of the Coins is the long path from One to Two.
– Each “circle” of Sword Arcana (2+3 and 4+5) is reminiscent of a single Coin, but split into two halves—and not just two halves, but two different metamorphic pathways. Two bloodlines, in a way.
– Noticing the transformation of the Grip and handle of the Sword on the Ace, Three and Five. The grip (red) has plumped up. In the Ace, with the hand gripping it, it is shaped a bit like a pillar. Then in the Three is is like a barber’s spiral, cylindrical. In the Five, it has become more oval-shaped, like the blossoms themselves in the corner flowers.
The hilt/handguard of the sword (yellow) becomes more and more like the S-curve in the Two of Coins.
and the ornate bottom of the grip (yellow) starts as a unity in the Ace, then splits into a clear three-foldness in the Three, then becomes a three-as-one in the Five.
– What about the plant-forms in the Coin Arcana vs the relation between the plants and the curved scimitar circles in the Sword Arcana? In the Coins, the plants always seemed very related to the Coins, although they were never touching. Yet here, the plants don’t seem to have any kind of relationship or interaction with the scimitars (viewing the scimitars as an evolution of the round Coin). In fact, the plant is always cut in the Sword Arcana. Granted, the Two of Swords is ambiguous in this regard (just as the Two of Coins is ambiguous in terms of whether the plants are touching/growing out of the two coins or not). All the rest have clear-cut flowers. And to be sure, the corner flowers in each of the Arcana after the Ace are cut.
– Throughout the Coins, although they were never touching, it felt like the Coins might be Suns growing the Plants, or that the Plants were the etheric forces creating the Coins in some way—or etheric forces linking one Coin Arcanum to another. Some kind of mutual fructification weaving between Coin and Plant.
Whereas now—there is no longer mutual fructification. It is a movement in one direction only. The Sword cuts the flower. And it is destructive, not fructifying. Unilinear rather than mutual. Once again this highlights the unifying and connecting aspect of the Coins, whereas the emphasis on the Swords is separation.
– Roots of the Bible contrasts the 1st Creation story of Elohim (God) with the 2nd creation story of YHVH (the Lord God). The Elohim are the primal harmony, Man without division: “Male-Female the Elohim created Man.” Man is male-female, the Elohim are a unity-multiplicity.
Whereas YHVH, the Lord God is a singular God with the multiplicity of Creation below. The gesture of the 2nd creation story is the contrast between the One of the Tree of Life and the One of Adam vs the Four of the Tree of Knowledge and the Four of Adam and Eve. The Four as the ultimate expression of the Two (Two squared). Rather than primal harmony (Elohim), YHVH is the God of Love, of the Love that seeks for that which has fallen away, that lays the foundation for love between man and woman. This second creation story is one of division and love. It is a more complex story. This goes with the Swords, while the first, the story of primal harmony and unity within multiplicity is the story of the Coins.
– The proportion of the word “creating,” BARA = Bet—Resh—Aleph = 2—200—1. Man is surrounded by multiplicity, and doesn’t see that he needs to reunite the divisions all around him. A further division needs to come about so that he can be inspired to make this happen. And so this is how the Coins end: with a division into two coins. “Male and female he created them.”
It is fascinating that in this description we have your stereotypical single male, bachelor. Like Parzival. Self-satisfied, utilitarian, a bit dull-witted. His complacency is disrupted by the presence of a woman, which then (ideally) inspires him to right action.
– But the temptation by the serpent exacerbates this whole situation of division and multiplicity, of the need arising out of multiplicity. The human being is confronted by a “one way or another”, a choice between a right or left hand path through multiplicity. In a way the human being is given a biased introduction to the question of “will you eat of the tree or not?” The question before him is “will you go deeper into the morass of multiplicity, and only attempt re-harmonization after bringing it to the brink of chaos (eat of the Tree of Knowledge of division), or will you work directly into re-harmonization (eat of the Tree of Life, of unity)?”
But man is an imitative creature. What he sees is that God has created multiplicity, therefore multiplicity is good, therefore he should create more multiplicity centered around himself, just as God created multiplicity centered around himself.
Whereas the word bara itself, in a living, magical sense, implies a return to unity. It is “stamped” into the word “created” for a return to unity to take place, no matter how far into multiplicity creation chooses to go.
It’s like there are two falls. The first fall is simply the fact that one has been created, that one has fallen away from original unity with the Godhead. The second fall is witnessing and experiencing division and multiplicity in the cosmos and coming to the wrong conclusions in regard to one’s actions in the world based on that.
The Coins show us the first fall, where man is at the end point of the curve, the unity meant to bring together all the multiplicity. And the question being, “how does man see himself?” Does he realize that he is that unifying point? What does he do now?
The Swords show us this second fall, where man just becomes another point within the matrix of multiplicity and division in the midst of the great curve.
The Coin experience is Adam Kadmon, the microcosmic reflection of the macrocosm. The Sword experience is Adam and Eve, stuck in multiplicity.
The two different pictures at the end of the Creation stories. The seventh day, when God rests, in the first creation story—this is when the activity of Man begins. And we continue to be in the “seventh day.” This seventh day took us out of a higher world—a more spiritual plane—and took us into the physical world. And this is expressed in the expulsion from Eden. And this expulsion takes Man to the limit of the fourfoldness of the manifest world, the world of the “Tree of Knowledge.” The highest letter in the Hebrew Alphabet is Tau = 22 = 400. The next world, the world of reunification, is the world of the 500. There is no 23rd letter, this world exists on another plane, not in the physical world. It is a transcendent world. But it comes to bear on this world in the giving of the Law and the Torah. The very structure of the universe is present in the structure of the Torah. The Torah is God (Unity) incarnate.
In the language of proportions in the Hebrew Alphabet, the 300 = Male (Shin), the 400 = Female (Tau) and the Child is 500—the Child comes only in the next world, the transcendent world after the Sabbath.
– The serpent seems to be present in the Sword Arcana in the curved scimitars. We’ve spoken of these curved scimitars before as shadows. On pages 91-92, Weinreb discusses the word tselah which is translated as “rib,” but really means “side” as in “aspect,” one side of the coin so to speak. This is spelled tsadi—lamed—ayin, which is 90—30—70. Similarly, the word for “image” is tselem, tsadi—lamed—mem, or 90—30—40. And the root word for both is tsel or “shadow,” spelled tsadi—lamed, 90—30.
And what are these curved scimitars then, but rib-shadows! And they are all over these numbered Swords. They are like the entwining serpents of the Caduceus or something.
And this whole action of one “rib” or “side” or “image” or “aspect” or “shadow” of man being pulled out of him, separated from him, and being objectified as something outside of himself—this is a process of being removed from the “One Thing,” from the Unity, into the morass of the realm of “Mercury” (as laid out in non-philosophy)—the realm of communication, of opinion, between male and female. Mercury represents lying, communicating, bartering, but also healing. Reintegrating the shadow/rib—perhaps this is the shadowed outline of the Coin?
– Notice from the Two of Swords onward, we have the presence of the four buds in the corners. This brings us back in a way to the Four of Coins, which is where things got real and dark, in terms of our conversation as well as in outer life. Is there something of the Four pervading these Swords? The Ace does not have this four, but the rest of them do. The Ace is the process of “removing the rib from the side”—really the whole story leading up to this division. We can see here the mist rising from the ground, Adam being formed out of Earth, and the rib being taken from his side.
In the first Sword, the rib is implied. Perhaps there is somehow a blend of Sword and Rib prior to the full removal in the Ace?
Then in the Two it is fully there, creating and maintaining a division and mirroring from then on. And in the form of a vesica piscis—the Female is suddenly there. The ribs overlapping create the presence of the feminine. Since man has been split into two halves, it takes two Arcana coming together again to make sense of each other. The Two requires the Three. The Four requires a Five. This pairing off of Arcana feels much better than just lining all of the numbered Swords in a long chain, as we’ve seen in other approaches:
In this way of pairing up, we see what wholeness is present in the midst of this complete multiplicity—what amount of wholeness persists in spite of it.
– In the King of Coins—is he pulling out a rib?
– The blackness of the ribs—these show us the hand of God more than the hand of any of the characters (Court Arcana) before us.
– Switching gears to another duality. The contrast of Genesis vs Exodus. The Coins as Genesis, the Swords as Exodus.
Moses is in a basket of reeds floating down the Nile (the woven basket of curved scimitars, like a boat floating downstream). Last time we spoke of the curved scimitars like they were a vortex—this is like the crossing of the Red Sea. Joel remembers when he was little watching movies or hearing the story of Moses, and thinking of the Red Sea like a solid wall in one way, but with fish still swimming in it, a mobile solidity. Last time we spoke of the vortex of one’s destiny, blocking and preventing one from deviating from a certain safe zone of possibilities. The Red Sea is an image of this. And all of this culminating in the Ten Commandments—laying down the Law, “Thou Shalt Not.”
During the Bible Evenings at Camphill over the past few weeks, the theme of the readings (See from Hebrews and Galations above) had everything to do with all of this, but tying together Faith and The Law. The Hebrews passage elaborates Moses as a man guided completely by Faith. And Galatians talks of the Law as simultaneously a prison or enclosure, but also a custodian, something guiding us to Faith—true faith which can only develop after the deed of Christ fulfilled the Law. And now we are neither slave nor free, nor male nor female, but all is One under Christ, fulfilling the promise of Abraham. This is all exactly in line with our conversations.
And not only this, the Five of Swords is one we have brought into relationship with the Hanged Man—going back and reading the Hanged Man (which Joel had not done prior to our last conversation), we find it is chock full of references to Faith, which is the zodiacalized will—i.e., knowing only after the fact of doing, of pure obedience through faith. But imagery of gravitation, of rapture, of the Miracle of Walking on Water, of the boat and the fish permeate this entire Letter-Meditation. Being in the midst of the multiplicity (the stormy waters), and being engulfed by fear—the fear that I lack the instinct to reunify it, that I lack the faith.
– There were real synchronicities here for Joel. On the same day as the Bible Evening conversations, he was reading the Hanged Man once again, with the imagery of the boat and the Walking on Water. And also reading Anne of Green Gables to his daughter, the chapter in which she pretends to be a dead woman on a boat, floating downstream holding a flower. All of this imagery flowing together with the Five of Swords.
– Certainly in the midst of the storminess of multiplicity, of destiny, of crossing the threshold, one is confronted with some kind of strong fear—whether of one’s self or one’s surroundings. The key is finding the center of gravity “I AM gravitation.” This is true Faith.
Finding the “zero point”—page 316. The “solitude of the desert” between the two worlds (heaven and earth) is the permanent sojourn of the Hermeticist.
– Changing gears again…let’s look at the associations we’ve made between the Majors and Minors thus far in the Suit of Swords, in the light of our approach of “Yod He Shin Vau He.”
We have Yod = Ace = Tower of Destruction
He = Two = The Devil
Shin = Three = Temperance
Vau = Four = Death
He = Five = The Hanged Man
What we have here, following on from the close contact with the macrocosm in the Coins, is the “weaning process,” referred to in both Temperance and The Devil (see pages 379-381 regarding “freeing of the Guardian Angel” and pages 411-414 regarding the process of becoming combatants in the militia of God). We are cast out of the Tower, the comfortable place to which we’ve arrived after the Coins, into a confrontation with our Double. At first we are guided in confronting this Double through the agency and guidance of our Angel, but then as we grow in the spirit, there is a “death” process which leaves us to our own devices more and more—until we enter the “hermetic zone” of solitude between two worlds; that is, we become righteous men of Faith.
One is reminded of the portion of Wheel of Fortune which refers to the difference between being a passive passenger on the ship, or realizing just how high the stakes are in becoming a “crew member” on the ship (see page 237).
– Going back to the four flowers in the four corners of these Arcana. From the point of view of Roots of the Bible. The One is the Tree of Life, whereas the Four is the Tree of Knowledge. The Tree of Life is Eternity, duration, timelessness. But the Tree of Knowledge, the Four is related to the fall into Time. It is the outer limit of duality, it is the two squared.
Picking the fruit—here we have the first action of division on the part of man. Are these the four fruits of the Tree of Knowledge, being consumed?
– In fact, the Four permeates the whole structure of the Swords. (See Image 3)
The Ace stands alone.
Then the Two and Three are the two sides of the One/Ace (one circle)
The Four and Five are the two sides of the Two (two circles)
The Six and Seven are the two sides of the Three (three circles)
And the Eight, Nine and Ten are the three sides of the Four (four circles)
Here we have the “four fruits”—the binary aspect of the first four numbers, which when added together (1+2+3+4) give us the Ten, the return to unity, the Yod. This is the Pythagorean tetractys.
These are the “four fruits” of the Tree of Knowledge.
While the One, the Two and the Three each have one circle or set of circles, each made up of two binaries, the Four is different.
It has two sets of Four circles, with a trinity of aspects coming together to express them.
Really this gives us 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 4 = 14, which is 50. It is also a total of 5 “rings” or sets of rings. The movement from a binary interpretation of unity (the Two and Three), to a trinitarian interpretation of polarity (the Eight, Nine and Ten), leads us into the realm of the 50 or the 5, the realm of the Child beyond the Sabbath—the next world.
Something about this is reminiscent of Weinreb’s observation that the first six days of Creation have a distinct pattern, whereby the third day involves two acts of Creation; and similarly the sixth day contains two acts of Creation. So the three contains the four, and the six is actually a seven containing an eight. Fluidity of number.
– Looking at the progression so far, after the Ace:
The Two shows something very vegetative, horizontal, leafy.
The Three adds in the branch.
The Four shows us a proper flower.
And the Five has nothing, no vegetation in the center.
Perhaps these four aspects are all somehow combined and expressed in the Ace?
– In the Four of Swords, there is a strange asymmetry. The two yellow leaves and single black berry sprig somehow mirror, as a microcosm, the larger blue and yellow leaves and flower blossom above. Like in the symbol of the Aleph: the Yod above is reflected in the smaller/split Yod below (made up of two He’s), with the Vau as mirror in between.
– Joel had a number of realizations/observations that came to him as he was transcribing the notes from February 16:
– First of all, the fact that we have so often mentioned the trials at the end of the film The Last Crusade. It struck him that the whole quest of this film is to find the Holy Grail—and our quest as we pass through the Suit of Swords is to find the Cups, the Grail. The last trial before Jones must choose which cup is the true Grail is for him to duel with a Knight Templar.
– Second of all, reflecting on this movement that we realized last time: that in Death, the Scepter that the Emperor is holding becomes a Being, the being of Death. But then this implies that a total reversal and inversion has occurred: the Emperor has poured out his being so that the Scepter can be given life, and becomes Death. The Emperor then becomes the implement, he trades roles with his implement (the Scepter). And what does he become? He becomes the Scythe wielded by Death. Specifically, it would seem that it is the Emperor’s crossed legs which become the Scythe. The crossed legs of the Emperor imply Chastity. But they also show us the active renunciation of freedom of movement.
– Third of all, amongst all the talk of Hermes and Moses and the Egyptian mysteries, remembering the legend of Isis and Osiris, in which Osiris is divided up into 14 pieces that must be collected by Isis (the Moon) from New to Full Moon. There are 14 Arcana in each Suit.
– Fourth, noticing the relationship between “scythe” and “Skythianos.” This relationship between Death, and the Root Chakra, and the Moon—and Skythianos is related to the Root Chakra. Skythianos will come into his own in the American epoch in the realm of mechanical occultism. Realizing that Death is an image of that Skythianic impulse.
– Fifth, the phrase “In Christ, Death Becomes Life” (In Christo Morimur) came strongly to mind. Thinking of “Death” as the Rib that came out of the side of Adam, the “Shadow” or “Aspect” of Adam. And it literally becomes “Life” = Eva.
In Christ, Death becomes a process of life, a part of life. In our last conversation, we were talking about how the Shadow takes on a body through etheric forces, and this body is Death.
This brings to mind the Urielic imagination, which sees the realm of the Mother below in silver/blue. This realm is permeated with human error. This error is raised up via the realm of Uriel, the “admonishing gaze” of Uriel in the middle, up to the Father realm in the heights, which is red/gold. Here vice is transformed into virtue. This is the Archangel of the Social/Moral sphere. And here quite vividly, we have the blending of the Shadow and the Mother to which we alluded in the last conversation.
– And sixth, there were a number of synchronicities on the day of the transcription (Feb 20). Molly had recently begun working in the weavery, learning how to thread the loom. And what a complicated procedure it is to get these hundreds of threads tied correctly so that one can begin weaving. And without thinking about that, in transcribing the notes, Joel so strongly had the image of us weaving these tiny, impossible to grasp threads together. The weaving that is happening with the curved scimitars themselves. And similarly, in conversations about karma and reincarnation, and Robert’s biography, thinking of how impossible it is to give only one karmic biography—that any biography, seen from a higher perspective, is made up of the mutual weaving of many many threads of different individualities.
Molly had also recently begun working with a Mystery Drama study group, and the very quote she wished to read to Joel—without him bringing up any of this—had to do with this activity of weaving.
The lasting image that came was that the Coins are like the Zodiac and the realm of fixed stars. But the Swords are like the Planets, the wandering stars that are weaving together in their orbits.
– The Coins are an action at a distance, the electron shell. A state of undifferentiated potential, that either actuates as momentum or location.
Whereas the Swords are a manifest discontinuity. They are surrounded by a shell, but are not showing the wholeness of that shell. They are showing how things are actually disconnected, and not magically acting at a distance from each other in unison the way the Coins are (like quantum particles).
This links them more in time and space, rather than an over-arching harmonic atmosphere that harmonizes automatically, so to speak, with the changing conditions it meets.
Thinking of the Coins as something more in the realm of Hinduism: “All are One, All is Brahma.” vs my response to a query of Harrie Salman’s regarding the Platonic and Aristotelian streams—which basically said, karma is so much more complicated than Platonic vs Aristotelian! Nothing can or should be reduced to a simple polarity, but least of all karma!
Karma is the rib. The cycle of birth and death begins.
The Coins are conception and gestation.
The Swords are the labor and birth, going through the birth canal. A process of separation. The baby must separate from mother and from placenta.
A movement from unity of the plant to the picking of the fruit, the fruit is now separate. Steiner described the placenta as an image of the higher self, that must be left behind at birth.
We no longer talk in terms of cells and atoms as we did with the Coins. Now we talk in terms of birth—death—river—boat—borne.
Looking ahead to the Six. A further contraction. Squeezed. The Shadow taking over.
We closed with the third stanza of the Foundation Stone Meditation.