Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on March 6, 2018
March 6, 2018
We began with the invocation of the Holy Spirit, as tonight began a Lunar Thursday, by reading out the third stanza of the Foundation Stone.
Then followed the Lord’s Prayer through the Sephiroth, and the Divine Alphabet (with references to the Grail Knight’s Practice) through the 21st letter, Shin.
– When we look at The Fool as that which follows from The Judgement, we see him in one light: as the Resurrection Body, the Risen One. However, when we see him as that which follows the sequence: Empress, Lover, Hermit, Hanged Man, Devil, Moon…then he appears quite differently. What is the story from the Empress to The Fool? In this case, The Fool is something resulting from a kind of inner shattering, a loss of what once centered oneself, and hence feeling as though one is held together from a variety of forces streaming in from outside of oneself.
– There are resonances when we arrange this sequence like so:
We can see that The Devil is like the adversary of The Empress; The Hermit is the counterpart to The Fool; and the Hanged Man holds a kind of balance between The Lover and The Moon, which are polar opposites.
– This is a painful path to have to look at in detail. A glance gives us the gestalt, and we hesitate to go further into the details, we don’t want to see them.
The imagery brings to mind the “earth trial”, as Claudia calls it. Lazarus’s or Christ’s descent into the underworld. The confrontation with external evil. It makes one realize that the Resurrection Body is not only the result of resurrection, but also of descent into hell. It could not have come about without a descent into hell. This is the portion of the Gospel and of the Mystery of Golgotha that can only come to light in our time, as Christ approaches the Mother in Shambhala. The Good Friday and Easter Sunday mysteries have already to some extent been recognized, but the Holy Saturday mystery has thus far been veiled.
– Even The Lover represents to us a trial, as positive as it seems relative to the others. The quality of the arcanum is Love of Neighbor—but which neighbor? And how exactly do I express compassion, mercy, etc. for my neighbor? It is not as simple as it seems, and varies from individual to individual.
– The Empress is somehow auto-generative, pure creation. Then The Lover is showing us something more sexually generative, the generative power of relationships and communities rather than of one mighty individual united with the spiritual as in The Empress. Then with The Hermit, we are alone again.
We might see The Empress as the bringer of Sacred Magic, for example Steiner. Then with The Lover, a community forms around this individual and the Sacred Magic that is accomplished through them. Then with The Hermit, the community splinters.
Is The Hermit the one who carries on the impulse of the community as a seed, within a sort of inner community (eg Tomberg)? Or does The Hermit represent the one who comes to the community and shines a light on something they have missed or misunderstood, subsequently breaking up the party. He has unveiled the shortcomings, or at least brought a new and perhaps uncomfortable perspective. They are cast into doubt/confusion. The burning question of Tomberg and ourselves: “What is Inner Certainty?” This is the plight of the Hanged Man in 12, whose faith is centered in his will, not in his thinking.
The Hermit’s lamp makes the darkness of the group (the egregore) more acute.
With The Hanged Man, there is a lowering in the subconscious. Our subconscious life is nearly invisible, undetectable. Even if we are able to see it, we deny it and attempt to explain it away. Can we really bring ourselves to the point of both seeing the subconscious clearly as well as taking ownership of it?
– The 1st Path, from Magician to The Sun, is that of an inner, individual purgation in order to facilitate the accurate reflection in consciousness of the purely intuitive mystical experience.
This path entails a similar descent into the depths, but not into one’s own personal depths. This is different. It is the confrontation with the egregore, with the double of the community, not of oneself. A confrontation with Antichrist (the double of Humanity).
The celestial gravity attained in The Hanged Man is the counterbalance, the protection against being swallowed up by this encounter. In The Lover, the point of reference is still the individual in the center of the card. By The Hanged Man, the center of gravity and point of reference is now God Above.
– However, everything does and must submerge. Steiner speaks of the experience of crossing the threshold and losing all sense of oneself; that only the memory of the ego is what gives one a reference point in the spiritual world (see here for example: https://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/GA016/English/AP1956/GA016_index.html as we as here: https://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/GA017/English/GPP1922/GA017_index.html). In the notes for The Moon, Tomberg writes of the light of Memory being the only light that shines when all other lights go out. Similarly, we must bring the Memory of the spiritual world with us into the depths when we descend; this is the only light that can shine in the total darkness. This is the celestial gravity of the Hanged Man, his lifeline.
– The Devil shows us a certain pleasure in wrongdoing, it is all done on purpose. The Moon is showing total insanity, loneliness, chaos. This is where the last light is needed the most.
John the Baptist was this Memory, this protection for Lazarus.
– This paints The Fool in a totally different light. He is like the King of the Dead. Like Aragorn in Return of the King. He is totally invincible, as he has been through everything, complete destruction and shattering, and yet there he is. He is fearless (and hence seems idiotic/reckless).
– We now have the story shining forth:
First there is the sacred impulse, emanating from a particular teacher/teaching (The Empress)
Then a community forms around this teacher/impulse (The Lover)
Light is thrown on the community’s shortcomings, exposing the egregore. The community splinters, shatters into a group of Itinerant Hermits and Hanged Men rather than a physical community. Each is left with a memory of what was in order to maintain faith, while seeking for certainty on a personal level.
In this search, each member of the community must confront the egregore on an individual level (The Devil).
Then, just as the community was shattered between the Hermit and the Hanged Man, each individual is shattered internally by this confrontation with the egregore. The center of gravity, whether it be the little personal ego or the earthly authority that one was relying upon, disappears. If one does not have the memory/celestial gravity, then one is lost (The Moon).
After passing through the eye of the needle, of being completely shattered by the egregore, one reaches a sphere of complete freedom and mobility (The Fool). One is reshaped with a peripheral center of gravity rather than one within.
The whole question of self-sacrifice vs individual freedom is brought to resolution by the end of this process. Complete freedom has been attained through the path of complete sacrifice.
– From this perspective, a spiritual community is formed by Angelic influence streaming down from above, yet is tormented by the egregore below. The mutual interaction of these two spheres on the community brings about a kind of group initiation.
– This brings us to a very different picture of what Hermeticism means! Hermeticism is not the rote memorization of a metaphysical perspective, or an acceptance of dogma. It is beyond that; when the egregore within the dogma has been confronted, and one has allowed the inessential within oneself to be destroyed in the face of that dogma. Afterwards, complete mobility within a tradition, a truly living tradition comes to life within one.
– In our first meeting around The Fool, we saw him as ultimately tragic, as that which can never be healed or brought back after a sacrifice. The second meeting we saw him as only temporarily tragic, leading to an ultimate victory. Here, we see that tragedy (complete shattering in the face of the egregore) is at once victory (passing through complete powerlessness to complete freedom/mobility/fearlessness).
– So is The World the return to community? How does The Fool relate to this original, physical community? Assuming many from the original community pass through this process, we would then be left with a kind of secret community—a secret society, who would weave into every facet of exoteric culture unnoticed, bringing the living impulse with them. They might seem like nobodies—Fools—externally. This is a different kind of community, one without a center on earth, or a building—the center is above, celestial gravity. They work in silence but know of each other. The quote from Goethe that is on Treehouse, from Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship:
And now, since we have come together so unusually, let us lead no common life: let us work together in a noble manner, and for noble purposes! It is inconceivable how much a man of true culture can accomplish for himself and others, if, without attempting to rule, he can be the guardian over many; can induce them to do that in season which they are at any rate disposed enough to do; can guide them to their objects, which in general they see with due distinctness, though they miss the road to them. Let us make a league for this: it is no enthusiasm, but an idea which may be fully executed, which, indeed, is often executed, only with imperfect consciousness, by people of benevolence and worth.
– We tend to think of initiation statically, for example that if Steiner were to return, he would be even more “Steinerian” than before. This picture flies in the face of that.
– Overcoming or defeating the egregore is not really the point. Almost the opposite. It is more the transformation of Evil by allowing it to tear one apart, whilst holding fast to the memory of celestial gravity. And one robs Evil of something in the process. The Fool is now robed in “unstoppable force”, something we normally associate with Evil. We think of the flaming face of John that we spoke of around Temperance/The Devil in August. Goodness that has passed through the depths, and is not just light but heat. Again, the kink in the personality becomes the greatest spiritual strength.
– We see in The Fool that something, perhaps much, has been left behind, but enough is left to be whole. Only in the sense of The Hanged Man (center of gravity above), not The Lover (center of gravity is oneself).
This makes one think that prior to this process, we are burdened. Look at The Empress: she has those stone wings, her hands are so full, she must remain seated. Then we are gradually stripped down to our essence, until “our burden is easy, and our yoke is light.” We are able to be mobile even with our hands full, like The Fool.
– Some get temporarily stuck at different points in this process. Some stop short at the Hermit, the critic and independent seeker who has not confronted the egregore, keeping insulated at all costs. Some jump straight to The Fool without the purgative process that should come before, and are only fools. We can think of Ian’s remark that we have the tendency to point out the egregore of Anthroposophy or Catholicism, but maybe not the groups we are directly engaged with (eg Sophia Foundation). This lays out a proper method by which to engage with the egregore: it must occur on an individual/personal level, and it must be painfully transformative.
– Is this not the Grail Knight’s path through and through? The confrontation with Evil, the formation of spiritual community. One also thinks of the realization on one level or another of the karmic self, rather than the day-time personality. This has been a shattering experience reminiscent of this path for us. This too is tied up with the Grail Knight’s path.
– One still, after the fact, still hesitates to connect the dots of this path, to put these Arcana together in this way. It is intimidating.
– If we place the Emperor next to this path:
We could see him as the composite or resolution of Hermit and Fool, in an alternative way than the Hanged Man (but almost in the same, isolated position). He is a more natural image of accomplishment/finality than The Fool, who always looks like he’s on his way.
– If we think of The Fool as the image of a secret community, yes, that is on a certain level the attainment of a goal. But a secret community, weaving into every facet of external society; this implies a further goal, the ultimate goal: the transformation of culture from the inside out, until this secret community is no longer secret because it has permeated and infused each and every piece. The Emperor is like an image of the ultimate aim of the Fool: the return of the King, the New Jerusalem.
– The Fool is like a dweller in that special, Hermetic realm that Tomberg writes of, between Earth and Heaven, where the living Arcana dwell. He is ever moving, potentiality.
The Emperor is much more static and complete. He is final, like the arrival of the Renaissance after much interior preparation. He is, like before, the Presentation, the Coronation. Culmination.
In fact, The Fool and The Emperor are like the two sides of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings. He is the hidden king, part of a secret group called the Dunedain who keep the peace without anyone really being aware of them. He even calls himself Strider. By the end of the book, he has become the King, the one that everyone has been waiting for, and true peace is brought to the whole land.
But this is a big leap to have between just two cards! A whole story in between.
Maybe The Fool sees the Emperor as in a mirror; he sees his future and his potential, or achieves this self-realization first only on an individual level. Then the 4th path, from Emperor to The World, shows us the actual accomplishment of this realization for the whole, the universal effect of this personal self-realization. So this long story is actually contained in the final path.
We closed with the ending of the Knight’s Practice.