Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on November 26 between Phillip and Joel.
Notice the change in size of the Batons from one Arcanum to the next, but especially in the Four. Much smaller. And are there actually six of them in the Four? This colourful “empty” space in between each pair? It is hard to imagine this as four batons, actually. Easy to see two or six, but not four.
The Swords were true to their number, in the sense that there was not this ambiguous colourful space in between.
The Swords are similar to the Batons in that they become bound together. Another difference between them is the odd Swords each have a broad sword in the center that is different from the surrounding scimitars, whereas the odd Batons have a vertical baton that is the same as the diagonal ones (see the Three for example).
Wherever there is color in the Swords, it does get filled in (the yellow and the blue). It’s just that in the Batons those coloured portions are ubiquitous.
The endings of the scimitars in the Swords are the same as the endings of the Batons. Common to both Suits, interesting.
Each pair of Swords (Two and Three, Four and Five, etc) have the same size scimitars. They shrink slightly with each pair.
If we view the four batons in the Four as combined, as two batons, they are significantly larger than the crossed pair in the Three, which are themselves larger than those in the Two. An increase each time, rather than a decrease pair by pair as in the Swords.
Sidenote—it is still strange to think of the Swords as representing actual swords, and likewise the Batons representing actual batons. They are so symbolic. It’s almost as big a stretch as imagining the pictures of the Signs of the Zodiac as being represented somehow by the starry constellations. A similar stretch of the imagination.
There is a consistency of growth in the Suit of Swords, the space actually taken up by the scimitars. Whereas there isn’t this consistency in the Batons. For example, look at the blue section in the middle—it doesn’t get consistently bigger, it is just different from one to the next. Each one is unique.
Noticing the blue at the base of the stem of the two flowers in the Four of Batons. Is this related to the blue portion of the vertical baton in the Three? Did the third baton transform into two flowers and split off?
The central shape as such: an X, a six-pointed cross, and then an X with a vertical line above and below.
It feels very natural to think of the flowers as transformed batons, vs. the Swords, where it felt impossible to find any kind of relationship between the framed flowers in the evens and the framed swords in the odds. We could only see the flowers as products of “sword activity.”
If the flowers in the Four are transformations of the central baton in the Three, the central yellow of the baton has moved up to join the red.
In the Two—the flowers are entering the X. In the Three, they are locked in, receiving something from the center. In the Four, they leave again, and we know they will return again for the Five. But whatever happened in the Three ended up splitting the Batons somehow. Did this split the central baton in two, peeling it in a way, revealing the flowers within? And the “peeled” portions go off to each side to join the two diagonal batons that were there in the Three, becoming four? Or does it split everything: the central baton spits into two flowers, and both of the diagonal batons are rattled by this, each shattered into two simultaneously.
Maybe it’s an organic process—like the inside of the bud, before it blossoms, all the petals are fused together still, then they separate when it opens. There is this organic weaving process going on—a weaving in the center as a product of splitting…a splitting where all combines.
This in contrast to the Swords, a splitting with sharp discontinuities. Here, a splitting that involves intricate combining at the same time. Increasing differentiation. The Swords are splintering, shattering.
The Batons give glimmers of Weinrebian math, where four is ten, etc.
You could see the Four of Batons as three (each of the diagonals and the vertical formed by the flowers). Or you could see it as six (the upper three “branches” and the lower three “branches”). Or you can see it as a Roman numeral 10—X. Or as what it is nominally, as four. Three = Six = Ten = Four.
This kind of math is even possible at the Two. Where the Two = X (Ten), and it is also kind of a four (the two upper branches and two lower branches). There is a strong ten-foldness in the Two, with the ten prominent portions of the plant making the egg shape.
Only in the Ace have we seen the One.
The “One Thing.” Together we read the Emerald Table of Hermes Trismegistus.
Joel has recently been grappling with a different way of understanding the One Thing, and its relationship to “above” and “below.” Traditionally we tend to think of the One Thing as somehow originating “above” and the “above” is Heaven/the realm of the stars, and the below is Earth. And the One Thing makes it that what is above determines what is below, everything on Earth is a reflection or image of heaven. This very static image. At best there is this movement from above to below and from below to above. (see the 8th verse of the Emerald Table). But even then we have something like this:
So static, so digital, so polarised. Mechanical almost.
But Joel was thinking the other day, what if when we say the phrase, “As Above, So Below,” the “Above” is the starry heavens and the below is sub-nature? Where does that put the Earth? It makes Earth the center, and the center is the One Thing—not the above or the below. The One Thing is the mid-point, that which holds the balance, makes the relationship between two polarities.
In that sense, the One Thing is the center of a lemniscate, and that which is above this center must circle down and pass through it, in order to enter into the below, which likewise is drawn back upwards through the center of the lemniscate. This is relational, it is living, it is process. And in this sense, the One Thing is not fixed, rather it is a traveling mid-point. It doesn’t matter “where” it is, rather what it is. For example, the “Above” could be Heaven and the Below could be sub-Nature, making the mid-point Earth. Or the Below could be Earth, making the mid-point the Hermetic Zone between Heaven and Earth:
Perhaps we could see the X shape of the Batons as a portion of a lemniscate, of which we cannot see the curved top and bottom. And the central blue is the “One Thing.” Or perhaps it is concealing from us the One Thing, obscuring it. Back to the dilemma of the coin in the Ace of Coins, from the very beginning.
This is reminiscent of the healing gesture/method developed by Are, of finding the “Christ Point”, opening the Christ point between any Luciferic/Ahrimanic pole. Making room for the Christ mid-point which brings about transformation and balancing of the doubles, rather than attempting to cast them out.
But with a certain imbalance implicit…we’re not finding the center of all things…we’re finding the centers of parts that are themselves centers. Where exactly is the center?
Well, this is exactly the point. The center is a gesture, and not a place. It is a traveling center.
Phillip: could we define an archetype as the implicit structure to a thing? There can be no thing without it having an implicit structure.
Joel thought Phillip was going to say “mid-point”, not “structure.” You must have a mid-point in order to be. Nothing can exist without this adaptation (“and so all things arose from this one thing by a single act of adaptation.”). And you must have a mid-point in order to have a structure, or at least a functional/meaningful one.
Our experience of “thingness” is self-contained: the feeling of “it had to be this way.” We don’t experience other beings or things in relation to something modulating or organising. We feel the arbitrary nature of personal self-determination for ourselves, and for other things we have this materialistic quality in our empiricism. Things just are what they are in their totality, as they are given.
The midpoint is only ever seen properly in hindsight. All the concrete, absolute quality is in relation to a mediating midpoint/archetypal structure. I.e., things (events, beings) can only be if they are present, if they are past the midpoint. If something is still “becoming”, it doesn’t fully exist yet—it has to pass the midpoint in order to be. Something is “future” until it passes the midpoint that is “present”, but by the time we notice, it has become “past”, it has become fixed. We cannot catch/know the midpoint until something is on the other side of becoming.
Maybe this goes back to Aristotle’s picture of the immanence of the archetype vs the materialistic scientific picture, of a splaying out of creation in an irrational disjointed fashion. E.g., life only happened through genetics. Whereas this observation of “irreducible complexity” in the intelligent design circles shows that all needed to exist for any of the parts themselves to exist. There could not have been some gradual “build up” to complexity out of a disorganised simplicity; everything had to begin already incredibly complex. Our empirical mindset can only see the parts, building gradually to a whole—therefore it presumes that the development of the world must match the way our consciousness reconstructs it for and within itself.
The Emerald Tablet gives this reassurance that even though the world has been split asunder and has lost relation to wholeness, this split is still in relation to a greater wholeness, and there is a mid-point binding those together.
Anything that appears disjointed chaos is unfinished becoming that hasn’t found its midpoint. The Philosophy of Freedom: we are co-creators of this mid-point. The other way of saying this is anything that appears as disjointed chaos is something for which human consciousness has not yet discovered or supplied the midpoint. Human consciousness is the medium through which percept and concept are united. We co-create concepts with the cosmos, and therefore participate in the completion of reality (which is concept united with percept). Thinking is the trans-subjective activity in the cosmos.
“All creation groans in anticipation…”, all is waiting to be made whole out of the “mid-pointing” activity of the human being. And what this becoming will eventually become cannot be depicted, cannot be stated, as it doesn’t yet exist. How can we even make reference to something that doesn’t exist? Language and meaning transcending themselves. “In the Word there was life.” The Magic of the word can point to that which doesn’t yet exist, or hasn’t yet existed. “The wind blows where it will, you hear the sound of it, but know not whither it comes or whither it goes…”
That which is in becoming is both there and not there…we are perceiving of the possibility of being as a form of meaning…from “nowhere”…
Tomberg indicates that the secrets of the Good had to be kept back due to a trespass into the sacredness that man was unprepared for. There was a lie, therefore there must be withholding of the true. A part of being that came into being too soon…and therefore a related part that can’t exist all the way, remains stuck in potential.
The reading of midpoints in a disjointed, uncoordinated way. Some too soon, some too late…all eventually resolved out of a long, real, yet temporary chaos.
In The World, how can one tell that she is holding a phial? It’s pretty easy to tell that she is holding a wand.
The wand as Ace of Batons, as the Tree of Life growing in the center of the terraced garden of Eden (Two through Four, imagining them as “stacked” one on the other).
The Baton is the tool of the conductor. That which is trying to keep the rhythm, so that the midpoints are hit at just the right times. The Baton is the Ace…is the phial the water to enliven the branch?
The Magician and the World have the same baton in the same hand. A similar overall gesture.
Below The World, on the garland, is the X form of the even Batons. Above her is the six-pointed star form of the odd Batons.
What if the Swords and Batons are meant to go together to complete each other? What if the Baton is the center of the lemniscate, and the Swords are the ends of the missing curves?
Of course, we have to use our imagination to fill in missing portions of the lemniscate.
It could also be horizontal:
Going through and reading all the descriptions in the Letter-Meditation on the Empress that characterise what her scepter is. Page 54, first half of the page. Page 55, after the quote. from Papus. Upper portion of page 56. The bottom of page 59 through all of 60. And the second to last paragraph. All of these quotations so powerfully describe the sceptre as the power of sacred magic, as the Word, the magical conductor which brings life out of the lifeless.
Sacred Magic requires a divine will and a mundane will. The divine side is less living than it can be if it lacks the mundane, the mundane who is bringing its devotion to the divine, allowing it to incarnate, to come into existence. Christ can bring the fullness of his being downward, he is mightier than the Angels. And Mary is the one in total devotion, who can draw him downward.
The central blue portion of the Batons is the Christ-filled larynx, the “voice full of blood.” Sceptre as the power of the full-blooded voice. Drawing together that which is separated, sundered, as the X of the Baton does between two curves of the Swords above.
The two halves of the globe, the two cups that make up the globe.
Last week, we described these two different experiences…how the male soul must meet the female spirit in the act of clairvoyance, while the female soul must meet the male spirit in the act of conscience. In the former, a baton below meeting a downward facing cup above, and in the latter, an upward facing cup below meeting a baton above. Tomberg’s picture is overly simplistic, and doesn’t involve any interpenetration. The Cross (baton) on the downward facing cup simply meets the upward facing cup with a baton below it (the image representing this is on page 60 of MoT). They only touch.
Ours would involve an interweaving, and a locking together of two (four) intricate parts.
The act of clairvoyant cognition would be represented as such (spiritual “female” cup descending from above to the striving “male” baton soul below):
Whereas the act of moral inspiration would be represented this way (“male” spiritual inspiration coming from above as cross-baton; “female” human soul cup receptive to inspiration from below):
Interesting that the former turns out looking like the sign for Aries, whereas the latter looks like an Anchor, a common sign for early Christians who had died (they died “En Kyrio”, which is a kind of pun with the word “anchor.”).
The former would have to interpenetrate the latter…the anchor would “sink down” while the Aries would “rise up”, until they latched onto each other, with the cross rising over the dome of the Aries. The anchor would keep the Aries grounded, while the Aries would keep the anchor from sinking too far down:
The difference between this picture of the coming-into-being of the sceptre as opposed to Tomberg’s very simple one seems to go along with the similar contrast between the over-simplified picture of “As Above, So Below” of the earth mirroring the heavens vs our more living, process-image of the lemniscate with the mobile center. Not to say that Tomberg got these things wrong, per se…but they deserve being looked at from a more nuanced perspective.
Somehow it brings up the end of the 5th Letter-Meditation in which he characterises the role of the Pope/Peter as speaking: “May that which is above be as that which is below.” And this mystery of Tomberg’s experience in the Chapel of the Holy Blood in Bruges. When did he seek that out? It was in the context of he and Marie looking into these miraculous appearances of Our Lady of All Nations in the Netherlands. [Edit: these journeys took place between 1958-61].
The assumption on the part of Tomberg is that we’re under the sway of the Above. Whereas modern woke culture feels compelled to enact “justice” from below as though it is justice from above. A failure to recognise the interplay.
I don’t know where I stand in relation to another. I only know where I stand with myself when my principles emanate from another—a relating to oneself through the other, as though oneself emanated from the other. My inner solidifying can only arise out of what the other makes of me, and what I make of myself in relation to that. Where, then, is the center? Is the below determining things, or the above?
The vibe running all through is that it is above vs below, and one should determine the other. But in reality—each of them (above and below) originated from the “One Thing” at the center, and each mutually reacts on the One Thing, and through it, on each other, and each has its own center within itself, in its own domain.
This is why you could never use the title “Etheric Christ” in the context of Meditations on the Tarot. You could characterise what we call the Etheric Christ as the midpoint made mobile, and moving as needed between polarities. Drawing them all to the midpoint, which is the Mystery of Golgotha, making them as unto the midpoint. Reintegrating them, so that they aren’t further generating new polarities demanding new midpoints. Reintegrating into a common midpoint where they converge.
It’s a little like the “pointing game.” What we’re describing should be self-evident, but nothing indicates it. It’s almost too close to see, like the rule of the pointing game that once you see it, it’s obvious. The midpoint is much simpler, yet it’s outside, it’s inaccessible. It leaves a feeling of “I can’t figure out what’s going on.”
A brief preview of the Five of Batons:
There’s just a little push needed, and you see “what must have been”, how this image arrived at this place, as it was with the Coins. With the Sword we could never get there. Here there is an imaginative space, a perceptible life.
If the evens are the center of a lemniscate, perhaps the odds are a portion of a Staff of Mercury, with the central pole between the intertwining snakes? A vacillating between lemniscate and caduceus.
The leaves in the center of all these Numbered Batons are like the two cups we referred to earlier, before they have passed each other and interlocked (the base of the anchor meeting the dome of Aries). Just before that point. If you remove the X, you’re actually left with something like the shapes we outlined above—the upper half of the central baton as the cross of the anchor, the lower half of the central baton as the stem of the Aries.
The curve of those plants is also reminiscent of the scimitar shape in the Swords. The scimitars are really contained now in the center, at a perpendicular angle to which they were before. That lends a clue to this orientation then:
We can feel the relationship between the scimitars on the sides, and the curved leafy plant in the center.
There is something of the crown in the Ace of Swords in this indication of a perpendicular dimension in this Sword/Baton form. How the crown was oriented perpendicular to the sword in the Ace.
Are the Batons fundamentally oriented to the vertical, while the swords are oriented to the horizontal?
Elwyn is creating perspective drawings in school right now (7th grade). Creating a vanishing point. That starts to come to life only now, with the horizontally oriented lemniscate. Something vanishing into the blue in The Center.
But there is also the indication, the feeling, of a perpendicular plane. As though most of the figure (the swords, the diagonal batons) are facing us, upright, whereas the central flower-arrows pointing to the blue center are projecting outward (towards us) as a flat horizontal plane, perpendicular to the upright features.
The Center also feels watery, like a flower-tree is growing out of a lake in the middle.
Really feeling the resonance between the blue circle in the Ace, and the blue center “circle” in the Two now. There is a very harmonious confluence in the Batons.
Current state of consciousness: very mundane, we’re just talking, but then there is this lighting up of the imaginative fire. In the midst of that, we are not swept away. We are contained by the mundane. We don’t get lost in it.
The anchoring. Bringing things into congruence. The gestures of the Batons.
Is the wand in The World’s hand a scale oriented vertically, as Tomberg refers to in Justice? Weighing the above and the below? Holding it at not quite the midpoint. The bottom is a bit smaller than the top.
The only way to figure out the obvious rule to the game is to piece it together yourself. The only (spoken) rule is, no one can tell you the (unspoken) rule.
This goes to a conversation Joel had recently with a colleague who is working on his Master’s. The difference between writing and other activities. If I am making candles, there is a template. If I make a mistake, it is clear what the mistake is, and I can try again the next time to not make that mistake. I can actually have in mind the ideal candle, and always strive to get closer and closer to that ideal.
But when I am writing, especially when it is about either the highest, most “abstract” ideas, or the deepest most intimate ones, there is absolutely *no* template, because no one has ever tried to express this content before, or will again. It is entirely my own. And every time I try to put what I have experienced into words, I can only capture one aspect of it. Something is left out. But since there is no template, and can never be, I will (and do!) feel a perpetual dissatisfaction with all that I write. It will never feel absolutely right, and I don’t even know what that would look like really [Edit: I feel that way as I write these words, right now!]
And it isn’t the same with the spoken word. Something can be transmitted in speech that can only ever be approximated and danced around in writing. Writing is an entirely free deed a la Philosophy of Freedom, and the cost of freedom is this perpetual frustration. What is even more frustrating is that Steiner, when getting ready to republish Philosophy of Freedom in 1918 (25 years after original publication), barely revised a word, and only added a handful of appendices! And he wrote this incredible work at the age of 32. Incredible, that he looked back on his work at age 32 when he was 57, and more or less felt as though he had said exactly what he set out to say, exactly as he should say it! Intimidating.
But this same idea comes into our own destinies. Whenever we have to make moral choices for which there is no template. In those situations, we are free, there actually is no “right” and “wrong”, or what we “should have” done. Some moral dilemmas are entirely unique, never to be repeated again. We meet a situation with no template, and similarly, we will always feel dissatisfaction at how we met the situation. We are always attempting to match a non-existent prefabricated template. In reality, it is karma, it is destiny, and what is is what is. There is only “that which is.”
And maybe this also goes to that moment in the Act of Consecration, when the priest prays that Christ’s word wipe away that which is impure in our word. Christ’s word is the perfect word, that which was totally free, and yet totally right, utterly satisfactory. It is this perfect Word that removes what is impure in my word.
The only rule is, no one can tell you what the rule is.
This could sum up the answer to “What is hermetic conversation?” as well.
The raw material is our personal lives, our individual biographies. We cannot draw from the lives of others.
We offer our mundane lives to a divine content which cannot actually live on its own without our life-content.
On the one side, we demand a sacrifice of the beings behind the Tarot to “remove that which is impure in our lives.” In exchange, we offer up our personal lives, through which they can come to life.