Four of Coins (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on July 24, 2018

Tarot Conversation July 24, 2018

Four of Coins

We began with the protective practice.

We then invoked the Holy Spirit by reading from Acts 2:1-4.

After briefly focusing the mantra “I AM” on the brow chakra, we performed the fourth part of the inner radiance sequence. Our next reading from the book of Matthew 6:9-3 was the Lord’s Prayer, and so we performed also the Lord’s Prayer through the Sephiroth. We then read from Revelation 2:18-23 (first part of the letter to Thyatira), and a quote from John Ruskin:

“Labor without joy is base. Labor without sorrow is base. Sorrow without labor is base. Joy without labor is base.” [Edit January 2021: I might add to John’s words, “Joy without Sorrow is base. Sorrow without Joy is base.”]

We then observed the Marseille Four of Coins alongside The Moon and the Sola Busca Four of Coins:

– This image is very different from the preceding three. Not so much in the form of the coins (this being one of the main changes from Ace to Two to Three), but in the other forms on the Arcanum, such as the trumpet-like buds and, especially, the centerpiece, which is an entirely new form. What exactly is that centerpiece supposed to be, anyway?

– Another new aspect brought in by this Arcanum is the divided feeling it gives one. On the one hand, especially placed next to The Moon, it takes on an almost creepy aspect. One sees two faces, one owl-like above the centerpiece, and the other almost stag-like below the centerpiece. It is intense, almost threatening.

On the other hand, there is an extremely elevating aspect to the Arcanum if viewed in a different light. With the invocation of the Holy Spirit, one can’t help but see the event of Pentecost being expressed through this image:  Mary as the centerpiece, surrounded by the apostles. It is also like a picture of our whole process:  the centerpiece could be a Tarot card, an Arcanum, surrounded by four people having a conversation around the Tarot. 

– The central question raised by this image, however, is what the centerpiece is. We could see it as existing in the theme of the flower that is in the other Arcana, a further progression of the plant form. But this isn’t exactly a flower, is it? This is much more an image, a likeness of a flower, a depiction.

One could see it as a framed picture; a window; a mirror. 

It is all color, and boldly colored at that. All three of the primary colors are present, and fairly balanced in terms of their emphasis in the centerpiece. Red-blue frame, yellow background, red-blue flower. 

The flower has seven points. Five of them are red and two of them are blue. Are there seven petals total? Is the outside of the petals red and the inside blue?

The red form is continuous, whereas the blue forms are divided into two. The red is a unity, but is also triune. So unity/trinity and duality (1,2,3) and then the four corners bring us to 4 (Fourth Arcanum). 

– The trumpet-like flower/buds are also bird-like. 

– It is reminiscent of The World in its form, and come to think of it, it is the inverse of the Ace of Coins. The Ace has a giant coin in the middle, flanked at the corners by four plants. The Four has a giant plant in the middle, flanked at the corners by four coins. Even the color scheme is reversed.

– There is also a connection to The Emperor, in the sense of the progression from Magician to Emperor. Magician = conception; High Priestess = gestation; Empress = birth; Emperor = presentation of the child, the “finished product.” This also has that aspect of presentation, of finality, of arrival. Or does it? Is it just the presentation of the image of where you will arrive, the picture of the finished product, not the arrival and finished product itself? It is possible that the Five of Coins is a better representation of the “arrival/finish,” based on a memory of the image.

This in a way brings us back to the mirror aspect of this Arcanum. There is a strong emphasis on the nature of reflection in this image; of self-reflection, self-consciousness, of intention. 

It is as though we have moved through three perspectives of an object from Ace to Three:  Ace is the bird’s eye of view of this object; Two is the side-view of this same object; then the Three could be one of two views:  either zooming way out, much higher than bird’s eye view, or as though what was looked at from above in Ace is now seen from the ground below, as a kind of celestial form surrounded by other celestial forms. 

Now we are no longer observing the object. In the Four of Coins, the gaze has turned from this object of observation to the subject of observation, to the beholder him or herself. There is a bit of a looking-glass gesture in this image, with the centerpiece as a mirror and the two faces finding their reflection in each other through the agency of this central mirror (even though these two faces don’t match each other, but this is expressive of the fact that one sees one’s opposite in a mirror).

– There is a very strong above/below divide, similar to that which exists in the Three of Coins but elaborated differently. 

On the other hand, the geometry of the Ace, and of the “miniature Ace” of the pearl in the center of the Three of Coins is continued here, just (again) elaborated differently. 

In fact, if we look at the first four coins in the spread that we have gleaned from The World:

Ace (Yod) Four (Vau)

Three (Shin)

Two (He)

we see that the top Arcana (Ace and Four) express strength, and are rather solid and blocky. On the other hand, the Arcana below are flowing and beautiful (Five, if we remember correctly, also flows harmoniously akin to Two). Three strikes a balance. 

But this seems opposite to the gesture of The World, with the light and flowing Angel and Eagle above, and the solid and strong Bull and Lion below? But maybe, in this regard, a kind of exchange is happening between upper left and lower right, and upper right and lower left, creating an X (Chi) form. Perhaps this is appropriate.

χ - Wiktionary

– The first three Minor Arcana are rather germinal. The fourth has blossomed out with its centerpiece, with its trumpeting flowers, and the first true flower. The red flower under the centerpiece has thus far only been seen engraved on a coin, not as an actual flower.

– The trumpet-flowers are red inside of blue. The centerpiece flower is blue inside of red.

– There is no green in this Arcanum.

– We had only one “stone” in the Three of Coins. Now we have two, a white stone below and a red stone above. What is the role of the stone/pearl in this case vs the Three of Coins? It no longer plays the role as a kind of central originating point or focus. It no longer stands alone—it now has a red stone and a red flower above it. 

– The Three of Coins has four plants of 2 different types (2 of each plant). On the other hand, the Four of Coins has 6 plants of 2 different types (four of one type, two of the other). One type of plant has a kind of three-fold geometry.

– The four coins don’t seem to be in a very strong connection with each other. Just one pair and another pair. Expressive of the transcendental individuality above and the temporal personality below?

There is a real gravity happening with the central picture that connects the two above with the two below. The owl (eagle) above vs the stag (bull) below. Heaven and Earth. 

– Red stone above is connected to a flower; the red expresses fruition/harvest. A completion stage. The white, on the other hand, is disconnected from the flower above it. Still germinating, a “blank slate,” more springlike, still striving. 

The upper is united (a uniquely shaped red stone/flower), the lower is divided (into a red flower and a white stone).

– Suddenly what strikes us is the image of a bird feeding (the owl above) from a flower (the centerpiece being the blossom, down to the lower two coins and the lower three fold plant, which is like a root). The lower two coins are subterranean. The upper two are in the air. In nature, a flower is often produced by the plant to mirror/attract a specific bird or bug. In a way, these kinds of blossoms mirror or express both the plant itself as well as the flying creature it has a symbiotic relationship with. 

“May that which is below be as that which is above through the agency of the One Thing.”

One could think of the centerpiece as the Crown Chakra, blossoming at the top of the “plant” of the seven chakras. The pinnacle of the personality, the highest level of effort/striving. This effort makes the crown chakra accessible to “birds” – to the hierarchies. Grace and effort.

– This is the first time that there is a clear vertical axis, or spine to the Arcana, albeit split in two—one above the centerpiece, one below.

– The wavering between the feeling that this image is a completion (esp in that it mirrors/inverts the Ace) and showing the thing that we’ve been building up to (the flower) vs the feeling that it is also incomplete:  this brings us once again to our dilemma of whether we are working with the Divine Name YHVH (in which case Four would be the second He and a completion) or with the Divine Name YHSHVH (in which case the Five would be the second He and a completion). The Four of Coins is like a rough draft, or a very accurate map to a destination. It’s like when you are hiking up a high mountain, and you think that you’ve reached the pinnacle. Then you reach that place and you see that the true pinnacle is still beyond you, there’s still a ways to go.

The Five, on the other hand, looks actually finished. It is beautiful, united, harmonious—almost too harmonious. The Four is more exciting, more dynamic. Possibly it’s a question of how one intends to finish? To go out with a bang? Or with peace and harmony?

Why exactly is there even a question of a “finishing point” at number Four or Five out of Ten (or Fourteen). This is related to the weaving backward through the Major Arcana, and it’s occasional “retrograde” movement forward:  Ace = World, Two = Judgement, Three = Sun, Four = Moon, Five = Star, then Six = Moon again, until we get to the Nine = World, then we move backwards again until Queen = Star. Then King = Tower of Destruction, leading us into our next group of five Major Arcana (Tower through Hanged Man) related to the Swords.

– Is the sense of finishing a trap, in the same sense that the eclipsed moon in The Moon is a trap? An impasse, a retreat. A premature ending. Hypnotized, semi-dogmatic. You think “this is it.” Failure in a bold attempt is not the danger. The danger is either thinking you have it all or giving up completely, not even trying. This vs The Star, which corresponds to the Five of Coins—the ceaseless flow of tradition. The never-ending ending.

– The higher self is more complete/finished (the upper “red stone”). The lower self still has to unfold further (the white stone separated from the red flower). Above, it is like Kether and Daath are still united, still in their original state. Intuition operating in the realm of intuition. Vs below, where Kether and Daath have had to divide from each other due to being in the literal, sense-perceptible, earthly world. Intuition operating outside of its element. 

– The center in the Four of Coins is the mutual goal, the shared ideal of the two realms which otherwise do not communicate or have anything to do with each other. This is very different, a more direct focus than that operating in the Three of Coins. In the Three, the two coins below are focused/guided by the one above, and the one above is focused on the creation of the white stone between the two coins below. More roundabout, more weaving. The four is more centric. 

– An eclipse is a moment when you could attribute too much significance to the wrong idea, a kind of “belt of lies” experience. One feels inspired by a stimulating half-truth. Possibly one energizes such an inspiration due to fleeing from it out of fear—giving it more significance than it objectively has—or by diving right in, with a blind passionate belief in something one wishes were true. Rather than just courageously, and passively contemplating the idea/inspiration, in order to properly weigh its value.

– The presentation of the centerpiece has an aspect to it akin to the Emperor holding the Scepter. Like the presentation of the Jesus child in the Temple. The clear presentation of the future plan:  the choice is to contemplate, calmly accept this future plan or to obsess over it. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord” and not in one’s own name. The danger of megalomania, or the danger of denying the possibility that one is susceptible to megalomania. 

– In a way, one could become obsessed with the middle of the Four of Coins, like the actual coins in the Arcana don’t even matter. The coins have taken a backseat.

– In Wandering Fool, in his notes on The Moon, he writes that the only light that shines when all others go out (the light that emanates directly from the Moon, rather than its reflected light of the Sun) is Memory. One thinks of the Air Trial. The experience of needing to bring something, spiritual knowledge or spiritual force, out of one’s deep memory, without guidance, without direct confirmation. One is so easily, in this kind of situation, thrown into extreme doubt or into overconfidence. 

Tomberg writes that Memory (of the Spirit) is preserved through religious and/or artistic ceremony. One could see the centerpiece as a stage or an altar. The four coins are like an audience or a congregation, preserving the memory of where we have been and where we are supposed to go. 

– There really is a turmoil to this Arcanum. A tension between the triumphal aspect vs the problematic aspect.

– Thinking again of the pre-earthly deeds of Christ. The Ace as the human being developing the protective sensory sheath to guard from the impact of Ahriman. The Two as the separating of the etheric and the astral, the crying out of the lonely soul for community. The three as developing balance in the three-fold soul. Now we come to the fourth, which Tomberg characterizes as the development of the gaze directed above, to the vertical, and the gaze directed below, to the horizontal. The two-fold aspect of the Ego. This is related to the Brow Chakra, which in relation to the sayings from the Cross says both “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (gaze directed below) and “My God, My God, how thou hast glorified me!” According to Judith von Halle, the phrase in Hebrew/Aramaic for each of these sounds the same. Christ called forth both simultaneously. Here we have again the turmoil, the tension between the triumphant and the problematic. 

It is a bit like our modern political situation, which is totally triumphant and a catastrophe at the same time, depending upon which sphere one casts one’s gaze. In a similar sense, some people see Trump as the “final stage,” the one they’ve been waiting for, but in another sense he’s just the rough draft, the sign pointing in the right direction. The final act (more harmonious perhaps?) is yet to come.

– If we see the Ace of Coins as related to the time of Steiner, and the Two of Coins to the time of Tomberg, and the Three of Coins to the time of the Third Teacher (i.e. Robert), we could look at the Four of Coins as related to our own time and the future—the upcoming generation of Hermeticists/Grail Knights, etc. Everything that we’ve discussed in reference to the Four of Coins, all of the prohibitions and warnings coming out of it feel very relevant to our process and activity. Phillip feels more of a sense of peace in this regard, in that we have been very open and contentious of the hazards that face us, we have not shied away.

– The process and experience of separating and discriminating between what is a “great individuality” vs the development of a personality, an actual human being. An initiate experiences that which is, when all is said and done, the common property of all humanity, which for one reason or another they (i.e. humanity) have not yet experienced. Anyone that one happens to meet could be an initiate; and in fact, everyone is an initiate and ought to be treated with the same reverence for their inherent greatness as we would someone we “know” is an initiate. 

On the flip side, we must also realize that those we revere as initiates, especially those who have passed away and we only know from reading about, were actual human beings, with struggles and failures. Massive struggles and pain in their personal lives. Tomberg emphasizes in the meditation on the letter to Sardis (in Christ and Sophia) the role of the garment which hides the body. He speaks of biographies of individuals like Goethe that remove the “garment” and expose the body. The garment is the eternal aspect of ourselves that was able to shine through in our biographies, that which we did which will be remembered in the book of life. The body underneath is our nitty-gritty personal life, our struggles and failings as “mere” human beings. None-the-less, it is important to remember that with an initiate, there is a body under the garment! They too are struggling. We cannot see them abstractly, as though they are only a set of lovely clothes. Do not seek to see the body, but remember it is there! Life is hard for everyone. Don’t make people into celebrities.

– The Emperor is the representative of a clear recognition of something that has come to fruition, a victory, but he has safeguards in place to properly do justice to it and not get caught up (megalomania/obsession).

– We have been drawn to the Fourness of the Four of Coins, which can also have a Seven-ness or an Eight-ness (we will look at these next time).  Sequence of Fours:

The Emperor—Death—The World—Four of Coins

Four of Coins is very related to the World. With the World, we see the rhythm of the Dancer in the center harmonizing the four chaotic melodies of the four Creatures. We have the same experience in our conversations:  the Arcanum in the center harmonizes and elevates the unique knowledge and experience of the different participants of the conversation. This is what is depicted in the Four of Coins, an Arcanum in the center harmonizing/uniting the four coins.

– The irony, though, is that although the center is the fruition, it had no precedent! In a way it is inorganic, seems to come out of nowhere—even though, in some sense, it was expected. A stage of fruition was expected, but came in a completely unexpected form.

– What is the relationship between the actual flower (the red flower below the centerpiece) and the centerpiece itself (the image of the flower)? The smaller, actual flower, is what you might have expected in terms of form, but it is smaller than you might expect, and also not central.

– The flowers at the bottom and the top have 3 red and 2 blue, similar to the central flower, but in a different arrangement. If the central flower were seen from above rather than the side, would we see four red petals and two blue sticking out? What would it look like?

– The Pearl in the Three of Coins was unexpected and strange enough. But the odd features in this Arcanum are on a different level of magnitude in terms of out of place or surprising. And yet in a way they aren’t out of place. 

– Looking again at The Moon, the eclipse aspect. Something is concealed in The Moon. In the Four of Coins on the other hand, something is being revealed. Perhaps it is like the inverse of an eclipse. An eclipse makes dark (hides) that which is normally light (revealed). In this case, something is being made light (revealed) which is normally dark (hidden). Recalling a vision from Estelle in which she describes a region beyond the dark night sky that is luminous and rainbow-colored. An unusual or unseen light behind a usual darkness, this is the opposite of eclipse. And here, the centerpiece is akin to this revealing of the rainbow-colored region behind darkness.

– The centerpiece is not intuitive. The image doesn’t necessarily demand the presence of the centerpiece. It may as well have been a single vertical line dividing the entire image, rather than two vertical lines divided by the centerpiece. 

– A different level of procreation is being operated here. With the Three of Coins, the three coins are concentrated on the activity of making a new Ace of Coins. They are reproducing a form from one of the prior Arcana. But in the Four of Coins, the four coins are crafting not another coin, or form contained on one of the other cards, but another card altogether (the centerpiece). The Three of Coins is only aware of the objects on the card, the objects existing within the given periphery or context. But the Four of Coins is aware of what is happening beyond and outside of the periphery, hence something totally new, something appropriate yet inappropriate, can come about. 

– As the Ace of Coins is a seed, this could also be a type of seed—or better yet, a package. If a flower could somehow also be a seed. Notice that in the centerpiece, the periphery colors (red and blue) are the same colors as the flower. The weaving together of periphery and center. Is the fifth coin hiding or developing within the box, the centerpiece?

– There is a kind of break or leap between the Three of Coins and Four of Coins in terms of creation of new coins.

From Ace to Two, we saw that Two came about simply from a change of perspective in terms of One (seeing it from the side rather than from above). In this sense, One = Two.

From Two to Three, we saw that Two had to become One and rise up, and One had to become Two and settle down. So (One become Two) plus (Two become One) = Three.

Then in Three we see the one coin above guiding the two coins below to create a replication of One that is fourfold. Effectively the One above sacrifices itself, and the two below replicate themselves. So (Three minus One) times Two = Four.

When we get to the Four, though, a certain limit has been reached. The Coins are no longer able to procreate and make the next number out of the elements that are already in existence. An infusion from the periphery is required in order to make the jump from Four to Five. A new type of procreation.

This makes us think of the “flying leap” of Bergsonian Yoga that Tomberg describes in the Letter-Meditation on the Moon. A leap into the darkness. (See page 503-505). A leap of faith, pure intuition, into the darkness. Like the move from walking to swimming. One cannot learn to swim by continuing to walk. One must just make the leap into the water.

– We are, in a way, back to the explosive quality of the Ace. So explosive there is a bit of a shock afterwards, especially coming off of the serene harmony of the Three. An explosion that doesn’t quite make sense in the same way that the Ace does.

– We didn’t look too much at all at Sola Busca. But briefly notice that she has the same scarf as the World, and a similar gesture to The Star (an Eight card, which we will look at next time in the sequence Justice (8), Star (17), Four of Coins (26)).

– We ended with the fourth stanza of the Foundation Stone in eurythmy.