Four of Swords (II)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on February 9, 2020

February 9, 2020

Four of Swords, Part Two.

This conversation took place over the phone, as an experiment. It worked better than over skype/zoom. 

We began with the protective practice. Then we read from Revelation 9:13-15. 

Observations, to begin with, of the Four of Swords vs Death (Death is 13 = 1+3 = 4; but Death is also aligned with the Four of Swords in our particular sequencing approach:  Ace = Tower; Two = Devil; Three = Temperance; Four = Death).

– the most immediate impression is of the scythe. Is the scythe a Sword? Are the Swords harvesting flowers and plants rather than hands and feet? But what is it exactly that connects the Sword with the scythe? Certainly, the scythe is very similar to the curved scimitars in the Suit of Swords—in that sense, the only other time that we have ever seen a curved sword. On the other hand, this is also the only time other than in the Suit of Swords that we have come across harvesting of any kind. 

– From this perspective, one’s mind goes to the ending trials in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. In the first trial, one approaches a cobweb ridden cave, and suddenly curved blades appear which decapitate the one in the cave. The answer to this dilemma, for Indiana is “Only the penitent man shall pass.” He must bow, and then the blades do not decapitate him. A vortex of blades and a vow of humility—otherwise you lose your head!

– Look at the negative space between the curved swords: this too is scythe-like.

– Also the jaw of Death is curved? Or is this a bandage? Like a crescent moon. It’s such an odd looking head, unlike any other head in the deck. Not really like a skull, it’s actually more like a mask. Only the black section—the nose, lips, chin, that are almost like a silhouette—is very face like. Only the teeth and eyes are very skeleton like. These two put together is disjointed. It’s like partially a shadow of a human face, and partially bone. The shadow/silhouette seems further away, with a strange boney shape closer, superimposed.

A mask of a partial skeleton worn over a completely shadowy head.

A sheer representation of the nature of the Double of the human being—it must clothe itself in something manifest in order to perform an action—otherwise it’s only a shadow. 

The crescent moon shape is like the strap holding the mask on.

There is certainly a link to the 18th Arcanum, The Moon and the phenomenon of eclipse. The head is very circular, not head shaped

– Also the ribs, they are crescent/scythe/scimitar shaped. And the root vegetable form at the base of the spine has crescent shaped tendrils. 

– Notice that the crescent Swords, the scimitars, are black. There is certainly colored embellishment, but the sword itself is black, like a shadow or an outline. The Shadow needs other, more manifest structures to give it a channel through which to function. Like the woven/plated blue, and the red and yellow handles. 

– What about the straight swords? The two straight swords so far have been blue (Ace) and flesh colored (Three).

– Interesting the way we have approached Shadow as its own reality, not as an epiphenomenon. It’s an actual entity, but requires another being in order to manifest. A few years back Joel began to recognize something similar about the Rainbow. That it is not an epiphenomenon of the interaction of sun and rain. It is a reality all of its own, that can only reveal itself via the medium of sunlight and water. The Shadow, too, is always there—it just needs particular circumstances in order to reveal itself.

– If you consider that the shadow domain has its own independent reality, just not apparent in our everyday reality without certain conditions…in Anthroposophical cosmology it is that the “I” needs to reshape the other bodies to manifest, and the three doubles or shadows are just unfortunate results of growth that need to be dealt with. But what if the three doubles each have their own destinies and needs to develop? What if they are beings in their own right?

In a way, Tomberg more or less discusses it in that light. E.g. “setting the Lucifer double free”—St. Francis and the prostitute. She is converted by his purity. On the other hand, the Ahrimanic double dies, it becomes chaff that drags along behind one’s feet. The karmic double lies somewhere in between—it must be externalized, with a watchful eye kept on it. One must become ever-mindful of the karmic double. This is more akin to St Francis and the wolf—the wolf attacks the city, eating the children at night. Francis tames the wolf, and it becomes the protector of the city. It is not set free like the harlot, it is tamed. Taming the wolf to obey. 

– The Four of Swords…is something being liberated—the central flower? Is the chaff being discarded—the corner flowers? Is the shadow being exposed and obeying our will—the curved swords? 

– It is perhaps most crucial to master the karmic double in order to truly do right by the other two doubles. 

In any particular incarnation, the karmic double is most omnipresent in terms of that incarnation. Whereas the other two doubles run a little deeper, more embedded, and maybe they rely on certain destiny moments to be activated, present, or confronted. 

– There was no cutting/harvesting going on in the Coins. All plants are intact. Either in relation to the pearl, or the plant itself. 

Whereas it just might be in every single Sword that we have cut plants.

– The scythe, the shadow, the root chakra (root vegetable), the ribs (=Cancer, ruled by the Moon), St Brigid’s cross…St Brigid’s celebration is originally the pagan Imbolc. There is something about the Moon that is emphasized in this whole process. Something lunar. 

– Going back to the phenomenon of the Mask…notice Death’s left foot is entirely missing. It is continuous with the black earth. Maybe the entire body of the skeleton is like a mask, a garment? The right foot is the most formed of the entire body, the most fleshly while the head is the least formed. The Shadow can’t enter into the head part of the mask so comfortably.

If the Skeleton is just some kind of medium for the Shadow, what is the scythe? It is white, yellow and red. It is something that is being put to use by the Shadow operating via the Skeleton “mask.”

– Somehow this goes back to…”it’s all about the Moon.” The urge of the Moon is to harvest, to cut away, to finish, this is also the urge of the Shadow. 

– The polarity of the Major vs Minor. The scythe of Death shows us the cutting of things that have ripened in that they block further growth. Or it could show us the cutting away of that which has life in it, for the sake of “crystallization,” deathless-ness. It could go both ways, a positive and a negative, extremes.

Whereas the Minor Sword only cuts that which is proper to be cut. There might still be some kind of a positive and negative side to these Arcana, but unlike the Majors (specifically, Death), it isn’t so loaded…it’s ideal, impersonal, unsullied. 

Even what we see here might be qualified as harvest, not pruning as in Death, not surgery. It’s a good event. And the Shadow, rather than disguise itself in order to act, reveals itself, is also “harvested” so to speak, through it’s very act of harvesting. 

– The Swords are the realm of Formation rather than the Coin realm of Action. Is this also Sheol, the Land of Shades? It’s weird to think of the etheric world as simultaneously the realm of the Shadow. 

– The Black Earth. Might this be the “unconscious will-substance” to which the eternal seed of the body returns at death, as referenced in the 20th Arcanum, The Judgement? In order to Rest in Peace? This unconscious will-substance behind physical/material substance takes up etheric forces in order to take on a form…and the “etherized” form of unconscious will substance is Death—or the threefold human double.

Whereas the Swords show us the will-substance coming into archetypal harmony with the Etheric…rather than this Shadow or Darkness using the ether to take form, it submits itself to the Ether, and takes on a form in harmony with it, becoming its instrument. 

Here again, the Swords are idealized/generalized. In Death, the Major, the archetype is humanized, negative, personal. 

– Perhaps Death is really just looking for what aspects of the will-substance have ripened in their formation, and need to be harvested—replanted back into the will-substance. 

This changes completely the nature of what the Shadow is. The Shadow = unconscious will substance, i.e. Mother Earth. Mother Earth personifies/etherizes as Death in order to return the ripe to the realm of unconscious will-substance. 

– The Four of Swords becomes this living picture of harmony of Life and Death, or of Formed and Unforming. 

– Hermes and Moses in prior incarnations were pupils of Zarathustra. Hermes receives the astral body of Zarathustra, and Moses his etheric body. How did this happen to Moses? The description of the baby Moses being sent down the Nile River in a basket of reeds is a literal/symbolic picture of this. He is bestowed with a special etheric body through this water initiation, when he is yet a baby.

We’e already noticed the weaving of the curved swords, into this St Brigid’s cross pattern. The Swords are reminiscent of baby Moses in the basket of reeds, floating down the river.

Moses as the Guardian of the Threshold to the realm of the Etheric—of the Forming and Unforming powers, visible and invisible in their intertwined natures. 

In Egypt he was initiated into the cult of Osiris and Isis. Osiris is dismembered, into 14 pieces—the phases of the Moon expressed this to the Egyptians. Isis is now the Virgin Mary, who is also related to the Saturn sphere—traditionally the Grim Reaper, the realm of Death. 

Yes, we have the record of Genesis as an etheric (time) clairvoyance, but there is also this elemental clairvoyance throughout the life of Moses (burning bush, water from the stone, etc.). 

– Looking again at Death—the straight arm and head/skull mirror the scepter held by the Emperor. Now the Emperor (4) joins Death (13 = 1+3 = 4) and the Four of Swords.

The impulse to harvest what’s ripe—this creates such an elevated view of the Shadow. Relating this to the Emperor. The Scepter as Divine capability, as divine instrument. The Shield as “by what right.” Under what authority. The Emperor is a kind of Presentation after the Holy Birth portrayed in the Empress. 

All of this is transformed in Death. There is a kind of unconscious or implied scepter present in Death, his head and vertical arm combined. And the hand on the belt in the Emperor is now placed on the scythe. And the scythe itself? It is also held onto by the “Scepter,” i.e. the head/arm…it is guided by the scepter—it only cuts what ought to be cut. 

Perhaps one could say that the Emperor has become the Scythe, if the Scepter has become the head/arm. Notice that the Scythe crosses the leg of Death in a similar way to the crossed legs of the Emperor. 

The Magician, The High Priestess, and the Empress represent the gestation of the Scepter, and the Emperor is the presentation of it in its fullness.

The skeleton is a bit like the Emperor. They are mirror images of each other. 

The Emperor presents physical birth. The skeleton presents spiritual birth (death), after the “gestation” that is one’s life, one’s biography.

The skeleton’s foot is on a woman’s head, while the Emperor’s is on a shield. “By what right?” = the woman.

We come to the realization of just how little we were able to see 3 and 1/2 years ago when we began this process. Now it all leaps out.

– There is something about the Emperor’s crown and the hips of the skeleton. It’s almost as though…

The necklace/pendant of the Emperor has stretched up through the head of the Emperor, looped over and attached itself to the Ball and Cross on the top of the scepter. Like the Magician. An exchange of head and heart, or thinking and willing.

The Emperor’s total focus is on the scepter, and what it represents. Total vigilance, consciousness. Whereas Death is omnipresent with “unconscious will-substance”—extremely potent, but no human awareness is displayed here. 

The hips-head of the skeleton represents that descent into “unconscious will-substance.” And now the consciousness, the awareness, has been transmitted to the skull/arm wielding the scythe. 

This is the Emperor’s Crown Chakra blossoming out in a purely active way—into head/arm/scythe. 

The Heart (the Pendant of the necklace) ascends through the head—through this gland or phallus that is in the very center of his crown—and blossoms out, bringing the necklace in its wake, curving it around to unite with the Ball and Cross of the scepter. This makes the head of the Emperor descend to the level of the hips; the heart becomes the “root vegetable” at the base of the spine; the necklace becomes the spine; and the scepter becomes skull/arm/scythe. This is the Emperor’s intention with his intense gaze on the scepter. 

Death shows us what the scepter itself does, what it chooses to accomplish. The Emperor has yielded his will completely to the Scepter. 

– What an image of Death!

The Emperor waits, he waits out in the wilderness, alone, until he dies…yet he is fully conscious that in dying he is activating this other activity—in another sphere, he is coming to life, in a way.

It does make one think of the paralyzed Steiner dying beneath the unfinished Representative of Man. Maybe he united his being with the statue—is he, in a way, in the statue?

We ended by reading the third stanza of the Foundation Stone Meditation.