King of Swords (II)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on November 11, 2020

November 11, 2020—Martinmas (a Sword feast)

We began with the protective practice.

We then invited the guidance of the Holy Spirit to our conversation.

After focusing the mantra IT THINKS briefly on the region of the larynx, we moved the third part of the Inner Radiance Sequence (“I rest within the Godhead of the world”), the 11th Letter of the Divine Alphabet (Kaf) and the 11th part of the Grail Knight’s Practice in relation to the 11th Arcanum, Force.

We then read from Revelation 13:13-15, and a poem by Anastasius Grun quoted by Rudolf Steiner in a lecture from September 25, 1916:

As children once were digging in a meadow

They brought a shapeless thing of iron to light,

It seemed too straight, too heavy for a sickle,

For plough it was too slender and too slight.

With toil they dragged it home as new found treasure;

The elders see it, yet they know it not;

They call the neighbors round within the circle,

The neighbors see it, yet they know it not.

There is an ancient greybeard, wan and sallow,

Whose lifetime lingers on like tale forgot

Into the present world of busy dealing,

They show it to him, but he knows it not.

Well for them all, that they have never known it,

Else must they weep, and still must be deplored

The folly of their fathers, long since buried,

For what was known by no one was a sword!

Henceforth it shall but cleave the earth as ploughshare;

Shall point the seed-corn’s path into the ground,

The sword’s new hero-deeds are paeaned

When sun-filled airs with song of lark resound.

Once more it came to pass, that in his ploughing

The farmer struck what seemed a piece of stone.

And as his spade unloosed the earthy covers,

A structure of a wondrous shape was shown.

He calls the neighbors round within the circle;

They look at it but still they know it not.

Thou wise and aged one, thou’lt surely tell us?

The greybeard looks at it, yet knows it not.

Though known to one, yet with its ancient blessing

Eternal in their breast it stands upright,

Scatters its seed around on every roadway,

A Cross it was, this stranger to their sight.

They saw the fight not and its bloodstained symbol,

They see alone the victory and the crown,

They saw the storm not and the lashing tempest

They only see the rainbow’s glistening shine.

The Cross of stone they set up in the garden;

A venerable relic strange and old,

Flowers of all species lift their growth above it,

While roses climbing high the Cross enfold.

So stands the Cross weighty with solemn meaning

On Golgotha, amidst resplendent sheen;

Long since ’tis hidden by its wealth of roses;

No more, for roses, can the Cross be seen.

We began by looking at a certain spread:

Pope (5)—Emperor (4)—Empress (3)—High Priestess (2)—Magician (1)

King (50)—Queen (49)—Knight (48)—Knave (47)—Ten (46)

Ace (23)—World (22)—Fool (21)—Judgement (20)—Sun (19)

This has been building for Joel for a while. He was going back to the beginning of the Suit of Swords, back to this realisation that the Ace of Swords is the 37th Arcanum, and therefore has a value of 1 or 10 (3+7=10; 1+0=1). Back then we noted the similarity between the Ace of Swords and the Wheel of Fortune, the 10th Arcanum. A similar kind of threshold-crossing, of transitioning abruptly from one world into another, entering a chaotic vortex. 

From there we can see that the Ten of Swords is the next level of the One or the Ten. If the Ace of Swords is the Wheel of Fortune on another level, that would make the Ten of Swords the 19th Arcanum, the Sun, on another level. And we can see this resonance between these two. The two swords crossing in the Ten are like the two youths in the Sun. “Brother Swords.” And the sun above the two youths has all these different swords, of different shapes and colors, radiating out of him.

From there, that would indicate a kinship between the Knave and the Judgement. What is striking in the Knave is this emergence from the blue bag of waters, and the splitting into several pieces by extracting the sword from the larynx. And in the Judgement we have this emergence from the tomb which recalls this emergence from the bag of waters. But also the Angel above, emerging from these swirling blue clouds, these vortices, also strikes one as similar to emerging from the bag of waters. And then also this gesture of splitting into four parts. This came out during our conversation on the Judgement with Joanna and Natalia. The Angel’s trumpet is split into four parts. The flag that the Angel carries has four separate squares divided by a golden cross. And the tomb itself has this emphasis on the four-foldness. So the Knave is the Judgment on a higher level.

Then we come to the Knight, who would have some kinship to the Fool. Notice how they are both kind of falling apart. There is a similarity between the positioning of Fool’s staff over his shoulder (cutting off his head?) and the Knight’s sword (cutting off his arm?). And the presence of the dog in the Fool vs the many animals or animal-like shapes in the Knight. The way the Fool’s headgear entirely frames his face, leaving only his face showing and no hair, is very similar to the way the Knight’s helmet frames his face.

And so there is this resonance between the Queen and the World. This image of her as the Queen of Angels, Queen of Heaven. Healing divided parts, drawing them together.

The last of the Majors is the World. She has the value of 4 (22=2+2=4). So if we remain within the Majors, this loops us back around to the 5, to the Pope. And there is definitely a kinship between the King of Swords and the Pope, which came clear to us in the previous conversation. They are each a 5. 

On the other hand, it is nevertheless interesting to consider the King of Swords as having a kinship to the 23rd Arcanum, the Ace of Coins. As this perfect, ideal product or summary of the preceding four Arcana. He certainly stands apart from the rest of these Court Cards.

In relation to the Pope, we can see these two blue pillars behind the Pope. Last time we noticed that there is this blue realm of water in the King’s breastplate. Akin in a way to the blue realm of the Pope’s robes, but much more wild and turbulent. It’s a bit like he has internalised the two blue pillars behind the Pope, they have become a part of his being. Two pillars of swirling water or smoke inside of him.

Going back to our original view of the Ace of Swords, we saw it as the splitting of the Ace of Coins into two parts, two dimensions. It split into Crown above and Sword below. This is like a moment of germination. Whereas perhaps we could say that the King is the mature plant. He has reunited everything. He has pulled the two pillars into himself, he has reintegrated that which had split. A reconfiguring of the Knight that fell apart, mending that which was broken as far back as the Ace of Swords.

Joel is drawn to the Baton that he’s holding…looking at the hand holding it, it seems like his thumb is white and pointy? Or is it something else? Also, the top of the baton is partially yellow and partially white. Maybe he has a wooden thumb? Or is that a piece of the baton? That hand is also quite misshapen; one of the fingers is twice the size of the others.

Phillip was also drawn to the baton, in that it is white. There are very few white objects in the image. The baton, the belt, a portion of the hat, and his hair. There are no other white objects.

The baton looks a bit like a ruler…recalling the implements of a Freemason, as in the Ten of Swords?

Square and compass | Masonic symbols, Compass art, Compass symbol

There is also the impression, if we see these two pillars as being made of smoke, of the baton being a kind of match or a torch. His weird skirt, that looks sloppily drawn because it’s wavy at odd places, might be like a fire, or showing heat distortion. And then there is this light emerging from the top of his head. Like he’s on fire. 

– Going back to the Magician. The baton is mirroring the ball that the Magician holds close to his generative organs. Yet the King is not just holding a ball—it’s like he’s holding the ball and wand as one object, that the Magician holds separately in each hand. He’s holding this combination of ball and wand in each hand really: look at the sword in his right hand. The sword has a ball at the bottom, with the straight, baton-like part pointing up. Whereas with the baton in his left hand, the ball is at the top, and the straight part of the baton is pointing down—diagonally, rather than vertically, but still pointing down. But both knobs of each object are at the same level more or less, the same plane in the image. One of them is resting on the right knee, the other in the belly/genital region. It’s like he’s juggling more complex objects than the Magician is. There is a much greater complexity to his balancing act.

They have similar hats too—but you get a different impression from each. You can see all of the King’s, and it’s completely open, shining. Whereas with the Magician’s, the very top of his crown extends out of the frame—it’s a mystery. You assume it has a dome at the top though, not open and shining like the King’s.

The Juggler is much more of an inner child in terms of the primal quality of the implements and how he’s acting with them. Whereas the King is really an inner adult. He’s achieved total maturity. Mastery in terms of who he is and what he’s doing. Totally comfortable with his complex tools. Actively getting advice from both shoulders.

– The relationship between the baton and the strange symbol below it. It’s like this symbol is a reduction, a distillation, of the baton above it. They mirror each other. The sword is resting on his knee—is the baton resting on the throne? Or is he pulling the baton out of the throne? Do we even see it all yet? Is he measuring that he’s in the right position? Is this mirroring the Empress’s relationship to her sceptre? Her sceptre kind of projects something into her or out of her. Whereas maybe the King of Swords’ baton links him to being positionally correct on his throne, brings him into relationship with the throne. 

Maybe his seat is a bit precarious? Notice the kind of wedge that seems to be missing from between his knees. His right leg appears to be a bit further away from us, his left leg closer. And there is some strange moulding in between, like there is a triangular wedge cut out. Two “wings” of the throne. 

And so he’s measuring, making sure he’s on this throne just right…it’s custom made for him, in a particular position.

Or maybe it hasn’t achieved the full harmonious unfolding the way the rest of his body has? It could be another extension of himself, but isn’t at the same degree of harmony that the rest of his being has arrived at. 

The side of the throne on his right seems finished, neat. On his left, it seems like a mess. 

The wedge could be growing between his two legs. Maybe his being is carving the throne. And the ruler could be connected to the organization of the throne in its development.

It’s a carving in the mineral realm instead of in the animal realm, as in the Knight. All of his metamorphic power that was out of control in the Knight has been condensed, purified. Now it can project something pure, of a mineral nature, out of him. 

These insect knees—bees excreting wax? It isn’t that he’s metamorphosing parts of his body into other, independent beings. Instead, parts of his body that are animal-like are producing independent objects that are totally concrete. The ruler is related to how he is structuring and measuring it.

– Maybe there is a connection between this strange symbol on the throne and the symbol on the yellow saddle cover on the horse of the Knight? We came to a picture of that region being the archetypal reduction of the Tower of Destruction, as the blossoming of the planting of the “acorn” of the Knave’s head. And this evolutive, manifold being of the horse-knight shot forth out of this arcane picture. 

Whereas with the King of Swords, it’s like this symbol indicates to the King: “Look in here. This is where the ruler is.” 

If the symbol on the horse reminds us of the Tower, what would this symbol be the distillation of?

It’s a bit like a bird in flight? An arrow? A flower, and its fragrance? Except this is a strange flower which points downwards.

I guess you could almost read Force into it? The mouth of the Lion?

The King is a human imprinted with the animal nature (insect knees). This animal nature is seen in its full display in the Knight. Whereas the throne of the King is something mineral, imprinted with the form of the plant with this symbol. 

Maybe the throne is an unfinished piece, and this is what leads us to the Ace of Cups, as this finished city. The completion of the throne.

– This marking on the throne, this miniature Arcanum. Maybe it is a pointer to the necessary tool within, as described above, yet also a schematic? “Make it look like this.” 

So, embedded in the mineral is both a potential form (schematic) as well as the force with which to transform it in order to give it this new form (tool). 

The sword is used for internal transformation. It’s always united with some other object (the crown, the woven scimitars/vesica piscis/aposematism), indicating that it’s embedded, it’s internal. 

Perhaps the baton is more attached to crafting this outer realm of material?

– In the Ace of Swords, it felt as though the sword itself was God-given. It just kind of appears out of nowhere, from this disembodied hand. Perhaps it represents this external, metal, mineral realm, that exists without man’s participation. Yet it’s a sword, something with a form that would make one say “oh, that is man-made.” This is the crisis: the sword of the Ace is not made by a human being, although it has this man-made gesture. Perhaps it represents the realm of creation that is given to man so that he can come to the place that he himself is truly creative?

So is it God’s hand that is pulling the plug on the Coin, and finding the Sword? Whereas here, in the King of Swords, it is the hand of a man that is pulling the baton out of the throne?

The baton seems to originate in conjunction with the activity of the human being. The sword exists prior to Man—even though it’s a very human creation. 

This comes to a long-standing question about the nature of Creation for Phillip. In a way, the disembodied hand on the Ace of Swords represents this, with its sleeve that also seems like some kind of organic sea creature. When you look at the anatomy of the human being, within the human body all valves are sphincters, they all look like sea creatures, puckered. There is this organic, animal-like quality to each individual piece of human anatomy and physiology. 

But then there is this other aspect in the Ace of Swords…the Crown above, this high-tech UFO thing, as a manifestation of a higher plane. An expression of this realm of “Sword”, of the mechanical, the technological, yet a technology that exists embedded in Nature prior to the existence of Man.

If we have the Coin as Seed, as this really organic realm, and then the Sword as technology or the mechanical….what exactly is the link between these two?

Both seem to originate from the Divine, yet they have two totally different qualities. One is definitely organic. Metamorphic. The other is mechanical and machine-like. An example of the latter might be on the cellular level, there are these mechanical or machine-like pieces involved in the processes. Processes that under a microscope almost look like they could be happening in circuitry or in a factory (e.g.

And to see the sword, you feel there must have been a human being who made this, that it came out of human ingenuity or intellect. But maybe it’s just showing that aspect of the Divine that is mechanical; it doesn’t need the human per se, although it expresses in the natural world that which is almost always of human origin. Perhaps a crystal would be the closest thing that one would think of. 

Crystal Structure and Crystal Systems

– It really says something, inasmuch as the implication of the King is that the human doesn’t wield the Sword, he just holds it. Rather, he wields the baton or ruler instead. Maybe he only had to use the Sword once: in order to extract the ruler. He had to cut the throne open so that he could get the baton out. “X marks the spot”, dig here. 

– The idea that the Sword is manifest from the Divine, whole-cloth, and given to humanity, could represent this kind of external mirror in order to inspire the corresponding impulse within man. 

The King is now behaving out of both image and likeness. He is properly reflecting the activity of the Divine. He has eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, of Good and Evil, of Life and Death.

Or maybe, rather, it is the Knight who ate from the Tree of Knowledge. We go back here to Weinreb’s picture. That God, in order to create, had to utilise polarity, a bifurcation (Hierarchies of the Right and Left). This process of bifurcation finds its terminus, and its ultimate expression, in the human being. The human being is then called to mirror the activity of God. This can be understood, however, in two different ways. The intention of God is that Man would look upon the polarities spread out before him (or rather, behind him) and find the way to bring unification, to bring all the polarities to harmony within the Godhead. There is a portion of us—the Image—that is like unto the Godhead, dwelling in created polarities. But the other portion—the Likeness—is not meant to be divided as the Image is, but is meant to bring unification. There is a place for both the Hierarchies of the Right and Left (in the Image)—both are necessary for evolution. What is truly out of place and damaging is when the Likeness attempts to imitate rather than serve the Image. When the Likeness too bifurcates, then it is the creation of the egregore, of the shadow, the double, the doppelgänger. It is human-generated evil that causes the most damage.

This was the temptation of the serpent, to “be as gods”, i.e. for the Likeness to imitate the Image and not counter-balance it. This brought about the split of the Likeness, the fallen likeness, through Eve. The temptation to carry on the bifurcation, to keep creating and creating, arbitrarily—thereby bringing about ever more division and chaos in the cosmos, ever more pain and suffering, taking the human being ever further away from God. This expresses itself primarily in technological, scientific “progress.” Arbitrary human creation. This is the path of the Knight—he has eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, and carries on the process of creation and bifurcation up to the point that he exhausts his own being, he splinters into the threefold double.

Whereas the King, who has been reintegrated through the redeemed Likeness (Christ), can now eat from the Tree of Life. He can become the proper reflection of the Divine, inasmuch as true human creativity consists of making whole (returning to the origin) that which is no longer whole (that which is lost). 

– We could say the Sword, this pre-existing object that nonetheless seems man-made, is an image of Karma. Karma is that within us which pre-exists us, and yet is man-made, is formed by our own activity. The Karmic Double, when it’s presented to us, is this whole process of Ace onwards…learning to transform it into a tool, but first suffering it, and being gestated by it. 

It’s fascinating…this takes us right back to the Pope. The whole theme of the Pope is breathing, this vertical respiration. In conversation with Natalia, she shared this dream-image of a curve going downwards, and felt like this was addressed somewhere in MOT. There is a portion in the Pope where he talks about normal death being a sharp right angle—a sudden and abrupt transition from horizontal to vertical respiration, that is quite jarring. But through practicing vertical respiration while still incarnated, this sharp right angle can be softened to a curve—a smooth transition from the earthly to the spiritual plane at death. But this is a curve moving upward, not downward (see page 100).

Joel realised there is another portion, in The Judgement, in which he speaks of “intentional birth” in a similar way. That one can “fall” into incarnation, or one can be called to return to the Earth, for a specific task. And so this might be the curve “also going downward” (see page 578).

Perhaps these two together—intentional birth and intentional death—could be described as learning to “breathe karma.” These two curves together would make one Vesica Piscis—and so perhaps the whole journey through the Numbered Swords is a learning to “breathe karma”—remembering that “vesica piscis” is the air-bladder in the fish that is a kind of proto-lung. It is used for movement in the fish, but became the organ of respiration in land animals. 

And notice the lovely curves on each shoulder of the King—he has learned to breathe properly. 

– There are straight lines on his left side, and more curves on his right. Even his shoes, with the curved toes, and his ankle is clearly marked as a curve. That’s very rare!

– The knees excrete this substance that needs to be cut by the sword given by the Divine in order to extract the baton, in order to finish the work.

The curves of the redeemed likeness (on his right—the Sword) must be used to discover the straight lines of the Image (on his left—the Baton). The Likeness is virtue, morality. The Image—which has always remained intact—is freedom. It is the structure of the human being. And the symbol on the throne bears both of these—on one side, a figure made up of straight lines, and the other made up of a curve.

– The throne itself gestates the sceptre. When he’s excreted enough, he can cut it open and develop what’s within it. 

– Phillip has lined up all of them, from King on the far let to Ace on the far right. He notices this movement from Ace to Ten. The exposure of the Sword in the Ace—this sword is a light that leads the soul into its destiny, its karma, that which it must undergo. But this destiny is resisted. This light wounds the soul, building up a kind of “scar tissue” of the curved scimitars, the Vesica Piscis. An accumulation of karma. As the vesica piscis builds up its layers, intensifies them, it is more and more attempting to absorb or to trap the sword—the accumulation of karma, under tighter and tighter restraint. This builds until it can’t go on any longer. The scar tissue-creating quality of the curved swords, which is supporting and protecting organ formation beneath it, acts against the broadsword, and bifurcates it in the Ten of Swords—breaks it in two. Yet this breaking of the Sword into two only propels you into the realm of the Court Arcana, the Knave, Knight, Queen and King. This karma cannot be avoided—you must become conscious. That’s what the Court Swords represent—the coming to consciousness of karma, rather than it simply acting on the soul. 

The light wounds the soul, and this wounding only intensifies the light. Until it shatters the light. But this shattering of the light brings about a deeper light, something that can’t be avoided, something with actual depth as in the Ten (which gives one the impression that the two broadswords are going into the Vesica Piscis). Full consciousness then begins with the Knave, after the unconscious, instinctual activity of the Numbered Swords.

– Perhaps we could say the Coins are more related to the Mother, and the Swords to the Father?

We ended with the third part of the Foundation Stone Meditation.