Knave of Coins (II)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on February 19, 2019

February 19, Knave of Coins

We began with the protective practice.

We then invoked the presence of the Holy Trinity through the closing mantra of the Grail Knight’s Practice.

After briefly focusing the words “I AM” on the brow chakra, we moved the fourth part of the Inner Radiance Sequence, and the 19th Letter of the Divine Alphabet (Qoph). 

We then read from Psalm 119:145-152; from Revelation 6:3-6; and from Matthew 21:12-13.

– Looking at the Knave as a Two (High Priestess, Force, Judgement, Two of Coins, Knave of Coins):  It is fascinating that we have come to this picture of the Knave of Coins as a lemniscate, moving from a coin below, through the heart, to the coin above, and back again. This follows up directly on the Two of Coins, which expresses this very same lemniscate. 

When we look at the Magician (with whom we related the Knave last week) or with Force (another “Two”), we see that they both have a lemniscatory hat, a horizontal lemniscate. Whereas with the Knave, he in his entirety is a vertical rather than horizontal lemniscate. 

– Notice in Force the shape of her hand, this pincer grasp that we noticed before. She is grasping the lion’s mouth—we might imagine that the lion’s teeth are sharp, like the points on the belt of the Knave. It is strange and can’t be coincidental that this pincer grasp is used in only particular Arcana, e.g. The Sun.

– The Knave has distinct fingernails. Is this common among the other Arcana? Only the High Priestess, Force, Justice and The Devil have fingernails of any definition.

With The Devil, they are so pronounced they have become claws. What is the gesture of a fingernail, the symbolic content? If it is too long, it becomes a claw, something animalistic. But if it is properly cared for, it is a sign of beauty. It is a protection for the delicate parts of the fingers. It is an excretion of “dead matter” from the body, like hair. We could think of it in a way as base animality overcome or sublimated. Thus far, he is the only male figure with fingernails (other than, perhaps, The Devil).

– The sequence of Two:

High Priestess—Force—Judgement—Two of Coins—Knave of Coins

Is this not a movement from Word (the book that the High Priestess holds) to Symbol (the coin that the Knave holds)?

High Priestess = Mineral? (or Human?)

Force = Animal

Judgement = Human? (or Angelic/Spiritual?)

Two = Plant

Knave = (back to) Mineral?

The High Priestess’s emphasis is much more back to front. The lower half doesn’t play a strong role, unlike the remainder of the “Two” Arcana. Is the Gnosis of the High Priestess still somehow in some unity with the Mysticism of the Magician, i.e. it hasn’t separated off and become completely conscious/distinct yet? Notice that the Magician has, in contrast, so much going on in the lower half of the image. If we were to combine them into one image, then we might have a picture of Mysticism and Gnosis operating simultaneously, yet distinctly. 

This is what Force manifests. As a two, she recapitulates the High Priestess (2 = 11). But as 1+10, she conveys the “next level of the spiral” after the Magician. She is a simultaneous reminder of both the Magician (1) and High Priestess (2). Therefore, we can see Force as a fusion and synthesis of the Mysticism of the Magician and the Gnosis of the High Priestess. 

– The hand of the High Priestess on her book is mirrored in the hand of the Knave on his belt. 

– Last time we spoke of the significance of seeing the entirety of the image, without any of it being concealed beyond the border. With the High Priestess, we see the entirety of her crown, yet it still protrudes beyond the border. In a way, she seems to enter the manifest world, like a three-dimensional image. “Breaking the fourth wall.”

– The gesture of the sequence of Two is one of unfolding and coming back together again:

Once again, we have the Knave as a retrospective of the entire process.

We might see this unfolding and coming back together as different degrees of intensity. The most extreme intensity is unveiled during the Judgement. The Two of Coins then captures this intensity in pure image form, which the Knave “captures” or claims. He now owns this representation or distillation; it is his property.

– This gives one the strong impression of the coin that the Knave holds as a kind of crystal ball, revealing this whole process in panorama. Or an externalized memory. The knave as a valet, as a messenger—does he carry this message, this summary to the other Court Cards? The other Court Cards are not in this position of active contemplation, e.g. the Knight is on horseback. 

He is the messenger—or the interpreter. Or one could even say a spy of sorts. He has extracted something valuable—it is information acquired at risk, volatile information depending on how it is handled. 

– The idea of the coin as an externalized memory brings us to something that struck Joel over the course of the week in between conversations:  the resonance of the image of the Knave with Hamlet holding the skull. 

Prince Hamlet - Wikipedia

– The issue of the coin with Eleven petals below, vs the coin with Ten petals above. This makes the “Eleven coin” analogous to the shield or banner that is at the feet of the Emperor. It relates directly to the Knave, it represents him and his cause. Whereas the “Ten coin” relates to the numbered arcana which have preceded him.

The Eleven is an encapsulation of the One, a repetition of the One after traveling the spiral of the Ten. We now have a greater capacity to grasp the essence of Unity. The Ten Coin plus the figure balances and reflects the Eleven Coin. The 10 + 1 encapsulates the whole and progresses to 11.

The number Eleven is made up of Decad plus Unity, that is, Unity in two different forms. Unity knowing itself in its multiplicity and vice versa.

Maybe we could think of Force (i.e., the female figure in Force) as akin to the Magician (the One) and the Lion as akin to the Decad (the Ten). Force is not dealing with the physical plane itself, like the Magician is, but with the next higher plane. The Lion is in the Wheel (the Ten—in fact, Robert relates this Arcanum to Leo).

Just as we can see Force (11) = Magician (1) + High Priestess (2), we can see that Judgement (20) = Wheel of Fortune (10) + Force (11). Judgement is a recapitulation of Force inasmuch as 11 and 20 are both equal to 2. But it is a return to the number 10 “ten steps further along on the spiral,” and therefore returns to the Wheel of Fortune as well. It integrates these two separate entities into one action.

We can see elements from both of these images (Wheel of Fortune and Force) in the Knave. The crown of the Sphinx and the hat of Force can be seen in Knave’s belt. Now that we look closer, it seems his belt/midsection recalls many of the head pieces, the upper portions, of other Arcana. Why?

– In the Wheel of Fortune, one of the most notable features is that which is absent:  any direct reference to Christ or Christianity. It is, of all the Arcana, full of imagery from the ancient world, from ancient Egypt. Was the Sphinx a kind of pre-Christian overseer of destiny? The riddle of the Sphinx:  “What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the day, and three legs in the evening?” Could it be referring to the evolution of humanity? Is the Sphinx on four legs, and therefore the pre-Christian overseer of destiny?

Or do we have Dog = 4 legs

Monkey = 2 legs

Sphinx = 3 legs (one leg holds up the sword)

That puts a very different spin on the Wheel of Fortune (no pun intended!). Mankind begins as a dog (obedient, innocent), then devolves into the state of the monkey (intellectual, clever, scheming), but ultimately must evolve to the Sphinx (wisdom united with goodness).

– The first nine Major Arcana are human archetypes. The tenth, the Wheel of Fortune, is not necessarily moving into the macrocosmic, but maybe it is showing a composite image of the archetypal man? Or rather, is it showing the animal within the human, both the higher (angelic) and lower (instinctual)? It is the next ring of the circle:

Outer ring:  animal

Inner ring:  human

Rather than seeing nine realms reflected in pieces of the human being (the first nine arcana), we see how they are embedded and originate in the wider matrix of being. 

Could we say the following:

Zero = Fool who takes us into the realm of the Human/Earthly:

Magician—High Priestess—Empress—Emperor—Pope—Lover—Chariot—Justice—Hermit

Ten = Wheel of Fortune, which takes us into the realm of the Animal/Astral

Force—Hanged Man—Death—Temperance—Devil—Tower of Destruction—Moon—Sun

Twenty = Judgement, which takes us into the realm of the Plant/Lower Devachan?


30 = Ten of Coins, which takes us into the realm of the Stone/Higher Devachan?


Why does this final realm only have four when the others have nine?

It is a powerful thought to relate the Numbered Coin Arcana with the realm of Lower Devachan. This is the realm of Exusiai, Dynamis, Kyriotetes:  Form, Motion, Wisdom. 

– If the Magician and High Priestess resolve in Force,

And Wheel of Fortune and Force resolve in the Judgment,

then the Ace and the Two of Coins resolve in the Knave. This is exactly right. The unity and the lemniscate of multiplicity fuse into a synthesis. 

– We have resolved to some degree the problem of the “Eleven coin” vs the “Ten coin.” But these are just the outer petals. Why are there six petals in the center of each coin?

When we look back at the prior Coin Arcana, we see that the Two of Coins is the only one with ten outer petals (or waves). Then when we look at the Ace of Coins, we see 16 external petals (or points). Again we could see that the Knave is a bringing together of these two. The 16 petals of the Ace of Coins have separated out into Ten outer petals (matching the Two of Coins) and Six inner petals. The Four petals in the center of the other coins has sacrificed itself to make room for the Six. Again, we have a trajectory that goes from Ace to Two to Knave.

The Knave as a being that combines and resolves Magician and Emperor, yet stands alone. Unlike the Magician, High Priestess, Empress or Emperor, he can stand alone. He is not 1/4 of an overall process (or Name). So we see that the Four have sacrificed themselves (the four petalled flower) in order to bring about the Knave, so that the marriage of One and Two (union and polarity, process and separation) can occur. 

The Ace is a gesture of 16 + 4 = Mars and Moon

The Two is a gesture of 10 + 4 = Mercury and Moon

The others are gestures of 12 + 4 = Sun and Moon

Here we have 10 + 6 = Mercury and Venus.

The Six as the Star of Solomon, the Luminous Holy Trinity. Related to Sophia in terms of the seven seals in relation to the Chakras. 

In the Name of the Mother, and of the Daughter, and of the Holy Soul

Surrounded by the Ten:  Sophia is protected by the Ten. The Ten is the Law, the Ten Commandments. In terms of the seven seals, it is Archangel Michael (the Sixth Apocalyptic Seal is related to the Solar Plexus Chakra, which has ten petals). Sophia protected by Archangel Michael. 

Wellspring: November 2010
Rudolf Steiner - The Fifth Seal: Anthropos-Sophia | Ancient origins,  Visionary art, Occult

Looking at the sequence Ace—Two—Knave is much more succinct than looking at the entire sequence of Coin Arcana together. The other Coins are contained and summarized within these three.

– Looking at the Wheel of Fortune as a transition to an extra-earthly realm (the astral or elemental plane) makes further sense of the Ten of Coins, as an Arcanum which “extracts” two coins and elevates them back into a higher plane, the plane of the Ace.

– It is going to take a few more years of working with the Minor Arcana to really develop a relationship to them the way we have with the Majors. As we move into these “extra-earthly” planes, the farther we are from Earth, the harder it is to develop a relationship.

It is relatively easy to develop a relationship to the “human” arcana of 0-9 (The Fool through The Hermit). They are directly relatable. 

Then with the “elemental/astral” arcana, it is already harder. 10 through 19 (Wheel of Fortune through the Sun). This takes more effort to find one’s way.

And then it becomes something else altogether as we move into the “lower devachan” of 20 through Ten of Coins. Here we are no longer in a human realm; and no longer in the image-rich astral realm, the realm of Angels, Archangels, Archai. We are in the realm of Spirits of Form, Motion and Wisdom. This is a realm of “Sounding” more than a realm of “Seeing.”

Might we say that “Form” goes especially with Zero through Nine (human realm); and “Motion” goes with Ten through Nineteen (astral realm); and “Wisdom” goes with Twenty through Ten (lower devachan)?

These words Form, Motion, Wisdom really encapsulate one’s initial inner experience and relationship to the Minor Arcana. They are movements within oneself, forces that one feels, not beings that one sees:

Ace is a force of explosion and contraction simultaneously.

Two is a movement of separation and longing. 

Three is a completely equitable and quiet harmonizing

Four is an explosion

Five is a fragile beauty, a flow that may freeze and shatter

Six is a contraction, a stone

Seven is playful dancing, effortless juggling

Eight is once again an explosion and solidification simultaneously, but in the opposite direction of Ace

Nine is a twisting, a “lemniscating”

Ten is the flipe, the complete inversion of the Ace. 

Here, the Nine and the Ten are still fresh and difficult to characterize/come to a relationship with. The Nine is like the Three over again. An interested, yet dispassionate elaboration/harmonization. The development of a helix? A spiraling? Whereas we might say the Ten is “actively coming to rest.” One thinks of a rocket launch. So much force is required to break through the Earth’s gravity, but once it has broken through the gravitational pull, there is a relatively effortless journey at high speeds through space. This is something like what the Ten conjures—smooth sailing after a long struggle.

And this entire musical sequence of Ace through Ten is contained within the Knave.

– Hamlet beholds the Skull. The Skull is in every sense the Record, the Condensation of what has been. It is the condensation of one’s previous life. It is what is left after death and decay set in. It is created through massive forces of contraction existing at the periphery of the universe, the cold left-over forces of Ancient Saturn. 

– The Knave doesn’t actually contain the whole. He merely initiates a process of reflection on the whole that the other three continue and elaborate. All he does is recognize the potential within this object, and says to the others, “Look! Behold!”

He is the Magician of the Coins, the Archetypal Coin. The Will is engaged/awake in order to bring Unity in contact with Unity. It is a matter of balancing his will, not restraining it (as with the Emperor). He needs some amount of Will in order to have the courage to face the skull. The Coin/Skull is not just a summary or condensation of the past. It is a portent, it shows the inevitable future:  Death. It is a gazing at the whole Past and Future—wakefully, without being overwhelmed.

It is fascinating that the scene with Hamlet and the Skull occurs at the gravesite of the court jester of Hamlet’s youth. A Fool, a Juggler. Hamlet opines over how many people this jester brought laughter to, and now who is he making laugh? He then remarks to his friend that even Alexander the Great or Caesar must have looked the same after their death. In spite of all their great deeds, they are now dirt filling up some wall. All leads to death in the end.

The plot of Hamlet seems pertinent to the whole subject. Hamlet’s uncle murders his father and marries his mother. She knows nothing of his crime. The ghost of Hamlet’s father comes to Hamlet and begs him to avenge his death and bring the kingdom back into order. And so he decides to do this by playing the Fool! He pretends to be mad so that he can get himself into a position to take revenge without it being suspected. But he hesitates—perhaps he begins to question whether or not he is truly going mad, whether he has truly seen the ghost or not. And in this hesitation, there results not only his own death, but the death of many. In the end, the kingdom is set to rights, but at great cost.

Steiner refers to a plot like this as relating to a spiritual reality. When someone dies before their time, when they still have etheric forces left over, they also have unresolved karma left over. This unresolved karma still wishes to be played out, and is sometimes put in the hands of those who are left alive to play out. The device and phenomenon of a “ghost” is what brings this about in such stories. The ghost is the unresolved karma that must come into being. So the whole question of karma, of debt, of death comes into play here. 

And Hamlet plays the Fool! He is truly a Knave, with a dagger up his sleeve, a secret plan. And does he have the courage and fortitude to obey that which as been laid upon him from the spiritual world? Can he observe the Coin/Skull with wakefulness? Or does he succumb to doubt, doubt in his own sanity? Lack of courage to do the deed?

We might think of this in relation to the modern political situation. Trump “plays the fool” in order to avenge his “father” (JFK/True patriotism) against his “uncle” (the modern political cabal backed by the Deep State) and on behalf of his “mother” (his country). But in playing the fool, does he begin to doubt his sanity? Does he hesitate in his purpose? It all rests on a dagger’s edge. 

We might see ourselves in a similar position when it comes to karma research, our personal lives, or even our practice with the Tarot. Can we keep our will awake? Can we keep our sense of identity and not veer into megalomania or despair?

This applies to our whole conversation earlier in the week in terms of Essentialism vs Existentialism (from Lazarus, Come Forth!, pages 149-66). This is in fact the entire problem of Hamlet:  “to be or not to be.” Do we find our certainty in the ground of existence, or in the exigencies of everyday life? And is the Knave once again resolving something that is presented as an “either-or” but in reality is a “both-and”? Maybe we need to find the Essence (the spiritual world) in the mundane, pressing exigencies of day to day life—to find Essence in Existence. And maybe we need to come to a face-to-face, wakeful interaction with the beings of the spiritual world that live in the depths:  finding Existence in Essence. This is again the Lemniscate of the Knave that combines and resolves apparent binaries.

It may be that there is not just a feeling of awe tending towards hypnosis on the part of the Knave when he gazes at the all-encompassing Coin; he may also have a feeling of dread, of not being up to the task, of “why me?”

It is awe-inspiring that Shakespeare could see this archetype of the Knave so clearly, and embody it so completely, in Hamlet.

– Notice that the Fool walks on Three legs, and is chased by a Four-legged creature that has risen onto Two legs. The Hermit also walks on Three legs.

– A final observation:  the Knave wears a cape. Why? This is a unique feature. And there are strange geometrical shapes in the cape. 

Certainly a cape is something we might associate with a rogue or an adventurer. It could even be a bit devious, wrapping it around oneself as a full-body veil. 

The coloration is strange. Flesh-colored within, blue without. Down at the bottom left hand corner of the cape (his left hand), there is a kind of right triangle divided by a diagonal line. This seems unnecessary, especially the dividing line. It is interesting that here we have once again the hypotenuse and right angle that we were focusing on in regard to Magician vs Knave. But this dividing line? Why? It almost looks like the letter “A.” The shape that is created is something like a three-sided object above, and a four-sided object below. But also, it doesn’t truly have a point at the top. 

Maybe it has to do with future Arcana? 

Or perhaps it is a transformation of the triangles on his belt that have a vertical line drawn on them? Noticing the other shape that is formed, one half that is striped/flesh colored, and the other half blue, just next to his left hand. This could be a continuation of the split triangles on his belt.

There is an interesting ambiguity overall in his garment. Is it all a cape, or is it his bare skin that is being revealed next to the red tunic? Or his undergarment? Other Arcana that had this ambiguity were the Fool and Temperance (flesh exposed).

It is also a very symmetrical negative space right between his legs. Reminiscent of the blade of grass between the legs of the Magician, or the Lover.

– Realizing that from one perspective, this is the 33rd Arcanum (22 Majors, this is the 11th Minor. 22 + 11= 33). Next time perhaps we should take this Arcanum into consideration as a Six (=33)? The connection between Knave and Lover? Remembering that when we laid out our Ten Numbered Arcana as one organism, with the overlapping of certain coins the total came to 33. Therefore, the Ten Numbered Arcana summarize 1-33, not just 1-10.

– The Fool:  expulsion from Paradise. Given skin from the animal in order to cover his shame. Yet in the image of the Fool, the animal is exposing the true nature (the skin) underneath. A blessing and a curse. A losing battle. Stripping away the outer trappings, exposing the truth underneath. 

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