Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on March 5, 2022 amongst Joel, Jim and Phillip.
Joel shared Natalia’s observations (see her comments on the main page for the Knave of Cups: https://the-unknown-friends.com/2022/01/31/knave-of-cups/). We focused on her observation about his shoes: that they appear to have spikes sticking out of them, or like the wind that follows a cartoon character when it runs very fast. The spikes could be giving him (or her) added grip, like cleats or climbing shoes. Either way there is something athletic about it. The only other Arcanum which has anything at all similar going on with the shading around the feet is the Magician:
One could imagine that in the Knave, there is a kind of depression created by the foot on our left: like she is sinking into the earth. Whereas with the Magician, on the same side there is a similar shading, yet it doesn’t seem as though he is sinking—it is more like he is weightless, floating. Like the lines indicate levitation. It is polysemic (multivocal/multivalent).
Perhaps in the Knave of Cups there is an earthquake? Like she is leaping over a widening chasm? The ground seems to be jumbled or rumbling.
From one point of view, these are childish pictures, all-too-simply drawn. Yet there is an amazing wealth of detail. It just keeps coming.
One of the Knave’s feet is pressing down, the other is picking up, having left an indentation or a footprint behind. There is no real pressing going on with the Magician. The Knave is showing a great weight on our left (her right) and a great levity on our right (her left). The heaviness of the Cup vs the lightness of the hat. There is a similar gesture in the Magician. A kind of weight on our left and a levity on our right. He holds the ball/coin low down and raises the wand up.
Notice the resonance in shape and position within the image of the Knave’s hat vs the bag on the Magician’s table. And there are two cups on the Magician’s table. One of the Magician’s legs is also a table leg—he is at one with his implements, they are united with him. The numbers on the dice are one and five—the Magician and the Pope. Or like the World and the Ace of Coins—are they showing us One? Or one surrounded by four, which is Five?
What about that weird little “C” next to the…bag? Tea kettle? What is that anyway? We still don’t know. It looks like a bit of string, detritus. It gives the impression of motion. Like he set the tea kettle down too hard and it’s vibrating. The shaking is ubiquitous between the Magician and the Knave of Cups.
It’s hard to treat any of these “shadows” as literal shadows in any of the Arcana. And yet there are no other Arcana that have this stripy shading around the feet, other than these two. Maybe we could include the Hanged Man? Where something is attached to the foot?
The children in the Devil have these weird chicken feet. Never noticed that before:
In the vestimentary art, the fringe is representative of the higher being, the higher self. Amongst some of the Native Americans, the bead work on the moccasin when someone dies is also representative of the higher self. It goes on the sole of the foot. Walking into the sky. Here we have fringe coming off of the sole of the show…a kind of flow, walking on water.
After the previous conversation, Joel was left with strong impressions of the Judgement in relation to the Knave of Cups:
The hair and face of the Angel is similar to the Knave’s. A halo and circle of cloud rather than the flower crown. The trumpet divided into different sections, as an extension of the Angel’s larynx, is akin to this Cup which may have been extracted from the Knave’s torso, bearing her larynx and heart. And the flag in the midst of the trumpet, if we turn the Knave sideways we see something strangely similar to an American flag. The box or shelf where the cup was kept—the Knave’s torso—is akin to this box-like tomb that the youth is coming out of. And the possible presence of an earthquake in both of them.
The difference being that, while the Judgement is clearly expressive of resurrection and rebirth, with the Knave of Cups Joel was strongly left with the impression that this is the moment of death. A simultaneous crumbling and lifting. The body is crumbling away, the mission has been accomplished, and yet now a higher self can be raised up. An existence on another plane can begin. The reference to sky-walking reminded Joel of this.
This wave-like, rolling ground. Walking on water.
Reading the Marc Haven quote from page 14 of Meditations on the Tarot. He was married to the daughter of Maitre Philip de Lyon. “Our sensations, symbolising external movement, do not resemble them (i.e. the phenomena) any more than the undulations of sand in the desert resemble the wind which raises it up into sand dunes, or any more than the ebb and flow of the sea resembles the combined movements of the sun and moon. They are symbols of it…” This quote too brings together sand, wind, and sea.
Jim recalls that in a letter to Bernhard Martin in the 1940s, Tomberg gave some intimation of a prior incarnation, in describing a dream of walking over endless dunes in the desert. An indication of Abraham? Going into the wilderness. Joel remembers this as representing for Tomberg, not a prior incarnation, but a vision of heading into the wasteland of the post-World War II (and post-anthroposophical) world. That he also dreamt of footprints, and that he realised eventually that they were Rudolf Steiner’s—leading him into the wasteland, accompanying him away from anthroposophy. Perhaps a memory of Moses and Joshua? (Since then, neither Jim nor Joel can find the quote they were both remembering in slightly different forms).
In both Islam and Judaism there are ritualistic ceremonies that involve water, but if the water is not available, you use sand. Again a kind of polysemic equivalent. Sand/ocean. Washing of the feet—you wash the sand off of the feet. Would you wash the sand with sand? Learning to quench thirst with sand???
Interesting that Tomberg, from 1943 onwards, wrote or spoke of the “coming deluge” and building an Ark to carry through it that which needs to survive. In this context, the deluge is equivalent to the desert or wilderness. Like a sand storm.
The flower crown is also reminiscent of the spiral/circular hair on the raised youth in the Judgement.
The tunic that goes above the cup and covers it is like a canopy. Like that which covers both the High Priestess and the Chariot: the receptive skin uniting human and divine. The receiving of what is offered.
The wings in the Judgment—it really seems as though the blue “sleeve” on the Knave’s right (our left)—the one that almost seems like a rainbow shooting out of the cup—is actually a wing. Just realising it again, but in a different way, and it is shocking. It does not belong to her—it belongs to another creature altogether. The wing doesn’t meet her shoulder. The creature is kind of sitting on her arm, facing the same way that she is. Sitting on her hand. A falcon. Notice the “head”: the folded beige cloth right above the opening of the cup. The canopy. Like she is a falconer, about to send out the falcon. There is a hood on a falcon until it is ready to go. You take it off when it is time to release it. We can see the head, and the body is the cup, the wing is the blue sleeve, and the tail is the rest of the beige scarf.
Perhaps she is morphing into the bird, about to fly away. Again this brings us to Native American mythology, becoming the Eagle at death.
Like pulling the lid off the turkey. Presenting the dish. But her eyes are downcast, she is offering. Who is she presenting this to? It is her life story. “Here’s what I bring with me.”
The upward flight/release vs the weight, the spikes, the sinking in below it. A contrast on her right side.
Noticing the shading on the scarf. The lines look like it has been partially stitched up, or laced. Like Force. Like the shading on the feet, it doesn’t make sense as a shadow.
With this picture of a bird, we’re back to the Ace of Cups, which we perceived as this bird-like being within the city/bird cage:
We also later saw this image as a pyramid with a great being rising out of it. Khufu’s horizon. Again there is this relationship to Judgement, the connection between resurrection and the Egyptian initiation rituals.
One side of the pyramid is removed at the base of the cup in the Knave. Like an accordion is opening up. Or a hallway. The shafts in the pyramid through which the spirit travels. Going through a transitional point: starting as the circular top, becoming a square base of a pyramid. The squaring of the circle. The mystery of irrational pi. The turning point, a metamorphosis. Are there actually four sides to this pyramid? Or six?
The theme of the number Three throughout the third Suit. The One was predominant in the Ace of Coins, then the Two in the Ace of Swords. The three is everywhere in the Ace of Cups.
The Knave has the same elements as the Magician, but all of them in a higher or more complete form. The ball and the baton of the Magician: the Knave has joined them together magically as the Cup:
They have the same gaze, the weight is on the same foot. Even the knife is similarly placed. The Magician, however, has a belt and therefore a torso, whereas the Knave does not. Hers is more like a dress. He, the male, has a table spread out before him, whereas she, the female, has a shelf within her from which she has removed something. He has his hat on, she has her cap off. The Magician is the moment right before the magical act. The Knave is in the midst of the magic. Capturing the moment of the magical deed.
The gender is ambiguous. Isn’t this the ultimate condition, a return to androgyny?
The moment of death: crumbling and lifting simultaneously. The gender is also deteriorating. It is no longer significant. This figure is rather masculine except for the face and hair, and the flower crown. And the dress.
What is this strange white bump coming out of her left elbow? It is like the “C” next to the Magician’s bag. Or the knob on the horse in the Knight of Swords.
Going back to a spread we looked at a while back. The building up of the Court Arcana through the different Suits. There is a connection amongst the Queen of Coins, the Knight of Swords, and the Knave of Cups:
We can see that the Knave of Coins stands alone, as the “Coin within the Coins.” The Knight of Coins is already looking to the Swords, and is on the level of “Swords within the Coins.” But he is on the same plane as the lowest level of the Swords: the “Coins within the Swords.”
Then on the third level, we have the Queen of Coins: “Cups within the Coins”. She is on the same level as the lowest level of the Cups, the Knave of Cups: “Coins within the Cups.” And between them is the Knight of Swords, who is on the level of “Swords within the Swords.” There is a relationship of gesture amongst these three.
With the Queen, we came to this place that she is passing the coin through herself. On the one hand, it goes through this metamorphic sequence: passing through the sieve of her crown, it becomes the bumble bee and then the strange round throne. From another perspective, we perceived it as passing down through her collar and rolling along her belt, going around the rim of the throne, and descending into this place within the “mountain” her left arm is wrapped around. We came to see that rather than cradling a shield like the Empress, she cradles a pyramid which is at the pinnacle of a mountain. It is interesting that we can only see two sides of this pyramid, like the base of the Knave’s cup. The coin, having gone down into the depths of this mountain, is then raised up through her baton, becoming this new creature: a bee perhaps? But we can also think of this again as an image of Egyptian initiation, where the soul transforms into this Eagle spirit, flying into the spiritual world.
Joel’s daughter Brie perceives her hair rather as water, and her crown as a kind of screen or window through which the water is passing. This makes her head very small, and the water kind of runs down her back.
Jim sees this object behind her as a table, not a throne, and perhaps the coin she holds belongs on this table? She is balancing the coin. Not really gripping it (like the Knave with the hat). She is keeping it from floating away. Is she emanating the coin? Or is the coin emanating her? We came to see them as a united being. That it is both at the same time, they are of one essence. That she is Sophia, Divine Wisdom aiding in creation of forms out of the One Thing.
Now this metamorphic quality that is present in the Queen becomes more Sword-like in the Knight. It takes on the character of separation. He is like a well-protected head floating in a sea of chaotic evolution. An unrestrained, chaotic manifestation of forms that are unrelated to each other. His left shoulder growing a head; his entire right side becoming a horse; the rear part of the horse becoming an elephant; something growing out of the horse’s shoulder, etc. He is losing himself into a multiplicity of beings.
Now, the Knave of Cups shows us a harmony of these two. A blend of metamorphosis and dissolution (self-sacrifice).
Looking at the sequence of Court Coins. The Knave holds the Coin. Then it is floating before the Knight. The Queen holds it once again. All three of them are focused on it:
There is a growing duality in the Knave of Coins. A promise. Is he suspicious? He’s recognised something. An “aha!” moment. Questioning. There is more separation in the Knight. He is following his guiding star. And there are two beings now in the Knight. He is reigning in his horse. The bridle motif is akin to the circumference of the Coin (the petals). And is he holding a bat? A club? Is he going to hit the coin, like a baseball? Or a piñata? And is that a bonnet or a helmet?
We began to see him as being transformed as the bat lowers down. That everything above it is in harmony and order, whereas all below it is rather chaotic. The Coin is like Tinkerbell: follow it to Neverland, to the Queen. The Knave is more retrospective/introspective. He looks back over the Ten that came before him, uniting himself with them. The Knave is riding ahead, toward the Queen.
There is an extra coin in the Knave? He is looking into a Coin with ten petals. He is looking back on the wholeness of the Ten, the Decad. All of this makes sense. Yet the 11th is germinating below him (this extra coin has 11 petals, not 10).
Initially, we looked at this image from the perspective of “As Above, So Below”: then we noticed the very slight difference between above and below—wait a second!
And he is holding the pyramid of his belt. Pricking his finger in order to keep awake, in order to force himself into a state of concentration. The totality of the Ten is so much to take in. There is a lemniscate form within the Knave of Coins. It is the same coin, yet different depending on how/when/where it is approached. A moving through the head and down the hat of the Knave, then through his middle and down around below his feet, then curving back up again to his hand. A difference of knowing through reflection and observation, through a knowing by doing.
In the Knight, this transcendent vs immanent becomes more pronounced. His upper half is drawn out to the transcendent above him. The lower half is thrust into the chaos. Doesn’t have the organisational principle attached to it.
The first two Knaves have a lemniscate hat. This one is new:
Is his hat more akin to the bonnet of the Knight of Coins? Or is it like the lemniscate reduced to just the yellow middle portion?
When we look at the second level of the Court Arcana, of the Knight of Coins and the Knave of Swords, the overarching spiritual experience is that of shock. The Knight of Coins is having an experience akin to Saul on the road to Damascus, Saul becoming blinded by the Risen One and converting, becoming St. Paul. The horse rearing up; the formerly anti-christian militant becoming the proclaimer of the Gospel. Then with the Knave of Swords, we have the newborn baby or the sleepwalker who has only just come to his senses. A feeling that actions have already been performed, but consciousness is only just beginning to catch up with them.
When we brought up this image of the Knave of Cups presenting the turkey dinner, it was reminiscent of an image we had for the Five of Cups. “Be our guest”, Beauty and the Beast with all of the enchanted objects making the grand feast:
Or maybe all of these accumulating Cups are a bit like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, where he enchants the brooms to do the work for him, but then can’t get them to stop, and chaos ensues. There is definitely that mood in the Numbered Swords as well.
Perhaps the Cups are bit like Pandora’s box? Releasing strange creatures from the cups, but in reverse, from the Ten through the Ace? The Knave is the one opening the box?
It does also strike us as the process of gestation in reverse: as though the Ace is the end of the pregnancy, the Five of Cups is the middle, when the woman is showing. All are admiring the growing belly. The reverse time stream that Steiner refers to regarding the spiritual world: the material world moves from the past into the future, the spiritual world moves from the future into the past.
Thinking of when Steiner speaks of the first breath of the child imprinting the entire cosmos of that moment onto the brain. All kinds of things begin happening at that moment, no longer mediated through the womb/mother. New pressures. The imprint: the passage through the birth canal is a squeezing, a dramatic tension, intensity—go for it! Whereas conception/gestation is a weaving, the moment of birth is when it is all cinched down. What had been in a process of weaving is now made manifest, fixed. Like the proto-flower in the blossom before it blooms, it is still indeterminate.
Maybe the Ace of Cups is like the most extreme moment of pregnancy—the due date, let’s say—ready to pop. And the Numbered Cups go backwards through gestation, back to the moment of conception. A moment that is also a dying out of the spiritual world. Maybe like seeing the Ascendent at the Midnight Hour. The final cause (the moment of birth) comes first. It then determines the prior nine months of activity. Or even prior centuries of activity, as the soul is involved in directing certain hereditary streams in order to help the right body come about.
And so a kind of pre-visioning of what is to come (the Ace of Cups, due date) determines the moment of dying out of the spiritual world (conception, Knave of Cups). This pre-visioning and determination is what is displayed as the process of the Cups thus far.
This idea from Lazarus, Come Forth!—that there is no future per se, there is only that from the past which is worthy of being resurrected in a transfigured (Christian/Catholic) form. Christ’s life becomes an ever-renewing present, and we merely experience the foremost moment of this renewal, this revival of the past—and so in that sense, we experiencing the moment furthest back in time to be resurrected thus far.
An eternal sphere of the present, after the turning point—all is to be resurrected anew.
On the other hand, that from the past which is not worth keeping goes through eternal recurrence. An eternal repetition. And so these continue parallel: the resurrection of the Good, True and Beautiful, alongside the recurrence of the Wicked, False, and Ugly.
The fulcrum is Christ. The balance.
The past is the determining side of the scale. Christ is the fulcrum. Our present is the bringing into balance on the other side of the scale.
This undulating ground in the Knave of Cups. Holding something in balance while utterly falling to pieces.
Notice that the weight is on her right foot, yet the right hand is lifting up. The cup is heavy, but the bird is being released. A contrast of heaviness and levity. Similarly, the left foot is lifting up, showing this levity, and yet maybe this hat is not being held up necessarily: maybe it is like a helium balloon; maybe her left hand needs to hold it down so that it does not float away. So again a contrast of levity and gravity. The right foot descends while the right hand ascends. The left foot ascends while the left hand descends. This creates something cross-lateral, an X-shape: bringing right hand and left foot into relation, and left hand and right foot into relation.
This cross-wise gravity and levity…the Balance of Christ. The resurrection of the Good along with debts that are going unpaid. The bad that needs to happen. What exactly is behind the eternal recurrence?
Perhaps it is only an eternal recurrence until someone comes along with the moral artistry to make it good, to redeem it. And so it keeps coming back until it too is resurrected.
Tomberg’s precursor to Meditations on the Tarot: “Personal Certainty”. Order vs System. Spiritual science is not strictly speaking a science, it is a matter of individual (or personal, or intimate) certainty. An order, not a system (ideally, and as intended).
History is considered an objective science, but there is no history. There is only the present moment (as characterised above).
Oscar Cullman’s Christ and Time presents all of this from a theological point of view 30 years before Tomberg.
In French, the word for history is “story.”
For Steiner, history cannot be approached like natural sciences, as it is the collective dream of humanity.
We’re back to Marc Haven. The patterns in the sand are the symbol of the wind, not the wind itself.
A World War I plane that went down in the Sahara desert. It flew over the desert, thinking it was over the ocean. They didn’t have good enough instrumentation. An example of the degeneration of our technical/mechanical proficiency.
How do we rediscover the symbol that is the imprint of the real? We’re not sure what we’re looking at or look for anymore, in terms of mainstream science and world view. There are so many ways to misinterpret. History is the effect of spiritual activity. “Interpret”: the wind, “interpreted” into sand looks like waves or ripples.
Roots of the Bible. Words have literal meanings, yet there is also a concrete numerical meaning to each word. The word in itself, not as symbol.
It isn’t just a matter of mechanics when it comes to the wind-sand relationship.
There are turning points with accompanying reflections/reversals all through the Old and New Testaments. The Companion Bible by EW Bullinger.
We closed with the second stanza of the Foundation Stone Meditation.