Knave of Cups (III)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on March 16, 2022, with Jim, Joel, Gareth, and Phillip. A “quick” meeting before Joel goes to pick up his children…Gareth’s first Tarot meeting, as he visits from North Carolina.

The Knave’s cup as a “squaring of the circle” (square base, circular top). It is striking that, coming off of our last conversation, the cup is now open on both sides. That there is an opening in the top, as there has been all along, but now there seems to be one side of the “pyramid” base that is missing, or open, with this blue spectrum shining out of it. An opening at the top as well as at the bottom.

Did this transformation occur in the Ten of Cups?

We look at all ten that preceded the Knave:

There is this turning point in the Ten—all throughout we have have the impulse to turn the images upside down, to see how the form and impression shifts. With the Ten we have a sideways cup—then we have the Knave’s cup, which opens on both sides, i.e. both right-side up and upside down simultaneously.

The Ten is also a turning point in terms of the knob. In the sideways cup at the top, this knob is finally present, which is like the center of the vortex, transforming the left side into the right and vice versa. In all of the prior cups, the knob is not there, rather it is a stem with a little lip at the bottom of it. We can think of the form of the knob as the “bowl” of the cup having descended to the middle. This bowl has five segments until the Ten—then the sideways cup has seven segments, both in the bowl as well as in the central “knob”. But in the Knave it finally becomes a knob with three segments. And it is now red. We have seen this form before in the Ten of Swords:

Perhaps this red knob is there already in the Ace of Cups, but is divided. The three segments finally unite in the Knave.

Note that the knob has decreased from seven segments in the Ten to three segments in the Knave. And also the “pyramid” at the base, has decreased from three sides to two. A reduction of some kind.

There is not a true base on the Ace of Cups as there is in all the smaller cups. The base of the Ace slopes directly down, in a bit of a curve, to meet the floor. But the smaller cups have a vertical cut at the very bottom, marking a kind of stand. Then, with the cup of the Knave, there is no longer a true “base”—like the Ace. For the first time, the pyramid is not curved. The slopes are straight, diagonal. The two stripes on the base of the Knave’s cup are matched by the two stripes on her hat. These stripes are akin to the left panel of the base of the Ace of Cups.

The Knave of Cups is pondering the Cup just as the Knave of Coins ponders the coin. The Cup bears within it the prior two suits: the circular opening as the unity of the Suit of Coins, the two sided pyramid as the duality of the Suit of Swords, and the three-segment knob in the center as the Suit of Cups. We have finally achieved harmonisation between unity and polarity.

The Knave of Coins also had this kind of lemniscatory balancing of the Coin above vs the Coin below. We imagined the upper coin passing through him, down the slope of his hat’s brim, then crossing diagonally through his middle into the Earth at his right foot as the “lower coin.” Then it would pass below the feet and again diagonally through his middle and become the “upper coin.”

He is clearly contemplating the Coin. The Knave of Cups likewise is focused on the Cup, but the nature of the contemplation is quite different. She is holding the hat a bit like he is holding the coin: very delicately. Perhaps the two coins from the Knave of Coins have become the Cup and the Cap.

The bottom of the flower creature in the Two of Cups is like the “bowl” of the Knave’s Cup—although can we any longer call this a bowl? It has taken on the curved form that the base once had.

The triangles on the belt of the Knave of Coins are similar to the base of the Cups, the Ace of Cups in particular:

[As I transcribe these notes, I see now that the Knave of Cups is a bit of a reversal of the Knave of Coins: she holds up the “pyramid” in her right hand and the “cap” down in her left. The pyramid is like the point on the belt in the Knave of Coins, which is down/left; the cap is like the coin in the Knave of Coins, which is up/right.]

The future shining into the past…somehow the nature of the Two, which is expressed in the Swords, shines into the Knave with his two coins. There is a similar shining back and forth going on here, with the pyramid base in his belt.

The Suits as One, Two, and Three, exemplified by the Aces. The unity of the Ace of Coins, the division in the Ace of Swords, and the multiple trinities throughout the Ace of Cups:

The lack of a real “base” in the Ace of Cups…we perceived it at one point as heated up, as malleable metal, and therefore stretchy. Turned upside down, it appears to be dripping from the ceiling.

Why does the Two of Cups have this red puddle? We perceived the Ace of Cups as a a container for a being or beings that were ready to burst. A great volatility barely contained, like a geyser. Then in the Two, the Ace has burst asunder. The upper “city” has been cast off. It has become one of the cups in the Two, and the “pyramid” has become the other. The dual fish-plant is the volatile being that was inside. We can see their “fins” in the Ace. The bursting apart of the Ace caused blood or wine to flow, leaving this puddle at the bottom. The fish suck this blood or wine up through the stem. They extract something from the flower, making room for the blood to come in. This transforms them into the “blueberries” we see in the Three, and transforms the flower of the Two into the third Cup:

But there also seems to be a connection between the red base of the Two and the two colors on the ground of the Ace. Why are there two colors there? The threefold built on the foundation of duality. But we also perceived the shaded, beige portion as a wall in the distance, with the white as the actual ground, the foreground. We were seeing one side of the “castle”. Then the two shows us the inside or the other side of this same castle, what the Ace looks like from the other way around. And so the red is the other side of this beige “wall.”

This strong metamorphic quality in the Numbered Cups originated in the Court Swords. After the seemingly asinine repetition of the Numbered Swords—a kind of mechanical pattern that lacked any life—we finally come to the emergence of the Knave of Swords. We realise that the Knave of Swords is like the birth of a child, breaking out of the bag of waters, while the previous ten have been the dilation of the cervix to ten centimetres. A labor. This Knave has this fish form embedded in him, when turned sideways. He goes on a path of extreme evolution—in the Knight, he becomes a kind of Adam Kadmon, where each of his limbs is becoming its own creature and breaking off. His heavily protected head floats above the sea of constantly evolving forms. This evolution goes too far: he must be slain by the Queen of Swords, he kneels at her feet to be beheaded. Then he is resurrected as the King of Swords, who disappears into his own throne, becoming the Ace of Cups. A direct continuation of an evolution begun in the prior Suit. The Court Swords continue forward into the Cups, but they also radiate their influence back into the Numbered Swords, illuminating them and making sense of them. Turning them into a living metamorphic process rather than a mindless repetition.

The mutual creativity of the blue and the red in the plant-being of the Two of Cups. They bring about a kind of hermaphroditic reproduction, a self-generating being. Unity as an integrated duality. The yellow is what they create together, the cup.

After we met last time, Joel was left with a strong impression of the “X” gesture of the Knave of Cups. She presses her right foot down, yet lifts up the Cup with her right hand—from which a being of some kind is emerging. She lifts her left foot up, yet holds the cap down. So there is a cross-lateral gesture: the downward gesture is with the right foot and the left hand, whereas the upward gesture is with the left foot and the right hand:

But notice that the entire development of the Numbered Cups has led to the “X”, to the Ten of Cups which has a Roman numeral X on either side. This hermaphroditic productivity has been a gradual dying out of the all-too-alive being that was born in the Court Swords. A giving away of its creative force for the production of the Cups. And it led to the bringing into being of the “X” which is a form from the future—it is the gesture of almost all of the Numbered Batons:

So the past had to be sacrificed so that something from the future could be brought in. The only way the Three could finally and truly arise in the Knave of Cups was through bringing in something of the Four (the X-shape of the Batons) from the future. This goes back to Weinreb: the third of any sequence in the Torah already includes a fourth, it is a double. E.g, the third day of creation has two activities within it: the creation of dry land on the one hand, and the creation of plants on the other. Similarly, the third patriarch, Jacob, is a twin. The third always bears the fourth within it.

And the actual attainment of the Three is tenuous. The Cup which the Knave bears has this unstable two-sided base. It will only stay a Cup (a three) for so long. It too is an X—with a seed pod ready to burst in its center. It is already transforming into a Baton.

Metamorphosis, according to Goethe, is a constant pulsing of polarities being formed and then unifying. We see this pulsing throughout the Numbered Cups, a kind of expansion and contraction. The overall gesture is a transformation from Fish (Two of Cups) to Bird (the Hawk in the Knave of Cups). Although perhaps we can see hints or prototypes of both in the Ace of Cups:

This is also already indicated in the Knave of Swords, who has the fish-form within him, but also some kind of owl (the face of the owl is in his neck). He is a fish-bird being. This brings us strongly to the fifth day of creation: the birds of the air and the fish of the sea.

There is a metamorphosis from human (in the Court Swords) to animal (fish) to plants and finally to the seed/stone in the Knave of Cups. The red pod. A simultaneous rising and falling evolution. Again, Adam Kadmon. The primal being at the start of Polaris who has all of Creation within him. Each time a step in evolution is taken upward, an aspect must also descend in order to lay a foundation. A cosmic law of evolution.

The Ten of Cups looks like the moment of checkmate in a chess game. Laying the King down. Coming to the Ten was the first time Joel noticed that actually, yeah, all of the Cups look like chess pieces. Phillip points out, however, that the upper Cup in the Ten looks more like the Queen piece, not the King. Sacrifice of the Queen? Is this pointing to the fact that in chess you can promote a pawn to a queen? This is almost the other way around—the queen sacrificing herself to become a pawn, being “promoted” to a pawn.

We then go through the whole sequence of metamorphosis in the Numbered Cups. The Ace as the volatile being, who explodes into the Two of Cups. The fish who absorb something out of the flower, sucking the red up into it, making the third cup. But the plant in the Three then has a fourth cup gestating, which “pops” out, leading to the activity of the Four of Cups, all the cups “up in the air” so to speak. The center of the plant in the Four of Cups then becomes the central cup in the Five. A kind of culmination. She looks like a pregnant woman with plants admiring her belly. Or a chef presenting a beautiful meal. The creation of this fifth cup splits the plant in half. Then there is a kind of “karate chop” motion by the upper plant which splits the central cup into two, and simultaneously reunites the plant into the long vertical being in the Six of Cups. The Six of Cups is a kind of burial or entombment. The end of a process.

After the Six, the evolution really shifts away from this strict “pulsing” between unity and duality that has been there. Attempting to find the harmony, but only pulsing: odd/even/odd/even. In the Seven, a leap of the imagination has to take place to carry on the evolution. It is as though all six cups fall into the central “ditch” of the plant in the Six of Cups…and then they converge, they become a column of three cups, giving birth to four corner cups in the Seven. It seems as though the end has come; the fire has been dowsed, and only a little smoke rises from the bottom central cup. The Eight comes as a surprise “encore”: the smouldering ash in the Seven explodes into a kind of fireworks display, spitting the central cup in two. Then this central firework in the Eight gives birth to the central cup in the Nine, which again splits the plant into two. We can see the Seven as spring, the Eight as summer, and the Nine as fall: the plant becomes all thorns, begins to die away, after the magnificent display of the Eight. The Ten is winter: the plant is completely gone. It has died completely into the cup.

We can also see the Ace as a winepress. Like the upper “city” and lower “pyramid” come together and smash the “grape” in the middle, creating the wine in the Two.

The Ace also gives the impression that, if it is a cup, it has a cap on top. Who’s in there? What being is hiding within this cup? Perhaps that is what we finally witness in the Knave—the cap has been removed from the cup, not from the Knave’s head.

What is this red that is in the cup? Is it astrality? Animality? Wine? Does it represent “product”? Heat? Blood? Ego? By the end—in the Ten—it appears as a seal, a stamp, like red wax.

The red is maybe this unified life ether/matter…the primal substance. Then a bifurcation takes place. A give-and-take of life to matter and matter to life. As in cosmic evolution.

The first six are a sequence, culminating in the Five, and then the Six as a death/ending. Then this recapitulates in a different form in the final four. A culmination in the Nine (which splits the plant, similar to the Five), and then a death/ending in the Ten. A 5 + 1 and then a 3 + 1.

Life is completely given over to the seed form. Like dried blood, a holy relic. Blood of Christ or a saint. All is brought to stillness in the Ten. Then it is held by the Knave. She retrieves the relic. The Chapel of the Holy Blood in Bruges, where the Tombergs had a very intense experience of the authenticity—that this is indeed Christ’s blood.

The first four Majors are a highly archetypal sequence, representing so much, but for us expressing this synthesis of the ball and wand which the Magician holds, through the High Priestess and the Empress, to become the sceptre of the Emperor. He is the “presentation in the Temple”, the beholder of the finished product.

The seed-relic which the Knave of Cups beholds is akin in this sense to the “final product” of the Emperor.

And yet her gaze is to the center of the cup, to the seed/blood itself, not to the top, to the lip of the cup. Her gaze differs from that of the Emperor.

We can also see the Hermit as the opposite of the Knave of Cups. The Hermit holds the lantern from the top, and his cloak streams out from the bottom. Whereas the Knave holds the cup at the base, and her scarf floats above the top. Each of them has their head covering removed, and each has a dagger hidden in their clothes. What about the staff of the Hermit, making contact with the Earth? Is the equivalent in the Knave the cap in her right hand? We had this picture of it as a kind of balloon, wishing to float away, and she keeps it from doing so. Maybe she is maintaining contact with Heaven in some way, as opposed to the Hermit who maintains contact with Earth?

Is the cap for her head? Or for the cup? Is it a lid?

The scarf as a “heart-tongue”…this makes it akin to the “kissing fish” from the Two of Cups.

The cup/scarf/sleeve as a hawk with a hood on. Her torso as like a bird’s cage where it was resting or contained. Now she has extracted it, released it from the cage. She is in the process of dying, of transforming into the Eagle-Spirit.

She is in perfect contemplation. She is on a much higher level than previous Court Cards, certainly of prior Knaves. She is on the level of a King of Coins, for example.

With the Emperor, this “presentation in the Temple” is related to Simeon, who waited until the end of his life just to see the baby Jesus. He held on until that moment, and then he could die in peace. “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord.”

The Ace of Swords as the “breaking open” of the Ace of Coins. Seeing Coin as the Sword still within the crown, only from below. The flowers and vines adorning the Coin as related to the flowers and vines emerging from the Ace of Swords. Realising that the central circle on the Coin is the hilt of the sword; the rest of the coin is the circular hand guard. This is pulled out, breaks something open (akin to the mucus plug being released, which sets in motion the process of labor).

Well, on the one hand its a bit like the Ace of Cups is an attempt to reassemble what was broken…on the other hand, maybe now we’re dealing with a further reduction. Maybe the Ace of Cups is just the hilt of the sword, and we’re trying to extract just that seed pod. The whole process of the Minors is a gradual taking apart or reduction of the Ace to its essence. The pommel. Pommel means apple. Supposedly Charlemagne kept a fragment of the Cross (a relic) hidden within the pommel of his sword. The pommel in the center of the Knave’s cup is most similar in shape to the pommel we see in the Three of Swords (although colour-wise it is the most similar to the Ten of Swords):

Perhaps the cap of the cup and the cap of the Knave are one and the same? Perhaps her head was hidden within the cup, sealed with the turban/cap. When the cup emerges from within her torso, the cap is removed, and her head floats out, with the beige scarf (heart-tongue) trailing behind it. This is the big reveal. She is like a genie coming out of the lamp. Perhaps she was this red and blue magical being the whole time—hermaphroditic, therefore difficult to tell whether she is male or female.

Maybe these cups conceal what is within them. The red is briefly exposed in the puddle of the Two, but from then on it is actually concealed. These cups are not like normal cups, which contain something, but at the same time offer a glimpse of it. To be more specific: when we look at these cups, we don’t get the impression that we are seeing what is inside of the yellow “bowl” at the top. It seems as though it is merely a red tray, a kind of lid with a dip or depression in it that is on top of the cup, concealing what is actually inside of it.

(This goes tangentially into a conversation about how we can ever know whether we are reading too much into the images; whether features are intentional or a matter of printer’s error, or a limitation of the medium. Some things can be confirmed—like the watermark on the Ace of Cups, which is universal. Joel originally thought it was a printing error on his particular deck. But sometimes you just don’t know, and that becomes part of the “game” of reading the Tarot—of trying to discern what is actually polysemic and what is merely a mistake).

It seems as though in the stem, something is constricted. That there is something powerful in there that is ready to burst or open up. There are minor differences among these different stems, especially in the Ten of Cups. Some are more curved than others, for example. Perhaps the yellow bowl is like a weight, something that is keeping whatever it is in the stem from bursting out.

Notice the similarity of the yellow bowl/weight to the turban/cap that the Knave holds in her left hand. Perhaps what we see in the Ten of Cups is the gradual unwrapping or releasing of the turban/weight/cap. The four-leaf clover—the four, the cross, the X—has now entered the red “dish”. (X=10; tilt it slightly, and it becomes a cross = 4; the magical/Pythagorean equivalency of 10=4). The weight being removed, the stem is no longer constricted, and the red is allowed to sink down into the stem which is now widening out, blossoming. It becomes expansive and receptive. The four, as it sinks down into the center of the cup, then presents as the threefold seed pod in the Knave. The top of the cup is now truly “open”; notice that there is no longer a lip (akin to the fishes’ lips) around the top, just as there is no longer a “proper” base, similar to the Ace of Cups:

The King of Swords—with his proto-baton that has a pommel on it!—descends into his throne. He is the one who makes all these transformations happen throughout the Numbered Cups. The King/Queen devolves into the Pawn (Knave). The male King reemerges as the female Knave after performing the magical act. From this point of view, there is a kind of ascent to a certain stage of perfection in the first two Suits, culminating in the King of Swords. He must then descend, sacrifice himself, in order to bring about further progress.

This reminds us of a powerful experience Phillip had at the Act of Consecration of Man the previous Sunday. That the Mass is not a taking in of the resurrection body. “Do this in remembrance of me”: it is the culminating act of the incarnated Christ prior to his death and resurrection. What we are taking in is the Transfigured Christ, the Christ who was able to perform so many miraculous deeds out of complete inner freedom. We are only lead to the threshold at the Mass. What we are given is that which gives us the capacity to be free beings in the sense of Philosophy of Freedom, to be morally creative beings. It is then entirely up to us whether we follow the rest of the path of Christ—whether we then voluntarily take on restriction and burden for the sake of our fellow beings. Whether we then freely sacrifice our freedom. Only out of that sacrifice, of that becoming nothing, can the absolute freedom of the Resurrected Christ come about—the victory over life and death. The stages that lead up to the Mass are shown in the Coins and Swords. The Cups are the descent, the Passion. That is what we see here: the Knave as the simultaneity of “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” and “My God, My God, how thou hast glorified me!” The true birth of Christ into Mother Earth occurred with the death on the Cross.

Afterwards, Joel and Phillip reflected on the fact that it was already back in the Three of Coins that there was a “Four” gestating within the three in the form of the “pearl of great price.” This pearl constellates the form of the three Coins in the image. Similarly, there is an even more obvious “Five” intruding in the Four of Coins around which they constellate. Does this indicate a veiled “Fifth Suit” after the Batons? Perhaps this is the Major Arcana, when they are treated as what follows the Minor Arcana (i.e., when we treat the Minor Arcana as a preparation for the greater mysteries that are within the Majors). The Majors can then be seen as that which works backward and constellates the “Four”, the Batons.

We also reflected on the mild feeling of apprehension, of unease that comes with the intrusion of the Batons into the Cups. The feeling that we are already touching the domain of the Four, under the sign of which a great deal of turmoil entered into Phillip’s life (and in a very different and less “life or death” form, into Joel’s life); turmoil that seems somehow spiritually interwoven with the world turmoil that eventually emerged under the form of Covid tyranny (the global coup d’etat). Perhaps, however, experiencing the “Sign of the Four” back in the stage of the Coins was a premature awakening of sorts. Like touching the wood stove when you’re a toddler and getting burned. Becoming afraid to go near it. But then becoming nine, ten years old and learning how to build a fire properly, how to use the wood stove. It’s a totally different experience. Perhaps that is the experience we are now ready to have under the Sign of Four: one which somehow redeems and elevates the turmoil that arose in July, 2018 and hasn’t really let up since.