Knave of Swords (II)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on August 19, 2020

August 19, 2020

Knave of Swords pt 2

—The previous conversation jogged Joel’s memory to a formative book from his youth, Orthodoxy, which is in a certain respect the “spiritual biography” of GK Chesterton: his path from agnosticism to orthodoxy. Chapter 4, “The Ethics of Elfland” describes Chesterton’s fundamental point of view in facing the world; the one that for him has always been operative if not consciously recognised until adulthood, that the world is only logical on its surface. Dive down beneath the surface and you discover that the universe is built on the same “logic” (or lack thereof) that fairy tales are built on. Each and every being, feature, and event in the universe, all qualities, are at their core magical and non-rational, they are only waiting to be recognised and properly appreciated as such:

Further, there was a question as to which of Jacob’s hips was displaced by the Angel, and Joel stumbled upon these two fascinating entries:

We began with the protective practice.

We then invited the guidance and inspiration of the Resurrected Christ to join our conversation.

After focusing the mantra IT THINKS in the region of the larynx, we moved the third part of the Inner Radiance sequence (I rest within the Godhead of the world), and the fourteenth letter of the Divine Alphabet, Nun, in relation to Temperance.

We then read from Revelation 12:4-6, and read passages from an medieval Welsh poem, Cad Goddeu (, The Battle of the Trees (, which had been introduced to us by Kevin Dann as we discussed “The Ethics of Elfland”, the world as magical deed, and the role of elementals in this magical world. The Battle of the Trees, in nearly every line as well as in its overall texture, seems to capture perfectly the entire Suit of Swords, in its dream-like, stream-of-consciousness, evocative, powerful, confrontational, mutable, repetitive, self-sacrificial, elemental, etc etc…form and mood.

– Comparing the Knave of Swords to The Fool…The Fool is also a hodgepodge, as though he is made up of puzzle pieces of a man that just don’t quite fit together. But the Knave is more than this. He is made up of a whole variety of things. A fish, a bird, etc., that are all stuck together to make the form of a man.

Where is the bird?

It’s a bit like an owl. His triangular larynx area is the owl’s head, and his torso is the body. The flesh-coloured scarf is like the wings of the owl drawing back, flapping. 

– The Fool is clearly a man who has gone through something that destroyed him, and he has now recollected himself, he has resurrected a new being.

The Knave is more of a bringing together of a hodgepodge of a variety of things that aren’t men per se. It’s a bit like Man as the microcosmic reflection or the collection/summary of the macrocosm. The melothesia, the zodiacal man. Adam Kadmon in a way. 

Astrology Wonderings — Microcosmus Melothesia: Homo Signorum As above, so...

– It’s like the hypothetical fish that climbs our of the muck in some Darwinian sense. And then it sprouts two legs! A very rapid evolution! But in any case, expressing the evolutionary idea, the evolutionary gesture. He is the evolutionary idea for the realm of archetypes rather than the biophysical realm. 

– Maybe he, as Adam Kadmon, plays the role of the summary, the sum-total of archetypal forms blended into one being. Then this single archetypal being is like the seed out of which all material, bio-physical forms can be elaborated in a process of outer evolution, that ultimately leads to Man, Man as the manifest Adam Kadmon (the archetypal Man). Knave of Swords makes evolution possible.

– This in a way characterises the Swords in general. The realm of the archetype, the realm of the concept—the realm of Coin—is a place in which everything is a wholeness. Each archetype and each concept is a world unto itself, a little cosmos. Each is discreet from the other. As to the space in between them, what relates each of them—it’s a bit like the idea of the quantum jump of the electron from one shell to another. It’s a magical, spontaneous leap, with no apparent movement between levels. The electron disappears in one place and reappears in another.

The Swords are the representation of that invisible, unmeasurable space in-between. They are this act of taking apart and putting back together again. Diminishing whole things, making them partial enough, open enough to become something new, to take on a new form. They are the process of transition and transformation from one thing into another. 

– It makes one think of the word “agent” that is used over and over again in MOT, whether it is the magical agent in the Letter-Meditation on the Empress, or the agent of life in the Letter-Meditation on The Star. He always uses the word “agent” as the answer to the implied or explicit question, “what is in between?” What is the medium between astral and etheric, etheric and physical? Moving from the explicit and discreet fourfoldness of, say, Anthroposophy: Ego, Astral Body, Etheric Body, Physical Body—to asking the question, but how and why does the Ego unite with astral body, and what is it that flows between them? 

This is exactly the realm that modern science has nothing to offer. It can never go to the absolute origin of a particular process, moment, tissue, movement. In order to do this, something other than the intellect which separates things into discreet boxes is necessary. One must learn to “think with the flood,” in a Bergsonian or Goethean sense. Otherwise it is simply a cutting up smaller and not a true emulsification. 

– Who was that philosopher who basically said you can never get from point A to point B? (ed.—Zeno’s paradox). That you are always traveling half the distance, which means you will asymptotically approach your goal forever. Modern science, modern thought operates out of similar hypnotising thought structures, false absolutes that have nothing to do with reality, with actual experience, e.g. “You are inherently racist, and can never be non-racist. You can only acknowledge your deeply embedded racism and atone for it.” 

– Likewise, reality (specifically our experience of the natural world) on its face appears as an absolute wholeness that precludes or belies this “space in between.” 

Perhaps Jarrod Fowler, at this point, would say “Yes, that’s non-philosophy.” In the sense that non-philosophy is radically immanent and absolutely finite—a deep presencing of oneself into what one is observing, rather than the detached reflection of philosophy and modern science, that ever further widens the gap between subject (self, conception) and object (world, perception). Our immediate world experience does not have this separation (especially as children).

How would this process look? Well, a scientific engagement with the world takes up sense perceptions, and then reflects on them. It “cuts” them up into manageable concepts, through which it attempts to divine rules, laws, patterns, etc. In the meantime, it will never have an adequate reflection of the absolute wholeness of texture that is woven through each piece of the universe it has attempted to reflect upon and conceptualise. It sucks the life out of existence, trades bread for stone.

A non-philosophical engagement would enter into a natural space and perhaps begin with the question, “wait, what is happening to me?” It would begin to observe—not just observe, but sink into the sensory process itself. It would not seek for a transcendental/reflective/abstracted experience, forcing ideas and concepts. Instead it enters into a process of sensing sense activity, out of the question “What is happening right now?”

– In a way, this is describing the whole process of the Swords.

The Ace is the first break in the given appearance of wholeness. 

Then there are discreet stages of experience of the divide from what was once whole. Each of those becomes a new origin, a new point of wholeness, but only in so much as they are a stage or phase in an ever widening divide.

The Swords bring you to the dead end of “normal” scientific, reflective thinking. They turn this whole process on itself, a la Philosophy of Freedom. Here we have the reflective, cutting activity of conceptualisation turned inward, on the process of conceptualisation itself! Rather than outward to the external world. This leads to a negation of the empirical self, of “cutting up the cutting” until one can enter into the Agent, until one is reduced inwardly to this tiny seed of the eternal Self. And through this Agent, one can then enter the process of “sensing sensation” rather than what one gathers up through one’s senses. 

– In the previous conversation, The Magician and The Hermit appeared. We’re not sure why yet.

– In the Knave of Coins, the emphasis is on the feet—on the realm of Malkuth, the World of Facts or Action. The realm of Solidity. And he embodies the act of reflecting on one’s environment. Concentration with effort. 

On the other hand, the Knave of Swords has the emphasis on the hip region, the hips and groin. This is because we are in the Yetzirah, the World of Formation, the Elemental/Demiurgic Sphere, which is the realm of our sense activity, not what we sense. 

For Joel this is very reminiscent of Anthroposophy: a Fragment. This was a book written by Steiner around 1910/1911, and never finished. He later said that he simply could not find the words, could not wrestle or force the spiritual observations into the words of the modern day—the right language could not be found. It was a kind of admission of failure on his part, that this was beyond his skill as a spiritual scientist. And certainly for Joel, of all the works he has read by Rudolf Steiner, this is the most bewildering. You can feel that he cannot find the words to say what he needs to say. He takes himself, and you, to the threshold, but not over. 

And it has this same feeling as the one we’re getting to, that it is nearly impossible, incomprehensible to discover what the act of sensing itself consists of, rather than focusing on what our senses perceive. 

Perhaps the Magician appeared because the coin he holds and his table are in this same realm, in the hip/groin realm. 

Much about the Magician and the Knave of Swords mirrors the other. They both lean to the right, and gaze to the right as well. And their hats are akin. 

But what’s different?

The right hand of the Magician, holding the coin/ball, is turned up, whereas the right hand of the Knave is turned down, holding the sheath. A yellow ball vs a long red line.

In the Empress, her sceptre is like a projection coming out of her and going up, whereas for the Knave his projects down. 

With the Knave, his left arm is down while the sword it holds points up. With the Magician, his left arm is up and the baton it holds points down. 

– The Magician through the Emperor follows the primal journey of the birth of the Sceptre. Ending in the Presentation of the sceptre in the Emperor. 

Maybe the Knave of Swords is somehow the opposite? Like this sequence of four is beginning with a presentation? 

The Magician is performing a magical act that only reveals its full consequences, its generative power, later on in the Emperor. Gradually revealed.

The Knave of Swords is more like he’s doing some kind of dividing act, and he’s the initial stage of the presentation of that, as the melothesia. A fully presented beginning rather than a hidden one.

– A “dividing act”—like cutting the lady in half? Only it seems he may have cut off his own head just in taking the sword out of the sheath, yet in this very artful complicated way that results in three cuts occurring. 

– The act of sensing vs taking the process of sensation and directing it to the sense organs/sense activities themselves.

This is a bit like “removing the sword from the scabbard,” after having brought the scabbard into being out of his own being. The scabbard as the “sense organ” and the removal of the sword “sensing the sensing.” 

He is the Agent of the creation of the scabbard, and the removal of the scabbard creates the cut of the larynx, this 3-fold cutting. 

– At the same time as we’re discussing all of this, or even before, feeling a comparison and contrast between the gesture of the Knave of Coins vs the Knave of Swords.

The Knave of Coins creates a lemniscate. The Coin in the ground travels under his feet and up to his left hand (holding the point), then through his core to his right hand, held right in front of his face. Then it must unite itself with his head, and travel back down through his left arm and down in front of his legs. A process of deeply understanding the world, uniting the features of the world with his own mind, and then engaging the will in such a way that it penetrates all the way into the earth. The process of observing and acting in harmony with the external world after deep reflection. 

Either that, or the Knave draws the coin out of his own head and looks at it, he looks at the content of his own mind and imagination, then passes it down in front of him, to his left hand (holding the point) and behind his legs into the ground, after which it rises up in front of his legs, through his left arm and into the back of his head. Realising one’s intentions, but learning from one’s experiences and failures. 

All of this very much tied to the interaction of experience and knowledge, of learning and breathing, that is spoken of in the Grail Knight’s practice—the tenth part having to do with the fourth level of trespass and fourth level of communion.

Whereas with the Knave of Swords, the gesture is an upside-down V. Like the Freemasonic compass—the compass used for drawing circles. 

Masonic Thoughts: Square and Compass 8/6/08

And this is precisely what the Knave of Coins is holding onto with his left hand in order to maintain consciousness and wakefulness—the sharp point on his belt. The diagonal lines of scabbard and sword framing the vertical line of the Knave of Swords in their midst create this upward facing arrow or point that the Knave of Coins is grasping. This image is the enlargement of that sharp point in the Knave of Coins, a zooming in or a full expression of the seed-form on the belt. 

And the cut around the larynx is the inverse of this triangle.

Notice too that while the hat of the Knave of Swords is similar to both the Knave of Coins’ and the Magician’s, it is more pointed, accentuating this overall gesture. And it slopes in the opposite direction of the Knave of Coins (to the front and his right, rather than behind and to the left—this would seem to verify the impression that the ten Numbered Coins are in front of the Knave of Coins and moving through to behind him, whereas the ten Numbered Swords are behind the Knave of Swords and moving through him to the front of him).

Also—notice the miniature vesica piscis that is formed, from the yellow part of the hat down to the white button below the red larynx area. And yet with a strange loop crossing through it? This red and blue brim? Did we miss something, something that was of greater importance than we assumed—perhaps the yellow part of the scimitars, in the middle of each numbered Sword?

– It actually makes one think quite a bit of the fluid orientation of the Numbered Swords throughout, something we perhaps under-emphasised. Because in the Ace of Swords, there is this gesture of the Sword either being pulled out of, or piercing into, a horizontal vesica piscis. This gateway. But then once we enter this gateway, due to the orientation of the objects framed by it (in the Two through Ten), it seems to be a vertical vesica piscis, not horizontal like the crown in the Ace. And yet the way the numbers are written on either side of the Two through Ten, rather than at the bottom, indicates that they should be looked at horizontally, like eyes—and either “side” can be top or bottom because the numbers are written on both “sides.” And are we moving up into a tunnel of vesica piscis? Or down? Or forward? The orientation is extremely fluid and totally disorienting if one keeps it in mind all the time. 

And we confronted that almost immediately with the “fish man” of the Knave of Swords. He is a man when oriented vertically, and a fish when oriented horizontally. The orientation is still not set in stone, it is fluid. 

Tarot Card – Valet d’Epee (Page of Swords).

Like the Hanged Man—two different centres of gravity, both heavenly and earthly. The cut branches of the Hanged Man are present throughout the Swords. And the Hanged Man’s buttons are very reminiscent of those on the Knave of Swords. 

The shifting centre of gravity might have to do with getting used to this interstitial space in between, where up and down and left and right are no longer fixed.

– Last time we spoke of the impression of the Knave of Swords just kind of suddenly appearing, already engaged in a logical activity, but if we were to attempt to trace back exactly how he got to this position and this situation, it wouldn’t make sense. It would be lost in a kind of haze. 

One gets the strong impression of Earth evolution following Moon evolution. Moon evolution, during which our senses were alive, and our life functions were ensouled, was like some kind of mad chaotic dream world. When you read the descriptions of Rudolf Steiner it just seems like the most chaotic place imaginable. And yet all of Earth evolution, with its fixed external material world and its individualised interior worlds (egos), are the result of this madness.

Similarly, we can think more specifically of the Lemurian age, of Earth evolution prior to and after the Fall. We can only investigate back through biological evolution (which is the name of the game after the Fall), but we have no idea of the nature of the cosmos prior to that time—the true nature of our cosmos, and our true origin. 

And then even more specifically, we can think of history vs pre-history. Modern man (and even as far back as around 2000 BC) makes logical, rational sense. And yet we have no living memory of what came before. We can only think of cavemen, of savagery. The vista opened up by Rudolf Steiner of ancient Atlantis is totally inconceivable to modern man, and utterly forgotten. 

So in all three instances, we are here, engaged in seemingly rational activity, and yet we have totally forgotten our origin. We cannot recall our true origin, as it is totally non-sensical, non-rational. Anthroposophy bears witness to this and attempts to bridge the gap between the rational and the non-rational.

This makes sense of the experience of the numbered Swords. This periodicity, this back and forth, this swirling, hypnotising, repetitive story. This is the image of Moon evolution, or the first half of Earth evolution, leading up to materially incarnated humanity, experiencing death and birth.

– Notice the white handguard that divides the sword in two, similar to the gap between head and neck, or neck and body.

– The number of buttons: there are two horizontally on the larynx, and five vertically on the chest, with one white one splitting them.

Again there is a slight difference between our two images. The above describes Joel’s. Phillip’s has two horizontal and four vertical, with one white button splitting the two. It is interesting that we are so strongly noticing these differences and inconsistencies now, interesting that they emerge now, or that we become aware of them existing in past Arcana where we had not before.

What about the purple on his left arm? This is only on Joel’s. Perhaps it is a discolouration?

– There is a distinct gesture in the way his thumb and forefinger touch around the hilt of the sword.

It is similar to the way the Knave of Coins is pricking his fingers on the point on his belt. Perhaps the Knave of Swords is pricking his finger with his own finger?

Or maybe it expresses the difference in spiritual activity between the two Knaves. In the Knave of Coins, it’s all about maintaining awareness, staying awake to what’s going on around him and heightening the level of rigour in his thought process and observational skills.

With the Knave of Swords, his goal is to become utterly detached, to become an instrument in the hands of higher powers. To withdraw himself from the situation as much as possible. But he can’t forget himself completely, he has to touch himself in order to remain aware of the fact that he is here, has a body, is a Self. A bit like pinching yourself while dreaming in order to wake up. 

– Looking again at him as the compass.

He is the compass, or rather stands in the midst of the compass—he is the plumb line. 

79 Compass and Square ideas | drafting tools, compass, drawing desk

You use the compass to trace the circle.

You create a vesica piscis by drawing two circles overlapping at their center points. 

Then you create an equilateral triangle by connecting the apex of the vesica piscis to the centre point of each side. In other words, you create a miniature compass-shape…

This is, therefore, a circular, cyclical, reproductive activity: compass—circle—circles—vesica piscis—triangle=compass—circle, etc etc.

Trinity (compass) forms unity (circle), then duality (overlapping circles—vesica piscis), then trinity in between the dualities (triangle=compass) in order to form new unity.

Of course any point along that trajectory could be seen as the beginning.

– The melothesia, becoming aware of sensing the same way one becomes aware of cognition. This is where the Hermit comes in. His staff makes contact with reality, giving another degree of certainty, of confirmation about things. Becoming certain about the activity of the senses.

The scabbard then becomes the orienting point akin to the Hermit’s staff. A making contact, around which everything can form and take organisation from.

This is interesting as from another angle, the scabbard seems similar to the Fool’s staff. He’s holding it in the same awkward way, with the same arm. 

It seems unnatural to hold it that way. 

Notice the white plants in the Fool—and it may even be that one of them is attached to the end of the staff? Related to the staff the same way the green grass and white stone are related to the Knave’s sword?

– Going back a bit to notes that Joel took down while transcribing last week’s notes:

First of all, noting that the Knave is a return to the geometrical similarity with the Majors that align with the Swords (Tower of Destruction, Devil, Temperance, Death, Hanged Man). We haven’t seen any similarity since the Ace of Swords in its similarity to the Tower of Destruction. Now there is a very strong resonance between the Knave of Swords and Temperance. While the Knave of Swords clearly has a resonance with many different Majors, it is remarkable that up until this point, the posture of Temperance has been totally unique. No other figure has stood this way, either before or after her. But now, as we return to this geometrical similarity, the Knave stands exactly the same way as the Major that aligns with him. No coincidence! And therefore confirms our rather strange and unique system of moving backward through the Majors. And notice that it was completely the opposite in the Coins, in which all throughout the numbered Coins there was a very strong geometrical resonance with the Majors (World, Judgement, Sun, Moon, Star), but it was suddenly abandoned at the Knave of Coins: the Knave of Coins bears no similarity to the Sun. 

Second of all, clarifying that before we had been under the impression that the sequence of Dante’s initiation was Purgatorio—Inferno—Paradiso. But it actually begins with the Inferno, then Purgatorio, then Paradiso. Not exactly matching out experience of the Coins (Purgatory) and Swords (Inferno).

Third of all, going back to this idea of Moon evolution preceding Earth evolution, of the un-remembered explanation for one’s current situation: we all experience this in every lifetime, as our memories don’t form until we are 2-3 years old. Our birth, learning to walk, all of these crucial foundational events in our biographies are totally pre-conscious. We too begin, in the midst of an activity, with no explanation of how we got there.

Fourth of all, re-reading Temperance and this picture of the tunnel vision of the Guardian Angel. The Angel only maintains contact between God and their human charge. They are unaware of other Angels, and other Hierarchical Beings. This “tunnel vision” might be one of the many realities that the Swords are expressing.

Fifth of all, looking again at the white stone with the green grass under the sword. In Secrets of the Stations of the Cross, Judith von Halle writes of the special blood that spilled from the spear wound. The other blood that was shed by Christ on the Way of the Passion was sinful blood that he had taken on from humanity, and spilt as payment for karmic debt owed and unpayable. But the “blood and water” of the spear wound was special. It was living, etherised blood, the blood of the future, of the Resurrection Body. When it spilled out on the ground below the cross, it was transformed into a green living stone, the Philisopher’s stone. It even carved out a bowl-like shape in this living ground it created. This was the Grail that Joseph of Arimathea carried around Europe, christening various future Christian holy sites. And last time we spoke of this white ground as pure, and this green grass as living. These are the two streams flowing from the heart of the Divine Mercy, the Etheric Christ—the red ray/blood of new life, and the white ray/water of purification. These create the living stone, the Philosopher’s stone, the Pearl of great price.

Sixth of all, last time we spoke of Noah’s ark and the Flood, and how the Swords are all about the building of the boat. Well, at the end of the story of the Flood the Rainbow emerged. And this is what we have here: at the end of the Numbered Swords/Flood, the prism that is the Knave of Swords unveils the rainbow that makes the ground appear in its true colors. Wondering if the event of the rainbow coincided with the creation of a new sense organ in humanity, the ability to sense color. If prior to this time, all the world was black and white, and only after the flood did color, the sense for color arise. And similarly, it is the blood of Christ, this etherised blood of the Divine Mercy that is creating a new sense organ—a sense organ for the etheric/elemental plane. A new “rainbow” is revealing itself at the end of the modern deluge.

Finally, why exactly do we assume that the numbered Swords are behind him, to his left? Whereas we assumed the Coins were in front of and to the right of the Knave of Coins?

And now, in conversation, we answer the above question: he is the compass. And when using a compass, before you make the mark at the centre of the circle—this is where the Knave of Swords is. The Knave of Coins is transfixed by being united with that realm of exact perception of the archetype. He has everything to see, totally comprehensive view. But this place where the Knave of Swords is—prior to putting pen to paper so to speak—is once again an almost incomprehensible/inexpressible realm. There’s nothing for him to see, it’s a no man’s land. He emerged from a series of in-betweens, of non-entities. The vesica piscis is in between circle and compass. The indeterminate overlap, a region in which we were never explicitly shown the circles or the equilateral triangle until the Ten. A very indeterminate cycle. Therefore it does not “lie before him.” 

– We are going to have to write some very strange, stream-of-consciousness Letter-Meditations for the Swords. They will be like portions of letters, old letters found in an attic, written by someone who seems to be going mad. Only at the end will the story become clear—but only clear and not rational per se, it must still be a rather fantastic tale! Whereas the Coins are a deep dive into spiritual science, metaphysics, cosmic evolution, embryology, etc. Absolute clarity and magnificent breadth, an exhaustive sweep of manifest reality. The Swords will be quite a shock! As they should be…