Knave of Swords (III)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on August 27, 2020

August 27, 2020

Knave of Swords pt 3

(Meeting in person. Prior to meeting Joel shared Chapter 10 from Anthroposophy: a Fragment, just to give an example of how bewildering this material is.)

We began with the protective practice.

We then invited the presence of the Holy Trinity to guide our conversation by reading the Nicene Creed (synchronicities: opened to exactly the right page; in finding the Knave, cutting to exactly the right place in the deck). 

After focusing the mantra IT THINKS on 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 14th letter of the Divine Alphabet, Nun, in relation to Temperance.

We then read from Revelation 12:7-9.

– Many observations jump out at once.

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

Just now, the first thing Joel’s eye was drawn to was to look more closely at the head region of the Knave. There are three levels or forms. First there is just the yellow part of the hat. This is like the top of a beehive (he has a “bee in his bonnet”), or a bell. But then, if we include the face with the yellow portion of the hat, it looks like an egg. And then a third elaboration comes if we include the larynx area. This gives a kind of pinched shape at the bottom, like a cocoon. 

The second thing that he noticed was that the gesture of the sheath and the sword isn’t really that of an equilateral triangle or compass. If we follow the motion of the sheath up to his larynx/face, it is more of a curve. Then the sword is more of a straight diagonal. 


Then Joel began to see the “egg” of the hat/face as broken, as though (and this is rather gruesome, but nonetheless the impression that presented itself!) the sword had cut his head open, and the yolk and egg white had come dripping out. Like the yellow part of the hat was the yolk and his hair was the egg white. But also as though the blue and the red of the hat’s brim were like skin that had been carved off, like they were flesh and blood, blue and red blood. And the “egg white and yolk” were also like milk and honey, like they were brain and nerve substance exposed. Again, apologies for this vivid intense imagery! From the beginning, this is how the Swords have presented, as very intense tactile/sensory imagery.

– But prior to observing the Knave, during the protective practice, the image came to Joel of a bell ringing. That the sheath and the sword, with the yellow hat at the top, were the shape of a bell, and his body was the ringer swinging from side to side of the bell. 

It’s like the concentric circles of the numbered Swords, emanating from behind the Knave, are the sonic vibrations of the chimes of the bell: the counting out of time. Like Cinderella, the stroke of midnight, “For whom the bell tolls”—a finality, a judgement in regard to the bell chiming. The time has come. 

– The Court Coins (the Knave) brought all of the numbered Coins into play, brought them into connection (through looking back at them, observing them all in the one coin he holds). This does so similarly. It puts them into a sequence, into an action. He either draws them all—or leaves them all—in his wake. 

– There is a kind of fractal embedding or reflection happening with the Knave. There is the larger vesica piscis shape from the top of his head to his waist, then from the top of the head to the larynx, then from top of the head to the face. 

If the hat were fully intact, i.e. if the skin/brim was folded up and was all blue, then the fish would be intact, a more perfect shape. But “cracking” the fish head, cracking the egg, reveals this smaller vesica piscis within, like the dancer in the centre of The World. Then the even smaller vesica piscis of just the face and yellow hat within the face/hat/larynx vesica piscis. 

– The scabbard emerging from the body…or perhaps, a proto-sword rather than a scabbard, a yellow handle and a red blade…but this emerging proto-sword marks a boundary. Just like the reigns marked a boundary in the Knight of Coins, where he was organised above and to our right, and disorganised below and to the left. All of the embedded/Russian doll vesica piscis shapes are above the scabbard (waist up), whereas below is still intact.

Is the emergence of the scabbard connected to this cracking somehow?

– And then the way the yellow sword makes a kind of frame with the yellow hat and flesh-coloured scarf—is this shaped a bit like a Gimel? It frames the negative space where his gaze is directed. It determines or focuses his gaze (tunnel vision).

Gimel" is the third letter of the Hebrew alphabet and it is a symbol that  represents a man running towards something greater … | Lettering, Symbols,  Symbol tattoos

– Going back to the scabbard swoop with the sword diagonal. Following the path of the scabbard back—it hasn’t just removed a portion of the hip. Maybe it even emerged from the crown/shoulders connected together. And this pulling out of the scabbard allows the face/larynx to emerge.

But then in pulling the sword out of the sheath, it cuts the (all blue) hat, it “unfurls the flower,” revealing the yellow crown within the blue.

Like a Jack-in-the-box or something.

– Why does the scabbard emerge from this proto-face/larynx region? 

Immediately the answer comes to us both. “Gills, breath.” A need to breathe, a suffocation, a pulling away that which is obstructing. 

It’s almost like the inverse of the spear in the side of Christ. The removal of a spear rather than being pierced by one. 

– The yellow crown is the lingering connection with the action of the Sword to separate.

– The need for breath withdraws the spear (red scabbard). But what motivates the removal of the Sword from the sheath, and the cutting of the hat/crown? 

A need to see. A need for light or warmth. The crown/hat as flower. Now we see it much more as a flower opening, blossoming. “I need this light and warmth”—like a giant eye or something. 

And so we have a need for Air and a need for Light. 

– How can one see The World mirrored in the head/larynx of the Knave? It’s like this is just one corner, or a miniature of The World, a fractal or mirroring, with an eye in the midst of it. Like his face is in the place of the pupil—a sideways eye. 

– But notice that in The World, the Bull and the Lion are flesh coloured and yellow. They are a bit reminiscent of the scarf on his shoulders. The need for Air.

And his face is flesh coloured, like the Dancer.

The Eagle and Angel are above, expressing the need for Light.

Notice too that the red scabbard leaves its mark in the red larynx, and the yellow sword leaves its mark in the yellow crown.

– This is the first sheath/scabbard thus far in the Swords. At least, the first one that is detached from its sword, and paired with a broadsword. It’s entirely possible that the scimitars were always sheathed, or were simultaneously sword and sheath, or were merely sheaths. 

– OK, here is the sequence that is presenting itself. The head begins as just a blue mass, a blue lump. 

The right hand pulls out the scabbard (with sword still within it). This rips open the blue. It reveals the flesh coloured face and scarf. The red larynx with flesh color surrounding it.

Then the left hand pulls out the sword from the sheath, and cuts the top of the head, revealing the yellow crown surrounded by red.

– Like a flower, before the bud unfurls: within the bud all of this differentiation has already taken place, but is united within, like the sword in the scabbard.

– The red surrounded by yellow and the flesh coloured shoulders. 


The yellow surrounded by red which releases the white, the white hair flowing down. 

Human below, divine above.

– The whole process of our approach to the Arcana. Approaching them phenomenologically, as pure images, without predefined “meanings” to the “symbolism.” Discovering the meaning to each Arcanum organically.

Well, the Knave of Swords is showing us this very process. We’re making new “images” because we’re starting without meaning, we’re finding the meaning. And with the Knave—or what eventually became the image of the Knave—there is this fully formed being embedded in something else, that has to emerge out of acts of will and exploration, something that organically unfolds.

And we experience only the mirror image or final result of that: here we have an Arcanum that seems so complete as an image, but there is an active proto-image hidden within that is somehow more complete, but more undifferentiated, simpler. 

– Here’s an analogy perhaps: the face is to the rest of the Knave’s body as the flower is to the bark or trunk of a tree. You could never guess that this delicate complex thing could pop out of a woody hard substance. (Rings of the numbered Swords as tree-rings? Again, passage of time, age?)

Or…that a flower could come out of a fish!

…a flowering-fish-egg-head…

– The fish is related to Light

The owl is related to Air.

Upper fish, lower owl.

The fish is wholeness, it is head, larynx and trunk together. Its head is an eye, with a human face as a pupil.

While the owl is partial, only larynx and trunk.

– Now this is certainly a magic act! Like a Houdini escape act.

Blue lump wriggles for a long time on stage.

Maybe the arms are also trapped, like the cape is wrapped around them. Or even the legs as well! His whole body is trapped in this blue lump for a while. Like, if the cape were wrapped all around his body, arms and legs and everything. The outside of it is blue, this would make his body all blue. And then sink the head/larynx down into this blue lump. Fold up the brim of the hat: again, the bottom of the brim is blue, this would make the crown all blue. It begins as a big, wriggling blue lump!

Then after his arms grope inside of the blue lump for a while, out of nowhere this red scabbard emerges and rips open the lower portion of the lump—revealing arms, legs, trunk, and the severed face and larynx. Then the sword is removed, allowing the “crown flower” to unfurl.

– The removal of the scabbard is like taking the rib out of the side of Adam…and then taking a sword out of the rib! The wholeness of differentiation is actually what results from all this cutting and removal, rather than it all just disintegrating into nothing.

– It’s like the scabbard was in his throat, like a sword swallower, or as a long red nose, or removing the plank from one’s eye. Or it’s an ear horn. This extension of the senses, that’s what comes up in manifold ways, all the senses at once. That which I need to remove from my senses so that what they see can become whole. And then the next level is that the sword is filling the scabbard, something further needs to be released and removed here as well. Then it can also become active once removed. 

The Sword = Nerve, the Scabbard = Sense is the image that results from this.

But also breathing, respiration.

The act of cutting as creative act. Creative destruction…is this the definition of sacrifice?

– What is the relation to Death? It’s the contrary mirror image to Death, which is the Arcanum of Surgery. 

Rather than the unconscious growth of nature, in the Knave it is a conscious growth in the human dimension. Not just a flow of vital elan, it’s the purposeful, potent act.

Death is a cutting as management, as hedging, it is negative and reactive. Surgery in order to staunch the blood, to heal the organism, to stop the unconscious proliferation beyond its proper bounds.

Knave is a cutting as creative, purposeful act. A positive, proactive, sacrificial process. 

The pronounced hips of Death are similar to Knave, as is the lean—but he’s leaning in the opposite direction.

“For whom the bell tolls”—Death coming to call.

– The Ace of Swords could also be seen as a ringing of a bell, or a piercing of the eye. 

A ringing of a bell with all these vibratory emanations coming from it. Maybe these are all the Numbered Arcana, little seeds of the numbered Swords (there are 24 of these “seeds” or “tears.”)

– Joel had the realisation after the previous conversation that every mother has the experience of this extreme presencing, this “sensing of sensation” by which we described non-philosophy. Because this is what must necessarily occur while giving birth. Not to transcend the pain of childbirth, but to descend into the experience so deeply that you in a way disappear into it. This is the most powerful experience of this state that is available to human beings. And the Knave has this gesture of the moment of birth, with the sheath and sword like two legs and the Knave himself emerging from the womb between them. The emergence from the blue bag = the bag of waters that the baby must break out of. This goes along with this image of the Swords as the journey through the birth canal. The Knave is a newborn baby, emerging from the amniotic sac. (Later on, after the conversation, we realised that the bag of waters is called the “mermaid’s purse.” Coming back to this idea of the “fish man”, the “merman.” Being born with the “mermaid’s purse,” i.e. with a portion of the sac intact is considered good luck. During the birth of Joel’s son Elwyn, the bag of waters was passed virtually intact before he was born—it resembled a shiny, silvery balloon. Totally magical. The placenta and bag of waters represent the higher members of the human being that must be forgotten and left behind when earth incarnation begins. Images of babies born with the amniotic sac still intact, one of whom has the yellow crown of the Knave: 

– Let’s remember that in one regard, the Coins were the path from The World to the Tower of Destruction:

Yod = The World Vau = Moon

Shin = The Sun

He = The Judgement He = The Star

…leading to the new “Yod” of the Tower. This was always the goal before us.

But in another respect, the path of the Coins is the path back from “Sacred Art” (The World) to “Hermeticism” (The Emperor). Walking backwards the “4th path” that we discovered in the majors:

The fourth path, that leads from the Hermeticism (Emperor) to Sacred Art (The World), only walked in reverse:

Going through a process of destruction, where we begin with the Ace of Coins as the World, leading to the loneliness of The Emperor in the King of Coins.

The Emperor then transitions into the last Arcanum of the third path, The Fool. He becomes the Wandering Fool rather than the stationary Emperor in the path leading from Hermeticism (metaphysical grasp) to Sacred Magic (practical application).

So the starting point of the Coins is The World, but the goals are: Tower of Destruction, Emperor, Fool. To be broken down, brought to loneliness and wandering. 

With the Swords it is different. In one sense, our goal the entire time has been Force:

Yod = Tower Vau = Death

Shin = Temperance

He = Devil He = Hanged Man

…leading to the new “Yod” of Force.

But in another respect, the Swords are this retreading—in reverse—of the path from Sacred Magic to Hermeticism, which would normally begin with the Empress and end with the Fool, but here begins with the Fool. It becomes the path from Hermeticism (Fool) to Sacred Magic (Empress):

Where the Ace of Swords is the Fool, and the Empress the King of Swords:

And the Empress then transitions into the last Arcanum of the second path, which is The Judgement. She, as Sacred Magic begins the transition into Gnosis as Judgement—the Hermetic grasp of the world was attained through the experience of Sacred Art in the Coins; we then learned how to practically apply this in a Sacred Magical sense by the end of the Swords; the task entering the Cups is to assess how does this practical application lead us to and/or align with divine revelation (Gnosis)? Empress shows us the Sacred Magic in action; Judgement begins to turn the gaze Above, to reflect on that which has been done:

So the starting points of the Swords are the Tower of Destruction and the Fool, but the goals are: Empress, Force, Judgement. A journey through the darkness into the light, into birth or re-birth, into creative purity.

In this path of the Swords, after the Fool we were led into this no-man’s land of Moon, Devil, Hanged Man.

Devoid of meaning, purpose, centre of gravity. But then the Hermit learns to navigate in this realm, he shines the light.

This is where we were a month or two ago, with the Nine/Ten, when the Numbered Arcana really began to snap into focus. Now we’re more in the realm of the Lover, which can also be related to birth—but it’s a prelude to the Empress/The Judgement, the birth proper.

The Knave resonates with the Lover:

Angel/Knave’s Head

Sheath/Dark-Haired woman—Lover/Knave’s Body—Sword/Light-haired woman

– Biological human creativity through potent excising is best represented in birth. It is a complete eradication of self on the behalf of the mother, for the sake of another being to come about. The excising, the separation is not at all destructive—on the contrary, if the baby does not separate at birth, it will die. Separation at the right moment is key to creating new life. And all that sacrifices itself to make this happen—placenta, bag of waters, the whole body and health of the mother. An excising and cutting that leads to new life.

But it is consciousness that is the most spiritually fruitful activity in this regard. Cognition cutting cognition, until there is only a seed, which can then turn sensing on itself, to live in the elements, not the objects of cognition—a release from the short-circuit of sensation-cognition ad infinitum

– The other day, Joel and his family went to this incredibly idyllic place called Guilder Pond in Massachusetts…a kind of mountain lake…with intersecting ripples…a long, large echo…many different types of lily pads and flowers…dragonflies…massive rhododendrons…teeming water snakes in blueberry bushes by the water’s edge…the swirling rock that you can feel was once flowing lava…the reflection of the sun on the pond then glinting onto and dappling the brush behind…

So much being created via elemental beings in this place, so much vital activity everywhere around…and yet you feel utterly at peace within it, complete tranquility. “I rest within the Godhead of the world”, an activity that creates peace, and a peace that is extremely active. This is the IT THINKS that is active in the larynx, in the Word.

It reminds Phillip of Jim Wetmore’s stabs at translating the original so-called “Grail Knight’s practice.” “It conceives” or “it potentizes” rather than simply “it thinks.” “Thinks” doesn’t capture the fullness of the word being used in German. But this experience of nature and the elementals speaks to this, to the “it thinking” resulting in a whole world, of worlds within worlds. “It thinking” is not passive, it is creative, procreative.

The busy-ness of elementals is what is on the other side of the threshold of the seamless flow of nature—this is its vital elan.

– Here’s a question: with this we are looking very squarely at the positive aspect of the Swords. But we know that there is a shadow side implicit or embedded within them. What exactly is that negative side? Death? Limiting? 

Or a foolhardiness, a recklessness… 

Maybe limiting, though, not in actual injury, but in the “Dark Night of the Soul” experience of the comparison of real light to your own incomplete, dim light, which is dark by comparison. A feeling of injury in the touch of the hand of God. So learning how to judge what is truly injurious vs what is an encounter with actual goodness, and therefore feels injurious.

As to the foolhardiness, pardon bringing in pop culture once again, but it comes back to this imagery from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The first trial leading to the Grail is mastered through the mantra “Only the penitent man shall pass.” If you don’t know how to bow, you will be beheaded by this dreadful spinning blade. If you can’t let the suffering bring you to your knees, it’s a death blow; bow, on the other hand, and it is salutary. 

Noticing a chipmunk eat earlier. It’s incredibly efficient at stripping this green pinecone, but its gaze is in another world. If a human being were eating like that, you would be able to see the interest, the concentration, the pleasure, the investment in enjoying this food. But the chipmunk’s eyes are looking elsewhere the whole time, like its paws are guided by someone or something else. 

And this is what the Knave requires. He needs the detachment of the “higher animality.” He doesn’t look at what he’s doing. His “face”, his persona or mask is a gift from heaven, not the source of the actions flowing through him, even though these actions release him. He’s like a baby being born—the baby uses all of its willpower and none of its awareness/consciousness in order to be born. Its “gaze is elsewhere.” And so this is the message of the Swords. If you try to perform this magic act of the Knave half-cocked, like some kind of show off or braggart, you’re going to end up cutting your own head off. It needs to be performed with utter detachment, total lack of ego/personality, so that the Spirit can flow through one’s deeds.

(See the quote from Roots of the Bible referring to non-interference. You don’t know better than God!)

This totally reframes the idea of intentionally using a sword to accomplish something productive—it’s more about having the right relationship to the experience of sword activity. 

– It reminds one of the Green Demons meditation:

There where the light

In face of green demons

Is tremulous,

And the primordial Powers

Born of the light

To wrestling men

Proclaim the riddle,

Which from the demons

Only by men can be enticed forth

And brought to the Gods.

There soul found soul

In order to offer someday

To waiting Gods

The secrets of demons

In a darkened place

That Light may be born,

Where for want of this deed

Eternal darkness held sway.

Such a place there is.

It must vanish

Make it someday vanish

So speaks the admonishing gaze

Of Michael.

…which more or less expresses the fact that we are the sense organs for the hierarchies. They cannot witness evil, only we can do that. But we have no power within us to stand up to it, to transform it. Only the hierarchies have this power. So our role is to “observe and report,” to burn all of our cognition of evil on the altar to Michael, and then leave ourselves open to his response. HIs deeds must then flow through us. We hold the sword until Michael says “go.” It must never be wielded out of our own self-will.

(Later on we were discussing the show Twin Peaks, and how much of this imagery and thematic content is woven throughout this show, especially the totally bizarre third season. There it shows the contrast between someone who has become the “holy fool,” totally open to spiritual guidance—and therefore invincible and transforming/defeating evil in the most innocent and unintended ways—vs the doppelgänger, demonic possession. An attempt to be indestructible out of violence, power-lust, darkness. And maybe this is the dark side of the Swords, that we dare not even look at for too long. For the counter-image to divine inspiration from the higher hierarchies is demonic possession, the usurpation of our will by the “it wills” from below. In Twin Peaks the calling card of this darkness is a kind of distorted Ace of Spades (which is the Ace of Swords). In the excellent documentary Cold Case Hammerskjold, it is revealed that the Ace of Spades was found on Dag Hammerskjold when he died, and that this is the calling card of an assassination executed by the CIA/Mossad/MI6. It would seem that the Swords have something very strongly to do with both Catholicism and Freemasonry/Rosicrucianism, and as history has shown us time and again over the past 200 years or so, when either of these two fall, they fall all the way into the abyss). 

– In the Coin Court Arcana there is a strong calling forth of our own individual effort. “Concentration with effort.” It seems that the Coin = effort, meditation and the Sword = Grace, prayer. Ironically so, right? You wouldn’t necessarily equate Sword with Grace. And so it is Labora (Coin) et Ora (Sword). Work and prayer. Spiritual Science and Catholicism.

We closed with the third portion of the Foundation Stone Meditation, spoken from memory. And now these “World Thoughts” have a totally different, living, dynamic connotation. And the prayer from below that in the heights shall be granted…the call to the hierarchies to aid us in our plight.