Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on September 20, 2020
September 20, 2020
Knight of Swords, pt 2
We began with the protective practice.
After inviting the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we briefly focused the mantra IT THINKS on the region of the larynx. We then moved the third part of the Inner Radiance Sequence (“I Rest within the Godhead of the World”), and the 13th letter of the Divine Alphabet, Mem, in relation to Death.
After reading from Revelation 12:13-15, we turned to the Knight of Swords next to Death:
– Noticing the resonance between the Knight’s sword and the scythe. There is a portion of the blanket over the horse that seems to extend out of the back of the hilt of the sword. It is in the shape of a curved blade, like the scythe. In a way it is like the Knight holds an inverted scythe—what is “handle” on Death’s scythe is the Knight’s blade, and what is “blade” on the scythe is the hilt or handle on the sword.
And then this contrast of the Knight cutting off his own right arm, and Death cutting off his own foot. But it’s impossible to tell whether that is his right or left foot? Very hard to tell which leg is which.
The blade on the hilt of the Knight might be cutting the rear portion of the horse. It’s like he’s wielding a union of broadsword and scimitar, with the broadsword facing/cutting forwards, and the scimitar facing/cutting behind.
– Farther to the right of this yellow curved blade is the all-yellow cover or blanket on the horse. Maybe the cutting action of the curved blade is bringing forth the “sword” from that covering, is unveiling the horse from its “sheath” of a blanket.
Or maybe it’s related to his right leg in a similar way that the front of the horse relates to the right arm. The right leg is cut off by this back portion as it has transformed into the other (rear) portion of the horse form.
– going back to some reflections from taking the notes last time…
We noticed that the Knave has this white pearl shape on the hand guard of his sword. Not quite all the way visible, on his far left. And maybe this pearl is the condensation, the seed of the 10 Numbered Swords, this ever-repeating series of circles condensed to one small circle.
Then the yellow acorn shape of the Knave’s head/larynx area in a similar way gets condensed into this upside-down acorn shape on the blanket of the horse. It’s like a seed was planted there. And the whole Knight-Horse phenomenon has grown out of that acorn. It’s like the scythe has acted as more as a plow, activating this acorn/seed region.
The inversion of Death, which is a force of spiritual wholeness acting on life in a surgical manner, as a guardian or maintainer of wholeness. In the Knight, the cutting action acts on a spirit-potential in order to open it up, to call it into life.
A real springtime gesture in the Knight, whereas Death is the harvest, this is Autumn.
Then there are all these other seeds all over the place—with one on the ground, this is like the clue, the hint that these are seeds.
– The discoloured portion of the Knight’s sword—on his handguard—is where the “seed” or “pearl” is on the Knave’s. What was the seed portion is now a living seed, it has germinated. It is activated and multiplying.
– In The Magician, a portion of his table is off the frame, out of our view. Similarly, the rear-most portion of the blanket is obscured, everything is in a way emerging from these hindquarters, from this imagery on the yellow blanket, which is more cosmic and plant-like on its upper portion, and more geometrical below, with that strong right angle.
In fact, you could see it as a plant blossoming above the surface of the Earth in the upper portion, and the geometrical section having more to do with rooting. More geometrical, earthly, mineral, crystalline.
The upper plant-like portion has the same flame-like shape as the lightning in the Tower of Destruction.
This is like an archetypal map of growth from which the rest of the image emerges. A picture within picture.
This yellow part is like an Arcanum all its own—a Coin Arcanum in particular, with this purely geometrical/archetypal mode of expression it bears. The plant form is definitely akin to the plant forms in the Numbered Coins. It’s like the geometric reduction of the Tower of Destruction, which is also very geometric below, with this flowing lightning above.
The horse and rider are growing or emerging out of that archetypal image.
– Another contrast is that Death is surrounded by body parts, while the Knight is surrounded by seeds, some of which are beginning to take form.
– There also seems to be some kind of connection between the Knight’s shoulder-face, and the mask-like face of Death. Notice that the left arm of the Knight, with the shoulder-face, is holding the sword/scythe. The left arm in a way is Death. But the force of Death is turned mainly on himself. You feel like Death cut off his own foot by accident, out of a kind of blind, automatic, reckless behaviour. Death acting on himself out of the impulse of Death is still destructive. He isn’t immune to his own force. But here, the Knight is the opposite of Death. The cutting of his own being results in a birth, it’s fruitful, multiplicative.
– Since the last conversation, we discovered that in war memorial statues, if the rider is on a horse with three hooves on the ground, they died due to wounds in battle but not in the actual battle itself. This would be the Knight of Coins, riding away wounded. When the statue has two hooves off the ground, the horse is charging or rearing up, and this indicates the death occurred in battle. From one perspective that is the Knight of Swords. Clearly the front two feet are raised, and he is charging into battle—apparently to die. But one could also say all four hooves are off the ground. Does this mean a death in a spiritual, or non-physical, plane? In a spiritual battle? And isn’t a spiritual death a physical birth? Steiner speaks of the glory of the Angels when we die on earth, because it is like we are born in the spiritual world. We return. It is a happy moment on the other side, although it is sad here. With physical birth it is the opposite. It is a joyful event here, but the Angels are sorrowful, it is like a spiritual death.
– It’s also a bit like the inversion of the Tower of Destruction. Like when the Lightning Bolt isn’t destructive.
Interesting that there is no Tower, but there is a plant, a plant form. This is emphasising the Gardening aspect vs the Building aspect. Notice that the circles or dots bursting out of the Tower of Destruction are haphazard, chaotic, while underneath this plant-form on the blanket the dots are semi-organised, a collection of points. And not just on the yellow blanket—throughout the card, there is some kind of organic organization of these seed-points. Not so organised such that the form is dead and rigidified. But aesthetically pleasing. Whereas in the Tower, they’ve just exploded all over the place. There’s a more gaseous quality, chaotic. Or like the money tower has blown up and coins are falling all over the place.
– Starting to get a picture that the Knave sets the stage for this….going back to these three or four levels of the Knave: Trunk—Larynx—Head—Crown (Above the Head). You have the normal threefold human being when he removes the sheath. He divides then into trunk, larynx, and head. But it’s the removal of the sword from the sheath that “scalps” him, that creates the hat and this glowing golden crown. He is brought to more life through this lightning strike to the head, through the sword’s cutting action. It isn’t destructive or punitive. It’s this action that allows him to reconnect with the hierarchies, to achieve “vertical memory.”
– It’s the action of the Tower of Destruction, but in the context of a Garden, not that of a Building. It hearkens to this image Tomberg gives of the acorn becoming an oak as an explosion of life in slow motion. This is in the Empress.
On p. 60 he describes the base of the sceptre—the condensation of magic—specifically as an acorn. Is there a link here to the pearl? Notice that the acorn is in her womb, like a germinating embryo. The “pearl” is the little ego, the personality, the spirit seed.
Then it’s on p. 68 that he describes the transformation of acorn into oak as an explosion in slow motion. We’ve never noticed before that he uses the word “acorn” in such close proximity, referring to two different things but implying a connection between them. Acorn is a very specific way to describe the base of that sceptre.
– Doesn’t Tomberg specifically describe the positive aspect of lightning? Page 465 in The Star comes close. There he points out that there is Water (in a positive sense) and water (in a negative sense), and there is Fire (in a positive sense) and there is fire (in a negative sense). But it isn’t something he discusses too explicitly in the meditations on the Majors. It’s mostly the negative aspects of electricity, lightning, fire.
– In another context—maybe back into the context of Robert’s experience of karmic clairvoyance, you might say—Joel thought of the phrase “string of pearls” when doing the notes which is how Robert refers to the sequence of different Earthly lives, a string of pearls. Each pearl is an incarnation.
So this lightning blast of the sword opens up the “acorn” of the head/larynx, activates its growth. It reestablishes the connection with Jacob’s ladder, with the hierarchies. But from this is released the “string of pearls”, the seeds left over from prior incarnations blossom and come back to life in the memory. And maybe they also outwardly come back to life, in one’s karma and destiny in a more extreme way. You are a blossoming seed amongst all these other blossoming seeds that are part of you and growing off of you. Very easy to lose one’s sense of balance, of central self, of sanity even.
Are you a man riding on a horse? A man-horse? This generative process, where exactly does it end?
Because each cut is only productive, not destructive. Like a starfish or a worm. This is not at all the impression gained from the ten Numbered Swords. Maybe we see this in the Ace—the Ace which reflects the Tower, this release, this explosive kind of action. The other ten are like the timer, the countdown. The dilation of the cervix, the passage through the canal. Interesting that we use the word dilation for both the eye and the cervix, and both are conjured by the symbolism of the Swords. Also time—“time dilation” is another normal use of this word.
– What struck Joel just as we were closing the conversation last time, as he was putting away his cards, was the Six of Swords. Noticing that the flower in this image also appears “beheaded” like the Knave of Swords. And then the Eight of Swords—the blue flower in the centre of this is a bit like the “blue bag” we imagine the Knave to have emerged from—this “bag of waters.” It’s almost a reversal…like the Two of Swords is the fullness of expression of the spirit in the Midnight Hour, and then it gradually dialling down from Four to Six to Eight, distilling itself into the seed-form of the Eight of Swords. And then it begins to spring forth again in its fullness in the Knave.
– Last time when we ended, Phillip wanted to return to this fourfoldness in the Knave, and the sheath as umbilical cord, and how they might be reflected in the Knight. Not remembering anymore specifically how we wanted to look at that. But when doing the notes, Joel was looking again at these four levels, and how the first three are related to the gifts of Christ. The trunk related to uprightness/walking. The larynx related to speaking. The head related to thinking. Well, this fourth level of the opening of the crown would be related to the fourth gift, which is the gift of the ego, the “I am.” But the ability to say “I am” is woven together with the capacity for memory. We only have continuity of consciousness of our personality if we have the faculty of memory. And then if we think of these four levels of memory—automatic, logical, moral, and finally vertical—this last, fourth stage would be related to this opening to the ten hierarchies on the one hand, and on the other hand to karmic memory. Both of these are examples of vertical memory.
But memory is also necessarily bound up with imagination, with the capacity to use one’s imagination. Like in the ABC—CBA exercise, in which one imagines a sequence of events and then imagines them through in reverse. Memory is a kind of tracking that which would otherwise grow distant psychologically, and keeping it in active observation rather than allowing it to move into the distance. Holding it close, maintaining the image of what has been.
– There are three horizontal portions to this image. There is the blanketed area on the right; the man in the middle; and the horse head on the left.
The fore-portion is the Knight’s right arm, his arm transformed into the front of a horse.
The rest of him? It’s like some kind of satyr with a human leg sticking off the side of it. If we make a divide between the front of the horse and the rest, the two back legs of the horse are more like the two legs of a satyr. The human leg is just extra.
Yikes, the most bizarre image has now become even more bizarre.
The blanketed portion is really only the pre-differentiated source that is springing from right to left.
– With an accidental movement of one of the cards in front of him, Joel lines up the yellow ground of the Knave with the yellow blanket rather than the ground of the Knight. When the ground of the two images lines up, the gaze of the Knave is on the acorn-form on the blanket. But when we elevate the Knave so that the ground aligns with the blanket, then he is looking right into the eyes of the face on the Knave’s left shoulder. And the scarf over the Knave’s right shoulder is the same color, like it’s getting ready to become a face. The Knave’s yellow cape is a bit like the yellow blanket, turned inside out. We see now that the right-most portion of the Knight (his left arm and below) is a reflection of the Knave.
– Somehow it feels like the opening of that fourth memory realm on the Knave transformed the head/larynx/trunk into these three sections of the Knight. But not in any clear way.
– The Knight’s right arm transformed into the horse. The mid-body and right leg have transformed into the satyr being. The left shoulder/arm is like head with one limb, an independent being as well. It’s only the head of the Knight that is undisturbed by all this weirdness.
Which brings us to this quality of his head being completely covered and protected by the helmet. And it’s like the yellow portion of the crown of the Knave has flattened and expanded downwards and horizontally. Like it has melted over him. Only his face is left exposed.
Most of the other figures have hair. The only exceptions are the High Priestess and the Fool. The Fool is closer to the state that the Knight is in, with his head covering tightly bound to his head. The High Priestess has this whiteness, either a veil or an empty space, coming from under her tiara. The Fool is totally covered, but he has facial hair.
The Knight has a twofold protection from his helmet. There is this golden top of Life, and then this blue portion below, a geometric arrangement of Ten. The Ten Swords, the entire passageway, the whole passage through the corridor. He bears this, his head is like the seed that has passed through the ten portals.
– So the fourfoldness of the Knight is therefore:
The right arm as horse
The left arm as…a face with a leg?
And the satyr body, with an extra leg.
– It’s a magnification of the self-unfolding process begun by the Knave in removing the sheath, unpacking the “bag of waters.”
His legs have become this creature that bears itself in full motion.
The left arm has become a bit like a crazed knight from Monty Python’s Holy Grail, one who cuts off other limbs, but all the cuts he makes are procreative. He only can make the productive cut.
And the head just rides along on this whole collage of beings.
It’s like what was once just golden crown on the Knave has descended to become the entire head. And what was the head of the Knave has become the left arm. The larynx has become the right arm—notice the two “eyes” that are on the Knave’s larynx, like a creature peeping out from behind something, getting ready to emerge. This is the front of the horse looking out.
And the trunk has become the satyr body. The fish-man has become the satyr. While the owl has become the horse-front.
– An image that came to Joel while doing the notes was the Knave as Adam Kadmon, as the primal human being as mirror image of the macrocosm, of the realm of archetypes. The melothesia. Then as this Adam Kadmon races through the material plane seeking to achieve fullness of material expression in the human being, he acts as the main trunk of a tree, off of which many branches shoot off to the sides. As he moves through evolution, the various animal kingdoms materialise, specialise, branch out. They remain fixed at a certain stage, and maybe evolve further, but only horizontally, along their chosen branch. Only man remains fluid, continues evolving, until he has reached his goal of complete material expression of the microcosmic reflection of the macrocosm. The Knight is showing us this path, with the sword as the “main shoot” that is growing, while all these animal forms continue to fly off in its wake.
The human being then relies on the “lower” kingdoms of nature that have “fallen off” early. He “rides” on them, the way the Knight (Adam Kadmon) rides on the horse which has emerged off of him. This is the Rosicrucian stage of “Washing of the Feet”, wherein we recognise that all we perceive as “lower” is necessary foundation for our own progressive development; that it has sacrificed itself at a certain stage for our own forward movement.
– Another reflection from last time was the realisation that we have a white sword in the Wheel of Fortune (with the Sphinx). And something that looks like a white sword in the Devil, but isn’t; and something that is reminiscent of a white sword in the Lover (Cupid’s arrow).
All three of these—the Sphinx, the Devil, Cupid/Eros—conjure up this dangerous fantasy realm. It feels as though there is a great deal of risk in each of these three Major Arcana, a great deal of temptation. And they more or less bear only the appearance of the pure white sword, the sword of purity. But the Knight’s realm doesn’t carry this same risk—his sword is actually pure white, he bears absolute purity as a force. Therefore all of his cuts are productive, there is no risk the same way there is for the Devil and the Lover in particular. They have a false white sword. They show a kind of Ahrimanic (Devil)/Lucifier (Lover) polarity or imbalance. Whereas the Sphinx is not necessarily productive, even though it bears a pure white sword. It’s more that it’s totally neutral, totally cosmic. It’s enforcing the question, the riddle of the sphinx. It presides. It too is this Guardian Angel of evolution, the wheel that it is on. And this is the only other properly white sword.
– Really feel like we’re playing Tarot—the way all these cards are laid out (by now we have Death, Knave of Swords, Knight of Swords, Devil, Lover, Wheel of Fortune, High Priestess, Fool, Tower of Destruction…)…This is a Game. Like a child’s game: “You have a white sword? Oh yeah? Well, I’ve got white arrow!”
Making up…or more accurately put, discovering…the rules as we go along.
– Well, now we feel a bit light-headed after such a dream-realm conversation. We’ve gone as far as we can with this Frankenstein of a creature—he even has the bolted head!
Just as the Coins amplified and integrated the positive/negative binary of an Arcanum—and did so without there really being a “good” and “evil” connotation to this positive/negative—so the Swords are integrated binaries and amplifications of Life and Death, with no connotations of destruction per se.
– With the bolted helmet, but also with the rest of his garb, he seems to be sealed or trapped in his armour.
– All of a sudden, the giant eye on his knee jumped out. And now there’s this strong impression of a two-legged elephant, the front portion of an elephant. Like the “extra leg” is the trunk, while the two horses legs are the front legs of the elephant. The blanket over its back.
– And notice that the dots on the helmet are akin to the dots on the hooves. Like the helmet is a horseshoe. The head is a being unto itself, and therefore has to be both its head and limbs—like it is its own foot.
We ended with the third part of the Foundation Stone Meditation.