Knight of Swords (III)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation from September 27, 2020

September 27, 2020

Knight of Swords, pt III

We began with the protective practice.

We then invited the guidance of Hermes Trismegistus by reading from the Emerald Tablet.

After briefly focusing 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.

We then read from Revelation 12:16-18

What we turned our attention to was the entire Yod He Shin Vau He sequence of the Swords thus far:

(Here, the “Yod” arcana are the Ace, Four, Seven, and Ten. The “He” Arcana are Two, Five, Eight, Knave. And the “Shin” Arcana are Three, Six, Nine, Knight.)

Joel was inspired to look at this entire spread, this comprehensive picture of where we have been so far with the Swords, due to a new understanding brought about through the Tower of Destruction in last week’s conversation.

Last week, we were seeing this “lightning blast” of the Sword against the crown of the Knave, and how this acorn-shaped head and larynx “planted” itself on the yellow cloth of the horse of the Knight.

Then we were seeing this geometric similarity between the pattern on the yellow cloth and the Tower of Destruction; and then another octave of this with the head/helmet of the Knight, of a kind of heavenly lightning or flowering above, and a strict geometry of dots below. But we began to see it as the redemption of the Tower of Destruction, the procreative equivalent of the Tower. The positive aspect of heavenly fire/lightning.

Well, the Tower of Destruction is exactly where all of this began for us with the Swords. The Coins were a movement through World—Judgement—Sun—Moon—Star.

The Swords have been a movement through Tower of Destruction—The Devil—Temperance—Death—Hanged Man.

The Ace was brought into relationship with the Tower of Destruction, as a kind of geometric distillation or reflection of the Tower. And so the next nine arcana—Two through Ten—are perhaps the unfolding of what is released in the Ace, they are the elaboration of the Tower of Destruction and its consequences. 

Then we come to the pearl-shaped knob on the hand guard of the Knave’s sword. This is like the seed, the essence or distillation of the entire sequence of Ace through Ten, brought into the pearl-like seed or germ and given to the Knave. This “pearl” is part of the sword that acts as the “bolt of lightning” which cuts open the crown of the Knave. It causes the “acorn” of his head/larynx to begin germination, to come to life. It activates the life forces within this “acorn.”

This acorn then “blossoms” into the “map” on the yellow cloth of the horse on the Knight of Swords. It gives birth to the Knight and horse, who are also covered in dozens of new seeds/pearls/potentialities. 

So the Tower of Destruction passes through all twelve of these Arcana and transforms itself from a destructive force into a procreative force. This gave Joel the urge to see this transformation of the Tower of Destruction in its fullness, to see the entire Suit of Swords thus far.

– Noticing here the “path” of the “He” Arcana: Two—Five—Eight—Knave. Notice that the Knave is here preceded by the Eight which is reminiscent of the “blue bag”, the Bag of Waters from which he emerges, struggles forth. 

– In the way that the cards interlace with each other, the scimitars in the Numbered Arcana become the ground in the Court Arcana. Scimitars as ground, as Earth.

– Notice the two swords in the Ten of Swords. These two are not nearly as identical as they seemed on first glance. We really only noticed the slight color difference when we looked at it before. But the right hand sword is very different. The handguard curls in the opposite direction of the left hand sword, and actually of every other broadsword before it (Ace, Three, Five, Seven, Nine). And the hilts of these two swords in the Ten are different from each other. The right hand hilt is more akin to the shape of the Seven of Swords, whereas the left hand hilt is more akin to the shape of the Five.

Perhaps the presence of both of these swords leads to the new handguard on the swords of the Knave and Knight? Where both sides curl up? 

– Looking at all of these images together is intimidating. It makes one feel as though actually, even after all this time, we can’t really read or pronounce words in this language. We can maybe recognise a few letters. But you’re left a bit speechless.

In that regard, we notice that the “Yod” path culminates in the Ten. The “He” path culminates in the Knave. And the “Shin” path culminates in the Knight. Each is a different type of culmination. That’s about all we can say so far!

– Notice that the crown in the Ace has two layers, on the front band. The top part of it has gems of different shapes, with a kind of central eye with a seed in it. The bottom part of the band is all strictly vertical lines. This is once again a recapitulation of this Tower of Destruction gesture. 

The flowers sprouting out of the crown above, and the flames coming from it below, are a further amplification or blossoming of this same gesture. Flowers as transformed gems, and flames as transformed vertical stripes.

– Notice that the “Yod” path has an emphasis on the color blue, very strongly. The Ace as a whole (crown and sword) becomes a flower form, it is reduced to a flower in the Four. Then this turns into just a sword in the Seven, but one that can find or create its mate, its counterbalance in the Ten. 

And then the “He” path has much more to do with this descent of the spirit germ, with gestation and birth, leading to the Knave’s emergence. 

But it’s like the Ten from the Yod path is necessary for the Knave to be able to come to birth. The exponential unfolding that leads to the Knave, an occurrence in a more biological/human context, is prepared for by the more cosmic/archetypal unfolding of the Yod path. 

– Trying to follow the whole process of the metamorphosis of a flower through its different stages of transformation—this is like a cosmic version of the Tower of Destruction, a chaos beautifully and harmoniously organising itself. Compared to a human being working in a paper mill, for example—the human being is copying this cosmic process, but is creating so much waste. The Tower of Destruction is the human version of a cosmic process, where it’s operating mainly out of human will and agency and is therefore destructive. But the process of unfolding from Ace through Ten shows the component parts of what industrial humanity is attempting to copy or imitate. It’s just as destructive and chaotic in one sense as the industrial process of human production, but somehow is totally cosmically harmonious, it reintegrates its own destruction.

The Knave is a human being who has been completely imbued with that cosmic process. He is allowing it to work through him, rather than merely imitating and yielding a failed human copy. He is not imitating and tainting it with is own will and agency. He has become a vessel or a tool through which the pure Divine Will can work.

– This begs the question: is the human will actively engaged in that process? Or is it totally passive, just allowing itself to be acted upon?

Fundamentally, the will is active but only in a certain realm. It’s present in both allowing and also in the creating/forcing/forging of/making the space available for the Divine Will to act through the human being. That’s essentially what the Knave is—the struggle of the will to make that space for he Divine Will.

And the Knight? Last time we noticed that his right arm, his left arm, and his legs have all become other beings. His head is the final realm that is purely his own. Everything else is embedded with something, has been sacrificed to become something else. It’s very reminiscent of the third part of the Foundation Stone Meditation, with which we have been closing all of our Sword conversations. It’s in the Spirit-Beholding of the resting head, through stillness of thought, that the free human will can come to life. Every act born of freedom is a creative sacrifice for some other being or activity to be born. Notice that his head is not only un-transformed, it is extremely protected—it is entirely encased in this helmet. The head is so protected so that it can be the guiding force, the conductor of this sacrifice of various aspects, parts, limbs. If all of the human being were to be sacrificed, including the head, there would be no guidance, no anchor. 

– Reminiscent of the Emerald Tablet, this One Thing that acts for the accomplishment of a “single act”, for “one act.” Neither this One Thing, nor its single act, is ever described. Only the multiplicity of active parts or roles emerging from these two singularities. The One Thing is transcendent, a peripheral thing. You can never pinpoint it directly, just its effects.

And this is like the Suit of Swords. We’re definitely getting closer to clear definitions with the Court Arcana, yet each card begs for the One Thing, the un-shown or un-named, to make it whole

– The works of Thelema. For Aleister Crowley, this Thelema was “will”, human will. But Tomberg translates this as “wonder.” Perhaps this wonder is implicit in seeing the path forward, and choosing to create it by sacrificing yourself as a giving away, and yet remaining fully involved and participatory as well. It implies a seeing of the One Thing—of the right thing that is next, the potential, the draw, the rightness of the next thing. 

– The above was Phililp’s insight…it was so reminiscent to Joel of what came out of a study group he is part of at Copake on Steiner’s final lecture series on the Book of Revelation given to the Christian Community Priests in Sep 1924. The study group met the Tuesday prior to our Sunday Tarot meeting around lecture three. Already during the study Joel was reminded heavily of the Suit of Swords. In this lecture, he is elaborating on the statement of the Cosmic Christ at the very beginning of Revelation: “I AM the Alpha and the Omega.” He speaks of how human beings were once conscious of the fact that each sound, each letter of speech was a body for a being. Ancient Hebrew and Greek acknowledged this, by giving each letter its own name, not just the equivalent of a number, a dead letter. This emptying of letters of their spiritual beings has made them able to be put to use for black magic. He describes the nature of Alpha, the spiritual being of Alpha, on page 43:

“When the human being was still a being of warmth, what did his inner experiences look like subjectively in the soul? His inner experience was pure wonderment about the world. The only way you can express what he experienced is to say that it was pure wonderment. Warmth cannot be comprehended as anything other than pure wonderment. Externally it is warmth, internally it is experienced as pure wonderment. It is only because people have become so clumsy in their concepts that they speak about the inexplicability of the ‘thing-in-itself’ as did old Kant. The ‘thing-in-itself’ of warmth is wonderment; and the human being of Saturn was just as much wonderment as he was warmth. He lived in wonderment, in astonishment about his own existence, for he was only just embarking on this existence. This is Alpha: the Saturn human being, the warmth human being living in wonderment. And the first thing the human being experienced as world, as the outer housing provided by world, the skin, this is Beta, the human being in his house, in his temple. The house was the first thing the human being received from the world: the skin—Beta.”

This is so reminiscent of this experience of wonder, of Thelema, as we just spoke about. And the Arcana are the new “bodies” or “names” for each of the sounds of speech. The Magician is the new Alpha. The High Priestess is Beta. These cannot be dead; the Magician could never simply be “the first arcanum” (akin to “Alpha” being reduced to “the first letter”) and nothing else. That would be meaningless.

Steiner goes on to speak of the nature of “I AM the Alpha and the Omega.” He basically indicates that the human being, since Saturn evolution, has been in a gradual process of taking in the entire cosmos—that by the time we reach Vulcan evolution, we too will be able to say “I AM the Alpha and the Omega”, that is, we will have taken in the entirety of the cosmos into our own being. The earlier quote speaks of the first stage of this process on Old Saturn; he describes it further, on page 42:

“We already bear a part of the cosmos in us, only we do not know this with our ordinary knowledge. As we progress onwards towards spiritual knowledge through Imagination, Inspiration, and Intuition, our inner experiences will become ever more wonderful and magnificent in our soul. Just consider the human eye as it is known to our ordinary consciousness of today. Yet this human eye is a cosmos in every one of its details, wonderful and magnificent like the macrocosm. Even just in the physical body every organ is revealed as a whole wonderful world. When a human being looks around as an initiate, he sees a world down there with elements and up there with stars, with sun and moon. When he looks into himself he sees every organ, eye, ear, lungs, liver and so on, each as a world in its own right. This physical body of the human being is a tremendous weaving and interpenetrating of worlds, worlds that are complete, worlds that are as yet only present in seed form, worlds that are sense-perceptible, half super-sensible and wholly super-sensible. As the human being progresses through many evolutions he gather more and more worlds into himself.”

Doesn’t this so precisely describe the Knight of Swords, with every piece of him a world or being unto itself? And all these “seed forms” of worlds that are in different stages of sensibility? Progressing, riding the horse, through many evolutions to gather more and more worlds. He begins out of this state of awe and wonder, and journeys through the whole cosmos, making it part of his being. 

Earlier in the week, we had a conversation clarifying what exactly “time dilation” means, which we referred to in last week’s conversation but didn’t really elaborate on. Time dilation from a physical scientific sense has to do with “bends” that occur in time, where two clocks end up at very slightly different times due to differences in their surrounding velocity and/or gravitation. Time literally passing differently depending on surrounding conditions. But we can experience this often in our day to day life. Depending on whether we are concentrating on a problem, or dancing, or working, or having a meeting, the same length of time can feel as though it is passing very slowly or very quickly. Time dilates. This made Joel think of the movie Inception. In this film, different rogue agents invade the psyche of other people during their dream life, implanting ideas that they feel as though originated in their own minds upon awakening. The deeper into the layers of the dream life one goes, the more can happen in a shorter amount of time. We often have this experience, that in the five minutes between snoozes on the alarm clock we can dream a whole lifetime. The most extreme case of time dilation. 

Anyway, in the climax of this film, in the fourth layer—a dream within a dream within a dream—so much action is taking place, while in the “real” world, just a few seconds are going by. It feels as though the climax to the activity is approaching asymptotically, never actually being achieved, even though everything is moving as fast as it can to that climax. Joel was already thinking about this experience and this movie in terms of world events—a feeling of rapidly unfolding inevitability while at the same time feeling as though we never reach the conclusion. And then later when doing the notes and researching “time dilation”, realising that phrase exactly characterised Joel’s experience of socio-political events (e.g. the Flynn trial, the Durham investigations, the Ghislaine Maxwell cases, etc.)

We realised during this conversation that perhaps there is an extreme time dilation that occurs as we move up Jacob’s Ladder; that what is experienced as moving very quickly for us is actually quite slow for the spiritual world, that they can achieve much more in a split second than we can imagine. A totally different experience of time as we move through the various levels of the spiritual hierarchies due to differences in consciousness—differences of “spiritual velocity” and “spiritual gravitation.”

Well, then on Tuesday night a similar idea came up in Steiner’s lecture. He refers to the fact that Christ is already the Alpha and the Omega, he already has achieved that which the human being is still striving to achieve. But we cannot think of him as once being like us, in an “earlier” phase of his development, because the passage of time and evolution is experienced completely differently from one hierarchy to another. 

Joel’s intuition is that Christ, from one perspective, experiences time from the opposite direction of the human being. That he moves from the far future, the Vulcan existence of absolute perfection and union with the Father, backwards through time. If we think of the etheric body, we see that it bears all the memories of the human being from their lifetime. When they die the whole review of the life appears before their eyes. But the “memory body” of this Future Christ would not bear memories of the past, but of the future. The appearance of this Etheric Christ, this Cosmic Christ, to someone like Paul or Lazarus-John, would bear within it all the future events, the “memory of the future.” This etheric body of Christ is the Tree of Life, which is expressed or made visible in the Tarot of Marseilles. They are the “Alpha and Omega”, the entirety of Time. 

And maybe we have a dread, a very deep dread of knowing the future, of seeing the future as woven into the etheric body of Christ. We don’t actually want to see it. Steiner speaks of the state of soul of John in writing the book of Revelation, that every word he wrote in the Book of Revelation was written out of the same spirit in which he would only otherwise say the word “I.” It was felt as united with the content of his I. This is how it feels with our memories, that they are the stream of continuity that maintains our sense of I-hood. So he had to prepare himself, to empty himself, in order to receive this future-memory of Christ as awakening within him as his own memory. And at this point, the dread is transformed into awe and wonder. Once one crosses that threshold of dread, it is transformed into awe and wonder, into Thelema. It’s like being in the state of being of Ancient Saturn, but with a new reality, a new layer of the cosmos.

And maybe this is the One Thing, the World Thoughts woven into the etheric body of Christ. Beholding these thoughts is what guides our steps, makes it possible to experience “free willing.” 

This experience of dread permeates our time period. And as we two have experienced, once world events are viewed with the correct world-picture to guide one’s thoughts and steps, then one’s dread is transformed into awe and wonder. This is the effect of something like Q: that which seemed like a dreadful chaos is the unveiling of something wonder-ful, something awe-inspiring.

This transformation of dread, panic, and anxiety into awe and wonder, humility and shame, is the “crossing of the threshold” and the “Second Coming of Christ.”

– Last week Joel was struggling to find the positive description of fire/lightning by Tomberg in MOT. He characterises the positive and negative sides of Water, but almost exclusively speaks of lightning/fire as destructive or negative. But the quote he was thinking of is in Lazarus, Come Forth!, on page 146. The beginning of the first chapter on the Ten Commandments. He quotes the Hebrew esoteric tradition:

“Ten are the numbers out of nothing, and not the number nine, ten and not eleven. Comprehend this great wisdom, understand this knowledge, inquire into it and ponder on it, render it evident and lead the Creator back to His throne again… The appearance of the ten spheres out of nothing is like a flash of lightning, being without an end. His word is in them, when they go and return; they run by His order like a whirlwind and humble themselves before His throne… because the Lord is one and there is not a second one, and before one what wilt thou count? Thus it is written in the Sepher Yetzirah, the book of creation”

Here we see the primal expression of the Godhead as a lightning flash of the Decad, the ten names of God. Creation out of nothing. The “One Thing” expresses itself as a Ten. And the Etheric Christ is like lightning flashing from east to west. This Etheric Christ is the Sephiroth Tree, the future-memory. The Ten Swords are the Ten Names, the Ten Hierarchies, much more so than the Coins expressed this aspect of the Ten. 

And the full lightning of the Ten strikes the crown of the Knave—BAM! The Knave, and not the Knight, who is the full growth and becoming of that which germinates in the Knave. 

– Notice that the compass shape of the sheath/sword in the Knave mirrors the two swords in the Ten. This blue “Yod” path of Ace, Four, Seven, Ten—it’s almost more chthonic or motherly rather than “cosmic.” Due to it being blue, and the lowest layer, it feels foundational, yet still hidden, esoteric. An invisible forming force.

The Knave is what is expressed, what becomes due to the invisible force of the Ten. The Yod are the traces underlying conception, gestation and birth that make them possible at all. The He—the Two, Five, Eight, and Knave—are the process of conception, gestation, and birth occurring in the outer world. The Yod—Ace, Four, Seven, Ten—are the underlying, invisible spiritual forces that make that outer process able to occur, they lay the foundation for it.

So what then is the Shin? The Yod is the invisible underlying structure or intention, the He is the visible result or action. Well, with the first Arcanum of the Shin path, the Three of Swords, it is a combination. It is a Sword and a Plant together. Perhaps this is the path of an alchemical fusion of opposites? A composite being?

– Notice that with the Knave, the seed of the pearl becomes this large, glowing Acorn. Then this Acorn, in the Knight, is a seed that makes seeds. In Roots of the Bible, Weinreb describes a certain portion of Genesis Chapter One which indicates the creation of the Tree of Knowledge. On the third day of Creation, God’s word indicates that there ought to be “Trees that are fruit and make fruit.” But what actually comes into creation is simply “Trees that make fruit.” The Tree of Life is a Tree that is fruit and makes fruit. In other words, it has already attained the goal; it is fruit. On the other hand, it is still in a state of development, it is attaining a goal, it is “making fruit.” It is difficult for our worldly consciousness to imagine such a thing. The Tree of Knowledge is the way of the world: “A Tree that makes fruit.” In other words, the path of evolution, progress, development, the struggle to attain a goal that is always somewhere in the future and not quite attainable. 

Well, the Acorn is, if not the Tree that is Fruit and Makes Fruit, it is the Tree that is Seed and Makes Seed. It is both in the process of germinating and growing, but also has attained its goal of making much seed that will also grow and produce seed.

And what is the Yod path other than endeavour, intention, underlying structure? The path of development. Whereas the He path is that of outer result and action—the path of attainment of “fruit.” With the Shin path, perhaps we finally have the path of the Tree of Life, a perfect union of endeavour and result. The Knight represents to us this perfect marriage of result and endeavour. In one sense he is already finished, but also he is ever in the process of becoming. The resting head, timeless and changeless, with the ever-transforming limbs.

– Is mycelium a good example of a tree that is fruit and makes fruit? In a way it is already complete and functional below the surface, it is already “fruit”, and the “fruit” that it makes is just the visible mushroom above ground. And it is a real tree of life, it maintains the health of many forests, the immune system and “communication network” between trees. It also acts like the Arcanum Death, it breaks down that which needs to be broken down—it turns that which is dead and rotting back into compost that is able to bring about more life in the forest. Like Death, mycelium guards a certain realm from exposure to that which does not belong there.

The Knight is the marriage of the hidden Yod force and the explicit He action or result, where the two are acting completely together. 

– If “Yod” is the Wonderment of Aleph, perhaps “He” is the body or skin of Bet. The Archetypal substance that encompasses the primal movement of wonderment, manifests it. 

Whereas the Shin? The miracle of harmony or union that bewilders. “How did these opposites come to be united?” Another step forward in that unfolding of balance and perfection and inexplicable progression.

Does that make the “Shin” the path of the Gimel, the G?

– Going back to our invocation. The Emerald Tablet. Two more sections that require clarity. “Thus I am called thrice-greatest, Hermes Trismegistus.” This explicit naming of himself as author. And then the closing, “Thus the operation of sol is complete.” These are mysterious.

It seems a bit meta. There is no point in bringing himself, his own name, into this more or less cosmic/archetypal description of the One Thing, unless that’s essential to that very description of the process. Why not just describe it as observer, anonymously? Unless it is necessary to describe all the parts of the things he’s talking about, including himself as describer/observer. Maybe this goes to the blanket on the horse as an image within an image, an Arcanum within an Arcanum. As the Ace or the Tower within the Knight. But this recasts that map as a kind of signature. It’s like a two-fold interpretation is there; on the one hand naming himself as Hermes Trismegistus is just a signature, like signing the letter, but on the other hand if he didn’t have to say it, he wouldn’t. “This wouldn’t come into being if I didn’t sign my name. I have to in order to give a full exposition, it would be incomplete otherwise.”

But in the context of the blanket/map on the horse? We’ve been looking at that as the origin of the rest of the Knight of Swords, the archetypal seed from which the whole Knight/Horse being springs forth and develops. What does this indicate about the “signature” of the Emerald Tablet? It comes at the end, but actually it’s the origin of the whole thing??

Maybe that’s akin to addressing (“Dear Unknown Friend…”) and signing (“Anonymous”) the Letter-Meditations. Maybe that effects how each one is digested, and what he’s able to say. He even says this rather explicitly in the preface, that he writes to us from beyond the threshold, and can say things that he wouldn’t be able to say if he signed his name. He wouldn’t be able to be nearly so intimate or personal in his details. And the whole style of writing, in this intimate, letter-to-a-friend way changes the way we can take in the content of MOT. If it was cast in the form of spiritual science, for example, it wouldn’t go as deep and as far.

– Perhaps without the signature of Hermes Trismegistus, 1) he couldn’t write down what he did and 2) we as the reader wouldn’t be able to read it correctly, to take it in correctly even if he could have written it down.

This is the strange corollary or counterbalance to the injunction in the Emperor to remain anonymous, to not come in one’s own name. Then whose name do you come in? You must come in a name of some sort. The Knight is so explicitly enacting another will than his own, one that he’s reflecting or embodying. The Emperor is so empty of himself. He pours himself into the sceptre, the throne, the helmet. His attention goes into the things that completely bind him. The Knight is very different from the Emperor—his attention goes into that which both amplifies and subsumes him. 

But really, look at him. Is he even giving these things his attention? Or is he looking ahead—looking to the Queen? His gaze is on an ideal beyond his own interactions.

Everything that leaves him is embedded with a part of him—he’s not anonymous, he’s ubiquitous. But his head is not invested in that process. There’s no question of “ownership” or “leaving his mark.” It’s simply part of the process that a piece of him is united with each of these new creations.

– Taking a look ahead, to the Queen…

Her belly immediately jumps out.

This jumps to another phase altogether. It’s no longer unfolding. This is the ripeness. She’s questioning—“wait a minute…what is this process happening within me now?”

The belly stands out, but also something seems to be flowing out from the base of the hilt of the sword…what is that…?

Next time…

Let’s also look next time at seeking the Divine Name in each of these paths, e.g.:

Ace = Yod, Four = He, Seven = Vau, Ten = He

Two = Yod, Five = He, Eight = Vau, Knave = He…


We closed with the third part of the Foundation Stone Meditation.