Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on November 14, 2017
Tarot Conversation Nov 14 2017: The Moon
We began with invoking the Teachers and Healers of Humanity (related to Mercury), this time by reading the 13 verses of the Emerald Tablet, specifically invoking Hermes Trismegistus. This seems to be the most archetypal individuality to invoke, due to his relationship with Mercury.
We then spoke the Lord’s Prayer in the Sephiroth, and the Divine Alphabet with reference to the Knight’s Practice through the 18th Arcanum/18th Letter (Tsadi). Then we read out the quotes at the beginning of the 18th Letter/Meditation.
We then observed a spread of the first 18 Arcana arranged so:
With particular focus on the 18th Arcanum, the Moon.
– The dogs seem thirsty. Why? There is so much water beside them. Are they ignoring it or unaware of it? They seem to be begging the moon for water, and all it does is suck it up (reverse rain drops).
– The barrenness of the landscape, of the buildings, etc. It seems as though the life (water) has been sucked out of the entire landscape, not just the dogs. Maybe even the pool of water itself has had the life sucked out of it, a poisoned or ineffective water? A false water?
– One could also see the pool of water as a void/pit, an emptiness, a bit like seeing into the robes of The Pope. Or one could see it as a mirror of sorts. Not necessarily water.
– It almost looks as though there is a third creature/dog embedded in the rock in the foreground. It could of course just be more dead plant life that happens too look that way. But again, has a living creature had the life sucked out of it and become stone?
– Certainly there are minor differences between left and right on this card (the two towers, the two dogs). But due to the wash of sandy color, the differences kind of disappear into a blandness. It’s like the extremes of the color wheel, where color and quality max out.
– What gives the Moon this power to suck all of the life out of the landscape? What is the magnetic or attractive force it exercises? Last time, it seemed clear that the image of the Moon was an operation of some kind of hypnosis. Now, looking more at the landscape, it is as though it is under an enchantment. Beings turned to stone, lulled to sleep, in a nightmare. It is a sorcery, a black magical power. Tomberg makes reference to this voodoo magic in the Letter/Meditation (page 518).
– On the other hand, taking a completely different perspective on the card, is the Moon acting as a benevolent force? Is it unveiling the true nature lying behind beautiful, deceptive illusions by sucking up their false outer garment?
– The lobster/crayfish seems to be a reversal. If it is moving towards the moon, it is actually moving backwards (they face opposite the direction they move). Is it drawn against its will? Or backing up into the Moon? A backwards movement, moving backwards.
– If we associate Yahweh with the benevolent face in the Moon, we could see this as an image of Yahweh drawing an undeserving, fallen landscape toward himself, absorbing evil through sacrifice. This is his role as the Cross-bearer of the Cosmos, protecting the Earth against the forces of the 8th Sphere (complete mineralization). Yahweh removes through sacrificial absorption that which should not be and should never be thought of again. This immediately makes one think of the quote referring to Sodom and Gomorrah at the start of the Letter/Meditation, and gives a totally different picture of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This was a civilization that was totally unredeemable. It needed to be completely removed. Yahweh does not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah – he takes the illness of these two cities into himself, absorbs it into his being. It must be taken away and never thought of again – hence Lot’s wife becomes a pillar of salt when she looks back.
– So much of the Arcanum is dedicated to the pool of water (about half of the card). Why? Look at the progression: the 16th Arcanum, the Tower, is an abundance of the mineral, the solid. The Tower dominates the card. The Star is more balanced. There is a balance amongst woman, stars, and running water, but the woman is the central focus. Then the Moon shows an overabundance of water, of saturation, the stagnant pool. Yet in the middle, there is this barren, parched strip of land. Interestingly, the two small puddles in the Tower become a flowing river in the Star and then the large pool in the Moon.
The Tower is like the Wand of the Magician. The Star has the Cups; the High Priestess does not hold a cup, but she herself is a cup, receiving divine knowledge. We noted this in our conversations a year ago, that she is like a blue chalice overflowing with wine. Can we see the sword in The Moon and the Empress? The Scorpion and the Eagle are referred to at the very end of the Moon’s Letter/Meditation (523), and clearly the Eagle is emphasized in The Empress.
– Each triad is an impasse that allows an archetype to come into or maintain its existence. For example, in the triad Death, Temperance, The Devil: Death is a crisis that brings about the manifest reality of the Devil. However, this crisis and manifest reality create the space in which Temperance can exist. The left hand column of Holiness, of Archetypes (High Priestess, Pope, Justice, Force, Temperance, The Star – and finally The Judgement) lies behind the manifest realm of the right hand column (that of Cognizing Evil/Sacred Magic – Empress, Lover, Hermit, Hanged Man, Devil, The Moon, The Fool). This column (on the right) bears illnesses, and serves to preserve channels for the column of archetypes to manifest their healing activity. The column of Archetypes (on the left) becomes more and more youthful, vibrant, and exposed (naked) as we move from The High Priestess to The Judgement. Meanwhile, the situation becomes ever more dire for the column of the Manifest (on the right), starting with the Empress and ending with The Fool. A sacrifice and exchange.
The Hermit is in this column of bearing illness, of the manifest reality. It is unusual to think of this as a painful arcanum. But he is the image of the loneliness and alienation that results from the task of the Hermit. The Empress shows the pain of birth, a great but joyous pain. The Lover shows the great potential for pain that operates through the social realm. The Hermit is the pain of alienation. The Hanged Man brings this to the next level – the pain of torment, of persecution.
– It is unusual to think of each of these Arcana as having layers of manifestation and meaning. We tend to attach an absolute or archetypal nature to the interpretation or description offered by Rudolf Steiner, Tomberg, Robert. This is what sets our study apart. While not discarding that which we have been taught through our teachers, we are willing to take the step into multivocal concepts. We are not studying Meditations on the Tarot, we are studying the Tarot themselves, allowing the manifold messages that they wish to communicate to be heard. Our study is a journey in Hermeticism, not a destination with fixed, set answers.
It is crucial to know the Archetypal meaning of an Arcanum (for example, Robert’s indications on the planetary and zodiacal associations). However, if this is all that we look at, it is too limiting. It actually leads to the dangers indicated by the 18th Arcanum, the danger of the intellect, that can only see that which is discreet and discontinuous, and misses that which is mobile and alive. Surely we want to be able to grasp what things are in their archetypal, spiritual realm, but we need to be able to see how they manifest in other realms as well.
But even in the realm of archetypes, in the spiritual realm, Steiner describes the great mobility that exists there. Spiritual sight is totally unlike physical sight, which has the pleasure of seeing things in a fixed form that stands still. Spiritual beings are full of an active mobility, and flow into each other. We might be able to come to know one Being, but one Being is full of meanings – is multivocal. “Archetypal” does not mean “fixed” by a long shot. Practicing mulitvocal thinking through contemplating the Arcana brings us into this very uncomfortable, unstable realm of the mobile archetype.
– We left off last time with the indication that the light the Moon brings forth on its own (unreflected) is of the nature of Memory. The deepest memory is that of Love, the Love that existed in Paradise. In our movement through the Divine Alphabet, we have been using these associations beyond (but inspired by) what has been given through the Knight’s Practice thus far:
11th Arcanum, Force – “Forgive us our Trespasses…” – Walking on Water
12th Arcanum, Hanged Man – “Forgive us our Trespasses…” – Healing of the Man Born Blind
13th Arcanum, Death – “Forgive us our Trespasses…” – Raising of Lazarus
14th Arcanum, Temperance – “Lead us not into Temptation” – Transfiguration
15th Arcanum, Devil – “Deliver us from Evil” – “Father, into Thy Hands I commend my Spirit”
16th Arcanum, The Tower – “Deliver us from Evil” – “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsaken me?”
17th Arcanum, The Star – “Deliver us from Evil” – “I Thirst”
18th Arcanum, The Moon – “Deliver us from Evil” – “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise”
And so we see that this Arcanum is associated with the 4th saying from the Cross, when Christ invites the good thief to join him in Paradise after death. We were unable to get a good grasp of the connection between the 18th Arcanum and this 4th saying before. Now it is clear: the only light that shines in complete darkness is the light of the Moon, of Deep Memory. Christ on the Cross, like Yahweh in the Moon, is sucking all of the Evil towards him—during an eclipse, no less—absorbing all the evil that should be erased and never seen again. He shines the light of deep memory during this ultimate darkness to the thief that is next to him, the light of Paradise.
According to Tomberg (494) it is a lunar eclipse, with the Earth blocking the light of the Sun, and the light of the Moon raying out around the black disk caused by the Earth.
It is not obvious that this is the image of an eclipse. If one doesn’t know or has forgotten, one doesn’t notice. The rings of light imply a sunlight, a reflected light of some kind, not necessarily during an eclipse. In fact, it could either be an image of eclipse, or of the radiant power of a New Moon, in other words the Moon radiating its own light, rather than a reflected light (The Moon as Midnight Sun). The resolving of something that seems awful, but is being led by something higher.
– We ourselves are living in a time of the 4th saying from the Cross. We are at the darkest hour, and only the light of Memory, of Paradise can shine. Can we wait? For the thief it simply became a matter of waiting until death to receive Paradise. Are we able to patiently endure powerlessness?
The redemption of the thief is the moment during which the redemption of Lucifer began. This too is of great importance doing our time. We are also in the midst of the resolution of something that seems awful, but is being led by and to something higher. It is a world-crisis, tailor made to take everything to its breaking point, only in order to let the new emerge and allow true progress to occur.
– We have the urge, during a crisis, to grasp after the solution with our intellect. We are impatient to find it. But actually, we cannot see “solution” when we are in the midst of crisis, when we are in the soul-mood of crisis. We can only see the solution when we are in the midst of the solution, as impossible as that sounds. We have to be in the realm of “solution” in order to know the solution, and it has to begin happening before we can know it. Crisis and solution cannot coincide.
We find also that when we try to force a solution onto a crisis out of our intellect, we tend to make the crisis, the suffering of the other person worse. Whereas if we are able to make the space to bear the suffering of the other person, we create an opening. This is what the suffering person really needs. The contrast between the wish of Nicodemus, Lazarus, Judas, etc for Jesus to be the leader of the revolution, the King of the Jews, to overthrow the Romans – the intellect grasping for the solution – vs the ultimate bearing of suffering of Christ on the Cross. Christ passes through the ultimate crisis and is filled with divine power, not some “good idea.” This is the path we must follow to find solution – solution in the will, not in the head.
Necessity plays such a role in the worldview of Anthroposophy, the cause and effect weaving between the spiritual and earthly, world karma. It makes it seem so dry and scientific. One is tempted, when Steiner describes every step of Christ being exactly in line with the movements of the macrocosm, to think of some kind of robot, the coldness of an automaton. But this is not the case at all! The truth is something so much more organic and living – like an ever recurring birthing process: Sacred Magic. This is an earth shattering process within oneself, to constantly suffer to the point of death (silence the intellect) so that an un-earthly healing power can manifest itself.
– Isn’t it strange how Tomberg opens Meditations with such a great emphasis on the Emerald Tablet? The entire book falls under the sign of the Emerald Tablet. And yet everywhere else throughout, the emphasis is on Christian Hermeticism in particular. He continuously puts Catholic Christianity at the center, but not (crucially) at the very beginning. The Emerald Tablet is the central force, the Core: the resolution, in a higher term, of opposites and false duality. It captures the essence of Hermeticism in a distinctly non-Christian way.
This actually touches on a conversation had earlier in the week with a coworker. What exactly is Christian Hermeticism? The traditional Hermeticists put so much stock in the Egyptian tradition set forth by Hermes Trismegistus. They don’t know Christianity. On the other hand, the Catholic world knows nothing of this Egyptian wisdom of Hermes. The secret lies in this spiritual equation: The Emerald Tablet = Catholicism. They are two parts of a whole, or one being at two phases of development. Without both sides of this equation being known, one is missing the whole, one does not truly understand Catholicism without Hermeticism and vice versa. When the Hermeticist (or Traditionalist a la Guenon) is searching for the root religion, the perennial philosophy, the source of all religions, the answer is Catholic (i.e. Universal) Christianity. Christianity is not one petal of the flower, it is the root itself, or the entirety of the blossom. On the other hand, a Roger Buck sees Catholicism, Traditional Conservative Christianity as the best religion or highest religion. The former seeks for the center and misses Christianity, while the latter seeks for Christianity at misses it as the center.
Tomberg sees Anthroposophy as a 3-fold pursuit of mysticism, one in which no part of oneself (thinking, feeling, willing) needs to be left behind. In Catholicism, it is harder to get to that place. For someone like Roger Buck, Tomberg aided him in doing this by grounding him in Christianity as the true religion (even if not the central or root religion, or root force behind all spirituality).
When does blind faith become Faith as characterized by Tomberg in Christ and Sophia? In other words, where something is known not just in the thinking, but all the way down into the feeling and the willing. Similar to how it is described in The Hanged Man, the 12th Letter-Meditation. Faith is a realm with different levels of experience. For the Hanged Man, what is most important is this knowing in the will, the zodiacalized will that can operate even if the mind has no understanding. This is true faith, inner certainty. Some people have to attach to something arbitrary and external (eg belief in an outer authority) to this inner certainty in order to find it and hold onto it (Roger Buck, for example).
Christ and Sophia shows how biblical faith can become biblical knowing.
Faith also seems to be tied to the deep memory of the Moon. Hope as a future-force, Love as the eternal present, Faith as the preserver of living Tradition, of the pregnant Past.
Steiner seems to have lived more in the realm of complete Faith – where something is known in Thinking, Feeling, and Willing simultaneously. Tomberg as one guided by destiny, living in inner certainty, even when it did not enter into his thinking in a completely conscious way. He is the Hanged Man, Abraham. One can see how the hopelessness of Tomberg, the regret and depression in his 70s can coexist side by side with the deep knowing, the inner certainty of the Zodiacalized Will.