Nine of Swords (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on June 25, 2020

June 25, 2020

Nine of Swords, pt 1

Phillip and Joel in person—finally!—to begin with, then Amber joining by phone part way through.

Prior to the conversation, we discussed some things that had come up for Joel while typing up the notes…

We had brought up the topic of the three gunas mentioned by Tomberg in relation to the tri-colored garland adorning the dancer in The World. This is on pages 651-52. Blue = passivity, latency, tamas agent. Red is active, yellow is neutral/balanced. What does it mean that the entire image of the Eight of Swords is so strongly blue? 

In the show Twin Peaks, a blue rose is always an indicator of the supernatural, of that which does not occur in nature.

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But the idea of a “blue rose” brings together the two meanings of the word Ros in Rosicrucian. Ros can mean either “dew” or “rose.” Here we have both combined, a dew rose, the dew expressed by the blue. 

It seems to also be the highest expression of the crown in the Ace, the Vesica Piscis portal. The crown chakra is eight-petalled and blue/violet.

In the first conversation on the Eight, we spoke of how expressive the mood is of the Age of Pisces—multiplicity and loneliness, losing one’s way. But then re-reading the Letter-Meditation on Death, and the urge to build a “Tower of Babylon,” an eternal material body through technology and occultism. This also seems to be tied up with the Age of Pisces. Technological methods to avoid/prevent dying. 

In one of our recent meditations in the Lord’s Prayer course, Tomberg speaks of how the Risen Christ was not luminous, he was dark. He caused luminosity around him, but he himself was dark. In Orthodox Iconography, Christ is represented with the Vesica Piscis both during the Descent into Hell and the Resurrection, they are represented in a very similar way. The Eight of Swords could be a representation of this Christ of Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. 

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The “Blue stream” of the Etheric Christ vs the “Black stream” of Ahriman.

The altered flower. It is either in the place of the Lion on the bottom right or the Waterbearer in the top left. Maybe an indication that we are in Pisces, and Aquarius is not quite there yet? The Cups as Aquarius?

The scimitars could also be bows. The flowers in Four and Six could be arrows/shafts. The looping circles are like targets. There is also a Sagittarius feeling here. One can also think of Virgo in the emphasis on the Vesica Piscis, and also Gemini in the twin/pairing aspect of all of these. A strong relationship to the mutable signs. 

Recalling again how much the vesica piscis is shaped like a conifer, a leaf, or a seed.

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The phrase “May loss be gain in itself” is definitely from the Pisces verse of Steiner’s Twelve Moods: it is the line related to the Moon in Pisces, which is so appropriate. The two crescent Moons—the dark moon of Nephtys and the light moon of Isis—joining together to make the Vesica Piscis. 

After re-reading Temperance, remembering the relationship between Temperance and “to temper” as in steel. To become both strong and flexible. Temper in terms of temperature, temperament, etc. Temperance as a virtue meaning moderation, balance. Finding the nearly invisible balance point.

There was more in terms of the Cat’s Eye Nebula: apparently this Nebula is a more reliable pole star than Polaris. The pole star shifts very slowly over the course of a Platonic year. But the position of the Cat’s Eye Nebula is more or less in the center of these shifting pole stars, so it is virtually always pointing north. In the Letter-Meditation on The World, he quotes Oswald Wirth on page 648 as describing the Dancer as the Pole Star in the center of the four points of the zodiac. Amazing that, long prior to the existence, let alone the form, of the Cat’s Eye Nebula being known, this “Dancer” in the heavens was adequately depicted out of archetypal imagination. And this Nebula is so expressive of what we’re working with—it is the disintegrating star, possibly a binary star. That which was an integrated binary is falling apart, creating the beauty of the Vesica Piscis, which can become the guiding light. 

After our last conversation, it became clearer and clearer that in terms of flower as “raw material,” we were approaching Aristotle’s four causes: substantial raw material = material cause; conceptual raw material = formal cause; “what is it’s purpose?” = final cause. The only one we hadn’t gotten to was the efficient cause, the swordsmith. Somehow these are related to the four flowers (Two, Four, Six, Eight). But what are the four odd-numbered Arcana—the four swords, the four effects?

We wondered whether the flower vs sword were two types of thinking, two ways of moving in the conceptual element. Shield thinking = reflective thinking, Perseus and Medusa. That which sunders percept and concept. Sword thinking = creative thinking. That which creates the real, i.e. brings together the perceptual and conceptual (i.e. the four causes, four flowers, four ingredients) to realization, to create reality. The thinking of Philosophy of Freedom

Amber brought up the 16-petalled lotus flower. Eight as related to eight-fold path, developing the eight petals left to us of the larynx chakra. This is related to Mars, to Buddha and Christian Rosenkreuz. The sword which comes out of the mouth of the Apocalyptic Christ. The Sword of Truth which cuts both ways—for the Good and against evil. 

Later on, we began our conversation with the protective practice.

We then invoked the guidance of the Holy Spirit to be with us during the conversation.

After briefly focusing the mantra IT THINKS in the region of the larynx, we enacted the third part of the Inner Radiance sequence, “I rest within the Godhead of the World.” We then enacted the 16th letter of the Divine Alphabet, Ayin, in relation to the Tower of Destruction.

We then read from Revelation 11:8-10. 

– We see many details which make us want to compare it to other odds (Ace, Three, Five, Seven).

– First of all, the Sword seems to be curving, perhaps even breaking? Maybe due to the depth and layers of scimitars through which the point must penetrate. 

– Second of all, comparing this Arcanum to its companion, the Eight, as an expression of darkness (Eight) vs light (Nine). Yellow vs blue. Sword vs scimitar. A battle.

– Third of all, going deeply into the detail of the hilt. It is a red hilt made up of seven spirals. Above this there is a horizontal S-shaped curve. Then below it is a larger round knob that is sliced into five sections. Below this is a much smaller knob with one small dot on it. Overall, there is something similar here to the corner flowers. The red spiral hilt is reminiscent of the red furled blossom in the center of the corner flowers.

– There is no blue on the central sword at all, not even on the hilt. And it is piercing the deep blue weave of the scimitars. 

– The three gunas. The corner flowers are always balanced in terms of color, except in the Eight of Swords. Otherwise they are always red, yellow, blue. 

The gunas:

Red = active, aggressive

Blue = passive, melancholic

Yellow = neutral, balanced

– Going back to our picture from last time:

There is the progression from one band of scimitars in Two/Three, to two in Four/Five, to three in Six/Seven, then to four in Eight/Nine. Like the Pythagorean tetractys:

Leaving us with four pairs, a masculine/feminine or positive/negative for all four planes.

The four worlds. The Jacob’s Ladder structure is somehow immanent but unexpressed in the Coins, as a kind of quantum reality, but here in the Swords it is “unpacked,” it becomes manifest and fully expressed.

– Notice the contrast. In the Coins, the Ace of Coins is the only one that very strongly resembles The World, its point of departure. The others are adaptations from this form.

But in the Swords, the Ace of Swords is distinctly dissimilar to The World/Ace of Coins, whereas the rest—from the Two of Swords through the Ten of Swords—very strictly follow the basic form of The World. An inversion.

– By mentally erasing the black scimitars and focusing on just the colored portion, it creates a very striking image. There is such a lively quality here vs the Eight. The Eight is a casket, everything retracting into stillness.

– Notice the break in the center of the broadsword. It doesn’t seem to disrupt anything about the other qualities. Maybe you could say it brings the disruption of asymmetry. But there’s no gap in the blade. It’s a clean, thorough break.

Maybe it’s a broken sword being reforged and the scimitars are straightening it out?

– Going back to the tetractys/ladder:

The Eight and the Nine make up one plane, the plane of the Four. Here there is a very strong contrast of Dark and Light. Like the goal of the flower was darkness (the iron bloom) and the goal of the sword was light—a golden sword vs an iron bloom?

– The Seven of Swords is a very blue sword. As to the hilt: There are six layers to its spiral. Four “slices” of the bottom knob. And there is no smaller knob on the bottom, it’s more pointed. The colors of the hilt are the same as to the Nine.

– In the realm of the Three (the Six and Seven), there is not the same contrast. If anything, we have a dark sword and a bright flower.

Nevertheless, a much greater contrast in the realm of the Four. The Eight is at full rest, whereas the Nine is at full intensity—maybe the break is related to this pinnacle of intensity.

– Interesting that with the Nine we’ve returned to the Tower of Destruction via our circuitous path:

The Ace of Swords is also in one sense an operation at full intensity—the full intensity of initiating or kickstarting something, not the grand finale or the final showdown as here in the Nine.

– The Six and Seven: perhaps the story here is the Sword of Death (Blue Sword) beheads the Six (notice the detached head), leaving the dead flower of the Eight.

– The Five: notice the triangular shape on the blade. On the Seven there is a straight line, and on the Nine we have the Cross formed by the break.

The Five has seven spirals on the hilt, and three “slices” on the larger knob, and again a smaller knob below. But flesh colored. Almost the whole sword is flesh colored, like the body of the flowers in the Six and Four.

Now we notice that the Five also has incomplete corner flowers, like the Eight. Except here all four are incomplete, not just one of them. 

– With the Three of Swords, we have six spirals on the hilt, three slices on the knob, and a smaller knob with a dot on it. Both the Three and Five have a triangular shape on the blade. Whereas the Seven and Nine have vertical lines. 

The Two and Four are much more ornate. The Six and Eight become drastically simplified.

– The same pattern operates over and over again by and large. With the Coins there were vague commonalities, but each transition from one Arcanum to the next was a unique piece of the story. Here it is the same pattern over and over: flower/sword, flower/sword. Pairs in circles making vesica piscis. Different qualities and nuances of the same basic pairing repeatedly.

– It would almost make sense to have approached all of these at once, with all ten turned over, and then flipping them over one by one as we focus in on each card.  

(Amber joins the conversation…brief recap)

Except that we wouldn’t have known the form to lay upside down. We wouldn’t have known about the pairs making circles.

– Is it only subtle changes? Or are they quite distinct? For example, the Two/Three “type” doesn’t really repeat itself later on in the Four/Five, etc.

How do I notice what’s distinct qualitatively? We don’t really know how to place or name the quality in terms of a single Arcanum, that’s the issue.

For example, with the Three of Coins, we have a strong experience within the Arcanum itself. We can feel its meaning. An organic “number sense” having to do with hierarchy, or the bottom two holding/supporting/giving birth to the upper one, etc. The harmony of Threeness. 


The Eight or Nine of Swords. There is no concrete experience here, it is very abstract. The “number sense” can actually only be felt in the widening of the black band of scimitars.

But any other kind of felt experiential quality exists in the relationship between Arcana only. Eight vs Nine for example, or Eight vs the other three flowers. 

– Going back to flowers as substance. Sharing the idea that the four flowers are the four causes of Aristotle: Material, Formal, Efficient, Final.

These are the four flowers, but what are the four swords? What are the four results?

Maybe this is related to the four Suits and the four Elements. The Suit of Swords would relate to the formal cause: the schematic, the plan, the mapping out conceptually.

– Amber, in working with Rider Waite with her other group, felt a strong negativity from the Swords. A real questioning of what this Suit is all about. But this idea of the emptiness and loneliness of the individual Arcanum requiring relationships to be formed from one Arcanum to another brings a different light to the issue, especially with this older deck that is more abstract and geometric. It makes it a bit more existential, a different experience.

– The Coins would be related to Earth: this explains their concrete “feel” that is consistent throughout. The material cause.

The Swords are related to Air. They are more abstract. 

This is a very strong polarity, to move from Earth to Air. This is not the progression through the elements in terms of changes of state: solid, liquid, air, warmth. Rather this is the astrological/alchemical progression from Earth to Air to Water to Fire.

– Answering Amber’s question from last time: what does Vesica Piscis mean? 

Joel knew it had something to do with a fish, but had never bothered to look up the literal meaning before. It means “bladder of the fish,” because it resembles the shape of the air bladder in a fish. This bladder, according to both anthroposophy and mainstream science, is the predecessor of the lung in the human being. In the fish, it is an organ of movement, propulsion, orientation, stability. It is the “air within water.” The vehicle needed to swim through the water of the Suit of Cups perhaps?

– Perhaps we could think of the earlier Swords as more Coin-like, and the later as more Cup-like? The only qualitative change is the widening of the band of scimitars: a transition from a solid Coin to an empty bladder, to the round top of a Cup?

– The strong presence of rhythm in the Suit of Swords. The strong relationship to blacksmithing, which is itself rhythmic in basically all of its details. The need for air and breath in the bellows. Breathing as rhythm. The lungs as the further development of the air bladder. The breathing organ of a fish—the gills—according to Steiner, they became ears. The rhythm of speaking and listening. Ear and larynx and lung. 

– Going back to this aposematism, the increased warning of the stripes. One is much more enmeshed in this weaving by the end.

– The image of the tetractys. But a normal tetractys has the One at the top and the Four (of 7, 8, 9, 10) at the base. A very stable structure, Egyptian pyramid. But our tetractys goes the other way around. The four is at the top (with the Eight and Nine) and the one is at the bottom (with the Two and Three). Very top heavy, an unstable structure! Warning increases as we go. The central image is progressively concentrated under increasingly added layers. An amplifying, increasing intensity as we go along. 

– Notice that the hilt doesn’t seem to be able to enter the weave. Therefore the central sword gets shorter and shorter as the band widens.

– The image of the inverted tetrad:

This is like a blossoming flower.

When we worked with the Coins, we saw they all linked up together like dominoes out of the Ace. The Ace was like a seed, and the other Coins Arcana developed downward from this seed like a root system. Once again we come to the Earth element, the concrete element with the Coins.

Then when we first worked with the Ace of Swords, we saw we were back at that seed. But the hand came and “pulled the plug”, like the levy breaking. We enter upward into the vortex of the Crown, and now there is a growth vertically upwards out of this seed. The development of the stem and flower upwards vs the root system moving downward. And the flower portion of the plant is related to Air and Light. 

Perhaps the stamen and pistil are the Flower and Sword?

Stamen = male = Sword

Pistil = female = flower

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The Flowers go through a death process and give something over to the swords. Put more precisely: the flowers reach full “idealization,” and lose externality. They become more real spiritually, whereas the swords become more real in a material/outward sense.

– We have skipped the leaves? Gone straight from root to flower?

Notice that there were leaves on the flowers up through the Six, and there were leaves on the Three of Swords. The leaves disappear as we go.

Leaves = water.

Perhaps the water needed to spill out of the levy, to empty out, to make a space for the air bladder/lung. We’ve built our vessel, our boat, so that now we can navigate and investigate all the water that spilled out of the Ace of Swords…this investigation is the Cups. 

Notice the Ace of Swords has the wholeness, the Coin-ness. It has all of the elements, even Fire (Baton). This eventually focuses down to Air/Flower = true Sword.

We closed with a brief discussion of the Sola Busca and it’s possible influence on the Rider Waite. Maybe we can bring some Sola Busca back into the discussion?