Seven of Swords (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on April 30, 2020

April 30, 2020

Seven of Swords

We began with the protective practice. 

We then invoked the presence of the Virgin Mary to guide our conversation.

After focusing the mantra IT THINKS in the region of the larynx, we performed the third part of the Inner Radiance Sequence, and the 14th letter of the Divine Alphabet, Nun, in relation to Temperance.

We then read Revelation 10:7-9

– Joel has spent the last days grappling with some confusing indications in the Lord’s Prayer Course (Weeks 108 and 109, addressing the Honey and Milk communions, and their interweaving with the etheric and astral bodies of Christ). He re-read Tomberg’s meditations on the sacrifices of Archangel Jesus and Christ towards the end of the book Christ and Sophia, and in the course of this came to pages 389-90. The words from these pages so clearly encapsulate the whole nature of the Suit of Swords that we’ve been slowly coming to over the past weeks, in less structured conversations in between the Tarot conversations.

What we came to was the idea that the entirety of the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot bring you to a specific experience which is encapsulated in The World. With this Arcanum, we find the end point of the Majors, yet simultaneously it is archetypally/structurally united with the Ace of Coins. It is the point of departure for the Suit of Coins. And what exactly is the spiritual exercise of The World and the Ace of Coins? It is that primal experience in the face of the beauty of nature or sacred art. Something of joy and pain combined, of a deep desire for something beyond this world, and yet this desire is itself what one desires. It is the mystical experience brought about through the aesthetic realm, through the realm of Beauty. So it is essentially a specific kind of mysticism, a poetic/romantic mysticism.

This is the starting place for the Suit of Coins. And we might say that the entire goal of the Suit of Coins is to develop in us the spiritual capacity represented by the Knave of Coins. He has his gaze divided, between the Coin above and the Coin below. He is the spiritual scientist, the spiritual researcher, the Hermeticist in the sense of finding correspondences between the above and below, the spiritual and the earthly. He is the capacity which transforms subconscious mysticism into fully conscious gnosis. The experience of The World/Ace of Coins cannot remain in the subconscious realm of feeling, of the trans-subjective realm of the heart. It must be brought into the full light of consciousness.

This is what is described on pages 389-90. Through Christ, a Sword was brought to divide the human personality (the lower Ego), which observes and becomes conscious of the phenomenal world, from the higher Ego, the human spirit (consisting of Manas, Buddhi, and Atman). This higher self expresses itself in the human conscience. Since the time of Christ, these two are experienced as divided one from the other—an eye gazing below, and an eye gazing above.

This is the point of departure for the entirety of the Swords—the Sword has been brought that sunders the unity of soul and spirit that was still experienced throughout most of the Coins. Now the Sword has divided everything into two lines of development, two different tracks—what we have been characterizing in other conversations as “strict rationality/scepticism” and “suspension of disbelief/open-mindedness.” The entirety of the Suit of Swords has been a putting into a practice of the Knave of Coins—and what we are striving towards, therefore, is Knighthood, the stage after the Knave.

The Suit of Coins corresponds to the Plane of Action, and the development of the role of the Knave. The Knight, Queen, and King of Coins are not actually accomplished roles or capacities in the Suit of Coins. They can only be properly developed in future Suits. The King will only truly be developed in the King of Batons, in the Plane of Emanation. The Queen can only truly be developed in the Queen of Cups, in the Plane of Creation. And now, in the Suit of Swords, we are developing the capacity of the Knight, which we will only truly be able to grasp in the Knight of Swords. 

We had a foretaste of this in our experience of the Knight of Coins. The Knight is experiencing “Not I, but Christ in me.” He experiences Christ as the middle point uniting the upper and lower eyes. What was sundered is now brought back together. In this reuniting of the mystical experience with the fully conscious gnosis that has been developed out of it through the capacity of the Knave, it transforms itself into the experience of the Will of God shining into the human being, who unites his own will with the Will of God. The Knight shows us the capacity that bridges gnosis with sacred magic—the mysticism becomes conscious in gnosis through the Knave; now it must become mandate with which one’s willing and feeling unite in order to become magic, through the capacity of the Knight. 

At any rate, for now it is exercising the capacity of the Knave that is our main concern thus far in the Suit of Swords. It is the bringing together of pairs—of the “upper eye” and the “lower eye.” We see this perhaps most clearly in the conversation on the Six of Swords, where the Five plays the role of the pivot or mirror, and brings the Four into relation with the Six. The Six clarifies and makes sense of the Four, it is finally seen in its wholeness so to speak, and therefore certain aspects that were hidden can only now come to light. This is like seeing with two eyes: only the Four and the Six together can give us the necessary “depth perception” to see clearly. 

In the Swords, each Arcanum is amorphous, but then becomes distinct when brought into relation with another amorphous “thing-in-becoming.” Maybe this is somehow related to Joel’s exegesis on the seven sacrifices of Archangel Jesus and Christ (see Where the human being starts off his Earthly journey in Ancient Lemuria as a kind of amorphous mixture of the seven bodies, but gradually,  with each subsequent sacrifice of Jesus and Christ, a new member actualizes, becomes distinct and fully elaborated, until we reach the “Pleroma,” the fullness of seven distinct yet harmonized members of the human being at the end of the Age of Philadelphia. A step by step individuation. Maybe this spiritual activity is what is on display here.

– Phillip notices that in the Seven of Swords the weave of the scimitars completely encloses the top part of the blade. It is completely trapped/covered. In the Five you can still see portions of the blade (albeit colored blue) through the weaving, but not here. It’s being kept snugly restricted by the weave rather than able to cut like in the Five. This is the result of six scimitars interweaving rather than four. 

– Joel’s eye is similarly drawn to the tip of the broad sword that emerges from the Vesica Piscis in the Ace vs Three vs Five vs Seven. There are subtle changes from image to image. 

– In the Ace, the tip is invisible

– In the Three, there is a harmony, a symmetry there

– In the Five, there is a loss of symmetry. The blade’s tip is no longer touching the red and yellow hilts which flank it. And there is something off about the red and yellow hilts. Like one is higher than the other. Notice too that they are flat. In all the other Arcana they are somewhat curved, but in the five they are completely straight. Perhaps to emphasize that this is the Sword which divides, which marks the divide or mirroring of Four with Six, Three with Seven etc. 

– Now in the Seven, there is even less symmetry at the very top. Look at the negative space, the white triangles to the right and left. Very different in size.

But the Five of Swords has even less symmetry operating below the top arch of the Vesica Piscis. Closer to the red/right side than the left/yellow.

– It’s like the Three of Swords is asking an analogous question to the Ace of Coins, in which we wondered whether the plants were growing out of the Coin, or if they were behind it. Here we wonder, are the straight and curved swords touching/intertwined? Or do the curved swords just overlap or hover above the straight?

With the Five, it’s like we come to the equivalent to the Two of Coins. The two are relating, but not really very well connected or coordinated.

Then with the Seven, it’s like the Three of Coins. A solid being, a connection is really forming between the two parts (plant and coin vs curved and straight swords).

– Going back to Tomberg’s words on the Fourth Sacrifice, the Mystery of Golgotha. What occurred here was a change in the Ego. Prior to this time, the Ego was still united in some way with the higher members of man—with the conglomeration of Manas, Buddhi, Atman. But at the Mystery of Golgotha, the personality, the lower ego is born—self-consciousness. And what remains above, the Manas/Buddhi/Atman group, expresses itself as conscience. So the lower ego is consciousness and the higher is conscience. 

With the Two of Swords, we can see an expression of harmony, a lack of differentiation. But with the Three comes the first indication of the possibility of separation. There are then degrees of separation and becoming distinct in the subsequent Arcana. But then they start to reunite actually. The path up to the Five is a clear dividing into two natures. After that a fusing occurs, a coming back together.

– “Fusing.” The other day in a conversation, Phillip had brought up that he had been watching a lot of blacksmithing videos. And we were talking about our personal epistemologies, how we approach the world. And for him, it’s like a constantly gathering up of new perspectives, new realities, and fusing them together like the blacksmith. When Phillip said this, Joel had just read a portion of The Zelator (Fred Gettings’ autobiography of sorts), in chapter 7, where he’s talking about Fulcanelli. Fulcanelli means “little Vulcan,” and Vulcan was the gods’ blacksmith. He too spoke of a fusing together of various metals in order to create the Sword.

The Seven is there the two natures begin to fuse together again. Where Christ, the third term, brings together consciousness and conscience. 

– Look ahead to the flower in the Eight—it returns to a much more archetypal/generalized representation of “flower.” And a more complete archetypal nature, more integrated, rather than discreet and fully formed like the Four and the Six. 

– A new image, a new activity emerges suddenly. And it’s there from the very beginning, in the Ace itself, even though we didn’t notice it. It is the Forging of the Sword. The Forge (the Vesica Piscis) is full of melted down Coin. In the “Flower” Arcana, the Evens, the Sword has been taken out of the forge, and the hammer is at work, pounding and shaping the hot sword. 

In these blacksmithing videos, it feels as though there’s this real brute force at work in the activity of smithing. 

In smithing, there is an intrinsic upwelling of separation that is necessary for bonding. The primal substance that one is working with must be treated in an intense way so that it separates into constituent parts, and transforms chemically, so that you can then capture it in its new, transformed state. Blacksmithing is alchemy, through and through.

– What runs through all of these images, what connects all the cards, is the function of the forge. But the “forge” itself is made up of curved swords. Is it “sword” or is it the progenitor of the sword? And what about the flower? What does the flower get from being in the forge?

The flower is the flame. It represents different temperatures. Flame as life, as power of transformation within the vessel of the forge. 

The various Swords—Three, Five, Seven—are they different Swords? Or iterations of the same Sword in process of formation? Granted, we are working our way up to two swords in the Ten. We are working our way up to a final product, an end point, either way you spin it.

– The payment of the Coins is a part of the stage of passing through Swords. Each Coin becomes a Sword? The material by which the Sword is made? Perhaps this goes back to the Hermit, where he discusses the three antimonies. The Sword represents the capacity to live with the dual nature that is implicit in the Coin. Too see the higher and lower, one side and the other as a wholeness.

“Resolution of binaries” is the key phrase, which brings to mind the word “resolve.” Resolve isn’t just related to finding a solution between opposites, it also connotes fortitude, decision, strength. The will is involved, it isn’t just a mental game.

– If the Two and Three together make the Ace

and the Four and Five together make the Two

and the Six and Seven together make the Three

and the Eight and Nine together make the Four

yet also…the Eight and Ten (?) together make the Four as well??

The different “flames” (flowers) that accompany the different Swords. The Forge makes the Sword, but is itself made of Swords.

Bringing the mineral to life…the Forge is itself alive and growing. The forge and the fire within the forge, the container and what it contains, are also evolving—it isn’t just the Sword being formed by them. What is happening to us due to working with the Arcana—this is a different type of exchange than what occurred in the Suit of Coins. We are the Sword being formed by the Arcana, yet we too change and effect the Arcana with our attention.

– Pressure and heat is created in order to form the Sword, and the container must respond to this, it too must change. A power exchange. A battle of wills, a friction. This is not the organic exchange of planting a seed and watching it slowly unfold, as in the Coins. 

This is the exposing of the explosive power that is latent, contained, and directed in the process of growth. The Ace of Coins shows us this most clearly—that there is a trapped or latent explosive energy, which in that Suit could only unfold via the strong container of organic growth. Here in the Suit of Coins, this potential energy has become active, kinetic, direct. We are playing with fire.

– The Coins contain the amorphous whole, and you can tease them out. Now they are splitting off, bumping into each other, and through that becoming every more distinct.

– Perhaps the other two Suits are represented here as well, although in a very discreet way:

The Grail/Cups = the Athanor, the Forge, the Container

The Batons = The Hammers

There is an interaction of all four elements, all four Suits occurring. An interwoven picture. The Coin is the raw material—the Cup is the athanor/forge—being hammered by Batons—into Swords, the finished product.

This is so much less linear than a stepwise progression of Suits (Coin, Sword, Cup, Baton). It also draws very clear attention to the fact that forces are at work that we’re unaware of—in particular in regard to the Batons, the Hammers. This is the part that is totally unobservable within the Arcana themselves—we never see the hammer striking. In a sense, we contain the image of the hammer striking within ourselves. This is what is happening when we come to the Even Arcana, with Flowers in the center. They indicate that we have taken the Sword out of the forge and are now striking it with the hammer, the Baton. The Baton is our own inner activity.

Like the transition from Coin to Coin, we had to find an inner movement in our imagination that bridged that strange gap. Here we have discovered the analogous missing piece—that which must occur in the transitions from Sword to Sword.

So here we have to assume that what that transition looks like is the “hammering” and also “cooling.” The whole process of blacksmithing relies heavily on a consistent and vigilant repetition, just as the Suit of Swords relies on the repetition, over and over again, of the same basic form which have to keep returning to and “hammering out.” Whereas in the Suit of Coins, between each one the transition had its own unique movement, here it is a sequence of very similar movements. 

– All of this brings to mind for Joel his first year at Plowshare working with the blacksmith, Chris McFee. Attempting to come into the archetypal gesture of hammering when blacksmithing. One has to use all of one’s force on the upswing of the hammer, and then keeping your outer eye steadily on exactly where you want it to fall, and your inner eye exactly on how you want it to look, you let the hammer drop, you don’t use any force on the down-swing. And you must hammer rapidly, rhythmically, with a great deal of care, because it’s very quickly going to cool to the point that your strikes won’t just be ineffective, they may damage the end result. It’s much more complicated than it looks, requires perfect timing, over and over again. It’s so excessively difficult to blacksmith—really, the whole process of creating iron so that one can blacksmith is kind of impossible to imagine. Why would anyone even ever try this? How did we imagine something like this to even attempt it?

All of this is connected to the Ego, to the sundering of the Ego from the higher nature so that it can be reunified. This is alchemy—you begin with the impure/mixed substance, the Negredo. Then you split it into pieces to remove the impurities (Albedo) and reunify it again (Rubedo). 

Phillip also watches videos of collectors of old jewelry. They purify the gold out of the jewelry. There’s a whole process of liquification, purification, reconstitution. This goes very strongly with the Coin analogy. The Swords are the cleansing of the Coin, and in the process giving them a totally new form. 

– The Coins are a process of exploration and discovery. But you can’t just leave what you discovered the way you found it. You destroy it, you purify it, you put it back together again. Refinement—a massive and intense refinement.

The Coins and Swords show us the contradistinction between the cosmic creative process (Coins, general growth) and the human creative process (find, destroy, purify, reconstitute). The Cosmic process is so gentle and refined and beautiful. The human is so convoluted and almost unnecessarily forceful! It seems to be intrinsically related to failure and destruction. Going to Hell and back. 

– Maybe that’s why “cheating,” looking ahead, comes into this Suit so much as well. Not as pure as Coins!

Speaking of which, looking to the Nine…

The tip leans so much to the right. Like the Sword is curving in the part you can’t see, through the Vesica Piscis. And it’s almost like it has a break in it. Then in the Ten—one sword has a break!

This is the only even to have broad Swords, and the only Arcanum to have two broad swords. And two of the corner flowers are missing! They have turned into the hilts of the broadswords. This is a new geometry. The integration of curved and straight. It creates a shape akin to:

– Does this lead to a process of completion, a product? Or have we just done a whole bunch of work and that working itself was the point? Perhaps the created object is beside the point, and the work bears a separate invisible fruit?

Yes, what exactly is the “point” of all this? We may not know clearly until the Ten? Or perhaps even the Court Arcana. They have those answers. At least, that is how it felt when we finally got to them in the Suit of Coins. Everything became clear.

– The Swords are the “workshop” of the other Arcana. This is the place they all come to in order to be active. In their own domains they have their own function and reality. But here, in the realm of the Swords, in the “workshop,” they all have to work/play together. Again, this reminds Joel of Chris McFee. You don’t mess around in workshop. Strong work ethic, strong etheric, strong Ego. And the work itself, the process that we engage in with raw material, with substance, with each other, with being a part of a metamorphosis, this is much moreso the point and the purpose than the finished product we arrive at.

We finished with the third stanza of the Foundation Stone Meditation.