Six of Swords (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on March 22, 2020

March 22, 2020

Six of Swords Part 1

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 on the region of the larynx, we performed 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 10:1-3 and Matthew 5:21-30.

– Looking at the central flower: it is as though it is of the same type as the corner flowers, but has been fully revealed or unfurled (red, then yellow, then blue).

This is a tulip-like flower. Have we seen one of this form before? The flowers in the Eight, Nine and Ten of Coins are a bit similar. But there is something so simple about this one that makes it like a trip, like a real flower. The flowers in the Eight, Nine and Ten are so fantastic they don’t look real.

– Notice how the blue leaves curl forward, they make a gesture. Like the “B” in eurythmy. Around the black, dried-up seed/sprig, this is at the center of the “B.” 

That’s assuming that the “arms” of the flower are moving inwards, forming a “B.” But if they are moving outwards, it’s more of a “H.” Then it is a bit like the Risen One, or the Transfiguration. An unveiling. It’s interesting that we didn’t notice or see this in the Four of Swords. This is the first time the two leaves are “working together.” Not just a mirroring or symmetry across a midline, but a part of a whole body, a forming. 

Never in the Coins do you feel there is human gesture in the plant. Even in the Seven of Coins—which is the most clear break, the most intertwined with Coins. That’s the only place where we saw and mentioned dancing or juggling. But it’s more like that’s what the form of the Seven alluded to or reminded one of, it wasn’t really embodied as a gesture in the plant.

What you feel is growth in the Coins. But not movement of the plant, movement as in limbs, as in mobility.

And it’s like the Four of Swords is approaching that, but the curve of the stem makes it still just seem like a cut flower that has been laid somewhere. The two lower leaves just bring in a mirroring, the “Aleph” form.

– The Six is an octave, but further simplified—notice the blue in the Four (above the yellow fringe) has gone away. It’s been heightened and sublimated through simplification actually, rather than increasing elaboration. The Six is simpler but more human and alive than the Four.

– Phillip has looked ahead on the path of the even numbered Swords, at the Eight and the Ten. There is something about the Suit of Swords in terms of pairing away and separating, that therefore you need the whole in order to see what the part really is. With the Coins, it was like each Arcanum was its own microcosmic whole that was embedded in a larger, macrocosmic Whole. Here each Arcanum is merely a part, and we need the whole, all of the Arcana.

Joel was reflecting the other day on a colleague who feels overwhelmed by the variety of courses he is teaching in Camphill Academy, and keeping track of it all. But for Joel, he feels as though he has a grasp of the whole—of the “mantle of the Hermit” so to speak—and therefore each class is simply a portion of the whole. All of them are interconnected, therefore preparation for one class is preparation for all of them. This is the Goethean method. For Goethe to feel as though he could grasp anything particular in an organism, he felt he first needed to grasp the whole. And this applied to everything for him. The parts can only unveil their true reality in relation to the whole.

Here we see the contrast between Coins and Swords. The Coins are essentially mirrors, reflecting a macrocosmic wholeness microcosmically. The Swords are cutting, severing pieces off of the whole.

The Swords need each other in order to be alive, whereas the Coins are fine on their own, and when combined into a whole they are like dominoes or a tower. Here, when Sword meets Sword we have weaving, linking, unfolding. 

Rudolf Steiner speaks in this lecture: 

about how if one could separate the four parts of the human being—physical, etheric, astral, and ego—and allow them to unfold their unique natures divorced from the wholeness of the human being, they would “unpack” or “explode” into surprising forms.

The Ego contains within it the entire mineral kingdom.

The Etheric Body contains within it the entire animal kingdom.

And the Astral Body contains the entire vegetable kingdom. Steiner says that after the death of the physical and etheric bodies, the astral body carries on unfolding in ever larger spherical vegetable forms, until it reaches the Midnight Hour. After that, these spherical forms contract until they go towards forming the skull and brain in the womb of the mother of the coming incarnation.

This is addressed from a different perspective in Tomberg’s meditations on the Foundation Stone meditation.

Perhaps the Majors and Court Cards are showing us the “exploding” of the physical/etheric (human and animal kingdoms)

Perhaps the Coins show us the exploded Ego. And the Swords are showing us the exploded astral body.

– Coming back to the Six. Looking at it in the context of other even cards: Two, Four, Six and Eight of Swords.

Bringing in the odd Arcana as well, but focusing on the evens: 

(Ace) Two (Three) Four (Five) Six (Seven) Eight

The vesica piscis form is like if you were to look at a circle with your eyes crossed. Notice that The Devil has his eyes crossed. A process of removing the part from the whole, takin things out of context, destroying the circle of unity.

Jim’s game—pointing two fingers toward each other and crossing one’s eyes, gives the illusion of a floating finger. A non-entity, an illusion, divorced from the whole. Completely unnatural and out of context, but also a bit magical. Like Steiner’s description of this “spiritual experiment” where one takes the etheric completely out of context and allows it to work on its own, and the entire animal kingdom explodes out of it.

The Eight of Swords is such a departure—it is distracting.

– There is a progression here. The Two is a total call back to the form of the Coin Arcana. The Four shows the neatest, most ideal form. The most complete. The Five acts as a dividing line, indicating a pairing back and simplification that brings about a higher quality of gesture—and this is what the Six is to the Four. Then the Eight reflects the Two, but even more drastically simplified, all blue, seeding, fading away. 

There is something here that is reminiscent of the etheric review. Immediately after death it is vivid, and then more distant, and then finally a seed-package, a distillation, kept until after the Midnight Hour. The forming of the next incarnation via the seed-residue of the former life—the strand of pearls, the continuity into the next life. The seed, the cocoon—each of these breaks down completely into full chaos, and then totally reconstitutes again. The yolk-sac, the food that feeds the chaos so that life can spring forth again. 

The importance of the first 3 years. It seeds everything that you can’t avoid later in life. Structures become embedded that you’re stuck with from then on.

The formation of the head and skull is the memory of the past life, the distillation, whereas the limbs express the future. They become the head of the next life.

The Eight of Swords shows us the return of the pearl (blue this time)—perhaps for the last time? The Ace through Eight story has this tableau quality.

The Ace is the moment of death, the etheric separating from the physical. The Crown is the piece provided by the Angel so that one can witness the tableau in totally unbiased engagement, pure response, unmitigated by wishes to avoid, or prejudices. This goes back to the guardian Angel bearing the Likeness, with our naturally intact Image on the other side of that. 

Interesting then to see the Two, Three and Four as elaborate yet under-developed. Then the Five is the dividing line that says “strip the essential from the non-essential and rise higher.” 

Letting go of terrestrial gravity. Shedding what’s weighing you down. Floating into the air.

Yet also the image of drowning is conjured—if one is drowning, one wants to shed the extra weight that is dragging one down. The water imagery continues throughout the other Sword Arcana (boat, fish, etc). 

– Only as of the Six do we notice that the bottom of the stem is like cut flesh, a flesh colored stem with red almost dripping from it. It is the same in the Four of Swords, but we didn’t really notice or make much of it. All through the Coins the stems are blue or white—in the Nine the stem is yellow, but the Nine’s plant forms in general are rather unique. In the Ace of Swords, the stems are flesh colored, but no red at the base. No blood.

So only the Four and the Six show cut and bleeding flesh. Why did we notice this only at the Six?

It is a matter of pairing off Arcana once again. Just as the Two and Three complete the circle of One, and the Four and Five complete the circle of Two, etc. There is also the Five as mirror, and the Four and Six completing each other. We could not make sense of the Four (from a particular perspective) until it met its companion in the Six.

The story of the Swords is not so much parts requiring the whole, as pairs that need their mates in order to achieve wholeness. 4 + 6 = 10 = wholeness. Three needs Seven; Two needs Eight. The path leading to the 10, to the Yod, to the rediscovered wholeness and unity that comes after separation.

We can imagine the arcana arranged like so:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

with the Five holding the center, and running below the Five we can imagine curves connecting Four to Six, and Three to Seven, etc. These curves would be the same shape as the scimitars, the curved swords creating the vesica piscis frame of each Arcanum.

These curves are akin to the “B” gesture of creating a home, of bringing the two together who belong together. Yet at the same time they are related to the “H” gesture of unveiling; when the two have come together something new is revealed.

– Looking again at the Ace in the context of dying: the Crown and the Plants inside of it are like the Etheric separating from the physical body. That makes the Sword the physical body. The Five of Swords is the pivot point amongst the numbered Arcana. It acts as a physical body, as “Sword.” A nexus of energy, the inescapable foundation. The etheric review—what is it that gives it gravity and a frame of reference if not the fact that it occurred in a physical body? The Sword is not a weapon, but instead is the inescapable point of reference. A wake is held for three days, accompanying the physical corpse. It is the Anchor, the reflector of the etheric review.

– Notice that all through these conversations, going far back, we have thought of the corpse with a flower, or the fallen soldier with a sword, or a coffin, or a boat with a dead body floating downstream. A context of death.

And what is remarkable is that this is an unconscious referencing on our part of exactly the conversations we were having around the Hanged Man, Death, Temperance, The Devil and the Tower of Destruction years ago. These are the exact Major Arcana that we have brought into relationships with the Swords. But in terms of our conversations on the Major Arcana, we related:

The Hanged Man to the final years of life

Death to the moment of Death

Temperance to the Etheric Review

The Devil to the “40 Days wandering in the wilderness” between review and kamaloka

The Tower of Destruction to Kamaloka

This whole process of dying, death, review, and entering kamaloka is exactly the transition we’ve circled around during this conversation. 

The Coins had a more cosmic quality. They were related to The World, The Judgement, The Sun, The Moon and The Star—the various planetary spheres traversed after kamaloka. 

For the Minor Arcana to contain a movement within them from the most Cosmic to the most Human is counter-intuitive. One sees it as a journey from the lowest sphere (Realm of Action—Coins) to the highest (Realm of Emanation—Batons). But perhaps this is like Tomberg’s reflections on the Foundation Stone Meditation: that the highest (Ego) is also the lowest (Stone), and the lowest (Physical) is also the highest (Human). And so in our journey through the Minor Arcana we are moving simultaneously from lowest to highest and highest to lowest.

The animal-formed etheric drives the plant-like within the human being.

The plant-formed astral drives the animalistic in the human being.

This is not intuitive, it is a much vaster picture.

The Plane of Action is yet the most Cosmic. Perhaps this is a kind of universal Law, that there is always a counter-motion below to a movement above, and vice versa.

It is like the Rosicrucian Mantra. The gestures for this follow the Tree of Life in the Human Being. One might expect for “EX DEO NASCIMUR” to apply to the highest part of the Tree of Life in the human being, to the Realm of Emanation (hands held over each side of the head). But this applies rather to “PER SPIRITUM SANCTUM REVIVISCIMUS.” And conversely, it is the Realm of Formation (hands pointing toward the generative organs) that belongs to the mantra “EX DEO NASCIMUR.” 

This is because the Father works from Above to Below: the hands point downwards, towards the generative force in the human being.

The Spirit works from Below to Above: the hands point upwards, to the highest realm of “Spirit Beholding.” 

– This experience with the Six of Coins has been akin to reading Weinreb (Roots of the Bible). It’s erasing the borders of our inadequate maps.

– Notice the increasingly narrowing space due to the increasing number of scimitars framing the central object. 

– The white collar between the flower and the stem—this is also something new. A bit like a priest. Again, it gives such a human quality. This was unseen prior to this. Like a beheading, or clothing. A demarcation of a “head” on the flower. In the Four of Swords, the base of the flower’s blossom is still roundish, hearkening back to the pearl. The straightness of the stem and the demarcation of the “head” make the Six’s flower much more human in comparison.

– This flower, with its white collar, has nearly all colors represented—blue, white, yellow, red, flesh, black—all except green, which is a very rare color anyway.

– The flower has a white collar like the Fool! There are other Majors with white collars, but particularly the Fool, who we spoke of as walking around with his head on a sort of platter, like he had been beheaded. 

Others with a white collar: Magician; Emperor, Chariot; Lover (at least in Phillip’s deck); the Angel in Judgement; the Hanged Man. These are basically all men, and all men of action.

In Temperance, the white is the stream between the two vases. It is not the head and body that are divided, but rather some action above vs below the waist.

The Knight of Coins also has a white collar. He also has an above/below division along the diagonal akin to Temperance. And he too is a man of action. He is like a combination of all the above Major Arcana.

The Coins = Suit of the Knave

The Swords = Suit of the Knight

The Hanged Man has white divisions all over himself.

In the Court Cards ahead, the Queen has a red sword; and the Knave has a sheath. The King seems to have a baton? And a strange symbol on his throne.