A Hermetic Conversation amongst Joel, Natalia, Phillip and Sabrina on November 14, 2021
We began with the protective practice.
We then invited the presence of the Risen One to guide our conversation.
After briefly focusing the mantra SHE FEELS on the region of the heart, we moved the second section of the Inner Radiance Sequence, the 10th Letter of the Divine Alphabet, and the 10th part of the Grail Knights Practice.
We then read from Revelation 17:3-6
The horizontality of the top cup. This is a different type of cup than we have seen before. It’s like there is a squeezing in the middle, then a radiating out. A movement from left to right—a compressing of the red, then transforming it into something else. From a circle to a hexagon. Even right around the central knob, there is a more circular funnel shape leading into it, and a hexagonal pyramid coming out of it.
There is something about the gesture of the whole thing that is reminiscent of a sideways X. A St. Andrew’s Cross. Which is on each side of the card.
Looking at the smaller cups, they have a knob without any striation, and then a very straight stem with striation. It is as though these two have united in the central knob of the upper cup—it is the same shape as the knobs in the smaller cups, but now with striation like the stems.
When you look closely enough, it seems that each stem on the nine smaller cups is unique vs the others. Each one is also filled with a slightly different amount of liquid (the shaded red). The bottom row of three are pretty much the same, but the upper six are all different. Again returning to this split of upper six and lower three as in the Nine of Cups.
The central knob in the upper cup is like a smaller version of the bowl of the cup, the part that bears the liquid in the lower cups.
If we look ahead to the Court Cups, this knob continues to develop. We have a glimpse here into the future:
The Letter-Meditation on the Tower of Destruction (the literal translation from the French is the “House of God”). Tomberg creates this scale of spiritual environments. The Garden (where there is a balance of the human, the spirit, and nature), the Jungle (which is all nature), the Desert (which is all spirit), and the City (which is all human). The Ten of Cups is like the City, where nothing really grows. Either the City or the Wilderness/Desert. There is a dryness in this image. No apparent vitality, after there has been such a focus on the plant-life for all of the other Cups. There has been life all along.
It reminds Sabrina of an experience she had with a clairvoyant a few years ago. She said, “as soon as there are excessive building sites, the world will completely change.” In Vienna, all of these building sites began to crop up at the end of 2019—and right after that, the whole world changed.
And there is a synchronicity she is experiencing between this entry into the Ten of Cups and the current post-Covid world. The situation becomes ever narrower.
The Ten of Cups has a strong building gesture.
The 16th Arcanum has two names: “Tower of Destruction” and “House of God.” There are two different paths we can take in terms of the spiritual condition of “City.” There is the City as in the 16th Letter-Meditation, where the world is stripped of all that is spiritual and natural, becoming a completely human artifice. But then there is the New Jerusalem, the City of God. In his anthroposophical meditations, Tomberg focuses on the path of the Bible from a Garden to a City—where there is something given, something passive for humanity at the beginning, in the innocence of Paradise, but by the end there is nothing given—everything bears the stamp of humanity, and the world is transformed into an artistic, co-creative endeavour between humanity and the spiritual world.
This is the narrowing we are now experiencing after Covid. We have two paths we can choose—do we choose the city (as in the Tower of Destruction, technocracy) or the City (as in the New Jerusalem, the threefold social organism).
Is the New Jerusalem only City? Or is it somehow also a return to the Garden?
In the Letter-Meditation on the Tower, he elevates the position of Gardener, and casts aspersion on the role of the Builder. He makes it seems as though Gardener (Hermeticism) is good, whereas Builder (Freemasonry) is bad. But there is another Letter-Meditation in which he is writing of the necessity for good architects for the City of God. Nothing is ever black and white in Meditations on the Tarot—like anthroposophy, everything must be approached from varying points of view. [Note—this is on pages 409-10 of the Letter-Meditation on The Devil, where he implores the readers to range themselves among the builders of the “great cathedral” of mankind’s spiritual tradition.]
So…the Ten of Cups is the image of our time. The two choices that stand before us. No middle ground—technocracy or freedom.
The upper cup is in another plane of existence; t isn’t static, it is active; and it is not oriented “normally.”
The Ace of Cups could also be seen as a city—a kind of “bird’s eye view” of a city. Whereas the Ten is more like the grid of a city, the different blocks and buildings, more up close:
In the upper cup, there is an interweaving of the forms of the various parts of the Cup. The neck becomes like the base, it funnels out. Whereas the central knob becomes more like the bowl. There is a rising from below and a lowering from above.
This is making sense if we go all the way back to the Ace of Swords:
Here, the crown is like the central knob in the upper cup of the Ten of Cups. There is a different world on either side of it, it is this transformation or squeezing point in between. You only get a picture of both worlds simultaneously in the Ace of Swords. Then in the other Numbered Swords you only get to see one side or the other: either the “flower world” above the crown or the “sword world” below it:
It’s painting a picture of a gradual transition, flipping from one side to the other, one side to the other, over and over again.
Then, for now, let’s skip over the Court Swords, and go to the Numbered Cups. The Ten of Cups is the culmination of the Cups, which display the process of not seeing only one side or the other, but seeing the transition…seeing both sides at once.
The plant forms throughout the Cups are displaying to the static cups how to de-rigidify, to learn how to flow back and forth in a living way from one side to the other, rather than the abrupt on and off of the Swords.
The Ace of Cups is too full of fluid, and it is too heavy and static to bear something so fluid and dynamic, so it bursts. The Ten finally has a cup that can bear fluidity without self-destructing. It had to flip sideways and rise up—i.e. achieve a completely different orientation and dimension—in order to be able to do that.
It bears within it the gesture of the Ace of Coins through the Ace of Swords and now to the Ten of Cups. The Ace of Coins is there on the left, this red coin on the “top” of the cup. With the Ace of Coins we have something solid, self-contained, which is split apart in the Ace of Swords. This is the central part of the upper cup, this vortex or squeezing. Now it is made whole again in the Ten of Cups, but in a totally different form. It is living and functional, rather than solid and closed off as in the Ace of Coins. This is the re-emergence of the funnel form on the right side of the vortex/knob. Closed—Open—Shut. Together—Broken—Recreated.
The Cup has become a plant. It looks like a bud…or a rose hip.
Notice we said the same thing when we got to the Ten of Swords last year. That here, the Sword has finally united with the Flower, the two have become one. The difference is that here, the Cup becomes the full plant, not just a flower. And thereby, it becomes something totally new—a kind of living metal, it becomes the power of transformation.
Overall, the Minors have been like the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. The Coins are like the seed he plants. With the Cups it’s like the city in the clouds. The Swords are all this vegetation emerging in this crazy, almost mechanical fashion—the magical growth of the vine overnight.
This image of the rose hip in the Ten of Cups. Like here we have a fruit, but a fruit full of seeds. This enormous potential. The Ace of Cups is like a pregnant woman, and with the Ten of Cups she is about to burst. Perhaps these are the ten lunar months of pregnancy.
The strong pressure in the Ace of Cups. Squeezing the fruit, pouring out the wine.
The mucus plug that comes out when labor commences. It is red, like this “plug” in the Ten of Cups.
It’s strange, because the Coins we perceived as the conception and early gestation of the embryo. Cell division. And the Swords we ended up perceiving as the dilation to ten centimetres during labor, leading to a birth in the Court Cards. And now we have the Cups as the actual time period of pregnancy, leading up to the commencement of labor (the mucus plug). Why out of order, out of sequence—conception, birth, gestation? Maybe the Swords were the spiritual expression of an event, and the Cups are the expression of that same event on the physical plane?
It’s like we had this tension between two worlds—the spiritual and the mundane—in the Coins and Swords, a tension that carries on through the pulsing of the Suit of Swords. And now we finally have the missing link for what came between those two and unites them with the Cups.
Never thought of the Cups before as full of vitality necessarily. This pregnant quality. But it’s definitely there. They are full of wine—related to sexuality, vitality, but also the emotionality of pregnancy.
Didn’t we bring up the Empress and the pregnant belly in one of the earlier Cups? Probably the Five of Cups. We saw the central cup as the pregnant belly that everyone wants to come touch. And the red flowers are there, similar to the cap on the upper cup in the Ten. There is something like a red flower in the Two, Four and Six of Cups, but in the Five it is closest to what presents itself in the Ten.
This pulsing of mundane-spiritual-mundane-spiritual. Now the two weave together organically. Expressive of continuity of consciousness. With the Swords, you can’t see both sides at the same time—and therefore you’re never really sure which side you’re on. But with the Cups you can see the whole. This seems to be tied up with fruit, with production, with fruitfulness.
It also goes back to our conversation from the other day regarding the Ace of Swords, the High Priestess, and this chasm between the mere intellectual understanding of karma and the double vs this experiential reality of karma and the double. Like the Coins and Swords are showing you two different sides of the chasm, and the Cups are that which finally illuminates the chasm, fills that span with a bridge, a transition.
Something about the Ten is reminiscent of the grafting of a branch onto a fruit tree. Perhaps the Sword prunes off the branch, and the Cup is the actual grafting? Except that in the Ten of Cups, you have this strong impression of the cut branch, dripping with sap/blood (on the left hand side, where the coin/seal is). Maybe the Swords show us the act of cutting, and then the Cups show us the cut branch before it is grafted. The Batons show us the actual process of grafting: the Ace is like the branch being held up, and then each of the Numbered Batons show branches bound together, like a grafted branch would be.
Usually, though, you do a diagonal cut for a grafting. The top of the cup, where the cut would be, is flat/horizontal. But on the other hand, who is to say that this is a horizontal cut (a “flat top” to the upper cup)? It might just be a matter of perspective—this could very well be a diagonal “cut” like an actual graft:
The perspective in the Arcana is generally like that in an Icon, where it is drawn in such a way that you’re meant to be able to see all the pertinent details at once, not necessarily as it would realistically appear in terms of perspective and depth perception.
Actually, with the upper cup in the Ten, you can play with the whole form. It is very indeterminate. Like looking at a two dimensional representation of a cube—you can play with which corner is “outer” and which is “inner”:
When you play with the upper cup this way, it can make it appear much more like a transformational vortex. Where maybe the “top” and “bottom” of the cup are closer to us and recede into the vortex in the center “away” from us.
There is another exchange of form in the upper cup, in addition to the bowl/knob exchange and the neck/base exchange. There is also an exchange of bottom and top. The top seems now to be solid (the red seal/coin), as you would expect the very bottom of the cup to be. Does this imply that the bottom is open, has taken on qualities of the top?
They are also a reversal of gesture. On the top, you have this red, very organic baby-form. On the bottom, you have a strong geometry/angularity, and this aposematism/striation of yellow and black.
And you have true life in the middle of the cup for the first time. It has been extended and emphasised. So much so that it appears to be shaking—a movement. Like a spaceship or a particle accelerator. Vibration, rotation.
The knob is a potent place…it could change everything…a fusing of opposites. Fringin something in from another universe, a whole other place.
Maybe in the Ten of Cups you have something like the Garden above, something Celestial above and the city below. The destroyed city below is being transformed into something holy above. Similar to the Tower of Destruction image. We could see the tower itself as representing “city.” Then there is this crown going horizontal, and this living, transformational fire/lightning above:
It is interesting to contrast the Ace and the Ten of Cups. In the Ace, it is like the towers of the city are above and surrounding a garden hidden in their midst, like they are protecting this potent life-garden, this transformative power. Then in the Ten, this has completely unfolded, turned inside out. The transformative power, the garden-life, has risen out of the midst of the towers that are now scattered about below it:
If you turn it sideways, so that the red part of the upper cup faces down, the bowl of the cup going into the knob is reminiscent of the “onions” on a Russian cathedral. This doesn’t happen with the cups in the prior Arcana. The stem is a different shape.
What does this shape symbolise in Russian cathedrals traditionally? (Later on, we found that they indicate a flame of constant prayer. It is also seen as the womb of the Virgin on the interior).
Have we brought the Cups into connection with the Holy Grail before?
Yes, we saw the story of Parzival very strongly in the Ace through the Five in particular.
But what about the Eternal Grail, not just the imagery of the Grail legends—this eternal object that is always full of living substance. What we have here in the Ten is a new cup—full of life, unlike all the other cups.
It raises the question—what exactly is the Eternal Grail Cup? Steiner has given a variety of definitions: “Christ is the Grail. The human head is the Grail. The larynx is the Grail. The heart is the Grail.” etc. Perhaps the true Grail is a union of all of these, an interweaving.
The Four of Cups: the bleeding lance, the witnessing of the Grail by Parzival, that it gives you all that you need. Yet is it a cup? Or a stone? Even in the story, it’s indeterminate, as Graal means either stone or cup. Like the word Stein. And a bit like this cup. Is it metal or a fruit? Is it physical or spiritual? Is it convex or concave? Is it full of liquid with a cap or are we seeing the inside of it—like the cross-section of a fruit?
Or are we seeing a full lateral cross-section—the cup as an exposure of inner dynamics rather than protecting or guarding. Again, this turning inside out from the gesture of the Ace (guarding, hiding, protecting) to the Ten (unveiling, revealing). The Ace as the Tabernacle in an Orthodox service, containing the Host. Perhaps it is a journey from Bread (Ace) to Wine (Ten)—or maybe the bread that has been dipped in the wine, now an indeterminate substance?
The Ace as Annunciation. The Ten as Ascension…or Assumption…or Pentecost.
After the conversation was over, Phillip and Joel came to this picture of the Suit of Coins as showing conception and early gestation. Then the Suit of Swords—rather than being an expression of labor and birth in the physical world—are actually the expression of one’s death out of the spiritual world, the complementary process to birth into the physical world. And now with the Suit of Cups we have the nine months of pregnancy. Maybe the Batons are the true expression of birth into the physical world—what we thought we had witnessed in the Swords was actually the complementary spiritual process; the true birth is yet to come.
Questions Joel was left with at the end:
The Russian cathedral tops are there in the center of the top cup…but something is growing out of them, continuing out of them? Why? What does that signify?
Are we able to read the gesture of this upper cup’s vortex-movement from right to left rather than left to right? How does this read differently than reading it left to right?
Can we look more closely at the minor differences amongst the smaller nine cups? And similarly in previous Arcana?