Ten of Swords (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on July 23, 2020

July 23, 2020

Ten of Swords 

(The first conversation between Philip and Joel, in person, with no one else joining over the phone, since the lockdowns began)

We began with the protective practice, before invoking the presence of Hermes Trismegistus by reading out the Emerald Table. 

After briefly focusing the mantra IT THINKS on the region of the larynx, we moved the third part of the Inner Radiance Sequence, and the 15th Letter of the Divine Name—Samech, in relation to The Devil.

We then read from Revelation 11:14-16

– The sword on the left seems to have a strange hilt. 

– Certainly this Arcanum is not symmetrical in terms of colour:

The right hand sword has a blue blade, a red handguard, and a yellow hilt at the bottom. There are five spirals on the hilt, and the ball at the bottom is split into three “slices.” 

The left hand sword has a blue blade, a yellow handguard, and a red hilt at the bottom. This too has five spirals on the hilt, and three “slices.” Neither of these swords has the tiny nub at the bottom as in Nine, Five, Three and Ace.

A straight line divides each Sword as in the Seven. There is a break in the right-hand sword, as in the Nine, but in a different place on the blade.

Actually, all prior sword hilts have a coloration of: yellow handguard (horizontal piece), red hilt (vertical piece), and either yellow or flesh-coloured ball at the bottom. In this sense, it is actually the right-hand hilt that is “wrong” or more unusual, as it has two of these three elements the opposite color than normal (handguard and hilt), and the left-hand has one out of three an unusual colour (the ball). Plus, the left hand sword is more akin to the corner flower it has replaced: a sequence of blue (fringe petals), yellow (main petals), red (central bud). And yet it is like this sword-shaped flower has been turned upside down, with the colours going in the opposite order, and the angle of its direction pointing towards the vesica piscis rather than away. It’s like one of the upper flowers was moved down, rather than reflected as in a mirror, and then its shape transformed to that of a sword—“shooting” or extending itself into the vesica piscis. 

Not sure why exactly the left-hand seemed more unusual at first. Somehow the yellow hilt just looks more aesthetically pleasing, like a golden hilt?

– The broadswords have finally learned how to cross—as the curved scimitars have done all along. Notice the scimitars cross at the blue, and these are two blue swords that are crossed.

And finally, the broadswords are interweaving with the curved scimitars. They are above the outer two layers, and underneath the lower two. Prior to this, they seemed to merely pierce the curved scimitars, in the upper blue portion of the vesica piscis (in Three, Five, Seven, Nine).

But does the way that the broadswords are interwoven with the scimitars imply that there is no stepwise depth in terms of the four curved swords? I think before, we were viewing them as progressively further away, and that the broad swords were not just leaning to left and right, but leaning away from the viewer, into the depth of the vesica piscis. But with the broadswords above the outer two layers of the vesica piscis, it would seem to fly in the face of the idea that those two layers are closer? There’s a real ambiguity here. 

It’s an ambiguity that goes quite naturally with the strong duality of this Arcanum in particular, and the whole suit in general. The two broadswords very well could be only leaning to left and right, and otherwise vertical. Or they could be leaning as we saw them by the end of the previous conversation. They could be nearly horizontal for that matter. But for them to be nearly horizontal, they would have to be quite long blades when raised fully vertical!

Perspective is a tricky thing in this kind of medieval imagery, e.g. in the Magician. It is hard to know what is intentional, or what is intended. 

– The tips of the swords link directly with the red and yellow curves…the blending together of scimitar with broadsword.

– Wondering about the original Mamluk imagery. Did they have any broadswords? (Edit—the short answer is no…see this fascinating site for more info:  http://mamluk.spiorad.net/topkapi.htm)

– It’s interesting how, in spite of the new arrangement, the way the broadswords interweave with the scimitars, yet still the hilt respects the weave—it is still repelled by the weave. Only the blade penetrates the weave.

And yet…the implication from a certain perspective is that the hilts were drawn through the weave—after a splitting into two swords!

This hearkens back to the Ace…In the Emerald Table, Hermes Trisgmegistus places the emphasis on the ”One Thing” at first, but then takes note of “a single process of adaptation.” So there are actually two things—the One Thing, and the single process—but they’re combined into one thing somehow, the latter is somehow embedded in the former. The Ace of Swords is the One Thing presenting itself directly, in its totality, entering into the new plane of the Crown. 

On the other hand, Three—Five—Seven—Nine—Ten express the process of adaptation, the series of processes unfolding within this new field of activity. 

And the Two—Four—Six—Eight show that which is causing this unfolding event to happen. 

Perhaps the Ten of Swords is the event itself as well as cognising the event simultaneously—therefore two swords crossed together. 

The Ace = beginning

Three, Five, Seven, Nine = middle—(Two, Four, Six, Eight = four qualities of the process)

Ten = end

Is all of this like the three states or gunas from the garland of The World?

The beginning and the end mirror each other somehow. 

– The Coins are like the quantum state, the instantaneous jump from one electron shell to another, with no intermediary. The lightning flash.

These are the inversion of that. The Swords are the delineation down to the tiniest minutia of exactly what is happening. What is happening in the midst of that instant when the “jump” happens. Infinitesimally small divisions of the jump. A bit like taking the integral in calculus, in order to approach the fluidity of the area under a curve. Splitting a curve into measurable straight lines until they dissolve back into a fluid, immeasurable curve. 


– The Ace implies that the Coin and Scimitar are the same thing. The primal motion is the division of the One Thing (the Coin) into two things (Broadsword and crown/scimitar). 

Then we have the Sword itself eventually doubling—splitting into two down the middle, into a sword on the right and left, rather than the above/below split of the Ace, in which the Coin is divided into Sword below and Crown above.

– Is it a bit like “two wrongs making a right,” cancelling each other out?

Going through this process of purification, recognising your impurity. As you lose (cancel) the impurity you definitely lose something that used to be very attached to your empirical personality, something painful to lose. But actually the process of losing an impurity is a gain, a double negative that makes a positive. You gain something actually much stronger and more substantial than what was flawed/open to attack in the way of impurity.

– The spitting of the plants in the Ace (above the crown) is now happening to the Swords in the Ten—Swords which are at the same time Flowers!—in the middle region. The Sword has become Crown-like. 

– The use of the vesica piscis by Euclid—the first step in drawing an equilateral triangle using a compass and straight edge. The points of the triangle are the pinnacle and mid-points of the vesica piscis. 

That’s what’s attempting to happen in this image of the two crossed Swords in the Ten: a division from primal unity (Coin) into polarity/duality (intersecting circles) that must find its resolution in trinity/harmony—no return to primal unity. It can’t resolve as the primal unity—it has become something more complex. 

– In the Ace, maybe the curl of the handguard of the hilt and the stem of the flower were connected at some point:

This transition from the connected plants/sword making a kind of trident shape (in one’s imagination), to the separation in the Ace of Swords, to the new shape formed in the Ten of Swords, is somehow both a transition from One to Two to Three, yet also a transition from Threefoldness to Fourfoldness. 

– Going back to the issue of depth in the scimitars. What if they are flat/without depth below, but have depth above? The scimitars are, after all, divided in the middle by coloured hilts or handgrips of some sort. Are the tips of the broadswords going beyond the yellow and red and just seem to be touching? Or maybe the scimitars are also leaning away from us, and they are actually touching?

The simplest interpretation is of course that the broadswords are piercing the scimitars with only a slight diagonal to them.

– This is the first time the broadswords are free of the upper weave—a sense of extraction due to the two negatives cancelling, the two wrongs making a right. Finally attaining the opening, the doorway that horizontal/vertical would represent. Whereas the rest of them are entrapped, stuck. 

– The portions of the image that cut (broadsword) and entrap (scimitar)—representing capacities or abilities of the soul/spirit—are now separated, set free from each other.

– The upper portion of Three, Five, Seven and Nine is stuck in the blue weave, but we continue to pull the hilt towards us trying to yank it out, and it ends up cracking the central Sword in the Nine. But when it finally breaks—suddenly it becomes two Swords in the Ten. And they can move now. They’re like scissors—or oars. We return to the image of the vesica piscis as a boat, a vessel.

– The “ABC—CBA” exercise taught by Dennis Klocek—a way of processing emotions, events, information, etc—is a “rowing of the oars” back and forth that “builds the hut,” it creates the needed boundary in the spiritual world. 

– This goes back to the Ace as unplugging the dam, all the water spilling out—so you’d better build a boat to navigate. The vesica piscis is the “air bladder” for navigation. Then we can “navigate” or swim in the Cups properly. The Suit of Cups is the act of finally turning to the watery content that has spilled forth from the Coin. 

All of the Suit of Swords is a desperate response to an emergency, trying not to drown. You’ve released something that you can’t navigate. First you have to learn to swim…like Henri Bergson’s words about intellect vs intuition in The Moon. The explanation of “how to swim” that one can’t explain—you just have to dive in and struggle to stay above the surface.

– Maybe the following is related to “learning to swim”…

Joel had been looking forward to meeting Phillip in person (amongst other reasons) so that there was another deck, another set of the Suit of Swords—because one only gets the “full picture” of each of the Swords if one either has another deck, or a mirror, so that the image is transformed from a vesica piscis to a circle. (We then looked at the Ten combined with Ten, in the mirror at the Cabin). We can’t learn to swim without an extremely enhanced capacity for reflection (mirror) or with companionship, friendship, conversation (another deck). 

It’s reminiscent on the one hand of a sword fight, a worthy opponent, but also on the other hand of something like “all for one, one for all”—the raised swords of camaraderie of the Three Musketeers, for example.

All of these imply you can’t “build the boat” alone. You need reflection/friendship/conversation/competition/rivalry. 

– It’s a bit of a shallow example to use…kind of embarrassing…but the gesture of the crossed (blue) blades is reminiscent of the climax to the final Star Wars film, Rise of Skywalker. Throughout the final trilogy the protagonist (a young woman) and the antagonist (a young man) are initially bitter enemies who forge an extremely complex relationship—what they term a “dyad.” They are more or less equal opposites, ultimate rivals in a way, rather than “enemies”, but rivals that bring about a mutual fructification—in fact they increasingly share consciousness with each other, and are the only two who can truly understand each other despite—or perhaps because of—being radically opposed. In any case, at the end of the story the true enemy is attempting to destroy the protagonist with lightning blasts, and she attempts to ward this off with a single lightsaber—it is only by the antagonist lending her an additional blade that she is able to not only ward off the attack, but send it back on the attacker. The “E” gesture of the crossed blades, protection from evil, can only be provided in this climactic scene through the prior forging of a deep contact, as the deepest enmity combined with mutual respect, and ultimately camaraderie. The victory would have been impossible to win alone.

– Perhaps in terms of the Suit of Swords, it is only up through the Nine that we still require some sort of mirroring—here with the Ten, the mirroring has been integrated into the very image itself, with the crossed Swords. Like we have two single Swords placed side by side, each in their own vesica piscis—but then through some kind of cross-eyed “floating finger” trick, we overlap them, the Swords meet in the form of the Ten of Swords.

– The Odds = Knight; Evens = Lady/Maiden

The Lady is the “cause”, that which gives motivation, that for which the Knight is fighting. Heraldry. He is under her banner, her sign. The Ten is the marriage of flower (lady) and sword (knight).

– There are no flowers, properly speaking, in the Ace. They are all a part of the Crown. And there are none here either—and yet the Swords are flowers by implication. There is no longer anything framed in the centre, for the first time since the Ace. There is simply a smaller vesica piscis within the larger, framed by the two broad swords and eight scimitars, with 3 other negative spaces above it. In fact it looks a lot like a window, in a cathedral or something.

The function of the air bladder—to make an empty space.

– This is reminiscent of Joel’s concrete experience of this Virgin of Black Perfection—she who comes to you in the midst of the barrage of noise, of tumult, and whispers gently, “I can give you perfect Silence, whenever you need it…I am here…” The blessedness of the empty zone, of oblivion. What would otherwise be experienced as death is exactly what helps when you’re drowning

– This in turn calls to mind the Wheel of Fortune—another Ten—in that what is striking about the Wheel of Fortune is what is absent. For Tomberg this “vivid absence” lies in the fact that this image has retained so much of the ancient Egyptian/Hermetic character, and has not “reincarnated” with Christian imagery. The absence of Christ is what is striking. (See page 260 of MOT)

But in BR’s interpretation, the Wheel of Fortune is the (hidden, implied) Prophetess that pairs with the Prophet of the 9th Arcanum, the Hermit. And in this case, it is absolutely right that She—the Divine Feminine, the Virgin of Black Perfection, the Voice of the Silence—ought to be represented by not being represented. She is Absence, the Being of Absence, Darkness, Emptiness, Void, Silence, etc etc, in its Virginal purity and essence. She needs to be nothing, to be un-represented to be represented. She is the Core of Nothing upon which all else depends. Like the Swords—a partial nothing is only destructive, it only causes splintering, fragmenting, chaos. There must be a space of absolute Silence, of Darkness, of Zero, for all else to be fruitful. 

For Tomberg, just the slightest presence of the Good results in the victory of Good over Evil—Good does not need to fight Evil, it only needs to be present. Just as light does not fight darkness, it simply shines and darkness is no longer there—even if it is just a glimmer of light. (See page 421 of MOT)

Maybe in this case, we could use an equal but opposite idea, e.g. “The mere presence of the Nothing is absolutely damaging—it must concentrate to a point of absolute potency and completeness in order to be fruitful.”

There’s no half-doing it. Like having a baby, giving birth—the baby either lives or dies, there’s technically no in between. Like, one can’t go on with the baby only partially born. Like the time between labor and the first breath—you only have so much time to get out and take that first breath, otherwise you don’t make it.

It’s interesting, there’s a similar urgency with blacksmithing—strike while the iron’s hot, otherwise you’re going to ruin your ironwork. 

– Going back to BR…and his need/wish to see the Prophetess represented properly in the Wheel of Fortune, understanding her as a manifest being that got “left out” of the Arcana, vs. being able to access her out of this kind of peripheral vision, a peripheral awareness of her presence via absence that is totally appropriate and accurate. And this characterisation of him as a “still-born genius.” It’s the same with the inability to properly interpret the editorial scribblings on the typewritten version of MOT, of taking it at face value…and any deeper/more intuitive “reading” of what those scribblings are would be all-too presumptuous. “I need black and white, obvious certainty.” 

– Phillip’s experience of the Sophia service, the milk and honey communion, has always been of her as a fullness, as a feeling of light and warmth from the heights, a filling of the space. This vs our imagination of a service revolving around Washing of the Feet, an Our Mother service, where you leave your own space in order to fill another space, to cross a gap. The Mother is trapped, in a realm of darkness; we must go to her, filled with the substance and light of the Father.

– Christ and Sophia as emissaries and agents. Where there is some kind of forgotten aspect (Sophia) in the Father, re-enlivened by Christ, and a dormant aspect in the Mother. The absence of the Mother creating an immeasurable pain in the Father—a separation that is unintegrated. 

– Two, Four, Six, and Eight are a fullness, an orientation, an organic life.


Three, Five, Seven, Nine are a struggle, a process, one that is damaging in the attempt to do what is necessary to do.

– The Ace is the pure Act (odd, sword), the act without purpose/cause (even, flower)

All of the above are acts (odds) with only partial purpose/cause (evens). Acts that are partially effective only, and therefore destructive.

But the Ten—the Ten shows us the Act and its Purpose fully united, completely married and identified. 

One is reminded of the Fourth level of Trespass in the Grail Knight’s Practice—where the Essence of Learning and the Essence of Breath join together to create Substance-Essence of Nourishment, a full flowing/respiration/circulation of learning and breath.

The Coin is purpose/act united in a pre- or proto-conscious state. Then the Ace of Swords is the pure Act—with no Purpose—the fundamental Act which brings about this very distinction between Act and Purpose. They must then be re-united in this trinitarian way, in contrast to the proto-conscious “All One” way of the Coins. 

– The Coin is divided into two ingredients: Sword and Flower. When they finally reunite, they don’t become Coin once again, they become this brand new complex entity of the “Sword-Flower.” The thing and the imprint of the thing are indistinguishable in the Coin: it is what it represents. Then this primal symbol-being splits into concept and percept—and the two are then at war with each other to some extent, rivals—until they reunite into a totally new thing. The Sword-Flower. 

– Maybe the scimitars represent this approaching Fullness of Silence.

– The Ace of Coins…remember our original conversations? About how the Ace of Coins seemed to be a barely contained explosion, like it was suffocating, yearning for there to be another, a something, it knows not what, because it is All. 

This reminds one of the Father God, who has All within him—the potential of all beings, all events, all circumstances. He is drowning, from before Time, in the infinity of details of possibilities, this infinity being the entirety of his Being, which is the entirety of all Being. It is this suffocating, this drowning, that is the immeasurable pain of the Father that needs to be stilled…he needs the Core of Silent Nothing, the Virgin of Black Perfection. The Absence of Nothing, the absence of absence is his pain!

The Swords are the primal cut of the Tsim-tsum, the creation of a space of Nothing, of the potential for Freedom, for the Other—the Feminine, the Mother—and figuring out how to stem the flood of that primal cut. (See page 84 of MOT)

– Now we’re feeling ready for the Cups. It was an excising, a cutting out a space in what had been an all-too comprehensive M.O. with the Coins.

We ended with the third part of the Foundation Stone Meditation.