Ten of Swords (II)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on August 6, 2020

August 6, 2020

Ten of Swords, pt 2

We began with the protective practice.

We invoked the presence of Hermes Trisgmegistus through reading the Emerald Tablet.

After briefly focusing the mantra IT THINKS on the region of the larynx, we moved the third part of the Inner Radiance sequence (I rest within the Godhead of the world—Resurrection) and the 15th letter of the Divine Alphabet, Samech, in relation to the Devil.

We then read from Revelation 11:15-17

– The spread we looked at was based off of a conversation prior in the week. We had been reflecting on our process with the Tarot and our outer destiny. How we had begun with the Minor Arcana in April of 2018. The Ace, Two and Three seemed like a straightforward, organic progression of imagery. Then we came to the Four of Coins in July. It felt like a breach of some sort, a discordant note in the symphony. The first crisis—difficult to integrate in any intuitive and/or rational way into the “flow” of the prior three Arcana. At the same time, as we finished with this Arcanum (Four of Coins), outer destiny in both of our lives approached synchronous breaches. This is when Phillip’s long and painful divorce began, and also when the long and difficult process of Joel’s family leaving Plowshare began. 

When we came to the Five of Coins onward, it felt like we were in a different sphere. Like the Four had opened up a portal—a Descent into Hell of sorts—and now we were in this other place. And now, approaching the Ten of Swords, it’s like we’re coming out of that place. Coming to a new place of clarity after ever-increasing confusion. What is the connection between Four of Coins and Ten of Swords? How can we bring these two into relationship?

Well, at first we looked at the ten-step progression that Tomberg refers to at the end of the 19th Letter-Meditation on The Sun. He indicates that we had to come ten further Arcana after The Hermit (the 9th Arcanum) to understand the deeper nature and significance of the number Nine in The Sun (the 9+10 = 19th Arcanum). And this rhythm applies here as well—but in terms of the nature of the number Six:  

The Lover (6)—Tower of Destruction (16)—Four of Coins (26)—King of Coins (36)—Ten of Swords (46)

So we see that in terms of this rhythm, the Ten of Swords is the fifth step in a progressive deepening of the Six—which seems to have something to do with a sudden disruption of some kind or another: Cupid’s arrow; the lightning blast; the portal of the Four; the pulling back of the robes of the King; and now the space opened by the flower-swords of the Ten.

But this draws our attention to something significant: the Four of Coins and the Ten of Swords are equidistant from the King of Coins, the one ten Arcana before and the other ten Arcana after. It is as though we entered a strange and dark realm in the Four of Coins, one that descended into the depths, and the King of Coins is the bottom of that descent, or some kind of transition point—like we were on solid ground until we reached the Four of Coins, and then fell into the pit. And now, with the Ten of Swords, we are opening up the way out of that underground journey—back to the light.

So really, more accurately perhaps, we could see the Swords as a moving backwards through the Coins, and just as the first four Coins (Ace, Two, Three, Four) were some kind of a wholeness that was still on solid ground, the last four Swords (Knave, Knight, Queen, King) are also a wholeness, a return to dry land. 

This made us think of the Divine Comedy. Maybe the Coins were a journey through Purgatorio, and the Swords are a passage through the Inferno. Perhaps after being on the “solid ground” of the Knave, Knight, Queen and King of Swords—and the first four Arcana of the Cups—we will then have an ascent, rather than a descent, up into the Paradiso. And then the Batons would be the coming back to Earth—the putting into practice, or bringing into incarnation, what we discover in the heavenly heights.

It is interesting how this goes very much with the outer destiny of our lives. From the Four of Coins to the King of Coins, it was an ever increasing pain—the maximum pain reached around the time we ended the Coins, when Joel moved away from Plowshare and we presented our work in Santa Fe. It was then like the King of Coins/Ace of Swords opened up a different realm—the Inferno after the Purgatorio—but rather than increasing pain, it was simply increased bewilderment, confusion, loss of orientation. Not being able to integrate our past and present, to navigate new circumstances. And this was part and parcel of our Sword conversations as well. Only now—as we end the Ten of Swords—do we feel as though we are comfortable with our confusion, that it has reached that “fever pitch” at which point it flips, inverts into a new and sudden clarity.

And this is pretty much how the Divine Comedy progresses—the journey through Inferno after Purgatorio is not a re-ascent, it is an ever-deeper descent. Until, after having passed through the very pit of Hell, suddenly Dante enters Paradise. This is a more accurate description of our path. The Four of Coins opened up the passageway to the pit. Then the King of Coins/Ace of Swords unplugged the “dam”, we were lost at sea, set adrift, sent ever deeper. Now with the Ten we are suddenly coming to shore—back on dry land. [Note—in this conversation, we expose our ignorance or mis-remembering of the journey of Dante in the Divine Comedy, as in this trilogy the Inferno precedes the Purgatorio, and not the other way around. This is something we will address in a future conversation, however.]

And so this was actually our starting place for the Tarot Conversation of August 6. We looked at the spread of the Coins and Swords, with the Coins above and Swords below.

– What begins to emerge is that the King of Coins/Ace of Swords stand apart. They stand alone as members of their respective Suits. Then look at the Two and Three of Swords—they complete each other, together they form a balanced circle. Above them are the Queen and Knight of Swords. The lady and her knight gaze at each other, they also form a balanced pair. The King sits apart—he and the Queen don’t look at each other. It is the Knight and the Queen. 

– One notices brand new features of the Coins in this way. Like the Four and the Eight. They have similar flowers in the centre, with a strong square/rectangular geometry. And the Nine and the Five—both have a coin framed by similar types of leaves.

– The Knight and the Maiden…this is the quality we already noticed in the Swords. That the odds—the broadswords—are “knights”, while the evens—the flowers—are ladies, are the banners under which the knights ride. And so this fits very naturally with the Knight and Queen of Coins, they are like the personification of this knightly and maidenly quality of Sword vs Flower.

But then the Knave? Somehow the Knave of Coins is related to the Four of Swords, to this feminine/flower gesture. Yet the Knave of Coins is similar to the Queen—they both hold the Coin up in the same way, looking the same direction. We never really noticed that before. 

And this carries on. We see that the Ten of Coins is the masculine counterpart to the Knave.

Then the Nine (flower, feminine) and Eight (sword, masculine)

But then the Five, Six and Seven of Coins would act as some kind of group of three, just as the Eight, Nine and Ten of Swords are a group of three—a group of three that makes up two four-fold circles, rather than single circles like the pairs Two/Three (single circle), Four/Five (two-fold circle), and Six/Seven (three-fold circle) do. 

Or maybe not—in our most recent conversations we have begun to see the Swords as such:

Where the Ace and the Ten are set apart, with the Ace as the integrated binary being torn apart and then four progressive pairs of binaries, of polarities, until we reach the Ten, where the binary is re-integrated at a new and more complex level.

And so then we would have the Seven of Coins as Flower, as Feminine and the Six of Coins as Sword, as Masculine, and then the Five of Coins as something integrated, something balanced and complex akin to the Ten of Swords. A blending, a moving beyond binaries into something else. 

So we see that the first four Arcana of the Coins are its Tetragrammaton, its YHVH, that defines the remainder of the Suit. 

The Five is sort of like a Shin that somehow comes at the end…it still somehow belongs as the third term even though it is the fifth, the end. 

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that the Five “Shins” the YHVH, the first four. By adding it to the first four, through its presence, it makes the Three of Coins Shin rather than Vau, and the Four of Coins Vau rather than He, and it becomes the second He. When the Five of Coins joins the group, everyone shifts places, makes room for it. 

And so, looking back at the Suit of Swords, this would make the four Court Arcana of the Swords analogous to the first four Arcana of the Coins (Knave.= Four, Knight = Three, Queen = Two, and King = Ace). 

– Seeing the four Court Cards of the Coins in relation to the first four Swords is a real inversion somehow, a very different feeling and mood bestowed on the Coins.

The development of the Swords results in a deeper layer to the Coins, progressively. The quality of the Swords suddenly gets projected back onto the Coins—it totally recasts their image. It’s hard to give a specific word to it at this point. There was a distinctive quality that was fixed in terms of the “meaning” or overall gesture of each of the Coin Arcana, but now…to see, for example, the Knight and Queen as a pair…we never really looked at them that way before. We looked at the Coins as a stepwise progression, certainly, but not so much as interwoven, as interrelated with one another. 

– It’s similar in a sense to the Majors taking on totally new characteristics after our passage through the Coins. Yet totally different from another angle.

With the Coins shining their light back on the Majors, it was like brand new, unseen qualities emerged. A new level of wholeness.

In this case, with the Swords projecting back on the Coins, it’s a bit more like the new perspective offered by the Swords disrupts the old perspective, fights against it in a way.

There’s something more….I don’t know, archetypal about it rather than qualitative?

Something more primal. Like with the Eight and Nine of Coins, seeing them now as male and female. There’s nothing about this that is necessarily tied up with the pure geometry of the Coins, which is how we worked with them rather consistently. It runs deeper than that, it’s “underneath” the surface geometrical expression.

One might see it as the Nine “giving birth” to another Coin from the Eight?

This is the first time we’re looking at this perspective, after all. Feels like a link being formed or forged between the two Suits.

It feels dizzying, like much that we do with the Swords.

It’s like…approaching what seems to be sensible from a distance, but leads into a dissolution, a dizzying state as you approach closer.

But the Coins might ground this feeling, give it more structure and gravity.

– Notice the reversal of Odd=Male and Even=Female that occurs because of this arrangement. In the Swords, Two, Four, Six, Eight are “feminine flowers”, while Three, Five, Seven, and Nine are “masculine swords.” But in the Coins, it is the Eight and the Six that are masculine, that have this structure and power. Whereas the Seven and Nine are feminine, that have this flow and beauty, “giving birth” to or cradling new coins.

But this in a way rights itself as we come to the Court Arcana and their two masculine figures in a row (Knave and Knight), and their association with the first four Coins. The Four of Coins aligns with the Knave, so still masculine. But then the Three is aligned with the Knight (Masculine and Odd), the Two with the Queen (Feminine and Even) and the Ace with the King (Masculine and Odd). This casts the Two of Coins in a totally new light, making her this feminine queenly figure amongst the masculine Ace, Three and Four.

– I mean, just this factor of discovering the “gender” of the Coins—this is not something attached to or discoverable through geometry alone. 

– In that archetypal neutrality of the Coins, each one bearing an integrated positive/negative, male/female, there was a unified characteristic originally. 

But when brought into relation with the Swords it makes particular attributes more evident than others. 

Applying the Swords to the Coins removes or hinders their essential quality of “integrated binary” and forces a one-sidedness to emerge. They cut, they specify, they occult a portion of the essence. 

Whereas the effect of the Coins shining back on the Majors only further elaborates them, makes them even more complete and whole. You “invest” the Coins, you sow the seeds and they grow. 

– From this arrangement, we can see that the essential meaning of the Coins was presented at the very beginning, at least in seed form, in the Ace—Two—Three—Four, and only found its full elaboration in the Knave, Knight, Queen and King. 

But with the Swords it is the complete opposite. We first experience the full elaboration without being presented with the essential meaning! The meaning, the essence will only present itself when we come to the Court Arcana (which align with the first four Coins, the essence of the Coins). This clarifies the desperate, groping gesture we have had—trying to tease or force meaning out of these images—for the past year. 

– Tomberg’s characterisation of the Swords vs Coins in The World, that one has to “pay off” the Coins you accumulated as you pass through the Swords…this arrangement makes the most sense, analogically speaking, vs anything else we have seen or done so far. The devaluing of total worth in the diminishment of holistic essence and meaning. And yet there is an acquisition that comes along with the “payment”, with the cutting, as we gain something with much more definition and specificity through this.

– The whole issue of “avoiding specialisation” that is emphasised particularly in the Tower of Destruction and the Star. Keeping the opening in the spiral. Well, we could say that the Coins exemplify this open-ended development par excellence. They never abandon this integrated, holistic essence. 

But what happens when, paradoxically, non-specialisation is the specialisation?? In a way, the Coins are “stuck” in a non-specialised, super-generalised modality. In this situation, the only remedy—the only way to truly keep the spiral open—is to specialise. The loss is a gain, a necessary sacrifice in order to keep the organism alive in the long term.

And what a specialisation we have with the Swords! The same diabolical form, over and over and over again!

– The Coins are a dwelling in pure idealism, a purely ideal content. Idealism in an ideal realm.

But the Swords show the invasion of necessities, unavoidable realities, into the ideal realm—entities which can’t originate there, but have a huge effect.

In Steiner’s early work The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe’s World Conception, he makes the claim that the human being, out of his own faculties, can enter an objective spiritual realm—a purely conceptual/ideal sphere, yet one with an objective consistency analogous to the physical, sense-perceptible world. But maybe that’s not actually possible to do, at least in regard to this purely ideal realm of the Coins? The Swords are a non-ideal content, a practical necessity, that forces objectivity in the ideal realm. 

The Swords are the intrinsic limitation of the total freedom we have in the conceptual realm of pure idealism/generalities…the intrinsic limitation that actually leads to the strict discovery of the spiritual corollaries to physical realities, and to independent spiritual entities of an objective nature. We first have to pass through the Coins to get a taste of the bounty of the archetypes, so as to then approach the limits of the archetype and to do our part in its full formation (specification). 

Joel has just recently been reading the lecture cycle Riddle of Humanity (from 1916, different from the book of the same year and same title). See here: https://wn.rsarchive.org/Lectures/GA170/English/RSP1990/RidHum_index.html, especially lectures 4, 5, and 6. In these lectures, Steiner lays out how Morality (Goodness) reaches right into our Ego. It has to flow out of our Ego into our whole body and out into the world. But Beauty/Aesthetic experience enters into the astral body directly. The Ego is not as consciously involved in this activity. He describes it as the head dreaming the body or the body dreaming the head. And then with the experience of Truth or Knowledge, it is something that enters directly into our etheric body. Our astral body and Ego are involved in the formation of Truth, but not consciously. We tend to perceive it as an objective content approaching us from without, vs our conscience which seems to speak to us much more subjectively, from the core of our being, compelling us to an action that we nevertheless can choose to carry out or not. Truth and knowledge, especially concerning the outer world of sense-perceptible objects, do not seem to be formed out of our own activity and are not “optional” in the same way that moral questions are. 

What initiation exposes to the initiate is one’s direct involvement in the forming of Truth. One realises it is not as objective a process and content as one thought. If one is adequately prepared, from then on one feels the intense responsibility one has for properly forming and maintaining the Truth in concert and harmony with the so-called “external” worlds of spirit and nature. On the other hand, if unripe souls are initiated, without due moral preparation, they feel the full effect of the motto contained in Crowley’s Thelema: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.” The world is meaningless, and can mean whatever you want it to. Truth is just another subjective realm to be mastered by the individual human being. 

Goethe’s epistemology approaches the former, the healthy initiation, through “exact phantasie”, where the otherwise arbitrary imagination of the human being is put in the service of the authentic metamorphic gestures of the cosmos. 

– There are different ways of thinking about “truth.” So, one can have a generalised characterization of truth, of what makes something true—what is accurate is true, what is just is true, etc. But a specific truth has to be brought to birth in a much more defined and delineated way. And must exist in a particular context—situational.

Paraphrasing something Karen Rivers says: “All true Truth must be in service of Goodness.”

So the more specific the Truth is, the more it needs to be narrowed down in one direction or another, both due to context but also due to some strong moral principle/content. 

The Sword is what narrows that down.

The Coins are the generalized Truth, general Truths.

But Truth in service to Good—this is the Sword shaping and carving Truth into specific forms and situations—a process of specialisation. 

Coins are generalities. Swords are the process of particularization. 

Like phenotype vs genotype in genetics. The genotype is the actual genetic code, the predispositions that are universal to and embedded in a species. But the phenotype is how these genetic predispositions actually present themselves in reality, in an observable way, due to the interaction of genetics and environment. For example, two trees of the same species could have identical genotype, but be phenotypically diverse due to one growing on a mountain top and presenting itself as a stunted shrub, and another growing in a moist and healthy valley, and growing much larger, greener, healthier.

The Coins show the genotype, the predisposition, the universals. The Swords are a narrowing down, a situational example of one of these possibilities put into a specific limitation/situation. The seed potential vs the actual growth.

– Well…let’s come back down to Earth, after having gone into the far reaches with this comparison of Coin and Sword. Joel wanted to look over some thoughts he had over the course of last week:

First of all, it seems that traditionally, two swords crossed facing down means the battle is over. But two swords crossed pointing upward means the battle is just beginning. One could think of two rivals crossing swords before fighting, or even the Three Musketeers, crossing swords facing up as comrades before heading together into the fray. 

This implies, with the Ten of Swords, that we’re only now actually heading to the beginning of the battle, just as we discovered by comparing them with the Coins—we are only now reaching the essence in the Court Arcana. We’ve just been fencing this whole time, in training. Now is the time to go to war, to lay the boundaries down.

Second of all, some perspectival questions. We’ve been looking at these numbered Arcana for a while as though it is a kind of vertical portal that we are facing, and pulling at the sword that is stuck in the weaving at the top, until it breaks and becomes two—and these two swords lean “into” this portal that we’re facing. 

But what if we’re looking at something that is laying flat on the ground, not something upright in front of us? 

And what about the layers of the Vesica Piscis? Again, with it being an upright portal, we kind of assumed that the outer layers were closer to us, and the inner layers were further away. But then the positioning of the two broadswords in the Ten kind of flew in the face of this, in terms of the way they wove into the layers of the Vesica Piscis. But what if the innermost layer of the Vesica Piscis is closest? And the outer layers furthest away? This would make more sense in terms of the positioning of the broadswords. The middle is more raised up, but open to us. So we have a dual gesture of the scimitars coming closer, while the broadswords point away.

This perspective works well also when we view it as horizontal, as laying on the ground. Like a platform of sorts being built up, with the broadswords wedged into the sides of it and pointing down into it. 

For the first time, we notice there is more complexity in the weaving than we saw before. The broadswords don’t just weave through the black portion of the scimitars. They also cut ever so slightly into the yellow portion, the midsection of the scimitars. For right vs left in intrudes into a slightly different portion—in the one it is the “blade” itself, and in the other the “empty space” between the blades. But it is slicing into it, not pierced or stabbed. With the blue it was stuck, frozen, trapped. But the yellow is malleable, able to be sliced by the blade. This is the opposite of the Nine, where a yellow sword becomes trapped in the blue weave. Here was have blue swords slicing the yellow weave.

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