Three of Batons (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation between Phillip and Joel on October 23, 2022.

The first thing we notice is the similarity to the ICHTHYS.

Also called the ChiRho—the combination of the Greek letters Chi (shaped as an X) and Rho (shaped as a P), standing for the first letters of CHRistos. ICHTHYS is the Greek word for fish—returning us to the fish theme—and is an acronym for Iesus CHristus (Jesus Christ) THeou Yios (God’s Son) Soter (Savior).

A meeting of three and four in this image, the three batons with the four leaves—three becoming four.

Bringing this into connection with the Emperor, we notice the crossed legs:

And then the baton that he holds in his hand. It is like the Three of Batons combines these two elements, the crossed legs as the X of two batons, and his sceptre as the central I baton.

The crossing of the legs is his self-immobilisation. Goes along with the holding of his belt. Holding the lower nature/impulses in check. Whereas the sceptre displays to us that he is representing the presence of another in this symbolic form. He holds the sceptre to show that he represents the King of Kings.

The four leaves in the Three of Batons are perhaps akin to the eagle’s wings. Or the curl of his crown and throne.

The Letter-Meditation on the Emperor contrasts rule by the sword (the principle of power/coercion) vs rule by the sceptre, which is the principle of authority. One only needs to resort to rule by power if one doesn’t have any real authority.

There is characterisation of the sceptre in this Letter-Meditation that is quite striking, especially in terms of the Suit of Batons. Page 78: “Now the sceptre is not an implement with which one is empowered to do something or other. It is, from a practical point of view, a symbol serving nothing.”

A symbol serving nothing… We come now to the living nature of the archetype—all that is left after what we’ve done, from all of our work with the Arcana. Finding the pure symbol, that which symbolizes only itself and nothing else, therefore with authority. It is intangible, yet fully present, with all of its being. On full display. A paradox.

The development of the moral-intuitive sense. The moral aspect of intuition. The symbol is at the heart of what it is to recognise something in its own domain, in its fullness, out of this moral-intuitive sense.

That has been the theme so far in the Suit of Batons: we don’t know what it means, but it’s expressing self-sufficiency—true of both the Ace and Two of Batons.

A symbol representing nothing…this could also be a way of describing the Tsim Tsum. The wound, the void, the deliberate “nothing” opened up by YHVH in order to create free beings. And this is exactly where the Letter-Meditation goes…into the relationship of authority to freedom, and the role of the Tsim Tsum and wounds of the crucified Christ in all of that.

A focus on this realm of the will in terms of negation, immobilisation, and void. Negating the personal/arbitrary will so that one can represent a higher will—this is authority.

In the Three of Batons, perhaps the X creates the void so that the I can arise out of it:

Just as the crossed legs, the renunciation on the part of the Emperor facilitates the bearing of the sceptre.

When the human will is operating in its own domain, there is no room for the authority. They are incompatible—one has to give way to the other.

Or…maybe they need to come to be like each other. By “stepping back”, by renouncing and making room, one becomes like the true Authority, which is Christ Crucified. My own soul, in renunciation, becomes akin then to the soul of the Authority, thereby I become a representative of Authority.

We typically understand authority as a kind of external/abstract principle. Yet it can also be subjectively realised/experienced in a way similar to Philosophy of Freedom in regards to cognition. This deliberate withholding is the actual manifestation of the Authority and the process by which it can manifest. A self-supporting act.

Performing the act whereby room is made for Authority is the Authority itself.

Humanity crucifies Christ, yes…but in some way Christ crucifies himself by allowing it to take place. That is the allegiance to the True Authority.

(At this point we have to put away the Emperor, as he is distracting us from the Three of Batons. We are tempted to have a conversation about him, as we are noticing so many things we did not see when we spent time with him six years ago)

In the Two of Batons, the plants growing out of the sides only ever struck Joel as two separate V shaped plants, as such:

Each plant growing out of the center, one to the right and one to the left. But now somehow the Three of Batons allowed a different perception to arise, that the leaves are connected as such:

Two kind of S-shaped vines, that cross through the center of the image, through this meeting point of the three batons. It gives the impression of a a kind of axle, like bike pedals, as though the leafy branches could spin around or rotate (towards and away from us from our perspective).

This spinning might permeate the entire being of the Three of Batons, perhaps the leafy branches spin, but also the batons themselves are rotating somehow. Like a gyroscope or something.

We didn’t see this in the Two of Batons because there was this mirroring/symmetry of so many leaves and flowers. Now we can focus on just the central plants, the four leaves, as that’s all there is.

And those central plants have changes. They are smaller, with a tighter curl. The leaves are different. These plants looks more “spinnable” than those in the Two of Batons.

Actually, when the conversation first started, Phillip thought of the Wheel of Fortune.

He saw the Three of Batons as a wheel as well, but not from the same perspective as the Wheel of Fortune. As though we are seeing the “back” of a rolling wheel, not the side as we do in the Wheel of Fortune. That what we see as the “back” is rolling around to become the “front” and what is out of our view in the “front” will roll around to become the “back.” Maybe this speaks to a kind of alternating of Authority and giving way.

If the Three is a wheel, it has very fancy hubcaps which kind of burst out to each side (the leafy plants). These would then “spin” in the way Joel imagined if this were a rolling wheel.

The axle in between them, the axis, the point of stillness or nothingness that allows motion and activity. That role is connected somehow to the plant, to the life element. It would be related to the crank in the Wheel of Fortune, the crank attached to the hub.

If we open up our gaze enough, we can get the impression that the Three of Batons is a segment taken of a larger oval-shaped image:

Would there then be a kind of stacking of curls to fill out the circle?

We can see the black portions as the rubber on the tire. The yellow portions are the spokes of the wheel. The blue is the hub. It’s more like a bike tire, but as though the tire were see through part of the time. We really can’t get that impression at all in the Two of Batons, despite the similarity of form overall in many ways. There is no central (vertical) axis in the Two of Batons.

As Joel was transcribing the notes the other day, he noticed that we never followed up on this theme of the pearl. We wondered if the Batons were the first time we had seen two pearls (something that continues here from the Two). And so he went back to trace the evolution of this specific shape of the pearl. He found it first in the Three of Coins, but then there are immediately two at once in the Four of Batons. It carries on then in the Five, Six, Eight (three at a time, first blue pearl), Nine and Ten of Coins. Then we only see it in the Two of Swords and the Eight of Swords. Then most clearly in the Six (two at a time) and Eight (five at a time!) of Cups.

Joel also noticed that the only time this specific form appears in the Majors is the Hanged Man, who has nine white pearls as his buttons. And so much of this image resonates with the Suit of Batons.

What stuck out to him is that the Two of Batons represents the first time that there are yellow pearls rather than red, white, or blue. It is also the first time that they appear side-by-side on the same plane, rather than vertically (or in a kind of box as in the Eight of Cups).

Then when Joel went through again and looked more closely, it struck him that there may also be pearls in the Ace of Swords—three on the crown, and one at the very base of the sword, a yellow one. (It also seemed that there are indications of pearls in the Four and Five of Cups).

And so perhaps there is some connection between this brief appearance of the yellow pearl in the Ace of Swords, only to disappear, and the appearance of the two yellow pearls in the Two of Batons. As though these two plants on the sides are a kind of splitting and transformation of the sword:

Notice that these two pearls are clearest in the Two of Batons. They are the eyes of a relatively narrow face. But then they already in the Three of Batons begin to be absorbed by this growing face. They become more cross-eyed and fade away. This is the culmination of the path of the pearl.

Whereas the Hanged Man is the origin. He begins with nine white pearls, and he has two batons, one on each side. Both akin to the Ace of Batons. Is there a third baton above, the cross-beam?

It still feels a bit foreign to associate the Hanged Man with the Batons.

You can see a kind of eye-shape in the torso/arm area of the Hanged Man. Are his arms crossed behind him?

(Once again, we have to put a Major Arcana away, as we begin to be distracted by it with new insights vs five-six years ago)

Back to the Three…notice that the center is an oval shape rather than the circle we found in the Two:

And the black blades (?) of the Batons are no longer making contact with the corners:

There is a consolidation and simplification in a way…one that allows it to go into motion.

The central black “blades” are in balance…they are not asymmetrical like the outer “blades.”

There is also a bit of that pulsing of the Swords going on here…just as the Two and Three of Swords had a flower framed, then a Sword, now we have flowers framed, then Batons.

We can trace the indication of a “red parabola” radiating to the sides, into infinity…and a “blue parabola” radiating above and below, also to infinity.

The red parabola would make contact with the innermost blue…while the blue parabola would embrace the red stripes.

It begins to be more like the visions of Ezekiel, wheels within wheels. The Spirits of the Cherubim who are at their sides…this externalisation of their own personalities as a separate being, covered with eyes, in constant motion. Now the Three of Batons appears this way, not as a bike wheel, but as a spiritual entity, radiating.

Noticing the Three of Coins from the spread of “pearl” Arcana. It is unique with its prominently featured green. That doesn’t really happen again for the Minors until the Ace of Batons.

The contrast of the flat blades in the Three of Batons with the asymmetrical blades in the corners. It makes you wonder if those blades are twisted or tilted? Are the batons (or at least the “blade” portion) flat? Do they rotate as well?

We didn’t think of that with the Two, because without the central baton it isn’t clear that they are flat when seen “straight on.” But if the corners are twisted, they twist in opposite directions. For example, the bottom left is tilted up on its right side, down on its left side. But the upper right (the other side of the same baton) is tilted up on its left side and down on its right side. This holds true for both diagonal batons/all four corners. That implies a solid center (where the blue is) with these attachable yellow pieces that can rotate.

Going back to this idea that there is a similarity here between the “pulsing” of the even/odd Swords and the even/odd Batons. In the case of the Swords, we couldn’t find any clear link or relationship. It just seemed to be two unrelated images stuck together in a circle. What about now? Is there a relationship between Two and Three of Batons?

Certainly there is more relationship just on the formal level. The upper and lower flowers mirror each other in the Two; likewise, the central baton in the Three mirrors above and below. This is unlike the flower of the Two of Swords and the sword of the Three of Swords—no formal relationship.

Perhaps the Two of Batons was the act of restraint to allow the Authority. Then in the Three of Batons, the Authority descends and unites with the one making the restraint.

This is the opposite gesture of the Swords, which result in a separating out of the wholeness, and a grasping at fragments and portions.

With the Batons, there is this microcosmic wholeness coming into incarnation, out of the transcendent into the immanent. Whereas with the Swords, one destroys and dissects the immanent looking for the transcendent—but ends up just destroying.

Like the idea of looking to neural processes to find thoughts in the brain. This is a use of power rather than authority. Power is necessary in the domain of materialistic science. But it must sacrifice itself to make room for authority.

So in the Three we have a consolidating, a condensing, vs the radiating Two.

The plants in the Two could be a sacrificing of something to make room for Authority to come in, or they could be the descending/streaming in of this Authority itself. Both at once. The Two is radiant, and yet the leaves are folded in, embracing, enfolding. A squeezing of the side flowers, a constricting or pushing in.

Whereas in the Three, the leaves are directed outward. Are they blocking something? Or listening? There is an interweaving of radiating and consolidating in both.

In the Batons, the flowers are fully whole, whereas they are always cut in the Swords. A cutting to find the “truth” which leads to death.

Going back to the Wheel of Fortune—the spokes of the Wheel are the ICHTHYS, as in the Three of Batons.

That is where we first see the gesture of the entire Suit of Batons, the ICHTHYS. Although Tomberg makes a point of the lack of the Christian symbolism in the Wheel of Fortune, the lack of Christ as the quintessence (rather than the Sphinx), it is right there, hidden in plain sight. The ICHTHYS is a sign of Christ. Lord of the Wheel of Time, Lord of Karma.

(And we get distracted for a third time, tempted to go into the Wheel of Fortune. Joel originally wanted to go back through the Major Arcana after the Minors, making it a cycle of 100 (22+56+22), but had begun to have hesitations the last few months about whether that was still a good idea. Clearly, we are ready to dive back into the Majors, however, with brand new eyes!)

Going back to this spread, after transcribing the notes from last time:

We get such a clear message as to the different archetypes and gestures here.

The Ace stands alone.

Then there is this relationship between the Two of Coins and the Ace of Swords. This vertical separating, this intensity.

Then in the Three of Coins/Two of Swords/Ace of Cups we have this gesture of great beauty as well as a certain fullness of form. Everything is perfectly arranged.

The fourth column brings us to something like a rocket taking off: this volcanic earthquake in the Four of Coins, leading to this ascending sword in the Three of Swords, which slices right into the Two of Cups, bursting out as the two wild fish, culminating with the fiery baton at the pinnacle, like the rocket shooting away.

Then we come to the fifth column. There is a quiet beauty, a flow yet a fragility in the Five of Coins. This continues into the Four of Swords, with this delicately positioned flower, like it is posing while dying. Then the Three of Cups, again this lovely curvature and gesture to the plants who are offering up this cup, leading to the quiet flowing brilliance of the Two of Batons (again notice how the leaves meet between the Three and Two). You can almost trace the interweaving serpents of the Caduceus in this column.

We now have the sixth column before us. And here it is a gesture of stark simplicity. Reducing things to their total essence.

The Six of Coins we perceived as a cube, the cube of space. A stark, geometrical object. Then the Five of Swords is perhaps the plainest and most boring of the Numbered Swords. Then the Four of Cups carries a kind of military gesture of everyone getting in line, “ten-hut!”. Now we have the Three of Batons, which continues this gesture of simplification.

Each Suit is moving through the same overall gestures, but certain preliminary stages have been dropped. By the time we arrive at the Batons, we are beginning at the equivalent stage of the Four of Coins.

Tomberg is fairly explicit about the spiritual experience of the Suits of Coins and Swords. Less so about Cups and Batons. But what does he say about the role of the sceptre throughout the Letter-Meditations? On page 73: “The blood—in its triple sense, mystical, gnostic, and magical—is the “sceptre” or power of sacred magic.” On page 78: “Now the sceptre is not an implement with which one is empowered to do something or other. It is, from a practical point of view, a symbol serving nothing.” On page 85: “The Emperor reigns by pure authority; he reigns over free beings, i.e. not by means of the sword, but by means of the sceptre. The sceptre itself bears a globe with a cross above. The sceptre therefore expresses in as clear as possible a manner the central idea of the Arcanum: just as the world (the globe) is ruled by the cross, so is the power of the Emperor over the terrestrial globe subject to the sign of the cross.” And on page 102: “…the cross of triple love of neighbour (lower neighbour = Nature, equal neighbour = man, higher neighbour = beings of the hierarchies) and triple love of God (breath or faith, light or hope, fire or love)…is the sceptre of the Pope’s authority for this Card, just as the sphere formed from the double cup and topped by the cross is the sceptre of the Emperor.”

So the sceptre (or the Baton) is a symbol, it is authority, and it is a capacity.

In anthroposophical circles, there is an emphasis on freedom, and (at least a nominal) disregard for obedience/submission to an authority. In the 4th Letter-Meditation, we’re confronted with this complicated picture of freedom and authority. True authority is meaningless without free beings. Without free beings, there is only the power of the sword, of force/coercion. The activities of freedom and authority mutually rely upon one another. If the post of Emperor is not filled, i.e. if we try to eradicate all authority/hierarchy in order to have “freedom”, his post will only be filled by another who does not belong there (Napoleon, Hitler) by brute force of one kind or another.

This is not a popular idea.

What is interesting is that, in practice, anthroposophists acknowledge this. They freely and willingly bestow rightful authority on Rudolf Steiner. He does not coerce any anthroposophischer to acknowledge his authority—they do so freely, because he has earned their trust and respect. None of them likes to admit that they have made an authority of Rudolf Steiner—but in the light of the 4th Letter-Meditation, this is actually nothing to be ashamed of.

Which reflects back on Valentin Tomberg’s rather strong language from the end of his life—that Anthroposophists have turned Rudolf Steiner into some kind of infallible antipope. Perhaps some of this vitriol directed towards anthroposophists has to do with the fact that Tomberg himself did not garner the acceptance/acknowledgement that Steiner did, and that Tomberg felt like he deserved just as equally? A little bit of pride and jealousy and entitlement that wasn’t overcome perhaps?

At the end of the day, we have to recognise Christ crucified as the sole Authority. He will never coerce, he will leave all of us free. And any smaller authorities derive from a submission to Him as the sole authority, and equally leave others in freedom.

We are ever more experiencing this ineffable bridge through the fuller and fuller picture of the Arcana. Seeing so much without needing to say it, or not being able to put it into words. Noting key aspects at the same time as their opposites, leading to this inimitable third, the Reality weaving through and amongst them.

The severe limitation of predicting anything out of mere scientific thinking. It is a small portion of the wholeness we see here—just the Five of Swords, for example. It’s like taking just the Five of Swords and trying to form the rest of the Tarot blindly. A destructive expansion of isolated ideas into inappropriate superstructures.

The example that Steiner always gives…attempting to predict what a 3-year old child will look like in 200 years based on what their current biological functioning is.