Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on June 19, 2018
Three of Coins – June 19
We began with the protective practice.
We then invoked the Crucified Christ through reading Luke 23:39-47.
After briefly focusing the mantra “I AM” on the brow chakra, we performed the fourth part of the Inner Radiance Sequence. We then read Revelation 2:6-11 and Matthew 5:23-26.
The Sun—Three of Coins (Marseille)—Three of Coins (Sola Busca)
– Observing the different growths along the stems of the plants above vs those on the plants below. There are subtle differences. With the white stems and the variety and quantity of growths, there is a strong resemblance between these plants and the droplets falling from the sun in The Sun. There is something more patchwork about the coloring of this card, more flashes and varieties of color, vs the Ace and the Two.
– It is difficult to see this Arcanum on its own, isolated from the Ace and the Two. One tends to make comparisons and contrasts with the Ace and Two in one’s observations. Compared to the Ace and the Two, this imagery seems more strictly symbolic and abstract, more geometric. Not as lively or vibrant so to speak. There is a lot more detail, for example on the coins themselves, in Ace and Two.
– There is a way of seeing it in the sequence of Ace, Two, Three that somehow liberates it from comparison at the same time by putting it in its proper place:
Ace = Strength (Goodness)
Two = Beauty (Love)
Three = Wisdom
Wisdom is the least outspoken, more reserved in its quality than either Strength or Beauty. There is less contrast and tension involved in the imagery representing Wisdom vs Strength or Beauty. Wisdom expresses balance, equanimity, inner harmony. Tension/polarity resolved.
With the Ace we see a kind of superimposition of two different aspects on top of each other (the coin is a Sun/Plant, not yet a Sun and a Plant). Then in the Two, there are two different aspects that are deeply intertwined with each other: Coin Above and Coin Below entangled in the Banner/Plant. Now all three Coins exist side by side, relatively independent of each other. No longer intertwined or superimposed.
One doesn’t tend to take notice of equanimity, balance, peace. These are subtle, quiet, reserved qualities and experiences. The two elements have now come to terms with each other (thereby creating a third).
– If we set the image in motion, we see the single coin above that is floating or supported by its frame of plants. Then there are two coins below who are working together to compress toward a center and thereby support the coin above. If we began to roll these two lower coins up along the plant, they would cause the upper coin to burst out of its frame.
This calls to mind an experience Joel had working with the second Beatitude “Blessed are those who bear suffering, for they shall be comforted.” In Joel’s experience, if he feels a strong desire, whether it is rage, lust, hunger, greed, etc., it is a painful experience in the soul. One wishes, subconsciously, to discharge this pain, to release it. One has three options in this regard: 1) to act on the desire, to discharge it through the will; 2) to fantasize about what one wishes to do, to discharge the desire through imagination/fantasy; or 3) to suppress, attempt to erase the desire. All three of these choices are simply an escape from the pain of desire.
Joel chose, for the past few weeks, to attempt to actually bear suffering, to not try to discharge or suppress desire, but simply to bear it, to keep it contained in the realm of feeling. This had a very strong effect on him internally: with nowhere else to go, the burning desire began to have an emollient action within him. He began to experience extremely heightened empathy and patience with those around him, needed to eat and sleep less. Eventually he had a strong experience like a dam bursting, and since then has had a very different relationship to suffering and his emotional life than he had prior to this experience. He realized that every satisfaction of desire kills something, is a sacrifice of life force; but the bearing of suffering creates life, brings about creative energy that can be offered to the world. When we choose to bear suffering, we are comforted with the strength to perform creative deeds in the world. But this is a dangerous path, that requires strong moral development. One is walking a tight rope: at any moment, if one is not vigilant, one’s painful desire could discharge into fantasy or into activity. Joel now understands the warnings given by both Steiner and Tomberg to follow a strict moral development along side of and prior to inner development. One must always have oneself in hand.
This experience made concrete for Joel what exactly “Joy” is in CS Lewis’s way of describing it; it also made a profound difference in his understanding of the quote from Nietzsche at the start of The World, that Joy is deeper than Woe. His experience the past few weeks has been an intensification of pain to the point that it transcends pain and becomes Joy, but a joy that is also suffering. This aligns with Tomberg’s definition of Beatitude: Joyful Suffering.
It also made a profound change in Joel’s understand of the quote from St. John of the Cross at the start of The Magician…”Without other light or guide, save that which in my heart did burn.”
This image of the two lower coins compressing and moving the third coin above until it bursts forth somehow accurately displays what was happening within Joel. The two lower coins of fantasy and will compressing and moving the upper coin of desire/longing until it “burst forth” into a new sphere (the spiritual).
– Notice that this compressing activity of the two below brings about new forms and activity above, but leaves the below the same as it has been before (in the Ace of Coins).
Maybe the two coins aren’t rolling upward and moving the third coin up and out. Possibly the two coins are compressing downward on the plants below, which frees something above? It allows a graceful unfolding to happen. It has made room for the upper plants to grow larger and make room for the coin.
– The two coins/plants below are more akin to the Ace of Coins. The one coin/two plants above are more like the Two of Coins. The One has become Two and the Two has become One. The Ace has sacrificed its unity (becoming a duality) in order to allow the creation of a new and more beautiful unity (out of the duality of the Two of Coins).
– The Inverse of the Sun, which shows active unity above with dual recipients below. The Three on the other hand shows active duality below and recipient unity above.
– Perhaps the Ace and the Two show us our basic principles of spiritual math. All else is just an elaboration of these two working together in some way.
Qualitative/spiritual math is counterintuitive, non-linear. It is not simply 1+2 = 3. Rather, exchange has to occur between 1 and 2 before 3 can come about. 1 becomes 2, and 2 becomes 1, then they can create three.
But the image is also sevenfold (3 coins, 4 plants). Why? Why does 1+2 = 7? In our progression through the Majors in conjunction with the Minors, 7 will also align with The Sun:
Ace = World
Two = Judgement
Three = Sun
Four = Moon
Five = Star
Six = Moon
Seven = Sun
Eight = Judgement
Nine = World
Ten = Judgement
Knave = Sun
Knight = Moon
Queen = Star
King = Tower of Destruction
But why do we have Ace: 1 Coin/4 Plants; Two: 2 Coins/2 Plants; Three: 3 Coins/4 Plants?
– If one places the Ace of Coins over top of the upper coin in the Three of Coins, the image becomes all force/compression/explosion. If one places the Two of Coins over the bottom two coins of the Three of Coins, on the other hand, it becomes all flowing beauty.
In comparing the upper coin/plants with the Two of Coins, the leaves growing on the stem have changed, but the buds are the same (rather large on both). They have a similar S curve as well. So we have a strict recapitulation below (which seems to go with the more Mars/Male gesture of the Ace), and a flowing/ambiguous recapitulation above (which seem to go with the more Mercury/Female gesture of the Two).
– The Three of Coins is at once Arcanum 3, Arcanum 24 (if we view The Fool as Zero) and Arcanum 25 (if we view The Fool as 21, and The World as 22). This means it has a numerological value of 3, 6, and 7:
3 = Empress, Hanged Man, The Fool/The World, Three of Coins
6 = Lover, Devil, Three of Coins
7 = Chariot, Tower of Destruction, Three of Coins
What stands out immediately is the progression from Lover to Devil to Three of Coins. It almost looks as though a face is developing in the Three of Coins, possibly a creepy face with antlers; a bit reminiscent of The Devil. Something of the antler head and the breasts of the Devil are recapitulated in the Three of Coins.
It makes one think of the letter-meditation on The World, in which he speaks of the Wand vs the Philter, of Truth vs Folly. Drinking from stolen waters, the harlot. The dangerous difference between joy for the sake of joy and Joy that results from seeking the Truth. In the realm of nature, maybe an analogous differentiation can be seen but at a lower level. The philter, folly, the imaginative pursuit of joy can be seen in the activity of proliferation, the groping trial, blind pursuit of life on the part of evolution (the serpent). The tendency on the part of any given creature in nature to proliferate as much as possible. In the instance of The Devil, we see the clearest example of the archetype of this activity, in its most degenerate form.
– There is a triangular principle that pervades so many of these images: Lover, Devil, Chariot, Tower. What exactly is this triangular principle, that has both a holy and fallen aspect to it?
It somehow also exists in the Empress, this triangle. The idea of The Empress as birth, and the imagination of the movement of the upper coin bursting out of the upper plants. Movement through a birth canal. The two have the possibility to both make a space for the third, as well as to move, push the third into a new realm. Above, in the realm of the third, life is either flowing in and growing, or it is unfolding, metamorphosing.
– The question with the Ace was that of Death (Fourness) vs Life (Fiveness, respiration). Transition from physical/stone to vital/plant.
The question with the Two was that of Good (Fiveness, Pope/Angel) vs Evil (Sixness, Devil). Transition from vital/plant to psychic/astral/animal.
Now the question with the Three is the transition from psychic/astral/animal (Sixness, Devil, instinct) to first level of human (Seven-ness, ego hood). The whole question of outer vs inner is of great importance (upper coin is inner, lower coins are outer). A degree of independence amongst the coins has just arisen.
Is the upper coin trapped, imprisoned? Or Protected, elevated, honored? Is it the centerpiece to the garden? Or the compost that will be food for the plant?
It is very embryonic.
Are the two below invading, threatening? Or are they serving, building the house? Are they worshippers and servants or prison guards? Between each other are they friends or enemies?
– The little curl/apostrophe in the white circle from which the plants originate. It could just be shading, contour, but it is also distinctly asymmetrical. It is the only right/left asymmetry in the image.
In contrast to the Ace and Two, the asymmetry of above and below finally becomes clear. In the Ace, there is no asymmetry, the card can be flipped either way, there is no up or down. With the Two of Coins, it is almost exactly symmetrical above to below, it is only the words and images on the banner that give any guidance or distinction. With the Three, the difference is stark and clear.
– If we turn the image upside down, we see a bit of gentler face, not quite so creepy. Like a camel or a bull, large nose. But it is a bit more hypnotic, with a vacant/entrancing stare. The only clue we really have to above vs below in this image comes from comparing it with The Sun.
– Unlike the sequences of Lover, Devil, Three of Coins and Chariot, Tower, Three of Coins, the sequence of Empress, Hanged Man, Fool/World, Three of Coins is less clear. This is in stark contrast to the Ace of Coins and Two of Coins. The sequence Magician, Wheel of Fortune, The Sun, Ace of Coins is very striking, as is the sequence High Priestess, Force, Judgement, Two of Coins. In this case, something seems a bit more mysterious, less obvious.
Looking at The World, which seems to flow better than The Fool (either can be seen as the 21st Arcanum), we see a similarity between the four creatures and the four plants, and also to the threefold garland (relates to the three coins), but not so much the Woman or her wand and philter (no unity or duality emphasized in the Three of Coins).
With the Hanged Man, his leg is the upper point of the triangle and the two mounds of grass are the lower points of the triangle.
– When we look at The Lover, The Devil, The Chariot, and The Tower, we see that the upper being plays the role of Director/Motivator, while the lower beings play the role of engine, subservient, doer:
6: Angel vs humans below
15: Devil vs semi-humans below
7: Charioteer vs horses below
16: Celestial lightning vs humans below
This gives us a more nuanced picture than we had before. We were saying that in The Sun, the Sun above is the active element and the two humans below were passive recipients, whereas the Three of Coins is the reverse. But what if the upper coin is the Directing element, and the two lower coins are the doing elements, obedient to the upper coin? The same could be said of The Sun: that the Sun above directs/inspires their conversation, and the two youths below are the doers, they obey the direction of the Sun? Active/Passive is too simplistic, the reality is more nuanced.
– The point of the Empress’s scepter, at her belly, is very similar to the point uniting the four plants in the Three of Coins. This is also the Lover’s position, between the two females: he is being “squeezed”, like the white point between the two coins: he needs to grow the upper plants, make space for the Angel above.
– In the Empress, her shield is “by what right,” her throne speaks to her status. The shield and throne are generative (doers), while the Crown above is directive. The scepter is born between them.
– In Hermetic Astrology vol 1, Robert describes the hermetic system which sees two centers of gravity in the solar system: the Earth and the Sun. According to Tyco Brahe, the Sun and the Moon revolve around the Earth, but the other planets revolve around the Sun.
Here we have two centers of gravity as well. The “Sun” above, the upper coin, directs the two lower coins, which have their focus on the upper coin (gravitate toward it in their attention, if not in their movement). The upper coin directs their movement toward the central white point at the heart of the plants. This is the other center of gravity in the image, the center around which all can move and act and unfold. The Sun is the upper coin, the Earth is the white point. The Sun guides evolution, the Earth is the plane of action upon which it can actually manifest. In a way, this is a clue as to the question of how the coins and plants relate in the Arcana. It is a further elaboration of the idea of Exchange. Here in the Three we have the coins attempting to make a center for the plants, vs the Ace of Coins in which the center for the plants is hidden and ambiguous. This center only becomes fully manifest in the Four of Coins.
The two lower coins are foundation/support for that which is directing above. This activity of the below offering support and effort for that which guides and unfolds above is then exchanged to and made manifest in the plane of the plants: supporting plants below, unfolding/guiding plants above. An undifferentiated duality (as in the Ace of Coins) needs a center around which it can differentiate. Just a polarity (as in Two of Coins) is insufficient.
The Ace of Coins represents to us the fundamental convertibility of Coin, but also the fundamental or essential identity between and amongst all Coins, and sets the stage for the continued convertibility alongside essential identity throughout the other Arcana (even when the coins appear externally separate). The dynamic of Two supporting One creates the possibility for a center to establish for the plants. The mutual attraction of the two below to the one above shapes the right environment for the plant center to develop.
What the coins are doing with each other makes something happen to the plant. The plant is the manifesting of the invisible dynamic of the Three coins. The two below focus on the one above, but the one wishes for this focus so that the center will come about. The focus of the One above is on the center below.
– Of course, we are operating under the assumption that the coins are in charge, are the formative element towards the plants. Perhaps it could be the other way around?
We just can’t get away from the coins being fundamental and the plants being incidental. Otherwise we approach something that feels like “thought is an epiphenomenon” or “material is the basis for the spiritual” (Darwinian evolution). It is the Suit of Coins, the plants are decorum.
At best their is a simultaneity/equal quality between the two, if not that the plants are secondary. But certainly not that the plants are primary. The Coin is not the result of the Plant. The clearest in this regard is the Two of Coins, with lots of overlap and green where they are intertwined. The plants are just embodying an aspect of the Coin or the movement of the Coin, but are not a thing unto themselves, as such. Like Mysticism and Gnosis: They do appear and are experienced as a unity, but Mysticism (the Coin) is always primal and fundamental, while Gnosis/reflection (Plant) is secondary.
– Notice the central point—the Pearl—is coin shaped.
– Sola Busca has a similar geometry to the Marseilles. Dense foundational quality below, bearing a flowing above. There is a large cup or cornucopia rather than a small point. Or possibly the ox-skull is this point (like a face, once again), with two sets of plants.
The formation of the Skull, the little ego, the intellect due to the heart drawing two opposing forces to itself. The wish to have a personality, not just a transcendent Individuality. The head as the limb of the heart. This again emphasizes the Wisdom aspect as well as the more abstract/intellectual quality of the image.
In life and human development, the Heart ends up ceding its place to the Head (intellect)—at least for a time.
This once again brings in Shin, the Fire of the Personality, the 4th aspect of the Trinity (the God-Man, Jesus Christ, as opposed to The Son, the transcendent Logos). Again we think of Da’ath, the stone that has fallen from heaven and must rise to its place again through human effort. The question of Shin vs Vau. It is clear that although there is a strong relationship between Ace of Coins/Magician and Two of Coins/High Priestess, there is not a strict mirroring that will continue the whole way through—which is good, as that would be a bit mechanical. We have to see in the Three of Coins something of Vau/Sacred Magic, but also something of Shin—of the Fire of Love, the Spiritualized Personality.
We ended with the fourth stance of the Foundation Stone in eurythmy.