Three of Swords (I)

Notes of a Hermetic Conversation on October 26, 2019

Three of Swords

October 26, 2019

We began simply, speaking out the protective practice while seated and invoking the guidance of the Virgin Mary for our conversation. We did not perform any eurythmy, but spoke out the mantra “I rest within the Godhead of the world,” and read from Revelation 9:4-6.

– The two branches in the center of the Three of Swords are not the same. Therefore, this arcanum has no symmetry (left/right or up/down). The left hand branch has 8 leaves and three berries, while the right hand branch has nine leaves and two berries. 

– The colors have reversed on the two curved swords vs the Two of Swords. Red is now yellow, yellow is now red. However, this means that when the Two is placed side by side with the Three, the colors align.

Otherwise, the four flowers and two curved swords are the same as in the Two.

– The straight sword is quite different from that in the Ace.

And now we see the point, the tip, of the sword for the first time (whether curved or straight). This tip emerging from between the two curved swords creates a kind of six-pointed star (straight sword’s blade with the blue X of the hilts overtop). At first it seemed like a five-pointed star until we took into account the lower portion of the straight blade extending below the blue X.

– The straight sword in the center, adorned with two branches is a “3” in its own right, let alone the straight sword + two curved swords. The sword with two branches is a similar six pointed star to that made above by the three swords.

– These branches seem like a trophy mounted on the wall, of just the horns or antlers of an animal that one has hunted. Similar in this respect to the Ace.

Image result for mounted antler

There is definitely something about these severed branches that calls to mind the animal: horns/antlers/antenna. 

But in the Ace there is a very different geometry to them vs the Three:  

The Ace has a central vertical line flanked by two curved lines that do not touch the center: they reach out and up and away from it.

The Three has a central vertical line that is crossed by two other lines that curve slightly inward, toward the center.

– Once again we have a new plant form. It is more recognizable as a bush with berries growing on it. Almost feels like wintergreen or something.

Image result for wintergreen branch

These seem realistic, like actual cuttings from this bush. In contradistinction to the flower form in the center of the Two, which looks like it comes from Chartres Cathedral or something. Archetypal, crazily elaborate plant shapes.

Image result for chartres cathedral engraving

These cuttings are more realistic. They are similar to the left-hand branch of the Ace, but different.

They are quite austere. Not gaudy like the plants in the Ace or Two. Almost like holly. Trimmings that one might get during the Fall or Winter. They certainly don’t feel like Spring or Summer. Sparse.

Image result for holly sprig

– The color scheme indicates that the circle formed by placing Two and Three side by side is meant to be one thing (red above, yellow below).  The Two and Three are two halves of a whole: let’s attempt to really see the circle as the main thing, rather than each Vesica Piscis.

A circle flanked by two semi-circles on the sides. Two/Three combined becomes what is framed by the circle.

Each plant still occupies its own separate, distinct section of the circle.

– The Three, even though it is not totally symmetrical, could pretty comfortably fold from right to left. The two branches would meet. But it cannot fold from above to below comfortably. What about the Two? It can fold either way, but somehow above to below seems more natural/fitting?

– We’re not getting a clear sense as to how these two plants possibly relate. Why are they living in the same circle, the same framework? What do they have to do with each other?

– Notice that whereas the Ace’s sword has only one part to its hilt, the Three’s sword has three parts. Following this pattern, is there then a two-foldness embedded in the plant in the center of the Two? If so, it doesn’t jump out. Perhaps the fact that there are only two red leaves adorning the central flower? And only two yellow petals? There are also only two red petals, which means there are only two yellow portions to this flower altogether. 

– It’s interesting that the Two isn’t truly symmetrical, the two red leaves don’t actually line up when it is folded either up/down or left/right. It’s rather frustrating, actually. You can turn the image anyway you like, and it’s always the same, and yet it still isn’t symmetrical. 

– The two red leaves in the Two of Swords hearkens back, actually, to the Two of Coins—the two very prominent red leaves adorning the two coins. Yet the S forms the other direction. 

The Three of Swords also hearkens back to the Three of Coins in the geometry of the Sword and two branches vs the three coins. 

– Notice that the curve of the hilt in the Three is an S curve rather than the more complicated form on the Ace’s sword.

– There is something about the circle that draws one in: two distinct domains separated by a third, a kind of membrane. Like a cell about to go through mitosis.

Image result for cell mitosis

A unity, with two completely distinct domains, and a unifying center. This membrane in between actually creates a lot of empty space between the two objects. They’re far apart from each other. 

– It’s weird that we’ve come back to something so similar to a coin! And we’re somehow again returning to this theme of “what’s inside the coin?” Rather than focusing on what is happening around the coin or coins. 

The Coins are solid objects. This is mostly empty space, yet still coin. Like a 4th-dimensional coin or something. 

– This also speaks to what we came to by the end of our previous conversation: that this realm of Swords is a realm of contradiction and perhaps irreconcilable difference. The two realities are given distinct zones within the circle. Yet somehow they are a unity in spite of that?

– Let’s go back to the question of the curved swords, as in, “how exactly is this a sword?” The two paradoxical aspects of Sword. The one type (straight) is so obviously a sword. The other is enclosing, decorative, encircling. Not at all sword-like in any archetypal sense. Like a middle eastern scimitar. (or Klingon weapon). Definitely foreign from an Occidental/Christian perspective. 

Image result for middle eastern scimitar

– The Ace contains a human representation (arm/hand) as well as the Western/Christian Sword.

Then the Two contains no human representation, and no Western Sword—only a plant. Islamic, iconoclastic. 

Image result for islam vesica piscis

The Three returns the Western Sword, but still no human representative. A compromise of Islamic and Christian? A truce?

“You get your part of the territory, we get ours. We leave each other in peace. Live and let live.”

– The binding together of the separate Arcana through the circle means there is some link implied from image to image. With the Coins it felt much more obvious and natural that each image leads or flows into the next somehow. Here we are taking much greater leaps. Certainly in terms of the movement from Ace to Two it is an enormous leap. But then from Two to Three, it is really only a leap in terms of the central motif. The curved swords frame and link together these separate motifs that seem to be unrelated to each other, like rings or a chain. 

In this sense, then, the Sword is actually a uniter of separate elements, rather than a divider. Unifying things that otherwise wouldn’t have anything to do with each other. This is the polar opposite of separating two halves: binding two unrelated things into a whole. Or, if not a whole, at the very least into proximity with each other.

What keeps coming to mind is the last portion of the Letter-Meditation on the Tower of Destruction, in which Tomberg characterizes proximity as the road to peace. The crucifying of opposites, nailing them to each other, until their mutual tolerance ultimately results in peace.

– Let’s review the alignments of the Swords thus far with their Major equivalents:

Tower of Destruction—Ace—Wheel of Fortune: here we have a common gesture of blasting into a new and unfamiliar domain.

The Devil—Two—Force: here we have the tension of opposites, particularly of purity vs intoxication, good vs evil.

and now we have

Temperance—Three—Hanged Man: the resolution of tensions. Temperance is all about the flow created between image and likeness, human and angel, above and below. The Hanged Man is literally strung up between two poles. 

– When we worked through the Coins, we were essentially moving backwards through the Major Arcana, from The World, to Judgement, to the Sun, to the Moon, and the Star, only getting to the Tower of Destruction with the very last Arcanum, the King of Coins. The World was our point of origin, and all of the themes weaving through this Letter-Meditation set the tone for the entire Suit of Coins. Really these themes continue all the way from The World back through The Star:  Macrocosmic creation vs microcosmic unfolding. 

Now we are moving gradually through the next suit, the Swords. We begin at the Tower of Destruction, through The Devil, Temperance, Death and the Hanged Man, only reaching Force at the very end, in the King of Swords. With the Tower of Destruction setting the tone rather than The World, what is the theme that resonates through all of the Swords?

The picture of the meeting of opposites is there from the very beginning in the Tower of Destruction, and carries all the way through. 

– Earlier in the week, we had a long conversation that stemmed from Phillip revisiting the Letter-Meditation on The World. It revolved in part on the idea that from the human perspective, the activity of thinking is primary. We approach a collage of percepts that exist whether we do or not, but the thinking activity that we produce out of our own creativity makes this realm of percepts real by uniting it with a conceptual (i.e. spiritual) sphere.

For God, it is totally different. God bore within himself a demiurgic, undifferentiated unity of thought/feeling/will, that perhaps could best be qualified as an intensity of longing for the created to come into being. This longing in a sense exploded into a spontaneous and enormous activity of creation. A feeling or desire became righteous and perfect action, which only after the fact could be recognized consciously (and God said, “it is very good”). God is the primal integrated multiplicity that ramifies and differentiates. After the turning point of time, Man is that which confronts this multiplicity and out of thinking activity must reunify it, create the activity that results in synthesis. Thought is primary for man; thought is an after-effect for God. 

After this conversation, Phillip was drawn to re-read the Letter-Meditation on The Pope, in which is emphasized the union of human will with Divine Will (Thy Will Be Done). But we are then led to wonder: what exactly is Divine Will? When we read the description of Sacred Magic, of human will united with Divine Will, of the Pentagram finding fullness in the Decad—how does one actually, concretely imagine Divine Will in that context? In order for it be creative as described above, it must be a will that has a definite, concrete intention embedded into its very matrix of being, as well as the requisite force to realize that intention on the manifest plane. Our bare human will is not imbued with such clear intentions; nor do we ever have the requisite force to realize our intentions nearly as perfectly as the spiritual world does. According to VT, human will alone is arbitrary at best. Human will cannot actually accomplish the Good until it becomes a vehicle for Divine Will. 

And so…the manifestation of Divine Will on the human plane is through the Wounds. Something that renders that human will to be completely powerless and open—in fact, completely without force and intentions! The exact opposite of the description of Divine Will above. 

With intelligent design, we realize there is in the cosmos an unfolding of purposeful, complex organization, seemingly inevitably. So much so that most scientists can live with saying, “well, this is just the structure of physics. It has to be this way, simply by pure chance. There is no intentionality or conscientious design involved necessarily.” Where truly the question we ought to be asking is, “what is Divine Will such that it could be so perfectly thought out and realized?”

– Sacred Magic as the marriage of opposites: intention and force married to their complete opposites, total receptivity and powerlessness. 

– It seems that with the Coins, we entered very deeply into a realm of Hermeticism: of stepping back and taking a sweeping, comprehensive view of the whole, of both macro- and microcosm. Now we seem to be moving to a kind of Sacred Magic in the realm of Swords. 

– We tend to think of Divine Will as a thing complete in itself, like we tend to think of human will as complete in itself. But maybe actually there can be no creation in the world without both—they are actually two halves of one whole

But the burning question still remains: what is Divine Will in its own domain, complete unto itself, outside of the human realm?

– The Ace of Swords is so interesting. In the upper portion, there is complete, beautiful intention. Below, there is complete power to forge/enact the will. This brings out a different aspect of the Sword: not just cutting or destructive—“You will act, and I will compel you with the threat of consequence!” The ability to compel action.

– It makes one reconsider the strange uniting scimitars, creating a circle of unity around two beings that have separate zones, seemingly totally at odds with each other. The circling scimitars could be a common threat or enemy that unites those who were once enemies. The force of the Sword. Two children fighting: the father comes and says “You will (i.e., you’d better!) get along!”

– Let’s go back to this picture of Coins as Hermeticism. The Coins show you what everything is, and where it comes from. Both the macrocosmic (Divine Will) and microcosmic (human will). Hermetic synthesis and analysis. Getting our grasp on the whole.

Whereas a big part of the theme of the Tower of Destruction through the Hanged Man, in addition to the union of opposites, is how to become empty and powerless, to be purified. So many references to St. John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, and St. Anthony throughout the 12th-16th Letter-Meditations. 

The Hanged Man speaks of the zodiacalized will, of action based on nothing but pure faith.

Temperance speaks of the conversation with the Angel, of the blood, sweat and tears.

Death speaks of trimming off the waste and the dead branches.

This theme of pruning away and making space lives in all of them.

This making space makes room for this incredibly powerful force to come in—the Divine Will.

– And now we’ve just had a flash of insight that united the seemingly irreconcilable. Placed together in the circle, the flower of the Two of Swords becomes a Shield, paired with the Sword of the Three of Swords. With a crown in the Ace! We are building up the armory. 

In the background of the whole conversation, the image of the right and left sides of the brain, the right and left pillars, the right and left hands has been living. What does it mean to be a shield vs a sword? Passive hand (shield) vs active hand (sword). Sword = right, shield = left.

Previously, in the Empress and Emperor, the shield meant “by what right,” under what aegis.

The Two of Swords hearkens geometrically to the Coins. Instead of the sign of the Eagle (as it is for the Empress and Emperor), the shield here is operating under the sign of the Coins. By what right? The right of the Hermetic, synthetic/analytic micro-macrocosmic. Then the Sword as actual Divine Power. In the Letter-Meditation on Justice, the Sword is Grace, which is Divine Will, in counterbalance to Karma. 

– An arrangement of Arcana:

Tower—Ace of Swords—Wheel of Fortune

Devil, Temperance—Two/Three of Swords united—Force, Hanged Man

The Tower is an encounter with the Father. The Wheel is an encounter with the Mother.

– Going back to the Ace: yes, one gets a picture here of Divine Will in its fullness, but also there is something in the presence of the human hand below. Like perhaps, in practice, the human will is important mainly for execution, for manifestation. And the Divine is more for planning, intention, inspiration. 

In other words, we can’t be so powerless that we’re dead! We have to be available and receptive to the purpose and motivating force that far transcends and exceeds our own. We might feel it as our own, but must be ready to know and acknowledge that it originated from outside of us, and amplified within us because it met with our enthusiastic, energetic willingness.

We closed by speaking out the third stanza of the Foundation Stone Meditation.