On the “Emerald Tablet” vs. “Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean”

(Note: this short post was originally made on the /r/Hermeticism subreddit, which I’ve decided to copy here for posterity.)

So, there’s the “Emerald Tablet”, and then there are the “Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean”. The two are emphatically not the same thing.

The “Emerald Tablet” is a short, cryptic, almost poetic summary of early alchemical belief, and comes from the Book of the Secrets of Creation (Kitāb sirr al-ḫalīqa) attributed to Apollonius of Tyana (aka Balīnūs), which was written no later than the 11th century CE, and while there are theories that it is an Arabic translation of an earlier (no longer extant) Greek work, we don’t yet know for certain whether it was a translation of an earlier work or whether it was an original composition in Arabic. The book as a whole is an encyclopedic treatment of many things, not least of which were alchemical concoctions and magical talismans, and in this book is a vignette that shows how a narrator entered into a tomb of Hermēs Trismegistos and encountered the Emerald Tablet. This little cryptic text was then translated repeatedly into Latin and other languages, though the whole of the Book of the Secrets of Creation has rarely received any such treatment on a wide scale besides one translation into French in 1798 by Antoine Isaac Silvestre de Sacy. Some scholars put the writing of the “Emerald Tablet” (along with some of the content of the Book of the Secrets of Creation) as having been written no earlier than 600 CE and generally no later than 750 CE, with evidence suggesting that it itself (regardless of the rest of the Book) was written originally in Arabic. Due to its brevity and cryptic nature, it’s long captured the attention and imagination of many generations of alchemists and magicians. You can find a variety of translations into English on this Sacred Texts page, some of which are more fantastical than others, and M. David Litwa also includes two translations of it in his Hermetica II (containing plenty of Hermetic texts, excerpts of texts, and testimonia from sources other than the more famous Corpus Hermeticum and Asclepius texts).

The “Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean” are a channeled text, supposedly a “translation” of a 36,000 year old text put out by one M. Doreal (founder of the “Brotherhood of the White Temple”, who claimed to receive the channeled text directly from “Thoth the Atlantean”) in 1939. Unlike the “Emerald Tablet” itself or the Book of the Secrets of Creation more generally, it bears little to nothing in common with any classical or even post-classical (medieval or Renaissance) Hermetic text, whether philosophical or alchemical or astrological or magical, and instead bears many hallmarks of it being heavily influenced (if not a product of) Theosophy and New Age beliefs generally, especially those of the “Brotherhood of the White Temple” (which were mythologically based on the “Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean”, according to the organization itself, but were more likely written to codify them and give them a claim to spiritual legitimacy). In many ways, the “Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean” are a New Age parallel to the Book of Mormon, supposedly a translation from a now-lost language from a now-lost original text.

Suffice it to say that the “Emerald Tablet” (singular) is something Hermetic, in one sense or another, but the “Emerald Tablets” (plural) are not. As a result of a lot of New Age ideas being developed in the wake of 19th and early 20th century Egyptomania combined with a lot of pseudoscience and fringe (to the point of extremist) beliefs, Doreal naming his work “Emerald Tablets of Thoth the Atlantean” was certainly inspired by or derived from the much older (and much more extant) “Emerald Tablet”, although they are not related at all to each other. In many ways, it is much the same sort of deal with the “Emerald Tablets” as it is with the Kybalion.

To be fair, Thōth is important for us, as the Egyptian god who was syncretized with the Greek Hermēs as Hermēs Trismegistos, and many important works that we here also devote time and energy to studying are attributed to Hermēs Trismegistos (hence why this is “Hermeticism”). That said, there is easily a lot of stuff that isn’t Hermetic that makes use of the name or form of Hermēs or Thōth, especially the more freewheeling new age stuff that draws a lot of attraction, so there is unfortunately a good amount of confusion out there, too.

The king is dead, long live the king: the demise and future of a Hermetic Discord community

The king is dead, long live the king: the demise and future of a Hermetic Discord community

Man, what a post to break a stretch of quiet around here.

No software engineer likes their name to be associated with buggy code, no civil engineer a collapsed bridge, no architect an imploded building, no mechanical engineer an exploded car.  To say that I am frustrated and dismayed would be an understatement, then, given the recent collapse of the Hermetic Agora (HA) Discord server that I have spent over a year promoting, building up a fantastic international community of over 1000 members, and in general trying to establish one of the most solid, respectful, and learned places to discuss Hermeticism and esotericism online.  And it all came crashing down today due to the actions of the server owner who wanted to nurse his injured ego over a damned politicized cartoon frog rather than continue that same work.

Here’s the TL;DR: the old server owner DanKadmos (who is was also the owner of a number of subreddits associated with Hermeticism or esotericism, but has since abandoned ship and deleted his Reddit account) decided to throw a temper-tantrum over having a Pepe the Frog emoji removed from the server emoji list while he was offline, a decision I made as an admin backed up by the rest of the other six mods, because it was requested that we stop using it due to this cartoon frog’s unfortunate politicization and appropriation by far-right, alt-right, Neonazi, or white supremacist groups to the point where even John Michael Greer wrote about it and its play in (ostensibly) getting Trump elected as the 45th president of the United States of America (it was a whole thing).  The server owner decided to throw a hissy-fit in the public chat and mocked the server member who raised the issue to the modteam.  The rest of the modteam called the server owner out on it, and we collectively tried our best to get DanKadmos to realize the problem he was causing and the hurt he was inflicting; after writing a thoughtful reply to the situation addressing him, he decided to double down in all sorts of deeply unfortunate ways.  After making further replies, the whole of the modteam trying to give him every reasonable accommodation and chance to make things right, he told us all, effectively, to get bent, and that if an exodus happens, the server would go down with him.

Seeing the cracks in the foundation, while DanKadmos was losing his shit, several of the mods messaged each other, and we collectively agreed to make a set of contingency plans: send Discord friend requests to as many people as we could to maintain connections should the server go down, make a backup Discord server to migrate to should we need to, and take backups of all non-casual discussion channel messages.  I spent a good few hours taking care of all these things, just to be prepared and to be kept in quiet reserve should anything happen.  It was my complete goal to keep anything drastic from happening and to keep the community together as best I would be able to, and I was willing to do anything that wouldn’t compromise either my own integrity or the safety of our members to keep the community I—we—had worked so hard to build up.  But…well, contingency plans are always good to have, I suppose, and it paid off for us all in the end.

Anyway, once DanKadmos gave his final reply to the mods, I immediately made the following announcement to the entire server:

Due to unfortunate and irreconcilable differences between me and the server owner/primary admin @DanKadmos#3527, I (polyphanes#0777) will be stepping down as admin and leaving the Hermetic Agora. It pains me to leave this place, but given the irresponsible and intolerable conduct of @DanKadmos#3527 with his recalcitrant refusal to recognize the problems he caused and continues to engage with, I find myself faced with a choice: to stay here and implicitly support his choices, or to leave and explicitly deny them. The only moral and ethical path I can take is the latter.

@DanKadmos#3527 wishes to hold himself above the community standards he himself laid down and enforced, and instead revert to hypocrisy and nursing his own bruised ego for being called out for immature, disrespectful behavior and the violation of a number of our rules (1, 3, 8, 11, 12). After the removal of the “Pepe the Frog” emoji, he has done nothing but remained unrepentantly and willfully unapologetic for his disrespectful, confusing public messages. Time and again @DanKadmos#3527 has doubled down upon and continued to refuse to admit error, apologize, fix the problems he started, or encourage healing from the harm he caused. For all these reasons, I find myself unable to participate further in this place of which he is the server owner/primary admin.

I have worked hard to help build this public community as one of the most solid, respectful, and learned for discussing Hermeticism and esotericism, and I am proud all the work we’ve done together as a community. I am honored to have met so many excellent people through this server, and I hope to maintain ties with many of you, whether on Discord or off. Wherever and however you plan to continue your own Great Works, I hope that the time you spent here has helped you with that, and that you find nothing but success in advancement in all your endeavors.

As my final administrative action, I (polyphanes#0777) approve this request that I submit to the modteam in accordance with our server rule #16:

I have started a separate Discord server to which I invite all members of the Hermetic Agora to join to continue the work started here with me. Though I profoundly dislike schismatic behavior and recognize that such a fine community as this deserves better than to be split apart, I would hope that many of my friends and colleagues here would consider joining me at this new server where we may continue to engage in fruitful discussions and studies regarding Hermeticism and esotericism apart and away from the unfortunate behavior and choices of the Hermetic Agora’s server owner. I assure you that you’ll already find several familiar faces there besides my own.

https://discord.gg/5vzhykvFuN

Needless to say, three things immediately happened:

  1. DanKadmos started trying to regain control over (what he had always wanted to be) “his” server and proclaimed:

    I am most probably going to delete the server in a few days. While @polyphanes ´s words are offensive to me, I am not easily offended like other people around here, so I will leave his message on so as many of you as possible will move to his community is you so decide. If somebody wants me to keep the server up, bear in mind that I don´t care about politically correctness, so there will changes that might potentially offend people

  2. A large number of people (many of whom had been basically holding their breath following DanKadmos’ blowup in public chat two nights earlier) immediately left, seeing what was happening.
  3. I was shortly removed from the server myself, and the above messages were removed as well shortly after that.

After that point, I don’t know what happened precisely or what was said on the old server, though I’m told that DanKadmos proceeded to go on a right-wing rant about liberals, how the server would be taking an anti-political-correctness approach, got rid of the gender/pronoun roles, and the like; immediately, the conversations veered into “swastikas are cool actually” and the server quickly devolved into another white supremacist, fascist online group, something that we tried our damnedest for so long to avoid and which we’ve called out time and time again (like with the whole ToTHO debacle).  Somehow, he didn’t anticipate that that would open up the floodgates to the stuff we had been battling against for so long, so he sent this final message before nuking the entire server (as was shared to me):

It was, in short, an awful end to a great place.  But at least the end was quick (less than 48 hours in the making), and we’ve already started to rebuild.

To make it clear, for anyone who was still there at the very end but didn’t see my messages: I do not approve of DanKadmos’ behavior, I stand as ever and as always against far-right/alt-right/Nazi bullshit, and I sincerely regret what has happened.  I tried what I could to hold the community together, but in the end, it was not in my power to do so.  I am frustrated and annoyed, not least at the loss of someone who was once a great colleague but now an obstinate asshole whom I can no longer associate myself with, but I am also determined to move on all the same.

As I mentioned before, seeing that a potential end was nigh, I and the other mods went ahead and made a new server, the Hermetic House of Life (HHoL), basically keeping the same channels, format, and style of the old server.  I’m going to go through my old posts and update any such reference to the old HA server (nobody could join even if they wanted to), and I’m also going to figure out in the near future how to make accessible the old server discussions I was able to back up; news for that will be going on the new server soon once I figure it out.  We’re already supported by a fantastic team of mods (basically all the old team), and we’ve already (as of this post) reached a quarter of the old member base (around 250 people) including virtually all of the usual faces and most well-acclaimed members, so we’re already getting by.  Hopefully we can continue growing at this new server and continuing the same Great Work we started elsewhere.  We might have changed houses, but this community is still our home, and I want to continue serving this great community as best as I can.

Plus, for those who are currently members of my Red Work Course or who are thinking of joining, I have a special channel set aside just for RWC-related discussions.  If you’re a current RWC member and have joined the new HHoL Discord above, send me an email with your Discord handle or send me a Discord PM with your email address so I can verify your membership, and I’ll grant you the role for that special channel.

Here’s hoping to see you at the Hermetic House of Life Discord server soon!

New ebook for sale: The Oracle of the Dominoes (also updated prices for my other ebooks!)

This is a project I’ve sat on long enough, I think, and it’s high time I get it out to people’s hands in at least one form I can manage.

While it’s been a long time since I’ve bothered—I fell out of it after it started feeling like a slog and a drain—I recall how my now-defunct CuriousCat account got quite a lot of attention, and was a great way to come up with post topics or other points for discussion and research.  Starting around May 2019, I think, people really started asking me about dominoes in quick succession, as if it were some sort of joke picking up speed on the way to be a running one or something.  It all started, I think, when someone asked about a connection between geomancy and dominoes.  After all, the geomantic figures are combinations of dots, and so are the pips on dominoes, so are they perhaps related? I mean, people can do divination with dominoes, too, right?

The answer was, and still is, a clear and flat “no”; there is no historical connection between dominoes and geomancy, or at least none that I have ever found in any text or discussion in any medium whatsoever.  If there ever was a connection, it’s long been forgotten or was never developed in a way that was preserved.  However, just to make sure, I did some simple research on the history of dominoes, and it turns out that dominoes were just coming onto the scene in Europe around the time geomancy was pushed off to the side in the 1700s CE.  Dice (which are in many ways similar to dominoes) are old, to be sure, and geomancy is also old, but Western-style dominoes are a relatively young thing, whether they arose from six-sided dice or were somehow descended from Chinese dominoes (骨牌 gǔpái, 牙牌 yápái, or 蒱牌 púpái).  And, just to be even more sure, I started some very brief research into reading about domino divination, just enough to confirm my suspicions; as I suspected, there was no connection between geomantic divination and domino divination.

But in the process of that research, something snagged my interest, and hard.  Maybe it was a spirit of mine, maybe it was just some latent desire to get good at this thing I had never before considered or even knew much about, but for the entirety of that summer I became obsessed with learning how to do domino reading and divination. What few books I could find—heck, most of the information was just a few pages in a handful of books.  I did as much research as I could, going back as far as I could with what resources I had available to me, a combination of using digitized records or buying antique copies of books barely held together anymore from the 1800s and scrounging around on websites in a variety of languages and crosschecking it all together to see what matched and what didn’t.  I ended up compiling dozens upon dozens of pages of notes on technique and interpretations, sorting out what seemed useful and what seemed to be coming out of left field.  Heck, I even ended up coming across the supposed connections between domino reading and orisha divination—which is very much not a thing, as I’ve mentioned before in the strongest of terms (that post came out of this research).

It was out of these notes and this research that I ended up putting together a whole book’s worth of knowledge, lore, and technique on how to read the dominoes as a form of divination and fortune-telling (which I immediately put to practice for myself, and whew does it work better and clearer than I thought it would).  I’ve been sitting on releasing this for a while, I admit, but I figured that I may as well just push it to PDF ebook format, since I know I’m not likely to get involved in formal publishing anytime soon (if ever).  After all, the more people who learn domino reading and take it seriously, the better off we’ll all be, I think, whether someone takes it as their one-and-done system or as an adjunct to other systems like card reading or geomancy.

To that end, I present to you my newest ebook: The Oracle of the Dominios, available through my Etsy store or my Ko-fi store for only US$10!

The Oracle of the Dominos (a title that isn’t in Latin for once!) is a 178-page (US Letter-sized) PDF text in English that summarizes basically all the research I was able to do on domino divination, combining what I could gleam from over 50 different texts going back to 1862 across five languages.  A combination of both technique and reference, there’s over 100 pages alone of just details on what each of the individual bones of a traditional set of double-six dominoes means, split out into areas like work and career, money and finances, love and romance, family and friends, health issues, spiritual guidance, general advice, and other notes.  In addition to detailing the traditional approach of reading the dominoes, I’ve also included much more modern ways like using spreads or alternative ways that use the dominoes for specific situations like determining names, numbers, times, and the like, as well as introducing a little astrological symbolism to the dominoes (which I’ve never otherwise encountered) to expand the meanings to also include predictions regarding people’s temperament, character, appearance, and the like.  Having learned and practiced this form of divination since I started learning about it, I can personally attest to how brilliant this lore is when it comes together under the bones—if not outright punchy and blunt at times just to make a point!

Not gonna lie, I did originally intend to find a publisher for this and have it go to press, but honestly, that’s a lot more headache and hassle than I want to deal with (on top of my own personal thoughts and opinions regarding the state of occult publishing as well as perceptions around publishing in general), and that was frankly an impediment to me getting this sort of project out at all.  For those who wanted something like this in print, I apologize; I’d rather self-publish through PDF ebooks than keep this as a file that I’d never otherwise get out publicly.  Still, I’m fully aware that there are those who, despite the increasing popularity of e-readers and the like, still prefer to have an offline and non-digital copy of such things; for those purposes, as with all my other ebooks, I highly encourage my readers to please print these things off on their own for their own private and personal use, either just on plain printer paper shoved into a binder or whether done more professionally through something like Lulu or CreateSpace.  It’s also one of the reasons why, despite the time and resources I poured into a text like this, I’m pricing it how I am—and, for that matter, why I’ve priced my other ebooks how I have, because it’s just a digital file that I’m providing, which (I hope) allows those who wish for something more tangible to spend a few extra dollars on their own to have things printed out in a format and style they themselves prefer.

To that end, I’ve also dropped the prices of three of my older ebooks (Secreti Geomantici, Preces Castri, and Preces Templi) from US$18 or US$16 down to US$10.  I consider the two Preces books to be some of my crowning achievements when it comes to some of my prayer-writing and research, and Secreti Geomantici a fantastic text about a nascent field of magic in Western practice that stands to be developed greatly by the geomantic community, and I also consider this new ebook on domino divination to also be up there, especially given the time and resources I had to pour into it to get it researched and written.  It’s not that I don’t want to make money—money, though it isn’t everything, is damn useful to anyone—but I also want to be fair to people while also not wanting to be unfair to myself, especially in this time when there are so many people out there going through such hard times when something as simple as learning domino reading or having a new set of prayers for ritual practice could give them a necessary edge to make things so much better for themselves and others.  Given how printing things out on one’s own is an extra cost, I figured I may as well just standardize my ebook price to US$10 across the board rather than having things that are comparatively more expensive, especially since US$10 is already a fairly reasonable price for many print books already out there—and authors of such books in print generally get much less of that total cut than what I get (which is almost everything after a few fees towards PayPal, Etsy, or the like).    For those who have already bought these ebooks at the previous price, I give you my sincere thanks and hope you have found them useful enough to be worth the cost; for those who have not yet bought these ebooks, I hope the new price will encourage you to buy them and get some use out of them!

Anyway, what are you waiting for?  Head over to my Etsy store or my Ko-fi store and get yourself a copy of The Oracle of the Dominoes (or my other ebooks!) today, and learn a new predictive skill for yourself that can give you an edge in life!

Justifying a Hermetic Vegetarianism

At the very end of the Logos Teleios, aka the “Perfect Sermon” and more commonly known as the Asclepius (or AH for short), we find the beautiful Prayer of Thanksgiving, which we have preserved in Latin, Greek, and Coptic.  It’s a beautiful expression of devotion, love, and praise for Divinity from a Hermetic standpoint, and is good to recite (in one form or another) by many people engaged on the Way of Hermēs.  However, it’s not the prayer that’s grabbed my attention this time; rather, it’s the narrative description that follows just afterward.  This led me to a bit of thinking and a rather long blog post; please bear with me as we take a bit of a garden path stroll through the Hermetic texts to talk about something that plays into implementable practice and, moreover, explaining it from a Hermetic standpoint.

The Asclepius is an interesting Hermetic text; unlike most of the Hermetic texts, which are preserved as simple dialogues or as a letter from teacher to student, the Asclepius has an actual narrative structure involved at the very start and very end, giving it a set and setting of its own.  It opens up in AH 1 with Hermēs sitting with Asklēpios in a temple, with Tat and then Ammōn joining them soon enough, at which point:

…the reverence of the four men and the divine presence of God filled that holy place; duly silent, the minds and thoughts of each of them waited respectfully for a word from Hermēs, and then divine love began to speak.

At the end of the discourse (AH 40—41), after Hermēs has told his students “everything that a human being could say”, they get up to worship God—and interestingly, outside of the temple.  After they pray the Prayer of Thanksgiving, there is this interesting conclusion to the prayer.  In the Latin version of the Asclepius, it reads:

With such hopes we turn to a pure meal that includes no living thing.

A similar statement is given in the Coptic version, preserved as text #8 in codex VI of the Nag Hammadi Codices.  Unlike in the Latin, this is a narrative statement rather than a concluding remark:

When they prayed and said these things, they embraced and went to eat their sacred bloodless food.

The presence of this line (along with the ritual directions for praying facing certain directions and refraining from offering incense to God) has been read to suggest the presence of an actual Hermetic community of one sort or another, whether decentralized or not, as well as indicating that this is more than a mere literary tradition of “read mysteries” but one with actual ritual acts, and that done communally.  Setting aside that scholarly discussion as it happens in academia, for those of us who care less about the historical implications and want to focus more on the practical implementation of the texts, this description/injunction is useful.  We can interpret it in one of two ways:

  1. In a strict approach, this can be read to say that ritual discourses or other ritual acts should be followed with a communal meal, which is to be vegetarian in nature.
  2. In a lax approach, this can be read to encourage followers of the Way of Hermēs to be vegetarian in general, both for ritual purposes and otherwise.

In either case, whether or not such a vegetarian meal is limited to ritual contexts, there does appear to be some indication that vegetarianism is desirable to some extent.  It’s far from uncommon in a classical context, to be sure; abstinence from meat (in Greek sometimes called ἀποχὴ ἐμψύχων apokhē empsukhōn “abstinence from ensouled beings”) was a documented thing of the Pythagoreans and Orphics, and Platonists and Peripatetics alike encouraged it, as well.  According to the Stoic author Chaeremon of Alexandria, Egyptian priests in his time also abstained from meat, which (along with wine) appeared to cause a “weakness in the senses and dizziness in the head…but especially because of the strong sexual desires that are the results of these kinds of food and drink”, to say nothing about how the slaughter of animals (with its necessary violence) could cause the souls of the animals to linger around their bodies and thus the meat that issues from it (more on what Chaeremon says later).  That Hermēs Trismegistos would encourage vegetarianism is unsurprising, at least for a ritual context if not a broader lifestyle.  However—besides just a general push for it because that’s just what mystics, priests, philosophers, and holy people did back in the day—it’s not clear why that should be the case from a Hermetic standpoint.  Answering this question can take many different avenues, but I have a theory of my own, and that begins with the Coptic translation of a vegetarian meal not just being one that “includes no living thing” but which is specifically “bloodless”.

Is it wise to base something on just one translation like this when variants exist?  The Coptic version of the Asclepius is a fascinating text; it’s only a fragment of the broader Asclepius, matching to what we’d recognize as AH 21—29 in the Latin text, and it’s not an exact match, either; it roughly covers the same ground, but it has some fairly stark differences in what it presents and how it presents it.   The differences between the Coptic and Latin versions of the Asclepius suggest that there were likely several different “lineages” of the Asclepius all stemming from some Greek original, and there are certain clues between the Coptic version preserved in the Nag Hammadi Codices with what few scraps of the older Greek versions that still exit that show that the Coptic translation adheres more closely to the original than the comparatively free-wheeling Latin translation.  It’s on this ground that I think hinging something on the Coptic could be worth our while.

So, “bloodless”.  Blood is something that is generally fairly important for us as living being, but the Asclepius is generally silent on matters regarding blood.  However, if we expand our scope from that text to classical Hermetic texts generally, we see some super nifty descriptions of blood in the Corpus Hermeticum (CH), namely from the CH X.13—17 where Hermēs talks about soul and its relation to the body generally:

A human soul is carried in this way:  the mind is in the reason; the reason is in the soul; the soul is in the spirit; the spirit, passing through veins and arteries and blood, moves the living thing and, in a manner of speaking, bears it up.  Some hold, therefore, that the soul is blood, mistaking its nature and not seeing that the spirit must first be withdrawn into the soul and then, when the blood thickens and the veins and arteries are emptied, this destroys the living thing; and this is the death of the body.

When the soul rises up to itself, the spirit is drawn into the blood, the soul into the spirit, but the mind, since it is divine by nature, becomes purified of its garments and takes on a fiery body, ranging about everywhere, leaving the soul to judgment and the justice it deserves.

In an earthy body occurs the combining of these garments, my son, for the mind cannot seat itself alone and naked in an earthy body. The earthy body cannot support so great an immortality, nor can so great a dignity endure defiling contact with a body subject to passion. Mind, therefore, has taken the soul as a shroud, and the soul, which is itself something divine, uses the spirit as a sort of armoring-servant. The spirit governs the living being.

The initial bit about “the mind is in the reason, the reason is in the soul, etc.” from CH X.13 also bears a striking resemblance to statements from CH V and CH XII:

(CH V.11) The matter composed of the finest particles is air, but air is soul, soul is mind, and mind is god.

(CH XII.13—14) The blessed god, the good demon, has said that soul is in body, that mind is in soul, that reasoned speech is in mind and that god is their father.  Thus, the finest of matter is air, the finest air is soul, the finest soul is mind and the finest mind is god. And god surrounds everything and permeates everything, while mind surrounds soul, soul surrounds air and air surrounds matter.

It’s taken for granted in the earlier Hermetic treatises that we have souls, and theories and models of the soul are explained in later texts and fragments, but it’s not always clear how the different texts agree with each other, if at all, given the various perspectives and opinions that individual texts espouse.  One of the topics of this intertextual conversation between different Hermetic authors is a discussion regarding how the soul is carried in the body; it’s said time and time again that the soul is somehow carried in the body, whether explicitly or metaphorically, but it’s not always clear how the soul is related to the body.  For the purposes of this present post (this is a super complicated topic, and I’m still working through the details in my own research!), we’ll take for granted that the soul is somehow carried in the body, but using CH X.13—17 as a basis for discussion, we can see that the soul does not directly inhabit the body.  Rather, the soul is better thought of being present within spirit, which itself is present within blood, which is what is present within the body.  This is the solution proposed by CH X to reconcile the difficulty in explaining how an immaterial, incorporeal entity (the soul) can communicate with or control or inhabit a material, corporeal one (the body): by using spirit, as the most incorporeally-corporeal substance which can also be the least corporeally-incorporeal substance, as an intermediary between the two.

On the role of spirit, well…outside the CH X excerpts above, there is comparatively little in the Corpus Hermeticum, or indeed in most of the non-Asclepius Hermetic texts, that talks about spirit (πνεῦμα pneuma) from a technical or scientific perspective; generally it’s at a higher-level, more nebulous sense.  The closest we get is from CH III.1—2, which describes a very high-level cosmology.  I know I have my own translation that I like referring to, but I’ll rely on Copenhaver here as I have in the rest of this post:

In the deep there was boundless darkness and water and fine intelligent spirit, all existing by divine power in chaos. Then a holy light was sent forth, and elements solidified out of liquid essence. And all the gods divide the parts of germinal nature.

While all was unlimited and unformed, light elements were set apart to the heights and the heavy were grounded in the moist sand, the whole of them delimited by fire and raised aloft, to be carried by spirit. The heavens appeared in seven circles, the gods became visible in the shapes of the stars and all their constellations, and the arrangement of this lighter substance corresponded to the gods contained in it. The periphery rotated in the air, carried in a circular course by divine spirit.

Spirit appears to be something that pervades the cosmos, and indeed has its origins described as being something totally cosmic, according to CH I:

(CH I.9) The mind who is god, being androgyne and existing as life and light, by speaking gave birth to a second mind, a craftsman, who, as god of fire and spirit, crafted seven governors; they encompass the sensible world in circles, and their government is called fate.

(CH I.16) When nature made love with the man, she bore a wonder most wondrous. In him he had the nature of the cosmic framework of the seven, who are made of fire and spirit, as I told you, and without delay nature at once gave birth to seven men, androgyne and exalted, whose natures were like those of the seven governors.

(CH I.17) …the birth of the seven was as follows. Earth was the female. Water did the fertilizing. Fire was the maturing force. Nature took spirit from the ether and brought forth bodies in the shape of the man. From life and light the man became soul and mind; from life came soul, from light came mind, and all things in the cosmos of the senses remained thus until a cycle ended and kinds of things began to be.

Spirit is a quality of the Demiurge, and thus of the Logos of God, which proceeds from the Life of God much as the fire of the Demiurge/Logos proceeds from the Light of God; the spirit and fire of the Logos/Demiurge is also what the planets are composed of.  Because fire and spirit are demiurgical/logical correspondences of the divine light and life, respectively, we can also say the same of the mind and soul of humanity.  This correspondence, established all the way back in CH I, associates spirit with soul as ontologically forms of “life” that proceed from the Life of God.  Moreover, spirit is something that pervades and fills the cosmos—perhaps issuing from the planets, or otherwise directed by them, or perhaps which are directed by spirit?—and through spirit, life is possible.

However, when it comes to the Asclepius, there’s quite a bit more specific stuff we can look to regarding the role and activity of spirit, which is generally paired with or contrasted against the role and activity of matter:

(AH 6) The spirit that fills all mixes with everything and enlivens everything.

(AH 14) There was god and hulē (which we take as the Greek for “matter”), and attending matter was spirit, or rather spirit was in matter, but it was not in matter as it was in God nor as the things from which the world came were in God…But hulē (or the nature of matter) and spirit, though from the beginning they seem not to have come to be, nonetheless possess in themselves the power and nature of coming to be and procreating. For the beginning of fertility is in the quality of nature, which possesses in itself the power and the material for conceiving and giving birth. Nature, therefore, can breed alone without conceiving by another.

(AH 16—17) Spirit supplies and invigorates all things in the world; like an instrument or a mechanism it is subject to the will of the supreme god. For now let this be our understanding of these issues. Understood by mind alone, the god called “supreme” is ruler and governor of that sensible god who encloses within him all place, all the substance of things, all the matter of things that produce and procreate, all that there is whatsoever and however much there is.  But spirit stirs and governs all the forms in the world, each according to the nature allotted it by god. Hūle or matter, however, receives them all, spirit stirs and concentrates them all, and god governs them, apportioning to all things in the world as much as each one needs. He fills them all with spirit, breathing it into each thing according to the quality of its nature.

Based on the Asclepius, we have a notion that spirit is what facilitates “the will of God”, for lack of a better term, and which is the means of activity/energy in things as it pervades all things coterminally with matter.  Spirit, being the substance that “enlivens everything” and “stirs and governs all the forms in the world”, is what allows for matter to take on form and energy.   If we combine our understanding of spirit from the Asclepius with the role of it from CH I and CH X, we have this notion that bodies can take on/be affected by energy because all matter is pervaded by spirit, and even some bodies can be alive with spirit alone (i.e. plants, cf. AH 4 and AH 6).  However, there are other bodies that have spirit which itself contains/is inhabited by/is pervaded(?) by soul, and those bodies are what we would call ensouled living beings.

So where am I going with this?  There’s one more bit I need to bring up before I get to my point about how all this ties to vegetarianism: how the soul “works” in the human being.  There’s much in the Stobaean Excerpts (SH) on the soul, but a good introduction to this would be these:

(SH 3.5—8) These are the kinds of souls: divine, human, and non-rational. The divine soul is the energy that propels its divine body, for it moves by itself in its body and also moves its body. When the soul of mortal animals separates from its non-rational parts, it goes off into the divine body which is ever-moving and moved in itself. In this way, the soul circles round the universe. The human soul has a portion of the divine. Yet non-rational elements, namely drive and desire, are attached to it. Drive and desire are also immortal inasmuch as they are energies, the energies of mortal bodies. These energies are far from the divine part when the soul inhabits the divine body. But when this divine part enters a mortal body, drive and desire travel round with it; with them present, a human soul is always the result. The soul of non-rational animals is composed of drive and desire. Accordingly, these animals are called “non-rational”, since their souls lack reason.

(SH 2b.6—8) The reason is, first of all, that the soul must battle with itself, make a violent separation, and be taken advantage of by one part. The battle is of one against two. The one flees, while the others drag it down. Strife and manifold conflicts occur among them—the one part desires to flee, while the others eagerly hold it down. The victory of each part is not the same. The one rushes toward the Good, the others reside with evils. The one yearns to be free, but the others are content with slavery. If the two parts are conquered, they stick to their own affairs, deprived of their ruler. But if the one part is conquered, it is driven by the two and conveyed as a punishment to life in this realm. This discourse, my child, is the guide of the path to the upper world. Before you reach the goal, you must, my child, first abandon your body, conquer this life of struggle, and after conquering, ascend!

(SH 17.1—3) Thus the soul, Ammōn, is a reality perfect in itself. In the beginning, soul chose a life according to Fate and drew to itself a rationality adapted to matter. (The soul) had in its control both drive and desire. Indeed, drive exists as matter. If drive generates a disposition fitted to the soul’s intellect, it becomes courage and does not fade away under fear. Desire, for its part, affords the same possibility. If it is produced as a disposition conforming to the rationality of the soul, it becomes self-control and is not stirred by pleasure. Reasoning fills up the insufficiency of desire. The virtue of justice is born under three conditions: when both drive and desire agree, when they produce a balanced state, and when they are controlled by the soul’s rationality. Their balanced state removes the excessiveness of drive and compensates for the insufficiency of desire.

There’s this Platonic notion in the Stobaean Excerpts of the soul not being the only thing that animates a body; sometimes it’s called the soul put against drive and desire (thumos and epithumia, basically ego-driven needs and id-driven needs to borrow Jungian terms), sometimes it’s called the higher/divine soul put against the lower/animal soul, but the idea here is the same: the soul is the truly divine/higher part of what animates a human body that drives the human onto divine/higher things, while the animal/base/lower soul is what spurs the body on towards animal/base/lower needs and actions.  This notion of drive and desire (expressly and explicitly hammered out by Litwa in his Hermetica II) is super common in the Stobaean Excerpts, but we have to really try to see such a model in texts like the Corpus Hermeticum; this may be a later Platonic import into Hermeticism, or it may be just the Platonic bias of John of Stobi when he compiled his Anthology, but we can get a whiff of similar notions.  Combining this perspective from the Corpus Hermeticum and the Stobaean Excerpts, there’s this notion that part of the process of spiritual elevation/ascent and the salvation of the soul is that we need to live our lives in a way that tames the drive and desire that arises from the body and separates the (higher/divine/proper) soul from this drive and desire.

Which brings me back to someone I mentioned towards the start of this post: Chaeremon of Alexandria, a Stoic philosopher and author of various works regarding Egyptian society, science, religion, and culture who lived in the first century CE (so roughly contemporaneous with the earlier stage of classical Hermeticism).  It is from Chaeremon that we get some really insightful stuff, albeit preserved only in fragments quoted by later authors, regarding the lifestyles and practices of Egyptian priests in post-Ptolemaic/Roman Imperial Hellenistic Egypt.  Given the recent academic leaps in understanding more about the history and context of classical Hermeticism and the development of the Hermetic texts, especially with the discovery of texts like the Demotic Book of Thoth, we have a better appreciation of how much Egyptianity is present in Hermeticism, and how much of that was derived from the philosophy, religiosity, teachings, and practices of Egyptian priests.  A few I’d like to bring up regarding the consumption of animals:

(Jerome, Adversus Iovinianum II.13) They always abstained from meat and wine because of the weakness of the senses and the dizziness in the head which they experienced after a little (of this) food, but especially because of the strong sexual desires that are the results of these kinds of food and drink. They seldom ate bread, in order not to overload their stomachs; and if sometimes they did eat it, they also used pounded hyssop in the food so that by its heat they could consume the more heavy food. They used oil only with vegetables, but this too in small quantities in order to mitigate the nausea and the acid taste. “What should I say”, he said , “about birds, for they (sc. the priests) abstain from egg, too, as if it is meat, and from milk. They said that the former (sc. an egg) was liquid meat, the latter (sc. milk) blood with a changed colour”.

(Porphyry, Epistula ad Anebonem II.8) They also command that their priests must abstain from animal food so as to avoid being stained by the vapours from the carcasses, although they themselves are strongly allured by vapours from sacrifices; and (they command) that the initiate must not touch a dead body, although it is for the most part by means of dead animals that the gods are evoked.

(Porphyry, De abstinentia II.47) Theologians have rightly paid attention to abstinence, and the Egyptian informs us of these things, giving a most natural reason for them which he verified by experience. For since a bad and irrational soul which tried to depart the body after having been detached from it by violence yet stays near to it (because the souls of men who die by violence also keep themselves near to the body—a fact which should prevent one from committing suicide)—since, then, violent slaughter of animals compels souls to delight in the bodies which they leave, the soul is by no means prevented from being in the place to which it is attracted by its kindred. Hence many souls are seen to lament and the souls of the unburied adhere to the bodies, souls which are abused by sorcerers for their own service, pressing them by retaining the body or part of it. Since, therefore, they (sc. the theologians) examined these things and the nature of a bad soul and its relationship to and pleasure in the bodies from which it was torn away, they rightly avoided feeding upon meat.

(Porphyry, De abstinentia IV.7) As to the products of Egypt itself, they abstained from all kinds of fish, and from such quadrupeds as had uncloven hoofs or had toes or had no horns, and also from such birds as were carnivorous. Many of them, however, even entirely abstained from all animals. And in periods of fasting and purification all of them did so; then they did not even eat an egg. But also as to other kinds of food they practised a not unexceptionable rejection; e.g. they rejected the consumption of (female) cows, and of such male animals as were twins, or blemished, or piebald, or of unusual shape, or tamed (considering them as having been already consecrated by their labours), or those resembling animals that are honoured—whatever imitation one may think—or one-eyed, or those that verged on a likeness to the human form…These are some of the religious observances that were common to all, but there were others which varied according to the class of priests and were proper to each individual god. But the periods of purification and fasting observed by all (priests) were clean. This was the period when they were to perform something pertaining to the sacred rites. Then they spent a number of days in preparation, some forty-two, others more, others less, but never less than seven days. And during this time they abstained from all animal food…

(Porphyry, De abstinentia IV.9) They even worship a man in the village Anabis, where they sacrifice and burn the victims for him on the altars; and he may eat, shortly afterwards, the things appropriate to him that have been prepared for him as a man. So, as one should abstain from eating man’s flesh, one should abstain also from the meat of other beings.

Similar bits go on at similar length, and it doesn’t just stop with consuming animals; I’ve even seen some restrictions on priests (not just in Chaeremon) regarding not wearing wool or leather, but I think the most fascinating bit from this is that bit from Porphyry’s De abstinentia II.47 regarding the violence inherent in slaughter and how an avoidance in consuming meat could be theologically grounded in how a soul is attached to the body it was separated from, especially animal souls.  This bit is especially fascinating, because in texts like CH I, SH 23, and other Hermetic or Platonic texts, animals are explicitly called irrational beasts—just as “bad and irrational souls” in this Porphyry excerpt calls them.  We also see that a complete ban on all animal-based food was employed by some priests, if not all priests, and if not at all times, at least for periods of ritual-relevant purification.

I think at this point I have enough evidence at hand to bring up my theory regarding the exhortation to a vegetarian meal at the end of the Prayer of Thanksgiving in the Asclepius.  Let’s sum up everything and trace out an argument that leads to something insightful:

  • Although some corporeal bodies have life (e.g. plants), some corporeal bodies are alive and also animate due to the presence of soul in them.
  • The presence of incorporeal soul in corporeal body is facilitated through spirit and blood; blood is in the body, spirit is in the blood, and soul is in the spirit.  Through this gradation of progressively higher, subtler, more incorporeal, less corporeal substances, we can “embed” or “carry along” incorporeal things within corporeal things in something that looks like a localized manner.
  • Animal souls can be said to be composed of drive and desire (thumos and epithumia), while human souls are a combination of a higher/divine “proper” soul (created by God) along with drive and desire (provided from the animal body we inhabit).
  • The Hermetic idea of salvation is centered around a notion of an “ascent of the soul” away from material, corporeal concerns, and the  Hermetic way of life is likewise centered around taming and controlling the drive and desire of the body so that the soul is not so bound and attached to corporeal, material things.
  • Eating is something that satisfies the body’s epithumia, and we know that matter is what supplies and sustains bodies—but we also know that gluttony is “the supplier of all evils” (cf. CH VI.3, which Copenhaver notes as an allusion to the Egyptian notion that the belly is treated as a “container of sins”).
  • Irrational souls, when parted from the body that contained them, hang around the bodies that they inhabited, and can affect or be affected by things that happen in this world for as long as they linger.
  • Eating meat was seen by the Egyptian priests as causing issues such as dizziness in the head and the arising of strong sexual desires.

My theory is, extracting this from its original (Greco-)Egyptian context and providing a solely-Hermetic opinion according to its own logic, that by consuming the flesh of animals—that which had blood in it—was seen by the Hermeticists (or at least the author of the end of the Asclepius) as also consuming the irrational soul that inhabited that flesh.  Because such irrational souls of animals consist of drive and desire, bringing such drive and desire of the animal we consume makes us more animalian/irrational in turn, increasing our own drive and desire.  Even after the “spirit withdraws into the blood” and “soul withdraws into the spirit”, even if there is no soul left in the body, we might say that there are traces or aftereffects of the soul and spirit in the blood, or at least that such an irrational soul of drive and desire hangs out around the flesh of the animal.  If one of the goals of Hermetic practice is to free the (higher) soul from (the lower soul composed of) drive and desire, that latter being considered to be all the soul that an animal has, then to partake of animal flesh could be seen to add to one’s own drive and desire, weighing one down more; after all, our own souls—or at least the irrational, lower part of it consisting of drive and desire—can be just as easily affected as any other such irrational soul.  To that end, a vegetarian diet is recommended, whether ritually if one were to be strict about it or generally if one wanted a more “pure” lifestyle, so as to avoid the risks that lead one to error and distraction inherent in consuming meat.

Now, I admit that some of that does seem to be a bit of a stretch, and it also raises the question of “how much blood is there in meat?” or “what’s even the point of koshering meat?”.  However, it could be thought (based on what we know of Hermetic ideas regarding soul, spirit, and blood) that because spirit pervades all things, and because soul would also probably need to pervade the body it inhabits, then blood would also need to pervade a body thoroughly—which it does, even if some forms of preparation (osmosis via soaking and salting, roasting, etc.) can remove most of the blood.  Moreover, if this line of thinking is at all similar to what might have gone through a classical Hermeticist’s head, then vegetarianism would be encouraged, not as a matter of animal welfare or respect for metempsychosis, but more like a Chinese Buddhist abstaining from the Five Pungent Spices, not because they were somehow sinful to consume in and of themselves but because they “excited the senses” (e.g. make you sexually excitable, or otherwise heedless in favor of seeking pleasure), and thus more prone to committing errors in one’s lifestyle and practice.  Not only would vegetarianism then be appropriate for ritual preparation or meals (we should avoid engaging in things that drag the soul down if we’re aiming to elevate the soul), but this line of thinking would naturally lead to a vegetarian lifestyle in general, even outside of ritual.  Consuming blood itself, of course, would be right out, whether in liquid or congealed form or in forms like blood sausage, but anything containing blood in any amount—especially that of a slaughtered lifeform—would be considered something that could drag the human soul down or otherwise increase the potency of one’s drive and desire to a point that could cause problems in their life.

Of course, if this is the logic, then there also probably arises the possibility of not just exsanguinating slaughtered animals in a way similar to koshering meat to remove the vast majority of blood, but also of just outright exorcising the meat we eat so that it becomes sanctified in a way that doesn’t drag us down by pumping up our drive and desire—but this kind of side-stepping doesn’t seem to be extant in the historical record available to us, and either wasn’t considered possible or wasn’t considered plausible.  Despite my quoting excerpts of Chaeremon above, I’m not fully acquainted with the nuances of Egyptian priestly prohibitions on consuming meat, but there may be something in there that’s just not avoidable, something inherently “exciting” about consuming meat which was seen as tainting or distracting from spiritual and religious endeavors.

To my mind, this is the most likely reason for encouraging vegetarianism in Hermeticism, whether for ritual purposes itself or for a more general lifestyle.  This doesn’t, however, touch on other common reasons for vegetarianism that we might hear about from other traditions in the classical world; I suggest that these, while they are reasons, are not Hermetic reasons.  To wit, what I’d consider to be the most common classical argument for vegetarianism and against consuming meat, dealing with metempsychosis or the transmigration of souls, isn’t what was thought of as a reason for Hermetic vegetarianism.  While Hermeticism certainly has a notion of reincarnation and the transmigration of souls in a number of texts, there is also a notion that human souls can only be born in human bodies (cf. CH X.19, though contrast this against CH X.8 which seems to state the opposite).  Unlike those who considered souls to be reborn in any sort of lifeform, it seems like that reincarnation and metempsychosis of human souls in Hermeticism is generally limited to human bodies—and if not, it seems like what animals go through as a matter of them being animals is a matter of deserved punishment for such a soul that had the ill fate to be born in such a body.  That a soul you might know in life could be reborn in an animal body does not seem to be a reason, according to the logic of the Hermetic texts, to outright encourage vegetarianism (though one could take that as a personal stance, should one so choose).

Besides this, the other major thumos-/epithumia-unrelated argument I can think of is that humans should be nonviolent.  This is more unclear than the previous reason, but was also a super common reason to encourage vegetarianism, as a means of recalling a sort of Golden Age lifestyle where there was no need for violence or slaughter.  There is nothing stated outright or explicitly in any of the Hermetic texts I can think of that say one should be nonviolent in general, but it could be read that reasonable nonviolence could be encouraged as a matter of abstaining from “unholy presumption and daring recklessness” (CH I.25) or injustice (CH XIII.7—8).  I think that this stance could be justified as a reason for encouraging vegetarianism, whether ritually or generally, perhaps as a means by which one might abstain from violence.  Moreover, although this suggests that all acts of violence are necessarily irrational, and although it could be seen to play into the drive-and-desire reason from before, this really only really address the slaughter of animals, not the consumption of them.  To me, this is a grey area; while one can take this as reason, I don’t think it’s the reason for encouraging vegetarianism in a Hermetic context.

At this point, here I am well over twice the wordcount I normally post (though a good chunk of that was quotations), at the end of this post that only touches on a super complicated topic to talk about; to even just discuss the question “why vegetarianism?” from this perspective raises a whole slew of other questions that might need to be answered first, to say nothing of bringing up so many other topics all at once that hinges on the nature of the soul, and the very notion of the soul in the Hermetic texts also necessarily brings up the teleology and eschatology of the soul, the “end goal” and “destination” of the soul, along with so much else in the doctrine of the Hermetic texts.  What I brought up above only barely scratches the surface of such a discussion—maybe I’ll have a series of posts detailing a Hermetic “theory of soul” at some point in the future, but that’s not now.  In the meantime, this is just my own thinking of half-baked thoughts to come up with a preliminary theory that arises from a super complicated topic.  Still, I think it’s a useful theory to go by because of how much of an impact it could have for our lived practice in the here and now, and such a theory could open up other interesting avenues of exploring spiritual practice in various approaches using all the means available at our disposal.

And, of course, a bit of nuance to round out this post: while I wouldn’t outright suggest that everyone should commit to a vegetarian lifestyle in general, I think that doing so at least for short stints as part of purification practices or while engaging in ritual is a highly recommended thing, and those who do commit generally to a vegetarian lifestyle would probably find themselves better suited to spiritual practices and development along the lines of classical Hermeticism.  I fully recognize and support that some people require animal-based proteins in their diet for their health and well-being, and I also know that many cultures emphasize the consumption of meat in one form or another as part of a healthy and socially-acceptable diet even while some in that culture simultaneously encourage vegetarianism as an ideal (e.g. Tibetan Buddhists in the vegetation-scarce Tibetan Plateau).  I do not write this post to shame people into abandoning meat (or animal-based products generally); far from it, I write this post to offer a theory about why this one specific classical Hermetic text encourages a vegetarian meal, and do not suggest by it that Hermeticists must be vegetarian in general or that non-vegetarians cannot be Hermeticists.  After all, Hermeticism is less of a temple cult or institutionalized religion, and many such religions require the consumption of meat for religious purposes as a means of communion or medicine, to say nothing of the various practices calling for the offering of meat or the ritual slaughter or sacrifice of animals for religious or magical ends.  Still, within a Hermetic scope, vegetarianism is (to my mind) encouraged by the Hermetic texts as one of the (many) means of continuing the process of spiritual elevation that we seek, and one that is required for ritual contexts even if not more generally as a lifestyle diet, though I would not say one cannot be a Hermeticist if one is not vegetarian in their day-to-day diet.

PS: One more thing, though—and this is more of a side-topic than anything—relating to ensoulment of bodies.  If, following the logic of CH X, souls can only be present in body with spirit-carried-along-by-blood acting as an intermediator, what of the “ensouled statues” of AH 24 and AH 37—38?  These are physical, material, and corporeal bodies that the Hermeticist calls down gods to inhabit, but what allows such a soul to inhabit such a body?  AH 38 says that “the quality of these gods” is composed of:

…a mixture of plants, stones and spices, Asclepius, that have in them a natural power of divinity. And this is why those gods are entertained with constant sacrifices, with hymns, praises and sweet sounds in tune with heaven’s harmony: so that the heavenly ingredient enticed into the idol by constant communication with heaven may gladly endure its long stay among humankind. Thus does man fashion his gods.

I would propose that, in the compounding of these substances to effect the ensoulment of a statue, the “plants, stones and spices” act as a statue’s “blood”, because (since they “have in them a natural power of divinity”) these things are able to carry soul-laden spirit in a way that blood is also able to do for us.  Moreover, it is also through the interaction of humans with these statues by means of sacrifice and worship and hymning that we keep such a thing “alive”, as if these things provided the pulse for the circulation of such “blood”.  What this indicates to me is that, while spirit pervades all things in the cosmos, some things are able to facilitate or contain more of spirit, or are able to contain a more rarefied kind of spirit.  In this case, having an abundance of spirit or a fineness of spirit is what allows incorporeal soul to interact with or inhabit it, and through it with corporeal bodies.  This is an extrapolation on my part, combining the doctrine of how soul is embodied from CH X with the description of ensouled statues from the AH, and could also stand to be refined heavily given other stuff throughout the Hermetic texts, but it is an interesting idea to play with.