“Unlocking the Observatory” PDF ebook now ready for free download! (Also on Ko-fi!)

I hope y’all have been enjoying my Unlocking the Observatory post series I recently finished posting!  It was a really fun project, once I got into the swing of it, and although the post series took like two months to go online in total, truthfully it only took like two weeks to write it all.  (You know how it goes with me and writing: it’s either feast or famine.)

As promised at the end of the summary post, and taking into my account of the desires and conveniences of my readers based on my earlier Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration post series, I went ahead, compiled, and edited my ZT post analysis into a PDF as well.  It’s 167 pages on US Letter-sized paper, which is…well, more than I had anticipated, I suppose, but then, it was a fairly large project.  As with my other ebooks, I’ve put it up under the Books page of my website, but just like a small number of other projects and unlike most of my ebooks, this one is entirely free of charge.  You can download the compiled PDF of these posts, all nice and formatted as you might expect, here at this link.

Also, as a little bonus, I went ahead and uploaded all three of my free ebooks (Unlocking the Observatory, Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration, and the Grammatēmerologion Calendar for March 2015—March 2053) to my Ko-fi shop as well!  Here as well as there, the se three ebooks are free to download, although I have marked these books specifically on Ko-fi as “pay what you want” rather than having any fixed price.  It’s just something nice for those who like using Ko-fi and want to support it and the platform, I suppose, but it is a convenience I haven’t made use of quite yet until now.

I hope y’all enjoy the read, whether on my website or in the offline ebook!  By all means, feel free to post comments on the associated blog posts, too, because Zoroaster’s Telescope is a really nifty form of divination and my analysis is by no means exhaustive.  Feedback and further investigation from those who know more French than I do or who apply such a form of divination would be great to hear about!

Interested in Greek alphabet magic and mysticism? Check out the 2020 talk I did on it!

Back in 2020, I participated in the Salem Witchcraft and Folklore Festival, which was a great time, even if was held online.  During the course of that, as I mentioned way back when, I offered my lecture Spelling by Spelling: Greek Alphabet Divination and Magic:

A variety of divination systems were used in ancient and classical Greece, ranging from oracles and prophets to common forms of sortilege. One of the more fascinating kinds of divination that was used in the ancient Hellenic world was that of grammatomancy, divination through the individual letters of the Greek alphabet. This lecture will cover the history of this useful and direct form of divination, and how it can build into an overarching spiritual practice of devotion to the Greek gods, theurgy, contemplation, and magic.

It was a great lecture (even if it had to be postponed from Saturday to Monday due to unfortunate internet/power outage issues), and I’m glad I was able to offer it.

And yes, you should definitely keep up on this year’s SWFF, too, because this summer will be its fourth year running and there is, as usual, a great lineup of presenters and talks being slated!  Jacqui Allouise at The Cauldron Black and Matthew Venus of Spiritus Arcanum (both of whom offer their own events and products the whole year round) do great work, and I definitely encourage checking them out in general on top of the yearly festivities planned.

Anyway, one of the neat things about being a presenter is that I get a recording of my own presentation, and I was finally able to get around to uploading my talk to YouTube!  If you’re interested in grammatomancy (Greek alphabet divination), the grammatēmerologion (Greek letter lunisolar calendar), and other ways to use the Greek alphabet in magic and mysticism for all sorts of ends, check out the talk I did!

In the lecture, I mention a handout for people to study and take home.  You can access the 12-page handout (with reference information and citations for further reading) here on Google Drive.  Likewise, if you just want to check out the slides for your own study, you can also access them at this link.

I thought this was a great talk to give, and a few of my friends thought it went well enough to offer some pleasant thoughts on it.  Hopefully you’ll also find it interesting, dear reader, and this might persuade you to look into this alphabetic system of magic and mysticism!  I’ve written plenty about it, not just as an ebook on the divinatory system of grammatomancy (De Grammatomanteia, available for US$10 through Etsy or through Ko-fi) but also on countless posts on my blog; just search “grammatomancy” or “grammatemerologion”, or just browse the Mathesis category of posts for more.

Now, obviously, while at the time there was a registration fee for the talk since it was a paid event, it being almost two years later, I see no reason to insist on further charging for this sort of stuff.  If you feel moved to contribute anything to my Ko-fi as a donation, I certainly wouldn’t stop you, but much like with my online video course Geomancy in the Reign of the Lady of Crowns, I would instead encourage you to consider donating to a humanitarian charity of your choice that can make a difference in the world, whether locally or globally.  Alternatively, even if I’m not presenting this year, you might also consider spending some of that money towards attending a lecture or five for this year’s Salem event!

Unlocking the Observatory: Summary and Recap

Where were we? We’re in the middle of…or, rather, we finally finished discussing the obscure Telescope of Zoroaster (ZT), a manual of divination and spirituality originally published in French in 1796 (FZT) at the close of the French Revolution, which was later translated into German in 1797 (GZT) and then again in an abridged form as part of Johann Scheible’s 1846 Das Kloster (vol. 3, part II, chapter VII) (KZT), with Scheible’s work then translated into English in 2013 as released by Ouroboros Press (OZT).  Although OZT is how most people nowadays tend to encounter this system, I put out my own English translation of FZT out a bit ago as part of my research, and while that translation was just part of the work I’ve been up to, there’s so much more to review, consider, and discover when it comes to this fascinating form of divination.  This whole time, I’ve been reviewing the various mechanical processes and theoretical underpinnings of this unique form of numerological sortilege with an astrological flair, and although it’s historically been super obscure to the point of nearly being forgotten, it shows an insightful approach to not just divination but to spirituality as a whole.  The only thing left to do now, I suppose, is to give a summary of what we’ve discussed in these past 17(ish) posts with some 70k words (maybe like 55k or 60k if you ignore quotes) between them all (though that doesn’t count the 92-page translation I put out as well).

Although I started this whole series off by introducing my own translation of FZT (which is a good read in and of itself, I claim, especially since I don’t think anyone else has translated it into English yet), I’ve tried in these ensuing posts to go over and offer my analysis and commentary on not just the text but the system as a whole.  I could have done this as part of my translation itself or moved all of this to its own ebook, but…well, let’s be honest, all my own unanswered questions would necessarily render such a thing distastefully incomplete, and I don’t like putting out incomplete works like that.  Plus, given how rare it is to find anything about this system anywhere, I figured that just putting my analysis and commentary online for all to read was the better choice to actually explore (and get others to explore) this neat system that gives us a lot more than just what it seems.  Reading and translating FZT was just the start of such a research project, but there was so much more to say than just what could be communicated in a translation.

First, an index to all the posts in the series for ease of access.

  1. A literary overview of ZT, the few texts that touch on it, and the different versions of ZT out there
  2. How and why ZT gets attributed to the French erotica author André-Robert Andréa de Nerciat
  3. The story behind and the characters of ZT’s “Great Cabala”
  4. The symbolism of the seven Planets, the nine Planetary Intelligences, and the 99 Numbers
  5. The tiles and tools used for divination
  6. The various figures used for divination, and the Great Mirror itself
  7. Discovering and looking at the ideal triangles in the Great Mirror
  8. The Great Dial and how to use “option-whittling” to determine times or other details
  9. The 28 natal stars, their angels, and the confusion of how they fit into the system of ZT
  10. Likely origins for and methods of attributing the lunar mansions, their angels, and planetary numerological symbolism into ZT
  11. The approach, method, and concerns of divination
  12. The case study of from Karl Kern’s 1933 book on ZT
  13. More techniques and notes Kern’s 1933 book on ZT
  14. The six periods of life of humanity and how we come to be
  15. The spiritual theory, cosmology, and theology of ZT
  16. The spiritual practices and purposes of ZT

So, what did we learn from this blog project of mine?

  • The “Telescope of Zoroaster, or, Key to the Great Divinatory Cabala of the Magi” is a form of divination that can be described as sortilege performed with hexagonal tiles making use of a mix of planetary, zodiacal, and (especially) numerological symbolism.
  • The earliest version of ZT was published in French in 1796, but was only popularized several decades later in a slightly abridged (and somewhat incomplete) German version included in Johann Scheible’s 1846 Das Kloster as part of a compilation of other magical,  divinatory, and spiritual works.
  • This book, in whatever format, has never been particularly popular, and there is very little information about it out there.  The most publicity this book has likely ever gotten was with Ouroboros Press’ 2013 translation of the Das Kloster version.
  • Even then, however, its historical obscurity is only one factor leading to its overall unpopularity, the other being its seeming obfuscated nature.  Many people say that the system feels incomplete while also being super complex, which is partially a result of how ZT itself frames and teaches its own system, but also partially a result of how ZT got transmitted through several translations with some parts getting abridged and other parts getting omitted.
  • What the ZT text does, however, is provide a handful of principles that allows one to build up a system of divination. Given that each digit has a meaning, each compound number that makes use of those digits has a meaning built upon them; given that each corner of a hexagon has a planetary meaning and vibe associated with it, breaking down a larger hexagon into a smaller one allows for sub-planetary meanings and vibes.
  • By extrapolating from simple principles, ZT allows for a profoundly detailed approach of divination while relying on just a handful of basic notions.  The real work in learning ZT doesn’t lie in memorization of a large number of symbols or elaborate methods of construction, but just in putting 2 and 2 together to get 4.
  • However, although ZT presents itself primarily as an introductory manual of divination, it couches this in an overall spiritual and mystical practice of coming to commune with spirits to uncover more profound secrets in the cosmos.  For however important learning matters of the future might be, this is just the hook to get one started.
  • Although the text goes on about the “Great Cabala”, it has very little in common with the actual Jewish, Christian, or Hermetic styles of mysticism and spiritual practice normally associated with that word.  Indeed, there’s really nothing Jewish or Hermetic about ZT besides it participating in the overall genre of Western esotericism.

Of course, despite all that we’ve covered, there’s still a handful of unanswered questions I have regarding ZT, or at least things I’m still unsure of or not wholly convinced about:

  1. Obviously, the ascription of ZT to André-Robert Andréa de Nerciat is a long-standing one that has some historical backing, and while I’m inclined to accept it, it still all feels based on a lot of evidence that I can only find to be circumstantial at best and which is otherwise uncritically repeated by so many others.  Despite all her other theories, Susan Audrey Grundy’s theory that if we can connect the text to Nerciat at all, it’s likelier to my mind (given the stark difference in topics normally associated with Nerciat), that he picked up the book and polished it up, republishing it in one way or another rather than him being the one to write it.  Still, it’s something I personally have questionable feelings about either way.
  2. Even if the text was written by Nerciat, to whom might the Epistle be addressed?  Abbé Baruel in his Memoirs says that it was addressed to “one of those Princes whom the author does not name, but whose zealous pursuits in these mysteries are sufficiently known by public report”.  Is this just Barruel dramatizing something, or is this an actual reference to an actual French royal?
  3. The order of the planets in the Great Mirror (Sun in the middle, then Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Moon, Saturn counterclockwise, or alternatively Moon, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Mars, Saturn clockwise) suggests a working knowledge of some basic astrological principles, (what the malefics and benefics are, what the planetary rulerships are of the signs that are in opposition to each other, etc.) but it only suggests it.  Is this an actual pattern or arrangement from some other system or book?
  4. Likewise, when ZT mentions “Sol in medio” is some maxim from occult sciences, exactly which is it referring to?
  5. The way the primary digits are associated with the planets (1/9 for the Sun, 2/8 for the Moon, 3 for Venus, 4 for Mercury, 5 for Saturn, 6 for Jupiter, 7 for Mars) may be based on that given in Das Große Planeten-Buch with some changes for a more balanced system, but is this really the case?  Or is there some other system of numerology that was available to the inventor of ZT that shows this more clearly?
  6. Likewise, the way the lunar mansions natal stars work in ZT seems to be indebted to the same (or similar) astrological tradition as Das Große Planeten-Buch, though of course there are some differences.  Is it really the case that ZT based its system on DGPB and adjusted it to fit with the geometry of the Great Mirror, or did it have another source/tradition in mind?
  7. Following up on the angels of the lunar mansions natal stars, what the heck is up with ZT throwing in the three archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael and replacing three of the traditional lunar mansion angels?  Similarly, why are some of the angels out of order compared to what we’d normally expect?
  8. Although we can pick up on a trend of how the compound Number tiles are assigned to the non-Intelligence houses (or angels) of the Great Mirror, I can’t say that we have an actual pattern that says specifically why certain tiles get put into certain houses, and there are even a few assignments of tiles to houses/angels that just seems outright incorrect (like a Venus tile given to Raphael in the orbit of Mars or Kiriel in the orbits of Mars and Saturn lacking a Saturn tile).  What’s the deal with those?  Surely they could be swapped with other tiles that make more sense.
  9. On top of the actual technique and content of ZT, there’s also a number of literary or historical references in ZT that I haven’t yet been able to pin down from the text itself:
    1. Sixth Step: the whole bit about Ferval seeing his mistress at midnight
    2. First Supplement:
      1. The historical event regarding the accident of grave bodily harm suffered by a member of the French royal family in 1792 (maybe, as the Alexandre de Danánn book says, is just a reference to Louis XVI?)
      2. The prophecy of the popes mentioned, which may or may not be the Prophecy of the Popes
    3. Second Supplement: the bit about Fortunatus

Maybe the answers to those questions lie in some forgotten French or German book on numerology or astrology, or maybe they could be found in some arcane French Revolutionary tome on the spirituality of its time.  Maybe they’re indicative of some system I’m not smart enough to figure out whose principles aren’t as clearly indicated as some of the others in ZT, or maybe it’s just a matter of leaving things to arbitrary choice in the mind of the designer and inventor of ZT.  Either way, they’re not things I have an answer to as yet, but maybe—despite all the other maybes—we might have an answer to them one day.

On top of all of those doubts and questions, I also have a few musings of my own that I couldn’t really fit into any of the earlier discussions, and would be good for further implementation and practice to sort out and sift through:

  1. It’s clear that the author of ZT tries to stretch its numerology out as far as it will go: consider how the number 5 is associated with Saturn/Lethophoro “the only essentially evil Intelligence”, and also that Senamira (the Evil Principle) is depicted as a five-pointed star, and Sokak (the Evil Spirit) as a five-pointed shooting star or a pentagon.  What, then, should we make of the number 3, given that Sisamoro and Sallak (the Good Principle and Good Spirit) are depicted as triangles?  Personally, I’d be inclined to think that the number 6 should be the opposite of 5, given how Jupiter is positioned directly opposite of Saturn in the Great Mirror and how all the tiles have a hexagonal shape, and how 3 is given to Venus/Erosia which…I guess?  Maybe 3 represents the Good Principle and Good Spirit as some sort of descent from the Christian Trinity, and yet, it’s spirit-Sun/Psykomena (9) that’s described explicitly as a rival and counterbalance to Lethophoro, so it’s an interesting play of numbers here.  How far should such number symbolism regarding good and evil be taken, and how else might that play 0ut in the system of ZT, both from a divinatory approach and a grander spiritual approach?  Is it reasonable to “correct” the glyphs used for Sisamoro and Sallak to use six-pointed stars (or even nine-pointed stars) instead of a triangle in this light?
  2. The notion of the Great Mirror being an instrument for scrying and spirit communication is a tantalizing one, though one only barely mentioned or hinted at in ZT.  It’s clear from the Epilogue that this is a thing, but the text doesn’t say in any way how it might be a thing.  Is it a matter of contemplation and gazing, letting the mind frazzle out on seeing a pattern of numbers to get enmeshed in the deeper connections between them?  Is it a matter of performing an invocation or plea to the angels associated with the numbers in turn and asking for their help in coming to understand the tile specifically and mirror as a whole?
  3. Likewise, what do we do with the knowledge that we have the two Spirits per person of Sallak and Sokak in addition to one’s natal angel provided by their natal star?  Is there a corresponding Sallak and Sokak per angel, leading to a total of 56 total Spirits (2 × 28)?  Or, conversely, are the directives and guidances of Sallak and Sokak delegated to one’s natal angel, who directs them accordingly?  It seems like the Spirits are on the same ontological level as the Intelligences, and given that the angels seem to be subservient to the Intelligences, this should suggest that the Spirits are above the angels, so that first option seems wrong.  So what’s the specific interplay between our individual Good and Bad Spirits and our natal angel?  Do we approach and petition Sallak and Sokak for communion as we would with our natal angel?  For that matter, do we call upon Sisamoro for assistance?  How do we factor in the Supreme Being or Pure Spirit into all of this, into a whole sort of ZT “religious practice”?
  4. Being someone generally inclined to all the corrupted, corrupting “so-called arts” that ZT loves to hate so much, it annoys me that ZT decided to double up on the Sun and Moon to make a set of nine planets instead of making use of the North and South Nodes of the Moon, which would be the more logical pair of things to pick up on to make a set of nine (and which are still used to this day heavily in jyotish astrology).  Heck, even the arrangement of the Intelligences in Plate VI (the one for all the angels on the Great Mirror) puts Genhelia and Psykomena as the odd ones out, making a natural suggestion that Genhelia/matter-Sun/digit 1 could be given to the North Node, and Psykomena/spirit-Moon/digit 8 could be given to the South Node.  Of course, the whole basis of symbolism and everything is based on these being solar and lunar entities, so could the system be amended to include these astrological entities, or could they just be slid in as-is?
  5. Given how the Epistle is written to some noble by some admirer (e.g. Nerciat), the suggestion is strong that at least this part (as well as a few clues in the ZT text itself) was written towards the end of the French Revolution, the dissolution of the monarchy, and the abolition of the nobility.  Given the strange times that we can presume that ZT was written in, how much of what we find in ZT regarding its spirituality and cosmology can we find in then-current beliefs?  Is this all stuff that comes from the ancien régime, or was there a subtle Revolutionary spirituality within it, as well?  I’m far from educated on the history generally or nuances of spirituality specifically in that troubled time, but it’d be cool to compare and contrast what we find in ZT with other texts from the same time period.
  6. I wonder about the actual process and sequence of ZT’s development, because some parts of the system seem tacked on.  Like, the whole bit about the angels feels slapped onto the system as a way to expand it without it actually being necessary for the system itself, as do the 90 compound Number tiles being associated to the houses, but I don’t think this was done at the same time.  Rather, my feeling from the text (which I can’t really substantiate) is that the angels were given (or fitted) to the houses to determine their planetary rulerships based on their orbits first, then the tiles to the angels second.  Things like this intrigue me, because if I were to develop a system based on similar principles, there are a whole bunch of ways to go about such a thing in a other manners, so why did the inventor of ZT pick this approach?  Likewise, if they were tacked on and weren’t intended to belong to the system as originally envisioned, why would they have been included: for the sake of seeming completeness by an audience they were trying to market to, or because some student reminded them to include it?

These would be great things to consider for future research, at least from the active use, consideration, and development of ZT, and if not by me then by someone else.  (Don’t forget Calyxa’s excellent ZT toolset available for purchase from The Game Crafter for your convenience!)  After all, even if ZT doesn’t give us a treatise, it does give us a key, so maybe we just have to actually start using it to unlock the answers to some of these questions.  Maybe, if this post series helps get people more familiar and comfortable with ZT as a divinatory system and a spiritual system, it might get other people in on the game of this, as well.  That’d be my hope, at any rate—maybe not one so grand as the Epistle’s “restoration of this ancient moral gold in new crucibles”, but hey, it did anticipate this to be the work of centuries, after all, and it’s already been two.

But, at least for now, I’m going to put my copy of the Ouroboros Press translation back on the shelf, nestled amongst the other Nice Books or fine or rare editions I have.  In the nine years since I bought it, this has been the longest amount of time it’s spent off the shelf and on my desk or in my hands, but with this little project of mine coming to a close, it’s time to return it to its snug spot back up with the rest of the books—albeit with a few more friends that it picked up along the way it didn’t have before.  This time, however, I’m not putting the book back with the promise to actually read it and learn the system one day; I’m putting the book back having finally fulfilled such a promise, and having done so to such an extent that I’d never have imagined when I got the book back in 2013, not only having absorbed everything such a book can give, but also to have surpassed the book, dug into its own sources, and produced other work to keep up with it.  It feels pretty good, not gonna lie.

Of course, learning about a thing is one thing, but learning from a thing is quite another.  We might have learned plenty about the book and its system, but I hope that this little blog series of mine has also helped us learn from it, as well—not just as a method of divination, but about the methods and goals of spirituality itself.

(PS: Having learned from my readers with my Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration blog project a few years back, yes, I plan on putting out a free PDF compilation of all these posts to allow for easier offline/printable reading.  I’m working on it as this post goes up, but I’m letting the posts get published and stabilize first to let the typos shake out and to give people a chance to comment on them first to incorporate any feedback.  Stay tuned for such a PDF coming out soon!)

Unlocking the Observatory: The Spiritual Practice of Zoroaster’s Telescope

Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the obscure Telescope of Zoroaster (ZT), a manual of divination and spirituality originally published in French in 1796 (FZT) at the close of the French Revolution, which was later translated into German in 1797 (GZT) and then again in an abridged form as part of Johann Scheible’s 1846 Das Kloster (vol. 3, part II, chapter VII) (KZT), with Scheible’s work then translated into English in 2013 as released by Ouroboros Press (OZT).  Although OZT is how most people nowadays tend to encounter this system, I put out my own English translation of FZT out a bit ago as part of my research, and while that translation was just part of the work I’ve been up to, there’s so much more to review, consider, and discover when it comes to this fascinating form of divination.  Last time, we talked about how ZT constructs its notions of divinity and the cosmos, leading to a spiritual theory of sorts replete throughout ZT. If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

※ For those following along with their own copy of ZT (get yours here!), the relevant chapters from ZT are the “Epistle”, “Second Supplement”, “Third Supplement”, and “Epilogue”.

It’s far from uncommon for authors to puff themselves up and make their works seem more groundbreaking and significant than they generally have any reasonable right to be (and I should know).  This can be explained any number of ways ranging from it being a marketing technique to merely getting people hooked on this Cool New Thing you’re excited about, or it may just be that the author has bought into their own hype and think that they’ve come across the Only Thing that Matters.  This is especially common in the world of occult book publishing, and to an extent, I think it’s always been that way to one degree or another; after all, the whole bit about mystical or magical historiolae explaining the discovery of some long-lost text is as much part of the occult genre as is lists of demons or elaborate instructions on tool-making.  It’s something of a cliché unto itself, really, and—at least for me—it can be almost disappointing when a text lacks such a bit of good entertainment.

Sure enough, we see a this puffing-up of itself happening in ZT, too.  This is most evident right in its very title (“The Telescope of Zoroaster, or, the Key to the Grand Divinatory Cabala of the Magi”) that calls on a whole number of occultural tropes, which are only expanded upon in the text itself, but there’s more to it than that, and I don’t think ZT is just trying to puff itself up for the sake of selling itself out.  ZT makes frequent reference to how it’s “only a key, not a treatise”, which immediately suggests that the author of ZT is holding stuff back from the reader.  While some people might be inclined to read this as a sure sign that the author is putting a blind on us, this isn’t the case here; rather, ZT does present what is necessary to learn, but only that which is necessary and not anything more, leaving what does not strictly need to be said as an exercise for the reader.  In that light, we need to consider everything that ZT does give us.  While the main purpose of ZT is ostensibly to teach about a particular form of numerological sortilege with an astrological flair, there is so much in ZT that isn’t directly about that that it leaves us to wonder: what else is it teaching us?

There’s a tantalizing statement in the Epilogue:

…willing to put ourselves in such a position, we have advocated for indicating how the operator will be able to recognize certain cases where (by a complicated contest of triangular relationships) an intimate communication and sometimes a Vision would be promised—in vain. The author of The Telescope of Zoroaster did not change course in the reply he divulged:

The Candidate must wait to be surprised by this superhuman opportunity, sooner or later infallible for them, if they are truly Called. This opportunity will fully compensate them for his work when, sooner or later, they will have reached the point of aptitude where the Pure Spirit desires them to be.

Consider the implications of this admission.  Despite the divinatory method that ZT teaches of analyzing the various tiles that might appear in any given pattern or arrangement within the Great Mirror, it suggests that this is not the ultimate (or at least the underlying) goal of the divinatory system of ZT.  Sure, the system as presented will work to predict the future, treating it fundamentally as a tile-based variation on cartomancy making use of a densely-packed spread, and the vast majority of the content of ZT discusses this very method and its variations in order to explain such a divinatory system. However, the implication of this line in the Epilogue, as well as the several mystical sections of the “Second Supplement” and “Third Supplement” that discuss more than mere angels and natal stars, suggest that this is just part of the use of such a Mirror.  Rather than merely arriving at interpretations, the real purpose is to obtain visions.

I mean, consider this line from the “First Step”, when the notion of mirrors are introduced:

These combinations are called “mirrors” when, instead of speaking only to the eye as paintings do, they offer the Cabalist a meaning which can only exist for them alone. Such combinations deserve the name “mirror” because they reflect the truth that saturates combinations. Thus, by combining the hexagons—whether we call them pieces or parts—into the triangles, diamonds, or hexagons that are composed from such hexagons, we obtain paintings, or “mirrors”. Now, the mirror being the final object of the cabalistic process, it is the quality of the mirror that prevails, and this word is principally in use.

Remember how I mentioned before that reflecting telescopes were still relatively new at the time of FZT’s publication?  Dating only to the 1660s, reflecting telescopes provided technical advantages over the older lens-based refracting telescopes.  In this light, especially when combined with how ZT says that modern astronomy has such “fruitful and no less indispensable utility”, it would suggest that the metaphor of these tile-spreads being “mirrors” was taken from astronomical tools: using mirrors in a metaphorical telescope (the divinatory system of ZT itself) to gaze into the spiritual Heavens much as an astronomer’s telescope makes use of mirrors to gaze into the physical skies. Thus, when a figure is composed for the purpose of performing divination, it takes on the name of a “mirror” as something that one gazes at as if it were a picture to contemplate.  We can certainly inspect parts of the telescope to determine how the different parts come together, but we’re not supposed to be looking at the telescope or at the mirror, but rather in the telescope or in the mirror to see what it reveals.  I mean, heck, ZT even brings up Nostradamus in the “First Supplement”, whom ZT claims also relied on the Great Cabala to determine matters of great spiritual importance and world-changing significance.  In this, by looking at the Great Mirror, we learn its parts and see individual things coming to pass, but by looking in the Great Mirror, we come to actually See things as a whole coming together—something far greater than the sum of its parts.

I mean, consider what we said last time about the spiritual cosmos as construed by ZT.  Yes, there is the Supreme Being and the Pure Spirit and the Principles and Spirits and Intelligences, but ZT says that there’s still so much more than all of this.  While the “Second Supplement” is primarily important for students of ZT to teach about the 28 angels and their natal stars (i.e. lunar mansions), that’s really only half the chapter; the other half talks about all these various means by which humans come to know things by means of spiritual intervention through visions, messages, and communion with spirits.  The author of ZT brings up Moses and the burning bush, Saul seeing the ghost of Samuel, Brutus seeing the ghost of Julius Caesar, Belshazzar seeing the hand writing on the wall and it being clarified by the divine inspiration of Daniel, the Three Wise Men being given a vision about where to go find the Infant God, the Pharaoh having his dreams interpreted through the divine inspiration of Joseph, the daimōn of Socrates, Numa Pompilius and the nymph Egeria, and so forth and so on.  ZT emphasizes the point that all true knowledge that matters for us doesn’t come from mere human inventions of cardgames or whatnot, but from our interactions with the spiritual world which guides us and leads us to live our lives properly in accordance with the will of the Supreme Being.

It is to that end that the author of ZT presents the Great Mirror (and, by extension, all the rest of the mirrors in ZT) as a means of not just predicting the future but as a means of communing with spirits.  This is why ZT gives us Plate VI (the diagram of the Great Mirror with the angels and lunar mansions), which only makes sense by bringing up the angels first, which only makes sense by bringing up the role of spirits generally: to guide and instruct humanity in the well-ordering and proper-functioning of the cosmos.  And, heck, given the extreme detail ZT gives in the “Second Supplement” regarding all the parts and bits of Plate VI (some of which don’t even actually appear in Plate VI as given), it leads me to wonder whether Plate VI is really just a reference sheet to be used like the Table of Numbers from Plate II, or if it was meant as a meditative focus not unlike a mandala expressly for coming into communion with those very angels themselves.

In that light, the Great Mirror serves three purposes simultaneously:

  1. A means of sortilege by which we can predict the future
  2. A means of coming into visions of things that are meaningful, i.e. a scrying surface
  3. A means of communicating with spirits who speak through the tiles, i.e. a conjuration locus

Incidentally, it’s the use of the Great Mirror as a medium for scrying that I think the use of hexagonal tiles is important, not because of any mystical symbolism inherent in the shape but because they completely tile a plane without gaps.  While circular tiles would also work for the purposes of divination, since they pack in a hexagonal manner, they leave gaps between them, which hexagonal tiles don’t leave behind.  Having a smooth, complete surface would work much better in this regard to afford the diviner something cohesive and coherent to gaze at for the purposes of scrying rather than mere sortilege.

This is, in a sense, what the Epistle told us about almost right from the get-go:

To read into the future is a much higher faculty still, and is less willingly granted from above. It is nevertheless obtained by means of one who knows that most ancient Pact—by means of an Advocate (but no one else) who finds in the signs and numbers of various tables the truth dictated by the intelligences concerning all that is the reasonable object of anticipation that one proposes to make in a more or less remote future. These signs, these numbers, these tables—this is what the Telescope of Zoroaster is about. […]

By means of the booklet through which I dare to pay you respectful homage, my Lord, we shall know how one might establish for oneself, so to speak, a place of rendezvous, where the Advocate enjoys the favor of being in the presence with superhuman beings and can there receive their benefit.

Recall the whole pyramid metaphor from last time that ZT gives about itself at the beginning of the “Second Supplement”:

As these approved eyes look upward along the faces of this mysterious edifice, it will happen—should the Pure Spirit allow it—that the clouds, at first reaching down to the ground to hide everything from the profane eye, will rise so slowly as to barely be noticed at once. Stone is succeeded by marble, marble by crystal, crystal by diamond, and diamond finally by a heavenly brilliance—but the Elect are not like to be dazzled with damage.

To lay it out bare: that the pyramid is revealed at all through the foggy mists is the work of the text of ZT, while the divinatory system of astrologically-flavored numerology provides just the rough-hewn stone base of the pyramid, but this is just the foundation of what comes next, which is heavily suggested in ZT to be obtaining visions and communing with spirits.  But even these, after all, would just be the next layers of the pyramid, upon which even higher and even more precious levels are built.  All ZT does is show us to the door of this pyramid-temple, and beyond that, so long as we have a light provided to us by the Pure Spirit, how far we ascend is up to us and our own determination and dedication.  All of this is nothing less than reclaiming the ancient spiritual heritage that the Epistle ascribes to the ancient Magi:

A similar order of things once existed wherever the Magi breathed, those revered priests, the most enlightened, the best of mortals. In their religious palaces consecrated to the Pure Spirit, these sacred servants, inaccessible to the curiosity of the vulgar, gave themselves up without distraction to the sublime intercourse which was their mission to maintain with the agents of Heaven. These dictated to their favored caste all that celestial and terrestrial nature has of secrets that can be brought within reach of human understanding, always infinitely limited to whatever degree of penetration one supposes those most perfectly organized priests, endowed with the greatest genius, were to have.

What are these secrets, exactly?  ZT doesn’t say; either the author of ZT was not privy to them, or the author found it improper to state such secrets to those whom they neither knew nor trusted, and for my part, I’d be charitable enough to accept the latter.  All the great questions we have about humanity’s origins and destinations, our questions about salvation and damnation, our questions about afterlives or reincarnation—ZT simply doesn’t say, and in many cases, doesn’t even hint at them.  All we have is this method by which we can begin to refine ourselves and build up a practice that will, so long as we keep to it, reach into the heavens themselves where all the secrets of Creation and the Creator might be revealed to us in time.

This is why, in the “Second Supplement”, the author tells us to keep ourselves in “a moral conduct and physical regimen” that keeps us relatively pure.  This isn’t about divination—well, not just about divination—but rather about us being able to accurately and consciously come into contact with spirits:

  • By avoiding heavy food, we free up our body and its senses to more easily allow the subtle perception of and communication with spirits.
  • By avoiding stimulating food, we keep our mind clear from the fog of perturbation so that we can accurately understand spirits without the message becoming biased or unclear.
  • By avoiding heatedness of sexual or emotional passion, we keep ourselves noble and worthy of entering into relationships with spirits and receiving their guidance and messages.

In the midst of the dietary restrictions ZT suggests, it brings up how so much spiritual communication occurs to us in dreams, and why ensuring that we dream well (especially in that liminal state of us rising from dream in the morning at dawn) is so important for spiritual communication:

The Elect, whom no embarrassment of the head or stomach has afflicted at the moment when sleep overtakes them, has consumed their digestion in a few hours, and then their whole being is fully at rest; this is the proper moment to catch the Spirit who deigns to communicate to this privileged mortal, and it is up to such a mortal to know how to take advantage of this sign of favor granted to them, and to not confuse with phantasy that which can be revelation, inspiration, and even sometimes apparition. Science, which is indeed the Great Cabala, is the touchstone par excellence where any accident of dream or vision can be tried and appraised at fair value. It is, we say, for the ordinary person, in the morning at the coming of the dawn, that the heavenly Agents descend and manifest themselves to the Elect.

This follows up on what the author said at the beginning of the “Second Supplement” regarding sleep and dreams:

What do we know? Nothing, perhaps, of what happens to the soul during this leisurely likeness of death called “sleep”; it is nothing but a superhuman apperception, whether helpful or harmful, sometimes pretending at ordinary facts, sometimes something disguised in supernatural forms—dreams, we say, are perhaps just favors granted by benevolent Intelligences or vexations and ambushes prepared by malevolent Intelligences, but are all too often too-fleeting impressions that vanish nearly in an instant, or symbols that are too oblique and so remain silent for ordinary mortals because they do not know the language necessary to understand them well. What one wants, what one is advised to avoid or do, even superstitious notions that have been adopted to generalize for all people the meaning that each material object can have in a dream all oppose a stupid, extravagant prejudice against natural inspiration itself, which therefore has failed in its effects.

In this light, especially considering the angelic focus of the “Second Supplement”, we build upon the divinatory practice to become introduced to communing with spirits, but we actually do the work of engaging with them primarily (it’d seem here) through the function of dreams—and not just any spirits, but primarily the angel of our own natal star.  This is best done at the coming of the dawn since, as the light of the Sun begins to enter into the world, so too do “the heavenly Agents [who] descend and manifest themselves to the Elect”.  We come into contact with the spirits, and especially our own angel, in order to better know ourselves and our natures, and thereby come to know more about the world around us, and by extension the whole Creation and the one Creator.  All of this comes about through the honest and earnest communion we might have with spirits, those celestial intelligences and heavenly agents, with whom such communion and communication is “the most beautiful privilege that humanity might enjoy”, because it is by our thoughts led on by things higher than us (the “super” to the “human”) what we might reach “to spaces that can and must be populated by a hierarchy of sublime beings”.

But, like…isn’t this a bit much?  In a book about sortilege, it’s super weird to have such an extended discussion about the virtues of a restrained diet to facilitate spiritual communication in dreams and how the greatest things we might aspire to is such spiritual communication and direction, right?  But then, that’s because ZT isn’t just a book about sortilege.  Among all the various lessons of the mechanics and components of its divinatory system and how to approach matters of querent and query, it’s clear that ZT gives us a much broader spiritual approach to understanding matters of truth on scales that go far beyond the mere individual human. Even though only the barest outlines of such a spiritual discipline is sketched out by ZT, it’s clear that it aspires to be the gateway through which one can eventually access the highest secrets of divinity and to live a holy life in continuous communion with heavenly beings.  We should remember, after all, that what ZT gives us is “a master key which will open not just the main doors but all the side doors, all the cupboards, all the drawers, and even the smallest secrets”.

Of course, such access to divinity and divine secrets isn’t given to everyone, nor is it even promised to everyone.  Success in this sort of spiritual work depends on many factors, not least of which is one’s own spiritual education (which ZT is meant to facilitate at an introductory level), but also one’s faith: faith in the Supreme Being (“Without this faith, there is no connection between the Supreme Being and humanity, and without such a connection, there can be no Great Cabala”) and confidence in the Pure Spirit (” confidence in the Pure Spirit—which is the indispensable trait of vocation which the Candidate must find themselves to possess”).  As the Epistle repeatedly emphasizes in its hypothetical rebuttals to imagined detractors of spirituality generally and ZT specifically, there is nothing in the Great Cabala for those who would dismiss it or its claims out of hand, or who would stringently favor human reason over superhuman gnōsis.  In this light, I’m reminded of part of the dialogue between Hermēs Trismegistos and Asklēpios from book IX, section 10 of the Corpus Hermeticum:

If you are mindful, Asklēpios, these things should seem true to you, but they will be beyond belief if you have no knowledge. To understand is to believe, and not to believe is not to understand. Reasoned discourse does not get to the truth, but mind is powerful, and, when it has been guided by reason up to a point, it has the means to get as far as the truth. After mind had considered all this carefully and had discovered that all of it is in harmony with the discoveries of reason, it came to believe, and in this beautiful belief it found rest. By an act of god, then, those who have understood find what I have been saying believable, but those who have not understood do not find it believable.

Returning one last time to the Epistle, we were not only introduced to the subject matter of ZT but also to a defense and explanation for its development and dissemination.  The “Baron de N…..” notes that such a discipline as this is only in its infancy, given how much work we have to do to salvage and reclaim the grand spiritual inheritance of the Magi, but reminds us even the grandest temple starts with but a simple hut to serve as an erstwhile tabernacle for the humblest of altars.  Those who dedicate themselves to such a spiritual endeavor would find themselves to be planting a sacred grove, keeping out those who would only disturb them—and, indeed, the author of ZT fully expects that this work would remain unpopular, maligned, and chastised by the many, and even many people today still scratch their heads at the incomplete, obtuse, or seemingly needlessly complicated system of ZT.  But, for those who would strive to make use of such a system, the author simultaneously hopes that, even should it take centuries, the “moral gold” that is produced from the crucibles of the dedicated would be used to reforge the bonds of true wisdom once broken long ago.

It’s my hope that all of this exploration over the past several weeks has helped attain at least some measure of that, instead of letting this fascinating system languish forgotten on old shelves.  At this point, I’ve basically said everything I have to say on it, so we’ll wrap up this series in the next and final post to summarize everything and bring it all together.