How would you like an online geomancy class taught by yours truly?

No, I haven’t forgotten my blog; it’s just that it’s only this past week that my yearly Hell Season has finally come to an end. Between three long road-trips up and down the East Coast, several birthdays (including my own!), several Lukumí initiation anniversaries (including my own!), my wedding anniversary, and at least a half-dozen feast days in various traditions, this has been a super-busy summer, guys, and made all the better by getting to meet so many of you in person. (Here’s hoping that trend continues!) Now that it’s done with, I’m finally able to get settled back into the routine of things, and also resting and relaxing.

Besides travel, ritual, ceremony, and being pleasantly-yet-uncommonly social, I’ve also been busy with writing, though more for books than posts. Not only did my Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration posts earlier this year take more out of me than I expected, but since then, I’ve also been working obsessively on researching the history and practice of domino fortune-telling, and writing a book on the same; this isn’t just the most complete treatment of the subject ever written in English, but it’s also a project and topic that I completely didn’t expect to ever tackle, yet which is already nearing completion (and publication). However, now that that’s winding down, I’ve also been getting back to working more on my geomancy textbook, Principia Geomantica. It’s still a work in progress, and I’ve been doing more research and refining to it to get it to where I’m personally satisfied with it, including review of some techniques I thought were useful and showed some promise but which didn’t really play out as well as I had hoped. Much of this research also includes translating more Latin from Renaissance-era texts like Robert Fludd and Henri de Pisis (and you can find plenty of the original sources in this post listing digitized historical geomancy texts), but also from modern 20th century French works on geomancy, which offer even more insight and advice. (I also have some neat stuff to say about that body of literature, not least of which is that they advanced many of the same innovations I myself have come up with independently, along with some rather peculiar thoughts all of their own that don’t seem to be found in any other geomantic tradition I’m familiar with.)

In the meantime, however, I think I’d like to try my hand at offering online geomancy classes; after all, not everyone enjoys or is able to learn from a textbook, and I think this might be a useful thing for many of us. Not to step on the toes of the good Dr. Cummins with his wonderful geomancy classes over at Wolf & Goat, which I myself have taken and can definitely recommend, but I’d also like to offer my own training and teaching for those interested in the divinatory art of geomancy. I’d like to present as comprehensive a course on geomancy as I can manage, covering all the bases in a steady progression, just as my (eventual) geomancy textbook would cover. However, there are different ways to offer such a class, and I’ve been mulling over what might be best received by the online occult community. To that end, let me know your thoughts in this poll (but only after finishing reading the rest of this post first:

(If you’re viewing this post in an RSS reader or in a really old or badly-coded web browser, the embedded poll above might not show up. If that’s the case, please use this direct link to the poll.)

How would each of these three options play out, you might ask?

  • The online live classes would be held over Zoom in a group of no more than 20 people. These would be held weekly on a set schedule. Recordings would be made, but only for people who miss a class due to schedule conflicts, and not for public dissemination. I would plan for multiple iterations of the online classes, with one or two cycles offered every year, so if you don’t get into one, you could wait a few months to get into the next. You’d pay once to reserve your seat in the class, and that payment would be a lump sum for the entire cycle. I’d be able to get this set up and established pretty quickly, once I have my idea for a curriculum and plan for teaching, so if I can get my thoughts sorted out well enough, it could be held as early as spring 2020.
  • The pre-recorded videos would be, well, just that: recordings of voice augmented by visual demonstrations, either drawn out on a whiteboard or digitally with slides and images. These would be recorded once and, after paying a set fee for the bundle, you’d be given access to download them within a set timeframe, and you would watch/listen to them at your own pace. I’m not sure whether the videos would be best broken up by hour/hour-and-a-half chunks and fitting in whatever topics can be spoken about in such a time per video, or broken up by individual topic of variable duration. Except in egregious cases of error or omission, the videos would not be updated or added to. This would take a bit longer to set up than the online classes, and I’d probably be able to deliver the set by summer 2020.
  • The slides or textpages, likewise, are self-explanatory, something along the lines of boring online training for one’s job or in the method of Quareia. You’d pay to get access to it, and you would work through it at your own pace, perhaps stopped by regular knowledge-checks or quizzes to make sure you understood the material enough to proceed. In many ways, this would be a sort of “textbook lite”. This would probably take the longest time to deliver, pending other writing projects, and could be finished as early as autumn 2020.

My personal guess, based on preliminary results from Twitter, is that the pre-recorded videos would be the most preferred and that the slides/textpages would be least preferred. While I like the idea of online live classes, I think pre-recorded videos makes the most sense, but I’d like to see what the potential students themselves would like.

In all cases, however, I’d start some sort of searchable forum (perhaps a Facebook group or subreddit, just to make it easy?) for students to join, ask questions, post charts, and get feedback on. I’d also set up some sort of “final exam” for those overachievers who would want to prove their capabilities to me in exchange for a polyphanic certification of having learned and understood geomancy according to my standard of approval (and, hopefully, exceeding it). If I offer future classes on geomancy that go well above and beyond the already-comprehensive course of study I’m thinking about for geomantic divination, such as on niche topics within geomancy or geomantic magic, I’d insist that you first complete this course and pass the final exam as a prerequisite.

For a price point, I’m not yet decided; I’d need to think about that more after I actually come up with the material to see how it all breaks down into classes, topics, and expected durations, but the price point would probably be in the range of US$300 to US$600. The total cost here would include the classes themselves, as well as permanent access to the student forum, review of tests, providing of certificates, individual answering of questions, review of charts, and the like. Payments would be made through PayPal, as with my current services and ebooks offered directly through my website. I’m also considering, once I actually finish and publish Principia Geomantica, to throw in a half-off coupon for buying that book, but that’ll be down the road, so even if the price point seems high, I’ll try to make it worth every penny.

I’ll have this poll running for two weeks, so be sure to get your vote in no later than 11:59 pm Eastern US time, November 2, 2019. Also be sure to spread this post to all your geomantically-inclined friends, whether by link or Facebook or Twitter, so I can get as good a summary of potential students’ preferences as possible! Not only will I be using this poll to figure out which delivery method is most preferred, I’ll also be using it as a gauge of interest, both for online classes generally (geomantic and otherwise) as well as to see what delivery method might logistically be most feasible given how many people want to take it. Once the poll closes and I get a good handle of the results, I plan on setting another poll in November to ascertain what people’s existing geomantic skills are, where they feel they’re lacking, and what they’d be most interested in learning and focusing on. So, if you’re interested in a potentially-polyphanic online course of geomancy, stay tuned for giving more feedback!

A New Version of the Chaplet of St. Barachiel the Archangel

Back in 2014, I undertook a project where I came up with new chaplets for some of the lesser-known archangels.  Chaplets, as many of you are aware, are types of prayers made using prayer beads in the Western Christian, especially Catholic, traditions; the famous rosary is a specific type of chaplet, and many chaplets exist for any number of holy images, events, entities, and saints in Christianity.  I find them useful to pray in devotion and meditation, myself, and as one of my devotion practices is to the Seven Archangels, I find it fitting to use chaplets as a way to connect and offer veneration to them.  Thing is, however, that while there are definitely seven major archangels venerated throughout Christianity and many Abrahamic traditions, they’re not always the same set of seven.  For me in my practice, I use the Orthodox set: Michael (whose name means Who is Like God?), Gabriel (the Strength of God), Raphael (the Healing of God), Uriel (or Auriel, but either way, the Light of God), Sealtiel (sometimes spelled Selaphiel, but either way, the Prayer of God), Jehudiel (the Praise of God), and Barachiel (the Blessing of God).  Everyone knows who the first three are, as they’re the only archangels named in the Bible (which is why the Roman Catholic Church only officially permits devotions to these three); Uriel is not as well-known, but he’s still pretty popular, especially in magical circles that use Auriel as the angel ruling over the element of Earth.  The latter three, however, are next to unknown in Western contexts.  It’s one of the reasons why I wrote my De Archangelis ebook, to collect and arrange what prayers could be used for them for a Western practitioner.

When it comes to chaplets and the archangels, there are already well-known chaplets for Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and even Uriel (that last which I initially mistook for a simple rewriting of the Raphael chaplet, but which is sufficiently different enough to be its own thing).  However,  no chaplets seemed to exist for Sealtiel, Jehudiel, and Barachiel, so I wrote one for each of them.  I’ve since had a set of seven chaplets for the seven archangels I work with, and I’ve been pretty satisfied with the practice.  However, of the three that I wrote, I’m very pleased with the ones for Sealtiel (which is a very thorough prayer that calls on the archangel as well as each of the nine choirs of angels to help you pray better—Gordon White of Rune Soup finds this approach fascinating and almost so helpful as to be unfair) and Jehudiel (which is based on praising God through Psalm 151), but I’ve never been as pleased or comfortable with the one for Barachiel.  It never seemed to flow right, I kept getting caught up on how it ran, and I can never seem to get it to work.  I like the base idea of it—using the Eight Beatitudes from Matthew 5 as a base for the chaplet combined with the Priestly Blessing from Numbers 6—but it never seemed to work.

Well, last year, when I was struggling to use this chaplet, I finally got fed up with how it ran (or, rather, how it didn’t), so I decided to rewrite it with the gracious help of the angel Barachiel emself, and I’ve been using it ever since.  I wanted to keep the same bead structure from before and keep the same idea, but change how the prayers ran so that it made more sense and flowed easier and nicer, and I took some further pointers from Agrippa’s Scale of Eight (book II, chapter 11), since the chaplet is based on the Eight Beatitudes.  In accordance with the wishes of the archangel emself, I’ve decided to wait some time before publishing this, on the Friday (the weekday associated with Barachiel) leading up to the Feast of Saint Michael the Archangel and All the Bodiless Powers of Heaven (September 29); this is an excellent day to use this chaplet if you never have before!

As before, the chaplet beads themselves are constructed of three lead beads with a medal of Saint Barachiel (good luck finding one of those!), a crucifix, cross charm, or other angelic charm at the end, attached to a large bead on a ring of eight sets of four beads.

The initial parts of the chaplet are the same as before.  We start the chaplet on the medal, reciting:

Saint Barachiel the Archangel, blessing of God, pray for us, now and forever, awake and asleep, in prosperity and in hardship, in joy and in sorrow, in solitude and in communion, when guided or when astray.  Amen.

On each of the three lead beads, pray the Hail Mary in honor of Mary, Queen of Heaven and of Angels.

On the large bead, if desired, silently pray the Our FatherGlory Be, or another personal invocation to Saint Barachiel.

Each of the eight sets of four beads has a particular recitation to go along with it: one of the Eight Beatitudes, an invocation of one of the blessings of God through Saint Barachiel the Arachangel, a variation of the Priestly Blessing made into a request, and then finally the Glory Be.

The Eight Beatitudes (first bead of each set of four beads):

  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
  2. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  4. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be fulfilled.
  5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
  6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
  8. Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.

The eight invocations of Saint Barachiel (second bead of each set):

  1. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with the keys to the kingdom of my own life, that I might rule over all my affairs with justice and righteousness in all that I do.
  2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with joy, that always I might enjoy all of the fruits of God’s blessing and help bring comfort to others that they too might rejoice in all that God gives.
  3. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with power, directed for the work of God for the benefit of all, to accomplish all that I hope for.
  4. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with incorruptibility, that I might be perfected through wisdom and lead others to purity of heart and righteousness in soul.
  5. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with grace, that I might love God and be loved by God, and all of His creatures that He created.
  6. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with the vision of God, that I might always know true divinity, never losing sight of His radiant Throne.
  7. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with the inheritance of God, as a human made in His divine image, worthy of all of the promises of Christ.
  8. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with victory over all my difficulties in this life, that no one and nothing might stand against me, restrain me, or chase after me in this world.

The Request of the Priestly Blessing (third bead of each set):

May the Lord bless me and keep me.
May the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me.
May the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.

Since that’s still really disconnected, let’s put it all together and pray together now:

  1. First Set
    1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with the keys to the kingdom of my own life, that I might rule over all my affairs with justice and righteousness in all that I do.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  2. Second Set
    1. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with joy, that always I might enjoy all of the fruits of God’s blessing and help bring comfort to others that they too might rejoice in all that God gives.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  3. Third Set
    1. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with power, directed for the work of God for the benefit of all, to accomplish all that I hope for.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  4. Fourth Set
    1. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be fulfilled.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with incorruptibility, that I might be perfected through wisdom and lead others to purity of heart and righteousness in soul.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  5. Fifth Set
    1. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with grace, that I might love God and be loved by God, and all of His creatures that He created.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  6. Sixth Set
    1. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with the vision of God, that I might always know true divinity, never losing sight of His radiant Throne.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  7. Seventh Set
    1. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with the inheritance of God, as a human made in His divine image, worthy of all of the promises of Christ.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.
  8. Eighth Set
    1. Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
    2. By the intercession of Saint Barachiel, may I be blessed with victory over all my difficulties in this life, that no one and nothing might stand against me, restrain me, or chase after me in this world.
    3. May the Lord bless me and keep me; may the Lord make his face shine upon me, and be gracious unto me; may the Lord lift his countenance upon me, and give me peace.
    4. Glory Be, &c.

At the end, recite the concluding prayer:

O powerful Archangel, Saint Barachiel, filled with heaven’s glory and splendor, you are rightly called God’s benediction.  We are God’s children placed under your protection and care.  By the grace and power granted to you by God, please aid us in our lives and grant us blessings throughout our travels in this our exile.  Let us know the blessing of God in our physical existence as well in our spiritual growth that we may lack for nothing and have all we need to proceed upon and progress in our paths.  Grant that through your loving intercession, we may reach our heavenly home one day.  Sustain us and protect us from all harm that we may posses for all eternity the peace and happiness that Jesus has prepared for us in heaven.  Through Jesus Christ our Lord, amen.

This chaplet flows a lot nicer and doesn’t feel as blocky, discontinuous, or otherwise uncomfortable; it’s still one of the more involved chaplets and isn’t simply a repetition of prayers, so in many ways, it’s kind of more in line with what might (content-wise) be considered a litany.  Still, though, it’s much nicer than before.  I’ve updated the main page with the chaplet on my website, but I’ll leave the original 2014 post up for kicks at this point; also, the original chaplet will still be found in my De Archangelis ebook (both on my Etsy and on the Books page).

I have an article published in this next year’s issue of the Witches’ Almanac!

For those of us who love, use, and collect almanacs and who also do magic, you could do worse than getting yourself into the habit of picking up a copy of the Witches’ Almanac, a wonderful compendium of the usual almanac stuff—sunsets and sunrises, moon phases and stations, eclipses and retrogrades, planting times and suggestions, etc.—all with a magical, spiritual, and witchy bent to it all, but that’s not all!  Each issue of the Witches’ Almanac also has a fantastic array of articles, and each issue has a particular theme.  For instance, this past year’s almanac (Issue 38, Spring 2019—2020) was themed around animals, them being our friends and familiars, and had a bunch of articles in it along those lines.

In this coming year’s almanac (Issue 39, Spring 2020—2021, coming in at 208pp. for the price of US$12.95), the theme is “Stones: the Foundation of Earth”, and has a good number of articles from such authors as Lon Milo DuQuette, Sorita d’Este, John Michael Greer, Oberon Zell, and others—including me!  I was asked to submit an article to this year’s issue, and after wondering what on earth I could contribute, I settled on an old standby of mine: grammatomancy, also known as the Greek Alphabet Oracle, the method of divination that uses the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet.  How would this tie in, you might wonder?  Because one of the oldest and most common ways of performing this kind of divination was with the use of ψηφοι, psēphoi, little pebbles which were inscribed with a different letter of the alphabet on each.  I thought it was a nice tie-in to this year’s theme, and it’s a lovely system besides, so why not?

The amazing and handsome publisher-friend I have at the Witches’ Almanac also thought it was a great idea, too, so in went my article, Stone Spelling: Delving Deeply into the Greek Alphabet Oracle, where I talk about the origins of this oracle and all the different ways it can be of use beyond getting mere advice from the gods.  Heck, it’s even the first feature article in the almanac this coming year, and you can even check out an excerpt of it online on their website!

(Also, John Michael Greer himself published an article in it on, of all possible things, domino divination.  Yanno, that thing that I’ve been obsessed with learning about all summer long and have suddenly started writing one of the most complete books on the topic ever written since one of my spirit guides kicked me in the side of the head with it.  If that’s not a goddamn sign, then I don’t know what is.  Hmph.)

What are you waiting for?  Get yourself a copy and get ready for the coming year with this little treasure trove of wisdom and information that’ll be sure to make your practice smoother and easier!

A quick note about Fr. RO’s old Red Work Courses and who’s licensed to share them

Another quick note in the midst of my own writing projects amidst my yearly hell season of too much going on…

As many people might be aware, Fr. Rufus Opus used to offer a series of ebooks and online classes about his take on Hermeticism, Hermetic practices, and angelic/planetary magic that he collectively titled the “Red Work Course” (RWC) that he wrote back in 2010 and 2011.  Much of this material was collected, condensed, and distilled into what eventually became his Seven Spheres book he put out in 2014.  However, back in 2016, he announced and clarified that he no longer sells access to those files and courses anymore (and, in the case of his old Planetary Gates ebooks, this was announced back in 2014 with the publication of Seven Spheres late that year).  Instead, in an email to his students from around the same time in 2016, he made an arrangement that he would make a test for his old students and, if he approved, he would certify and license them to use the old material he put out for RWC as they see fit.  His logic was that, at the time of him joining the A∴A∴, he wasn’t allowed to charge for teaching what they know, so Fr. RO stopped selling his old courses, but didn’t want to be unfair to his old students who paid for the stuff, so if his old students could show the ability to fully understand what he wrote, they could take charge and sell it or give it away as they chose.

Although a good number of the students from his old RWC mailing lists seemed to be all about the idea, I’m not sure what became of it for most people; it could be that many of his old students took the test, got Fr. RO’s blessing and approval privately and quietly, and kept it quiet since most of them aren’t much for teaching, or they never actually took the test.  However, there is a small handful of three people that Fr. RO has publicly gone on the record to announce as those that he has licensed to share his old RWC files:

  1. James Wood a.k.a. Spanish Moss, over at The Red Crown of Stars (who also heads up the Thicket of a Witch blog)
  2. Mal Strangefellow over at The Society of Royal Philosophers (who also heads up the Ordo Sancti Cypriani and the Church of Light and Shadow)
  3. Myself right here

If, after all these years (especially given how much I referred to it in my recent Reviewing the Trithemian Conjuration posts), you’re interested in the RWC files and lessons, please contact one of the three people above at their respective websites.  We all have different teaching styles and requirements, so consider that as well.  James and Mal use a more active class structure or a group/forum structure closer to what the original RWC courses used with Yahoo! groups and mailing lists, while I tend to take a more hands-off approach with separate mentorship sessions as needed/desired by students.  James and Mal have roughly similar price points to what Fr. RO had for the RWC files, but I use a different method entirely; if you’re interested in getting the files from me, contact me about it and we can discuss from there.

While there may be others who are licensed that Fr. RO might have forgotten, the three people above are the only people that Fr. RO has himself confirmed to me to be licensed to publicly use his old RWC files as they see fit.  If you hear or see of any others sharing his coursework, please consider letting him or me know to confirm whether they are also licensed before getting anything from them out of respect for Fr. RO’s work.  If you yourself have been licensed and you’re not part of the list above, contact me and let me know when and how Fr. RO licensed you (email, Facebook post, etc.) to clear up any potential confusion.

P.S.: Mal Strangefellow, in an effort to encourage and reward people to choose legit sources and teachers, is offering 20% his enrollment fees for his version of the Red Work Courses to all my wonderful readers!  Just use the coupon-code POLYPHANES when checking out.

Quick note about sharing/using my posts

Yeah, yeah, I know it’s been quiet here lately.  I’ve been working on a few other projects in the meantime and haven’t had anything that immediately screams “post me!” for the topics, but then, this is also my own Hell Season (from mid-August to mid-October), so perhaps it’s for the best I take a step back for a bit so I can focus on basically everything else going on.  Besides, there’s always my Twitter and Curious Cat for my more short-form antics and answers!  However, even while I’m over here being quiet for a bit, there is something I wanted to bring up and clarify.

In some of the online communities I’m in, it’s come as a major shock and disappointment that the blog Voces Magicae has recently gone offline.  Granted, it hadn’t seen a good update in a while (since like mid-2017), but what was up there has been such a valuable treasure trove for so many researchers, occultists, and magicians in the Greco-Egyptian/PGM crowds for so long.  And now it’s…just, well, gone.  Sure, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine can help a bit, since some of the posts were automatically archived there, but it’s a far cry from the whole thing.  I know I’ve read Leonardo’s work before in amazement and astonishment at how damn good he was, and he’s even been an inspiration and challenge for my own writing.  Whether he’s simply decided to let his Voces Magicae blog-project come to a quiet end on its own or not, what is true is that it’s a loss for us all who didn’t keep good enough notes.

To be honest, this is one of the problems with ephemeral information media, including the vast majority of things on the Internet.  Websites come, websites go; blogs get started, blogs get deleted; forums start up, forums die down.  Heck, even simple website reorganization can be disastrous for some information; I know I’ve had some links on my own blog go bad from taking down old pages that people still periodically ask me about.  As opposed to a book or stele, websites are inherently ephemeral, to the point where some rabbis have argued that it’s okay for the Tetragrammaton to be written fully on digital monitors since they’re not permanently “written” in the same way as it would be with ink on paper or by chisel on stone.

It’s this very same ephemerality, the transitory nature of so much digital media, that really should encourage us how we think about archiving and saving what we write and read.  Heck, it’s not just about the Internet, either; think of how much data is stored on old floppy disks, Zip disks, and other now-obsolete formats of storage media.  And when it comes to formats, think about how many different codecs, compression methods, and other file formats there are that are now so obscure that you’d have to really dig deep to find any modern application to make use of it.  And there’s also the fact that hard drives just sometimes fail, taking all our data on it with it, whether we could access it just fine moments ago or not—and whether it’s our own hard drives we control at home, or networked ones that we simply make use of hosted elsewhere.

I know a lot of people make use of my website and the posts here; it’s a point of pride for me, not gonna lie, that I’ve been able to start something here that helps at least a few people out in addition to myself.  I see links shared to my blog here and there, and it’s always amusing to me to see linkbacks and click-throughs to my blog from WordPress’ analytics utilities.  While I have no concerns about the long-term viability of keeping this website active (I’m on WordPress’ $80/yr plan plus domain name fees, all of which is funded by both my client work, donations from charitable readers, and out of my own pocket if/as necessary) and though I’m certainly not planning on taking this thing down anytime soon (I’d be more worried about WordPress getting sold out or the Internet itself going offline), I do fear the possibility that so much of what I’ve written will eventually be lost to the world in one way or another.  Yes, I take my own backups of my website to make sure I can export it back to another WordPress platform if I need to, but my worries are a bit more than that.

Someone recently asked me if they could use some of my content in a project of theirs, sourcing me appropriately by name and links, and I wholeheartedly agreed to it; they did everything right, and their project looked great.  I’ve been contacted by others before about translating bits and pieces or whole posts of mine into other languages, and I know there are others who have used my stuff before in many other ways on other blogs or in their own projects.  I find this to be a high honor, to be honest, and while I’m not out to ask others to augment such honor or seek to aggrandize myself or my own usefulness, I do want to make something clear in light of Voces Magicae going offline:

I am absolutely, positively, 100% okay, fine, and dandy with you printing out my blog posts or articles that are up on this website for your own use, and I am just as totally okay with you sharing, reposting, or otherwise disseminating the content of this website in your own projects, rituals, research websites, and social media, so long as you give proper accreditation.  

So, so long as you tack on a “This content/image/ritual/etc. was made and originally posted at The Digital Ambler (https://digitalambler.com/)” along with a link to the original post or page you got the information from, I’m basically okay with that.  It would be nice if you contacted me about doing so, if only to let me know (and maybe to spread the word about it myself!), but so long as you include a brief statement that sources where you got something from, that’s all I really ask.  As far as I see it, this is more about security in redundancy to make sure it can survive on the Internet for as long as you like.  And, of course, that’s all in addition to your own private print-outs, too!  Lord knows I have multiple bookshelves filled with binders of printouts of blogs, articles, journals, and the like just in case things go down or if I can’t easily find things again.

Of course, the same doesn’t apply with the images out of context (in other words, please don’t share my designs, lamens, templates, etc. without also crediting them back to me), nor any of my PDFs/ebooks I produce, nor using any content of mine commercially (unless you want to start a formal conversation with me about doing so).  But if you’re reading this on my website where it’s already publicly and freely available as it is, then have at in resharing it freely as well.  If you’re a neurotic legalist, you can also check out the full terms and services of my website over at the bottom of my Services page,

Time to head to the Salem Summer Symposium!

Well, almost, at least.  I have a few more days to wrap things up at home before I make the drive up to New England.

But things are officially getting started tomorrow up in Salem, Massachusetts for the Salem Summer Symposium, a week-long festival for the exploration, celebration, and acceptance of magical and occult education, commerce, community, and activism held throughout the city.  The event is founded and organized by Jacqui Allouise-Roberge of the Cauldron Black, Matthew Venus of Spiritus Arcanum, and Justice the Wizard of Just This Wizard, and is their first major event of this type.  And I get to present and do readings there!

The SSS formally begins tomorrow on Saturday, August 3 with a number of shows, events, and other parties going on for the next few days, but the conference and presentation parts of the SSS begin on Thursday, August 8.   I’ll be presenting at two talks, both next week on Friday, August 9:

  • Double Trouble Geomancy Power Hour (1pm to 3pm), along with my colleague and good friend, the good Dr. Alexander Cummins.  Come on down for a two-hour introductory crash course in the wonderful divinatory art of geomancy! A thousand-year-old system of divination that started in the sands of old Arabia and the Sahara, this system of divination left a lasting impact on Western occulture and spiritual practices for hundreds of years. Undergoing a modern renaissance of its own, join Mr. Block and Dr. Cummins to learn about this system and to get answers to all your questions about the art for divination, magic, and all other spiritual concerns you might have!
  • Geomantic Divination and Theurgy (4pm to 6pm).  The divinatory art of geomancy is old, but for most of its history in the Western occult world, its practice was limited almost exclusively to divination—but there’s no reason why that should always be the case. In this lecture, geomancer extraordinaire Sam Block will talk not only about the divinatory aspect of geomancy for understanding the workings of the world but also how one might use the art of geomancy and its sixteen geomantic figures as foundations for building a spiritual practice of enlightenment of the soul and elevation of the spirit through prayers, rituals, and meditation.

In addition to these two talks, I’ll also be doing readings and consultations all day Saturday, August 10, generously hosted by the Cauldron Black, for anyone who would want them, whether by geomancy, grammatomancy, or my other preferred means.

But don’t just come up to see me!  There are also wonderful talks by Dr. Cummins on his own, including his own talk on geomantic magic (Saturday, August 10 at 10am to 12pm), and a whole slew of other luminaries and dignities besides on so many amazing and wonderful topics.  You can find the whole schedule of events on the SSS website here.  And don’t forget the movie screenings, welcome dinner, pub crawl, and other events going on!

If you haven’t yet, be sure to register soon and get your tickets before it’s too late!  If you have any questions, feel free to contact the SSS folk over on their website.

And, of course, I’ll be in Salem for myself and to meet up with good people, both old friends and new acquaintances besides, so here’s hoping for a wonderful trip for us all!

I just need to, yanno, get my bags packed, and also actually finish writing my presentation notes, so…I should get back to it.  In the meantime, we’ll go quiet on this blog for a bit while I’m out and about traveling and talking.  See you all soon!

The Twelve Irrational Tormentors and the Ten (or Seven) Rational Powers

Lately I’ve been reviewing some of my first real spiritual texts as part of my practice that I first began to familiarize myself with years ago: the Corpus Hermeticum.  These books, being a homegrown Egyptian manifestation of what could be considered Hellenic theurgic philosophy (either as Stoicizing Neoplatonism or Neoplatonizing Stoicism), are some of my favorite texts, amounting to my own “bible” as it were.  Granted, it’s been some time since I’ve last seriously sat down with them, and since I’ve been discussing parts of it with a colleague of mine, I figured it was high time to get back into chewing on them so I’m not just talking out of my ass when it comes to classical Hermetic philosophy and theurgy.  It’s a deeply rewarding practice, after all, and study is something that we can never truly finish; it always helps to review, reread, and rethink things from time to time.

There are essentially four versions of the Corpus Hermeticum that I consult:

  1. Clement Salaman, The Way of Hermes: New Translations of the Corpus Hermeticum and the Definitions of Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius.  Inner Traditions, 2004.  This is the most readable and accessible version of the Corpus Hermeticum, in my opinion, and also includes the Definitions of Hermēs Trismegistus, which was the focus of that massive blog project I did back in late 2013 that inspected all 49 definitions.  (I should probably review some of those one of these days.)
  2. Brian Copenhaver, Hermetica: The Greek Corpus Hermeticum and the Latin Asclepius in a New English Translation, with Notes and Introduction.  Cambridge University Press, 1995.  This is the version of the Corpus Hermeticum I started with, and though it’s not as accessible as Salaman’s translation, it’s still a very good translation all the same, and gives a slightly more critical and academic approach.
  3. G. R. S. Mead, The Corpus Hermeticum.  Thrice Greatest Hermes, vol. 2.  London, 1906.  Available in the public domain on Gnosis.org.  This is the most popular one that most people know and have used for over a hundred years, and though it has some Theosophical biases, it’s still a surprisingly good translation, even if the prose is overwrought.
  4. Walter Scott, Hermetica: The ancient Greek and Latin Writings which contain religious or philosophic teachings ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus, vol. 1.  Clarendon Press, 1924.  Though the translation isn’t considered good, Scott includes critical editions of the actual Greek text of the Corpus Hermeticum as well as the Latin of the Asclepius, so this is pretty useful for that reason alone.

If you want to read something better than the Kybalion, which would basically be anything and everything, I’d recommend the Corpus Hermeticum.  (NB: Kybalion delendum est.)

Anyway, I was flipping through the Corpus, refreshing some of the things I knew and being reminded of the things I’ve forgotten.  It was in book XIII, where Tat asks Hermēs Trismegistus for help in attaining divinity and, eventually reaches it, that I found something fascinating that I must have skipped over before.  Whether it’s due to my engineering training or my love of Buddhist text, it’s when things appear in lists that I snap to attention, and Hermēs describes a list of twelve “Hermetic sins of the body” that keep us ensnared in darkness and ignorance, as well as ten “Hermetic virtues of the soul” that free us from darkness and ignorance.  Fascinated by these lists, I dug in, and I started matching them up to a few other parts of the Corpus Hermeticum I know, the results of mulling over which I wanted to share.  I’ll let you, dear reader, pick your own preferred version of the Corpus Hermeticum and read (at minimum) books I and XIII on your own, which I recommend you do so before continuing with this post.

Ready?  Good.  So, as Hermēs states in book XIII, we have these twelve “irrational tormentors of the body” (ἄλογα τιμωρία τῆς ὕλης, áloga timōría tês húlēs).  The specific word being used here is technically τιμωρία, timōría, literally “retribution” or “vengeance” or even “punishment”, but usually translated here as “tormentor” or “torturer”.  Collectively, they all arise fundamentally from irrationality, the true lack of reason (which is emphasized in the Corpus Hermeticum as being divine, as it is truly Λόγος, Lógos, “the Word”).  Hermēs lists these tormentors as below; I give both the Greek term used in Scott along with the various translations that Salaman, Copenhaver, et al. have provided for these terms.

# Greek Salaman Copenhaver Mead Scott
1 ἄγνοια Ignorance Ignorance Not-knowing Ignorance
2 λύτη Sorrow Grief Grief Grief
3 ἀκρασία Intemperance Incontinence Incontinence Incontinence
4 ἐπιθυμία Lust Lust Concupiscence Desire
5 ἀδικία Injustice Injustice Unrighteousness Injustice
6 πλεονεξία Greed Greed Avarice Covetousness
7 ἀπάτη Deceit Deceit Error Deceitfulness
(or being deceived,
i.e. error)
8 φθόνος Envy Envy Envy Envy
9 δόλος Treachery Treachery Guile Fraud
10 ὀργή Anger Anger Anger Anger
11 προπέτεια Recklessness Recklessness Rashness Rashness
12 κακία Malice Malice Malice Vice
(or malice)

Of course, though these are the main tormentors of the body that we have to deal with, Hermēs notes that “besides these there are many others”, but these seem to be the major ones that either rule lesser tormentors or which themselves are the causes or predecessors of others.  Together, they “compel the inner man who dwells in the prison of his body to suffer through his senses”.  Hemēs is explicit, too in giving each of these a zodiacal association, even if he doesn’t say which belongs to which sign: “this tent of the body through which we have passed…is composed from the zodiac and this consists of signs, twelve in number; the body is of one nature and appears in every form; it exists to lead man astray”.  I think a simple association could be drawn up such that the first tormentor listed, “ignorance”, be given to the first sign Aries, the second “sorrow” to Taurus, the third “intemperance” to Gemini, and so forth.  It’s not exactly clear to see how each of these might be matched up with their corresponding sign, like why Aquarius should be linked to Recklessness in this way, but we’ll just accept it for granted for now.

But all hope is not lost for us!  Though these tormentors of the body plague us and trap us, “these tormentors depart one by one from the man who receives God’s mercy”, which manifests itself as ten “powers of God” (δυνάμεις θεοῦ, dunámeis theoû) that cleanse the body and soul of the twelve (and more) irrational tormentors:

# Greek Salaman Copenhaver Mead Scott
1 γνῶσις θεοῦ Knowledge of God Knowledge of God Gnosis of God Knowledge of God
2 χαρα Experience of Joy Knowledge of Joy Joy Joy
3 ἐγκράτεια Self-control Continence Continence Continence
4 καρτερία Steadfastness Perseverance Steadfastness Endurance
5 δικαιοσύνη Justice Justice Righteousness Justice
6 κοινωνία Generosity Liberality Sharing-with-all Unselfishness
7 ἀλήθεια Truth Truth Truth Truth
8 ἀγαθός Supreme Good the Good the Good Good
9 ζωή Life Life Life Life
10 φώς Light Light Light Light

Moreover, each of the powers (or at least most of them) correspond to a specific tormentor that it specifically chases out or conquers.  Using the Salaman translations of the tormentors and powers:

Tormentor Power
Ignorance Knowledge of God
Sorrow Experience of Joy
Intemperance Self-control
Lust Steadfastness
Injustice Justice
Greed Generosity
Deceit Truth
Envy Good, Life, Light
Treachery
Anger
Recklessness
Malice

Note that the last three powers, the Good with Life and Light, seem to act as a triune force, because once Truth arrives, “the Supreme Good arises”, and Life and Light come together with it, and together they chase out the “torments of darkness” (τιμωρία τοῦ σκότος, timōría toû skótos).  Hermēs says that Life and Light are specifically united together, and “this unity is born from spirit”; this echoes what Poimandrēs told Hermēs back in book I of the Corpus Hermeticum: “the truth is: light and life is God and Father, whence Man is begotten”.

With all ten powers present, “spiritual birth is complete…and by this birth we have become divine”.  These are all given by the mercy of God, which quells the torments of the bodily senses, and one who has these powers “knows himself and rejoices”; these ten powers “beget the soul”.  There’s some Pythagorean influence here in how these are described: Life and Light together form a unit, a henad (the number One), and the henad is the source of the decad (the number Ten), and “the Henad contains the Decad” while at the same time “the Decad [contains] the Henad”.  If we consider “spirit” here to be fundamentally the spirit of God, then we can consider this to be equivalent or identified with the power of the Good itself, from which come Life and Light, and from those two all the other powers derive.  This dimly kinda recalls how I plotted out the ten spheres onto the Tetractys as part of my Mathēsis stuff, with “the Supreme Good” being simply the Monad at the top, Light being the right-hand sphaira of the Dyad (the sphere of the fixed stars, the active power) and Life being the left-hand sphaira (the sphere of the Earth, the passive power):

At the same time, note that we have two systems going on here: a system of twelve (the tormentors) and a system of ten (the powers).  We start off by specifically linking one tormentor to one power, but after the first seven pairs, the last five seem to get jumbled together.  Hermēs says that “among the signs…there are pairs united in activity”, and notes that recklessness is inseparable with and indistinguishable from anger.  Copenhaver notes that, in this light, four of the twelve tormentors can be considered as two pairs broken up; if this is so and they are reduced into units, such as anger and recklessness into a combined tormentor, then we go from twelve tormentors to ten, but we don’t know what the other pair is (perhaps envy and treachery?).  If that were the case, and if we consider the sequence of introducing Good and Life and Light to be reversed given a descent of the Dyad from the Henad, then we might come up with the following scheme:

Tormentor Power
Ignorance Knowledge of God
Sorrow Experience of Joy
Intemperance Self-control
Lust Steadfastness
Injustice Justice
Greed Generosity
Deceit Truth
Envy and Treachery Light
Anger and Recklessness Life
Malice Good

That being said, I don’t know if I trust that specific scheme; Copenhaver notes that such an understanding of some of the tormentors isn’t agreed upon.  After all, though it’s definitely not contemporaneous with this, we can bring in a bit of Qabbalah here to justify keeping the systems of twelve tormentors and ten powers separate rather than forcing them onto the same scheme of ten.  Recall that the lower seven sefirot of the Tree of Life are considered underneath the Veil of the Abyss that separate the upper three sephiroth (Keter, Ḥokmah, Binah) from the lower seven (Ḥesed, Geburah, Tiferet, Neṣaḥ, Hod, Yesod, Malkut).  The upper three sefirot, then, are considered a trinity unto themselves that, from the perspective of everything below it, act as a unity.  Not to equate the sefirot of the Tree of Life here with what Hermēs is talking about, but it does offer an interesting possible parallel to how we might consider how these powers function and upon what.

By that same token, however, this means that the last five tormentors of the body (envy, treachery, anger, recklessness, and malice) seem to function differently than the first seven, in that the first seven have a distinct power of God that chases them out while the latter five are only chased out by the highest attainments of powers of God themselves, and that indistinctly.  In a way, this brings to mind part of book I of the Corpus Hermeticum, when Hermēs is communing with Poimandrēs, who tells Hermēs about “how the way back [to Nous, i.e. the Divinity of the Mind] is found”.  In this part of book I, there’s this notion of heavenly ascent through the seven planetary spheres, where one gives up a particular force (vice? tormentor?) associated with each of the planets.  Using Salaman’s translation of this section as a base, and giving the alternative translations of Copenhaver, Mead, and Scott for each of those forces:

First, in the dissolution of the material body, one gives the body itself up to change.  The form you had becomes unseen, and you surrender to the divine power your habitual character, now inactive.  The bodily senses return to their own sources.  Then they become parts again and rise for action, while the seat of emotions and desire go to mechanical nature.

Thus a man starts to rise up through the harmony of the cosmos:

  1. To the first plain [of the Moon], he surrenders the activity of growth and diminution;
    1. Copenhaver: “increase and decrease”
    2. Mead: “growth and waning”
    3. Scott: “the force which works increase and the force that works decrease”
  2. To the second [of Mercury], the means of evil, trickery now being inactive;
    1. Copenhaver: “evil machination”
    2. Mead: “device of evils”
    3. Scott: “machinations of evil cunning”
  3. To the third [of Venus], covetous deceit, now inactive;
    1. Copenhaver: “illusion of longing”
    2. Mead: “guile of desires”
    3. Scott: “lust whereby men are deceived”
  4. To the fourth [of the Sun], the eminence pertaining to a ruler, being now without avarice;
    1. Copenhaver: “arrogance of rulers”
    2. Mead: “domineering arrogance”
    3. Scott: “domineering arrogance”
  5. To the fifth [of Mars], impious daring and reckless audacity;
    1. Copenhaver: “unholy presumption and daring recklessness”
    2. Mead: “unholy daring and rashness of audacity”
    3. Scott: “unholy daring and rash audacity”
  6. To the sixth [of Jupiter], evil impulses for wealth, all of these being now inactive;
    1. Copenhaver: “evil impulses that come from wealth”
    2. Mead: “striving for wealth by evil means”
    3. Scott: “evil strivings after wealth”
  7. And to the seventh plain [of Saturn], the falsehood which waits in ambush.
    1. Copenhaver: “deceit that lies in ambush”
    2. Mead: “ensnaring falsehood”
    3. Scott: “falsehood which lies in wait to work harm”

Then, stripped of the activities of the cosmos, he enters the substance of the eighth plain with his own power, and he sings praises to the Father with those who are present; those who are near rejoice at his coming.  Being made like to those who are there together, he also hears certain powers which are above the eighth sphere, singing praises to God with sweet voice.  Then in due order, they ascend to the Father and they surrender themselves to the powers, and becoming the powers they are merged in God.  This is the end, the Supreme Good, for those who have had the higher knowledge: to become God.

This final part of what Poimandrēs tells Hermēs in book I touches on what Hermēs and Tat discuss in book XIII once Tat receives the ten powers and attains divinity:

T:  Then, o Father, I wish to hear the hymn of praise which you said was there to be heard from the powers, on my birth into the eighth sphere.

H: I will recite it, o son; just as Poimandrēs revealed the eighth sphere to me.  You do well to make haste to free yourself from the tent of the body, for you have been purified.  Poimandrēs, the Nous of the Supreme, gave me no more than what has been written, being aware that I should be able to know all things by myself and to hear what I wanted to hear, and to see all, and he charged me to create works of beauty.  Wherefore the powers in me sing also in all things.

This follows with the Secret Hymn, or what I call the Initiatory Hymn of Silence.  Though some aspects of what Poimandrēs told Hermēs differs from what Hermēs is telling Tat, the fundamental process is the same: we either give up or chase off the irrational forces of matter and flesh that ensnare us and shroud us in ignorant darkness, and what remains after that (or what we replace with them) are the divine powers that enable us to return to a truly divine state.  This is what Hermēs tells Tat earlier on in book IV:

T: I also wish to be immersed in Nous, o father.

H: If you don’t hate your body, son, you cannot love your Self.  If you love your Self, you will have Nous, and having Nous you will partake of knowledge.

T: Why do you say that, father?

H: For, son, it is impossible to be governed by both, by the mortal and by the divine.  There are two kinds of beings, the embodied and the unembodied, in whom there is the mortal and the divine spirit.  Man is left to choose one or the other, if he so wishes.  For one cannot choose both at once; when one is diminished, it reveals the power of the other.

There’s this notion in the Corpus Hermeticum of a spiritual (re)birth that happens when we reject the irrational powers of the body and seek (or, as a result of rejecting the tormentors, are given) the rational powers of God, a process of spiritual ascension through forsaking the material, which we can perform while still embodied so long as we retract our awareness away from the senses and perceptions of the body.  In other words, by letting go of the body (even while still possessing it, or rather, being possessed by it), we grasp onto the Good.  This shouldn’t be interpreted as some sort of banally gnostic, simplistically dualistic world-hating, but as a simple understanding that focusing on the body keeps us in the body and away from God.  (There’s a lovely essay, Agrippa’s Dilemma: Hermetic ‘Rebirth’ and the Ambivalences of De Vanitate and De occulta philosophia by Michael Keefer, that I recommend for reading on this point, especially regarding Cornelius Agrippa’s own Christian interpretation of this Hermetic approach to salvation.)

And what of the torments?  How do they actually torment us?  Consider what Poimandrēs tells Hermēs when they discuss those who do not have Nous:

As for those without Nous—the evil, the worthless, the envious, the greedy, murderers, the ungodly—I am very far from them, having given way to the avenging spirit, who assaults each of them through the senses, throwing fiery darts at them.  He also moves them to greater acts of lawlessness so that such a man suffers greater retribution, yet he does not cease from having limitless appetite for his lust nor from fighting in the dark without respite.  The avenging spirit then puts him to torture and increase the fire upon him to its utmost.

It’s not that the Hermetic deity is a jealous or vengeful god that those without Nous should be deprived from people, since the lack of Nous isn’t really much more than being immersed in the darkness of matter and not living a life that focuses on the light of spirit.  As material beings that are born, we must also die, and so long as we focus on being material, we must and deserve to die, but once we strive for immaterial immortality, we begin to attain Nous.  By identifying with the material, we suffer material conditions, but by identifying with the spiritual, we enjoy spiritual ones; in a cosmic sense, “you are what you eat”.  In this sense, it’s not that Poimandrēs actively wants us to suffer, but that suffering is part and parcel of being material; for as long as we strive to be material, we suffer, and the more we try to be material, the more we suffer.  The “avenging spirit”, in this case, isn’t really a distinct devil or demon, but the torments of the body itself; the phrase used here is τιμωρῷ δαίμονι (timōrôy daímoni), with “avenging” (τιμωρός, timōrós) being fundamentally the same word as “torturer” (τιμωρία) from above.

What’s interesting now, at this point, is how we now have two models of irrational forces: a set of seven that are associated with the planets according to Poimandes, and a set of twelve that are associated with the zodiac signs from Hermēs, and there isn’t a clean match between them for us to link one set to the other.  There are some similarities, sure; the seventh zodiacal torment of Deceit (or, perhaps better, Error) is much like the seventh planetary force of falsehood; the sixth zodiacal torment of Greed is basically the sixth planetary force of evil striving for wealth, and so forth.  But there are also differences; it’s hard to see how the second zodiacal torment of Sorrow is at all like the second planetary force of evil machination.  Except that the word translated as “sorrow” for the second zodiacal torment is λύπη lúpē, which technically refers to pain of body or mind and is also related to the Greek verb λυπέω lupéō, with meanings including “grieve”, “vex”, “distress”, “feel pain”.  In this, if we consider this to be a mental anguish, we might bring to mind the temperament of melancholy, which can lead to states of mind including depression, fear, anxiety, mistrust, suspicion, and deeper cogitations; all these can definitely be linked to “evil machinations”, which was classically considered a symptom of being too melancholic.  Likewise, it’s not easy to immediately link the first zodiacal torment of Ignorance with the first planetary force of increase and decrease, but as Tat complains to Hermēs in book XIII:

T: I am dumbstruck and bereft of my wits, O father, for I see that your size and features remain the same.

H: In this you are deceived.  The mortal form changes day by day, with the turning of time it grows and decays, its reality is a deception.

T: What then is true, Trismegistus?

H: The untroubled, unlimited, colorless, formless, unmoving, naked, shining, self-knowing; the unchanging Good without a body.

So, maybe the seven planetary forces described by Poimandrēs really are the first seven of the zodiacal torments of Hermēs, just phrased in another way for another audience.  This lends some credence to the notion from above that the last five of the zodiacal torments really are of a different set or nature; after all, if Hermēs admits to Tat that there are far more torments than just the twelve he named, maybe Hermēs was just naming more than strictly necessary to show that the way is long and hard, beset by so many torments.  Yet, once we chase out the first seven, the others follow suit, because “upon the arrival of Truth, the Supreme Good arises…the Supreme Good, together with Life and Light, has followed upon Truth, and the torments of darkness no longer fall upon us, but conquered; they all fly off with a rush of wings”.  In this, the final five zodiacal torments could simply be called “darkness”, all chased off by Light (which is unified with Life and the Good).  And, fundamentally, regardless whether we take a planetary approach (being ruled by the wandering stars) or a zodiacal approach (being ruled by the fixed stars), the world of matter is governed by celestial forces that we need to break free of or give back what they force upon us.

Also, note that there are interesting differences in how Hermēs describes the attainment of the various powers of God: Hermēs says that knowledge of God and experience of Joy “come to us”, while he summons self-control, steadfastness, justice, generosity, and truth, and once truth “arrives”, the triune powers of Good-Life-Light “arise”.  Given that truth “arrives” after Hermēs summons it, and that the knowledge of God and experience of joy similarly arrive, it stands to reason that Hermēs also calls on those first two powers as well.  In effect, we have the first seven powers of God which we call or summon, and the last three which arise on their own without being summoned, instead following the summoning of truth.  In this, it seems like we only truly need to work to call forth (or reach towards) the first seven powers of God; once we have those seven, you attain the last three as a natural result.  This is effectively like breaking past the Veil of the Abyss in a Qabbalistic sense; sure, there’s always more work to be done (after all, “before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water”), but once you’ve made that jump, there’s truly nothing left stopping you.  Once you break into the eighth sphere from the seventh, it’s just a matter of time (“in due order”, according to Poimandrēs) of further elevation and ascension.

And, true enough, this isn’t the last we see of these powers that chase off the torments.  At the end of Book XIII, Hermēs passes onto Tat the Secret Hymn, what I call the Initiatory Hymn of Silence.  After Tat has been reborn through the ten divine powers that Hermēs describes and becomes one in Nous, Tat requests Hermēs to sing the “hymn of praise” that is sung by the holy entities of the eighth sphere to God.  Hermēs does so, though he “had not thought to impart [it] so easily”.  Hermēs instructs that it should be said outdoors “under the clear sky” facing the south at sunset, and east at sunrise.  After Hermēs begins the hymn proper, the hymn follows more-or-less the same format of the powers that Hermēs earlier referred to that themselves sing to God:

O powers within me, sing to the One and All!
All you powers, sing praise together at my bidding.
Divine Knowledge, illumined by you, I sing through you of the spiritual light and I rejoice in the joy of Nous.
Sing praise with me, all you powers!
Temperance, sing with me!
Justice, through me praise what is just!
Generosity, through me praise the All!
Truth, sing of the truth!
Good, praise the Good!
Life and Light, from you comes the praise and to you it returns.
I give thanks to you, Father, the strength of all my powers.
I give thanks to you, God, power of all my strength.
Your Word through me sings to you.
Receive all back through me by the Word, a spoken sacrifice.

Though it might have passed as high-brow yet pop spiritual philosophy back in the day, the Corpus Hermeticum really is a fundamental work for Western spiritual practices, and is fundamentally useful and instructive in matters of theurgy.  What we see above is a sort of plan or map for attaining divinity through theurgic practices, by means of purifying the senses and purging the soul of material influences so as to become a freer, truly immortal power of God ourselves.  By taking the accounts of Hermēs into consideration, we can figure out how we stand in terms of our bodies and souls, what we need to focus on to continue along our spiritual paths, and how we can maintain ourselves in a matter of right and proper living through right and divine reason.

EDIT (2019-07-30): So it turns out the excellent Reverend Erik put up his own post touching on this same topic, tying it into other practices and parallels in other traditions, back in September last year.  Go check it out for more information on this wonderful topic!