Would you believe me if I said that one of the most powerful prayers, indeed the only true prayer we’re capable of, involves no words or speech at all? Further, that this prayer is what undergirds every ritual, working, and sacrifice we make to the Source and to the world?
One of the things that Fr. Rufus Opus’ lessons in Hermetic magic teaches is how to get up and running as a Hermetic magician working with the spheres of the cosmos. This process grounds the magician in working with the four elements that compose this sphere we live in, whether you call it Earth or Malkuth or whatever. From there, you then begin to work with the forces of the heavens, indicated by the different planets: the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. By cycling through these forces, either in conjuration or astral exploration or qabbalistic pathworking or what-have-you, the magician begins to understand the relationship between the heavens and the earth, what is above versus what is below. Each heaven feeds into the next, such that the forces that come from Saturn feed into Jupiter, which feeds into Mars, all the way down to Earth. Ascending through the heavens gives the magician a solid footing in each of the forces that collectively build up the world, understanding how things on Earth come to be through the elements and how the elements come to be through the planets.
But the work doesn’t stop there, of course. The planets themselves are collectively formed from even higher forces, which is sometimes termed “the sphere of the fixed stars”. Ancient astrologers and astronomers only knew of the seven planets, and guessed at their relative distance from the Earth based on their speed. Thus, the Moon, having the fastest speed around the Earth, would be the closest planet to Earth, and Saturn, with the slowest speed of the traditional naked-eye planets, would be the farthest. From this, we get the terms “first heaven” relating to the sphere of the Moon, “second heaven” to Mercury, and so forth. If Saturn is then the “seventh heaven”, then what lies beyond Saturn would be the “eighth heaven”, but there are no visible naked-eye planets to correspond to such a place. The ancients then assigned all of the fixed stars, the lights in the sky that don’t move relative to each other like the planets do, to the eighth heaven; this includes all of the constellations of the Zodiac, all of the lunar mansions, and all other fixed stars, constellations, and the like. This is the furthest boundary between what exists and what does not exist (God), whose membrane exists somewhere between the stars themselves and Saturn.
My first experience with the eighth sphere was something I looked forward to for some time, and I was finally able to attain during the consecration of my ebony Wand of Art last year. I had done a week straight of conjuration, going through each element and planet in turn for seven days straight, reincorporating those forces within me to prepare me for the final conjuration of Iophiel of the Fixed Stars, the Eighth Heaven, and to call it a memorable experience would be a grievous understatement. After a lot of conversation with the angel Iophiel, something had finally clicked that Fr. RO had mentioned time and time again on his blog that had enticed me to contact this angel in the first place, the Hymns of Silence:
In the Eighth sphere, we learn to Hymn in Silence. The Hymns are hymns of CREATION. We are creator gods, and the most holy form of worship is the creation of our world. Hymning in silence seems, from my experience, to mean that we get apply the forces of creation at will through methods such as imagining a shape or form, tensing a muscle, and paying attention (focusing awareness) to a certain thing happening. t’s an immediate thing that has a great deal of potential. (from “Seven Spheres in Seven Days: Phase II”, 11/4/2012)
But when you get to the Eighth Sphere, my God, it’s a whole new ball game! The Hymns of Silence are exactly that. In the rituals and rites of the Seven Planetary spheres and the lower realms, you speak and commune and direct, you mix and mingle and create talismans and tools and things. But in the Eighth, youintend and things happen. I’ve learned there are forces released when you make a physical movement with a specific intent empowered by teachings from certain spirits at certain times, and the world just bends a little bit. (from “Abramelin: Hermetic Rite or Hermetic Wrong?” 6/8/2010)
And it’s really weird for me because I’m used to being able to put things into words. But in the Eighth Sphere, you learn to sing hymns of silence in preparation for the Ninth. It’s a matter of directing your intent in worshipful observation, in celebration of the process of manifestation. You tune your observation-with-intent to harmonize with the manifestation current, and you find yourself as the conductor as well as a player in the orchestra. And see, there’s no limit to what can be accomplished. You name a thing, and it responds, and then it returns to where it used to be. (from “Ch-ch-ch-changes”, 6/24/2010)
This morning in church, I took time during the worship service to pursue the silent hymns of the 8th Sphere. Doing so in the midst of vocal hymns was interesting, and I highly recommend anyone working with Iophial or the Archangels of the Zodiac to take the time on a Sunday morning to go to a church that sings. It doesn’t matter if it’s contemporary or traditional, but if you’ve forgotten the essence of what a hymn to the highest is all about, then you won’t have the context to understand what they can teach. If you’re a pagan, review the Orphic hymns, I’m pretty sure they’re around somewhere. The point is to worship, which is not a debasing or limiting thing at all. IT is freeing, and you can’t begin to understand the image you were made in until you are able to understand what you’re an image of. If that makes sense. My fingers are typing the wrong words lately. (from “The Silver Key”, 3/22/2009)
Each of the spheres has its own “tune”, it’s own note, with our lowest sphere of Earth composed of all of them. However, Saturn has commonly been depicted as a sphere of silence, of the lowest possible note where only whispers are possible, if anything at all (especially in my own travels in that sphere, or say Alan Moore’s “Promethea” series). If these seven spheres correspond to the seven basic pitches of Western music, then what exists beyond that? Because that’s where the Eighth Sphere lies, and even beyond that the Ninth, which is the Source of all other things that exist. It’s the beautiful music that comes from the Eighth Sphere without sound, the tone without pitch, the vibration with both all and no vibrations at once, that undergirds all other possible music that can be made below it, and this music is the Hymn of Silence.
This isn’t something that Fr. RO made up, either. It goes all the way back to the beginning of Hermeticism in the Poemander (section 26):
And then, with all the energisings of the harmony stript from him, clothed in his proper Power, he cometh to that Nature which belongs unto the Eighth, and there with those-that-are hymneth the Father.
They who are there welcome his coming there with joy; and he, made like to them that sojourn there, doth further hear the Powers who are above the Nature that belongs unto the Eighth, singing their songs of praise to God in language of their own.
And then they, in a band, go to the Father home; of their own selves they make surrender of themselves to Powers, and [thus] becoming Powers they are in God. This the good end for those who have gained Gnosis – to be made one with God.
Why shouldst thou then delay? Must it not be, since thou hast all received, that thou shouldst to the worthy point the way, in order that through thee the race of mortal kind may by [thy] God be saved?
And the idea is talked about even more at length in Hermes’ Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth to Asclepius:
H: “Lord, grant us a wisdom from your power that reaches us, so that we may describe to ourselves the vision of the eighth and the ninth. We have already advanced to the seventh, since we are pious and walk in your law. And your will we fulfill always. For we have walked in your way, and we have renounced […], so that your vision may come. Lord, grant us the truth in the image. Allow us through the spirit to see the form of the image that has no deficiency, and receive the reflection of the pleroma from us through our praise. And acknowledge the spirit that is in us. For from you the universe received soul. For from you, the unbegotten one, the begotten one came into being. The birth of the self-begotten one is through you, the birth of all begotten things that exist. Receive from us these spiritual sacrifices, which we send to you with all our heart and our soul and all our strength. Save that which is in us and grant us the immortal wisdom. Let us embrace each other affectionately, my son. Rejoice over this! For already from them the power, which is light, is coming to us. For I see! I see indescribable depths. How shall I tell you, my son? […] from the […] the places. How shall I describe the universe? I am Mind, and I see another Mind, the one that moves the soul! I see the one that moves me from pure forgetfulness. You give me power! I see myself! I want to speak! Fear restrains me. I have found the beginning of the power that is above all powers, the one that has no beginning. I see a fountain bubbling with life. I have said, my son, that I am Mind. I have seen! Language is not able to reveal this. For the entire eighth, my son, and the souls that are in it, and the angels, sing a hymn in silence. And I, Mind, understand.”
What he had finished praising, [Asclepius] shouted, “Father Trismegistus! What shall I say? We have received this light. And I myself see this same vision in you. And I see the eighth, and the souls that are in it, and the angels singing a hymn to the ninth and its powers. And I see him who has the power of them all, creating those in the spirit.”
H: “I am singing a hymn within myself. While you rest yourself, be active in praise. For you have found what you seek.”
A: “I will offer up the praise in my heart, as I pray to the end of the universe and the beginning of the beginning, to the object of man’s quest, the immortal discovery, the begetter of light and truth, the sower of reason, the love of immortal life. No hidden word will be able to speak about you, Lord. Therefore, my mind wants to sing a hymn to you daily. I am the instrument of your spirit; Mind is your plectrum. And your counsel plucks me. I see myself! I have received power from you. For your love has reached us…Grace! After these things, I give thanks by singing a hymn to you. For I have received life from you, when you made me wise…”
The closest way I can describe the Hymns are something like a combination of recognizing our True Will, joining intentfully into the Pleroma, and the injunction from 1 Thessalonians to “pray without ceasing”. The experience of singing the Hymns is ecstasy in the deepest meaning of the word, making us stand apart from ourselves in rapture. The act of singing the Hymns is the act of dwelling in the Eighth, no matter where else we might be in mind or body, and to hear the Hymns even once leaves a mark on your own self that can never be erased. It’s one of those milestones in Hermetic practice that, much like getting contact with the HGA, can never be forgotten nor ignored. The sound, or thought, or vibration, or whatever-word-to-best-describe-it-that-I-can’t-find always lingers in the mind, like the currents under the surface of water or the bones supporting the body. It never goes away, even in sleep or meditation, even above earworms that get stuck in the head, even above the most dire worries and concerns we have in this life. This Hymn is the presence and awakening of Nous within ourselves.
This Hymn is the true and only Hymn we can ever possibly sing. Any words put to music or used in religious service are ultimately empty without this Hymn, and any ritual done without this Hymn being sung is worthless and ineffective without it. The good news is that this Hymn is already with us and coming from us, whether we’ve reached the Eighth Sphere or not, though we may never realize it without our eyes being opened. We may be able to sing snatches of the Hymn, or pick out the tuneless tunes that match it for a particular purpose, but these Hymns are always within us, always being sung. It’s obtaining access to the Eighth Sphere, however, and really learning about these Hymns that allows us to always be aware of them being sung within and without and around ourselves, and which allows us to intently and willfully sing it whenever we want.
In fact, if we want to be minimalist about it, singing the Hymn is the only ritual action we ever need to do. The Hymn is the accumulated powers of the Eighth Sphere, the source of all things below it; it is the foundation of the planets, elements, and all that exists. The only thing more primordial than the Eighth Sphere is God itself, and singing the Hymns not only prepares us for working with God directly as God but also prepares us to work with any other force in the cosmos. Instead of using elemental magic to change things down here on Earth as they already are, or using planetary magic to change things as they come down to Earth through the planets, the magic of the fixed stars allows us to rig the game before it ever even starts. You don’t work with a single part or multiple parts of the system, but the system as a whole; you get a broader picture of the harmony of the cosmos and what really needs working on and what’s really in discord rather than what we think is discord. In singing the Hymns with our entire body, soul, spirit, and mind, we effectively become magic itself, capable of feats unimaginable even to ourselves, since the Hymns allow us to all but tap into Mind directly.
Of course, like anything else in magic, it’s not simply a one-time thing; you don’t just waltz up to Iophiel in the highest discrete sphere possible, get initiated into the Hymns, and be done with it. Like any meditative or spiritual practice, it takes practice and effort to really get the Hymns to flow through you without discord coming from you; just like your True Will, it takes some work to align and fine-tune ourselves to sing the Hymns of Silence in Silence, with or without words. We have a lot going on down here with ourselves, and a lot to use reason for, but not all reason is truly reasonable; we may justify what isn’t reasonable to look like reason, and we may happen upon reasonable acts without reason and without knowing why we should really keep doing reasonable things. Singing the Hymns takes Work, and is another “key” to performing good ritual of any kind, but especially that of Hermeticism.
If any of the foregoing is confusing, I apologize, but this is hard to put into words to begin with, and even my talent for vocalization falls short when I try to describe something that is essentially unspeakable. The only real advice I have for further clarification is for you to go and do the Work yourselves for this. Go conjure the angels of the elements and learn their “instruments”, go conjure the angels of the planets and learn their “pitches”. Understand the principles of the music of the spheres, the harmony that builds up to the crescendo creation of our world, and with all those understood and incorporated into your own sphere that makes you your own orchestral symphony, go forth into the Eighth Sphere and learn the Music behind the music. It’s not that hard; you’re born for this. Go and Sing.