No, Evola is not a good source to learn about Hermeticism. Or anything. Stop asking.

It’s annoyingly how often he comes up in the circles I run in, but let’s just cut to the chase: by Julius Evola‘s own admission in his introduction to La tradizione ermetica (The Hermetic Tradition), the book has nothing to do with Hermeticism as it actually is. When he uses the term “Hermetic tradition”, he refers to his own take on medieval and Renaissance alchemical symbolism informed by Theosophically-influenced Vedic and Hindu spirituality.  From his own preface (in English translation):

In the present work we shall use the expression “hermetic tradition” in a special sense that the Middle Ages and the Renaissance gave it.  It will not refer to the ancient Greco-Egyptian cult of Hermes, nor will it refer solely to the teachings comprising the Alexandrian texts of the Corpus Hermeticum.  In the particular sense that we shall use it, hermetism is directly concerned with the alchemical tradition, and it is the hermetico-alchemical tradition that will be the object of our study.

If you want to learn about Hermeticism proper, Evola ain’t it.  To be sure, the term “Hermeticism” has a very twisted, twisting, twisty history, but Evola does the equivalent of appropriating it and detaching it from any sense beyond a strictly post-classical alchemical tradition.

But, to be fair, Evola is someone to completely avoid regardless. On top of his fascism—he literally described himself as superfascista and thought the Nazis didn’t go far enough because they only focused on physical race and neglected spiritual race as well—the practical thing about Evola that modern occultists really need to know is that he founded a magic society (the UR Group) based on a series of solar rituals that were grossly unbalanced, turning all its members into egotistical megalomaniacs who couldn’t get along or organize for a common purpose. They all became convinced that they were, each of them, the Only True Source of Light, and so the organization exploded. Naturally, having completely failed at designing effective magic, they turned to politics that gave them permission to murder anyone who disagreed with them.

As a result, there is nothing (nothing!) that meaningful or worthwhile that you can learn from Evola’s (or the Ur Group’s) texts that you can’t learn from some other, less obnoxious, less odious, less overweening, and overall better source in the century since or the many centuries before.  I mean, heck, even John Michael Greer talked once upon a time about how bad Evola was, not just politically but also magically, especially in “Introduction to Magic” but also touching on how short-lived and paltry Evola’s magical career was:

The fact of the matter is that Evola’s UR Group was a wretched flop, and the inadequacy of its system of training is a very large part of the reason why. The Group was founded in early 1927 and blew itself apart in late 1929, having achieved none of the goals Evola so confidently set out for it; the cause of death was a series of internal crises that will be wearily familiar to those who know their way around the more dysfunctional ends of today’s Neopagan scene.  Furthermore, according to the useful preface contributed to the book by Renato del Ponte, two later groups of occultists who attempted to revive the UR Group’s teachings crashed and burned in exactly the same way. Part of that is a phenomenon occultists call the “tainted sphere,” which we’ll discuss in a later post, but there’s another factor at work: the practical instructions for training given in Introduction to Magic are mediocre at their best moments and seriously problematic at their worst.

[…] Turn the pages of Introduction to Magic and it’s not hard to see why. Setting aside the philosophical and symbolic essays—which again are generally of high quality—and the turgid rhetoric that seems to have been de rigueur for occult authors in that era, what you get, in terms of practical work, consists of: (a) standard advice on developing consciousness and will in everyday life, mostly cribbed from Eliphas Lévi; (b) an assortment of exercises in meditation and visualization, not well integrated with one another; (c) a few exercises with a magical mirror, for one or two persons; and (d) a simple ritual centering on Pietro d’Abano’s invocation of the archangel of the Sun, without any of the preliminary training needed to make rituals work.  As a set of basic practices, that has serious problems: it leaves out a number of things essential to the novice in operative magic, and it’s imbalanced in ways that will produce (and in fact did produce) predictable problems.

[…] Evola, for his part, responded to the parallel failure of the UR Group by turning from magic to politics. His entire involvement with magic began and ended in the three years the UR Group functioned, and these were very early in his life—when the UR Group was founded, he was only twenty-six years old. His decision to turn to political action, and from there to cultural politics, was a sensible one. Since he was not the sort of person who could submit to another’s guidance and instruction, he was never going to get the kind of systematic education in magic he needed to accomplish his goals—and the lack of a systematic education in magic lay at the heart of his failure as a teacher of that art.

As noted above, JMG’s article also points out something really neat: Evola was literally just involved in magic for, like, three years. That’s it. In those few years, magic failed him because he failed at magic.  Sure, he kept writing about it from time to time, as in La tradizione ermetica or Maschera e volto dello spiritualismo contemporaneo, but (as Gianfranco de Turris’ Julius Evola: The Philosopher and Magician in War: 1943—1945 notes) he did so only to continue further his repulsive views without actually doing anything more than writing what amounts to bad fanfiction of esotericism:

The issue of esotericism was also relevant in the context of Evola’s collaboration with the German Sicherheitsdienst (Security Service) and Abwehr (Military Intelligence Service) because his relationship with the German military secret services took place in view of the preparation of a model of man and society that was not intended for everyone but rather only for the “initiates” who were capable of demonstrating an inner equilibrium and knowledge superior to others. Evola’s logic in this regard was also clearly antimodern, since all the principles and values that were born of the French Revolution concerning equality and the rights of man were totally alien to him and his thinking. Esotericism represented a way to stress an inequality of men and, consequently, a different valuation of rights. Moreover, the historicist notion that the modern “surpasses” the ancient and thereby constitutes an advancement of progress was foreign to the philosopher.

[…] In reality, all of Evola’s projects during this time period—which ranged from those conceived in the final years of the war to those intended for the young militants of the Italian postwar radical Right—were not so much political as they were cultural and existential projects to develop aspects of resistance, especially on a personal level, against that modernity, which for Evola represented the source for all the evils of contemporary society.

And against modernity, sure, Evola has plenty to say, notably in his Rivolta contro il mondo moderno (Revolt Against the Modern World)Wouter J. Hanegraaff put out an excellent article about this text with his own sharp critique noting that what Evola has to say about modernity and about tradition is worth less than used single-ply toilet paper:

Let me begin on the positive side. Impressive about Evola’s book is the remarkable degree of internal logic and consistency of vision with which he deconstructs every imaginable belief or assumption that modern people tend to take for granted, exposing the whole of it as one long series of errors and perversions of the universal metaphysical truth on which all Traditional societies were based. He manages to strike a tone of “academic” authority that gives the impression that he knows what he is talking about, and it is not so hard to understand that a book like this can make a deep impression on readers who feel alienated from contemporary global consumer culture and would like to see it destroyed. With a radicalism reminiscent of contemporary Islamic Jihadists, Evola tells his readers that modernity is the very negation of everything valid and true.

So what is his alternative? This is where it quickly gets problematic. First of all, while Evola’s modern Right-wing admirers like to claim “historical consciousness” for themselves while blaming their “Liberal” enemies for having no sense of history, Evola himself makes perfectly clear that any attempt to find evidence for his historical narrative will be an utter waste of time. He claims that “Traditional man” had a “supratemporal” sense of time, and therefore the reality in which he lived cannot be grasped by modern historical methods at all. […] any critical objection, any disagreement, any reference to historical evidence that might possible undermine Evola’s narrative, and indeed any reference to historical sources at all, will have no impact whatsoever. And this fits perfectly with the extreme authoritarianism that is typical of Evola’s attitude: the reader is given to understand that it is not really Julius Evola who is speaking to us in these pages – no, he is speaking on behalf of the supreme source of superhuman metaphysical truth itself (the nature of which, by the way, remains very vague). Disagreement is therefore synonymous with spiritual ignorance: one is not supposed to ask questions but to listen and accept.

[…] So are we simply dealing here with the typical naïvety of an amateur historian? I don’t think so. I am convinced that Evola’s highhanded statements about the total irrelevance of historical scholarship reflect an acute awareness on his part that these methods and technical tools had the power to undermine and destroy everything he wanted to say. If he dismisses textual criticism or philological analysis ex cathedra, describing them as the feeble props of deluded ignorants, this is because he knows that in reality they are deadly weapons against which his claims would be utterly helpless. Better discredit your critics in advance so that your readers will not even bother taking their arguments seriously. Better make use of the popular and populist resentment of “academics” in their ivory tower, of all those “specialists” who are making everything so difficult instead of telling a clear and simple story that normal people can understand. We find a similar strategy in the current conservative and rightwing campaigns of denying climate change (Trump: “just look out the window!”), undermining the credibility of science and academic research, attempting to defund Humanities programs, and spreading the trope of “alternative facts”. Science and scholarship are inconvenient to these antimodernists because they hinder them in saying what they want to say and doing what they want to do. Never let evidence stand in the way of a good story. We find the same approach in Evola. In sum, I do not think he doesn’t take historians seriously, on the contrary: he is afraid of them. He knows that his weapons are no match for theirs, and so he seeks to avoid a direct confrontation.

Also, I note as a historical point of interest, he apparently had a habit of walking around Vienna during bombing raids during World War II to “ponder his destiny”, and during one such raid in 1945, was hit by shrapnel that damaged his spinal cord, paralyzing him from the waist down for the rest of his life.  He was, to put it plainly, an astounding idiot with little sense of self-preservation on top of his horrific and banal “philosophy”.

Why, then, do people consider this rubbish to be some sort of grand luminary? I mean, I can guess: the man was an egotistical, hyperfascist, woman-hating, violent abuser of not just other human beings but of human dignity itself.  He was barely even an armchair magician (who literally failed at becoming anything more) and was more interested in romanticizing his own ahistorical, easily-wrecked notion of “tradition” that acclaimed the superiority of white men more than anything and anyone else, and such a view is replete throughout all his writings.  As a result of that and his sick self-aggrandizing desire to get people riled up in the usual ways bigotry likes to do, his influence continues to dominate in neo-fascist occult circles and in modern far-right political circles as well.  The sooner everyone drops his shit and leaves him to be swallowed by the sands of time in favor of literally anyone better (and it’s genuinely easy to find anyone better, and I do mean anyone), the better off we’ll all be.

To impress how severe my stance on him is: Evola and his ilk is one of the extremely few blights I take upon Hermetic studies/spirituality (and humanity in general) more seriously and more vitriolically than the Kybalion.  Remember that the only thing fascists deserve is immolation and drowning, not any sort of space or platform within our communities.  (This is not a call to violence, I should note, but merely a call to defense against those whose ideologies promise nothing but violence already.  The cure for this is simple: don’t be fascist.)

The above was posted in a shorter form on the /r/Hermeticism subreddit, which itself was a comment in reply to a now-deleted thread, which itself was an adaptation from an earlier Twitter thread of mine, which was yet earlier a series of comments from an older discussion in the Hermetic House of Life Discord server. Still, given how often it crops up in any number Hermetic communities, I wanted to share this more widely and publicly for other people to see as well. In my own Hermetic community on Discord, I’ve noticed a strong correlation between those who stan or otherwise unflaggingly support Evola and those who show their whole ass with rancidly fascist takes in short order. It’s not a good look, and such people tend to not last long in the communities I run in.  To that end, I am powerfully disinterested in debating the merit of Evola’s writings at any length.

EDIT: I couldn’t not share this on my blog from a good friend:

 

Lighting the Shrine to Light the Way

Once again, I’ve found myself in the doldrums when it comes to regular practice, and once again, I periodically check in on my temple room and get a profound urge to organize, downsize, and redo so much of it.  Spirits that no longer serve, shrines I no longer tend to, tools I’ve collected but have long since forgotten what purpose they were supposed to get to—eventually, bit by bit, it all compounds upon itself, leading to a massive feeling of obligation and no means to resolve it, and thus also leading to a complete paralysis and inability to even want to do anything about it.  It is, of course, a familiar cycle, and it turns on again and again, as it ever has.

Part of the usual turning of this cycle, as it seems to turn out, is where I reconsider my main shrine, the point at which I do the bulk of all my Hermetic prayers.  I’ve had one ever since I started all this stuff back when I got into Rufus Opus’ Red Work Course way back when in 2011, and have kept it in some form or another ever since, ranging from a simple nightstand at the foot of my Ikea folding bed in my old apartment to a long sidetable in a temple room in my old place to a much wider and taller desk-type setup in the temple room where I live now.  Just as the shape and size of the surface itself has changed, so too has what’s gone on it, from a simple candle and corner for my HGA to a candle with the seven archangels and my HGA and Mary as Queen of Heaven, to a…well, much more elaborate setup I had involving the four progenitors of geomancy with the Sun and Moon, or alternatively angelic representations of the North and South Nodes of the Moon, etc.  That I’ve always had a shrine to do my Hermetic stuff at hasn’t changed, but the shape and format of my shrine has, reflecting different stages of my spiritual development, experimentation, and thinking about what it is I’m actually doing.

In addition to the various things I’ve already tried, I’ve also considered a bunch of other things, too, that I thought about as incorporating as devotional elements that might be nice for a Hermetic practice:

  • A natural tall-ish stone, or a brick/stone pyramid, situated and rising from a bowl of water to represent the Benben mound of Egyptian cosmogonic myth
  • An image (statue, scroll, painting, etc.) of Hermēs Trismegistos, either with or without accompanying (and perhaps smaller) images of his students Tat, Asklēpios, and Ammōn
  • An image of the Agathodaimōn or HGA
  • An image of the Divine Cosmos or of Divine Nature (much as one might find in Jeffrey Kupperman’s excellent Living Theurgy: A Course in Iamblichus’ Philosophy, Theology, and Theurgy)
  • A small abstract model of Adocentyn (or, as one might consider it, Hermopolis Theia) from the Picatrix
  • A pair of images to represent the Sun and Moon, or of the seven planets
  • Images or symbols of one’s general faith and religion, especially if one syncretizes Hermeticism with another religion or practices it as a mystical approach to another religion (e.g. a crucifix for Christian Hermeticists)
  • Calligraphy of sacred words, verses, or statements of faith

All of these are nice, I admit, and they all reflect different ideas, approaches, and meanings that can be used towards Hermeticism.  However, despite all of these things that one might feasibly use, I’ve always felt strongly about one thing that one must use in such a Hermetic shrine, and that’s a sacred light burning on the shrine: the shrine lamp itself.  All else is effectively up to the individual’s choice, but the shrine lamp must be present, I’d claim.  It’s something I’ve always had going for my own shrines, to be sure, in one form or another, whether a plain glass-encased white novena candle in the center and back of my shrine or a Moroccan tealight lantern hanging above my shrine.  More than that, it’s not just that it’s a habit of mine, but rather that it makes sense to have it.

So, why a shrine lamp at all?  In my view, this lantern or candle or whatever burning with a sacred flame represents the pure light and holy presence of God.  I mean, light as a thing is a hugely important notion in the classical texts of Hermeticism, like the elaborate revelation of Poimandrēs to Hermēs Trismegistos in book I of the Corpus Hermeticum, how all things were originally light and it is from this light that all creation came to be and that light is the origin of mind itself.  I’ve not just explored the sacred notion and use of light in my own home and life before, but also in how it can be used in a religious sense in geomancy with its Islamic origins, but there’s also an interesting notion at play that I really want to focus on today: that of the story of Hermēs Trismegistos and the Perfect Nature from the Picatrix (book III, chapter 6).  I wrote a five-part series of posts about it a ways back (The Spiritual Nature(s) of Perfect Nature, Analyzing the Vignette and the Names, Ritual Prep and Setting the Altar, Associations of the Four Powers, and The Ritual Itself, and Why Do It Anyway), and the story there is a really interesting one (using Warnock/Greer’s translation):

When I wished to understand and draw forth the secrets of the workings of the world and of its qualities, I put myself above a certain pit that was very deep and dark, from which a certain impetuous wind blew; nor was I able to see anything in the pit, on account of its obscurity.  If I put a lit candle in it, straightway it was extinguished by the wind.

Then there appeared to me in a dream a beautiful man of imperial authority, who spoke to me as follows: “Put that lit candle in a lantern of glass, and the impetuosity of the wind will not extinguish it. You should lower the lantern into the pit, in the middle of which you should dig; thence you may draw forth an image by which, when you have drawn it forth, the wind from the pit will be extinguished, and then you will be able to hold the light there. Then you should dig in the four corners of the pit, and from there you may draw out the secrets of the world and of Perfect Nature, and its qualities, and the generation of all things.”

I asked him who he was, and he replied: “I am Perfect Nature; if you wish to speak to me, call me by my proper name, and I will answer you.” I asked him them by what name he was called, and he answered me, saying, “By the four names mentioned above I am named and called…”

In my second post on the series, I explored this little vignette, and tried to analyze it in the context of what I knew, seeing it as a mirrored version of Hermēs’ ascent into the heavens in classical pagan literature with here a chthonic descent into treasure realms in later Islamic literature.  However, what I was unaware of when I wrote that post series is that such an interpretation (which I still think has some merit as a symbolic reinterpretation) isn’t quite reasonable when one takes a broader view of the literature and myths available to the writer(s) of the Picatrix.  For instance, if we were to turn to, say, the Kitāb sirr al-ḫalīqa, or the Book of the Secret of Creation and the Art of Nature attributed to Balīnūs of Tuaya (aka Apollonius of Tyana), which the first text we know of that contains the short text of the Emerald Tablet, we see a super similar story, indeed.  Turning to Jason Colavito’s translation:

I was an orphan of the people of Tuaya, totally indigent and destitute of everything. There was in the place where I lived a statue of stone raised on a column of wood; on the column one could read these words: “I am Hermes, to whom knowledge has been given; I have made this wonderful work in public, but afterward I hid the secrets of my art, so that they can only be discovered by a man as learned as I am.” On the breast of the statue one could similarly read these words written in ancient language: “If anyone wishes to know the secret of the creation of beings, and in what way nature has been formed, he should look under my feet.” They came in crowds to see this statue, and everyone looked under its feet without seeing anything.

As for me, I was still a weak child; but when I was stronger, and I attained a more advanced age, having read the words that were on the chest of the statue, I understood the meaning, and I undertook to dig the ground under the foot of the column. I discovered a subterranean vault where a thick darkness reigned, and in which the light of the sun could not penetrate. If one wanted to carry in the light of a torch, it was immediately extinguished by the movement of the winds which blew ceaselessly. I found no way to follow the path I had discovered, because of the darkness that filled the underground; and the force of the winds which blew through it did not allow me to enter by the light of the torch. Unable to overcome these obstacles, I slipped into depression, and sleep took hold of my eyes.

While I slept an anxious and restless sleep, my mind occupied with the subject of my pain, an old man whose face resembled mine appeared before me and said to me: “Arise, Balīnūs, and enter into this underground path; it will lead you to knowledge of the secrets of creation, and you will come to know how nature was formed.” “The darkness,” I replied, “prevents me from discerning anything in this place, and no light can withstand the wind blowing there.” Then this old man said to me: “Balīnūs, place your light under a transparent vessel. It will thus be sheltered from the winds which will be able to put it out, and it will illuminate this dark place.” These words restored joy to my soul; I felt that I would finally enjoy the object of my desire, and I addressed the man with these words: “Who are you,” I said to him, “to whom I am indebted for such a great blessing?” “I am,” he replied, “your creator, the perfect being.”

At that moment I awoke, filled with joy, and placing a light under a transparent vessel, as I had been ordered to do, I descended underground. I saw an old man sitting on a throne of gold, holding in one hand a tablet of emerald, on which was written: “This is the formation of nature”; before him was a book on which this was written: “This is the secret of the creation of beings, and the science of the causes of all things”” I took this book boldly, and without fear, and I departed from this place. I learned what was written in this book of the Secret of the Creation of Beings; I understood how nature was formed, and I acquired knowledge of the causes of all things. My knowledge made my name famous; I knew the art of talismans, and marvelous things, and I penetrated the combinations of the four elementary principles, their different compositions, their antipathies, and their affinities.

The similarities here are beyond happenstance; to my mind, it’s clear that the Picatrix’s account of Hermēs coming in contact with Perfect Nature so as to enter a dark pit falls into the same lineage of myths and vignettes as this one of Apollonius coming in contact with Perfect Nature so as to enter the tomb of Hermēs himself.  In either case, note the crucial thing that this spirit suggests so as to enter the windy darkness and see what is within: a light encased within glass, the line to shine into the darkness and the glass to protect the light.  In my earlier analysis of the vignette from the Picatrix, I understood this to be a metaphor for protecting one’s own mind:

In a dream, Perfect Nature came and told Hermēs to protect the candle from the wind in a lamp so that the wind will not extinguish it.  Seeing how encased lamps are a truly ancient invention, I’m surprised that this had to be pointed out to Hermēs.  However, this is also symbolic…By using the candle as one’s awareness, Hermēs trying to ascend into the heavens without preparation and protection, shutting himself off from the violent passions of the world and the influences of fate produced by the planets.

I arrived at this interpretation with help from the Chronos Speaks blog on this very same topic:

This in mind, Hermes’ mysterious description of the method of contacting Perfect Nature starts to make a lot more sense. The “deep pit” is sleep itself which drags one down into the oblivion of unconsciousness if we are not successful in achieving lucidity, the “impetuous wind” is the mental noise that prevents both sleep and lucidity (and which seems to get much stronger at the critical point), the “candle” is the light of awareness itself, and the “glass lantern” that protects awareness from being blown out is the recitation of the names of the Perfect Nature itself.

Of course, this is all in addition to what I said before about the light itself being representative of God, and the use of a sacred fire to do this is far from uncommon.  There is, of course, the holy fires of Zoroastrian temples who see the ātar as the visible presence of Ahura Mazda, as well as the ner tamid of Jewish synagogues and the altar lamps of Christian churches, but even other early monotheistic movements in the early Roman Empire period had similar practices, like those of the Hypsistarians.  And, of course, from Islam, there’s the famous Āyat an-Nūr, the Verse of Light from the Qur’ān 24:35:

God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth.
The image of his Light is that of a niche.  In it is a lamp.
The lamp is within glass, the glass as if it were a brilliant star.
Lit from the oil of a blessed olive tree, neither of the East nor of the West,
whose oil would almost glow on its own even if fire had not touched it.
Light upon Light!
God guides to his Light whom he wills.
God gives images to follow for his people.
God is All-Knowing of all things.

This is a beautiful praise of Allah, and is a qur’anic verse that I myself like to contemplate and use in my own prayers, given the harmony it has with so much else I do.  If you can get past the formatting, this webpage from The Ideal Muslimah contains not just practice for learning it by heart, but also includes a bunch of exegetical commentary and interpretations of the verse, which I think are also super neat to expand on.  I mean, while I don’t think lamps are used in the same symbolic way in mosques as they are in synagogues or churches, there is a history of mosque lamps used for illumination in mosques generally, and it’s a tradition that such lamps are also themselves decorated with the Verse of Light.

All this to say that I think that the use of a shrine lamp for a Hermetic shrine/altar/temple/prayer-space/what-have-you is crucial, above and beyond anything else one might have, and—taking a cue from the Islamic Hermetic literature—we can give it a form: a flame in glass.  This can be as simple as a tealight in a glass votive holder or a glass-encased novena candle on its own, but I’d prefer to make it a proper enclosed lantern, like a Moroccan lantern or something, where the enclosure not only allows for the flame to be carried about but also offers it protection from wind, breath, splatters, and other environmental hazards (and, likewise, protects the environment from it).  Sure, a candle in such a lantern would work totally fine (it’s what I myself have been using for quite some time), but I think there’s something more potent in using an actual oil lamp, not least because candles can be expensive and hard to maintain a continuity of flame with, while oil lamps are easier to refill and keep going endlessly.  Oil-wise, olive oil would be great, and while I’m not opposed to the use of animal products for such a thing, I’d personally find value in sticking to plant-based oils, if at all possible.  Barring either candles or oil lamps, of course, an electric lamp would also suffice—it, too, is a burning of energy to provide light, and it’s not like it’s any less useful than other things while also being generally safer to maintain; however, I prefer the care and glow of an actual flame whenever possible, viewing its maintenance as a devotional and meditative gesture in and of itself.

As for the lamp itself, while a traditional kind of terracotta-handled low lamp we think of from the classical Mediterranean world would work (like as I’ve described before), a Hindu-style akhand diya, Buddhist-style butter lamps, or Chinese-style oil lamps of a cup of oil layered on top of water with a floating wick would all be great, since it can be more easily be refilled, and a plain glass hurricane chimney could be placed around it.  Of course, for those who would want a more modern approach, there are a variety of mineral oil/paraffin oil/kerosene oil lamps that were common sights prior to the mass spread of electricity, which would also work great (though require different handling than natural oil lamps that don’t flow as easily or quickly as kerosene), or even better, modern battery-operated/rechargable LED-powered butter lamps that do a decent job at simulating the feel and appearance of an actual lamp flame.   In any case, taking a symbolic cue from the Verse of Light and a practical one from the Picatrix/Book of the Secrets of Creation vignettes, whatever the source of light would be, the glass itself that surrounds it should be clear and clean, preferably uncolored and unpatterned so as to allow the pure light of the flame to shine out.

For me, the shrine lamp would need to be placed in a position of relative importance.  Right now, my shrine lamp (a Moroccan metal tealight lantern) is suspended above the surface of the shrine by about two feet or so, but with my earlier shrines from before, I’ve always had a tall candle or other lightsource burning on a stone trivet in the center and towards the back of the shrine.  I might end up going back to that older format, since I find having the lamp at a more convenient height to gaze upon to be a benefit to my practice, though I do like the notion of having some elevation for it, as well.  So long as it’s at a comfortable height at least above the heart’s position, based on how one would normally pray at such a shrine, that would be fine; keeping it at eye-level when standing may also be appropriate, depending on shrine (and temple) layout, but that might be too high if, for instance, one usually prays while kneeling without getting a crick in the neck.

And then, of course, there’s the actual lighting of the lamp.  For such a thing with such central importance to my devotional space and mystic work, the shrine lamp deserves a bit of extra thought and care when lighting it, as it’s no mere candle or anything.  There are plenty of ways one might go about consecrating a flame for some holy work or other; I’ve offered such prayers in my Preces Castri and Preces Templi ebooks, but one might also reasonably use a modified form of the consecration of the fire for incense from Drawing Spirits Into Crystals, an example of which I’ve already shared as part of my own candle consecration procedure on my website and which has similar parallels in other grimoiric texts like the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano.  Heck, if the Abrahamic and grimoiric stuff doesn’t cut it, there’s always my PGM framing rite approach, too.  If long prayers like that don’t feel right, there’s always the recitation of scripture, too; while the quranic Verse of Light is a great one, there’s a bunch from the Tanakh and the New Testament, too, like Psalms 119:105 (or the entire verse, Ps. 119:105—112, all given to the letter Nun, which is the same letter that starts of the word ner or Light) or Matthew 5:14—16.  Of course, all these things are great to say for lighting the lamp, but not everyone can (or feels comfortable to) leave a burning lamp untended or to let it burn out; in cases where the flame cannot be kept going, the lamp must be extinguished, and there are plenty of prayers one might also say when doing that, too.  Lots of options abound, as ever.

In the end, all of this is really just to say that I think that a shrine lamp is really the quintessential part of a Hermetic shrine, the sine qua non that not only represents the presence of God in our lives and which gives us a focus to which to pray as an aid for ourselves, but also which represents us in our own work.  Just as in CH I where it is written that mind comes from light and in CH VII where a holy place is described where “the light cleansed of darkness” shines, or even in CH X where Hermēs describes to Tat the holy light of the Good that shines forth without blinding or harming us, the presence of a sacred flame should be immediately understood to a Hermeticist in the context of a shrine.  Encasing it in glass, rendering a lamp or candle into a lantern, protects the flame, and so too should it be a reminder to protect ourselves in the quest for this selfsame light, while also serving to magnify and beautify the flame itself for all who can gaze upon it.

I suppose I have more cleaning to do of my temple room to get to that point, and a lot of reconsidering to do of what I really need to get there, but at least I won’t do so in darkness.

“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!