So, I watched “The Kybalion” last night.

Sometimes I don’t know when to stop.  Sometimes I let others talk me into horrible ideas.  Last night was a case where both came into play.

Based on some back-and-forth banter from the Hermetic House of Life Discord server, I ended up participating in an online watch-party with some of my friends for Mitch Horowitz’s “The Kybalion”.  Yes, the author of Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation is a loud and proud proponent of the New Thought book The Kybalion (about which I’ve said so much before and about which many others have, too), and just a few weeks ago (on January 11, 2022) released his 1hr15min movie about the book.  According to the movie’s IMDB page:

This film is an adaptation of the 1908 occult manuscript, The Kybalion – and explores the 7 principles of Hermetics. It is a surreal documentation of the supernatural world around us.

Although one attempt to get me to watch the movie got a polite decline from me (I had an appointment to get stuck in the blood pressure testing machine at the local quasi-fancy grocery store), I eventually succumbed to the wiles and hopes for cheerful banter over such a movie in a MST3K-like setting.  A few days later, me and a number of my compatriots got together and…

Well, I made a livetweet thread about it, detailing my and my friends’ reactions to the movie.  Such an odyssey can be found to start here (just check out the replies):

Now, by all accounts, Horowitz has done some pretty good stuff before, and it’s not like he’s some newbie occultist freshly entranced by woo.  However, after going to bed in something of a fugue state and waking up in a state of anger that I let myself get swindled into such a horrible way to spend an otherwise pleasant Saturday night, I can only take the creation of this movie as more evidence that taking The Kybalion seriously as being some font of mystical knowledge rots your goddamned brain. Unless Howoritz is making some sort of ironic cash-grab at the expense of gullible people, I can think of no other way one could undertake such an endeavor in so poor a manner unless one were so bereft and bereaved of their critical thinking skills.

A variety of things I have said since last night but before writing this post regarding this movie:

Mitch Horowitz’s “The Kybalion” was an assault on the senses and I feel personally victimized by it. I can unironically say the book was better. The movie has as much to do with the Kybalion as the Kybalion with Hermeticism. Save yourself; don’t watch it.

if you or a loved one suffers from “The Kybalion” or Mitch Horowitz’s soi-disant adaptation of “The Kybalion”, you may be entitled to compensation

I demand retribution for the violence inflicted upon me this night, this violation that “The Kybalion” movie committed against the supreme commandment of the Orange Catholic Bible: “thou shalt not disfigure the soul”

The other night, I (somehow) failed to make instant pudding. Yes, just a standard packet from a box of Jello sugar-free pudding mix, that’s all. (I’m still working through my pudding cache, yes, thank you for asking.)  I was trying to be sly and spread the pudding powder evenly over the bottom of the bowl first and slowly add milk while mixing to get it to come together nicer, but that approach had the exact opposite effect, resulting in vaguely banana crème-flavored milk with a thick, crumbly, half-gelatinous uneven layer of gunk stuck to the bottom of the bowl that I couldn’t get whisked into the rest of the milk again.  I drank what I could of the milk and threw out the rest because I wasn’t gonna chew through half-jellied half-congealed half-flavored blancmange.  That gastronomic misstep came together more coherently than, and was altogether a more pleasurable experience than, Mitch Horowitz’s “The Kybalion” movie.

After opening up with a several-minute-long sequence of iPhone-quality trippy visuals with Horowitz reading every ur-Kybalion quote from The Kybalion in order, the movie breaks down into a sort of cycle:

  1. The relevant quote from The Kybalion introducing one of the seven Hermetic principles
  2. A psychedelic ritual enactment (ostensibly some sort of “Alchemical Wedding”) featuring a naked man and woman presided over by some sort of masked mysterious shaman-esque figure
  3. Horowitz talks at the audience introducing the principle and summarizes at an extremely high, terse level what The Kybalion says about it, interspersed with modern takes involving string theory or quantum physics
  4. A monologue by someone in the sense of it being a one-sided interview

It’s clear that the ritual enactment sequences were meant to metaphorically describe the principle immediately stated before each skit, and each interview (with a psychic, an alchemist, a medium, an NDE expert, a hypnotist, a Tarot reader, and an astrologer) was somehow supposed to explain, elaborate, or touch on its associated principle.  Except in perhaps the most tenuous or tangential of ways (and that really only for the latter two interviews, if I squint hard enough), neither the ritual enactment sequence nor the interviews had anything to do with The Kybalion or its principles.  After the seventh interview is wrapped up, Horowitz talks for a few more moments, and then the movie abruptly ends.

Hand to God, that’s literally the whole movie.

But that summary of the content of the movie doesn’t touch on the cinematographic quality of the movie.  According to the movie’s own website (emphasis in bold mine):

What if there was great wisdom and boundless power available to us, but hidden in plain sight? The Kybalion is a documentary film adaptation of the widely popular but underground occult text of the same name, which explores the “Seven Principles” that govern the universe. Occult historian Mitch Horowitz takes us on a metaphysical journey of how we can apply these principles and unravel their mystery. Mitch argues that the ancient philosophy of the occult may hold exactly the keys modern people are seeking to a universalistic faith of inner development, karmic values, and personal power. Along the way we meet alchemists, artists, mediums, and scientists working within the parameters of these principles. The film, presented as a dark and mysterious enigma, sheds new light on ancient wisdom and gives viewers who wish to expand their consciousness valuable tools to do so. Director Ronni Thomas, (themidnightarchive.com) makes the film an otherworldly and cinematic journey spanning the monuments of Ancient Egypt to a surreal and uncanny other world. The Kybalion will be available January 2022.

Consider, dear reader, how Twitter has afflicted so many nowadays with a shortened attention span: get used to the rapid flow of 280-characters-max statements in brief that usually can only scratch the most superficial of surfaces, and you have a hard time sustaining focus and attention on anything longer or of substance.  Horowitz’s movie is much like that but in a graphic format: outside of the ritual enactment sequences, the whole movie is a series of three- or four-second long clips, spanning everything from Egyptian ruins to Everytown USA to CGI-in-space to timelapses of flowers blooming or withering, spliced together with talking heads (whether Horowitz or his interviewees).  And even then, half the shots are in the middle of focusing, go out of focus, or remain out of focus for as long as they’re on the screen, not in the sense of using bad filming equipment but as a deliberate stylistic choice.  Even the interviews themselves are filmed in a deeply unflattering way, using almost entirely a series of head-on or profile-only angles that, instead of complimenting their subjects, make them feel like they are either an Orwellian authority instructing the audience or a piteous subject to be analyzed by the audience.  Watching the movie is a violation of the sense of sight, and deserves several kinds of warnings that the movie can induce epileptic seizures—but even for those without epilepsy, the constant stream of a variety of visual media is a confusing, disorienting affront to the dignity of the mind.  The movie is only “an otherworldly and cinematic journey” in the sense that drunkenly flipping through a TGI Friday’s menu is a culinary review of cooking techniques and food presentation.  Even from an amateur filmmaker or documentary enthusiast standpoint, this movie fails even the most basic of cinematographic standards.

For an estimated budget of $100k, I have to wonder: where the hell did it all go?  At least some of it must have been spent on flying to Egypt to take some wobbly, blurry shots of a few Egyptian temples, but it seems like most of it was spent on an overstylized, overprocessed mystical skit that can only be described as sophomoric, a stupid person’s idea of a smart presentation of occult content.  And that’s what this movie turns out to be: content.  Despite its aims and claims, it’s not a documentary about The Kybalion (though it does lip service to classical Hermetic literature and the authorship of The Kybalion by William Walker Atkinson), because the movie doesn’t document anything about The Kybalion except for Horowitz reading a few lines from it and offering his superficial take on it.  It doesn’t appear that it was meant to entertain an audience, but if it was meant to educate one, I honestly cannot see how, seeing how there was nothing in these interviews that substantially illustrates the origins, methods, effects, or uses of The Kybalion‘s seven principles.  I and my friends were left in a bewildered anguish, left wondering what the purpose of this movie is even supposed to be.  The movie seems less to be a documentary adaptation of The Kybalion and more Horowitz getting together with a few of his friends, shooting the shit about misc woo, and then trying to make a movie about it by ostensibly tying it to something Horowitz really likes.

As I said earlier: as with so many film adaptations of books, the book was better.  To be clear about my feelings here: the movie is not so bad as to make me feel bad for the original book (because I claim the book would still deserve to be burnt or thrown into the ocean if I didn’t feel so bad about pollution), but I’m still upset and indignant that someone so invested in The Kybalion had a bar set so low and still couldn’t cross it.  Over the past century, The Kybalion has had an outsized influence on a huge number of Western esoteric studies and occult organizations, with so many books and teachers incorporating the principles and teachings (such as they are) of The Kybalion, to the point where so many people in the Anglophone West get into occulture or mysticism (or Hermeticism) citing The Kybalion as their gateway book for it, to the point where some claim that “Kybalion hate is ivory tower wizard elitism” or “any occultist who dismisses The Kybalion is faking everything” (actual things people have said to me when I contest The Kybalion‘s use or Hermetic pedigree).  Hell, for as much as I find The Kybalion to not even be worth the recycled pulp paper its printed on, I could do a better job coming up with interviews, documentation, and edutainment illustrating its teachings, as bullshit as I find them to be.  The fact that what Horowitz gave us, despite the promises of the movie and what it claims itself to be, is a movie that is less a documentary and more a disjointed, disorienting, incoherent mess is not just a disappointment, it is an insult.

As I mentioned above, I’m pretty sure The Kybalion (the book itself) just gives people brainworms at this point.  If such an otherwise eloquent, acclaimed occultist and historian as Mitch Horowitz put out such a dumpster-fire as this about a book he has gone on about publicly in lectures and lessons as being fundamental to good living and Western esotericism, then I have to seriously wonder not what he was thinking when he put this movie together but whether he was thinking at all.  This movie is not a documentary about The Kybalion, it isn’t a who’s-who of Western esoteric experts, it isn’t a substantial exploration of these oft-vaunted “seven Hermetic principles”—it is a random assortment of New Age feel-good half-woo whose expiry date was several decades ago, presented to the viewer as shiny baubles being jingled in front of a baby.  This movie is less mysterious and more mystifying, less mind-expanding and more mind-boggling.  Even the original book this movie purports to be about actually had a pretense of substance and made an attempt towards having some; this movie lacks even that, confusing “content” in the place of “substance”.  I cannot fathom anyone actually understanding anything about The Kybalion from merely watching this movie (whether the book or the movie itself), but if this was meant to be an illustrative guide to spirituality for the benefit of the masses, then I weep for the work cut out for honest teachers, students, and seekers who have to trudge through such a mire of banal vacuity in our day and age to get to anything approaching spiritual.

I’m sure a good number of my readers are familiar with the horrifically notorious 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, or at least the XKCD comic about it:

Mitch Horowitz’s movie The Kybalion falls solidly on the far side of that hump, being both bad and unenjoyable, and has as much to do with the original book it’s based on as the book itself has to do with Hermeticism.  Heck, don’t just take my word for it, consider also this review that one of my colleagues and friends just put up on Letterboxd about it.  The only high point of my night was that I got to see my friends’ faces online as we turned our cameras on to commiserate with each other, but even that was ruined by how much we were burying our heads in our hands.  Even as a joke, I do not recommend anyone to watch this movie, not while sober or intoxicated, not for the purposes of entertainment or education, because you will be disappointed regardless.

On Memes and Maturity

Welp, I guess you can’t please everyone.  Still, of those I can, I’d rather not indulge immaturity in the process.

Over the past week and a half, the Hermetic House of Life Discord server (HHoL) has basically recovered half the membership of the old Hermetic Agora Discord server (HA), adding in a few new faces to the bunch in the process.   I talked about the debacle shortly after it happened here, and in the following days, while I’ve had my hands full with my good colleagues both on the modteam and off, it’s been a great time getting back to this collective, communal work we’ve been doing.  Still, amidst the high points, it has also been…enlightening in a number of other unfortunate ways.  I’ve had some time to mull together my own thoughts, and while I can’t promise a five-star analysis or response, I figure having something out is better than nothing in this case, especially to clarify a few stances of my own in the process for anyone who is still left wondering.

While I’m super thrilled that things have gone as well as they have regarding the HA/HHoL migration (I don’t think they could have gone better except if this didn’t have to happen at all), there’s a small but vocal minority who insists that I and the rest of the modteam are in the wrong for getting so upset over a cartoon frog emoji.  The arguments start innocuously enough:

  • “Memes are a way to express oneself”
  • “Memes are a way to build identity and community”
  • “Memes don’t have to be politicized”

Sure, I agree with all of that, 100%.  But consider: would you make a “yo momma” joke to someone whose mother just died and they’re still grieving over her? Would you make a racist joke to the face of someone of that race? Would you use a 9/11 meme with someone who was still going to therapy because they were there in NYC when the towers fell?

No?

Why not?

Because it’s an asshole move to make, and you know it.

Whether or not you’re aware of the conditions and situations of others, your sense of humor might just have some innately offensive quality about it that only barely skirts by public censure in the best of times, but in the worst, can cause actual emotional harm to others, regardless of your intent.  You might have thought it was funny, but that doesn’t mean others will agree with you.  We don’t always intend to do harm with our actions or words, but we sometimes still do all the same. Regardless of our intent, the result also matters, and it’s on us to own up to that.

HHoL—the community I help build and maintain—is full of people from a wide variety of walks of life from all over the world. And some people in that community have been harmed, directly or indirectly, by those who politicize/weaponize certain memes, and seeing those memes causes distress and discomfort.  Sure, some of those same memes are used innocuously enough in plenty of other places, but that doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t used innocuously everywhere.

I will be first to admit that it is profoundly unfortunate that a 20-year-old badly-drawn cartoon frog that never garnered any real media attention on its own has been politicized and weaponized by the alt-right and extremist political groups, centered in the USA but used similarly across the rest of the world for similar political movements.  I hate that that’s the case, and I hate that some memes, joke, art, and the like gets seen as political when it’s only been politicized.  But it is the case all the same.  To be sure, the use of a Pepe meme is not, I want to emphasize, an automatic indicator of being affiliated with the alt-right or other extremist political groups, and it’s used rather innocuously across vast swathes of the Internet—but it is used in a politicized alt-right way all too often for others to ignore, and thus it’s used that way enough for it to be a problem that I, as a moderator, have to make a judgment on in order to moderate HHoL.  This is not unlike the reason why too many women have to walk to their cars with their keys held between their fingers like claws, because while not all men have tried to accost or harm them in public, too many already have—enough for them to be rightfully suspicious of all men.  It’s the same reason why you wouldn’t reach into a bowl of candy when 1% of it has been laced with a deadly poison, because even though the majority of that candy is safe to eat, enough of that candy makes the whole bowl dangerous enough to avoid.

Besides all that, though, HHoL as a community and as a Discord server is just not the place to fight that kind of politicization.  That’s a fight for taking down the alt-right and other extremist, Nazi, Neonazi, and fascist organizations first, and then rehabilitating the meme and cartoon character after the threat from these organizations have passed and after the harm they have caused is healed.  Until then, the hands of the HHoL modteam and community are already full tending to those who have been harmed by that selfsame politicization, and the first thing you do when helping people heal is separate out the thing that caused them harm in the first place.  For that reason, we do not allow—and have never allowed—political content on the server because of how much of a tendency it has to go to really bad places really quickly, and that includes the use of political or politicized content, whether or not one uses things in such a way.

I mean, HHoL is just a glorified IRC server that just wants to focus on spirituality and mysticism, for crying out loud; indeed, why let bullshit like memes get in the way of that?  That very question is what’s leveled at me and the rest of the modteam for causing such a stink over a cartoon frog meme, but by that selfsame token, I have to level that same question back at those who seem to want to fight to the death over being entitled to use it whenever and wherever they please.  Let’s be blunt: if the use of memes can be said to build community, then by that same token, so too does the non-use of memes. It behooves everyone to learn how to read a room: if the community you’re in avoids the use of particular memes or jokes or statements or asks you to avoid using them, there’s probably a good reason why.  Moreover, to not say a thing or not do a thing—to not use a meme—costs nothing. In that light, when the use of a meme causes harm, regardless of one’s intent, that is a cost. To use such a meme costs more than to not use it.  Consider that oft-tired but ever-meaningful phrase “your right to swing your fist ends where my nose begins”, etc.

So, what about this is meaningful from a spiritual standpoint?  I’m not just bitching for the sake of bitching—warranted though that might be on my own blog—or merely complaining about detractors who complain that I’m somehow “too PC” or “too American”.  I think there’s a meaningful spiritual point to be made about all this that I want to call out in those who want to call me out.

Consider: HHoL is an online community centered on Hermeticism and its related fields of spirituality, mysticism, religion, and the occult. We aspire to develop ourselves, reaching higher and deeper into divinity, and help each other to do the same.  We study texts ancient and modern, we exchange ideas for practice and implementation, we review methods and results all for the sake of bettering ourselves and, with each other and on our own, the world as a whole.  In that light, I have to ask: on what planet is slavish devotion to a meme, knowing that its use is hurtful to some because of its connotations due to long-standing developments outside this community, considered to be something helpful for these goals or aims of study and practice?

The very first community rule of HHoL is “be mature”.  (You can read all of our community rules and why we have them in this Google Doc we maintain for our server’s members.)  After all, HHoL is intended for a mature audience talking about topics that I consider demand a certain level of maturity: spirituality, mysticism, religion, the occult, union with the Divine, self-exploration, and so on.  If one is unable or unwilling to develop or dedicate the maturity these topics require, then I would think that HHoL is not a community for them.  It’s not about mere age or experience, but about giving enough gravity to these topics of discussion and a willingness to be, or at least become, mature enough to engage with these topics (and the other people who are already engaging with these topics) with the respect these topics (and these people) deserve.  Sure, we have fun and laughs in the process, but on the whole, these topics we talk about are indescribably profound and require much of us in the way of our development and progress.  Those who choose to be immature in HHoL are warned to learn how to properly behave; those who continue to behave immaturely are removed from the community because of the distractions they cause for everyone else.  After all, you don’t play chess with a pigeon.

But what about fighting for one’s “right” (for whatever that might mean) to use a cartoon frog meme wherever one pleases is mature?  What about that is indicative of prioritizing things of real spiritual or divine value over meaningless or inconsequential things like cartoons or memes?  What about that is indicative of supporting the essential dignity and real needs of other living, breathing human beings out of compassion and love for humanity, especially those who are telling you in no uncertain terms why certain behaviors hurt?

It’s not indicative of that at all, because it’s not mature at all.

It is not mature at all to disregard the warnings of the moderators of a community or to ignore the needs of members of that community, especially a community to which one joins freely but is neither obliged nor entitled to join, all for the sake of one’s own self-centered sense of humor.  It is, rather, a matter of recklessness, pride, arrogance, and vanity.  It is a matter of immaturity, and I will not tolerate it.  After all, I and the other moderators of HHoL are there to moderate discussions on the community, to uphold our community standards—to keep the peace.  I also note that certain politicized trends, memes, and the like have a strong tendency to upset peace to the point where it’s better to just not have them around. And then I see people who attach themselves to those same things, and we just ask people to choose: that, or this?

In the end, I can’t make that choice for them, but increasingly, it seems like I wouldn’t have to anyway: HHoL has had a small but loud number of people willingly choose to leave or loudly abstain from joining in the first place (though often in a huff or with some choice words for me and the rest of the modteam), and I have the sneaking suspicion that word is spreading about our enthusiasm for keeping out disruptions to our community (you know, the job of a moderator).  Sure, some of them are well-meaning, but I can’t overlook that their concerns are (at best) misplaced and misguided or (at worst) maliciously misdirecting.  While, as a moderator, I do take such events as people leaving and telling me why as an opportunity in reinspect and potentially refine my own aims and methods here, I also consider that this server has over 500 members but just shy of a dozen detractors.  In a sense, I suppose that my aims to ensure a base set community standards through reinforcing and upholding our rules (which have not changed since well before this whole debacle even started, despite what others might think) is doing little more than what they were intended to do: separating out wheat from chaff, or in this case, those mature enough to engage with a mature group of people intent on studying and practicing Hermeticism from those who aren’t.  We’re not running a daycare, nor are teachers in a middle school; we don’t have time to babysit people through childish, disrespectful, hurtful behavior.  W’ll do our due diligence to issue a warning when we see intolerable behavior, but if someone warned doesn’t catch the hint, then it’s not on us or the rest of this excellent community to personally remediate them.  It just falls to us to ensure the good order and safety of the rest of the community to remove what threats, disruptions, and distractions might arise.

To all those who choose to forego such a community in favor of a childish passion for memes or a misguided crusade for one’s “right” to self-expression at all costs: I hope you grow up a bit, and I look forward to seeing you again if—and hopefully when—you do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://discord.gg/5vzhykvFuN

Needless to say, three things immediately happened:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Word on the “Temple of the Hermetic One” (and that word is “nope”)

I’ve made a few (usually firebrand) posts in the past regarding social justice. Suffice it to say that I’m an ardent supporter of social justice in all its forms, that I believe and commit to the idea that Black Lives Matter, that trans rights are human rights, and so on and so forth. Besides seeing these things as just being a logical consequence of basic human decency, I also find that these things are justified by the ethics and morality espoused by Hermeticism and any true and proper path of divinity. I want to reiterate that sort of opinion today, of course, but in a different way than I have before. This is a rant, and specifically a denunciation, against a specific group: the Temple of the Hermetic One.

As a rule, I generally don’t like being specific or engaging in call-outs of specific people or groups, but today I need to break that rule and get specific to let the broader occult community know of something rotten, and that something is the so-called “Temple of the Hermetic One” (TotHO). This is a religious community that was founded in 2019, and though they don’t appear to be particularly large (consisting of maybe a handful of leaders and at least some number of initiates), they do seem to have a physical presence in addition to an online one, and appear to have candidates for admission or initiation in multiple places across the world, and have about 2.6k followers on Facebook. They appear (or at least claim) to have a set of teachings and practices based on Hermeticism, Neoplatonism, and a variety of pagan and neopagan traditions.

I bring them up today because one of their leaders by the name of Trismejustus (not the leader, but one of the high-ranking members who appears to have a position of authority within the organization) joined the Hermetic Agora Discord (now defunct, please join the Hermetic House of Life Discord instead) that I participate (and am a mod) in, announcing himself effectively as a representative of that community and saying he’d be happy to take any questions. One of the other mods (specifically the Reverend Erik Arneson, my friend and also owner of the Arnemancy website and podcast) began looking into their website and noticed a trend of troubling tenets, statements, and beliefs they had. I began looking into their website as well as their Facebook page, and also noticed other such disturbing trends. To summarize, we found notions of:

  • Racism, xenophobia, the right of races to self-separate and exclude others from their traditions and practices, striving to uphold genetic/ethnic purity and identity, how we should remove “foreign aspects that were detrimental” from the practices of our ancestors, and statements against racial/ethnic mixing but with no according mention of notions of minority, oppression, or power structures
  • Paganism is, for them, “religiously inclusive but ethnically exclusive”, and kept citing the downfall of Hellenistic/Ptolemaic Egypt because of how corrupt it had become due to ethnic mixing
  • A support of theocracy and absolute rule of the few over the many, while also saying that democracy is a mistake and how Athens was great “in spite of their democracy”
  • Heteronormativity and puritanism, how only sex between men and women for procreation is moral, how philosophers like Plato “engaged in some nasty acts”
  • Anti-vaxx sentiments, how people should use religious exemptions to refuse mandatory vaccinations and how we should instead trust in nature an divinity, how “overcoming ailments naturally is the better option”, and how we should refuse scientific investigation and medical testing regarding the efficacy or safety of vaccines out of hand (notably with no encouragement for those who are willing or able to get the vaccine to do so)
  • Heated, passionate vitriol against anything and everything Abrahamic in any form, even to the point of saying that the Greek Magical Papyri aren’t worth studying due to all their Yahwisty bits (though for some reason being a supporter of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin, a well-known European grimoire, because it’s “not really Abrahamic”)

None of these views made us feel particularly sanguine about their group, so we posed a series of questions asking for clarification on these points in the server’s public chat to the TotHO member, who himself had found the Discord link on the /r/Hermeticism subreddit. After all, the mod team on the Hermetic Agora Discord does actually moderate the community to the point of curating its members, and we do strive to form a place where we can all engage in conversation and discussion on a level terms in a safe environment where we don’t make people feel uncomfortable, but given the tenets and stated beliefs of TotHO, we felt that an explanation was due to clarify, especially as many of these beliefs and stances are prevalent in the more extreme wings of our culture and occulture today using the same lines of thought and argument as what TotHO was appearing to use.

While waiting for their representative to get back to us, another member of TotHO joined the Discord server, since apparently the link was shared in their community as well. They began to answer the questions we posed to the leader who had earlier joined, and it did…not go well. In the course of trying to defend an ethnicity’s right to self-identify/separate/exclude, they also upheld the notion of preventing races from mixing in general while also not clearly answering questions regarding whether or not they supported racial supremacy to the effect that they showed that they did, indeed, support it. They were subsequently banned for not only engaging in racist dialog and ideology on our server, but also for disrespect towards some of our members (they cussed them out for raising a reasonable objection to some of the things this person was saying).

Shortly after this other member of TotHO was banned, the earlier representative of TotHO got back to the chat and began answering the questions we had posed. While defending the conduct of the earlier member, they refused to answer the objections we had raised regarding their statements on racial/ethnic purity or against racial/ethnic mixing. While using tokenism several times (“we have a black member!” “we have a gay member!”), also said some pretty awful stuff regarding queer folk, not just that:

Being gay, as a personal matter, is fine. However, we do have a big issue with the modern LGBT movement (as does this member im speaking of) because its a tornado of lust situated on disgusting and profane acts to the body. Thus, being gay should be a personal matter and not a widely socially acceptable faucet.

And yes, they are entirely degenerate and I will vote for any law that would restrict their operations.

Hilariously, they also said that:

Weak spined people are the reason Paganism, and even Hermeticism, gets laughed at. There’s a reason why you guys hang out in a discord all day and never accomplish anything.

I can tell by the mannerisms of this entire group that you all probably watched a few E.A Koetting videos and looked up Trismegistus on a quote website.

(Cute, right? I thought so, too. Strange that they’d end up mocking a server they only just joined of their own accord, but then, it’s a tactic that’s all too common by particular unsavory users on the Internet.)

When mentioned as a leader of TotHO (given that they stated that their position was as a magister), they said that they are “not the Leader” but that they “serve the Leader”, which is not just cryptic but also unsettlingly creepy. After many people in the server began raising objections left and right to the things they were saying and how they were saying it, they ended up resorting to the usual troll tactics of mocking, denying earlier statements made, and the like. Perhaps needless to say, they were banned.

Now, I’m not usually in the habit of telling people who or what organizations they should associate with, but in this case, I have to make it clear my thoughts on this “The Temple of the Hermetic One”. Based not only on their stated tenets and beliefs on their website and public social media presence but also on the stated opinions, actions, and behaviors of their members (both in leadership as well as non-leadership positions), this is not an organization I could ever recommend to anyone, and instead recommend all those to stay away from this group. We all know that the past few years have seen a strong surge in fascist, far-right, authoritarian, and conspiracy theory-laden groups obsessed with playing the victim as well as trying to take power for themselves, and it would appear that TotHO is another such group, which is unfortunately playing at pretentions of being a spiritual or religious organization and is making a mockery of the Neoplatonic and Hermetic virtues they claim to cherish so much. They inspire no confidence in me and, beyond this denunciation I make of them, are not worth the time or effort to speak of. I make this denunciation for the benefit of the occult community as a whole, given their inclinations towards some pretty shitty views and approaches to humanity, and would hope that none that I know would deign to be a part of them. And, likewise, I hope that any such members of TotHO who happen to read my blog reconsider their membership and what it means to be a decent fucking human being, and that I hope that anyone who would persist in maintaining or holding these abominable views on their fellow humans has anything they use from my writings blow up in their face until they learn how to be a better human being. After all—and I want to make this clear—I don’t make enemies out of others nor do I want or care to, but TotHO has made themselves an enemy to me and to the well-being of humanity as a whole. I hope for their hearts to be enlightened in wisdom and sense, and that they learn to move past the mistakes they’re making and to heal the hurt they’re causing.

I mean, hells below, I’d rather give the Kybalion a full license to appropriate the term “Hermetic” compared to whatever miasmatic bullshit this group manages to use it for.

TL;DR: stay the fuck away from this community of racist, homophobic assholes.
End rant.

EDIT: It’s not just me and Erik that have picked up on this, but others have as well. In a review left on their Facebook page on June 21, 2020, someone made the following remarks:

This page displays some knowledge of Orphic, Platonic and Hermetic texts and ideas. However, the authors of this page do not appear to be able to comprehend these texts in the original language in which they were written. Nor do they have an appreciation for the methods of Platonic Philosophy, which involve using dialectical logic to reach knowledge, and building on such knowledge using the same logic. This is what Plato did and what later Platonists did by building on the logic based knowledge provided by Plato using logic. Instead, the authors of this page rely on belief and dogma. These two deficiencies – apparently not understanding the language in which the texts were composed and replacing dialectical logic based knowledge with belief and dogma – lead the authors into misinterpretations and misrepresentations of the tradition they claim to uphold and present. The racialist/nationalist position this page promotes is one example of such an error.
One of the questions I posed to Trismejustus (which went unanswered) was what the qualifications were for him and his fellow leaders to start initiating people as priests, what scholarly or academic background they might have, whether they have had any formal training as priests by any external pagan community like Cherry Hill, or the like. Someone else I was in contact with on Twitter who knew the founder of TotHO noted that they were earnest, though young and precocious, and for them to leap to priesthood on their own appeared to be jumping the gun. All told, it just looks like this is a group that is not just racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and fascist, but also are woefully underresearched and unprepared to actually engage with the matters of philosophy and religion and mysticism in any serious way that they deserve. Again: just don’t bother.