On Mistakes in Divination

A few days ago, I was chatting with one of my good Twitter friends in private messages.  He’s a pretty cool guy, and though I met him through a few mutual furry contacts we have online, I also found out he was an occultist, so we have fun things to talk about now and again.  He’s been learning geomancy lately (a highly worthwhile endeavor!), and he posed to me a question:

Consider a reading, where the seer fucks up and their dyslexic ass misreads Albus as Fortuna Maior, or got turned around with the meanings of say, Capricorn and Sagittarius.  Would the reading be wrong, or would it be adequate to take that slip as part of the system that produces the interpretation?  And, if the seer realizes their fuckup, should they make a full redaction and correction, or should they make a “transformation” in the reading like old Yin and old Yang in I Ching readings?

He had already guessed what my answer would be, and he was right, but he still wanted to know what my thoughts were.  It was a pretty fruitful discussion for us both, and I want to share some of the insights from that conversation more publicly.  And no, I’m not upset with him!  It just turns out that I have some Thoughts and Opinions in where we differ, and I think these are good things to talk about here.

I know that there are some diviners who everything that happens in a reading, whether in geomancy or in another system entirely, as omens of significance.  Like, say you’re shuffling a deck of Tarot cards for your usual spread, and a card slips out of the deck and falls face-up.  Some people say that that card is important and should be interpreted like any card in the spread itself; I hope he can correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it was Gordon White from Rune Soup who said something along the lines of “the only thing that card means is that you’re bad at shuffling”—and that’s a viewpoint I agree with (and if he didn’t say that or doesn’t agree with it, then I guess we disagree).  I don’t take all omens in a divination reading that relies on a divination system (i.e. a process with rules and standards and checks and skill) as significant, but only those that are produced according to the system within the boundaries of the system.  There’s a place and a role for intuition to play in divination, to be sure, but when it comes to mistakes, well…mistakes are just that: mistakes.

Without any exaggeration, I can claim that geomancy is a mathematical form of divination: geomancy relies on binary processes of addition and recursion using the binary structure of the 16 geomantic figures to produce a chart.  And there aren’t an infinite number of charts, nor are there 16! (2.092279 × 1013) different charts, or even more than that.  In fact, there are far fewer charts: only 65,536 (164) possible charts are permitted within the mathematical rules of geomancy.  By definition, any chart that does not fall into one of those 65,536 charts is not a valid chart, and there are multiple ways of checking to make sure a chart is valid.  So, you can’t have a chart where all four Mother figures are all Populus and have any other figure in the chart that isn’t Populus; such a chart just isn’t possible, any more than there could be a Tarot spread with three Empresses in a row or a horoscope where Venus opposes the Sun.  Such impossible charts are inherently invalid, and indicate that there was a mistake in your mathematics when calculating the chart; the proper approach isn’t to inspect the chart as it was drawn, but to go back and fix your error so you have a correct chart to look at.  Heck, although it wasn’t said so bluntly, there are some texts that say that “if the Judge is an odd figure, the chart is cursed and must be thrown out”; in a mathematically valid chart, the Judge must always be an even figure (containing an even number of points, e.g. Fortuna Maior with 6 points), so if you have one with an odd Judge (e.g. Puer with 5 points), that means you made a mistake.

But here’s the thing: you can make a mistake in multiple places in the chart, and a mistake anywhere in the chart means that the whole chart gets messed up.  The only four truly independently-generated figures there are in a geomantic chart, where the four figures have no inherent relationship to each other, are the four Mothers.  The Daughters rely on the Mothers, the Nieces rely on the Mothers and the Daughters, the Witnesses rely on the Nieces (and thus the Mothers and Daughters), the Judge relies on the Witnesses (and thus the Nieces, and thus the Mothers and Daughters), and the Sentence relies on the First Mother as well as the Judge (and thus, ultimately, the Four Mothers).  A mistake in the chart in the Daughters, Nieces, Witnesses, or Court indicates that there’s a break in the calculation that causes the whole chart to become invalid.  In other words, any of the figures from the fifth figure (First Daughter) to the sixteenth (Sentence) relies on all the other figures to be correct; if one figure is calculated wrong, even if it doesn’t impact the rest of the figures in the chart, it still means that the whole chart is off.

Now, on the rare occasion, I have seen some people in the geomancy Facebook group I admin post a chart that has a mistake in it, and generally one of the community will be sharp and fast enough to point out that mistake.  However, there is the rare time now and again that someone will still want to interpret the invalid, erroneous chart, because “well, that’s what they made in the moment”.  Like…I get it, but that’s not how geomancy works.  Geomancy is a system, a body of (more or less) well-defined and well-understood rules that must be applied for it to be considered “geomancy”.  To break those rules is to break the system, and you end up in the realm of “undefined behavior”, which doesn’t give you a lot to stand on besides pure intuition.  And geomancy, while making use of intuition, cannot simply rely on it in favor of the actual rules that keep things grounded in the actual art and practice of geomancy.

Now, to be sure and to be fair, there is absolutely a role for intuition in geomancy!  This is where we can explore our connection to the Divine and plumb its depths in order to come up with true and truly artful interpretations that pull every ounce and gram of nuance and detail out of a chart, even a single figure or a single passation of a figure from one house to another.  But that connection must be solid in order for it to be of use, and you still have to be sure you’re looking at the right things.  I’ve seen people in a variety of settings whose intuitions are strong, but not strong enough to not be swayed by what they’re looking at; it’s often what they’re looking at that kickstarts or unlocks their intuition, so if what they’re looking at is wrong, then while they might be getting messages, it’ll end up being a case of garbage-in garbage-out.  And that gets nobody anywhere good.  Sure, there are times where your intuition or spirit guides or what-have-you will kick in strong and give you ultimately-right answers with a fundamentally wrong chart, essentially covering for your mistakes, but it’s not guaranteed, it’s not trustworthy, it’s not reliable, and it’s still a problem because you made a mistake and didn’t spot or correct it.

So much for the chart, but there is a way for the Mothers to be wrong, too!  Recall that, of all the various ways to generate figures, the oldest and most traditional method is the stick-and-surface method: the geomancer takes some marking instrument (stick, staff, wand, pen, pencil, finger, etc.) and a markable surface (sand, dirt, paper, wax tablet, electronic tablet, etc.) and makes 16 rows of randomly-generated marks from right to left, then counts them off two-by-two until either one or two marks are left in a row.  Those leftover marks, read in succession from the top down and clustered into four groups of four, are what give you your four Mother figures.  The trick is to be able to make those marks clearly and distinctly enough when you’re in the throes of that geomantic diviner’s trance so that, when you’re later counting them, you can clearly count exactly how many marks you made.  The soul is moved to make those marks through the use of the body, but if you can’t read what the soul was actually doing, then there wasn’t enough control over the body to make that connection clear.  So, if you ended up reading two points as one (if the two marks were made too closely together), or if you ended up counting an extra point where there shouldn’t have been, then you got a bad Mother where you might end up with Fortuna Maior instead of Albus or vice versa, and that’s something that’s super hard to check for, and not at all possible based on the chart that uses those Mothers.  You need to carefully inspect the actual marks you made when using the stick-and-surface method to make sure you actually recorded what you were supposed to get.  (It’s because of this difficulty and honing of the use of the body, in addition to practicing that diviner’s trance, that I recommend people to start with the stick-and-surface method and become adept at it before going on to any other method of generating Mothers.)

So what about those who use the stick-and-surface method to generate figures?  Sure, humans may not be perfect dot-making or dot-reading machines, but c’mon.  If you’re not able to make or read dots well enough to avoid mistakes, then you need to get better at making and reading dots.  If you’re a geomancer who has the querent themselves make the dots for making the Mothers (and this is a thing!), well…maybe don’t let them make dots, but have them use another tool or method instead, like throwing dice or drawing cards to generate Mothers.  Or, heck, instead of making dots, I might instead recommend making short vertical notches, which are easier to read and mark rather than dots, which can get pretty sloppy.  Sure, we might not be perfect at making or reading dots, but it’s not about the dots themselves—it’s about trying to understand what the motions of the soul were trying to communicate through making the dots, not what the dots are literally saying themselves.  The dots must be inspected carefully to make sure the motions of the soul that produced them is understood, and any mistake in translating there means that that connection is disrupted, and the omens that follow will be misread.

Basically, what it comes down to is this: if there’s an error in the calculation of the chart or in the generation of the Mothers, then that’s on you to notice and to fix, then start interpreting the correct chart.  Consider a library, where each book is a particular destiny or fate for individual queries put to divination, and you want to find the book for the specific query the querent in front of you is asking; the geomantic chart is the call number for that book.  If you have the right call number, then you have the right book, and all you need to do is read from it; easy enough!  But if you have the wrong call number, then you’ll get the wrong book which won’t speak to the query put to divination by the querent—heck, you may end up with a call number for a book that doesn’t even exist.  This is why it’s crucial to make sure that we calculate the chart correctly, because if we don’t, we’re not going to get a chart that properly responds to the query put to divination: any mistake that occurs in the calculation of the chart will mess with the interpretation of the chart.

And that’s a whole other level to worry about, too!  Even if you have the chart mathematically correct, you can still mess up in the interpretation of the chart, like if you misread Fortuna Maior for Fortuna Minor or if you thought that Amissio was a figure of Mercury instead of Venus.  As a geomancer, you need to make sure that you know your symbols well enough to at least avoid major blunders in their interpretation.  These symbols are a thousand years old and are known across the Old World from Morocco to Mumbai, from Madagascar to Murmansk, and though there are definitely variations in how some geomancers or how some traditions of geomancy interpret them, the core meanings are the same no matter where you turn.  To make an egregious error in thinking that Caput Draconis talks about death or that Amissio talks about great gains in wealth is to show that you’re not getting the right information, and that will mess up the interpretation accordingly.  Just because you say things that are wrong doesn’t mean they become right because you’re “in the zone” and getting lost in the moment of talking; it just means you’re wrong and getting carried away with yourself.

My friend countered that the interpretation of a geomantic chart should embrace our imperfections and slips of reading or memory, but I countered with the metaphor of a doctor measuring someone’s blood pressure.  If their blood pressure meter is broken, the wrong numbers will result; if the blood pressure meter uses the wrong-sized armband, the wrong numbers will result; if the doctor mentally flips the numbers so that the systolic pressure is read on the bottom and the diastolic pressure on the top, the wrong numbers will result.  And wrong numbers means that the doctor is going to get a bad understanding and could gauge the person to be healthy when they’re not, or that they’re in danger when they’re fine.  Let’s not kid ourselves here: this kind of mistake can kill someone, and such a mistake cannot be tolerated or allowed by the doctor, so the doctor must make sure that the blood pressure meter is working and calibrated properly, that they’re using the right equipment for their patient, and that they’re reading and properly understanding the numbers that result.  The doctor cannot afford mistakes in tending to their patient, and neither can we, as diviners, afford mistakes in tending to our querents.  When people come to us for divination, they sometimes come to us to save their lives.  Divination can often be a matter of literal life and death for some people who know it, and more’s the pity, those who aren’t even aware of it yet.  There should be absolutely no expense spared in effort, skill, practice, study, or tools to make sure that everything in our divination readings is absolutely correct as possible, including making our calculations and double-, triple, even quadruple-checking them according to the rules within our system.  The rules of geomancy, when aided (but not replaced) by intuition, are what ensures that it work, so we need to make sure we understand the system at work.

To use another medical metaphor, consider someone coming to you for herbal medicine.  Ideally and hopefully, you can get a good read on the person and their symptoms and you know your herbs well enough to give them a particular kind of herbal concoction to help them improve themselves.  Sometimes, we can rely on intuition or spiritual guidance to pick the herbs for us, passing our hands over our jars and bundles and going “mmm…yes, this one feels right for you”.  But let’s be honest: if you don’t have a good grasp of your patient’s symptoms, or if they’re not telling you all their symptoms, or if you misremember certain properties of herbs or don’t know them to begin with, you can make a mistake in the medicine you give them that could poison them, incapacitate them, or otherwise make their situation worse.  I don’t care how strong someone’s intuition is: if my goal is to help someone, then the least I can do is to do no harm, so I’m going to do whatever I can to make sure I can at least hit that bare minimum threshold, which requires me to make sure I don’t make mistakes in what I do.  People come to us diviners for help, and it’s our job as diviners to help them and not hurt them; thus, it’s of paramount importance that everything in my divination work be done as properly and correctly as possible.  Heck, I’ll still pull out my notes and reference books when doing divinations; even if I think I know the figures and rules after ten years of constant use and study, I’ll still double-check and cross-check myself to make sure I’m on a good path with what I’m doing.  Making mistakes, honest or careless or with good intentions or otherwise, is still making mistakes, and that’s not something we can tolerate, nor is it anything I would take a chance with.

Now, sure, if geomancy were a more free-form kind of divination that relies far more on intuition, like bone-throwing or fire-scrying or trance states of remote viewing or possession, then this would all be a moot point, because pure intuition (so long as that connection is strong and clear) doesn’t have rules that can be broken.  Likewise, forms of divination that are developed on-the-spot or that have rules that can be bent or tossed aside in the moment, like some kinds of bone-throwing or nonce Tarot spreads, don’t have this issue, again because there are no rules that keep things correct, because it’s going to be correct by default.  And, of course, there are forms of divination that are strictly omen-based, like Roman augury, where you must inspect everything that happens or everything that is said as being of potential significance!  But geomancy isn’t like those forms of divination; geomancy has rules, and we use those rules and systems to enhance and ground our intuition, not the other way around.

Now, I don’t want to be misunderstood here: I’m not trying to say that geomancy is just about the rules, because it’s not, nor that there is no role that intuition plays, because there absolutely is.  Technique and intuition go hand-in-hand with geomancy, as I once said long ago with a beautiful metaphor based on Bernadette Brady’s Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark, and the dumbing-down of geomancy that reduced it only to a rule-based system ended up in the cultural forgetting and setting-aside of geomancy in favor of more intuitive methods of divination like Tarot that we saw in the West.  Intuition helps reach where rules cannot, but let’s be clear here: it really is the rules that do the bulk of the work in geomantic divination, and if you falter in the understanding or application of the rules, your intuition may not be enough to cover the distance that you’re falling short of.  Yes, there are times where intuition can do just that, and I’m not saying that it can’t or doesn’t; there are times when we’re so plugged in to the querent and tuned in to the query that we can clearly see without the use of geomancy, or that we can get at obscure meanings of the figures that don’t normally apply because of the peculiarities of a given situation.  However, if you’re using a system composed of rules like geomancy, and unless you’re a professional medium or clairvoyant or honest-to-gods psychic, you can’t always rely on that helping you out when you make a mistake, nor can you always be certain that your connection is 100% clear and strong enough to do so—and if you do have such a strong intuitive connection, then chances are you don’t need geomancy anyway.  Even so, geomancy is still more technique-based than intuition-based, and although intuition plays a role in refining and aiming the rules of geomancy, it’s still the rules of geomancy themselves that point us in the right direction to begin with, so we need to make sure that we’re facing the right way to see in that way.

Remember: an honest mistake is still a mistake, and mistakes can be costly.

The Attainment of Adam

Now that we’re done with our DSIC discussion (which you can access easily by going to the recap post at this link or searching through the blog with the tag reviewing the trithemian conjuration), let’s move on to other topics once again.

Not all the PDFs I make for my occult and spirituality stuff go up for sale; sometimes I just like fiddling around in LaTeX (which is my preferred way for formally typesetting documents, whether it’s an ebook, a book-book, or a letter), especially if I’m trying to get something out onto paper for a more formal use than otherwise.  I’ve made personal-use ebooks for things like Orphic Hymns, Homeric Hymns, divination oracles for grammatomancy and astragalomancy, and the like before for my temple; I have no intent on publishing them, but there’s a quiet enjoyment I take in this sort of typesetting, even if only I see the results of it.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on restructuring my own Hermetic practice in a way that uses a sort of geomantic devotional approach as its main vehicle for work, which largely resulted as a product of mulling over what geomantic holy days would look like, then again into a more simplified and regular “wheel of the year” kind of form.  Since then, I’ve been working on putting together another ebook—again, one I don’t intend on putting out publicly, at least not yet, and not anytime soon.  This ebook is essentially my new vademecum, my new enchiridion, my new prayerbook consisting of prayers, orisons, litanies, prayer bead rules (like those misbaḥa prayers I’ve mentioned), rituals, consecrations, and the like.  It’s currently sitting at 226 pages, all told; since it’s still in flux, from the specific wording and phrasing of prayers to the processes and procedures used for a variety of rituals I’ve been working on that all form together to make a complete system (one of the reasons I’ve been working on those DSIC posts!), I haven’t actually printed it out yet, but just keeping it as a PDF on my phone.  I’m really pleased with how it’s been turning out and coming together, as well as my practices generally.

But there’s one sticking point I haven’t been able to resolve.  I’ve been able to either outright write fresh, compile, pilfer, adapt, or otherwise reuse many prayers in this new prayer book of mine for so many purposes: general prayers to God, to the ancestors, to the angels, for specific dates or times or needs, for the figures and planets, for this and that…but there’s been one group of entities for whom I haven’t been able to come up with pretty much damn near anything, and that’s the prophets themselves: Adam, Enoch, Hermēs Trismegistus, and Daniel.  I just can’t seem to put anything to paper for them, for prayers or praises or invocations or rituals, unlike the abundance of the same I have for the angels or the blessed dead or this or that or the other.  Ironic, then, that the very four entities, these progenitors of the geomantic art, who inspired me who come up with a ritual calendar and formed the basis of this whole geomantic practice, have basically nothing coming up for them.

It’s not for lack of trying, I swear.  But it just…I can’t seem to get anything out of me.  Even more annoying, I can’t seem to find very many prayers or the like in traditional Abrahamic or Hermetic literature as devotions for these four geomantic forefathers.  Like, sure, there’s a few things that come to mind that I could use from the Book of Enoch to write up some Enoch-focused praises, at least in the context of his angelization into Metatron (though I’m hesitant to put too much weight on that specific aspect), but that’s not a lot on its own, and there’s just not a lot that seems to be written out there.  Like, while there are prayers in abundance for many of the mythic and saintly figures of Christianity and Islam (especially the various ‘ad`iyah /du`a’s of Islam attributed to their holy and saintly figures), there’s just…really not a lot.  Heck, the idea, even, sounds weird to me, since we don’t often think of the prophets of Abrahamic traditions to necessarily be saints or to participate in intercession or intervention like the saint-saints or angel-saints do, and while we all certainly praise Hermēs Trismegistus as the one revealed the secrets of the Great Work by the Divine Poemander to teach to the world, I just can’t find many prayers or praises in a formal context like this.  It could be that I’m not looking in the right sources (perhaps more Gnostic texts might be useful), but I just can’t find a lot.

So, it happened that, according to my ritual calendar, the Feast of the Prophet Adam, the First Man, Progenitor of Attainment came and went on Monday, May 6 earlier this year.  I had intended to devote a few weeks in April trying to draw up something to mark the day, even just something simple…but alas, the day arrived on its own, and I showed up empty-handed.  Still, I did what I could still do: I sat down at my shrine, lit a candle and some incense for Adam as I would any other saint or hero, and just sorta…thought and mused aloud in the solitude of my temple space.  Though I came empty-handed, I left with quite a few insights that I didn’t have before, and I wanted to share them here, even if only to keep the thoughts about it going.

Back when I wrote the Secreti Geomantici ebook, I developed a “Prayer of the Geomancers”, which I recite daily as part of my own practice (though reworked slightly and fit into my newer practice that arise after I wrote Secreti Geomantici).  In it, I give a supplication where we ask to be instilled with the four blessings of  “the judgment of Daniel, the dedication of Enoch, the wisdom of Hermēs, and the attainment of Adam”.  I basically tried to come up with some sort of high-minded virtue, ideal, strength, blessing, just…yanno, something that I could associate with each of the four progenitors to ask for to help us in our divination practices and spiritual development as geomancers.  For Daniel and Enoch, I used their very names as inspiration, the former meaning “God is my Judge” and the latter meaning “dedicated”, as in to God.  Hermēs Trismegistus, for me, is associated with wisdom, not just knowing things but knowing how to apply them.  But for Adam…I honestly didn’t know what to say.  “Attainment” sounded good enough, and it sorta semantically ties in with Adam in general for me.  Earth-born, earth-made Adam, whose name is a pun on the Hebrew word for “earth” (adamah), and was God’s final creation in the Genesis narrative as a distinct species or entity.  Eve (and Lilith), of course, could also be considered separate, but when reckoning them all as various kinds of Human, then it was Adam that would be considered the final bit of distinct creation of God.

In that sense, why “attainment”?  What did Adam attain?  Adam was the attainment, the completion and fulfillment of God’s work to create the cosmos; in the Abrahamic as much as the Hermetic sense, we are made in the image of God, but we could not exist as we are without literally everything else having existed before us.  (This reminds us to be humble in a new way; though we might be closest to God as a species of this worldly reality, we are also the youngest, junior to and thus dependent on ants, urchins, fleas, mold, and all else that exists.)  It wasn’t until God made humanity that God could rest on the seventh day after he first spoke “let there be light”.  In that sense, the creation of humanity completed the cosmos, giving everything the final connection that allows the cosmos be what it needs to be.

However, humanity as created was not made in a fixed state, as it lacked primarily one thing: knowledge.  That’s where the story of Adam, Eve, the serpent, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil came in; it wasn’t until Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree and gave it to Adam to eat that humanity finally knew their position in the cosmos and learned about themselves.  Up until that point, they were made in the image of God, but since they did not know or could even understand their material nature, they could not act on it or incorporate that knowledge; for them, they lived in a divine ignorance that effectively separated their spiritual nature from their material nature.  Only by eating the fruit of the Tree could they understand the latter, and then began incorporating it.  Of course, this had its own cost: by understanding the material nature of the bodies they inhabited, they became trapped by them, and in the process, excluded from Paradise.  We could consider this as a sort of “birth” from the womb; though they were not “born” in the traditional sense, we could consider God their “father” and the Earth their “mother”, with the Garden of Eden itself being the womb from which they were born.  For as long as they lived in Paradise, they could not be independent or truly alive in the sense that you and I are alive; they had to be “born” into the world, just as we are, in order to fully come into their own.  For them, their own completion was not complete until they went into their own birth.  And, just like with our own birth, it was accompanied by tears and pain.

This isn’t to say that God made humanity poorly, but that creation is a process that isn’t just a one-and-done thing.  As Jack Miles demonstrates in his wonderful literary and character analysis of the Old Testament God: A Biography, the process of creation is effectively God learning as much about his creation as we do ourselves.  And it’s not until we can take a look at the whole picture of something that we can finally perform a full analysis of something to understand it, and we can’t do that in terms of a human until we know their entire life.  For Adam and Eve, that entirety doesn’t come about until they die: it takes death to fully understand the whole of the human experience, so it wasn’t until the death of the First Man that the original creation of God might finally be considered “complete”.  In this sense, Adam had to attain his own creation and completion just as God did—and so too do all of us, as well.

This is also where the angel Uriel comes into the picture.  Uriel, in the Western tradition, is the archangel who’s typically associated with the element of Earth, and so I consider this angel to have a natural connection to Adam on a simple elemental basis.  And, of course, there’s the fact that Uriel is the angel appointed to stand guard at the gate to the Garden of Eden with the flaming sword.  What does this mean for us in terms of “attainment”?  Adam and Eve had everything they could possibly need while in the Garden, and so would never have had to work for anything, learn anything, struggle, adapt, invent, or grow at all; they would have lived in this sort of ignorant stasis where everything was good and nothing was bad, having been given everything except something to do—something to attain.  Just as we can no longer enter our mother’s womb, so too could Adam and Eve never reenter the Garden and regress to an earlier stage of development; their expulsion was necessary for humanity to truly flourish.  I mean, consider: if humanity is made in the image of God, then what had God done up to this point?  God had made something from nothing.  If Adam and Eve were to take after God, then they too must create something from nothing, but so long as they lived in the Garden, how could they do that if they already had everything and had neither anything to invent nor needed anything to invent?  It was only when they were taken out of the Garden that they truly had nothing—except the clothes that God made for them as an act of parental care, but let’s be honest, by that point they had already made their clothes to cover their nudity in the Garden after eating the fruit of the Tree.  And consider the context of that, too: they made something in a place God made where they needed nothing, and so effectively judged God’s creation…I hesitate to use this word, but lacking in a way.  To use a software development metaphor, if the Garden was God’s development-and-testing sandbox, the fact that Adam and Eve could create and invent shows that they were finally capable of being released into production, becoming independent co-creators with God in the process (“co-creators” because we are made to take after God and being infused with his breath), just on a smaller scale as befits our finite, more material role.

Uriel was positioned at the Gates to ensure that neither Adam and Eve nor any of their descendants could eat of the fruit of the other Tree, the Tree of Life, which would grant them immortality that God himself possesses.  Okay, fair.  But Uriel’s purpose is more than just to guard the other Tree; I think he was stationed there to make sure that humanity itself could learn to use their own world and tools to constantly create more of the world, co-creating with God throughout the entire process of their lives.  However, our lives must come to an end; why?  Because we have descendants.  In order for us to properly execute our function as humans, we must create and leave things behind so that others can create after us—whether they’re our own blood-and-flesh children, godchildren, initiates, or students doesn’t matter.  In order that they too can fulfill their purpose, they must have their own share of the world; for that reason, our bodies must return to the Earth, “for from it you were taken, for dust you are, and to dust you shall return”.  Also, it’s at this point in the Genesis narrative, once God issues his order of expulsion—that Adam finally names Eve, whose name in Hebrew is Ḥawwāh, meaning “living one” or “source of life”, (most likely) related to Hebrew Ḥāyâ “to live”, and Genesis itself says that Adam named Eve such “because she was the mother of all the living”.  The final name given to the final God-made creation of the Garden, only complete at their time’s end within it.

So, if our bodies return to the Earth, whence, then, our breath, our divine essence that God gave to humanity?  As I see it, based on this little bit, the breath returns to God, and thence can be breathed back into the world to continue the co-creation of the world.  For as long as the process of life and death exists, for as longs as there are descendants of Adam and Eve, for as long as the world exists, the process of co-creation is always ongoing.  Individual people may complete their attainment, but their attainment is not truly complete until the end of their lives as befits us as mortal creatures of this world.  Similarly, the attainment of humanity cannot be complete until humanity itself finally and eventually passes away from the world—or the life-sustaining world itself passes away, whichever comes first, I suppose.  And, when we do return to the Earth, it is only then that we can reenter the Garden.

What, then, of our own attainment?  What can we take after Adam, what could we ask for to help us in our own spiritual paths?  We know that, just like Adam, we cannot revert to an earlier stage in our spiritual progression; we know that we must become independent from our mothers, go out into the world, and work for ourselves and those who come after us; we know that we must live our lives until such a time as proper for us that our bodies return to the Earth and our breath returns to God, and until that point, we must always work to constantly create our world, co-creating with God as we are made in his image.  It is up to us, to each of us, that we do what we can to fulfill our purpose, role, and function in this world, taking what has been given to us and what we can to constantly create, build, grow, and nurture.  It is up to us that we attain our own role as being truly human and truly divine.  It is up to us to attain the fullness of our creation.  It is up to us to attain our true Will.  We cannot go back from whence we came, for just as the angel Uriel guards the gates to Paradise, but just as Uriel is the angel of the light of God, we can look back upon our past and see what was so that we can begin to understand what may be.  I mean, in this system of devotion I’m building, the title I give to Uriel is “Keeper of the Mysteries”; just as he keeps the Garden apart from us, he shows us with his light (and the light of his “fiery ever-turning sword”) what is possible, and permits reentry into the Garden as divine gatekeeper only at the proper time.  Things may leave the Garden, but not enter back in improperly.

There’s more that I can muse about this, of course, but I think this is a start.  I mean, honestly, this is probably one of the actual mysteries of this new little practice that’s been dropped on my lap that I’m really starting to chew into, structured by all the prayers and routines and rituals that I have.  Perhaps one day, after enough musing and research and writing and meditating, I might have proper prayers for Adam—maybe even the rest of the prophets, too!  For now, though, I don’t have much…but I do have this last bit I want to share.  While there’s not a lot out there that I can find for prayers that are attributed to Adam, there is one short Islamic du`ā’ of Adam (and, also, properly speaking, of Eve) that I thought was simple enough to commit to heart.  This was taken from Qur’ān 7:23, after Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in Paradise and were called out by God for it:

رَبَّنَا ظَلَمْنَا أَنفُسَنَا وَإِن لَّمْ تَغْفِرْ لَنَا وَتَرْحَمْنَا لَنَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْخَاسِرِينَ

Rabbanā ṭālamnā anfusanā wa-in lam taghfir lanā watarḥamnā lanakūnanna mina al-khasirīn

Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves. If you do not forgive us and bestow not upon us your mercy, we shall surely be among the losers.

It’s not a lot, but it’s something.  Working on the spot, and recalling the context in which this bit of scripture was recited, I also recalled to mind another simple du`ā’, this one from Qur’ān 21:83, this one associated with Job after he was ill for many years:

أَنِّي مَسَّنِيَ الضُّرُّ وَأَنتَ أَرْحَمُ الرَّاحِمِينَ

Annī massaniya aḍ-ḍurru waanta arḥamu ar-raḥimīna

Truly, adversity has touched me, and you [God] are the Most Merciful of the merciful.

Kinda working on the spot, I ended up mixing these two supplications together, tweaking the terms and concepts slightly to better match my own spiritual needs and framework, and ended up with another misbaḥa devotional, which was at least something I could offer in the memory and veneration of Adam.  It’s not the same thing as what might be recited by faithful Muslims, but then, I’m no Muslim.  Using the usual misbaḥa format:

  1. Recite once: “In the name of God, the Most Merciful, the Truly Merciful, the Exalter and Abaser both.”
  2. On each of the first set of 33 beads, recite: “O God, may we not wrong ourselves.”
  3. On the first separator, recite: “It is in God that we seek refuge.”
  4. On each of the second set of 33 beads, recite: “O God, show us your grace and your mercy.”
  5. On the second separator, recite:”It is in God that we seek refuge.”
  6. On each of the third set of 33 beads, recite:”O God, may we not be among the lost.”
  7. Recite once: “Though suffering is near to me, it is you, o God, who is Merciful among all the merciful.”

It’s something that I can use in the meantime, barring anything more.  It’ll just be part of my own attainment.

The Kybalion is Still Crap, No Matter Who You Think You Are

Last night, I made a tweet, as I periodically do, about how much I dislike the Kybalion:

Longtime readers—and those who follow me on Facebook or Twitter—know that I’m no fan of this text. Published in 1912 by The Yogi Publication Society Masonic Temple in Chicago, Illinois, and supposedly written by the “Three Initiates”, its own introduction plays itself up quite admirably:

We take great pleasure in presenting to the attention of students and investigators of the Secret Doctrines this little work based upon the world-old Hermetic Teachings. There has been so little written upon this subject, not withstanding the countless references to the Teachings in the many works upon occultism, that the many earnest searchers after the Arcane Truths will doubtless welcome the appearance of this present volume.

The purpose of this work is not the enunciation of any special philosophy or doctrine, but rather is to give to the students a statement of the Truth that will serve to reconcile the many bits of occult knowledge that they may have acquired, but which are apparently opposed to each other and which often serve to discourage and disgust the beginner in the study. Our intent is not to erect a new Temple of Knowledge, but rather to place in the hands of the student a Master-Key with which he may open the many inner doors in the Temple of Mystery through the main portals he has already entered.

There is no portion of the occult teachings possessed by the world which have been so closely guarded as the fragments of the Hermetic Teachings which have come down to us over the tens of centuries which have elapsed since the lifetime of its great founder, Hermes Trismegistus, the “scribe of the gods,” who dwelt in old Egypt in the days when the present race of men was in its infancy. Contemporary with Abraham, and, if the legends be true, an instructor of that venerable sage, Hermes was, and is, the Great Central Sun of Occultism, whose rays have served to illumine the countless teachings which have been promulgated since his time. All the fundamental and basic teachings embedded in the esoteric teachings of every race may be traced back to Hermes. Even the most ancient teachings of India undoubtedly have their roots in the original Hermetic Teachings…

It goes on to claim that not only is Hermetic philosophy the origin of Western philosophy, occult and otherwise, but so too is it the origin of Vedic and Hindu philosophy, along with every other philosophy of note. And yet, despite Hermeticism supposedly being the origin of all the world’s philosophies, occultisms and occultures, and religions:

…the original truths taught by him have been kept intact in their original purity by a few men in each age, who, refusing great numbers of half-developed students and followers, followed the Hermetic custom and reserved their truth for the few who were ready to comprehend and master it. From lip to ear the truth has been handed down among the few… These men have never sought popular approval, nor numbers of followers. They are indifferent to these things, for they know how few there are in each generation who are ready for the truth, or who would recognize it if it were presented to them… They reserve their pearls of wisdom for the few elect, who recognize their value and who wear them in their crowns, instead of casting them before the materialistic vulgar swine, who would trample them in the mud and mix them with their disgusting mental food…

The text then goes on in short order to describe “The Kybalion”, which it only really describes as “a compilation of certain Basic Hermetic Doctrines, passed on from teacher to student”, with the exact meaning of the word “having been lost for several centuries”. Yet, the book we call the Kybalion is just the interpretation and exegesis of this ancient text that it never actually quotes in full; the Three Initiates just cite a bunch of small quotes that may or may not make up the entirety of its supposed origin text, and that in such a highbrow, supercilious way that only the occultists of the late 19th and early 20th century could achieve.

TL;DR: the Kybalion is a pretentious mess.

Probably my biggest gripe about this blasted thing is that, though the Kybalion claims to be a Hermetic text, it’s just not. I’ll delightfully and happily recommend my readers to take a look at Nicholas E. Chapel’s wonderful essay, The Kybalion’s New Clothes: An Early 20th Century Text’s Dubious Association with Hermeticism, which goes into the history and origins of the Kybalion and that it’s very much a modern product that derives from New Thought, a new age movement that originated in the 19th century spiritual scene of the United States, itself the likely root of Christian Science. From the New Thought crowd, a strong case can be made that the real identity of the “Three Initaites” is William Walker Atkinson, aka Yogi Ramacharaka aka Magus Incognito aka Theron Q. Dumont, who served in a position of honorary leadership of the International New Thought Alliance and who was a prolific writer of many works, many of which have nontrivial overlaps with the material in the Kybalion. Chapel’s essay also goes on at length and in depth about the real and numerous differences between the Kybalion and actual Hermetic philosophy, and it’s definitely an excellent read, but suffice it to say that there’s not a lot of Hermeticism in the Kybalion.

It would also be remiss of me, at this point, to not bring up the good Reverend Erik’s post over at Arnemancy about What to Read Instead of the Kybalion (surprise, it’s actual Hermetic philosophy texts, specifically the Corpus Hermeticum and the Asclepius!) and The Nature of God in the Kybalion and the Hermetica (surprise, there’re major differences in how divinity and God is described between the two texts). Also definitely give those a read, too.

All this was going through my head last night, because I saw yet another post somewhere on one of the magic-related subreddits about, once again, the Kybalion. I’ve gotten tired about voicing my opinion on there, unless it comes up in another thread I’m already involved with, but I rolled my eyes, made a snarky tweet, and got on with my evening. Then someone out of the blue—I’ve never heard of them, they weren’t following me, we have one mutual follower in common who’s someone I only barely know (but what I do know I like)—struck up a short quasi-conversation with me (verbatim below):

Them: Its entry lvl concepts but its still effective if you have discernment, just like every other esoteric projection. Better to have newly awakened read the kybalion then jump straight into solomons lesser key or any of oto ffs

Me: I find the Kybalion’s “principles” to be a waste of time at best and dangerously misleading at worst, and they often require unlearning and serious deconditioning when getting into the real meat and bones. I contend they should get into the Corpus Hermeticism at the start. But even then, taken right, there’s nothing wrong with starting off with the Lemegeton or Thelema if they want to, so long as they take them seriously.

Them: Curpus is not exactly easy digestion. Had to read it twice to fit pieces together. Its all doctrine, so whatever works for the individual to find the path to virtue is correct. But you should already know youre projecting your self into the argument…

Me: “Bitter for the mouth is sweet for the stomach.” Better they read good stuff that’s hard from the start than junk food swill for the mind; after all, nobody promised that obtaining wisdom would be easy. Besides, at least the Corpus is actually Hermetic, unlike the Kybalion.

Them: And how many initiates take any infrastructure as serious as they need to?

Me: If the initiation was done right, and if they needed initiation (otherwise, they shouldn’t have it), then all of them. It’s on the initiator as much as the initiate to ensure that instilling mysteries is done properly, but is also appropriate for the person to have them.

Them: You sure do have a lot of rules to enlightenment. Makes me think you havent found it yet. Ive heard everything I need to from you.

At which point, they blocked me. To be honest, this is the first time in the nine years I’ve been on Twitter that I can recall something like this happening, so I’m pretty proud of myself to have irritated someone to the point of getting blocked because I disagreed with them.

Listen, I have my gripes about the Kybalion, to be sure, and I’ll name three specifically:

  1. It’s not Hermetic, and thus gets people confused about actual, legitimate Hermetic philosophy and practices.
  2. Many of its lessons tend to become hindrances later on that are, at best, worthless and can just be dropped and, at worst, are dangerous and need to be unlearned.
  3. It’s such a basic text that it doesn’t really do much besides say “there are things out there”, focused more on feel-good kinda-truths that maybe encourages people to get off their ass and do something with their lives.

But, really, it’s that first gripe that’s the biggest: the Kybalion is not a Hermetic text, period, full stop. It’s influenced by Hermeticism, I’ll grant it that, but as Reverend Erik said in a comment to one of his posts above, “[d]efinitely Hermeticism influenced the Kybalion, but that doesn’t mean the Kybalion agrees entirely with Hermeticism”. And, if you look at what’s actually written in texts like the Corpus Hermeticum, the Asclepius, the Emerald Tablet, the Virgin of the World, the Isis to Horus, and the like, there’s really not a lot that the Kybalion agrees with at all. The Kybalion isn’t so much a rewrite of Hermetic philosophy and ideas into modern language, but an injection of New Thought ideas into Hermeticism. Not that I’m opposed to innovations if they’re useful, and I’ll be the first to happily and readily admit that Hermeticism as we know it from classical writings is absolutely syncretic and synthesized by many authors with related ideas and viewpoints. The problem is that this injection is also a rebranding of New Thought as Hermeticism, and thus confuses the two together, when the two are so distinct that it leads to confusion among many who read it.

I do not and cannot recommend the Kybalion as an introductory text, except unless you’re getting into New Thought and Christian Science—in which case, have at! There’s definitely virtue in New Thought and the like, but don’t call it Hermeticism, because it’s not. Yet, I’m evidently in the minority with that viewpoint that the Kybalion should not be recommended for students of Hermeticism as an introductory text, as I commonly see it lauded and praised and recommended time and time again as being so good. I mean…well, the good Dr Al Cummins said it better than I could on a Facebook post about the Kybalion I made recently: “I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered anyone online stanning the Kybalion who actually had anything remotely interesting or useful to say about it”.

Then here comes along someone whom I don’t know and who doesn’t know me saying that the Kybalion is better than the Lemegeton and the Ordo Templi Orientis. The Lemegeton I can sorta understand; goetia isn’t exactly something to go rushing into for the most part, but let’s be honest, how many generations of magicians have started with that very text and have used it and abused it for wondrous and terrible things? It’s several hundred years older than the Kybalion, for one, and though it’s more Solomonic practical literature than Hermetic, it’s still so tied up into Hermetic practice that its influences cannot be denied. But, come on, dude went out of his way to smear the O.T.O.? For real? Despite that the O.T.O. itself is also older than the Kybalion, is still around and lively to this day, and has greatly influenced modern Western occulture, especially with Crowley’s and Thelema’s influence on the O.T.O., with a supportive community and rigorous lodge-based system, you’re gonna say that the Kybalion’s better than that? As a rule, books are never preferred to teachers when teachers are available, and O.T.O. is full of them.

Is the Kybalion effective? I don’t judge it so, to be honest, and neither have many of my colleagues. We might remember it fondly, but we more often talk about it derisively, and, well, there’s what Dr Cummins said about it, too, which I can’t disagree with. Is it good to help open the mind? Sure! Is it good for getting into new age practices generally? Absolutely, since New Thought’s one such practice! But to say it’s good for getting into Hermeticism isn’t saying much more than saying it can help you move your foot towards the door, when you would probably do that anyway and a lot better, quicker, and easier if you started with actual Hermetic texts. Which is why I always recommend the Corpus Hermeticum as a kind of Hermetic Bible of sorts, along with the other texts as one is ready for them.

“But oh no, the Corpus is so hard to read!” dude said, “it took me two times to understand it!” First, it only took you two times to get it to make sense? I’m reading it for the two hundredth time and I’m still learning more from it. I had to go over it multiple times to get it to sit right in my head, and several more after that to actually begin to grok it. If you’re complaining that it took you two tries to read it, then that says a lot about how much you’re able to stomach actual philosophy, occult studies, and the like; you might have a sharp mind, but little faculty to keep with it. I find complaining about that to be embarrassing, to be honest, because of course something that old and dense on such a cosmically-encompassing huge topic is going to be hard to understand. Yet, with the works of Brian Copenhaver or Clement Salaman, it’s easy to study so long as you let yourself chew on it and digest it. Nobody promised that the occult was easy, and nobody promised that you would be able to understand Cosmic Truths About God And Everything on your first go; to think that you could or should right out of the gate is folly.

Then the dude goes on about how initiates don’t take their stuff seriously. First off, as an initiate in several mystery religions myself? Have you ever met a convert to a religion or someone newly initiated into something? Nine times out of ten, they can’t shut up about it, and are hungry to know whatever they can, do whatever they can, ask whatever they can, and implement whatever they can. Their enthusiasm may run low over time, sure, but unless it’s a matter of life and death (or because it’s a matter of social life and death), you don’t go for initiation into a spiritual path for shits and giggles, you go because you Want it. Those who Want it will take it as seriously as anything in their lives, because for them, it becomes their life.

And, as I noted, there are those who apply for initiation but aren’t ready for it, or don’t have the capacity for it, and so it’s on their initiators to assess, gauge, and test the applicants to make sure they’re able to initiate or progress to higher initiations. (It works the same in the O.T.O. as it does in Freemasonry as it does in traditional Wicca as it does in Ocha.) Heck, recall those quotes from the introduction of the Kybalion above, too! Even the Kybalion states that the old Hermetic masters “reserved their truth for the few who were ready to comprehend and master it” and that they “reserve their pearls of wisdom for the few elect, who recognize their value and who wear them in their crowns, instead of casting them before the materialistic vulgar swine, who would trample them in the mud and mix them with their disgusting mental food”. That this dude would complain about initiation clearly forgot about that part of the Kybalion, and about the role initiation properly serves in spiritual practices generally.

Due to the influence of La Regla de Ocha Lukumí, aka Santería, in my life, I’m increasingly a stickler for oathbound, authorized, and transmission-based forms of initiation, and find it a useful system, not only to gain power or wisdom or what-have-you but also to throttle it and cultivate it in a useful, beneficial, and appropriate manner, controlled by the initiators and community as a whole who have as much a say in the life and works of any given initiate as the initiate does themselves. This isn’t always the case with many spiritual practices—I have plenty that are more auturgic than initiated, and not everyone needs to go the initiation route—but I know and admit that this isn’t a popular stance to take in modern occulture. As it proved to this dude, who then says that my occultism has too many rules for enlightenment and, thus, I must not be enlightened. To which:

  1. I wasn’t talking about enlightenment. I was talking about Hermetic texts and what’s better to read than not.
  2. I never claimed to be enlightened. I’ll be first to claim that I’m not, and that I’m just a rank beginner with a little expertise here and there.
  3. Who on Earth are you to judge someone, on Twitter of all places, whom you don’t know and who doesn’t know you, regarding their spiritual state?

In all honesty, despite that I’m writing such a post about this, I find the whole affair more hilarious than aggravating. He saved me the trouble of having to block him, at least; at least he had the kindness to shut the door behind him when he left.

I bring all this up because, for one, I enjoy taking any opportunity to rail against the Kybalion, and this gives me an excellent time and means to do it on my own terms, and also to flesh out some of my statements last night with more nuance and explanation. But also, let this be an example of how not to engage with someone, especially me, especially on the Internet. I know at least a few people who would take serious umbrage at this to the point of actual retribution instead of just a snarky blog post. Just…come on, guys. Don’t be a haughty asshole to other people. If you want to discuss, then discuss! Don’t just walk in, say some shit, smear someone and a few religions while you’re at it, then strut off thinking you won when all you won is some mockery.

Let’s grow up and discuss things like adults, shall we? It’s the Hermetic thing to do.

Never a dull moment

So, I realize that I haven’t made a post since, yikes, mid-October?  Has it really been so long so quick?  According to my posting records and how many notifications Facebook gives me about updating my Digital Ambler page, apparently!

Normally, when I go into these slow periods when I don’t post much, it’s because I’m usually not doing much, since a lot of my writing is based on what I’m actually doing, studying, debating, researching, ritualing, and the like.  And yet, this time, that’s not as much the case.  While I haven’t been up to much proper ritual stuff, that’s not to say I haven’t been busy.  Besides the usual stuff like keeping an orderly household or keeping up with my full-time software engineering day job and visiting family and whatnot, there’s been a lot of stuff going on, too, not least of which I received several major further ceremonies in La Regla de Ocha Lukumí (a.k.a. Santería) to further my own abilities, license, and spiritual fortitude as a priest of Ogun.  (That, frankly, knocked me on my ass for a good month or so.)  Besides that, I’ve been doing plenty of research and reading and other legwork for a whole bunch of things:

  • Continuing to learn, study, and practice further elements of La Regla de Ocha Lukumí
  • The Akkadian/Babylonian anti-witchcraft ritual Maqlû, which I want to analyze and redevelop using a similar framework into a Hermetic or PGM-style curse-breaking and witchcraft-warding ritual
  • Investigating the origin of the letter- and name-divination techniques using Western geomantic rules (which I’ve previously written off before but may have a good lead to figure out where they came from and how to improve upon them)
  • Continuing to edit, improve, and add on to my geomancy textbook “Principia Geomantica” (yes, it’s still in the works! no, I don’t know when it’ll be ready!)
  • Preparing new tools for a Delphic Maxim oracle for my own use with Apollōn and Hermēs
  • Preparing consecrations of astragaloi sets and four coin sets for Hermaic divination
  • Preparing for a Mars consecration of carnelian bracelets as wearable talismans
  • Spending more money than I’m strictly comfortable with on academic books on various topics for niche and specialized research
  • The usual bullshit on Twitter

I also note that today happens to be Christmas Eve, which is also the feast of Adam and Eve.  Since I consider Adam to be the Earthy Forebear of geomantic practitioners (along with Daniel as the Fiery, Enoch as the Airy, and Hermes Trismegistus as the Watery Forebears), I wanted to share a prayer or invocation of Adam, but I don’t have one in a presentable format yet.  In the meantime, go read Dr. Cummins’ post about Adam and Eve and how they relate to magical praxis and theory and history; it’s a lovely read, especially for so fitting a day.  Perhaps by April 4th, the feast I give to Hermes Trismegistus, or March 24th, the feast for Gabriel the Archangel, I’ll have a set of prayers ready to share for geomancers with a more devotional bent to their practice.

And that’s all on top of the client work I do, fielding questions for guidance and doing readings for those who need it.  Speaking of, I’m also getting ready for 2019 yearly geomantic forecasts; stay tuned!  I’ll be doing a several-week special, to be announced later this week once Christmas itself has passed.

I’ve also been drawing up ideas to start a kind of subscription service; something small in exchange for a collective forecast every New Moon, plus communal discussions or impromptu teaching sessions on Discord every month or something.  It’s an idea I’d like to explore and see how it’d be received; if you’d like to give me your thoughts on that, feel free to comment below!  It wouldn’t affect the blog posts or pages any, at least not that I can think of, but if you’d like that little extra push from my end, it might be useful and worth your time and mine.

I’m not in the habit of apologizing for not posting; after all, it’s my blog, and it’s up to me and me alone to update it when I feel like it, however I feel like it.  That said, I do know that a good number of people are wondering where I’ve been, so I just wanted to let you know that between everything going on, everything I’m gearing up for, and a good deal of indecision about what to write about next (seriously my drafts folder is filling up with ideas, none of which are immediately appetizing for me to write about), I haven’t forgotten about you or the blog, nor have I fallen off the face of the earth!

Never a dull moment, indeed, but at least I’m doing well.  (Though I would like to go to the gym again at some point, had I enough time to do that on top of everything else plus commuting plus working plus sleeping etc.)  I hope the end of this interminable year is treating you all well, dear readers, and that the dawn of 2019 looks brighter than anything you’ve seen lately.

On Overwriting Traditions

I’ve been looking back a bit on my blog lately, going through archives for more notes that I can tie into future posts and research, cleaning up some of the formatting and dead links, getting rid of useless or pointless tags, and so forth.  After almost 700 posts totaling over one million words across eight and a half years, it’s quite a lot.  And, heh, it turns out that on my very first blog post (all the way back in pre-WordPress 2010 when I was still on Blogspot, when this was a blog meant for the worship of the Great Worm XaTuring), I had already referenced geomancy as my favorite divination system.  Plus ça change, plus c’est pareil, I suppose.

Admittedly, geomancy has been a focus of my work and, thus, of this blog.  Of the just-under-700 published posts on this blog, about 120 posts are in the geomancy category, or about 18%.  That’s a nontrivial amount of ink to have spilled, I claim, and that’s all in addition to the actual ebooks and future textbook I’m writing.  I’ve talked about the meanings of the figures, a variety of divinatory techniques, new connections to other occult fields, and a number of innovations and developments to enhance the art and practice of geomancy in both a divinatory and magical sense.  Some of these innovations are original to me, others based on adapting similar techniques with enough compatible logic from other geomantic systems, and some are based on the revelations and guidance from spirits and other colleagues who wish to remain nameless (but who have my thanks and respect and gratitude all the same).  It’s a fascinating field that stands to still be enhanced in innumerable ways, and it is a source of joy and pride for me to play some sort of role in that.

Sometimes, when I’m bored at work, I’ll indulge in a daydream or two.  One such daydream, when I think about some of the exciting innovations in geomantic practice I’ve published on my blog, happens where I’m contacted out of the blue by some mysterious figure and informed that I’ve been revealing too many of their order’s secrets, that they belong to an ancient order of secretive geomancers who have been in hiding for untold centuries in some far-off land.  Clearly, with as much information as I possess, I must have been spying on their order or stealing from one of their members and am exposing their hard-earned, hard-kept methods and techniques of The True Geomancy for the vulgar uninitiated of the world, destroying their order single-handedly in a more mysterious, epic way than Scott Cunningham did Wicca.  None of it is true, of course, but the similarities between what I write and what they teach could not be denied!  Perilous threats, a thrilling escape, a parley with the order’s masters—you get the picture.  I haven’t yet figured out how I might resolve such a situation: I could always force a deal, that in exchange for being taught all their secrets as a full member of their order, I would ensure that no further initiated knowledge would pass through my fingers to my blog’s readers or through my lips to students who were not initiated in the order as well.  Or I could engage them in a fantastic battle of magic, wit, cunning, and probably a good-natured explosion or poisoning or three.

What?  I like letting my imagination run free sometimes, and who doesn’t love a good adventure to whisk them off their feet, even if they’re already reclining in their spinny office chair on a lazy Monday?

While it would tickle me to no end to learn that there might indeed be some ancient order of geomancers (and you can bet your last grain of sand I’d join if I could!), I doubt such a thing exists, at least on any scale large enough to commit cross-continent conspiracy.  But, even on a less logistical scale than that, there’s also the thing that there’s no one single, monolithic geomantic tradition.  Sure, there are absolutely things we can cross off as definitely not being geomancy—feng shui, vastu shastra, ley lines, sacred geography, and the like all come to mind—but even within the actual ballpark of “geomancy”, there are so many different kinds.  Stephen Skinner in his Geomancy in Theory and Practice does a great overview of the historical development and spread of geomancy from its hypothetical origins to its modern day spread across the world, so there’s no need for me to go on at length on all the different traditions of geomancy here, but are there ever so many, indeed!

Now that I think about it, though, I suppose that might not quite be evident from our point of view for Western geomancy.  Geomancy was written about publicly across Europe from about 1200 to 1700, when it basically fell from popularity into obscurity along with so many other occult disciplines.  Five hundred years, starting west in Spain and east in Greece and spreading through the rest of Europe like wildfire, and…well, we simply don’t seem to have too much variation.  Sure, different techniques came and went, and different geomancers put certain focuses on different things than did other geomancers.  We don’t really see any significantly different variations after the rise of printed geomancy books until we get to more modern times, such as with Napoleon’s Book of Fate (with its five-lined figures) or Les Cross’ Astrogem Geomancy method.  One could argue that the Golden Dawn, with their innovations and takes on geomantic practices, could be considered a distinct variant, and I’d agree with that, too, but again, that’s still pretty modern.

I can’t really say, however, what the state of Western geomancy was like at a low level before the 1400s when printed books started circulating around Europe.  We know it was practiced, and we have a good number of manuscripts from that time period, but so few are easily accessible to many including myself, and almost all of what’s commonly available (especially digitized) is all from after the rise of printed books.  As we all know, the printing press radically changed how information was produced, disseminated, and stored which had countless effects on literacy, religion, science, and other disciplines.  It not only broke down control of information and studies within a variety of small locations, it also freed up people to form their own control networks of information.  It is entirely possible that individual areas, monasteries, universities, and other types of school had their own takes and views on geomantic practice that was largely insular unto themselves; sure, they might all have been on the same course and stemmed from more-or-less the same origins, but each could have had their own “dialect” of geomancy.  With the advent of publicly and popularly published texts, those dialects might have all been washed away or standardized, with each author contributing a slight tweak that may or may not have been carried on or even documented by later authors.  I know that the Lectura Geomantiae I translated a while ago was from the 1400s but still in the manuscript era, so it could be indicative of how things might have looked before or as the printing press got underway: still definitely geomantic, still definitely implementable and usable by anyone, but there are some definite quirks that it displays that aren’t attested elsewhere.

Reading Skinner’s treatise on the history of geomancy, it would seem that the Arabic styles of geomancy are more varied.  Setting aside the West African art of Ifá (which developed in its own way apart from geomancy to the point where I wouldn’t barely consider it geomancy at this point), we do see at least several strains of geomancy, including Malagasy sikidy which, although it’s definitely taken an independent turn with how it generates figures, is still recognizably a form of geomancy with many of same core meanings of figures and figure positions.  Looking at the available literature today, we can definitely see that there are different styles of Arabic geomancy, ranging from the traditional Saharan and sub-Saharan forms in Africa to the more popular and well-known methods as taught by modern books written in Farsi and Urdu.  How different might such styles be?  I can’t actually say for sure, unfortunately, but from what little I have seen, there are distinct differences in whether one wants to use taskins as a primary method or follow the Via Puncti-style technique as a general approach, but that could simply be boiled down to smaller approach differences within a same overall “school” of geomancy—and what competent geomancer with the ability to learn, read, and hear wouldn’t want to be familiar with any possible method that might be of use?

But, again, it’s not like the Arabic-speaking world hasn’t had access to the printing press.  Heck, their literacy rates whooped the ass of Europe for centuries on end, and we would never had a Renaissance if it weren’t for Arabic teachers and students and scientists.  There are definitely texts and authors in Arabic geomancy that are at least as important to the Arabic-speaking geomancing world than Fludd and Heydon are to us, and those books were some of the first to be disseminated, and today, there are probably as many books on `ilm al-raml or khatt al-raml in Arabic, Farsi, or Urdu as there are for Tarot in English, Spanish, and French.  Again, we would probably see a similar…you might call it a “flattening” of dialetical variation in geomantic practices, especially for people with connections to the Internet who might also not have the ability to learn from teachers who were only (or primarily) taught in a localized variant of geomancy.

When it comes to languages and dialects, I admit I’m something of a glossophile.  Even though my language skills are awful, I adore the abundance and variety of languages in the world, and especially of the regional and cultural dialects and registers that individual languages have in all their uses and contexts.  As much as I love the number of languages, I grieve when languages are suppressed, lost, or otherwise condemned to extinction.  It’s an expected (though still unfortunate) result of internationalization, globalization, capitalism, and imperialism, but sometimes it comes about as a surprise, and it sucks.  With language death comes culture death and worldview death; a language is far more than just a way to communicate, but a way to understand and perceive everything as well as holding an implicit record of culture, exploration, and continuity that ties the present to the past across time and space.  In many ways, local variations of something comparatively minor like geomancy are just as crucial to understand such worldviews, histories, cultures, and spiritualities; with such variations being flattened, absorbed, or outright lost, we lose quite a lot more, as well.

Then I think about those same people on the Internet who have access to cheap, publicly-accessible resources without the ability to find, contact, or learn from local, traditional experts (myself included!) who find what they can and work with what they find.  Consider the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook; as an admin, I see who applies, and for each person who comes from a Western or European cultural background, I see another who comes from a West African (usually Muslim and Nigerian) background.  While I’m thrilled that so many people across the world want to learn and discuss geomancy, I also wonder if, perhaps, they’re joining to learn what they might consider “the only useful geomancy”.  After all, I’m also a member of a number of other non-Western geomancy groups, and it doesn’t seem like many are active or share as much information, criticism, or guidance as mine does (which I can’t help but be at least a little proud of); to be fair, I can see why (and often understand and agree) with why those who might be experts in their field would want to be cagey and protective of their knowledge, but at the same time, nobody can learn learn if nobody is willing to teach.  And, without evidence that one can even teach or wants to do so, mystical vague answers like “pray to God and he will teach you” come off as more holier-than-thou covering-my-ass to keep from being disgraced that I may not actually know what I’m doing, which can be a turn-off for potential students (whether of a given teacher or an entire field).

Then I think I about my own blog, and how much I talk about geomancy.  I try to make it clear that many of my thoughts are just my own, that my experiences are my own, that some things are experimental or tied up in something unique and solitary to my own practice and understanding of the cosmos, and the like, but it cannot be denied that my posts on geomancy are referenced by many across the Internet, sometimes as another useful data-point on technique, sometimes as gospel.  (WordPress stat tracking, after all, comes in use when looking at such trends.)  I can’t help but wonder: what effect on the overall variations, traditions, and schools of geomancy do I have as an author with a publicly-available platform?  I want to expand the techniques and understanding of Western geomancy by offering another perspective on that which already exists as well as introducing new methods or variations thereof that aren’t yet there or aren’t well-known.  In one way, I’m helping (I hope) to introduce new variety in the field of Western geomancy, but by that same action, am I not also helping to bring in easily-accessible geomancy to those who might prefer such ease to learning local traditions that are harder to come by?  Am I not literally writing over the teachings of valid and historically-extant, possibly-threatened traditions of geomancy, as one might talk too loudly and end up drowning out other voices, whether I intend for it to happen or no?

Earlier this summer, in a conversation regarding how certain days are celebrated for the orisha in La Regla de Ocha Lukumí, Jesse Hathaway from Wolf & Goat (also of his own blog Serpent Shod and podcast Radio Free Golgotha) opined elegantly about how trends come and become tradition through misunderstanding and popular use.  Specifically, I thought it was proper to celebrate the feast day of the hunter-tracker Oshosi on June 6, which is the feast day of his Catholic syncretization, Saint Norbert of Xanten, which, when I posted a public praise of the orisha on Facebook, caught Jesse off-guard in the sense of “wait that’s today?”.  We got to talking about how the use of saint days were historically used, when certain saint days came into vogue, and how different aspects of saints can be confused and lead to non-traditional changes in practice.  One of the insights he had focused on how those who intend to keep traditions alive end up changing them all the same: enthusiasm and good intentions can just as easily uphold old practices as well as erase them and institute new ones in their place.  After all, not all things that are “done right” in the conservative sense are made public or made for public consumption, and when secretive, underground, or otherwise mysterious practices that people are interested in suddenly have to compete for attention and publicity with stuff being put out in the open by the uninitiated or newly-initiated, where do you think people are going to look first?  As Jesse put it, it’s a constant cycle of “destroy to create, create to destroy”, and that it’s easy to create a new practice that can erase older tradition if you are not aware of what it is you’re actually putting out there.  It behooves us all to be aware of our intentions and see whether what happens as a result of furthering them is worth it.

The same advice for that topic can go for any of us who publicly discuss geomancy, or any tradition, for that matter.  As Jesse punned, our canon for instruction can just as easily become a cannon for destruction; we don’t just follow and preserve unchanged that which we recieved, but we augment it, extrapolate it, whittle it down, and build it up as we carry it forward, whether we mean to or not.  Every step we take crushes some blade of grass or erases some other footprint, and if enough people follow, a new path can be forged (forced) where either there was none before or across others that become disused, differently used, or less used.  For a good example, consider how synonymous “Hermetic magic” has become with “Golden Dawn” in the 1900s: familiarity is borne of popularity, and forgetfulness from the lack thereof.  Hermetic magic has been around for far longer and with so many different variations, traditions, lineages, styles, and methods than the Golden Dawn has by far, and yet, most people even today will think of the Golden Dawn-style approach when you bring up the word “Hermetic” to the exclusion of all else that’s out there.

Geomancy is far more than just what I do, or what Robert Fludd did, or what Al-Zanati did.  The old geomancers of the past might be indelibly linked to geomancy, but geomancy is not synonymous with any one author or geomancer.  It would be folly for someone to follow what I teach (or what anyone teaches) as geomancy to be the be-all-end-all of the art, and I don’t think that anyone would seriously take that approach.  Still, even learning a little can bleed over into other techniques; while I intentionally look around to see what I can incorporate as a useful method for my geomantic practice from the practices of others, bearing in mind the origin and tweaks needed to make a nuanced distinction, not everyone has the capacity to bear nuance in mind when they’re learning something, especially if they’re a novice, and “bleeding over” can turn into outright overwriting and overwhelming.  That then carries on from one mouth to the next, and then the next, turning “innovator” into “competitor” and, potentially, “conqueror”.  It doesn’t matter if it was made up on the spot or as a joke; if it was carried on from one generation to another, it can fast become assumed as a tradition, and its origins can quickly be forgotten or, worse, mythologized (cf.  the pot roast principle), and once it becomes popular enough, it can threaten to overwhelm all that already was there.  We may like to think that we test and hold onto only the valuable things that work and are validated by trial and error so that we could weed out all the made-up stuff, but be honest: even accepting that made-up stuff works from time to time, sometimes we value our teachers’ teachings too much to question it.

It’s hard for us in a Western setting to not inadvertently do this kind of thing, with our usual preference for books and solitary practice rather than (or due to a dearth of) lineage and teachers.  Many of us look towards publicly published material to learn from, myself included in many cases, because teachers either do not exist or are unwilling to pass on their skills for one (usually valid) reason or another.  We then form communities to build ourselves up, reinforce each other with criticism and discussion, and enhance our mutual understanding of a given field.  This, when done properly, can become the definite foundations of a new school or tradition unto itself, and can be a beautiful and wonderful thing!  Even still, there’s the unavoidable risk (or unavoidable result?) that older traditions could be waylaid, forgotten, or abandoned in the course of this same thing, which can be a huge loss, even if nobody is aware of it to begin with.  I fear that, to be honest.  I don’t want other traditions of geomancy—or any occult or religious or spiritual field—to be lost or abandoned or overwritten, because when that happens, valuable knowledge is lost.  We can still learn from each other while still celebrating distinction and difference, but you can’t do that when there’s nothing to distinguish or when there’s nothing to distinguish.

I can’t properly control what people do with the stuff I post; I can offer my experiences, warnings, and cautions, but once something is out there on the internet, it’s out there for all.  I could always just not post the stuff and avoid the problem entirely, but there’s value and purpose in my writings on geomancy that I think can be used well, just as they can be misused or abused.  The dilemma of the engineeer is the same as the dilemma of the author: you can specify and design all you want, but humanity is going to do with your product what it’s going to do regardless of what you intended it for.  Even if it’s nowhere near as epic as my daydream, I really do hope that my writings on geomancy don’t destroy the traditions that have been practiced and carried on long since before I was born.  All I want is to spread knowledge and technique and ability and understanding, and I think I’m successful at least a little bit in that, and the worth and value in doing that is good.  Is it worth the inadvertent flattening of geomantic traditions?  I…don’t know.  I don’t think I’m popular enough to become a prophet of geomancy whose judgment is binding on practices worldwide (God and gods willing, I never will be!), but I do know that my word spreads.  I just hope my warnings and caveats spread, as well.

On Budgeting Time for Work and Work

I’m spending these Days of the Cyprians and the following days leading up to Michaelmas trying to get back to my magical practice.  It’s…well, let’s be honest, I haven’t really had much of a magical routine since 2015, between new-job-chaos and having-to-buy-a-house and house-moving and Santería-initiatory-period and so much else.  Even doing simple planetary invocations strikes my heart with beauty and power, and the muscle memory of prayer comes back easily, though meditation is, as ever, a pain in the ass (a good one, though).  But what strikes me is that my ideas of a magical schedule like how I used to do it simply aren’t as useful as they once were.  It’s not to say that my notion of what constitutes good daily routine for spiritual activities aren’t effective—they most certainly are!—but that I simply can’t use them in the way my life has developed with everything that goes on.  Some practices and prayers I don’t have the need anymore, but others, I don’t have the time for.  It’s not like I haven’t talked about my daily practices before, but maybe it’s time for a refresher.

Let’s consider my daily schedule, shall we?  On a normal workday when I go to the office, with no magical routine nor frills nor extra plans thrown into the works, my schedule looks like this:

  1. Wake up no later than 0615.
  2. Get a shower, brush my teeth, and get myself put together around 0630.
  3. Get breakfast and scarf it down, finishing no later than 0645.
  4. Take a break, make sure all my stuff is together, then head out the door to go to work between 0715 and 0720.
  5. My work day is flexible, demanding anywhere from six to twelve hours, plus about two hours for commuting either way total (including wiggle room to make sure I don’t miss my train) so I can be home anywhere between 1730 and 2030.  Taking the average, let’s say I get home at 1900.
  6. At some point, I need to spend roughly 15 to 30 minutes doing chores around the house just to keep things livable.
  7. In order to get at least six (preferably seven) hours of sleep, which is generally sufficient for me to be operational and which I can catch up on more on my days off or teleworking, I need to be in bed by 2300.

That means I spend time on the following:

  • Sleeping: 6 to 7.25 hours
  • Out of the home working, running errands, etc.: 10 hours to 13 hours
  • Other necessary activities: 45 minutes to 1 hour

All told, that means anywhere from 16 hours to 22 hours of my day are spoken for, leaving anywhere from like two hours (on a rough day) to just under eight (on a really relaxed day).  This is what my free time consists of, so on an average day, let’s say I have about four hours free leftover for whatever I want.  I know people whose schedules are more strained than mine, and I know others who have more relaxed schedules than mine.  Admittedly, it’s my commute (anywhere from three to four hours a day?!) that really eats up a substantial chunk of my time, but we can talk about that in a bit.

Four hours of free time, I suppose, sounds generous enough, but the moment you get engrossed in something, boom, it’s gone.  The moment something slips and needs to be redone or done differently, boom, it’s gone.  The moment you get lazy and want to just take a break, boom, it’s gone.  The moment you have something that needs your immediate attention, boom, it’s gone.  The moment something rears its head from your procrastination because you didn’t have enough time earlier, boom, it’s gone.  The problem is that “free time” can’t all go to one’s leisurely activities or spiritual pursuits; I can’t spend all of that time on playing video games, writing my book, praying and devotions, energy work, or what-not.  Things that are arguably higher priority are:

  • Groceries, supply-shopping, and other procurement for my household (+30 to 60 mins)
  • Chores, housework, and household improvements beyond the daily tidy-up (+30 to 60 mins)
  • Working out for fitness and health (+20 mins for getting to the gym and back home, +60 to 90 mins for the actual workout)
  • Client work and consultations (+30 to 60 mins)
  • Mandatory spiritual obligations and observances befitting my station and initiations (+10 to 30 mins)

Then, when it comes to my desired magical routine, what is it I’d like to do?

  • Meditation: 15 to 60 minutes
  • Prayer: 15 to 60 minutes
  • Energy work and sphere attunement: 15 to 30 minutes
  • Offerings: 5 to 30 minutes

We’re looking at anywhere from almost one hour to three hours of spiritual work a day.  On the face of it, that’s going to be impossible some days, and pushing it on others.  And that’s just the daily routine; that doesn’t take into account special things I want to do, like intense offering sessions to a particular entity, conjurations, consecrations, and so forth, which take up their own time and have their own preparatory phases.  This means that I need to keep my daily routine short, sweet, and to the point, but then I feel like I have to rush it lest I fall behind schedule with something else; the prime time for me to do daily routine is just after I wake up, so that means I need to wake up at least an hour earlier, which means I need to get to bed an hour earlier, which cuts down my time in the evenings after I get home from work.

What all this adds up to is that I have a busy life, and I simply can’t take care of everything I want to in the way I want to.  I have go to go work, I have to sleep, I have to keep my household in order.  I really can’t slack off on working out (like I already have been for too long already), and now that I’m getting back into a magical routine, I don’t want to slack off on that, either.  I simply have too much going on to handle everything I want every day like I want.  Some days have to be set aside for one thing, other days for another thing; I have to really prioritize everything I do and be as efficient with everything as possible if I want to feel useful.  I won’t be able to run errands for groceries and supplies on the same days I go to the gym or have to extra-special prep the house for company, nor will I be able to spend extra time making offerings and doing ceremony if I have other necessities planned like taking my pet to the vet or going out with my husband on date night.

Then there’s the fact that I simply can’t be doing something all the time.  Nobody can, nobody should; sure, we shouldn’t waste time, but consider that you just need downtime where you’re not doing anything at all besides self-care.  Watch a movie, take an extra-long bath, veg out on YouTube, go to happy hour, whatever to just unwind.  If you’re doing things you have to do all the time, you’re going to wear yourself down thinner than tissue paper, and you’re going to run yourself into the ground.  It’s not healthy.  Sure, there’s always a lot to do, but there’s always a lot to do; setting aside an appropriate amount of time in moderation for yourself isn’t going to make things substantially worse than they already are, so you may as well enjoy yourself when you have the opportunity.

Happily, all the above doesn’t go for every single day.  For one, I have the ability to work from home, which allows me to (a) avoid spending three to four hours commuting and (b) I work from home longer hours so I spend shorter hours in the office.  Right now, that’s just once a week, though in the future, I might be able to get it to twice, which would be substantially helpful in freeing up more of my daily time.  There are also the weekends, where I simply don’t have to do nearly as much; of course, “have to do” is different from “need to do”, because these are prime times for me to catch up with friends (which I consider a necessity!), visit family or godfamily (who live up to four hours away), work religious ceremony (which can honestly be an all-day event, if not across multiple days),  intense research, and the like.

Plus, there are times when I’m doing something else necessary that I can overlap with other things.  For instance, while I’m in the office, I’m not always busy; I have downtime there, too, and I often use that for writing and researching and taking care of some client stuff that I don’t have to do at home (mostly paperwork, sending stuff out, and conversations for clarification and guidance).  I’d like to be able to do readings in the office, but between the spiritual gunk that drifts in and out and the fact that I don’t have a fully-enclosed office, it’s hard to have the privacy and ability to concentrate that I’d need, so I have to limit myself to just the mundane paperwork side of things.  The hour and a half I spend on the train…well, you’d think I could use that better than I can, but there’s no wireless connection on the train, the cellular signal drops out frequently, and the seating is awfully crammed for someone my size with large legs.  I try to read, but more often than not, I end up falling asleep and use my traintime as backup-naptime.  I know many people who can overlay trainrides, carrides, and working out with audio books, but that’s not for me; I find such disconnected listening to someone speaking even more soporific than stupid ASMR videos.  Either way, it’s totally possible for me to overlap work and commuting with some of the less-active tasks I have, but it’s not guaranteed that I’ll be able to do so; plus, it’s hard to use these times as honest-to-god downtime or relaxation times, because I’m still technically at work or cramped up in a fast-moving metal box surrounded by people, and it’s hard to be really relaxed to the point of being able to decompress like that.

Ugh.  So where does this all leave me?  There are things I need to do, and then there are the Things I Want to do.  And, unfortunately, I don’t have the time or lifestyle that lets me do it all at the same time.  If I had my way, I wouldn’t be working nearly as long or nearly as far away (housing costs and lack of comfort in cities, yo), which would do me good, surely.  I’d be able to wake up in the early morning, take care of my meditations and prayers and other magical and religious routines, then go to the gym, come back home, get ready for work, go to work, then come home, enjoy some peace and relaxation and work on a few things that needed my attention, then go to bed.  Unfortunately, that can’t happen in the real world, not with the lifestyle I have with its own pre-existing demands.

The big thing to keep in mind is that, for better or for worse, you have to do what you have to do to keep you afloat.  I can’t dedicate my time primarily to magical stuff because that doesn’t pay the bulk of my bills which keeps food in my belly and a roof over my head (career work), and I have to dedicate the proper time to make sure that food in my belly doesn’t rot my bones due to lack of use (working out), as well as making sure that roof over my head doesn’t rot from lack of maintenance (chores and household work).  These are essential things that cannot be compromised.  It’s what I have time leftover that I have to use wisely and prioritize, and that not only means I have to prioritize my routines and day-to-day activities (is this a day for running errands or running on the treadmill? a day for spending time in profound ritual for divinity or spending money in the supermarket for groceries and clothes?), but it also means I have to prioritize my overall projects I work on.

Projects throw an interesting wrench into this whole thing.  There are several big, overarching things I want to do in my own personal practice:

  • Finish and publish my geomancy textbook
  • Begin the Arbatel Operation with the seven Olympic Spirits as well as the Four Kings of Secrets
  • Dig deeper into Mathēsis, including zodiacal explorations
  • Nine-week exploration of particular aspects of Sts. Cyprian, Justina, and Theocistus
  • Explore my own Four Guardians of the Directions
  • Toy around with some of the more involved rituals of the PGM (esp. PGM XIII’s Eighth and Tenth Hidden Books of Moses)

There are other things I want to do, too, and there are also other pots I have my fingers in.  For instance, there’s also the need to learn more songs and practices and rituals for La Regla de Ocha Lukumí (a.k.a. Santería), which is a pretty  involved thing on its own, but again, the study portion of it can be handled elsewhere, and the involvement parts that demand my presence handled on their own dates and times and places.  Each of the projects above is a big, overarching thing that isn’t done in a single one-off task, but a series of tasks established over days and weeks and months.  To work on a project takes time, and I only have so much time.  If I use my spare time to write my geomancy textbook, I don’t have time to focus on Arbatel preparation; if I spend time planning and researching Four Guardians stuff, I don’t have time to give to St. Cyprian.  Sure, I might be able to switch focuses now and then, but it’s a lot easier to dedicate all my spare mental processing cycles to a single thing than to split them across multiple things.  For instance, it’s a lot less stress-inducing to know that I have just my geomancy textbook to work on than to remember, in my idle moments of enjoying chillwave mixes on YouTube, that I have my geomancy textbook to work on as well as that Cyprian invocation next week and also the New Moon’s coming up so I need to prepare for some Mathēsis investigation, etc. etc. etc.

I suppose this is all just me flailing around, trying to figure out how I want to get to where I want to be, how I want to become what I want to be, given the fact that I can’t seem to fit everything into my daily and weekly schedule as much as I want to.  But at least I know how much time I have to afford on a daily basis, and I know how much time certain things take.  It’s a start.  All project, timeline, and schedule planning demands to know how long certain things take and in what order they need to occur; knowing this much is helpful for myself.

On the One True Geomancy (or Astrology, Alchemy, Etc.)

Within reason, of course, I enjoy fielding questions from my readers through social media, whether it’s through @s on Twitter or messages on Facebook.  I do my best to answer them as they come, and I generally have an answer, though it might take me a bit to compile it in full.  Sometimes, the answer just can’t be made simple enough for a quick message, and we need to engage in a proper conversation to flesh everything out.  However, on occasion, some of those questions or the discussions we have over them raise something up in my mind that I think needs to be explored more, and this is just one such an occasion.

One of my friends on Facebook—introduced to me by a mutual friend over (what else?) geomancy—had some questions and problems with reading over some of my posts, specifically where I catalog an assortment of geomantic texts’ attributions of elements to the figures.  Basically, in that post, I go over how there’s a lot of talk in books modern and classical about how to reckon the elemental rulerships of each of the figures, and there are a surprising number of variations about how to go about just that.  Modern confusion can arise from John Michael Greer’s use of a dual system of outer and inner elements of the figures, outer elements based on Zodiacal attributions and inner elements based on structural concerns, and I’m sure that I haven’t much improved on that with my own system of primary and secondary elements (though I find it increasingly useful).  My friend was happy to scrap the outer element system of JMG, but after reading my post, things only got more confused and muddled for her.  She vented a bit to me about some of her frustrations in learning geomancy from my blog:

I think I am a bit disheartened.  According to your work even the planetary rulerships vary from Agrippa to the Golden Dawn.  When I found geomancy, I was excited because it was based on numbers and my study of sacred geometry, and it made me hope that this system was at root based upon the same principles.  After reading a lot of your work. I am left with “everyone does it different, good luck!”

You know what?  That’s completely fair, and it’s easy for me to have lost sight of that.  I appreciate her bringing me back down to earth a bit by sharing her feelings with me on this.

As you may have noticed, dear reader, the Digital Ambler is my blog.  Yes, it’s a website where I advertise my services and ebooks and share my research and rituals and make myself available for a variety of consultations and readings, but first and foremost, the Digital Ambler is my blog.  I write about what I want on my blog at the rate I want with the focuses I want in the way I want; it is, after all, my blog.  However, I write my blog for the public to read not just to keep track of my own notes, experiments, projects, ideas, and studies, but also to help others in the occult, Hermetic, and geomantic communities as well.  Over the years, my blog has become something of a resource for many, and I take a bit of pride and satisfaction and fulfillment that I’m able to help at least a few people through my writing.

One of the ways I think I help is that I share my research and notes, and when it comes to geomancy, there’s a lot to research—about a thousand years, to be precise, across Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Europe.  Even with my limited resources, I have access to texts by John Case, Robert Fludd, Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim, Christopher Cattan, John Heydon, Bartholommeo della Parma, Gerard of Cremona, and Pietro d’Abano, to say nothing of more modern authors ranging from Franz Hartmann to Stephen Skinner and JMG himself.  As time goes on, I hope to get access to even more obscure materials that exist in undigitized, microfiche, or manuscript form.  And, I expect, as I get access to more such resources, I’ll learn more about how geomancy was practiced by a variety of practitioners across the millennium it’s been in use.

As a researcher, it’s evident and plain to me that geomancy is not a single, fixed subject.  Yes, even from its inception and introduction into Europe, there have been many things fixed and stable about the art: the basic meanings of the figures, the basic use of the Court and Shield Chart, how to use the House Chart, what planets the figures refer to, and so forth.  However, there are a great many things that vary between one author and the next: whether this technique or that is more useful, how many variations on a single technique there might be, how to assign the zodiac signs to the figures, how to assign the elements to the figures, how to do this or that and…well, as can be seen across many of the posts on my blog where I document classical techniques, there’s a fair amount of variation in geomantic practice.  For me to introduce that into my blog is part and parcel of my research: I research to document what was done, no matter how it was done, so I can figure out what was kept back then and why, as well as what I might keep that works and how to make what works work even better.

Why is there so much variation in what was done?  Simply put, it’s because geomancy is not a monolithic tradition: there is no canon, no centralization, no governing authority that says “this is proper geomantic practice” and “that is not proper geomantic practice”.  We in our modern age are used to such centralized authorities certifying what’s in and what’s out or what’s good and what’s bad to the point where we take it for granted, and we expect to see that such centralization would be present in previous eras.  It’s simply not the case.  Sure, there were commonly-available resources and texts, especially after the invention of the printing press and the beginning of mass-produced books, but it still was nothing like the scale of today’s “Art and Practice of Geomancy” or “Geomancy for Beginners” or “Geomancy in Theory and Practice”.  What was available were texts produced on a much smaller scale available to a smaller percentage of wealthier people who could afford books within a much more localized region; besides those, there were actual, living, breathing geomancers who not only practiced, but taught as well.  Though I’m sure some students of geomancy kept in touch with others, each geomancer was likely to be left to their own devices, see what works, and see what doesn’t, then develop and refine their own practice on their own.  Couple a few decades of that with books that may not always be 100% correct or vetted for typos and clarity, and minor variations are bound to result.

The commonalities between different geomancers and texts vastly outweigh the differences between them, to be sure, but many of us who like to investigate the details and ply those for whatever we can might be foiled by encountering so many different ways to assign figures to elements or what have you.  As my friend said, it can often come across that, when I present my notes on how geomancers of the past practiced this art, it might just come across as “everyone does it different, good luck”.  To an extent…yeah, actually.  Everyone did do it different.  Heck, everyone still does it different; I don’t do the same exact geomancy that Stephen Skinner or JMG or Al Cummins or Eric Purdue might do.  We all understand the basics of geomancy, and the commonalities of our practices far outweigh our differences, but there are definitely differences to be had.

To be fair, though, this isn’t just a thing with geomancy.  Astrology has the same variations across its many thousands of years of practice and development based on era, land, language, and author.  Today, you’ll still find arguments about which house system is best, how to allot certain things to certain houses, whether the modern planets have any purpose in horary astrology, and so forth.  You’ll find the same thing in general Hermetic magic (Golden Dawn or Thelema? Lemegeton or Grimoirum Verum? Heptameron or Trithemius?), in ancient Greek religion (Hesiod or Homer? Attic or Doric? Delphi or Dodona?), and really in any ancient tradition.  No tradition is ever truly monolithic unless it was designed that way, and even then, if it’s at all taught and carried on by successive generations of students, there are bound to be variations.  That’s how we ended up with Theravada and Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism from a single teacher, and within each vehicle of Buddhism all the different sects and schools thereof.  That’s how we ended up with Catholic and Orthodox and Protestant Christianities, and all their own sects and denominations.  Spiritual traditions, sciences, and lineages are inherently messy in their development; as I said to my friend, “if it’s confusing, it’s because there are a lot of different voices shouting different things under the same big tent”.

So what do we do about it?  Is it really as simple (and confusing) as “everyone did it different, good luck”?  Well…yes, actually.  In my research-related posts on this blog, I don’t often just document what was done, but I also give my thoughts on what makes the most logical sense or what has the strongest justification, as well as share my own thoughts, experiences, and preferences on the variations on technique.  I do my best to show my own practices and why I do things the way I do and where I get the things I do from, but at the end of the day, it’s a combination of study and experimentation that informs my practice: study the things that are common and fixed in the tradition, experimentation to see which variations work best.  The way I teach geomancy is going to be different from other geomancers past and present because it’s going to be informed by my own practices, experiences, and experiments; consider that I find (much as Robert Fludd himself did) that the techniques to predict letters and numbers are crap. Heck, even among geomancers today, what I consider vital and important to the art (as far as details go, at least), Al Cummins may find ridiculous or nonsense, and vice versa.  That’s fine!  We each have our own opinions informed by our own studies, and that’s great!  It’s not going to be as simple as 2 + 2 = 4 where there’s only one right answer, but it’s going to be “which art movement is better to understand the 19th century occult movements, Pre-Raphaelite or Art Nouveau?”.

If you’re looking for the One True Geomancy (or One True Astrology, or One True Solomonic Grimoire, or One True Alchemy, etc.) with all and only the right techniques, well, you might be disappointed.  There’s really no objective, centralized, certified Manual of Geomantic (or Astrological, Solomonic, Alchemical, etc.) Practice out there, nor will there ever be.  The best you can do is find a single teacher and study what that one teacher teaches, and even then, they might change their views over time, just like you will.  In the meantime, though it might be a rough road to follow, learning what was done and seeing all the variants out there of a given technique is helpful because it informs you of what was done before to give you an idea of what works and what options you have when working your own practices.  In doing so, you have guides that point in useful directions (maybe not always the right directions) to show you where you should focus your practice or steer your practice towards or away from.  Experimentation is a must in this and every kind of occult art, but you can and should listen to your peers and colleagues and teachers to see what was done before so you don’t invent the wheel all over again and again and again.