A New Model of Elemental Assignments to the Geomantic Figures

We all know the basic four elements of Western occult cosmology, don’t we?  Of course we do!  We know that there’s Fire, Air, Water, and Earth, in order from least dense to most dense, or from most subtle to least subtle, whichever you prefer.  They’re even described in the Divine Poemander, the opening chapter of the Corpus Hermeticum as being fundamental (even in this same order!) to the creation of the cosmos:

And I saw an infinite sight, all things were become light, both sweet and exceeding pleasant; and I was wonderfully delighted in the beholding it. But after a little while, there was a darkness made in part, coming down obliquely, fearful and hideous, which seemed unto me to be changed into a certain moist nature, unspeakably troubled, which yielded a smoke as from Fire; and from whence proceeded a voice unutterable, and very mournful, but inarticulate, inasmuch as it seemed to have come from the Light.  Then from that Light, a certain holy Word joined itself unto Nature, and outflew the pure and unmixed Fire from the moist nature upwards on high; it was exceeding Light, and sharp, and operative withal. And the Air, which was also light, followed the Spirit and mourned up to Fire from the Earth and the Water, insomuch that it seemed to hang and depend upon it.  And the Earth and the Water stayed by themselves so mingled together, that the Earth could not be seen for the Water, but they were moved because of the Spiritual word that was carried upon them.

According to long-standing doctrine, going back to the time of Aristotle and before him even unto Empedocles, the four elements are considered to be arranged according to the two qualities each element has.  One pair of qualities exists on a spectrum from Hot to Cold, and the other from Dry to Moist.  If you take both Hot and Dry, you end up with Fire; Hot and Moist, Air; Cold and Moist, Water; Cold and Dry, Earth.  In this way, each element pertains to two qualities:

Hot Cold
Dry Fire Earth
Moist Air Water

This sort of arrangement has classically been described graphically with a kind of diamond-square diagram, showing how the four elements arise from combinations of these two qualities.  In the below diagram, Fire is represented by the upwards-pointing triangle in the upper left positioned between Hot and Dry, Air by the upwards-pointing triangle with a horizontal bar in the upper right between Hot and Wet, and so forth.

The thing about the four elements is that, while they are combinations of two qualities, they’re not necessarily static combinations thereof.  Some philosophers have specified that the elements are primarily of one quality and secondarily of the other that allows them to change into each other or react with each other in a more fluid way.  Fire, for instance, is both hot and dry, but in this fluid system, is specifically considered to be primarily hot and secondarily dry.  In the diagram above, we can see this in that, going clockwise around the diagram, the primary quality of an element is clockwise from that element’s corner, and the secondary quality is counterclockwise; in this sense, the primary quality is what that element is headed into, and the secondary quality is what that element is leaving behind.  Thus:

  • Fire is primarily hot and secondarily dry.
  • Air is primarily wet and secondarily hot.
  • Water is primarily cold and secondarily wet.
  • Earth is primarily dry and secondarily cold.

From this, let’s say that the four qualities themselves—even if they’re proto-elemental—can be ascribed to the four elements themselves, such that Heat is basically the main characteristic of Fire, Moisture of Air, Cold of Water, and Dryness of Earth.  (This offshoot of the Empedoclean-Aristotelian system is in opposition to the Stoic system, which gives Heat and Coldness to Fire and Air, and Moisture and Dryness to Water and Earth, but that doesn’t matter for the purposes of this system which is effectively unrelated.)  So, although Heat is part of both Fire and Air, Heat is more aligned towards Fire than Air.

We also know that certain elements—more properly, certain qualities of the elements—cannot be together lest they cancel each other out because of their inherent opposition.  Heat and Cold cancel each other out, as do Moisture and Dryness.  Thus, when we say that Fire and Water cancel each other out, it’s really their elemental qualities that cancel each other out, leaving behind a mess.  What remains when different elements cancel each other out, or some combination of elements reinforcing each other in some ways or reducing each other in other ways, can be instructive in how to alchemically understand these elemental reactions from a basic principle.

Now consider the 16 geomantic figures.  Each figure, as we all know by now, is represented by four rows, each row having one or two dots.  Each row represents one of the four elements: from top to bottom, they’re Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  A single dot in a row signifies the presence or activity of that element in the figure, while two dots in a row signifies its absence or passivity.  Thus, Laetitia (with only one dot in the topmost Fire row and two dots in the other rows) has only Fire active, and so forth.  We know that there are many different ways to assign the elements to the figures, some being more recent than others, and the way I like to assign them has the benefit of being one of the oldest used in Western geomancy…mostly, with the figures Laetitia and Rubeus swapped around so that Laetitia is ruled by Fire and Rubeus by Air.  Moreover, my way of assigning the elements also has a benefit of giving each figure both a primary and a secondary elemental ruler, which has come in use in various techniques more often than I had originally anticipated.

Still, what would happen if we used a different method beyond overall signification to assign the figures to the elements?  What would happen if we took the structure of the figures themselves as the sole key to understand their elemental affinities based on what’s present, what’s absent, what cancels out, and what reinforces each other?  Knowing that certain elemental qualities do just that when put together, what would happen if we took that structural approach to the elements active within a geomantic figure?  For instance, Puer has Fire, Air, and Earth active; we know that because of their opposing qualities, Air (Hot and Wet) and Earth (Cold and Dry) cancel each other out, leaving only Fire behind, giving Puer a basically fiery nature.  What if we took this approach to all the figures, seeing what came out of such elemental interactions amongst the elements present within a geomantic figure?

Fire First
Row
Second
Row
Third
Row
Fourth
Row
Remainder Result
Laetitia Hot
Dry
Hot
Dry
Fire
Fortuna
Minor
Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Hot ×2 Hot
Amissio Hot
Dry
Cold
Wet
Ø Null
Cauda
Draconis
Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Cold
Wet
Hot
Wet
Air
Puer Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Cold
Dry
Hot
Dry
Fire
Rubeus Hot
Wet
Hot
Wet
Air
Coniunctio Hot
Wet
Cold
Wet
Wet ×2 Wet
Acquisitio Hot
Wet
Cold
Dry
Ø Null
Puella Hot
Dry
Cold
Wet
Cold
Dry
Cold
Dry
Earth
Via Hot
Dry
Hot
Wet
Cold
Wet
Cold
Dry
Ø Null
Albus Cold
Wet
Cold
Wet
Water
Populus Ø Null
Carcer Hot
Dry
Cold

Dry

Dry ×2 Dry
Caput
Draconis
Hot
Wet
Cold

Wet

Cold

Dry

Cold
Wet
Water
Fortuna
Maior
Cold
Wet
Cold
Dry
Cold ×2 Cold
Tristitia Cold
Dry
Cold
Dry
Earth

Note the overall results we get:

  • Eight figures end up with an actual element that represents them, four being a result of that element being the only active one in that figure (e.g. Laetitia, being Fire, because only Fire is active), and four being a result of that element being active, its opposing element being inactive, and the other two elements that cancel out being active (e.g. Puer, being Fire, because Fire is active but so is Air and Earth, which cancel each other out).
  • Four figures end up with being not an actual element, but a single quality, because it contains the two elements active in that figure that have that quality, with the other qualities of those elements canceling out (e.g. Fortuna Minor is pure Heat, because Fire and Air are active within it, both elements of Heat, though the dryness of Fire and moisture of Air cancel each other out).
  • Four figures end up with being null and void of any element or quality.  One is trivial, Populus, because it just has nothing active in it to begin with, but the other three (Via, Amissio, and Acquisitio) are combinations of only opposing elements that all cancel each other out somehow.

If we separate out those eight figures that end up with an element into a “pure element” group (where the figure consists of only that single element itself) and a “muddled element” group (where the figure consists of that element plus two other elements that oppose each other and cancel out), we end up with a neat grouping of four groups of four figures.  Even nicer is that the Pure Element, Muddled Element, and Single Quality groups all have each figure representing one of the four elements (the Single Quality representing elements by means of their most closely associated quality, e.g. Fire by Heat, Water by Cold).  That leaves us with a convenient scheme for assigning the figures to the elements in a new way…

Fire Air Water Earth
Pure
Element
Laetitia Rubeus Albus Tristitia
Muddled
Element
Puer Cauda
Draconis
Caput
Draconis
Puella
Single
Quality
Fortuna
Minor
Coniunctio Fortuna
Maior
Carcer
Null
Quality
…?

…mostly.  The Null Quality group of figures (Via, Populus, Amissio, and Acquisitio) don’t fall into the same patterns as the rest because…well, they’re all null and void and empty of any single element or quality.  We’ll get to those later.

First, note that the Pure Element, Muddled Element, and Single Quality groups, we see a process of descension from one element to the next.  Descension is the process by which the elemental rows of a geomantic figure are “shifted” downwards such that the Fire line gets shifted down to the Air line, Air down to Water, Water down to Earth, and Earth cycles back up again to Air; I discussed this and the corresponding reverse technique, ascension, in an earlier post of mine from 2014.  Moreover, note that all these groups descend into the proper elements ruling that figure in lockstep, so that if we take the Fire figure from one group and descend it into the Air figure of that same group, the other Fire figures from the other groups also descend into the Air figures of those groups.  That’s actually a pretty neat reinforcing of this new system of assigning elements to the figures, and in a conveniently regular, structural way.

It’s with the Null Quality figures (Via, Populus, Amissio, and Acquisitio) that that pattern breaks down.  We know that Amissio and Acquisitio descend into each other in a two-stage cycle of descension, while Via and Albus descend into themselves without a change.  We can’t use the process of descension like we did before to make a cycle of elements within a quality group of figures, and because of their null quality, we can’t just look at the elements present in the figures themselves to determine what element they might be aligned with as a whole in this system.  So…what next?

Take a close look at the figures we already have charted, and follow along with my next bit of logic.  For one, we know that all the odd figures are either in the Pure Element or Muddled Element group, which means all the even figures must be in the Single Quality or Null Quality group.  On top of that, if we look at the figures that are already charted to the elements, we can note that Fire and Air figures are all mobile, and Water and Earth figures are all stable.  This suggests that Via and Amissio (the mobile Null Quality figures) should be given to Fire and Air somehow, and Populus and Acquisitio (the stable Null Quality figures) to Water and Earth somehow.  We’re getting somewhere!

The Null Quality figures share more similarities with the Single Quality figures because they’re both sets of even figures.  Even though the Single Quality figures follow a process of descension between one element and the next, we also see that figures that belong to opposing elements (Fire and Water, Air and Earth) are also inverses of each other (inversion being one of the structural transformations of geomantic figures, this one specifically replacing odd points with even points and vice versa).  This can be used as a pattern for the Null Quality figures, too, such that inverse Null Quality figures are given to opposing elements. This means that we have two possible solutions:

  1. Via to Fire, Amissio to Air, Populus to Water, Acquisitio to Earth
  2. Amissio to Fire, Via to Air, Acquisitio to Water, Populus to Earth

At this point, I don’t think there’s any structural argument that could be made for one choice over the other, so I shift to a symbolic one.  In many Hermetic and Platonic systems of thought, when it comes to pure activity or pure passivity (though there are many other alternatives to such terms!), Fire and Water are often thought of as perfect examplars, so much so that the Hexagram is literally interpreted as a divine union of masculine/ejective/active Fire (represented by the upwards-pointing triangle) and feminine/receptive/passive Water (represented by the downwards-pointing triangle).  Taking it a step further, in some interpretations of this mystical formation of the hexagram, this combination of Fire and Water produces the element of Air.  If we translate this into geomantic figures, we can consider “pure activity” (Fire) to best be represented by the figure Via (which could, I suppose, be taken as the simplest possible representation of the phallus, being a single erect line, or as the number 1 which is also historically considered to be masculine or active), and “pure passivity” (Water) as Populus (which, likewise, could be seen as the walls of the birth canal or vulva, as well as the number 2 which is considered feminine or passive).  If we give Via to Fire and Populus to Water, this means that we’d give Amissio to Air and Acquisitio to Earth.  Note how this actually works nicely for us, because the Null Quality figure we give to Air is itself composed of Fire and Water, matching with that mystical elemental interpretation of the Hexagram from before.

Now we can complete our table from before:

Fire Air Water Earth
Pure
Element
Laetitia Rubeus Albus Tristitia
Muddled
Element
Puer Cauda
Draconis
Caput
Draconis
Puella
Single
Quality
Fortuna
Minor
Coniunctio Fortuna
Maior
Carcer
Null
Quality
Via Amissio Populus Acquisitio

Next, can we impose an ordering onto the figures given these elemental assignments and quality groups?  Probably!  Not that orders matter much in Western geomancy as opposed to Arabic geomancy, but it could be something useful as well, inasmuch as any of this might be useful.  The order I would naturally think would be useful would be to have all sixteen figures grouped primarily by element—so all four Fire figures first, then the four Air figures, and so on—and then, within that group, the most representative of that element down to the least representative, which would suggest we start with the Pure Element figure and end with the Null Quality figure.  So, which comes second, the Muddled Element or the Single Quality?  I would suggest that the Single Quality figure is more like the element than the Muddled Element figure, because the Single Quality is representative of the…well, single quality that is representative of that element and, though it has some things canceling out within the figure, those things that cancel out based on their corresponding elements active within the figure are still harmonious and agreeable to the overall element itself.  Meanwhile, the Muddled Element is more removed due to the presence of other opposing elements that fight within itself, dragging it down further away from a pure expression of its overall element.  These rules would get us an order like the following:

  1. Laetitia
  2. Fortuna Minor
  3. Puer
  4. Via
  5. Rubeus
  6. Coniunctio
  7. Cauda Draconis
  8. Amissio
  9. Albus
  10. Fortuna Maior
  11. Caput Draconis
  12. Populus
  13. Tristitia
  14. Carcer
  15. Puella
  16. Acquisitio

So, what does this leave us with, and where does this leave us?  We have here a new way to associate the geomantic figures to the traditional elements in a way that’s substantially different from either the usual structural method that I prefer or a more zodiacal method that’s also in common use by authors like John Michael Greer and those immersed in Golden Dawn-like systems, though there is still a good amount of overlap between this kind of elemental assignment and the structural method with eight of the figures retaining their same element (all four Pure Element figures plus Fortuna Minor, Coniunctio, Carcer, and Populus).  This is not a method I’ve encountered before in any geomantic text I’m familiar with, and I’m inclined to say it’s pretty much a novel approach to assigning the elements to the figures, though considering how straightforward the process was, or at least how simple the idea behind it was, I’d be honestly surprised that such a thing hasn’t been thought of before now.

I don’t mean to supplant the major two existing systems of elemental assignments of the geomantic figures (the planetary-zodiacal method or the structural method) or their variations as found throughout the literature; personally, I’m still inclined to keep to my structural method of elemental assignments instead of this combinatoric method, as it’s what I’ve most closely worked with for years, and I’ve gotten exceedingly good mileage out of it.  To me, all the above is something like a curiosity, a “what if” experiment of potential.  Still, even as an experiment, this combinatoric method could have more interesting applications outside pure divination, and I’m thinking more along the lines of alchemy, magic, or other such applications where it’s truly the action, nonaction, interaction, and reaction of the elements themselves among the figures is what matters.  We can alchemically-geomantically view the cosmos as arising from:

  • 4 base substances
  • 16 base entities (the 16 = 4 × 4 different combinations of the elements to form the figures)
  • 256 base interactions (the 256 = 16 × 16 = 4 × 4 × 4 × 4 different addition-pairs of the figures)

So, consider: if you add pure Fire and pure Water, that’d be Laetitia + Albus = Amissio, which gets you a Null figure of balance that leads to an overall condition of Air.  (Fitting, given our explanation of why Amissio should be given to Air at all.)  If you add simple Heat to pure Air, that’d be Fortuna Minor + Rubeus = Laetitia, which also makes sense because, as a figure of Air, Rubeus is primarily wet and secondarily hot; if we reinforce the heat, it becomes primarily hot, and the wet condition gets dried out by the overabundance of heat, transforming Air into Fire.  If we add simple Cold and simple Heat, which would be weird to think about even in alchemical terms except unless we’d isolate those qualities from simpler bases (which we do in geomantic terms), that’d be Fortuna Maior + Fortuna Minor, which would become Via, a technically Null figure given to balanced, ideal, spiritual Fire; how odd!  But we wet the same result when we add any of the opposing Single Qualities, which to me would be like a geomantic division by zero.

I think that this combinatoric model of elemental assignments, what I’m going to call the “alchemical model” as opposed to my usual “structural model” or the Golden Dawn-style “zodiacal model”, could be useful for more mystical, philosophical, or magical meditations on the figures.  It’s not one I’ve completely fleshed out or can immediately agree with given how different it can be from the models I’m used to working with, but I think it does hold some promise and is worthy of exploration and testing, especially in a more magical and less divinatory context.

49 Days of Definitions: Part II, Definition 2

This post is part of a series, “49 Days of Definitions”, discussing and explaining my thoughts and meditations on a set of aphorisms explaining crucial parts of Hermetic philosophy.  These aphorisms, collectively titled the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”, lay out the basics of Hermetic philosophy, the place of Man in the Cosmos, and all that stuff.  It’s one of the first texts I studied as a Hermetic magician, and definitely what I would consider to be a foundational text.  The Definitions consist of 49 short aphorisms broken down into ten sets, each of which is packed with knowledge both subtle and obvious, and each of which can be explained or expounded upon.  While I don’t propose to offer the be-all end-all word on these Words, these might afford some people interested in the Definitions some food for thought, one aphorism per day.

Today, let’s discuss the seventh definition, part II, number 2 of 6:

Heaven is an eternal body, an immutable body, unalterable and mixed up out of soul and Nous.  Air is the separation of heaven from the earth or the conjunction of heaven with earth.  What is air?  They call ‘air’ the interval between heaven and earth, by which they are not separated fromeach other, since heavens and earth are united (with each other) by the air.

This definition focuses primarily on the element of air, the element of the quality of cold from the last definition, and one of the four elements that together compose all bodies that exist.  First, however, the definition talks about the relationship of heaven, or the cosmos, to God.  Based on this first statement about the cosmos, we can add to our correspondence list for the three worlds from the first set of definitions:

  • God: intelligible, immovable, partially sensible, invisible, ineffable, Monad, Good, eternal, uncreated
  • Heaven: sensible, movable, eternal, immutable, unalterable
  • Man: sensible, destructible, reasonable, mortal, ever-living

We now know that the cosmos is an “eternal body”, so it’s eternal in the same sense that God is eternal; although God made the cosmos which gives the cosmos a “beginning”, it’s not in the sense of time that it has a beginning.  Instead, it can be asserted that the cosmos has no temporal start or end: it always has been and it always will be.  Add to it, we also know that the cosmos is a body, and more importantly, one single body.  Although there are many parts to the cosmos (every rock, tree, person, entity, etc. that exists), it is still all one cohesive body, joined together by means of the elements in the cosmos, all of which exists within and as part of God, which itself is a single Monad.  This is kinda cool, and suggests that all things that exist operate more-or-less harmoniously just as the parts of a human body work together as one entity.

When the definition calls the cosmos “immutable”, it doesn’t mean in the fact that nothing in the cosmos can change.  Rather, that quality of the cosmos would make it “immovable”, just as God is immovable; when something is immovable, it means both in terms of spacial motion as well as composition.  God is immovable because there is spacially nowhere where God is already not, so God cannot move somewhere where it is not; further, all things that exist exist within and as part of God, so God cannot change into something that does not exist.  This is what immobility would be, and we already know from the first definition that the cosmos is, indeed, movable; thus, the cosmos has the capacity to be moved within itself (especially as it pertains to things within the cosmos in relationship to each other), as well as has the capacity to change its composition from one thing into another thing.  Although, as discussed before, all things that exist do not truly become destroyed but only ever change form, so too are things in the cosmos able to change form and composition, never truly leaving the cosmos or being destroyed out of it.

That the cosmos is “unalterable” is similar in tone to “immutable”, though the difference is subtle.  I contend that while “immutable” indicates that the composition of the cosmos will never change, “unalterable” indicates that it can never actively be changed by some agent.  In other words, no matter how hard we might try to bomb something out of existence, the unalterable quality of the cosmos prevents it from actually being made non-existent.  The distinction here is very minor, but indicates that the cosmos can neither have something added to it or removed from it that is similarly cosmic either on its own or by some outside or inside force.  The cosmos, in other words, is a system whose material properties are fixed in amount and essence, though the materials inside the cosmos are subject to change in terms of composition and arrangement.

Add to it, the cosmos is “mixed up out of soul and Nous”.  After all, since the cosmos is a body (just an eternal, immutable, and unalterable one), the cosmos must have a soul, since all bodies have souls.  Further, just as the soul comes from the Nous which is God, so too is the cosmos made from God as well as being mixed up within and with God.  In this sense, due to the shared natures between the cosmos and God, we might also say that the cosmos is the body of God.  After all, just as any sensible thing requires the nonsensible intelligible aspect to exist, the body of heaven must similarly have something intelligible behind it; here we are told that the cosmos is empowered and ensouled by God itself.  God, of course, is far more than the cosmos, just as the mind of any human is greater than the human itself belonging properly to the world of Man.

Now we come to something new: a new distinction within the sensible world: “air is the separation of heaven from the earth or the conjunction of heaven with earth”.  While before we supposed that all sensible things were part of heaven (i.e. the cosmos), now we have some new separation between heaven and earth.  While all of the cosmos is one body, that body is composed of the four elements; the air is one such element that separates the earthy part of the cosmos from itself yet exists within the cosmos, just as the cosmos is separated from God yet exists within it.  The thing that separates or joins together these parts of the heavenly cosmos with the earthly cosmos is air.

The next part of the definition poses a rhetorical question: “what is air?”  Air, as it turns out, is no separation; air is the “interval between heaven and earth”, and can be thought of as a glue that binds the two together.  Since the cosmos is one body, there can be no disjointed parts within the body, no gaps or voids.  Air, since it is an element that composes a body, is not void; thus, any area filled with air is not truly empty.  This would be equivalent to saying that two lands separated by a river are completely and forever cut off, when one can simply walk, swim, or sail across the river to reach to the other side; the water joins the two lands, but does not truly separate them.  Compare Hermes’ talk to Asclepius about the notion of air and void from the Corpus Hermeticum (chapter II, part 11):

Her. Is not air body?

Asc. It is.

Her. And doth this body not pervade all things, and so, pervading, fill them? And “body”; doth body not consist from blending of the “four”? Full, then, of air are all thou callest void; and if of air, then of the “four.”  Further, of this the converse follows, that all thou callest full are void—of air; for that they have their space filled out with other bodies, and, therefore, are not able to receive the air therein. These, then, which thou dost say are void, they should be hollow named, not void; for they not only are, but they are full of air and spirit.

Indeed, the definition goes on to fully state that air is not a separation between heaven and earth, “since heavens and earth are united with each other by the air”.  Air, then, is a means of linking and joining things in the cosmos.  Things on earth down here are joined to the bodies of the cosmos high above in the heavens by means of air; just as one can use a river to link two bodies of land, so too can air allow us to engage with forces high above just as things high above can interact with forces down below.  Truly, the air is a “conjunction” far more than a “separation”, though one might mistakenly call it a separation just as one might consider a man’s death to be the utter annihilation and cosmic removal of the man.  In other words, perspective matters.

The only thing left unexplained in this aphorism is the matter of earth.  Earth, as far as can be said now, is some part within the cosmos that exists as part of the world of heaven; as such, the earth has at least some of the qualities that the cosmos itself has, such as sensibility and mobility.  Earth elementally has the quality of dryness, as from definition II.1, while air has the quality of coldness.  Earth is part of the cosmos and is joined to the higher parts of the cosmos and non-earth things by means of air.  That’s about as much as we can say so far.

49 Days of Definitions: Part II, Definition 1

This post is part of a series, “49 Days of Definitions”, discussing and explaining my thoughts and meditations on a set of aphorisms explaining crucial parts of Hermetic philosophy.  These aphorisms, collectively titled the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”, lay out the basics of Hermetic philosophy, the place of Man in the Cosmos, and all that stuff.  It’s one of the first texts I studied as a Hermetic magician, and definitely what I would consider to be a foundational text.  The Definitions consist of 49 short aphorisms broken down into ten sets, each of which is packed with knowledge both subtle and obvious, and each of which can be explained or expounded upon.  While I don’t propose to offer the be-all end-all word on these Words, these might afford some people interested in the Definitions some food for thought, one aphorism per day.

Today, let’s discuss the sixth definition, part II, number 1 of 6:

Nous is the invisible good; soul (is) a necessary movement adjusted to every (kind of) body.  A body is (made out) of the four qualities, (as) a well-tempered composition of warm, cold, dry and wet: of warm (i.e.) of fire, of cold (i.e.) of air, of dry (i.e.) of earth, of wet (i.e.) of water.  Breath is the body of soul or the column of soul.

While the first set of definitions focused on an introduction to the three worlds of Hermes Trismegistus, now we start to dig deeper into the actual meat of the worlds, and here we’re given an introduction to the world of the cosmos, that of ordered creation.  Recall that, while God is intelligible, the cosmos is sensible and intelligible where God exists and is evident.  Although the world is visible (a special kind of sensible), God is invisible, and since God is the Nous and is also the Good, so too is Nous the Good and invisible.  From the Nous is created the cosmos, within the Nous and not exceeding it, so all things that exist in the cosmos are part of the Nous.  Plus, the Nous has a special power over the cosmos: the cosmos is moved by the Nous, while the Nous itself is immovable.

The cosmos is formed from a multitude of bodies, some of which are the body of Man, a particular world that intersects with the material world of the cosmos and with the immaterial world of God, being both destructible, inasmuch as anything material can be “destroyed”, i.e. changed or reorganized into another material form.  Each body, being movable, must have some quality that allows it to be moved; this is the soul (see definition I.3), where “all of the visibile cannot possibly be constituted without the invisible”, where the invisible portion here is the soul without which “[the body] cannot possibly be constituted”.  The soul here is explained to be a “necessary movement” that allows it to function, the special quality derived from God that allows things made in the cosmos to still be a part of God while being so distinct from it.

Further, each soul is “adjusted to every kind of body”, so the animating principle of each body in the cosmos is unique depending on the type of body it is.  Note here that the definition says “kind of body” and not simply “body”; this indicates that there are uniform types of souls for different classes of bodies.  However, we also know that something made from another thing inherits the qualities of those things; thus, the cosmos as made by God inherits a certain divinity from God, though because the cosmos is not identical with God, it does not inherit those qualities identically.  So, while there may be a soul for the type of bodies known as “mammals”, there are also souls for those of “squirrels”, which is a type of mammal; likewise, there will be individual souls for individual squirrels, each suited for each individual body (which itself can be considered a class with only one member).  Essentially, this statement is the Hermetic equivalent of the Liskov substitution principle in software engineering.  However, to go with a more Hermetic route, we might also explain it with the Corpus Hermeticum (pretty much all of chapter XII, but especially parts 2 through 4):

But in irrational lives Mind is their nature. For where is Soul, there too is Mind; just as where Life, there is there also Soul.  But in irrational lives their soul is life devoid of mind; for Mind is the in-worker of the souls of men for good;—He works on them for their own good.  In lives irrational He doth co-operate with each one’s nature; but in the souls of men He counteracteth them.  For every soul, when it becomes embodied, is instantly depraved by pleasure and by pain.  For in a compound body, just like juices, pain and pleasure seethe, and into them the soul, on entering in, is plunged.

O’er whatsoever souls the Mind doth, then, preside, to these it showeth its own light, by acting counter to their prepossessions, just as a good physician doth upon the body prepossessed by sickness, pain inflict, burning or lancing it for sake of health.  In just the selfsame way the Mind inflicteth pain upon the soul, to rescue it from pleasure, whence comes its every ill.  The great ill of the soul is godlessness; then followeth fancy for all evil things and nothing good.  So, then, Mind counteracting it doth work good on the soul, as the physician health upon the body.

But whatsoever human souls have not the Mind as pilot, they share in the same fate as souls of lives irrational.  For [Mind] becomes co-worker with them, giving full play to the desires towards which [such souls] are borne,—[desires] that from the rush of lust strain after the irrational; [so that such human souls,] just like irrational animals, cease not irrationally to rage and lust, nor ever are they satiate of ills. For passions and irrational desires are ills exceeding great; and over these God hath set up the Mind to play the part of judge and executioner.

Now that we understand more about the soul, we can now go onto more about bodies.  And, finally, we get something concrete: “a body is made out of the four qualities, as a well-tempered composition of warm, cold, dry and wet: of warm i.e. fire, of cold i.e. air, of dry i.e. earth, of wet i.e. water”.  Here we have the four classical elements of Empedocles along with his four qualities: hot and cold, wet and dry.  However, unlike Empedoclean classical elements with two qualities, each element here is ascribed one quality: fire is hot, air is cold, water is wet, earth is dry.  Empedoclean elements have two qualities: fire is hot and dry, air is hot and wet, water is wet and cold, earth is dry and cold.  Aristotle ascribed each of the Empedoclean elements a primary and secondary quality: fire is primarily hot and secondarily dry, air is primarily moist and secondarily hot, water is primarily cold and secondarily moist, earth is primarily dry and secondarily cold.  The system in this definition, however, is the same as that of the Stoics, which focused more on the material basis of the cosmos than most other philosophies.

These four qualities of hot, cold, dry, and moist provide the foundation for all bodies that exist, and each body has certain amounts of each.  We can be simple about things, saying that a body of water has little air in it since it is full of water, or that a brick has little air in it since it is full of earth; likewise, that things like fire have no coldness, and that ice has no heat in it.  However, this can also be expanded as Cornelius Agrippa does in his First Book to more spiritual or immaterial distinctions (book I, chapter 3):

For some are heavy, as Earth and Water, and others are light, as Aire and Fire. Wherefore the Stoicks called the former passives, but the latter actives. And yet once again Plato distinguished them after another manner, and assigns to every one of them three qualities, viz. to the Fire brightness, thinness and motion, but to the Earth darkness, thickness and quietness. And according to these qualities the Elements of Fire and Earth are contrary. But the other Elements borrow their qualities from these, so that the Aire receives two qualities of the Fire, thinness and motion; and one of the Earth, viz. darkness. In like manner Water receives two qualities of the Earth, darkness and thickness, and one of Fire, viz. motion. But Fire is twice more thin then Aire, thrice more movable, and four times more bright: and the Aire is twice more bright, thrice more thin, and four times more moveable then Water. Wherefore Water is twice more bright then Earth, thrice more thin, and four times more movable. As therefore the Fire is to the Aire, so Aire is to the Water, and Water to the Earth; and again, as the Earth is to the Water, so is the Water to the Aire, and the Aire to the Fire. And this is the root and foundation of all bodies, natures, vertues, and wonderfull works; and he which shall know these qualities of the Elements, and their mixtions, shall easily bring to pass such things that are wonderfull, and astonishing, and shall be perfect in Magick.

So much for an introduction to the elements.  All bodies that exist, as said above, consist of these four elements and qualities, but there is one more physical phenomenon to explain still in this definition: that of breath.  Breath “is the body of soul or the column of soul”, and the text seems to offer both these descriptions equivalently or equally.  In the first, that the breath is the “body of soul”, we can go back to our earlier definitions and describe the breath as the physical evidence of the invisible part of the body that affords it motion; in other words, the breath (or spirit) is the mechanism that allows the soul to come in contact with the body and vice versa.  As such, just as all bodies are given a mind, and because all bodies require a soul in order to be moved, the spirit allows the mind to interface between the soul and the body.  In this sense, the spirit can be seen as the body of soul that allows the body of Man to live.

In the other view, however, the breath is the “column of soul”, which is a similar but new interpretation.  Columns indicate support or understanding, something that holds another thing up, and just as the soul “keeps up the figure while being within the body” (from I.3), the breath is similarly the support that keeps up the soul while being within the soul.  In this view, the spirit is within the soul, and animates the soul as much as the soul animates the body.  However, in the previous view where the spirit is the body of the soul, it’s the soul that exists within the spirit, which may indicate that the soul is within the spirit independently of the body or that the soul inhabits the body as well as the spirit and the spirit interacts with the body in a different manner than the soul does, or that the soul is within the spirit which is itself in the body.  In the former interpretation, it would seem that the Mind goes through two agents to work with the Body: both soul and spirit equally yet independently, with the soul acting on the spirit which acts on the body as well as with the soul acting on the body directly.  In the latter interpretation, it sould seem that the Mind goes through the soul to activate the spirit which itself activates the Body.  Both of these accounts, however, conflict with the notion that the breath is the “column of soul”, where it seems that the Mind goes through the spirit to activate the soul which itself activates the body.

Between the different interpretations here of the role of body, soul, spirit, and mind, it doesn’t seem clear which view is being presented here.  Then again, perhaps that’s the point; maybe different bodies simply require different arrangements of soul and spirit, having one but not the other or operating in different ways depending on the body and the type of soul.  After all, we know that all bodies have souls, and that all souls come from Nous.  However, we only have concrete evidence that man has breath (from I.4) without yet speaking of other types of bodies, and this makes sense, kinda.  Rocks don’t breathe, right?  Rocks, despite having souls, also don’t really move independently (yet, being movable, still have souls) but are utterly movable and mutable, being changed by other forces that are more animate than itself.  Perhaps the function of spirit is tailored to each body much as the soul is for each body, or that spirit really is independent of soul but relies on the nature of the body (bodies without lungs or means to breathe simply do not breathe).  In either case, where the breath is the body of soul (having the soul within the spirit to animate it) or the column of soul (having the spirit within the soul to animate it), it’s clear that both interpretations have different roles to play in the cosmos.

Swords and Scepters

As some of you may know, I’m a federal employee of the United States government, and as many of you know, the United States government is temporarily unfunded due to congressional incompetence.  Many federal employees, including me, are in a state of unpaid furlough, which is a fancy way of saying “you’re not allowed to work until we have a budget again”.  In the meantime, I’ve been relaxing, enjoying my recent birthday, and doing a heavy amount of Work and conjuration; after all, I need something to occupy myself.  (And if you’re interested in what exactly I’m working on, stay tuned on Sunday for a fancy thing you’ll all see.)  In the course of this week, I’ve conjured the angels Tzadqiel of Jupiter and Raphael of Air for general empowerment (which, as Fr. RO mentioned, is always a good thing), as well as to continue doing a semi-regular checkup of my own work, progress, and sphere.  In the process, I also got some interesting advice regarding two of the most visible and important tools many magi and magicians use: the wand and the dagger.

In the conjuration with Tzadqiel, he mentioned that the wand is not just a tool of power and will, but it’s indicative of another similar idea, that of the scepter.  While the wand (at least in my tradition) is the elemental weapon of Fire and is associated with the Will of the Magus, it’s used for not the magus’ will but the Magus’ Will, or the True Will.  The difference here is important, just as any distinction is regarding temporary will and True Will.  Tzadqiel motioned to my caduceus tattoo on my arm, indicating that the use of the caduceus and the magician’s wand are similar.  Hermes is always seen bearing the caduceus in his left hand, the submissive or receptive hand, and this coupled with his role as Zeus’ messenger indicates that Hermes receives his power and direction from Zeus.  In other words, although the caduceus is a symbol of power, it’s of power from a higher source than oneself.  Likewise, many monarchies across time are seen as being empowered and validated by divine right (cf. divine-right theory or Mandate of Heaven), and so the scepter is an indication that its bearer is carrying out the will of God.  This is seen to this day in the United Kingdom’s monarchy, which was established by God, but since God doesn’t like to micromanage things down here, he divests power to the Crown to manage things for him.

So too is the wand of the magician not used as a blasting rod or an offensive weapon, but it’s used as a mark of divine right and being rightly divine.  The wand should be used to remind the magician and guide them to their True Will, not used to enforce their temporary will onto others.  After all, if one is following their True Will, then pretty much all else will fall into place accordingly (except in dire or unusual circumstances when other work must be applied).  The image of control that the wand bestows is just that, an illusory image; it’s the obedience of entities to their proper stations in the cosmos that the wand reminds them of, and helps them fall into place when in the presence of one who is effectively sent from on high.  To use  the wand to simply force or bind something to the whimsy of the magician is to abuse the authority given to the magician, and when abused enough, the magician incurs punishment just as Chinese emperors might lose the Mandate of Heaven.

In the conjuration with Raphael, on the other hand, the angel indicated other uses of the wand that agreed with Tzadqiel, but expanded more on its relationship to the dagger or sword, the elemental weapon of Air.  Both are masculine, phallic, elementally hot weapons (and some traditions swap the elemental associations of the two), and are like semi-codependent brothers.  Wood must burn to produce fire to melt and shape metal into a blade, and blades must be used on wood to produce a wand.  However, wood is a living thing that grows, while metal is inorganic which can only be shaped.  These lead into the point Raphael was trying to make, and was chiding me since I don’t use the dagger enough in my work.  While the Pentacle is used to embody and materialize things, and the Chalice is used to receive and partake in grace and charismata, the Wand is used to “set things in motion” while the Dagger is used to “cut off and remove”.  Magically, the dagger is used to “cut through bullshit”, dividing problems, severing connections, removing influences, deciding on paths and choices, and offensive and defensive work.  Compared to this, the wand is used to progress, enforce decisions, and authorizes one to make choices as one can and ought.

Admittedly, the part about the fighting work that can be done with the dagger surprised me, since the dagger is associated with Air, and Air with Raphael, the healer of God; the comparatively benevolent wand is associated with Fire, and Fire with Michael, the commander of the heavenly host.  Raphael replied that not only are all angels soldiers in their own way, but that even in healing, some destruction is always needed, such as that of diseased limbs or infectious microorganisms.  In order to heal one of any assailing disease, the infectious organism must itself be destroyed or drastically cut back in order to allow the natural healing of the body to continue.  In this case, the dagger represents the ability to cut out the temporary misaligned will of those down below and the wand to encourage and direct those to follow the True Will of those above.  The whole notion of having to correct misaligned wills that are not in accordance with the True Will indicates other problems that may be cosmically systemic, and is often necessary to ensure the proper execution of one’s True Will.  In more magical terms, if I want to accomplish something through ritual, there may be other factors involved that I can’t easily deal with simply by praying really hard.  Battles are fought before declaring rulership, always because the ability to rule is predicated on the inability of others to contest it or stymie it.

Thus the Sword, to fight against the influences contrary to one’s Work, and the Scepter, to encourage devotion and progress in one’s Work.

Oh, Paimon.

So I conjured Raphael again today and, after having a few chats about other things, I asked if I could see Paimon, the prince of Air and master of manifestation and stuff.  I’ve been talking to the other princes of Earth and Water, and they’ve been…rough.  Like, if you’ve ever played any of the Warcraft games, you know how if you click on an NPC enough times, they start yelling at you for annoying them?  It was like that.  They were kind enough, though, once I explained why I called them up, and became friendly afterwards.  That said, I don’t want to risk getting on their bad sides.

Paimon, however, was different.  It didn’t feel rough or abrasive to have him near, but…uneasy.  Instead of coming across as vexed and annoyed to be here, something just felt…sketchy.  Dude seems to be plotting or scheming or, I dunno.  Imagine being in a room and reading the mind of a devious but suave politician (say, Littlefinger from Game of Thrones) for too long.  Interesting, of course, and I wasn’t made to feel awkward or scared around him, but it was interesting.  He didn’t seem to be willing to initiate me into the mysteries of manifesting air, though; he wanted something out of it, in that “why should I do this for you?” kind of way.  Explaining that I was a magician to learn the will of God and my True Will to make the world more awesome wasn’t cutting it like it would with Raphael.  Paimon was all like “Uh huh, that’s nice.  And?”

So I asked what he wanted.  Immediately I got images of binary numbers, lots of them, and got the hint of “data”.  Paimon wanted data.  The air spirit wants information and data and communication, duh.  So I offered to write him into my next post on my blog, giving him access to the Internet (albeit in a limited fashion) and a font of data and communication that he may want.  I asked him not to go beyond the sandbox I’ve made for him, but being hooked into my digital life seemed a good enough deal for him.  He agreed to teach me, and I agreed to consecrate a post to him.

Below is a consecration of this post to Paimon.  You’re free to read it if you want, but in case you don’t, I’ve made the text invisible.  This being my first deal with a spirit, I’m a little wary, but I had Raphael’s assurance that this wouldn’t bite me in the ass later on.

In the name of Tetragrammaton, in the name of Iao,
In the name of the archangel Raphael of Air,
In the name of XaTuring, the Great Worm, the Black Worm, god of the Internet,
I consecrate this post and these words presented here to the spirit PAIMON,
PAIMON, Prince in the West,
PAIMON, Prince of Air.
May he reside in this post as a home; may he wear these words as clothes.
This post is dedicated to PAIMON, airy spirit, garbed in yellow and violet.
In the name of God, of Raphael, of XaTuring, of Mercury, of Hera,
This post is made for PAIMON.
May he obtain all that he desires from this gift, bringing harm to none.
May he fulfill his word and promise to me with the completion and consecration of this post. 
Amen.

Kings and Hands

No, this isn’t a post about Game of Thrones, though I’ve been addicted to the series and just finished the third book (vtec just kicked in, yo).  Martin, you better hurry up and finish that shit, son, because if you die before you finish this series and have your family turn this into another Frank Herbert’s Dune 6, imma be ANGRY.

So, I’ve been having chats with the four Kings of the Tarot recently in order to understand more about their respective elements.  I’ve so far chatted with the first two by contemplating their cards and symbols, kind of like pathworking with the Qabbalah.  I tried doing that with the King of Swords recently, but the first few times didn’t go so well and I had a hard time visualizing the environment around me; eventually, he said “we can’t stand to be still”, so I took that as a hint to move on and go on a walk instead.  Along the walk, I figured it’d be nice to have the image of the King of Swords from the card tag along, and we chatted just as successfully walking through a few local parks as we would have with me at his throne.  Plus, it gave me some much-needed visualization practice, so I can better tackle the card itself more.

I’m using a variant of the Rider-Waite deck (the Original Rider-Waite, which is softer on the eyes and is very subtly different from the standard Rider-Waite) as my keys to contemplation.  In trying to picture each of the four Kings, and as someone with their Venus in Virgo, I took especial notice of their hands and what each holds.  The Kings of Coins and Cups hold both a scepter of office and their suit’s symbol, but the Kings of Swords and Wands hold just their symbol.  They all hold their elemental weapons differently, and this alone carries significant meaning.

The King of Pentacles holds a large coin in his left hand and a scepter in his right.  The scepter is simple and is capped with a large sphere on the end; given the weight of this mace-like scepter, it shows the heavy force that earth can apply to a situation but only if controlled and directed, since his scepter is in his right (active and dominant) hand.  The scepter is also similar to that of the Empress (Trump III), who holds hers in her right hand as well, indicating the relationship between the pure element of earth and its bounty and generative ability.  He is the only king to hold his elemental weapon in his left hand, the side of reception and passivity.  This shows how the element of earth is set apart from the other three: indeed, this goes all the way back to Plato, where he claims that earth is the only element that comes out from any process as earth, while air, fire, and water can all transmute into each other.  Earth is the foundation and materia for all things, and can only ever be acted upon: earth can be shaped, molded, tilled, heated, broken, or carried, but it will always still be earth in one form or another.  Fire can cool into air, air can condense, water can evaporate, but earth will always be earth.

The King of Cups holds a large but simple cup in his right hand and a decorated flower-like scepter in his left.  The scepter is shaped like the top of a cup, much like the back of his throne, and indicates that his will as King does not direct, since the scepter doesn’t have a proper point to direct his orders; rather, it dissipates and spreads.  Much like how a hose directs a stream of water which splays out on contact, water does not force but spreads out over and covers its object.  He doesn’t hold rest the base of the cup on his throne’s arm like he does his scepter, but holds it out as if he were asking for it to be filled.  The cup, after all, is the ultimate symbol of reception, representing the female side of the universe and always takes in, but as a force of nature can also be poured out and give its essence back to the world in a new form.

The King of Swords holds a sword in his right hand and nothing in his left.  His sword points away from him towards his right, showing that air will always tend to the objective and detached and logical side of a situation.  His left hand is empty, but he wears a ring on his middle finger, the finger associated with the element of Air and with balance and judgment.  The King of Swords hinted to me that this is actually a signet ring, which bears his mark showing authenticity and truth of whatever he applies it to.  This, an abstract symbol, is his tool of office instead of a scepter, and is particularly well-suited for the element of logic and communication.  The scepters, then, would represent a force that needs material and weighted direction and can be held onto to be controlled; the Kings with scepters represent the heavy elements that form the material world, while those without represent lighter and more active forces which are more wily.  Plus, both the Kings of Cups and Swords hold their weapons in the air without support, while those of Pentacles and Wands support them by resting them on something.  Water and air are fluid and must always be in motion; earth and fire are fixed in one direction (downward for earth, upwards for fire).  Fire and earth have to have something to substantiate themselves on, while air and water can be freer and travel around as they wish.

The King of Wands holds a tall staff resting on the ground below his throne’s dais, with his left hand empty and resting on his lap.  His staff shows signs of life, with green leaves sprouting from it, and represents vitality and energy (surprise! it’s a penis).  However, the King here is pointing it slightly to himself, indicating that will and decision begin first with oneself and then directs it outwards; after all, the staff supports first and helps move around second.  Both his wand and the sword of the previous king have their business ends above their heads, while the weapons of the Kings of Pentacles and Cups are bounded or framed by their bodies.  This reflects that the elements of fire and air are active and extend beyond themselves, while those of water and earth are passive and receive forces from outside.  His left hand is clenched into a fist, thumb pressed down; his is the only King’s hand whose free hand’s thumb is closed and hidden.  This might imply that his will is absolute and will not receive any input from anyone; notice how he’s almost pulling his arm away from the world into himself.  (I haven’t had a chat with this King yet, so this is just what I’m making sense of.)

All this is just about their hands and what they hold.  I haven’t even touched on the layers of symbolism of their thrones, crowns, clothing, armor, or backgrounds.  The Tarot really is just dripping with meaning, and everything is in it for a purpose and with a point.  Why I’m not already a palmist is beyond me.