49 Days of Definitions: Part IX, Definition 6

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 forty-first definition, part IX, number 6 of 7:

Where(ever) man is, also (is) God.  God does not appear to anybody but man.  Because of man God changes and turns into the form of man.  God is man-loving and man is God-loving.  There is an affinity between God and man.  God listens only to man, and man to God.  God is worthy of worship, man is worthy of admiration.  God does not appear without man; man is desirable to God and God to man, because desire comes from nowhere, but from man and God.

“[Both God and man] are one: God and man after the species” (I.1); “nothing is uninhabited by God…God is in heaven, and heaven in the world” (III.1); “God is within himself, the world is in God, and man in the world” (VII.5); “everything is within man” (IX.4).  These are all things we’ve seen before: not only does God dwell within the soul that dwells within the body, but that not only is Man within God, but God is within Man.  Moreover, “whoever thinks of himself in Nous knows himself and whoever knows himself knows everything[;] everything is within man” (IX.4).  This tightly couples up the identities and existence of God and Man so closely, especially with knowledge itself delivered by God/Nous/light being everywhere as it is.  Man, being endowed with Nous, can know all things, and can in a way be everywhere just as God is everywhere.  Thus, this definition starts off with a profound statement: “wherever man is, also is God”.  We are not only made in the image of God, and we are not only endowed with the power of God, but we are with God wherever we go.  We are always within and with God, so perhaps it’s not shocking, but this definition makes it clear that we are never separated from God.

Moreover, “God does not appear to anybody but man”.  This is probably shocking, but consider that Man is the only one among the living beings capable of Nous.  Because of this, we’re the only ones who are able to transcend the material realm (VIII.7), and we’re the only ones capable of examining the entirety of creation (VI.1, VII.2).  While Nous sees all things through all souls, only Man among all the ensouled creatures can know Nous in the other direction, and in the process know himself and all other things.  Other creatures are limited in what they can see, and can only see themselves and their own worlds that exist within God.  But Man is Man because “he has got a notion of God” (IX.1), so only Man truly understands what God is, while other beings don’t.  Man is special because he alone can know God, and since knowledge is so tightly bound up with light and sight, Man is special because he alone can see God.  Thus, “God does not appear to anybody but man”.

Of course, if we can see God appear, then that means God must appear sensible to us, but we know that God is intelligible.  But that’s not always the case: “because of man God changes and turns into the form of man”.  God condescends down to us and takes on a human form, which allows us to know God.  This can be taken in two big ways, as far as I can tell: either God comes down as his own human to lead us to God, or God comes down as us and becomes us so we can know ourselves to know God.  The former is basically soteriology: we have some savior, some divine human (as if humans aren’t divine!) who comes down as God and appears to us, speaks to us, and leads us; this could be Jesus, or Dionysus, or Horus, or Mithra, or Krishna, or any other savior-god.  This allows us to witness God as something external to ourselves (though this isn’t ultimately true, but in the world of forms and matter it can appear so), making it easier for ourselves to know God through the God-human.  On the other hand, God comes down to the world as us, taking on human forms as us, and lives down here as us.  In this case, it makes sense why human souls are given Nous; that’s God who dwells within us, and by coming to know ourselves, we come to know Nous, and we come to know God.  In either case, we are made as God and as gods to know God, and to do this, God appears to us in ways we can understand.

But why?  Why does God even bother with us?  “God is man-loving and man is God-loving”.  God loves us.  With knowledge, there is no fear (IX.3), but now we know that love is the opposite of fear.  With knowledge, we love God, and God loves us.  God, by extension, loves everything, since everything is within Man and everything is within God and Man is within God and God is within God, but we alone are the only form that God takes down here, and it’s for our sake.  Everything God does is for our sake (VIII.2), because God loves us.  This isn’t some passionate romantic love, but this is an existential, “you are family”, “you are part of me”, “you are me” love.  This is agape, the unconditional love of God for Man, a promotion of well-being in response to having been made well.  “There is an affinity between God and man”, suggesting that everything between God and Man is mutual, and that we love each other, as spouses love each other.  Together we form a whole, as was mentioned in I.1.

Not only does God appear only to Man, but “God listens only to man, and man to God”.  Just as God appears to Man because Man is the only creature endowed with Nous to know and sight to see, God listens to Man because Man is the only creature capable of Logos to speak reasonable speech.  Logos is the servant of Nous, and is the only means by which we can come to approach and know God (V.1).  All reasonable speech is of God, while unreasonable speech is only worldly (V.2, V.3).  Thus, God only listens to reasonable speech, and the only source of that that is not itself is Man, so “God listens only to man”.  Man, however, listens among himself and the words of others, but can also listen to God.  Whether an “only” is omitted in that latter half of the statement or whether it was intentionally left out is not known, but if we assume the parallel structure here omitted it, then “Man [listens only] to God” is what we should be reading.  All speech comes from the world and the voices it produces, though reasonable speech comes from voice and Logos used at once.  But the world and all voices all come from God, and voice is used according to one’s nature, whether Man or any other creature, and “nature is the mirror of truth” (VIII.5).  Whatever Man hears, he can understand, and he can understand it with reason even if the original utterance was unreasonable.  Thus, no matter what is said, or where or when or by whom, Man listens only to God.

God loves us and is so much bigger than us; this we know now, but we also know that everything is within God, and everything is within Man.  So which is “bigger”?  When you deal with matters of infinity, things can always get a little hazy, since God is truly infinite while Man is…well, Man is finite.  But yet we have everything within ourselves; this isn’t as much a literal truth as it is a reflection of it.  So, rather, while Man is by nature representative of God, God is in truth God; we might say that Man is the nature of God, especially if God appears in the world as Man and if truly “nature is the mirror of truth” (VIII.5).  Thus, no matter how great Man may be, God is greater, and gives that greatness to us.  Thus the next part of the definition: “God is worthy of worship, man is worthy of admiration”.  Admiration literally means “to look at”, and we know that by knowing Man/ourselves, we know God.  To know God is perfection and completion in all things, and is where our reverence and prayers truly go toward.  God is worthy of worship above all, since God is the greatest and, moreover, the Good (II.1), while we have the choice between good and evil and can choose good (VII.6).

“God does not appear without man”; after all, “God does not appear to anybody but man” and “wherever man is, also is God”.  This makes sense with an older definition, VI.1: “if there were nobody to see [the world], what would be seen would not even exist”.  After all, if everything is within Man, and if knowledge of the world is knowledge of God, and if we know God through the world, then God appears to us through the world and through other human forms.  So, if we were no Man to exist to see things, then there would be no God to see, and there would be no need for light or things to exist.  Yet, here we are, and so “everything exists because of man” (IX.1).  So why is it that we exist at all?  Because “man is desirable to God”, so God wants Man to exist and live; moreover, “God [is desirable] to man” because we are within and blessed with God which leads us to him as our desire.  Where does this desire come from?  We know that desire is a passion of the soul that moves it and the body (IX.4), but this desire comes from Nous within our souls (VII.3).  Desire as a passion does not come from the world, nor does it come from other humans, but it comes from within ourselves.  Thus, “desire comes from nowhere, but from man and God”.

Now, one of the things that this definition introduces but does not clarify is why we should worship God.  God made us, and God loves us, and God finds us desirable.  Sure, okay, we can get that.  We also know that because knowing God is immortality and knowledge and love, we also love God and naturally strive to know God.  Okay.  But why does God love us and find us desirable?  This isn’t something said or known yet, and it’s unclear at this point whether the Definitions will say so later on.  That said, why would it matter for the Definitions to tell us?  Why would God make the world at all?  Why would God make things the way God did?  These are purely intelligible things, I’d claim, that are not for humans to know, at least not those without Nous.  Suffice it to say that it gets us started on our path to God to know that God loves us and God wants us to live and perfect ourselves.

New Year, New You: Prompt 7, “Glamour”

Yes, yes, I know, I’m doing this out of order.  I haven’t done the sixth prompt yet on maps, sacred spaces, and goals, but I’m late and Deb’s more recent prompt is so much more readily available and easily writable.  The seventh prompt is about appearances and presenting oneself to the world and other people, and how to make oneself look awesome if not their damn best.

Well, as it turns out, dear reader, I’ve been going through some changes lately.  Up until last Wednesday, about a week ago, I had a respectable beard, shaggy hair, and glasses.  Then I shaved the beard (even the sideburns!) and cut the hair rather short, then I got contacts, and then I got my ears pierced.  I’m still in the shock phase about the ears being pierced bit, because even I’m still getting used to how I look.  Needless to say, my friends were caught off-guard, and my family hasn’t seen it yet save my sister via Skype. Plus, now that the new year festivities (all of them) are finally in the past, I can focus again on settling down into a stable simple diet that my body approves of, which will help shed a few more pounds.  Also, I ended up buying a few new clothes and affects in the shopping spree that was last weekend, so a good number of things have changed in a rather short time.  That’s what you get for playing with fire energies for two weeks straight (a post on that coming soon).

Let’s go through a few of the items Deb proposes in the prompt:

  • Makeup’s not my thing.  Never been much into theater or drag, and I’m on the more masculine end of the spectrum anyway, so I don’t have a need for that kind of cosmetic.
  • I’ve got plenty of clothes, and it mostly fits me appropriately.  I’m not big into tailoring, and the farthest my skills go with mending are fixing buttons and inside tears, but I would like some more fitted shirts.  If I do start getting clothes altered, it won’t be until later this year when I have more money to throw around recklessly and my next student loan (or both of them!) are knocked out of the way.  I’m not missing anything, save for perhaps more snappy shirts or pants, but I’ve got plenty of things to cover a wide variety of situations and styles.  Especially Middle Eastern clothes, I love that shit.  (Check out Shukr for good styles.)  Also, when I got contacts last week, I also went ahead and got a new pair of (rather expensive) stylish glasses.  I’m excited!  In tandem with the piercings and recent interest in industrial/electronica, I’m tempted to start exploring more goth-ish styles of appearances.  To be explored.
  • Ever since I was warned about the beginnings of gingivitis showing up on my gums late last year, I’ve taken hygiene much more stringently with myself.  Yes, I’m brushing my teeth thoroughly twice a day with flossing and tongue-scraping; I’m using astringent with salicylic acid to take care of a few zit problems, I’m using the proper amount of high-quality shampoo and conditioner for my hair in a proper manner (twice or thrice a week), and I’m trying to cut out nailbiting.  You’d be surprised how easy it is to pick that habit up if you’ve got thin nails, oddly enough.
  • I eat healthily enough, and it’s very far and few between that I have something as heavily processed as fast food or premade meals.  I only just brought out my microwave from storage so I can heat up water for cleansing my piercings in a jiffy, so I end up cooking almost everything I eat.  I drink when I’m thirsty, and tend to stick to coffee, tea, water, and milk (in that order); when pressed, I’ll down an energy drink, but that’s about it (I’m a caffiend, after all).  I don’t, however, do much physical activity.  That’s definitely a weak point.  I try to walk to local stores and bars whenever possible, but even that’s not too often.  Sigh.  Between work, commute, conjuration, sleep, and study, though, the time I have for working out is limited.  At least I’m living a healthy proper scholar’s life, though I might do well to pick up tai chi or yoga.

What magic might I be doing for my physical body?

  • I’m not against enchanting a bottle of my favorite cologne under the powers of Venus to look more attractive and desirable.  That’s already been stewing on my altar.
  • People at work have noticed and complimented the change in hairstyle, but nobody’s said anything about the piercings yet.  The silence kinda irks me, but it’s not unexpected, either; in an IT office in the government, when you’re the youngest person around, having piercings on a guy is pretty much unseen (especially the ones I have).  I might try my hand at actually making a glamour for myself, or at least having a shield of attraction and compliments set up to see if that changes people’s impressions of me.
  • I may as well ask my genius and the angels of Haniel and Kammael for help in finding suitable physical recreational activities like those mentioned above, even if it’s only for more excuses or causes to go out clubbing (dancing + subsequently hooking up).  I do miss dancing, but there are few enough clubs close to me and I dislike having to go to the city and leaving early to catch the train.  Whine whine whine.

Beyond that, my body.  (Warning, self-adoration approaching.)  I’m tall, broad-shouldered, thin (so I’m told), pleasantly hairy (so I claim), and I love it.  I like being one of the tallest people in the room, if only to chuckle; the frame I have helps intimidate, if not outright help me for strength on the rare occasions I need to use it; I’m an average weight (just slightly overweight according to the BMI, but screw that whore of a metric) and carry it well enough to turn heads; my body hair is uncommon (pretty much all gay guys are hairless, by choice or no, and it’s so depressing) and it helps sift out the guys I should sleep with from the ones I shouldn’t.  I’ve got thick dark hair that is apparently the envy of all women even though I find it more frustrating than not; I’ve got naturally long hands, perfect for crafting and typing; I’ve got big enough ears to host plenty of piercings (evidently); I’ve got large flat feet that love going outside bare across all terrain and temperature; and I can rock a beard, goatee, scruff, or nothing with equal suaveness.  Yes, my body has flaws; who’s doesn’t?  My body’s awesome.  Thank you, body, for being so awesome and looking so awesome.  Gotta love that Taurus rising, eh?  XOXO, etc.