On Elemental Assignments of the Geomantic Figures

It’s a constant joy for me to see the discussions on the Geomantic Study-Group on Facebook, and it’s not just because I enjoy wielding power as an admin over scores of people.  Seeing people contribute geomantic charts and offer community feedback on them, as well as being able to read different perspectives on symbols and techniques used in geomancy, helps me out as much as it does anyone else; while I may be good at geomancy, and no matter how long I practice it or delve into its mysteries, I still consider myself a student in the art, because there’s always more to learn and appreciate.  After all, with only 16 figures to represent the multiple myriads of people, things, circumstances, and events in the cosmos, there’s a lot to unpack in the art.

Occasionally, someone will ask a question about geomancy that will get me to my proper computer to type a proper response, which would be burdensome on my phone.  Recently, someone asked just such a question, and this time about one of the bits of geomantic systems I really enjoy discussing: that of the elemental rulerships of the figures.  The forum member was in a state of confusion about how the elements were assigned to the figures, what the difference was between inner and outer elemental rulerships, and whether these rulerships had any system at all behind them or whether they were just spurious and irrelevant.  You can bet your last coin I gave a response to this, especially to that last part of the question.

First, let’s talk about the inner versus outer element.  This is a distinction I’ve only ever seen in John Michael Greer’s out-of-print book Earth Divination, Earth Magic (1999) and his later and more up-dated The Art and Practice of Geomancy (2009).  In short, the outer element of a figure is the element of the sign of the Zodiac he associates with a geomantic figure, while the inner element is more closely tied to the nature and elemental structure of the figure itself.  From “The Art and Practice of Geomancy” (pp. 33 and 34, emphasis his):

One of the four elements is considered to be the inner element of the figure.  In every case but one—Populus, which has no manifest elements at all—the inner element is a manifest element, marked by a single dot.  The inner element is also called the ruling element, and it stands for the elemental pattern that the figure expresses most intently.  Pay attention to the ruling elements in divination and you’ll have a useful key to the way the events that are predicted or analyzed in a divination unfold in daily life. …

Each figure also has an outer element, which relates to the flow of elemental energies through the sixteen figures in their traditional sequence…  In a few cases this element is the same as the inner element, but usually it’s different.  The outer element shows how the figure expresses itself in the world around it, while the inner element shows what kind of power is in the figure itself.  Fortuna Major, for example, has Fire as its outer element, which represents its power to reshape the world in a favorable way.  The figure’s inner element, however, is Earth, which means its power comes not from rushing around, but from establishing itself solidly and letting everything else move around it.

And again from “Earth Divination, Earth Magic” (pp. 26—27):

Each of the figures contains all of the elements, as we’ve seen, but in geomantic tradition one or another element also has a dominant role in each figure.  There are at least as many ways of assigning the elements to the figures in this way as there are for linking the figures with the Zodiacal signs.  Two of them seem to work well in divination.  The first of these simply uses the elements that correspond to the Zodiacal signs just given.  This set, which I have called the “outer elements” of the figures, has much to do with the way the geomantic figures express their energies in practical terms. …

The second set of elemental correspondences comes from the geomancer and magician Cornelius Agrippa, who provided several different systems but labeled this one an “esoteric arrangement.”  I have found that it does a good job of summarizing the dynamics of the elemental structure of each figure, and it can be thought of as the ruling element within each figure.  I have made one change in the system as Agrippa gives it; he assigned Laetitia to Air and Rubeus to Fire, but I have reversed these in order to bring the inner element and the elemental structure into harmony.

Just to be clear about what JMG is referencing from Agrippa, the following is taken from Of Geomancy, found in Cornelius Agrippa’s Fourth Book of Occult Philosophy:

Now we proceed to declare with what Planets these Figures are distributed; for hereupon all the propriety and nature of Figures and the judgement of the whole Art dependeth: Therefore the greater and lesser Fortune are ascribed to the Sun; but the first or greater Fortune is when the Sun is diurnall, and posited in his dignities; the other, or lesser Fortune is when the Sun is nocturnall, or placed in lesse dignities: Via, and Populus that is, the Way, and People are referred to the Moone; the first from her beginning and encreasing, the second from her full light and quarter decreasing; Acquisitio, and Laetitia which is Gaine, Profit; Joy and Gladness are of Jupiter: But the first hath Jupiter the greater Fortune, the second the lesse, but without detriment: Puella, and Amissio are of Venus; the first fortunate, the other as it were retrograde, or combust: Conjunctio and Albus are both Figures of Mercury, and are both good; but the first the more Fortunate: Puer and Rubeus are Figures ascribed to Mars; the first whereof hath Mars benevolent, the second malevolent: Carcer, and Tristitia are both Figures of Saturn, and both evill; but the first of the greater detriment: the Dragons head, and Dragons tayle doe follow their owne natures.

And these are the infallible comparisons of the Figures, and from these wee may easily discerne the equality of their signes; therefore the greater and lesser Fortunes have the signes of Leo, which is the House of the Sun: Via and Populus have the signe of Cancer, which is the House of the Moone: Acquisitio hath for his signe Pisces; and Laetitia Sagitary, which are both the Houses of Jupiter: Puella hath the signe of Taurus, and Amissio of Libra, which are the Houses of Venus: Conjunctio hath for its signe Virgo, and Albus the signe Gemini, the Houses of Mercury: Puella and Rubeus have for their signe Scorpio, the House of Mars: Carcer hath the signe Capricorne, and Tristitia Aquary, the Houses of Saturne : The Dragons head and taile are thus divided, the head to Capricorne, and the Dragons taile adhereth to Scorpio; and from hence you may easily obtaine the triplicities of these signs after the manner of the triplicities of the signes of the Zodiak: Puer therefore, both Fortunes, and Laetitia do govern the fiery triplicity; Puella, ConjunctioCarcer, and the Dragons head the earthly triplicity: Albus, Amitia, and Tristitia, doe make the Airy triplicity: and Via, Populus, and Rubeus, with the Dragons taile, and Acquisitio do rule the watry triplicity, and this order is taken according to the course of manner of the signes.

But if any one will constitute these triplicities according to the nature of the Planets, and Figures themselves, let him observe this Rule, that Fortuna major, Rubeus, Puer, and Amissio doe make the fiery triplicity: Fortune minor, Puella, Laetitia and Conjunctio triplicity of the Ayre: Acquisitio, the Dragons taile, Via, and Populus doe governe the watry triplicity; and the earthly triplicity is ruled by Carcer, Tristitia, Albus, and the Dragons head. And this way is rather to be observed then the first which we have set forth; because it is constituted according to the Rule and manner of the signes.

This order is also far more true and rationall then that which vulgarly is used, which is described after this manner: of the Fiery triplicity are, Cauda, Fortuna minor, Amissio, and Rubeus: of the Airy triplicity are, Acquisitio, Laetitia, Puer, and Conjunctio: of the watry triplicity are, Populus, Via, Albus, and Puella: And Caput, Fortuna major, Carcer, and Tristitia are of the earthly triplicity.

They doe likewise distribute these Figures to the twelve signes of the Zodiak, after this manner, Acquisitio is given to Aries; Fortuna, both major and minor to Taurus; Laetitia to the signe Gemini; Puella and Rubeus to Cancer; Albus is assigned to Leo, Via to Virgo; the Dragons head, and Conjunctio to Libra; Puer is submitted to Scorpio; Tristitia and Amissio are assigned to Sagitary; the Dragons taile to Capricorne; Populus to Aquarius; and Carcer is assigned the signe Pisces.

As it turns out, Agrippa gives three separate ways to associate the elements with the geomantic figures:

  • The first is given at the end of the second paragraph, where Agrippa associates the elements to the figures based on the sign of the Zodiac he gives them.  This largely matches with JMG’s outer element, but note that Agrippa doesn’t give the figures to the signs in a modern planetary method, e.g. giving Cauda Draconis to Scorpio instead of Sagittarius, or Laetitia to Sagittarius instead of Pisces.
  • The second is given in the third paragraph, where Agrippa associates the elements to the figures “according to the nature of the Planets and Figures themselves”, and is not present in JMG’s books.  While Agrippa does not explain the elemental nature of the planets in this text, it doesn’t match with the elemental associations he gives in either book I, chapters 23—29 or book II, chapter 7 of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy.
  • The third is given in the fourth paragraph, where Agrippa gives a “vulgar” system which matches up with JMG’s inner element, noting the swap between Rubeus and Laetitia to Air and Fire, respectively, as JMG noted.

The simultaneous use of two systems of elemental attribution for the figures is an innovation by JMG, and is found nowhere else in the geomantic literature; in almost all cases, a given book on geomancy describes only one system of elemental attribution, and it’s usually the “vulgar” one that Agrippa gives; only after Agrippa’s time do we start to see the rise of the sign-based system.  Interestingly, it’s this same “vulgar” system that Agrippa gives in book II, chapter 48 of his Three Books of Occult Philosophy, with no mention of either the sign-based attribution of the elements or the planet-based attribution of the signs, indicating he either had a change of heart or that Of Geomancy (and the Fourth Book generally) was a spurious text that was only published under his name.

To show which systems were used where in the European geomantic literature, I went through some of my books and texts and came up with the following table showing which author used what elemental rulership system for the figures.  This is by no means a complete or exhaustive list, but just a small sample of texts to show how varied this can get between authors.

Figure Agrippa
Sign-based
(1655)
Agrippa
Planet-based
(1655)
Agrippa
Vulgar
(1655)
John
Heydon
(1663)
John
Case
(1697)
Robert
Fludd
(1687)
Christopher
Cattan
(1591)
Populus Water Water Water Water Water Water Water
Via Water Water Water Water Water Water Water
Albus Air Earth Water Air Air Water Water
Coniunctio Earth Air Air Earth Earth Air Air
Puella Earth Air Water Air Air Water Water
Amissio Earth Fire Fire Earth Earth Fire Fire
Fortuna Maior Fire Fire Earth Fire Fire Earth Earth
Fortuna Minor Fire Air Fire Air Air Fire Fire
Puer Fire Fire Air Fire Fire Air Air
Rubeus Water Fire Fire Water Water Fire Fire
Acquisitio Water Water Air Fire Fire Air Air
Laetitia Fire Air Air Water Water Air Air
Tristitia Air Earth Earth Air Air Earth Earth
Carcer Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth
Caput Draconis Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth Earth
Cauda Draconis Water Water Fire Fire Fire Earth Fire

In general, including other texts like Pietro d’Abano’s Geomantia (1544) and the anonymous 15th century ce Lectura Geomantiae, geomantic authors typically use Agrippa’s “vulgar” system, which is basically the traditional system used by Gerard of Cremona and others, along with JMG and myself (though we use a slight variant where Laetitia is given to Fire and Rubeus to Air).  John Case in his “The Angelical Guide Shewing Men and Women Their Lott or Chance in this Elementary Life” uses Agrippa’s sign-based elemental system, though without using Agrippa’s planet-based sign system (instead, Case uses a modified form of the zodiacal attribution system of Gerard of Cremona).  John Heydon in his Theomagia uses Agrippa’s sign-based system (book I, chapters 19 through 21) with some modifications that bring it in line with what’s commonly used in modern times (book I, chapter 5), and upon which the geomantic texts of the Golden Dawn are based.  Interestingly, late though it is, Franz Hartmann’s The Principles of Astrological Geomancy (1889) preserves the older “vulgar” system.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find much in the way of older sources; what little I have of Hugo of Santalla’s 12th century ce work on geomancy doesn’t mention the elements; Thérèse Charmasson’s “Recherches sur une technique divinatoire: la géomancie dans l’Occident médiéval” (1982) mentions an Arabic method of assigning the figures to the elements, which matches up with the “vulgar” system for the most part with some changes, though I don’t know the provenance of her source for this specific system (with the six figures that don’t match in italics):

  • Fire: Laetitia, Puer, Populus, Fortuna Maior
  • Air: Rubeus, Caput Draconis, Coniunctio, Acquisitio
  • Water: Albus, Via, Cauda Draconis, Amissio
  • Earth: Tristitia, Carcer, Fortuna Maior, Puella

So much for where JMG’s outer vs. inner system came from.  As already mentioned before on this blog, I use the same inner elemental system JMG uses, including the Laetitia/Rubeus elemental swap, as I find that it’s an elegant system that reflects the underlying overall element that represents a geomantic figure; with the exception of Populus, the ruling element of a figure will be active/manifest/present in that figure.   Not only do I find that such a system accurately represents the nature and expression of that figure, the same system also allows for a secondary sub-ruler to be assigned, so that each figure has a primary ruler and a secondary ruler, such that e.g. Amissio is primarily Fire and secondarily Water.  This is an innovation of my own that I have found nowhere else in the geomantic literature, and I find that it helps to give some more insight into the symbolism and nature of the figures.

The only thing I can’t rightly answer regarding the inner element system is the historical attribution of Laetitia to Air and Rubeus to Fire.  I agree with JMG that these two should be switched so as to bring the elements active in these figures in accord with their overall ruling element, and I can’t rightly say why they Laetitia was given to Air and Rubeus to Fire in so many older texts.  It’s a possibility that, perhaps, JMG and I are in the right and this is how the system was originally, but a typo early on got propagated from one text to the next, though that notion seems far-fetched even to me, even if similar typos and mixed-up attributions have happened and been propagated as widely and as long as that (e.g. a common such swap is that of the names of Puer and Puella in texts while keeping the rest of their significations the same, even in Fludd).  If the inner element system was not originally based on the elemental structures of the figures themselves, then I’m at a loss to describe what they would be based on unless it was a Septuagint-like miracle that the interpretations of the figures were so closely aligned to the elemental structures of the figures for so many past geomancers for so long.  In any case, the elemental structure-based system of ruling elements that I use and that JMG uses for his inner elements works well, and has a definite logic and reason for it.

That said, however, I do not use two simultaneous systems of overall ruling elements as JMG uses his inner and outer element systems.  In general, I have three issues with the use of an “outer element” system like how JMG describes it.  The simplest is that I find that it confuses the rulership system of the figures to have two co-ruling elements of a figure.  Unlike having a primary and secondary ruler, JMG has two rulers that are to be used in different contexts, but his distinction between those contexts doesn’t make sense to me.  The notion of a figure expressing itself externally differently from how it expresses itself doesn’t sit well with me, because a figure is single and simple; it doesn’t have an indoor voice and outdoor voice, or comfy at-home pants versus a dressed-up suit for the office; to me, a figure is a figure, and it expresses how it is in the way it is by the virtue of what it is.  Coniunctio’s nature, for instance, is about connection and conjunction and meeting and discussion, all of which are inherently airy things; it doesn’t do so with a mind to bring about earthy results, nor does it become an earthy figure when put next to anything else.  To have two “modes” for interpreting the figures here leads to confusion more than it does clarity, and I haven’t found it to be worth the trouble.

The second issue I have is that JMG’s outer element (or Agrippa’s sign/planet-based assignment) system is reliant on a “man in the middle” between the geomantic figures and the elements we’re trying to associate them with.  Rather than associate the figures directly with the elements, we first assign them to the signs of the Zodiac, and then link the signs of the Zodiac to the elements.  The outer element system has us taking two steps to get to our destination (figure → sign → element) rather than just one step (figure → element), and given the choice between a direct versus indirect assignment method, I’ll always take the direct one.  It’s a slippery slope to take indirect associations, especially when you increase the number of steps, because then you end up Liber 777ing everything to link everything to everything else, which becomes a muddled mess.  Here it’s not so bad, but even still, if you have a direct association available, I’d consider that to be inherently more worthy of consideration than any indirect one.

The third issue I have is the most practical: there are multiple ways of assigning the geomantic figures to the zodiac signs, and therefore there would be multiple ways to assign an outer element to the figures.  While the Agrippa- or Heydon-style method of assigning the figures to the zodiac signs is common in modern practice, even into the modern age, the older system of Gerard of Cremona (which is ultimately based on an early assignment of the figures to the 28 mansions of the Moon) is still seen, and I find that this latter system is much more effective in divination and analysis of the figures than the Agrippa/Heydon method (which itself is based on the assignments of the planets to the figures).  The elements of the signs from the Cremona system do not match with the Agrippa/Heydon system, even if it is a valid “outer element” system according to the reasoning JMG gives; were I to talk about outer elements with someone else who used the Agrippa/Heydon zodiacal system without saying what system I used, this would lead to confusion and bickering that “Albus is a watery figure!” “You’re wrong, it’s an airy one!” “Nuh-uh!” ad nauseam.  By using the inner element system, we sidestep such issues in discussion entirely, as well as reducing the number of systems we’d need to pay attention to; plus, as I’ve mentioned before, using an outer element system at all doesn’t seem particularly worthwhile to me even on its own merits.

So, to summarize all the above, some TL;DR points:

  • Inner element vs. outer element is a distinction only JMG uses.
  • Use the inner element system to understand the rulerships of the figures.
  • The outer element system doesn’t matter (at best) and can get you in trouble (at worst).

Now, all that said, let me answer that last question the forum member on Facebook asked: are such associations irrelevant?  By no means!  Each system of correspondences and attributions to the figures gives us deeper insights into how the figures represent the myriad things of the cosmos and how they play out in interpretation, as well as revealing to us their deeper spiritual meaning on their own.  For the vast majority of such correspondences, each is grounded in deeper systems of logic and reason that tie geomancy into broader systems of occult knowledge; only in a handful of cases are they spurious, and they’re either shown to be wrong with a bit of experimentation and analysis, or are shown to be valid through analysis of repeated results that show a trend to be followed, which can then be used to further enhance and empower the overall system of geomancy as we have it.  Only in a very few cases would something like divine revelation or unverified personal gnosis come into play, and it’d still be recommended to test them out both in divination and against existing systems of correspondence before putting them into practice.

For something as large-scale and encompassing as the elemental rulerships of the figures, especially since it’s based on a thorough analysis of the nature of each figure interpretatively as well as structurally, I would consider this to definitely fall on the relevant and not-spurious side of things, especially given how useful the system is to the analysis of each figure, both as a cosmos unto itself as well as a factor in a divination reading with the other figures.  And, even if you do like using the outer element system, I can only argue against it so much; even if I have my own thoughts and opinions on the subject, I must still admit and agree that it’s important to understand the different associations of the figures regardless of author or method so to get an encompassing understanding of how the figures have been understood across the centuries, and then based on your own experience and studies, pick one that works best for you.

On the Meanings of the Geomantic Houses

Probably the most confusing thing about the Shield Chart in geomancy that people go right to the House Chart for is that, with the House Chart, we have clear delineations of what figure applies to what part of a situation.  For instance, the first house is about the querent, the second house about wealth, the third house about siblings and neighbors, the fourth house about the home, and so forth.  Thus, if we know what the query is about, we know what house we’d want to inspect right off the bat (and if you don’t, think about the query some more before you draw up a chart).  The Court, of course, will answer the query, but it can be hard to see exactly how the Court applies to the situation if it’s so broad.  This is, perhaps, one of the failings of the Shield Chart when it’s not used properly, in that we don’t immediately know how to clarify the broad, though correct, meaning of the Judge and Witnesses.  After all, if those were really the only figures we’d need, then we’d likely do as well with generating two figures and making a third rather than generating four Mothers and making another twelve.

So, if we want to use the individual houses (or fields, as I put it in the last post) of the Shield Chart, then how do we do that?  We’d need some sort of system to assign meanings to each of the twelve fields, rather than generalized meanings relating to groups of three figures or assigning elemental correspondences to each of them.  Honestly, while it might be in some traditions of geomancy that each of the twelve fields of the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces have meanings independent of the House Chart houses, especially in non-European and non-Arabic styles of geomancy,  I think it’s best to just use the same meanings for both.  After all, the tradition of doing this very thing, even using Shield Charts without the House Chart, extends very far back in Western geomancy; Cattan, Fludd, and other geomancers of yore have all considered the houses of the House Chart as identical to or overlapping significantly with the fields of the Shield Chart.

After all, consider: when we draw up a House Chart for a geomantic reading based on the Shield Chart, we’re not actually making anything new.  We’re taking the same figures in the same order and dropping them into a circular arrangement (House Chart) instead of a binary tree structure (Shield Chart).  As I’ve said before, whatever information you get from the House Chart can be gotten from the Shield Chart, because they’re the same chart presented in different ways.  It’s not that Cattan or Fludd thought of these two styles of chart as different with overlapping meanings, but that there was no difference in meaning at all.

So, what are the meanings of the twelve houses?  You can pick up pretty much any book on astrology and find the same meanings for the 12 houses of the House Chart as you can the 12 fields of the Shield Chart, though I recommend using a traditional text from before the 1800s on what those things are (modern astrologers tend to add in some weird changes that neither I nor traditional astrologers agree with).  I was considering translating another section of Robert Fludd’s Fasciculus Geomanticus (book III, chapter 5) for his meanings of the houses, but they’re pretty much exactly what you expect.  Because this is such common knowledge and so easily accessible, I’ll save my time and yours by foregoing another recitation of the same list here.

Of course, there’s a bit of an issue here.  I’ve mentioned before that there are multiple ways of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart.  I know specifically of three ways to do this:

  1. The traditional way is to simply go through the Mothers, Daughters, and Nieces from right to left and allot them to the houses of the House Chart in order.  Thus, the First Mother is given to house I, the Second Mother to house II, the Third Mother to house III, the Fourth Mother to house IV, the First Daughter to house V, and so forth until we get to the Fourth Daughter to house XII.  This is the most traditional and most common way of assigning the figures to the houses, and is seen in all geomantic works prior to the Golden Dawn.  This is also the way I draw up my charts.
  2. The Golden Dawn way is based on the importance of the houses in the House Chart, dividing them into the cardinal (strongest; I, IV, VII, X), succedent (middling; II, V, VIII, XI), and cadent houses (weakest; III, VI, IX, XII).  Because Aries is often associated in modern times to house I, this means that Capricorn is given to house X.  Capricorn, being the earthiest of the signs, was thought to resonate most closely with geomancy, and thus being the strongest house for starting geomantic studies.  Thus, the Mothers, being considered the strongest of the figures, are given to the cardinal houses starting in house X and proceeding clockwise (First Mother to X, Second Mother to I, Third Mother to IV, Fourth Mother to VII).  The Daughters, coming after the Mothers, are given to the succedent houses starting in house XI and going clockwise.  The Nieces, coming last as combinations of Mothers or Daughters, are given to the cadent houses starting in house XII and going clockwise.
  3. The esoteric way is a variant of the Golden Dawn way, and likely came before it and used by other modern or early modern occultist groups.  Again, this manner allots the Mothers to the cardinal houses, Daughters to the succedent ones, and Nieces to the cadent ones, but we start with houses I, II, and III, respectively, and go clockwise from there.

In all honesty, I claim that any of these three systems work for someone who chooses to use them.  The difference, as I see it, is much the same as what kind of house division system you use in astrology; some prefer Placidus, some Porphyry, some Koch, some Regiomontanus, some equal house, and so forth.  All their results are pretty much the same, though how they arrive tends to differ in the details.  Likewise, if you find that you resonate most with a particular house system, then go ahead and use it; I can’t fault you for using what works.

However, I will say that the Golden Dawn and esoteric methods of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart don’t jive with me very well, and seem to be very late hacks to morph geomancy to a particular ideology that doesn’t always work.  Plus, these newer methods have been around for one or two hundred years, while the traditional method has been with us for at least nine hundred.  Add to it, the traditional method preserves the connection between the meanings of the fields of the Shield Chart with those of the houses of the House Chart; the other methods mess with that severely, since a figure as the Second Mother (field II) no longer relates to the wealth or possessions of the querent but, in the Golden Dawn system, then becomes the condition and well-being of the querent itself (house I in the Golden Dawn system).

As a result, I claim that the Golden Dawn, esoteric, and other ways of allotting the figures from the Shield Chart to the House Chart are suboptimal for use in geomancy.  I’m holding myself back from calling them “wrong”, but I don’t think they mesh well with the rest of geomantic technique and seem to be innovations with an agenda, and I would suggest that geomancers stick to the standard traditional manner.  Not only is it cleaner and simpler, but it preserves an integral link between the Shield Chart and House Chart that allows them to be truly in sync with each other rather than shuffling them up for purely pseudo-astrological considerations.

Another Look at the Letters on the Paths of the Tetractys

The big thrust of this whole mathesis thing was to develop a graphical outline of the structure of the cosmos, both macrocosmic and microcosmic, and allow for the use of letters as vehicles of transformation between different states on the cosmic map.  We decided to use the Tetractys as our overall map, and found a set of 24 paths between the ten spheres of the TetractysEach path was then assigned to one of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet (excepting the obsolete letters digamma, qoppa, and sampi), and boom, we have our graphical cosmic map.  Thing is, all this was experimental and an exercise in logic and extrapolation; it’s been largely untested, but it does provide a neat way to arrange the letters on the Tetractys.

I’ve been feeling comfortable with the assignment of the spheres on the Tetractys to the ten forces: the Monad or Source, light or activity, darkness or passivity, alchemical sulfur, alchemical mercury, alchemical salt, fire, air, water, and earth.  Mapping these forces to their cosmological equivalents, likewise, was fairly straightforward.  What I haven’t been completely comfortable this whole time with, however, was the assignment of letters to the paths themselves.  I’ve guessed from the beginning that, no matter how logical my original assignment was, chances are it wasn’t going to be a permanent assignment.  I all but definitively knew that at least some of the letters on the paths were going to change, and I’d leave it to until I actually got around to exploring the Tetractys through ritual and scrying to change them.

Somewhat ahead of that predicted schedule, however, I asked Hermes and asked for some guidance about the upcoming trips on the Tetractys paths, but unfortunately he was unusually tight-lipped; this was definitely something I would have to explore when the time came.  He did say he’d help open some doors in the meanwhile to help me get a feel for what’d be coming up, however, so I went back and took another close look at what I’ve been discussing since I first laid out how I assigned the letters to the paths.  This time, however, I kept the distinction of direction and the Gnosis/Agnosis Schemata in mind, and started over from there.  I ended up with a wholly new way to assign letters to the paths and, although I’m still feeling a little unsure, this has a much different feel than the first arrangement, and it’s one I conceptually like more.  I warn you, in this post I’m going to be using lots of gaudy color, and since we’ve already been through this kind of analysis once before, I’ll be a little more rough when explaining things.

So, in the Gnosis Schema, we have twelve paths that go around the Tetractys, hitting the sphere of Mercury four times and every other sphere once:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths_circuit1The Agnosis Schema, on the other hand, has the twelve remaining paths that only connect to the non-Mercury middling spheres:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths_circuit2

Consider that the Gnosis Schema is an orderly array of paths, a sequence that follows a strict ordering.  The Agnosis Schema, however, has no such inherent order, and has criss-cross of paths that allow for wandering around without a plan, so to speak.  If we start with these two ideas, we have two sets of twelve paths.  We have 24 letters, which are divvied up between four elements, the meta-element Spirit, seven planets, and twelve zodiac signs.  We can divide the letters and their corresponding forces, likewise, into two groups of twelve: the twelve zodiac signs/simple consonants, and the twelve forces/vowels and complex consonants.  The zodiac signs follow a particular celestial order, and while we can ascribe orders to the elements based on density or planets based on distance from Earth, we also recognize that the elements shift among themselves and the planets move around from place to place.

So, if we assign the twelve zodiac signs to the twelve paths of the Gnosis Schema, in the order that we proceed from Mercury to Air to Fire and so forth, we end up with the paths in the same order as the twelve signs of the Zodiac, as below:

tetractys_paths_gnosis_signs

Alright, easy part’s over.  We still have the twelve paths of the Agnosis Schema to set out, and this is where things get a little more complicated.  First, let’s review what we know about the letters and their stoicheia again:

  • There are two sets of forces: zodiacal and energetic.  Zodiacal forces are the 12 signs of the zodiac, and the energetic forces are the four elements, the meta-element spirit, and seven planets.
  • There are four elements of the forces: fire, air, water, earth.
  • There are three modes of the forces.  In the zodiac forces, these are manifested as cardinal (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn), fixed (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius), and mutable (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces).  In the energetic forces, these are manifested as the ideal (the four elements Fire, Air, Water, Earth), the empyrean (the planets of the Sun, Mercury, Moon, and spirit considered as a planet), and the ouranic (the planets of Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn).
  • We can link the ideal mode of the energies to the fixed mode of the zodiac signs, the empyrean to the cardinal, and the ouranic to the mutable.
  • There are four groups of three zodiac signs and four groups of three energies based on element.
  • There are three groups of four zodiac signs and three groups of four energies based on mode.
  • There are thus six forces (three energetic and three zodiacal) for each of the four elements.
  • There are thus eight forces (four energetic and four zodiacal) for each of the three modes.

Drawn out in tables, we see the following:

Fire Air Water Earth
Ideal Fire Air Water Earth
Empyrean Sun Spirit Mercury Moon
Ouranic Mars Jupiter Venus Saturn
Fire Air Water Earth
Cardinal Aries Libra Cancer Capricorn
Fixed Leo Aquarius Scorpio Taurus
Mutable Sagittarius Gemini Pisces Saturn

We know what the letters and their corresponding forces look like for the Gnosis Schema, and we can use that to help guide us with a bit of geometrical innovation to figure out what the paths on the Agnosis Schema should be based on the geometry of element and mode.

Let’s focus on the elements of the zodiac signs first.  If we divide the twelve Gnosis Schema paths up by element, we get the following four figures: three paths for the Fire signs, three for Water, three for Air, and three for Earth.  Below are the paths color coded such that red paths are Fire, blue are Water, green are Earth, and yellow are Air:

tetractys_paths_gnosis_signs_element_color

The Fire and Water signs both emanate out from the central sphere of Mercury, while the Air and Earth signs emanate out from the three extreme spheres of the Monad, Fire, and Earth.  Note that if we look at the Fire set of signs and Water set of signs separately, we can draw an equilateral triangle that connects the outer points of their paths.  These would give us another three paths for both the elements of Fire and Water to complete the set, which forms the hexagram in the center of the Tetractys, a symbol renowned as the mark of combining fire with water.

As for Air and Earth, on the other hand, it gets a little less clear.  We know from the elements themselves that Air likes to connect and bridge gaps, while Earth likes to close it on itself and separate.  Thus, let’s give Air the three paths in the middle of the outer edges of the Tetractys, trying to reach and form one large triangle, while Earth gets the three paths in the corners of the Tetractys, trying to form three small triangles.  Just as the Fire and Water paths intersect with each other to form a cohesive union, the Air and Earth paths must be joined together (though they don’t intersect) in order to form complete wholes on their own; the triangles that the Earth paths form are completed by Air, and the larger triangle that the Air paths form is completed by Earth.  Thus, we have three more paths for Air and three more paths for Earth:

Note the interplay of elements for the paths with this.  The central hexagram joins Fire and Water together, with one triangle belonging to Fire and the other to Water, and if we include the zodiacal paths that connect the vertices of the triangles, we end up with a 2-dimensional birds-eye look of two interlocked tetrahedrons, one pointing up (Fire) and one pointing down (Water).  The hexagon around the hexagram alternates Air and Earth, and with the six zodiacal paths inside the hexagon, we end up with a 2-dimensional view of a cube facing one of its corners, with its 12 edges bounded by the elements four times each.  Each of the elements comes in contact with all the other elements at least once each by means of the paths on the Tetractys, forming a completely yet regularly mixed whole.

tetractys_paths_gnosis_elements_color

Now we need to figure out the modes of the paths, and this is where things get a little less geometrically clean.  We already know the modes of the zodiacal forces, after all, and if we plot them out by cardinal, mutable, and fixed, we end up with this weird “broken W” shape rotated each way around the Tetractys.  Let’s use orange for cardinal paths, purple for fixed paths, and pink for mutable paths:

Remember, though, that these are for the zodiacal forces on the Gnosis Schema, while we need to figure out the energetic forces on the Agnosis Schema.  Both the Gnosis Schema and Agnosis Schema have four paths for each of the three modes, and we’re trying to divide up the twelve hexagon/hexagram paths of the Agnosis Schema into three groups of four.  We did this a ways back when we were discussing the meditation of the divine name IAŌ on the Tetractys by making three rectangles that orbited the central sphere of Mercury:

We used a similar method to complete the division of elemental forces based on zodiacal mode, but now I think that method was somewhat misguided since it conflated the two, and further it never really resolved the association of the hexagram paths of Air to their forces in a clean way.  Instead, let’s talk about what I mean by the energetic modes of Ideal, Empyrean, and Ouranic:

  • Ideal energies are the pure elements themselves, their most high and abstract concepts and overall form to which the other energies are associated.  These are the four elements of Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.
  • Empyrean energies are the four forces of the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, and Spirit.  The three planets here are those that are those represented by the Triadic rank of the Tetractys, associated respectively with Sulfur, Salt, and Mercury.  These are the high holy forces of Light/Sameness, Darkness/Difference, Motion/Existence, and Spirit/Emptiness.  Although “empyrean” literally means “on fire” and often refers to the abode of the gods/God, I’m using it here to denote a different kind of “heavenly planet” from…
  • Ouranic energies are the four forces of Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn.  These are the other four planets that are represented in the Tetrad rank of the Tetractys, and associated respectively with Fire, Air, Water, and Earth.  Unlike the empyrean forces, the ouranic forces (also meaning “heavenly” but in a sense closer to “celestial” rather than “divine”) are not planets associated with the process of alchemy, but planets associated with the materials of alchemy, the four elements.  They’re in a sense “lower” than the four empyrean forces.

We have three modes of energetic forces, and we also have three modes of zodiacal forces.  We’ve already established from before that the fixed signs are closest to the elements themselves, so we can associate the zodiacal mode of fixity with the energetic mode of ideality.  Carrying the idea (pun unintended) through, the zodiacal mode of mutability might best be associated with the energetic mode of ouranicity, which leaves us the zodiacal mode of cardinality which can be associated with the energetic mode of empyreality.  This allows us to associate the zodiac forces with the energetic forces quite nicely and cleanly:

Fire Air Water Earth
Primary
Mode
Cardinal Aries Libra Cancer Capricorn
Empyrean Sun Spirit Mercury Moon
Secondary
Mode
Fixed Leo Aquarius Scorpio Taurus
Ideal Fire Air Water Earth
Tertiary
Mode
Mutable Sagittarius Gemini Pisces Virgo
Ouranic Mars Jupiter Venus Saturn

Although my previous attempt to assign the modes to the three elements of Fire, Water, and Earth may have been misguided, I do like how I assigned the three rectangular sets of paths to the three modes.  Thus, the vertical rectangle with short horizontal paths is still given to the fixed/ideal mode, the diagonal rectangle with short down-right paths given to the cardinal/empyrean mode, and the diagonal rectangle with short down-left paths given to the mutable/ouranic mode.  We thus end up with the following combinations of paths based on their mode:

Putting it all together, we now know the mode of every path in the Tetractys:

tetractys_paths_gnosis_modes_color

When we combine our knowledge of what element each path should be along with what mode it should be, knowing already whether it’s a zodiacal force (on the Gnosis Schema) or an energetic force (on the Agnosis Schema), we end up with a new Tetractys of Life with the appropriate letters on each of the 24 paths:

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_gnosis_paths

Overall, I like this version of the Tetractys more; it has a different “ring” to it, something a little clearer and smoother, but I’m still unsure as yet whether it’s the right one.  Only exploration and testing will show that out, and whether any adjustment (or outright rewriting) is needed.  What’s interesting, though, is how this might affect our exploration of the Tetractys in a structured way.  Note that we’ve assigned the Gnosis Schema paths to the twelve signs of the zodiac.  The Zodiac is the belt of stars that the Sun and all the other planets travel through over the course of their orbits, and we make one revolution through the Zodiac every year.  Thus, we have a sort of solar schedule for how we travel through the paths: for instance, we make the trip between Mercury and Air during Aries, Air and Fire during Taurus, Fire and Sulfur during Gemini, Sulfur and Mercury during Cancer, and so forth until we end up back at Mercury while we’re in Pisces.

The association of the Zodiac with the Gnosis Schema paths, further, divides the year up into three periods, one for each of the Initiatory Cycles as mentioned before. the first four signs (from the start of Aries to the end of Cancer) to the Hot Initiation (Mercury, Air, Fire, Sulfur); the second four signs (start of Leo to the end of Scorpio) to the Cold Initiation (Mercury, Salt, Earth, Water); and the last four signs (start of Sagittarius to the end of Pisces) to the Cosmic Initiation.  Of course, this is slightly adrift from our notion of having four seasons of spring, summer, autumn, and winter, but we do go from a period of cold to hot (heating the year), a period of hot to cold (cooling the year), and a period of just cold (darkest and coldest point of the year).  It’s not hard to make associations between these three quasi-seasons with the three Initiatory Cycles, but of course, my living in the Northern Hemisphere is coloring my views somewhat.

Of course, I don’t think we need to follow the Sun in the Zodiac as we follow the paths in the Tetractys, but it does imply that there’s a natural flow, a cycle that’s inherent in the mechanics of the cosmos.  Consider the three empyrean planets of the Sun, Moon, and Mercury: the Sun only ever goes in one direction through the Zodiac, as does the Moon; Mercury does go retrograde fairly often, but its retrograde periods are also extremely short compared to all the other planets, and is so close to the Sun that it basically is taken along with it.  Spirit, the other empyrean energy, is both lower than and amidst the planets themselves, providing the space and nature for them to exist and coexist at all.  Between the Sun, Moon, and Mercury, there’s a natural flow that pretty much only ever goes in one direction, and that’s around the Zodiac in its proper order.  As the Sun and Moon pretty much define nearly all the natural cycles down here on Earth, it suggests that there’s a natural flow and pull for ourselves to be taken along the Gnosis Schema ever onwards towards gnosis and henosis.

However, we get trapped and caught up by the forces of the other planets and elements, which gets us tangled up and going against the natural flow and rhythm of the Gnosis Schema.  We get swept up in a particular planet’s influence, we get brought down by a particular element’s effects, and we generally get caught up in long periods of retrograde motion and muddled manifestation of forces that keep us from flowing naturally with the cosmos as we should.  In aikido terms, the more stressed we are, the less ki can flow through us; in quasi-Thelemic terms, the more we focus on our temporary will, the less we naturally enact our True Will.  If we could simply incorporate the powers of the planets and elements without being subsumed or dominated by them, we could live with the natural flow of the cosmos to attain our true destinations and ends.  Of course, because of the various influences shining down upon us and emanating from within us, we have to struggle to constantly align and realign ourselves with the natural flow of things.  We have to constantly be on guard so that we don’t fall from Gnosis back to Agnosis; we have to constantly keep ahead of the ghost of Argos so we don’t become trapped once more.

From a Gnostic standpoint, this set of paths makes even more sense than the one before.  While we’re trapped in this world, we’re subject to the seven heavens of planets and their associated archons, which clothe us in misunderstanding and agnosis; they give us false notions of how the cosmos works, as well as how we ourselves work.  But, once we break free of them outside the realm of elements and planets, we enter into the realm of the fixed stars, that starry Eighth Sphere, where we proceed into gnosis.  Quoth the Divine Poemander:

First of all, in the resolution of the material body, the Body itself is given up to alteration, and the form which it had becometh invisible; and the idle manners are permitted, and left to the Demon, and the senses of the body return into their Fountains, being parts, and again made up into Operations.  And Anger, and concupiscence, go into the brutish or unreasonable nature; and the rest striveth upward by Harmony.

And to the first Zone [planet] it giveth the power it had of increasing and diminishing.  To the second, the machinations or plotting of evils, and one effectual deceit or craft.  To the third, the idle deceit of Concupiscence.  To the fourth, the desire of Rule, and unsatiable Ambition.  To the fifth, profane Boldness, and the headlong rashness of confidence.  To the sixth, Evil and ineffectual occasions of Riches.  To the seventh Zone, subtle Falsehood, always lying in wait.

And then being made naked of all the Operations of Harmony, it cometh to the Eighth Nature [sphere of the fixed stars, realm of the Zodiac, etc.], having its proper power, and singeth praises to the father with the things that are, and all they that are present rejoice, and congratulate the coming of it; and being made like to them with whom it converseth, it heareth also the Powers that are above the Eighth Nature, singing Praise to God in a certain voice that is peculiar to them.  And then in order they return unto the Father, and themselves deliver themselves to the Powers, and becoming Powers they are in God.  This is the Good, and to them that know, to be desired.

Thus, while we’re trapped in this world, we cycle chaotically and confusedly around the cosmos without real understanding of how it works, no matter how much we jive with the planetary and elemental forces.  It’s only once we recognize them for the powers that they are that we break free of them, traveling among the fixed stars themselves.  Even in agnosis, there is learning; we need to be aware of what the elements and planets do to us before we can truly break free of them and shed ourselves of their influence.  Once we know how to work them and how to get rid of their influence while remaining in control of them, we then proceed to rise above them to gnosis and understand what the whole cosmos is really about.  Planetary and elemental magic can only get us so far; they cannot get us to the most extreme parts of the cosmos (or, in this model, the outermost spheres of the Tetractys) nor can they get us to a point where we’re balanced and able to go in any direction we want (the sphere of Mercury).  It’s only by making the leap from agnosis to gnosis that we can do that, but even then, we must be on our guard; we can slip and fall back into agnosis by dwelling too much on any one energetic force, allowing it to entrap us once more.

Personally, though I don’t expect this to be the final draft of the Tetractys with lettered paths, I think it’s definitely an improvement, and unless Hermes opens up any more doors in the meanwhile, I expect this to be the system of letters and paths that I’ll use.  If nothing else, it goes to show that there really isn’t just one way to attribute letters to the paths; then again, without having come up with the notion of the Gnostic/Agnostic Schemata, this set of lettered paths wouldn’t’ve been possible.  Still, even using the Schemata as our base, we could still attribute each cycle of Initiations to one of the three groups of energetic forces instead of the zodiac signs, perhaps by giving the empyrean energies to the Hot Initiation, the ouranic energies to the Cold Initiation, and the ideal energies to the Cosmic Initiation.  There are many ways to arrange the paths systematically, so it’s unclear without testing it to see which one works best, if any at all even really matter.  To that end, let’s see how well this particular system can be used.