Unlocking the Observatory: 17th Century German Pop-Divination Texts, Natal Stars, and Numbers

Where were we? We’re in the middle of discussing the obscure Telescope of Zoroaster (ZT), a manual of divination and spirituality originally published in French in 1796 (FZT) at the close of the French Revolution, which was later translated into German in 1797 (GZT) and then again in an abridged form as part of Johann Scheible’s 1846 Das Kloster (vol. 3, part II, chapter VII) (KZT), with Scheible’s work then translated into English in 2013 as released by Ouroboros Press (OZT).  Although OZT is how most people nowadays tend to encounter this system, I put out my own English translation of FZT out a bit ago as part of my research, and while that translation was just part of the work I’ve been up to, there’s so much more to review, consider, and discover when it comes to this fascinating form of divination.  Last time, we talked about the “natal stars”, ZT’s own take on the lunar mansions and the angels associated with them, and how utterly weird the whole thing is. If you need a refresher on what we talked about last time, go read the last post!

※ For those following along with their own copy of ZT (get yours here!), the relevant chapters from ZT are the “Second Supplement” and “Third Supplement”.

Following up on the last post, we talked about how utterly bizarre and obtuse this system is of associating the angels of the lunar mansions, or “natal stars” as ZT calls them, and given that ZT uses them nothing like lunar mansions it may be for the best to use ZT’s moniker instead.  This is all so clearly (and yet so unclearly) depicted by all the oddities of ZT’s Plate VI:

The more I looked at it, the more confused I got.  I tried plotting out all available information every which way: mapping out the house-to-mansion and mansion-to-house-less-the-intelligences-numbers, seeing if there was any repeating pattern of numbers being skipped, trying to trace geometric patterns between mansions on the Great Mirror—nothing.  The more I banged my head against this, the less I understood what was going on.  Heck, I even counted how many of the tiny divisions there are in the Border of Plate VI and found out that, although there are supposed to be 13 of them per mansion to represent the 13(ish) days per Sun traveling through the mansion (which is a super weird notion), which should yield (according to ZT) a total of 365, a handful of them have 14 divisions and one even has 15—and even then, 28 × 13 = 364, which doesn’t match with what ZT says regardless.  Even trying to reverse engineer and come up with my own systems and methods of assigning mansions to the houses wasn’t coming anywhere close to what ZT was doing.

Like, yes, to be sure, there are a number of things about ZT that I don’t have answers for—where it gets its unique take on planetary numerology, for instance—but all of those are relatively minor things that don’t impact the actual function or process of the divinatory method of ZT.  Meanwhile, here we have something that is clearly stated as being important, but which itself is not used in the actual divinatory method at all, which would still be functional (even if somehow potentially incomplete?) without it—and which even the Redactor of ZT says was something thrown on as an extra bit to keep people going in ZT and which wasn’t going to be mentioned at first anyway.  Again, the more I looked and considered this, the less sure I got of what the hell it’s doing.  It was clear that I wasn’t getting anywhere, and even the seeming leads that might have revealed a blind kept going nowhere.

I decided to take a different approach.  I mentioned the various options of what could be going on here last time: either it’s all arbitrary, it’s just a bad and incomplete pattern, it’s a blind, or it’s an importation based on another source that explains something about the method in a way that ZT alone can’t and doesn’t.  Maybe it’s that last option, and I would have to look at non-ZT texts to find something.

First, I tried looking up lists of lunar mansion angels.  It’s a distinct quality of ZT that gives such a list with the three big archangels Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael included; these aren’t in Cornelius Agrippa’s list from TBOP book III, chapter 24, and lists like this tend to be remarkably stable over time even if some of the spelling changes a bit.  The only thing I was coming up with was something from Franz Bardon’s work, specifically the list of angels of the sphere of the Moon which was encoded in Bardon’s work and subsequently decoded by Emil Stejnar, but I cannot for the life of me figure out where Stejnar was getting this list from in any of Bardon’s works, and Stejnar himself doesn’t say; indeed, the annotators of such a website note that the “angelnames are cited according to Stejnar[;] the edition of Agrippa’s ‘Occulta Theosophia’ in my possess gives different angelnames”.  Beyond that one dead-end of a lead, though, I couldn’t find anything.

I backed up and instead reconsidered: what about the lunar mansion names?  The list given in ZT’s “Second Supplement” (Alnacha, Albukaim, Alkoreya, Aldaboran, Almuzin, etc.) are all recognizably the names of the 28 lunar mansions, even considering their variants in older texts, and especially considering all the many and various ways Arabic names and words get corrupted and mangled in European texts.  In general, while such variation can occur from text to text, such changes only happen slowly over the course of many generations of copying, and are as much impacted by the source language as well as the destination language.  In that light, people don’t often just come up with their own transcriptions and spellings; they typically use the ones they’re shown.  While these names of the lunar mansions are definitely intended to represent the lunar mansions, and while they’re kinda close to what Agrippa has, they’re not exactly the same.  Maybe this is an indication of some alternative lineage of astrological information the author of ZT was privy to?

So I started googling for some of the names in older texts, and that’s when I found the 1757 Das Große Planeten-Buch, published in Leipzig by Johann George Löwen (DGPB).  It’s written in an older German in Fraktur, so it’s not the easiest thing to read, but as I was flipping through it, I noticed that it contains a whole lot of information about a lot of different divination systems—astrology, yes, but also geomancy, numerology, palmistry, phrenology, and the like.  In the first part of the book that focuses on astrology, pages 54—96 have information about the lunar mansions, spelled nearly identically to what’s used in ZT.  For example, consider this introductory paragraph from part I, chapter 35 (page 73): Von dem Stern Algayre und seiner Würckung “on the star Algayre and its effects”:

Transcribed and translated:

Dieser Stern so auch Alhayre heißt, und zum Beherrscher Jazariel hat, nimmt seinen Anfang im 2. Grad und 24. Minunten der ♓︎ [♍︎], und reichet mit seiner Kraft bis in den 15. Grad und 54. Minuten der ♎︎, ist temperirter ♃ und ♀︎ Natur, und ist mehr glücklich denn unglücklich.

This star, also called Alhayre, and which has Jazariel as its ruler, begins in 2°24′ of Pisces [Virgo] and its power reaches until 15°54′ of Libra.  It is tempered by the nature of Jupiter and Venus, and is more fortunate than unfortunate.

Here we have a description of DGPB’s mansion XIII Algayre (equivalent to Alhaire in Agrippa), and while the degrees are a bit off from what we’d expect, the chapter goes on to talk about people born in the mansion who have this or that quality, lucky days of the week, colors of clothes to wear and the like, and it even gives an angel name, too—but take a close look at this first paragraph, and you’ll see that it gives a nature of Jupiter and Venus to this lunar mansion.  We see the same with other examples, like mansion XV (Algaphar) being given to the Moon, mansion XVI (Alzibinin) being given to the Moon and Saturn, and so forth.

To be honest, given the contents of the book as a whole, DGPB doesn’t seem to be aimed at actual practicing astrologers; rather, it seems to be more of a manual and guide for non-experts who have an interest (if not quite a full study) in the work, and is meant to offer quick and simple approaches to astrology and other forms of divination and prognosis.  It is, in many ways, a lot like those pop-divination manuals we see for cheap in even otherwise mundane bookstores in the new age section that we often give to beginners or children as a gift to spur their interest.  In that light, consider:

  • It’s uncommon for non-expert guides for astrology to mention the lunar mansions.
  • It’s even more uncommon for such descriptions of lunar mansions to get planetary assignments.
  • It’s still more uncommon for there to be a mix of one or two planetary assignments per mansion.

…and ZT does all those things, too.

And would you look at that: of the 28 mansions that ZT lists, 13 exactly match with what DGPB give and another 6 partially match, for a total of 19 (well more than half):

Mansion ZT DGPB Match
1 ☉ ♃ N/A
2 Full
3 ♀︎ ☿ ☽ No
4 ♀︎ No
5 No
6 Full
7 ☉ ♄ ♀︎ ☽ No
8 ☾ ☽ ♀︎ ☽ Partial ☽
9 ♂︎ No
10 ☿ ☽ Partial ☿
11 ☉ ♀︎ ♃ ♀︎ Partial ♀︎
12 ☉ ☿ ☿ ☽ Partial ☿
13 ♀︎ ♃ ♀︎ ♃ Full
14 ♄ ♀︎ No
15 Full
16 ☽ ♄ ☽ ♄ Full
17 ☽ ☿ ☽ ☿ Full
18 ☉ ♂︎ ☉ ♂︎ Full
19 ☽ ☿ ☽ ☿ Full
20 ♄ ♂︎ ♄ ☽ Partial ♄
21 Full
22 ☽ ♄ ☽ ♄ Full
23 ♄ ♃ No
24 ♂︎ ♀︎ ♃ ♀︎ Partial ♀︎
25 ☉ ♃ ☉ ♃ Full
26 ☉ ♂︎ ☉ ♂︎ Full
27 ♀︎ ♀︎ ♃ Partial ♀︎
28 ♂︎ ♂︎ ☉ Partial ♂︎

Also, I should note, that specific linked copy of DGPB was published just a few decades before ZT in a major printing epicenter, Leipzig—which, I note, was a city that Nerciat himself worked in as a librarian.  Further, this book just happened to be part of a trend of similar books that produced virtually the same information verbatim for centuries.  Like, just searching for the unique spelling of some of the mansion names, I’m able to find dozens of copies of this book dating at least as early as 1650 and as late as 1852, but with even earlier versions under similar titles presenting similar information in a similar format but not the same wording as early as 1544 or 1541.  Notably, however, those earlier versions in the 1500s don’t seem to have the planetary associations, which only appear in the later versions starting (as far as I’ve found) in the 1600s.  At some point between the late-1500s and the mid-1600s, it looks like some minor German tradition of pop-astrology (and I’m only finding books in German in this situation using these similar names) added in planetary associations to the lunar mansions.

At this point, I’m not dragging it out further, because for the purposes of this investigation, we have a solid-enough conclusion, at least to my satisfaction: it appears as though ZT was heavily influenced in its development, at least as far as its angelic stuff is concerned, by some sort of popular or easily-accessible astrological resource (perhaps in or produced from Germany) that provided a brief introduction to the lunar mansions, but weirdly also provided its own innovative system of planetary associations to the lunar mansions, as well, which is not found  (at least to my knowledge) outside this weird “lineage” of “pop-divination” German texts.  The inventor of ZT took this system and adapted it to the geometrical restrictions of the Great Mirror, mapping what it could from these texts to the Great Mirror.  Not all such pairs of planets would work in the Great Mirror, to be sure; DGPB has mansions VII and VIII given to the planetary natures of Venus and the Moon together, but the Great Mirror has these planets on opposite sides of the hexagon, so there’s no such house that falls in both their orbits at the same time.  This would force the inventor of ZT to allocate what they could, and then squeeze in the rest what they couldn’t.  It’s not a perfect match, but it’s far more than just coincidental; barring anything else saying otherwise or any other source coming up with anything better, the notion that the author of ZT was relying on another book of astrology current and available to them and adapting it to their own system is far more likely than there being a blind or this being merely arbitrary.

And, while we’re at it, DGPB also includes a good chunk of numerological stuff.  In that version linked above, on page 14, it has a Tafel der überbleibenden Zahl, dadurch die Planeten den Menschen zugeeignet werden “Table of the remainder-number, whereby the planets are given to humans”.  If you take the numerical sum of someone’s name and reduce it to a single digit, by giving each of the digits 1 through 9 to one of the planets, you can determine the planetary nature of that name (and, by extension, that person).  Such a system doesn’t give numbers their own symbolic meaning, which is otherwise super common in many numerological systems, but rather gives the numbers to the planets and lets the planets define their meanings.  To that end, DGPB gives the following table:

  1. Sun
  2. Venus
  3. Mercury
  4. Moon
  5. Saturn
  6. Jupiter
  7. Mars
  8. Sun
  9. Venus

It’s not an exact match—Venus gets two numbers instead of the Moon, the Sun has one of its numbers off a bit, and Mercury and the Moon (swap with Venus?) would have to be swapped around—but several of the numbers do match between these systems.  This is certainly different than other numerology systems, like that of the Holy Guide (1662) of John Heydon, upon which later numerologists like Sepharial in his The Kabala of Numbers gives a table like:

  1. Sun
  2. Moon (New)
  3. Jupiter
  4. Sun or Earth
  5. Mercury
  6. Venus
  7. Moon (Full)
  8. Saturn
  9. Mars

It seems like those German pop-divination books like DGPB, even if not that specific one, provided both an astrological and numerological basis for ZT’s own system, although not exactly.  Admittedly, it’s just close enough to suggest a connection, but it’s just different enough to suggest that something else is going on, here, too.  I mean, at least with the numbers, if we consider ZT’s Plate II again…

…we can see that there’s this neat symmetry going on in how the planets are associated with the primitive Numbers.  Using Saturn/Lethophoro/5 as a fulcrum, each side is balanced by the other: Mercury with Jupiter (sophist/philosopher or servant/king), Venus with Mars (female/male), matter-Moon with spirit-Moon, and matter-Sun with spirit-Sun, which would also make Saturn in the middle as being the “dark” point between the two extremes of “light”.  By taking a numerological system like that of DGBP as a basis, it’s not inconceivable that the inventor of ZT shifted some of the numbers around to make a more pleasing balance of sorts, and then (like DGPB’s remainder-number planetary system) gives those numbers meanings based on their planets.

It’s all kinda circumstantial, both for the bit about the lunar mansions as well as the planet/number associations, but it’s not too unreasonable or infeasible that this is what happened.  I can’t prove at the present time, unfortunately, that this is what happened, and maybe some reader more adroit at 1600s-ish German (or other continental European languages) with an eye for tracking astrological or numerological texts can help trace and track down more such texts that might afford more leads, especially regarding how such texts like DGPB came to associate planets with the lunar mansions.  However, it’s what I’ve got to go on, and—if I do say so myself—it’s not an unbelievable possibility.

Let’s close down that line of inquiry; I’ve nothing more to go on, after all, and while this is a good thing to stand on, it doesn’t solve the other big issue we raised last time: how do the compound Number tiles themselves get associated to the angels/mansions?  Well, we have at least some inkling of what’s going on, at least.  To go through what we can discern from Plate VI and the table of angels:

  • There are 90 compound Number tiles.  28 goes into 90 a maximum three times with a remainder, so we can allot at least three compound Number tiles per angel.  28 × 3 = 84, and 90 – 84 = 6, so there are 6 remaining compound Number tiles.  ZG gives each of these remainder compound Number tiles to each of the corner houses in the Great Mirror.
  • For most compound Number tiles, we can simply allocate a tile to one of the houses in the orbit of the planet of that compound Number, e.g. how 43 reduces to 7, making 43 a number of Mars/Adamasto, putting this number into the orbit of Mars (specifically house 23 with Raphael).  These seem to have been done first.
  • All of the planets except the Sun have houses in their orbit that belong exclusively to them, while the Sun has no houses in its orbit that belongs exclusively to it.  Additionally, because the Sun and Moon are broken out into their material and spiritual Intelligences for their own houses for the purposes of the Great Mirror for the angelic associations for the rest of the houses (they’re all densely packed into the middle of the Great Mirror), it’s not clear how to cleanly allocate the solar and lunar compound Number tiles.
  • Because of this, the corner houses certainly have to get at least some of these tiles.  ZT says that they’re given to the Sun and Moon, and if we go down the table, the corner houses (mostly marked with a ✠) alternate between the Moon and Sun (mansion VIII/house 34 gets a lunar Number, mansion XI/house 25 gets a solar Number, mansion XVII/house 31 gets a lunar Number, etc.).
  • This also has the result, given how the mansions are allocated to the Great Mirror houses, that the left and upper corners of the Great Mirror all get lunar numbers, and the lower and right corners get solar numbers.  This matches with how the solar and lunar Intelligences themselves are allocated to the Great Mirror, with both Seleno and Psykomena on the upper left side of the Great Mirror, and with Genhelia in the lower right.
  • The rest of the solar and lunar numbers just kinda get…scattered around.

That is…well, frankly, as far as I can discern.  If we take a look at how many tiles fit the patterns above cleanly or not, then out of the 90 total compound Number tiles:

  • 57 tiles have no problem at all getting allocated and are all about where you’d find them; notably, these are almost all tiles of the non-luminaries (e.g. tile 40, given to house 31, a tile of Jupiter/Aglaé and in Jupiter’s orbit).
  • 3 tiles are kinda okay (62, 10, 46), which are in the orbit of their associated planetary Intelligence, but technically speaking these are the “extra” Intelligences of Genhelia (matter-Sun) and Psykomena (spirit-Moon) given to houses 3 and 6, respectively, and it’s not clear whether these Intelligences should be considered to have orbits of their own like the other planets do.
  • 28 tiles are those of Genhelia, Seleno, Psykomena, or Psykelia, which are just sorta scattered all across the Great Mirror.
  • 2 tiles seem completely incorrectly assigned:
    • Tile 39 (expected to be in the orbit of Venus) gets associated to house 23 (Raphael) in the orbit of Mars
    • Tile 94 (expected to be in the orbit of Mercury) gets associated to house 5 (Kiriel) in the orbits of Saturn and Mars.

Notably, of all the angels in the Great Mirror, Kiriel is the only angel that expects a tile of a particular planet (Saturn) but doesn’t have one.  All the other angels get at least one tile of each planet they’re in the orbit of, with the possible exceptions of house 2 (Tagriel) and house 7 (Michael), where they expect solar tiles (specifically of Psykomena) but get the wrong kind of solar tile (Genhelia), but given how closely associated Genhelia and Psykelia are, it’s not clear whether it’s okay that one substitutes in for the other.

Beyond this, I’m stumped.  Unlike the mansion/planet associations or even the possible connections between the planets and numbers, I’m not sure how ZT is actually doing the work of allocating the compound Numbers to the lunar mansion/angelic houses of the Great Mirror beyond the general rules above.  Like, to pick a perfectly regular set of tiles that have no surprises whatsoever (part of that large set of 57), it’s not clear to me why all the Jupiter/Aglaé tiles get associated to the houses they do:

  • Tile 15 with house 27 (mansion 6, Dirachiel)
  • Tile 24 with house 29 (mansion 14, Ergediel)
  • Tile 33 with house 29 (mansion 14, Ergediel)
  • Tile 42 with house 28 (mansion 25, Aziel)
  • Tile 51 with house 12 (mansion 13, Iazekiel)
  • Tile 60 with house 27 (mansion 6, Dirachiel)
  • Tile 69 with house 4 (mansion 1, Gabriel)
  • Tile 78 with house 29 (mansion 14, Ergediel)
  • Tile 87 with house 27 (mansion 6, Dirachiel)
  • Tile 96 with house 14 (mansion 12, Bethunael)

This is, unfortunately, something I’m stumped on.  Beyond the likelihood of the inventor of ZT just allocating what tiles they could based on the overall rules and notions they had and fitting in wherever they could wherever else they had space for it—with the possibility of a slip-up or two, like with the Raphael and Kiriel bits as noted above—I’m not sure what the rhyme or reason is for allocating the compound Numbers to the mansions/angels/houses.  I can’t determine a geometric pattern of triangles or flow, and I’m not seeing anything in DGPB that might indicate anything along these lines in whatever numerological stuff I can find.  It’s a bit of an anticlimax, unfortunately, after the whole bit about finding leads on the other questions I’ve had, but even if I can’t say that there’s a pattern, at least there’s a trend, and that’ll have to be good enough to content myself with for now.

This is, of course, where I plead to the broader community for help, at least for those whose eyes can suffer Fraktur longer than mine can and who can more deftly search Google Books or Archive.org for old German (or other continental European) texts on divination, numerology, and astrology.  If, dear reader, you might have any notions, inklings, or even leads about some of these unanswered questions, do say so in the comments!  It might not lead anywhere, given the obscurity of things like this, but who knows?  I’ve been surprised at a number of points before in this research, and I fully expect to be surprised yet as I continue it.

A Hermetic Musing on Fate, Necessity, and Providence

This post was originally a short tweet thread I shared last September, but I don’t think I ever shared it outside Twitter, and I think I phrased some things in it that even I hadn’t realized were as big as I do now.  I’ve reformatted it and embiggened it slightly for a proper blog post, but the gist is the same.

So, a few definitions first, largely based on SH 12—14:

  1. Providence is the will of God.
  2. Necessity is what comes up with what needs to happen in order for Providence to be fulfilled.
  3. Fate is what arranges things in order for that which Necessity declares to come about.

In software engineering terms, Providence is the requirement that specifies what is to be done, Necessity is the design that specifies how it’s to be done, and Fate is the code that does what the requirement says in the manner the design says. The execution of the code—the carrying-out of Fate—is the actual activity that happens in the cosmos, right down to our own lives.

And what are the agents of Fate, you might ask?  What are the entities that facilitate and serve Fate to bring it about?  It’s the planets and stars themselves, which are not just indicators of Fate but the things that provide all things that exist down here with the energy (in the philosophical sense of activity or being-at-work-ness) to do what they need to do to be born, to grow, to die, and decay—and, in the process, fulfill whatever purpose it was meant to achieve.

That the planets are the agents of Fate is why astrology is the first (and most important) Hermetic art, because the study of the planets and stars allows us to learn about Fate, and thus about Necessity and Providence, and thus God and our relation to it. Our external and bodily lives are commanded by Fate, and Fate is not up to us to change in the Hermetic worldview, no more than we can make Mercury not go retrograde when we find it inconvenient. Fate is going to happen one way or another; we must learn to live with it.  (This is where a good understanding of Stoicism comes into play when studying Hermeticism.)

But, the thing is, your soul—that which you really are—is not your body; rather, our souls come from a place beyond the cosmos, and thus a place beyond Fate.  As such, our souls are not compelled by Fate the way our bodies and external lives are.  Our bodies are creations of the cosmos, and the cosmos is ruled by Fate, and so our bodies are naturally controlled by Fate as well as a production of it (and, by extension, the seven planets).  The soul, which only wears the body like how the body wears a shirt, is only impelled, not compelled, by Fate, in the same way that while the quality of a shirt can make a body comfortable or uncomfortable, the body is not fundamentally bound to the same fate as the shirt.  That saying that we’re spiritual entities having a physical experience, or that we should only be in the world and not of the world?  That notion is critically Hermetic, and we need to take that to heart.  We can’t be in control of everything (or even anything) external on the level of the body, but internally on the level of the soul, we can overcome it all.

It is in rising above the powers of Fate that we conquer it, by learning what it does and how it plays out that we learn the exceptions in the code and the behavior unspecified by the design and the loopholes in the requirements. Only once we rise above Fate can we make it our plaything., but in order to do so, we need to understand how Fate actually plays out on the low level once we see what Fate is trying to accomplish at a high level.  This is why alchemy is the second Hermetic art: alchemy is the study and science of learning how the activities and energies of the cosmos play out specifically at the level of material creation and manifestation, in the world we live in. Astrology looks above to see “why”, alchemy looks below to see “how”. And, well, as the Emerald Tablet (and so many others who love to quote it) says, “as above, so below”.

Learning Fate’s activity/energeia by alchemy and Fate’s power/dynamis by astrology, that’s where the third Hermetic art comes in: theurgy. Theurgy doesn’t change Fate to fight against Necessity or change Providence. Rather, it works by Fate to do what is best—what is Necessary—in accordance with highest Providence.  In working by Fate, we rise up to Fate’s own level and surpass it, able to at last be consciously and intentionally free of Fate.  Theurgy relies on knowing that which is above, that which is below, and the relationship between the two to not just go up or down, but to go beyond both entirely.  (After all, when you’re talking about a sphere, any direction away from the center is technically “up”.)

To borrow a bit of Christianity for a moment: angels are said to have no free will, but consider instead that they have will, just that their will is to fulfill God’s will. In this, the will of an angel is the will of God to be expressed through that angel.  The same goes for us, too. Theurgy is what allows us to make our will God’s will, which also makes God’s will our will. And if God is for you, sharing the one and same will, who can be against you?

When your own will is Providence, what need would you have to fight with Fate, when Fate itself could not fight with you?

Hermeticism FAQ: Part IV, Practice

Continuing our Hermeticism FAQ series (see part I, part II, and part III here), let’s continue today with (the final) Part IV, on the various practices of Hermeticism!

What practices are part of Hermeticism?

Although the “philosophical Hermetica” are great for teaching doctrine, they offer very little in the way of actual practice, whether day-to-day routine practice or things for non-routine ritual.  However, we do know that prayer to God is something Hermēs Trismegistos encourages, especially at sunrise (preferably outdoors facing east) and at sunset (again preferably outdoors facing south), along with at nighttime immediately before going to bed.  Practices of purity and asceticism are also encouraged, both for their training of the body as well for the work of engaging divinity without being polluted by the passions of base matter.  In tandem with study of the discourses and other arts, frequent meditation should be engaged with, both for the purposes of delving deeper into the meanings of the teachings as well as to gain insight regarding one’s own nature and the nature of the cosmos generally.  For those who are building shrines for the gods, calling the gods down into statues for more immediate contact and worship of them is recommended, by the means of filling the statues with sacred substances, burning incense before them, bathing them in sacred liquids, and the singing of hymns to seat them in their terrestrial bodies; rather than just statues or other images, bodily possession by the gods may also be attempted.  When ready, works of spiritual elevation and divine ascent should be undertaken, which can be considered among the crowning acts (though far from a one-time effort) a Hermeticist should endeavor towards.  Besides these, many other practices as described in the “technical Hermetica” or which are borrowed from any number of other magical and spiritual traditions may also be incorporated.

Are there any particular gods I should worship?

The only divinity one is strictly required to worship and venerate in Hermeticism is God, and that in a way that is often distinct from other gods; rather than burning incense or making material sacrifices, the true worship of God consists of a sacrifice of speech and the singing of hymns in sacred silence, adoring the Creator by means of their Creation.  Beyond that, whatever other gods one worships (if one worships other gods at all) is entirely up to the student.  For those who are willing, Hermēs Trismegistos himself is an excellent candidate to receive worship for those who follow the Way of Hermēs, whether as a divinity in his own right or as a deified hero-prophet; the same goes for the students of Hermēs Trismegistos, like Asklēpios (the Egyptian Imhotep), Tat (another instance of Thōth), and Ammōn (the Egyptian Amun).  While Greek and Egyptian religion offers many such deities to worship, to say nothing of the many syncretic religious entities present in texts like the Greek Magical Papyri, there is no limit nor rule as to which gods one should worship, so long as one (also) worships God.

Did the classical Hermeticists practice magic, and should we continue to practice magic today?

Although the “philosophical Hermetica” is silent on the subject, and although Zosimus of Panopolis suggests that Hermēs Trismegistos disavowed magic, it is a fact that Hermeticism has long been associated with magical works of many types, and indeed, ancient Egyptian religion saw little distinction between religious works and magical works, to the point where the very concept of magic itself (Heka) in Egypt was venerated as a deity in its own right in addition to the view that the gods had such supernatural power at their disposal to accomplish all manner of works.  Magic is simply the operational use of subtle forces or spiritual entities in addition to or instead of physical or bodily ones to achieve particular ends, and as such, the study of such forces and entities is part and parcel of the study of the cosmos as much as the study of any material or physical force or entity.  This being the case, classical Hermeticists (along with Egyptian priests themselves, and in company with many other wandering magicians of the day) certainly practiced magic, as this was a valid way to engage with the various powers of the cosmos, and thus we are both enabled and encouraged to today.  Of course, such works should be held to a high moral and ethical standard—but so should any other work, whether or not it can be considered “magical”.

What about astrology or alchemy?

These two arts have long been held to be Hermetic, and there’s good reason for saying so; even in the core classical Hermetic texts themselves, there is much astrological symbolism and even directives to engage in the study and practice of astrology to better understand the nature of the cosmos and of divinity.  Alchemy is somewhat more complicated of a subject, becoming more popular and well-studied in the late classical and post-classical periods, but is also tied to Hermetic practices of the creation of medicine, ink, oils, and talismans.  Different texts from different time periods will focus on these arts to various degrees, but they are certainly important for the practical side of Hermeticism, and those who are interested in Hermeticism are encouraged to study and engage with them.  Remember that the study of astrology is what helps us understand more about the processes of Fate; if astrology is the “as above”, then alchemy provides the “so below”, since it helps us understand the processes of change in the cosmos, learning how the activities and energies of the cosmos play out at a low level.  The power and potentiality of Fate can be learned through astrology, and the activity and actuality of Fate can be learned through alchemy.  Even if neither are strictly required, by learning both, one has a strong footing to engage in the work of theurgy.

What about theurgy?

Theurgy (from Greek theourgia, “divine work” or “god-work”) is the ritual mystical practice of participating in the presence of the divine, whether individual gods or God itself.  On the one hand, this can be considered the work of lifting oneself up to the level of the gods through spiritual elevation and divine ascent; on the other, it can also be considered the work of bringing the gods down to our level, either by having them inhabit sacred statues or other idols or by possessing their devotees for the gods to perform work down in our world.  In either case, the ultimate goal of theurgy is to unite ourselves with the divine, fulfilled through rites of purification of the body and soul along with communion with the gods.  It should be noted that this is not a kind of “coercion of the gods” where the gods are “forced” down (as if such a thing were possible in Hermetic terms), nor is it the case that we “trap” the gods in statues for our own bidding.  This is an act of communion, such as inviting someone to live in your home and share your table, and similar acts can be seen in the tradition of “living statues” of Hinduism and in many other pagan traditions across the world.  In a smaller sense, although not always done with theurgical goals in mind, the work of ensoulment and enlivening images can also be seen in the consecration of talismans, where one “brings to life” a particular object for it to confer some benefit, either by having a “shard” of the power of some force (like a planet) empower an object or by having a spirit come to inhabit the object.

What about thaumaturgy, and how is it different from theurgy?

Thaumaturgy (from Greek thaumatourgia “wonder-working”) is a way to describe magic in general, especially magic that is intended to create change or other paranormal phenomena in our world.  In other words, thaumaturgy is another word for most magic most people do and have done the whole world over since time immemorial.  Although some people consider theurgy to be “high magic” and thaumaturgy to be “low magic”, it should be noted that the difference between theurgy and thaumaturgy consists primarily in ends or goals, not in the means or methods; the same method one might use to raise a shade of the dead to learn where buried treasure lies may well be the same method one calls upon the presence of a god to bask in their glory in unity with them.

Are initiations involved or required in practicing Hermeticism?

“Initiation” in its literal sense indicates the beginning of something new, but in a religious context, it refers to the formal induction into a mystery, something secret that bestows some sacred or mystical power, license, experience, or knowledge, generally one protected as secret by a group dedicated to that mystery.  Importantly, an initiation is conferred upon an initiate by someone who is already initiated; it is something given, not merely taken.  In that light, although individual groups that profess Hermeticism may have their own mysteries may require initiations to access such mysteries, Hermeticism as a whole does not require them, and the very notion seems to be unknown according to the Hermetic texts.  That beings said, there are mysteries in Hermeticism, and are described as such in terms of being acts of spiritual elevation or divine ascent in order to behold divine visions.  Engaging in this work may be considered an initiation of sorts, whether or not there is one there to guide a student in such an endeavor.  It is perhaps better to consider this an initiation only when one who has already undertaken such a feat guides another in undertaking that same feat; beyond that, when one undertakes it on their own without such guidance, it might better be said to not be an initiation in the technical sense, even if it does acquaint one with a mystery of the Divine apart and away from any such group.  It’s a complicated topic to discuss, but suffice it here to say that there are often initiatory experiences involved in the higher works one undertakes in Hermeticism, whether or not one is initiated into a group by other human beings.

Is divination okay in Hermeticism?

Absolutely!  Divination is more than just “telling the future”, although it also does that, too; it is the act of approaching the gods to come to know them and what they have to say.  Not only does this fall in line with ancient practices that span the entire world, upholding old traditions of the oracles of the many gods, but it also is explicitly justified in the Hermetic texts as something legitimate we can do, so that we can know what has been, what is, and what will be.  Plus, so many forms of divination have been assigned to Hermēs Trismegistos, or even just Hermēs in the purely Greek sense, not least of which is astrology, that it’s hard to not separate out the work and study of divination from Hermeticism.

Do I need to be a vegetarian or vegan to be a Hermeticist?

At the end of the Perfect Sermon, there is a direction given by Hermēs Trismegistos to his students where they are to eat a “meal that includes no living thing” or “holy food which has no blood in it” following a prayer of thanksgiving to God.  Some interpet that this is an injunction for students of Hermēs Trismegistos to be vegetarian (or even vegan) in general, while others hold to a more limited opinion that only certain ritual meals need to be vegetarian.  It’s a good question, but there’s no one right answer.  It is known that those initiated into the Orphic and Pythagorean mystery cults were famously vegetarian as a constant ascetic practice (and also excluded certain kinds of beans due to their textural similarity to flesh), and it is also known that Egyptian priestly purity practices involved many abstinences from any number of animal products, both the eating of meat and otherwise (like the wearing of wool).  For our purposes today, while maintaining a vegetarian (or vegan, if one so chooses) diet is an excellent ascetic choice one can make, it can be agreed upon as important to abstain from consuming animal products prior to engaging in ritual and to only consume vegetarian (or vegan) food as part of ritual where ritual meals are called for, regardless whether sacrifices to the gods or spirits require meat or other animal products.

What about qabbala/kabbalah/cabala?

This term (all really the same word, just different transliterations from the Hebrew) refers to the overall mystical tradition of Judaism, which builds upon earlier Jewish traditions of hekaloth literature and merkaba mysticism along with Bablyonian and Hellenistic influence.  Although its origins ultimately lie in much earlier Jewish practices, qabbala as its own discipline only arose in the medieval period around 1200 CE.  Due to the complicated and messy history of Judaism in Europe, qabbala became integrated with non-Jewish systems of magic and mysticism, and earned central importance to magical systems like those of the Golden Dawn and Thelema.  While the study of qabbala, in its various forms and approaches, may be useful to some modern Hermeticists of various styles, it is not in and of itself Hermetic in the same sense that the Corpus Hermeticum is Hermetic, though due to the Neoplatonic and broadly Hellenistic influences upon the development of qabbala, it may be integrated with Hermetic practices.

Can I incorporate modern or non-Hermetic practices into Hermeticism?

By all means, feel free!  Considering the difficulty we have in reconstructing the practices of classical Hermeticists, to say nothing of the variety between their practices as well as the practices of various Hermeticists throughout the past 2000 years, there is plenty that can be done by us today in service to the Way of Hermēs. Just bear in mind that just because you might use a practice within a Hermetic context does not automatically make it “Hermetic”, and it is also worthy to remember the context in which such a practice arose and what its design and purpose is for.  Some things can be adapted or adopted for Hermetic ends quite neatly and nicely, other things less so, and some practices are best kept separate from Hermeticism entirely depending on their nature and purpose.

What about Franz Bardon and self-initiation into Hermeticism?

Bardon was a fantastic modern 20th century occultist from what is now the Czech Republic, whose works like Initiation Into Hermetics, The Practice of Magical Evocation, and The Key to the True Kabbalah are well-regarded to this day.  However, despite the name, Initiation Into Hermetics has little to do with Hermeticism proper; despite the frequent discussion of things he calls “hermetic”, he only ever cites Hermēs Trismegistos once, and that’s for his usual “as above, so below” bit from the Emerald Tablet.  By and large, what Bardon calls “Hermetics” is roughly what people think of today as “ceremonial magic”, the usual mixture of post-Renaissance magical theory, Solomonic goetic approaches to spirit interaction, European developments of kabbalah, and importations of Eastern/Orientalizing notions of energy/energy work/energy systems.  In many ways, Bardon’s approach can be considered a parallel development of the same modern European tradition of magic that gave rise to the Golden Dawn.  As such, it can certainly be adapted and adopted within a properly Hermetic context, should the student of Bardon so choose.

Will Hermeticism make me powerful, give me spells to get laid, etc.?

Sigh.  Technically yes, and I won’t deny that a fundamental drive for magic is the drive to get laid and get paid, but we’re also here to recognize that there’s more to life than just power, sex, money, and the like.  There’s magic, and then there’s magic for Hermetic ends, and while the same spell can be used for a Hermetic end as well as a non-Hermetic end, there’s a reason greed and lust are outlined as “irrational torments of matter” that we’re meant to purge ourselves from.  Let’s try to be a little more mature in the future, yes?

“The Adocentyn Temple Almanac” Preferences Questionnaire

This is just a quick update for tonight, but for once, I’d like some input from you, my amazing and darling readers.

As some of you might recall or have seen me go on about on Twitter, I’ve been working on a bit of a fun project lately, an automated almanac project that I call “The Adocentyn Temple Almanac” (or TATA for short, because I’m cute like that).  This is a project where, using the well-loved Swiss Ephemeris codebase and typesetting the output with LaTeX into something nice, I can produce a customizable almanac document for (almost) any populated latitude, longitude, and altitude on Earth.  It’s my hope that this becomes a truly useful thing for people: after all, can you imagine having a customized astrological/astronomical almanac for your very own temple room in your house or communal space, specific for where you might actually stand and see the stars?  My plan is, in exchange for a modest fee, to produce this almanac (made custom for each person, with a preliminary check to see what information they’d like) as a high-quality PDF, which you can have on your mobile device or laptop as needed, or which you can send off to a printer to have a hardcopy for on-hand off-line reference in your own temple space.

I’ve been working on TATA on and off for a bit now, and I’ve gotten a lot of features built into it already (all of which can be turned on or off as a user might desire):

  • Sun ingress Zodiac signs and decans
  • Sun transit seasons and season midpoints
  • Moon ingress Zodiac signs and lunar mansions
  • Moon phases
  • First and last sightings of the Moon
  • Solar and lunar eclipse times
  • Lunar month day numbers
  • Decan day numbers (using my “rebalanced true degree method” I mentioned in an earlier post)
  • Rising sign and culminating sign windows
  • Rising, setting, culminating, and settling times for the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars
  • Planetary hours
  • Simple ritual windows

Even so, however, because I have a perfectionist streak and because I want this to be the best, most useful, and most flexible bit of software that I can make it, I need your help to figure out what else I should build into this!  After all, there are some things that I just don’t know whether they’d be popular or some things I just don’t know about in general, and there are other things that I do know about and haven’t yet developed because I don’t know how desirable they’d be.  For that, I need to turn to you—yes, you!—to let me know what you think.

If you’re interested in helping me out with, please fill out this questionnaire on Google Forms.  You’ll need a Google account to take it, but this way you can change your responses afterwards if you have a wit-of-the-stair moment and need to add in something later.  It should only take about ten to thirty minutes, depending on your speed of answering and thinking about possibilities, but do feel free to suggest in the questionnaire whatever you might like!  After you’ve taken it, please also share this post (or my post on Facebook or tweet on Twitter) to your magical, astrological, priestly, occult, or spooky friends to also get their input.  I’ll keep everyone updated, to be sure, as this is a project I hope to bring to light and made accessible for anyone interested before the end of 2020, so please be sure to get your answers in soon to help guide my continuing effort on TATA!