Mathetic Exercise: Light-bringing Breath

Today, while making an offering to Apollo, he (if you’ll forgive the pun) shed some light on a bit of mathetic practice.  I’m still dusting off some of the tools and prayers I was working on, but he’s given me some ideas to work with.  While he’s still pretty stoic and detached in his approach to me, he’s generously helped me begin the process of refining and applying some of the things in mathesis I’ve been wanting to develop.  Of this, in addition to the usual daily mathetic stuff I would be doing, he’s given me a breathing exercise to do.  I don’t know if you’ve seen this one particular GIF around the Internet recently, but it suddenly popped in my mind when I asked him what should be done.

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So, I took that idea, hashed it out a bit with Apollo, and applied it.  It fills a need I wasn’t aware I needed, but it makes complete sense in retrospect, especially with some ideas I’ve gotten from the late Neoplatonic philosopher and theurgist Iamblichus as of late.

Before we get into the exercise, though, let’s go over a bit of geometry.  We all know the Tetractys, right?  We all know the Tetractys.

Tetractys

One of the many mathematical interpretations of the Tetractys is that it can represent the first four dimensions of geometry, starting with with the zeroth dimension:

  1. A single point, with neither length nor breadth nor depth.  No measure, only location.
  2. Two points, forming a straight line segment with length.  With a line segment, we can identify an infinite line extending in two directions: forward and backward.
  3. Three points, defining a triangle with length and breadth, together known as area.  With a triangle, we can identify an infinite area (a plane) extending in four directions: forward and backward, left and right.
  4. Four points, defining a tetrahedron with length and breadth and depth, together known as volume.  With a tetrahedron, we can identify an infinite volume (a space) extending in six directions: forward and backward, left and right, up and down.

Dion Fortune in her Mystical Qabalah (chap. 28, para. 25) says as much, in more sephirotic terms:

The point is assigned to Kether;
the line to Chokmah;
the two-dimensional plane to Binah;
consequently the three-dimensional solid naturally falls to Chesed.

We can see this using the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life by dividing it up into four groups of points: one (Kether), two (Chokmah and Binah), three (Chesed, Geburah, Tiphareth), and four (Netzach, Hod, Yesod, Malkuth).  Such a diagram illustrates this idea of emanation in both a geometric way as well as a qabbalistic way.

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In a Hermetic, Neoplatonic, Iamblichian, Pythagorean, or whatever sense, the Monad (a.k.a. Kether, the Source, whatever) is the fundamental principle that defines and underlies everything that exists.  (Whether it’s a distinct entity/non-entity/process is something of a debate in the blogosphere and I don’t presume to get into it here.)  Looking at the Tetractys, the Monad is the first step in the process of manifestation: from the Monad comes the Dyad, from the Dyad the Triad, and from the Triad the Tetrad.  The Tetrad is what gives us body and form, but it comes from a higher principle, and that principle comes from a higher one, and so forth.  If we really want to bring change from above down to here, we have to give it form in some sense, or we have to align some part of our being with the process of bringing power from the Source to us.

However, although four points identifies the minimal solid there can exist, we are far more than just four points.  Yes, we are a combination of fire and air and water and earth, but not in equal measures, nor in a regular fashion.  Our bodies are animal, but our spirit partakes in something of the Divine; in order to better make our lives and bodies more appropriate to interacting with the divine, we should try to induce a slightly different body in ourselves that makes ourselves more divine.  For the Neoplatonic Iamblichus, this is the form of the sphere, the most ideal solid there can be, and the body of the heavenly entities.  A sphere is not a tetrahedron, but they are both bodies.  We don’t want to be content with a tetrahedron, as we’re already far too complex to abide in it, but we want to get to a sphere.  In one sense, going from a tetrahedron to a sphere is nothing, after having gone and passed through the point, line, and shape in order to get a form; in another, going from a tetrahedron to a sphere is the most daunting thing of all, as we go from one point to two to three to four is one thing, but to go from four to an infinite number of points is daunting, to say the least.

In addition to all this, it’s known that part of the theurgic practices of Iamblichus involved a process of “light” and filling oneself up with it, which we can also see in other theurgic rituals, like that of the Mithras Liturgy from PGM IV.475-834.  In that, we find the following:

Draw in breath from the rays [of the Sun], drawing up 3 times as much as you can, and you will see yourself being lifted up and ascending to the height, so that you seem to be in midair.  You will hear nothing either of man or of any other living thing, nor in that hour will you see anything of mortal affairs on earth, but rather you will see all immortal things.  For in that day and hour you will see the divine order of the skies…

…So stand still and at once draw breath from the divine into yourself, while you look intently…

The whole Mithras Liturgy is a spiritual astral travel-type of initiation, where one ascends into the heavens and deals directly with the gods and guards of heaven.  However, important to this ritual is an act of ritualized breathing, where one breathes in rays of light or the breath of the divine, and in doing so changes or alters one’s nature or consciousness.  This is also similar to the Howl of Orpheus rite I found a bit ago, with its own special type of breathing and bellowing.  Breathing in divine light is not just the light of a particular planet or a star or fire, but to breathe in the light of the Divine itself, that of the Monad, the fundamental essence that undergirds all things that exist.

So, let’s put this all together into a coherent ritual, shall we?

  1. While sitting or standing, breathe out completely, from the head to the toes, completely exhaling all breath from the lungs.  Make a popping sound to expel all breath once the normal exhale is done.
  2. Breathe in deeply from the toes to the head, picturing a point of Light in your heart.  Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely, this time with a hissing sound towards the end.  Maintain the point of Light in your heart as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
  3. Breathe in deeply, picturing the point of Light in your heart splitting into two points, one at the crown of your head and one at the soles of your feet, connected by a line of Light rising from the feet, through the spine, to the head.  Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely with a hissing sound.  Maintain the line of Light in your body as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
  4. Breathe in deeply, picturing the line of Light extending by another point from its middle into a triangle that envelops your body, aligned side-to-side through your body, with its base at your feet and its apex at your head.  Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely with a hissing sound.  Maintain the triangle of Light through your body as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
  5. Breathe in deeply, picturing the triangle of Light extending by another point from its center into a tetrahedron, with its base at your feet and its apex at your head, completely enveloping you inside.  Hold the breath for four counts, then exhale completely with a hissing sound.  Maintain the tetrahedron of Light through your body as you keep your lungs empty for a few counts.
  6. Breathe in deeply, maintaining the pyramid of Light around you, as you hold the breath, exhale completely, and hold your lungs empty several times.  Silently call out to the Divine Source until you can form some sort of connection, until you can sense the Source of the Light that has been forming within and around you this whole time.  Repeat this step until you have sensed it and formed a connection with it, then continue.
  7. With the lungs completely empty, breathe in deeply, but this time, breathe in the Light from the Source.  As you do so, picture the pyramid around you swelling up slowly, bulging at its sides, until it becomes the shape of a perfect sphere that completely surrounds you.  Repeat this step until you can form a stable, perfect sphere of Light.
  8. Once you’ve formed a stable sphere of Light that surrounds you completely, let your image of yourself dissolve and merge into the sphere, becoming one with it, letting the sphere become your entire body.  Maintain this mental state as a form of meditation as long as desired.
  9. When finished with the meditative sphere of Light, let the image of your body form from the Light within the sphere, maintaining the boundary of the sphere around you as a shield or shell.  Exhale slowly with another popping sound to finish.

Meditation Exercise on the Tetractys

I’m sure most of us have heard, at least at one point when we were growing up, that when we’re angry and about to fly off the handle, that we should calm down before we act rashly.  One common way to cool off when we’re emotionally heated is to count to ten: take a deep breath, count from 1 to 2 to 3 all the way up to 10, then breathe deeply again, and by that point we should have calmed down enough to act at least a little more rationally and reasonably instead of like the geomantic figure Puer on caffeine.  Turns out that this little counting trick is good for other things, too, and I’ve adopted it as a basis for a short but powerful mathetic meditation exercise.  We’ve already described at least one method of mathetic meditation before by meditating on the letters by means of sound and by means of symbol, and we’ve alluded to meditating on the structure of the Tetractys, but now I’d like to make that latter part more specific.

First, let’s talk about breathing.  Breathing is the ultimate means of meditation for the vast majority of us: by simple awareness of breathing, we calm the mind, we cool the body down, and we take control of our spirit for deeper contemplation.  It’s hard to overestimate the full power of the breath, since with the breath we control our bodies and selves in a deep way; Jason Miller even says that a magician who can’t control their breath is no magician at all.  What I like to use as the basis for breathing in meditation is something that’s called the fourfold breath.  While sitting with the back straight but relaxed, such as in a chair, lotus position, or seiza position, close or relax the eyes and proceed with the following:

  1. Exhale completely, breathing out from your center.  This is the preliminary emptying breath; it might help to make a soft popping noise with the mouth (“peh peh peh peh peh”) to completely empty the lungs.
  2. Inhale into the center deeply, filling your lungs from the bottom up.  Count to four at a slow and natural rhythm.
  3. Hold the breath without closing the throat.  Count to four.
  4. Exhale completely, emptying your lungs from the top down from your center.  Count to four.
  5. Hold the lungs empty without closing the throat.  Count to four.
  6. Repeat from #1 as necessary.

This is the basis of the fourfold breath that other authors, such as John Michael Greer and Jason Miller, have used in their meditative and contemplative work, and I’ve used it before in my meditations on the geomantic figures as well as for devotional meditations using the Trisagion prayer.  It’s a great way to start off any meditation session, and a great meditative tool in its own right which can lead to deep insights, if not complete enlightenment a la the vipassana tradition in Buddhism.  Before proceeding with the actual mathetic meditation below, give this a try for a few sessions lasting at least five minutes each.

Once you’ve got the hang of this simple breathing meditation, let’s proceed with the actual meditation exercise.  When you’re relaxed and rested, recite an old Pythagorean prayer called the Invocation of the Tetractys.  I plan to use this prayer before any mathetic exercise, so it’s a good and short prayer to memorize and keep handy for all such meditations.  I’ve adapted the prayer from an older form, and the one I use is this:

Bless us, divine Number, you who enform gods and men!  O holy, holy Tetractys, you who contain the root and the source of all eternal and eternally flowing creation! For the divine Number begins with the profound, pure Monad until it comes to the holy Tetrad, then it begets the mother of all, the all-comprising, all-bounding, first-born, never-swerving, never-tiring, holy Decad, the keyholder of all!

Perform ten fourfold breaths as above to calm the mind and settle the body and spirit.  Next, perform another ten fourfold breaths, but this time we’re going to do something different on the exhale:

  1. On the first breath, intone the number “One” in your native language, breathing out from your center (or vibrate it, if you’re into that).  Visualize a single point in your mind and hold the image.
  2. On the second breath, intone the number “Two”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a second point beneath and to the left of the first with a single path linking the two.  Hold the image.
  3. On the third breath, intone the number “Three”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a third point to the right of the second, with two new paths linking this third point to the prior two.  Hold the image.
  4. On the fourth breath, intone the number “Four”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a fourth point beneath and to the left of the second, with two new paths linking this fourth point to the second and third points.  Hold the image.
  5. On the fifth breath, intone the number “Five”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a fifth point to the right of the fourth, with two new paths linking this fifth point to the fourth, second, and third points.  Hold the image.
  6. On the sixth breath, intone the number “Six”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a sixth point to the right of the fifth, with three new paths linking this sixth point to the fifth, second, and third.  Hold the image.
  7. On the seventh breath, intone the number “Seven”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a seventh point beneath and to the left of the fourth, with one new path linking this seventh point to the fifth point.  Hold the image.
  8. On the eighth breath, intone the number “Eight”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a eighth point to the right of the seventh, with five new paths linking this third point to the seventh, fourth, second, fifth, and sixth points.  Hold the image.
  9. On the ninth breath, intone the number “Nine”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a ninth point to the right of the eighth, with five new paths linking this third point to the eighth, fourth, fifth, third, and sixth points.  Hold the image.
  10. On the tenth breath, intone the number “Ten”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a tenth point to the right of the ninth, with two new paths linking this third point to the ninth and sixth points.  Hold the image.

So, each breath is associated with a particular stage of construction of the Tetractys of Life, proceeding in the order of the images below:

In your mind, you’ll’ve constructed the structure of the Tetractys of Life, all ten sphairai with all 24 paths between them.  After the ten constructing breaths, perform another ten fourfold breaths intoning nothing, just holding the image of the Tetractys in your mind, letting yourself become absorbed in its structure.  Once the tenth breath is complete, perform one last fourfold breath.  On this last breath, let the image dissolve into your breath on the inhale, disseminating throughout your body on the exhale, and exhaling a clean, pure breath at the end.  The meditation is complete.

I like the idea of using one’s own native language to count; it’s a linguistic curiosity that thinking of numbers and using them in speech takes place in a different part of the brain than other types of prose or poesy, and it’s a mark of innate fluency when you can instinctively count in a different language other than your native one.  In using your native language’s words for the numbers, the meditation becomes a little easier on the mind and makes the whole experience more natural and intuitive.  However, if you want to be a little more mystical, you could also use “Monad”, “Dyad”, “Triad”, “Tetrad”, and so on up to “Decad”, so it’s up to you.  I prefer the use of the simple native counting numbers, personally.

Now, the above meditation process is fairly straightforward, and I find it good for people who haven’t yet gone through the ritual of initiation into mathesis, a kind of “outsider” meditation that anyone can use who may want to begin work with the Tetractys.  It’s simple and clean, and it works.  However, I don’t particularly care for the order of how we visualize the sphairai above, since it feels a little awkward, especially in light of how we traverse the paths on the Gnosis Schema of the Tetractys, so more advanced mathetists may want to try a slightly different visualization.  The process is overall the same and starts off with the Invocation of the Tetractys and the initial ten breaths, but there are a few changes once we get to the construction breaths, where we use twelve breaths instead of ten:

  1. On the first breath, intone the number “One”, breathing out from your center.  Visualize a single point in your mind and hold the image.
  2. On the second breath, intone nothing.  Hold the image.
  3. On the third breath, intone the number “Two”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a second point beneath and to the right of the first with a single path linking the two.  Hold the image.
  4. On the fourth breath, intone the number “Three”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a third point to the right of the second with a single path linking this to the second point.  Hold the image.
  5. On the fifth breath, intone the number “Four”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a fourth point to the right of the first with three paths connecting this to the first, second, and third points. Hold the image.
  6. On the sixth breath, intone nothing.  Hold the image.
  7. On the seventh breath, intone the number “Five”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a fifth point to the left of the first with two paths connecting this to the first and second points. Hold the image.
  8. On the eighth breath, intone the number “Six”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a sixth point beneath and to the left of the fifth with a single path connecting this to the fifth. Hold the image.
  9. On the ninth breath, intone the number “Seven”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a seventh point between the sixth and second points with five paths connecting this to the sixth, fifth, first, fourth, and second points. Hold the image.
  10. On the tenth breath, intone nothing.  Hold the image.
  11. On the eleventh breath, intone the number “Eight”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a eighth point above and to the right of the first with four paths connecting this to the fifth, first, second, and fourth points. Hold the image.
  12. On the twelfth breath, intone the number “Nine”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a ninth point above and to the left of the eighth with a single path connecting this to the eighth point. Hold the image.
  13. On the thirteenth breath, intone the number “Ten”, breathing out as above.  Visualize a tenth point to the left of the eighth point with six paths connecting this to the ninth, eighth, fourth, fifth, seventh, and fifth points. Hold the image.
  14. On the fourteenth breath, intone nothing.  Hold the image.

Although we have ten points to construct as before, there are twelve stages total in the Gnosis Schema, where we cross over the central sphaira of Mercury multiple times.  Once we complete a system of three points on the Tetractys around the sphaira of Mercury, we return to the central sphaira and prepare ourselves for the next system.  Thus, once we complete a system and return to the first central sphaira of Mercury, we spend an extra breath just focusing on what we’ve constructed so far.  After this, we do another ten fourfold breaths to hold the whole completed Tetractys of Life in mind, dissolving the image on a final, eleventh breath.

I think this meditation exercise, the latter Gnostic Schema form of which I used during the ten days of my ritual of self-initiation, helps in developing an intuitive and innate understanding of the Tetractys, or at least plants a seed for the further growth of which as one develops in the study and practice of mathesis.  With the Gnosis Schema variant of the meditation, it’s interesting to see how the paths develop along with the sphairai, which itself can help one with seeing how the Gnosis Schema develops a full understanding based on earlier foundations of practice as one traverses the Tetractys in this manner.  It can help to use this meditation before any work in mathesis as a preliminary preparation, perhaps starting not with the sphaira of Mercury but the sphaira one is currently “at”, such as if one has progressed to the sphaira of Salt, one begins with constructing the Tetractys there and proceeding to the “second” sphaira of Earth, then the “third” sphaira of Water, and so forth, again pausing whenever one reaches the sphaira of Mercury.  One can further enhance this meditation by adding on the letters, numbers, and stoicheia of the paths into the meditation, perhaps spending another breath per each path that develops as one constructs a new sphaira in the visualization.

49 Days of Definitions: Part IV, Definition 2

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

Today, let’s discuss the seventeenth definition, part IV, number 2 of 2:

And among the living (beings), some are immortal and animated, some have Nous, soul and spirit, some (have) only spirit, some (have) soul and spirit, and others only life.  For life can aquire consistency without spirit, Nous, soul and immortality, but all of the others without life cannot possibly exist.

The previous definition described the beginnings of the importance and place of Man in the cosmos, as well as drawing some distinctions between Man and other living entities.  We know that all living beings have bodies made from at least fire and air; heavenly beings have only these, while earthly beings have also water and earth.  All living beings have breath and soul, but Man is special in that Man also has Nous, which links him to and raises him up to the level of God, though mixed with a mortal, earthly body.

This definition now brings up the qualities of different kinds of living beings, classifying them by the traits they have.  To start with, all living beings have bodies; this is a necessary aspect of living (IV.1).  First, there are the “immortal and animated” living beings; these would be the ones in the heavens, made of fire and air but no earth; “animated” here means “ensouled” or “made to move by soul”, since soul is the essence that allows any body to move (II.1).  The beings that “have Nous, soul, and spirit” in addition to an (earthy) body are Man, as noted from before.  However, the distinctions don’t stop there; there are also living bodies that have “only spirit”, those with “soul and spirit”, and those with neither soul nor spirit.  Now this gets interesting.

First, let’s list the different categories of living beings offered in this definition:

  • Immortality, soul, body
  • Mortality, Nous, soul, spirit, body
  • Mortality, soul, spirit, body
  • Mortality, spirit, body
  • Mortality, body

Note that we have five categories.  Only one is immortal, and that’s because it has a non-earthy body; these are the heavenly living beings, who are able to move due to the presence of soul (“animated”) but, without a need for an earthy body, also have no breath or spirit, since spirit is what allows the soul to enact other changes and motion in an earthy body (II.6).  All the rest of the living creatures, however, are worldly and thus mortal, because they all have earthly bodies.  Thus, anything living not of the world we live on is immortal due to its lack of an earthy body; anything with an earthy body is mortal.

Next, we have mortal living beings with an earthy body with Nous, soul, and spirit.  This is Man, as known from the last definition.  This is pretty straightforward: Man can think (Nous), move (soul), breathe (spirit), and exist in the world (earthy body).  The other categories, however, all have something missing, and the definitions so far don’t clarify what each of these categories might be.  However, we can venture a guess or two.  Note that only heavenly beings are known as immortal, so by omission of this quality we know that all other beings are mortal.

  • Living beings that die, with soul, spirit, and bodies are animals.  The last definition, we know that “all of the other living beings which are endowed with voice have breath [spirit] and soul”.  These are bodies that breathe and move and can die.  Plus, these living bodies have “voice”; the howls, cries, chirps, squeaks, chittering, and roars of animals are not unlike the voice of Man, though without Nous, their voices aren’t necessarily reasonable (at least to human ears).
  • Living beings that die, with spirit and bodies are plants.  It’s odd to consider living bodies without soul and that this definition should omit soul, since we know that “soul is a necessary movement adjusted to every kind of body” (II.1).  However, plants don’t move; they may be moved and they may grow, but it’s not an intentional or directed motion of its own volition; plants have no such notion.  Thus, though they breathe (respiration, photosynthesis, diffusion), they do not move.  Spirit, though it’s the “column of soul”, does not require a soul itself; soul, however, does require spirit if the body has earth involved in it, which is why heavenly beings have soul without spirit, and not the other way around.
  • Living beings that die with only bodies are stones or elements.  This is “life” at its bare minimum, able to exist but without any other quality.  It’s true: stones are technically considered living beings according to Hermetic doctrine, even according to the other definitions.  Stones can increase or decrease over time, or can be made into dust and scattered and then remade into new bodies.  They do not respire or breathe, so there is no spirit; they do not move on their own, so there is no soul, and thus no need of spirit.  However, this only covers the notion when earthy bodies are considered; non-earthy bodies must therefore be pure elements, such as pure fire, pure air, pure water, or even pure light.  Something that’s purely earth would, as it so happens, be a stone.  I hesitate to use the word “force”, but that’s kinda the idea I’m reaching for with this.  It’s odd to think that forces or elements might be mortal, but this is actually seen in other sources; Plato’s Timaeus notes that fire, air, and water can become each other, while earth is always going to remain earthy; when one element becomes another, we can consider that element to “die”.

Things with only life in the Hermetic sense are things that are only bodies, inanimate and which do not increase or decrease on their own but are still increasable and decreasable.  Without a body, it would not have life, and “all of the others without life cannot possibly exist”.  Thus, in order for something to be considered living, it must possess a body, which enables it to increase and decrease either on its own or because of other things.  Without a body, there can be no notion of immortality or mortality; there can be nothing to move or be moved since there is no soul to animate a body; there can be no growth since there is no spirit or breath to respire and provide it; there can be no speaking or reasoning since there is no Nous to reason in the body.  The body is the foundation of life and living, in the Hermetic sense of the word of “living”.

What does this mean for things that are bodiless?  That things without bodies are not living, neither mortal nor immortal, and that they are uncreated and, without a body, inable to be destroyed.  The only bodiless thing we know of are things outside heaven, and the only word for that for that which we know of is God.  This also explains why, although we know of God to be “uncreated”, “intelligible”, “ineffable”, “immovable”, “invisible”, “eternal”, etc. (I.4, I.5), we have never seen God described as “immortal”.  The notion simply doesn’t apply to something that can neither live and die nor live forever, because God doesn’t work on that level.

49 Days of Definitions: Part IV, Definition 1

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

Today, let’s discuss the sixteenth definition, part IV, number 1 of 2:

The living (beings) in heaven are constituted of fire and air, and those (which are) on earth of the four elements.  Man (is) a reasonable living (being), for he has Nous; but all of the other living (beings) which are endowed with voice have breath and soul, since all that decreases and increases is a living being.

At this point in the Definitions, we know that there are multiple parts of the world, from the meta-world of God to the pale blue dot of Earth where Man resides, at least for a part of it.  All things within God are intelligible, indicating that they can be known.  Within the meta-world of God, we know that there’s a place referred to as heaven, within which there are the four elements which constitute all of the bodies.  Things with bodies are not only intelligible, but they are sensible, which is a necessary quality of existing within heaven.  However, all things both intelligible and sensible and non-sensibile are all part of the One, the All, the Whole that is God; everything is interconnected, even if some parts of the worlds are outside and seemingly unconnected to other parts of the worlds.

Although the definitions have mentioned living beings before, now we finally get to what those beings are composed of and what they’re all about.  First, just as we know that there’s a distinction between heaven and earth (II.2), we also know that there are “superior beings” and “inferior beings” (III.3), or entities that are of heaven but not of Earth and entities that are of Earth within heaven, respectively.  According to this definition, the superior beings or “living beings in heaven” are made of “fire and air”, while the inferior beings “which are on earth” are made of the “four elements”.  So, while superior beings are made of fire and air, inferior beings are made from fire, air, water, and earth.  This makes sense: we know that air is the glue that binds the earth and heaven together but is of neither heaven nor earth (II.2), and we know that fire is sterile and the “perpetuation of immortal beings” (II.5).  Earth and water, however, support each other (II.3, II.4) but are much denser than air or fire.

Knowing that the superior beings are made of only air and fire, we also know that they cannot die nor can they reproduce by growing; these are qualities that fire prohibits.  Fiery beings without earth must be immortal, since earth exists to be changed as well as to hold both life and death, while fire is the life itself of immortal beings.  In addition, without earth to be changed, heavenly beings inherently are incapable of change, since there’s nothing to change within their bodies; this is not the same thing as increase and decrease, however, which fire and air both permit them to do.  Air, however, allows the heavenly beings to move around both in the heavens and between heaven and earth.  By including water and earth into fire and air, we obtain inferior beings, who have the capacity to be born, grow, increase, decrease, and die.  However, inferior beings also have air and fire, which give them some of the qualities of the superior beings, but not all of them; indeed, the fire itself within an inferior being may be the seed of its downfall and death, since fire is the “destruction of the mortal [bodies]”; fire will, over time without proper maintenance, burn out the rest of the body and kill it.

However, even though heavenly bodies can travel between the upper heavens and lower earth, the same is not true of earthly bodies.  This is due to the earth within the bodies themselves; we know that, from the Poemander, earth and water were left behind when the Nous separated the elements.  Fire rose up first and highest, and air followed the fire underneath it, but water and earth remained below, being heavy and dense.  Due to this, without removing all the earth and water from an earthly body, it will be too dense to rise higher than the earth itself from which it was made and grown.

Of all the living beings, there also exists Man, the reasonable, sensible, and destructible world (I.1).  Man is reasonable because “he has Nous”, meaning that Man has Mind.  More importantly, the definition doesn’t say that Man has “a mind”, but that he has “Nous”, being God.  Thus, Man possesses or carries with him “the invisible good” of Mind with him, allowing him to reason as Nous or God itself reasons.  However, “all of the other living beings which are endowed with voice have breath and soul”.  This shouldn’t be taken to mean that Man only has Nous and no soul nor breath, since we know that all bodies must possess a soul of some kind (I.3), and that Man has both soul and breath (I.4), and now that Man has soul, breath, and Nous.  Other living beings, though, have only soul and breath, though they have “voice”, which is something we can expect that Man also has, but what this function is relative to the other attributions is as yet unknown.  After all, without Nous, something can still be a living being if it has soul and breath and is composed of at least some of the elements, since “all that decreases and increases is a living being”, and all things down here under heaven perform that function by means of the interactions of the elements.

Because Man alone among the living beings possesses Nous, Man is the only reasonable living being, or the only living being capable of understanding God and the cosmos as God does.  This is huge in anthropocentric ideas, and begins to clarify some of the meanings from before.  We know that Man was made after the “species of” God (I.1); this is because we were made with the same reasoning, mental capabilities that God has.  We know that Man, although mortal due to his body, is “ever-living” (I.5), because the Nous is immortal, eternal, and immovable; we owe at least the immortal part of ourselves that cannot be touched by death to God through the Nous we have.  Thus, Hermes’ speech to Tat in the Corpus Hermeticum becomes a little clearer (chapter 13, part 13):

Tat. Tell me, O father: This Body which is made up of the Powers, is it at any time dissolved?

Her. Hush, [son]! Speak not of things impossible, else wilt thou sin and thy Mind’s eye be quenched.  The natural body which our sense perceives is far removed from this essential birth.  The first must be dissolved, the last can never be; the first must die, the last death cannot touch.  Dost thou not know thou hast been born a God, Son of the One, even as I myself?

Because of our godly creator and who gave us a godly component, we too are not only part of God but we are, in a sense, many made in the image of God or the likeness of God.  And it’s all because of our reasoning, mental, thinkable capability; it’s not due to our physical form, though that may also be true through a highly indirect path via the heavens, Earth, and elements.  Thus, though we are a living being capable of death, we are unlike the other such mortal living beings because of Nous, which makes us, in a sense, immortal-but-not-in-the-normal-sense.

49 Days of Definitions: Part II, Definition 6

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

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

Light is a good, a clear vision, (which makes) appear all of the visible (things).  The essence of fire is burning.  However, fire is one (thing) and light is another one.  For what fire has reached shall be destroyed, but light appears just as it is by itself.  Every move of soul is perceived by Nous; since it is some (kind of) energy, breath performs (it).

This last definition of part II may come as a surprise, seeing how the second through fifth definitions focused on the four elements; where the hell was light mentioned?  It doesn’t appear to be an element, and it wasn’t really spoken of in II.1.  However, read II.1 closely again, and you’ll read two parts that link this definition cohesively into this section:

  • “Nous is the invisible good; soul is a necessary movement adjusted to every kind of body.”
  • “Breath is the body of soul or the column of soul.”

Bearing in mind that we now know about the four elements that constitute “every kind of body”, this definition then goes on to describe the nature of the thing behind the body.  If this is starting to make this sound like a fifth element or quintessence (literally, “the fifth essence”) like spirit or akasha of modern occultism, you’re catching on, but there’s some more unpacking to do first.

First, let’s talk about light.  Light is “a good”, not “the good” of the Nous, but it is “a good”.  While this type of phrase hasn’t yet been encountered in the Definitions, we can assume that this means that light is a quality of the Nous, or that light is something from of and part of the Nous.  In either way, light is something divine, something mental.  Light is also “a clear vision, which makes appear all of the visible things”.  When modern people think of light, they think of some sort of electromagnetic waves that bounce off and reflect from objects, and these waves are then registered by the eyes to produce neural signals to be interpreted as a vision.  Classically, however, light was seen to emanate from the eyes or objects themselves and catch alight of other things (and is one of the reasons gazing magic and the “evil eye” are still around).  Light is vision itself; more importatly, light is a clear vision, that which illumines and enlightens, that which presents things clearly and truly in its true form. However, light can only work to make things appear that are already visible, or able to be seen.  Things that are bodiless or only intelligible without being sensible cannot be seen, and so light is independent of these things; light, then, is probably a component of the Nous in the cosmos, since being visible is a special kind of being sensible, and only the cosmos is the part of God that is sensible. 

However, this is an ideal kind of light, a mental or spiritual light that is independent of physical processes.  The definition then goes on to compare fire and light, where “the essence of fire is burning” and that “fire is one thing and light is another one”.  Many people, especially classically, equated fire and light as the same, since fire and other extraordinarily hot things are what gives off light.  Fire does indeed give off light, but this is not the light that is a good; “what fire has reached shall be destroyed, but light appears just as it is by itself”.  In other words, fire burns up and burns away, and anything exposed to firelight has this effect made upon itself.  True light, however, acts differently: it presents what is visible and sensible, and nothing more.  Compare Tat’s exclamation from the Corpus Hermeticum (chapter X, part 4):

Her. For It doth will to be, and It is both Itself and most of all by reason of Itself. Indeed all other things beside are just because of It; for the distinctive feature of the Good is “that it should be known.” Such is the Good, O Tat.

Tat. Thou hast, O father, filled us so full of this so good and fairest Sight, that thereby my mind’s eye hath now become for me almost a thing to worship.  For that the Vision of the Good doth not, like the sun’s beam, fire-like blaze on the eyes and make them close; nay, on the contrary, it shineth forth and maketh to increase the seeing of the eye, as far as e’er a man hath the capacity to hold the inflow of the radiance that the mind alone can see.  Not only does it come more swiftly down to us, but it does us no harm, and is instinct with all immortal life.

Things like firelight are temporary and easily consumed; once the matter on fire is consumed by fire, the fire dies out.  When firelight dies out, darkness remains.  However, light is something independent of sources of fire, and anything that can be seen can be illumined by light.  Light, then, is something different, and anything that can be perceived or sensed is done so with light.  In a sense, light is wherever the mind is, and if the mind of Man is made more fully like the Nous in whose image it is made, and if Nous is God, and if God is the All and the One, then light is everywhere, since light is in all things, not just in the sensible cosmos.  Compare the Corpus Hermeticum (chapter XI, part 7):

Behold, again, the seven subject Worlds; ordered by Æon’s order, and with their varied course full-filling Æon!  [See how] all things [are] full of light, and nowhere [is there] fire; for ’tis the love and blending of the contraries and the dissimilars that doth give birth to light down shining by the energy of God, the Father of all good, the Leader of all order, and Ruler of the seven world-orderings! …

Thus, while bodies are sensible, light may be the actual function of sense itself, where anything sensed is done so by means of light, which illumines the mind.  And since all bodies in the cosmos have a soul made just for it, since each body cannot exist without one, soul itself is what makes itself known by means of the body.  After all, the soul is “a necessary movement adjusted to every kind of body”, though itself is invisible, much how the Nous is the “invisible good”.  The soul is what enables a body to move and function in the cosmos, and since the body is sensible, the soul is evident through the body.  Because of light, we can sense the motion of bodies and therefore of souls, either physically through our eyes or mentally through the sight of the mind, but in either case this perception is done with light.  And, further, because the Nous perceives all things, especially through and because of the minds of Man, “every move of soul is perceived by Nous”, and this perception is made possible through light.

The last part of this definition is a little complex, but it relates to the connection between soul and spirit.  “Since [every move of soul] is some kind of energy, breath performs it.”  In other words, the soul provides a force that is enacted through the body into the cosmos, but the relationship between the soul and the breath (or spirit, since these terms are interchangeable so far) has not yet really been fully explored.  We know that Man exists as a microcosm due to “soul and breath” (I.4), and that breath is the “body of soul or the column of soul”.  Because the body is moved by the soul, the body is moved by means of the breath because of the soul.  The breath is what keeps the physical body able to receive the soul’s motions, so the breath is the facilitator of the soul into the physical body.  In other words, breath performs the motions in the body that the soul desires to give it.  We can think of the breath as something akin to air.  Air is the element that binds the upper heavens with the lower earth.  Similarly, the breath is something that combines the soul with the body.  Just as the influences of the higher heavens can be felt down here by means of the air and the forces that travel through it, the influences of the soul can be felt and enacted by the body by means of the breath and the motions that pass through it.

So much for the last definition of part II.  From this set, we know there are four elements that constitute the body: earth that provides the material basis for action, water which nourishes and moistens, air which conjoins and permits influence between different locations, and fire which desiccates and destroys.  All bodies are made out of some composition from these elements, and all bodies are given motion and movement from the soul.  The soul, which is necessary but not sufficient to animate the body, is given expression through the breath or spirit, which like the air that conjoins the upper heavens and lower Earth conjoins the soul and body together.  All bodies, being sensible, are known by means of light, which provides pure and clear vision.  Light, however, is not just a property of cosmos, but also of Nous, and by means of light the minds of Man as well as the Mind of God can know all things.

49 Days of Definitions: Part II, Definition 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

49 Days of Definitions: Part I, Definition 4

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

Today, let’s discuss the fourth definition, part I, number 4 of 5:

Now man is a small world because of soul and breath, and a perfect world whose magnitude does not exceed the sensible god, (i.e.) the world.  The world (is) intelligible and God (is) Nous; (he is) the truly uncreated, the intelligible; by essence, the uncreated and the ineffable, the intelligible good.  In a word, God is the intelligible world, the immovable Monad, the invisible world, the intelligible, invisible and ineffable good.

When this definition says that Man is a “small world”, just as Heaven might better be rendered by the Greek word cosmos, we might be better off using the Greek word microcosmos.  In other words, Man is a small world, but the Hermetic sense of this means that the microcosm is a reflection and interconnected system related to the macrocosm (great world); in the words of the Emerald Tablet, “what is above is like what is below, and what is below is like that which is above”.  As such, Man reflects and is like the other worlds it is in, namely Heaven and God.  Man, however small it may be, is a distinct world from either; it is both less and more than Heaven, and certainly less than God but made in a similar image. 

Instead of mere matter as the sensible world of the cosmos is, Man is a different microcosm “because of soul and breath”, the spiritual and physical evidence of God in the visible world.  Soul, after all, is that which animates the body, and breath is the physical evidence of soul; breath is spirit, which comes from Latin actually meaning “breath”, similar to Greek pneuma.  Related words here are “inspiration”, the breathing in of new life, and “expiration”, the last exhalation of life or usefulness; breath gives power to both physical life, reason, and rationality, especially as it pertains to speech and communication.  Soul, on the other hand, is the Latin anima and Greek psykhe, and is the power of motion within the body, that which commutes higher power from immovable God to moveable Heaven by means of the body.  The soul, sometimes called the emotional seat of Man, is that which produces motion in the body, animating the body physically and the enabler of physical breath to relay divine spirit.

Thus, Man is different from other parts of Heaven due to its soul and breath, forming its own microcosm within the greater cosmos.  However, Man is also “a perfect world whose magnitude does not exceed the sensible god, i.e. the world”.  In other words, though Man is distinct from though still perfect as God is (being made in the image of God), Man is still limited and is bound by the world he finds himself in.  The “sensible god” can be two different worlds: Heaven and Man.  In either case, Man is either still distinctly Man, or Man exists within and a part of Heaven; in neither case does Man become greater than sensible, i.e. purely intelligible as the world of God is. 

The sensible world is a distinct and strict subset of the intelligible world, since there are things that are intelligible that are not sensible (God), while all things that are sensible are intelligible (Heaven and Man).  So, while Heaven as “the world is intelligible”, God is Nous, or Mind.  This is pure intelligibility, that which is intelligence and intelligible both.  This is clearly made the case in the Poimandres, the first chapter of the Corpus Hermeticum (chapter I, part 6):

That Light, [Poimandres] said, am I, thy God, Mind [(Nous)], prior to Moist Nature which appeared from Darkness; the Light-Word (Logos) [that appeared] from Mind is Son of God.

What then?—say I.

Know that what sees in thee and hears is the Lord’s Word (Logos); but Mind is Father-God. Not separate are they the one from other; just in their union [rather] is it Life consists.

Mind produces Word; as we said before, Word is empowered by Spirit, delivered by Soul, given by Man, and made evident in the World.  Mind comes before all; Mind was before the Moist Nature (water) and Darkness (e.g. the darkness upon the face of the deeps in Genesis); Mind is that which spoke “Fiat Lux”, the first words, to make Light, which is also Word.  Mind, though not the same as Word, is together with it, just as Man is with God, and since God is Mind, Man is also with the Word.

In addition to being Mind, God is also “the truly uncreated, the intelligible; by essence, the uncreated and the ineffable, the intelligible good”.  Since God is the Mind, and Mind made the Word which is the foundation of all other things, nothing has made God, hence “truly uncreated”.  Since God is Mind, and since Mind is the forerunner of intelligible Word, and since that which is intelligible creates intelligible or is created by intelligible, and since all things are part of or come from God, God is also intelligible.  Plus, although the Word comes from God, the Word is not God; thus, the Mind can never be truly spoken of, because this would then make God into Word, and as words are spoken and made sensible, this would attempt to try to make God sensible; this contradicts our earlier statements about God, so this cannot be the case.  As such, this makes God also “ineffable”.   Compare Hermes’ talk to Asclepius in the Corpus Hermeticum on what the Bodiless is, the “space in which everything is moved” but yet is itself unmoved (chapter II, parts 12 and 13):

Asc. What, then, is Bodiless?

Her. ’Tis Mind [(Nous)] and Reason (Logos), whole out of whole, all self-embracing, free from all body, from all error free, unsensible to body and untouchable, self stayed in self, containing all, preserving those that are, whose rays, to use a likeness, are Good, Truth, Light beyond light, the Archetype of soul.

Asc. What, then, is God?

Her. Not any one of these is He; for He it is that causeth them to be, both all and each and every thing of all that are. Nor hath He left a thing beside that is-not; but they are all from things-that-are and not from things-that-are-not. For that the things-that-are-not have naturally no power of being anything, but rather have the nature of the inability-to-be. And, conversely, the things-that-are have not the nature of some time not-being.

The last part of that statement, however, poses a new problem for us, since it introduces a new term.  Here, it says that God is “the intelligible good”, but we have not yet encountered the word “good”.  It’s difficult to say succinctly, but the Good here is the summum bonum of the philosophers, the object of highest knowledge and importance that is the forerunner and producer of all other objects.  One of the most well-developed (though still poorly understood) forms of this is Plato’s Form of the Good, which is similar and which influenced later Hermetic and Neo-Platonic thought on the matter.  The Good is not the same thing as goodness; in other words, God is the Good, not God is good.  The Good has no moral, ethical, or any substantiative meaning, since any such thing can be spoken of and therefore become sensible in addition to intelligible; this limits God, who is intelligible and therefore greater than all things, and since God cannot be limited, God is therefore without any such qualities, even though all qualities come from God (cf. the relationship between Word and Mind).  Compare with the Corpus Hermeticum (chapter VI, parts 4 and 5):

And I, for my own part, give thanks to God, that He hath cast it in my mind about the Gnosis of the Good, that it can never be It should be in the world. For that the world is “fullness” of the bad, but God of Good, and Good of God.  The excellencies of the Beautiful are round the very essence [of the Good]; nay, they do seem too pure, too unalloyed; perchance ’tis they that are themselves Its essences.  For one may dare to say, Asclepius,—if essence, sooth, He have—God’s essence is the Beautiful; the Beautiful is further also Good. There is no Good that can be got from objects in the world. For all the things that fall beneath the eye are image-things and pictures as it were; while those that do not meet [the eye are the realities], especially the [essence] of the Beautiful and Good. Just as the eye cannot see God, so can it not behold the Beautiful and Good. For that they are integral parts of God, wedded to Him alone, inseparate familiars, most beloved, with whom God is Himself in love, or they with God.

If thou canst God conceive, thou shalt conceive the Beautiful and Good, transcending Light, made lighter than the Light by God. That Beauty is beyond compare, inimitate that Good, e’en as God is Himself. As, then, thou dost conceive of God, conceive the Beautiful and Good. For they cannot be joined with aught of other things that live, since they can never be divorced from God. Seek’st thou for God, thou seekest for the Beautiful. One is the Path that leadeth unto It—Devotion joined with Gnosis.

The last part of this definition basically offers a set of correspondences of God, a list of attributes that help clarify the position of God with respect to the other worlds.  Continuing the list of correspondences of the three worlds from before:

  • God: intelligible, immovable, partially sensible, invisible, ineffable, Monad, Good
  • Heaven: sensible, moveable
  • Man: sensible, destructible, reasonable

Of the new correspondences for God, we now only have one thing left to discuss: the Monad.  The Monad is the Greek word for the “One Thing”, that which is alone in itself, made by itself endlessly (i.e. unmade), making all things, coming first, and so on.  Essentially, the Monad is another synonym for God; just as all things are present within God, God is only One Thing.  The talk above about the “bodiless space” in which all things are moved indicates something similar; if all things can be moved in a bodiless space (including the non-physical emotional movement provided by the soul from above), then the space itself is unmoved.  Again, the Corpus Hermeticum provides a fuller definition of the Monad and what relationships it has to the myriad of other things (chapter VI, parts 9 through 11):

Therefore to It Gnosis is no beginning; rather is it [that Gnosis doth afford] to us the first beginning of Its being known. Let us lay hold, therefore, of the beginning, and quickly speed through all [we have to pass]. ‘Tis very hard, to leave the things we have grown used to, which meet our gaze on every side, and turn ourselves back to the Old [Path]. Appearances delight us, whereas things which appear not make their believing hard. Now evils are the more apparent things, whereas the Good can never show Itself unto the eyes, for It hath neither form nor figure. Therefore the Good is like Itself alone, and unlike all things else; for ’tis impossible that That which hath no body should make Itself apparent to a body.

The “Like’s” superiority to the “Unlike “and the “Unlike’s” inferiority unto the “Like” consists in this:  The Oneness being Source and Root of all, is in all things as Root and Source. Without [this] Source is naught; whereas the Source [Itself] is from naught but Itself, since It is Source of all the rest. It is Itself Its Source, since It may have no other Source. The Oneness then being Source, containeth every number, but is contained by none; engendereth every number, but is engendered by no other one.

Now all that is engendered is imperfect, it is divisible, to increase subject and to decrease; but with the Perfect [One] none of these things doth hold. Now that which is increasable increases from the Oneness, but succumbs through its own feebleness when it no longer can contain the One.

Having said that, God is the Good, which is the One, which is Mind.  Mind is the source of all things, giving all qualities to all things while having no qualities of its own.  For once, the Kybalion comes in good use here, when describing the Mental Universe (chapter 5):

Let us see! On his own plane of being, how does Man create? Well, first, he may create by making something out of outside materials. But this will not do, for there are no materials outside of THE ALL with which it may create. Well, then, secondly, Man pro-creates or reproduces his kind by the process of begetting, which is self-multiplication accomplished by transferring a portion of his substance to his offspring. But this will not do, because THE ALL cannot transfer or subtract a portion of itself, nor can it reproduce or multiply itself–in the first place there would be a taking away, and in the second case a multiplication or addition to THE ALL, both thoughts being an absurdity. Is there no third way in which MAN creates? Yes, there is–he CREATES MENTALLY! And in so doing he uses no outside materials, nor does he reproduce himself, and yet his Spirit pervades the Mental Creation.

Following the Principle of Correspondence, we are justified in considering that THE ALL creates the Universe MENTALLY, in a manner akin to the process whereby Man creates Mental Images. And, here is where the report of Reason tallies precisely with the report of the Illumined, as shown by their teachings and writings. Such are the teachings of the Wise Men. Such was the Teaching of Hermes.

Just as when Man thinks of something, Man does not become his thoughts, nor does Man become his words when he speaks; however, thought and word come from him and help describe or fill him.  So too does Mind create and speak the Word as Monad.  Although the Monad is One, all things are one within the One.  Although the Monad is immoveable, it provides for motion and moving within itself.  Although the Monad is the source of Word, it is itself not Word nor can it be made into words.  Although the Monad is the Good, it is the source of all qualities without possessing those qualities itself, since this would indicate there is something else besides the Monad that has that not-quality.