On the Simplicity of Divine Prayer

Trying to get back into a routine is rough when you’ve been out of it for so long.  Between the job changes, house moves, seclusionary period of religious vows, and then a glut of partying and celebration at the end of 2017, I’m sure some of my readers can sympathize.  None of that excuses me, of course, from what I should be doing, but a trial’s a trial, after all.

One morning this week was the first in a long time I’ve made myself sit down, meditate, and recite some prayers.  Not many, given my lengthier commute than what I had back a few years ago, and given that I need to reconfigure my sleep schedule to allow for more awake time in the morning before work.  But, yanno, it was enough for this morning.  Admittedly, the prayers take some getting used to again, reciting them with the same focus, the same intent, the same clarity I recall I once had.  But then, any skill left unused for too long dulls faster than an overused knife, so it’ll just take practice and repetition and applying myself.  After a few days, I started to get that…silent Ring, that echo of the Hymns of Silence, back into my words.  So even if it doesn’t take too long to sharpen myself, it still takes time.

Briefly, I considered maybe if I wasn’t doing enough, if I wasn’t incorporating enough elements to give myself that proper atmosphere.  You know of what I speak, dear reader: that misty-shadowy-monochrome-occult,  evidently-powerful, clearly-mystical aesthetic that we all idealize and fetishize in our Work.  That perfectly-framed instagrammable/snapchattable/sharable #nofilter dark-room bones-and-herbs-strewn-about #tradcraft altar look that often sticks in our minds as both breathtaking and inspirational.  So, while in the middle of a prayer, holding my book in one hand, I reached for the incense with the other—

I stopped myself.  No, incense was not what I needed.  What I needed was prayer, and that alone.

A few weeks ago, while trying to find an appropriate time for a feast day of Hermes Trismegistus, I recalled a specific astrological alignment used for…something Hermetic.  After scouring through the Corpus Hermeticum and other Hermetic texts, I eventually stumbled upon what I was looking for in the Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth, but there was another bit of text that, although unrelated to what I was looking for, stuck out to me and reminded me of the simplicity called for in spiritual works, especially that of prayer.

From the Asclepius (chapter XLI; Copenhaver translation, p92):

As they left the sanctuary, they began praying to God and turning to the south (for when someone wants to entreat God at sunset, he should direct his gaze to that quarter, and likewise at sunrise towards the direction they call East), and they were already saying their prayer when in a hushed voice Asclepius asked: “Tat, do you think we should suggest that your father tell them to add frankincense and spices as we pray to God?”

When Trismegistus heard him, he was disturbed and said: “A bad omen, Asclepius, very bad.  To burn incense and such stuff when you entreat God smacks of sacrilege.  For he wants nothing who is himself all things or in whom all things are.  Rather, let us worship him by giving thanks, for God finds mortal gratitude to be the best incense.”

Let me unpack this by means of a parallel lesson I learned back in high school.  Say you’re the subject of a king, and the king is coming to your village to pay a visit and hold court.  All the local lords and nobles are coming, and all the subjects (high- or lowborn) are expected to present something to the king.  What they present are not gifts; gifts, after all, are seen as a kind of favorable charity, but how could a subject give a gift to his king?  The king already has a right to whatever his subjects own; a gift implies the bestowing of something that the receiver does not already have.  No, it is absurd for a subject to give his king a gift; what the subject offers is tribute.  Tribute is something given (yet not a gift) as well as an act of expressing admiration, gratitude, and respect to someone.  A craftsman giving a delicately crafted timepiece, a farmer giving the best of his year’s fruit, a herdsman giving the fattest of his personal flock, an artist giving a fully-decorated manuscript are all things that can be considered tribute in this context; these are acts or offerings of their own labor, their own work, their own hands with which they express thanks to their king, who enables them to do everything.

Of course, you can’t just offer any old thing as tribute.  No, it should be the finest example of what can you can produce, the most rarefied exemplar of skill and labor, and that which is suited to the tastes and needs of the king receiving tribute, as well as exemplifying the natural ownership of the king over his domain.  In other words, proper tribute shows our respect to those above us that we are grateful for their support, patronage, guidance, and protection in the means that they themselves strive to attain.

In this case, Hermes Trismegistus is suggesting that prayers of gratitude are tribute to God, and anything else is simply extra and, moreover, sullying the pure act of prayer.  After all, God is both transcendent and immanent of the world we live in; God already contains all things, all incenses and oils and blood-offerings and flowers.  Why should we bother with these things then?  Hermes would claim that to offer incense in prayer to God would be like offering fish to the ocean, or like giving a king a tributary offering of cattle, including all the shit and piss and vomit they make.  It’s not that these things are unhelpful or without use to us, but they are of little worth to a king, and are so beneath him as to be offensive.  Hermes says that there is nothing physical we could offer to God, because everything physical is already part and parcel to him.

If we shouldn’t offer physical things to God, then what should we offer?  Hermes says simply: “let us worship him by giving thanks, for God finds mortal gratitude to be the best incense”.  Just as subjects to a king offer tribute to express their gratitude towards and to show their abilities fostered by their protecting lord, we offer prayer of gratitude with our intellect and own internal divinity to show God, who gave humanity its intelligible nature by means of the Logos, our respect and thanks to him.  We recognize our place and nature in the world, a unique intersection between the purely physical universe and the purely spiritual cosmos, and we remember our divine origins in God’s own being; we express thanks and gratitude, not to appease or placate God’s wrath, but to grow closer to him and his domain so as to rise above mere matter.

That’s another reason why Hermes abhors the use of incense in prayer to God.  If we’re to ascend above this mortal coil so as to retake our divine essence and birthright, then why should we let those very same mortal, physical, doomed things continue to hold us down?  As Hermes and Poemander say in the very first book of the Corpus Hermeticum (book I, chapters 20—21; Salaman translation, pp21—22):

[Poemander] continued, “If you have remembered, tell me, why are those who are in death, worthy of death?

[Hermes] replied, “Because the grim darkness is the first origin of one’s own body, from which darkness arose the watery nature, from which darkness the body is formed in the sensory world of which death drinks.”

“You have observed correctly”, he said.  “But why does he who has remembered himself go to the Father, as the Word of God says?”

I replied, “Because the Father of all is constituted out of light and life, whence Man has been begotten.”

Poimandres then said, “The truth is: light and life is God and Father, whence Man is begotten.  If, therefore, you realize yourself as being from life and light, and that you have been made out of them, you will return to life.”

Death and ignorance of the divine are intrinsic to physical existence and physical things, and of the things that are not physical, the opposite is true.  Thus, to mix physical things in acts meant to focus on that which is purely divested of them (i.e. matters of God) introduces a measure of death and ignorance into them.  Thus, not only is it sufficient to simply pray to God, but anything more taints such a pure act.

So, no.  I didn’t need to light incense to pray.  I never have, and I never will.  Such prayer to God, performed with the full intent of prayer, is a complete and sufficient act unto itself that no addition could ever make more or better than my present, attentive, intentive, and intelligible Speech saying the divine Words.

Now, I will qualify this: there are times when incenses, oils, tools, and other physical materia matter for spiritual works or sacrifices to the gods, but note the context of difference here.  With offerings to the theoi, for instance, it is proper to offer wine, olive oil, incense, and burnt offerings; they find these things pleasing, and to an extent they are either part of this world or part of the cosmos close to us where these things are useful and appreciated.  Magical ceremonies involving the planets, them being physical-spiritual forces in our world, make use of colors and metals and incenses and herbs and whatnot to make their presence stronger here on Earth.  But when we talk about prayer to God, who is completely above all and encapsulates all within himself?  It’s a different set of rules and contexts, where there is nothing physical to do or appreciated, and the inclusion of physical things only acts as a distraction and delay.  In a sense, it’s highly parallel to what the Buddha taught about meditation: you don’t need incenses or bells or Lululemon pants or overpriced crystals or ridiculously over-engineered sitting cushions.  All you need is meditation, nothing more; nothing else will help you meditate than simply meditating.  In the same vein, Hermes Trismegistus teaches in the Asclepius that nothing else will help with praying to God than simply praying to God.

And, to finish that off, what was the prayer that Hermes Trismegistus offered after his rebuke to Asclepius?  This, which serves as an example of the type of intellectual reflection and deep gratitude Hermes Trismegistus propounded:

We thank you, supreme and most high God, by whose grace alone we have attained the light of your knowledge; holy Name that must be honored, the one Name by which our ancestral faith blesses God alone, we thank you who deign to grant to all a father’s fidelity, reverence, and love, along with any power that is sweeter, by giving us the gift of consciousness, reason, and understanding:
consciousness, that we may know you;
reason, by which we may seek you in our dim suppositions;
knowledge, by which we may rejoice in knowing you.

And we who are saved by your power do indeed rejoice because you have shown yourself to us wholly.  We rejoice that you have deigned to make us gods for eternity even while we depend on the body.  For this is mankind’s only means of giving thanks: knowledge of your majesty.

We have known you, the vast light perceived only by reason.
We have understood you, true life of life, the womb pregnant with all coming-to-be.
We have known you, who persist eternally by conceiving all coming-to-be in its perfect fullness.

Worshiping with this entire prayer the good of your goodness, we ask only this: that you wish us to persist in the love of your knowledge and that we never be cut off from such a life as this.

With such hopes and such prayers, let us now turn to putting it to practice with dedication.

Miscellaneous Magical Methods

So, I’ve finally done it.  After noticing that my enchiridion, my personal handbook for ritual and prayer in my personal Work, was filled to the brim after four years of heavy use (not to mention beginning to fall apart), I went ahead and ordered another Moleskine of the same size and type, and proceeded to copy down everything of worth from my old enchiridion to the new.  As I’m writing this, the new one is comfortably snuggled into the leather case I have for it, while the old one is sitting calmly on my desk as I decide how to properly decommission it.  It has dog-eared pages and highlighter marks throughout now, and while it was never formally consecrated as a tool of the Art, it’s been with me through thick and thin and has picked up a bit of resonance on its own.  I’ll figure that out in the near future and, if it’s worth it, I’ll transfer the magical oomph from the old book to the new and keep the old in storage.

Going through the old enchiridion to see what was salvageable or worthy of being copied over was only part of the task, however, and I went back and forth on a lot of things before deciding one way or the other.  One significant part of this two-week effort of constant writing also involved a bit of planning and organization, because one of the big problems with the old enchiridion was that it wasted a lot of space; I’d use full pages for any particular single entry, which in some cases took up only a few lines on a single page.  I condensed a lot of the prayers and rituals so that I have two or even three entries per page, based on how related the entries were to each other, which saves plenty of space for further entries.  Another problem I had was that, since I was just adding entries to the enchiridion as I came across or needed them, it became increasingly chaotic and disorganized, and flipping back and forth to find related prayers scattered across the book was cause for embarrassment on occasion.  Now that I had an idea of the things I was copying over, I could at least impose some sort of organization in the entries that were being copied over wholesale.  I’ll have this problem again, surely, as I enter new things into my new enchiridion, but it won’t be as much a problem.

To that end, the new organization scheme looks like this:

  • Symbols, scripts, seals, sigils, schemata, and other mystical diagrams such as the Kircher Tree, Mathetic Tetractys, and the Orthodox Megaloschema
  • Prayers of Hermeticism (primarily from the Corpus Hermeticum, Nag Hammadi texts, and PGM)
  • Prayers of pagan traditions (Homeric and Orphic Hymns to the planetary and other Hellenic gods, a few other prayers from Babylonian and other traditions)
  • Prayers of Christianity
  • Prayers to Mary, Mother of God
  • Prayers to the seven archangels
  • Prayers to Saint Cyprian of Antioch
  • Prayers to other saints, e.g. the Prophet Samuel, Saint Expedite, Three Kings
  • Prayers of Judaism
  • Other religious entries, e.g. the Prajñāpāramitā Sutra
  • Offering prayers
  • Arbatel conjuration
  • Conjurations employing the Trithemian Rite
  • Other consecrations and rituals for use in conjuration and ceremonial magic
  • Picatrix invocations and orisons of the planets
  • Rituals from the Greek Magical Papyri and Demotic Magical Papyri, as well as associated ancient Coptic spells and prayers
  • Other prayers and rituals that do not otherwise belong to one of the aforementioned groups

As a bonus, it seems like my handwriting has much improved since my first entries.  It’s tighter, smaller, clearer, and more compact, even without my personal shorthand.  I use normal Roman (or Greek or Hebrew or Chinese, depending on the entry in question) script for parts to be spoken aloud, and my shorthand for ritual instructions or clarifications, but it’s nice to see that my penmanship has improved at least a little bit.  It’s far from elegant, but then, it doesn’t need to be for this.

Going through all these prayers, whether I copied them from the old enchiridion to the new or not, was honestly a pleasure and a good exercise.  In some cases, it was taking a stroll down memory lane: while copying the Trithemian Rite of conjuration, for instance, I was teleported back to the summer of 2011 when I was first copying it down into the book, and recalled what it was like to memorize the ritual line by line in the humid heat at the train station in DC.  In other cases, I had signs indicating that it was high time to put these prayers to use again; smells of frankincense and other incenses were palpably present, even though I was in my government office copying them at the time without any source that could possibly originate them, including the book itself.  Other pages, on the other hand, smelled richly of musk and oils that…honestly shouldn’t be coming from them, and gave me a charge when I was copying down the words.

I figured that, now that I know what’s in the book and what’s not, I’d like to share with you guys some of the more outstanding or remarkable things I’ve put in my enchiridion, just to give you a taste of some of the things I work with or plan to over time.  This is far from a complete list, and some of the entries are original compositions while others are 2000 years old.  Here’s what I think is nifty:

  • Several prayers to the Aiōn taken from the PGM.  There are several of these, and I’ve copied them down in the linked post of mine before, but the one from PGM IV.1115 is particularly fun to practice.
  • There’s one particular prayer known as The Secret Hymnody from Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum.  It’s especially useful in preparing oneself for contemplative prayer or singing the Hymns of Silence, in my experience.
  • It’s short and easy to memorize, but I found it good to preserve a quote from the Stoic philosopher Euripides.  It’s a short poem attributed to Cleanthes emphasizing willingness to follow God and Fate in order to lead a good life.
  • The Diviner’s Prayer to the Gods of Night is an old Babylonian incantation used by a diviner to ascertain the fortunes of the world when all the normal gods of divination and prophecy are shut in.  Not only does it feel vaguely subversive, trying to get knowledge in the dark when it’s otherwise unobtainable, but it’s a beautiful bit of writing that’s been preserved for thousands of years.
  • Phos Hilaron, or Hail Gladsome Light, is an ancient Christian hymn composed in Greek and still used in churches across the world.  It’s commonly sung at sunset, and is easily one of my most favorite Christian prayers.  The melody for it used in Orthodox monasteries is a bitch for me to get used to, but it’s composed according to a mode I’m not used to anyway.
  • I’ve taken the invocations said to the four corners of the world used on Thursday and Saturday from the Heptameron of Pietro d’Abano and used it as a preliminary prayer before commencing a magical ritual to great effect.  It’s used in the Heptameron as a replacement for invoking the angels of the four corners of the worlds since, according to the text, “there are no Angels of the Air to be found above the fifth heaven”, but I find it a useful prayer all the same.
  • The Lorica of Saint Patrick is a fucking badass Christian prayer for protection that smacks of all the good qualities of a magic spell, if ever I’ve seen one.  Loricae, literally “armor”, are prayers recited for protection and safety in the Christian monastic tradition, such as those engraved on actual armor and shields of knights before they go off to battle.  This particular prayer is lengthy, but hot damn has it got some oomph.
  • The Seven Bow Beginning is an Orthodox Christian way of beginning any session or rule of prayer, and it’s short and to the point, combining short invocations for mercy and a quick physical motion to focus the mind and body together.
  • Also from the Orthodox Christian tradition come the songs of troparia and kontakia, short one-stanza hymns chanted to one of the eight tones used in the Eastern liturgical tradition.  Phos Hilaron qualifies as one such troparion, but the Orthodox Church has them for all kinds of holy persons, such as the archangels, Saint Cyprian of Antioch, and the Prophet Samuel (my own namesake).
  • One of my own prayer rules is the Chaplet to Saint Sealtiel the Archangel, one of the archangels in the Orthodox tradition whose name means “Prayer of God” and sometimes spelled Selaphiel.  It’s a long-winded chaplet for only being a niner, technically, but it’s absolutely worth it to focus on one’s prayer habits.
  • Similarly, the Litany of Saint Cyprian of Antioch, Saint Justina, and Saint Theocistus is another of my personal writings based on my Chaplet of Saint Cyprian.  Both are good for exploring your connection to the good patron of occultists and necromancers, but the litany is good for public recitation and focusing on the trinity of the Cyprianic story.
  • Yes, it’s a common Christmas carol, but We Three Kings is a good one for getting in touch with the Three Wise Men, who are saints in their own right for being the first Gentiles to worship Jesus Christ, not to mention hero-ancestors of magicians from all traditions and origins.
  • The Prajñāpāramitā Sutra, also known as the Heart Sutra (shortened from the English translation of Prajñāpāramitā, “Heart/Perfection of Transcendent Wisdom”), is a favorite text of mine coming from my Buddhist days and affinity for the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara.  I prefer the Japanese version for its rhythm and ease of pronunciation, but the text is essentially the same in most Sinitic or Sinosphere languages, as well as the classical Sanskrit or Tibetan versions.  Yes, there is a longer one, but the shorter one can be memorized, and usually is for daily recital.
  • Two prayers that I hadn’t written down but which I composed and shared on this blog are my Prayer of Anointing (used when anointing oneself with holy, consecrated or ritual oil) and the Prayer of the Ring (used when donning the Ring of Solomon or other magical talismanic ring).  I had them memorized for the longest time, but I forgot all about them during my recent hiatus.
  • Perhaps several years after I should have, I sat down with the Clavicula Solomonis, also known as the Key of Solomon, and went through and copied in all the consecration rituals, and seeing how they piece and fit themselves into the work as a whole.  I had never actually taken the time to fully construct a strictly Clavicula-based ritual, and while I’ve used the consecration of tools to great effect before, I’ve never done a Clavicula conjuration.  It’s…intense, and quite the arduous but worthy process.
  • The Picatrix invocations of the planets, taken from Book III, chapter 7, are verbal gold for magical rituals of the seven planets.  They’re a little long-winded, but absolutely worth the time to recite word-by-word.  Additionally, what I’ve termed the Orisons of the Planets given in the caboose of the text in Book IV, chapter 9, function excellent as Western “mantras” to invoke the spirit and spirits of the planets.
  • The Consecration to Helios of a Phylactery, taken from PGM IV.1596, is a lengthy but powerful consecration “for all purposes” of a stone, phylactery, ring, or other object under the twelve forms of the Sun throughout the twelve hours of the day.  It’s something I plan to experiment with in the near future and document my results, but it seems like an excellent thing to try on a day of the Sun with the Moon waxing.

Those are some of the cooler things I have in my handbook.  Dear reader, if you feel up to sharing, what do you have in yours that you think is cool or among your favorites to use?

Hermetic Prayers to the Aiōn

Lately, I’ve been going back through some of my texts digging for more information on Hellenic and classical Mediterranean prayers to the One, sometimes known as Aiōn, the God of gods, ineffable and indescribable except by what we can see in our material and sensible world.  The Aiōn is not quite an elusive figure, since we see the same name pop up in the sense of both “eternity” as well as a deity of unbounded time and space, in distinction to Khronos, the god of limited and experienced time.  Aiōn was a notable figure in several mystery religions of the time, including Orphism and Mithraism, and even appears in some Pythagorean texts (or so I read).

One of the books I sometimes go to is G.R.S. Mead’s Hymns of Hermes, a cute little book that gives several hymns and prayers that Hermes Trismegistus gives in several Hermetic texts, such as the Discourse on the Eighth and Ninth as well as the Divine Poemander.  These forms of the prayers are not original, of course; Mead had a habit of very fancifully rewriting the prayers into a sort of modern English in the style of biblical prayers.  I can’t blame him; the book is from the early twentieth century, when many occult texts were being published widely for the first time and with a penchant for Egyptian exoticism and mysterious woogity.  That said, the book is a good one for picking out some “authentic” Hermetic prayers, and some even occur in the Nag Hammadi Scriptures, which lends it some credence towards this.

One such prayer, though, didn’t quite fit into the set of the others.  Mead described a prayer that was written in such a style as to easily fit quite into the Hermetic paradigm, and found in that most-beloved of texts, the PGM.  In comparing Mead’s version and that present in Betz’ version of the PGM (specifically PGM IV.1115), I noticed that Mead does away with the barbarous words scattered throughout the prayer and rephrases things in a way I find too fanciful.  I took the liberty of transcribing the prayer from the PGM with a few emendations of my own, but nothing as extreme as that of Mead, and reincluded the barbarous words.  It’s a fascinating prayer, and definitely one that deserves my attention:

Hail, whole cosmos of the aerial Spirit, ΦΩΓΑΛΩΑ
Hail, Spirit who extends from heaven unto earth, ΕΡΔΗΝΕΥ
Hail, Spirit who extends from earth which is in the middle of the cosmos unto the ends of the abyss, ΜΕΡΕΜΩΓΓΑ
Hail, Spirit who enters into me, convulses me, and leaves me kindly according to the will of God, ΙΩΗ ΖΑΝΩΦΙΕ

Hail, beginning and end of nature that cannot be moved, ΔΩΡΥΓΛΑΟΦΩΝ
Hail, revolution of untiring service by heavenly bodies, ΡΩΓΥΕΥ ΑΝΑΜΙ ΠΕΛΗΓΕΩΝ ΑΔΑΡΑ ΕΙΩΦ
Hail, radiance of the cosmos subordinate to the rays of the Sun, ΙΕΟ ΥΗΩ ΙΑΗ ΑΙ ΗΩΥ ΟΕΙ
Hail, orb of the night-illuminating, unequally shining Moon, ΑΙΩ ΡΗΜΑ ΡΩΔΟΥΩΠΙΑ
Hail, all spirits of the aerial images, ΡΩΜΙΔΟΥΗ ΑΓΑΝΑΣΟΥ ΩΘΑΥΑ

Hail to those whom the greeting is given with blessing, to brothers and sisters, to holy men and holy women!

O great, greatest, round, incomprehensible figure of the cosmos,
of heaven ΕΝΡΩΧΕΣΥΗΛ
in heaven ΠΕΛΗΘΕΥ
of the ether ΙΩΓΑΡΑΑ
in the ether ΘΩΠΥΛΕΟ ΔΑΡΔΥ
of water ΙΩΗΔΕΣ
of earth ΠΕΡΗΦΙΑ
of fire ΑΦΘΑΛΥΑ
of air ΙΩΙΕ ΗΩ ΑΥΑ
of light ΑΛΑΠΙΕ
of darkness ΙΕΨΕΡΙΑ
shining with celestial light ΑΔΑΜΑΛΩΡ
moist, dry, hot, and cold Spirit!

I glorify you, God of gods,
the one who brought order to the cosmos, ΑΡΕΩ ΠΙΕΥΑ
the one who gathered together the abyss at the invisible foundation of its position, ΠΕΡΩ ΜΥΣΗΛ Ο ΠΕΝΤΩΝΑΞ
the one who separated heaven and earth and covered the heaven with eternal, golden wings ΡΩΔΗΡΥ ΟΥΩΑ
the one who fixed the earth on eternal foundations ΑΛΗΙΟΩΑ
the one who hung up the ether high above the earth ΑΙΕ ΩΗ ΙΟΥΑ
the one who scattered the air with self-moving breezes ΩΙΕ ΟΥΩ
the one who put the water roundabout ΩΡΗΠΗΛΥΑ
the one who raises up hurricanes ΩΡΙΣΘΑΥΑ
the one who thunders ΘΕΦΙΧΥΩΝΗΛ
the one who hurls lightning ΟΥΡΗΝΕΣ
the one who rains ΟΣΙΩΡΝΙ ΦΕΥΓΑΛΓΑ
the one who shakes ΠΕΡΑΤΩΝΗΛ
the one who produces living creatures ΑΡΗΣΙΓΥΛΩΑ
the God of the Aiōns!

You are great, Lord, God, Ruler of the All!
ΑΡΧΙΖΩ ΝΥΟΝ ΘΗΝΑΡ ΜΕΘΩΡ ΠΑΡΥ ΦΗΖΩΡ ΘΑΨΑΜΥΔΩ ΜΑΡΩΜΙ ΧΗΛΩΨΑ

This section in the PGM is only described as a “hidden stele” or “secret tablet”, without instructions on how to use it or a purpose other than it seems to be an adoration of Aiōn.  I’m okay with that, since it’s general enough to be put to many ends, and the use of the barbarous words can offer a meditative aspect to it, intoning the name and linking it to the aspect listed for each name.  While many of the attributes ascribed to Aiōn make sense, some are a little unclear.  In Platonic thought, it was thought that the One was a perfect being of perfect shape and form, and to Plato, the most perfect shape was the sphere, hence the description of Aiōn as “greatest, round, incomprehensible figure of the cosmos”.  Personally, I get a huge kick out of working with this prayer, and the names are something I want to revisit later in a more mystical or capital-P Powerful way; I make use of this prayer before any serious working nowadays, especially as a preface to the Headless Rite.

In the PGM, the prayer is followed by yet another stele (PGM IV.1167), this time with the purpose that it is “useful for all things; it even delivers from death”, with the ominous warning that one is to “not investigate what is in it”.  This prayer, too, is addressed to Aiōn, but appears to be more of a protective incantation than mere adoration.  It’s not given in Mead’s book, but it’s useful all the same, as I reckon it.  Presented is the prayer below, again with my minor emendations:

I praise you, the one and blessed of the eons and father of the world, with cosmic prayers.
Come to me, you who filled the whole cosmos with air, who hung up the fire from the heavenly water and separated the earth from the water.

Pay attention, Form, Spirit, Earth and Sea, to the words of the wise who know divine Necessity.
Accept my words as arrows of fire, because I am Man, the most beautiful creature of the God in Heaven, made out of spirit, dew, and earth.

Open, o Heaven; accept my words!
Listen, Helios, Father of the World!
I call upon you with your great name, you, the only one having the original element:
ΑΩ ΕΥ ΗΟΙ ΑΙΟΗ ΥΕΩΑ ΟΥΟΡΖΑΡΑ ΛΑΜΑΝΘΑΘΡΗ ΚΑΝΘΙΟΠΕΡ ΓΑΡΩΑΡΘΡΗ ΜΕΝΛΑΡΔΑΠΑ ΚΕΝΘΗΡ ΔΡΥΟΜΕΝ ΘΡΑΝΔΡΗΘΡΗ ΛΑΒΕ ΖΕΛΑΝΘΙ ΒΕΡ ΖΑΘΡΗ ΖΑΚΕΝΤΙ ΒΙΟΛΛΙΘΡΗ ΑΗΩ ΟΥΟ ΗΩ ΟΩ ΡΑΜΙΑΘΑ ΑΗΩ ΩΗΩ ΟΩΟ ΩΑΥΩ

You are the holy and powerful name considered sacred by all the angels.
Protect me, N., from every excess of power and from every violent act.
Yea, do this, Lord, God of gods:
ΙΑΛΔΑΖΑΩ ΒΛΑΘΑΜ ΜΑΧΩΡ ΦΡΙΞ ΑΗ ΚΕΩΦ ΕΗΑ ΔΥΜΕΩ ΦΕΡΦΡΙΘΩ ΙΑΧΘΩ ΨΥΧΕΩ ΦΙΡΙΘΜΕΩ ΡΩΣΕΡΩΘ ΘΑΜΑΣΤΡΑΦΑΤΙ ΡΙΜΨΑΩΧ ΙΑΛΘΕ ΜΕΑΧΙ ΑΡΒΑΘΑΝΩΨ
O Creator of the world, Creator of the cosmos, Lord, God of Gods:
ΜΑΡΜΑΡΙΩ ΙΑΩ

I have spoken of your unsurpassable glory, you who created gods, archangels, and decans.
The ten thousands of angels stood by you and exalted the heaven, and the lord witnessed to your Wisdom which is Aiōn:
ΙΕΟΥΗΩΗ ΙΑΗΑΙΗΩΗΥΟΕΙ
and said that you are as strong as he is.

I invoke your hundred-lettered name, which extends from the sky to the depth of the earth!
Save me, for you are always ever rejoicing in saving those who are yours!
ΑΘΗΖΕ ΦΩΙ ΑΑΑ ΔΑΙΑΓΘΙ ΘΗΟΒΙΣ ΦΙΑΘ ΘΑΜΒΡΑΜΙ ΑΒΡΑΩΘ ΧΘΟΛΧΙΛ ΘΟΕ ΟΕΛΧΩΘ ΘΙΟΩΗΜΧ ΧΟΟΜΧ ΣΑΗΣΙ ΙΣΑΧΧΟΗ ΙΕΡΟΥΘΡΑ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΑΙΩΑΙ

I call upon you, the one on the gold leaf, before whom the unquenchable lamp continually burns, the great God, the one who shone on the whole world, who is radiant at Jerusalem, Lord!
ΙΑΩ ΑΙΗ ΙΩΗ ΩΙΗ ΩΙΗ ΙΗ ΑΙΩΑΙ ΑΙ ΟΥΩ ΑΩΗ ΗΕΙ ΙΕΩ ΕΥΩ ΑΗΙ ΑΩ ΑΩΑ ΑΕΗΙ ΥΩ ΕΙΗ ΑΗΩ ΙΕΥ ΑΕΗ ΙΑΙΑ ΙΑΩ ΕΥ ΑΕΥ ΙΑΗ ΕΙ ΑΑΑ ΙΙΙ ΗΗΗ ΙΩ ΙΩΗ ΙΑΩ
I call upon you for your blessing, Lord!

Betz says that “this protective prayer presumes a section describing a gold lamella to be worn as a phylactery”, which “contained the hundred-letter name of the god and was worn as a protection against ‘every excess of power’ and the ‘very violent act'” mentioned in the prayer.  The notion of a name being 100 letters would’ve been important, and the final stanza of the prayer does say “the one on the gold leaf”, so it’s possible that such an instruction to the prayer might be omitted.  What’s interesting is that the two last strings of barbarous words are marked in the PGM as both having 100 letters each, though the final string only has 99 letters in it; the first string has 149, the second 108, and the third has 19, for comparison.  The style of the barbarous words is much more Egyptian in nature, and bears some in common with those found in the Headless Rite.  What’s even odder about this prayer is that it’s the only place in the PGM, according to Betz, is that Sophia (Wisdom) is identified with Aiōn.  This is an unusual thought, whether in Gnostic, Christianity, or other mystery traditions.  Further, despite the Egyptian Gnostic feel of the prayer, it even references the Jewish miracle of the undying light of the menorah in the Temple of Jerusalem, from whence the festival of Hanukkah comes.  Between the Jewish, Gnostic, and Egyptian influence (especially due to the reference to decans alongside angels), this latter prayer is a prime example of how syncretic and elastic Hermetic magicians could be in the old days.

Of course, not all the prayers that Mead lists were pared down so much.  One prayer that took me a bit of finding is one that Hermes Trismegistus taught to his son Tat, which Mead calls “the secret hymnody”, which is pretty much what it is, for it is “not taught but hid in silence”.  Hermes introduces it as an initiation, as it were, to Tat in Book XIII of the Corpus Hermeticum, titled the Secret Discourse on the Mountain.  This book focuses on the nature of rebirth, but also emphasizes the truth that only silence can tell (much as in the same way of the Hymns of Silence Hermes describes in the Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth).  After some persuading, Hermes instructs Tat to recite it outside and bow down in adoration facing the south at the setting of the sun, and again at the rising of the sun facing to the east:

Let every creature in the cosmos give ear to this hymn.
Open, Earth!  Let every lock that holds the rains open to me!  Shake not, trees!
I am about to praise the Lord of Creation, the All and the One.
Open, heavens!  Winds, be still!
Let God’s immortal sphere receive my song.

For I am about to sing praise to the Creator of All,
who fixed the earth,
who suspended the heavens,
who parted fresh water from the ocean in lands inhabited and in the wild for the creation and sustenance of all mankind,
who ordained that fire shine for every use of gods and men.
Let us give praise to Him above the heavens, the founder of all nature.
He is the eye of Nous.
May He receive the praise of every power within me.

O powers within me, sing to the One and All!
All you powers, sing praise together at my bidding.
Divine Knowledge, illumined by you, I sing through you of the spiritual light and I rejoice in the joy of Nous.
Sing praise with me, all you powers!
Temperance, sing with me!
Justice, through me praise what is just!
Generosity, through me praise the All!
Truth, sing of the truth!
Good, praise the Good!
Life and Light, from you comes the praise and to you it returns.
I give thanks to you, Father, the strength of all my powers.
I give thanks to you, God, power of all my strength.
Your Word through me sings to you.
Receive all back through me by the Word, a spoken sacrifice.

Thus cry the powers within me.
They praise the All, they accomplish your will which comes forth from you and returns to you, being the All.
Receive an offering of speech from all beings.
O Life, preserve the All within us.
O Light, illuminate the All.
O God, inspire the All.
For Nous guides your Word, O spirit-bearer, o Creator of the world.
You are God.

All this your man proclaims through fire, air, earth, water; through spirit, through your creatures.
From you I have discovered eternity’s song of praise and in your will I have found the rest I seek.
By your will, I have witnessed this praise being sung.

To which Tat adds, with Hermes’ corrections and exhortation to use caution with his words:

To you, God, first author of generation, I, N., send these offerings of speech.  God, you are the Father, you are Lord, you are Nous, receive these words of mine as you will.  For by your will all things are accomplished through the Word.

This final prayer, though without barbarous words or names of power, is important in the Hermetic tradition since it represents a type of Hermetic initiation.  Once Tat, the most intuitive and spiritual of Hermes’ sons including the intellectual Asclepius and technical Ammon, is initiated properly into the seven spheres of the planets, he is finally able to join the eighth sphere, that of the fixed stars, that of Silence, and begin further work into direct realization of gnosis.  It’s only with the initiation, however, that Tat receives in properly communicating in the manner of this sphere that allows him to do this, as well as the similar initiation that Hermes gives in his Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth:

I call upon you,
who rules over the kingdom of power,
whose word is an offspring of light,
whose words are immortal, eternal, immutable,
whose will produces life for forms everywhere,
whose nature gives form to substance,
by whom souls, powers, and angels are moved,
whose word reaches all who exist,
whose providence reaches all who exist,
who produces everyone,
who has divided the eternal realm among spirits,
who has created everything,
who, being Self within Self, supports everything,
to whom one speaks in silence, being perfect, the invisible God,
whose image is moved when it is managed, and it is so managed,
who is exalted above majesty, mighty one in power,
who is superior to those honored!

ΖΩΞΑΘΑΖΩ
Α ΩΩ ΕΕ ΩΩΩ ΗΗΗ ΩΩΩΩ ΗΗ ΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ
ΖΩΖΑΖΩΘ

Lord, grant us wisdom from your power that reaches us that we may relate to ourselves the vision of the Eighth and the Ninth.
Already we have advanced to the Seventh since we are faithful and abide in your law.
Your will we fulfill always.
We have walked in your ways and have renounced evil so your vision may come.
Lord, grant us truth in the image!
Grant that through your spirit we may see the form of the image that lacks nothing and accept the reflection of the Fullness from us through  our praise.

Recognize the spirit within us,
for from you the cosmos received soul,
for from you, the one unbegotten, the begotten came to be.
The birth of the self-begotten is through you, the birth of all begotten things that exist.
Accept these spiritual offerings from us which we direct to you with all our heart, soul, and strength.
Save what is within us and grant us immortal wisdom.

Then, after Hermes once more coaches Tat on how to hymn in silence and the two ecstatically praise God, Tat continues the hymn:

I shall offer up the praise in my heart as I invoke the end of the cosmos, and the beginning of the beginning, the goal of the human quest, the immortal discovery, the producer of light and truth, the sower of reason, the love of immortal life.  No hidden word can speak of you, Lord.  My mind wants to sing a hymn to you every day.  I am the instrument of your Spirit; Mind is your plectrum, and your guidance makes music with me.  I see myself!  I have received power from you, for your love has reached us.

O Grace!  After this, I thank you by singing a hymn to you.  You gave me life when you made me wise.  I praise you.  I invoke your name hidden in me!

Α Ω ΕΕ Ω ΗΗΗ ΩΩΩ ΙΙΙ ΩΩΩΩ ΟΟΟΟΟ ΩΩΩΩΩ ΥΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΩΩΩΩΩ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΩΩΩΩ

You exist with spirit.
I sing to you with godliness.

The series of vowels given in these prayers are evidence of ecstatic glossolalia, but their varied nature indicates a collected power from their previous initiations with the seven planetary spheres, given the relationship of the seven Greek vowels to the seven planets.  Hermes concludes this discourse not with instructions of practice but with instructions to preserve the lesson he gave Tat through a detailed list of directions to engrave the prayer and discourse on turquoise steles, to be done when the planet Mercury is at 15° Virgo, the Sun is in the first half of the day.  The final set of instructions seems odd, I admit, but it attests to the holiness and permanence of the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus, as many prayers to the Aiōn are throughout Mediterranean spirituality.

49 Days of Definitions

So I’ve recently been compiling all my notes, lore, and some of the most important rituals I use into a single text that, eventually, I’d like to send to be published.  Basically, I’m writing up my own grimoire for a modern Hermetic magician, and though I admit I’m still fairly new in my work and young as a magician (and a human, for that matter), I feel like I’ve got enough to at least get started, like an outline or something.  But seeing how I’m casting my eye on the possibility of having apprentices or even teaching my own set of classes, I figure having a core text written by me can help out those who might follow me.  It’ll be interesting, for sure, but I need to have something to provide besides giving teenagers some translations of Renaissance texts, however interesting that may be.  So, I figure I may as well provide some of the things I learned and started with.

One of the things that Fr. Rufus Opus starts off with are something he calls a set of aphorisms, more properly called the “Definitions from Hermes Trismegistus to Asclepius”.  Those who are familiar with the Corpus Hermeticum (which, dear reader, of course you are or should be by now and you can read online here) will recognize the two names immediately, with Hermes Trismegistus being that thrice-great god-mage-prophet who founded the path of Hermeticism and Asclepius being his disciple, in addition to Hermes’ son Tat.  In this case, the Definitions would be presented from Hermes to Asclepius as another sort of Corpus Hermeticum, either a distillation of it, an addition to it, or something extra alongside it.  The Definitions are preserved only in an Armenian text from the 6th century AD, but likely originate in the 1st century, about the same time or earlier than the Corpus Hermeticum.

You can probably find the aphorisms online or elsewhere; the book The Way of Hermes contains an English translation, and you can easily find a PDF of it online (at least as of this writing).  The Definitions are a set of 49 more-or-less short but dense explanations of various parts of Hermetic philosophy, a little longer than the Kybalion but much more true to classical Hermeticism than that New Thought/Theosophical amalgam of early 20th century occult thinking.  Although it’d be nice if the aphorisms were broken down into seven groups of seven, they’re not; instead, the Definitions are broken down into 10 groups, some having as few as two aphorisms and some as many as seven.  The aphorisms themselves are pretty dense, and each deserves contemplation both on their own as well as with the other aphorisms, and it’s been a while since I reviewed them.  Like Alan Moore’s Promethea series, every time I go through them, I always pick up something new or something blatantly obvious stands out to me that wasn’t there before, and Fr. Rufus Opus himself said that these aphorisms should be regularly reviewed.

Since we’re at the tail end of another Mercury retrograde period, which is good to review old work, why not take this time to get a 49 day blog project going?  For each of the next 49 days, I’ll be posting one of the Definitions along with my explanation and contemplation of each, how I consider it and how I can apply it to my life and practice.  Feel free to join in with your own interpretations and contemplation; each of these definitions has a lot of meaning packed into each other, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s read these or has contemplated on them or similar concepts before.  I’ll probably start next Tuesday, November 12 to give me a few days to prepare and get the next few days sorted out (I’ve got another weekend trip set up this week), but in the meantime, find those aphorisms for yourself and take a look.  That’ll be 49 days of my interpretation of an ancient Hermetic text, lasting through the rest of 2013; you can consider it my Advent calendar Christmas present to you all.